Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I'm Not a Fan of the .99 eBook

How to price an ebook? I've read many posts on this topic and considered the variety of opinions. After all the research, it finally hit me why I disagree with pricing ebooks at .99. It occurred to me one day while gazing lovingly at my cookies.

Convenience stores buy my cookies for $1 apiece to resell at $1.59 or $1.79. I make 24 dozen each week, using extra ovens for baking and other techniques to speed up the process without sacrificing quality.

Imagine that each of these cookies represents one book selling on the Kindle for .99. Compare production time of cookies to that of creating a book good enough for people to pay even .99. Scary thought, isn't it?

 Don't forget that Amazon gets 65% of each cookie--er--book, netting you 35 cents per sale. If you went through a publisher they take their cut. Is the solution to self-publish so you get the entire 35 cents? That's what many are saying, but it's still just a pittance for an awful lot of effort and expense.

I wouldn't sell my cookies for .35. If that's all I got, I wouldn't bother. Remember, I sell to the stores for $1 and they add the extra .59 or .79. I, who created the recipe and made the cookies, get the larger cut of the product. I'd be a fool to give the stores over half my profit.

When an ebook is priced for .99, Amazon gets the largest cut because royalty is only 35%. Priced at 2.99 or higher, royalty rate goes to 70%. A Kindle ebook priced for 3.99 earns $2.76 on royalties. Big difference between getting $2.76 for each book sold compared to 35 cents.

Now if I could write 24 dozen quality books a week hahahahahahahaha, I might consider pricing them for .99. But probably not even then, because that's not really .99 it's .35, which is split 50/50 with my publisher.

* So for each .99 book sale on the Kindle, Amazon gets 65 cents, my publisher gets 17 cents and I get 17 cents.

* For each 3.99 book sale on the Kindle, Amazon gets $1.19, my publisher gets $1.40 and I get $1.40.

* $2.99 is the lowest price available to get 70% royalty rate. At that price, Amazon gets 89 cents, my publisher gets $1.05 and I get $1.05.

* I'd have to sell six .99 books to get the same amount of money I get from one sale at $2.99. I'd have to sell eight .99 books to get the same money I'd get from a $3.99 sale.

A .99 promotional price has merit but as a permanent price on one's books? No. I would not do this for 17 cents, not even for 35 cents. At that price, I'm better off making cookies.

On Friday, I'll post about one publisher's experience with pricing ebooks and how price has affected sales.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Getting by when times are tough

The economy is in the toilet and a lot of people have been hard hit by job loss, mortgage interest hikes, rising gas prices, reduced retail spending and everything else that goes along with a recession. At these times, major lifestyle changes may be required.

Over the weekend I watched the DVD The Company Men, which followed the lives of three men affected by their company's mergers and layoffs. Each of the men (and their wives too) responded in different ways to the events. It's a film worth seeing more than once, not only for the story and themes, but the dialogue is brilliant and so is the acting. (Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper.)

It got me to thinking about how people use money. One of the characters had spent money like it was an endless stream. His wife told him they needed to cut back, to put the house up for sale, to cancel the country club membership, and he couldn't accept these changes. It made him feel like less of a man to not only be unemployed but to stop spending money.

Anyway, it's an awesome movie and I give it 10 stars out of 5. And it prompted me to write a longer post on this subject over at my website. Where I also included a recipe for salsa. (I was going to give Marcie McGill's homemade cracker recipe but thought Salsa Fresca might be more appealing LOL.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Some things are simply worth the wait, like babies. And book covers.

Introducing House of Diamonds, and I hope people will love this cover as much as I do! 

But wait, that's not all. You must see the full shot to see what brilliant treatment the designer gave the back of the book.

The summary is written on the sheet of paper, because in House of Diamonds Marcie McGill dreams of becoming a published author and writing her first book. I doubt if you can read it on this thumbnail but here's what it says:

In this sequel to Gowen’s debut novel, Uncut Diamonds, she follows sisters Cindy and Marcie as they reach a crossroads in their lives. House of Diamonds tells the stories of two women, one facing opportunity the other tragedy. Can their bond endure?

Marcie pursues her dream of becoming a published writer while Cindy faces a terrible tragedy. In this gripping story of faith, loss and the transcending nature of sacrifice, Gowen gives voice to a beloved baby who has none. She shows the incredible power that comes to families when they pull together to overcome challenges. It is at these times that a house of pain can become a house of diamonds.

So at last I have my cover! And I have some wonderful advance praise that warms my heart whenever I read it, making me not as scared as I should be to send my newest darling out into the world.
 Release date: Tues, November 8!!

