Tag: marketing

Two Paths to Publishing: Which is Right for You?

This blog has often featured articles that writers might find helpful. Not because I’m an expert on this whole “writing gig” but because I’ve done some digging. I want your road to publishing to be smoother than mine has been.

One of the big questions I still find myself debating is about HOW to get published. Should I take the traditional path? Or should I self publish?

Recently, one of the writing teachers I follow wrote a long blog post on the subject. The teacher is Tim Grahl and you can read his post here.

Not that I’m trying to convince you not to click over to Tim’s site, but the post is LONG. And I can sum it up in two sentences.

If you want someone else to do the work of publishing your book, you want to go traditional. If you want to control all of the ins and outs, and don’t mind spending time as an entrepreneur, self-publishing is probably the road for you.

Too simple? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

Traditional

This used to be the path of “authentic” authors. But it’s a LONG and arduous path with a lot more querying and pitching than actual writing.

Here it is:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research agents and publishers
  4. Craft a killer query and synopsis
  5. Start emailing your query to the members of your list
  6. Attend conferences to pitch agents and editors in person

Don’t sit around and wait, my friend. You’ll grow old and might ruin your computer from repeatedly clicking the refresh button on your mail inbox.

Once you send the queries out, it’s time to begin writing something new. Authors from either path agree on this.

Self-Publishing

This used to mean your manuscript couldn’t get past the gatekeepers. Let’s be honest, we’ve read some books that weren’t publish-worthy by snagging up free reads on Amazon.

But there are plenty of books that debuted as self-published and made their way into a movie deal or a television series. I’m thinking of The Martian not 50 Shades.

The traditional path generally takes long and probably won’t net you as much of a return on a “per book sold” basis, but check out all the steps for self-publishing:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research editors
  4. Hire an editor
  5. Research cover designers
  6. Hire a designer
  7. Fix manuscript according to editors suggestions
  8. Hire a proofreader
  9. Deal with changes to the cover
  10. Upload the final products to your publishing platform of choice
  11. Figure out how to market the book

Yes, I could have added a step for researching and hiring a formatter because it isn’t as easy as one might think to get the book ready for publishing. But it can be done with a minimum of hair pulling and several review phases with CreateSpace.

I’ve been guilty of including my small indie publisher in it’s own realm because it doesn’t require the wait times (nor have the distribution) of the big publishing houses.

There is a third path. It’s the one I’ve been traveling for the past three years.

Hybrid

I have manuscripts I’m actively trying to sell to agents or publishers. This is me on the traditional path

I’ve contracted many stories and novellas with a small publisher, so this is probably me on the traditional path, too.

I also have a novella and two Bible study books that I published myself using CreateSpace.

Some authors have books on Amazon they’ve published, and then they sign with a big house and contract for other books that will soon be on Amazon under that publisher’s control.

Either way, that’s the hybrid path. You aren’t sold on getting published ONE way.

Although Grahl suggests giving yourself a year on a path before deserting it, I think you can walk the middle line as a hybrid author. You’re likely to discover which trail appeals to you and you’ll see your name in print rather than waiting for an acceptance letter from an agent or publisher.

Maybe it really is as easy as deciding if you want to spend your time writing (and marketing because you do that on either road) or if you want to embrace the business side of publishing while you’re writing.

What experience do you have with publishing paths? Do you have other advice that will help muddy clear up this issue?

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What’s this Kindle Worlds Thing?

I’ve never been a huge fan of fan fiction. I like to come up with my own story, thanks so much. But when I was invited to write in an author’s soon-to-be-formed Kindle World, I suddenly had a different thought.

Or twelve. You know me, I rarely think about only one thing at a time. And one thought leads to another and before you know it COOKIES!

Now, back to this Kindle Worlds thing.

Amazon Gets Bigger

I first noticed Kindle Worlds when an author I like (paranormal romance) released a new book in “The Runes Universe.”

Now, I’ve also read a couple books from The Runes series, and I found them good, but a little too shallow and predictable for me. They are young adult paranormal romances, after all, and they are a huge hit with the teenage girls they’re written for.

But I haven’t been a teenage girl for a few years. (Stop rolling your eyes, Darrin!)

What Amazon has done is ask some indie authors (don’t ask me how they decide but I’m guessing it has something to do with sales) to turn their fictional worlds into a place where anyone can contribute stories. The original characters can be used by these new authors, but they should not be the major players.

