Smashwords Gifts and Underground Railroad Stealth

Dear Reader,

I sit here at my desk eating a McDonald’s McGriddle and pondering the odd combination of a sandwich that uses pancakes for bread. The rain is pouring though it is the middle of January in Ohio. The world is an odd place.

Last night, I decided I would redesign the cover for my short story, Mad Maxine. The first cover was, admittedly, thrown together. I thought I needed a photo-realistic cover for whatever reason, and that it needed to match my historical fiction covers.

Fact is, Mad Maxine is a contemporary short story that is so different from my historical fiction, I’m certain I was confusing readers. Maxine is a smoker, she’s just lost her husband and the story location is at his grave site. The original cover showed none of that.

So on Sunday, I pulled out my sketchbook and began drawing.  I scanned it in, did some Photoshop magic, and uploaded it to Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.

Should be live on all those sites and propagated across Kobo, Sony, etc, over the coming days.

Smashwords Gifts

While at Smashwords, I noticed they have a beta “gift a book” option. The way it works is when you purchase the book, you submit the recipient’s email and they get an automatic email with instruction to get their copy.

This is a great option not only for readers giving gifts to readers, but also for authors who are holding contests! I hate the fact that when I want to give a free book to a reader, I usually have to send them this email stating “here is a 100% coupon for you to download the book.” Now, it seems Smashwords takes care of it for me. Huzzah!

Underground Railroad Stealth

In terms of my research for The Rebel’s Touch, I hit a gold mine while reading John P. Parker’s autobiography. Parker was an escaped slave who became a very successful businessman in the Cincinnati and Ripley, OH areas. He also happened to be a primary operator for the Underground Railroad. First off, this book reads like you are sitting at an old southern man’s kitchen table, listening to him tell his story. It is FANTASTIC! I often find myself reading a passage out loud, slowing down my natural rhythm, trying to hear how he would have said that particular sentence.

Parker’s attention to detail and storytelling is the kind that gets passed down in storytelling families. I know, I’m in one of them. My father once told me a story about how a crocodile used to eat lying children that sounded so plausible, I really thought he lost a brother who lied to this super smart, Peter Pan-esque crocodile.

Anyway, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Ripley, OH during the Civil War years and those leading up to it. He gives names, describes where the houses were, and the terrain he had to cross when leading contraband (what the Union army called escaped slaves) across the Ohio River from Kentucky.

I have at least three more books I want to read about Ripley Ohio and John Parker. Because I live in Ohio, and Ripley is only a couple hours from me, I want to visit the town and get a feel for the landscape. Many of the original houses still stand, sentinels on the river. I need to write to the local historical society to get additional resources, and I plan to visit the Ohio Historical Society to see what else they can tell me.

I want to get The Rebel’s Touch out sooner rather than later. But I also want to do a good job of it; I commonly hear that Haunting Miss Trentwood felt a little rushed, and maybe it was.

So yes, with the new year comes lots of grand plans. I mean to enjoy this research process, though, and I hope to translate it into a great book.

Best,

Belinda

Goodies Galore

Dear Reader,

Man, that illness took me out last week! I’m still sleeping an inordinate amount of time, so I’m keeping this blog post short.

I had a guest post at Indie Horror last week where I talked about how Mr. Trentwood, my ghostly father in Haunting Miss Trentwood surprised me time and again… even though I created him! Check it out, it was fun talking about how my character got away from me in the best way possible.

Happy eBook week! Starting March 6, get a 50% discount for Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood with coupon code RAE50; and 100% off Mad Maxine with coupon code RE100 at Smashwords!

Also, Stacey Wallace Benefiel is discounting her books, so you should scoop those up as well. She’s tons of fun to read, and I know, because I read her Day of Sacrifice short and really enjoyed it.

That’s really all the writing I had energy for… my apologies. Enjoy your discounted books!

Best,

Belinda

Using “Free” as a Marketing Tool

Dear Reader,

This guest post is brought to you by fantasy author Lindsay Buroker. You can visit her e-publishing blog for more information on internet marketing, search engine optimization, and online advertising, as it relates to marketing one’s books. She’s a new author, but she’s been making a living online for nearly a decade now.

Can Giving Away a Free Ebook Help Sell Your Other Work?

Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, you’re most likely on your own for marketing. It’s hard getting noticed in the beginning, too. I’m a new ebook author myself, so I know all about it!

I’ve seen some debate when it comes to giving free ebooks away. Is it a way to create interest and possibly sell your other works? Or is it a waste of time?

Numerous people argue, surprisingly vehemently, that folks who hurry to grab freebies aren’t interested in paying for anything–ever. (And they probably still go to their parents’ houses to have mom handle the laundry, too!). I’ve seen fewer folks tote the benefits of giving away a free ebook, but I decided to try for myself. I figured it couldn’t hurt, and it might help.

As I write this, it’s been about two weeks since I released a fantasy short story as a free ebook at Smashwords and Feedbooks. It’s had more than a thousand downloads.

