Why Does It Have To Be All Or Nothing? Let’s Try To Share The Sandbox, Okay?

It seems to me that every other day or so there is a new article about the death of publishing.  It usually revolved around the revolution of Indie Authors, Trade Publishers slitting their own throats and other mumbo-jumbo of the like.  At first, it was thought-provoking … the “what if” hung in the air … but now, it feels more like a diatribe in which you’re asked to pick a side and stay there forever.  Honestly, I can’t even read about it any more.

I’m left wondering … why does it have to be all or nothing?  Why can’t publishing be like any other industry?  Why can’t Indies and Trades flourish side by side?  We’re not in 4th grade … we know cooties don’t exist … we’re highly functioning, creative adults … we should be able to share the sandbox.

I look at my town … Naperville, Illinois.  It’s a pretty little place nestled on the outskirts of Chicago.  I was born here … and I’ve lived here my whole life.  Back in the 80’s our downtown was small … locally owned stores dotted the busy tree-lined streets.  In the 90’s we saw the birth of big box business.  Talbots, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks all converged on our space in force.  Some independent stores faltered and failed because they couldn’t compete … while others thrived in the onslaught of the new traffic.  Now, in the 2000’s stores … locally owned and otherwise share block space just fine.  The two bookstores in the heart of the town — 1 Indie, 1 Big Box — both see high volume traffic.  You can buy a $500.00 table from Little Luxuries or a $500.00 table from Pottery Barn.  It’s your choice … they both are set mere steps from each other.

Why does publishing have to be any different?

I’m not going to go all “why can’t we all just get along” on you … but I am going to say that books are an important resource in this world … we need them.  If one avenue of that dies … we’ll all suffer.  You don’t have to pick a side to understand that.  It’s pretty much common sense.

Traditional Publishing has its flaws … as does Self Publishing.  Not every author is suited for Trade … not every author is suited for Self.

When I listen to an Indie Author smack about the evils of Traditional Publishing … I’m curious to know what was the first book they fell in love with.  I’m sure it was something their mother bought for them in the bookstore.  So, it can’t be all that evil right?  It was a source of love, a pot of inspiration, a good part of their childhood.

When I listen to a Traditional Publisher spout the evils of Indie Publishing … I’m curious to know why that hate it?  How can someone chasing a dream possibly hurt them?

It seems like someone feels that they need to have the upper hand … when that’s not always the best option.  And … worst of all … it’s boring.  Like, really boring.  Because no one is right.  Traditional Publishing will adapt.  Self Publishing will grow.  And that’s what will happen.  That’s pretty much it.

So … let’s just share the sandbox like adults, shall we?  Stop predicting doom and just celebrate the way one leads into the other and vice versa.

 

 

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We Have Some Answers!

Rarely do I ever do two posts in one day … however, this is a revisit to a prior post about Amazon and their new incentive program and before it becomes old news, or gets overlooked, I wanted to share this … Enjoy!

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On December 4th I posted a blog about how Amazon was attempting to monopolize the market by taking the lion share of Indie authors, essentially removing our works from the competitors shelves by systematically offering us amazing perks and bonuses.  You can read more about that here.  Very hush-hush in the beginning … the details are now being leaked … it stacked up to almost being an offer you can’t refuse (read: me using my big, bad, mafia voice).

At the time I initially posted, I suspected that Amazon did fear no longer being king of the eReader castle with their beloved Kindle and needed to figure out someway to continue to draw the readers and newbies into their lair.  Whether that’s right or wrong … it does appear that the rumors were true.  Amazon wants you — and they want you exclusively.

Mark Coker at the Huffington Post shed some light on this ongoing issue with his article which can be found here.

Pun totally intended … but man, Amazon has made it a jungle out there.

