Monday, August 29, 2011

Tooting your own horn: Self-promotion vs. Shoving your book down my throat

As a Kindle "indie" author, I know that it is my responsibility to promote and advertise my books.  This blog, for example, was created to help get my name out there so that maybe more people would buy my books.  My twitter account (@VaJewel) is also an attempt to get my name out there.  Honestly, if not for that reason, I wouldn't bother with this blog or the twitter account.  I don't think that I have anything particularly important to say, but I do want people to read my books.  I also have a Facebook page now, even though I believe that Facebook is evil.
But I digress...
Self-promotion is essential if an indie author wants to have any kind of success.  A book isn't going to sell itself.  It has taken me a few months to work all that out for myself.  (I realize that it does seem like a simple fact, but I can be thick and very stubborn sometimes!) My realization started with the creation of this blog and the twitter account and was later expanded to include my journey to create book covers.  While I haven't noticed a HUGE jump in sales because of my self-promotion efforts, I do think it has helped.  Now that I have a Facebook page, I believe that I have used up all my free options of self-promotion. 
My big issue now is how to use the platforms to promote myself without being obnoxious.  I won't name any names, but there are some indie authors out there who are downright OBNOXIOUS about their self-promotion on twitter and Facebook.  If I'm following you, I don't want every one of your posts to be about your books, what spot they are on one of Amazon's lists, how much they cost, or even what other people are saying about them!   Occasionally, it is okay to toot your own horn.  However, not everything you write should be about your books.  If you have funny, interesting, or thought-provoking things to say on Twitter then I may be tempted to read your book(s).  However, if all you ever talk about is your book then I won't read it out of principle.
Bottom line?  There's a fine line between promoting yourself and being obnoxious, and crossing that line might cost you more readers than you gain.

By the way, if I ever get obnoxious in my self-promotion and horn tooting, as a reader of this blog, you have my permission to call me on it!  Tweet about my obnoxiousness, comment on it here, or post it on my Facebook wall.  In other words, virtually slap me across the face to bring me back to reality! 

Thanks!  :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My bestseller

A few weeks ago, when I just had two books up for sale on Amazon, I decided to look at my stats to determine which of my books was selling the best.  I suspected that it would be Across the Pond, as that is my favorite and what I considered my best writing up to that point.  To my complete surprise, Christmas in Hell is far and wide my bestselling book.  When I did my calculations, I had sold almost 3x more copies of Christmas than Across the Pond.  That trend continued this month. 
Admittedly, I am not talking record-breaking sales.  I still haven't quite made my money back from all the book cover designs I had to purchase pictures for.  Every little bit counts, though, and I am proud of the sales that I've gotten. 
I am not sure why Christmas in Hell is selling better than my other books (I have since put two more books up for sale, Second Chance and Nuptials for Sale).  I do know that of all the books I've self-published, Christmas in Hell is what I would consider to be my weakest.  I recently reformatted it, but I still feel like it's not representative of my best effort. 
So, what is attracting people to this book? 
It has to be the title.  Everyone can relate to the nightmare that is the holiday season.  The concept of being miserable at Christmas must be something that most people want to read about.  Perhaps it is the idea of not being the only one who thinks it's awful to spend time with family (or worse, someone else's family!) at Christmas time.  Whatever it is that is attracting people to the book, I'm happy they found it and I hope they liked it.  I also hope that they give me a second chance and try one of my other books.  I'm excited to see how the book sales might increase as the holiday season approaches. 
I'm surprised, but pleased, with my "bestseller" and hope that it continues to do well (and maybe bring some of my others along with it).

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Great Debate: Paper vs. Digital

