1st Book Published… Now What?

In case you can’t tell from my various posts, let me tell you that I am beyond thrilled to have my first book – Blue Violet – finally published. I wrote the first draft almost three years ago, and to have it available for readers, rather than just talking about how I want to publish a book, is almost surreal.

It has been especially fun to have various family and friends email me that they’ve bought my book and started reading it. I’ve been tickled by several observations such as what shows up in search results with my book, familiar places and incidents I built into the story, and how on earth did I finish this while raising a family/working full time/getting my MBA. I am particularly excited to get feedback from readers as they finish the book! And patience is not a strong suit, so feel free to read fast my friends!

Believe it or not, the work doesn’t stop once the book is published. I can’t just sit back and hope that people find it. Now is time for me to take an active role in getting the word out and trying to move it up the search results list.  The way I do that is through extensive, varied, and vigorous self-marketing.

Over the last few days I’ve created an author page on Amazon and made sure that all of my various author sites are updated with the link to the book. I continue to post regularly on my various author sites. I might try the Facebook ads. And I am researching how to get the book listed on sites like GoodReads. There are tons of different things I can try. I’m only seeing the tip of the iceberg at this point.

A key – longer-term – part of my strategy is to get more books written and published. New readers are more likely to give me a try if I have multiple books – especially if there’s a series. The good news is I now have a method to my madness, I plan (hope) to get more books out at a faster pace. I am already working on book #2 of the series – Hyacinth – and am currently aiming to have it out sometime in early 2013.  I’ll be honest that I was a little worried I’d run out of topics for this blog after Blue Violet was published, but marketing one book while writing another should keep my topics list sufficiently full.

Blue Violet Is Finally Here!!!

Finally, finally, finally the day has come….
Blue Violet is now available at

If you read it and like it, please tell your friends. If you like it and are feeling generous with your time, please post a review on Amazon. Or if you have any feedback at all, feel free to post on any of my author pages. I’d love to hear what you think!

Happy reading and I hope you enjoy!!!

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/abbyowen/

In the Homestretch of Self Publishing – Part #2

Today is publishing day and I am wrapping up the last steps of getting my first book – Blue Violet – out there for purchase. If all goes as planned, tonight I will be announcing the book and watching the proverbial floodgates open on sales (or the trickle in sales of a first time / unknown author).  Which brings me to what I get to do today to accomplish this feat.

This is the second post on this topic. In the first post I detailed steps #1-5 of the homestretch: clean up edits, front and back matter, formatting for Kindle, ISBN #, and copyrighting. In this post I’ll hit on the last 3 steps of this process.

Step #6 – Setting Pricing
Pricing is an interesting conundrum. Between editing, book cover, copyrighting, etc., I’ve probably spent around $1,000 on publishing this book.  I have decided to do Kindle Select which allows the book to be offered for free through the Kindle lending library for one month, but I will still get paid out of an Amazon program set up to encourage new authors. But after that, I plan to stick to the $0.99/book price.  The idea is to get my book out there and moving up the search list, and not really worry so much about making money. Which is a good thing, because you have to sell your book for more than $2.99 in order to make the 70% royalty. At $0.99 I’ll only be making a 35% royalty per book. I’ll have to sell 3000 books just to make back my initial monetary investment. Most decently selling authors average around 1500 books per year.  So it’s a very, very good thing that this is a passion and not an investment.

Step #7 – Uploading & Publishing
The publishing part was remarkably easy. After all the hard work with editing, formatting, book cover, etc. this part went fairly quickly. After filling in all the details I simply clicked “Publish” The book will be under review, but should be available within 12 hours on Amazon for purchase!

A slight complication, however, has popped up with the print on demand version of the book which will allow people without Kindles to still purchase the book.  Amazon has a program through Create Space that allows you to format and check the book, upload a book cover, and bam, I’m in print. I’m slightly stalled on this however, in that the book cover requires different formatting. So I’m debating using one of the pre-made book-covers for the print on demand piece.

