Monthly Archives: June 2012

“Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” and Camp NaNoWriMo

When I went to SeaCamp on lovely Big Pine Key during my teen summers, the last night of camp was tres emotional. (We were teens, age 13-18, after all!) The camp had a huge luau, with the best food of the 3 week session. There was an old wooden canoe FULL of fruit, a table full of desserts, salad, ribs, just a whole plethora of deliciousness. After lights out, all the girls “snuck out” and seranaded the boys cabins. The other songs changed, but the last song, always, was “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” by John Denver. (Now, this was the late Seventies, early Eighties, and that song came out in 1966, so I’m assuming this was a long standing tradition.) And we’d weep! We’d barely make it through the song. It was tragic, delicious, just perfect for teenage girls and their angst.

Today is the first “validation day” for Camp NaNo, and there are only 5 days after today before we’ll be metaphorically packing our bags and heading home. I don’t know that I’ll be singing any John Denver songs, but I will feel some of that bittersweet feeling. The NaNo format works for me. I like the encouragement and conversation with other writers. I like that we’re all making messes and not caring. I like that we’re not even going to have to clean up Camp – editing comes later. Just like my last year at SeaCamp, I’m doing 2 sessions this summer, so I’ll be back for August, as a rebel (I’m doing a screenplay). And like that summer, the campers will be different and so will the challenges and successes.

I have 75,608 words now, and probably 5-6 days at the most to finish. Yesterday I left the doldrums, which, as a sailor, I definitely compare to finally feeling that freshening wind that fills the sails just before you take off. My writing time was limited by travel yesterday, and we’re at the beach this week, but I expect that the writing will move along quickly from here, and that’s exciting. And the end is in sight, and even when you like your characters and your plot and even your first draft, that’s a marvelous thing to behold.

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Writing for Google Analytics – “Kindle Cash”

I read (most of) a book called Kindle Cash by Michael Masters last night, which is, as you might suspect, on marketing your indie book on Kindle. Except it wasn’t, really, it was about using Google analytics to put your book high on the search engine’s results. As it is directed at non-fiction writers, much of it didn’t pertain to me, but since my husband is also going to indie route with his non-fiction book, I read it anyway.

I do agree with his premise in principle – get a marketing plan in place that will move along without you. Obviously this is the ideal, and the whole reason behind multi-level marketing companies. His marketing plan is to delve deeply into the SEO world of Google, research keywords, analyze the hits on certain keywords, analyze the placement competition of websites using those keywords, and title your book/blog/website (and write your book/blog/website) geared to those keywords.

Interesting stuff if you can figure it out, and I have no doubt that it works for the “how to” genre of book. (My husband’s book is not a how-to, and he is not a the kind of guy likely to do all this internet research, but he could pay someone to do it!) But for fiction, it is useless. Nobody Googles for fiction, unless it’s an author they know of already. And I have to point out that the author makes a snarky comment or two on the John Locke book and his use of social media – but Locke is selling fiction (with the except of HIS how-to book, but he’s already got a following, having published a dozen or so novels). I don’t think taking a swipe at someone who is also trying to help new indie authors is a classy thing, especially when you’re talking about apples and oranges.

Anyway, one thing Masters says that I do agree with is that the cover is more important than many, many kinds of marketing recommended by the “experts.” I buy a LOT of books (the reason I got a Kindle in the first place). I am a very visual person. If I click on a book and the cover is unappealing, amateurish, full of heaving bosoms, or otherwise turns me off, I don’t buy the book. I never really thought about it before until I decided to go the indie route, but the first thing I told my husband was that the cover was key. And since I’m a complete idiot when it comes to Photoshop, I knew right away that I was subbing that out to a professional!

Masters suggests, actually, that you have three covers, and upload the book with two, then replace the one that sells worse with the 3rd and see how it goes. I’m not sure about that, at least in my first genre of adventure/thriller. There are certain standards in that genre for cover and title, and I have bought enough of them to know. In the romance I’m writing, I’m afraid I’m going to have to dip a toe in heaving bosom territory, and that makes me… well, very afraid. But I am creating a product, not just stroking my own ego, and I really want you or someone you know to read and enjoy the book, so I want to market it in a way that gets it into your hands.

On another note, I changed templates on my website yesterday, and like it a lot better. I joined Twitter, and still feel like an idiot doing something called tweeting, not to mention that it’s not really suited to my personality (I like words to be fully spelled out and grammar, for one thing!). But I’m going to try to figure it out and work it in a way that I can live with and that doesn’t take multiple hours a day. I got my Facebook author page up and sent out invites to friends, and got 27 likes pretty fast, which is cool – I have a VERY private Facebook page personally, and keep my “friends” list pretty small, (only those who actually converse with me).

I took the day off from writing the NaNo novel, which is always a good break. I’m still on track to finish around the 27th with this first draft, and it’s going well so far. I’ll get back to it today and cross the 70,000 word mark. Love those numbers that end in 0 and 5!

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And we’re off!

The more I learn about self publishing (which I’m trying to get used to calling “indie” instead – doesn’t that sound more hip, cool, interesting?) versus traditional legacy publishing (NYC houses, etc), the more excited I’m getting about publishing my own novels. What’s really odd is that I have run into so many people, in person and online, who have this knowledge already. Where have I been??

Today, for instance, I was talking to a business associate of my husband’s who worked in the media/communications business for years, mostly in the Christian sphere. He asked me how my writing was going and what I was currently working on. I was telling him that I am doing the Christian historical romance set in the Civil War era, because I had a Christian agent ask me to write it. And he said, “But you won’t make any money on it. Nobody makes any money in publishing.” He went on to tell me his experience, and he knows people in the Christian publishing industry on all levels. It is apparently no different from the legacy publishers…sadly.

