Monday, June 30, 2014

A Shelf at the BEA

Sigh, we bought our shelf at the NY Book Expo America with high hopes, but I am afraid, it was definitely not worth it.

How did I hear about BEA? Well, it is right there on the CreateSpace marketing page as a great way to market your books. I did not want to travel to NY and exhibit in person (too costly), so when I found out about purchasing a shelf (around $1000) or a slot for a book on a shelf (around $300). I was excited. The thing is, BEA does not handle this exhibit, Combined Books does.

It literally took 4 hours to fill out the BEA online form for the 8 book shelf. I had to upload samples of each book and add all the publication info about them. If you pay online, they will tack an additional $25 on for the service. Otherwise, you can send in a check, but they want it ASAP (like they will send you an invoice the next day and call to ask why they haven't received the check the day after that).

I was sending hardcovers and paperback, so I called Combined Books and asked if multiple shipments were okay - they told me 'yes.' Then, when I had a printing error and had to send a substitute title, I called again to inform them, and they thanked me. So far, everything was good.

Then I visited the website to change the title there. This is where things started to go bad. My contact information did not transfer correctly from the BEA website and I could never figure out how to fix it. I was able to adjust the book information (which was also messed up). However, this process took time that I didn't want to spend since I already wasted four hours typing it in the first time.

Next, I got an email from them telling me my books had not arrived. Then I got a call saying the same thing. I had tracked the mail, and I knew that my books had arrived. So, I called. And no one returned my call. I sent e-mails. And no one returned my e-mails (including about questions for fixing my account info on the website. In addition, it was never the same person contacting me.

The day before the show, I finally spoke to a person. That person told me they probably had the books and it was due to a "new person" who hadn't checked them in. She told me she would call me back, and to her credit, she did. However, she also told me her boss would call me back to reassure me, and he never did. The last I knew, they still had not found one of my books.

I will say you get a listing on their website for a year. This is nice, but as of posting, I have not seen a spike in sales as a result of it. No agents or publishing companies are knocking on our door to give us a contract. No distributors have put in an order.

My take on it is that some of the thousands of people visiting probably did wander over to the display (perhaps just to get away from the authors who bought a booth and were begging them to come look at their books). They might have even looked at our books out of the hundreds (thousands?) that were there. They probably went home with the nice flyer (along with countless other pieces of literature) and promptly filed it (them) in the circular file. But I am a cynic.

Who knows? Maybe a month from now everybody will be beating our door down to buy our books... I won't hold my breath for that one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inspirational Romance

Well, my book, The Inconvenient Widow, isn't doing so well ratings wise on Goodreads right now. Why? Because it is an inspirational romance. Now, I don't try to hide this fact from anyone. I clearly stated it on my Goodreads Giveaway page. In case anyone didn't know what that was, in the description, I say, "Marcus is there to protect her while Emily’s faith helps her through her ordeals." Unfortunately, the same people who do not know what an Inspirational Romance is also seem to miss that very important clue. 

According to the Romance Writers of America, Inspirational Romance is "Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship." All the books I have read that are marked "Inspirational Romance" use Christianity as their basis of belief. Obviously, mine follows suit. 

So, I am getting bad reviews because of all the Christianity in my Inspirational Romance. Sigh. I know I am not the only author to suffer this readership misunderstanding, but it is the equivalent of someone reading a fantasy and giving it a bad review because it contained unicorns and dragons. After all, that isn't very realistic. 

True, my novels don't have sex in them or swearing, so I suppose they are attractive to those who shun these things in books, but it is disappointing to get a one-star review that berates the unbelievably Christian characters, but then in the last sentence says, "The author is a good writer." I write well, but since I have chosen to write Christian Romance my books are one-star. 

So, please, if you are following this blog, go out and tell your friends - and tell them to tell their friends - Inspirational Romances are Christian Romances. The next time I do a Goodreads Giveaway, I will definitely be spelling it out better. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Great editing quote

I found this quote:

"In modern times, an editor will use track changes so that the author can accept or not accept the editor’s suggestions. An editor will also flag spots and leave comments.
A good editor will not pussy-foot around bad writing. You asked for help, you got it. Suck it up. If you feel your editor is too harsh for your thin skin or not doing what you think he or she should be doing, use a different editor. Personality and expectation clashes do happen but sometimes an author isn’t ready to hear the truth or is inclined to do the work." 