Step #8 – Marketing
My last step in all of this happens as soon as the 12 hours is up and my book becomes available for consumption. I will work with book reviewers to hopefully help get the book moving up the search list. All week I will be posting at least once a day, maybe more, on my facebook and twitter pages. I’ll have a blog post with all the relevant information. I’ll link to the Amazon page from pinterest.  All of these things I’m preparing ahead of time today so that as soon as the book is available I can post, and post, and post again. Just this once (or probably each time I publish a book) I will be one of those annoying posters sending out the same info multiple times. But especially with facebook and twitter, that becomes necessary to make sure I hit as broad an audience as possible.  But only for one week (at least that’s the plan).

As of this moment, I am on step #8. But around 10pm tonight, the book should be available. I can NOT believe that it’s finally here. 2 1/2 years after I wrote the first draft and many, many hours of blood, sweat, and tears later, it’s finally here!!!

In the Homestretch of Self Publishing – Part #1

As the title suggests, I am now in the homestretch of self publishing my first book – Blue Violet.  The biggest chunks of this process are done.  The book is written. All the major edits are applied. The book cover is designed.  And what I have left to do is a laundry list of final steps.

What I’m finding to be the hardest part in these last few weeks is keeping my excitement in check and having a little patience. I’m so ready to be done and have the book out there that I’m chomping at the bit (to use yet another horse racing metaphor). I’m worried that I’ll miss an important step in the process, or worse, rush through these final edits just to get it done.

The good news is that I’m confident Wendy – my awesome editor – will slow me down on the editing piece if she thinks it’s necessary. She’ll be honest if any more re-write-type edits are still needed. As for the rest of it? Well, I’m a lister. So here are the 8 steps of what awaits me over the next week or so…

1 – Clean Up Edits
Wendy is in the process of what will be (fingers crossed) the final round of edits. In theory this should be grammar edits and consistency checks. Hopefully no major re-writes needed.  We’ll see what she comes back with.  The other tricky thing here is that I have come to realize that I could edit this book every day for the foreseeable future and not be entirely satisfied. There will always be one more word that could use tweaking, one more sentence needing adding or deleting, a better description, a funnier dialogue… you name it.  I could go on and on. So cutting myself off and finally, finally, finally calling it finished will be a challenge in and of itself.

2 – Front & Back Matter
I have the front matter pretty much done.  For Blue Violet this includes the title page, the copyright page (more about copyrighting below), the dedication, the active table of contents, and the blurb before the book starts.  Back matter is a different story. I still need to look at common back matter for self-publishers in my genre.  I’m currently thinking something along the lines of a “thanks for reading” page, a page with all my author sites (blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest), and a teaser page for the next book in the series – Hyacinth.

3 – Formatting for Kindle
Kindle has a whole list of specific formatting to apply to help your book render in the best way possible. I’ve applied a good deal of this. But once I’m finally done, I get to use an application that Amazon allows you to download to test out what you’re book will look like on the Kindle.  And of course – type-A personality that I am – I will feel compelled to check and fix and tweak every single page.

4 – ISBN #
The ISBN # is optional as far as publishing on the Kindle. However, it’s sortof like a social security number for books. If my books ever make into print, they’ll need one in order to be sold. You can buy an ISBN # online very easily. I had the option to buy 1 ISBN # for $125, or 10 for $250. Since I am already 33% through writing book #2, and am planning on books 3 & 4 for this series, the 10 for $250 made sense. Once you have the ISBN #s purchased you manage them online yourself. You determine which # is put on which book title and what info you upload on that book (some info is required like the contributors, the country, etc.). The ISBN # gets included on the copyright page for the book.

5 – Copyrighting
I can’t copyright the book until it’s completely done and ready to publish because I have to send the final manuscript in to get copyrighted.  It’s only $25 – which is not bad at all – and can be easily done online.  The copyright page in the front matter of my book is written. I found several articles and posts about what to include. Officially for Kindle it just has to be the copyright symbol, the year it was copyrighted, and the person or business who copyrighted.  In addition you can include the ISBN #, and some additional information.

Homestretch Steps # 6, 7, & 8
In Part #2 of this post I’ll get into the remaining steps of: Setting Pricing, Uploading & Publishing,  and Marketing.

I find it ironic that the homestretch is turning into 2 blog posts and 8 separate steps to complete. Can that really be considered the homestretch? Or is it more like the final turn before heading into the backstretch and final turn before heading into the homestretch? Haha.

