Sunday, July 31, 2011

August Sale

If you haven't picked up a copy of my new ebook, Playing Dead in Dixie, August is the time to do it, and tell your friends as well. I'm putting the book on sale for the month of August—99¢ a book. And this isn't a novella, folks. This is a 72,000 word romantic suspense, longer than an Intrigue.

Need a reminder as to what it's about?

Whistleblower Carly Sandano is in scalding hot water. While the FBI wants her to testify against her crooked boss, her boss just wants her dead. So when the bus she hops out of Atlantic City crashes, she fakes her death and heads south to Bangor, Georgia, to fulfill a fellow passenger's dying wish: deliver his casino winnings to his family. But she didn't figure on the dead man's friendly parents, who dish up heaping helpings of southern hospitality. Or how sexy she'd find the smoldering, suspicious chief of police, Wes Hollingsworth.

Before she knows it, the girl who never likes to stay in one place too long finds herself wondering how she's ever going to leave Georgia behind. But there's still a killer gunning for her, and the last thing she wants to do is bring bullets raining down on the sleepy little town...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ebooks for Everyone!

I recently bought my first ereader, a Nook Color. I was a little afraid of it at first (new technology!) but now that I have the hang of the thing, I really love it. It's sort of like a combination ereader/tablet notebook, with Internet browsing capability and apps that even allow you to read Word and Excel files on it, among other things. It costs a little more than the low end ereaders, but that touch screen tablet-style functionality is exactly what I was looking for, at a much lower price than an Android tablet or an iPad.

That said, I have been reading ebooks long before I got an ereader. I used Adobe Digital Editions, a free application that works on your PC. Unfortunately, it won't read Kindle books. But that's okay—Kindle also offers a free app for PC. (Kindle for Mac is more problematic—see below).

Which is getting me around to my point. As any of you who've read my blog in the last couple of months know, I recently self-published a couple of novels in ebook format only. Right now, I have no plans to make them available in print because the cost would be prohibitive, nullifying my reasons for choosing to self-publish in the first place. But that doesn't mean that those of you without an ereader can't buy them and read them.

There are at least two and a half good programs for computer that allow you to purchase, download and read books on your PC or Mac. Best of all, these programs also allow you to move those downloaded books to your new ereader if you buy one. (Well, in the case of Kindle, I believe you'll have had to downloaded the file as a Kindle first).

All the books I downloaded to my Adobe Digital Editions program on my computer are now safely on my Nook, readable (though in the case of some older .pdf files, not perfectly formatted).

So if you haven't yet bought an ereader (and maybe you're not sure you will), but you still want to buy ebooks that you can't buy in other formats—such as the Harlequin Treasury books now available in ebook only—you can do it. All you need is a computer and the free apps available.

Hey, I'll even help you out! Here are the links so you can check the programs out yourself:

Nook for PC

Nook for Mac

Kindle for PC

Kindle for iPad

Kindle for iPod Touch/iPhone

Adobe Digital Editions for PC or Mac

As you can see, if you own a Mac desktop machine or Macbook, you may have problems with Kindle unless you also have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. But the Nook for Mac option takes care of that, and the epub format offered by Barnes and Noble (Nook's parent company) is readable on other ereaders such as Kobo and Sony readers.

I'm not trying to proseletyze against paper books. I love paper books. I have shelves and shelves of them at home and one in my purse right now. But with so many authors putting their books out themselves in ebook format, controlling content as never before in ways that I believe readers would truly enjoy, I hate to see anyone missing out on the fun, especially when there are cheap, easy ways to get your hands on these stories.

Do you own an ereader? If not, have you tried software such as Kindle for PC or Adobe Digital Editions?

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Spreadsheet Method

At my chat last night on Writerspace, I mentioned my "writing process" included spreadsheets. More than one person requested to read more about the process, so I looked up an old post I had included on my website a while back and here I've updated it. Enjoy!

