Archive for the 'Self publishing' Category

Gratitude & Shout-Outs: Take 2

Jun. 20th 2011

A couple of months ago, I posted my first round of shout-outs. Methinks I’m due for a second round of gratitude-filled thanks to the awesome folks who’ve been helping me out. Here we go, in no particular order:

Cheryl Perez from You’re Published did the interior design/layout and back cover and spine for the paperback version of Forgotten April. She does great work and is reasonably priced. She’s launching a new website soon, but for now, you can reach her here.

Steve Tannuzzo of Tannuzzo Copywriting has a connection with a printing company and was able to print up all the copies of Novel #2 for my beta readers. He’s also a fabulous writer/copywriter/proofreader, in case any of you are in need of one of those.

My beta readers rock my world! They include the Nobscot Niblets (writers group) and some family members and friends who are like family. If any of you are reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Someone on Twitter asked me the name of the song I use in my book trailer for Forgotten April. The great thing about Animoto, the software I use, is that it offers a vast music library and all the licensing is taken care of. I mentioned in this post how I stumbled on some music by an artist I’d met many years ago (and I ended up using his composition for my short story “Crush“) and how he’s now writing musical scores for movies in Hollywood, which is way cool.

Anyway, when I looked up the group that sang “Happy,” which is the song in the Forgotten April trailer, I decided to Google the group to see what I could find. The name of the group is Secrets in Stereo. Here’s their Facebook page. And below is the group singing the full version of “Happy.”

Enjoy!

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Introducing My Debut Novel

Apr. 27th 2011

I’m excited to announce the launch of my debut novel, Forgotten April.

It’s available on Nook and Kindle. Use Kindle and Nook apps for iPads. And if you have another e-reader, like Sony, you can buy the ePub here and side load it to your device.

I started this novel back in 2001. It’s seen many, many, MANY revisions since then, including four top-to-bottom, basically-starting-from-scratch rewrites. I buried it TWICE, and somehow it clawed its way back from the dead both times.

At its heart, it’s a sister story, a family story, and a story about secrets — and how those secrets can change people’s lives. The book trailer is below.

What else can I say? Oh, it’s 99 cents right now on Kindle and Nook (a dollar on Lulu and iPad) and will be through May, at least. The print version will be available for order from Amazon soon. I’ll do an update once that’s all set.

If you do read it, I’d love to know what you think of it. You can email me, write on my Facebook wall, connect through Twitter, and/or leave a review on the site you bought it from or on Goodreads.

Thanks in advance for all of your support. Happy reading!

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Marketing a Book

Apr. 19th 2011

The title sounds a little presumptuous, doesn’t it? As if I’m some sort of big-bad publicity machine from a Big 6 publishing house.

I’m not, as you know. But I am a marketing copywriter by day, so marketing is something I live and breathe anyway.

I decided to make a list of all the marketing tasks that need to happen for the launch of Forgotten April, in no particular order because my brain can’t handle putting it in any order right now.

  • Proofread and finalize files: Mobi, ePub, PDF
  • Proof and finalize interior print files, spine, and back cover for Createspace
  • Request book reviews
  • Refresh email, refresh email, refresh email while waiting for responses from said book reviewers
  • Create book trailer
  • Draft the product description
  • Breathe
  • Create page for book on website
  • Add book info to other relevant pages of website
  • Update website home page
  • Write blog posts supporting the launch
  • Swap in new profile picture on Facebook
  • Do Facebook status updates around launch
  • Do status update in LinkedIn
  • Tweet, tweet, tweet — but don’t be obnoxious
  • Eat chocolate
  • Update Twitter bio
  • Exercise off the chocolate
  • Take part in blog tour
  • Make a pitcher of margaritas; drink
  • Update Kindle Boards signature
  • Feed the cat
  • Announce new title on Kindle Boards
  • Bathe, at some point
  • Write and distribute press release over the wire (for back links, mostly)
  • Brainstorm creative ways to get press
  • Solicit and set up cross-channel promotions with clients/vendors
  • Brainstorm ways to reach out to mommy book clubs
  • Solicit people to take part in Forgotten April Shout-Out Day
  • Say thank you. A lot.

I have no doubt I’m forgetting items. But this is a good list to work with at this point. I have a bunch of stuff done, like the cover art, final digital files, banner ads, and the book trailer. Still a lot to do…

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Book Descriptions

Apr. 15th 2011

As my regular readers probably know, I’m a marketing copywriter by day. Writing punchy, pithy copy is my THING. Except, apparently, when it’s for myself.

