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Archive for the ‘ABNA’ Category

Hi! This will be a quick post, but one that’s hugely exciting! In January, Amazon opened the fifth annual ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) competition. There are two categories: General Fiction and Young Adult Fiction. A maximum of 5000 entries were accepted into each category prior to the close of the entry period on February 5, 2012. There are a whole bunch of rules and judging levels (http://tinyurl.com/7hgp4qt ) if you’re unfamiliar with the contest/process and interested in learning more for future reference.

At any rate … last year I entered Separation of Faith in the General Fiction category, on sort of a lark. Much to my surprise, the novel made the first cut in the competition (the 5000 entries in each category are narrowed down to the top 1000 in each category). Given the odds, I wasn’t surprised when that was the end of the good news. The 500 novels chosen for the Quarter Finals in the second cut did not include Separation of Faith. And yet I loved the experience anyway!

So … this year I decided to try again. And as you already know from the post headline above, my little book has once again made the first round cut!! There’s no doubt that Separation of Faith has some sort of legs, especially in the contest arena, having won or placed in more than a dozen contests thus far. This success hasn’t translated yet into any significant visibility in the publishing world–but, just like every real writer out there, my motto is, “Where there’s a new day, there’s indestructible hope, no matter how daunting the odds.”

Now we have to wait until March 20 to see if the fresh perspective from a new set of judges will make a difference this time around. Even if the novel didn’t advance any further than the next cut, making the top 500 out of 5000 entries would sure be a kick! Nonetheless, the first round cut authors do receive feedback from two of the judges, which I found to be both interesting and useful last year. I know from all of my other contest experience, though, how many good novels are out there just waiting to be discovered. We’ll simply have to wait and see how Separation of Faith stacks up against the other 999, whose authors are dreaming the same dream along with me. Our stories are whatever they are at this point. Still, a little bit of luck would sure be useful (and appreciated).

Hope all is well with each of you and that your publishing journeys are on your projected paths for 2012! My next post (tomorrow) will include a chemo update as well as a bunch of links to articles that I’ve been collecting for you. There might be a surprise as well. 🙂 Stay tuned … and have a wonderful night/weekend!

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Note: All of my notes from the Saturday and Sunday sessions are forthcoming. Here’s what I’ve been able to put together so far. Also, since you’ll only be seeing summaries of the sessions I attended, the WDC staff said that there will be some sort of summary on all of the sessions posted on the conference site at http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/home/?&. I just checked, and they don’t have anything posted yet, so mine will have to do for the moment. 🙂 And I will get them up for you as quickly as I can.

Saturday, January 21–Session #1: E-Book Publishing 101–Jane Friedman, Media Professor and former editor of Writer’s Digest Magazine (This session was of huge interest to me because, even though there was a bit of agent interest in my nonfiction book during the Pitch Slam, I’m still leaning heavily toward the e-pub option for at least that next book. Not only am I excited about the potential of that option, but I really want to learn firsthand what’s involved and how it all works.)

E-pub vs Print on Demand (POD)–author has full control of pricing, cover, etc. with E-pub. Author control varies and can be very limited with POD.

What about author rights with e-pub?

  • Copyright is secure
  • Author has full rights re: publishing & distribution except for new Apple rules (covered below).
  • Authors are not killing future chances with traditional publishers if they go e-pub. Might have been true in the past, but no longer.
  • All rights are the writer’s to sell.
  • Caution re: possible exception(s)–Authors previously published with traditional publisher need to check their contracts for rights on existing titles.

Major e-book retailers, devices & formats

  • Kindle (mobi format)–50-70% of the market
  • B&N Nook (epub)–20-30%
  • Apple iPad & iPhone (epub & the newly announced iBookAuuthor, which is only readable on Apple devices–more later)–less than 20%

These three are the main devices and formats. The others on the market are:

  • Sony (epub)
  • Kobo (epub)
  • Desktop/Laptop (PDFs)

Writers going the e-pub route are working with distribution channels and retailers rather than with publishers. Distrib/Retailer options:

Single Channel (Fomatted to work on only one device) versus  Multiple Channels (Push books out to all single channels)

  • Kindle                                                                                           BookBaby (This one looks really interesting, by the way.)
  • B&N                                                                                               Smashwords
  • iTunes                                                                                            PublishGreen
  • iBooksAuthor*
  • GoogleBookStore
  • Scribd

*The new iBooksAuthor will only work on Apple devices. More in a minute.

