Contest, My Books, Promotion

A Giveaway Heads Up!

5-dot-2Calling all readers! This brief post is to give you a heads up on the biggest giveaway ever done on this blog. Starting Friday, May 24th, I’ll be giving away ONE eBOOK EACH DAY for five days. Which eBook, you ask? Well, you get a choice. You can win either The Brevity of Roses OR its sequel An Illusion of Trust.

You’ll have five separate chances to win because it’s a new giveaway each day. If you don’t win on the first day, you can enter again to win on the second or the third or fourth or fifth days—five drawings in all! Be sure to come back on Friday for full instructions on how to enter the first giveaway.

See you on Friday!

signature4

Author, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Promotion, Writing

The Next Big Thing

Author Christa Polkinhorn, tagged me to answer these questions about my work in progress. This author meme is called The Next Big Thing. Please read Christa’s responses about Emilia, her next big thing. At the end of  this post, you’ll see who I’ve tagged.

AIT_page_frontWhat is the working title of your next book? It’s titled An Illusion of Trust and is now available at Amazon in ebook and print.

Where did the idea come from for the book? It’s a sequel to my novel The Brevity of Roses. I ended that book with Jalal and Renee’s engagement, but that wasn’t the end of the story I’d written in my head. They were both troubled people, but I knew for certain Renee’s emotional damage would surface as she experienced the realities of marriage and parenthood, so I wrote An Illusion of Trust to tell that part of the story.

What genre does your book fall under? This is contemporary fiction. I suppose it will appeal mainly to women, but I hesitate to call it women’s fiction because that classification is often interpreted as romance or chick lit, which this is not. Maybe I could call it literary women’s fiction.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Though I do mentally cast certain actors as my characters, I decline to share my picks for the same reason I don’t dwell a lot on the physical descriptions of characters in my writing. Unless there’s a good reason to force my image on readers, I want them to visualize my characters as they like. I mention or allude to Renee’s petite stature and long hair several times, and I mention once (in this book) that she has gray eyes. In my head, she’s a more petite version of a certain actress.

Jalal was described in more detail in The Brevity of Roses because Meredith gave her poetic mind free reign as she observed him: “… it was hard to ignore this man with his beautiful skin, like fine tea-dyed silk, and hair, as black as any she had ever seen, curling down to his shoulders, and if he chanced to look up from the book he now read, she was certain his eyes would seem as deep and dark as temple pools on a moonless night.” He has a slight change of appearance in An Illusion of Trust, but even with this number of details I think readers could “cast” several different actors in his role.

If you’re familiar with my characters Renee and Jalal and pictured a celebrity as you read about them, please share. I’m curious to know if anyone sees who I see.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

This is the tag line: In this sequel to The Brevity of Roses, Renee Vaziri discovers that even when your dreams come true your nightmares remain.

Here’s a distillation from the back cover blurb, which is more a one-line synopsis: When Renee Marshall locked the door on her dark past and married Jalal Vaziri, she hoped for a quiet life, but as the stress of living in his society increases, the traumas of her past begin to poison the present and threaten to destroy everything she treasures.

