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(My editor…unfortunately)

Scary, I know, but when you’re trying to get your book out in the busiest time of year, it’s bound to happen.

After the initial shock and denial stage, I immediately tried bargaining with her that I could push back my release a few months if she needed more time and, she first agreed—until she found out the page count of the third book. Clocking in around 640 pages, she just couldn’t promise me that it would get done by March. Since it usually takes another two or three months after the editor is through to make the changes and to send it off to copy editors, I knew I couldn’t make my fans wait that long.

But how could I change editors mid-series? Would this effect the consistency of my books? Could I find someone with the same skill at the same price? How could someone jump into such a complicated series mid-way?

After breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes and then self-medicating myself with too much chocolate, I realized that this might be meant to be (what I always say to myself in difficult situations). My editor recommended a few editors she works with (at a small press publishing company) and said there was one in particular that had a strong background with historicals. I contacted this person, sent off a sample chapter, and was so pleased to see that their styles were incredibly similar (at the same price to boot!).

She seems wonderful and she not only said she’d get right on the project, but that she wanted to read the first two books so she could understand the third book that much more!

So, just a word of assurance to any of you that might get the same shock, there are plenty of fantastic editors out there and situations might arise where you need to find an alternative mid-series. Take a deep breath and send out sample chapters to other recommended editors and feel around for one with a similar style. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to touch base with my editor a month earlier so that I could have had more time to find a good fit, but this time I was lucky to find someone so fast who was willing to start the project immediately. So keep in touch with your editors!

Happy Holiday everyone!

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Thanks to an insightful post by the talented Yesenia Vargas, I decided it would be a good idea to create a separate website for my series. Yesenia does an amazing job discussing the pros and cons of creating a separate website, and even though she ultimately decided to keep one website, I decided that it would be best for me to create two for the following reasons (you know I love bullets).

  • This website is a place to share my trials, triumphs, and observations with other writers. I need you all for support and advice, and hopefully, I might be able to help others as well.
  • Every time I host a giveaway, market, run a promotion, or I’m featured in an interview, I don’t want to spam all my writer friends.
  • If I had a few standalone novels then I would most likely keep them all here, but given that this is a four-book series, it’s probably best to create a separate site.
  • My other site has less followers, but readers don’t seem to want to follow a writer’s blog. They want information about your books, background, promotions, and releases. It’s good to give them what they want. Instead of clicking around on your writer’s blog, lead them directly to your books.
  • I wanted to separate each book on its own page, where I can list everything pertaining to that book (cover, blurb, historical background, and book trailer). That way, the reader only views information about the book they’ve read. I wouldn’t want to spoil the next book in the series for them.
  • I also started additional pages on my other site where I feature fun things such as information about past lives and my favorite reviews left by readers and bloggers.
  • I still have an Infinite Series tab at the top of this blog that leads you to my other site (and vice versa) so they are not completely separate.

Through WordPress site stats, I see that people who search for my books or author name go directly to the other website. This blog gets more views by people looking up writing topics. So I do think it was a wise choice.

Here’s the link if you want to stop on by. On a side note, I’ve released the cover to Infinite Loss, so go check it out!

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I’m waxing sentimental at the moment and heard this song on the radio. Thought it works well as a writer’s theme song.
So, take a writing break, blare this song, and twirl all your query fears or sales woes away!

 

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Happy anniversary to me!

A year ago today I bit my lip and pressed ‘the button’. After many days of shrieking as my finger hovered over the bright yellow ‘Save and Publish’ button on KDP, I finally joined the published masses. Oh, I have learned so much in this last year. Let’s see how my expectations last year compares to where I am now.

Here is the post I put up discussing all that was needed to publish my first novel–I’m adding my updated thoughts in red:

Since posting up my book trailer and releasing my launch date (11-11-11!) I have to be very sure that I’m going to make that deadline. Originally, I thought I could release the book in early September since I wanted to get it out before I had my second child, but with all the work required for launch promo it’s probably best to wait a couple of months to get a handle on the baby blues and sleepless nights. And 11-11-11 is way too cool of a date to pass up!