The brass-tacks are this:

-Amazon is giving up $500,000 per month IF you opt into their lending program … so while you’re not “selling” books, you are still netting a potentially huge profit.  The example given was, if your lent book sums 1.5% of all the books borrowed, you stand to make a tidy sum of $7,500 for that month.  The pool is shared between all authors with no promises … you may do well, you may not.  It’s a gamble.

-Exclusivity deals are signed in 3 month spurts.  You’re not locked for life … but pulling yourself down from other sites like B&N, iBooks and ePub as well as Smashwords, even for that period, can drastically hurt your sales, visibility and really fumble your accurate sales data.

-If you violate the agreement, you may lose the ability to sell through Amazon forever … as in, the rest of your life.

-While the deal spans 3 months at a time, if you fail to opt out at the close of your 3 months, you’re locked in for another 3 … or … read the above dash.

These are things you, as an author, should know.  I’ve always said, when your an Indie — you’re more than an author, you’re a business owner.  All things considered, this must work for you if it is going to work at all.

My reaction to that is this:

I love Amazon.  I own a Kindle, and I do believe it’s kind of magical.  I do a shit-ton of shopping on Amazon, and they are already a monopoly when it comes to me spending my money.  But … that’s me as an individual, as a person … not me as a business woman running my own little thing out here in Indie Land.

Do I think it’s a sweet deal?  Heck yes.  If your sales via Amazon are proven, if they account for most of your business … signing on to this would make you, in the words of Charlie Sheen, WINNING.  You’re selling, you’re lending, you’re moving books, you’re making money … you’re one flippin’ happy ass author.

…BUT…

If you’re new, you stand to really shoot yourself in the foot.  Like, with a 12 gauge shotgun.

I get perpetually stuck on asking myself WWHCD?  WWRHD?  WWLBD?  WWPD?  I doubt they’d be for this sort of business deal. I think they see any limitations as just that … a limitation.

I believe the first 3 months of a new book are so important … especially for a new author.  That’s why PR is so big … the bigger splash you need, the bigger market you allow yourself to breach.  If we’re talking an older book, I might feel differently, but I don’t think Amazon has given that kind of loop-hole.

So my question is …

How do you feel?  Are you going for it?  Thoughts?  Share … curious minds want to know …

 

 

 

Your Reputation Is Everything

This afternoon I read about a very interesting story about a small publisher who purchases work from Independents for a journal she puts out — basically, a collection of stories. She pays for the work from authors and then publishes it.  She asks for (and pays for) a perpetual license because eBooks, unlike print, have no run-life … they can simply go on forever.  She ran into a snag with one of her previously published authors who wanted to move on to other ventures and needed the publisher to pull not only her story, but the entire journal.

That story is not what this post is about … but in some ways it is.

When the publisher told her “I’m sorry but I simply can’t do that” … the author decided to start spewing vitriol.  The publisher, at the end of her rope, posted a thread about this exchange.  And, much to my surprise, people actually said “out the author!” … they wanted, and even encouraged, the publisher to publicly shame this person.  The publisher demurred, for which I was thankful.  But still …

Ouch, right?

That, of course, started me thinking about public persona.  Who we are in real life versus what we say behind the comfort of our computer screens.

Right now, we’re living in a very interesting time.  The internet, social media, forums … they have made reclusive actors, authors, musicians part of our circle.  You can “friend” just about anyone as opposed to join a fan club … you can “tweet” your favorite actress in mere minutes rather than writing the age old letter.  And … if you’re lucky … that person will friend you back or even RT (re-tweet) you.

Authors are … more or less … considered famous.

Think about that girl … maybe she’d 14 and lives in Podunk, Somewhereville USA … maybe she’s read your YA book and is madly in love with your leading man.  To her … you’re a celebrity.  She doesn’t care if you’re traditionally published or not.  She just knows you’re an author and authors are famous people.  That’s just one example … but truthfully … there are a million more.  For me — I was recently involved in a twitter convo with Jennifer Wiener.  The Jennifer Wiener.  She and I essentially do the same thing … we both write books, I know it’s not glam work, I know it’s a job and it’s hard and it’s stressful … but still, I was gobsmacked by her giving my tweet a moment’s time.