As anyone knows, I will not candy coat my opinions. When I give reviews, you are going to get my honest opinion. When I edit, I use comments and give my honest opinion. My opinions are not off the wall. I have taken college creative writing and writing fiction classes at a state university and I have read so many books, I doubt I would ever be able to give an accurate number.

Now, before I began working on and reading so many self-published books, my star rating system was a little different. Since I have done all this work I find few books at the ends of the spectrum (1 star and 5 star). But, sometimes the truth hurts. That is what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur writer. Amateurs defend their work. Professionals suck it up and drive on.

I am very thankful for a recent review of The Corruption that was written by Eduardo Aruna. In short, he said the book is long - and it is - but it pays off in the end. Reviews like that are helpful because they make me into a better writer. I knew that this book was long in advance, but I was unsure how the public would react. Based on Eduardo, my son, Samuel, and some other reviews, I know that Book 2 needs to be tighter.

Sure, I could try to contact these reviewers and complain - I am trying to create a fantasy/ literary fiction combination. Of course, it's long! Instead, I recognize that if I want my target audience to read it (the fantasy fans) I need to drop the literary fiction end. Complaining about reviews doesn't do any good.

So, that said, in the next few weeks, you are going to be seeing single blog posts with some of the reviews I have been writing in exchange for other reviews on Goodreads.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Please Stay Away from Art Bookbindery...

Do yourself a favor and do not use Art Bookbindery (ABB) to self-publish. It is not worth whatever they would charge you.

Someone just hired me for a project. In the project description, it said they needed me to format a children's book for CreateSpace (CS). Normally, this means I take their MSWord document, format it, and turn it into a PDF.

Wrong. This person had gone to Art Book Bindery. All she had was a PDF that was not set up for CreateSpace, the images (JPEG), and the text (Word Document) in three separate files. Because I was not hired to do page layout I did not want to re-set up the pages (This would have taken much longer than the four hours I spent on the project). So, I had to print out the PDF at Staples, physically cut the pages apart, and rescan all the pages back into the computer.

Here is where it got interesting. When you are setting up a children's book, you want the font on every page to read the same size. Well, I was cutting and pasting into the same sized JPEG, and the words were getting larger and smaller depending on the pictures. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong, but then I checked the original. Yes, the ABB did not do the layout very professionally (Yeah, I know. It's free if you don't have pictures and cheap if you do. You get what you pay for). Now, maybe my client did the layout and did it wrong. However, why wouldn't she have JPEGs with text and pictures combined if that is what happened?

I went to the ABB website, just to check things out, and I wasn't pleased. First, they encourage you to get an ISBN. They claim that if anyone else gets an ISBN for you and gives it to you free, then you will be signing away your rights. Say what???

I read CS' contract. Basically what it says is that if I choose another publisher (one that isn't CS), I have to use a different ISBN number. To make matters worse, if you do what this woman did and go to ABB first, purchase your ISBN number and then go to CS, you will lose the ability to be distributed through the libraries and institutions channel. Why limit any of your distribution options? (ABB will not distribute - they offer everything else, including free layout, but not distribution.) You also have to pay for a minimum of 25 - 50 books.

The fact that comb binding is even mentioned on their website should scream "Stay away!" I am not a fan of vanity presses, but this one is tricky because it doesn't come right out and tell you that is what it is. Instead, it offers to give you services that aren't really a service.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to create a cover for CreateSpace on a shoestring budget

On CreateSpace, there are a few ways to create a cover. Probably the easiest is to upload a cover PDF that is the exact dimensions of your book. If you don't know how to turn a JPEG (or other graphic file) into a cover PDF file, John Carroll has a good description of what to do on his blog.

However, many authors do not have the talent or funds to create a unique cover (or have one created). CreateSpace conveniently offers a cover creator template that allows you to make your own cover. No matter how strapped you are, I don't recommend using the stock photos. Why? Because they are easy to pick out, especially if you have used cover creator. I do use a stock photo for my study guides, but most people buying study guides are not exactly looking for a fancy cover. 

It is easy to find royalty-free stock photos that have expires or no known copyrights to upload for your cover design. Check out Flickr , CanStock, Wikimedia Commons, and even places like NASA. You are looking for pictures whose copyrights have expired or whose creators are licensing under the GNU free use (U.S. government photos are copyrighted by the citizens of the US and open to their use). (You should always cite the creators of your cover images. I recommend doing it on the copyright page with "Cover image by") You will not be able to copyright these images yourself, but they are frequently more impressive than the standard CS or KDP stock photos. Here is a cover I created from some old images of paintings:

Finally, you can find freelancers who are willing to design your covers at reasonable rates on freelance websites (Guru, eLance, etc.). Expect to pay $50 - $300 for good cover design. Here is our latest release:

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Reviews are the life-blood of Indie/ Self-publishers. However, reviews (reviewers) are difficult to find. On Goodreads, there are three review groups that I have joined.