When we got to talking about INDIE publishing, he was in total agreement. He has read, for instance, all the books by John Locke (apparently a Mickey Spillane type who-done-it), and recommended a book he’d written called “How I Sold 1 Million E-Books in 5 Months!”, which I have since ordered for my Kindle (of course!). Since my husband has also decided to go the INDIE route, and we were both there for the conversation, I just thought it was amazing.

So right now, I’m waiting for drafts of my cover, which is the first thing. There’s basically nothing I need to do now but wait, and patience isn’t my strong suit. However, since I am 65,000 words into the romance, and have to finish the sequel to Solomon’s Throne (called The Hoard of the Doges) in July (I’m 65,000 words into that, too) so I can get that ready for publication in September, AND I’ll be writing a screenplay in August, I guess I have enough to stay distracted. Just barely.

 

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And finally… part 3

The 3rd section of questions is about the print version of the book, the last thing they format. Obviously this wasn’t too tough. OK, I say that, but I haven’t finalized the back cover blurb yet. That’s disturbingly like a query letter, which I am apparently genetically incapable of producing.

For the print formatting, we’ll need the following:

–        Blurb for back cover
–        Trim size – the final size the book will be when printed. Here are the options:
o    5” x 8”
o    5.06” x 7.81”
o    5.25” x 8”
o    5.5” x 8.5” (commonly used size)
o    6” x 9” (commonly used size)
o    6.14” x 9.21”
o    6.69” x 9.61”
o    7” x 10”
o    7.44” x 9.69”
o    7.5” x 9.25”
o    8” x 10”
o    8.5” x 11”
–        Type of paper – cream or white. We recommend cream, as the words tend to vibrate on white paper, which can cause problems with some readers.

I chose 5.5″ x 8.5″ for the paperback; cream paper; and YES, I (we) are working on the blurb. BTW, have you ever noticed that a lot of back cover blurbs are apparently written by people who never read the book? Have you ever been reading a book and gone back to re-read that blurb, because what you were reading wasn’t what you thought you were buying? Another benefit of self-publishing – I, at least, know what the book is about!

I got my author website up… Drumroll please. OK, it was a 5 page free website on GoDaddy, and the template was already there, so I don’t take a lot of credit. BUT, it’s there, it’s accurate, it’s super duper highly incredibly informative (ha!), and it’s FREE!

Interesting side note, after going back and forth with an industry contact on publishing a non-fiction book – it needs to be out before November, and, of course, that’s nigh on impossible with the publishing industry – it looks like he will self-publish as well. We had a meeting on it yesterday (after many years in business together, we still find it helpful to schedule meetings on specific things!). So I will post some information on that as we go, since his is non-fiction vs my fiction, he will probably have illustrations (cartoon-type) where I have none (this changes the pricing and formatting stuff a bit), and he’s doing a trade paperback. Also, his is a timely current-events type thing, and so his marketing will have to be a blitz campaign.

Just came across this very interesting article posted by someone in my writers’ group. If you’re interested in self-publishing, it’s definitely worth a read!

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All the questions, part 2

I have gotten almost everything to Streetlight Graphics now except the author photo and the blurb for the back cover of the print edition. Since this latter is disturbingly like a query, I am, unsurprisingly, having brain freeze, panic attacks, heart palpitations… OK, not really. But I’m bad at it, and need a whole team (*family*) helping me.

It was really hard looking at covers and deciding what I like and don’t like. As with most anything, the more I looked at ones I liked, the less I liked them… But I did find 4, finally, and also sent one I didn’t like in the same genre, because it was too busy. So we’ll see what they come up with – I’m excited, since I have no “graphic artist” brain cells whatsoever.

So here’s the 2nd of the 3 part list:

For the formatting, we’ll need the following:

–        Manuscript in .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf format.
–        Any photos or images you want included, such as emblems to use on the title page, map of the fictional world, etc. (optional)
–        Front Matter
o   Copyright information
o   ISBN, BNID and/or ASIN (optional)
o   Contact information – website, email, etc. (optional)
–        Acknowledgements (optional)
–        Dedication (optional)
–        Other titles to include by author (optional)
–        Back matter (optional)
o   Current Biography
o   Author photo
o   Samples from other books to include

I spent an hour or so getting ISBN numbers (you have to have a different number for each format your book is in, which I didn’t realize) and a bar code for the print version and doing the copyright legal paperwork. I had registered my screenplay with the Writers Guild of America, but never done any copyrights. So now I have – and it’s pretty easy through LegalZoom, I have to say.

When you start writing dedications and acknowledgements, of course you worry that you will leave someone out and cause offense. (So if I left you out, please don’t take offense!) Hopefully those came out in such a way as to not start the next Hatfield/McCoy feud. Author bio… ugh. That’s one of those “too much vs too little” things, but I tried to be short and sweet. We’ll see!

I just realized – no idea on “front matter” and “back matter”… I’ll have to send an email for clarification there. I also asked them about putting in an excerpt from the upcoming sequel, since that’s 2/3 done. We’ll see – might be a chapter in the back or something.

So we’re moving along! A few more things to do, but I’m still confident in a mid-July release date. It’s fun, educational, and pretty darn exciting.

Meanwhile, I’m plugging away at my Camp NaNo novel. I’m at 53,335 words before writing today – kind of the doldrums, between 50,000 and 70,000, but I think the mid-book is pretty much like that for every author. This is the Christian historical romance, Civil War era. I was kind of iffy about writing it, but I’m liking it! I am glad the War is over, though… it was exhausting!

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