Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Working through the tough times to find success

Lisa Dayley's YA historical fiction book, The Frozen Trail, has sold thousands of copies since its publication in July, 2011, in both print and e-book format.

And the funny thing is that this book almost never got published. I asked Lisa to share her experience-- how she almost gave up, and what kept her going.

"The Frozen Trail resulted from a college creative writing assignment in 1991. It had proven popular with my class and family members, so I kept it and worked on it here and there. 

"I was very busy working and raising children so the manuscript went neglected for years. About ten years ago I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. The newspaper I worked for downsized, and I needed something to do. I dusted off my old manuscript and started writing again.

"Thanks to the Internet I was able learn more about my great-great-grandmother Emma Girdlestone and her trek across the country. She was the basis for the story. I put together a book of about 44 chapters that went from what I call the Rocky Ridge Experience, the most harrowing part of her ordeal, and ended with her second husband, my great-great-grandfather Ralph Smith, being called on a Mormon mission. 

"I self published the book and sold quite a few copies on my own. I was just thrilled to sell one!

"One day I got an email about a BYU Publishing Fair and decided to go. I took down three copies of my book and handed them out to publishers. I just wanted to say that I had done it but convinced myself that no one would give me the time of day.

"About six weeks later I got the shock of my life. WiDo Publishing wanted the first 14 chapters of my book! I thought I was seeing things and when I realized somebody had accepted my book I started screaming and crying. Everybody at work thought somebody had died, and one co-worker threatened to slap me silly.

"I started the long rewrite process.  I had no idea what I was doing. I sent the manuscript back and forth to WiDo for about two years. During that time I spent a considerable amount of time on my knees praying to get the story right (or is it ‘write’?).

At one point I was so discouraged I came just a mouse click away from asking WiDo out of the contract. I felt I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had been a journalist for 25 years and this creative writing was about to do me in. Creative writing is hard! 

"I don’t know what changed my mind other than the fact that I had spent my entire life dreaming of becoming a published novelist, and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity go.

"Finally, I decided to let the Spirit take over. After doing some research to see exactly what happened on Rocky Ridge and those involved, I would sit at my computer and write whatever came.

"Whether that was Emma herself, the Holy Ghost, or some other divine being, I just wrote what I believe was dictated to me. I had had a similar experience with this “dictation” with the first two chapters that seemed to really capture everyone’s attention. Some people refer to that as “channeling” where an unseen being is doing the writing, and you’re just the instrument being used to type it all in.

"I found that this giving in – rather than relying on suggested writing tools (and they are only suggestions) – really helped me get the job done. FINALLY.

"I am so very glad I stuck with it as the book has proven a best seller on Amazon. While it was written for everybody, children seem to really enjoy it. It is also catching on in the adult market.

"If anyone would like to talk to me about my experience, they’re more than welcome to contact me at lisawdayley@gmail.com."

Lisa, thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing your inspiring story!

About The Frozen Trail:

The Frozen Trail is a novella set in the American West. It is written in a simple, clear style, making it suitable for younger readers as well as adults.

In 1856 the Mormon pioneers trekked across the Great Plains in wagon trains and pulling handcarts, to find a new home safe from persecution. This is the story of one 18-year-old young woman, Emma Girdlestone, of the Willie Handcart Company, who faced starvation, frostbite, and death so she and her family could join their fellow Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley.

This work of historical fiction is dedicated to the members of the Willie Handcart Company. These courageous pioneers displayed commitment and heroism in the face of unbelievably harsh and brutal conditions while en route to Zion.

It is especially dedicated to Willie Handcart member, Emma Girdlestone, who left behind a legacy of bravery, fortitude, and faith; and who, 155 years later, managed to change the life of her great-great-granddaughter Lisa Dayley, the author of this book.

"The winter of 1856 was an intensely bitter one, and wind nipped cruelly at the pioneers of the Willie Handcart companies as they trudged their way across the frozen plains. The experiences and hardships faced by the pioneers of those companies is something difficult to put into words, and even more difficult to understand, but Lisa Dayley has somehow done just that." --Weekly News Journal, Mini-Cassia, ID

"A thrill to read, Lisa Dayley crafts a genuine pioneer story with just the right mix of fact and fiction. You’ll find this book hard to put down." ~Jay Lenkersdorfer, newspaper publisher and columnist

Friday, February 24, 2012

Getting A to Zee'd

I'm approaching # 150 on my personal quest to visit the new (to me) blogs on the A to Z Sign up List. Don't worry, this isn't one of the requirements of signing up.

