At the end of your eBook, place a link(s) that directs readers to where they can buy additional books of yours. This is one of the best tips I’ve read recently online (apologies for not remembering where I read it), and it makes complete sense. Readers are most apt to buy a book of yours if they’ve just read one and loved it. I can remember lots of times when I closed a book, leaned back and thought, Wow, that was good, and went to the bookstore to check out more things from that author (Dan Brown comes to mind). The best way to capitalize on that high in the eBook world is to have a link at the end of your eBook that brings readers to a book retailing website — Amazon, for example, if it’s a Kindle book. This way, they can buy another one of your books immediately — sort of like an impulse buy at the supermarket checkout, the well-I’m-here-anyway-so-I-may-as-well-buy-it kind of thinking. Chances are if readers really like your book, they will find their way to Amazon or Barnes & Noble on their own, but there’s nothing wrong with pointing them in the right direction.
Today’s Debut Author Q&A features a very special writer to me and to this blog. Julia Munroe Martin has been a supporter of Baby Grand and Making ‘Baby Grand’ for as long as I can remember. It is a privilege and an honor to have her here today to talk about her debut novel, Desired to Death. Her answers to my questions made me think about my own fiction journey – our paths are very similar, our ideas for our novels formed many years ago. So without further ado, I bring you the world’s newest mystery writer.
Name: Julia Munroe Martin (writing as J.M. Maison)
Name of book: Desired to Death (Book 1 of The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series)
Book genre: Mystery
Date published: April 29, 2013 (ebook); paperback in about 3 weeks
Where can we find your book: Amazon
What is your day job? This is it! I am a journalist by education, worked as a technical writer for about 10 years, then as a freelance writer. Now I focus almost exclusively on fiction.
What is your book about? This book answers the question: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? After her daughter leaves for college, former-SAHM Maggie True is faced with an empty nest and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Never in her wildest dreams does small-town Maggie imagine the answer will come in the form of a middle-of-the-night call for help from an estranged friend who has just been arrested for murder. But it does, and as Maggie solves the mystery of who killed A.J. Traverso, a sexy kickboxing instructor, she also solves the mystery of what to do for the rest of her life.
Why did you want to write this book? This idea came to me after my son left for college, when I wondered what the future held. It was a very tough transition for me, especially when a few years later my daughter left for college. Going through that transition, from stay home mom AND writer to “just” work at home writer, wasn’t easy. I’ve always been the kind of person who observes and watches everything and, clearly, makes up stories about it all. And my loose ends led me to ask the question “What if?” or maybe even “If only.”
Yesterday was the last day of my three-month exclusivity agreement with Amazon’s KDP Select (Baby Grand made its debut as part of the program on May 23). For those who don’t know about the program, when you sign on to KDP Select, you agree to sell your eBook only in the Kindle format (you can continue selling your paperbacks anywhere you wish). In exchange for this agreement, you are given some marketing assistance, including several free promotional days, where you can basically give your book away, and also your book is included in the Kindle Lending Library — every time an Amazon Prime member (and there are oodles of them) “borrows” your book, Amazon pays you a royalty.
When I agreed to participate in the program, I looked at it as a limited release of my novel, much like an independent film might be first shown in New York and Los Angeles before going wide, and as a way to cultivate a following in the Kindle community while taking advantage of additional promotional help from Amazon.
Overall, I was satisfied with the results of KDP Select, particularly with a mass email intended for thriller lovers that included my book. Yippee!
But, in the end, I decided to leave the program after my first go-round. Here’s why:
As a reader, I think many eBooks are overpriced.
In my mind, there’s no reason for an eBook to be more expensive than a paperback. And when I find that it is, I will buy the paperback, even if I originally intended on buying the eBook.
For me, as a buyer, the magic price point for an eBook purchase is $4.99. I generally will not pay more than that.
So when it came time to price my own eBook, Baby Grand, I figured that would be the magic price point: $4.99. Case closed.
