Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bittersweet Farm 1--Mounted

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Actually I think it still is quite a fine idea.  My new YA will be live in a couple days.  As I comb through it, a friend is reading it to see what it's about and how the blurb should be crafted.

I'm almost at the point where I think of the three elements that go into digital book, the book itself is least important.  First is the cover which by now has to be a knock-out or potential readers won't stop scrolling.  Then you have to have a great, nay super-great, blurb.  Then the book.  EL James proved if you shovel enough smut, you don't have to be Shakespeare to sell 20 million books.  After reaching a threshold of readability, how good does a book need to be?  Are digital books the new pulp fiction or are they literature?   Is beautiful writing wasted?  Do readers just want a story?  I don't know the answers.

There are half-sisters in competition with each other.  Are they competing over the horse shows or the new trainer?  Is it about the after-effects of a riding accident?  How much should be said in a blurb?  How long is the "description" supposed to be?  How much do customers really want to read and what do they expect?

Is the blurb at Amazon like the 1 paragraph we used to pitch to agents?  Should a blurb contain plot or only the dynamics/conflict of the story?  I think it's all become very Hollywood and the more one sticks to screenwriting principles and behavior, the less astray you'll go.

Give 'em the sizzle not the steak.  That means don't talk about the plot, talk about conflict.  Make it simple enough to be shouted across a parking lot and be understood.

How long should the description/blurb be at Amazon?  No more than 150 words.  1 paragraph.  They have Look Inside.  If your blurb is compelling enough, they'll read the sample.  If not, they're not intrigued enough to click buy anyway.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Waxed Paper Is Wonderful

I saw the coolest patterned wax paper for sale from Japan.  Then I read the sales blurb.  Total Engrish.

It goes down under the cake at parties and,
Paper of the stylish pattern that is good to perform lapping of a cake or bread♪

I can wrap handmade bread and candy, the various things including the flower from a cake splendidly.
I am glad even if I take it if I have you present a handmade cake with such a wonderful wrapper!

I can wrap it without the doughnuts which are oily being sticky!
As for the hospitality is possible smartly if spread it under the cake, and washing a dish easily!
I am pretty and am the convenient wax paper which is excellent even if I take it.

It is ... the party that I am more stylish, and is wonderful in a time of the afternoon♪

Unexpected Spike

I was waiting yesterday for the illustrator to put up a horse on Fotolia for me.  I was hoping she would do Bigstock as well but then decided that if it was 9 pm in Italy it probably wouldn't happen and I couldn't work on the new book if I was preoccupied with the cover issue.  So I bit the bullet and did Fotolia.  (They make you buy credits and price everything so you buy more credits than you need to purchase an item.  I don't like that.)

I think it's a good change.  Now it has nothing to do with the Dream Horse cover which is bad for branding but they're both in the top 10 of children's books horses or whatever it is, they always are, so there's not much room for improvement.  I doubt if the general audience is ever going to find horse books that interesting so it's a niche audience, and those 2 books are there.  I would like to see Summer Horse do a bit better so maybe this will help.

So as all this was going on I checked the sales at BN and Her Cold Kiss had sold 7 copies.  I don't think all the sales since publication all sites combined equals 7, so I was shocked.  Now less than 24 hours later, that figure has doubled to 14.  (I know peanuts compared to fill in the blank).

Why did this YA suddenly get found?  Unfortunately it's at BN where I can't even find the top ranking lists.  The book is still in the 300,000's.  If it was Amazon and there were 14 sales in 12 hours, the ranking would have improved by about 275,000 places and I'm serious.  Amazon's algorithm works on numbers and speed.

It's fun to have that happen.  I don't know what made it happen.  I don't know why it would be on a list.  Maybe someone read it and it was mentioned on a blog.  I certainly didn't do anything.

One of the great mysteries of digital publishing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Expectations of Excellence

I'm noticing that my images are much sharper in PS than they are once uploaded which is a disappointment.

Onto the question of excellence.

A vast number of people (going by the reviews) think that E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey is poorly if not amateurly written.  Vast numbers say it's the greatest thing ever.  I think this is a bad example because the erotica element clouds the mind.

Let's just say for the sake of this rambling argument that any book (almost any) reviewed on Amazon will be perceived as both good and lousy.

