1,000 Ebooks Sold!

6 comments:
Just One Look, my first ebook published the last days of March, just hit 1,000 in sales! One thousand! At this moment, I'm #41 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Romance > Contemporary and #49 in Books > Romance > Contemporary. Can you believe it?

Dazed And Relieved

I am so excited I can hardly stand it. Thank you to all who bought my first venture into ebook land. I truly appreciate all of you who bought this sexy, funny romance during this last month. One month! Just one month, and I feel like I'm queen of my ebook universe.

The Trouble With Love
Now, if my second ebook will take off, I'll be, well, I'm already so excited, I can't think of a superlative to describe how I will feel. I already know that ebook publishing is the right career path for me now.

The Trouble With Love, Book 1 of Texas One Night Stands, a funny, sexy romance series, is priced wrong according to feedback I'm getting from several ebook successes. Several said $1.99 is the "no man's land" of pricing.

Robin Sullivan who writes Write To Publish said higher or lower is better than 1.99. Several said to try $4.99, but I want to give people a bargain. So tomorrow, I'm changing the price of The Trouble With Love.

Because it's almost twice as long as my first ebook, I was thinking of going to the high end. But I've changed my mind. The new price will be $.99 as an introduction to the series. Anyone want to weigh in on pricing?

Takeaway Truth

I'm celebrating tonight. Monday, I reapply my nose to the grindstone so that, by Friday, I'll be publishing my third ebook Still The One.

Flee: Roller Coaster Thrill Ride

2 comments:
I sit here, temporarily at a loss for words, because I just finished Flee by J. A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson, and I don't know how to begin to tell you about this book.

However, I told Joe I'd post a review asap, and I've been waiting for today when it's available on Amazon. So here goes. I tried to think of other books that would be similar to Flee, and I failed miserably. So I had to resort to movies.

Flee Is Like...

Remember The Bourne Identity when Matt Damon's character Jason Bourne takes out the two German policeman in the beginning? And later when he takes on the entire American embassy security detail? And then when the hit man tries to take him out in his Paris flat? Or The Transporter aka Jason Statham fights all the guys in the mid-point scenes in each movie?

Well, take all that action, make the action star hero be a woman, and you've got Flee! Now in the Bourne trilogy and The Transporter franchise, the heroes occasionally have slower-paced scenes of rest and recuperation. What a bunch of sissies!

Rest? Who needs rest? Chandler doesn't get to rest. Bourne and Transporter need to take lessons from Chandler. She could teach them a thing or two about fighting, advance preparation, and just plain staying alive.

In Short

Flee is a roller coaster of twists and turns that keeps you on a razor's edge of tension. In true nail-biting storytelling tradition, I was exhausted by the time I finished the book.

I don't want to spoil the surprises so I can't tell you much about the plot beyond the Product Description on Amazon, but I will tell you the scene between Joe Konrath's police detective Jack Daniels and Chandler is priceless.

If Hollywood movie makers need a new action thriller, they should be looking at this book with all the attention of a sniper lining up a scope's cross hairs on a target.

Takeaway Truth

If you like action, suspense thrillers, absolutely, positively buy Flee.

Reading, Writing, & Writers

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Once upon a time, I was a one-book-at-a-time reader. Now, I am a multi-tasking multiple books reader.

Currently, I have 4 books I'm reading. One is a book on social media, and it's in the car. I read aloud as my husband and I travel to and from our house in the Hill Country. The other three are novels.

Flee by Joe Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson that goes on sale April 29. I've just about chewed my fingernails down to the quick on that roller coaster and will be reviewing it on Amazon as soon as I finish this blog post.

To Be Read

In the interest of disclosure, the authors of the next two books are friends. I'm lucky that they're also good writers so I don't have to make excuses after reading their books when they ask me what I thought. Of course, since they're friends, they know better than to ask. Ah, it's a tricky thing to be friends with fellow writers.

Real friends who are writers don't put you on the spot that way because they know that not all books will be home runs. Pro writers wait for you to comment about their books. If you say nothing, they understand that it just wasn't your cup of tea. If you offer praise or publicly post a review, then they know that you really did like it.

So I'm liking these next two books, and I'm almost finished with them and will post reviews when I do. Book 3 of The Garden Series, In the Garden of Disgrace, a regency romance by Cynthia Wicklund. Love the heroine Jilly, and the rake who gets what's coming to him.

Designing Woman, a contemporary romantic comedy, by Elaine Raco Chase. Some scenes in this one are laugh-out-loud funny. When I grow up, I want to be the self-assured kind of heroine Elaine writes.

Not Enough Time

Between writing and life itself, there just isn't enough time to read. That's my constant complaint, and I'm voicing it again because I still haven't had time to read Live Wire by Harlan Coben, a book for which I waited impatiently because it's the latest in the Myron Bolitar novels. I adore Myron, Wyn, Esperanza, and all the other familiar characters and have introduced my husband, my daughter, and her boyfriend to these books. Live Wire is the 10th in the series.

I came across a post on my other blog that I'd written about Mr. Coben. Inspired by an interview he did with Authors Guild, Mr. Coben held forth on what is needed to make a person a writer.


There are 3 things that make a person a writer: Inspiration, perspiration and desperation. I'm on page 40 of the next book; Myron hasn't shown up yet. But you never know. That's the beauty of getting paid to make stuff up for a living.

So say we all, Mr. Coben.

Takeaway Truth

All of us who write for a living, and the smaller group of writers who can make a living by making stuff up, will attest to the fact that this can be the best job in the whole world.

Mixed Genre Writing Class

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If you want to learn to make a paella, that delicious blend of so many disparate ingredients, you go to a cooking pro – a chef.

If you want to learn how to mix genres in fiction, then go to a writing pro – bestselling author and writing teacher Elaine Raco Chase.