Imagine my surprise when my literary agent, during a discussion of price, suggested we sell Baby Grand for $2.99 — with a promotional price point of $1.99.
What?! Two bucks?
As a professional writer who has been paid a dollar PER WORD of an article, the idea of selling my entire novel (all 93,000+ words of it) for $1.99 totally freaked me out. My first thought was, This can’t be right. I worried about the perceived value of my product. Won’t readers think it’s cheap or (gasp!) worthless if they only pay $1.99 for it? I can’t breathe. Somebody get me a brown paper bag…
I spent a weekend mulling it over and researching — lots of researching. And in the end, I knew my agent was right.
Well, it’s official. My debut novel Baby Grand will be released as an eBook through Amazon’s KDP Select program. Final draft and cover should be ready for upload by mid-April with publication in late April/first week of May. I’ll keep you posted on the details.
And I’m happy to announce that throughout the publishing process I will continue to work with Stonesong – the New York-based literary agency that signed-up Baby Grand back in January 2010 when the manuscript was merely a third completed. I don’t know what I would do without the support and dedication and amazingness of Judy Linden and the entire Stonesong team who have been staunch supporters not only of this book, but of me, and I am so happy to be doing this with such a dynamic group of women.
In the coming weeks, as we get closer to Baby Grand’s publication date, I will be answering questions you may have regarding this announcement, such as why I chose to self-publish, why I chose to go with Amazon’s KDP Select, etc. And, as always, I will share with you the ins and outs of the process, from copyediting to price-setting to making myself nuts watching sales stats (and I will!).
Expect the big cover reveal in the coming weeks as well as advance praise for Baby Grand!
What’s more, I have plans to make Baby Grand available as a print-on-demand paperback for those of you who like to read books the old-fashioned way (I know you’re out there!). I would include my Mom in this group, but she just told me last week that she would read my novel anywhere, even if it were written on a napkin. :)
I look forward to sharing all the exciting news surrounding the release of this book. Thank you to all of you who have supported me since I started writing this blog (my two-year anniversary is March 30) and for your support of authors and reading.
Today’s Debut Author Q&A represents my first chat with a writer who goes by a nom de plume. Oooh, how mysterious!
Name of book: Zeigler, through Vidster’s Eyes
Book genre: True Crime, Wrongful Convictions
Date published: October 2011
Publisher: Vidster via NOOK Pubit
What is your day job? Lawyer/educator
What is your book about? The eBook is a compilation of the trial and crime scene analysis blog posts I wrote about a quadruple murder. The fifth victim became the accused merely because he survived his attack. DNA analysis supports what he said for the past 35+ years. He remains on death row in Florida.
Why did you want to write this book? I want to reach people who do not (yet) read blogs but who are interested in true crime stories and who care about wrongful convictions.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Explaining in plain English what is clear to me concerning the trial and the crime scene. I have tried to build that up layer by layer so people could follow my train of thought.
What motivates you to write? Mr. Zeigler has a DNA hearing coming up on December 1 in Orlando, Florida. It might be the last time we will have the chance to make our case in court. Much of the evidence has only been blood typed but not tested for DNA. DNA testing is crucial in this case because some of the victims are related by blood. Some of the victims not related by blood have the same blood type. We already have evidence that the blood stains on Mr. Zeigler did not belong to the victim for whose death Mr. Zeigler received the death penalty. That blood actually belonged to his attacker. Both had the same blood type.
Did you experience writer’s block? No, I am so new to all this that the most I experienced was anxiety to push the “publish” button!
How long did it take you to write this book? The eBook is an edited compilation of blog posts. Those blog posts were written between March 2010 and September 2011.
Why did you decide to self-publish? It is fast to upload, and it reaches the fastest growing reading community in a snap!