When paperback books were invented, did people really pick them up thinking "I love to curl up with Shakespeare" ?   Aren't the covers a dead giveaway you're not getting great literature?  Go to Book Scans for 1000's of them.
Aren't most indie ebooks really as disposable as a 25 cent paperback?  Texas druid cowboys.  Regency romances, erotica, police procedurals, hundreds of thousands of books like every paperback ever written on the planet was dumped on Amazon.  At rock-bottom bargain prices, people buy them and a lot of people somehow expect literary perfection.

Boy are they misunderstanding this process!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kobo Boosts Royalty Rate

That was an unexpected announcement this morning.    They're going from 70% to 80% from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30.  So that would be exactly the length of a stint with KDP Select.

If a writer was thinking about going to Select or Kobo for those 3 months, that could be a deciding factor.  It's not the still measly 5 free days Amazon offers.  You can be free for as long as you like at Kobo.

It's true that Amazon is the big boy on the block and IF (repeat IF IF IF) you expect substantial sales due to your involvement with Select, then you'll want to stay with Amazon.  If you haven't seen great or have seen diminishing results with Select and their freebies, you might want to try Kobo.

This is an interesting move by Kobo, putting them into competition with Amazon.  They are still a small player but obviously they don't intend to stay small (who knows what BN intends).  Amazon needs this.  I hope they respond with some kind of upgrade to author services because I have no interest in Select at all.  It does nothing for me except tie up books that might sell somewhere else.

The key, of course, is discoverability.  The site which makes it easiest for the work of writers to be found is where the writers will go.  This is not a hobby, this is a business.  It's about sales, it's about money.

Up until now these sites thought they were doing us a favor.  That attitude seems familiar to me, where did I hear it before.  Let me think.  Oh yeah.  Traditional publishing.  It didn't work out so well for them and to continue to treat writers as though they should be grateful to have a place to sell their books will not work much longer for digital either.  We should be grateful for each other.  That's how this system will work best.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Question About Length

Late last week someone became very grumpy about the length of Fly Away.  It is a novella but at 20,000+ words it didn't satisfy her.  I wish she had asked for her money back instead of upsetting herself.  Amazon is really good about refunds.

Joe Konrath has a comment on his new post where he talks about length.

I know on some level readers are spoiled by legacy publishers who wanted long books in order to make more money.  They're not accustomed to short.  Oh well.

I like short and I'm going to be doing "short" from now on.  If I have to price it less, yeah I know Amazon isn't very helpful in the royalty schedule but Kobo is.  So maybe it'll even out.

I made a cover for a book this morning that I don't have the story to but I was scrolling through Bigstock and found something so cute that for $2.99 I had to.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Free Free Free

Last month when Fly Away was free, a friend told me about Pixels of Ink.  Today I was reminded of it.  I don't remember quite how it works, if you submit your freebie to them or they find you but they have an email that goes out listing some Kindle freebies.  I think I downloaded two today from there and one Kobo because I wanted to see these particular writers' styles.

You could read indefinitely for free.  I feel this week that you're better off pricing your book reasonably  at $2.99 or whatever and then if you want to put it on sale for 99 cents, that's a deal.  That's fine.  Amazon isn't particularly involved, you don't have to be in Select and they're not price matching.

So 209 copies of Sweet Tarts was downloaded for free at Amazon in the past 3 weeks or whatever.  (Again thank you Amazon, it made me smarter.)  The point of this short story besides that I think it's a window into this character and her life, is that Nothing Serious is excerpted in it.  There have been no sales of NS at Kobo and so minimal at Amazon I wouldn't attribute them to the excerpt. 

I still think excerpts are good and so do most writers.  As a reader, I don't think I ever read one but it makes sense to do it.

I can't say that having Sweet Tarts free for an extended amount of time did anything for any of my other books.  Most of the downloads were immediate then trickled off.  But it's a short story and it's not porn.  It's about a call girl but there's no hot sex in it.  It doesn't deliver if the reader is ...not looking for something that will make them think.  (Yay!  I think I worded that well.)


