Great news for indie authors out there! Amazon recently launched Kindle Indie Books, a store front exclusively featuring indie authors.
As a reader, this is very exciting. I love to read and support indie authors, but I’ve always had trouble finding them in the search engines. Now I have a whole storefront to visit. It’s very easy to browse by category and genre. Indie books also have a reputation for being inexpensive. My guess is that customers will start visiting this storefront regularly to find bargain books. This all spells success for indie authors. This offers us a greater chance to be found by our audience.
The downside of all this? I bought a Nook a few months ago. I can only hope Barnes and Noble will do something like this soon!
What are your thoughts on Amazon’s Kindle Indie Books?
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Rob Loughran for close to 10 years. During that time he’s been a mentor, a cheerleader, and a friend. You can learn more about Rob and his life-long career as a writer on his website. I’m pleased to bring you his guest post:
“HEY, DO YOU KNOW YOUR JOKEBOOK IS ON KINDLE?”
Transport of the mails, transport of the human voice, transport of flickering pictures—in this century, as in others, our highest accomplishments have the single aim of bringing men together. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1945)
Last night at the restaurant where I work (www.farmhouseinn.com) a former busgirl dined with her mother. Kate, 22, a student atChicoStateUniversitygrew up in a wired world and texting etc. is second-nature to her: it is something natural and normal for her generation. After “Hiyas” and “Whazzups” she said, “Hey, do you know your jokebook is on Kindle?”
“Actually Kate,” I wanted to say, “I spent six weeks trying to format and upload the sonuvagun. It was one of the most frustrating projects I’ve ever undertaken–and I have eight children. It kept getting rejected and when it finally loaded it looked terrible. I ended up paying someone to format it for me.”
That’s what I wanted to say.
But I didn’t. I asked where she saw it. A friend had downloaded it and asked Kate if she really knew the author of all these filthy and tasteless jokes. “Yes,” said Kate. “And he also writes children’s books.”
The electronic wizardry that is an e-book, like all technology, is invisible to the user. I don’t have to know about the interactions of speed, momentum, and traction for my antilock brakes to work.
I stomp; I stop.
The same is true for the new e-book technology: when all is said and done it’s words on the page. It is not a gimmick or a fad.
It’s another babystep in the journey of human language and communication: another skip&jump forward in the inexorable and ineluctable progress of civilization. From papyrus, to codex, to manuscript, to wood block presses, to moveable type, to linotype to electronic publishing.
No one loves books (real books that you can toss in the back seat of a car or read in the bathtub) more than me, but I’m excited about all this e-stuff. Not only for the marketing opportunities it affords me but because this crowd of folks on earth right now (you and me included) might be know as the gang that saved the forests and improved the scope and utility of human communication.
Rob Loughran lives inWindsor,CAand is a big fan of “Raggedy Chan”. He has 23 books in print, several of which are available in e-format and free PDF download. Check him out at:
As some of your know, I’ve recently made Raggedy Chan available as an e-book on Smashwords. (I also made my e-book available for Nook and Kindle.) I have to say, Smashwords is quickly turning out to be my favorite of the three. Even though I griped about the lengthy file prep process here, they are by the far the most author friendly. Here’s some of the neat things Smashwords does:
1. Sends you an email every time a book is sold
2. Sends you and email every time someone writes a review about your book
3. Offers a Coupon Generator so that you can generate coupons to promote your book
#3 is by far my favorite so far, although I do appreciate the updates on book sales and reviews. (It’s pretty nice to pop into my inbox at lunchtime and see a book has sold!) My writing colleague Lindsay Buroker, who I interviewed here, was kind enough to include a coupon for Raggedy Chan in her newsletter. Recipients of her newsletter were able to use the coupon to download my book for free. I made the coupon good for 2 weeks.
I wasn’t sure if there would be any interest or not. To my surprise, 16 people cashed in the coupon and downloaded the book. I even garnered one lovely review, which you can read here. I know 16 downloads doesen’t seem like much, but if I sold 16 print copies of my book in 2 weeks I’d be frothing at the mouth with excitement. So for my first time out of the gate, I’m pretty excited.
