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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Closing Year One


2011 will be the pivotal year when I decided that I was a writer – not just someone who sometimes wrote. I embraced it and plunged into the adventure wholeheartedly!

This adventure started years ago, quite possibly when I was 1 ½ years old and pretending to be an errand reporter, a man-on-the-street reporter and photojournalist and newspaper magnate and publisher…

Perhaps, it started more properly when I was in my formative years and writing short stories in my light blue Fisher-Price typewriter; or writing plays in my teens; or writing poems and songs in my college years; or publishing my personal zine in my twenties.

It could have been cemented by my first work experience in a publishing house or by my latest college degree in electronic publishing.

Maybe it was unhappiness and an innate desire to fight back injustice mated with gallows humor, or it could have been my friend’s infectious exultation and call to play NaNoWriMo with him.

Ultimately it was losing my job that opened the door to my writing career. I finally had the time and the creative juices were flowing.

Certainly it wasn’t lack of support and encouragement! I had and continue to have plenty of that, and I am so grateful for it.

In 2012, I hope to find another day job, but I will never abandon my writing again. My plan is to continue this adventure wherever it may lead; certainly new ideas keep flowing and I will follow them.

Publishing adds another dimension to my life, one I enjoy immensely and one which expands my own horizons (sometimes in unexpected ways). It’s both a blessing and a drug I can’t give up.

New beginnings are sometimes rebirths and no less exciting. Cherish yours in whatever guise they may come! 

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Things are Happening!


On Dec 20, look for a profile of my novel Justified at The Indie Spotlight. The blog features independent and self-published works and it’s a great resource for readers, I highly recommend you check it out.

Please check out Barbara Bretton’s newest installment of the Sugar Maple series. I was lucky enough to contribute an essay and recipe to the epilogue of her new title, Spells & Stitches. You can get it at Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions, and at Smashwords and several other electronic retailers.

video
I've just produced a new video trailer for the cookbook (includes requisite food porn, of course!) with a lovely, bluesy soundtrack.

In January, look for advertising for my titles on eFiction magazine.

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Night with B.B.


The mini-memoir is up at Smashwords now. Both Kindle and Nook stores will follow this weekend. iBookstore, Sony, Diesel and other online retailers for multiple devices will follow in the coming weeks. 

No Idle Hands...


To celebrate my second favorite holiday of all time, Festivus, I will be releasing “One Night with B.B.” in the next few days. I am working on formatting issues. Not all ebook formats accept embedded audio files, so I solved it by offering a link for a free download to all who purchase it.

Those who purchase the book for Festivus will be scratched off my list for the Airing of Grievances.

I started researching another cookbook project on the culinary influences of the Taino Indians. There are two projects in the hopper right now. The upcoming one is the Family Tree cookbook. Following that, there’s Cocina Latina, a collection of Latin American ingredients and recipes.

Family Tree requires editing and will probably come out sometime in January or in time for Valentine’s Day. Cocina Latina is on the research stage and I still need to test some of the recipes (I love my trade!). This title will probably be ready in spring 2012. The Taino cookbook is on its early research stages and will probably go online in the summer.

The steampunk series that I rewrote for NaNoWriMo is still going strong. Right now I am adding a pivotal character scene for the heroine that is a little painful to write. After that is done, I have a new book I got for my birthday: Horrible Histories: Cruel Kings and Mean Queens by Terry Deary. It is quite an awesome resource to do research for the royalty and their excessive little lifestyles… Plus, it looks like a fun read.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Special Holiday Sales



All my titles are going on sale for the holidays. For less than a buck you can have the sarcastic, vicarious thrill of a little killing of an obnoxious boss plus a road trip; or a little dysfunction and dim sum; or dozens of love letters to food and matching recipes!

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On Video Trailers

video

The latest rage in the last couple of years has been video trailers for books. The jury is still out on their value as a marketing tool. I suppose that if they are well produced, it becomes part of a larger plan and they can be used to announce a launch or to build anticipation.

Do they add sales? Probably not because they are likely to be seen by people who were going to purchase the title. I mean that I don't believe a book trailer will convince a reader to purchase a book. I am not sure that there is any research on it one way or the other.

My problem generally is that book trailers don't exactly work in the same way movie trailers do. You can offer some images, but people should be let to make those connections on their own, use their imaginations and make of the story whatever works for them. (Instead of forcing an image in their heads.)

