Tag Archives: indie publishing

Writing in Series

198046070_730a2474d2-300x225The Taylor Davis series is my second series. I finished the Divided Decade Trilogy last summer. (If you missed it, book one–The Candle Star–is free. See my sidebar for links.) When I was writing book two, I swore I’d never write another series again. That’s because it’s so hard to maintain a high level of creativity into a second book. And in the case of my trilogy, those were only related tales and not an extended story line. This is actually my first true series, and I’m finding it’s even harder to keep the same story going.

A series requires continuity. Readers expect the same great characters with the same strengths, the same weaknesses, the same idiosyncrasies. I’m finding that consistency is the name of the game. How would Ranofur act in this situation? The same as he acted in book one. The “rules” have to stay the same, too. If Swaugs turn to green goo in book one, he better turn to green goo in book two. A need for consistency is true of all books, but in a series there’s more at stake. If you derail, all the books that follow become a train wreck. It’s vital that you keep your characters on track. I’m constantly going back to book one to reread sections. I’m also struggling to know how much back story to put into sequels. Some is necessary, but odds are, if a reader is in book two, he read book one.

At the same time, it’s important to show growth within your main characters. In book one, Taylor begins to realize he’s not the screw-up he always thought he was. He finds courage and fortitude he didn’t know he had. His confidence has to continue to grow in stages, and he has to mature in more ways as well. Does his shyness fade? Does he begin to try new things? Does his skill in an area grow? Does he learn to value a particular virtue? Developing a character over a long haul can be a challenge, but one who remains static will never capture the hearts of an audience like one who learns and grows and changes.

It’s also tough to keep the adventure fresh and original. Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findul contains a lot of cool villains and tons of fun fight scenes. I’m stretching my imagination coming up with new material. What crazy place can I send him next? What new adversary will he meet? How can I keep old adversaries entertaining? What will be his next adventure? The longer the series continues, the tougher it becomes to create new content.

TaylorDavis_FlameOfFindul_cover nookSequels do, however, allow an author to explore brushed over areas a little more fully. For example, book one contained a cursory look at the families of my two main characters. In book two, I get to introduce family members who haven’t actually made an appearance yet, develop their personalities, and show the dynamics in the relationships. And I get to bring Hellfire back and give him a life.

Perhaps the most challenging thing of all is making sure multiple books all hang on the same thread. I have to tie everything together into one neat package. That means I’m constantly going back to my story arc. Constantly aligning details. Constantly looking for loose strings. And constantly looking for ways to tie four individual stories together. Who was the man Swain killed in book one? Why did he kill him? What does that have to do with book three? Why did Swain, a pirate, contribute to the building of his parents’ church, and where will I answer that? How did Q become so interested in WWI? What’s the significance to the symbol carved on the graves? And most importantly, how is Swain continually striving to meet his main objective, and how is Taylor going to thwart him?

I feel like I have my hands full. I’m learning a ton, stretching even more, but my enthusiasm for the series is sky high. I can hardly wait to work out the details and share Taylor’s next adventure!

 

 

Lessons From the Couch

I’ve been in recuperation mode for eighteen days now. I think I could have squeaked in my goal of a three week recovery time (a week less than the doc’s minimum–I’m so stubborn, aren’t I?) if I hadn’t sneezed. Yes, I pulled a not-quite-healed stomach muscle and I’ve been back to hobbling this week after feeling so good over the weekend. Alas, a few more days on the couch.

But the couch is a pretty good place to reflect. With the schedule I keep, I don’t sit on it often. Over the last  five days, however, I’ve blown through an amazing 1,600 pages, and before that I clocked a spectacular nine hours of movie time in one day. Unheard of! All this to say, the couch has taught me a lesson: there’s something to be said for loosening the rigidity of one’s schedule.

Does this mean I intend to become a couch potato? Ha! You don’t know me if you think so! But couch sitting does give one time to reflect, and there’s definitely some chains to be broken. One of the things I’m going to free myself from is the third weekly post on my blog. In fact, once my summer reading reviews run out (some time in December!), I might even drop to once a week. Again, unheard of! I intend to drop some other I-always-do-that activities as well. It’s not so much that I’m overwhelmed this year, I just don’t want to be so locked into place. Maybe I’m feeling rebellious, but I wanna do what I wanna do. Maybe I’ll post three times. Maybe I won’t want to. Either way, I won’t have to.