Sitting behind your computer screen, worrying things like punctuation and format, you may not realize such important things … but, you’re about to become a name.  Maybe not a household name … but to someone, somewhere … you’re going to be the person who wrote their favorite book … you best not disappoint.

I used to frequent online forums.  I loved the release the internet gave me to be really honest about how I felt.  Sometimes it’s easier to say what you’re really thinking when no one is staring back at you — and I never knew there would be a day when I would be mortified by the things that came out of my mouth — or off my finger tips.  I was always truthful with my thoughts and feelings and particular take on hot topics … but, I was not always kind.  And now, as I get ready to become a “public figure” … I’m starting to realize, the internet has a long, long memory.

Your reputation is everything.  Things you say and do from the comfort of your home and the privacy of your IP number … those little slips can come back to hurt you.

I have backed off a lot of social posting, my name is now tied to this blog and my website and my book.  If I offend someone now, it means something different.  It means I’m not a screen name … I’m a person.

I’m going to quote my mother … and probably everyone else’s mother as well … “if you can’t say something nice … don’t say anything at all.”

Now I’m off to close some accounts and scrub some forums clean of my footprint.  ::sigh::

 

 

Writing The “Bio”

I am sure this is not a universal truth … but for me, I’ve found writing about myself is one of the hardest subjects to approach and to actually do well.  I think it’s always been that way — I don’t exactly find myself an “riveting” person — my life is and always has been exceptionally normal minus the hiccups of growing up.

But, as it turns out, when you’re getting ready launch a book or website or even a blog … you need a bio that speaks not only about you but does so in such a way that it becomes a learning experience for anyone reading it.  And, to further complicate things, you need several bios, one for each individual aspect of marketing yourself.

Blog bios can sillier, more tongue and cheek and can touch on the lighter side of life.  Books need to be truncated and smartly worded, generally limited to a few well thought out sentences.  Websites should be interesting and cover the key points of you while remaining fresh, current and above all else, interesting.

So, I did what I always do, I asked for advice.

You know what people told me?  Write in third person, make it interesting … and … lie.

Before I dive into how I wrote my bio and all of that, I want to touch on the lying.

As a literary fiction author, I lie a lot.  I create houses that don’t exist, build drama where there is none, invent people simply because I can, travel through time at the speed of of a page turn.  Lying is part of the job description, it’s expected in my genre.

But, lying in a bio?  All I can think about is James Fry with his MILLION LITTLE PIECES debacle.  James Fry wrote a great book … it’s still a great book.  The only problem was, he tried to pass it off for truth.  And then, because that was his “so-called reality” … he had to fish around and make this his personal history as well.  It wasn’t true, not from the beginning … and he got caught.  He went into his writing knowing this is a lie … and still, he never stopped to weigh the consequences of that … he just tried to outrun them and was publicly shamed for that.

So, in good faith — boring though I may be — I refuse to LIE about who I am and where I come from.  Sure, it might make me more interesting … it might even sell a few more copies of my book … but, we live in the age of the internet, and there are people out there who love to do nothing more than dig up your past and watch you fall.  All things considered … that is simply SO not worth it.

Instead, for my website, I tried to take what is true and make it read like a really great interview.  Writing in third person felt silly, so I tweaked it to fit my style.  I included little sentences and then “answered” them with personal quotes of my own …

WEBSITE BIO

Ashley Mackler-Paternostro was born in Naperville, Illinois, where she still lives with her husband Mark and their three dogs.

“We have such a normal life.  And I’m really so lucky, my husband Mark is absolutely the biggest supporter of my writing.  It’s … amazing.  I have no right to be this fortunate … and yet, I am.”