My friend Barbara sent me a book regarding Movie Maker, and I happened to have had the app on my laptop from a few years back. I made the video above mostly to amuse myself. 

To test it, I showed it to my mother, who read the story years ago, reluctantly because she lived it, but I did not tell hr what she was watching. A few seconds into it, she was hollering (it took years to laugh about it).

Whether this video serves a purpose other than amuse me remains to be seen, but if you have not read it, I suggest you give it a shot. Why? Because death, dysfunction and dim sum will take a whole new meaning for you after you do.


UPDATE: The day after I posted this, the Center for Publishing at NYU posted a piece about an industry discussion regarding video in publishing.

While the discussion was not exclusively about video trailers, it touched on videos to increase the draw to content and was a huge proponent of the educational factor to enhance the experience. Samantha Cohen, of Simon & Schuster, did make the point that video in fiction “just doesn’t work because it interferes with the reader’s own version of an imaginary world.”

The book publishers are excited about the possibilities of enhanced ebooks although no business model exists for it and there are several challenges involved in video production for books. At least they acknowledged that technological progress has arrived. Beyond the trailer, what awaits us is truly interactive reading experiences that are rich and dynamic. Sounds like fun!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oops, I did it again!



The beginning of the month you find yourself with a blank page, your fertile valley full of ideas and possibilities (characters, settings, plot twists), and the summit you need to reach is 50,000 words.

Of course, any reasonable person understands this is insanity.

Some of us ignore that little fact and move forward, convinced we can do it. It’s not impossible! And so we write like lunatics, we miss on precious beauty sleep, we eat like starving artists, we consume quintuple our average intake of caffeine, we live and breathe our novels.

I took an idea I loved but wasn’t quite working. I trashed plot points that were going nowhere, I rewrote scenes that I thought could be salvaged, I redressed some characters, I introduced characters I did not know were part of the story and some took over their own fates within it.

This is the beginning of a fantastic voyage! Of course, I hope that the final result is well worth a read, but the writing has been an excellent adventure.

In the meantime, I relish the accomplishment and encourage my fellow novelists to write, write, write until they reach their 50K. I await with pom-poms at the end of the line, cheering them on.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No ninjas, but a pirate queen!



The beauty of steampunk is that it is speculative fiction at its best. You can have action, adventure, humor and tweak history to your heart’s content.

There are still some rules, but the fun is not so much bypassing them but enhancing.

Working from a Victorian to Edwardian era gives you all these exciting moments in history to draw upon and incorporate into your plot, setting and characterization.

If you like doing research, this genre gives you the opportunity to look into a myriad of topics – each with its own breakthroughs and rock stars!

If you are clever enough, you can take earlier figures and tweak their own history or the course of their influence (their descendants or kin).

I’ve been choosing the historical figures that will make it into my story and, of course, Victoria makes a cameo of sorts. But it is the appearance of Gráinne Ni Mháille that truly excites me!

I have the steam technologies, the post modern buildings, the Victorian/Edwardian fashions, but I think it is the addition of a good pirate queen that makes this story truly screams steampunk!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is how I do it...




Writing the NaNoWriMo novel.

When I decided to do NaNoWriMo last year, most of my writing for the novel, “Justified” was pretty organic. I already had my premise, from weeks of sharing stories of bad bosses with co-workers (a venting exercise we engaged in during breaks and at lunchtime).

I had started writing it during the summer and then got stuck because the story was going nowhere. Once I decided to do NaNo, I decided to write it over but in a more organized way. Characters were clearly defined (especially the new hero of the piece).

Then I planned out scenes I wanted to write. It wasn’t until about halfway through November that I knew what the ending would be and it was dictated by the character himself. Everything flowed from this and it was a joy to write after that because it literally wrote itself, I felt more like a secretary to the muse, transcribing what the characters and the story called for.

The current selection for NaNoWriMo I started writing in May. It began with a genre. I just wanted to write a steampunk story. That in itself suggested a main character and a way to introduce the story.

Before summer’s end, I ran out of gas because that was all I had. A few weeks ago, I started to freestyle writing a dialog between the heroine and another character with no purpose other than have them interact.

The result was unexpected but it gave me details of the world I did not have and it helped me do character studies, if in dialog form.

Again this year, I started NaNoWriMo with an idea that I had been playing with for a while, but I threw out the original premise and started writing a new story. I started writing the story from a strange point but I figured, I could edit in December and modify and add the introduction later (in December while editing).

