Books

Biting the perma-free dust

For some time I had been trying to tell Amazon that the first book of my series The Caregiver was free over at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc., but they kept ignoring me until yesterday morning when I woke up to find my book not only price-matched to free but with over twenty downloads.

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I had no idea I was in for a very very bumpy ride.

Since writing is a task that requires the use of, guess what? The brain! I was in for a day with no writing because of this new shiny thing that was happening over at my KDP dashboard called sales. Free units, yeah, not exactly sales but it kinda feels like it. It’s more of an ‘I’m broke but yaaaayyyy!’ kind of rush that it sometimes feels like a betrayal to all the hours spent and tears I’ve shed writing that thing that people seem to only care to take notice of when it’s free even though before it was only 99¢ and it has, like, 11 reviews with a 4.3 stars rating and a lot of them are from people I don’t even know and those from people I actually know got no money for them and no, none of them is my mother (she’s still asking where she went so awfully wrong that her daughter writes about gangsters and murder).

Now I don’t know if I want to smile or cry, or do both at the same time.

But that’s life in general.

Now, for the smiling part: The Caregiver got 238 downloads in 24 hours which is more than what it’d get during a 48hr KDP Select promo with me running around in circles all over the Internet promoting it. I did no promo whatsoever because I had no idea that would happen so that’s pretty pleasing. Oh, and it escalated to the 18th position on the Top 100 Free Crime Thriller list thingy.

My mother’s proud of me, the hubby is proud of me, my editor is proud of me, my friends are proud of me.

I’m still working on being proud of myself.

This. Is. So. Damn. Frustrating.

I’m sorry if I’m being too damn sincere because I’m trying to be as logical as I can with this thing since I did maths for it. Yeah, maths! Me!

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*sigh*

The math was done last November and posted here:

My novella, The Caregiver, keeps hitting the Top 20 and Top 10 in its category when I do the promo thingy. Then, when the free ride is over, it plummets back to the shadows. Meanwhile, The Caregiver Vignettes 1-5, with no reviews, no nothing, doesn’t hit lower than 30,000 in rank in its category. Why? Because it’s free.

As of right now the book has been downloaded 33 times today and that’s an effing record in itself. What’s the thread I’m hanging by? The fact that some people I have not paid or stabbed to get them to read my book have gotten hooked and bought books 2 and 3. I’m crossing my fingers these downloaders actually read it and that they then may or may not want to buy books 2 and 3 and the soon to come prequel and 4th book.

Of course, the fact that books 2 and 3 are already out there was a big part of this whole scheme. I give a little something, they give a little something.

And even if they don’t give me anything I’m sitting here after having not slept well because of OMG OMG OMG ALL THE DOWNLOADS and pondering if hubby will behave during fancy dinner parties surrounded by celebrities. Jaysus, I have to practice how to smile so it doesn’t look like I’m having a full-fledged spasm!

Part 2 of Bye Bye KDP Select

Tonight I can write the saddest lines… No, not really.

Yesterday I wrote this post about Book 1 of my series leaving KDP Select behind after spending the last couple of days trying to publish it through NOOKpress, Kobo, Smashwords, Wattpad, and on the blog I started for the series, all this while writing page after page of data for my thesis (on self-publishing). I was exhausted and I’m saying this to try and justify how shitty that post was. Worst post I’ve ever written and it got a lot of attention so I’d like to rectify things with another post, written first thing in the morning and after a nice cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast.

I had been thinking a lot about how to market my books. Trying to get more attention, more sales. I’m currently unemployed, finishing my Masters, and trying with all my might to make my creative side work for me. I’m a DIYer from head to toe (literally, yes, I even groom my dogs and cut my own hair), so self-publishing was a no-brainer when I decided to venture into publishing my writing. However, when it comes to selling and marketing, I’m my own worst enemy. My telemarketing days back in college left me scarred for life (they kept me for as long as they did because I spoke English, if not, I would’ve been given the sack my first week).

But that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here because of the Bye Bye KDP Select title.

My friend and author extraordinaire Todd Keisling has been debating over marketing stuff too, only he’s been more outspoken about it. I have not. We’ve had convos about it and after this post he wrote, I thought I’d give my two cents about this. Yesterday’s post also sparked a Twitter reply from @ljndawson in which she mentions the fact that the 3 months thing just doesn’t work.

