Next month will mark our two year anniversary doing this blog. Hard to believe, isn’t it? It’s been an interesting journey. I’d say we’ve learned a lot, but we’re not done yet. Personally, I’ve arrived at the portal of the free ebook. Does it have the power to boost sales?
If you’ve been watching Darla Luke’s column USA Today Best-Selling Self-Published Books, you’ll know one of our Pacific Northwest Authors, Elizabeth Naughton stayed on that list for nearly two months. You can read about her journey at her blog, and on May 9th we are excited to have Elizabeth right here at See Jane Publish answering our own questions about how to boost sales.
There are as many opinions about the effect of the free ebook on sales as there are Indie authors, the most predominant, Yes, it works; No, it doesn’t! My humble opinion is that it does work, but with a caveat. And maybe lowering the book price to $.99 would do the same thing. I haven’t tested that out, so I don’t know. Keep in mind others will have differing experiences. One of the things I know about self-publishing is that it’s one great big science experiment. What works for one author doesn’t always work for another.
Marie Force gives away her first novel in her McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, Maid For Love, as part of her strategy to introduce new readers to her books. Her sales have been phenomenal and have allowed her to quit the day job, which I think is most writers number one goal. What Elizabeth and Marie have in common is that they both have long series; Marie, her McCarthys and Fatal series; Elizabeth, her Eternal Guardians. Even though Wait For Me was contemporary romance, it has still stimulated sales of all her books.
And then there’s Alexandra Sokoloff who gave away 50 ebooks of her new release Blood Moon for the potential opportunity to get reviews (check out her post, Blue Moon and e publishing, again). I love this idea. How many of you would perhaps be willing to post reviews to Amazon, BN, and Goodreads for a free e-copy of a novel?
I have tried the free ebook three times, with differing results. I don’t have ready access to the numbers – still on vacation – but I can give you the general results. Five days free at Amazon, Jane’s Long March Home (contemporary romance), inspiring results, but I didn’t have a series for readers to continue buying. I’m working on that now. The same five days for The London Affair, frankly lackluster results due in part I think, because it’s women’s fiction with a smaller audience. And just concluding five days free at Amazon, The Return of Benjamin Quincy, exciting numbers, not a spectacular as Jane’s, but exciting none the less. My conclusion: free has the greatest power when you have a long series to lure the reader into, and when you leave the book free for longer than five days, which means not doing it through Amazon’s KDP program, but by using a price matching strategy.
One last note: Jessa Slade has a new enterprise, Red Circle Ink. I can highly recommend her editing skills. She gives phenomenal feedback. Good luck, Jessa!
Yes, I’m late with my post, but there is SO much going on, and tons running through my head. I had two meetings yesterday, but before I get to that, there has been a lot of conversations going on in my house. One of them is storyteller versus writer. How do you go from being a good writer to being a great storyteller? I don’t know, but I’d love to find out. Of course, for the best storytellers, it’s a gift. One they’re born with. I also think you can learn to be a great storyteller. At least that’s what I believe today. I consider J.T. Geissinger a great storyteller (if you haven’t read Edge Of Oblivion, and you love paranormal stories, you must). And J.K. Rowling. And Jessa Slade. And Nancy Brophy. I think I write a good story, but a great storyteller? Not so much. This week I made a vow to figure out how to grow beyond being a good writer and it’s spiked my enthusiasm for writing, which okay, is almost always spiked pretty high.
So, the meetings – the first one was with Maggie Jaimeson, founder of Windtree Press. Maggie is a woman with a vision. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Windtree website, take a stroll. Windtree Press is in it’s infancy right now, but one day it’s going to be the go-to place to buy good stories by Indie authors, the Sundance of Indie Books, so cleverly put by the fabulous Carolyn Zane. Which brings me to my next meeting, which was with the lovely Two Hot Mamas, Carolyn and Wendy Warren. They came to talk to Maggie, but when they were done, I got to horn in on their meeting about their current project, a romance for Entangled Publishing. Just talking series titles with these two funny ladies is a hoot and a half. I’ve wrangled them in for an interview in June. Their new book comes out in September.
Which brings me to the part about how everything’s changing. I’m looking out my office window, and the sun is out. The sky is that baby blue of a warming spring day. It’s going to be 60 plus degrees in my little mountain town. And you know what? New York isn’t the only game in town anymore. We all know it hasn’t been for a long time, but it’s getting easier and easier to be a successful writer without them. Don’t get me wrong, if St. Martin’s offered a contract today, I’d be hard pressed to turn it down, and probably wouldn’t. That’s an old dream that hasn’t died.
Here’s the thing. Technology is changing so much, and so fast, it’s hard to keep up with all the new ways to publish your own book. Today, I can write a story, polish it to perfection, upload it to Jutoh (others have their favorite manuscript converter; Jutoh is mine), make sure there are no bugs, then upload the .mobi to Amazon, the .epub to BN and abracadabra, you’re published. The process is easy, even for non-left brainers like me who have to practice the processes until they get it right.