To my great surprise, today – instead of writing – I awoke and put together a full outline of the steampunk series. A total of nine volumes – complete with characters to introduce at each level, settings, plots, themes and a little gimmick.

Is this the right way to prepare and then write a novel? Who knows?! It is if it works. It worked with “Justified.” This is a far more ambitious project.

Inspiration is subjective and, like pornography to Justice Stewart, I know it when I see it. I’ve seen it and it is awesome!

It is exhausting but the rush is extraordinary.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Week Two of NaNoWriMo . . .



. . . is in full swing and I am up 18,970 words plus 21 pages of long hand from today alone. My characters have left land and begun their seafaring chapter. Next they’ll have an adventure in a floating fortress.

Since I threw out my original concept and most of the ideas that I’d started with, I am writing the story as the characters are living it and I have no idea what the end game is. This is a deranged way to write a novel, but NaNoWriMo is an insane idea to begin with, why go easy on the challenge?

Besides, if the story starts to stall, I can always send my heroine to join a proto-Victorian circus. That ought to jack things into high gear!

One of my writing buddies sent me a note that her family thinks she is nuts. I assured her that she is indeed nuts.

NaNoWriMo is deranged, but when it is good (and words are flowing, even if it makes no sense and you've resorted to introducing a ninja) the creative high is priceless.

In the end, it's just a matter of honoring your commitment to yourself -- within reason, as real life sometimes intrudes, posing a challenge and meeting it, and just having fun.

It’s a seemingly impossible task. That alone makes it worth it for the competitive ones among us. But that is not the point. It is a Zen experience. It is about the journey. You will learn many things about yourself, but the best thing you can learn is to condition yourself to meet an uphill battle without fear.

If you haven’t started yet and would like to join us, I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Blogging at La Bella Novella!



La Bella Novella, run by the lovely Ashley, is doing a Blog Party for NaNoWriMo. Please read my guest blog!

This evening, at zero hour, they’ll be featuring my guest blog on this crazy thing we do in November. Go check it out and please leave Ash a nice note for her efforts!

I have been on a magic carpet ride of writing. The notes I had been writing for weeks have given shape to two great characters for the steampunk novel. Many things have changed: settings, names, secondary characters, motivations, back stories

I had not touched the novel for weeks (months) because I was stuck. It simply didn't work. It was, in fact, irreparably broken. I threw all that out and whatever my freestyle writing inspired opened a whole new story that seems to be gathering momentum. 

I am excited about the project again. I am also in love with writing again. 

NaNoWriMo rocks.

This is a powerful creative drive and I intend to ride to my 50,000 word goal and beyond!

Put on another pot of coffee because it’s going to be a long, sleepless drive…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo




It has begun...

If you haven't yet, join us in the madness. It's just a commitment to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I insanely believe I have enough notes on the world I wish to tell my story in and that an actual story will emerge once I get my characters interacting. This may not be the best way to start a novel, but it's NaNoWriMo: this ain't about safe!

This is madness!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

This is only a test


Click on the image to enlarge. Please vote in the comments section. If you prefer leave your votes and criticism on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Enhancing the Experience



Sometimes inspiration hits you. Literally.

I awoke this morning with a clear idea that I wanted to add a link to the mini-memoir about B.B. King’s live performance at the Blue Note. My idea is to allow readers to read the story while listening to a stream of Blues.

It certainly would enhance the experience and it’d be a fully integrated technology because on the iPod Touch, iPad and SmartPhones you can stream in the background while you use another app (like Kindle or Stanza).

At the moment I am researching the legal implications of linking directly to a streaming service, although it is just as easy to suggest folks read while using their existing service. Of course, most of these services have limitations (some are only available in the US, for instance).

I was thinking of putting together a folder of free music on Google Docs to download to e-readers that allow for mp3/mp4 files. I couldn't possibly afford the licensing of adding B.B. King's music, so they idea of including this might not be too smart. Though any kind of Blues is always a good thing.

My fantasy is to do a book launch party at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill in Times Square, but I am not sure I can tackle that right now. It just seems like such a natural thing to do: food, drink, blues and good company.

Maybe it doesn’t need to be a book launch, and perhaps I’ll find another excuse altogether to do it. We can just do A Night at B.B.’s, though the weekend brunch looks like fun too!

Other than that, I have been envisioning a flying fortress for the steampunk story, and this has opened up a few more story arcs. I also figured out something about the characters that puts an interesting twist on things. It’s fascinating to allow this story to write itself, because I certainly have no idea where it is going and I am letting the characters dictate what happens.