Want to read it? If you're on Goodreads click here to add House of Diamonds to your to-read list!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writers Write

Today I am thinking about my older sister Julie. Today is her birthday, and she is someone I really look up to. We weren't that close during most of our adult life. She and her husband lived in Europe and I was busy with my large family. But after she came back to the States and went through a divorce, and my kids were older, we had time to bond again.

That's when she made a statement that changed my life.

One day on the phone I was moaning about my career or lack of one. Should I go for a master's degree? Should I teach?

"What do you want to do, Karen?" she asked me.  Without a moment's hesitation, I said, "To be a writer. I only want to write. It's what I've always wanted."  And she said, "Then why go back to school? Writers write. They don't keep going back for degrees. They write. If you want to be a writer, you have to write."

At that time, I'd finished Farm Girl and felt there was hope for me completing a novel. After my conversation with Julie, I resolved that I would finish the novel I'd been working on for ten years and I'd get other projects lined up as well. Whenever I wavered and worried about money, thinking I should be supplementing the family income with a guaranteed paycheck instead of  spending time writing with no guarantees, I thought of Julie's words.  

Writers write.

There's really no other way, is there?

Like all my family Julie's a really good sport about seeing herself show up in my stories. She is who I based Marcie's older sister Linda on. One reader said this about Linda-- "I especially loved Linda, Marcie and Cindy's sister-- I do wish we got to see more of her. She was fun!"

Happy birthday to my wonderful sister, Julie! Who I'm sure won't mind if one day Linda gets to be a main character in her own book.

Julie has always loved laying out by the pool to work on her tan. (She's the one sitting on the edge.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Six ways to Put the Blog to Work When You're Not There

A good blog is like a major home appliance that keeps working for you while you're busy elsewhere. We know how a dishwasher does this, but how can we be sure our blog is working well for us behind the scenes?

1. Comments. Your comments are like little signposts leading people back to you. So visit other blogs and leave comments. One who takes the time to leave thoughtful, clever, original comments will get followers and comments back.

2. Declutter. Make sure things are tidy and attractive for visitors. Sidebars can get really crowded! And viewing the blog daily, we get used to the mess. Declutter once a month and determine what needs to stay and what can go. Imagine how a new person viewing your site for the first time might see it.

3. Platform. Every blogger whether a career writer or not should have a platform, regardless of how informal it might be. Why are you here? What's your focus? What kinds of people do you want to attract? Once that's settled, make sure everything in your blog reflects you and the platform you've chosen, from your profile photo and bio to your design and even the arrangement of gadgets on the sidebar. That doesn't mean you can't branch out now and then and fly your freak flag, because a blog should reflect the personality of the owner. But someone stopping by should be able to tell fairly quickly who you are and what you're all about.  

4. Posts. Once a post is written it stays in place until deleted. Long after the blogger has forgotten they even wrote it, someone can find it and decide if your blog is worth their time just by that one post.  So take care with what you write, and if you have nothing to say, don't say it. Why stick to some arbitrary schedule if you have nothing? Or if you're on a roll, go ahead and publish daily. A good post will continue working for you as long as your blog exists, so the more excellent posts you have in your file, the harder they'll be working for you and your blog! But let me repeat: That doesn't mean you can't branch out now and then and fly your freak flag, because a blog should reflect the personality of the owner. So don't get paranoid and think everything you write has to be perfect and meaningful. Let loose now and then, nothing wrong with that!

5. Label and Index. When I first started blogging, I discovered a few publishing blogs that were full of such great information that I went in and read everything. On Blogger, there's a place for labels at the bottom of each post. You can then choose which labels you want displayed in the Index on your sidebar. Ideally, each post should carry labels according to subject matter. My labels are chosen with emphasis placed on the key words that relate to my platform. Like: bad reviews, blog tour, booksellers, editing, editors, selling books, rejection..... You get the idea. My labels reflect my platform. So that just in case someone wants to thoroughly research my blog and go through my old posts to get information, I organized it for them!

6. Selling Your Book. Your blog can help sell your book, but make sure it's easy for visitors to click on the links where they can buy it in various formats. I like these Kindle and Nook buttons. Suddenly one day I realized they needed to be near the top of my blog instead of buried down below somewhere, so I changed to a two-column format that makes more sense for me.