Well, I’m a list maker (you probably could tell by all my bulleted previous posts) and something about this stacked plan makes me rest a little easier.

1) Get the MS back from the editor-make all changes and send it back out for second check (Still a good idea, but send it out to as many beta readers as possible prior so that you don’t make costly changes after you sent it to the editor…found this out the hard way…i.e. pricey way)

2) Create LLC and small press publishing name: Rock Castle Publishing (Many do not take this step although I’m glad I did.)

3) Send blurb out on forums to get feedback (Folks at the Kindle Board Forum are especially helpful for blurb critiques.)

4) Send cover out to forums to get feedback (Again, see Kindle Board Forum.)

5) Make final changes to book and send out to second copy editor (it’s always good to get two pairs of eyes to catch everything) (Actually, I’ve now decided that three sets of eyes are needed. Even after two fantastic editors, I found a few glaring typos after publishing. It cost me double to have my formatter make the changes. It’s cheaper to pay for another proofreader than to have things reformatted, not to mention the embarrassment of having typos.)

6) Make final changes and read through to make sure it’s perfect (Last chance!) (See notes above about betas and a third proof-reader)

7) Sign up and register for copyright (You actually need to do this after you have the print copy in your hand since you need to send it to them and you only have thirty days to do that once you’ve filed.)

8)  Buy 10 ISBNs (I’ll probably get 10 since I have a series and many more books planned) (Many use ISBNs from each distributor, but I find it is much more convenient to have one number for all vendors)

9) Work with my graphics designer to make the POD cover with author photo and book description (Can’t do this until you have the exact page number from the formatter. Plus, have an interesting chapter vignette made to use at the start of each chapter.)

10) Send out to book formatter for B&N, Smashwords, and POD (Createspace) formatting (I know now they’re called epub, mobi, pdf files. If you’re technically skilled, buy a formatting book and do it yourself. It will save you a lot of money for all the books in the future and it’s much easier to make changes.)

11) Send out to book reviewers to review around launch date (Definitely a good idea except that most of your reviewers have long waiting lists. Query as many as you can, but you can always do this after release. Blog tours are a good idea before a release, but only if they specialize in your genre. I used a book tour and should have done more research on the hosts. Many of them were Romance and YA genre fans.)

12) Get quotes from positive reviewers to put on the back of the book & website (Still haven’t done this. I find it is sufficient enough to include my favorites under the blurb.)

13) One month before release send out trailer on all writer’s forums (Make a book trailer if you enjoy it, but it’s not necessary for release, and I didn’t see any sales from posting on the forum. Anything directly promoting your book doesn’t get many views there. I get at least one view of my book trailer page every day so it does get attention on my website at least.)

14) Ask close bloggers to review my book on their blogs or send out the word of the release (My blogger friends were the best! Definitely try to network among other bloggers and authors and trade guest posts for new releases.)

15) Look up all relevant blogs and ask to guest post (I really should do this more when I find the time.)

16) Put up the book for pre-order on Amazon.com (What was I thinking? Amazon does not grant indie authors pre-orders.)

17) When it’s released send out notification on forums, blogs, and websites (Great idea if you have the time, but I found that free promotions are the only thing to affect sales)

18) Get second book out in a few months! (This is critical to building a platform and driving sales…write more..more..more!)

So there it is. I’ve picked a date and I’m going to stick to it. This is actually real…this is going to happen :)

Yes, it did happen and I’m so proud that it has. I’ve accomplished so much. It may have come by trial by fire, but I’ve reached my first goal. I posted up my expenses after the first release (here) and all I wanted was a couple of sales a day to get back the money I put into the book by my first year. Good news is that I have reclaimed my expenses to date (in addition to the money I invested in my second, longer book). Again, I had to do this by putting the first novel free, but I am very happy with my sales. Now, I’m definitely not topping any best seller lists, but the steady sales and positive reviews keep me going. I’m just now bringing in profit to use to get my third book out.