Right now, I’ve come to realize that as I freestyle this story what I am doing is outlining the series in long prose. It will take longer to write than “Justified” but it is a stimulating exercise.

Meanwhile, real life keeps intruding and I am not getting as much writing as I wish. This is only temporary. I’m still mulling over whether I will participate in NaNoWriMo – there is this inert desire to do it and then a more practical voice tells me that I have things to do that must be done. Drats! Yes, I said drats!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

To Tweet, Perchance to Communicate



I’ve had a Twitter account since the fall of 2009, though the idea of the social network is exhausting. It has sat there, mostly inactive, virtually collecting dust. Until last week when I felt a distinct need to connect in a clusterfrak of wired activity.

Of course, once I published the cookbook and the novel, it was understood that Twitter would have to become a part of my overall online marketing plan.

I refuse to use my Facebook account for this purpose. For the moment, that account is strictly for friends and family, and I do not wish to mix business and pleasure.

Google+ with its circles and hangouts seemed like a better fit for this purpose. Twitter is a good secondary conduit for promotional purposes.

You may follow me on Twitter @KaliAmanda.

On Fridays and Saturdays, I will post a series of tweets for Weekend Chefs with tips and links for breakfast and brunch ideas. Saturdays and Sundays, I will post a series of tweets, Brown-bag it!, with tips and links to brown-bag lunches during the work week. These can be found under the hash tag #KaliFoodGoddess.

The series began this weekend and you should check it out – especially the link to making your own sushi rolls.

Of course, any updates on the food column and subsequent cookbooks will appear under this hash tag as well.

Twitter will also carry announcements of book launches and special promotional offers.

I realize it is yet another account to maintain, but it will become another arm of the integrated plan and while there is a mountain of data streaming at all times (when exactly does Guy Kawasaki sleep?!), it will also make me privy to interesting news from a staple of fascinating folks I now follow.

On other news, the cookbook just received an independent review. The woman who reviewed the book gave it a very thoughtful, lengthy and enthusiastic five-star review. You can view the review here: http://amzn.to/pbKbkf

I just sold my first overseas copy in England, and because the iBookstore is expanding their distribution, I expect a slight resurgence in unit sales.

Now if only I had more time and energy to dedicate to the writing itself…

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Heartbroken


After a very long day, I took a nap yesterday and awoke to the news we all knew was inevitable. Steve Jobs is dead. I cried.

I started writing a personal zine back in the 1980s. I had been writing for years but only showed my work for a few eyes only. The zine allowed me to widen my audience.

My design tool of choice then was a Mac. Much of the production involved I had done by hand earlier, now a small magical box made easier and a lot of fun.

Most of us pick our heroes with the same criteria we pick our friends. There is at least one characteristic about that person that adds value to our own lives.

Neither our friends nor our heroes are perfect. When we bestow our love and respect upon them we are highlighting the best of them with our aspiration to be more like them. Just as in the 21st century we have not physically met all our friends, we may have never met our own heroes. This does not diminish the loss of their absence when they are gone.

That's only one of the reasons why I will mourn Steve. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

OMG! NaNoWriMo is coming!


Many annoying things, what we geeks refer to as Real Life (RL), have been intruding and disrupting my writing at the moment. It’s not an excuse so much as a reality. Sadly, these things must be addressed and solved before we can move on with the more pleasurable things in life…

It’s about priorities and the consequences of ignoring them. The less said about it the better, and the sooner it is all resolved: hurray!

In the meantime, I just realized that there is less than a month to go to NaNoWriMo!

Dear Lord, has it been a year already? I wrote Justified during NaNo 2010. I started late and completely rewrote something I had been playing with for a while. I changed the protagonist and added a subplot. It turned out rather well.

I was satisfied with it and three people whose opinion matter the most to me were satisfied with the experience of reading it. That is a success in my book.

I’d participated in NaNoWriMo 2009, but the result was a disaster. I accomplished the 50,000 word goal but it was a horrifying mess of a novel! I have since destroyed all copies because, on the unlikely scenario that I am struck by a runaway taxi, I prefer people find porn on my hard drive instead of that manuscript.

Now it is time for NaNoWriMo 2011.

I hope to have resolved the RL issues by then. Will I have the energy? Will I be working (oh please, Universe, send me a day job)? Can I come up with a story and characters and a setting and a good conflict in the next three weeks? Will I start with nothing, a total clean slate? In or out?!