These are a few of the ways that a blog can keep working for you while you're off enjoying your vacation, or writing your book, or eating dinner, or down with the flu. There's no need to hover and be constantly present online. Set up your site carefully and thoughtfully and then let it hum along doing its job! Because the internet never sleeps.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sometimes I don't want to do anything

I think I'm spoiled from having other people writing my blog posts lately. Guest bloggers are awesome! The posts are entertaining, informative, interesting and written by someone else. I hope you enjoyed the visitors-- Nicki Elson, L.A. DeVaul and Roxanne, Elliot Grace, Jim Bronyaur and Anne R. Allen. Thank you all for making things fun and interesting here for awhile!

And now I'm spoiled and don't want to do anything.

My husband and I have a small local cookie business. Twice a week I make the cookies and he delivers them. It's a refreshing change of pace from the intense mental exercise that comes from writing my own work and editing others.

And sometimes I just like to do absolutely nothing but gaze lovingly at my cookies laid out to cool on the table or counter.

These are white chocolate chunk macadamia nut. My absolute favorite. *mouth is watering*

Friday, October 7, 2011

About Food. About Love. About FOOD OF LOVE by Anne R. Allen

Today is a guest post by the always entertaining and insightful Anne R.Allen, author of the new release, FOOD OF LOVE—a novel about friendship, size acceptance, a small nuclear bomb, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. 

Does anybody remember the size acceptance movement of the 1990’s?

Fashion magazines like Mode and Radiance featured gorgeous models with non-surgically-enhanced curves. The plus-sized Emme became a supermodel and motivational speaker. Romance publishers issued whole lines featuring curvy women who didn't diet to find love. Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES DIARY and Jennifer Weiner's GOOD IN BED topped the fiction bestseller lists. Books like Geoffrey Cannon's DIETS MAKE YOU FAT and Susan Powter's STOP THE INSANITY let us know 98% of diets resulted in weight gain.

The movement urged women to put energy into living instead of dieting. It reminded us that nobody who's starving can work at full capacity. It told us that if women channeled the energy we were putting into hating our bodies into changing the world, we could make a difference.

I wrote my novel FOOD OF LOVE during that era, just when a diet drug combination called phen-phen had to be taken off the market because it, well, killed people (but left a fashionably skinny corpse.)

I wanted to point out the ironic truth that women--no matter what culture, sexual orientation or race--are united by one thing: the compulsion to diminish ourselves by dieting. I showed how women inflict this insanity on ourselves and each other--as one character says "women are always complaining how the menfolk are oppressing us, but you know...we're pretty damn good at oppressing our ownselves."

I didn’t want to write something preachy. Or another “men are jerks” saga.

So I combined satiric social observations with a roller-coaster plot involving an aging supermodel, a conservative talk show hostess, a hot KGB agent, a small nuclear bomb, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Two different agents took it on and tried to sell it, but it didn't pigeonhole neatly into a prescribed genre. Finally in 2001 I found a medium-sized independent publisher in the UK who loved it. I think the book might have taken off if they had been able to get US distribution rights. But one of the owners of the company died under mysterious circumstances (yes, fodder for another novel--coming out soon) before the book had a chance to find a US audience.

Soon afterward, New York pronounced romantic comedies "over" and plump, life-affirming heroines were replaced by vampires, zombies and the hungry undead.

At the same time a new cultural mindset emerged--carefully orchestrated by the multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry. By the mid 2000's, the concept of body acceptance had been erased from our consciousness. We were again being told that starvation (and/or surgical enhancement) was the path to happiness.

I suppose it helped that our romances were all about falling in love with dead people.

Boomers were told the natural weight gain—which has been happening to aging human bodies since we were swinging from the trees-- is "unhealthy." Children as young as six were put on diets that destroyed their natural appetite regulators. We didn't let them run free and exercise, then shamed then for being fat. Fad diets like Atkins came back with a vengeance. Fat people were humiliated for entertainment and dieting lies got new life
with the 2004 debut of “The Biggest Loser.”

Personally, I lost faith and fell for the lies again: “It’s not a diet—it’s an 800-calorie-a-day ‘lifestyle’.” I was swayed by those nightly news reports about the obesity “epidemic”—which turns out to have been created by reducing the medical definition of “normal” weight, inflated by the natural weight gain of aging Boomer bodies. I was shamed by those decapitated images of people who dared walk our streets without buns of steel or six-pack abs.

After three years of starvation dieting and the subsequent craving, depression, and binging, I’d gained thirty pounds and looked for help in the size acceptance movement again. But I discovered most of their websites were dead and/or had been vandalized. I Googled “Emme” and couldn’t find one entry. It was as if the whole movement had never existed.

But this weekend something happened that gave me hope. The brilliant actress Melissa McCarthy won the best actress Emmy.