I went into the KDP Select thing after a lot of reading and pondering about it. Amazon has always been the channel with most sales for me so it didn’t feel wrong to give them the exclusivity to my works. It was like getting into a relationship with someone you’ve known for a while and even when you think ‘yeah, I can handle this’ there always comes a time when you start feeling the belts on the straightjacket getting tighter for no apparent reason. Especially when you’re not getting off on it. Three months become an eternity when you’re not comfortable.

I don’t wanna be kept, I don’t wanna be caged
I don’t wanna be damned, oh, hell
I don’t wanna be broke, I don’t wanna be saved
I don’t wanna be S.O.L.

A lot of blogs I read spoke about the magical after-sales authors encountered after a KDP promo. Your book is free for a couple of days, then when the promo’s over stardust falls from the heavens and you’re blessed with sales. Kind of like those TV shows that get high ratings only because they come right behind another, more successful show. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? I mean, I LOVE giving stuff for free. I really do. I once met a chef that kept giving away recipes she came up with and when asked why she kept giving them away (we were part of an online community) instead of writing a cookbook and selling it, she answered: “because for me, recipes are like butterflies, they come to me freely and are meant to stay that way, free.”

Stories are like butterflies for me. Murder butterflies, but butterflies nonetheless. I can’t keep them captive, they are meant to be enjoyed by everyone out there, not just me. So the KDP Select thing didn’t feel wrong or whorish. I didn’t feel I was becoming Amazon’s bitch by taking that step. I’ve never seen Amazon as the big bad wolf, I owe it the opportunity of publishing my work on a platform that we all have to admit has an enviable standing. I tell people I self-publish my books and they are like ‘yeah, good for you’, I tell them they are on Amazon and their eyes grow wide in disbelief. I smile and add, “put Artistikem in the search box and you’ll find me.” I’m searchable on Amazon, goddammit. Step aside [random famous author name]!

However, as I was starting to think I was immune to the KDP Select promo fairy dust, Todd’s numbers and comments opened my eyes to the reality that there are too many freetards out there roaming like the walkers from The Walking Dead, feeding off people like us that are willing to give away free stuff with the ultimate goal of getting at least one teeny tiny sale.

My novella, The Caregiver, keeps hitting the Top 20 and Top 10 in its category when I do the promo thingy. Then, when the free ride is over, it plummets back to the shadows. Meanwhile, The Caregiver Vignettes 1-5, with no reviews, no nothing, doesn’t hit lower than 30,000 in rank in its category. Why? Because it’s free.

I know everything they say. If your book isn’t selling revise the story, change the cover, get reviews, do a naked streak around a football field with your book’s title written on your skin. But there is only so much one can do. I hire editors for my books. I’m almost certain my covers don’t suck (we’re a team, hubby and I, I do graphic design and he’s a photographer, so we know a bit of what we’re doing). I plug myself on social media but not too much because I value my Internet friends enough. So what the fuck do I have to do to get more sales?

Kill all the freetards? Scarlett charges too much for every kill and I’m no drug lord with enough money to pay her to do the job.

Deal with the freetards? I have no idea how to do that but I’m going to try.

Now that The Caregiver is out of the KDP Select binder, I plan to make it perma-free to try and hook readers with it. Not just 5 days out of 90. I’ve read of other authors doing it with their series and, sincerely, I always knew it’d come to that at some point. This may be the best timing since Book 2 has been available for a while, Book 3 is currently suffering under editor Stacia Rogan‘s scrutiny (the poor thing. I mean the book, not her), and I already started on Book 4.

What else will I do? I’ll keep The Vignettes coming. They are great mental exercises, they help me brainstorm what’s coming next, and oh man are they getting interesting. They may possibly add up to a prequel in the near future. And to think I had already started one about Scarlett’s early years.

I’m rewriting a sci-fi/romance/thriller I wrote years ago and posting it on Tumblr and Wattpad.

Visibility and exposure are a common mantra among self-publishers and I’m putting all my money on it to turn my fate around.

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time

Bye bye KDP Select

Not exactly a bye bye because it’s just for Book 1 of The Caregiver Series. I’d probably drop Torn in the near future, that’s still to be decided. I want to make Book 1 perma-free to try and give the rest of the books a kick in the butt. Let’s see how that goes.

Anyway, The Caregiver is now free of the Amazon exclusivity shackles and will become available through other channels before the end of the year, in time to celebrate the release of Book 3. Yay!

