Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Curious Case Of Blurb Writing

One of the plus sides of self-publishing is that you don't have to write a complete synopsis or a query letter. Yay for that, but you still have to write a blurb (or short synopsis) for your book. It either goes up on every digital site your sell or advertise your book listing or it goes on the back of your paperback, and in most cases it goes to both. It is vital to have one, otherwise no one will know what your book is about and you'd better make it a good one otherwise no one will want to read your hard work.

I really hate blurb writing. Hate it with a capital H. It's no fun, and I'm pretty sure I've gained some gray hair just from trying to come up with two coherent paragraphs about my book. And revision after revision and even seeing it on the back of my paperback proof I am still questioning whether it is good enough. Because let's be honest here, in self-publishing “good enough” is never, EVER, “good enough”. You can't just be good if you want to succeed, you have to be great, fantastic, amazing. And this isn't about making money, when I say “if you want to succeed” I'm talking about gaining fans, having people recommend your book, and people enjoying your vision. That is success. But you can't just be good, a lot of people are good. You have to stand out.

Years ago I wrote to one of my idols, Gary Gygax, if you don't know who the man is then Google him. He is known as the father of D&D. I had this idea, an RPG (you know, the paper and pencil kind, not a video game), it was a world I'd created from years of playing Dungeons & Dragons, Rifts, and Gamma World. Even better I'd written scores of stories based on the adventures that all of our characters had played. P.S. If you didn't know: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first novel of the Dragonlance Chronicles series, was written based on D&D sessions played by the authors, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, along with other friends (some of them went on to be Dragonlance authors as well). So my idea wasn't completely loony. Anyway, I wrote to him asking him how in the world do I go about breaking into this business. Amazingly he responded. His advice was simple, be great. He said that the downside is that RPG fans are amazingly creative, the game is made for you to think and be as creative as possible. Which mean that they all have great ideas, great worlds, maps, and therefore there are a lot of them out there trying to do the same thing as me. So if I wanted my world to stand out it had to be better than good, it had to be great. It had to be something different, because a lot of people where doing the same thing as me. He also said to not give up, keep trying. Many years later, I am still trying and not giving up.

I think this same thing applies to authors, we are all creative, otherwise we wouldn't be writing about all of these fanciful worlds and characters. This is a competitive industry because of that level of creativity. That is not to say you can't give support to your fellow authors, you should. You should promote the hell out of them, and vice versa, because as indie authors if we don't have each others backs then we all suffer. But you can't just be good, you have to be great. And the first thing a reader sees is your cover, after that it's your blurb. If you get the formula right it will hook the reader, and that is what you want obviously. So the stress of writing a great blurb can be the cause for late nights, stress breakouts, and gray hair.

There are a couple of different formula's out there for writing the “perfect” blurb. Do they work? I'm sure that they do, but the thing about a formula is that you still have to put your words down on paper and all the equations in the world sometimes don't help.

I've found one that I really do like, it's simple and helps you flesh out what you need to say. I found this months ago on Twitter and I figure passing it on to whoever it might help will put some pebbles in my good karma jar, so whenever I see someone stressing over a blurb (or synopsis) I always pass along this link:

As for my blurb for Waking Up In Bedlam, here it is (although I am still unsure if it is captivating enough, I suppose time will tell).

Waking Up In Bedlam

Ryder is a fake- and he knows it. He spends his days pretending to be a paranormal investigator and his nights entertaining groups of believers with his claims of communicating with the dead. Life is good and business is booming until the night a beautiful woman storms out of his seminar and a mysterious man drops an unexplainable case in his lap. Ryder finds out the world he thought was fake is actually real and even worse, he has become the paranormal world's most wanted.

Jessa wants answers and the human, Ryder, is the only one who can give them to her. She has one goal, keep him alive long enough to figure our why he has been haunting her dreams. The only problem is the more time she spends with him the more she realizes the answers she seeks are ones she isn't ready to face.

Can either one of them accept what fate has laid out for them? Or will they fight their destiny at the cost of everyone they hold dear?

 Available November 14, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The challenge of pricing your book, plus an announcement.

So several times over this last week posts have come up talking about how to price your e-book. There are a bunch of articles out there, a bunch of suggestions and you'll hurt your brain when you try to make heads or tails of it. So what do you follow? What article do you believe. Why is something working for someone else, but not you?