Popular writing teacher Elaine Chase is teaching Mixed Genres this time around because so many of her former students are throwing in everything into their fiction but the kitchen sink. Wisely deciding that the best course of action is to teach them how to do that with panache, Elaine scheduled Mixed Genre Writing Class to run from May 13 - June 24th.

Lessons and information will be sent out every Friday to those enrolled so they have the weekend to do the work.

Cost: $75

Iincludes a 5-page critique on whatever you'd like to have critiqued. If it is a book, it must be the first 5 pages. If she likes what she sees, she will ask to see more.

Curriculum -- In Elaine's Own Words

Who

Yes, that pesky mini-course on creating compelling characters, with a slant on mystery / thriller / suspense characterizations. Why do people get involved if they are not being paid to, i.e., amateur sleuth (She wrote a book on that!), lawyer, soccer mom, etc. It is important to make it logical.

(For those of you who were in my last Miami-Dade College class, wait until you see how my  lawyer/PI, and, of course, Tucker have undergone changes, plus more, and stronger, secondary characters and a total change in plot!)

Plotting

I feel that, between characters and plot, there should be an even split in writing the mixed genre book known as mystery/thriller/suspense/horror. Plotting takes a slight lead.

How to lay it out, introduce suspects, lay out clues, time span, red herrings, watson's, etc. Linear plots/inverted plots. Damn! There has to be a strong plot!

MOM

Means/opportunity/motive, and you cannot get it all from watching CSI! But for right now you should start tuning in to the following TV programs: CSI (80% is real), The First 48 Hours (this is very real), Justified (just because it's so great). If you are watching, didn't you love the show with the bank robbers where Raylan says: "I'm from Harlan County, and I know the difference between dynamite and road flares." Then he clobbers the wired robber.) Catch up with The Closer and Castle too.

Scene + Settings + Description

How to make the reader get those goosebumps/chills/lock all the doors and maybe even sit reading with a baseball bat!

Research

No you cannot just type straight from your brain!

The 5 W's + How

The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of it all.

Your Questions

Of course, I'll answer anything else you may have questions about.

How To Sign Up

Send me an email: elaineracochase at gmail dot com .

In the email let me know if there are any other writing issues that you need addressed. I'll send you instructions on how to make payment and get set up for the class.

Takeaway Truth

When taking a writing class, make sure the instructor has been where you want to go.

Finding Time Means Making Time

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To my dismay, I sometimes find myself using a time-worn phrase to explain why I didn't get something done. "I haven't been able to find the time."

I hate saying that because I absolutely realize that you don't find time to do anything. You make the time. Achieving or accomplishing something isn't a matter of happenstance. If you're waiting to find some time, you'll never achieve anything that requires a commitment of time.

You just can't rummage through the attic and find some spare minutes. They're not lurking under rocks either. You make time to work on something based on your priority system.

Henry David Thoreau said, "As if you could kill time without wounding eternity?" Yet many of us seem to be time assassins, playing our games of Freecell or Cubis, watching boring re-runs on TV, and any of the other distractions that steal your time.

Make Time

If you want to blog regularly, then you set up an editorial calendar that details how often you will blog. Make a commitment no matter how small that time increment may be. The same holds true if you want to write a book or learn how to ballroom dance. Sit down and figure up how much time on a daily or weekly basis you can commit to the project.

Just as important, figure out if you're going to have to sacrifice something else in order to make the time to work on your higher priority item. If you say you want to write a book, what's more important: watching Survivor or writing pages?

Commit: Take Action

After you've penciled in appointments with yourself on a calendar that indicate when you'll work on achieving that which you desire, take some action. If you want to dance, look up the phone number or website URL to get schedule information.

If you want to write a book, sit down and start making notes about what kind of book, the premise, the characters. If you want to create web content regularly, sit down and brainstorm topics on which you can write.

If you want to work on a master's degree, call the college or visit their website to get the information you need in order to make the decision.

Takeaway Truth

Everyone is allotted the same number of hours in a day. Those who achieve, use their time effectively.

Writing and the Sense of Sight

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I'm re-reading A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. This book on the Senses is a beautifully written volume that's kind of a mixture of philosophy and physiology. For writers, it explores sensory sensations and can help one write better description.

I love writing dialogue, but I have to work hard at writing description in order to set the scene and create a sense of recognition for the writer. As a writer, I strive to improve where I'm weak and capitalize on my strengths.

Because our sense of sight is responsible for 90-95% of all or our sensory perception, the sensory details that involve what a character sees usually predominate in books. The sky isn’t just blue; it’s cerulean. The ocean isn’t dark and stormy; it’s glacial blue broken by whitecaps.

Fascinating Facts About Eyes

1. Human eyes can perceive more than a million simultaneous visual impressions.

2. Human eyes can discriminate among nearly 8 million gradations of color.

3. Human eyes are so sensitive that on a clear night when there is no moon, a person sitting on a sensitive peak can see a match struck 50 miles away.

4. Human eyes take about an hour to completely adapt to seeing in the dark.

5. When you see something pleasing, your pupil can dilate as much as 45%.

6. Blue eyes are most sensitive to light with dark brown the least sensitive.

Takeaway Truth

When writing description, your words need to paint a picture that will come alive in the reader's imagination.

Easter

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For those who, like me, celebrate Easter, this first quote reduces, without diminishing, the epochal event to a human level.

Robert Flatt said: "The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances."

The second quote poetically remind us to look to the dawn of this day. Alice Freeman Palmer said: "For I remember it is Easter morn, and life and love and peace are all new born."

Takeaway Truth

So say we all.

Chart Your Ebook Sales Rank

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When you're carving a career as an indie author/publisher, you must pay as much attention to the business side of the equation as to the creative. If you're publishing ebooks, chances are you check your rank and sales numbers.