At some point the market becomes saturated with all the derivative works trying to piggyback on the original success.  This is simply a fact.  Then the market moves on looking for the next shiny new thing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

End of the Week News Dump

I took all my freebies off Kobo.  Part of the reason why was that Amazon stopped price matching Sweet Tarts.  The other reason was I couldn't tell if it was working.  The Missed Wish was in the top 100 free YAs sometimes in the top 5.  But it's a clunky list and I couldn't find Bad Apple on there.  I had Flash for free for a week.  It was just a completely unsatisfying experience.  If Kobo can't tell you how many books are being downloaded, I don't want to play the game.

What I did instead was create a "new" book.  5 chapters of Flash as a sample and I put that for free at Kobo.  Shortened the blurb by about 2/3.  Next week I'll go back and make sure all my prices are back where they should be because going temporarily to 99 cents didn't produce 1 sale.  I'll probably try this with a couple other books, too, but it's been very busy around here.

If a paranormal book is released you can pretty much expect it to be at the top of the chart momentarily. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Weeks At Kobo

Has anyone done well?
Not that I've heard.
It seemed like such a good idea.
Here are a couple of the less good parts I've experienced:

They don't have their own review system, instead they pull reviews from Goodreads.  If you want to read all the reviews you have to sign up to Goodreads.
I hate being forced to do X if I want to do Y.  Sure way for me to exit out of the site.
There's been quite a lot of activity at Goodreads of late.  Google it if you'd like to become an expert on it.

Who at Kobo monitors the Goodreads reviews? Amazon monitors the reviews on their site.  From my contact with Kobo tech support, this is beyond their capabilities now.  Maybe later?  And too bad for you if you lose sales because of it.  Sorry.

Kobo can't figure out how to get the stats on free downloads. 
I've started to pull books out of free that I had intended for perma-free.  What's the point when I don't know if they're being downloaded.  Next step is to start pulling books from Kobo itself.  Yeah, true, I am considering it.

The search function, well...I looked for Summer Horse and it turned up in Adult fiction and I mean the porn stuff.
I wrote to tech support and they defended themselves.  They were spinning faster than a Waring Blender to assure me I was wrong.  They said it in a really nice way tho!

Those insta-changes are not instant at all.  They are in fact no faster than Amazon and given Amazon's new speed in making changes, Kobo is probably slower.  It's not necessarily 1 thing wrong, it's that the site is clunky and doesn't work as it should across the board.

So low marks to Kobo on some fairly important points.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Feral Cats

I call this Black Cat Farm because there are 2 colors of cats here.  Black and Black and White.  Charm Boy of the amazing fertility and sex drive and personal charm, was black.  Mrs. Awiggins was black and white.

They just showed up and over the years, there has been a constant supply although none of the originals remain.  They are feral, not friendly and I feed them because to not do so would probably mean death, especially in the winter.  I also hope they will take care of the mice around here.  This lot isn't very good at that.

Overnight, one of Mrs. Awiggins descendants passed on.  It was just a kitten.  It held on much longer than I expected and I had to bury it.

Mrs. Awiggins

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sometimes You Get It Right

This comment was left at the other blog


My name is Valerie Cameron. I may have known you in the 70's. Did you grow up in Brookfield, CT.? You inspired me to become a writer.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New Book In The Works

Yeah, well it's a secret still but that's what I've been concentrating on.  That and the cover.
I've been in contact with a book designer to do something with the adult fiction and she gave me a couple hints for the new book, a Mature YA.  Got a thumbs up on the test cover so I felt good about that positive feedback.

Apparently I have a some design sense but, as I assured you, no ability to draw whatsoever.

I was very surprised that Montlake bought out Avalon where the length requirement was 40,000 wds and then said Montlake is looking for 60-90,000 wds.  That's a long book AFAIC.  And I'm baffled why there should be length requirements in digital.

The reason traditional publishing went to FORCING writers to vomit forth so many words was purely financial.  Is anyone seriously going to argue that a good writer can't fully tell the story in 30 or 40,000 wds?  Did Hemingway cheat us?  Did he leave something out?

There are exceptions to every rule.  Each Harry Potter book got longer, and in a sense worse.  The Goblet of Fire story was not served well by the added length.  I know Rowling had the plan of doing the 7 years of school in 7 books.  Ok.  And she had a lot to say.  Ok.  I would prefer it if a writer had such a massive vision for a tale, break it up into shorter bits.  Some people like really long books, they want to remain in that world.  Maybe it's better in fantasy and "epic" type books.  It's too much for me and I don't read fantasy.

