I’ll take free any day!

Internet discussions crop up nearly everyday regarding free books.  Some book bloggers, especially those who receive FREE ARCs from major publishing houses… Wait, did I say FREE?  Yeah, FREE… Complain that free book promotions by Indie authors diminish the intrinsic value of books, all books.

Baloney.

A free book promotion on Amazon or Smashwords is no different than a publisher sending out free ARCs to reviewers.  Everyone forgets this fact — Big publishing gives out oodles of freebies.  Some of the loudest voices condemning Indie authors are the beneficiaries of those freebies.

A book can be good, a book can be bad.  Free is immaterial, as is Indie vs. trad pub.  It’s the story that matters.  Can an author spin a good yarn?  If so, hopefully her book will sell.

One of the easiest and most effective marketing tools for Indie authors is (Yes, is is correct as it refers back to ‘One‘) free promotions.  Again, it’s the story– a poorly written book filled with TSTL (too stupid to live) characters and a lousy plot will not sell regardless of price.  Unless it benefits from what I like to call The Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome– which typically pertains to trad pubbed books.  We Indies generally have to make it or break it without benefit of paid promoters/reviewers.

I resent the implication, or the assertion, that a book is bad simply because it is self-published and free or costs $.99.  This is untrue.  As I said, a book might be good, a book might be bad, a particular book might not be to my liking while you may love it.

Hey, all we’re doing is eliminating the middle man.  We’re giving books directly to readers.

Here’s a free book.  If you like it, terrific.  If you don’t, you don’t.

I sell more of my self-published books in one week after a free promotion than I sell of the four books I have with a small publishing house in a year.

Free promotions are a tool.  A valuable tool.

Since 2009 I’ve learned the following:

1.  Paid advertising doesn’t work.

2.  Book reviews, even excellent book reviews, at best marginally increase sales.

3.  Blog tours are useless after your first round, as in after you’ve released your first book or two.  Most of the people who follow blog tours are other authors, not readers.

4.  An author finds readers on Amazon.  Period.  (I won’t be forced to redact that later.  Period.)

5.  Wattpad is an excellent place to post free short stories and gain new fans.  All that stuff you think is too off the wall for your average reader?  Testing stories outside of your genre?  Wattpad is a perfect site for experimentation.

So anyway sweeties, my take.  And now I’m off and running.  I’ve got a lot on my plate.  Laters!  Julia

 

 

 

 

I ain’t mad at you, Hugh Howey.

Freaky Friday.  A non-rant and a rant.

Wool

I’m one of the first people to cry misogynist.  Hey, I used to be married to one of the worst.  But I’m not crying misogynist in this case.  Mr. Howey, I think you were simply flabbergasted by the woman’s ignorance and her dismissive attitude.  So you ranted.  Probably you should have kept the rant private but, oh well… you went public.  And then everyone jumped into the fray, the ginormous Hugh Howey Smackdown, including other Indie Authors.  Tsk.  Tsk.

Look, you’ve got your books, your sales, your print contract.  You’ve sold the film rights, right?  You’ve done us Indies proud.

Now for my rant.

Leggings.

Dear god, fellow humans of the female persuasion, stop wearing leggings with short tee-shirts.  It’s a baaaaad look.

Bad look leggings.

Bad look leggings.

Listen, I get wearing leggings or tights while running or in yoga class or while participating in some other form of exercise– or even when making a quick stop at the store or the bank before you have a chance to change…

Running Tights - A-okay.

Running Tights – A-okay.

But lose the leggings before you go out for the evening unless you plan to wear them beneath a long tunic top with a cute pair of boots.  There is nothing that grosses me out quite as much as looking at your butt with or without panty-lines or a thong.  A visible thong is actually really gross.

Cute leggings with tunic top and boots.

Cute leggings with tunic top and boots.

With the popularity of skinny jeans, and the nice way they fit most body types, why oh why would you choose leggings over skinny jeans?

A wealth of skinny jeans.

A wealth of skinny jeans.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the side-boob.  Seriously.  There I was at a baseball game, and it was pretty darn chilly out, definitely not side-boob weather, and there, two rows up across the aisle was a woman showing a whole lotta side-boob or as my husband labeled it… “Underarm fat.”

Why show your side-boobs at a baseball game?  Every time she lifted up her arms, which was all the damn time, I wanted to leap across the aisle with a needle and thread and sew up that hole in her shirt.  Between the woman in front of me wearing the tiny tee-shirt and the awful leggings sans underwear and the flopping side-boob across the way I could barely watch the game.

Side boob

Just so we’re clear, this is not a misogynist rant.  It’s a fashion faux pas rant.  Up with skinny jeans!  Down with side-boobs!

If I were a reviewer, I’d seek out Indie Writers.

There’s an implied question in the above statement, actually two-

Why?

