indie author

I'm a Library Journal Self-E Author!

Several months ago, I submitted two of my books to Library Journal for inclusion in their new Self-E collection. The SELF-E collection is available to certain libraries (and soon many more) to read and check out. All the books in the collection are self-published authors. I submitted in conjunction with the Cuyahoga County Library (Cleveland, OH), which is one of the first libraries to team up with Library Journal for this new innovative program. 

I'm excited to announce that both The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale and The Photograph were picked to be included in this collection. In addition, they are both featured books in the collection!

I'm super excited to be a part of this new program. You can read more about the program from SELF-E's press release below.

SELF-e, created by Library Journal in collaboration with BiblioBoard®, offers indie authors and aspiring writers the opportunity to upload their ebooks, expand their readership, and reach a new audience. Content submitted to SELF-e is evaluated by Library Journal and, if selected, appears in a curated collection of self-published ebooks showcased at participating libraries nationwide. Because SELF-e employs BiblioBoard's award-winning PatronsFirst™ platform, libraries can make local authors' self-published ebooks available to cardholders with no multi-user limitations or waitlists.

Library Journal has already chosen 16 high-quality, self-published books from authors contributing through CCPL, but every author who submitted is able to make their book available through the Indie Ohio module. Library Journal's selections can be found in the highlights section of the Indie Ohio collection. These specially featured titles range from playful children's books like The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale by Kristen Otte to thought-provoking adult dramas such as Scott Burr's Bummed Out City. The selected highlights will also become part of Library Journal's best-of-the-best genre modules and will be featured in full-page Library Journal advertisements later this year.

Cover Reveal for Torn by Kate Sparkes

I am excited to share the release date and cover for Torn by Kate SparkesKate and I are friends in the twitterverse, and she's a great up and coming fantasy writer. Torn is the second in the Bound Trilogy. I sincerely enjoyed Bound and look forward to reading Torn. Torn releases on March 31, 2015 (the same day as I release The Evolution of Lillie Gable) . Great minds think alike! Check out the cover and more details on Torn below! Plus, you can pick up Bound on sale now!

Aren Tiernal knows that safety is an illusion, that his cruel and powerful brother Severn will never forgive his betrayal. Still, returning to Tyrea to challenge Severn for the throne would be suicide. It’s not until Severn himself comes to collect what’s owed to him that Aren decides to risk everything in an attempt to bring down the most powerful Sorcerer Tyrea has ever known. It’s a mission that seems doomed to fail, but it’s Aren’s only chance to save himself, his country, and the woman who thawed his heart.

Rowan Greenwood has troubles of her own. Though she has potential to become a great Sorceress, years of being closed off from her magic have left her unable to control her incredible power. When a pair of ominous letters arrive from her home country, Rowan has to choose between her new life and a chance at saving a family member’s life—and just maybe changing an entire country’s beliefs about the evils of magic.

Torn apart by separate quests, Rowan and Aren will have to discover untapped strengths and confront their darkest fears in order to overthrow a ruler determined to destroy them both.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon. 

Permafree in the Children's Book Market

Permafree is a common term in the indie author world. Many authors will vouch for the strategy. The strategy is to set the first book in a series free (ebook formats only of course) to encourage new readers to try the book. The theory is the reader will like the book and be willing to pay for the rest of the series. Many independent authors have had tremendous success with this strategy. However, most of these authors are also writing adult or young adult fiction, not kids' books. The children's book market is a bit different and its transition to ebooks has been much slower. But there is evidence that more and more kids are reading on iPads and Kindles. With all this is mind, I decided to try permafree for my children's chapter book series. I had three books out, and I wanted to try something to spur some sales.

In the beginning of November, I set the first book in The Adventures of Zelda series free in ebook format on all platforms. I spread the word via social media, and I also had my friend Chubbs the Wampug tell her followers. (Chubbs is a pug celebrity) Since then, I haven't done any other advertising.

After almost three months of permafree, The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale hovers around number 5,000 in the Kindle Free Charts with some spikes. Those spikes are usually around 150 free downloads in one day. Otherwise, my downloads range from 10-50 on a typical day in the Amazon Kindle Store.