Was the self-publishing process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? I must admit that I dreaded the process but Nook’s Pubit system is quite easy. I do regret that they do not support links in the text so I had to disable those and refer readers to my blog where they would be able to find the text and the links for further reading. Also, the limitations to photography make it difficult for the eReaders to read the documents but they too are on my blog and can be enlarged there. Now that we are at it, the eBook contains graphic crime scene photography.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That anyone can do it! I just don’t believe that! When I started to place pieces together from the blog posts, all kinds of things occurred to me that I had never considered when I wrote the text as a blog post. Pacing, tension building, character building, use of past tense or present, and so many more issues that I skipped because I initially just wrote blog posts. Turning those posts into a real book would require massive editing. That is also the difference between blogging and writing a book, I guess. They both have their own particulars, requirements, freedom, audience and goals.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? The excitement when the first review pops up, and it turns out that someone was able to follow my train of thought! YEAH!
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I am so new to this that I feel utterly unqualified to give any advice. To promote the eBook, I placed it on my blog, on my LinkedIn profile, in my Twitter bio, and have of course tweeted about it. My followers have retweeted the news as well so it is spreading.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? Not! Still blogging, still analyzing cold cases, and still wondering why those cases get so little media attention.
Do you plan on writing another book? Yes, I have a string of other case analyses and do plan to Pubit those as well to reach those people who do not (yet) read blogs.
My favorite last question: Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? Well, I don’t consider myself a writer. I am a lawyer who blogs. But to get back to Oprah, there has to be a moment of opportunity. And you have to take that opportunity. It is there for a flash of a second and depending on your gut instincts, you recognize it and take it, or you don’t.
It’s Tuesday! That means another edition of Debut Author Q&A! Yippee! :) Today, we interview J.M. Kelley, another Lazy Day Publishing author. (We’ve also chatted with George Pappas and Liz Borino.) I found myself nodding in agreement when J.M. says that perhaps the only thing worse that getting a “no” from a publisher is getting an “I LOVE this, but have to pass…” So true!
Name of book: Drew In Blue
Book genre: Contemporary Romance
Date Published: December 1, 2010
Publisher: Lazy Day Publishing
What is your book about? Drew In Blue is the story of a thirty-six year old loner unexpectedly saddled with the task of raising a baby while trying to sort out his mess of a life. Problem is, he just keeps making things worse for himself. It’s a running theme in Drew’s life, considering he never does anything the easy way. The River’s View, Pennsylvania gossip mill is watching each misstep as Drew juggles a price-gouging babysitter, a major case of artist’s block, and a best friend with an opinion to share on every bungled choice he makes.
Drew’s love life isn’t faring much better. Despite a long history of relationships that never really get off the ground, he falls head over heels for someone new, hoping that she might be the one to end his romantic bad luck streak. After a few abysmally bad false starts, things finally start looking up for Drew. That is, until he finds out (the hard way, naturally) that this new love interest isn’t the one for him after all.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? So many challenges! Drew In Blue was my first novel, so learning how to actually write a book was quite the process. I read books, went to writers conferences and tried to relearn the English language in order to write coherently. As for the book itself, I tackled a fully male perspective in a romance – which was a learning experience all its own being a woman. It was necessary for me to maintain a true male voice, and I had to observe, listen and deconstruct everything about the men in my life in order to be successful.
What motivates you to write? I think the biggest motivator in my writing life is the sheer excitement when story is flowing. It has to be better than any drug, not that I have a comparison basis. But I can’t imagine anything feeling as exhilarating as being on a writing roll. It’s addictive and empowering.
Did you experience writer’s block? I do struggle with writer’s block at times. Often, it’s more that I have too many ideas in my head and selecting just one or two is difficult, so my brain refuses to release any ideas at all. Sometimes I will write a short story to clear the mechanism and get the mind back in order. Other times the only thing you can do is step away for a while and wait until the muse wakes up again.
How long did it take you to write this book? I think it took about a year to write, maybe a year and half if you count edits and revisions. I am working on my second novel, and though I’ve taken a break in order to promote Drew In Blue and relocate to another state, the writing process flows more smoothly. I think subsequent works will be easier to produce now that I’ve learned a thing or two about writing.