Blue Violet: Excerpt #3 – Family Project

This is my final excerpt post before I publish the book.  I am on my final round of clean up edits with Wendy, my editor, this week, and hope (fingers crossed) to have the book published sometime the week of August 20th!!!!

So without further ado, here’s the final excerpt:

“Well, at least they picked a nice place to live,” a low voice grumbled.
Ellie jumped and let out a little yelp. Then she turned to see her twin brother standing by the back door. “You came!” she squealed as she flung herself into his arms.
 Griffin hugged her back, his bronze muscular body engulfing Ellie’s petite frame. His golden blond hair, cropped shorter than the current trend, was a stark contrast to Ellie’s long, ebony locks. To look at the two of them together, one would never think they were related, let alone twins. When they were little, their mother had teasingly dubbed them Artemis and Apollo after the sibling Greek gods associated with the moon and the sun, the night and the day.
Griffin pulled back and regarded her silently with solemn concern clouding his tawny, almost leonine eyes. With a sigh of frustration, he glanced away.
“I won’t have anything to do with these people, Ellie,” he eventually replied. “But I also won’t leave you alone. You’re the only family I’ve got.”  His expression was resigned as he added, “I guess you counted on that fact.”
“No… but I hoped. You know things just don’t work without you, Griff.” She gave him another big hug to emphasize her words. “I’m so glad you decided to come. And I won’t push you to get involved with my… little project.”
Leading him out of the kitchen into the main floor of the house, Ellie couldn’t keep the chuckle out of her voice as she pointed and said, “Your room’s right down that hall…the master bedroom.”
“Nice pick for the house, Sis,” he said as he moved toward where she’d pointed.
“Hey, it’s cozy,” she called after him. “And it’s bigger than it looks on the outside.”
The three story house appeared to be deceptively small, and because it sat fairly high up on the hill, it had an unhindered view of the entire valley. There was a spacious wrap-around porch from which to enjoy the beautiful scenery, but with all the snow, Ellie hadn’t spent much time out there yet. Even so, she’d caught glimpses of the wildlife from the panoramic windows, including some elk and even a bear. It was quaint, comfy, and unlike any place she’d lived. Which was saying something given how long she’d been alive. Ellie adored it.
Returning to the kitchen, Ellie choked back a laugh when she heard her sibling’s low grumble of annoyance. When she’d moved in a few weeks ago, she’d set up his room exactly as she knew he’d want it, hoping Griffin couldn’t stay away too long. At the sound of his footsteps in the hall, she swiftly hid her amusement.
“So, Griff, what are you planning to do while we’re here?”
He took a seat at one of the three stools at the bar situated between the kitchen and the dining room. Reaching for a bowl of candy he popped a couple into his mouth.
“Why do I have a terrible feeling that you’ve already got something lined up for me?” Griffin eyed his sister suspiciously.
She threw him an innocent look over her shoulder. “Not really.”
“What’s your set up?”
She lowered her gaze and grimaced. “I’m a student at the high school…Again. Today was my first day, actually.”
Griffin’s eyebrows shot up. “Why on Earth would you do that willingly?”
“Three of the people in the family still attend high school—”
Griffin held up his hands. “Forget it. I don’t want to know.”
“There’s too much I need to tell you,” Ellie confessed, shaking her head.
“Jeez, Elle,” he growled. “You’ve only been at school one day. How much trouble could you get into in that amount of time?”

Social Media for a 1st Time Author

In one of my very first posts on this blog I talked about my initial foray into the use of social media as a self-marketing tool for a first time self publishing author.  I am now 6 weeks, 18 blog posts, 73 tweets, and multiple Facebook entries and Pinterest boards into the process.  I have to say that my social media experience so far has been interesting, entertaining, and educational.  Each type of media has different uses, different needs, and different management. Here are a few things I’ve learned about each so far:

Blog
The research shows that it’s best to blog every single day about a specific topic. The specific topic part I have. My blog so far has been extremely fun to write.  I’ve enjoyed chronicling my experiences with the various aspects of self publishing – from writing, to editing. to book cover design, to social media.  But a daily cadence is something I can’t maintain. I try to blog about every two to three days. And that is working well so far I have enough content for that frequncy. Time is harder to come by, so sometimes it’s more like four days. The stats on the blog have been interesting. I have only one “signed up” follower so far. But around 700 page views from countries around the world. So it’s hard to tell how much is being read and by whom, but incredibly cool to think about who I might be reaching.