In December, I saw record number of paperback sales for the Zelda series as a whole, selling over 100 books. November was strong for paperback sales as well. To date in January, ebook sales for the second and third book of the Zelda sales have risen to their best month with a week left still in the month. I'm selling a few copies of the second and third book each day in the Kindle store.

The other platforms are not doing much for me. Apple's iBooks is the only store that moves copies. Usually, I have about 5 free downloads a day of the first Zelda book with a few sales here and there for the second and third Zelda books. Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc aren't moving any books most days.

It's hard to know exactly what spurned my jump in sales, but I'm sure permafree was a big component. Going permafree made Zelda start appearing in also boughts on Amazon all over the place. It kept me at the top of the free kids' pet books charts. I'm happy with the results so far.

I realize my numbers aren't huge. I realize I'm not making thousands of dollars, but in a very tough children's ebook market, I'm happy with the growth. I'm happy that kids and parents are enjoying the series and continuing with it past book one. I'm also happy with the results because I haven't paid a dime for any advertising yet. That's the next step. And writing book four!

Are there any other children's book or middle grade authors out there? Any success with permafree?

The Never-Ending Revision Process

My part time day job is tutoring children in reading. I teach the mechanics and phonics of reading, along with comprehension. We encourage our students to bring in books to read for fun for the last ten minutes of each session. A few of my students requested to read the first Zelda book, and we read a chapter every couple of days. As an author, I love that kids read and enjoy my books. With the Zelda books, I'm thrilled to receive an email that their son or daughter begged to keep reading Zelda each night before bed. But, when I read my own books again, I want to throw them out the window and start over.

Let me explain. Even when a book is "finished" or published, I find more sentences to change or chapters to revise. It's a never-ending process for me. I haven't read The Photograph since publication for that reason.

One of the benefits of being an independent author is the freedom to revise after publication. That's what I am doing right now. I am revising the first Zelda book. I'm not changing content, but sentence structure and word choice. I wrote the first Zelda book a few years ago now, and since then, my writing has improved.

I don't envision doing this for my other books, but it makes sense for the Zelda series. The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale is my best selling book. I travel to schools and events with this book, and with plans for a fourth and fifth book, the first needs to be strong so readers come back.

The revised version of The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale will be available in a week or two. I'll post when it is available, so pick up a copy (it's free in ebook form right now) and let me know what you think!

Authors - Do you want to revise after your novels are published? Why or why not?

October 2014 Book Reviews

October was a packed reading month. Three of the books I read were brand new releases that I was excited to read right away. They didn't disappoint! Check out the video or the reviews below for more details on the books I read. What have you read recently?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COYSmoAHa5I]

Balanced on the Blade's Edge by Lindsay Buroker Balanced on the Blade's Edge is so much fun to read. The novel is a steampunk romance with a heavy dose of adventure. I love the witty dialogue and narration throughout the book. It made me laugh out loud several times. The characters develop nicely, despite it being a shorter book. The action scenes keep the pace moving, and I even liked the steamy romance sections. I am excited to keep reading this series by a great indie author! 6 out of 7 stars

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - The Throne of Glass series evolves in this third installment. The first two books were action packed and fast paced with some character development along the way. In this third book, the structure changes. The story focuses on character development and world building with very little action, especially compared to the first two books. This makes the book seem slow at parts, especially in the first half. I knew the story was building to something greater, so I didn't mind, but I could see how the slow pace could turn off readers. However, the last third of the book was great. I couldn't put it down at that point. The POV chapters from Manon (a witch) also feel misplaced and disconnected, but I am confident it will make sense in the greater story arc of the next book. I think this is morphing from a light young adult fantasy to a high fantasy series. I like it. 6 out of 7 stars

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - I loved The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson's debut novel, so I was excited to read this one. It didn't disappoint. The story is stunning. I adored the dual point of views from the varying time periods. I also liked the element of mystery to the novel and figuring out exactly what happened to Noah and Jude. But most of all, I loved the story of Noah and Jude. It was so good. I did feel a little bogged down with the long chapter lengths (especially since it's YA), and some of the quirky language. I also wonder if teens are truly the target audience of the book. It just didn't sit with me as a novel teens will flock to reading. Maybe too literary? Either way, I liked it. You probably will too. 6 out of 7 stars

