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Portrait of Woman in Ink free for Kindle!

Good morning all my Kindle-loving friends! Today is your lucky day because you can get my latest novel, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook for free in the Kindle store. Tomorrow and Thursday are your lucky days, too, because it will be free then as well (so tell your friends). This is a new edition of the book that includes a sneak preview of my work in progress novel Community Klepto.

Get it HERE and get it now!

.. and do me a solid – leave a review after you read it. The Kindle gods will shine upon you if you do.

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The Redheaded Stepchild – Free Day 2!

Yes, I had to capture the photographic evidence…

I put The Redheaded Stepchild up for free yesterday, to celebrate the 1st birthday of Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. It got over 125 downloads yesterday, and made it up to the #1 spot in the Top 100 free books in its category on Amazon. You haven’t missed your opportunity yet; it’s still going to be free for the rest of the week!

Go grab yourself a copy.

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Go PORTRAIT, it’s your birthday!

Portrait of Woman in Ink is a year old today! Just a year ago I was feverishly promoting the initial release of my new book of short stories about women and their tattoos and trying to keep up with the buzz as my closest people supported my efforts. It’s been a good first year for Portrait of Woman in Ink, but there are many more good ones come! It’s like Christmas in July; even this guy popped by to wish Portrait a happy birthday…

To celebrate, I’m making the Kindle edition of my first book, The Redheaded Stepchild, free all damn week! Grab a copy if you don’t have one. If you have one, grab a copy anyway (um, they’re free) and gift it to someone you love or like just a little bit. When Portrait of Woman in Ink is a little older and wiser, it too can be given away for the low low price of free.

Spread the word, get my books (one a year old today and one free), and enjoy the swelter of summer! Have I told you people I love you lately? Well, I do.

 

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The Front Matter Matters

Cue the sad Charlie Brown music…

A few months ago, I entered Portrait of Woman in Ink into a book award contest. It was the same contest that I entered The Redheaded Stepchild in a couple years before, so I had a pretty good feeling about it and didn’t flinch at all about paying the $25.00 entry fee. The Redheaded Stepchild had made it to the semi-final round of this contest, and since I felt like Portrait of Woman in Ink was a much better book overall, I thought it had a very good chance of doing just as well.

I thought this right up until I reviewed their reading criteria, which stated that books were initially judged on the content of the Kindle sample. If you’re not familiar with the Kindle sample feature, it’s essentially a try-before-you-buy function that gives you the first X% of the book for free on the Kindle, and then after you reach the end of the sample, you have the opportunity to buy the rest of the book. Why did I think this might make my book’s entry as a contestant fall short? Because I didn’t know how much of the book the publisher made available for sampling, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t enough to get to the actual meat of the book.

The book includes an amazing foreword by Dr. Marta Vicente, a women’s studies professor who is a great authority on the complicated relationship between tattoos and female identity, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, it’s not the best measuring stick against which to judge the actual body of the book, and just as I feared, the book’s entry was rejected out of hand. I worked with my publisher to figure out if there was a way to start the sample somewhere in the middle of the book, but this doesn’t appear to be a feature that Amazon makes available.

I’ve personally been burned by this feature as well. I’ve been on the fence about shelling out the money for a book, so I try the free sample, only to get 10 pages of nothing but “front matter”: cover, blank page, copyright page, dedication page, table of contents, and (if I’m lucky) the first couple pages of an introduction, preface, or prologue. I understand why they rejected the book; if I were a judge and this was my only criteria for a certain phase, I would reject it too, because I wouldn’t get a good enough idea of whether the book is something that I would enjoy.

So what will I do differently next time (besides write an even better book, which is a current work in progress)? I’ll limit the front matter, even if means moving what would otherwise be an introduction to the back matter. Why? There are already enough barriers between getting my book in the hands of a new reader, the last thing I need is to put up another one, particularly when I can avoid it. Sampling is a great feature, and until they let authors and publishers determine the exact starting and ending point to enable for this feature, I’m going to play the game, and lick my wounds from losing a contest I previously did very well in.