If I could go back one year would I tell myself to send out more query letters? Should I have listened to my dream agent telling me that true series don’t sell? That I should wait a few more years to get reviews that send me bouncing around the house for days? Delay the ecstasy of holding my first book in my hands for another five years?

No way. I might like to whisper a few secrets I’ve learned along the way (uh um…do NOT sign up for KDP select!), but I would push that publish button days earlier.

What an awesome journey this has been! Can’t wait to see what next year—and another release—brings 🙂

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Not my precious, precious reviews!

I’ve lost three reviews since last week. One day I checked my Amazon page and saw that Infinite Sacrifice went from thirty-two reviews to thirty-one reviews.

Huh?

This has never happened before and so, I go to where I always go for self-publishing news and advice: the Kindle Boards Forum.

And sure enough, there was already a post up about disappearing Amazon reviews. The person who posted claimed to have lost four reviews and other authors continued the thread reporting their losses and ideas why this would happen.

The theories:

1) Paid review
2) Reviews made from the same IP address as one with financial interest in the book
3) You gave a reviewer a gift card to purchase your ebook for review (considered as compensation). Even if the reviewer didn’t receive their ebook in this way from you, they might have received one from another author, and all of their reviews would be deleted.

4) A reviewer posted the same review on other sites (Goodreads, B&N, Smashwords, etc.)

5) Review left by another author (which I think it completely unfair)

6) That you used your review on other venues outside Amazon (some authors have said that they quoted an Amazon review as a book blurb and then their reviews disappeared.)

7) The reviewer deleted the review.

I couldn’t remember which review I lost (even though I sure did try), but I deducted it was a five-star review 😦

The next day I woke up to another review gone. Infinite Sacrifice now had thirty reviews and dropped from 4.6 stars to 4.5. This time I knew which review went missing. One of my favorites, a four star from a man (very few men leave reviews for my series). This time I could compare it to the reasons above:

1) No

2) I seriously doubt that they live near me

3) I didn’t give this reader a gift card and, since I checked out his previous reviews, he wasn’t a frequent book reviewer so I doubt he’d received a book via gift card for review.

4) This reviewer didn’t post up the review on any other sites.

5) He wasn’t an author

6) I didn’t post this review up anywhere outside of Amazon

7) I don’t think that he did since he only left the review a month ago.

So I still can’t figure out why that review disappeared

By the end of the day, I lost a review on my sequel. Infinite Devotion went from twelve reviews to eleven reviews. It was a five-star lovely and detailed review from a reader who purchased a print copy of my book.

I came up with the same answers as above, except:

4) She did post it up on Goodreads as well.

This might be the reason. Although, many of my other reviews that are still up are posted on other sites. Why aren’t they gone? I hope more reviews don’t disappear from this book since you need ten to run a promotion that I have scheduled to run early November.

When reviewers repost their original reviews, they get a sharp letter from Amazon threatening to take away their reviewing privileges. When authors complain, they are threatened with removal of their book.

I wrote an email to Amazon just letting them know how many reviews I’ve lost and that I’m not aware that they break any of their rules. I told them that I understood that they needed to react to the sock puppet accusations, but that what they are implementing is not effective. That they are deleting genuine reviews.

Here is their reply:

“Hello,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

However, I can tell you that reviews are removed from the Amazon.com website for three reasons:

1. The review conflicted with the posted guidelines, found here:  http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines/
2. The review was removed at the request of the customer who submitted the review
3. We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site

Further, we’re unable to provide further details about why these specific reviews were removed from Amazon.com; we can only discuss that with the person who wrote the reviews.

I hope this information helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.”

Can anyone explain #3  for me?

If any of you experience this (whether it be a review you left or one you received) I think it’s a good idea to just send Amazon an email letting them know that you didn’t breech their review rules and something is not working on their end. You’ll probably get the same response as me, but maybe if they get enough of these they’ll fine tune something so this doesn’t keep happening.