Several years ago, when I decided to get back into novel writing after a few years of hiatus while I pursued other projects, including screenwriting, I pulled out a half-finished manuscript I thought had potential and entered it in a handful of RWA Chapter writing contests. I figured I'd get some helpful feedback that would spur me into finally finishing the manuscript. It wasn't like I hadn't finished other manuscripts, after all; I had four complete manuscripts languishing, unloved and unwanted, in boxes on shelves in my office.

But then something wonderful—and terrible—happened. I finaled in most of the contests, and a couple of times, editors actually asked to see the full manuscript. Only, I didn't have a full manuscript.


I was lucky. While I was waiting to hear from the contests, I'd pulled out another finished manuscript that I'd loved but couldn't sell (it made it to the senior editor of a line before ultimately being rejected). I gave that old manuscript a second look and decided I could make the changes the editor had mentioned in her rejection letter, even though she hadn't invited me to resubmit, and try it again. So by the time I got the editor requests on the unfinished manuscript, my revisions to the old manuscript were completed. I contacted one of the editors who'd asked for the unfinished manuscript, pulled a bait and switch and offered her the finished one while I was working on finishing the one she'd originally requested. Luckily, she said yes. I had bought myself some time.

It was almost a year before I finished the manuscript she'd originally requested. By that time, the editor had left the publishing house and I had to start from scratch. But the incident taught me a very valuable lesson about the importance of having a finished manuscript.

Note that I said "finished," not "polished." There's a difference. And that's where the Excel spreadsheet comes in. When I had three manuscripts out doing the contest rounds, getting requests and doing pretty well, I got a little greedy. I'd had an idea for a fourth manuscript that wouldn't let go of me. I decided I wanted to enter it in some contests with January deadlines. Just one problem: It was mid-October when I made this decision. How in the world was I going to finish an 80,000 word book (300 pages) in time to enter it into a contest with a January 15th deadline?

I'd heard about something called "Book in a Week"—an attempt to write as many pages as you could within a week, theoretically writing enough to actually finish the first draft of a book in that period of time. You give yourself permission to write utter dreck with the knowledge that you can fix a badly written page, but you can't fix a blank page.

I was skeptical that I'd be able to finish a whole book in a week, but my goal was to write as much as I could in that short period of time, just to get a jumpstart into the new book. I was right to be skeptical; working full time as I do, with family obligations as well, I managed to write only 80 pages or so in that first week. But eighty pages was a quarter of the way through my projected page count. If I did the same number of pages a week for three more weeks, I'd be finished with the first draft of my book.

I then wrote almost NOTHING for two weeks. In my defense. those two weeks happened to coincide with the U.S. presidential election, and being something of a political junkie, I was pretty much glued to the news channels and the internet opinion sites and blogs. But it jarred me out of my newfound writing habit. I was crashing and burning as a dedicated writer. I needed a plan. A motivation. Something that put my feet to the fire to get my 80 pages a week done.

That's when I decided to give myself a deadline and a way to keep track of my daily progress. I created an Excel Spreadsheet that kept track of the date, how many pages I projected to write that day, and how many cumulative pages I had by the end of that day. The spreadsheet looked something like this:

Not only did this give me something concrete to work with, as far as a daily schedule and an overall deadline was concerned, it gave me some flexibility. I figured out what my goal date was: the date when I wanted the first draft to be finished. I then figured out how many pages per day I'd have to do to meet that goal. I gave extra pages to the weekends, when I knew I could devote several hours at a time to writing, and lightened up the load on weekdays, when all I had was a couple of hours a night, tops, to devote to writing. If I wrote less one day, I added pages to other days or, if necessary, I could also add days to my deadline. (I never had to do this, however, and I suggest you do that only as a last resort. You need to get used to meeting a deadline no matter what it takes). If I wrote more pages in a day than I planned, I got to take pages off later days or—my favorite—delete entire days from my deadline.

Once I started using the Excel spreadsheet, my writing stayed on track. I finished my first draft a day ahead of schedule, and good thing, since the manuscript finaled in five of the seven contests I entered, and I received editor requests for fulls.

The method can also be adapted for revisions and edits; using the same formula, you can assign pages per day of line edits or galley edits to make sure you get your work back to your editor on time. Anything that has a deadline can work with this spreadsheet.