What do you think? Would you buy a book that offered you no “meat” in the sample? Hit me up with your now-solicited opinion.

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Shakespeare Got To Get Paid, Son

BuyMyBookI’m going to go ahead and make a bold statement: If you want to become an author because it’ll make you lots of money, you’re in it for the wrong reason. Yes, there are authors who have publishers back up to their front yards and dump truckloads of bundled cash every day, but they are very, very few and far between and there isn’t one of them who didn’t toil away in obscurity for a long time before getting the elusive “big break.” There are also a decent handful of non-A-list authors who do make a decent living selling their books, and yes, some of them do so completely by self-publishing, but pretty much all of them have the following in common:

  • They had books published traditionally before they began self-publishing
  • They spend a LOT of time marketing
  • They have editors who make sure they don’t put a load of crap on the shelves

And even then, all of them will tell you that they didn’t start writing because of the financial promise of publishing. I say this bold statement as the author of 13 published works, only one of which has earned me any money, and as someone who often comes across people who feel lured into writing a book simply because they see dollar signs behind the 75% royalties services like Amazon direct publishing provide.

I’m not taking a stance on traditional vs. self-publishing. They each have their share of advantages and their equal share of drawbacks, and I think all good authors should have a healthy mix of both in their portfolio. Case in point, if you are an author with a healthy backlist of published novels that are now out of print, you’re a moron if you don’t have them on Amazon. At the same time though, if you think hastily writing one book and self-publishing it on Amazon will yield you infinite riches, you are also a moron.

I understand as well as the next guy that writers need to get paid, but the labor of writing should never be driven by money. This is of course my opinion, and it’s why I have a full-time gig that keeps me housed and clothed and whatnot so that my writing can always be a labor of love, and the two-average book sales I make per month are just icing on the cake that buys me a pizza every now and then. Granted, I could probably make more sales if I spent more time advertising, but as I already mentioned, I have a full time job that monopolizes much of my time (which I am fine with), and I also recognize that my efforts are better spent not trying to market my first book, but to write a better book. Your first book is never your best book. If you think it is, you’re a moron. Not my opinion there, either; you’re objectively a moron. I once thought my first book was the best and I could never equal it. I was wrong, and also a moron.

So in long-awaited conclusion: if you’re writing and selling a book for the sole purpose of making money, don’t. Even if it manages to not be an inferior piece of work, you’ve got a hell of an upstream swim to keep sales rolling in if you haven’t already made a name for yourself or don’t know how to effectively promote (less-than-semi-pro tip: tweeting “Buy my book!” 80 times a day is not effective promotion). If you love writing and want nothing more than to see your name in print, do what Kevin Carroll calls “the lonely work of a champion.”

  1. Take the time to write a really great book. I mean super soldier serum great. Write it until you think it’s good enough, then rewrite it until it’s actually good. Then write it again until it’s great. Don’t put something on the shelf that you wouldn’t be proud to call yours.
  2. For the love of GOD, don’t skip the editing process. There is a reason editors have jobs, and it’s impossible to objectively judge your own work. Assume your readers have half a brain and vomit in their mouths a little when they read a typo in a published work. Don’t make your readers vomit.
  3. Do some serious evaluation before self-publishing. Maybe it’s right for you; maybe it isn’t. Calculate how much time you have to devote to marketing. Put some queries out there to publishers to get a feel for how the book might be received. No one’s going to force you to take their book deal (I promise you), and yeah, some of them are crappy.
  4. Build a brand for your author persona, regardless of how you publish. Yes, it is easier said than done and I am still figuring it out myself. When I figure out the magic sauce recipe, you’ll be the first to know.
  5. Write more books. It’s a lot easier to earn a year’s salary when you have more things to sell, regardless of the royalty percentage you get. And spend some of your royalty earnings on pizza. It’s my version of living the high life.
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The “Soundtrack” to The Redheaded Stepchild

Authors are constantly finding new ways to use other media to increase the reach of their books, so I am trying a new little experiment, based on some inspiration from Small Demons. I made a list of all the songs referenced in The Redheaded Stepchild and compiled them into a Spotify playlist. I was kind of surprised when I finished, because when I look at the playlist, it really is a pretty great reflection of the story. I noticed a pretty sharp trend in the genres (I was raised in the sticks, after all), and because I am a huge nerd who likes pie, I created an executive-friendly statistical chart.

