New Meet Cute Romance Covers!

So I have this thing where I like to play with cover art when I’m bored or procrastinating.  I’ve been gradually getting better with Photoshop, watching a video here, reading a tutorial there.  I completely <3 my cover artist Robin Ludwig, but I can’t justify the cost of her talents for my Meet Cutes since they’re not real money makers–just sort of Foot in the Door or Hey I’m Still Here! reads.  All the stock art, I’ve gotten as part of free trials at one place or other, so the covers for these haven’t cost me anything but time.  The first batch of them were okay.  They did the trick.  But there were things about them that were unprofessional or that just generally bugged me.  So this week, I made new covers for all of them to be a bit more consistent with the look Robin established for my Wishful series.  The old ones are on the left, the new ones on the right.  New Year’s Eve and Heirloom in particular I”m much happier with.  I was never happy with the stuff I had to do to make the text show up in the original versions.  I think I’m pretty pleased with these.  They’re cleaner than the originals and fix a lot of the issues I had with the first batch.  Got them uploaded everywhere (I think) last night.  And now we will see if they make a difference in sales!

Once Upon A Snow Day Final 3  Cover Attempt 2

Once Upon A New Year's Eve: Meet Cute Romance 2  Cover Attempt 9

Once Upon An Heirloom: Meet Cute Romance 3  Cover Attempt 2

Once Upon A Coffee 2  Cover Attempt 2

Thoughts and Questions on Series Numbering

Okay this is probably a rather dull topic for some of you, but it’s been on my mind as the proper launch of To Get Me To You draws nigh.  It is the first book in the series and is, obviously, properly number 1.  This is a no brainer.  Chronologically, Be Careful, It’s My Heart follows it, and I have had a devil of a time trying to sort out how to number it.

The numbering scheme for such a thing in the traditional publishing world seems to be most often Novel #1, Novella #1.5, Novel #2, etc., because the novella is meant to tide you over between novels, right?  In some limited cases, I’ve seen a series numbered just straight sequentially 1, 2, 3, 4, no matter what length the stories were (The Gaslight Chronicles by Cindy Spenser Pape being foremost in my mind, followed by some of Donna Kauffman’s Scot series books).

For my Mirus stuff, I numbered Forsaken By Shadow 1.1, Devil’s Eye 1.2, and Blindsight 1.3 because all of them were collected in the omnibus edition Genesis, which was officially the first book in the series.  But that doesn’t much make sense for Wishful.

In investigating my options, I have discovered that Amazon allows you to list books as part of a series without specifying volume number at all, if you don’t want.  If you choose to use that feature, you can do #.#, but you only get a single decimal place (so no 1.25 or something).

Smashwords has their handy series manager tool, which allows you to set the chronological order, custom numbering scheme, and choose whether to show the volume number at all.  

Barnes and Noble requires a volume number if you go through Nookpress, and it has no decimals at all, so it won’t accept the convention of 1.5 for a novella.  Same for Draft2Digital.  I did notice that some traditionally published series are listed without numbers at all, so that requirement seems to just be on the self published side of BN.  I’m not sure what they do with titles distributed through Smashwords as I published almost everything except some short stories direct through NookPress, rather than go through the premium distribution.

I have two reasons for angsting over this.

1) I actually have another novella in Wishful that I want to write before the next full novel and since BC takes up the 1.5 slot…what would I number it?

2) If I were to use sequential numbering of just 1, 2, 3, etc., I wouldn’t want to tick off any readers who picked up one of the novellas expecting a full novel and don’t bother to read the description or the cover that blatantly SAYS novella and then get ticked off and feel cheated (which has certainly happened in the past).

One alternative I had considered was to update the product descriptions for everything in the series to include a list of all the books in the correct order, with notations by the side saying novel or novella (or short story, as I’ve got some of those too).

If I could do them without series numbers at all, I’d think that would be the best option.  It’s NOT the sort of series where it has to be read in order.  Each book is a standalone story and it’s not really a spoiler to know who got together in a different book because, hey, romance.

So, authors, readers, WEIGH IN.  What do you think makes the most sense?

Amazon, What Koolaid Are You Drinking?

So this morning I woke up to an email from Amazon to me as a KDP author asking me to send an email to Hachette basically beating the Amazon drum and spouting the party line.

I’m sorry…what?