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

This sequel will be another indie novel published under my imprint Two-Four-Six Publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I don’t write a typical first draft. I develop the story in my head and make written notes for several months to a year (or more) before I start to actually write a draft. And because I edit as I write, what I end up with is a step or two beyond the proverbial “shitty first draft”. Specifically, I wrote this “first draft” in two stages. I wrote for three months and then a health problem forced me to let it languish for a couple of months, during which indecision on what my next book should be cropped up and delayed me even more. When I picked up my WIP again, I finished in seven months, so I guess it took about ten months to write what I call a first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I’m going to have to pass on this one. Most every novel I read is contemporary, but I’m not familiar with one I can compare to this story. My favorite author is Anne Tyler, so I’m sure her style has influenced mine.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? After I finished writing The Brevity of Roses, my characters refused to stop talking to me. In fact, as I was writing it, I kept thinking about what would happen to them past the point I planned to end the book. So while I was still editing Brevity, I started writing out scenes and snatches of dialogue that would, mostly, become part of An Illusion of Trust. An image that haunted me, from a scene that didn’t make it into Illusion, was the impetus for a particular element in this book.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I don’t want you to leave you with the impression this story is relentless doom and gloom. As those who’ve read the first part of Jalal and Renee’s story already know, they indulge in a healthy dose of smartass humor. And marriage certainly hasn’t turned down the heat between them. 😉

~~~~~

Now, in a week or two, each of these fine authors will tell you about their next big thing. Visit their blogs today and subscribe, if you haven’t already, so you won’t miss learning about three more good books to watch for.

Natasha Alexander

Anne Gallagher

Jessica Luton

If you’d like to help me build a buzz for An Illusion of Trust, please click those cute little share buttons below.

elle

Author, Book Reviews, Marketing, Opinion, Promotion, Publish

Do you believe all’s fair in love and publishing?

If you’re an author, you’ve probably been reading about the NY Times “book reviewers for hire” article by David Streitfeld. If not, it’s the first link listed below this post. In that article he talks about a man named Todd Jason Rutherford, who ran a lucrative business selling enthusiastically positive, but fake, book reviews. He ran ads on Craigslist to hire reviewers, who soon realized they could write more reviews—and make more money—by not actually reading the books, but just skimming the text or Googling  to learn enough about the book to fake it.

Streitfeld also reveals that John Locke, the author who became the first self-published writer to sell a million Kindle ebooks through Amazon, bought 300 of those reviews. In addition, Locke requested that those reviewers purchase their copy from Amazon, so the reviews would have the “Verified Amazon Purchase” tag to add credibility.

That’s three hundred five-star reviews! Think about that. How much do you think 300 glowing 5-star reviews would increase sales? I have some great reviews and ratings, and though a few of the early ones were from family members and friends, the rest are not—and I didn’t pay a cent for any of them.

Yes, I know publishing is a business. Locke and others like him are undoubtedly smart businessmen. But as much as I’d like to make money, I’m conflicted and can’t look at my writing strictly as a profit-making product. I can’t subscribe to the all’s fair in love and publishing mindset. I’m proud of my writing. I think it’s worth reading. I want the opinions of readers to be genuine. I don’t want someone buying one of my books based on misleading reviews. I don’t want to deceive readers to make a dollar.

In reading about this issue, I realized this is another black mark against self-published books. Those of us who’ve chosen that path have already faced prejudice, mostly from other publishers and authors who consider self-published work synonymous with poor quality. Now, if readers think they can’t trust reviews of our books, we’re even more disadvantaged.

I also learned certain groups of self-publishers (and small presses?) trade positive reviews of books they haven’t read, as in, I’ll give your book 5-stars, if you give mine the same. Some time ago, I got caught up in the “marketing ploy” of trading clicks on descriptive tags on Amazon. Though tags only help readers searching for books, not influence their buying, it felt dishonest, and I took my book off the list the next day. I know we self-publishers are at a great disadvantage in getting our books noticed, but I would rather mine get noticed honestly and for the right reasons.

If you’d care to read more about this issue, follow the links below, but I have two questions for you. Do you read reviews or, at least, consider the rating before buying a book? And do you think it’s unethical for authors/publishers to pay people to write positive book reviews?

Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Promotion, Writing

It’s all about exposure, baby!

Some of you may have wondered why I would give The Brevity of Roses away for two days last week. It was exciting, to be sure. It’s amazing to think that thousands of people can now read it, of course, but that’s not all I expected. I knew the giveaway would increase the book’s visibility on Amazon while it was free, but what about after that period?

