Friday, September 30, 2011

Mormons, Vaginas, and Cover Art

Ever have one of those nights where no matter how much alcohol you drank, you just couldn't get, well, drunk?  Happened to me last night.  So instead of watching everyone else around me have fun, I decided to work – and it was…fun.  Luckily, the graphic artist I hired for my novel 'Water' was also working (she is Mormon, and therefore doesn't drink – also lucky for me).

Your book's cover is possibly the single most important aspect of the book – even before a good story.  Fact is, many potential buyers will base their buying decision on the cover image – you have one to two seconds to make an impression; many may even move on before reading the book's blurb.  I have been lucky enough to find artists who charge between $40 and $100, including revisions, and I always have them sign a copyright release (see example under the resources section on the right).  I will also always credit them with their work wherever I use the image.

Anyway, while the party raged on above me, I sat in my basement collaborating with Keary Taylor via e-mail.  We (and by 'we' I mean mostly 'she'), were able to come up with the final design.  Soooo glad I decided to ditch the first cover and start from scratch with a new artist:

The first cover was a product of my imagination – I just kept thinking of more shit the cover should have and telling the artist to revise, revise, revise.  She did everything I asked her to do; her mistake.  After seeing the final product I sat back, looked at it, and thought, "What in the hell was I thinking?"  I paid the artist then hired another.  My decision was validated by a friend's opinion, "It looks like a vagina."

The second cover is a product of the artist's imagination.  I gave her all the same instructions I gave the first artist, and she plain out said, "No."  Well look at the big balls on this chick.  I tried again, giving her the simple instruction of, "Water.  Fantasy.  Go."  And….voila.  A vagina-free masterpiece.  She came up with an attractive cover that pops against the black background.  The design can easily be mimicked for the next books in the series; Air, Fire and Earth by placing those elements in a woman's hand or hands, thereby creating an identifiable brand for my fans (you know – once I have some).

Moral of the story?  Drink heavily, hire Mormons, do good art.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Your Writing Sucks

Every author who sends out their work available for critique or reviews will get this feedback, or something of the like, even if it is worded a little better.  Think Stephen King, Amanda Hocking or JK Rowling didn't get this kind of feedback?  Well here it is – I don't like Stephen King books.  Stephen King – your writing sucks. 

I do like Harry Potter books.  And Ms. Hocking – you are exempt from my feedback because I've never read your books.  Lucky you.

There is one thing we can do to decrease our chances of eliciting this kind of feedback, short of hiring professional editors or withholding our work altogether.  We can join a writer's group.  If you don’t have one – GET ONE!  Search for local writer's groups.  If you live BFE Kansas, or – I guess that would be BFK (I just coined another phrase), look for online collaboration groups.  I recently found  You can upload all or just parts of your book for feedback from the community.  You need to provide three reviews yourself before your book is open for review.  This is no different from any group; you have to give help to get help.

The online community is a great place to collaborate (thank you Al Gore – supposed inventor of the internet), because you can pin down a group specific to your interests, no matter how weird they may be (like you weird fiction genre types – yes this is a real genre).  A quick google search for online writing critique group gave me;,, and 

So happy google-ing and happy critique-ing, but don't stop write-ing!  On that gay note...

Monday, September 19, 2011

I just coined a phrase, maybe...

A few ideas on how to create book buzz (if that is already not a coined phrase I want a nickel every time someone says it), or at least ideas on how to drive traffic towards your blog/website/Amazon links besides the dreaded review requests:
  • Offer to do an author interview for book review bloggers
  • Frequent author and writer forums, offering advice, ideas and solutions (sometimes leaving your links are forbidden or frowned upon, but you can at least get your name out there)
  • Participate in blog hops (check out the lower right hand side of my blog – Indie Author Blog Hop)
  • Participate in other author's blogs by leaving comments and enter their promotions.  Like I am doing now: check out Kristen Lamb's blog, and her book We Are Not Alone  
  • Make sure you are linking all of your social media sites together via RSS feeds, links, tweets, etc.  Also, make good use of QR codes.
  • Create author business cards and don't be shy about handing them out!
  • Enter contests (flash fiction, cover art contests, etc.)
 Have more ideas?  Please comment on this blog!

Side note: Just spent the last weekend writing a prequel to my short story Gleaming White, to be released soon.  I've never felt more productive!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pitch-Slapped, yay.....

Finally got some attention from sending out review requests.  Granted, it wasn’t the kind I was hoping for but I’ll take it.  At this point I’m so starved for attention I would even attend a book-burning of my own book – which would be rather expensive considering it is an ebook.   Check out:, where every Friday the canaries tear apart, analyze and revise pitches authors have sent to their book review site.  I was lucky enough to have them pick my pitch:

It was brutal, but will ultimately help me revise a better pitch/review request and hopefully generate some traffic, at least on my blog.  I might actually have to use their ‘suicide by sexy’ line in a future book.