I chose to use the same main characters as were starring in the novel I had coming out a few days later (one I charge for). At the end of the free ebook, I included an excerpt from that story. I also included a link to the novel’s page at Smashwords with a not-so-subtle hint that readers who enjoyed the free adventure might like to purchase the longer piece.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that this flooded my inbox with oh-my-gosh-someone-bought-your-book notifications, but I believe it is what led to my first few sales at Smashwords. I’ve heard authors say they sell twenty books at Amazon for every one at Smashwords (since it’s a much smaller marketplace). I’m well above that ratio right now,  even though I’ve worked harder at promoting my Amazon link. I’m positive my free ebook is what’s been responsible for those Smashwords sales.

It’s early in the process, too, and I’m assuming folks will continue to discover the freebie in the months and years to come. I’m hoping it can continue to be a marketing tool for me. (Especially when Smashwords, which doubles as a distributor, gets it out to Barnes & Noble and other retail sites that accept free ebooks but don’t let you upload them directly.) 

If you think you’d like to try releasing a free ebook of your own, here are a few suggestions:

Make your free ebook Book 1 in a series or try using the same characters that star in your other works

I don’t have enough novels written yet to release a free “Book 1” as the entry point into a multi-ebook series, or I’d definitely try that. Smashwords fantasy author Brian S. Pratt made well over $100,000 from his ebooks last year, and he gave the first one away free while charging for the rest. I don’t know if his first novel ends in a cliffhanger or not, but it sounds like a good way to get people to go on and buy more in the series!

Since I couldn’t do that, I used a short story I had sitting on my hard drive, collecting virtual dust. It’s a fun little fantasy adventure that stands alone, but I also hope it leaves readers wondering about the characters. How did such an unlikely pair get together? Why are they wanted by the law? Etc, etc. etc. These questions are of course answered in the novel.

I suspect putting out a free ebook that’s unrelated to your other titles would be the least likely to help with sales, but I’d be happy to be proven incorrect.

Upload your ebook in a number of places

Once you’ve chosen your freebie, it’s time to get it out there to the world. The great thing about free ebooks is there are numerous websites that accept them. As I mentioned, I started with Feedbooks and Smashwords, but others I’m checking out are Fictionwise, Scribd, and the Bit Torrent network. (If you have any others you’d recommend, please mention them in the comments.)

Make sure to let readers know where to buy your non-free ebooks!

Most e-readers let you click on links in the ebook itself, so don’t be shy about including a link to your author page and/or a sales page for a related book. The whole point here is to market your other work, so be sure to tuck in those details. You may want to try including an excerpt as well.

What do you guys think? Is a free ebook a good marketing tool?

Cyber Monday Sale!

cyber-monday

Dear Reader,

It’s Cyber Monday, which is the Black Friday for online shopping. Those of you not in the United States, this is the day to get the best online sales.

Digital Discounts

Cyber Monday is also the day to buy my books. I’m giving you premium discount codes if you sign up for my email newsletter. Sign up by December 1, 2010 to receive 66%-off coupon codes for both digital copies of Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood.

66% off the list price? This means each book will cost you about a dollar. A dollar. Why yes, I am enabling you to impulse buy. It’s the holidays! Give yourself a break.

If you don’t want to sign up for the newsletter, that’s okay. By reading this blog you are enrolled for the 50%-off discount code, listed below. Yay for holiday season and books that only cost $1.50! Click the book title to access the purchase page, and use your discount code at checkout.

All codes will be active until December 25, 2010.

Holiday Boxed Sets

You also have access to a select number of boxed sets, as listed below, for your holiday shopping pleasure. All books will be autographed and come with a variety of swag including postcards, magnets, and mini bookmarks.

  • Two sets of Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood, tied together with a ribbon and a note addressed to the recipient of your choice. Priced at $25 + S/H.
  • Two sets of Haunting Miss Trentwood with the famed coffin soap. Priced at $20 + S/H.

To order a boxed set, contact me with your interest. Since these are limited edition sets, it’s a first-come-first-served sort of deal, unfortunately.

Belinda! I want to read more books!

It is so flattering to hear that people want more from me. It also puts the pressure on, but in a  delicious sort of way. I’ve begun brainstorming for the next book, tentatively called The Secondhand Sister. It’s a working title, so go with me on this.

The book picks up months after Haunting Miss Trentwood with a different set of characters who just so happen to know some of the characters from HMT. It’s almost… like… I’m writing a series. Which is weird, because I tend not to like reading series. But this is what the characters want, so I guess I’m going with it.

Best of luck with your Cyber Monday shopping!

Belinda

Releasing the Ghost

Dear Reader,

Haunting Miss Trentwood is now available for pre-print publication reviews!

What does that mean? It means the digital version is available on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com. Huzzah!

If you would like to receive a free copy for an honest review of either Haunting Miss Trentwood or my first book Catching the Rose there are a couple of ways to contact me…

  1. The Goodreads invitation
  2. Through Facebook
  3. Comment on this blog post with your email

All I ask is that you agree to provide a review on Smashwords.com, Goodreads.com, Amazon.com, and/or Barnes and Noble.com to receive your free copy. When you contact me I will send a coupon for a free purchase from Smashwords.

