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Archive for the tag “indie publishing”

Book Release Day: Fantasy vs Reality

chinese_theatre-vintage-premiereWhen I was a very young writer I had visions of my future book release days that were elaborate and glamorous. Parties with New York literati. Long lines at bookstores. Jetting off on a book tour to exotic locations. I even used to practice what I’d say when David Letterman interviewed me about my wildly successful novel. So basically I was dreaming of being a movie star at a Hollywood premiere except that I’d be adulated for the words I wrote instead of pretending to be someone else’s character.

Many, many years went by before I actually published my first book, The Sleepless Nanny. It was perhaps the softest launch of all time. I uploaded a book I’d written twenty years earlier to Kindle Direct Publishing. I didn’t even have a cover. I think I just wanted to see if it would really work.

Seven books later, I’m a bit more meticulous about book launches: setting a date far in advance and squaring that schedule with my editor and proofreader; commissioning a professional cover; using social media to generate awareness of the title in advance, etc. Just in the past few months has Amazon allowed indie authors to do pre-orders (Thank you, Amazon!).

Yesterday, my new book released. And while I didn’t appear on Letterman, I did have a busy and rewarding day. Just not the kind I’d envisioned as a teenager. Here’s a look at Summer Wind‘s release day.

I woke up around 4 a.m. and remembered my book came out at midnight. Grinned a shit-eating grin. Went back to sleep.

When I set 11/11 as my publication date I didn’t take into consideration that it was also Veterans Day and my youngest child would be home from school. This turned out not to be the greatest plan because she was excited for a day at home with Mommy while I was excited about doing the stuff you do on a book release day. Necessary and fun-ish stuff, but not intriguing for a five-year-old. Here’s how the next few hours went:

Release Day - Update FB pageI updated the Lexy Cooper Facebook page with a release message. I like to share directly from the Amazon page because if it’s promoting an Amazon sale sometimes it pops up in people’s newsfeed more often. I also “Boosted” the post for twenty dollars. I earn $3.45 royalty (70% of the sales price) on each copy of the eBook sold in the US, so I only need to sell six copies to break even on the ad.

A lot of my friends and family shared that FB post in support of the launch, so I made sure to acknowledge each of them by liking the post and/or commenting. Your street team, be they fans or family, are your most important asset. Don’t ever take them for granted!

Release Day - Update lexycooper blog

Next, I made a post about the launch on Lexycooper.com. I don’t promote the site very often, nor do I post frequently, but it is the archive for all things in the Lexyverse, and as Summer Wind is a spinoff, it deserves a place here.

After that, I updated this blog with Summer Wind in the upper-right hand widget.

Release Day - Update trixieblog

 

At this point my daughter was hanging on to my desk chair and being a pest, so I made her a “nest” on the sofa and set her up on Netflix to buy myself some time.

Next up on the to-do list was sending the Team Lexy newsletter. I’d actually composed and tested it last week, so all it needed was a quick scan and then I hit the “Send” button. Bon voyage, newsletter!

Release Day - send newsletter

 

Newsletter sent, it was time to update Goodreads. Now, since Summer Wind had been available for pre-order, the link to buy it on Amazon was already in place. The updating of the Goodreads entry with the ASIN number is something I needed to do for the previous launches, but this time it was already done. What I did need to update was my author page from a “coming soon” message to something else. Here’s the before and after:

 

Release Day - Goodreads before Release Day - Goodreads after

 

Twitter was my next stop. Instead of a straight up “Hey, my book’s out” I went for a semi-inspirational one (that got a handful of retweets), and an attempt at humor, which didn’t really get noticed, but how great would that have been if Stephen King had replied or retweeted me? Worth a shot, right?Release Day - Twitter

 

My nagging little girl redeemed herself entirely when, at Thai Ginger with my friend Meghan, she burst out with “Mommy’s new book is out today!” Okay, that was pretty great. After lunch I bought the small one a Christmas dress at Gymboree gold christmas dressand then it was home again. How does the freshly-published author spend her afternoon? Folding laundry, mostly. But I also bought myself a couple new graphic novels:

Release Day - buy comics

Later I made dinner and we watched MasterChef Junior and I read a bit of Station Eleven before falling asleep. There was no congratulatory phone call from the president or requests for interviews. TMZ’s paparazzi are either fantastic at hiding or they’re not really interested in my activities. But all in all, I got some stuff done, fed my family, did a little shopping, and, oh yeah, released book number 8! Which you can buy here. (Or read  for free if you’re an Amazon Prime member or signed up for Kindle Unlimited)

 

 

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Crowdfunding for Novelists

In between the second and third Lexy Cooper books I did a crowdfunding campaign to fund a research trip. The trip wasn’t critical to my book; I had already budgeted money for the cover, editing, and proofreading. I didn’t have to travel to Roswell, but believed the book would be more authentic if I had first-hand experience at the location. The writing and publishing of Griefed was happening whether the crowdfunding was successful or not. That gave me the freedom to test the waters of crowdfunding without it being a make-or-break situation. The campaign ended up being very successful, and here’s what I learned.

ufo museum

1. You Don’t Need a Video

Indiegogo (and Kickstarter) will encourage you to make a video and cite statistics telling you a campaign with a video is X percent more likely to be successful. I’m sure that’s true for films and video games, but I don’t believe it for books. And yes, perhaps I just didn’t want to make a video because hosting a show on Xbox Live was enough video for me for the rest of my life. Video is essential for showing motion, but how will you show a book you’ve yet to write? Or maybe it’s written and you’re asking people to fund a book cover or printed copies or promotional costs. What can you show them? Your face, I guess. If you are fantastically good-looking and charismatic go for it. It will probably work to your advantage. Otherwise, enjoy the fact that it doesn’t (yet) matter what writers look like.