What I want to do most is get my latest book into print. Then I have a grain of an idea for a YA book that I’d like to start. But I don’t want to be confined to the writing schedule I keep last year, either. I intend to give myelf a full year to get it done. That means I get to have a life as well. *Sigh* Why is it that I must always remind myself about balance?

In the meantime, I’m feeling a little heavy on relaxation. I’m eager to get out walking, driving, even cooking again. As things get back to normal, I intend to continue mixing in the things I love with the things I must do, but I’m not going to let myself become bound by them.

Now a question for you: Do you ever feel like you have to do things that don’t really have to be done? What?

Summer Recap

That title says it all, doesn’t it? Summer’s done and we’re on to a new season, a new school year, a new schedule. By the time this posts, I’ll have two weeks of homeschool under my belt. It’s time to look back, take stock, and look forward. So how did your summer go?

I finished almost all the projects I set out to accomplish. Foremost among them was my first book launch and blog tour. That was a very unique and valuable experience. I learned a lot, met some great folks, and blasted my books all over the web. Fun!  :)

I also set out this summer to record my first audiobook. It was much more time consuming and technical than I imagined. I have finished the recording, but now I need to learn how to smooth out some wrinkles. Thank goodness for the online community! I still plan to release The Candle Star this fall as a series of podcasts. It’s been on hold as I organized and launched my third major summer project: my new Teachers Get Them Free policy.

As all these major projects have been going on, I’ve been camping with my kids, doing some swimming, some reading, some gardening, some recharging, and I’ve also been reediting a book I hope to release in November. This is one I actually finished two years ago, released briefly last fall, and pulled because it just didn’t feel right yet. So I’ve done some revamping, enlisted my editor, and hopefully it will ready before the snow gets too deep. I’ll share more soon.

But now it’s time to reorganize. I have homeschool lessons to plan, a church children’s program to launch, piano lessons to schedule, a Christmas play to get off the ground, and sports to attend. I love this time of year, but the change is always a bit jarring.

So what writing plans lie ahead? I’m not certain yet. I have played with the idea of painting new cover images for my Civil War trilogy. I even restocked my paints. But while I do have some ability, I don’t have much experience, so it would be a stretch and a gamble. I also have three picture book ideas that have been rattling around in my head for some time. But my first love is still the middle grade novel, and I have four major book ideas vying for my attention. One of them is a four- or five-book series. I predict I’ll end up tackling one of the novels. I’ve even imagined a late 2013 release, but I’m torn as to which one to pursue first. So my fall will probably involve a little experimentation and a lot of prewriting. I’ll keep you posted.

Now you tell me, what have you accomplished this summer? What plans have you made for the changing season?

Target: Teachers!

I am an independent children’s novelist. As such, I’m faced with all the quality control issues of indies and all the challenges of selling work in the notoriously difficult children’s genre. It’s a double whammy, but I’ve done my homework. I hire out my editing then run my ms through a gauntlet of teachers and writers. I experiment with giveaways, blog tours, and freebies. I’ve created a dynamic platform. I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I have a Newsletter. I cross-advertise with other indies, solicit reviews, and interact with other bloggers. But the children’s genre is a unique market, and I’ve become convinced that the strategies that work in the adult digital world are insufficient here. In a year and a half, I’ve only hit triple digits thrice in monthly sales, and the goal is, after all, to turn this hobby into a career to pay for kids’ college.

Instead of giving up, however, this spring and summer I’ve been brainstorming. I need a new strategy. Something fresh, something original, something that hasn’t been tried before. And it occurred to me that my plan needs to include those adults who care about what kids are reading. Who are the most influential adults who fit that bill? Teachers! And how can I gain their help? By giving them my books risk free!

It’s the perfect fit! I am a teacher. I write with students in mind. And over the past year I’ve had several teachers tell me they’ve used or plan to use my books in class. I even have classroom resources already in place for each of my novels. So I’m wrapping up this series by announcing a new policy:

From now on, any teacher can get any of my books FREE anytime. 

Details can be found on my “For Teachers” page at the top of my blog. (They’re on my author website, too.) Getting a copy of a book is really easy. Teachers can either email me with a request or use the provided Smashwords coupons. All my novels are available in MOBI (Kindle), EPUB (most ereaders), and PDF (opens on any laptop) formats. And there are no strings. Really! I’m counting on both digital and paperback sales rising naturally through increased exposure.