In this post, I talked about my struggles with book titles. Finally past that hurdle, I had to tackle the all-important book description.

Writing a good book description is one of Jesus Joe Konrath’s commandments for eBook success. I found a great blog post by author Karen McQuestion (love that last name) on how to write an effective book description. So armed with her primer and my own marketing chops (in theory), I set out to write mine.

Here are the three versions I sent to my beta readers:

V1

For April Sullivan-LaMonica, the last ten years have been hell: she lost her husband and young son in a grisly car accident, and soon after, she watched her mom descend into the darkness of Alzheimer’s. So when a famous broadcast journalist named Maggie Prescott claims to be April’s long-lost half sister and hopes to capture their reunion on film, April outwardly regards Maggie with much suspicion and derision. In reality, she’s simply afraid to grow close to someone yet again, only to have that person leave—or worse.

Maggie, meanwhile, is battling her own demons: figuring out why her biological mother gave her up, facing a secret she’s kept from the one man she’s loved all her life, and giving herself permission to follow the dream she’s had since she was a child.

Separated by nearly two decades and different life experiences, April and Maggie must decide if pursuing their sisterhood is worth it…or even possible.

A story of loss, love, survival, and redemption, Forgotten April will speak to anyone who’s experienced the pains—and riches—of an unexpected friendship that emerges from family ties.

V2

Meet April Sullivan-LaMonica. April is thirty-four years old, a nursing home activities director (read: Bingo Bitch), and the only child of Kate Sullivan. Or so she thought.

Meet Maggie Prescott. Maggie is a famous broadcast journalist on a mission: to find out why Kate Sullivan gave her up for adoption over fifty years ago. Problem is, Kate has Alzheimer’s disease, and she never told April about Maggie’s existence.

That doesn’t stop Maggie from trying, and it doesn’t stop April from thwarting Maggie’s attempts. Separated by nearly two decades and different life experiences, April and Maggie must decide if pursuing their sisterhood is worth it…or even possible.

A story of loss, love, survival, and redemption, Forgotten April will speak to anyone who’s experienced the pains—and riches—of an unexpected friendship that emerges from family ties.

V3

A famous broadcast journalist, Maggie Prescott has spent her whole life seeking truth. Her latest mission, however, is personal: finding out why her biological mother gave her up for adoption fifty-two years ago. As she embarks on her journey, Maggie walks headfirst into chaos: her biological mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is forced to live in a nursing home. Her half sister, April, doesn’t want anything to do with her. An unexpected reunion with an ex-lover forces Maggie to face a dark period from her past. Then, Maggie discovers an old woman named Hazel whose lifelong secrets affect them all.

A story of loss, love, survival, and redemption, Forgotten April will speak to anyone who’s experienced the pains—and riches—of those unexpected friendships that emerge from family ties.

##

Each one had votes, but version 1 edged out the others by a hair. Edits were suggested as well. Here’s the version I’m going with for now (and for the print version). I can, of course, change up the eBook versions, which is a nice thing about the format.

The Winner? I used version 1, with edits:

For April Sullivan-LaMonica, the last ten years have been hell: her husband and young son were killed in a car accident, and soon after, her mom descended into the darkness of Alzheimer’s. So when broadcast journalist Maggie Prescott shows up claiming to be April’s half sister and tries to capture their reunion on film, April outwardly regards Maggie with much suspicion. In reality, she’s simply afraid to grow close to someone again, only to have that person leave—or worse.

Maggie, meanwhile, is battling her own demons: figuring out why her biological mother gave her up, facing a secret she’s kept from the one man she’s loved all her life, and giving herself permission to follow the dream she’s had since she was a child.

Separated by nearly two decades and radically different life paths, April and Maggie must decide if pursuing their sisterhood is worth it…or even possible.

A story of loss, love, survival, and redemption, Forgotten April will speak to anyone who’s experienced the pains—and riches—of an unexpected friendship that emerges from family ties.

###

By the way, I’m open to comments from readers and writers alike on these. 🙂

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Posted by Robyn | in eBooks, Self publishing | 4 Comments »

Gratitude & Shout Outs

Apr. 13th 2011

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the wonderful, talented people who are helping to bring my little book to life. I highly recommend these folks. Here they are, in no particular order:

1106 Design: I’ve mentioned them before, but they did the cover art for Forgotten April (as well as all of my other books). They’re based out of Arizona, and they’re incredibly nice, pleasant, helpful, and prompt — all those things you dream about in a vendor but wonder if it’s possible to find anymore.