What is going to happen? I worry that people will be discouraged from leaving reviews. The reviews I leave for others, take me some time to construct and if some of them were removed I wouldn’t waste my time to write more. Hopefully, this is a one time witch hunt and not that many reviewers were effected.

But if the three people who took the time to leave my reviews notices that their review is now missing, I want to apologize. I don’t know why they were taken down, but I thank you for letting me know what you thought of my books. It was not time wasted because I cherish every review and hope you are not discouraged to write more.
If any of you would like to read more on this, here are a few links:

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,129759.0.html

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,130243.0.html

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,130320.0/topicseen.html

What about you? Have you lost any reviews (on your books or ones you have left for others)? Can you figure out why it’s happened?

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Aw! But they’re so cute!

There has been a lot of chatter lately regarding prominent self-published authors ( link) and traditionally published authors that have been buying positive reviews by the hundreds or writing reviews themselves. One author has gone so far to write negative reviews on rival author’s novels under assumed names (link).

This started a whirlwind questioning how can we trust Amazon’s reviews if so many are purchasing five-star reviews or fabricating them. Many thought that Amazon should have a policy where there would be a bias to reviewers with hundreds of reviews under their belts. Then the review average would lean heavier towards ‘reputable’ reviews.

I’m glad that Amazon has not changed this policy since I’ve noticed that many of my reviewers (five-star to three-stars) have a few reviews or have left a review for the first time. To outsiders, this may look suspicious, but I know that they’re readers who most likely listened to my plea for reviews in my foreword. When I see these first timers it truly touches my heart that they wanted to help me so much that it compelled them to leave their first review.

Before I published, I never left a review for anything. I honestly never realized they were so important. Of course, I read them when deciding between products, but only now do I go out of my way to leave a critical review. I don’t think it’s fair to judge amazon reviews by how many they’ve left before. Most of my reviews are verified purchases with ‘real names’ and that should sway folks to see that they are not sockpuppets. But even if people thought they were false, I could care less. I know that they’re not and I appreciate each one.
Yesterday, I received a nice review on my second book and I realized what a high I got reading it. That’s when it hit me. I would keep writing, even if I only made back all my costs, for these fantastic reviews. They mean so much to me. They fill me with so much happiness and motivate me to keep writing.

Authors who buy reviews, leave their own positive reviews, or thrash another author’s books aren’t going to get very far. Readers will make their own judgements after they’re enticed to try your book. If you have been misrepresenting your book it will catch up to you. Nothing baits a one-star review more than misleading your reader.
How important are reviews to you as a reader? Do you trust five-star reviews? Are you wary of reviewers who have never left a review before?

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I’m just realizing that no matter which writing phase I’m in, I mumble to myself that I wish I was at another stage. Seriously, this is the pattern that is revealing itself:

  • I begin writing my first draft (I wish I was editing, that is sooo much easier!)
  • I start to revise (I wish I was already sending it the editor since my delete-hitting finger goes numb)
  • I get all my corrections back from the editor (I wish I was blurb writing since I pop Motrin endlessly to keep the headache from seeing so much red at bay)
  • I have to take a whole novel and sum it up in a few attention-getting sentences (I wish I was promoting already, can I just pay someone to do this?)
  • Release,  promotion, and attempting to get reviews (I wish I was writing again, that is sooo much easier!)

The sad thing is that this took me three books to figure out. Honestly, I kept thinking the next step was going to be so much better. Only now, I realize that every step has its challenges. I even keep hearing this in the back of my head, “Take a break from the series, this next idea is going to practically write itself!” I’m learning not to trust that voice, it’s an immature, impulsive voice with no long-term memory, bent on distracting me. If I listened to this voice nothing would get done.

So, I know now that every step of self-publishing is tedious. Even a passion can be tedious since any worthwhile art is not created without sweat and tears. I think this is why writers have to fight that rush to get the book out and off their minds.There is such freedom once you move on to the next release.

Do you agree? Is there a step that is pure enjoyment for you or do you find yourself praying to move on to the next phase only to
find you struggle with that one as well?

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