How difficult was it to find a publisher? It’s a tough environment, especially when you’re trying to sell a different angle. Drew In Blue is a romance, but it’s from the male perspective, and it’s quite character-driven, which means I’ve bucked a trend or two in the standard romance formula. And sometimes, the only thing harder to take than a “no” is a “I really like this story! But I have to pass.”
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That you can just throw out a story in a few weeks and it’s done. I think the biggest surprise for me was reaching “The End” and realizing I’d actually only just begun. You might have a good idea, but that first draft isn’t what you’re going to try to sell. That’s just the foundation you’ve laid, and once it’s set, you have to really get to work and make it shine.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? The characters became real to me. They spoke to me. I argued with them. Drew sulked when I wouldn’t listen. Kris pouted when I didn’t do things her way. I adore how they came alive, and how they are still very prominent in my mind. I know them. They know me. I doubt I’ll ever shake them, or would want to.
How far along are you on your second novel? I’m about halfway through my second novel, a romance set, once again, in small town Pennsylvania. But while it’s a romance, the story focuses heavily on the relationship between a black sheep of the family and her gravely ill father. The love story can only exist as long as she and her father are healing old wounds. I’m enjoying the synergy of those two plots in the emerging story.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I do believe that sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time, but you’d better be carrying gold when opportunity knocks. I am one of the lucky ones who was given a chance to share her words, but I had to work hard to get there. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into writing Drew In Blue, and I firmly believe my devotion to my characters is apparent. If I didn’t care so much, it would have been just another story getting lost in the slush pile. It’s not just that I have a book to sell. I love my characters, and I want to share their story.
For this week’s Debut Author Q&A, I chat with Liz Borino whose new ebook was recently released by digital publishing newcomer Lazy Day Publishing. (Readers with keen memories will recall that George Pappas, whom I interviewed earlier this month, is also a Lazy Day author.) I found Liz’ description of her book intriguing and thought she totally nailed something that I struggle with: how to describe your book in a tantalizing nutshell. But I’m working on it… :)
Name of book: Expectations
Book genre: Contemporary Romance
Date Published: December 1, 2010
Publisher: Lazy Day Publishing
What is your book about? Expectations depicts the struggle between what we desire for ourselves and our familial obligations. This is personified by Chris and Matt Taylor, identical twins, who are trying to win their overbearing father’s approval and acquire their trust funds. Their best friend and roommate, Aiden O’Boyle, left his family behind in Ireland to pursue a career in dance. Robert Taylor, Matt and Chris’s father, has set certain conditions that must be met in order for them to receive their trust funds. Matt must work at a job he hates, while struggling with alcoholism. Chris has to deny his own desires and deep love for Aiden to get married to Matt’s girlfriend. All the while, their father continues to use extreme measures to ensure his sons’ compliance. The story takes place against the backdrop of preparation for Aiden’s upcoming performance.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Knowing when to stop. My book was 130,000 words when I finished it. I had to do a lot of editing to make it publishable.
What motivates you to write? I can’t not write. It’s the only way to get the stories out of my head, thus preventing them from driving me crazy.
Did you experience writer’s block? I didn’t experience block so much with Expectations as with the sequel. As a matter of fact, Expectations was constantly playing in my head. It became an obsession.
How difficult was it to find a publisher? After several agent rejections, I did another round of edits and started researching publishers that would be a good fit for my book. In the midst of that, I found Lazy Day, or rather they found me. One day, Staci was following me on Twitter. Since I always check out new followers, I went to their website and got so excited because they seemed to be just what I was looking for. Fortunately, I was able to convince them I was what they were looking for as well.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That it’s easy! It’s not, but it is fun and definitely worth it!
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I love creating. I love my characters. Their story enthralled me, and I’m so glad I have the opportunity to share it with the world.
You mentioned that there is a sequel to Expectations? Yes! I’m contracted for the sequel, which I’m working on now.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I agree completely. I believe in making my own luck. To me that means, hard work, passion, knowing when to toe the line and when to smash the rules!