Laura Matthews at thinkStory.biz: copy editor and story editor extraordinaire. Get her while you can, folks. Laura has a novel she’s releasing this summer, and it’s good. DAMN good. I think great things are in store for her — and that she won’t be doing copy editing of others’ work for too much longer. (But, Laura, if you’re reading this, you’re still committed to editing my book #2 in August, ok? :))

Jennessa Durrani at Celebrate: Jennessa is one of the most creative people I know…and she’s also one of the nicest. Seriously, I’ve never seen her get annoyed or irked…and we work together on some of my copywriting clients’ stuff, which ain’t always easy. I’ve been using Jennessa for a bunch of things, including banner ads that I’m running on various sites.

And she’s created a cool bookmark, which I’m stuffing into about 500 gift bags for The Exceptional Women Awards, an event Magic 106.7 in Boston hosts. I worked for Magic for a long time, so I’m exploiting leveraging this connection.  You may be wondering why a bookmark for eBooks…well…I’m releasing a print version as well. And it *should* be ready and live by the time these hit the goodie bags.

Cold Spring Design. These are my fabulous web dudes. They designed and built the site (including the CMS [content management system] so that I can have total control over updates. Me likes to be in control…muahahahahahah). They also are my go-to resource for when files need to be crunched to a certain size or when I have other questions.

eBook Architects. I can’t stress this enough to self-pubbed writers. Unless you’re a total tech geek, you should outsource your eBook conversions. Formatting is critical (many of us indie writers receive flack for poor formatting, and there’s really no excuse for having it). Take pride in the appearance of your words as much as you do in the words themselves. I know it might seem easy to do the conversion yourself, but it’s so, so, SO easy to miss something or screw up a couple of pages or whatever.

I just contracted a designer who specializes in interior book design (for print books), spines, and back covers. She was recommended on Joe Konrath’s blog. She seems great so far; I’ll report back with her info and will include images of her work when it’s done.Enhanced by Zemanta

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Titles that Titillate (or something like that)

Mar. 18th 2011

Some of you may know that I’m a freelance copywriter (Copy Bitch) by day. My so-called specialties include writing taglines, punchy headlines, and pithy ad copy. I’m fast. Churning out pith is easy for me. Unless, of course, it involves titling my novel.

For some reason, titling my short stories hasn’t been an issue. Maybe it’s easier for me to see the title in shorter pieces. But my novel? Heck, this thing has gone through no fewer than four titles in ten years.

Titles, like cover art, are a big deal because they’re often a reader’s first introduction to the book. In my mind, effective book titles must:

  • Capture a person’s attention
  • Capture a person’s imagination
  • Be memorable
  • Tell a story without giving away the whole story
  • Work with the cover art, not compete with it
  • Did I mention be memorable?

In this digital age, it also helps if the title you choose doesn’t compete with phrases that already have a ton of indexed pages on Google or that already exist in, say, the Amazon store. So originality should also be part of the list, even though you know what they say about originality — there’s no such thing.

Brevity is important as well. Looking at the top 20 on Kindle, I’m seeing three with one-word titles (Unbroken, Switched, Killer) and most of the rest are two- or three-word titles (Saving Rachel, Water for Elephants). The one exception on length is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (which I think is a great title and, of course, is consistent with the whole “The Girl Who…” brand).

So how did I finally come up with Forgotten April for my book (cover art to the right)? It kind of just hit me after much stressing and much brainstorming (some of which I did with my fab copy editor). When I wrote it for the first time, I had an a-ha moment: That’s it, I thought. I hadn’t felt that way with any of my other titles. Why was I so sure about this one? Well, the title has double meaning, one that will be obvious early on and another that will be revealed towards the end. Double meaning is something I appreciate in a title (obviously not all titles are going to have it, but for this book it makes sense).

Oh, and in case you’re curious as to the other titles I’d used, here they are (and most of ’em are stinkers):

  • The Lucky Ones Die
  • Permission to Be
  • Petrichor
  • Truth (Lost & Found)

How do you come up with titles? Share in the comments.

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Posted by Robyn | in Self publishing | 5 Comments »

Letting Go

Mar. 8th 2011

I’m getting ready to email my novel to the folks at eBook Architects. They’re the ones who convert my Word doc file into Mobi (Kindle) and ePub (everything else). Then it will be time  for me to sell the thing.

