Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Friday, July 29, 2011

Seeking Book Blogs to Help Authors Get Reviews

After doing the guest post on Wendy's blog about reviews, I realized how helpful it would be to have a list of book reviewing blogs for writers to research when they have a new release coming out.

The two I follow are Thoughts in Progress (Mason Canyon) and Fabulosity Reads (Wendy). I setup a sidebar link feature with these two excellent reviewers. But I sure would like to find more!!

If you or someone you know would like to be listed here as a book reviewer, please let me know in the comments. Online book reviews are a terrific resource for authors to get the word out about their books. Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ins and Outs of Reviewing Books Online

Today I am featured on Fabulosity Reads, an awesome blog that does -- of all things-- book reviews! Please stop by and say hi to me and my host, the lovely blue-haired Wendy of South Africa!

I hope you will chime in on the discussion about reviewing books online. Should you or shouldn't you? How tough can you be and still keep friends? How nice can you be and still maintain credibility as a reviewer? And as an author, are you ready to have your book reviewed?

See you there!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Love Affair with Paper

Yes, so I'm a compulsive journal writer. I used to buy the nice, bound journals but economically they weren't feasible since I would go through one in less than three months. Then I came up with this idea to use the piles of scratch paper my husband collected through his business. He knows about my love affair with paper, so he has always been very good about saving it for me.

As you can see, all that's needed is a hole punch, the paper blank on one side and a massive 3- ring binder. And of course a free hour to punch holes in all that delicious paper.

Voila-- my new journal!

This one should last me about a year. I can't wait until tomorrow morning when I start writing in it!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Getting Out

This writing business is solitary. So is editing. Working alone, me and my laptop, day after day. Not that I'm complaining, I love the work but sometimes you just have to get out! Near our home is the Kennecott Copper Mine, the largest man- made excavation in the world, large enough to be seen from outer space. This photo gives just a small sense of how massive it is. Sorry I wasn't able to turn it around for you.

 Last week they had free tours, so a few of our family went up to take a look. Here we are riding the bus up the mountainside, on the way to the visitor's center at the top, where we can look into the excavation. The two shots below were taken on the ride up, showing the work that is happening all along the mountainside.

(The problem with being the photographer is that you're not in the picture. Bwa ha ha.)

Here they are standing in front of a twelve -foot tall tire that goes on a 250 ton capacity truck used to haul ore and rock out of the excavation to the crushing mill. (Note: The two men are 6 ' tall) One of these tires costs $21,000 and lasts one year. There are six tires per truck. See those little specks in the top photos? Those are the loading trucks, seen from a distance.

A few interesting facts about the copper mine:

It is so large that it has its own weather patterns.

It's been in operation over 100 years, produces 425,000 ounces of gold per year as a by-product in the copper smelting process. Gold currently sells for over $1500 an ounce.

The mine provides 40% of all copper used in the U.S. The copper is 99.9% pure after it is refined.

The mine and all its connected services provide 25,000 jobs in the Salt Lake Valley.

If you ever visit the Salt Lake area, I hope you will get a chance to go see the Kennecott Open Pit Copper Mine.

Monday, July 18, 2011

WiDo Publishing, a small press to believe in

I am over at Thoughts in Progress today,  talking about WiDo Publishing. Mason Canyon has been doing a series of posts on various publishers and asked me to guest post. She is a huge advocate of the small press, and I truly appreciate this opportunity to share more about WiDo. I hope you will stop by Mason's blog and say hi!

Friday, July 15, 2011

From my friend Karen

Today I have guest posting the fabulous Karen Walker, who blogs at Following the Whispers. She has recently released her memoir of the same name as an ebook. It's a wonderful book, and well worth the read. I read it awhile back. My review is here

Following the Whispers by Karen Walker can be found online at Amazon and Smashwords.

Welcome, Karen! Love your name, btw.

Making Good Choices - A Writer’s Journey

Life is all about choices, so why should writing be any different? We choose our mates, what clothing to put on, whether to eat that chocolate cake or not. We choose in every moment.

As writers, we face so many choices. What adjective to use, how to describe that tree, should I change the dialogue (unless you’re writing memoir, of course, in which case, you don’t make things up).

Choices get harder as we move along the writer’s journey. Once our story is down on paper and it’s been revised to our satisfaction (and hopefully our editor’s satisfaction), we face some challenges where choices need to be made.