Unstrung by Kendra C. HighleyUnstrung is the first in a new YA series from Kendra Highley. Unstrung is a sci-fi, dystopian novel where artificial humans were created to be a new workforce. As the technology increases, these artificial humans or "Bolts" have become more and more human. Lexa, the main character, is on a crusade to free these bolts from their slavery. I enjoyed this novel. The pacing of this story was great–it really kept the plot moving. I found myself intrigued at the greater story arc about the bolts and this society. With so many dystopian novels these days, I am curious how Highley plans to differentiate Unstrung. I did want a little more character development and backstory, but I hear there is a prequel on the way to address it. Overall, Unstrung is a fun, enjoyable ya novel, and I'm looking forward to more in the series. 6 out of 7 stars

 

The Girl in Between by Laekan Zea Kemp - The Girl In Between is an intriguing young adult novel. Bryn, the main character, suffers from a condition that causes her to sleep for days or weeks at a time in a coma-like state. She starts having vivid dreams during this state, and meets a boy named Rowan in this dream. The dreams cause her to search for him when she's awake while she meets with doctors searching for a cure. We also learn about her family, friends, and school for Bryn. On the positive side, I loved the unique concept of the story. It caught my interest, and I am intrigued to see where the story goes, especially with the cliffhanger at the end. I did find the pacing a little slow for my liking, but I'm not a reader who likes extra fluff and exposition.  5 out of 7 stars

 

 

Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best books I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday is finished!

What is this pug holiday book?

It's a PDF with six stories. Five are holiday themed Zelda stories from the first three Zelda books. (You can see the list below). If you haven't read any Zelda books, the holiday collection is the perfect introduction. The stories are great bedtime stories for children and the collection is free.

If you already read the Zelda books, don't despair!

Batpeach

The sixth story is a brand new exclusive story. It's the first in a new Zelda spinoff series starring Peach! Well, really it's starring Batpeach, and the spinoff series will continue with more volumes in the future.

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday is free, but only available to my email list. Simply click here and sign up. I also email my list 1-2x a month about new releases, promotions, and stories, so you receive a free pug book and updates on when to grab my books for cheap!

I hope you enjoy the pug holiday fun!

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday

A Pug Scary Story from The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga A Pug Thanksgiving from The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga A Pug Christmas Story from The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale Zelda Meets Peach from The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga The Easter Egg Hunt from The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach Batpeach - Volume 1

The Kindle Countdown Experiment

My young adult novel, The Photograph, is currently Amazon exclusive. I decided to go exclusive to try out some of the promotional tools KDP select gives you. With the Zelda release last month, I decided to wait until October to try the promotions. Last week, I ran a Kindle Countdown Deal from Sunday through Saturday on The Photograph. I set the price to $0.99 all week, a $3 discount from it's regular $3.99 price. Here's what I learned:

  • Kindle Countdown Deals will not sell books on its own. On days I didn't run an ad, the sales numbers didn't rise.
  • Running a Countdown Deal in conjunction with ads is a good strategy. I set up a few low cost promotions during the week. BookSends and The Fussy Librarian netted me good sales, enough to move my book up the Amazon charts in my sub categories. I topped at #5 in YA Sports Fiction and charted in a few other categories.
  • I wish I had submitted to ENT earlier. I was too late to get the week I requested. With ENT and the other two sites, I think The Photograph could have hit the top spot in the category.
  • Kindle Countdown Deals net authors a 70% royalty, even at a $0.99 price point. The higher royalty rate made the sale much more worthwhile.
  • The Photograph's cover and description will sell books if I get it in front of readers. The Photograph is a contemporary YA with mystery, basketball and a little romance, so it's not in one of the best selling genres. It hasn't sold well yet, but I think it can do okay with some extra push (and the next two books in the Eastbrook series available).

My remaining question:

  • I will stay in KDP select for another 90 days. However, I have mixed feelings about whether I should run a free promo or another $0.99 deal in this section. I think free will move more copies, but I'm worried free doesn't equal people who will actually read the book. Any thoughts out there wordpress universe?

Overall, I'm happy with the deal. I'm glad to have my book in the hands of more readers. I look forward to trying more tactics when my second young adult novel is published in 2015.

What has been your experience with Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Promos?