TitleZ is an app that gives rank and charts sales rank by its highs and lows. You can see your current rank and then averages for 7-days, 30-days, and 90-days.

TitleZ is easy to use. Though it's difficult to attribute a specific promotion to increases in sales, with this app you may be able to correlate some specific promotion push with a sales spike. You can also generate a printable report for each book.

Takeaway Truth

Remember what A. A Milne said, "Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being."

New Ebook: The Trouble With Love

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I guess I'm going to have to fire my Director of Marketing and Promotion. Sure, she's a nice lady, but she's just not doing the job that needs to be done.

You see, my second ebook The Trouble With Love has been available for purchase since last Sunday, and she hasn't mentioned that it's live or given links for it or anything.

I'm just going to take her aside, and say, "Ms. Reeves, you're fired. Turn in your Indie Publishing hat, the one with the Marketing and Promotion logo,  and leave quietly."

Knowing her for the obstinate woman she is, she'll probably argue with me and make all kinds of excuses why she hasn't spread the word about this latest funny, sexy romance to make it to ebooks. She's been busy. She's tired. Don't you just hate it when employees whine and complain?

If Only

Gee, if only I actually had a Director of Marketing and Promotion. Most authors are like me. We'd all welcome a person to handle those chores so we could just write while someone else alerted the world that we had a new book out which, of course, is now available at most of the popular ebook retailers.

What's This Book About?

Here's what my Publicity Department wrote.

There's one rule for a one night stand: never see your part-time lover again. Ever. So what's a girl supposed to do if the tall, dark, and too-darn-yummy guy shows up at her office?

Texas girl Susannah Quinn fires the first round in a battle of the sexes then hangs on for dear life as the fun and games begin in this sexy romp that's hotter than a bowl of Texas chili!

Special low price to introduce TEXAS ONE NIGHT STANDS, a new series by Joan Reeves. Limited time offer on Book 1: THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE, a funny, sexy romance. Contains Bonus Features too!

To catch a thief, Susannah Quinn, a by-the-book deputy, and FBI Special Agent D. E. Hogan (just call me Hogan), pose as husband and wife and go undercover. Unfortunately, Susannah and Hogan have already been undercover – in a bed at the Houston hotel where they first met.

For her part, Susannah wishes her lapse in judgment would take a flying leap and land on Jupiter. Hogan, on the other hand, wants to get the contrary deputy back in his bed, but the complications caused by family – his and hers – pretty much guarantee that's never going to happen.

Throw in an over-the-hill Romeo and his lady love, a single mom determined to have her own love affair, and the charm of a small Texas town, and you get a story with heart and soul and passion!

Can Susannah and Hogan, two mismatched lovers doing everything in their power to avoid falling in love, catch a thief and recover stolen jewels? The clock is ticking. They have only seven days – and nights – to complete their assignment and resist the sweet siren call of desire.

Links

You can use the link above or any of these to purchase The Trouble With Love, and I'm sure there's a link to an ebook retailer you prefer.

Kindle U.S.

Kindle U. K.

Nook

Smashwords Through May 7, you can receive 38% off the purchase price if you enter this coupon code at Smashwords Checkout: BA26G. (My first ebook Just One Look also has a coupon code valid until May 7 -- XK73W which amounts to 39%. Don't ask me how it happened that they were supposed to be the same discount but ended up different.)

XinXii

That's everywhere in the known universe you can buy my book for just about any ereader device and computer download file formats that exist.

Takeaway Truth

I guess I'll keep Ms. Reeves on staff since she finally came through with this email. Avoid the stampede and get you copy now! *g*

Most Published Book in the World

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I was reading something the other day about book publishing. My curiosity was piqued about the most published book in the world, The Bible. There's a lot of interesting information about The Bible. Here are a few of the interesting tidbits I learned.

1. Johannes Gutenberg was the first European to produce a book printed with movable type. (Books printed using movable type were produced in China more than 500 years before Gutenberg.) Gutenberg’s first book was The Bible which is the most published book in the world.

2. The shortest verse in the Bible consists of two words. "Jesus wept." (John 11:35)

3. Several early English Bibles are famous because of their errors, not their workmanship or beauty. The textual idiosyncrasies have made certain Bibles eagerly sought by collectors.

4. The Breeches Bible, 1560, states that Adam and Eve "sewed fix tree leaves together and made themselves breeches."

5. The Bug Bible, 1551, incorrectly translated the 91st Psalm ("Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night.") as "Thou shalt not be afraid of any buggies by night."

6. The Treacle Bible, 1568, used the word treacle (a dark brown very sweet sugar syrup) instead of balm in the verse: "Is there no balm in Gilead?"

Takeaway Truth

Obscure facts are endlessly fascinating.

In Wake of Epsilon, Be Wary

1 comment:
Don't you hate it when you get a warning from a financial institution that their email partner was hacked? It's beyond upsetting.

In a recent security newsletter from Sunbelt Security, makers of Vipre Security Software which I run on a couple of computers, there was an article about the Epsilon situation.

Epislon? Huh?

In case you don't know what this is all about, Epsilon handles email for a number of large companies. They were hacked. They said that "so-called" private information like credit card or social security numbers were not part of the heist, but email address data bases by their clients were stolen.

What was even worse was that Epsilon was that they were being targeted. One likes to think they took precautions were taken, but whatever they did wasn't good enough.


As a result, there's a large outpouring of phishing attempts by the cyber-criminals. Look and analyze carefully before you click. If in doubt that it came from your bank, don't click. Contact your bank personally. These phishing emails might ask you to review and/or renew your account information for banks and credit cards.

Takeaway Truth

If it doesn't look right, don't click. Contact your financial institution to check on the validity of any email seeking information from you.