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Most distribution services and retailers will accept Word documents.

  • Smashwords: takes MS Word. Free to publish. Author keeps 85% of the net. No Kindle distribution, however. Would need to publish on Kindle separately.)
  • BookBaby: Free conversion from Word, HTML, RTP, Apple Pages, plain text. $99 to publish plus $19 annual fee to sustain. Author keeps 100% of the net.) Also offers print service option plus add-on services for ISBN and cover design.
  • PublishGreen: Converts from MS Word, PDF, InDesign. $399-$999 for “full service” package. Author keeps 90-100% of the net.

When is it better to prep your own e-book files? When you:

  • have text-driven work.
  • are not scared by HTML, CSS, and/or MS style sheets. (Guess this answers the question for me. 🙂 )
  • plan on offering PDF versions of your book.

Formatting & Conversion Definitions 

Conversion is an automated process and = exporting files from one format to another without any editing or styling.

Formatting is a manual process and = editing & styling to “look good” on e-reading devices. Process also corrects things that got messed up during the conversion process.

If you’re comfortable doing these things yourself, here are recommended programs: SIGIL for Formatting and CALIBRE for Conversion. (I am definitely not going to be worrying about this. I’m looking at BookBaby. They had an exhibition table at the conference, and once I get through the last of my treatments, I’ll be following up with them for more detail.)

DIY (Do It Yourself) Formatting Tools:

    • Scrivener–$45
    • PressBooks–free. WordPress based, exports e-pub files.

iBooksAuthor. Newly announced by Apple. Limited to iOS devices for both reading as well as sales (iBook format). Free but limited to Apple products and can only sell through Apple bookstores. Beautiful program, easy, drag-and-drop. But exclusive to Apple products and distribution. Industry had hoped that iBooksAuthor would also create e-pub format. Didn’t turn out that way. If you’ve already created a book for sale/distribution elsewhere and then decide to use iBookAuthor for your e-book, you can continue to sell that book everywhere. But if you use iBooksAuthor for your first effort to publish a given book, your Apple agreement will state that you cannot sell that book through any other channel that iBookstore.

  • VookMaker–forthcoming. Not an Apple product but will be similar to iBooksAuthor in terms of being user friendly with drag-and-drop, etc. But this one is expected to support multiple sales channels.

Again, if you opt to do your e-book with a company like BookBaby, you don’t have to worry about any of these Conversion and Formatting tools and programs. 

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Three biggest factors affecting e-book readership base: (These all seem so obvious that I’m wondering if I missed something.)

  • Price
  • Cover
  • Readership Base

Kindle currently represents 60-70% of all ebooks.

An author’s Amazon Page may very likely be the first and only page a reader looks at. Reference: www.DigitalBookWorld.com — see article by Carolyn McKray on optimizing an author’s presence through their Amazon Page.

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“Sweet-Spot” Pricing for Novels:

  • 99 cents drives volume and Amazon rank, for which Amazon pays 30% royalty.
  • Amazon pays 70% royalty on books prices from $2.99-$9.99.
  • Authors who are getting the hang of things will switch off their pricing between 99 cents and $2.99.
  • The lesser known the author, the less you should charge.
  • If you have a series, consider starting with a loss leader (99 cents to start).

For nonfiction, study what your competition is charging. Go to the Kindle store and drill down to your category to start your analysis.

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Cover: First and most important impression. Needs to look good in thumbnail.

ISBNs:

  • Not mandatory for Kindle.
  • Required for distribution through iBookstore.
  • If you’re going the full DIY e-pub route: ISBN.org to buy ISBNs–$125 (cheaper per unit the more you buy).

Online marketing is critical for e-pubs. Draft a marketing plan and include an in-depth online and social media presence.

Some resources to further pursue research on the e-pub option for your book(s):

Here’s a link for a copy of this entire presentation: http://bit.ly/2012wdc

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Well, there you have it–one of the reasons I’m taking so long to get this stuff out to you. But since this particular topic is of such intense interest to me, I’m hoping that some of you will feel the same way, and I want to make sure I’m sharing as much detail as I captured. And because this one is so extensive, I’m going to publish this post separately, finishing up the other Day #2 sessions in another post. (They’re all shorter, by the way.)

P.S. I entered Separation of Faith again today in the latest Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition, which began accepting entries today. Last year the book made the first cut. We’ll see what happens this time around. If you’re interested, this is really a fun contest, and it’s free! Check out the details at: http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Novel-Award-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=332264011.