A hairstylist by trade, Ashley will often say that some of the best stories she has ever heard were told to her while working behind the chair.  A life long reader with an insatiable appetite for good books, she decided to merge her love of great stories — both told and written — into her own brand of story telling.

“Life is so strange … people can do some really crazy things when left to their own devices. As a stylist, I was privy to that, people just want to still down and talk — and they all have something to say.  Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s just hysterical.  But, that’s real life — it’s kind of messy.

As a reader, I need to lose myself in the book, I cherish the sort of story that you can really invest yourself deeply in, the kind that has an unforgettable character who pulls you to the point where you can viscerally understand them and the lines of real and unreal get blurry.  

When you take all that normal stuff and blend it with the edge of fantastical, you can really find yourself in a beautiful place.  When I write, that’s what I’m looking for–that beautiful place. I have no problem walking away from a book if the characters aren’t telling me their story.  They have to flesh themselves out, I have to believe in them in order to work with them.  My books are absolutely character driven … just like real life.”

When she’s not being held captive in her home office by words, Ashley fancies herself a flea market hunter with a weakness for Japanese glass floats and repurposing vintage goods.

“There is such bliss in the things from once upon a time.  I can’t walk past a piece of furniture without wondering how I can change it.  I can’t see pretty glassware and not want to own it.  I see these ordinary objects and wonder — what’s the story behind this, how did it end up here?  Where has this been?  Who loved this?  I can really get swept away in that sort of wondering.”

Writing was always in her blood from the time she was a little girl always eager to say something, but until a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in the spring of 2011 she never had the vision.

“You know, it’s sort of cliche how this all started.  I just turned 28 and my husband took me on vacation.  I wasn’t at a crossroads in my life — at least, not that I was aware of, but I came home from Washington and was inspired, that place changed me.  I had this story inside me and it was so loud … I couldn’t quiet it down, I simply had to tell it.  

So, I sat down and just started writing.  I didn’t even think about it.  Once I hit 30,000 words I was like … oh … this is pretty serious. It felt really natural, as though this was just how it was supposed to be for me … so I let go and let the story unfold. I didn’t really worry about outlining, or plotting … now I know better.  I ended up with this book about life and death and love and even I couldn’t believe it.”

Ashley wrote her entire first novel with only three people knowing about it. She had no idea where this journey was going to take her or how she would finish it … or even if she would finish it.

“I’m a big believer in wild dreams.  My Dad used to call me an enigma, which I suppose is very true. I was a hairstylist … the last person you’d ever think would ‘write a novel’ let alone publish a novel — I mean, really–a writer?  Even I wasn’t so sure how this would turn out.    

And, at the same time, I was always the type to just ‘blurt it out’ (I’m not the best at keeping big, life changing secrets)… those sort of loud proclamations usually lead to expectations.  I knew that if I was going to write authentically, I had to play it close to the chest.  I needed to know where I was going — gather my answers and figure it out — before I let too many inside.  

It was hard … but not impossible.  I think it was the best gift I ever gave myself.  It worked.  And when I finally was at the point when I knew this book was absolutely going somewhere, it was an exciting thing to share with the people in my life.”

Ashley’s writing style reflects the sort of books she herself enjoys reading.  Never one to shy away from the uncomfortable or heartbreaking, her novels often ping into the defining moments of life in the middle of great conflict.

“I’m a writer a of real life, I actually really like real life.  I enjoy putting my characters into very hard situations and I like seeing how they figure it out — much of the time I have no idea how they’ll do it, but in character driven pieces, they usually give you clues. 

Good endings aren’t always as simple as ‘boy and girl live happily ever after’ … that happens sometimes, sure …. but it’s not always genuine.  If bad things happen, my characters need to be able to figure out how to adjust and live within them … you can’t force that to fit a mold.  That’s what I’ve figured out about my writing.”

Before the launch of her first book, THE MILESTONE TAPES, she is already hard at work with the follow up.

