Self-publishing

On Book Reviews

I’ve been writing this blog post for days and thinking about writing it for even longer because I know how touchy this subject is. Still, I’d like to address it, to write about it through the eyes of a not-so-seasoned author that is still developing some thicker skin.

Googling the term “what is a book review” brings this up:

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_review)

Book reviews have become the modern day/virtual version of word-of-mouth. Readers can post them to retail sites, blogs, and places dedicated to them like Goodreads and Librarything. For a writer in this digital era reviews are crucial, since a huge percentage of readers will base their decision to buy your book or not on them.

Thing is, book reviews aren’t always a writer’s friend. As an author, you need to have in mind the fact that not everyone will like your book, that some people will hate it while others will be telling their friends about how much they loved everything about it and how much they need to read it, NAO. However, our books are like our children. We love them to death and are ready to fight anyone that dares tell us they’re not as pretty as our eyes see them.

“They are all my children. Maybe some are cross-eyed, but I love them all.”

~ Carlos Fuentes on his books

You still haven’t explained the pic of the running girl above.

Last time I blogged I talked about how I was going back to my running days. It’s still going strong and I’m super happy about it and how it has also sparked my CrossFit workouts. My core’s still shaking from working on them overhead squats! But when it comes to running I’ve noticed how much outside things influence me, more so than when I’m lifting heavy weights.

Back when I still had a smartphone (my Note 2 died on me a week ago and I still haven’t been able to replace it) one of the first things I used to do when I woke up was check KDP and my latest release’s Amazon and Goodreads pages. Bad, I know. Whatever feeling I got from that, either good or bad, permeated towards my morning run. Especially when it came to bad reviews, which in turn made me run like a madwoman, almost punishing myself for whatever it was I had done.

I have a really nice network of friends and supporters and I can summarize all the advice I’ve either received from them or read about the whole authors and reviews dilemma with:

“Don’t read them.” “Don’t take them personally.” “It’s just some asshole who hates everything and doesn’t deserve your attention… or your tears.”

The problem is that when you self-publish you can’t have the luxury of not reading your book’s reviews. The problem is that when you self-publish you also become your publicist, marketer, agent, all of the above, and you can’t ignore the fact that people are writing things about the product (your work) you’re selling. You have to be on top of all that stuff so you can design marketing strategies or even writing strategies for future works. You have to read the reviews so you know what’s happening with your book after releasing it into that big, dark, and scary wilderness called The Internet.

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. ;)

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. 😉

Weeks ago my book The Last Superhero got an awful review on Goodreads. It was a 3 star one which isn’t that bad, but the language the reviewer used was rather inappropriate. As I read it I thought “well, okay, he pretty much hated the book. Whatever.” I can live with people hating my books, hating on my characters, hating the plot, the settings, the covers, whatever they want to hate.

What I can’t live with is someone calling me “a lazy cunt.” The Last Superhero’s first chapters are filled with curse words so reviews with strong language don’t bother me. And, as I said before, I can totally get it if you hate my characters or story, but personal insults? That’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed by any reviewer, ever. We self-pubbed authors work really hard. Our families think we’ll never do anything worthwhile (unless we hit a bestseller list, if we ever do), we battle with characters that populate our minds and are fighting for our attention All. The. Fucking. Time. And then there’s the whole business side of things with the edits and the formatting and designing and marketing and STRESS.

Of course, not everything’s bad. I’ve gotten some glowing reviews for The Last Superhero that have helped me cope with the whole I-wanna-die ones (like this one from Reading… Dreaming or this one from Indieberlin). And, yes, I know this is part of the process of developing that armor all artists need once they decide to come out into the world, yet, as an author, I beg to all the reviewers out there to treat us authors as they’d like to be treated: with the respect we all deserve. Is that too hard a thing to ask for?

In the meantime, I’ll be out there running while muttering under my breath about those reviews. Oh, and writing, because no amount of bad reviews can ever stop that.