While I agree with Amazon as a consumer–I think traditionally published ebooks are often priced way too high–I fail to see why they are under the delusion that I should hop on their bandwagon for this.  This is a fight about traditional publishing.  I am not traditionally published.  I don’t have a horse in this race.  In fact, it benefits me as an indie author for traditional publishers to continue their antiquated and often asinine pricing methods.  My books from $0.99-4.99 look a damn sight more appealing next to those $9.99-$14.99 traditional titles.

So why on earth would I want to email Hachette to bitch about this?  And why would I want to copy Amazon, as if I’m emailing a direct supervisor about some underling’s behavior?  Hachette doesn’t give a damn what I (or the rest of the public) thinks.  An avalanche of emails (and I don’t doubt there will be a lot of KDP authors who don’t think this through and just knee jerk do exactly what Amazon wants) is going to make any difference at all.   This is a business, not publicly elected representatives who can be brought to heel with sufficient public outrage.

It’s just more publicity tactics to distract from the fact that they aren’t being transparent about what all this is REALLY about (because there’s quite a bit of speculation that there’s more than ebook pricing at stake here).

Chuck Wendig has a good post (with links to other good posts) about this, this morning.

Introducing The Forge: Affordable Book Finishing

Logo Medium

This little brainchild resulted (as many do) from an off the cuff remark I made to Susan the other day.   Things were looking iffy at work about funding for a project during the next fiscal year (which ended up working out), and I was brainstorming additional ways of generating some income.  I have already created a class to teach people how to format e-books, but there are a lot of people who just don’t want to do it.  I can certainly format them for people for a price.   And I had mentioned to Susan exactly how often people ask me who my editor is because they want to hire her.   So we decided to join forces (along with the mad proof-reading skills of fellow indie author Lauralynn Elliott) to create The Forge.

Our business is to help you get past some of the barriers between finishing a draft and publishing or submitting a book. We do this by supplying services you can’t, don’t have time to, or simply don’t wish to tackle on your own. We are not a package deal, but independent contractors covering content editing, proofreading, and e-book formatting at prices that indies can afford (because Lord knows, we know as authors that budgets are often tight).

So hop on over to The Forge and check out our services.  Please spread the word to any and all who might be interested.

Writer Class: Ebook Formatting From A to Z Now Available

So I told y’all I’d written the class.  Well, now it’s live at WANA International.  Here’s the blurb from the site:

I have long decreed that ebook formatting IS NOT HARD, and now I’m here to prove it to you. Ebook Formatting from A to Z is an intensive 4 session class designed to teach you how to take your book from Word doc to all industry standard formats. You’ll be ready to self publish on any and all major platforms. Class is designed to take place over a period of weeks to give you a chance to implement the skills I’m teaching you in your own manuscript, with an opportunity for me to check your work and do hands-on troubleshooting. Each lesson is a streaming video that you can watch on your own time (as many times as you want). Then you’ll have access to interactive classrooms and discussion boards for more in-depth problem solving, as the need arises. This class will be most effective if you have a manuscript ready to format, as it is a hands-on skill.

Price: $160

So, there’s that.

Class goes live March 31st, though it’s a self-serve kind of thing that you can work through at your own pace.

Can you learn about all this stuff for free elsewhere?  Sure.  The information is out there (some of it even floating around my blog if you bother to dig).  This class is aimed at those who a) don’t want to dig, b) want someone to guide them through the process and be available for help if/when something goes wrong, c) those who don’t want to have to use programming language to code (which evidently some of the “tutorials” out there promote).

So if you’re interested, sign up.  If you know someone else who might be, please spread the word!

/promo plug.


You Asked For It: Ebook Formatting From A to Z

So I’ve been railing for YEARS that ebook formatting is not hard.  I’ve been doing it myself since I started self publishing in 2010 and I FINALLY got around to putting together a class to teach the rest of you.   It is available through WANA International.

Ebook Formatting from A to Z is an intensive 4 session class designed to teach you how to take your book from Word doc to all industry standard formats. You’ll be ready to self publish on any and all major platforms. Class is designed to take place over a period of weeks to give you a chance to implement the skills I’m teaching you in your own manuscript, with an opportunity for me to check your work and do hands-on troubleshooting. Each lesson is a streaming video that you can watch on your own time (as many times as you want). Then you’ll have access to interactive classrooms and discussion boards for more in-depth problem solving, as the need arises. This class will be most effective if you have a manuscript ready to format, as it is a hands-on skill.