“There is a lot of downtime when you’re working on the publishing part — a lot of hurry up and wait.  I couldn’t help but to be forward thinking — excited about how I’ll follow the first one up.  I’ve found a rhythm to my style.  My second novel, STRAY, definitely pings into same emotionally whirlwind I touched upon in THE MILESTONE TAPES while being totally different — it has a very different vibe and undercurrent to it — it’s a special story of hard yet totally self created circumstances.” 

Ashley is set to debut her first work of literary fiction in early 2012 with much excitement and enthusiasm.

“THE MILESTONE TAPES is more than a book … it’s a year of my life and a whole new chapter.  I am beyond thrilled to be in the position to share my words.  This really is a dream — a wild dream — come true.”

***

In the end, writing a bio is a very personal experience … and an exercise in writing.  It should be fun … and it should be truthful.  I don’t think you should ever lie about who you are.


Picking A Quote To Define Yourself

My web designer, Scarlett, e-mailed me this evening asking for a quote … something to put under the header of my website that would speak either from me or about me.

I was stumped.  That’s the truth.  As a writer, we say a lot of things and we write a lot of words.  We talk about the craft and the experience of being involved, we talk about our books and our passions and the things that make us tick.  But, unlike my blog which is for other writers — my site is for readers.

What could I say that was important?

In some ways, my readers will never get to know me.  I don’t know if anyone else has ever thought that … but for me, as a blogger, it’s kind of heavy.  They will simply know me as the woman who wrote THE MILESTONE TAPES.  But, that’s very … one note.  They won’t know nearly as much as my blog followers.  And what I put on my site, I do want it to mean something to them.

So, I thought a lot about the life of a reader.  I write, lets just face it, a very specific sort of novel.  I deal with real life.  I don’t create worlds or mythological beasts or other times in distant places.  My readers will … to some extent … be asked to bring a bit of themselves to the table.

So, I chose …

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” – Angela Carter

I wrote THE MILESTONE TAPES for my mother based on our lives and my curiosity about the other side.  And I’m sure some reader, some day will sit back and think “that’s my story … we lived that” … and that’s okay.  That’s what I want.

So, if you were asked to pick a single quote to define yourself … your work … your stories … what would it be?

 

Paying It Forward

I have to say, I got lucky.

When I decided I wanted to publish my book, and when no agent wanted in on my project and no small press had room for me, I able to access a wealth of knowledge by joining the right forums and asking a lot of questions.  Their kindness and wisdom made this process of going it alone, while not exactly “easy” absolutely easier, all things considered.  I think, as with all good fortune, paying it forward is the key to real gratitude.  So, I’ve decided to do just that the only way I know how … with a blog.

I’m launching a new spin-off site of La Bella Novella, The Indie You, to give the information back.  Send it out into the world so that someone, like myself, can stumble upon and find (hopefully) what they need to make their dream of being an author come true.  Let someone else harness the belief that wild dreams are possible and give them the tools to make it happen.

While I’ll be the first to admit … nope, I’m no expert … I think there is real power in the meeting of minds.  There is no “one size fits all” formula when it comes publishing a book … so what the point of the new blog will be is to explore all avenues of self publishing through experiences, professional knowledge and plain old talking it out.  It will be part forum, part resource center.  Nothing will be off-limits … and every question will be addressed head on.

I will build a directory of freelance professionals, and unlike on this site where I feature only those I’ve worked with, The Indie You will welcome everyone to sign up and list their skills-for-hire.

The Indie You is rough right now, but, I will be focusing time in the coming days to launching it.

So …

While I’m building the site, I’m also opening the door for communication.  This is what I’m looking for right now …

– Are you a cover artist or editor? Formatter? Offer another important service? Interested in offering your time to be a beta reader?  E-mail me at theindieyou@gmail.com and let me know, you’ll be added to the list of resources.

– Are you an independent author with a story to tell?  E-mail me at theindieyou@gmail.com and let me know, I’d love to feature you.