What does it mean to be an Indie Writer?

Where do I begin?

I’ve gone round and round attempting to answer the questions.  I planned to write a very long post but then I remembered Robert Frost had already answered both questions.

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

I’ve read some outstanding works by Indie Writers of late.  In fact, I barely bother with the big pubs anymore, at least when it comes to genre fiction.  How do I get my recs?  Friends.  Small book bloggers.  Small indie presses.  The authors themselves.

Can’t help it.  I’m curious.  If I were a big time book reviewer I’d be watching the creative risky pushing the envelope wild wild west world of Indie Writers with tremendous interest.  Mainstream publishing certainly is, yet reviewers tend to ignore us until one of us signs a six figure publishing contract.

Because of Indie Writers more people than ever are reading.  Unique genres and forms are introduced and reintroduced to the public.  Serialized fiction, the short story, and even poetry have been born again.  Instead of living in the passive voice, waiting for others to determine our destinies, we indies are active.  We are the boss of us.

It’s a great time to be a writer!

I encourage your participation.  I’d love a discussion.  Are you a Indie Writer?  What do the words Indie Writer mean to you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch out! Here comes another Ranty McRant.

I keep reading complaints around the blogosphere about indie authors spewing word vomit instead of writing good books.  I fear I must object.

Even the icons heard the same criticism.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti believed art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals.  He published his own work with his own City Lights Press.  Have you read his poems?  If not I’d recommend following their trail around a page.  It’s kind of like wandering through San Francisco.

Michael Leddy, commenting on the poems of Wild Dreams of a New Beginning, “Ferlinghetti seems the poetic equivalent of the jazz soloist who, for want of invention, quotes fragments of well-known songs, hoping that the audience will be content to congratulate itself on recognizing the sources.”

Ferlinghetti was also arrested and tried for printing and selling obscene and indecent literature– Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

Howl, by Allen Ginsberg.

Howl, by Allen Ginsberg.

Critics widely disapproved of Jack Kerouac’s work, On the Road.

Jack Kerouac.

Jack Kerouac.

William Burroughs’ work was considered obscene and banned from most libraries.  Go on, eat your Naked Lunch.

William Burroughs.

William Burroughs.

The reception of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was largely negative.  One reviewer described the book as “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity.”

Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley.

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte – from Graham’s Lady Magazine:  “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.” 

Emily Bronte.

Emily Bronte.

There’s this thing on Amazon… It’s called the Send Sample Now button.  And there’s this other feature.  It’s called Search Inside This Book.

You can sample any book before you buy it for your Kindle and you can read a few pages of almost any print book before you make a decision to purchase.

Use those things.  I consider them a perk for the wary reader.

Go on, use them.

It would be tough to estimate the number of books I’ve purchased in my lifetime, traditionally published books from big name publishing houses written by both established authors and debut authors that were lousy, a complete and utter waste of my time.  I read a lot, I’ve been known to read as many as three books at a time, and I’ve been reading since I was 18 months old… You do the math.  I’m guessing a few truckloads of non-indie books have ended up in my DNF/DONATE pile over the years.

I don’t write crap.  I don’t spew word vomit.  Neither do many many indie writers I know.

Look, we all know some indie authors have problems with editing, story content, formatting.  Some indie authors have no talent.  Some have a great story to tell but don’t understand craft.  Some understand craft but have no story.   This is how it’s always been for would-be authors.

But you can’t paint us all with one brush.

That’s why, if you’re concerned about word vomit, it’s wise to sample a work before you buy, regardless of the source of the work.

Personally I think it’s cool… I like the thought of all those excellent indie books waiting to be discovered by adventurous readers.  We must be doing something right – publishers are using the glut of indies as the new slush pile.

 

Marketing and Selling Books, A Guest Post by Dumitru Sandru.

I met Dumitru Sandru on The Passive Voice when I was a guest host. He left a unique comment on a blog post, so unique it stood out. I realized he’d given a lot of thought to the process of marketing books, why some books sell, why some don’t. I invited him to expand upon his ideas here.  Julia

I am an author and Indie Publisher, and I’m always searching for better ways to market and sell my books. There is plenty of advice on how to sell books based on methods borrowed from selling other products. However, books are not necessities. Books belong to the business of entertainment, along with TV, movies, music, art and so on. Books sell if you manage your entertainment business using these four guiding principles:

  1. Sell in the right market,
  2. Advertise,
  3. Provide emotional appeal,
  4. Author’s reputation/fame.

The right market.  Do you think you would be able to sell ice cream on a hot day on a crowded street? You bet, because that is the right market for selling ice cream. What is the right market for books? It depends on two things: the subject of the book, and the place. It is imperative to find the right market for your book’s subject. The narrower the subject of your book, the easier is to find the book buyers who may be interested in your book. For non-fiction books you could join specific interest forums. For fiction you would have to join on-line book clubs such as Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, and many others. However, you must respect the policies of the club regarding advertising your book. The clubs are not intended for authors to peddle their books. However, your presence as an author and reader will increase your status and popularity among club members.