So many questions, and yes we're all lost in a sea of doubt when this comes up. As Mia prepares to release Waking Up in Bedlam it's something her and I discuss quite often. So here's my advice to you, from the research and reading I've done, it's a trial and error kind of deal. According to the Indie Romance Convention Blog, there's a formula that should help with pricing your book. According to Molly Greene, it's all about hitting that sweet spot, but it's still different for every person. When you talk to some authors they'll tell you they sell all e-books at $0.99 and that it works great, others will tell you that it doesn't work so well.

From what I've gathered $2.99 is the sweet spot for novels and novellas, $1.99 or FREE is great for short stories. Running a free short story as the start of a series seems to be a pretty popular choice. Many people say avoid $0.99, but why? So many authors do that, hell there are authors that offer entire collections for $0.99. Now, a $0.99 promo is different that a $0.99 continuous selling price. Here's the deal, $0.99 can still be associate with crap. Stuff people just throw up there to see if they can make a few sales. Check out the IRC blog for a great analogy about dollar store steak. (Which, for the record our dollar store here does, indeed, sell steak.)

Here's the deal, fellow authors and aspiring authors, don't sell yourself short. We all struggle with doubt, and wonder if someone would even be willing to buy a book for $2.99 from an unknown author, a new author, anything like that. But you have put your blood, sweat, and tears into your project. You are worth more than $0.99, all indie authors are. Don't let yourself get lost in that sea of $0.99, and it's never too late to change that price. So if you're floating around, go play with your prices a bit and see what happens with your sales!

Now time for the announcement. As we all know Mia's book is coming out next month (yay!!!) which probably brings to question when my book will be coming out. This was supposed to be a journey together, and it will be, but because of other unforeseen circumstances the publishing path for Black and White has changed. It will be published with Ellora's Cave, I can't really go into details as to why or how this came about, but I assure you that I have the Indie publishing experience to continue to help Mia with this blog and now I can start to offer a view point in comparison when working with a publisher. So please bare with us when things start to shift around here!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Release Date Jitters

Release day jitters. Plain and simple, my stomach is doing Olympic high-dives every time I think about it. Waking Up In Bedlam has an official release date: November 14, 2013 and to be honest I have no idea what I am doing.

Downfall of self-publishing is that it's all on you. And when you don't know what you are doing it is like swimming in fast drying cement carrying a bowling ball. But here is the game plan.

Alex offered to help me set up a Facebook Event before the launch. I need to start pimping myself out. Maybe posting some snippets, giving away some swag. I need to find some book reviews and hopefully get a couple of reviews before my release date.

All in all, it's a lot to do before the 14th but hopefully it will help me share my story and my characters with lots of readers who will hopefully enjoy what I've crafted.

I am firmly planted in reality. I know not everyone is going to like what I put out, I know that this won't be easy, I certainly understand that (in most cases) you do not get rich going this route and I don't expect to. I want to share what I've created, I hope that I've done the characters in my head justice, and I hope people enjoy it.

So while I am experiencing some major jitters in regards to actually giving myself a release date I am keeping the date, facing it all head on, and going to do my best to get over my fears and actually promote myself.

In the next week or so I will figuring out my marketing plan, when I have that all sorted out I will share it and we will just have to wait and see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Indie Romance Convention

Post written as A.L. Kessler

So there comes a time when my head becomes so full of information that it's going to burst. The pounding headache behind my eyes hasn't seemed to dull, but of course that could be from switching altitudes.... This past weekend I was an attending author at the first ever Indie Romance Convention (IRC) and it was amazing. I gained so much information and met so many fantastic people. I plan on making a return appearance next year.

So where do I start? What information do I pass on, what tiny little gems of wisdom do I have for everyone reading this blog? My first one is, if you get a chance to go to this convention next year, do it. DO IT. I know it can be expensive, but the information and the networking makes it worth every penny.  I'm going to break down some of the things I picked up while I was out there. I'm hoping this isn't a ramble post and I also know I'm not going to be able to post everything, but I want to hit some of the highlights that'll make you think.

Let's start with marketing...I won't reveal how much some of these authors make a month, but let me put it this way...I could pay off some things and live off my writing. How did they get there? They market and well. (We're skipping past the first rule of writing a good book). Most of them have spent money on marketing, a tool that came up several times was Book Bub, which I have checked out and it looks like a pretty cool deal. You discount your book through them, they send a newsletter to subscribers containing your book on a list, and it boosts your downloads. It can be pricy depending on which news letter you need to get on, plus you have to be approved for this service. They stressed social networking a lot, be it Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. It's all about personal interaction with readers or potential readers, don't constantly try to sell yourself, but let them get to know you.