  Am I going for traditional publication?
  If so, I must first find an agent or small press - who will I query?
  What do I include in my query letter?
  Should I ask folks to look at it first?
  Do I listen to what anyone suggests?
  How long do I wait to hear back from an agent?
  How long do I give the query process before choosing to self-publish?
  If I choose to self-publish, how will I do it?
  How do I pick which company to use?

I faced all these choices. It took me 2 1/2 years to pour through journals, deciding what to include. I ended up with a 700-page self--help tome. An editor told me to “tell my story,” which I didn’t know how to do. After a four-year stint to complete a college degree, I re-wrote the book, crafting a memoir. I tried to find an agent for almost two years, at which point I chose to self-publish.

There are so many options out there, it can be overwhelming. It takes patience, perseverance, and tenacity to bring a book into the world. We can all simply do the best we can in every given moment, making choices based on intuition and information gleaned from a variety of sources.

My best advice - stay tuned into your gut. It will help you more than anything else. Because ultimately, your journey is yours alone. Here’s to making good choices along the way.

Karen, thanks so much for letting me write here today. You are such a strong support for writers. Thanks for all you do.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finding Stories

So you all know that I make these cookies to sell, right? And there's a certain kind of flour (among other things) that goes into them that makes them look like this.

Although the flour is available at Costco, the past two weeks it has been unavailable. Apparently, some "company" has been coming in and buying  pallets of it as soon as it's delivered and leaving the shelves bare until the next shipment arrives. And not just one Costco, but every single one in the Salt Lake Area--about 8 or 9 stores. That is a whole lot of flour!

So I went to the mill that supplies the flour and asked them if I could buy the 25 lb. bags there. "No, we are all sold out," the clerk said. I told her about my Costco experience. I said, "I'd like to know who is doing this and what they are doing with all that flour."

She said, "Well, I'd like to know what the man's doing with all the flour he bought the other day. This guy comes in and buys an entire pallet of whole wheat flour. That's a lot. It's like 90 bags. And whole wheat flour doesn't keep that well, so why does he want so much?"

When I told my husband about all this, he said, "Maybe someone  is stockpiling it. Wonder what the winter wheat crop has been?" He researches it on the internet and learns that the winter wheat crop was bountiful. He also learns that Russia had a plentiful wheat crop as well and is trying to import it to the United States.

"Aha!!"  I exclaim. "That's it! It's the Russian Mafia, trying to create a demand by purchasing massive amounts of flour throughout the U.S. and creating a false shortage."

Well, anyway, there's the story.  Stories are everywhere, if you pay attention and connect the dots. Whether they intrigue you enough to write about them is another matter. Although it's fun to imagine the scenario about the Russian Mafia, I don't want to write about it. It's not really my genre. But if anyone else does, feel free!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Answers You're All Waiting for about Kindle Sales

Sorry to make you wait til the end of the week for the results of my last post. But it was a tough week, bla bla bla. Nevertheless, here is the answer, which most of you already guessed in your comments. What really surprised me, however, is how your response to the GHOST WAVES cover wasn't that positive. Because I have always loved it, guess that's me showing my age and oh-so-out-of-it status.

So yes, the newly priced .99 ebook that is selling much better between the two titles, is ta-da! UNCUT DIAMONDS.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not like Uncut Diamonds is burning up the charts and headed for bestseller status. No way. It just isn't that kind of book. People seem to either love it or hate it, with very little in between responses. Regardless, my lovely bloggie friends, if you loved it or hated it, I am grateful for all the reviews and to-read statuses that you have posted on Goodreads and on Amazon. Reviews always help a book's sales, even if they are less than stellar.

So considering reviews, online presence where I have made many friends willing to give this novel a try, even if isn't really their usual genre, and (apparently) cover-- that puts Uncut Diamonds ahead of Ghost Waves in Kindle sales.

Now here is the other little secret I didn't tell you before: That when they were released in print, Ghost Waves outsold Uncut Diamonds by about the same percentage as UCD is now outselling GW on the Kindle. Bookstores just did not want to stock my novel, while they were willing to take a chance on GW. But now that everything has changed in the bookselling industry, it is what's happening with ebooks that matters more than what's happening with bookstores.

So How to get Kindle Sales?