Electricity

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Dave Barry said: "Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles called electrons, that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking."

I guess the people at the power company might have been trying to see those tiny particles this morning and inadvertently shut the power down. That's right, our electricity went off at 6:52 this morning, and a cacophony of shrill beeps arose to alert us that the battery backups on all the computers had kicked in.

What a lovely sound to pull us from slumber to greet the morn.

I told my husband that God had really shut the power down to make sure that we arose in time to get ready for church. Minutes later, the power came back on, our morning coffee brewed, and we did get to church on time.

Takeaway Truth

Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous. Great sermon today.

Update Stories Or Leave Them Be

2 comments:
Today's post was inspired by Terry Odell over at Terry's Place. Yesterday, she blogged about whether to update an older story or not if you plan to publish it as an ebook.

I have some friends who are being contacted for reprint rights of their early romance novels. These books would be limited print editions, and the publisher wants no changes made to the manuscripts.

Given that contemporary life has changed so much from 30 years ago, that would make those books seem like "historical" romances to a certain degree.

I mean, can you imagine a novel that makes no mention of home computers, the Internet, email, cell phones, and all the other technology we take for granted?

When I started publishing my backlist as ebooks, beginning with Just One Look, I made the conscious decision to update the book for not only technology but also for cultural references, i.e., music, movies, etc. In some cases where I didn't update, I made sure the cultural reference was something classic to which the reading public can still relate.

By the way, Just One Look is a Fiction Bestseller on XinXii.com and is performing well on Kindle. I read on some discussion board or other that if you're doing well, you should blog about how you sold over 200 copies, if your book is new.

I've done a bit better than that so I'm working on a "how I did it" post even though I'm pretty sure that I'm not setting any records, and I really don't know how I did it. I like to think it's selling well because of the great cover, and the fact that it's a funny, sexy romance.)

Now, back to the Updating discussion. 

My Reasoning

I think if you're going to attract today's readers then you must make your work something to which they can relate. Technology is so much a part of the fabric of our lives that to have a book that leaves out mentions of email, IMs, smartphones, iPods, net surfing, and all the other things we all do on a daily basis is to create something, in my opinion, that's lacking verisimilitude.

A Work Around

The only way you can get around the technology is to explain why the characters don't have it. That's what I did with the ebook I'm publishing today. In The Trouble With Love (shown at left and probably available for sale by April 17 if uploaded today), my heroine lives on a strict budget and can't afford smartphones, high-speed internet, and all the other gadgets.

For those of you who are publishing backlist, here's a bit of advice to spot the anachronisms. Do a global search for "music" and "phone" and any other word that might refer to something archaic.

Also, be careful about scenes where a character must warn someone about something, but there's no pay phone around. Today's readers will wonder why a cell phone wasn't used. Plus, many of them may not have ever used a payphone. Technology can really mess up some plot points.

Takeaway Truth

It's such a cliche to say that the world has changed, but it has. Readers have certain expectations. If you're publishing something listed as contemporary, it's wise not to ignore those expectations. At least that's my two cents. Two cents. Do you see a cents symbol on your keyboard? No? That's just an example of change.

Revisiting Published vs. Well-Published

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I noticed something interesting this last week. Published vs. Well-Published, a post I wrote 2 years ago, is getting an enormous amount of traffic.

If you read the post, you'll see I'm talking about the differences between just getting published, usually meaning paying some subsidy publisher to put your book out, and getting well-published, meaning the publisher pays you a nice cash advance and continuing royalties.

I have a feeling people are reading this because I published Just One Look,a funny, sexy romance, myself, rather than going through what is now being called legacy publishing. (This book was previously published -- in fact, in various editions with 3 different publishers.)

Since I became an indie author, maybe all these people are thinking I've changed my mind about my stance on getting well-published, or worse, they think I'm a hypocrite. Au contraire. Neither of these opinions is true though I'll add an addendum to the former.

Well-Published

I still think if you want to pursue print publishing that you get published by someone who pays you, not the other way around. I've known too many writers desperate for publication who paid too much they could ill-afford to those companies that make their income from selling publication packages to authors, not selling those authors' books.

However, technology has changed drastically in the last two years. Now authors have a way to reach readers themselves without going through legacy publishers. The advent of the Kindle made this possible.

I think it is possible to be well-published as an indie author now. By my definition that means you put out a product that is indistinguishable from one put out by a publishing company.Well, perhaps the only difference is price because legacy publishers usually have their ebooks priced the same as a print book.

Well-Published Indie Author

1. Great cover.
I think my ebook cover is better than any my various publishers ever slapped on this story.

2. Great ad copy.
That means the written content that appears on your book's online page and in the ebook etc: Product Description, Author Profile, sample pages, even the keywords used to draw readers to the book.

3. Good story told well.
You must have a story that rocks! And you must know how to tell that story.

4. Well-edited and proofed manuscript.
No typos, misspellings, wrong word usage, etc. I've been laughing alone a discussion thread on Amazon where the readers gleefully report an author's wrong word usage and other grammatical errors.

5. A properly formatted ebook.
Nothing is more distracting than an ebook that doesn't look like a "real" book. You know exactly what I mean if you've sampled a lot of ebooks. I remember one that was free that I downloaded. It had an interesting premise, but the formatting was so bad with quotation marks in wrong places, odd paragraphing, changing font sizes stuck in haphazardly, that I just gave up on it.

6. A responsive author.
An author needs to interact with the reading public much as you and your neighbor chat when you encounter each other in the yard or at the grocery store. Gone are the days when authors could be unsocial hermits with nasty attitudes who had publishers to CYA their images to the huddled masses of readers. If you're nasty online, the world will know.

Takeaway Truth

Whether you're aiming at legacy publishing or the indie variety, strive to be well-published. You, and your readers, deserve no less.

