#Win this bundle of #FANTASY books


This is a quick hijack of The Write Stuff for the fantasy readers amongst us…

How would you like to win this fabulous bundle of fantasy books? Oh, and it includes one of mine (The Prince’s Man).

You can enter the competition HERE, and also find free stuff from the authors of these books and more.

Competition runs until April 14th, but why hang around, go, enter now!

Lovely people, please share this competition using the buttons below, or any other way you care to use – the more entries the better!

What makes a book a bestseller?

teasersquare600After two years of pounding the keyboard and putting out indie fiction, I finally hit what I consider a bestseller. Half Wolf had 6,000 combined sales and borrows during its first three months of life, and the sequel seems to be enjoying even better reviews (and, hopefully, sales).

While my figures still don’t hold a candle to those of some authors, I thought it would be worth mentioning what I did differently in case you want to follow suit. Here’s a quick rundown in what went into my bestseller.

  1. Studied the genre harder. I read widely and often and write what I love to read. That said, I noticed repeated criticisms of my Wolf Rampant series surrounding lack of sex and action scenes. At first, I turned up my nose and said, “Hmmph! That’s what makes me an indie author — I can write what I want!” But then I decided to give it a whirl. And I have to admit I feel like the resulting book was more powerful for the inclusions (even though those component are still below average on a modern chart).
  2. Paid for an amazing cover. I have basic photoshop skills and thought I could make my own covers…and I did manage to make passable ones. Then I upgraded to hiring a cover artist…and was amazed at the difference in sales. Rebecca Frank is, unfortunately, now booked months in advance and no longer accepting new clients. However, I highly recommend shopping around and paying for a top-notch cover to match your top-notch book, hitting all of the same genre buttons to signal exactly what’s inside.
  3. Workshopped my blurb to death. Seriously, I think about ten people helped me make approximately 100 revisions on my blurb. Even before that, I studied the blurbs of the bestsellers in my genre, noting word count and other factors. Overall, I spent nearly a week on the project! But the result is tight and humming with life and it sells books.
  4. Launched with forethought. A lot more goes into a sticky launch than just telling your fans and waiting for the sales to roll in. If you haven’t read it, I recommend Chris Fox’s Launch to Market as a primer. I used a spreadsheet and every bit of social capital I’d built up in recent months on my launch and it was very much worth it.

I hope that gives you some ideas for pushing your next book into the stratosphere! And, if you’re curious, Half Wolf will be free Saturday and Lone Wolf Dawn is already marked down to 99 cents for launch week. Feel free to lurk and see whether my second launch does as well as the first.

#Smashwords and KDP Questions

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Question for you authors who publish on Smashwords, or on  Smashwords AND KDP, combined. I’m planning to move my first Wake-Robin Ridge novel from KDP Select to “regular” KDP, so I can permanently reduce the price on the book. I want it to be a “funnel” book to the Wake-Robin Ridge series. I realized that taking it out of Select means I can open it up to other “venues.” I’ve heard good things about combining KDP with Smashwords, and thus getting the book wider exposure.

How many of you have tried this, and can you share your experiences with us here on The Write Stuff? Thoughts, anyone?

#FREE short story – SPRITE NIGHT – #UrbanFantasy by Deborah Jay

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Hey folks, my short story SPRITE NIGHT is free from today until the 25th, so please go ahead and grab yourself a copy from Amazon. It’s a companion story to my Caledonian Sprite novel, DESPRITE MEASURES, but is also a complete stand alone story.

Discover a unique eco-urban fantasy with a touch of romance.

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When Scottish water sprite, Cassie, volunteers for an anti-fracking protest, the last thing she expects is to find herself at odds with a druid. But with time running out for the local environment, she can’t afford to be distracted by the handsome hunk of a Highlander.

Intent on a minor act of sabotage, Cassie is totally unprepared to be caught in the cross-fire of a magical battle. Can she avert catastrophe? Or will she become the very agency of an ecological disaster?