For now, I’ve given The Caregiver Series its own blog. Book 1 is available there, as well as the vignettes (I’ve been writing more of those lately) and some other neat info you may find useful or just plain entertaining (like this list of characters). More things will be added with time, so keep your eyes peeled.

Also, if you’re a Wattpad user, The Caregiver is now available there too so feel free to check it out: http://www.wattpad.com/28636561

That’s it for now, folks. ‘Til next time.

Of actors, and characters, and writing, and all that crazy sh*t

I’ve been meaning to write a post for some time and have come to the conclusion that I’m an awful blogger. Most of the time I don’t think I have anything nice or earth-shattering to say, so I stay quiet, which isn’t the blogger thing to do.

Ugh.

Thing is, my friend, writer, and editor Stacia posted this wonderful entry on her bog titled When they’re dull as dirt: Thoughts on casting characters about using actors in the character development process. It’s a technique I use a lot since it helps me give each character the three-dimensionality they need (I’m the friend that sent her the document with my dream cast, which, as of now, has 28 characters in it).

I must confess it’s an exercise that makes me feel guilty about “using” these people for my convenience (I wrote about that here). Do their ears ring all the time because of me? I don’t think so, but still. They don’t have to be exact matches, even a single trait can help you solidify a character enough to make him or her pop out of the page. A beautiful post about it is Susan Rutherford’s ‘Hearing Voices’ for Park Theatre’s blog where she talks about how an actor’s voice helped her shape a character that refused to come out of the page:

I went to a reading, met the actors, and the voice of one of them stuck in my head.  Suddenly that lifeless character started to breathe.  It’s not that my character is similar to any of those I saw that night, nor is that particular actor necessarily suitable for the role; but there was something about him that seemed to give my man a gentle kick up the arse.

My closest friends know there are actors and actresses that have recurrent roles through my works. They also know I’ll die of embarrassment if I ever met them (the things I put them through some times!). That’s why I prefer to use actors and not Tuckerization, I mean, I can kill off a character based on an actor’s performance and he or she won’t come knocking down my door asking me why I did that to them; friends or family, on the other hand, won’t let me live with it.

“When I read I make myself a film in my head. It’s the writer’s job to make that process as easy as possible – so readers are almost eavesdropping these people, seeing the locations, smelling the coffee if you like. Viva la Madness flows like a film. And has snap edits like a film. There’s a lot of “cut to” involved. Lots of flashback and different aspects of the same story told from different points of view. It has captions and timelines. Writers nowadays have borrowed these techniques from film.”

— J.J. Connolly

We read and simultaneously see the movie of what’s happening in our heads; the same goes for writing, you see it in your head as your fingers hit the keys on your computer.

Writer friend Todd Keisling talks about this in his Up and Coming Interview with In Ear Entertainment, saying his writing is very cinematic. And given the fact that new generations have shorter attention spans and very active imaginations, I believe it’s something good. I don’t want to compare my writing to Todd’s because I can’t bring myself to look him in the eye after reading his work. He’s amazing and if you haven’t read his books then shame on you. But I want to think my writing as cinematic also (I was told this once by an English professor) and that it engages the reader as a film would. I often get that ‘I read it in one sitting’ or ‘I couldn’t put it down once I started’ from people that have read my work and it makes me happy.

In an interview with Stacey Cochran and RJ Keller in Book Chatter, the subject of my writing process came up and my answer still makes me think I may have sounded a little crazy. Anyway, when I was little I wanted to be an actress. Even when writing was always there, the first things I wrote were short stories and screenplays. Screenplays because I wanted to be able to write the character and play it. Oh, and also direct it, but that wasn’t my main goal back then. What I learned from that was to take on the dialogues for what they are: dialogue, meant to be said by someone. Since then, most of the time when I sit down to write I’ve already acted the whole thing as if I were in the movie. I shout at my walls a lot, thank god they don’t shout back.

Where do the actors come in, then? Well, I can’t play all the characters, can I? And having a solid reference for each character does wonders for this process. You have no idea the actors I’ve “worked” with in my head and how that mental interaction has helped me with writing stuff that doesn’t sound like coming out of a robot’s speaker.

It may also be the reason that will get me locked up in a padded cell later in life. But psychological distress while writing is another topic I promise I’ll write about on some other occasion.