The Strictly Reviews is the one that I have been a member of the longest. It is a no commitment group. By that, I mean that you post your book link and a brief description and let reviewers contact you.

To date, I have gotten one review for Sal, Captain of the Baby Guards as a result of being a member, and it cost me two books (the reviewer wanted a copy for her local library, which I was more than willing to provide). However, I posted it in the picture book section and the children's book section in December, and it was the last post to date (June) in these threads. I have received 0 reviews for The Inconvenient Widow. After adding The Corruption today, I see the fantasy thread has had no one posting in it (aside from my new post) since November (not very encouraging), the paranormal and Christian threads are not much better.

The General Review group was the next (and recent) group I joined. The premise of this group was that you join, you sign up when groups are forming, and you read and review other books from group members while they do the same for you. This group helps you get fair reviews. However, I recently joined and it is undergoing a transition.

Initially the group was set up so that you have no idea what you are reading and no matter what it is you are supposed to give it a fair review. Apparently there has been an influx of erotica and graphically violent books, which has created problems (people were refusing to review them). So, after a debate, which I of course embroiled myself in and probably shouldn't have, they decided to create a "hard core" group, which is primarily for erotica, BDSM, LGBT, and graphically violent works, the general group (which means you will have to review everything in it without complaining and it could contain some of the above "hard core" items), and the "clean" group that contains no sex, and no violence. Of course, the hard core group filled up quickly (I think there is only one space left in this round) and then the general group filled up (again only one space left), but the clean group is struggling a little (they are about halfway there). The benefit is that you give and get 4 reviews. It is also nice because the people reviewing you are not the people you are reviewing.

I also joined the extension of the above group - The Genre Specific Review Group. This group is run the same as the General Review group with elements of Strictly Reviews in it. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to be quite as popular as the General Review Group. However, I was able to join the fantasy group that was forming and have started that. Again, you join a group and when enough people have joined you are in it. In this group, you give and get 2 reviews, but you are not reviewing the same people who are reviewing you. This group is broken down into many genres, though. You can also let the moderator know if you want to give 10 free MOBI/ ePUB/ PDF books to have people review it. This is similar to the Strictly reviews board, but a little more controlled.

All in all, I should be getting 4 reviews for The Inconvenient Widow and 6 for The Corruption published on Goodreads, Amazon, and Amazon UK. The only limit on the number of reviews/ groups you join is that you are able to fairly give the number of reviews you commit to. For example, I will be reviewing a total of 10 books to get my 10 reviews. And each group has a maximum time limit for posting the reviews.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Vast Minefield of the Internet

I know many people who type random words innocently into search engines only to get not so innocent results. I have had this happen to me once when I was trying to figure out how to spell a British phrase. I thought "cocking" meant "looking." Needless to say I never discovered the answer because I was so offended by what it turned up that I pursued the topic no further.

However, I have recently stumbled across a naughty website because I clicked on a topic a search engine returned and discovered that the link did not take me to the website it described. I reported it, but it made me realize how irresponsible some people are. What if a child had clicked on that?

Ideally, authors would stick to libraries and academic journals for their information, but that is not always the easiest method of research. For example, I wanted to check into crowdfunding for my last post. One would assume that would be an innocent topic, but alas no. I clicked on two crowdfunding websites only to find they were for crowdfunding perv, fetish, and porn niches.

While it is disturbing to stumble across these websites, it is even more disturbing to think that one would go to ones friends and ask them to fund your latest porn video. I am glad I don't have friends like that.

As someone who has to be on the internet all the time, I think all browsers should automatically be set to keep this out. I don't know if this is the way it is, but mine obviously is not. Prior to a few weeks ago, I never had any problems.

For a writer, not being able to type in key words and find relevant information wastes research time. I cannot write articles about up-to-date business internet information without being able to use the internet to find said information. I cannot recommend websites without using a search engine to find good ones. It seems to me that not only creating a .xxx extension for these websites, but also creating an a would be helpful. That way, my search engine won't show junk I don't want to see and people who want to see it can find it without sorting through non-perv websites.