Sunday, December 30

The End is Only the Beginning

Here's a topic for all you writers out there (and I mean anybody that writes, publishing notwithstanding):

How do you create a scene?

What do you start with? Do you plan everything out meticulously with an outline and pie charts, or do you thrust your characters into a new situation and let the chips fall where they may?

For me, I find that coming up with a new scene, chapter, or even entire story starts from the smallest point, and expands out in a "big bang" of ideas that all eventually congeal into something worthwhile. Call it an unpolished way of thinking, but that's just what works for me. For example, if I was writing the arrival of Dorothy in the land of Oz, I might start with the Lollipop Guild. First I come up with the concept of a few munchkins with a song on their lips and a sailor-like attitude. Perhaps I like them, but what can I do with them? Ah, perhaps I can create an entire race of similar beings with a city -- the perfect place to start my protagonist (Dorothy, who I have already come up with in a previous scene) on her journey through the curious land of Oz! From here, I create the other munchkins and their personalities. I'll also need a reason for Dorothy to travel to the Emerald City...ah, here's where we can add the good witch Glinda. She'll conveniently get the plot moving forward after her appearance in this city, but...hmm...what's she doing there? Oh! The wicked witch, of course!

Like I say, sounds a bit convoluted, but that's how I work. Start at the finer details, and paint the overall picture from there.

How about you?


Friday, December 28

Back Soon!

It appears I've picked up a touch of the flu as a slightly belated Christmas present. There's plenty more to be said on The Journal of Ord, so check back soon!


Sunday, December 23

Help! I'm not an artist!

So you've written your masterpiece. Your characters are perfect, your plot has no holes, you've proofread and edited over and over again, had your friends and family do the same, and now, finally, your book is ready for its day in the independent publishing sun.

But wait.

You have no cover! Ack!

It's been said many times before, but I'll say it here again. People do judge books by their covers. Saddling your opus with a melancholy cover is like the Rolling Stones performing MacArthur Park. If you didn't understand the talent of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards already, you probably wouldn't want to hear song number two.

Most articles about ensuring you have a clever cover for your book will continue from this point to say the following: "Hire a professional to design your cover. You need to make this investment." I agree that's actually good advice if you can manage it, but suppose your advertising budget is a big, fat goose-egg? Contrary to popular belief, not everybody who has some talent with writing always has thousands, or ever hundreds of dollars just laying around to pour into design and promotions. I myself have read more than one article from people who are very good at sounding like they know what they're talking about, insisting they know the best advice for the author on an extreme budget...and then they throw in an anecdote about the seven grand they paid in total for their advertising campaign, or a helpful quip about how a friend of a friend of a friend got their manuscript in front of one of the big six.

I for one believe books with no money initially behind them are potentially just as good as books with small fortunes backing them, the former just happen to have a longer, harder road ahead of them.

But, I digress. Back to the cover issue. What can you do if you can't afford to pay an artist, and you don't know any who'd be willing to pass some Pro Bono Publico work your way? Well, how about GIMP? GIMP is a free (and in my experience better) alternative to Photoshop. If you can't make your own art, manipulate some existing images to create something new! I'll use my own cover as an example:

Photobucket

First of all, you'll notice that the unicorn-like creature has six legs and two horns. (It's an escarot, a creature that appears in the story.) He was originally just a unicorn. A free clipart unicorn. A little manipulation here and there made him what he is today. In the background is the Gossamer City (a location in the story) glowing with the colors of prismastone (a mineral in the story). The city is a bit more free clipart, while the colors are a conical gradient fill over an aqua blue fill. The stars in the sky are stipple brush work, and the title text was outlined in a very thin layer of black just to be sure it would stand out.

Whether or not you think it's a success is your call, but I'm happy with it. And it did it myself, in my own home, with no investment other than my time. Alright, I'll admit I do have a bit of experience with image manipulating programs, but the point I'm trying to make is that given a little dedication, anybody can learn to do something like this. Will professional cover artwork make your book look snazzy and appealing? Of course it will. But if you can't go that route, don't despair. Improvise.

Oh, and if you're having trouble and weren't able to find help on the internet, feel free to hit me up with questions. I've been working with GIMP and Photoshop since that ancient era known as "highschool", and while I'm no pro, I might just be able to help you out!


Friday, December 21

Reverse-Enginnering the Apocalypse

Are you all still alive out there? Did you survive the apocalypse?

Good.

I'm wondering if they plan the standard push-back date on the day of the last prediction, or if they plan ahead a few days so they can research another historical/religious/philosophical tidbit somewhere to base it on. That's about all the thought I'd spare on it, except that it's certainly good for story ideas!