– Have questions you want answered about self-publishing?  E-mail me at theindieyou@gmail.com, I will be more than happy to open them up for addressing.

Stay tuned for the official launch … needless to say, I’m excited!

 

 

All Your Eggs, One Basket Only — Amazon Continues To Muscle The Market

Right now, the hot topic seems to be Amazon’s continual push to become the absolute end-all-be-all of the publishing world … especially when it comes successful independents.

On the forum I frequent an author recently posted about a deal with Amazon she’s been offered.  An exclusive deal where she would agree to not list her books on any other site — no B&N, no Kobo, no ePub, no iTunes — and in return for her sacrifice, Amazon would help boost her sales with special help, the kind only Amazon can offer.

The author, who also happens to be wildly successful, made note that nearly 80% of her sales happen to come from Amazon … with the other sites coming together to create the lagging 20%.  For her, it makes perfect sense.  Amazon is her readership … that’s where people find her and fall in love.  Taking the deal is simply good business … even if it means giving up the 20% in the other realms, Amazon’s muscle will probably more than make up for that on their end for her willingness.

The details of this deal remain super secret, Amazon is contacting authors privately to discuss the inner workings of their proposal, so the exact terms are unknown and they are asking those approached to keep quiet until a later date … but the floating conversation seems to swirl around the fact that signing on doesn’t mean forever and always, giving authors the back door if they ever need to escape.

It seems to me that Amazon is continuing to push the boundaries of becoming a monopoly.

When Amazon launched the Kindle, it was absolutely the best of the best of the best, and it held its place as King of The E-Readers for a good, long time.  But, B&N has seemingly caught up … along with Kobo, Apple and Sony all trailing not too far behind.

My guess is, if Amazon no longer feels they can beat them in the device market, they will attempt to outwit them in the library department by offering better books with a larger selection for a lower price.  But … they can only do that if we agree … because, lets face it, Random House, Harper Collins, Penguin and the like would never polarize their readers by making titles exclusively available through only one online resource.  Amazon … they need Indies.  We are all sort of like the wild cards, the ones that will take the crazy chances … getting an author to agree to only sell through one online source when so, so, so many are available with the simple click of a button … that’s pretty much a wild idea.  But, who better than us to take a different path?  After all, isn’t that what we do?

Amazon has always been the warm light in the Indie world.  Self-published authors will tell you, with very little prompting needed, that Amazon cares more about them, takes them more seriously, supports them more vigorously than any other outlet combined.  KPD is a true doorstep, once passed an author will find advice, a real person and someone who will help them if they need.  That alone allows them to be the front-runner for those going it alone into publishing.

But … all of your eggs?  One single basket?  I’m not so sure …

I think this it is a brilliant idea for the already published author who has a strong readership on Amazon and knows exactly (as in dollars and cents) what she would be giving up by giving up B&N, ePub and Apple.  For a new author, like myself, it’s probably not a smart business move.  My market remains untested, unknown.

Independent authors have to be more than just writers … they have to be business men and women.  When I think about this deal, I think about traditional publishers.  I think about how they conduct themselves in this literary web … which is almost as new to them as it is to us.  Would they limit themselves simply because Amazon would give them more muscle?  I doubt it.  They understand that the key to selling books is giving the reader — all readers — the opportunity to buy them.

Think about whole hoopla surrounding the release of the Fire.  Amazon was able to ink that exclusive deal with DC Comics, and B&N fired back quickly that they would no longer sell DC Comics in-store because they are all for equal opportunity.  If their Nook Color readers couldn’t buy DC Comics on their tablet, then f-it, they wouldn’t do business with DC at all.  Period.  Done.  Kaput.

When I consider self-publishing, I think of eBooks as only one avenue of sales in a city full of them.  I do want to be carried in brick and mortar stores.  I do want to give readers the chance to find me wherever it is that they find their books.  I simply could not, at this point in time, go along with Amazon.  But, that doesn’t mean I don’t support or understand how others could, nor does that mean I won’t ever reconsider when I’m working with brass-tack data.