One of the first posts I put up on this blog was about whether or not having books available in a digital format will help encourage more people to read (read it here).  Recently, through Twitter, I have seen several articles about the debate between book lovers and ebook lovers.  Here are a few of those articles:
Internet killed Borders, but it won't kill books
Why I Already Miss Books
I understand the debate.  Before I got my Kindle, I was a book person.  I loved (and still do!) love the feeling of a brand new book in my hands.  I've always preferred brand new books to used books or library books.  I love the way they smell.  I love the way they feel, and I love the fact that I'm the only one who has ever read it.  All of those things excite me about books.  However, what I really love about books -whether a paper book or ebook- is the feeling I get when I curl up with the story.  I love the act of reading and I don't care what format it comes in.  I suspect that, for most people, it is the same. 
So this debate over whether print books are better than their digital counterparts baffles me. 
I'm going to let you in on a little secret...Writing books, blogging, and tweeting is not my real job.  I'm a teacher.  I teach in an elementary school, specifically fifth grade.  As a teacher, I don't care what format the books my students are reading are in!  All I care about is whether they are reading!  Creating lifelong readers isn't about making a child fall in love with the feeling of a stack of bound papers in his hands.  It's about the stories! 
True, to really get the kids interested you need to be able to offer them the colorful illustrations that often bring a story to life.  However, there are already some ebook readers (or apps) that make the illustrations available to readers. 
Here's the cold hard truth, are drawn to technology like moths to a flame!
If I can find a way to bring a piece of technology into one of my lessons, I am going to reach more of my students than if I present the same information on my own.  Yes, I am a dynamic teacher, and by that I do not mean that I am awesome (which I am, of course *smile*).  I simply mean that I don't just stand there and talk when I teach.  I make it interesting.  However, even I can't compete with the thrill of a touch screen tablet.
What's my point?
The same kids that I am encouraging to read, in any format, are one day going to grow up and run this world.  Technology is a big part of who they are and what they do.  My two-year-old nephew already knows how to use an iPad. In fact, he doesn't know what it's like not to be able to touch the screen and make things happen!  We cannot ignore the technology of this time or the time to come.  Debating whether digital books are better or worse than paper books is irrelevant.  What we should be focused on is continuing to encourage everyone to read. 
As long as there are people out there who are reading, there will be books in some form or the other.  Yes, there is a sense of comfort that comes from holding a book in one's hand, bending the corner of a page back to mark your spot, or bending the cover back to hold the whole book in one hand.  That cannot be duplicated in a digital format, but the times they are a changin' and arguing over which format is best is pointless. 
Don't you think this same basic argument was made when Edison introduced his phonograph?  Surely, recorded music is not as great as hearing it live!
Who among us today would argue against the greatness of recorded music?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Author Central on Amazon

Last night, I spent a little bit of time adding some things to my Author Central page on Amazon.  I added a biography, my twitter feed, and a feed to this blog.  Exciting! My next task is to try and create a book trailer or two for some of my books.  While I am pleased with the work that I did on the page, something else that I saw there caught my eye and made me smile.
What made me so happy was something I spied on the sidebar, the "Customers Also Bought Items By" section on the page.  The list of authors includes my all-time favorite, Jill Mansell!  How exciting!  I know that, by no means, is this saying that my writing or my books are the same quality as Ms. Mansell's.  However, just seeing that my books had been enjoyed (I hope) by fans of her books was very exciting! 
If you have a moment, stop by my Author Central page and check it out.  Of course, if you are reading this from my Author Central page then, "Thank you!" for looking into me and my books.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sales and another book cover

I was curious to know which of my books sells better on Amazon.  When I opened up the reports, I received quite a shock!  Christmas in Hell outsells Across the Pond overwhelmingly!  This surprises me because I think Across the Pond is a much better story (and probably better writing, too). 
I'm not complaining!  I'm happy to have ANYONE buying either of my books.  I just think one is slightly better than the other.  That's all. 
With this new sales information in mind, I decided to design a cover for Christmas in Hell.  Here it is:
It's one of those things that once you read the book, the cover makes more sense (i.e. the animal print and the ornament).
I'm done with the cover designing for now.  I need to focus on my real job now, unfortunately!  I hope these new covers will help to propel my books forward in sales.  *smile*

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's become an addiction

For a whole week, I tried hard to create book covers using two different programs.  As stated in an earlier post, I never figured it out.  Instead, I figured out how to create the covers simply using MS Paint.  Go figure, it would be so easy!
Well, it's become like an addiction now.  I've spent HOURS on searching for pictures that would fit my books.  I have created 4 covers so far, but only two that I consider worthy of viewing.  One of them is shown below, Nuptials For Sale, a book which is written but still in the review/edit process.  I also did another cover for Across the Pond.  I like the new one a lot better.
This one is up on Amazon here.  It's only $2.99, why not check it out!
My next task is to create a cover for the other book I have out, Christmas in Hell.  This one actually proves to be harder than it seems.  I don't want to scare potential readers away, nor do I want to mislead them that it is some kind of thriller. 
After that, I need to make a cover for my soon-to-be-published book.  It used to be called Take Two, but I think I'm going to change the title to Who Says You Can't Go Home.  Although, another self-pubbed author just released a book by that name in July.  I'll have to discuss the new title with my reading buddy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Would you read it?