It’s $160 a head and is available starting March 31st.   So…spread the word and stuff.


My Experience With Ebook Booster

Ebook booster.  I read about this over at J.A. Konrath’s blog ages ago.  It’s only for free books, so I’ve never actually used it before.  It  costs $40, which is hella cheap as far as promotion goes.  They submit your free book listing to a whole bunch of places and save you the time.  So I decided to give it a try with Once Upon A Snow Day, as it’s the first thing I’ve had in KDP Select.

I had Snow Day for free for 3 days.  During that time I went from a ranking of 300,000 something or other in the paid store up to a peak of 63 in the OVERALL Kindle Free store and hung out at the number 1 slot in two short story categories.   I gave away 4942 books over 3 days, picked up 5 reviews on Amazon, more than a dozen ratings on Goodreads, a few additional subscriptions to my newsletter, and had  about  a dozen immediate rollover sales to the next story in the series.

It used to be that once this kind of thing was done, there was a lingering visibility affect from the ranking boost, but Amazon has removed that ENTIRELY.  Once the book went back to being paid, it was back in the 300,000 range for ranking.   So the benefit of the free days  is almost 100% going to be based on the hope that some percentage of all those downloads will then go on to check out other books by the same author.  Meaning that this promotion (and possibly the entire KDP select program, at least  for books that do not qualify for the countdown deal) is an absolute waste of time UNLESS YOU HAVE OTHER BOOKS OUT THERE.

It will take a while for the long term effects of this to pay off.  Many people will grab free stuff and not read it immediately.  Many will grab it and not read at all, so it’s difficult to gage how many sales of the other books can be tied to this promotion.  I certainly didn’t break even on the promotion straight out of the gate.  But I don’t feel it was a waste and I’ll do it again for other stories in this series, as I believe that this level of free downloads and the temporary visibility are a good way to cast a wide net in order to begin establishing myself in a new genre.  Particularly because these pieces are short.  I think that increases their likelihood that they’ll be actually read.  So, we shall see.  I’ll keep you updated.

Draft2Digital: An Alternative To Smashwords

As I’ve been dipping my foot back into the self publishing pool, some things have gone exactly as expected or better.  Amazon and Barnes and Noble got Riven up within 24 hours.  And I got through the Smashwords meatgrinder really quickly, with only one small detail I had to change with a bit of random garbage code that came from I know not where.  But it’s nearly a week later and Riven is still in the queue for review for premium distribution at Smashwords.  Given that I have a fair chunk of readers through iBooks this…annoys me.

So when someone mentioned Draft2Digital to me as an alternative, I went to go check it out.  And, I have to confess, I am impressed.  Enough so that I immediately uploaded Riven there to test it out.  There is some overlap between the distribution channels of the two.  D2D currently distributes to Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Amazon (and I don’t think Smashwords has ever gotten THAT worked out).  You can, as at Smashwords, opt out of any channels, which I did since I am direct through Amazon and BN.  I uploaded my already formatted EPUB and in LESS THAN 12 HOURS they had already submitted it to Kobo and iBooks.  :eyes “Pending Review” at Smashwords Dashboard:

Some of the other selling points, IMO, of D2D.

  • They have direct deposit (in the U.S. at least), so I don’t have to wait on Paypal to transfer my funds (though they do have Paypal as an option for those who prefer it).
  • They pay monthly (as opposed to quarterly).
  • They have almost REAL TIME SALES TRACKING, as opposed to questionably updated sales 2 to 3 months after the fact.
  • And, while this isn’t a thing for me in particular, for those who quail at having to properly format their manuscript to get through the Meatgrinder at Smashwords, D2D will let you upload your Word file and they’ll fix it all for you.  Their list of things they need you to do in terms of formatting is like 3 bullet points long.  It’s truly the idiot-proof method of getting your stuff out there.
  • And they don’t have any rules about you downloading and adapting their converted files for use on other platforms.
  • They are in talks to expand distribution to Sony, Diesel, Google Play, Ingram, ARe and Omnilit (which would be awesome as their platform is a total PITA), and Goodreads.