But to make this work I’m going to need some help, my friends. I know a lot of teachers, but I don’t know the ones you know. To make this truly effective, word has to spread. So today I’m starting a Tell a Teacher They’re Free campaign. The new policy is long-term, but for the next four months, from September till December, I’m going to really push the telling of teachers. Will you help me? Will you tell the teachers at your school? Will you post it on Twitter and Facebook? To make it easier, I’ve created the campaign logo that appears at the top of this post. I’ll keep it on the top of my sidebar with a link to the details on my teacher page. All you have to do is pass along my blog’s name or homepage link, mention the apple icon, and teachers can find this information easily. Feel free to “borrow” the logo and link up, too. Or share my advertisement video.

So that’s the brainstorm I’ve been hinting at for three weeks. We’ll see how she flies. Thanks so much, everyone, for your help!

Of What Value is Free? (Unmasking an Author Series, #3)

This is the third in a series about author visibility. First I discussed some challenges indies face. Last week I discussed some beneficial and some not-so-beneficial ways to use freebies. This week I want to consider the value (or not) of free.

Everybody loves freebies. We try them because there’s no risk involved. We’re not out anything if we’re disappointed. So it makes sense that authors would want to use this natural draw to gain new readers. Think about it. How many of us have found our favorite books and authors this way? Did you purchase your first book by a favorite author? Or did you check it out at the library or borrow it from a friend? But there are two schools of thought on this, and I’ll admit, both have valid points.

Probably the most famous advocate for giving work away free is the English author Neil Gaiman. In fact, he’s the one who drew that analogy to library books. Then he pointed out that most of us who found a favorite book or author for free then went on to purchase additional books by that author. Very true. I’ve done that.

In a video I’ve seen on several blogs now, Mr. Gaiman tells how he grew alarmed when his work was being heavily pirated. Then he noticed he was selling more books in those areas than anywhere else! Freebies, he came to realize, are actually excellent advertising. He then encouraged his publisher to release his book, American Gods, for free for a month. As a result, sales of his other books went up 300 percent the following month.

Last fall I read an article by another biggie author who now releases all his digital content for free. All of it! I know this is horrible, horrible journalism, because I can’t remember the fellow’s name, and I have totally failed to track down that article again. The link is buried somewhere on the BookBlogs forum, but in it the author mentioned how he’s making a killing off his paperbacks.

Most of us middle-of-the-road authors (okay, us in-the-grass-somewhere-beyond-the-sidewalk authors) wouldn’t benefit in the same way these successful, established fellows have. Personally, I like my Kindle check too much each month–small as it is–to give up all digital profits. So we experiment with free on a lesser scale. That’s been the draw of Amazon’s KDP Select program. Authors are able to make their work available for free on Amazon for five days every three months. Such exposure on the marketplace giant has been a reliable method for boosting sales in the past. (Note: In the past–but that’s content for another post.)

Not everyone agrees. Author and game designer Guido Henkel had this to say about KDP Select: “To put it in plain Kindle language, if everyone is offering their book for free, it is once again disappearing in the glut and no longer special.”

And there are many who argue that making work free is actually detrimental. The market is over-saturated. Free isn’t appreciated. Free cheapens your work. Free cheapens everyone’s work. Free too often means a poorly written, unedited book. Free is dragging down the establishment. Free negatively affects authors who must charge for their work. Free is lowering the standard across the entire industry.

Okay, so I do have to agree with some of that.

I posted a discussion on the BookBlogs forum about this issue. Here are some of the responses I received:

“Everyone is thankful for a freebie but it is soon forgotten. Anything given away freely is not appreciated, examples,’welfare, some ebooks, salvation.’”

“There’s an awful lot of slop for sale at Amazon.”

“I like to get free books, unfortunately I tend not to read them because I’m reading stuff I actually paid for.”

“Writers must establish an audience, and probably should do so before offering free books. Otherwise the book could be swimming in the sea of books for some time.”

Hmmm. There are certainly a lot of opinions on this topic, and I’m really curious to hear what yours are. I tend to fall in the middle of the extremes. I have no intention of giving away all my work, and I don’t download many freebies because the quality is usually substandard, but I still think giving away some work can be useful. If you tuned in last week, you’re still waiting for that last suggestion I promised–that great brainchild, my new strategy. Sorry! You’ll hear it in my fourth and final post in this series which will appear here the first Friday in September. Next week I’ll be guest posting a blog tour wrap-up on one of my favorite blogs.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on free? Is it beneficial to a new, unknown author? Or does it contribute to a declining quality of literature?