Hope your week is off to a good start! See you again soon.

 

 

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… with More to Come!

One of the questions I’m asked by authors who are getting ready to bring out their first books is whether or not I think that contests are worth the time, effort, and entry fees. And my answer is–especially for the increasing numbers of authors who’ve opted for a non-traditional publishing path–yes! Enter every contest you can get your hands on!

That resounding encouragement is not just because my second novel, Separation of Faith, has proven (unbelievably) to be a story with “contest legs.” Contests are not just about placing or winning. (And so far, Separation of Faith has not grabbed a first prize but has come so-o-o-o close! A full list of the contests and the specific placements is at the end of this post.) For all of us, yet particularly for those of us carrying the entire promotional load required to get our work into the hands of readers, contests can provide a much-needed assist. Each contest–even the list comprising all of the “festivals”–has a separate and independent panel of judges, and no matter how your book ends up doing overall, you’ll receive at least one piece of valuable input per experience. Of course, that input might not be something you want to hear, but sometimes the toughest feedback can turn out to be the most important in the scope of your entire writing/publishing Journey.

A case proving that particular point involves my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon. Just like every other aspiring author out there, I was absolutely convinced that Cinnamon was what the publishing community had been missing. This novel was going to change the world! Well … that was seven+ years ago, and although the world has changed, Cinnamon is certainly not the reason. Contests, however, were instrumental in helping me understand a lot of things about my debut novel, not the least of which is the key role professional editing needs to play in your process if you’ve decided to follow a non-traditional publishing path. Unfortunately, as I was working on the final iterations of Cinnamon, I still believed that all of the edits I’d performed on the book myself (especially since I was an official freelance editor, which surely gave me all the tools I needed) would be more than sufficient. Plus, the book had been put through several proofing rounds performed by educators in my circle of family and friends. What more could I have possibly done? Well … a lot! And I could not have been more wrong about thinking I could manage that critical element on my own! That fact first began creeping into my world through feedback from contest judges.

The Truth About Cinnamon never placed once in any contest. And, after awhile, I stopped entering the book because I recognized that the results were never going to change unless I pulled the book out of circulation, made a ton of major changes, and then handed the book over to a serious, professional editor. Eventually, that’s exactly what I did do, but not until I’d finished writing Separation of Faith, which was subjected to intense (and seemingly endless, at the time) rounds of professional editing from the get-go. Many of the major lessons learned through The Truth About Cinnamon originated in feedback from contest judges. Those lessons included favorable input on characterization, descriptive elements, and the basic storyline. “Needs improvement” comments almost universally centered around point-of-view inconsistencies, unnecessary background information, and confusion in the timeline. But the single most cited reason for Cinnamon’s lack of success in every contest was the poor editing.

That lesson was so indelibly (and painfully) etched on my writing psyche that Separation of Faith–my second novel and the beneficiary of lots of heartbreaking input from novel #1–has actually been cited for editorial excellence! And the whole subject and scope of editing was covered extensively in this blog as I was documenting the editing phases of Separation of Faith in real-time. If you search this blog for “editing,” you’ll find a whole bunch of stuff that might be of value to you, because the time to concentrate on editing, of course, is before you publish you book–:-)–not afterward, as I originally did with Cinnamon.

When readers order copies of The Truth About Cinnamon now, though, they receive a re-edited Second Edition that has addressed the issues raised by readers as well as contest and other feedback while also cutting 20,000 words. That re-editing effort took nearly a year (as I squeezed that work into the rest of my life). Aspiring authors often get themselves into the same situation because they’re so excited about “finishing” their first book that they become impatient. If they’re pursuing a traditional publishing path, they begin sending the manuscript prematurely to agents and editors and end up with piles of rejections. If they’ve decided to take an alternative publishing path, they do as I did and publish too soon. Note to aspiring authors: If you’ve finished writing your first novel, that book is still an early draft until you and the book have been through at least two rounds (and probably more) of professional editing. If you’re sending in a manuscript–or if you’re publishing a manuscript–that hasn’t been professionally edited, you’re submitting/publishing a premature draft that will inevitably disappoint you. And that was the most important lesson gleaned from contest input.