The best place to sell books is, or used to be the brick-and-mortar bookstores. The Indie Publishers have little access to those stores. They might as well not exist. However, an Indie Publisher can explore other venues for selling paper books such as book fairs. As a practical matter, make sure that you would be able to sell enough books to cover the book fair expenses.

The bookstores are vanishing fast and are being replaced by the virtual e-Bookstore, like Amazon. The e-Bookstore accepts all of us, Traditional and Indie Publishers alike. But there is a problem with the e-Bookstore. It is a virtual store and it is immense. The virtual bookstore may have more books than readers. A book might as well be a speck of dust in a dust cloud in this store. The old saying: if you build a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door is not true. To be found your book must be known. That’s why advertising is important.

Advertise.  After writing new books, advertising should be your next responsibility. Every time you are in front of an audience (e-audience) you must advertise your book(s.) If you advertise blatantly, in your face, the audience will be turned off and you’ll be booted out. You need to be subtle, which is a whole subject in itself. Practice subtle advertising. It pays.

Advertisements can be of the paid or free type. If you spend money for advertising, you must do it in the right place, for the right audience. Sometimes even if you think it is the right place it may not work. I placed a banner ad for my first book, Arboregal, for a week in a reputable forum with thousands of reader-viewers. It cost me $240 and I sold four (4) eBooks. Not cost effective. Also you must consider the time of the year for such advertising, some seasons are better than others.

Free advertising will require more of your time. The following list, and I’m sure there are a lot more, are places for free advertising:

  1. Press Releases. There is virtually no downside to press releases for your book. It is easy to do it yourself and it is free marketing. There is no need to pay for such services. The most successful press releases always include a catchy hook. If you don’t issue press releases, no one will know about your book, if you do, some people will read about it, so it is worth the effort. Check these sites about press release submissions: http://www.avangate.com/community/resources/article/press-release-distribution.htm  and http://socialrealist.com/digital-pr/big-list-of-free-press-release-distribution-sites/
  2. Facebook and Twitter. They are called social media platforms. They are platforms for advertising, but remember to advertise subtly. When I released my last book Escape from Communism I announced it on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. People accept such announcements the first time because it is news. If I would remind people every week about my book, my announcement and I would become a nuisance.
  3. Blog or post-comments on other people’s blogs. I do not suggest that you should advertise for your book on them, but being involved and providing your thoughts will be helpful to your image as an author and Indie Publisher. The more helpful you are the more remembered and recognized you’ll be. In the least you’ll be advertising your name as an author. For example look at this blog. I’m writing this for Julia Barrett’s guest blog. How did Julia invite me to write this blog? She saw an interesting comment I made on Passive Voice to a blog about selling books. I hope it is beneficial to all of you. And, let’s not forget, Julia Barrett and Dumitru Sandru may receive some e-recognition.
  4. Your Website. Of course you need to pay to host your website, but it is your virtual store for the world to see. It is yours, it is free advertising, go bananas with your marketing on your website.
  5. On-line book clubs. People of a mind tend to congregate together, and so are readers. There are sites like Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari and many others. Be careful about blatant advertising, because you’ll be kicked out. Most of these forums allow the author to post their author page, the book(s) you published, and invite people to chat with you. Some clubs give you the opportunity to offer a few of your books for free to interested readers, like via raffles. I offered five copies of my YA Fantasy book, and over 300 readers were interested in it. The winners were encouraged to offer a reviews after they read my book. There are no guaranties that you will receive reviews or good reviews, but what do you have to lose?
  6. YouTube.  Have you noticed an increase in YouTube clips on the Passive Voice forum? If millions of people viewed a screaming child and made him famous, you could get at least a few thousands to know you via YouTube. And screaming is optional. YouTube is a great tool to advertise for free. YouTube is the equivalent of the “elevator speech.” It must be short, entertaining, informative, thought provoking, and point the viewer to your book. The video clip can be about yourself or your book in a book trailer. For example, currently I’m sketching the book trailer for my next book the Pregnant Pope, a paranormal thriller. The book is not finished, but I will release the trailer before the book is published. There is a benefit for working on the book trailer while the manuscript is in the draft stage. It will force me to concentrate the essence of the story in a few riveting sentences. Then I compare them to the story. Is the story as riveting? If not I’ll revise the story while I still can.
  7. Merchandising Products. This can be as simple as a T-shirt with the name of your book on it, even if you will be the only one wearing it. For my book, Arboregal, I painted a lot of cottages in the giant tree of the story. All this art is available as T-shirts, coffee mugs, caps and prints, among many other paraphernalia. If you want to be inspired check on the store links at my website: sandru.com
  8. Free e-Books. Caution: This subject creates heated discussions among authors. Free e-Books are free advertising. Which of two options would you choose?
    1. If my e-books don’t sell, I don’t make money, and I will be unknown.
    2. If I give my e-books away for free, I won’t make any money, but I will be known.
  • If you choose free e-Books, consider the free e-Books as loss leaders, which eventually may inspire the readers to come back for more of your books.
  1. Reviews. Especially, good reviews for your books are free advertising. But if you don’t sell many books you will not get reviewed. It is a catch-22, no books sold, no reviews, no reviews, no books sold… .  Amazon has clamped down on fake/paid for reviews; only buyers of books or e-Books can review them. Good reviews are needed for priming the book-selling pump. I realize that what I will suggest is sacrilegious to some writers, but ask people you know to read your book and post their reviews. If you don’t have those kinds of friends, participate in reading clubs and make some.
  2. Others. Business cards with your book title, or bookmarkers. At Halloween I give candies and bookmarkers advertising my YA Fantasy book. How about the back window of your car displaying your book title? Cheesy? Maybe. But how badly do you want to sell your books? (I confess I haven’t tried this)