My goal is to get at least three reviews on each website by Halloween. Don’t have time, or is your to-be-read list too long as it is? Tell your friends and family about this offer.

Haunting Miss Trentwood Tea Tasting!

My sister and Ava Misseldine
My sister and Ava Misseldine

Haunting Miss Trentwood is set in England, which means, of course, we ought to drink tea to celebrate the launch of the book. Are you, your friends, or family in the Columbus, Ohio area? If so, go to the main branch of the metropolitan library on October 27, 2010 at 6:30 PM.

I have been working with local tea salon owner Ava Misseldine to select teas which represent the main characters of Haunting Miss Trentwood. We will be talking about the book, my experience as an independent publisher, and more.

Print copies of Catching the Rose (and hopefully Haunting Miss Trentwood… postal service, don’t let me down!) will be available for purchase.

I hope to see you there!

Best,

Belinda

Worderella Tries Online Marketing

Dear Reader,

I’ve spent most of this week adjusting to all the responsibilities of my new job, as well as calming down a bit with this whole self-publishing thing. I’m the sort of person who sets her mind on something and will work until she collapses to achieve her goal.

But that isn’t healthy, smart, or sustainable if you’re seriously planning on going into a new business venture, which is what I consider this self-publishing journey. I am determined to become a micro-business owner, which I contend is different from a small business owner.

#amwriting

And, I’ve been writing. After I complained about how I hadn’t written in two weeks, I am now on a four day streak of writing at least 750 words a day. Go me! It turns out that once I get past 600 words, I get into the flow of things and my characters stop being characters and start being people.

Online marketing as an author

I felt so good about finishing chapter twelve of Haunting Miss Trentwood tonight that I thought I’d dabble in some marketing.I’ve uploaded the first section of my book, Catching the Rose, on Scribd. I’ve also uploaded an essay I wrote about how English accents are undeniably hot to American women, and my theory why. All tongue-in-cheek, of course.

I’m maintaining a spreadsheet so I know exactly what I’ve spent, where I’ve marketed, what I’ve uploaded, etc. I’m sharing this spreadsheet because I believe in iteration. I’m certain there are many of you who are better marketers than me. You’ve been at it longer, or it’s closer to your day job responsibilities, or you’re just not as shy as I am from the get-go.

Paying it forward

I’m also collecting useful links with my Delicious bookmarks. It’s a small list right now. With your help, we could make an awesome collection of links for authors trying to self-publish, market, etc. Whenever you see something I should link, send me a tweet or leave a comment.

And now, it’s time for Miss Worderella to go to sleep.

Worderella Becomes Her Own Hero (i.e. Cover Designer)

So I’ve been meaning to release my first book, Catching the Rose, as in eBook format, but wasn’t sure where to begin. As always, I turned to my friend Zoe Winters to see what she’s done, because let’s face it, she has her hand in every pot when it comes to self-publishing.

Smashwords, it seemed, was my answer. Smashwords is an

ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device.

The really cool thing about this is I can upload a Word document and they do all the formatting for me. My book is now, as far as I can tell, available to read in the following formats:

  • HTML
  • Javascript
  • Kindle
  • EPub
  • PDF
  • RTF
  • Sony Reader
  • Palm readers
  • Plain text

How crazy is that?? I’m pretty excited, I’d like to see what sort of sales I get this way. But again, just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it will sell. I should market the new format, right? Well, I have been meaning to update the branding of the book, and since this version is owned completely by me I felt funny using the cover provided by Aventine Press, the subsidy that originally printed my work.

Turns out stock art is an amazing thing, if you find exactly what you want. I searched through istockphoto.com, gettyimages.com, and fotolia.com, and decided that Fotolia was giving me the results I wanted. The image below is the one I chose for Catching the Rose.

There is a masquerade ball during the book, so the masks are absolutely perfect. I wanted to step away from the ultra-pink of the original book, so the blue background really pulled me in. Veronica, the main character, has blond hair, and Brad, the interest, has brown hair. I looked for an entire week at stock photography and my jaw dropped when I found photos by Andrey Kiselev. Just perfect!

But of course, an image isn’t enough to make a book cover. I played around during my break at work today with Pixlr, a great online alternative to Photoshop just to see what I could do with the image (see below). After an hour, I had something I was in love with, and I couldn’t wait to get home so I could buy the image and make the cover for real in Photoshop.

You see, I’d like to do a reprint of Catching the Rose, give it an updated look. So I need a decent-sized file that will print well, as well as make a cover design that will scale to a thumbnail nicely. Smashwords requires that you upload an image that is at least 600 pixels in height. I’m not sure why, perhaps to fit all the different eReader formats. So the final version is below.

What do you think? I’d love to get some feedback. To thank you ahead of time, I’d like to give you a discount if you’re interested in supporting me in my first self-publishing venture. To receive a discount on Catching the Rose (Smashwords edition), type SWS25 into the promotional field at checkout.