I decided to give coupons another try. This time I posted the coupon in the Mobile Reads Forum (another tip from Lindsay Buroker). I made the coupon good through next Friday. If any blog readers out there are interested in downloading a free copy of my book, use Coupon Code XC24N at Smashwords. I’ll report back on results.
Generating a coupon through Smashwords is so easy you could probably do it blindfolded. Simply go to your Dashboard, go to the book you want to generate a coupon for, and click “Coupon.” You’re taken to a form that lets you enter the coupon amount (100% off, 50% off, etc). The form also allows you to enter the dates for the coupon. And wa-la. You’re done. Click “done” and Smashwords spits out the coupon code. Too bad Amazon and B&N don’t offer a simliar program for authors.
Any other writers out there have stories to share about using Smashwords coupons?
Once you go through the nifty process of converting your story into an Epub file (for Barnes & Noble) and a Mobi file (for Amazon), it’s a good idea to preview those files before you upload them to sell. Even if you don’t have an e-reader, you can download e-book readers on your computer.
For Epub, I downloaded the Adobe Digital Editions e-reader. For Mobi, I downloaded Kindle for PC. Both applications run on my computer, and both were free to download. Once I had these, it was easy to open my e-book files and check them over for errors. (Both of these free readers were recommended to me by Dellaster Design, the company who converted my e-book. I highly recommend them—the owner works quickly and professionally.)
A few things to check on your e-book files before you upload them:
Make sure they work, and make sure they go to the proper place. I had one hyperlink that went to a nonexistent website. An easy fix, but it would not have been caught if I didn’t go through the file and check every link.
2. Chapter Headings
In my Epub version, the chapter heading were the wrong size font. They were correct in the Mobi file. (Ah, the beauty of file conversion.) Another easy fix, but I’m glad I caught the mistake before the book went live.
3. Page Breaks
Make sure page breaks are in the appropriate places. You don’t want your chapter heading to appear in the middle of the page.
4. Spelling, grammar, copyright – etc.
Hopefully this one is a no-brainer. Ideally, these items should be checked BEFORE you send your file off for conversion.
Anyone else have any tips for e-book conversion process?
Last weekend I had the honor of presenting at the Fort Bragg Public Library as part of their Summer Reading Program.
I’ve been doing author presentations for quite a few years now. I thought I would share some of the things I’ve learned along the way and use examples from the Fort Bragg event to illustrate the points.
So here we go — 5 Tips for a Successful Author Presentation:
1. Show up Early
It’s always good to show up early. Even though I know from experience that it only takes me about 30 minutes to set up for an event, I showed up at the library 1 hour early. This turned out to be a good decision. The library has suffered from recent budget cutbacks. On the morning of my presentation, they were understaffed and very busy. The head librarian showed us the presentation room, but did not have time for set up. There were tables that needed to be put away, chairs to be set up, etc. Luckily, with the extra time I’d allowed, there was plenty of time to set up the room.
Which brings me to my next point…
2. Bring a friend
If friends or family members have some free time on their hands, see if you can rope them into helping you out. I actually wrangled 2 family members: Mom and Dad.
With the extra set-up required for the event, I was lucky to have my mom and dad with me. Dad took charge of organizing the chairs and tables. This left me and my mom free for the regular set-up. You never know when you might need some extra help, so bring someone along if you can. (Plus it never hurts to have someone there for moral support!)
3. Have Visual Aids
This might sound cheesy or seem a bit high school-ish, but don’t knock the value of visual aids when it comes to a successful presentation. There’s a few good reasons for this: 1) It gives the audience other things to look at. (And let’s face it, as amazing as we authors are, staring at us for 30 or more minutes can get boring.) 2) It gives you something to talk about.
I utilize quite a few different visual aids. I bring my original Raggedy Chan doll, along with a Raggedy Ann doll, both of which I’ve had since I was an infant. I also use illustrations from my book and historical artwork.