The important thing here would be not to get too attached to those actors you envision playing your characters in case it gets picked up by some production company and they cast other people for the parts. Writers don’t have a saying in that and you have to be able to let go. Yeah, yeah, I know that most see this as wishful thinking, but a girl can dream, right?

Now go on, come up with your dream cast and make ‘em proud.

Write

The Caregiver Series new covers and unveiling of Book 3’s.

The Caregiver Series new covers and unveiling of Book 3's.

What started as a standalone short story grew into a series. Now that the release of Book 3, THE BEAST, is only months away and book 4 is in the brainstorming phase, I believe the series needed a design overhaul and here’s the result.

Check out the covers of THE CAREGIVER and TORN live at the Kindle Store by clicking on the picture.

Tomorrow!

The sun’ll come out
Tomorrow
So ya gotta hang on
‘Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You’re always
A day
A way!

May 31st is the date and you are invited to celebrate with me and wonderful editor Stacia Rogan the release of the much awaited sequel to The Caregiver

Cover for Torn, The Caregiver Book 2

There may be some new bad guys in town but nobody puts Scarlett in a corner. Nor will they be able to stop Armand and his men from standing by her side, ready to shoot anyone that comes even near hurting her. However, there’s nothing they can do when a part of her past she thought buried and forgotten reemerges from the depths to haunt her.

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Jaw-dropping revelations, strong situations, and violent confrontations both physical and psychological are in store for this mobster lot when they visit Puerto Rico to meet with Scarlett’s grandfather, the world famous hit man Adrian Lang.

I must confess I love this book, even though writing it wasn’t a breeze. I had too many feels during the process.

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And yes, my brain is so exhausted after the end of the semester and the whole editing process that I’ve resorted to using GIFs.

Some warming up before you dive into Book 2:

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 samples, and songs from my playlist.

So get ready, for in less than 24 hours we will…

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My KDP Select promo experiment

I had seen it, read about it, analyzed the pros and the cons, and I don’t want to repeat what everyone else has said about this.

It isn’t an entirely good thing, yet it isn’t that bad. Relinquishing my books to the all-mighty Amazon didn’t feel wrong because 99.9% of all my sales have come through them. It actually made some sense.

For those of you who don’t know, KDP Select is a program for self-publishers using the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. It gives you 5 days every 90 to give your book away for free and royalties if people borrow it through their Prime program.

I used some promo days on two books, The Caregiver (published on May 2012) and a short story, At the Corner of Mars and Neptune (published May 2013). ‘Twas the Mother’s Day weekend and I put the first one free Sunday and Monday, the latter from Sunday ’til Tuesday.

Ok, so, the thing I read the most about during my research was: how do these free promos translate into 1) money, 2) people actually reading the book and not only getting it because it’s free and, therefore, shiny?

1) Money. What is that? Ah, that thing I use to get food… yeah, not the reason I write (and yes, that’s the truth either you want to believe or not).

2) People actually reading the book?  I went in knowing that A LOT of people download free books for the sole reason that they are free and never ever touch them, so I was surprised by this review for The Caregiver:

This was the first free book I have read and I was pleasantly surprised. I would read more from this author.

Pleasantly surprised, indeed. If I’ve managed to reach one new reader then I feel like my work here is done.

At the Corner of Mars and Neptune had a huge welcome to the published Kindle books universe. It was downloaded 206 (includes all Amazon sites). It’s a nice number, at least for me, for a short story that had no reviews. After the free promo it got 2 wonderful reviews by people I respect and great feedback through Twitter.

The Caregiver was downloaded a total of 423 times. I know these numbers look teeny-tiny to some authors, to me they are wonderful.

They make me happy.

When it comes to the Amazon Rankings…

At the peek of the promo The Caregiver reached #45 in the Suspense category of the Top 100 Free for Kindle in the US and #52 in the UK.

At the Corner of Mars and Neptune reached #18 in Crime, #24 in Short Stories in the US. It was #20 in Short Stories on the Canada store at one point, #9 in Germany, #10 in France. But the big surprise was in the UK store, where it reached #6.

I’m very pleased with the results, especially given the fact that I was doing all that shameless self-promotion while writing a final paper. I still haven’t slept enough to feel like a person thanks to doing Book 2 edits, writing Book 3, and working on the transmedia project (sleep is for losers, anyway, right?), but I’d do it all over again… and I will!

I want to thank every one of you for your support, wouldn’t have made it without you!!

Soon enough I’ll have news on Book 2’s launch! Yay!