I believe Brevity is a good story and its reviews confirm that, but only a limited circle knew about it. People can’t buy a book they don’t know exists. As an independent author, specifically one with no influence or marketing budget, I’ve had a major challenge getting Brevity noticed, so when I heard about the KDP Select program, I had to consider it.

In the first three months after Brevity’s publication, 74% of e-book sales were through Amazon, and that increased to 91% during the last seven months. That fact weighed heavily in my decision because to enroll your e-book in the KDP Select program, you have to remove it from all other distributors. Obviously, for me that restriction was practically a non-factor.

Also, enrollment in the program makes your book available to the Amazon Prime lending library, and each borrow earns the author a percentage of a monthly pool of funds. I would earn less for a loan than for a sales, but far more than zero.

So, did the giveaway give my book more visibility on Amazon? Heck yeah! It rose to #4 on the Kindle contemporary fiction chart. Did the promo result in increased sales after the free period? You betcha! It maintained a rank of #22 in all fiction sales for eighteen hours. It’s also racking up borrows.

From others experience in the KDP Select program, I expect my current sales rank to gradually lower over the next few days, but not return to what it was before the giveaway. As people read Brevity, they’ll tell their friends about it. Some of them will leave reviews at Amazon. Word of mouth will continue to give the book exposure. I deem this experiment a success!

Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Promotion, Writing

Wow! The KDP Select Giveaway Experience

I’m excited to say my first KDP Select giveaway experience was a success. It thrilled me, amazed me, astounded me, and left me dizzy. If you follow me on Facebook, you might have thought I’d been hitting the wine bottle after reading my frequent updates, but I promise no wine was involved. I was just giddy from following the download numbers for The Brevity of Roses.

I apologize for the length of this post, but some of you may be considering such a giveaway for your book, so I think it’s important to share my experience. Also, some of you invested your time to spread the word or cheer me on, so I thought you might be interested in the results.

I don’t know why I didn’t think to check the rankings at the Amazon stores in other countries, but I didn’t, so all the action I’ll cite was for Amazon US, and all rankings were for free Kindle books. Here’s how it went. The ebook’s price was supposed to switch to free at midnight PST on Wednesday, but I stayed awake until 12:30 am and it hadn’t changed, so I went to bed.

My promo blitz began when my pre-scheduled blog post published at 5:30 Thursday morning. When I woke about 7:30 I announced the giveaway on Facebook and Twitter. I forgot about Google+ until later. I had not arranged to have the giveaway promoted at any free Kindle book sites.

However, I want to say right here that I have the greatest “tribe” of supporters ever!!! So many of you shared my announcement on Facebook, Twitter, and I don’t know where else, that I don’t think I needed any help from strangers. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Seriously, THANK YOU.

I was afraid to check the stats at first, so I didn’t see them until 8:30 Thursday morning. At that time, Brevity had been downloaded 665 times, and I ranked #30 in contemporary fiction and #60 in contemporary romance. (I forgot to note the overall rank.) I thought those numbers were great. Little did I know.

All day Thursday, Brevity climbed in the ranks, taking a big leap around 2pm that first day. From 6-7pm PST, it reached its peak download speed, averaging 12 copies per minute! By 7pm, 6,623 people had downloaded the book. It ranked #5 in contemporary fiction and #6 in contemporary romance. The overall rank was #25, and it sat at #24 in Top 100 Kindle ebooks, and #20 in Top 100 Fiction.

I was exhausted from all the excitement and last checked the stats at 11pm before going to bed. At that time, it had moved up one notch in all those ranks, and had been downloaded 8,014 times! I truly couldn’t believe that.

The second day, I started tracking stats at 7:00 am. The first stats I recorded were 9,023 downloads, it ranked #5 in contemporary fiction and #5 in contemporary romance. The overall rank was #17, and it was #16 in Top 100 Kindle ebooks, and #14 in Top 100 Fiction. That meant Brevity finally appeared on the first page of free downloads. Yay!

In all, Brevity maintained its ranking at #5 in contemporary fiction and contemporary romance for nineteen—19!—hours! I can’t tell you how unbelievable that was to me. Trying to wrap my little brain around that literally made me dizzy. By 2:30 PST on Friday, the book had been downloaded 10,733 times! And then, in the next hour it took a mystifying leap to #3 in contemporary fiction and held that spot for five hours.

As the timer ticked off the final hours, Brevity descended a bit, settling back in the #5 spot in contemporary fiction, dropping to #12 in contemporary romance, then rising again to #8, and staying there to the end. The final tally for US downloads was 12,604. Add to that 1,184 in the UK, 58 in Germany, 2 in France, and 1 in Spain for a total of 13,849 downloads worldwide!

Since these were free downloads, I earned no royalties from them, but the EXPOSURE, oh my! I feel like Brevity finally got a chance to be a contender. Of course, the lure of FREE means that not everyone who downloaded Brevity will actually read it. But even if only 30% read it, that’s nearly 5,000 more readers! Can you imagine?

One thing I’d been warned about beforehand was that I might see a few bad reviews after the free promo, I don’t know why that should be, but on Friday morning when I saw that my review count had increased by one, I was afraid to look. My fear was unfounded; it was a lovely 4-star review. A bit later, I received an email from that person saying she’d bought the book on Thursday and stayed up until 2am Friday to finish it. Now, wasn’t that just the cherry on top?