We’ve had a long journey, this novel and me, and I’m having a hard time letting it go. I think I may have driven my wonderful and patient copy editor, Laura Matthews, a little crazy this past weekend as I revised the opening page about five times, and each one I sent to her for feedback.

There’s always more you can do, always a phrase you can improve, a thought you can sharpen, a character you can deepen. At some point, you need to let it go. Or so I’ve been told.

The good news? In this digital world in which I choose to work, at least for now, I can easily make changes should a typo be spotted or a modifier dangle. In the print world, those mistakes live on in paper until another print run (provided there is one) or a conversion to paperback.

I’ve published five short stories to Kindle, Nook, etc. since I started this venture last fall. I got my first royalty payments from Amazon and Barnes & Noble this week. You’d think sending this file off wouldn’t be a big deal since I’ve done it five times already. But for some reason, it is. Maybe because it’s my debut novel. Maybe because I’ve worked on this piece since 2001. Then again, maybe it’s normal to feel this way every time you send out such a big part of yourself to the world.

I keep doing searches on words like “really” and  “studies” (which became my new way of saying “look”) and double checking hair and eye color and fact checking some of the history and wavering on whether I should take the risk of including two lines from an Adrienne Rich poem and hoping it qualifies as fair use or plucking them out. I worry that some of my corrections have resulted in typos, so I read and reread until the words swim, as do my eyeballs, and I have to adjust the zoom every page or two so I can trick my brain into spotting any lingering or last-minute mistakes.

I’ve come to this point in a really (sorry, Laura) circuitous way: Mrs. Shea’s fourth grade class, radio, copywriting, creative writing, querying, snobbing on self-publishing, epiphany, self-publishing.

Am I good enough? Who’s to say? What defines “good enough” anyway?

I know I’m not alone in this moment of self-doubt, a moment that I imagine most writers go through right before a work comes out. Anne Lamott writes about it in Bird by Bird on the chapter called “Publication”:

“The first time you read through your galleys is heaven. The second time through, all you see are the typos no one caught. It looks like the typesetter typed it with frostbitten feet, drunk….By the fifth reading, you are no longer sure that publishing this would be in your best interest.”

I’m going to hit “send” now, take a deep breath, have a nervous breakdown, and then get over it and myself.

Until the next time.

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People Will Hate You. People Will Love You.

Mar. 3rd 2011

You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. Logically, I imagine we all know this is true, but it’s a hard thing for our emotional selves to deal with, isn’t it? Especially when it comes to people reviewing our art.

But the fact is, people will hate your work. Violently, even. To the point they feel compelled to publicly claim that their 12-year-old deaf and blind chihuahua has more writing talent than you. They’ll be “forced” to leave a one-star review on Amazon only because Amazon won’t allow them to give zero stars. (And no, this hasn’t happened to me yet. It will, though.)

Don’t believe me? Think of three books you recently read and enjoyed. Go to Amazon, look them up, and check out the reviews. Do it — I’ll wait. I guarantee that at least one of these books you enjoyed has some scathing one-star reviews.

Need more evidence? Check out some recent award winners, like Tinkers by Paul Harding or Jonathan Franzen’s much lauded Freedom or Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (a book I absolutely adored). Not only are there negative reviews, some are downright ugly and mean.

So that’s the dirty truth: people will hate your work. And at times, it will feel like people hate you. It will sting and hurt (don’t deny this — I don’t care how “thick” you claim your skin is). But the thing we all need to keep in mind is that it happens to ALL writers. (Yes, even the classics. Check out Great Expectations by Charles Dickens or Moby Dick by Melville. That’s Dickens in the pic, by the way.)

The antidote to a bad review is a good review. Focus on the people who love your work. Because if you’re doing your job well and you have some talent, there will be an audience for your art.

(PS — Can you tell I’m gearing up for reviews of my debut novel, Forgotten April? Please point me back to this post when all I want to do is drink and drool on the rug after I get a bad review. 🙂 )

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Posted by Robyn | in Book Reviews, Self publishing | 9 Comments »

Knee-Deep in Editing

Feb. 23rd 2011

I’m self-publishing my debut novel in May. This is a book I’ve worked on for nine years. No, wait — 10 years (since 2001). It’s gone through six top-to-bottom rewrites. It’s been laid to rest once, only to be resurrected a year later when, out of the blue, I figured out how to fix the beginning, which had been dogging me since version 1.0. It went through a bunch of beta readers, and each time, I revisited the piece and reworked it some more. I wrote, rewrote, put it aside, rewrote, revised, proofed, and then this past fall, I finally felt it was ready.