It is horrifying and exciting at once. I will change my mind eight times before November rolls along. I downloaded my copy of WriteWay (free until December 15th for participants): http://www.writewaypro.com/nanowrimo.php

Of course, I could rethink the freestyle thing that seems to be leading towards something – I know not what – and that can be my new project. Anyone else taking the plunge? We have 27 days to make up our minds.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not What it Seems

The thing that drives Amazon and makes people flock to it is the ease of use. This also translates to their Kindle publishing service. But automated systems come with inherent problems of their own, not that they are so different from those in the analog world…

What I thought was the end of results for my first marketing campaign turns out to be a glitch at their end – not that I have seen any official word from Amazon on the matter.

Over at the Kindleboards there are several discussions regarding a slow down, delay or no reporting of sales (or at least a trickling of sales). A few authors are watching their rankings going up with no sales for several days – which I think we can all agree is impossible.

On the one hand, this is a relief because it means that all I have to do is wait for the glitch to be straightened out. On the other hand, it brings up an interesting issue. If authors are not notified when there is a glitch, how are we to know that their reporting is accurate?

It is not a perfect system but I prefer the virtual immediacy of it as compared to say royalty statements from a trade publisher, which are so far behind and inaccurate it is the stuff of legend.

There are many things happening at once and none will have immediate results. I believe the Spanish version of “Maya” will be shelved because my editor has gone completely AWOL and until I find a reliable and trustworthy editor to replace her, I am not comfortable going forward with it. This is only a momentary setback. “Maya” may still the light of an electronic bookstore some day, just not this week.

I wish my friend Carlos were around, especially because he was the one who encouraged me to self-publish anyway. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Inevitably so...

The magic carpet ride at the Kindle Store has stalled after five months. Unless something changes in the next week, that gives me a shelf life of approximately five months per marketing campaign.

At the same time, sales at Kobo, Sony and Apple are starting to stream in. Smashwords sales have been slightly revitalized.

As this is an ongoing experiment, it is interesting to note these patterns to see if it holds true for the process at large. The next release will need to be observed to see if the pattern repeats. Research tells me that this may not be true, that e-books are untamable consumer products that defy all sorts of metrics.

I’m not convinced that this is true, but it may be unpredictable as the segment develops.

In the meantime, a new round of marketing is needed to inflate sales. Perhaps this is the perfect time to release the second cookbook.

The real interesting test is how much time I can give to this effort as I concentrate on getting back to the rat race. Finding a job is a job in itself. Having two jobs that do not bring in a steady income is a different kind of experience.

Self-publishing is not for the weak or for slackers, there is serious effort and ingenuity required and even that may not bring success (depending on how you define success). It remains a fascinating experience, though.

On the creative front, I started writing a story that made my heart sink. I was writing to keep the juices flowing, not necessarily to start a new project or to augment those in the hopper, but suddenly it started looking like a romance. I can’t write one of those! I have no frame of reference, unless it ends badly (and it does).

Then I did a small survey on the Kindle boards, despite the obvious Romeo and Juliet thing (and it is not so obvious), nobody wants to read a romance that ends in bloodshed. It turns out that as I went along and wrote more, it’s a crime story with a romantic interlude, so no . . . Barbara Bretton is not going to get any competition from me.

This was a great relief. Not because I fear a little friendly competition but because of all the travesties allowed to make it to print a romance by yours truly is one best avoided. One shudders to think of it!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Me and Julia and Tony!


While the rest of New York frets about their possible impending death under the steady drizzle that portents a hurricane the likes of which have not been seen since Biblical times, I am charging my Kindle and looking at how I may be doing in my book sales.

Before business, I wanted to see if there was anything at the Kindle store I’d like to pick up, but was curious to see how the cookbook (my own bestseller) was doing. Things have changed because it is no longer free. New ball game.

It is rated #7 in gastronomy essays. You’d think that would be the exciting part, but to me it is the fact that I follow Anthony Bourdain and Julia Child. To me, that’s a home run!

Two weeks ago Kindle sales were 134 units. Not a bad showing, but it is time for another surge of marketing to see if I can make those numbers go up a little bit. It is a time consuming process, but well worth the effort.

Self-published authors can never rest on their laurels. I will likely be knocked off this list a few times. Still, it is sweet to see your name in such good company. If I accomplish nothing else, this moment was awesome on a very personal level. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The story so far...