All a way to say that I set forth to write 30,000 wds for this book and it made it a much more pleasant experience for me.  I'm nearing the end which is good because I still have a ton of writing to do before the end of the year.  Bad Apple 4 is definitely on the schedule. 

People seem to be really stuck in the past and what tradpub did/still wants than to be free and experiment in digital.  The audience ALWAYS expects the same thing until they find something different enchanting.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Michal Towber

I don't know how you get to be gorgeous, so talented and so nice but Michal does it.  This is one of my favorite pieces she's written

And this is her terrific novel WITCH.

I Hate Sassy, Too

Maybe it's just a difference in how people perceive the word contrary to its actual definition.
I have come to hate all that sassy represents because every time I see sassy, shallow behavior ensues.
It's like a loose cannon, someone flitting about, sassing with all those one-line zingers, very self-centered and involved.  Neither you nor they know what they're going to do next but it's all about them.

What's so interesting about a character like that?  I don't get it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

No Expectations

I've been having an interaction with two people over the last few days but also interacting with the world at large.  That happens when you publish a book now.  The whole world has access to it.

I changed (you think I'm going off topic already) the cover to Sweet Tarts which Amazon very kindly priced matched for me.  So thank you, Amazon, sincerely.

So what's the difference?  I put my name on it.  It used to say Noel Adrian.

Noel Adrian PhD is the sociologist in the story conducting the oral history of sex workers.  It's published by the Springset Institute who commissioned Dr. Adrian to go to Hollywood and speak with Madam Doucette's (sweet tart in French) girls.

It's all a fiction because it's fiction.  But I think people are confused.  I think they're confused by the entire thing.  If it's a call girl there should be hot sex in it.  There's no real sex in this short story.  It's not erotica, it's more--yikes--literary fiction.

This is the story of a damaged woman and because of the abuse she suffered early on, she doesn't know how to make good choices.  She falls back on what she knows best again and again and again.  That's the story of Tierney Reed, call girl.

Everyone expects it to be hot erotica.  It's not, it's a mini-tragedy.

I'm not misleading readers by telling them in the blurb there's no sex in the story.

On to the other expectations.  And mine!  I have them too and am disappointed as well.

I thought when we went to digital--Finally, traditional publishing and all the rules and compartmentalization and genres were behind us.  I thought--Oh good, now we can experiment.  Now we are free.  Go back to my first post on this blog.  Jack Bruce singing I Feel Free.

Today I don't feel so free.  Yesterday someday was trying to pigeonhole one of my books "What is it.  Comedy?  Romance?  Drama?  I read the blurb and it's very misleading."

It's only misleading if you have expectations and are projecting them onto a book you've never read.  If you want to understand the book, read it.  Don't expect the author to explain it to you.  That's what the book is for.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ebook Covers DIY Redux

In the past, before digital, the way writers generally got a book printed was to be taken to the cleaners by some subsidy or vanity press.  It happened to a friend of mine.  She wanted the book published and she had the money and wasn't thinking clearly.  So $5000 later she had a garage full of books.

Okay.  That doesn't happen anymore.  We can be thankful.

It doesn't exactly happen like that anymore but that doesn't mean there aren't people willing to take writers to the cleaners in the ebook realm.  There are people who know little to nothing about editing who are setting up shop as editors.  If you hire an editor, make sure they have real experience.  Anyone you hire should be able to prove they know what they're doing.  Check these people out.  Get references.  Have a conversation with them.  See if you are on the same page.

We've talked here many times over the years about creating covers and I think I've lost a couple readers to the blog because I insisted and will continue to insist that creating a decent cover is just not that difficult.  You don't need special powers!

Let's go through it again.

1) Get yourself a graphics program and learn the basics.  GIMP is freeware.  I'm told it's quite powerful with lots of bells and whistles.  Photoshop Elements is a basic program that scrapbookers use a great deal.  It's not that expensive and it's much simpler than Photoshop.  Corel Draw is an excellent program, also not as expensive or difficult as Photoshop.  Get one of these programs and spend the hours it takes to familiarize yourself with it.   This effort will save you money over the length of your career.

