Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, February 28, 2011

More on Reader Reviews and the Kindle Top 100

So this weekend I was busy doing "research" on my new Kindle, still trying to crack that code on big ebook sales.

There's a lot of well-known books and authors on the Top 100 (James Patterson, Tom Clancy, Water for Elephants, The Book Thief) selling for what I think is too much for an ebook. Why am I going to pay $14.99 and not even get a "real book"? But then I'm still kind of old-fashioned that way. And frugal. After paying so much for an e-reader, I don't want to pay $10 for each book I download.

So this led me to the Top 100 that are $.99. Checking summaries and reviews, many of these looked like they might be good reads, at least some value for the money. And there's self-published author Amanda Hocking, with at least 6 titles on the Top 100. That means she's good, right?

So I downloaded a few of these titles and started reading. I did enjoy Hocking's Blood Flavor-- the first one was .99 and I liked it. I liked her voice, her style of writing and didn't find too many editing errors. Overall, a pretty fun read, so I downloaded the first one in her next series (also $.99) about the trolls.

Then I read the reviews and had to laugh. They were either 5 star "I LOVED this book!" or 1 and 2 star "What are you people thinking???!! This book is CRAP." I'll still read it, but I won't order any of the others in either series because I didn't like it that much, and the rest are $2 and $3.

I'm still downloading a few .99 authors who seem popular but I'm finding that reading these books is like reading a manuscript that needs editing. There's potential, but definitely in need of an editor's touch.

So what have the rest of you found as you've been searching the Top 100 on your e-readers? Any great $.99 values? Or have you found a lot of rough stuff that somehow (not sure quite how) found an audience?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why I Like Bad Reviews

I didn't used to like them. A bad review would upset me for days, back when UNCUT DIAMONDS first came out. FARM GIRL was one of those books that most everyone loved, so I got spoiled. Then when my novel came out I figured it would be more of the same-- a huge lovefest of joy with readers thinking I was awesome and loving all my books and soon I'd be on Oprah, well you know the story. What writer hasn't followed the same train of thought as you complete your amazing work that you just know the world is waiting for?

Hey, I'm no different, I'll admit to my flights of fancy. But now I'm all grown up as a writer-- I have two books out after all LOL *pathetic, I know, I blame the procrastinating*-- and as I check Amazon and Goodreads reviews, I realize how glad I am for those horrible one-star reviews on UNCUT. Now that there's enough really good ones to balance them out, of course. If it was all 1 or 2-star reviews, I'd be in trouble.

But the bad ones give my work legitimacy. Someone checking out the reader reviews will see that I didn't stack the deck with friends and family writing fake reviews just to make me look good.

In fact, here's what I ask. If you read Farm Girl or Uncut Diamonds and didn't like it so much, will you please please please go to the Amazon site (link included) or Goodreads and give it an honest, not-so-much review?

Of course, a good review is much appreciated as well. UNCUT DIAMONDS is beginning to pick up on Kindle sales, and reviews can only help! If you go to the FARM GIRL Amazon site, however, don't buy it there, as WiDo is now running a special sale, available for $5.95 on the website.

So there you have it people. My take on why bad reviews can be good. If you give me a poor review, we can still be friends! Serious, really, I'm not just saying that. Ask Jessica Bell, she gave UNCUT an honest 3-star review which I think is just so cool.

Don't you get kind of suspicious when you go to a site and every review is a gusher? That's as bad as them all being 1 or 2-stars, imho. Because you're not sure that they are real. *Omigosh and I had planned on this being a short post. Aargh!*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Just in Case you Might Want to Plan a Book Tour

I know this is the era of ebooks, social media marketing and forget- about- the -book- tour- unless- you're- a- celebrity, but some newly published authors might still want to plan a tax-exempt vacation
a working, fun vacation
a trip
to someplace interesting

er-- a book tour.

If that sounds like you, I'm currently doing a series over at the Celery Tree blog on marketing and promotion. This first series will be focusing on planning a book tour *does anyone even do that anymore?* Well, my mum and I did and I want to share what we did and what we learned.

The first part of the series was on Identifying and Finding your Demographic. The second on Planning and Communication. Third will be on the Media, Getting Reviews and Articles. Fourth will be Playing to Your Strengths. And Fifth on Failures (because we learn more from our failures than from our successes).

So check it out yo. Come hang out with me and Liesel under the Celery Tree!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adding Followers with No Pressure Blogging

In April I plan to post fast and easy. No pressure. Which gives me more time to go around visiting a whole lot of new blogs. Right now the A to Z Challenge list is pushing 300. Many of these are new to me. I intend to stop by, introduce myself and become a new follower. And the challenge will be to do it without increasing my typical blogging time.