Even after pulling Cinnamon and basically rewriting the book, the editorial quality of the new version still doesn’t equal that of Separation of Faith. But at least the new Cinnamon is miles better than the original–and I’m even considering submitting the novel to a few contests again, just out of curiosity. 🙂

Meanwhile, Separation of Faith is on a contest role–and although the story and characters have obviously made some contribution to these placements, another primary reason for the novel’s success is the excellence in editing. A few competitions haven’t announced the winners yet, and I have a list in front of me of another dozen contests to enter (all named below). Here’s what’s happened so far:

  1. Amazon’s 2011 Breakthrough Novel Award: Made Round 1 Cut. Feedback from Round 2 was interesting and included reports from two judges. One evaluation was glowing and would have moved the novel into Round 3. The second evaluation was the exact opposite and didn’t even sound like the same book had been read by the two judges. So, keep in mind that there’s a great deal of subjectivity in contest judging–just like there’s subjectivity in readers themselves. That’s why I’m entering as many contests as possible. The more feedback you can get, the more you’ll see the consistencies (the positives and negatives) come through in the feedback.
  2. 2011 Paris Book Festival: Runner-Up to Grand Prize Winner.
  3. 2010 DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Book Festival (one of the most prestigious and most important for self-publishers): Runner-Up to Grand Prize Winner.
  4. 2011 San Francisco Book Festival: Honorable Mention (2nd from top) in General Fiction.
  5. 2011 Beach Book Festival: Honorable Mention (top of list) in Fiction.
  6. 2011 New York Book Festival: Honorable Mention (top of list) in Fiction.
  7. 2011 Hollywood Book Festival: Honorable Mention (4th from top) in Fiction

Still waiting for results:

  1. 2011 Reader’s Favorite
  2. Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards–winners to be announced October 14, 2011
  3. USA Best Books 2011–finalists and winners to be announced in October 2011

Contests still to enter:

  1. Los Angeles Book Festival
  2. Benjamin Franklin Awards
  3. IPPYs (Independent Publisher Book Awards)
  4. Los Angeles Book Festival
  5. Foreward Magazine Book of the Year
  6. London Book Festival
  7. New England Book Festival
  8. 2012 Indie Excellence Awards
  9. Green Book Festival
  10. Hudson Valley Festival of Books

And I’m sure there are others. You can’t enter too many, in my opinion. Remember, also, that placing is fun, but what you end up learning about your writing and the story you’ve entered is the most important part of the process in the long run.

Good luck to you if you’re also on the contest path! Please let me know how you’re doing!

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Yay! Hurray! And oh what a feeling!

There’s certainly a very long way to go in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award before the winners are announced. HOWEVER … Separation of Faith has made the first cut! Only 1000 of the 5000 entries in General Fiction will be moving on to the next round … and my novel is one of those 1000! As I said before … Yay!

This first round was judged primarily on the book’s pitch, and here’s the one I entered:

In the summer of 1945, as World War II is ending, nineteen-year-old Abby Ryan is studying to become a nun. On the serene grounds of the convent in Kettle Falls, Washington, she is assaulted by two male trespassers and rescued by Sinclair Mellington, a handsome army captain attending a retreat at the institution. 
 
More than sixty years later, in 2008, Isaiah Mellington, an unemployed attorney in his fifties, receives a posthumous communication from his late father Sinclair containing instructions that send Isaiah to Kettle Falls to wrap up loose ends in the wake of Sister Abby’s death. There he discovers that the “loose ends” in question are connected to a life Abby lived outside the convent. And eight days after his arrival, Isaiah is still in Kettle Falls, with four women. One is an aging former nun who’s been the keeper of Abby’s secrets. Another becomes a romantic interest for him. And two are women whose lives have been abruptly hijacked by Sister Abby’s past. 
 
Separation of Faith is a story of intrigue, suspense, sorrow, and redemption, reminding us that knowing who we are is prelude to uncovering our destiny. As betrayal encroaches upon Isaiah as well, the twisted fabric of secrets and lies—amalgamating through a generation while short-circuiting destiny—begins to unravel. In the end, no one touched by Abby Ryan’s story is spared the scourge of heartbreak. And by the time Isaiah Mellington returns to Seattle from Kettle Falls, nothing about the life he’d taken for granted when he left two weeks earlier will ever be the same again.

Judging for Round Two will now start focusing on the book’s submitted “excerpt”–the first 3000-5000 words, which in my case equals the first chapter of Separation of Faith. Authors making this next cut will be announced on March 22.

As I said in the beginning, there’s still a long way to go in this contest, and the competition is tough. But this is certainly a welcome start and validation!

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