Author Spotlight with Eva Lesko Natiello

TMB headshot

Today I am excited to welcome Eva Natiello to the blog for an Author Spotlight. Eva is the author of The Memory Boxa dark, psychological thriller (think Gone Girl). Eva writes in a genre that I normally don't read, but I picked up her book because we share a copy editor. I couldn't put the book down, and I'm excited she is on the blog today.

Let's start with a brief introduction. Tell us a little about yourself your novel The Memory Box.

Let's see, I grew up in New York and went to school at SUNY Albany where I studied psychology. After I graduated from school I moved to the Bahamas for my first job as a singer. Eventually I moved back to New York and worked in the cosmetics industry as a communications and p.r. executive. It was never in my master plan to write a book. But some things just happen in life. When I had my second child and decided to stay at home with them, that's when I started writing.

The Memory Box is a story about a at-home mom of two (that sounds familiar!) who Googles her maiden name and discovers a past she doesn't remember. (By the way, that's where the similarities end...)

The Memory Box is a dark, twisty psychological thriller. Where does your desire to write this type of fiction originate?

Well, I'm fascinated by misconceptions. When things are not as they appear or seem. We make all sorts of judgments about people based on how they look, what they wear, how they talk, where they live, etc. And these assumptions in many cases can be wrong. I also am fascinated with the idea that bad people are not all bad and vice versa. I like to explore moral dilemmas. And I love to write suspense and thrillers because they are essentially literary puzzles. I guess I am a natural problem solver, so I do like to figure things out.

As I write this question, The Memory Box has 156 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars in a few short months since its June release. I also know The Memory Box was downloaded over 27,000 times during a free run on Kindle. Did you have a specific marketing strategy when you launched your book? Also, how did you encourage readers to review your book?

Before I released The Memory Box, when I was in the beta reader stage, much of the feedback was similar. My readers were saying that it was a very fast read. Many reviewers say this as well, and that it's hard to put down. I knew that it was the kind of book that would be great for book clubs. So one of my main marketing strategies was to try to get it read by as many book clubs as possible. I deliberately wrote a list of Discussion Questions and placed them in the back of the book, both the ebook and paperback. I also offered to attend book club meetings where my book was being discussed. Not only is that so much fun to do, you get to talk to people who want to help you succeed and one of the things you can ask them for are reviews. I have noticed that writing reviews is not everyone's cup of tea, even if they loved the book. It freaks them out to have to write something for a writer! They get uptight about this. The main thing I've tried to do, is to be grateful and thank my readers as much as I can. I tell them I appreciate them reading the book and spending time to write reviews or simply telling other people about it.

This question is out of pure curiosity since we both work with Candace Johnson of Change it Up Editing. How do you find Candace and decide to work with her?

Once I decided to self-publish, I knew I had to invest in certain aspects of the book so that it looked and read as professionally as possible. The first person I needed was a copy editor. I searched a great deal for the right copy editor and found Candace on Facebook, of all places! There were certain things I was looking for in a copy editor, obviously a lot of applicable experience on interesting projects, experience in a traditional publishing house, someone who was active on social media, availability in my time frame and the right chemistry. What I mean by that is, all the editors I was considering did a sample edit for me, and I really focused on how they edited and what they edited. This is a great way to see beforehand, if you think the relationship will work.

Usually writers like to read in the same genre that they write. What are some of your favorite books and genres to read?

Okay, this is going to sound very strange. I do not like to read in the genre I write. I get nightmares very easily and have trouble sleeping normally, so I can not read thrillers or watch those types of movies. I can only write them. I can't explain it. I think I know my characters so well, that I am never scared of them. As screwed up as they are, they do have redeeming qualities! One of my favorite books, and the one I credit to turning my writing around, is White Oleander. I think it's beautifully written, while tackling some dark subject matter. I also like to read historical fiction and humor (and I love to write humor, too!). Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a recent book I read where the quirky characters made me laugh out loud. A few other recent favorites are: Midnight Circus, Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Paris Wife, Then Kitchen House.

Finally, what is next for you?

I have started another dark twisty psychological read and hope to get back to spending some quality time writing it. But as you know, book marketing never sleeps!