Blog Better & Faster: Find Your Slant

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Last week I realized that I've written over 2,000 posts between this blog and my other one. My indie author hat magically appeared on my head, and I thought: "Raw material."

Now I'm in the process of putting together an ebook containing my blogging advice. Today's post is an excerpt from what will be that book. I'd give you the title, but I haven't thought of a snappy one yet. Any ideas?

Blog Better and Blog Faster: Find Your Slant


Slant? What is that? What does that mean when you're talking about writing? It means you must find the angle, the smaller part of the bigger picture about which you want to write. You simply can't write everything about a given subject. This is where a lot of beginning writers go wrong.

They tackle a subject and try to tell every single thing about it. That's called rambling, and that's the surest way to ensure that you'll lose an audience. Also, if you're trying to write for money, you won't write something for which you'll get paid -- whether it's an article or a book you're writing.

Endless Ideas

You see, every subject has an infinite number of slants or angles. For instance, if you wanted to write something about book publishing, the ideas are endless. A short list includes: paperback book publishing, hardcover book publishing, ebook publishing, book rights, the library book market, nonfiction books, fiction books, history of publishing, first novel published, how authors write books, how agents sell books, how editors bring a book manuscript to publication, how publishers make money on books, how publishers are now parts of conglomerates, etc. You can come up with hundreds if not thousands of ideas about book publishing.

Narrow Your Focus

You must figure out which part of the subject you want to address. That makes the subject manageable for you and your audience. You focus on that aspect, exploring it so that your reader comes away with real information that's of use. When you have an idea, you must play with that idea until you've figured out what narrowed, focused part of the idea you want to explore. Then you have the slant.

Takeaway Truth

Find your slant, and you'll write better and faster, and your writing -- whether blog posts or book-length will be the better for it.

Throw a Writer from the Train

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I dedicate this post to the poor writer portrayed by Billy Crystal in the movie Throw Momma from the Train.

Have you ever know a writer who wants to write but just can't get started? Or, worse, are you that writer? I get emails from a lot of writers who want to write, but they can't seem to get going. 

Those of you writing novels may be like the frustrated writer played by Billy Crystal. He's sitting in front of a typewriter. (Yeah, old movie.) He has typed: "The night was. . . ." After three words, he's stalled. He stares blankly at the piece of paper.

Then he adds the word, "hot." No, that's not it. He rips the paper out, wads it, and tosses it in the wastebasket.

Then he types, "The night was humid." No. That's not right. Out comes the paper. He crumples it and tosses it. As the hours pass, the only thing that grows is his wastebasket full of paper wads.

Later, the titular momma of the movie rasps, "The night was sultry." The perfect word. The word he couldn't think of in all the days of agonizing writer's block he endured. Is it any wonder this crazed writer immediately agrees to kill her?


Perhaps you're writing a novel or articles, blogs, whatever, and you too find yourself dithering about, unable to get started, unable to find an entrance into the subject matter.

Stalled Brain

This is what I call stalled brain, a condition that occurs because your brain isn't warmed up and ready to race.

If you have a car parked in a garage and it's 20 degrees outside, chances are you sit in the car with the motor idling after you've started it. You wait a few minutes, warming up the engine before you put it into gear and drive away.

When writing, if you're having difficulty getting started or if you start and stall out immediately, maybe you didn't warm up your brain sufficiently.

Try these brain-warming exercises to get the thoughts flowing and to turn off the internal critic or editor. These work whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, short or long. The only caveat: these exercises actually work better using pen and paper than the computer, but you can try them on the computer if you like.

Cluster

Write a word in the center of a page. Select a word that has something to do with the subject or theme about which you intend to write.

Draw a circle around the word then lines from the center like spokes on a wheel. At the end of each spoke, write the first word that pops into your head. Write as many words clustered around that center as you can.

Look at the cluster. What do all the words you wrote have in common? Are there some words that resonate with you? In what direction do the words lead your thoughts? Compose a sentence and write it down immediately.

In most cases, this sentence is a doorway, a lead-in, to what you want to write and will enable you to keep writing because the brain has been stimulated in that direction. The words will flow. Get the words down without stopping. Don't give the internal editor a chance to intrude. Go back later and edit.

Lists

What are you wanting to write about? Make a list about it. Take your subject and list the first 10 thoughts that pop into your brain. Or list 10 things about some aspect of the subject that really interests you. If the subject is music, you might list 10 thoughts about it that might vary from the first song you learned as a kid to the concert you went to last night. Or maybe a list of groups you like, songs you like, songs about heartbreak, music in the movies, or scandals associated with music, etc.

Don't legislate your thoughts, just let them flow. Don't even try to confine the list to a certain number. Just list, but the goal is to list as many things as possible because the more you write down, the greater the mental flow. Don't try to prioritize the list either. The goal is to list as many things as possible as quickly as possible, not to be logical about the items.

Describe

Describe something with words, and the description doesn't have to relate to your subject at all. Perhaps you'll write a paragraph describing your ideal reader, this is a mental creation of the person who finds what you write interesting to read. Is your ideal reader someone who looks like your mom or your spouse or your best friend or your high school English teacher?

The act of writing a description puts the brain to work, processing words to create an articulated vision. That's what writing is all about. Write it for practice and it's easy to just continue writing on your project.

These brain-warming techniques work because they assign your brain the task of producing words and giving those words a form. Without over-thinking it, you find yourself working with words instead of agonizing over how to craft the perfect sentence.

Takeaway Truth

From free-flowing thoughts come written words resulting in paragraphs, pages, and books.

Success Offers No Bargains

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Jack Bickham wrote several how-to-write books. One that I particularly like is The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes. It's pithy and easy to read. The chapters are two to three pages long. In an early chapter, Mr. Bickham said: The writing of fiction is very deceptive. ...it looks easy until you try it.