What people are saying about SPRITE NIGHT

***4.8 stars***

“This story flowed smoothly and gave the reader an enjoyable glimpse into the world of Cassie Lake. The author intertwined real life elements into her magical world of druids, magicians and sprites. It was a clever twist to include internet links to various real life sites to bring a touch of realism to this fantasy. I would recommend this story to anyone looking for an easy, quick story that will make you smile.”

“There was a lot to love crammed into this short story. First, there’s the interesting world-building, centered around a water sprite who can dematerialize into her individual molecules at will. Next, the Scottish setting and culture was very vivid and intriguing, like an armchair vacation. Add in the hydrofracking issue that is currently so important on a world-wide level and you have an intellectually intriguing and enjoyable read.”

“Another wonderful Deborah Jay story, proving that she writes short fiction as fabulously as she writes novels! I love her dialogue best – believable, funny, and her heroine Cassie is always sassy. The balance between plot, action and information (who knew all that about water sprites?) is perfect – the writing is truly fast-paced at time, yet still includes such strong imagery to make you wince, or laugh, or both simultaneously.
Perfect follow-up to Ms Jay’s Sprite novel, but works as a strong stand-alone, too.”

” This story gives you an excellent chance to dip your toe into the Cassie waters. Sorry, couldn’t resist that.”

Download your copy from Amazon HERE

Promo Ideas for Signings: Attention Tea Lovers!

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I have to thank Jennifer Melzer for turning me on to the Adagio Teas website. Not only do they have absolutely delicious teas of their own, but they have a set up where you can combine teas, flavorings, and inclusions to produced your own custom blends, and your own labels! It’s so much fun.

Being the hard-core tea drinker that I am, I’m partial to writing a bit of it into my books. In the case of Willow Greene in Swamp Ghosts and Finding Hunter, it’s a bit more than “a little.” She’s a little New Age in appearance and dress, and loves her herbs and teas. (Not to let that fool you, though. She’s a clever business woman and a very strong character, in spite of it.) And Willow loves tea as much as I do. She has one for every mood or ailment, I think.

It was on my first visit to Adagio Teas that I decided my characters would be great inspiration for some custom blends I wanted to try for myself. For you folks who enjoy a good cuppa as much as I do, I hope you’ll stop by and check them out. I now give away sample tins of these teas at signings and presentations, and they’ve gone over very well. Plus the little tins serve as a nice bit of promotion for my books, since the labels include portions of the title graphic, and my name. 🙂

I now have ten custom blends, including: Sarah’s Favorite Earl Grey, Ruth’s Berry Apple Blend, Gunnar’s Assam Blend, Maggie’s Tropical Green, Willow’s Raspberry Cooler, Willow’s Soothing Chamomile, Lester’s White Cranberry, Maggie’s DECAF Mango Surprise, and DECAF Orange Mango Blend, and Christmas on Wake-Robin Ridge.

Hope you’ll check some of them out. You can order them in various sizes, including a small sample package to see what you think. I don’t get paid for this, per se, but any orders at all will earn me points I can use on my next purchase, including my own. So far, just my own orders keep me from ever paying shipping, and usually give me a few dollars off on my purchase as well. (This is a big help when you have over 32 different teas in little cannisters on your counter! 😯 )

If you stop by the site, be sure to look at all the wonderful teas they offer, AND you might consider making your own custom blends, as well. It’s so much fun. You can create them for you own use, or try using them as promotional giveaways at events. The cute little sample tins run about $2 each if you order 10 or more, so you don’t want to give away thousands of them, but a bowl full of freebies on your display table is a nice touch, and not totally prohibitive for most events I’ve been to, so far.

My Custom Adagio Tea Blends

Adagio Home Page

Marketing Help?

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Is anyone interested–or know of someone who’d be interested–in taking over some of the marketing aspects of my self-published books? I simply have not been able to find the time to figure out which advertising is right for me, which email lists I should strive to get on, the best promotions to run, and so forth. I can’t afford a big-time marketing firm, needless to say, but would love to find someone familiar with the best way to go about this, and looking to augment their income with a (very) small account. Anyone have any ideas? I’m open for suggestions, recommendations, and warnings. 🙂 Thanks!