Facebook
The research I’ve found on Facebook shows that you should only post 5-7 times a week and at least two of those posts should be specific to your business. That I can keep up with. I use Facebook in a few ways. I make announcements – book cover reveal, edits progress etc. I toss questions out to my followers – requests for ideas or feedback. I put up links to my blog posts. My 50-some-odd followers on Facebook – those that have “liked” my author page – are so far all people I know. The stats on FB are actually pretty awesome. Since it’s a public site, it’s open to anyone to view even if they haven’t liked the page.  So I can see how many people saw a specific post. How viral that post was. And even demographics of the people viewing my page.  Like with the blog, cool to think about who I might be reaching.

Twitter
This form of social media has been a bit of a revelation. I’ve blogged and facebooked before, but I had never tweeted a day in my life before six weeks ago.  Research on Twitter has said that posting roughly once every hour is the best way to go.  Can’t keep up with that, so twice a day is as good as it gets.  I’m still working on my tweets. I’m not a funny person in general, let alone in 144 characters or less. What’s been fascinating to me is that almost every single one of my 120-some-odd followers is a total stranger.  Most of them are fellow indie authors. I have particularly enjoyed the posts from my followers (most of whom I’ve followed back). It’s been a surprising source of information, tips, good reads, and entertainment.   A good majority of my “oooh that’s a good idea – I’ll try that” moments as a 1st time self publishing author have come from finds via twitter.

Pinterest
I’m only just getting started on pinterest. I’m finding this tool to be particularly helpful to me personally.  I am using it to save pages related to being an author.  Some of my boards are “promotional” – one board is a link to all my author sites. I have a board for Blue Violet which includes the book cover reveal, a link to Estes Park where it’s set, links to actors who look a little like my characters, etc.  Then I have “informational” boards – favorite books, etc.  Then I have my “self publishing” boards which include links to much of my research on self publishing.  I only have four followers so far, one of which is my brother. But it’s definitely been handy for me.

I am new to using these social media tools and still have a lot to learn and a lot of tweaking to do on my own person style and use.  There are a TON of other social media tools out there as well. But my first six weeks have been well worth the effort put in. I think I’ll keep plugging at this a little longer.

BTW… if you’re reading this, you clearly know how to get to my blog.  But if you want to follow me on any of my author sites, here are the links:

http://www.facebook.com/Abigail.Owen.Books
https://twitter.com/AOwenBooks
http://pinterest.com/abbyowen/

Book Cover Part #2 – Decisions, Decisions

In a previous blog post titled “Book Cover Part #1 – Getting Started” I discussed steps 1-3 (out of 5) that I am following to create the book cover for my first publication – Blue Violet – due out this August.

Step 1 was researching what’s needed for a book cover – basics like size of the image, typical covers for this genre, etc.  Steps 2 and 3 were hiring and the communicating with an artist.  Now on to the final two steps!

Step 4 – Edit the Book Cover Proofs
This was a back and forth process over the last two weeks or so.  Did I mention that I worked for a web design company – with Jason – for five years? Consequently I often have a ton of ideas I want to try out, most of which are subtle variations – a LOT of variations – on a main idea. Here’s a short walk of what Jason and I went through…

  • First – Jason first confirmed an image for the flower with me. He found a picture that is exactly what I was seeing in my mind. Then I got my first look at the book cover idea starting to come together. (See below image.)