I think the bottom line is this:

Independent authors are starting to have opportunities.  Some will help us, others will hurt us.  But, we’re being taken seriously enough by big brands that they want us all to themselves.  We’re absolutely doing something right …

**Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions below**

 

 

Signing On

One of the huge perks of working with a traditional publisher often evades the indie … its not the pretty covers or eagle-eyed editors, no … that is, it’s PR … the “I have arrived” muscle behind your story that does get it sold.

Traditional publishers have in-house PR machines that get the book and then the two-man team assigned goes to work getting national and viral coverage of said book.  That why so-and-so ends up on Oprah or garnishes a fantastic, brag-worthy spread in a glossy magazine.

Indies … unless you’re married to a PR guy or gal … chances are you don’t have “in-house” anything.  So, you are left flapping in the breezy, so to speak, figuring out how to best campaign within your budget.

But, PR is a huge part of getting your name and book out there.  After all, if no one knows you wrote how in Heaven will they know to buy it?  The truth is … they won’t.  Indies often wallow at the bottom of Amazons algorithm simply because they don’t take the time to spread the word, to drive the interest, to build the momentum, to make the big splash … or, more likely, they aren’t sure how.

Blog tours seem to be a very popular sale to Indie Authors looking to cover massive ground in short sprints of time.  They hedge on the affordable side of the PR line.  Running anywhere from free (if you can do it yourself) to $150.00 and beyond.

I can tell you, as a blog owner, I do get traffic.  When I’ve hosted particular Indie’s or held a guest appearance, my numbers spike.  Would that generate into sales for someone?  I’m not sure.  But it can’t hurt, right?

Hiring a PR agent, while expensive, is also a viable route … one that I am taking.  Which is why I “signed on” … okay, not officially, but within the next month or so I will officially be a client of the Alicia Brockway firm.

Every author … traditional or otherwise … dreams of wild success.  I know my limitations, but that doesn’t mean I don’t “want it” … I just have to find help.

Alicia was the perfect person to do just that.  Having worked with the likes of Danielle Steel, Kathy Griffin and gaggle of other big name authors, Alicia was once a Random House PR machine (yes … that Random House).  She is the sort of person I need on my team, pushing my book towards bigger and better.  So, while her service will nearly double my original budget and slightly break my book-bank, I can’t see another way.

So … Authors, tell me about your PR experience?  How did you do?  What resources did you use to make the magic happen?

 

 

 

It’s Worth What? — An Exploration of Pricing

I’ll soon be facing the conundrum of deciding what my book is worth and where to effectively price it.  Do I go free and drive up the sales?  Do I slip quietly into the .99 cent ghetto … I mean … bin?  Do I price myself to challenge the market at a rousing $2.99?  Or, do I plow headlong into the $4.99 bracket and practice a little patience because other “literary fiction” sells for at least that much and often times much more?

These are real questions … depending on where I fall will directly correlate with how well I sell.  It’s a seriously strategic business minded move.

The schools of thought on this various from professional to professional and author to author.  Some think, hey, go free–get the reviews and then up your price, because hey–everyone likes to get something for nothing.  Some think, no way is free is the way to go, it screams INDIE and polarized potential customers.  The under the buck mentality is referred too as the “ghetto” … an obviously sad term when you consider the love that an author pours into a book.

The fact is … my book is worth something … but what that something is remains unknown.

I was sitting down this morning trying to figure that out … and I’ll share my thoughts …

I bank with Bank of America.  I use my debit card more than anything else.  But, sometimes I need cash.  BOA has a lot of ATM’s in high traffic places, but they aren’t on every single corner.  Sometimes I have to visit another banks cash station to do a withdrawal … and each time I’m pinged $2.50.  I never spare a thought on that … paying the nominal fee is part of life as far as I’m concerned.