As a writer with more than a few manuscripts, published and unpublished, behind me, I know this truth in every cell of my brain. This is why I always encourage those who tell me they're going to write a book when they have the time. I tell them to go for it. They may succeed. If anything, they'll learn it's not as simple as finding some free time to devote to the project.

If they've been particularly condescending in their assumption that free time is all that is needed to write successfully (of course, I'm thinking of one particular individual here), I stand a good chance of being greatly amused when I bump into them in the future. When I ask how the book is coming, I've yet to hear anything but hemming and hawing from those who've actually tried to turn their idea into a book.

More is required than leisure time to successfully write. If you want to write, you must be willing to work hard. Writing is hard on the anatomy, the brain, and the emotions.

"There are no bargains at the counter of success. You must pay full price." That's what Earl Nightingale once said, and it is as true now as it was then.


Takeaway Truth

No worthwhile endeavor is ever as easy as the uninitiated think. If it were, everyone would be doing it and doing it with great success.

First Rule of Writing

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Rules are interesting little critters, aren't they? Writers like rules. Even more, they like to break rules.

Advocated By All

Many years ago, the first so-called rule about writing that I learned was what all published writers, editors, and agents always say. Write what you know. I'm pretty sure all writers still hear this because I hear it when I pop into writers' conferences.

I even say it when I teach workshops and classes. Write what you know. Why? Because it gives authenticity to your words. By the way, this rule applies whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, whether it's a book project or a blog on the web.

Now, people who don't write fiction think that writing what you know doesn't apply. After all, you're just making it up. Right?

Truth

Wrong! In fiction, writing what you know means not only getting the facts straight on your information plot but also finding the underlying universal truth that is as real for an American as it is for an Italian or a Japanese. It's the honesty and recognizable truth that makes fiction come to life. And it's what will make an editor offer you a book publishing contract or a reader buy your ebook.

One might even say that writing what you know - the emotions you feel when hurt, scared, angry, or happy - is even more important in fiction because without that truth, your fiction will never succeed.

My Spin

Over the years, I've put my own spin on the "write what you know" rule as it applies to your depth of knowledge. If you've read some of my blog posts, how-to write articles or taken a class or seen me giving a presentation at a conference, you've probably heard me say it this way: Write what you know OR WANT TO KNOW.

I truly think if you are interested enough in a subject to do the necessary research AND if you have the ability to articulately express ideas then you can write on a variety of subjects without necessarily being an expert. That's what freelance writing is all about.

I also know that if you want to learn something then teach it. Researching and writing about a subject is a form of self-education.

So don't be intimidated by not being an expert on a particular subject if it interests you enough to learn about it. Without realizing it, you'll become an expert. I know I have on any number of subjects that have fascinated me enough to land jobs writing about them.

Takeaway Truth

Always remember, you might be able to fake expert knowledge part of the time, but you can never fake truth and get away with it.

American Authors on XinXii

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Last week I told you I'd be uploading my first ebook Just One Look to XinXii, the European Digital Publishing Platform. I did it that very night.

By far, it's the easiest digital publishing platform yet. If you've hesitated because you thought it might be hard, don't wait.(I also have Just One Look on Kindle, Smashwords, and Nook. I've been a busy girl!)

Since XinXii takes 15 different file formats, most writers already have the ability to upload without problems. At the moment, you can select publication with only 1 format, but that's going to change according to XinXii CEO Dr. Andrea Schober. They're always tweaking the platform to make it even more user friendly for authors and readers.

Scuttlebutt

Now, I've heard comments and questions from a lot of people since I began talking about XinXii. By the way, I am not being paid for these blog posts. I'm doing this because I think any new writing opportunity should be passed along.

Remember the aphorism: "A rising tide floats all boats." That's what I believe. That's why I do this.

Chuck Emerson

Chuck, from the Houston area of Texas, is a new author on XinXii with what he calls quick reads for commuters. Chuck told me that an article in the New York Times first interested him in XinXii. When he saw my posts about them, he took action and published his short story collection Journeys of Midlife Relationships last week.

Though he hasn't made any sales in the few days that he's been on XinXii, he still plans to put on 2 - 3 more short story collections followed by a near-future mystery suspense novel.

Like most indie authors, Chuck found pricing the hardest thing to figure. He decided that a book for European distribution is immediately priced more because of VAT (Value Added Tax), so he went with the minimum USD price of $2.49 since that gives full royalty.

As for promotion, Chuck plans to use Facebook since he believes most of those buying English language editions in Europe are ex-pats, and they're already on FB.

Joel Kirkpatrick

Joel, from Southwest Colorado, has four novels on XinXii: Harmony's Passing, Caraliza, Breathing into Stone, and Shared. He reports that readers make the same comments for any of his titles: "characters are engaging and strong...prose is rich and descriptive...tales are complex and inventive."

Joel said that for the longest while, he was "a query monster, and sent synopses of my books to about 160 agencies each." He believed that he should own websites for each of his books, and that led him to writers’ forums and to self-publishing information. He started with Lulu.com and has been self-published ever since. He no longer pursues traditional publishing.

Like some of the other authors I interviewed, Joel was invited to submit to XinXii by Dr. Andrea Schober. CEO. He's had particular success in Europe with his second novel. When asked about his expectations for XinXii, he replied: "Europe is a vast English speaking community, and seems to be quite fond of American writers. They find us terribly amusing, culturally inept."

Joel explained: "XinXii is a superb website. The design is wonderfully user-friendly, both for authors and for readers. I prefer the cleaner design they use for their website, it makes browsing a comfortable experience. My novels have been on other online retailers a longer time, so there is no balance of sales as yet, but that will come."