I’m not a big awards show fan, and the TV was on only to accompany my laundry-sorting. McCarthy’s sitcom, Mike and Molly was barely on my radar. But as I stood there folding my plus-size clothes, watching her walk regally across the stage, I shocked myself by bursting into tears. Here was a beautiful fat woman—seriously fat, not simply un-skeletal—winning an award over the likes of Amy Pohler and Tina Fey.

I couldn’t stop crying. It was as if some huge shift was happening in my own consciousness as well as that of the ATAS voters. I had a glimmer of hope that maybe things were moving back to sanity. Later that evening, I Googled Emme and found she has a new website, Emme Nation full of new messages to women about honoring ourselves, no matter what size the bodies our genes and age dictate.

This all happened the same weekend that FOOD OF LOVE finally made its US debut—thirteen years after I wrote the first version.

I am so blessed that a small US publisher, Popcorn Press, liked my blog enough that they contacted me and asked about my out-of-print books—and then liked the books well enough to publish them. With a fresh edit and a gorgeous new cover, the book is as relevant today as when I wrote it—maybe more so, because a whole generation of young women haven’t been able to hear its message. Most women still need to learn to stop “oppressing our ownselves”—and love the bodies we were born with.

FOOD OF LOVE is about living life to the fullest and honoring our own passions—whether for food, music, faith, or an all-consuming romantic love.


Anne R. Allen blogs with NYT bestselling author Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

She’s the author of five comic mysteries debuting this fall with two publishers: Popcorn Press and MWiDP. FOOD OF LOVE is available in ebook on Amazon. The paper version is available for pre-order at Popcorn Press.

Upcoming titles: THE GATSBY GAME (October 2011) GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY (October 2011) SHERWOOD, LIMITED (November 2011) and THE BEST REVENGE (December 2011.) Paper versions will be available at Popcorn Press.

Anne is also working on a nonfiction self-help handbook for writers with PAY IT FORWARD author, Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marketing for Insecure Writers

Today we have Jim Bronyaur, author of thrillers The Devil's Weekend and In the Corner  talking about MARKETING. Yes, like it or not, it's that thing we have do as authors. 

But since this is the first Wednesday of the month, the theme is ANXIETY and INSECURE AUTHORS, right? We need tips to make us feel less insecure about the biggest task facing us after we publish our books-- MARKETING and PROMOTION.  

Take it away, Jim.

Marketing. Okay, I’ll wait for everyone to run or yell or boo at me. *checks watch* Okay, we’re back.

Marketing. Online marketing. Social marketing.

These are all essential tools for yourself, your book, and your platform.

The first thing you need to do is understand that your book is a product. And you, as the person selling that product, are indeed a business owner. Your business is to sell your product, your book. This right off the bat is where some people fail. You need to see the big picture of the product and the business and find a plan that works for you.

So, you have your product, your book, and now you want to market it.

Good luck!

Traditional marketing holds its own ground, but not for books and authors. I dare you to tell me without looking what the last four sidebar ads you saw on Facebook were. I bet you can’t. Because we’ve grown accustomed to ads. They are on pages, newspapers, even on the glass of the rink on a NHL hockey game!

So to market your book, you must do so in a way that’s new, different, and effective.

Personally, and as I’ve said before, the best marketing plan is to have another book in the works, ready to sell. The more you have out there is the more you can sell. The law of numbers is actually on our side as authors. Embrace it.

Good marketing means you’re real. You’re human.

This is why Twitter is popular. You have 140 characters to share a message, and no, that doesn’t link up every ten seconds. Please don’t pester everyone with your links, over and over. I personally tell myself I’ll Tweet my book maybe once a day, maybe.

So, without linking your book, how does Twitter help?

Twitter is a giant network.

You can find people to talk to. People who you can network with, share ideas with, and find new avenues of selling books with. You can join in on conversations via hashtags such as #amwriting. For those not familiar with hashtags, these are search items on Twitter. For example, if I put in #amwriting and search it on Twitter, anyone who has tweeted that hashtag will show. This allows me to engage in conversations and find potential new people to follow and new followers.

Another trick with Twitter is to use hashtags around your book, without being pushy.

I may Tweet something like this… “Current review for my #horror #thriller #ebook available on #kindle…”

All those hashtags can help me.

Another place to be is KindleBoards. Here you will find a community of authors with open arms. They share ideas, thoughts, history, and numbers.
Yes, numbers.

On KB, every month people will share their sales for the previous month. They will go into detail, discuss why the books sold may have risen or lowered. And I’m talking some heavy hitters here… people who sell twenty thousand books a month! And they are willing to share their advice and what they’ve done to get to that point.