Smashwords still has a handful of others–Page Foundry, Baker & Tayler, Library Direct, Flipkart, and Oyster (though I am pretty sure I haven’t sold a damn thing on any of them), and right now they already have Sony and Diesel, so for the moment, I think it’s sensible to still distribute through Smashwords to whatever venues aren’t covered either directly or by D2D.  For anyone with a sales record and ranking, it’s not worth (IMO) unpublishing through Smashwords to go through D2D instead, but I can tell you that moving forward in the future, I will definitely be using D2D where I can.

A few other points:

  • The royalty rates are the same as with Smashwords
  • Both take a 15% cut
  • Their minimum threshold for payment is $10
  • D2D is not a storefront itself (so Smashwords still has the edge for international readers)
  • D2D does not currently provide ISBNs (but apparently is looking into adding this feature)

All in all, I think Draft2Digital is setting itself up as a worthy competitor to Smashwords in the self publishing marketplace.  I’ll be interested to see if they remain this quick and efficient as they become more popular.

UPDATE: Draft2Digital got me actually INTO Kobo in 24 hours (and sent me email notification of that fact.  Smashwords finally approved premium distribution after a full week, though who knows when they will ship).

Self Published Authors, Do You Ever Change Your Already Published Work?

This morning I read the 24 Reasons Why George R. R. Martin Is The Biggest Troll in Literature Right Now.  Now, days later, I still say that Julian Fellowes is right there with him (he’s the creator of Downton Abbey).   I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll watch Season 4.  It’s gonna take me a while to get over being bitter.

Went to see After Earth yesterday.  I was kind of meh about it.  The performances weren’t bad, but basically after Will Smith and his son crash on this planet, they’re the only survivors, and then they have to split up (because Will is injured) so that son can retrieve something from another part of the crash 60 miles away.  There was a lot of action but not a whole lot of INTERaction, and that left me bored.  I watch for relationships (romantic and otherwise).  I really enjoyed the parts with both of them.  And the score by James Newton Howard was really nice.  But…eh.  I won’t feel compelled to watch it again.

I reread Forsaken By Shadow over the weekend.  I was struck with a fresh case of epic cringe at the total improbability of how I got them IN.  Which is, of course, the primary criticism of the story by those who are bothered by such things.  And I finally figured out another way.  It would still require some suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, but not near the level I’m asking now.  For the hell of it, last night I sat down and sketched out how I’d do it, what would have to change.  It would add another chapter.  Change a few other scenes.  I don’t know if I’ll do it or not.  It began as kind of an exercise just to see if I could think of something more probable.  Having thought of it…

This is, I suppose, one of the great benefits to self publishing something.  If you find mistakes, be they typos or misspellings or something larger, you have the freedom to go in and fix it.  When the initial release of Blindsight got poor reactions to the ending, I added a scene that tied things up better.  It was absolutely the right thing to do.  One reader who’d given me 1 star on the initial version changed her rating to 5 stars after reading the new ending.  So sometimes it’s definitely the right track.  But I did that within a month of the initial release.

It’s been THREE YEARS since I released Forsaken.  We’re talking 7,000 copies out there.  Not to mention my audiobook (not that it’s exactly making bank, but it’s there and if I changed anything significant, it would need to be updated and that costs money).  And then updating Genesis and the print edition of that.  Which would potentially require a tweak by my cover artist to accommodate a slightly thicker book…  Then updating the serialization on the blog, the serialization at Wattpad…  It isn’t as simple as that update to Blindsight.  And yet, this is the start to a series I have no intention of giving up, that will, over its lifetime (I hope) sell a lot more than the initial 7k copies if the series ever gains a real toehold in popularity.  And there’s that voice in the back of my mind wondering how many readers didn’t go on to try the next one because I pushed too far beyond their willing suspension of disbelief.

Decisions, decisions.

I read a compelling post about this (or rather NOT doing this) at Dear Author.  And she makes a good point.  The changes I’m considering really don’t impact the series.  The book remains mostly the same.  The characters just end up in the same location in a different way.  Not the sort of changes that would necessitate readers REreading in order to keep up with the series.

Writers, have you done this?  Gone back and made significant changes well after initial publication of one of your books?  Not just fixing typos, grammar, or formatting, but substantive changes?  A “director’s cut” so to speak?

Readers, how do you feel about a new version coming out of a book you already read?  Are you inclined to go back and read it again to see what changed (I don’t think I would be)?

I’m curious what other people’s experience has been.  Discuss.