Don’t have an antique doll or nifty illustrations in your book? Get creative. Plumb the depths of your book for inspiration. Got a sci-fi novel? Hire an illustrator to create a picture of your space ship or alien. Got a fantasy novel? Create a power point presentation with pictures of historical clothing and compare them to the ones you characters wear. Or if you want to live on the edge: bring in the giant shoe box of rejection letters and talk about the writing process. You may have to get creative, but I guarantee every writer out there has plenty of interesting stuff to show the audience.
Which brings me to another point…
4. Always have a Plan B
While it’s great to have visual aids, it’s good to have a backup for your visual aids. Here’s an example of why:
I have a power point presentation that I like to use for presentations. It has all the illustrations I use. But I also have a backup for the power point presentation: illustrations enlarged and laminated to poster board.
This past weekend, I intended to use my power point presentation. Once I got to the library, I realized that wasn’t a good option. Because of the shape of the room (long and narrow) and the relatively large turnout (about 40 people) I would have had to stand in the middle of the audience in order to use the projector. That would have been awkward. Luckily, I had my laminated poster boards. I also had my mom (see tip #2) who was able to morph in Vanna White. While I spoke, she held up the various illustrations for the audience to see. If I hadn’t had my Plan B, the presentation would have been very awkward.
Vanna White (aka my mom) holding up a laminated illustration of Raggedy Chan and the Pern-yi Caterpillar
5. Give stuff away
Nothing gets the attention of people like free stuff. I give away Raggedy Chan bookmarks. I have 3 different quizzes that I use throughout my presentation. Every time a person correctly answers a quiz question, they get a bookmark.
This is an especially successful tool when presenting to children. The first time I ask a question, kids are hesitant to raise their hands and answer. As soon as they realize they can win a prize for correctly answering a question, they are on board. Hands shoot up before I even finish a question. Some kids try to answer every single question, even if they have already won a bookmark.
Giving away free stuff increases your audience participation. Bookmarks are a great thing to give away. They’re relatively inexpensive, plus you get to brand them with your website, name, and book cover. I’ve used both PS Print and Modern Postcard for bookmarks, though there are lots of other printers out there.
That’s it for presentation techniques. I’d love to hear presentation tips and anecdotes from other writers out there.
Just finished up my presentation at the Fort Bragg library a few hours ago. Great turn out — about 40 people! Lots of kids, many of them both readers and writers. I sold a tidy handful of Raggedy Chan book and doll sales. All in all an awesome time!
More details later, along with some presentation tips.
Saturday, July 16th, I will be presenting at the Fort Bragg Public Library. The presentation is part of the library’s summer reading program, which celebrates “One World, Many Stories.” Click here for more information. I’ll be talking about Chinese mythology (one of my favorite subjects) and sharing some tips on how to become an author. I’m also going out on a limb and having the presentation recorded with the hopes of turning it into a promotional trailer for You Tube and QR Codes. Hopefully I’ll “break a leg!”
I’m pleased to post an interview from Lindsay Buroker. She’s an indie fantasy author with a great gift for telling a fun adventure story with memorable characters. I’ve read lots of her stories, but my favorite by far is Flash Gold, a YA novella about a teenage engineer who builds a steam powered dog sled. (Any mothers out there? Check this story out for your daughters! The main character, Kali, is a great role model for young women and shows them it’s okay for girls to like wrenches and screw drivers!)
Lindsay has also garnered lots of experience in the e-book world, which she generously shares on her site entitled E-book Endeavors. Check out her site for lots of great info on self-publishing.
And now, here’s Lindsay’s interview:
1. What influenced your decision to self-publish?
I got my first e-reader (a Kindle) in October of last year, originally so I’d be able to take lots of books on trips without having to pack physical versions. I didn’t really think it’d replace my love for the dead-tree variety, but lo and behold I became a fan.
I’m not sure how I stumbled across JA Konrath’s infamous blog, but, like many indie authors, that’s where I first became aware of how easy it was to get a book into the Kindle store (among other places). My Goblin Brothers short stories were already up on the web, so I thought it’d be a nice promotional opportunity. I could create an ebook and maybe start building a fan base for the novel I was planning (and still need to get back to!).
