Why I Went All-In With Amazon

eLuna_screenshotThe ebooks of Baby Grand and Baby Bailino are now part of Amazon’s KDP Select program.

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 exclusivity, you are given some perks.

When I first published Baby Grand back in May 2012, I joined KDP Select and left after the first three-month period was over. Why did I leave? I thought it was a successful run, but I wasn’t really interested in offering my book for free (a big perk of KDP Select) and I had friends who were diehard Nook readers who wanted access to the book. So I went wide, as they say, and uploaded it to Kobo, iTunes, Nook, and other resellers. (For more details on why I left KDP Select, I blogged about it here.)

Four years later, things are a bit different. How:

  1. I have a four-year track record with Amazon. And, BY FAR, I have sold more Kindle versions of Baby Grand than I have any other outlet or edition. Amazon SELLS books.
  2. I have found — despite many opinions to the contrary — Amazon to be good to readers AND authors, offering low pricing and high royalties, respectively. And for such a mega-company, the customer service support is efficient and prompt.
  3. The introduction of Kindle Unlimited, which offers more than a million titles and thousands of audiobooks to subscribers. Books that are enrolled in KDP Select are also enrolled into Kindle Unlimited. This helps to increase the discoverability of the Baby Grand Series. Very important. After just a few days in the program, nearly 1,000 pages have already been read by subscribers. (Kindle Unlimited is populated mostly with books written by indie authors, like me. I like the idea of all of us getting the chance to find new readers.)

All this was enough to make me reconsider my participation in the program. It seemed like a good deal. And the right time, particularly with the sequel to Baby Grand on its way. So I decided to pull all the ebooks from Smashwords, the Self-e program (I was sad to leave this one), and others. At least for now. In three months’, six months’, nine months’ time, I can look at my sales and reevaluate. If something doesn’t seem to be working, I can always mix it up again.That’s the great thing about being an indie author. The decisions — writing, editing, publishing, marketing — are mine.

 

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Time to Stick my Sequel in a Drawer

Well, it took a year and a half (the same amount of time it took me to write the first book, coincidentally) but I’ve finally finished writing the sequel to Baby Grand. Woo hoo! Cue confetti!

What’s the next step? Stick the manuscript in a drawer (yes, I’m showing my age), or, perhaps, on the back burner of my life, and refrain from looking at it for at least a month. Why? It’s important to get some distance from your work, and that’s something that only time can achieve. Even when I write feature articles, I can go an hour or even an overnight between reads. Time has a way of revealing all kinds of typos and issues. My students at Hofstra University always hear me say that just because you can write “The End” on a manuscript and upload it to Amazon the same day doesn’t mean that you should. Like my mother-in-law’s chili, manuscripts need to marinate a bit for maximum flavor.

So, a month from now, I’ll go through a round of editing, and I’ll have a better idea of where things stand, because I’m sure there will be more to work through (there always is), but for the moment I am breathing a sigh of relief and giving myself a little pat on the back. My book may not yet be ready for prime time, but the first step of the publishing process is completed, and that certainly is worth celebrating. Yay, me! :)

25 Pages a Week, or Bust!

Those of you who follow this blog know that I wrote Baby Grand, in large part, by writing 1,000 words a day. For my current novel, In the Red, I followed the same regimen, more or less (my work schedule was interrupted quite a bit, however, for this book). As of today, I have a nearly 90,000-word first draft that I need to edit. So, I have set aside these next three months to do just that. Come hell or high water. This. Will. Get. Done. By April 1. You heard it here, folks!

So, I was just staring at my calendar trying to figure out how to plan out a first edit so that I can keep on schedule. I think it’s difficult to know how many pages you can edit in a day. I’m trying to remember how I did a first edit of Baby Grand, but I can’t recall, and I’m too lazy to check earlier posts of this blog. I may have, indeed, met daily edit goals, but this first draft of In the Red is so messy — much messier than Baby Grand was upon completion — that I know it will be nearly impossible. There will be lots of rewriting going on. That’s for sure. So I’ve decided that I will edit 25 pages a week. That gives me a little wiggle room in the day to day. So, by tomorrow, the first 25 pages will be done; by next Friday, the next 25, and so on. That should do it. (Fingers crossed!)  So, off I go. Wish me luck!

How about you? What are you working on in 2014?

Should Authors Heed eBook Reader Data?

A recent New York Times article discusses how technology is allowing authors of eBooks to see all kinds of reader data:

  • How long does it take readers to read your book?
  • Do readers finish your book?
  • Do readers skip chapters? If so, which ones?
  • Do readers linger over certain scenes?

Some critics argue that having this kind of information will make authors more like pushers of product rather than creators of art, catering to the whims of a fickle consumer. They argue the information interferes with the creative process. Personally, I think the notion of authors writing to the market’s needs/wants is not something new. I have author-friends who have been “persuaded” by agents and publishing houses to write about topics that are “selling” or “hot now.” This kind of nudge or coercion, if you can call it that, is now coming directly from the consumer, rather than the publishing industry and, perhaps, has never been at this micro-level before, although you can argue that it has.

Is this kind of stuff good for authors to know? Sure, why not. Information is good. When I attend book clubs, readers tell me all the time what they’d like to see happen in the sequel to Baby Grand, and I always listen — readers have been very passionate about the book’s characters, which is so cool. But the truth is I already know in my heart how the next book will go, and I don’t think anything anyone says will change that.