It isn't even a requirement for hosting, just one I set for myself last year when I hosted, and chose to continue this time. I actually made it through the whole list last year, believe it or not, when we had thousands of participants.

We have a goal to hit 1000 sign ups by March 1. Are you A to Zee'd yet?

Now, here's the thing. One should have a clear reason and purpose for signing up. Peer pressure isn't it. A few excellent reasons--

To find great new blogs to follow

To attract followers for your blog

To show some alphabet love

To achieve renewed focus for your blog during the mad month of April

To dress up your blog to attract more visitors and commenters

Sometimes people begin blogs and then don't know what to do with them. They don't know to get focus, how to find followers, how to attract commenters.  Anyone you know like that? Please help them out by telling them about this opportunity!

Regardless of where your blog is now, the Challenge presents an excellent step for taking it to the next level. If you're ready to get A to Zee'd, go here to sign up!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marketing Overload

Back when I began blogging, writers got online to:

Build a platform
  Find camaraderie among others of their own kind
 Learn about the industry
 Attract readers who might buy their books
 Procrastinate working on the novel
Impress agents and editors that they're serious about the business
Avoid face to face interactions with actual people

And in the last few years, it's morphed into must get online to:

Promote our books
Market our books
Tell everyone about our books
Put links to our books on our sidebar
Brag about our book sales

Not that there's anything wrong with that in moderation of course but it does get tiresome. And don't even get me started on the kind of feeding frenzy that Twitter and FB have become for those with books to sell. Still, these are our books and if we aren't passionate about them, then who will be? I guess.

Time for an informal poll! 

Have you purchased books based on a blog, blog tour, Twitter or Facebook announcement?

Ever been tempted to unfollow someone due to excessive promotional content?

Are authors the new spammers?

Am I overreacting, and should I just chill and accept that online marketing and promotional activities are an essential part of being a writer?

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Free on Amazon" Should you or shouldn't you?

Is Free the new .99? .99 ebooks don't get the attention they did a year ago since so many are listed at that price. With zillions of ebooks flooding the internet, how does one little book get noticed?

Recently WiDo Publishing did free promotions on their titles that are in the KDP Select program, which allows a book to be offered free for five days during its 90-day cycle on the program. In WiDo's experimentation with price adjustments and free promotions, it's the Free that makes the most money, while .99 is the throw-away.

How can "free" make money? Free for five days in a row, which is  how WiDo did it, can be quite profitable. Once the free promo ends, the exposure brings downloads well beyond the book's previous sales levels.

For instance, my book Farm Girl, which wasn't selling well on Kindle, had 18,588 downloads during its five free days. It got ten new reader reviews, all positive (yay!) and then continued on to 500 sales in the two weeks following the promotion.

It may continue selling well, it may not; but at least the little farm girl got some exposure and sales that she wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Since she was lucky to get five downloads a week before, we're talking 100 times the traffic. For an e- book that's not doing much, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing a give-away. Print sales of Farm Girl also increased, as did ebook sales of Uncut Diamonds.

WiDo found similar numbers with its other free promotions, although not as extreme. Sales and rankings increased with the end of every free cycle. While some continued to climb, others returned to their pre-promotional ranking numbers. Price didn't seem to matter. Two books that were given the .99 price tag didn't sell any more after the promotion than those priced at $3.99.

Should you or shouldn't you take advantage of KDP Select's five day free option? I would say "Most definitely." Because Free can make money for a book that isn't making any, and it can make even more money for one that is.

Has anyone else taken advantage of Free on Kindle? I'd love to hear your experiences.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Visiting New Blogs, Making New Friends

I'm back from my extended vacation and excited about getting into the A to Z Challenge preparations. Next step-- going through the sign up list and visiting new blogs in preparation for April. Any time I participate in a blogfest, I discover great new blogs. (And btw, the A to Z sign-up list can be found here.)

Sharing time: Whether it is this blogfest or others, how do you determine which blogs to follow and which to pass on by? Do you have any particular criteria?


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Road Trip!

I am heading out tomorrow with my sisters for a long weekend together. Won't be around the Internet, taking a break, and it's not even Christmas! Yay! I'll see you all when I get back. And for any burglars and stalkers reading this post, fyi my house won't be empty. Two strong men are holding down the fort. So I wouldn't try anything if I were you, ha!