2) Study other ebook covers.  See how they're laid out.  Where is the text?  Where is the image?  Keep it simple!  Divide the 1000 pixel X 1500 pixel space in thirds.  Title, image and author are your 3 elements.  Put them anywhere you like in those 3rds.

3) How to get an image.  The simplest way is to go to one of the less expensive stock photo sites and pay $3-$5 for the image, vector art or photo.  You will never have copyright issues.  If you go to Getty or Shutterstock, you'll pay more.  You don't have to pay more.

Here is a list of stock image sites.  Go look around until you find something that fits your book.  Make your search terms as precise as possible if you know what you want.  Then you will weed out photos you will never want.  Say teen if you mean teen.  Say sexy couple or sexy woman, brunette, beautiful, brown eyes, city if that's what you're looking for.

Where do I start?  Bigstockphotos.  Then I'll try Fotolia, istockphotos, Dreamstime.  It's very rare that I don't find something after visiting two sites.  Sometimes you can't find what you want but something else will do just fine.  Okay.  Maybe you'll find something else later and can change the image.  If you do it yourself you can change it endlessly for next to no $.  You won't be financially punished by changing your mind.

As you are writing the book, start thinking about the cover.  Begin looking for an appropriate image.  You can do this 10 min. at a time when you have nothing else to do.  When you find something, you can buy it.  Most people spend more on coffee than $3-$5 for a cover image.  If you don't use it now, maybe you'll use it later.  It's not a big deal if you never use it.

You will pay someone 100 times what the cost of one image is if you hire someone to do this for you.  How long is it going to take for that book to earn it back?  Good for you if it's the first month.  Most writers aren't that fortunate to be found and become popular within weeks or even months.

Take the long view of your career and spend your money wisely.  It's hard to earn that money.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Free Speech Still Means Something

There is value in dissenting opinions no matter how annoying they may be.  You can always choose not to listen.  Unfortunately there seems to be a growing number of people who don't want you to even have a different opinion than theirs.  Not only are you not free to voice your opinion, you're not free to have it, and if you either have it or voice it, these Correctness Stasi (in Communist East Germany the Ministry for State Security) will punish you.

Did you read Orwell's 1984?

In George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Two Minutes Hate is a daily period in which Party members of the society of Oceania must watch a film depicting the Party's enemies (notably Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers) and express their hatred for them. 

Interesting book.

So value your free speech and speak, and write, freely.

Friday, August 3, 2012

I Hate Feisty

When the entertainment business (I include publishing in this) finds a formula that works, they work it to death.
Feisty, short women who can fight a man to the ground is one standard character.

Snarky, sarcastic and ready with a zinger is another character type. 

This actually goes against my religious teachings.  Wow.  People actually still pay attention to stuff like that?  How antediluvian!  Maybe so.  My rabbi didn't like zingers.  They're a passive aggressive attack by a small person.  These zinger things are particularly popular on sitcoms.  I can't give you any examples because I stopped watching such shows who have the intention to cut other people down long ago. 

If I do include such things in my work it's to show how not to behave, not as behavior to praise, to find amusing or to emulate.

So I don't know what feisty is.  I'm listening to internet radio and they're advertising a book it seems like every commercial break about this feisty 25 year old lawyer.  I don't know what that woman could be like.  I don't know what kind of man could like a woman like that.  I don't know what kind of friends she would have.  She sounds sort of dangerous to know, someone who might turn on you when you least expect it.  If someone feists at another person, I certainly expect them to do it to me at some point.  What would make me different in their eyes?

But this is all too deep for publishing.  We just want the 5'1" feisty chick who knows Tae Kwan Do or some exotic martial arts which enables her to brings down a man who weighs twice as much as she does.  And she's Hot Hot Hot in bed, too.  You could fry an egg on her little thighs.

I am so out of step with traditional publishing it's no wonder they had no use for me.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Post And Run

Most of what I could say is a repeat so I won't.

Did you know that anyone can edit the first sentence of your book at Shelfari?   Now your book can be crowdsourced.  Is the next step rewriting it for you?  We'll have to redefine fanfic.   Cool!

A professional graphics designer said she loved my covers.  Allowing for her being nice and not judging some of them too harshly, I was still very complimented.  I just wish I could draw!  At one time in my life I deluded myself into thinking I could but that was high school.  By the time I got to college, I realized I couldn't and switched my major from art to photography.  Very smart move.