I've adapted the spreadsheet even further to incorporate the early stages of writing by creating a second sheet in the spreadsheet where I chart the chapter by chapter outline of my book so that I can keep track of what chapter will include what important story point or relationship escalation. It helps me focus my writing as I go so that I write more efficiently.

I've created an Excel Spreadsheet template you can use to create your own working spreadsheet. It's very easy to use if you have any knowledge of Excel at all; I've even plugged in the formulas that will help the spreadsheet automatically track your total pages, based on the number of pages you plug into the daily pages cell. You can download the Excel spreadsheet template here.

Now go. Write.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Writerspace Chat Tonight!

I'm very bad about letting people know about my chats on Writerspace, so I'm trying to be a little better with the self-promotion thing.

Tonight at 8 pm Central, 9 pm Eastern, I'll be chatting at the Writerspace Chat Room. Pick your name and come on in!

I'll be talking about my two new self-published books tonight. Ask anything you want about my venture. I'm not going to talk actual dollar figures, but I can talk about sales in general, plus why I decided to self-publish these books, what self-publishing I see myself doing in the future and even nuts and bolts stuff like where I get the images for the cover art for the books.

So if you ever had any questions about self-publishing you wanted to ask, drop by the chat and ask away. I'm new to it, but I'll share what I know. And, of course, I'll also answer questions about the books themselves. And I'll be giving away a $25 eGiftcard to a chatter drawn at random. So y'all come!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Independent Publishing and My New Venture

In the past few months, authors have begun to discover that independent publishing, i.e. self-publishing, is a potentially viable choice, especially for authors who have already established themselves through the bigger publishing houses. There were some newbies, such as a Amanda Hocking, who managed to self-publish as a nobody and become a somebody through her efforts, but there are thousands and thousands more who have had only minor luck with their sales. Goodness knows, we writers have always been very wary of the various vanity publishers who end up taking your money and giving you very little in return.

But with the advent of Smashwords, Pubit and Kindle Digital Publishing, authors are discovering that they can put their original stories and novels online in ebook form and sell quite well, earning double or triple the royalties that they would earn from an established publishing company. The talented—and brave—Courtney Milan has had her self-published novella, Unlocked, make the NY Times bestseller list.

Now, there are definitely caveats. It's rare to get great sales right out of the box. And the more books you make available at one time, the better the results. Finally, the work itself has to be professionally written, edited and formatted for you to get the kind of word-of-mouth buzz you need to sell more. It also helps to be an already established author with a following.

I also think that you should at least try to publish with an established company, because Print on Demand (POD) is currently nowhere near as efficient and cost-effective a way to publish print books as the established publisher can offer. There's still the prestige of publishing with a big publisher, too, and the benefits of being part of RWA and other organizations that don't offer membership to self-published authors.

I'm going to continue writing for my publisher. I may well try to write larger books for another publisher as well. But that doesn't mean the perfectly good books I had languishing on my hard drive didn't deserve to see the light of day. They weren't picked up by my current publishing house, not because they weren't good books but because they contained elements that wouldn't work for the line I write for. That didn't mean there weren't readers who might want to read those books, however.

So middle of last month, I put the Code Name: WILLOW on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. No promotion at all. And in 13 days, I sold as many ebooks of Code Name: WILLOW as I sold of most of my Intrigue ebooks, and more than many.

Near the end of the month, I uploaded Playing Dead in Dixie to those publishers and, while sales have been slower to pick up, I've begun selling that book as well.

Just because they're ebooks, don't let that stop you from taking a look! You can download either Adobe Digital Editions or Kindle for PC (or Mac) to your computer and read on your computer. You can download on Iphone, Kindle, Nook or Kobo. On Smashwords, you can download one of a number of different formats.

If you're interested, please visit my website and take a look at the pages for these two new books. If you make a purchase, do me a favor—leave a review or a rating for the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Smashwords, Borders, Books-a-Million or anywhere you have an account. If you blog, maybe think about giving me a short review. Or post about it on Twitter or Facebook.

Word of mouth is the best way to sell these books, and I can use all the help I can get from people who like my books. So thanks in advance!