And when I say “ready,” I mean ready to go to a copy editor, not the virtual bookshelves at Amazon or B&N.

As I mentioned in this post from last week, we indie writers have an enormous responsibility to put out polished work. (Yes, all writers do, but bear with me here.) Indie writers don’t have to use an editor, whereas traditional writers do. But I believe all indie writers should use a professional editor, even if that means pushing out the date of your release or working a second job for a little while to get the funds to pay for one. I’ve read too many indie works lately that have punctuation errors on page one. Page one! There’s no excuse for that. None. Don’t peddle schlock. Put out your best work.

I’m lucky. I’m friends with a professional story and copy editor. Her name is Laura Matthews and she owns thinkStory.biz.

We met in Niblets (my writers group). What I love about Laura is that she’s a “literal” reader and writer. I’m not. I’m all about the implied and the indirect, so Laura provides great insight into my work. She also is great at calling me out on my crutches: I know I overuse words like actually and just; I exorcised most of those from my manuscript before she got it, but she pointed out the crutches I missed because I’m too close to the work. Words like really and starting too many sentences with and.

Before Laura edited this version, she read version 5.0 and provided feedback on the story, characters, and the arc. I made some revisions based on these comments and then continued making more until I got to the point I was at this past fall. Then I sent it to Laura around Christmas. She sent it back to me the end of January, and I’ve been working on the edits ever since, poring through every line, every scene, and debating titles (another thing that dogged me with this book. I finally came up with a title I’m happy with — more on that in another post once I finalize the cover art).

I really think indie writers are doing a disservice to their work, to their readers, and to the self-publishing industry in general if they don’t go through this process. While I had only a handful of actual typos in 371 Word doc pages, Laura caught enough inconsistencies, lazy language, crutch words, etc. to show why an editor is needed. It’s not simply a worthy investment; it’s a necessary investment as well. If you’re an indie writer, don’t skimp.

What do you think, readers and writers? If you’re a reader, have you ever read something and wondered where the author’s editor was? And writers (indie or traditional — we’re all the same), do you make sure your work is professionally edited (before you self-publish or before you pitch an agent or publisher or submit to a lit magazine)? Feel free to share info about the person you use in the comments. Copy editing is not an easy job. Props to anyone who does it and does it well! (And in case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend Laura.)

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Indie Writers: Credo & First Commandment

Feb. 16th 2011

If you had asked me a year ago if I’d ever self-publish, I would have given an emphatic “No.” At the time, I was busy at work on the draft of my second novel, and I was still caught up in the dream of landing an agent and a traditional publishing deal.

Now, I won’t lie: parts of those dreams still exist in me, but thanks to the digital revolution that’s taking place before all our eyes, I’m quite excited to be part of this venture. I don’t even cringe internally anymore when I tell people I’m going this route and that I’m self-publishing my work as eBooks.

That said, I’m aware of what some people — both fellow writers and readers — are thinking. Self-publishing is a last resort. Self-publishing means you couldn’t make it as a “real” writer. Most of the self-published stuff out there is crap. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t take it personally. How can I? I was one of the people thinking those same things not even nine months ago.

And here’s the dirty truth: a lot of crap is still being self-published. I mean “crap” in a totally objective way. In other words, the author doesn’t have the piece professionally edited (your mom and BFF don’t count, unless they’re editors in real life), resulting in numerous mistakes in punctuation and grammar. And the author hasn’t received sufficient feedback from beta readers on the story itself.

I think we indie writers have an important task at a pivotal moment in this revolution: we MUST be committed to putting out quality work, even more so than traditionally published authors, just by virtue of the fact that we self-publish, which, in essence, screams, “I feel strongly in this work and think it’s ready for prime time.”

Rushing something to market just because we can doesn’t mean we should (this isn’t an original thought, by the way). Unfortunately, those who do are the ones who really give self-publishing a bad name (and it’s the main reason I avoided it for so long). Thanks to people like Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking and so many other serious writers who take pride in the quality of their work, that’s changing.

But we ALL must adhere to this first commandment in the indie writer credo: do no harm; put out the best work possible no matter what. And yeah, that might mean postponing the release or taking a step back to review the work one more time. Just to make sure. Do it (I’m doing it too). It will be worth it in the end. And maybe — just maybe — we can dismantle that ugly indie writer stereotype for good.

Indie writers, what do you think? Should this be the first commandment or can you think of something more important?

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