Thanks to my previous post, Creative Marketing, Indie Snippets Bryan Dennis tweeted it to his 2,000+ followers.  Hasn’t resulted in any more blog followers, but maybe at least views?  Not sure how I can tell. 
So far I have still only sold six copies on Amazon, two on B&N, and five via Smashwords.  However, 14 copies were downloaded from Smashwords using the free coupon I generated and sent out to review sites.  That means at least 14 out of the 75 sites to which I sent my request were interested enough to download the short story.  

My list of review sites can be found under the resources section on the right hand side of my blog, I will be adding to it occasionally.  In most cases, I provided a link directly to their review policies and the contact name.  I didn’t include the e-mail address as it is VERY IMPORTANT you take a minute to look at their site and see if your book is right for them.  Otherwise you are just wasting your time.  I have also come to the realization that starting out your e-mail with, “I was just on your blog and *compliment, compliment, compliment* or *relate to the blogger in a personal way*” is twice or possibly thrice as likely to illicit a response from the blogger.

My first review requests were sent out at the beginning of August and most reviewers are taking 2-3 months to post reviews.  This means by the end of September my nightmares of a bunch of 1 and 2 star, scathing reviews posted will hopefully cease either because they finally happened and I manage to survive somehow, or I was able to actually gain several respectable reviews.  

A note on the review request – I have learned to paste the image I use directly into the review instead of adding it as an attachment (many reviewers don’t like opening attachments) and including direct links to my book.  My current review request looks like this (click to enlarge):

If you have lists of review sites you can add, or additional comments/suggestions on review requests and marketing, please don’t be stingy – share!  Especially with me.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Creative Marketing

Marketing is the bane of my existance; and I am not being overly dramatic.  Ok, maybe a little.  Isn't it enough that I write?  Now I have to be a salesman too?  I am pretty sure those skills come from two different parts of the brain, so if you excel at one you surely suck at the other.  However, there are many who have managed to find unique ways to promote themselves:

Bryan Dennis and his Indie Snippets site features 200 word excerpts from the latest indie novels and short story collections.  As of 9/7/11, his stats are as such: 198 blog followers, 2,538 Twitter followers, 17 reviews on Amazon for his book, An Epitaph for Coyote, (this is good, or better than me, because his release date was July of 2011).  I asked him about his sales, and he reports a few per week.  He said he didn’t expect much sales due to the genre (literary and satire), but is hoping his next book, Saw a Rainbow (suspense, speculative genre) will result in more sales.  In July he participated in a blog hop, giving away his book to two winners which resulted in two Amazon reviews and increased blog traffic and membership.  He plans on participating again, putting his blog to his advantage.

What Bryan has done is creative marketing.  He is providing a great service to fellow Indie colleagues by promoting their work, and is still able to market his books via non-traditional means on a site that garners a lot of traffic.

Of course, many writers have started their own book review services.  Check out my book review blogs list under the resources section – many people who run these sites are authors as well, and are able to market their own materials on their site.

Another great small press publisher, Ridan Publishing, has a blog specifically geared towards small press and Indie publishers,  Robin Sullivan hosts lectures and provides guidance to hopefuls like me; all which I am sure has boosted the book sales of her nine authors.  As of 9/6/2011, Robin has 265 blog followers and 238 Twitter followers.  I haven’t found the stats of her book sales, but I’m sure they are great.

A few days ago, Mark Coker (Founder of Smashwords), tweeted this link:  Melissa Conway’s The Indie-Author Laments video, no doubt produced a lot of buzz.  She has three books released plus four more written under a pen name.  Her blog has 18 followers and 234 follow her on Twitter.  She also has a newly created a website where Indie Authors can exchange unbiased reviews.  Right now, there are at least 25 books listed on the site.

Each of these authors/publishers have gone beyond the traditional e-book marketing methods, creating their own niche to attract an audience, all of them brilliant ideas or simply a case of hard work.  So the question is, what do the rest of us do?  Or more importantly to me, what do I do?  One idea that comes to mind is to create a self-publishing event that follows right on the heels of NaNoWriMo.  This could occur over a 3 – 4 month span of time where followers take their newly written novels (created during NaNoWriMo or otherwise), and as a group follow a step by step process through the self publishing nightmare.  As a creator of the possible website, forums, etc., I would get some ‘discoverability’ (as Robin Sullivan would put it), but oh man – that is a lot of work.

Keeping that idea on the back-burner, I will stick with sending out my review requests for now, hoping to gain enough momentum to generate higher sales.