My Experience with Giveaways (Unmasking an Author Series, #2)

This is the second in a series about author visibility. Last week I discussed some challenges indies face. This week and next I’ll be discussing the use of freebies.

“Giveaways are a great way to generate interest and spread the word about your book.”

That is what I was told by several veteran indie authors, various bloggers, and a whole bunch of indie websites, so I buckled down and organized several. Unfortunately, I mistranslated that statement. I thought it meant that giveaways generate sales, and I was disappointed. Giveaways DO have a place, but before you jump into one, give thought to what you hope to accomplish.

Blog Giveaways

The most common type of giveaway seems to be the blog giveaway. This is when a blogger features a particular book and gives away a copy which has been donated by the author. In my experience, however, I’ve found that it’s not a very effective sales method. In fact, just the opposite usually happens. The folks who enter blog giveaways usually aren’t interested in buying your book; they want it free, and by the close of the contest they have forgotten all about it. Nobody actually buys your book. Then at the end of the week, one person wins, and you have to donate a copy. If you’re donating a paperback, you’ve just lost money.

Goodreads Giveaways

With that lesson learned, I thought I’d experiment with a Goodreads giveaway. After all, those often attract thousands of would-be readers. Who wouldn’t want that kind of exposure, right? Well, notice I said would-be readers, not would-be buyers. Again, these are people with their hands out. Honestly, I’m not bashing them. I’ve entered many myself. I’m simply pointing out that this mindset is the logical reason why giveaways don’t result in sales.

So I went into this new giveaway with lower expectations and a further test in mind. After a winning name was drawn and the paperback sent out, I contacted forty of the most active Goodreads members who had signed up for my contest. This is actually against Goodreads policy, but I went ahead and did it anyway for the sake of experiment. The first day, I contacted 20 people explaining that they didn’t win the paperback, but I offered them a coupon for a .99 Smashwords download of the same novel. I had absolutely no sales as a result. A few days later, I contacted 20 more members, but this time I gave away a coupon for a free Smashwords download. About five of those coupons were actually cashed in. Interesting, huh?  It rather proved my point: Giveaways do not generate sales.

Reevaluate Your Expectations

So should we give up on giveaways altogether? Not at all. I read a post from one fellow who did this very same Goodreads experiment, only on a much larger scale and with a different motivation. He offered every single person who signed up for his Goodreads giveaway a free download of his book afterward, hoping to get some reviews posted on the site. Did you catch that? His motivation was not sales, it was reviews, and he was successful. Out of several hundred contacts, he ended up with a good handful of reviews. I forget the number, exactly, but it was like 20 or 30, I believe. That’s not bad. And that brings me to my final point: Giveaways can indirectly influence sales.

Let’s go back up to that first statement: “Giveaways are a great way to generate interest and spread the word about your book.” After my disappointments, I realized there is actually a lot of truth in there. Giveaways are effective, but they aren’t the microwave recipe I thought they’d be. Rather, they’re a slow cooked meal.

In marketing, I’ve learned there is a “Rule of Seven.” It states that in general, a consumer must be exposed to a product seven times before they purchase it. That’s why those Subway ads ran again and again and again during the Olympics. The franchise marketing team has this figured out. And do you know what? After a few days of watching the games, I had to go out and try the new avocado topping on my favorite ham and provolone sub. (It’s delicious, by the way!)

Giveaways work in the same way. Each feature, each review, each giveaway is one more t.v. commercial. It’s a seed planted. Few readers will buy on the first exposure, so an author must be patient, must keep planting, must keep giving away. Eventually the hard work will pay off.

Effective Giveaways

So abandon the thought that throwing a few free copies before the masses will make you rich and famous. It won’t. You have to get more strategic than that. Here are a few ways to make giveaways work for you:

1. Give books away to blog reviewers. If enough people leave enough varying viewpoints in key locations, they will influence buyers. They’ll serve as proof that someone out there was glad they took a chance on your book. Even a few negative reviews can be useful by showing genuine reactions and boosting curiosity. And, hey, it’s spreading the word.

2.  Set the first book in a series free. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve heard lots of success stories. It’s sort of like baiting a fishing line. Lots of folks will pick up a freebie. If the book is well written, many will swallow the hook and move on to purchase book two, then three, then…you get the idea. I have set single titles free on Amazon temporarily to boost the sale of other single titles and had modest success. Since KDP, however, this hasn’t worked as well. The method seems more reliable with a series.