Monday, February 6, 2012

In case you hadn't heard....Goodreads Announcement

Goodreads used to import their book information from Amazon. It was very convenient. When a book went up on Amazon.com or the Kindle Store, the cover image, description, publisher, etc showed up automatically on Goodreads.

No more. In fact, they are deleting books that were automatically imported from Amazon. Or you may find some of the detail missing, like the cover image, or book description.

If you're an author, check Goodreads to make sure your book is still listed. If it isn't, you or your publisher will need to plug in the information.

According to Goodreads:

"At Goodreads, we make it a priority to use book information from the most reliable and open data sources, because it helps us build the best experience for our members. To that end, we're making a major change.

"On January 30, Goodreads will no longer display book information that comes from Amazon.

"Amazon's data has been great for us for many years, but the terms that come with it have gotten more and more restrictive, and we were finally forced to come to the conclusion that moving to other datasources will be better for Goodreads and our members in so many ways that we had to do it. It may be a little painful, but our aim is to make it as seamless as possible for all our members.

"Amazon data that we will stop using includes data such as titles, author names, page counts, and publication dates. For the vast majority of book editions, we are currently importing this data from other sources. Once the imports are done, those few remaining editions for which we haven't found an alternative source of information will be removed from Goodreads.

"Member ratings, reviews, and bookshelves are safe, but your data may be moved to a different edition of the book. If we can't find a matching edition, then your review will be attached to a book with no title or author. But the good news is that there's a way you can help.

"Today, we are announcing new tools to help Goodreads Librarians source data for the books that need rescuing."

(Please go here to read the rest of the announcement, with instructions on how to add book information that has been deleted.)

Goodreads isn't being specific about just what these "terms" from Amazon are, which of course I find most interesting, and would like to know the whole story.



Friday, February 3, 2012

Evaluating social media time

Pretty sure I'm being Officer Obvious when I say it's a struggle to get one's mind around social media efforts, to create the ideal balance between online activities and the actual writing of books.

Where do I hang out online and how effective is it really? I'll share my list and would love to get feedback about yours, too.

Twitter: It used to be fun but no more. It's become a mass of non-stop promotion and links. As a result, I'm spending much less time there and enjoying it even less. With nearly 2100 followers, I certainly don't want to abandon my Twitter account, but still....What's the point of it? I ask myself.  Twitter time: Less.

Blogs: Coming Down the Mountain is where I connect with writers and readers. It's an important social outlet for me, kind of a combination book club, writer's group, and chat room (including the blogs I visit, not just hanging out here expecting everyone to come to me). My other blog, the Celery Tree blog, is for information and promotion of Celery Tree. Anyone interested can follow it for up to date info about Celerytree.com.  
Blog time: About the same-- posting once a week or as needed on the Celery Tree blog and posting 2 or 3 times a week here, as the mood strikes.

Facebook: FB friends include writers, neighbors, family members, slight acquaintances, people I knew decades ago-- you know how it is on Facebook. Lately, FB has made changes that annoy  me and make the site messy, cluttered and sometimes awkward to navigate.  
Facebook time: About the same-- check it a couple times a week. It's not an important part of my life.

Website: I set it up last year as the place to find out about my books and me as an author. My url is karenjonesgowen.com, yay!.  
Website time: I love it but don't hang out. It's for company only.

Google +: I do very little over there as it has nothing new to offer.  
Google Plus time: Next to nothing.

Goodreads: I don't accept friend requests from people with hundreds of friends and no books listed. The purpose is to list books read and reviewed, not to amass friends to email and harass to buy your book. I tried joining some groups but couldn't see the point. Like the Kindle Forums and Twitter, it becomes desperate authors hawking their own work. I post reviews, keep track of books read and those I want to read.

And btw, does anyone know why my Goodreads icon has all but disappeared? Has this happened to anyone else? I'm about ready to kick its sorry butt to the curb if it doesn't show up and do its job on my sidebar.
Goodreads: Post reviews, ignore direct messages and group spam. Delete Goodreads book review icon if it doesn't show up soon for work.

Celerytree.com: Brand new and as it grows, I want to do more with the Forum and especially with reviewing member books.  
Celerytree.com: Hoping for growth so I can hang out there more.

That's my list. What's yours?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another month passes and I'm still insecure....

Hmm let's see, which of my many insecurities and anxieties shall I publicize today? There's the health issues, the procrastination, the concerns over what direction my blog should go this year, the fact that the first half of my current wip needs a complete rewrite, my project Celery Tree, sales of my books.....

Bring on the cookies! Milk, anyone?