Yes I know, stories about the apocalypse are rather overdone these days. Right up there with angsty vampires and hordes of zombies. Okay, so what's done is done. So why not do it in reverse?

How about instead of a story about how the world is going to end tomorrow and everybody is caught off-guard because nobody believes it, how about a plot where a society believes totally in it, but it doesn't happen? Imagine if we all believed implicitly that the world was going to end tomorrow. What would we do? How would people cope? And then, what if it didn't happen? Would people regret their actions the previous day? Would there be relief, or chaos?

Let's take it a step further. Very few characters involved in a vampire story who are not already vampires at the beginning of said story actually want to become one. For that matter, many of the vampires don't want to be what they are. But what if becoming a vampire was a desirable thing? Would there be some sort of caste structure? Perhaps the proletariat is composed entirely of vampires, and becoming one yourself is sort of like swearing fealty to a clan, much like a samurai might? Or maybe forget all that, and present a modern-day plot where humans believe it is natural evolution to become a vampire? At a certain point in your life you are turned as part of a coming-of-age ceremony, and turning somebody too early is akin to teen pregnancy?

Why do zombies always have to destroy the world? Maybe the zombie virus doesn't kill you, but reanimates your corpse into one of the hungry dead only after you die of other means? Maybe the whole world is infected, but they don't think much of it since the virus doesn't really do anything to you until after you die? What then? Would cremation be mandatory? Are there paramedic "death squads" that are dispatched in emergencies after somebody has already passed away, to ensure the remains don't reanimate? Or maybe becoming a zombie is some sort of transcendental religious thing -- zombies are tolerated and even considered holy, but kept at arms length and otherwise coexist with humans because there's some law against destroying them? The natural progression of death for a society where zombifying is as inevitable as death and taxes?

Everywhere you look, there's an idea for a new story plot. If you look a bit harder, your idea might just be that much more unique.

What do you think?


Wednesday, December 19

If you tag it, Twitter will come

(This post will be copied to the author resources section. It's a useful tip!)

So I'm comparing notes with a friend on Goodreads, and she asks me if I've added any tags to the kindle version of The Goldenwealth Light on Amazon. I thought about it and realized that I'd added a few categories when I first published the book, but no, I hadn't done anything with tagging. She mentioned to me that her book is now all over Twitter, simply because she'd added some tags to the bottom of her book's sale page.

Wait, what?

It's true, tagging makes that much of a difference! I didn't think much of it at first, but with a "why not?" attitude, I scrolled to the bottom of my sale page and thought about tags for the book. What tags would I use? Well, if you'll notice, there is a handy link down there that will show you the most popular tags currently in use on Amazon. I clicked on it and did some research. Not every popular tag was relevant of course (I can't very well slap "erotic romance" on a YA fantasy novel), but just above that handy-dandy link is a search box that I used to check on some other tag ideas I had in mind, just to see if there were any other books around with authors who had the same idea. Here's what I came up with:

action, adventure, book, books, childrens books, coming of age, ebook, fantasy, fiction, kindle, knights, magic, teen, young adult, novel

All relevant, and all either from the "popular" list, or they came up in my searches with sufficient results to make them worthwhile. Two hours later, I did a search on Twitter for the title of my book, "The Goldenwealth Light". There were already 23 tweets about my book, all of which had to do with the tags I'd added!

Lesson learned. Tag your book. It might seem like an afterthought to you, but at the end of the day, people use tags. Popular tags will help immensely with your exposure and the more tags the merrier, but be careful not to attach irrelevant tags to your book (you want to draw interest from your target audience, not ire from those that aren't looking for your chosen genre).

Thanks, Rachele!


The Journal of Ord on Twitter

The Journal of Ord has expanded to Twitter! Check it out here, or at the link on the right sidebar. It's a new feature for the Journal and I'm looking to generate some interest, so I'll be happy to trade follows if you like. Just comment here and let me know who you are.


Tuesday, December 18

New Resources Added

I've added four new free promo sites to help promote your book during a free promotion to the author resources section. Check out the list here, or click the link at the top of the page.

Enjoy!


Monday, December 17

Book Review: Sushi (Taste and Technique)

Review added today. Check it out here, or click the book reviews link at the top of the page.

Highly recommended if you desire to learn to make sushi!


Friday, December 14

Silence

The Journal of Ord will observe a day of silence on Saturday, December the 14th, in observance of the recent situation in the state of Connecticut. The Gossamer Court stands in recess.


To Free or Not to Free?