Choosing the best title for your ebook

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I know this is excerpt week, but I’m putting the finished touches on the first draft of my newest novel (on sale during preorder for 99 cents!)…which means that none of that book is ready for prime time and my head refuses to think of anything else. So I hope you’ll get something out of this title-choosing post instead.

Of the three-legged stool of title, blurb, and cover, my current book’s title gave me the most trouble. And I’ve also realized, from watching my own reading habits, that a book’s title has a big responsibility even after the text is bought. If a reader has a stuffed black and white kindle (like I do) and a bad memory, then title is the one last shot a book has for pulling itself out of the sea of other books and making someone choose to read the first page. (Yes, we all want our books to be bought, but you don’t gain fans unless those bought books are actually read!)

So I decided to get serious. I’m working on an urban-fantasy novel about a were-jaguar and an ancient Mexican god, but my working title (Stray) just didn’t seem right. After doing extensive brainstorming, I narrowed down my title choices to The Olmec Curse, The Olmec Trap, Tezcatlipoca’s Paw, Jaguar at the Portal, Hunt for the Wind God’s Tomb, and The Jaguar Priestess. Then I headed over to http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/ and set up a survey to find out which title potential readers would choose.

I think it’s important to narrow down your options to people who are likely to read within your genre, which you can do in one of two ways. The more expensive way is to set up a two-part survey, where you ask “Do you read urban fantasy?” as the first part, then explore your titles as the second part of the survey. These surveys cost approximately $1 per response.

The cheaper way is to simply add a none-of-the-above option to the end of your title list. I worded mine “None of the above: I don’t read urban fantasy.” This keeps costs down to 10 cents per response, which allowed me to poll 200 people for $20.

My survey was very eye-opening right from the beginning. I wasn’t surprised to find that 74% of people don’t read urban fantasy, but I was surprised to find that a larger percentage of the male respondents enjoy urban fantasy compared to the females.

I also found that urban-fantasy readers skew younger than I’d thought. I set up the survey to only ask people between the ages of 25 and 54 my questions, but the youngest demographic I included was also the most likely to read urban fantasy. That suggested that I should have polled 18 to 24 year olds as well, and that I should realize that my readers are probably younger than I am.

Okay, how about the actual results? I’d been leaning toward the title The Olmec Curse before running the survey because I felt the unfamiliar word would intrigue people who might enjoy the archaeological/mythological element. That may or may not be true…but The Olmec Curse also tied for last place. (This is why you shouldn’t let me choose your title without some extra data!)

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Hunt for the Wind God’s Tomb had the best results, but I didn’t choose this title either. Why? Because my current readers are over 50% women due to a light but significant love story in each of my novels and a tendency to focus on touchy-feely emotions more than on external action. And, among women, the top title on my survey was Jaguar at the Portal. (Men liked this title too, but only half as much as they liked Hunt for the Wind God’s Tomb.)

To sum up: if you’re willing to sink a little bit of cash into the project, I highly recommend Google’s customer survey option. It would be worth $20 just to know the likely age and gender of urban fantasy readers, but getting feedback on titles is also a major boon. Although, if I had it to do over again, I might commit a bit more money to the project to ensure that I got at least 100 responses from readers of my genre.

Now, back to writing that climactic scene that’s been sitting in the back of my mind for the last month and a half! I hope the readers enjoy the ride as much as I’ve enjoyed writing what is my favorite book to date.

Building a Local Readership

 

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DeBary Hall Historic Site
Enterprise, FL

I’ve mentioned this subject briefly in an earlier post, but I wanted to get back to it again, with an update on what’s happening in my world, and to see if any of you are doing the same kinds of things.

First, let me say that I have an advantage over some, in that my second novel, Swamp Ghosts, is set in a fictional town about 30 miles north of where I live. I plopped Riverbend, Florida down along the St. Johns River, because I knew I wanted to write a book set in the habitat I love most in this state. And surprise, that’s not the beach, nor any of the glittery enclaves along our seashores. As a Florida native (yeah, there’s me, and some guy up in the panhandle), I far prefer the mysterious rivers and lakes of central Florida, and the wildlife that lives there. So, I had my setting in mind before I had my story line worked out. I had an idea I wanted a serial killer to be terrorizing Riverbend, but it wasn’t until I was out with the St. Johns River Eco Tour folks that I  realized the good Captain Jeanne Belle had the most perfect job in the world, and it would make a great job for the heroine of my book. Her husband & first mate, Doug Little, is a very talented wildlife photographer, too. So, voila. Maggie Devlin and Gunnar Wolfe were born, and my novel was up and running. Or paddling. In a canoe, of course.