I know the Paper Rats agree with me on that. 😉

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Save the dates!

These last 9 days have been a roller coaster ride for me and I do love roller coasters, so I don’t mean it in a bad way. Ups, downs, but mostly ups since launching The Last Superhero on December 18 after a successful (at least to me) pre-order campaign.

I had debated whether or not to put The Last Superhero on pre-order since the moment I knew I was publishing it on December. KDP’s pre-order feature had been up and running for some time and the hive mind had a lot of information about it, especially this thread over at Kboards. I went back and forth with the idea, presented it to my editor, and we both came to the conclusion that talking publicly about a book that technically doesn’t exist yet doesn’t bode well with everyone. It’s mind bogging how quick people forget about stuff in this information-overloaded era and having a pre-0rder link while we worked on the last round of edits sounded like the best way to go; a place where we could direct people who showed interest about the book to and not have to rely on praying they didn’t forget how excited they were about it when they first heard the news. Also, it helped make it a bit more real for us… and a lot more nerve wracking.

I wrote blog posts. I ran an ARC copies Goodreads giveaway and a Rafflecopter one for signed copies. I made a Facebook event for the launch. I tweeted and FBed the hell out of it.

I’m not one of those authors with huge sales numbers so, for me, The Last Superhero has done reasonably well (27 pre-orders and a couple of sales trickling in daily). However, I know that with some more promo it can do a lot better.

In comes the Kindle Countdown Deal.

The Last Superhero is enrolled in KDP Select for the moment because I want to take advantage of both the countdown deals and the dreaded Kindle Unlimited. I don’t plan to keep it in Select forever so I’ll try to use it to my advantage while it’s there.

December 28th will be my 10th wedding anniversary. Yes, we’ve survived ten years together! And I thought it a great time to run a two day promo. I could go on about how the main characters resonate with my life but I already did that here. Needless to say, Giana and Steven, as well as Scarlett and Armand from my Caregiver Series, are May December romances, just like Hubby and I. Although, Steven’s 102, which could sound a bit hardcore but hey, he’s a superhero and they age slower so, yeah, age is only a number.

You’re over a hundred years old?” And you’re not a vampire!

Yes.”

Cool.”

Cool?”

Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. And, well, you look better than most of the hundred-year-olds I’ve met.” And you definitely don’t shag like a hundred-year-old either.

That makes him laugh, lightens the mood, makes the flame on the candle sway with his wine-infused breath.

– Excerpt from Chapter 11

*ahem* The deal?

Oh, yeah, that.

The Last Superhero will be $0.99 on Dec 28, it’ll then go up to $1.99 on Dec 29 before settling back to its original price of $2.99 on Dec 30. This will only be happening on Amazon’s .com site. I’m trying to make it happen on the UK one too but I had to do a price change for that and I don’t know if it’ll be set for tomorrow.

Sites/services I’ve set promos with:

1. eReader Utopia

2. Awesome Gang

3. Just Kindle Books

4. Bargain Booksy

5. Bknights

1 and 4 I’ve used before while 2, 3, and 5 are new to me. I’ve found these sites through web searches, Kboards, and Lindsay Buroker’s awesome blog. I’m still trying to figure all this out since marketing isn’t my forte but I’m confident I’m on the right track, even if it’s only to give the book a bit of a ranking boost.

Another fantastic service I’ll be using is Booktastik, where TLS will be featured as a New Release on January 2nd.

There are other places I’d love to be able to feature the book (i.e. BookSends) but alas, it doesn’t have enough reviews to pass their submission requirements. Another one I want to try is BookBub but that’ll have to wait until the budget allows it (that if they don’t reject TLS once I can submit). This is why reviews are so important to authors. It’s not only a thing of validation, it’s a necessary evil for marketing and therefore, sales, and therefore, surviving as a scribbler in this big bad world.

Save the dates!

December 28 – The Last Superhero will be $0.99

December 29 – The Last Superhero will be $1.99

 

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.

third

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!

framed280inbruges

*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