Furthermore, this universe is suddenly a sandbox that only Amazon (specifically Kindle Direct Publishing) has rights to play in. If you submit a story into the universe, you relinquish rights to it forever.

Most authors just shuddered. But I’m not worried about this at all. I’ll still own the characters, and if I fall in love with them, I only have to move them to a different setting and I can write about them for eternity.

The benefits of publishing in these Kindle Worlds during a targeted release blitz:

  1. A $250 bonus (to help offset cover design and editing costs-paid AFTER publishing)
  2. Amazon’s marketing power during the release
  3. Mention in the back of other books in the release linking you to the readers of many authors

For someone who hates to market, this really called to me.

Not Really Fan Fiction

This is how dictionary.com defines fan fiction:

a fictional account written by a fan of a show, movie, book, or video game to explore themes and ideas that will not or cannot be explored via the originating medium; also written fan fiction , also called fanfic

And I have to admit, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the series of books that is the springboard for the Kindle World I’m planning to write for. That’s the biggest reason I don’t see this as fan fiction.

After all, all that happens is I put my characters into the town of Sweet Grove, Texas. The books need to be a sweet romance and since the world is called “First Street Church Romances,”  they’re probably going to explore inspirational themes or have Christian worldviews.

All of which is what I want to do anyway.

Am I deluding myself? Will people see this as fanfic?

Weighing the Pros and Cons

As always when I’m presented with a new writing opportunity, I pulled out my notebook and began scrawling out my thoughts.

Here’s an excerpt: “These are novellas-20,000 to 40,000 words-of sweet romance with some Christian influence. This could be a way to build my brand IF I’m going to write mostly inspirational romances after this.”

And with the power of Amazon behind each launch, I’ll pick up new readers. There will be people who buy everything they see, thinking it’s going to be a series they love.

Plus the author who originally invented Sweet Grove is a marketing professional, and she intends to push all the books with her considerable platform and influence.

When 100 writers jumped in with both feet at the idea, you know it’s a good one.

My lists were incredibly short:

Pros: inspirational; wide market range; connection at Amazon; free promo from Melissa Storm

Cons: romance; edit & cover costs; another distraction from “real” writing

But why isn’t this “real” writing? I have some sort of chip on my shoulder about inspirational romances which makes no sense. For a decade or more, that is ALL that I read.

Only now, I’m back to reading mostly fantasy. Romances are too predictable to me, so I don’t enjoy reading them as much anymore.

But there are millions of people who DO enjoy reading them. And they would read the ones I wrote because Amazon would make sure they knew about them.

So, what do you think I should do? Is it worth my time and effort to publish in a Kindle World?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery,  a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.
Maybe you like romance or see my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.
Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

What to Write in November? Help!

November is nearly here. That means National Novel Writing Month for all you non-writerly types. In other words, insane writing for thirty days. And I still don’t know what to write.

Today, I’m asking for your advice. I need your input on how to spend my 50,000 words (or more) in November.

It’s not like I don’t have any ideas. Ideas flood my mind at every odd moment day or night.

In fact, I have four ideas that all hold equal appeal to me. Mostly for different reasons.

Here are my ideas:

  1.  A time travel story about a female lawyer
  2.  The elf novel that’s plaguing me
  3.  A New Adult romance that’s a spin-off of the novel my beta readers are reading
  4.  Another collection of short stories

All great ideas, right? That doesn’t help me narrow it down to one. I can only write one during NaNoWriMo.

Idea #1

More than a decade ago, I started this story. Here’s the gist:

A young attorney struggles to defend a guilty client. She’s fallen so far from the faith of her childhood, but this feels like an assault on her ideology of justice. In a freak hiking accident, she’s transported through time to first century Jerusalem, where she comes face-to-face with the Christ she left behind.

Upon returning to conciousness, she quits her job and gives up all her fancy goodies. When she walks into a private law office hoping to find somewhere to utilize her degrees and skills, she meets a man who was in her “dream” about Jerusalem.

Why was he there? Is she imagining things? Was the encounter real?

She is on the path to facing down the ugly truth about herself because it’s the only way she can move forward in freedom.