When it comes to pricing, Joel tries to grow his audience. He keeps his ebook prices as low as possible. His promotion isn't very different from what he does for his books stateside. He does, however, have friends in The Netherlands who spread the word.

Joel's Advice

"Be prepared with properly formatted files. Make certain that your title appears in all the pertinent categories. Be sure to add descriptive tags to your book, to help readers see it if they search along the subjects that interest them most. Indie authors are learning the world over, keywords and tags can make a vast difference in visibility."

Philip Anthony

Philip describes himself as a working man who likes to write. Like many authors, he began writing because he thought he could do as well as many of the writers of the fiction he'd been reading. Also like those authors, he soon learned that it wasn’t as easy as he thought.

Like those who eventually get published0, he persevered. Writing became the activity that filled his time off in the evenings and weekends. He has 4 books on XinXii and more to come.

Since Philip is ranked #7 in Thrillers on XinXii for Desert Heat, he's of particular interest. Unlike traditional publishing, he doesn't stick to one genre. He's got young adult/fantasy and thriller/suspense with adult themes. All his books exhibit his love of action stories where "the protagonists are being pursued while trying to stop some heinous tragedy from occurring or struggling in an effort to right a wrong or simply to survive."

Within the confines of his action stories, relationships are as important as plot. He boldly asserts that he's writing "love stories."

He found XinXii through an online search. He went to their website, looked it over and thought, why not? He's concerned about advertising and promotion because he hasn't discovered a reasonable way to direct traffic to his books there. However, he does think there is a market (in Europe) for books in English since many Europeans speak the language.

As to pricing, that didn't concern Philip at all. "Ebooks are inexpensive to begin with so. Selling actual books would be another story. As far as how I decided how much to charge? I looked at other ebooks in my genre that were offered on XinXii. Most were in the same ballpark."

Philip's Advice

"Find somewhere to advertise your book. I will be attacking that in the, hopefully, near future. Getting your book on XinXii is easy. Getting people to see it and buy it is the hard part, a universal problem for all authors. As far as XinXii, they make it very easy.

"Be as generous as you can (in) offering information about you and your books( without) giving away too much personal information. Make the descriptions of your books as perfect as you can since that is what the customers will look at first when they click on your book title. Be as perfect with that as you would be (in) sending the same information to a publisher or literary agent you’re trying to have look at your work."

Linda Mooney

Linda, from South Texas, loves to write romance with a fantasy or science fiction flair. In March 2010, Linda was named the Whiskey Creek Press Torrid Author of The Year. Linda has 3 books on XinXii with The Battle Lord’s Lady (Book 1 of the Battle Lord Saga) being the latest. She says she writes: Sensuous Romance with a SciFi or Fantasy Flair!

Like many late-blooming authors, Linda questioned the value of her writing which she kept under lock and key. Her husband convinced her to try to get published. She succeeded with several publishers, including epublishers. Then she discovered the potential of self-publishing her own books, "especially now that ereaders and venues such as XinXii, Amazon, Fictionwise, and All Romance eBooks are showing massive sales increases."

She too received an email from Dr. Schober inviting her to participate. She jumped in because she wants "to reach a world-wide market." Though she's only been on XinXii a few months, she's already made sales. She says that she's "showing the same progression as I saw with Kindle and Nook. As time goes by, more people will discover my books, and hopefully sales will grow."

Her novels are priced a bit higher than some, but she has a definite pricing program at work: $3.99 for novels, $1.99 for novellas, and planned short stories for $.99.

For promotion, she does mostly what she does for her stateside books: Facebook, blog, website, Goodreads, RomanceWiki, and other personal internet sites. You can look for other books from Linda on XinXii in the future.

Linda's Advice

"Check to see what’s selling. That will give you an idea whether or not your book will also sell."

Kait Nolan

Kait, from Mississippi, has 1 romance novella on XinXii. She has a sales rank of #7 for Forsaken By Shadow. Her remarks were brief and to the point. Kait said: "There's not much to say. I set it up a few months ago, figuring there was nothing to lose, but I don't consider it a real success. Maybe if it grows more."

Cynthia Wicklund

Cynthia, from the Houston area of Texas, has been successful with Smashwords and Kindle so when she heard about XinXii, she uploaded her Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist manuscript In the Garden of Temptation.

When asked why she was trying XinXii, she replied:

"I’m interested in getting my books in as many credible venues as possible, including those abroad. The English side of XinXii is very new, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get in on the ground floor. Those authors that did that at Smashwords are now some of the best selling Indie authors around, some even outselling the New York published."

As to her expectations, she said she doesn't really have any at this juncture. She's trying to get her name out there and develop a readership. "Of course, I want to sell books, and the more places you are the better your chances are of picking up those sales."

Cynthia had something eloquent to say that I think represents a lot of authors today.

"I’m enjoying writing again for the first time in many years. Taking hold of my career and calling the shots is empowering. I've had that editor-on-the-shoulder thing for years. Unfortunately, I never knew what the guy wanted, so I vacillated, afraid to make choices. But now I can take a risk on an idea that a traditional publisher can’t afford to do. It’s not for everybody, creating covers, formatting, and the editing (horrors!), but I love it. I feel very fortunate to be a writer in this “new-age” of publishing."

The Last Word

For those of you who have been on the fence about XinXii, I think Joel Kirkpatrick summed it up best.

"There is no such thing as a marketing limit or boundary today. Indie authors of every nationality already know the steps necessary to be visible on the web. Why on earth would one not desire to be read in Germany, when their books are selling well in the U.S.? Authors should strive to be exposed the world over. I had that illustrated very well just a few months ago. First chapter samples of my novels were placed on a website for free download. Thousands of readers have picked up those samples, and more than half are outside the U.S."

I thank all the authors who graciously gave their time for this interview, and I wish you all mega-sales!