3.  Create related content and give it away. This could include a short story featuring some of your characters, or additional scenes. Bonus material. (Think movie special features and deleted scenes.) This type of content won’t take nearly as long to put together as a novel. You simply want to create an appetizer that will draw people to your main course.

As a former teacher who now writes for kids, I like to put together a collection of materials (study questions, links, vocab, extension ideas) for each of my novels that educators might find useful in the classroom. The paperbacks have a price tag, but I make digital versions free on Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. So far one has gone free on Amazon as well. As soon as it did, I started selling more copies of that novel.

4. I’ve even seen the first several chapters of a book published as an ebook and used as a free preview (though I didn’t know it when I downloaded it and was angry when I found out and refused to buy it, so if you take this road, LET YOUR READERS KNOW WHAT THEY’RE GETTING).

5.  And finally…well, I do have one more specific idea for using giveaways to good advantage. I have been thinking on this all spring and summer, so it is a really good one. One I’m going to put into practice very soon. But I want to discuss freebies a little further before I unveil it. Tune in next week. In the meantime…

What has your experience been with giveaways?

Challenges Indies Face (Unmasking an Author Series, #1)

Today marks the first of a four part series I’ll be doing on author visibility.

The single most crippling obstacle all new authors face is invisibility. No one has ever heard of us before. Our work is untested, unfamiliar. Why would anyone chance good money on a newbie? That highlights the single most advantageous reason, in my opinion, to land a contract with a major publishing house—the marketing team. It’s their job to convince all those would-be buyers to part with their money. We indies must take the mantle of marketing upon ourselves. But a secondary problem soon presents itself for those of us in the children’s genres: Who to market to?

See, children’s authors like myself are in a unique pickle. The kids for whom we write do not own credit cards. They don’t have jobs. They can’t buy our books for themselves. They depend entirely on adults to purchase literature for them.

In addition, most children don’t have ereaders; therefore, they have no way of reading ebooks, the mainstay of most indie publishers. How many kids do you know who own a Kindle? A Nook? Not many. These gadgets are expensive, and kids tend to be irresponsible. Not a good combination. My kids don’t have ereaders, either.

Not only can kids not purchase or read our books, they don’t even have a way of hearing about them! Not many kids hang out book blogs or bookish sites like LibraryThing, Shelfari, or Goodreads. Technically, they’re not even allowed to participate on most of these sites.

So what’s a children’s novelist to do?

1.  Obviously, we have to tell the adults. Most of them don’t care a whit for children’s literature, however, so we have to hunt down the ones who do. These include parents, teachers and librarians. We can find them on homeschool sites, on teacher’s blogs, on librarian book review blogs. They’re in forums on Amazon, in groups on Goodreads. They are out there.

2.  We also have to keep a sharp look out for kid bloggers, reviewers, and writers. They’re out there, too, just not in the same numbers as adults. After all, kids are our target audience. They’re a great source of information, feedback, and contacts. They are a unique window to the kids “out there.” (Not to mention, they’re the up-and-comers, and I think it’s our job, it’s our pleasure, to encourage them. Guess that’s the teacher in me again.)

3.  Next, we have to make our books available in many formats and inform our readers. Kids may not have ereaders, but a good percentage of them have ipods or cell phones. Do they know about the Kindle app? Do they have a home computer which will open a book in pdf format? It’s also a very wise idea to have paperbacks versions of our work available for those who simply can’t do digital.

4.  Last and perhaps most important, we have to make sure our work is absolutely the best it can be. Only then will our efforts have a chance of snowballing. No one will pass on a recommendation for slop.

I know this post is a little shy on specific solutions. In fact, it probably prompted more questions than it answered. This time around, however, I mostly wanted to point out some basic challenges facing indies, specifically children’s lit indies, and let them stew in your minds for a time, as they’ve been stewing in mine. As the series continues, I’ll be arriving at more answers.

In the meantime, I’d welcome your comments on this catch-22. I’m curious, do you market to kids or adults? What has been your best strategy? What hasn’t worked at all?

My Experience With Giveaways (Unmasking an Author Series, #2)

Sales Equation: Cheap + Bulk = Profit

Last week I argued for the creation of paperbacks even in this digital age. If you do have a paperback available for sale, you can benefit from a sales technique often overlooked by indie authors–bulk sales.