Today’s featured writer in my Debut Author Q&A series is Jesi Lea Ryan whose new romance novel, Four Thousand Miles, was published as an ebook in October. After spending 28 days working around the clock on novel revisions, I can probably use a good love story to snuggle up with.
Name of book: Four Thousand Miles
Book genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance
Date Published: October 7, 2010
Publisher: DCL Publications
What is your book about? When Natalie Spencer loses both her career and marriage in the same morning, the emotional shock sends her on a spontaneous journey to England. There, she is nearly mugged in a Tube station, but an introverted songwriter named Gavin Ashby scares off her attackers. Recognizing Natalie’s fragile state, Gavin offers help and invites her to recuperate from her trauma at his country home. As she adjusts to her new role and surroundings, Natalie finds healing by helping others. Gavin and his family begin to accept Natalie into their hearts, leading her to a choice: abandon her old life in the States and trust in a new chance at love, or flee once again.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? The hardest part for me is coming up with titles. I don’t think there was anything in this book that I agonized over more that what to call it. In the end, I was thinking about how this was really the story of a journey—both geographically and emotionally. The actual distance between Natalie’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Pluckley, Kent, where she ended up, is almost exactly four thousand miles. I figured the title could be a symbol for the lengths we have to go to in order to find healing.
What motivates you to write? I’ve always written in some form or another, usually just for myself. I never thought I dreamed anyone would pay to read something I wrote though. When I was laid off from my job in 2009, I decided to write a novel in order to stay productive. I like being busy. About halfway through the first draft I started to get an idea that it might be good enough to publish.
Did you experience writer’s block? Yes, although never for too long. I spend a lot of time writing in my head. I daydream about my characters and the situations they are in. I replay conversations of dialogue over and over until I’m happy with it. (I rarely ever take notes. I have a good memory.) I don’t sit down to the computer until I’m satisfied with the scene in my head. It just flows out of me naturally. If I get blocked, I walk away from the keyboard and do something else. I think to obsess over a block is the worst thing a writer can do.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I love writing beginnings! Once I conceive an idea, envision the characters and work out the details of the setting, it all comes out of me in a rush. That’s when writing is fun!
How difficult was it to find a publisher? Finding a publisher was easy; it was getting an agent’s attention that I found impossible. In fact, after forty agent queries and not even a nibble, I decided to approach a publisher. I pitched to Jean Watkins, an editor for DCL Publications, at the RT conference in May 2010. She requested I send her the first three chapters of my manuscript. I did, and she offered me a contract before she even read the full manuscript. I can’t say enough how great it was working with DCL.
The book is published as an ebook. DCL Publications primarily publishes in ebook. Only if a book sells well in electronic form will they take it to print. It makes a lot of sense to me, because ebooks require a much smaller investment and therefore less risk to the publisher. My goal is to generate enough sales so that they will want to release it in print form.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That writing the book is the hard part. Trust me, writing it is easy compared to the process of finding an agent or publisher. The agents I have spoken to are all very busy, overworked people. Some get a couple thousand queries from writers in a year. A manuscript has to rise above the rest of the pack to get noticed. Many writers give up because they can’t take the rejection.
Do you plan to do this again? Definitely! I am working on a YA paranormal romance right now. It is shaping up pretty well. I also have a couple of other ideas that I’m holding on the back burner. Now that I have my foot in the publishing door, I intend to make the most of it!
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I completely agree! I can’t stress enough that if a writer wants to get published and sell books, they need to network. I use Facebook and Twitter extensively for this purpose. There is nothing accidental about it. If they don’t know how to utilize these tools, they could benefit from seeking out courses or someone who is social network savvy to teach them. A couple of business classes in marketing and basic money management would also be beneficial. I am currently in grad school working on my Masters of Business Administration. It surprises me all of the time how often I draw on my business knowledge in my writing career.