 

  • Second – I asked for the wording to be darker/larger. I suggested keeping the B & V in the title as the original fonts, but changing the rest of the letters to a different font. I requested seeing what it would look like with some “subtle swirlies” around the flower. I really debated that since the flower alone is such a pretty image. It becomes a question of preferring a more minimalist look or full on frou-frou. Below is what I received back.
  • Third – So I have discovered through my wedding, the birth of my daughter, and now my book cover that I am a fan of full on frou-frou. The swirlies are definitely staying. I wanted the title to stand out a bit more. So we played with even larger text or offsetting the text, and tossed around a few other ideas like shadowing or bevels. Also added a small line of text at the bottom identifying Blue Violet at the 1st book of the Svatura series. (I’m already working on book #2!) Below is one of the options that came out of that round – my favorite of the options.
  • I only asked to see it with one other change – some swirlies in the upper right corner. I debated this as well. The flower swirles come out of it, hinting at vines or leaves. So swirlies coming out of the corner might look odd.

Step 5 – Decide on a Book Cover
Without further ado, the book cover for Blue Violet is…

The Misadventures of Talking Heads

While my first round of edits for my upcoming release, Blue Violet, revealed the need to bring tension forward in the story as well as the need to show instead of tell (see previous blog about my new love of editing), round two of the edits has revealed my bad habit of writing talking heads.

Talking heads happen when your characters are in conversation but make no movement – unless absolutely necessary to the story line. In my case, my characters had a lot of facial expressions to go along with their talking, but nothing else.

This is something that makes complete sense to me now that Wendy, my editor, has pointed it out, but I honestly don’t think I would have noticed this issue on my own.  And it makes such a huge difference – in a very subtle way – to the narrative.

People move.  Think about conversations in which you’ve engaged.  Don’t you think you’d be incredibly creeped out if you both stood stock-still only changing facial expressions while you chat. Next time you’re in the middle of a conversation pay attention to the body movements the participants make.  Even if you’re not engaged in an activity like eating, you still will see actions like shifting from foot to foot, crossing or uncrossing of arms, scratching, biting nails, looking around the room, etc.

I’ve actually had a lot of fun (I’m a geek I know) going back through the conversation scenes in Blue Violet and adding small physical actions in between the dialogue, and sometimes even supporting the dialogue. I’ve had to answer questions like: Why would they do this at this moment? Is this is just a “getting comfortable” action? Or should they do something that reveals an emotion? Is this an action this character does habitually?

I love that with this very small addition to the dialogue sequences I have a chance to make my characters more human, to enhance the display of their emotions and reactions, and sometimes even add to who the character is by supplying mannerisms.

Huge thanks to Wendy for this piece of editing and advice! I will absolutely be incorporating this into my writing from here on out – although I’m sure it’ll take practice putting it in automatically.

The Appeal of Writing Super Powers

Who doesn’t love a good super power? Let’s be honest… super powers are awesome! They rock! The are totally cool! They are, for lack of a better term, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious… and a bag of chips! Clearly I geek out on this topic.

I’m not going to get into the psychology of the mass appeal of this concept (although I’d bet the data is pretty interesting). But personally, as an author, I adore creating characters with supernatural powers because of the limitless options available. You are able to – temporarily at least – suspend reality and allow your character the ability to do anything within the realms of your imagination.

Super powers can come in all sort of forms and packages. Because imagination is the only limiting factor, there’s always room for more out there. There is no way that every possible power or variation on a power has been accounted for. And since the powers themselves are limitless, the interaction between powers, use of powers, battles with powers, etc. are also fairly limitless.

As a broad example – through comic books, movies, mythology, etc. there have been a lot of fire-based superheros (or villains) out there: Firestarter, The Human Torch, Pyro, Apollo, Ghost Rider, etc. I could go on.  But I guarantee that with a little ingenuity and a healthy imagination you can come up with a subtle variation on a fire-based superpower that hasn’t been done yet and is hella-rad. (Oh yeah… I said it.)

What I find to be trickiest about writing books with powers is the interaction between them.  Making sure that in any situation, I’m not only accounting for all the powers present but also for how the characters would use them. It’s easy to be concentrating only on your main character and forget a side-character could do something totally kick-ass in that scene, or would negate your main character’s actions in some way.

In case you’re curious… yes, my upcoming release – Blue Violet – has a ton of super powers in it. Hopefully, there are a few that you haven’t’ seen before – at least not quite like this.  SPOILER ALERT: Here are a few just to whet your curiosity: a few “typical” powers frequently seen – teleporter, telepathy, firestarter; a few on the different side – an ability to sense relationships (past, present, and future), a power manipulator, an ability to freeze anything in motion.  There’s more, but I won’t give it all away.