I guess that’s the key. It’s like parenting. You listen to what’s being said. You read the information that’s out there. The reviews. You consider the suggestions. But then you do what you think is right. If authors feel strongly about their characters and their books, nothing should sway them from the book they set out to write, whatever the reader data says.

Do you agree? What say you, authors? Would you like to have this kind of reader information? Would it change the way you write?

Giveaway on Facebook! Today Only!

It’s been a terrific year for Baby Grand! To say thank you to all of you who have supported my debut novel this year, I’m running a Christmas giveaway over on my Facebook author page. To enter, all you have to do is comment on the giveaway post with your favorite holiday song. Yep, that’s it. The winner will be randomly selected and will receive this BELIEVE tag and silver ball station chain (a $22 total value) manufactured by Origami Owl.

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Why BELIEVE? Because it’s Christmastime, of course, and also because BELIEVING IN HERSELF is something Baby Grand’s hero, Jamie Carter, must do in order to foil the bad guys’ plans and save the governor’s daughter. (Does she do it? I’ll never tell!) You must be over 18 years of age and a U.S. resident to qualify, and (legal mumbo jumbo) this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. (In other words, it’s mine, mine, all mine!) Contest ends Monday, December 23, 2013, at 9 p.m. EST, and the winner will be announced soon thereafter. Click here to go directly to the post. And feel free to spread the word to your friends and neighbors. The more, the merrier! Good luck!

Writing Tip #113: Strive for Believable

I was recently chatting with a fellow thriller writer who admitted he did hardly any research for his books — a fact that he rarely discussed with readers. (“That’s not what they want to hear,” he told me.)

I, however, tell readers all the time that I’m not really a research-hound when it comes to my novels. Maybe it’s because I’m a trained journalist and my day job is spent worrying about the facts, and being accurate, and getting it right, that when I write fiction I just want to let my mind wander into new and interesting places. I mean, that IS the fun of novel-writing, isn’t it?

That is not to say, however, that I DON’T do research. I do. I actually do CONSTANT research, but in very small doses. If I’m writing a scene about, say, Bryant Park in Manhattan, I’ll scoot over to the Bryant Park website to do a quick read on the latest news, and then continue on with my scene. If I decide that my character, Bob, is going to buy a Brooks Brothers suit, I’ll go to the Brooks Brothers website to look at the kinds of suits they’ve got. Hey, in May 2010, I even traveled to Albany, New York, to get a feel for the city, since it is the primary setting for Baby Grand. It’s not that I’m averse to research, but I’m not a stickler for it. I look at novel-writing as playtime, where I can mix fact and fiction.

In my opinion, novels simply need to be believable. As long as readers think that, sure, this could happen, I’m happy. (A recent blog post on Writer Unboxed discussed how thinking too much about the Reality Police will actually derail your writing. Sometimes writers get too caught up these tiny details of whether or not something is true, whether or not they’ll receive hate mail from readers about how they screwed something up, that they can’t manage to write a word.)

Most of the time I go by my own reality compass. Do I think this is credible? real? believable enough for readers to keep reading? I’m sure I don’t get EVERYTHING right, but I’m okay with that as long as I TRY to.

Recently, at a book club appearance, the discussion turned to a scene in Baby Grand where a visitor who has clearly had a few drinks goes to see a death row inmate. One of the ladies in the group said, “There’s no way that guy would be allowed to go in there drunk.”

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When Authors Pull an Anne Rice

Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with news that author Anne Rice posted a link on her Facebook page noting that a blogger had given her novel, Pandora, a bad review and proceeded to rip up the book (literally) for a decoupage project. For those of us who follow Rice on Facebook, she wrote her customary “Comments welcome” above this post, which she often does to promote discussion about various things — usually current events. Although she didn’t encourage anyone to, needless to say, many of Rice’s 740,000+ FB fans barged over to the blogger’s page and let her have it. And some of the comments left for this blogger were pretty hurtful.

Anytime an author interacts with a reviewer, particularly one who has given a bad review, sparks are bound to fly. I agree with the first line of this Mary Sue blog post which discusses the Anne Rice incident: “If there’s one valuable lesson a creator can learn, it’s not to engage with reviewers.” I just feel like there is nothing to be gained by confronting someone who posts a bad review. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and shouldn’t have to defend it or justify it.

The other day I got a lukewarm review for Baby Grand. Hey, it happens. But what especially bothered me about this review was that there was something written that was factually incorrect — it never happened in my book! A friend suggested, “Why don’t you just write a comment under the review and tell the reviewer what’s incorrect?” I shook my head. I told him that I find it lame when authors do that for the reasons I stated above. As I wrote on Anne Rice’s post: Better to just shrug one’s shoulders, I think, and move on.

The other day, a blogger wrote (for the life of me, I can’t remember where — I read so many blogs!) that his grandfather told him never to look strangers in the eye, particularly when you see them acting erratically. You just keep walking. The blogger said he uses his grandfather’s advice when dealing with internet commenters — who, essentially, are strangers.

I agree. When faced with a poor review, rather than pull an Anne Rice or give into the temptation of confrontation, an author’s best recourse is to steer clear and just keep walking.