Thanks again to Eva for taking the time to answer a few questions. You can learn more about her at her website or head over to Amazon to buy a copy of The Memory Box

Creating a Fantasy World - Learning on the Fly

In case you missed my last blog post, I mentioned one of my future projects is a fantasy series called the Ozais series. I have a first draft written for the first book, and I am really excited about the book. The series originated from a recurring dream I had as a kid. In the dream, my house and neighborhood was under water so we had to canoe from house to house. (Somehow the houses weren't flooded). Anyways, I used this water idea to develop a unique setting for the series. As I wrote the first book, I found myself having to stop to straighten out details and settings unique to the fantasy setting. If I had more foresight, I would have outlined and planned beforehand. (But where's the fun in that?)

For anyone who may be writing a fantasy novel or want to write a fantasy novel, here are a few tools I used to create a fantasy world on the fly.

Maps & Diagrams

My setting is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of the Ozais setting. Although I'm not artistic (see below), I cracked open my notebook and started drawing. They are not works of art, but they help me greatly. If I can picture where a place is and how to get from place A to place B, writing the story becomes easier. I plan on redoing many of these maps and diagrams before I revise the first draft.

IMG_1384

Setting Descriptions

Along with the maps and diagrams, I also wrote out detailed descriptions of the various places in my world. Besides writing a physical description of the terrain and weather, I listed the people who lived there and why.

Character List

I usually create a character list for my projects. However, it's usually a one page document with the important names listed and a few defining characteristics. For my contemporary YA, I can keep the characters appearance and personality straight in my head, so I don't need to reference it often.

For the Ozais, I created a document for each major character in the story. Since we meet some characters early in the first book, but we won't see them again until book 2, I needed more details. Plus, there are more characters and it's much more complex. The character sheets make sure my brain doesn't implode with too much information.

Magic System

The magic system in fantasy novels can make or break it. It needs to be clear and make sense in the context of the world you created. This is tricky. I found thinking and planning in terms of cause and effect is beneficial. If my character can do this, what effect does her power have on others? What effect does it have on the world? Why can she do this special thing?

I don't have a specific plan to help you create a magic system, but in my opinion, ask lots of questions and answer them.

Timeline

Finally, I created a timeline for my world. In the timeline, I listed everything that happened day by day during the novel. I also wrote notes on what happened before and after the first book took place. I will continue to add to the timeline. Eventually, it might hang on my wall above my office for reference. Timelines are awesome.

By the way, my timeline is different than an outline. My outline was written before the book was written. For me, the outline tells the general steps the characters take to advance the plot. It allows for flexibility and some improvisation. I put together the timeline as I write the book so I can refer back to it. For a timeline example, this character punched that guy on this day, then he took a nap. Two characters get into an argument would be the outline example.

Those are the tools I used to create a fantasy world. For any fantasy authors out there, what do you do?

The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach

IMG_1232

IMG_1232 Zelda, Peach, and I are excited to announce that today is launch day for The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach! This book is the third in the Zelda series, and we think they get better every time. If you are new to the Zelda series, this video will tell you a little more about the series or you can read the first chapter here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgDNxsRI21k]

We hope that Zelda can move up the Amazon charts, so if you are thinking about buying The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach for yourself, for your kids, your nieces and nephews, your grandkids, or the kids across the street, go ahead and take the plunge. All Zelda books are available in ebook and paperback form. In addition, you can now order a personalized, pawtographed paperback copy!

Buy Now:

AmazonApple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo.

Click here to order a paperback book signed by the author and Zelda!

If you are new to the Zelda books and you want to start with book one, head over to my Zelda series page to purchase the first book.

We also encourage you to check back here on the blog each day this week for more Zelda, Peach, and pug fun.

How to Win Pawtographed Books

On Wednesday September 3, I will be giving away three pawtographed books to #pugchat winners. Join the pugs on twitter from 7pm-8pm. For those unfamiliar with #pugchat, here is an introduction.

You can join the Facebook launch party on Thursday September 4 from 7pm-10pm EST. I will be posting fun pug and Zelda facts, hosting Zelda trivia, and giving away signed Zelda books.

Finally, I will be hosting a #zeldachat on Twitter from 8pm-9pm on Thursday September 4th for my twitter and #pugchat friends. During that time, Zelda will be taking your questions, and participants have a chance to win a pawtographed set of Zelda books! Simply follow the hashtag #zeldachat during that time.