I’m currently thinking I will release Blue Violet in August. I can’t wait to share these powers and characters with you and see what you think!

Book Cover Part 1 – Getting Started

As I travel down this path of publishing my first book – Blue Violet – I now find myself at the point of creating a book cover.

Every blog post, article, and website I’ve seen so far has stressed the importance of a good book cover. According to a Taleist report, authors who got outside help with issues such as editing and cover design earned 34% more than the average, although 70% of respondents did not seek help. Of those who got professional help in these areas, more got help on the book cover versus the editing.

I’m already getting professional help with the editing piece. At this point I’m more than happy to shop out my book cover as well. Creating the book cover for Blue Violet has turned into a five stage process:  1- research book covers, 2- hire an artist, 3- communicate with my artist, 4- review and edit the proofs, and 5- decide on the final cover.

Stage 1 – Research
During the first stage, I found an abundance of data, opinions, and options available for the enterprising self-publisher. Here are some points and articles that I found particularly appropriate or helpful:

Size/Image Requirements (Amazon)
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has a page that details the requirements for the are for upload for eBooks:

  • Minimum of 1000 pixels on the longest side
  • Recommend that images be 2500 pixels on the longest side.
  • Ideal height/width ratio of 1.6
  • Use RGB color mode
  • If the cover is white or a very light color, add a very narrow (3-4 pixel) medium grey border to help show the edges when it shows on the white background of the Amazon website

Key Elements
Several blogs and articles listed out the key elements of an effective book cover. Most of them agreed on the same major pieces including:

  • Large title (biggest font on the cover)
  • Author’s name clear
  • Words stand out well (both color and font)
  • Art that fits the “norm” for the genre
  • Less is more – only 1-2 colors and fontsLooks good in thumbnail form (especially important for us eBook publishers)
  • Relevant to the story

Young Adult Cover Stats
Kate Hart researched YA (young adult) book covers in 2011 resulting in a ton of data on averages and typical covers in this genre. Most relevant to me were the following 2 stats:

  • Specific colors or light vs. dark are fairly well distributed across 2011 YA books.
  • If an image on the cover is not a person then it is most likely to be a filigree or a flower.

Stage 2 – Hire an Artist
I did very briefly consider using one of the many cover designers easily located on the Internet. This service seems to cost anywhere from $400-$4000. However, having worked for five years at a web design company, I have my own contacts. I am working with a very talented graphic artist – Jason Vines – to do my cover. I decided to go this route because I know him, I’m comfortable with him, I trust him and his work, and he’s reasonably priced.

Stage 3 – Communicate with My Artist
Once I’d hired Jason, the next step was to let him know the important information about the book in an effort to help him generate ideas. This part is tricky. I didn’t want to make him read the entire book. I also didn’t want to restrict his creativity by giving him rigid guidelines. But I wanted to make sure he’s got all the elements he needs to create my perfect cover.  Below is what I ended up communicating to him:

  • Book Title: Blue Violet
  • My initial idea is something really simple like a blue violet flower on a black or white background.
  • The follow-on book is titled Hyacinth (and ideas for 2 more books in the series likely titled Nightshade and Snapdragon). The book covers for each of those would be the title flowers – setting a theme for the series.
  • The first page of the book will read: All flowers have a meaning. In the Victorian era, people used flowers as a symbol to express their feelings. Blue Violet: watchfulness, faithfulness, I’ll always be true.

 

  • Genre: YA (young adult) paranormal romance
  • Setting: Rocky Mountains in Colorado / Estes Park
  • SPOILER ALERT: I won’t give you details I gave Jason, but I let him know some of the powers for my main character and antagonist (which may or may not involve wolves). I gave him details that would potentially render well in graphic form.

 

Stage 4 & 5 – Edit the Proofs / Decide on a Cover (Coming Soon!)
Jason is in the process now of creating the first pass at my book cover. I should receive several options to select from sometime in the next few weeks. After I’ve completed my work with him I’ll post on the options he provided, the edits we went through, and the final book cover design! I am extremely excited and curious to see what he comes up with!