That is the question that plagues authors when trying to come up with a book promotion strategy. Should you offer your book absolutely free of charge to readers for a short time, or not? I've heard arguments both for and against this practice, and I've digested what appear to be the most often mentioned key points below. Let's take a look at them one side at a time:

Against

  • For every book you give away free, you lose a sale. Readers in your target audience may have purchased your book anyway.
  • Giving your book away for free damages your integrity as an author. It makes your book look worthless and makes you look desperate.
  • There are a fair number of people who download free books simply because they are free. While this may be good for exposure, it may also generate unfavorable reviews as your book falls into the hands of readers outside the intended audience (for example, if your book is mistaken for an adult novel when it was intended as YA).

For

  • Giving away your book can generate additional sales, as worth of mouth about your title spreads. Your book stands a good chance of being put into the hands of readers who will write reviews, which adds interest in your title and credibility for you as an author.
  • Giving away your book through promotions like Amazon KDP increases your rank on Amazon, providing your book with more visibility. Your book could also appear during reader searches for other books, as a "customers also purchased" item.
  • If you have several books in a series, giving one of them away for free can generate interest in the others.


So now that we've gone over a few key points, the question presents itself -- which side to take?

As you've probably noticed, some of the bullet points above contradict one another. The "against" points suggest giving your book away for free will cost you sales and damage your reputation as an author. The "for" points say just the opposite; you will gain sales in the long run and the exposure of your title will generate interest that will add to your credibility as opposed to detracting from it. In the end, the choice of whether or not to go free lies solely upon your own shoulders (or jointly between you and your publisher, if you have one). Since I can't make up your mind for you, I will share with you my own take and experience on it. I believe there's a proper balance to be had between free and not to free. Both arguments have merit, and I feel that incorporating aspects of each into your marketing plan can play a serious role in success

First, let's talk about money. You want to make money, right? Well...maybe on some level, you do. Self-help books and various types of non-fiction I believe can have revenue as an initial reason for creating them (spend money on me and I'll show you how to make more!) For fiction, I believe that if you start at square one with only dollar-signs in your eyes, the book that results is going to basically be a re-hash of whatever has been trendy lately. Maybe you're okay with that, but it would bother me morally to put my name on something that I don't care about. Again, there's a balance. Write something that nobody can relate to, and you're sure to not do well. Write something for the yen and not the passion, and where does the writer stop and the robot begin? Your work has to be something that the public will enjoy, but it also has to be your work -- not the work of George, Abe, and Andy Jackson.

Will you lose sales if you give your book away for free? I don't know, will you? If you're an already established author with a proven fan base...you might, since there are people out there already who will buy your book. But me? I'm an unknown author, with a brand new book. Zero dollars times zero dollars is still zero dollars, in my world of numbers. There are no "lost sales" when nobody has the incentive to purchase your book anyway. The way I see it, I give my book away for free to 100 people, and I have the same amount of money I started with (since they weren't going to buy the book anyway). What I do have now is exposure. One hundred people now have my book. Will they read it? I can't force them to, but I hope so. If even one of them reads and reviews the book I have more than I started with. The other new author who can't bear the thought of the figmented "lost sale" in this case now has neither the money, nor the interest.

Next, let's talk about credibility. I think this is a question of moderation. If Jane Author posts on a forum I frequent telling me that her book, "Sex, Lies, and The Evolution of Modern Society" is free for the next two days, and she writes up an interesting blurb about it, I might just go and check her title out. If Jane Author makes another post a week later telling me that "Sex, Lies, etc" is now free again...and another post the week after that...okay, I admit, I may start wondering why. A free promotion can be a good tool for exposing your title to the masses, but let's give readers a chance to actually read and talk about the book you've offered them, shall we? No matter how good your 350-page masterpiece is, you can't expect people to drop the kids at daycare, tie out the dog all afternoon, and call out of work to spend the entire afternoon digesting it, and then write about it the next day. It's just not going to happen. Plus, what about the people who the freebie readers might talk to about your book, who might then be willing to plunk down a few dollars because your book was personally recommended by a friend? Recommendations from a trustworthy source are a powerful motivator (they certainly are for me). Why should they spend money on you if you just told them they can wait four days and get a free copy themselves? My thought? If you're going to go free and you plan to do it more than once, give people time to breathe in-between the excitement. At least a month, if not more. A giveaway can actually endear you to your potential readership and help you with credibility, but too many giveaways can leave people wondering.