Around that same time, I’d finished polishing my high-fantasy/science-fiction adventure, Encrypted. My first novel, a high-fantasy mystery called The Emperor’s Edge, had been sitting on my hard drive for almost a year. I liked the story, but I wasn’t sure it’d stand out enough to win over any agents.
I wasn’t enthused by the idea of sending out bazillions of query letters for Encrypted either, but I figured I had to take a shot. The problem was that I didn’t see many agents particularly interested in high fantasy. A lot of them expressly said don’t send us that junk (okay, they didn’t call it junk, but that was the vibe I got).
As I started making plans for my short-story ebook, I grew more and more excited about e-publishing and the possibilities there and less and less excited about querying agents. I also realized that even if I was lucky enough to find an agent, it’d probably take two years before I could hope to see my book on a shelf somewhere. Whereas with e-publishing, all I had to do was find someone to proofread the manuscripts and have cover art made. I could get my books online within a few weeks.
Ultimately, I did publish that collection of short stories, but I also published The Emperor’s Edge and Encrypted (all this within about two months of first discovering Mr. Konrath’s blog). Now I have another short story collection out, a novella, and Book 2 in The Emperor’s Edge series. I’ve also long since made back the costs of editing and cover art design, and I even hired a small company to create a “podiobook” of EE (basically an audiobook that you podcast chapter by chapter on iTunes).
So, originally it was a lack of patience combined with disillusionment with the traditional system, though these days I have to admit the money is a nice incentive to stick with self-publishing (you make 70% of the cover price as an indie ebook author).
2. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned on your self-publishing journey?
Well, there’s a lot of common sense stuff such as the need to put out the most professional story you can, to write a good blurb, to have professional looking cover art, to price competitively, etc. but I think most of that is fairly intuitive.
I think the most important thing might be learning what works and what doesn’t work (or works less well) when it comes to book promotion. I had some knowledge about building up a blog, since I’ve done that before for my day job, but I didn’t come into this knowing how to sell books.
I won’t go into depth here, but I recently wrote a blog post on High Level vs. Low Level Book Promotion Techniques in case folks are curious about what I believe works best. I write a lot on e-publishing and ebook marketing on my site, so please come by if that’s something you’re interested in.
3. What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome on your self-publishing journey?
Well, I’ve had my difficulties getting cover art done that I like, grin, but I suppose obscurity is the biggest obstacle when you’re getting started.
I’m not one of those authors who got lucky and had one promotional thing (such as a Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship or some such) that propelled them into the bestseller charts where they stayed ever after. I don’t write in a hot genre, and I didn’t get into e-publishing early, before there was much competition. I feel like it’s been a lot of steady, relentless work and a little bit of “trying everything” to slowly work my way up the Amazon sales ranking charts.
It’s worked though! I’m to the point now where my ebooks pop up all over the steampunk categories on Amazon, and people are finding them without me actively promoting them outside of my blog and my Twitter account (where I only rarely post links to my books).
If you’ve ever heard of a parable called The Daffodil Principle, I think that’s the road most of us will take out of obscurity. You do a little every day of the kinds of things that have lasting effects, and, over time, your success will grow.
I have to say that one thing that’s made the whole experience truly wonderful (and all worth it) is the response I’ve received: the positive reviews, the Twitter messages requesting more books, and the nice emails from fans (I’m still in aw that a self-published author would have real fans!). Just today, someone emailed me and asked me if they could use my Emperor’s Edge world to make an RPG supplement for personal use. Why, of course! I was tickled that someone would want to.
I mentioned before that high fantasy isn’t the most popular genre, and sometimes it’s disheartening to see those thriller and romance authors raking in the bucks, selling hundreds of ebooks a day, but, you know something? Science fiction and fantasy fans are some of the coolest, most passionate readers out there, and I’m glad to be a part of that.