(I'll be driving to my other house in the Hill Country tomorrow. I need some alone time to finish proofing this manuscript The Trouble With Love so I can publish my 2nd ebook next week. I'll check for comments when I arrive.)

Takeaway Truth

Nothing ventured? Nothing gained.

When Harry Met Sally: The Sequel

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.I'm blogging over at Wild, Wicked and Wacky today. So drop by and see what I have to say. In the meantime, I don't want to leave SlingWords lonely and empty so here's something for you to watch. It's simply hysterical.



Takeaway Truth

A laugh is a good way to start your day -- as long as you don't have a mouthful of coffee when you see this.

Language Resource Site

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Add this to your Writer's Tool Kit.

Books Ngram Viewer is a website you need to bookmark. You just type any word or phrase in the Search box, and it will show you whether people in previous eras used it.

This will certainly be a research boon for historical writers. There's nothing worse than reading a historical novel and a character says something that you just know wasn't uttered in the time era of the novel.

Takeaway Truth

Always strive for accuracy in your writing, especially when it comes to historical references.

5 Random Truths

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Texas Laundry

I was sorting clothes in the laundry room this cold Tuesday morning, and I realized that only in south Texas do the contents of a laundry hamper look like mine with an equal number of summer clothes - shorts and tee shorts from part of the week - and winter clothes - fleece sweatpants and shirts from the rest of the week.

Black Holes

Some people delight in complaining about the economy, the environment, the government, the schools, medical care, and any number of other issues, and they all can be seen on the local and national news programs.

Reality Show = Non-Entertainment

Television viewers are divided between those who like reality shows, and those who think reality shows present compelling reasons why a large majority of the population should not procreate.

Award Shows = Non-Entertainment

Awards shows should be banned from the known universe.

Idiots With Microphones

People who have a microphone stuck in their face and are asked "how does it feel to (insert your own tragic reference)"  should be allowed to slap the you-know-what out of callous, insensitive jerks who possess a mic.

Takeaway Truth

Thoreau said: "Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify, simplify! ... Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose."

A big amen especially to the elevation of purpose.

OMG! It's Monday

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Today is the day that I start my exercise program again. That's what I've been telling myself for, oh, the last 3 months. I made the New Year's Resolution to take better care of myself, but I don't believe in jumping in without giving the matter careful consideration. Some might call this procrastination.

Marsha Dobel said: "I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing."

Aha! That's what I'm doing wrong. I've got to sneak up on my brain. Otherwise, it guesses what I'm up to and makes it completely impossible to follow through. So my inability to exercise in the early morning isn't my fault. It's that sneaky, conniving, no good brain of mine.

Who knew? I thought I was just lazy. When in fact, my brain is too alert and cannot be easily deceived.

I think I'll have another cup of coffee and think about ways to put one over on my brain. Any ideas?

Takeaway Truth

Is it smart to procrastinate endlessly on good intentions? Duh!

Texas Spring Means Wildflowers

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Though sometimes during the past long, cold winter -- well, long for the Houston area -- I doubted if spring would ever come. I'm delighted to say that I was wrong.

Spring is here in its full glory: bluebonnets, pink primroses, orange Indian paintbrush,  and baby goats and fawns frolicking in the meadows.

Of course, the flipside of beauty is the dark side of spring. We've had that too in the form of a hail storm here at our house in the Hill Country last Saturday night. Marble-sized hail and a storm system that dropped the temperature from sixty to forty in the space of five minutes.

Though our wildflowers this year aren't as plentiful as usual due to our drought, I still give a silent thank you to the late Lady Bird Johnson. The former first lady was responsible for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. She, like so many of us, had an abiding love for nature, and especially for wildflowers. As a result of that legislation, wildflower seeds were sown along the highways in Texas and mowing plans that allow for that germination and reseeding were instituted.

Takeaway Truth

So I salute the late Mrs. Johnson, founder of the National Wildflower Research Center, who said: "Where flowers bloom so does hope." That's a sentiment I want to believe.

A Rip-Off, I Mean, Contest

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I was going to post the information about the 19th Annual Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards, co-sponsored by Book Marketing Works, LLC.

I thought with the more than $17,000 in prizes, and a $3,000.00 Grand Prize, this contest might be worth promoting. Then I read how much they were charging as an Entry fee: First entry, $100 and each additional entry, $75 each.

You've Got To Be Kidding!


A hundred bucks to enter? Sheesh! I've always supported Writers Digest Books and recommended their how-to books countless times, and I've always posted about their contests. However, this is one contest that I can't endorse, so I'm removing the hot link I'd embedded.

They're not being dishonest, but this sure sticks in my craw because I just know some poor misguided writers will plunk down big bucks to enter in hopes that a miracle will happen, and they'll win.

Takeaway Truth

I can't see how any contest can justify a $100.00 entry fee.

Read It Later

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Here's something to make your life easier.

If you're like me, you browse a lot and find so much to read. Do you print it and stack it thus wasting paper? Do you bookmark it and never remember to go back and find it to read?

Sure you can put it in Google Reader, subscribe to the RSS feed, but chances are you never have time to get to it.

There's an easier way. I discovered a way to easily save and retrieve something for later reading without accumulating scores of bookmarks you don't recognize.

Read It Later

Firefox has an Extension or Add On that runs in the background. I use one called Read It Later. A little icon that looks like a sideways chevron resides in the address bar. When you're on a website page you want to read, just click that icon. It changes to a check mark and adds the url to your reading list.

When you want to read the article, just click on the other icon at the far right end of the address bar. It too looks like a sideways chevron, just bigger and gold in color. When you mouse over it, the words Read Something pop up. Simply click and scroll through the list until you find what you want to read.

It's very easy to download the Firefox Extension Read It Later and easy to use.


Takeaway Truth

There are many apps that make your computing life easier, and most are free.