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The Naiad
My Inspiration for Maggie Devlin’s Boat, The Undine

I’m giving you this back story, because this is how the next part of my adventure began. Jeanne & Doug loved my book, and Doug was pretty sure he was Gunnar Wolfe’s alter ego, and they began to tell folks on their tours about the book they had inspired. One thing led to another, and before you know it, they were selling copies of the book at the end of each tour, and talking to people in the area who had venues where I might be able to do a Meet the Author type of thing. It started with a small group at a local nature center, and then I was at DeBary Hall historic site, doing a PowerPoint presentation on writing a novel using the St. Johns River basin and wildlife as a backdrop. That went so well, I not only sold a lot of books, I discussed future presentations we’d like to do there, including one on my experiences with self-publishing both eBooks and print versions of all three of my novels. There are more in the works, too, plus I believe they plan to carry my books in their gift shop.

Then there’s the spill-over. Because I told the audience all about St. Johns River Eco Tours, one attendee immediately booked two tours on the Naiad, for her group of 40+ folks, and I’ve been invited to go along as a guest on each, and do a short Q & A session, mid-tour. I’ll do a signing afterward, for anyone who wants to buy a copy of Swamp Ghosts. I’m not telling you guys this just to brag, even though it feels GREAT to be having this much fun with my book. I’m sharing because it’s such a super way to build a local readership. There’s a good chance I’ll be doing more of these Meet the Author things at other venues in the central Florida area, too.

As far as sales go, it’s a one book at a time thing, rather than a mass market event, but each one of those sales is a chance to make a personal connection with a reader. And each reader who enjoys meeting you and reading your book is a potential member of your tribe, ready to check out everything you write. And better yet, each one has friends and family they can tell about your book. Word of mouth is still the number one way to sell books, after all.

Bottom line, I may have stumbled into this opportunity accidentally, but it can work for you, too. If you’re lucky enough to have written a book set in your area, you have a built-in sales tool with local businesses, book clubs, book fairs, and libraries. If your setting isn’t local, look for a hook of another kind. If you write murder mysteries, maybe you can offer to do a presentation on famous murders in history, or new forensic techniques (in layman’s language). Be creative. Find something you can build a presentation around, and start looking for places that offer talks to the public. Consider it advertising that doesn’t cost anything, and might actually make you a few dollars. And more importantly, it’s a great way to build name recognition, and add members to youryour tribe.

And best of all: Meeting readers face to face is FUN!

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My Favorite Swamp Ghost of All
The Dancing Albino Alligator

Robins, Goldfinches, and Earl Grey Tea

Sarah's Favorite Earl Grey

What a wonderful couple of days in my yard. Robins crowding my birdbaths, grooming themselves for the rest of their long journey north, and today, goldfinches at my feeders. They’ll hang out for several weeks, unlike the robins, and by the time they head north to nest, the males will be almost completely molted into their bright yellow and black plumage. They are happy, chirpy little guys, and so much fun to watch. I had to grab a cup of Adagio’s Earl Grey Bravo, my favorite Earl Grey tea, and sit on the porch for a while, just to enjoy their antics. Which made me remember that I had planned to post about the custom tea blends (with labels) you can put together on Adagio’s website.

Jenny Melzer introduced me to this website in an earlier post here, and I’ve been totally hooked. Not only do they have some delicious teas of their own, but you can blend custom mixes yourself, which is just so much fun! I’ve created blends for five of my characters, so far, and they have been a big hit at signings and Meet the Author events. You can buy your blends in various sized packaging, but for give-aways and the like, I recommend the sample tins. I order them 20 at a time, which drops the price from $4 a tin to $2. It might be even less for larger orders. Continue reading