Each one of the above will provide some degree of success over a period of time. Do some or all of them, but manage your time wisely. It is too easy to be swallowed by the e-Media advertising vortex.

Emotional Appeal.  What is the bestselling genre? Romance, lots of emotional appeal. Even if it is not romance, there are plenty of books with women’s bare legs on covers. That may not be your or my choice for a book cover, but it’s hard to argue that it does not have some appeal. The emotional appeal is not limited in the genre or cover, but also in the title and the blurb on the back of the cover. A book that will generate emotional appeal should resemble the front page of a newspaper. Earlier I mentioned my next book “The Pregnant Pope,” is this title shocking? If it is it fulfills its purpose. Your book cover should not only be appealing but readable in a postage stamp size. That is how on-line buyers will see your cover most of the time.

For real stories and biographies (if not a famous celebrity) emotional appeal works as well. Following are samples from the blurb on the back cover of my book Escape from Communism:  “Life under communism is cruel and inhumane…. It is a crime to escape by crossing the border illegally, and anyone caught is beaten and imprisoned, sometimes even shot…. However, I would rather have died than keep living as a communist slave. This is my story of what happened and how I reached freedom.” It is a real story about escaping from Hell.

For non-fiction books, the most successful approach is often to address a real or perceived problem and offer “most successful” solutions, usually as numbered tabulation, like I used in this writing.

The author’s reputation. As in your fame-quotient. How famous are you? Have you googled your name or book’ titles? How many hits do you get? As of January 2013, JK Rowling gets almost 36 million results on Google. I get… well, it’s a work in progress. The more times your name or book’s name appears on search engines the more famous you are.

Why do you think Snooki’s books sell? (Yes, she has more than one book.) How about Hillary Clinton? I admit Snooki and Hillary don’t belong together, but they both rely on their fame to sell their books. What sells Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Grisham, Stephenie Meyer, or E.L. James’ books? A good story helps but fame is what gets that book mass appeal. You need to work to expand your own fame, and you don’t have to become a guido or a guidette, (unless you want to.)

How do you get famous as an author? First, by advertising yourself and your books. Second, it is by doing what you love to do anyway. Write books. Your fame will increase by writing an outstanding book or write a lot of good books. Your books will get to be “good” the more you’ll write, but it will take time. You will create your own market through your fame as an author.

What happens if you wrote bad books, as it may have happened when you started? You pull them from publication, rewrite them, or re-edit, and re-publish them. If they were bad, not many readers bought them in the first place and the tarnished reputation is minimal. You must continuously improve your fame with more and better books.

Fame is like gravity. If we take the analogy of the dust cloud, eventually the dust particles will clump together and create a new center of gravity. Your fame created by your many good books would become that center of gravity. Your fame creates a new market and the readers will be attracted to it, especially if it grows into a planetoid.

Bottom line, as they say in business, you must sell your books, and you must think and act like a businessperson and marketer. I enjoy writing my books, but it is better when my books sell. How about you?

As an author and Indie publisher you are in the entertainment business. Your fame sells your books; write many books and work on your fame. Live, write and prosper.

Dumitru Sandru is an artist, composer, and author. He paints in the classical, surreal, and modern styles, and most of the music Dumitru composes is of the New Age flavor. As an author, he prefers to write science fiction, paranormal, and young adult fantasy novels, such as Arboregal, The Lorn TreeEscape from Communism is his story of escaping from communist Romania when he was eighteen.

Dumitru resides in California with his wife. They have one daughter and two grandsons.