Have an online presence and keep at it. But make friends online, don't spam people, constantly talking about "my book, my book, my book" Ugh. What a bore.

Make sure your cover is eye-catching, professional and up-to-date. A little mystery about what the book is about doesn't hurt either.

Encourage readers to post reviews about your book. The more the better, and don't get upset if you have a few stinkers in there. It helps make you look legitimate, like they aren't all from your friends and relatives.

And thanks for playing my game!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting Kindle Sales

Some time ago I posted here about cracking the code on high ebook sales. Among the many excellent comments, the majority of input seemed to favor "cover, price, concept, and marketing."

Today I compare two titles and maybe come to some conclusions. The two books are put out by WiDo because I can get the numbers with just a phone call, and I'm basically lazy when it comes to research. Also, one of them is my own book, and being vain, I like to talk about myself and what I'm doing.

My novel, Uncut Diamonds, and Ghost Waves by W. Everett Prusso came out the same year, 2009, first published as print only.  I won't go into the details on price, format, sales history as print books, because it's the ebook sales I am most interested in here.

WiDo is dropping the Kindle prices on a few titles this summer as part of a Summer Read-in Special, beginning with these two. Since then, one of them has not done much better than it did before the price cut, while the other has been climbing at a faster pace than ever.

PRICE: They were $2.99 when they first came out on Kindle in 2010. A week ago they went to .99. They have been priced the same from the beginning of their ebook history.


I've always loved the Ghost Waves cover. It's original art, which might be rather outdated by today's YA trends, but it is intriguing, colorful and does a good job of telling what the book is about. I can't imagine this cover hurting sales, and personally I would pick this book up just by the cover. Now to Uncut Diamonds--

This also is original art, although with a more graphic design than Ghost Waves. It doesn't say anything about the book, shows no people, and is somewhat garish with that big flower diamond. I am trying to be objective here and not overly "aw shucks" humble, but if I didn't know anything about either book, I'd be more attracted to Prusso's cover than to mine. Although I do love how mine stands out, and perhaps that inspires the curiosity of potential readers.

CONCEPT: Here's where things really differ for these two books. Ghost Waves is about pirates, high seas adventure, four teens stranded when they fall off their ship as it rounds South America, and then there's the romance element. It is an exciting concept and a fun YA adventure/romance. It is plot-driven. It starts fast and keeps going at a pretty intense clip.

Uncut Diamonds is about a young Mormon couple living in central Illinois during the seventies, when "fuel bills were higher than house payments." It is "Steel Magnolias with Mormon characters," --a character-driven novel, starting slow, with a story that is hidden within the character's lives and dialogue. It is more about people than about plot.

One element they both have in common is Mormon characters, although Ghost Waves doesn't focus on religion nearly as much as Uncut Diamonds. Judging from these covers, and these concepts, which book would you predict has the higher sales?

*long thoughtful pause where everyone thinks about their answers*

*more expounding by me while you think* 

I have always figured that Ghost Waves would outsell Uncut Diamonds any day, anywhere. I wrote this particular novel more for the LDS/Mormon market, and it turned out that LDS women really did not care for it much. Too close to home, perhaps? The worst reviews I've received have been from LDS women. So the religion factor that's strong in Uncut Diamonds truly does limit its demographic. It is not preachy or didactic, because I can't stand that in books, but it does deal a lot with elements of being Mormon, and that's a religion, which might turn some readers off.

MARKETING:  Beyond the initial marketing push done by WiDo when it came out in print, there have been no extraordinary measures taken to promote either title beyond the first two years. Both of us did some signings at bookstores and spoke at several events-- libraries, book clubs, etc. Neither Prusso nor I hired any marketing services. We were advised by the publisher to start blogging and develop an online presence when our books came out. I began blogging at that time, and have kept at it steadily, adding Twitter and Facebook. Prusso set up a word press site, wrote a couple posts and was done there. I believe his daughter started a Facebook fan page for his book, but I don't know if it's still active as I couldn't find it.

COMPARISON RESULTS: Have you guessed which of these books is picking up steam on Kindle and which one is not? Well, here's the deal. Give us your best guess in your comment, with reasons why, and later this week I'll give you the answers. Of course, you can find out for yourself by looking at the Amazon ratings, but what fun would that be?

Come on, play my little game. What do you think?