Eighteen months ago, five intrepid friends set out to write an anthology. Twenty-four hours after uploading to Amazon, it’s published! The Girl Most Likely To, an anthology by Linda Kaye, Jessie Smith, Darla Luke, Nancy Brophy and me, Susan Lute is now available at Amazon. Here’s the thing that hasn’t changed. Seeing a book you’ve put your heart and soul into on the bookshelf, whether it’s virtual or physical, it’s the best dang feeling there is! Except for looking at your newborn baby’s face for the first time, it’s…liberating.
Now it’s time to party!
I am not one of those writers who can blurt out a story, write, write, write until I reached the end. I mull and ponder, watch film, and read until bits of the story start to surface. I’ve learned to map the story so I have set pieces and climaxes to aim for. I write from the beginning in a back and forth dance until I’m finished. And I can’t move on until the first chapters say exactly what they have to say; adding layer upon layer until the main characters reveal their purpose in the story.
So with all that being said, Bear’s Full House is coming along. I’m considering changing the title to Heroes Don’t Lie. I’m at 18,240 words, which may be less than my last report, but I’ve cut parts of scenes that are no longer relevant.
Yesterday, Cathy Lamb came to talk to our group about sketching a character. Yes, we actually made pencil sketches of our heroines or heroes. I haven’t drawn anything more challenging than flowers for the little girls in a long time, but this was fun. I did a good job with her hair, I think. Then around our character we were to write down everything we know about them. Cathy had some very specific questions for us to answer. The easy ones – who are her family and friends? What does she do for a living? How does she dress? Then harder questions like, what are the three worst things to happen to her (I came up with two)? That led me to thinking about the best thing to happen to her, which turned out to also be the scariest. What are her quirks? I’m still thinking about that one. If we were out to lunch at my favorite restaurant – Red Lobster, though I’m not a shellfish fan, I’ve just had some good times there – what would she tell me? She’d say, Life isn’t easy. Get over it. Face the hard stuff. Make your life matter.
The thing I find fascinating about all this is the ripple effect uncovering new information about characters has on the story. In Writing 21st Century Fiction, Donald Maass has similar questions. What is your character’s worst habit, weakness, or blind spot? What is her or his most shameful memory? What does he or she most need to forgive? These are the kinds of questions that take a story to the next level. It’s not about just telling the story, it’s about the journey taken, and the characters who make the journey.
This kind of depth isn’t found in the first draft, it’s discovered in arduous rewrites. For me that’s four sets of revisions, cover to cover. Nora Roberts does three. Cathy Lamb, eight. Everyone’s different, but no writer worth their salt would do one less revision in their efforts to uncover every kernel of their characters and story. The journey home is as much for us the authors as it is for our heroes and heroines, and usually fraught with as much challenge.
How many revisions do you do? And what quirk does your main character have?
Report: Bear’s Full House or Heroes Never Lie - to page 18, 18,240 total words so far.
You can tell Donald Maass’ workshop had a big impact. He left those who attended with a lot to think about, and this is where my thoughts took me. Writing for the 21st Century. What does that look like?
It will come as no surprise that I watched You’ve Got Mail yesterday. No, I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it, but like most of the films I watch over and over, there’s something new to learn each time, besides the fact I enjoy them as much or more as the first time. If there’s anyone following this blog who hasn’t watched it, which I find very hard to believe by-the-way, I’ll try not to give too much away.
There’s one line that caught my attention. Fox Books, owned by Tom Hanks’ character, Joe, opens “just around the corner” from Kathleen’s – played charmingly by Meg Ryan – independent children’s book store, effectively putting her out of business. During the course of the movie Joe says to her, “It wasn’t…personal.” Her response (paraphrased), and I love it, “What’s so wrong with being personal, anyway? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.” Suddenly that makes so much sense to me.
The Mr. is a political geek. It’s personal to him. Having some kind of faith is personal. Writing has probably always been a personal endeavor, but in today’s world with so many on the internet, and with the popularity of Indie books, readers don’t always make a personal connection with the author. In my humble opinion it’s more important than ever to take your writing to the next level. That’s what Donald Maass’ newest book, Writing 21st Century Fiction, says to me. Get personal, put yourself into your story, don’t give your reader what they expect, give them what they don’t expect.
What a fascinating concept. Give your reader something they don’t expect. Make it personal.
How? Pick up Writing 21st Century Fiction. It’s an eye opener.
I’m setting a goal so you all will keep me honest. I’m working on the second book in my Falling For A Hero series. I’ve written 17,664 words. It’ll finish up at 50K, so I’m coming up on the mid-point of the story. But I’m back at the beginning adding layers of internal conflict to make it more personal, for me, and hopefully for readers. At the end of April I’m going on a two week vacation. By the time I leave – yes, I’ll be taking the baby Dell – I want to be at 25K. Doable I think, but the more important thing will be the unfolding of the story. Can I do it? Heck yes!
Will you join me in making a writing (or reading) goal that you can reach by the end of April? The busy lady loves company.