This story crosses many genre lines so I’m not sure how marketable it would be. But it has many solid messages that I enjoy writing about in my fiction.

Also, it works in my new commitment to write women’s fiction.

Idea #2

Masked_heartsI’ve written two short stories set on Earth that are published with Roane Publishing. Click through to get the newest one for free.

But when I wrote the first novel, I did a lot of backstory. I realized there was easily a novel that should happen in the elven realm (Evendon).

Holt is taken hostage by a magical artifact collector and forced to lead the man and his mercenaries into his home realm. He slyly leads them to his sister’s neck of the woods, where she puts the three outsiders into an enchanted sleep.

Alyona returns to Earth to fetch her human boyfriend who specializes in finding and neutralizing magical objects. He goes into Evendon with her to help stop the bad guy. Of course, he’s one-quarter elf and has an innate magic, that begins to surge through him once he’s in the magical realm.

There he will reunite with his elven grandmother and face the truth about his heritage. And he’ll need to learn to control his magic if he’s going to stop the bad guy from retrieving an artifact that will help him access the dragon realm and a magical power that would breech the borders between the four realms forever.

I’m not supposed to be writing fantasy. I’ve decided to put fantasy on the back burner. But this story begs to be told.

And I already have two published stories that would tie into it so I could create a sales funnel.

Idea #3

This is the other idea that works with my new writing direction. Although it isn’t women’s fiction, it springboards off of the novel I’ve written.

The youngest narrator from my novel, Mercedes Glen, makes a life-altering decision to move to a different state to pursue a relationship with the man she loves. Her parents are opposed so her father cuts off her health insurance.

One of the part-time jobs she takes on brings all her insecurities about her ability to counsel teenagers to the forefront. Her boyfriend’s Greek Orthodox parents aren’t in favor of him marrying outside the faith, even though he is a member and minister of a non-denominational Christian church already.

Lots of conflict. Some sweet romance. And I love this character and I’m already familiar with her voice, plus I have the character study completed. This would be the easiest project to write.

Idea #4

Virtually Yours CoverI wrote a novella that was published in a collection with seven other romance authors. It’s off the market now and I’m subbing it to Roane for a sweet romance call they have open.

I have begun the second (much requested by readers of the first) installment of Marcus and Ronnie’s romance story. It would be another novella I might submit to my small publisher. I have a vague idea for a third installment. I could then put these up and have another series sales funnel to direct readers to my writing.

Even if Roane doesn’t pick up the first one, I could offer it for free as an independently published title to funnel into the other books in the series that I could release within a few weeks of each other.

This is the idea that seems the smartest marketing-wise.

But I despise marketing. I just want to write stories.

So, which idea do you think I should pursue in November? It’s nearly here. Cast your vote in the poll.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

 

Shopping – Caribbean Style

On our recent cruise, we went shopping.

Apparently, this is something everyone does in the Caribbean. And, according to the shopping expert for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (yes, they have a crew member whose only job is to tell you how to shop), people go to the Caribbean to buy one thing.

Diamonds.

I never did fully grasp WHY the Caribbean was such an awesome place to purchase diamonds. After all, they don’t mine them there. Maybe they cut and finish them on those pretty little islands.

In any case, the cruise line has some sort of agreement with a large diamond wholesaler (and retailer), Diamonds International. They promoted them at every turn, to the extent that cruisers get a free, unique charm at the DI store on each island.

“Don’t forget to get your charms” one of my friends told me as I prepared for the cruise.

I was a noob. I had no clue what she was talking about.

Now I do.

Ignorance is bliss, they say. Well, for sure it is CHEAPER at times.

Diamonds are Forever

You know this old saying, right? I think it was probably a marketing slogan for a jeweler at some point in the past.

We know it was the title of a James Bond movie. It may have originated before that time, but it’s been around since 1971 (pretty much my whole life).

Question: if diamonds are forever, why do people get new diamond jewelry?

Silly me.

Because they need a pendant and earrings to complement their stunning wedding ring.

Or they need bigger earrings. Or a larger diamond carat weight on their finger. After all, who will notice that little chip their husband could afford back in the day, when they were both poor college graduates.

Diamonds are hard. They won’t lose their value (much- depending on the jeweler you try to pawn them to).

Not only do they sparkle in sunlight and glitter under bright lights, diamonds are the traditional stone for wedding and anniversary rings.