But bulk sells at a price lower than what I hope to get for my work, you may be thinking. And you’d be correct. Selling in quantity means selling at a discount. But it also means more sales.

How about I illustrate this with some actual figures? I’ll plug in my own. My paperbacks all sell at $10. My profit on the sale of a single book ordered through Amazon is determined by my cost, which is determined by the length of that particular book, but it hovers around $3. We’ll use that nice, round figure. If I sell one book, I make three bucks. But I’ve decided to set discounts for bulk purchases. Here’s my sliding scale:

3-10 copies: $8 per book
11-25 copies: $7 per book
26+ copies: $6 per book
 

How can I afford to set a $3 or $4 discount when I only make $3 per book? Because $3 is the profit I make when a customer purchases my book through Amazon. There is a cost for Amazon’s distribution services. But if I order my own books from the printer through my own account, I can get them for about $4 a book. I can then make a profit even if I resell them more cheaply.

Let’s run the numbers.

So let’s say someone orders 10 copies. That will cost me $40, but I’d resell them at $8 per book, or $80. That’s a customer discount of twenty bucks, and I actually make a higher profit than I would off Amazon, $40 compared to $30.

Let’s try 20 books. That would cost me $80. If I resold them at $7 a piece, they would cost the consumer $140, a savings of $60. However, I would still be making a profit of $3 per book, or $60, which is exactly what I would make selling 20 books through Amazon.

Let’s run the numbers again at 35 copies. That would cost me $140 to order but would be resold at $6 per book, or $210, a profit of $2 per copy. That’s a consumer savings of $140 and a profit of $70 for me. I’d even be willing to sell at half price if the order was large enough. One hundred books at $1 profit is still $100!

So you can see that each time, everyone wins! By having a bulk sale policy in place, buyers might be more inclined to purchase more than one book. Even if your profits per book grow smaller, quantity assures they still beat out a single sale. In addition, bulk sales result in more visibility. Notice, however, that I have to do the ordering and distributing and the collecting of funds, which is a small time factor and a larger risk factor. Also, I pass on the shipping costs to the customer, which, incidentally, average out to be MUCH less per book than Amazon’s single-book rate of $3.99.

But who would buy that many books? Classrooms are the most obvious answer. Bookstores, too. But I’ve also been contacted by a reading group who would like to include one of my titles on their list next year. And I made a bulk sale to an organization that was considering my book for an award. (I didn’t win, but I was thrilled to be nominated, and not too disappointed in a 25-book order.) You never know who might become interested, so it’s wise to have a bulk order policy in place.

Now you tell me…have you had any experience selling in bulk? Would you consider it?

Paperbacks–So Last Century?

Lots of indie authors are getting in on the ebook craze, and why not? It’s affordable, doable, and just so cool to see your novel up on Amazon. But fewer authors, it seems, take the time to create a paperback version of their novel. I’m here to say, you’ve gone through all the trouble of writing your masterpiece. Make it available to everyone!

Why paper?

Ereaders have been all the rage for awhile now, and ebooks are capturing a greater share of the market each year—I saw 25% in 2011! But you’ll notice that still leaves 75% squarely on the paperback side. You see, not everyone has an ereader. Not everyone wants and ereader. In my not-so-scientific observation of the blogging world over the past year and a half, perhaps half of the book reviewers I run across still accept only paperback. And these are people fully immersed in the digital world—bloggers and writers. What about all those people who don’t live online? What about the older generation which is much more hesitant to sell out to the computer age? What about those younger-than-forties who still like the feel and smell of paper in their hands? Yes, you’re missing a huge audience by not creating paperbacks.

But paperbacks are so 1990’s, you say. They cost more. They take up space. They use up natural resources. They wear out. They’re heavy. They take more time and effort to produce. They require different formatting than ebooks. They require different software. They’re tying me to an old project when I want to move on to a new one. They’re an ever-living pain in the you-know-what!

Agreed.

But my former arguments haven’t gone away, have they?

Why not paper?

Let’s look at your accomplishments so far. You’ve already spent years writing a book. Then you paid for editing and created a cover image. You’ve spent time creating blurbs, tweeting, and asking for reviews. You’re on Goodreads and Facebook. Why not put in a little more effort and reap bigger rewards? It’s not as intimidating as you might think.

So how do you do it?