4. What advice can you share about self-publishing with other writers out there?
Save yourself some pain down the road by joining a critique group and making sure your work is really ready before jumping into this. They say it takes 10,000 hours of working at a skill to master it, so it’s all kinds of hubris to think your first novel is going to be a winner. I call Emperor’s Edge my first novel, but I just mean it’s the first one published. There were three or four “practice” novels before that, ones that weren’t good enough to bother polishing, but I ran a couple of them through a workshop and learned loads by giving and receiving critiques. I have three novels out now, and I still feel like I have a lot of room for improvement as a writer.
With all the success stories out there now, it’s easy to run to e-publishing with stars in your eyes, but most of the people making it are folks who came close to making it in the traditional publishing world too (i.e. got an agent but didn’t ultimately find a buyer because the moon and stars just weren’t aligned right). Most of the exceptions (and, yes, I know there is some poor work out there that sells well) are from authors who got into this early, when there was a lot less competition in the ebook world. Just assume that you have to have something pretty darned good to make it today.
5. I’m a huge fan of your characters. Where do you get your inspiration for them?
Why, thank you.
I have to admit that my Emperor’s Edge characters aren’t the most original. I was about twenty when I came up with them, and I’d devoured tons of Forgotten Realms and DragonLance and other Tolkien-inspired fantasy as a teenager, and you can see that influence in the familiar “types” of characters I started out making.
Today, I’m more likely to go for something less common. Tikaya, my heroine in Encrypted, is a philology professor with a knack for cryptography. Kali, my heroine in Flash Gold, is a self-taught engineer/tinkerer. My goblin heroes are little geeks too, the types to scheme themselves into and out of trouble because they haven’t the size or strength to be fighters.
I’m not sure where the inspiration comes from (though I did have a crush on MacGyver as a kid). I’d say it’s just a reflection of my tastes these days. I grew out of my love for warriors and started enjoying characters who solved problems with their brains instead of swords.
6. What influences your stories?
My early stories were very derivative since I read nothing but fantasy. These days, I read at least as much non-fiction as I do fantasy, maybe more, and I often get ideas from history or the world around me.
I was taking a real estate class when I was working on Emperor’s Edge, and I ended up having a chapter where my heroes were researching someone via plat maps in a real estate library. Of course, one needs to keep things interesting, so there’s an assassination attempt during that research session.
7. What project are you working on now?
I just finished a rough draft of the next Flash Gold story. I don’t have a title for it yet, but it’s another novella, around 26,000 words. I’m hoping to get that out at the end of the summer.
I’m also about a third of the way through a rough draft of the next Emperor’s Edge book (the third in the series). I’d love to have that done and out by Christmas, but we’ll see. My novels have all been over 100,000 words so they take a while to write!
Sonoma County Author Interviewed Live on Mixed Chicks Chat
July 6, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Author Camille Picott shares her biracial experiences
Camille Picott, author of Raggedy Chan, was interviewed live today on Mixed Chicks Chat.
Mixed Chicks Chat is the only live weekly show about being racially and culturally mixed. “I had an opportunity to talk about my experience of being racially mixed and how it influences my writing,” Picott says, who is half Chinese and half Caucasian. You can listen to the 30-minute podcast for free here. It can also be downloaded for free on iTunes.
The fully illustrated Raggedy Chan “tree-book” can be purchased locally at Copperfield’s and Borders. It’s also available as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
About Raggedy Chan: Emma Chan-McDougal receives a special gift from her Auntie Gracie: a rag doll named Raggedy Chan. But Raggedy Chan is no ordinary doll. She is a beautiful Chinese princess who lives in a jasper palace on the enchanted isle of Kunlun. The peace of her island home is threatened when Drought Fury steals Winged Dragon, bringer of rain. Without Winged Dragon, Kunlun will wither and die.
To save her stricken homeland, Raggedy Chan sets forth alone. Her quest leads her to America, where she meets people who distrust her because she’s different. Can Raggedy Chan adapt to the strange ways of this new land and rescue her beloved dragon?