I'm looking forward to doing short posts daily and alphabetically. Anyone who has followed me for awhile knows that my posts tend to be long. Plus (you don't know this, big secret coming) I edit the crap out of them before clicking publish. I'll still blog about writing, editing and publishing issues. Only with a lot fewer words. Ha! There's the real challenge!

When I hosted the Labor Day BBQ, many who participated reached new heights of follower counts. It's simple really-- something like this gives you an excuse to go visit new blogs and introduce yourself. In turn, people will come to your blog, leave a comment and follow.

There were more than 200 participants in the Labor Day BBQ. The A to Z Challenge looks like it will be at least twice that, judging by how fast people are signing up. If you are looking for a fun way to get a whole lot of new followers for your blog, this is it. However, I'm having modem problems on my laptop. Thinking perhaps I need an ipad... by April....hmmm, yes, definitely an ipad.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A to Z Challenge Woo hoo!

This year I'm taking part in the A to Z Challenge and am honored to be one of the hosts. The others are Arlee Bird, Alex Cavanaugh, Candace Ganger, Jen Daiker, Jeffrey Beesler, Stephen Tremp, and Talli Roland. Have you signed up yet? You can do it here or on one of the other hosting blogs.

When April comes you blog each day about any topic, from A to Z, consecutively. And you blog hop to see what everyone else is saying on each new alphabet day. I'm doing it to get some new focus and discipline for my blogging routine. Plus make some new friends!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders Bankrupt and...what else?

I am saddened but not surprised to hear about Borders declaring Chap 11 Bankruptcy. Last year I wrote a post about Borders here, about how they support local authors. The Borders in my area willingly hosted signings for myself and other WiDo authors, then bought copies of our books to stock on their shelves. They purchased them from the publisher rather than expecting the author to cut them a deal as some small bookstores are now doing.

When Barnes & Noble was in trouble awhile back, I cheered. I had always shopped there as a consumer but as an author, they didn't give me the time of day. So I stopped buying books there and instead drove 30 miles to Borders.

When I went on tour for Farm Girl one of the bookstore owners at a local shop in Hastings, Nebraska said that Amazon had really hurt his business. That was 4 years ago. I'm not sure his store is even still in business. Again, it's Amazon. Think Kindle. Think ebooks. Think free enterprise system. Think video rental stores-- Redbox, Netflicks. Anyone been to Hollywood Video lately?

Yes it's sad when your favorite bookstore closes. (I'm hoping our Borders is one that stays.) But is anyone really that surprised? It's been happening to the little guys for some time, and apparently the big box bookstores are not immune either.

So this makes me wonder what other huge changes are in the works for the publishing industry in the very near future? Agents quitting? Publishers closing their doors? The Big Six going POD? What do you think-- predictions anyone?

Monday, February 14, 2011

So Many Books...Unlocking the Secrets of Big Sales

Sometimes my mind can't take it in. All the books in the libraries, the bookstores, the used bookshops, online, and now on ebook sites. How will anyone find one tiny book by one invisible author amidst this plethora of possibility? How will enough people find a particular book to make it count?

Believe me, publishers don't know, or they would already be doing it. There are ways and means to push sales and publicity but it doesn't always work as expected. And then one day some obscure title comes out of the pack and soon everyone is talking about it, buying it, reading it. To have this kind of hit is the dream of every writer and every publisher. Did you know the initial print run of the first Harry Potter was only 100?

Right now it's all about ebooks. I would love to crack the code for high ebook sales. I wish I knew what kind of combination makes it happen. Any tips on that? If so, please share. I've heard of different elements-- cover, genre, number and/or series by same author, pricing, author networking online, coming out at the right time-- how about quality of the writing? I'm not sure.

This all puzzles me. I've read a few sample chapters of some hot ebook sellers, sometimes self-published, and as an editor I'm dismayed at what I see. As an author, I'm very jealous really curious. What? You sold 10,000 copies of your ebook last year? *salivate* *slobber* *green with envy* And wondering *how did you do it?* I can't tell you how many indie authors I've run across on Twitter and blogs who are talking these kinds of numbers. You can have a top agent, publish with a top firm and not see these kinds of numbers.

I'm not sure that ebook success can be predicted or programmed any more than print book success could be before the Kindle changed the publishing world. And as more and more ebooks come out, the opportunity for sales based on timing may diminish.