Sorry. This post isn’t meant to be an in-depth tutorial. (But I have written one of those, if you have time to look it up.) This is simply a consideration of the pros and cons and an encouragement to get out there and learn the process for yourself.

A Few Considerations Before Starting

If you do choose to go the paper route, I would strongly recommend pay-on-demand. This means a digital copy of your book will be stored on your printer’s database so readers can order as few as one copy at a time. Prices will be slightly higher than mass-produced books—and the longer the book, the higher the cost, but as children’s books hover in the 50,000 word range, my prices have always remained fairly reasonable. Pay-on-demand also means that you, the author, will not be responsible to pay for, store, and distribute a 500- or 1,000-book print run.

Also, I advise not rushing, no matter how strong the urge to get your book out there quickly. New formatting requires further editing. Order a proof copy. Check and double check for errors, particularly spacing and page breaks. When you find them, fix them and proof it again. It may take a few tries, but having an error free book is worth it.  Get it right the first time.

And finally, don’t expect your paperback to be a best-seller. It won’t be on the shelves of Walmart. It won’t travel through the avenues the big six publishing houses use. You may be able to convince the local bookstore to stock a few copies, but most readers will not find your book. However, if you’ve created a clean, professional ebook and done your marketing homework, you will create more and more demand for your paperback.

Have them ready!

Now tell me your thoughts. Would you consider creating a paperback? Have you already? Was it worth your time? 

A Front Porch, a Corkboard, and a Stationary Bike

Why do you blog?

That’s a good question, one I’ve been asked many times. Sometimes the question translates, Why do you waste your time doing something that I would find more painful than shooting myself in the feet? Other times it means, Everyone blogs. What makes you think you’ve got anything to add to the pool? And still other times I’m being asked, What do you gain from blogging? Since the first two are usually accompanied by a good deal of indifference and disdain rather than a true spirit of inquiry, I’ll choose to forego them today and just deal with the last one.

We bloggers have many reasons for doing what we do. have many reasons, but today I’ll just share three: my blog is a front porch, a corkboard, and a stationary bike all rolled into one.

Huh?

Another excellent question. Let me explain.

The Benefits of Blogging

My blog, for me, is a place from which I can chat with the world. When I sit out on my real porch (actually, I don’t have one, so I sit on my lawn, but let’s pretend for the sake of illustration), my neighbors will often stop by and chat. I find out what’s going on with them; they ask about my life. We share information, discuss ideas, and have an enjoyable time doing it. My blog gives me that same sort of availability, the same give-and-take as a front porch, only to a much larger audience. Often I’ll drop by another writer’s “front porch” and see what they’re up to. I enjoy that interaction a great deal, so I keep on blogging.

Second, my blog is a corkboard. Yes, sometimes we call it a “platform,” but that sounds so self-exalting. I’d rather think of it as a bulletin board where I can share those things most important to me in a place that’s easily accessible. My books take highest prominence, of course, but each review and each Friday Freebie is another note pinned up for anyone to read.

And last, my blog is sort of a literary stationary bike. Just like our bodies, we need to give our muse regular workouts or it atrophies. And just like softball skills or volleyball skills, our writing skills get better and better the more we exercise them. Blogging two or three times a week keeps me sharp and helps me stay in the game.

A Word of Caution

Although a blog provides many helpful benefits, it also serves as a window for readers. Anyone tuned in is actually looking in on me and make judgment calls. Is she too serious? Too corny? Too sloppy in her writing? Can she write a decent sentence? Does she know how to spell? Does she know what she’s talking about? Is she consistent? Is she honest? Is she reliable? All these judgments have a bearing on my reputation as a blogger and author.

Have you ever been on an author blog that was full of errors, sloppy sentences, and inconsistencies? I have. Needless to say, I did not purchased their work. On the flip side, a well-done blog can be beneficial. It gives an author the opportunity to display a sample of their writing to the world. Knowing that, I’m very careful to maintain a professional appearance. No one’s perfect, but I do try to catch all my typos. I treat every book I review and every person who comments with respect. I also promised myself when I started out that I’d always be completely honest. I’m going to be me, just a polite and polished me.  :)

Our blogs project onto our work. If readers like what they see, they might try out a book. If we’re producing sloppy, unedited drivel, however, we might as well pack up the laptop, get out the gun, and start aiming for our toes.

Your turn…do you blog? Why or why not? What benefits do you derive from blogging? What downsides do you encounter?