2. Make Frequent Updates

alien shipLet your donors or backers or angels know what’s going on during the course of the campaign and as you deliver the goods. Don’t spam or annoy them with updates just to say you’re planning on an update. Think about news beats. A good time to update is when you’re halfway to your goal, when you’ve met your goal, and as you use the funds you’ve been given. For example: I updated my Indiegogo page six times:

  1. The halfway point. I also posted a photo of the paperback that some backers would receive.
  2. Goal met. Because there was still time in the campaign, I told backers where the funds beyond what I’d asked would be used for (cover art and editing).
  3. Details on the research trip. I provided dates of the trip and a photo of the trip mascot.
  4. More stretch goals. The campaign was still going, and money kept coming in.
  5. Leaving for the research trip. More thanks and links to follow along.
  6. Results of the research trip. Photos, what I learned, how the experience would benefit the book.

3. Exceed Expectations

lexypostcardIt was important to me that my backers felt like they got their money’s worth—long before the book came out. I made sure to get deliverables out to them as soon as possible. I never wanted anyone to have to wonder where their stuff was or if they’d been forgotten—or worse, ripped off. I also did some things that were not included in the Indiegogo perks:

  • I sent them postcards from Roswell, signed by “Lexy.”
  • I gave them all a free copy of the short story I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa.
  • I revealed the cover and title to them before anyone else

4. Here’s why I think my Indiegogo campaign was successful:

My goal of one thousand dollars for the research trip was met in five days. By the end of the campaign I’d exceeded my monetary goal by over sixteen hundred dollars, and I had a wonderful and productive trip to Roswell. Sure, I may just have gotten lucky or been in the right place at the right time, but I think these factors contributed to the successful outcome:

  1. I asked for a very specific thing — a trip to Roswell, for a very specific reason—research.
  2. Lexy Cooper books were a known quantity. People could see that I had successfully written and published two books in the series and probably felt like the risk of my flaking out and not finishing the book was low.
  3. People love to see their name in a book. Or anywhere, really. The perk in which I name a character after the backer was so popular I had to double the amount.

Here’s my advice to writers regarding crowdfunding: Wait until you’ve got a book or two under your belt before you do it. I have seen many campaigns from would-be authors that fail for these reasons:

  • They are unproven as writers. If you can’t show potential backers that you can see a big project to completion and have some degree of skill, you should ask your family to back you because they love you.
  • The book isn’t written and they are asking folks to pay them for their time to write it. That’s just insulting.
  • Their goals are vague or overpriced. If you’re asking for 10,000 bucks for editing, cover art, and the super-vague “marketing,” you come across as naïve and greedy.

5 Great Reasons to Publish Short Content

short-fictionWhen you’re trying to establish a brand, it’s important to build your series as quickly as you can without sacrificing quality or sanity. If you have a good response to the debut book, don’t make readers wait a year or more for their next meal—they will move on, and you need all the momentum you can get. Short stories are a way to stave off starvation and keep your audience engaged while you finish the next full book.

How short can it be?

Too short will piss people off. I’m not sure why, but I’ve seen tons of one- and two-star reviews in which the reader’s only complaint was that it was “too short.” Anyway, I’d say the bare minimum is 5,000 words. That’s enough real estate to tell a complete—albeit brief—story and make it worth your reader’s time. Here are some ideas for a short story featuring your protagonists:
• Prequel – Your heroine in college, your hero during Desert Storm. The first time your main characters met.
• In-between – Action that takes place between two of your full books. Even better if it’s a time or incident referenced in the later book.
• Fantasy – Take a break from your usual genre and send your private eye into space. Or stick your sorceress in a modern corporate cubicle. How would your CIA agent deal with becoming a werewolf at the full moon?
• Seasonal – Christmas stories are popular every holiday season and beyond. Halloween’s a good opportunity to explore horror, disguises, or just spooky fun. Summertime offers all kinds of vacation, travel, beach, and bikini action.

So when are you supposed to find the time to write a short?

Well, those two or three weeks when you finish a novel-length work and you’re not allowed to touch it until you get some distance. Or while you’re waiting for feedback from your editor or proofreader. Once you’ve finished the first draft of a novel, there is some downtime, and for the first few days you may not feel like writing anything, but then again you might miss your daily fix of your characters. I know that when I finish a Lexy book I am just sick to death of her. She’s emotionally exhausting and I’m anxious to take a break. But after a few weeks or a month, I start to miss her. I start to think about what sort of trouble she can get into next. I just can’t quit her. So I might have to knock out a little short to get it out of my system so I can give my undivided attention to the other book I’m supposed to be writing.

5 Great Reasons to Publish Short Content

1. Keep your readers engaged and hungry (but not starving) for more content
2. Maintain a regular release cadence
3. Explore settings and situations that you wouldn’t want to build a whole novel around
4. Test the waters on new characters or genres
5. Generates a promotional opportunity: pimp the new short and your whole catalog

B.Y.O.P – Be Your Own Publisher

I’ve been blogging about my trials and errors in this writing thing for a couple years now. From a post about discovering Kindle Direct Publishing and unearthing a long-lost novel, to crowdfunding a research trip, I’ve shared the journey with my blog readers.

BYOP Cover

If you’ve found my writing tips interesting or helpful, I’m collecting them into a short non-fiction book on writing, publishing and marketing your own book. If you’re a follower of this blog, some of it will be familiar but a lot of it is new content.

Why am I doing this? Because two years ago I hadn’t written any fiction in nearly two decades and hadn’t published a damn thing. Since then I’ve published four novels and a short story and have had a crash course in indie publishing and marketing. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve learned some tricks, and I’d like to help writers get past the doubts and inertia and get their book out into the world.

Look for B.Y.O.P this summer!

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