Those of you who know me I'm sure are aware that I'm long-winded when I type. So let me wrap this up. I went free for a few days. Did it make me J.K. Rowling? Of course not. But a few hundred people in four countries now have a copy of my very own novel, that I wrote from my heart (not from my wallet). Of them, five people (five living, breathing human beings) actually took the time out of their day to contact me to tell me they started reading the book, are enjoying it, and intend to review it on Amazon when they are done. They didn't have to do that. I can't expect them to read it overnight so I have to be patient, but as far as I'm concerned, the freebie offering was well worth it. Maybe I'll go free again in the future. If I do, I plan to do my homework and see if I can roll those few hundred copies into many more.


What do YOU think? To free or not to free? Share you opinion!

Thursday, December 13

Wednesday, December 12

Need help with a free promotion? Read on!

Citizens,

As part of my plan to grow the Journal of Ord, you may now notice a new link at the top of the page having to do with author resources. If you're interested in some tips for running a book promotion, give it a look. Maybe you'll learn something new. While you're there, maybe you can teach the rest of us something new -- feel free to comment and provide your ideas!

I will be updating that section from time to time as I encounter new ideas. I hope it proves helpful!


Wednesday, December 5

Take the Quiz on Goodreads!

The Goldenwealth Light now has a general knowledge quiz on Goodreads. How well do you know the Gossamer City? Take the quiz, and drop by here, Goodreads, or Facebook to tell us all how you did!

The quiz can be found Here!

(This is not the same quiz as the followup contest for last month's promotional giveaway. Click the link on the right to find that one. This quiz is just for fun.)

Monday, December 3

Reviews really are the bread-and-butter!

The Goldenwealth Light Just received its second official review on amazon. I recall dropping everything I was doing (though I admit it wasn't much at the time) and trotting joyfully over to read it right away.

Yes, it's only the book's second review. But as many authors who have gone the way of self-publishing know, when you're doing all your own promoting, reviews really are the bread-and-butter of your existence. You can tout the joys of your own book until you're blue in the face, and it's somewhat helpful for people to know you care enough to say something, but let's be honest -- of course you like your own book, right? If you didn't think it was well written and worthy of publication, you wouldn't have tried to publish it.

...at least I hope you wouldn't have.

At any rate, did you ever watch Reading Rainbow? What did LeVar Burton always say at the end? "But don't take my word for it!" No truer words have been spoken in a long time. You're the author. You can most certainly drum up interest in your book through your own hard work, but at the end of the day, people can't just take your word for it. That's what makes reviewing so important. Reviewing establishes credibility -- it tells people that the general public is liking what they read when they spare the time to stare at your book. Even a mediocre review at least shows others that people are reading your book.

I recall a book (which shall remain nameless) that I encountered on Amazon last week that had reviews so abysmal, I was curious to see what people had such a problem with. Man...those were some painful reviews (some of them really weren't even fair, but I digress). But all the same...the book still had 239 total reviews, and not all of them were total train wrecks. Famous or infamous...people are clearly reading this book. People are telling their friends, who are picking up their own copies to read and review.

Of course, as new authors we all hope and pray that people will like our masterpieces, and that we will receive more good reviews than poor ones. But still, folks? When you take the time out of your day to read a book, consider adding on a few extra minutes to share your thoughts in the form of a review. Are you obligated to do this? Certainly not. If you were, then the words would likely lack impact because they would be forced. See writing a review as a token of your appreciation if you liked the book, and a friendly warning to others if you didn't. If the book has a lot of reviews already, share your voice anyway. If it doesn't, then your review might just be a pivotal decision-maker for somebody else.

Your favorite author, whoever it is, needs your voice. Writing isn't easy...but neither is brain surgery or rocket science. Still, surgeons and scientists are paid for what they do. Most indie authors aren't, until they "make it". Help your favorite author to "make it" by telling them how you feel, since they can't be there reading the book over your shoulder.

And really, you don't want them there reading over your shoulder anyway, right? That would just be disturbing.

Saturday, December 1

Thank you, readers, for making The Goldenwealth Light a success!

Citizens of the Gossamer City,

To everyone who participated in The Goldenwealth Light's free two-day promotion through Amazon KDP select, I would like to take a moment to personally thank you. Because of you, as of this writing The Goldenwealth light is the 26th bestseller in the Amazon Kindle ebooks > teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy category, with 301 downloads through amazon.com, 21 downloads through amazon.co.uk, and a total of three downloads between amazon.de and amazon.it! There are still two and a half hours left, so if you haven't gotten your copy yet, go grab it now!

As promised, readers will have the opportunity to win free copies of the paperback version of The Goldenwealth Light by completing a trivia challenge. Click the second link under the "Pages" section to the right for details.

Without readers, an author is doing little more than talking to themselves. Thank you for your support of this book, and for being a lover of books in general.

Check back for the latest news, coming soon!