Based solely on the cover above, would you read the book?

I have already written the story, but I'm not giving you any additional information about it.  This is my own version of "Do judge a book by its cover" which is a segment I LOVE on the blog Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


So I grappled with GIMP, and I picked at Photoshop, all in the hopes that I could come up with a cute cover.  And you know what...
I never got it!
Those programs were so complicated and honestly I think they are more complicated than I need.  I don't need to create a spine for my ebook.  I also don't need a 3-D cover.  I just wanted a cute picture that made people want to read my book!
In my searching, I did find a picture that I liked.  I played around with it in Microsoft Paint and what do you know...I found a cover!  It was so much easier to just do it that way.  Here it is:
Is it what I would expect from a professional graphic artist? 
Is it what I would want a publishing company to spend buckets of money on?
Was it simple?
Is it light, and whimsical?
Sort of.
Will it do?
Yes! (For now!)

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Creating a cover...this means war!

If you've been reading this blog, which you probably haven't because no one really does, then you know that I've been debating the issue of creating covers for my ebooks.  Well, I've decided that I need to do it!  If I want to market my book then I need a pretty picture to draw people to it. 
I think I have a general idea of what I want for one of my ebooks, but now I have to create it. 
Holy moley!  I had no idea this was going to be so difficult! 
I consider myself to be a pretty tech savvy person, I'm usually good at figuring a program out, but this is ridiculous.  I researched it and found that GIMP was the best free program out there for me to use.  So, I downloaded it and tried it out.  I have no idea what I am doing.  It is much more difficult than I could have ever imagined.  At this rate, I think it will probably take me longer to create a cover than it did for me to write the freakin' book! 
As you can tell, I'm more than a little frustrated with this process.  I am a visual person, so I learn best when I watch things being done and then explore from there.  This process is driving me mad!  I need help and for once the internet is not doing me any favors! 
I'm off to give it another shot...and gnash my teeth the whole time!

Monday, August 1, 2011

"See, you can write!"

That's what a professor wrote on one of my papers in college. 
Boy did that piss me off! 
On the surface it may seem harmless. But since she’d spent every class period, and paper, prior to that making me feel like an illiterate imbecile, you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm at the comment.  Perhaps it wasn’t her fault, it was her job to make me a better writer, but I’ve never thrived under that kind of mentorship. 
In high school, I had an English Lit teacher who hated me.  I worked my tail off for her and she never gave me anything better than a B.  Meanwhile, some of my classmates didn’t even bother to read the assigned books, and she’d praise them for their thoughts.  Over Thanksgiving break my freshman year in college I ran into that teacher.  Here’s how that went:
Me: “Mrs. George*, I got a B on my first paper in Freshman English at MWC!”
Mrs. George (in a very dry voice): “Did you take it back and find out what you did wrong?”
*Less out of a desire to protect the innocent and more out of fear that she will somehow read this, edit it, critique it, and then force me to fix it, I have changed her name.
With encouragement like that, it’s a wonder that I ever wrote even so much as my name on anything!
Despite the rocky road, I still find myself sitting in front of my computer at all hours of the day and night, banging away at the keys.  I can’t help it.  I have stories that I’d like to share.  I remember writing stories when I was a kid.  I’d lock myself in my room for hours and write page after page of my silly schoolgirl stories.  Sometimes a friend would read them, but usually I just kept them to myself.  That hasn’t really changed. 
As an adult, when I sat down to write my first book, I really had no desire to share it.  A friend helped me when I’d get stuck, and she convinced me to let her read it as I wrote it.  It was fun!  The process was exhilarating.  Anyone who has ever created characters, stories, and places knows that feeling.
I was happy with it all stopping there, but then another book followed.  The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth books just came flying out after that.  Somehow this fun escape from reality had transformed into a compulsion to tell these stories.  My friend, and eventually my family, convinced me that all that effort should be shared with others. 
So now I am sharing.  I have two books currently up for sale on Amazon.  Both are available for the Kindle for a bargain price of $2.99.  Here are the links:
Christmas in Hell
Across the Pond
I would love for you to read them and let me know what you think, even if it’s hard to hear! 
Thank You!