They talked about branding and eventually getting to the point where you can sell on your name alone, but not many of us are there yet. Branding and image are two very important things, what are people going to remember you for at conventions? Let me give you an example: Red Phenix, a BDSM author, is never seen without her mask, and normally in a corset. It fits her genre and people remember her for it. I'm not saying you have to have something that elaborate, but it works. Leigh Savage dresses in a more goth style to fit her vampire writing. This is something I need to work on, because many times through the weekend someone told me I looked so young that they didn't believe I was an author, or they thought I was a teenage. (For the record, I'm 26 and I'm 5'2".....) That's not really what I want to be remembered for, despite the fact that in ten years I'm going to be thankful for that.

Street teams: Oh man did these ladies talk about street teams highly! If you don't know what a street team is, it's a team of people (go figure...) that help you out with spreading the word about new releases, doing reviews, liking reviews, and a boat load of other things.

Best tip: Rule of thumb, do not post more than once a week when it comes to advertising for your book.

Where to from here? Oh yes, I attended a panel called Indie publishing 201. This covered some of the same marketing things, but it also asked use the question of Who are you as a writer? I answered this in a heart beat, but then hesitated a bit. I introduce myself as a Paranormal Romance author, with a hint of steampunk. That's who I am...but before last year, I thought I was only a PNR author, not a steampunk, then suddenly that was added to my list. Think on this, sometimes the answer might change and some times it surprises you.

We covered covers in this panel as well and how important it is, especially with stock photos, to make your cover stand out, in a good way! Don't use just standard stock, put a couple (no more than 3) images together to make a new one, use photo shop to alter it, just the smallest altercation can make it look completely different. If you can, pay for original art.

Oh and editing, man this made me feel small. I have beta readers and then I have a final editor (now two of them), one of the woman suggested having NO LESS than 5 editors look for final mistakes and typos. It's not that I don't agree with the more eyes the better, I was just taken aback on how many people she suggested. You want to put the best work out there you can. I agree 100% with that.

Best tip: Cross market with other people, both in blogs and in books.

I'm sure I have so much more information in my head, but I'm going to stop this here. Some of the stuff I learned doesn't apply to everyone, but I'm putting it specifically towards my writing life. Again, if you get a chance to go to this convention do it! I'll see you all there in 2014.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Music Was The Lamb That Made A Lion Out Of Me

Anyone who knows me that I love finding new music. I have so many random playlists of obscure and mainstream, folk, indie, pop, country, rock, and international artists on my YouTube channel and most days my Facebook feed is full of music posts from me. Music helps me to write. Songs or even a single lyric can inspire an entire story for me. There isn't an hour of the day that music isn't on in my house. It's on when I write, when I clean, when I cook, and when I chill.

Music sets the mood for my writing. So I thought I'd share one of my writing playlists for Waking Up In Bedlam. Maybe some of the songs will inspire someone else.

First off, sometimes it's not a mix of music but a single album that inspires me. For a current project I'm fleshing out I've got The Civil Wars on constant rotation. For my Post-Apocolyptic Erotica it's Imagine Dragons. Holy cow, if I hear Radioactive on the radio while I'm driving my kids know to be quiet and let mom zone out in her PA world for three minutes.

Waking Up In Bedlam Playlist

1) 8am Departure by The Perishers
2) All Of Me by Angus and Julia Stone
3) Going, Going, Gone by Stars
4) The Man I Love by Lisa Hannigan
5) White Blank Page by Mumford and Sons
6) Young Girls by Bruno Mars
7) Wolf and I by Oh Land
8) If I Be Wrong by Wolf Larson
9) Ships In The Night by Mat Kearney
10) Nothing Like You and Me by The Perishers
11) Kiss Me (cover) by The Fray
12) A Drop In The Ocean by Ron Pope
13) The Wedding Song by Angus and Julia Stone
14) Home by Mumford and Sons
15) I Saved You by Schiller featuring Kim Sanders
16) Such Great Heights by Iron & Wine
17) Overwhelmed by Tim McMorris
18) Wasted Daylight by Stars
19) Come Away With Me by Norah Jones