Because diamonds are forever. Like love should be. Like marriage is supposed to be. A perfect symbol for those enduring institutions.

Diamond Rings

I’ve had three different wedding rings in my life. I never planned it that way. In fact, I never thought much about a wedding ring at all.

Until I got engaged.

Here’s the rundown on my rings:

Ring #1: An heirloom wedding set from my grandmother. I wore this on my wedding day and for several months because my husband wanted to get me the “perfect” ring I wanted.

Ring #2: A custom made ring wrapping the diamond solitaire with a flower of rubies and diamonds.

Ring #3: Another ring, similar to ring two, with the one difference being a larger (half-carat) marquis cut diamond as the centerpiece.

In the Caribbean, my husband bought me wedding ring number four, and I won’t be looking for anything different for another 27 years (or more).

Diamond Love

I didn’t go to the Caribbean to buy a diamond – regardless of what the cruise line tried to tell me. My planned purchases: gifts for my kids and parents, a few souvenirs to help me remember the trip.

So, it goes without saying that we didn’t intend to purchase a new ring when we walked into DI to pick up our “free” charm. (You see how this is a huge marketing trap now, right? Consider yourself warned.)

In fact, I wanted to look at upgrading my diamond stud earrings. Not because I needed bigger stones. The posts make my ears break out. Since I leave them in my second piercing all the time, this creates problems.

Painful ones.

crown of lightHowever, the shopping guru on the ship had dazzled me with her engagement ring. It was a special cut called Crown of Light. The diamond has 90 facets to showcase all the brilliance hidden in its depths.

It’s unique to DI. They even have a website dedicated to it. Don’t believe me? Click here.

Innocent me walked into the den of diamonds.

What happened next?

Read about this epic shopping adventure in the next post.

Ready for Romance?

To Get Me To YouTo Get Me To You by Kait Nolan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This romance gets a solid 4.8 out of 5 stars from me.

Nolan writes in a way that draws me into the story. Even though these character experiences were far out of my realm of experience, I felt them. I believed them.

Now that I know the characters of Wishful, MS, and I’m ready to return to the town again and again.

It was interesting to start the story with the male lead, Cam. I think the author did this to introduce us to Wishful because the town is as important to the story as any of the characters. Cam isn’t the typical alpha male. He’s the kind of guy girls should wish to meet and fall in love with: caring, protective, passionate, responsible. Yeah, handsome helps too.

Norah, a high-powered marketing executive in the Windy City, lives a life far away from my normal world. However, I completely relate to her family background, since my parents also divorced. She is the alpha character in this book, but finally realizes that needing someone else can be a good thing.

I don’t read erotic romances, generally because I don’t need to have sex scenes spelled out for me. I’ve got a great imagination, so focusing on the inner thoughts more than the outer happenings is my preference for these interludes in a book. They were short and rare, so I could skim and still enjoy the tension they brought to the story.

This is an excellent contemporary romance. The town and minor characters came to life for me, making the story that much more enjoyable.

If you want to laugh, cry and feel like happily ever after is a real thing, this book is for you.

View all my reviews

Yes, this was a cheap way to fill my post for the day. Come back next week for sage (or cheeky) words about family or writing.

Road to Self-Published – Using CreateSpace

roadto selfpublished

If you’re new to this whole “Be your own Publisher” reality, I’m right there with you. Even though the CreateSpace environment is user-friendly, it isn’t self-explanatory. Choosing the correct categories, perfect metadata fields and pricing your book require some research.

To this end, doing a Google search will garner millions of page results, but won’t filter the useless tripe from things that will actually help you. (Yes, I did test this out so you don’t have to.)

My Resources

I’m sure you’ve already spent time browsing Amazon in your book’s category. You can get an idea about the best pricing structure here. You can also determine which BISAC category is the best fit for your book (more on that later).

Before you get too far in the process, you should read a few books on self-publishing that address pricing and categories. I suggest:

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran – The most important information I gleaned from this book is all the specifics about getting the manuscript ready to publish. He offers specs for covers that I sent directly to my designer. The whole process feels doable once I read this book.

How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn – Penn breaks down marketing into digestible chunks. She address the importance of key words and categories. If you don’t know what meta-data is (and I didn’t), this book will help.