When I fill up my SUV with gas, I pay all sorts of fees I’m unaware of.  But, that doesn’t stop me.  It’s part of the price per gallon … and I just do it without thinking about it.

This holiday season, when I was buying gift cards, I bought Visa branded ones.  And, I paid an extra $5.00 a card.  Why?  I don’t really know.  But, I did.  It didn’t really bother me … it’s just what you do.

I heart Starbucks.  I will willing pay $5.00 plus tax for a swanky cup of coffee just because I like frothed cream.

I adore the movies, and when we go, we pay $20.00 for tickets and about $30.00 for a popcorn and two sodas.

My point is … all the time I have money going out on things that I need or enjoy and I never give it a second thought or backwards glance.  I realize that … you know what … these companies (be it the bank or the gas station) are businesses with overhead and they’d like to turn a tidy profit.  Am I really that different?.

No, actually, I’m not.  While reading is a little luxury for most people, it just so happens to be my business.  I’ve invested in the start-up cost of publishing and I’ve worked my ass off to make sure what I’m sending out into the world is a pretty, easily enjoyable read. I should be … at least in my mind … rewarded for my efforts.  I don’t think free is for me.

I think when you’re starting out, you’re setting a bar.  You’re introducing yourself and the quality of your work.  If you’re free … what does that mean?  How can you possibly go from nothing to something and not expect someone to shake their head in confusion?

Writing is art.  It’s entertainment, designed to provide pleasure.  Is $5.00 really too much to ask for that?  Not in my mind.

But…I’m posting for opinions.  What are your thoughts?  Where did you price and what was the result?  Share and share alike 🙂 your wisdom’s are rewarded with gratitude!

 

Vanity Presses…Author Beware!

As a new author, I can honestly tell you, I knew nothing about vanity presses until this whole fiasco with Book Country blew up across the blogosphere and forums.  Authors everywhere were nothing sort of steaming pots of outrage.  I honestly didn’t know enough to have an opinion one way or another.  But, after a bit of research, I started to wonder why anyone would sign up for such a racket.

I’m writing this blog to warn independent authors to steer clear of the likes of Book Country, and here’s why…

While it might sound lofty to say “I was published by Book Country, a subsidiary of Penguin” the truth is, that’s rubbish.  By signing with Book Country you’re not signing with Penguin–as in the publisher with the muscle to move your book to the NY Best Seller list–no, no, no…what you’re doing is signing away a cheque and handing over the royalties of your work forever.  The company can and will gloss the fine print up to spin it every which way…but the bottom line is that you’re paying them for absolutely nothing.

People making money off the backs of “the talent” is nothing new.  Agents, publishers, lawyers, managers, and so on have taken cuts and retainers and percentages since way back when.  And likewise of course you, as an author, can’t expect to get anything for free.  If a company is formatting your book, you’ll pay them.  If a company is doing your cover, you’ll pay them.  If a copy is uploading your book to be sold at XY&Z, you’ll pay them.  But, once you’ve cut those cheques…the book is yours as is the money rolling in from the book–that’s how it works when you’re an independent.  But not if your sign with Book Country–they’ll continue to take royalties.  Why thought?  What makes them entitled to such a thing?  And that remains the 30% question.

Since the revolution of “self publishing” in the era of Amazon and B&N, Vanity Presses are popping up like web companies in the 90’s.  They’re almost everywhere.  But there is absolutely nothing they can offer you that you can’t do for yourself.  That’s the bottom line.  That’s the truth.

Book Country wants nearly $600.00 to format for you and create a cover.  But that’s a high number considering what you can freelance it for.  Book Country wants to print your book–but, sites like CreateSpace or LuLu offer the same thing without demanding a slice of the pie in return.

Consider this blog a public service announcement.  Please, do your homework before getting caught up in a true publishing web.