In this modern fairy tale, Chinese-American author Camille Picott draws on her heritage to weave a story of magic, adventure, and sacrifice.
I think it would be too much to hope for things to go smoothly in my first attempt to tackle the e-book world. On the bright side, some things did go well right out of the gate. Other things…not so much. But I learned a lot along the way. Here’s a brief re-cap of my journey.
Amazon: We’ll start with the good news first. Uploading the Raggedy Chan e-book onto Amazon was a snap. E-book was up on Amazon in less than 24 hours. Process was flawless.
Barnes & Noble: This started out well. The Pubit process is very straight forward and easy. Yet after 72 hours—the designated wait time—the book still wasn’t up. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and waited another few days, and still the book didn’t show up. I checked the dashboard, which showed status as “Processing.”
I finally emailed B&N to see if I could find out why the book wasn’t up. I got a reply a few days later stating I should have received an email from them (which I never did). The email went on to say there was something wrong with the information I uploaded and that I needed to call a 1-800 number.
I called the next day. It was difficult to get a live person. There’s no “hold for next available operator” option. If no one answers, you’re put into a voicemail box. I kept calling until I got a live person, who explained that the address I had entered did not match the records of the IRS.
By this point, I was pretty frustrated. 1) This whole time, Pubit dashboard still showed my book as “Processing.” It would have been nice if that had changed to “Error,” or something else to let me know there was a glitch. 2) For such a simple thing as an incorrect address, it would have been nice if the person who sent the email response to my query had told me that was the problem, rather than sending me off to a 1-800 number.
I had a PO Box listed for my address, so I switched it to my physical address, thinking perhaps that was the issue. Another 72 hours went by, and still my book wasn’t listed. By this point I was second-guessing myself. (I mean, I was pretty sure I knew my address, so why wasn’t the book processing?) I swapped out my TaxID for my SS#. Another 72 hours, still no go. It seemed pointless to go back and keep switching stuff out just for the sake of switching things.
Time to call the magic 1-800 number again. Still a pain in the butt to get through to a live person, but by this time I know the drill so I keep calling until I get through. The fellow on the other end explained that the automatic acceptance process hiccupped because of the initial glitch. He said he would send the information onto a real person to verify.
72 hours later, Raggedy Chan was finally up on B&N. Not the smoothest process, but in the end everything was resolves. I do appreciate that there was a live person to talk to.
Smashwords: Of all the places I uploaded my e-book, this was by far the most challenging of them all. On the up side, Smashwords is totally free. For those of you want to learn more about Smashwords, read my post here.
In an effort to keep Smashwords free for all authors, founder Mark Coker provides the Smashwords Style Guide, a 70-page how-to-manual for all authors wishing to use Smashwords. The Style Guide provides step-by-step instructions for correctly formatting your Word.doc file for conversion. It’s a tedious process, but ultimately doable.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t hit a few stumbling blocks. I followed the instructions of the Style Guide, but my book still looked a bit wonky when I previewed it. I contacted L.K. Campbell, who converts Word.docs for Smashword authors. She found some embedded formatting code and removed it for me. This time when I uploaded the book, all the formatting looked as it should. L.K. Campbell was quick and professional and I would definitely use her services again.
At the end of this whole process, I am reminded that I am not a computer programmer. I appreciated the learning process with the Style Guide, but next time I will outsource this part of the process.
If you’re considering using Smashwords and want to hire someone to format your document for you, I still recommend reading the Style Guide for the following reasons:
1) I learned some neat tricks with Microsoft Word.
2) I found the specific formatting requirements (such as including reviews in the front matter, whereas in my other formats I include them in the back matter) and copyright information (ie., the phrase “Smashwords Edition” is required on the copyright page). I wouldn’t have known about these things had I not read the book.
3) I gained a better understanding of how Smashwords works.
As with anything new, my adventure into the world of e-books had its share of hurdles. In the end, I was able to successfully get my book uploaded into three different places. I’m looking forward to publishing my next e-book, hopefully with less hiccups.
I’d love to hear about e-book challenges and triumphs from other indie authors out there.