So what is the key? What is the secret? Has anyone figured out a formula on how to get really high ebook sales? (Besides JA Konrath. His theory is cover and price. I've read his blogs, but has everyone who has followed his advice had the kind of sales he's talking about?)

Here's where I have cracked the code-- making the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. My college son just emailed me saying he sold the 12 bags (a dozen each) of the seconds I gave him for spending money. He sold them all within an hour. Now that's how I'd love to sell my books LOL.

Ha! I bet when you saw my post title, you thought I might tell you the secrets of big sales. Instead I'm as clueless as ever. Snap!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. I heart you all!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Brilliant Writers are not always Brilliant

Following is my Goodreads review on South of Broad by Pat Conroy, which I gave 2 stars. Just so you know, I don't make a habit of advertising when I read a disappointing book, and never when it's a debut author or a friend. But sometimes we all need to be reminded that the bestsellers out there aren't necessarily the best books. And that rich and famous authors like Pat Conroy can put out a stinker same as the rest of us nameless newbies toiling away in our back bedrooms, wondering if we will ever get good enough for publication.

"After reading The Prince of Tides, my first and only Conroy novel, I had great hopes for this one. It disappointed me. There were some serious problems-- shallow character development, contrived scenes, many things alluded to but never explored like the brother's suicide and the evil stalker guy's drowning. How do you take a villain and solve the problem by having him drown off scene in a hurricane? So much better in The Prince of Tides where the heroic brother lets the tiger into the house and thus destroys the stalker/villain. My recommendation is to read the prologue and forget the rest. The prologue is pure brilliance, the rest of the book is a weak follow up."

 An interesting note about Goodreads reviews: Many of the reviews on this book had similar complaints as mine (and much more thorough and cleverly written)-- written by ordinary readers, not professional reviewers. In fact, the professionals gave South of Broad glowing reviews. Sometimes you wonder if these media people even read the books they review? Or do they just look at the author and say, "Oh yeah, he's good, here's my canned bit of praise for the back of the book"?

Have you ever read an acclaimed, bestselling book that got stellar reviews only to say "HUH?"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Follow Up to the Submissions Contest

Time for a reminder post on the Submissions Contest. (Follow the link for details on entering). The Acquisitions Editor is reviewing the entries as they come in so that she can announce the finalists soon after the deadline March 1.

What it means to be a finalist, is that your entry went beyond the initial review and a full will be requested.

After reviewing the full manuscripts submitted by the finalists, a select few will be asked to then send in a promotion plan. Feeling lucky? Then start working on your promotion plan! Did you realize how much work this little contest would mean for you? Bwa ha ha.

Out of these, the three (or up to three) winners will be chosen. If you opt out of a publishing contract with WiDo, that is fine, you will still get a review on your manuscript but won't be one of the winners (obviously, since winning means a publishing contract with WiDo Publishing).

The finalists are judged on both their queries and their first three chapters. So anyone who still wants to enter, get busy polishing your query and manuscripts!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Becoming Fluent in Social Media

Ever felt like you were learning a new language once you started your social media adventure? Twitter is especially like that. It requires a steep learning curve before fluency is attained. I like to think of social media as a language rather than a job.

Because if we see it as a job we want to tear our hair out, trying to be on time-- (posting and commenting daily) or efficient (following back everyone who follows us and commenting on every blog we follow) or successful (getting tons of followers and comments) or getting that paycheck (hey I'm not making any money doing all this work, why am I here again?) and eventually quitting (I just can't do this anymore!)

                   If I think of it all as learning a language, it makes more sense to me.

                                                     Sometimes I don't feel like talking, sometimes I can't talk enough. 

                        Saying the same things over and over bores people.       

                                        Language skills improve with practice.

                Breaking into a new social media venue is like adding to one's vocabulary, not starting a second job. 
                                                                                               When I'm tired of talking I do something else, like shop, watch a movie, read a book. I don't give it up altogether to be eternally silent. 

Study and research is good but there comes a time when the best way to learn is to jump in and mingle with the natives

                           Some things we say strike a chord with others, sometimes it falls on deaf ears.

                                                       Fear is part of the learning curve.

 I've studied Spanish, French and Russian, and I'm fluent in three languages-- English, Twitter, Blogger and Goodreads. I'm studying Facebook but don't like  it much. I'm excited about learning Celery Tree when it comes because then I can practice Forums, which I've never done before. I've not even cracked the book on Facebook or Goodreads writing groups, but it's something I'd like to learn as well.

What social media are you fluent in? What still needs practice?