How does that help you market?

You’re networking. You’re talking to new people, finding new places. That’s what marketing is all about.

I’ve gotten several interviews and guest posts and traffic to my blog and books from KB. Authors will hold contests and events, looking for other authors to help.

A perfect example… coming in October, I have a month long blog tour going on with several other writers I met on KB. We are all promoting each other’s books on different dates, etc.

Now, here’s possibly the best marketing plan out there… don’t market yourself.

I’ll say it again.

Don’t market yourself.

That’s right, don’t market yourself.

What does that mean?

That means just be there.

Be in the moment, in the now of writing and publishing.

Establish a blog that provides something that people want. I struggled with this for years until I finally started one. I decided to use my financial background to help analyze things. One of my firsts posts was the explaination of why Borders closed. The post still gets dozens of hits a week. I went out and tracked down other writers and brought them to my blog to talk about selling books.

I gave people a reason to come to my blog.

And yes, on my blog are links to my books, but the blog is not about my books.
I’m also active on Twitter using the hashtags (like I said above). I talk about books, publishing, and basically give people a sense of who I am, why I write, and the fact that I know what I’m talking about.

That’s my marketing plan.

I want to talk to everyone about books. I want to learn, I want to teach, and I want to enjoy.

Face it, you all know I’m a writer. So instead of trying to shove my totally awesome kick butt horror novels on you, I’m going to share everything I know about publishing. I’m going to be personable, real. I’m going to be someone you trust, and hopefully someone you enjoy to read… so once you’re done with this guest post, and my other posts, you’ll be ready to head over to Amazon and buy my book.
And that is new marketing.

So, remember, if you want to market your book… don’t.

But no seriously, like I said, posting your book on ads doesn’t work. Not anymore. You have to be face of your book, your product. You have to be out there, talking, posting, and being a human.

This is publishing, and it’s a business.

Thank you, Jim, this post was packed full of helpful information. Just like your blog! Anyone who hasn't been there, definitely go check it out. And guess where I met Jim and invited him to be a guest on my blog? Yep, Twitter!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Elliot Grace: SOUTH OF CHARM

Today I am two places at once. Here interviewing Elliot Grace, to kick off his blog tour-- and I'm over at Jennifer Lane's blog being interviewed by her. Because I am awesome at multi-tasking!

Since this blog deals mainly with writing, editing and publishing issues, I asked Elliot about his process of getting South of Charm published. 

Elliot, How did you happen to write South of Charm?  

-I'd certainly prefer to respond with a distinguished answer, something to the effect of dreaming up the entire story one evening while basking under an expiring sunset along Siesta Key, the skies ablaze with color as the wheels in my head start churning out words by the dozen.  "South of Charm" was actually inspired from a series of childhood events.  I added to my notes over the years, created a few interesting characters, dramatized things a bit, and thought perhaps it could someday make for an enjoyable story.  The project collected dust for a while as other stories took precedence.  But "Charm" was persistent, never allowing itself too much distance from my thoughts.  Eventually I committed to the project, and three years later had a decent manuscript that I felt was ready to share with potential suitors.  

How did you find your publisher?  

Following the usual gauntlet of rejections, I found myself at a local book fair, conversing with one of several featured writers on display, when by chance, I met up with David Wiesenberg, an editor representing Wooster Books Publishing.  Upon his request, I pitched to him my idea, basically just the highlights off the top of my head.  A few days later he sent me an email, this time requesting a full read.  Several weeks later I was signed.

What was the editing process like? 

The editing process became an exhaustive commitment lasting nearly a year and a half, with David, ever the perfectionist, leading me in the right direction, while never overstepping his authority.  The hands on approach of an indie publisher played out just as I'd read on many websites and tutorials.  A personable staff who were always available to lend advice, be it a major conflict with the cover design, or simply an ear to lend to a writer's concern's.  

"South of Charm" was released in May, and while making a fighting effort at keeping pace with the big shots of the publishing industry, has done well locally.  Enough so, that I'm considering a return to Wooster Books for the second release, whenever that day may come ;)

From South of Charm by Elliot Grace:

...we're huddled in the far corner of my bedroom.  Arms wrapped around our knees in the dark.  The approaching footsteps grow louder.  Ominous thuds.  Our mother-but somehow not.  She's standing outside my door.  We listen to the creak of hinges.  My sister clenches my arm.     
"She's coming," she whispers.  "She's broken."

To purchase on the Kindle
To purchase print copy

Elliot, I am honored that I got to kick off your blog tour, and thrilled that you answered all my nosy questions. I wish you every success for South of Charm!