Working with CreateSpace

It will take a few hours to shuffle through the four sections for your new publishing project at createspace.com.  I recommend setting up the account before you’re ready to upload a file.

Inside your profile, there are links to information about every aspect of the process. Take some time to explore this. It might save you time when you return to “get serious” creating your book’s profile.

Setup

The Setup of your new book requires four steps: 1) title information, 2) ISBN, 3) interior and 4) cover.

To complete the title information, you will enter the title and subtitle of your book. This information can be changed later, so don’t sweat it if you aren’t settled on your title when you first start the process.

Enter your name as the primary author. You can also add co-authors, editors, cover artists or anyone else who deserves acknowledgement on this project. (The names you add here will appear on the product information screen.)

On the ISBN page, you select one option for your International Standard Book Number. I allowed CreateSpace to assign my number for this project. One reason you wouldn’t want to do this is if you were planning to sell to retailers NOT listed as approved by CreateSpace.

You can purchase an ISBN that could be used on all distribution channels. The cost can be as little as $29 or as much as $129. Check out the Publisher Services site for more information and details.

Before you spend tons of time formatting your interior, I suggest downloading the sample templates provided by CreateSpace. These are based on the physical size of your book (if you are having a print book made). I didn’t do this on my first round and it caused quite a few layout issues.

You can upload .rtf, .pdf, .doc or .docx files for this step. I used their MS Word template and found making changes during the review process was much easier using this type of file. (You won’t be able to make any changes to the document online. Save it to your data storage location so you can update it and then resubmit when it’s fixed).

I didn’t use their cover creator since I hired a professional designer. I did download the PDF describing the dimensions and resolutions, though, and forwarded it to my cover artist. He used the information to make sure the cover looked perfect on the print book.

Review and Distribute

Once you have set everything up, you submit the file for review by the CreateSpace team. The website says it might take as much as 24 hours for your files to be approved. I had the approval in about two hours.

You’ll return to your account and they will tell you any problems they found with your files. You can fix them or decide to order a proof and view them for yourself. Until you approve the proof, your book won’t be available to the public.

Using the Distribute section, you determine what channels you would like to sell your book through, the price, the cover finish for your print book and the description that will appear on the sales page.

The description page needs special attention. The BISAC category you choose will determine the Amazon selling charts. Another thing to pay close attention to is the search key words. In Joanna Penn’s book, she describes the best methods for determining these.

There’s so much more to self-publishing than I had ever suspected. I’m glad for the number of successful indie authors willing to share their expertise and experiences.

Additional Resource: Book Publishing Guide

Perhaps you noticed I’ve changed my posting days. I’ve decided to post on Mondays and Thursdays so the content doesn’t barrel at you at the first of the week and the last of the week. I have mixed data about which days get the most views and shares, so I might experiment with Tuesday and Friday postings if I see a drop in activity.
Do you have a preference?

The Real Problem with Abercrombie & Fitch—How Jeffries’ Message Hurts Us ALL

America keeps endorsing the global view of a shallow society filled with image-craving bodies with no mental capacity.

Kristen Lamb speakes out about the latest shallow marketing message from Abercrombie & Fitch here: The Real Problem with Abercrombie & Fitch—How Jeffries’ Message Hurts Us ALL.

A&F should be horrified to learn that millions of teenagers and young adults will buy into their message that beautiful = thin and thin = cool. How do I know this? Because these same young people will binge and purge, starve themselves, exercise endlessly, and swallow laxatives only to look in the mirror and see a FAT person staring back. In reality, it will be a skeleton with skin, but they’re perception has been warped by the false messages around them.

To be fair, it isn’t just A&F. Hollywood, magazines, fashion gurus and photoshopped multi-media publications all tout the body image ideal that makes size 10 synonymous with obese.

I’m disgusted by this continuing trend. Yet, I’m still proud to be an American. Why? I believe in the ideals we were founded on.

No, those beliefs had nothing to do with image. They had everything to do with freedom from oppression. In America, the media has the freedom to promote unhealthy concepts. Likewise, we citizens have the freedom to speak out against their harmful drivel.

Do it. Today, hug your kids and let them know you love them (even if they *gasp* wear something other than a non-size 00). Then take a stand on this issue. Let the marketers know that the demographic that balks at their skin-deep ideals is much larger than the one A&F hopes to find.