If you’re not on Spotify, I recommend it, despite the occasional tampon or laundry detergent commercial. If nothing else, to listen to the soundtrack to The Redheaded Stepchild, of course! Enjoy.

Click here to get the soundtrack.

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The End of My KDP Select Era

The end of March marked the end of my three-month enrollment for The Redheaded Stepchild in the KDP Select program. If you’re unfamiliar with the program, I explained the crux of it in an earlier post. There is an option to automatically renew enrollment in the program, but I’ve decided I’m done with KDP Select. Here’s why:

  • Over the 3 months, I didn’t have a single “borrower”. These are people who have Amazon Prime and can borrow from the Kindle Lending Library for no charge, while the author gets a cut.
  • I think the free ebook promotion has worn out its welcome. There are so many independent authors putting their books up for free now that it’s impossible to get to them all after awhile.
  • Author “support” sites have figured out that they can monetize on author’s promotional days, asking them to pay a premium so they can give away more of their books for free.
  • The success of a free promotional day no longer seems to translate to as much success after the promotion is over. The Amazon rankings in “free” don’t carry over to the paid days.

Don’t get me wrong, The Redheaded Stepchild is my first book and I don’t expect to make a fortune on it. It’s just the first step in building my “long tail” of success. But if I really want to get my book into the hands of more and more readers, I need to be on more and more sites. And I think $2.99 is an impulse-friendly enough price that I can keep building on that success. Not to mention that if I decide to offer my book for free sometime, Amazon will price-match it.

Because I am a huge nerd, I wanted to look at the data of my promotions and see what kinds of trends were there:

The first day, the KDP Select giveaway was fairly new, I tweeted like crazy, blogged, and it paid off. The second day, I decided to see how much impact my own efforts had, and only sent a couple tweets. The third day, I stepped up the efforts, made sure I was featured on a few promotional blogs (before they figured out that they could monetize on this process), and again tweeted like crazy. The success was pretty unparalleled, as you can see. I did a 2-day promotion while I was at SXSW because I wanted the people I met to have the opportunity to download it for free. I didn’t have much time to tweet about it, plus the network was overloaded with tweeting nerds, so the success wasn’t as big. I also wanted to see if consecutive free days had any compounding impact.

Also, my best dates were about a month apart. I’ve heard from other KDP Select authors who’ve expressed that subsequent promotional days didn’t yield as big a return as a previous one a couple of weeks earlier. This seems to be the same for me. I did, however, sell more books in February than any other month, so I can’t complain.

It was an experiment, more than anything else, and I wanted to try it out so I could see if it worked. I can’t say it was a total failure or anything, but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again for awhile. I want to get my book back in other channels, and I’m not too worried about how this will impact getting my book into the hands of more readers. The common denominator in all my successful days wasn’t KDP Select – it was me. The more effort I put into getting the word out about my book, the more downloads I had. It’s been fun, KDP Select, but I think we need to see other people for awhile.

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Help me pick a title for my next masterpiece!

Greetings, loyal fanbase of fans! Today I sent the drafts of the short stories that are going in my newest collection to the people they were about. If you’re unfamiliar, I’m working on a collection of short stories about women and their tattoos. The stories are chained, meaning you meet characters in a previous story and learn more about them in the next.

I’ve been struggling to come up with a title, but I have a few ideas I’ve been throwing arond, so I want to crowdsource this one… tell me in the comments: which one do you like best?

  1. Vodka Chicken Soup for the Tattooed Soul
  2. Written in Ink
  3. The Girls with the Draggin’ Tattoos

Or, choose your own!

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