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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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Imagine My Surprise!

The last thing I was expecting on Friday (which was also my birthday) was an envelope in the mail filled with a roll of award stickers to place on the covers of my Separation of Faith copies. Guess I’ve been a little distracted lately … 🙂 At any rate, when I saw the words “2011 Award Winner,” I immediately went in search of the specifics. And I soon learned that this amazing little novel has now placed as a Bronze winner in the 2011 Readers Favorite Awards in the category “Fiction–Realistic” (http://tinyurl.com/6hz6z77  ). (First place continues to be elusive–but still possible!) Every little bit of achievement helps along this winding path–and I love the bonus award stickers!

Here’s a link directly to Amazon, in case anyone is interested in checking out Separation of Faith (available in hard cover, soft cover, and Kindle) in more detail– http://tinyurl.com/6hqwgrj . The story has an underlying mystery that takes the reader on a suspense-filled ride filled with illicit love, deception, hope, and redemption, with a plot twist no one ever sees coming! Please let me know if you decide to give the novel a try!

Chemo/Hair Update

Friday I developed a reaction (like a sunburn on my chest, neck, and cheeks) to one of the chemo drugs and was put on Benadryl for two days. That, of course, made me feel sleepy and weird, but otherwise okay. And I’m much better today. Supposedly, the first week after the chemo is when the most side effects are likely to take place, so I’m learning as I go which of those effects will be mine during the three weeks between each of the six treatments. Fortunately, my doctors seem to have remedies for most of the issues, and I’m hopeful that we won’t have to worry about too many of them.

Yesterday I had planned to have my hair taken off, since I know the whole head’s worth will be gone shortly. But even though my daughter was with me in the hair salon where I’ve been going for eleven years, I wasn’t ready and couldn’t go through with the buzz cut. I did have two wigs shaped and styled, however, and they look absolutely fabulous! So that gave me a boost of confidence for when my hair is gone. My guess is that I’ll get my courage up for the buzz cut sometime this week. Once that happens, I’ll post a photo or two of me in my “new” hair, marking the first tangible point on this fresh journey-within-a-journey.

Meanwhile,  tomorrow I will return to my Write-A-Thon objectives and will update you on the progress shortly. Hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend!

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No … This Isn’t About Me

Not yet, anyway. 🙂 The author’s name is John Locke (www.DonovanCreed.com). He’s a 60-something baby boomer with big dreams, sort of like me. But there’s a major difference. As of June 21, he has self-published seven novels (Donovan Creed, the detective, is a recurring character), plus two unusual western novels (by his own definition), and now a how-to book titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! (http://www.amazon.com/Sold-Million-eBooks-Months-ebook/dp/B0056BMK6K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1309223049&sr=1-1). And those five months were all in 2011! Here’s the link to this week’s news about his historic accomplishment: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/47669-john-locke-hits-1-million-on-the-kindle.html

If you’re a struggling writer out there who’s just happened upon this blog, or if you’ve been following this Journey since the blog launched on November 4, 2009, there won’t be any surprise in this news: I purchased Locke’s How I Sold … book for my Kindle within moments of reading two days ago about the man’s success.

Locke does not present himself as a great novelist–a refreshingly realistic perspective, especially since I’ve recently read a couple of best-selling novels, which were published through one of the big six mainstream traditional houses and which I could not believe ever saw the printed light of day. Locke does believe he’s a good writer, though, who’s become a better novelist over time as he’s crafted seven Donovan Creed stories for a relatively small, carefully defined, “niche” audience (the “niche” being a key element of the “system” he presents in How I Sold …). And, even though I don’t think I fit into Locke’s description of that niche, my curiosity was definitely piqued. So, a few minutes ago, I ordered two of his Creed novels–his earliest and his most recent, in order to experience his writing growth. 🙂 After all, the books are only 99 cents on Kindle (another key part of his “system”).

But the most important aspect of discovering Mr. Locke (for me, at least, and I suspect for a whole bunch of you as well) is that, until a few short months ago, he was in virtually the same position that I (and many of you) are in now–where we’re only selling a handful of books, despite back- (and bank-) breaking promotional efforts. He was languishing along with us in the ever-growing quicksand field of self-published authors, taking solace only in his unflagging determination and the encouraging legitimacy conveyed by his readers.

One significant difference between where he was and where I am was that his body of work is much larger than mine, due, as I learned at the end of his How I Sold … book, to his goal of completing a new novel every eight weeks. In one of the messages I wrote to him after finishing his book, I suggested that, whatever method(s) he uses to create a novel every eight weeks might be a great subject for his next how-to book! I already know that I’m taking way too long per book, but I’ve been working with the goal of producing a book each year. The idea of cranking out six per year never even flickered through my head. In fact, I’d be happy with a novel every six months. Would I buy a book by Locke that explained how he creates a new novel every eight weeks? Especially since that book would undoubtedly be priced somewhere between 99 cents and $5? Well … let me think.

At any rate, in less than six months, John Locke went from selling dribbles of his books on Amazon and other sources to being the first self-published author (and only the fifth or sixth author of any kind) to break through the 1 million book level on Kindle. And this wasn’t just by happenstance. He created a plan–a “system”–which he follows faithfully. And then, when his system actually worked consistently, he took a little time (a few weeks, apparently) to write a book that captures that system for the rest of us, in case we’d like to give the concept a try.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do! I’ll use Locke’s system for the nonfiction work in progress, hopefully due out on eBook by early fall, and then again for my next novel (which I’ve decided will definitely be a sequel to Separation of Faith–http://tinyurl.com/3tljkpc).

“Isn’t that going to be sort of risky?” you might ask.

Au contraire! “What do I have to lose?” is the question circling around me. What would any of us risk losing, compared to where we are now?

Imagine this: thousands of self-published authors–even tens of thousands, perhaps–suddenly experiencing wild success through eBook sales! Sure would be hard to marginalize that statistic or question the validity of authorship when paired with such soaring numbers of happy readers!

I’ll definitely keep you posted on what happens–and please let me know if you give Locke’s ideas a try yourself! From the beginning, I’ve been saying that there’s enough room in this dream for all of us!

Suddenly, the lyrics from an old boomer song by Buffalo Springfiled have begun rolling through my head: “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” That song spoke to a whole generation in the 1960s and early 70s about huge and very serious changes taking place in the country. Although clearly on a lighter, much smaller, and far less dangerous scale, I do believe there’s a revolution underway in the publishing world today. And I would like to be on the leading edge. How about you? 🙂

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