The second week in August hasn’t been too cruel in terms of units sold at the Kindle Store. It’s down but only by about a dozen copies, so I guess the downturn predicted by many in the Kindle Boards did not really apply to my title.

Again, there is absolutely no action at Barnes & Noble, just as if the titles did not exist at all. Frankly, I don’t know what to do about it. Since April there have been exactly four sales for different titles, so I know they are listed.

My own theory is that there are far more Kindles than Nooks, but this theory is suspect in that it has no basis in anything other than a quick judgment.

At Smashwords, the action has slowed down, but there are still downloads. The cookbook is up to 1547, the novel has 72 downloads of the sample (and a potential for sales when the readers dig into it). The short story has 37 downloads.

Since the last update none of the titles seem to have shipped to the other retailers and reporting is rather slow in coming. I’m patient, I can wait it out.

Over at the Kindle Boards, I tested a cover that I wasn’t so sure about and apparently my initial misgivings were right on the money. It confused the heck out of some and, generally they disliked some or most elements of it.

That old adage about not judging a book by its cover is silly because the cover is the first thing we see and what compels us, along with the title – if in the right category. We all judge the book by its cover. It conveys what we might find inside, visual clues of where the story might take us. If the cover sucks, many of the readers will quickly bypass it and its description and move on. This is no way to do business in an ebook market.

Ultimately, what I find truly valuable here is a community that is open to offer help and advice. Instant, intelligent panels. Priceless!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Future is Here. Or a Dream...


There is an interesting piece in The Guardian about the business of publishing, ebooks and Amazon as a factor driving prices down. I don’t particularly agree with all the author’s conclusions, but it is worth a read and further discussion.

The blog piece titled “The true price of publishing,” pretends to have the answer to whether ebooks have reignited the question of what we're really paying publishers for – the physical product, or what's written inside?


Personally, I think Mr. Skidelsky simplifies the matter to an extend that it ignores several market factors – not the least of which is that a good number of writers have shun the traditional publishers and opted for self-publishing, and these have in some respects helped set the prices and expectations of readers.

To say that this alone has served to bring prices down for ebooks is also an oversimplification. It is, however, a factor that must be considered.

I do find it almost comical that Amazon seems to strike the fear of an unforgiving god into the industry, but it remains slow in adapting to this new world that has opened before them and grows stronger by the day. I have often argued that the biggest hurdle the publishing industry must defeat is its own insistence on perpetrating this Victorian model of business that has been increasingly failing them for the last few decades.

Then again, maybe they’ll wish upon a Perseid Shower and this will have been nothing but a trendy phase, a fad…

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kitty's Rolling in It Now!

Reading some of the comments on Kindleboards would make anyone cringe. The summer months tend to mean lean sales for many. As I read the authors’ comments, the idea that everything in life has its cycles danced around my head.

Especially in a day and age of e-readers, it stands to reason that people have stacks of unread offerings waiting. Summer reading then becomes a matter of enjoying your own backlist. I prefer to think that folks would rather spend their time doing that and enjoying what limited good weather they are afforded by nature than searching for new books to buy…

I could be wrong.

Some books have a shelf-life (but these would be vanity pieces by celebutards). My titles aren’t dated and I expect that they’ll sell for quite a bit, if I’m fortunate. Patience is a very real test when self-publishing.

I just got paid my first royalties and it feels awesome! It’s not a fortune but it is all mine. This is only part of the reason I did the work. It is a good foundation to what I wanted to create before I went back to work.

Jobs should start opening up en masse in publishing in the next few weeks and this is when things turn around for me. That’s also very exciting because while there are many jobs out there, the ones for me are somewhat limited right now (and the competition is killer!).

Meanwhile, I have created a nice little niche for myself and can build on it. That was part of the plan, so I am very satisfied with the first benchmark.

I can save this chunk of change or spend it at Trader Joe’s for an end of summer spread. The point is that I accomplished something I can be proud of and that I can expand upon for the rest of my days.

The Family Tree is finally finished and all that remains is editing. The memoir short is ready for editing as well. I’ll share news as it develops. For now, I will allow myself a moment to celebrate; but only a moment, can’t rest on your laurels in this business!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"I ain't gonna eat that!"

Since April, when I began this experiment in self-publishing, I have had relative success at Smashwords.

The short story has 35 downloads. The novel has 66 downloads and 7 units sold. The cookbook has sold 8 copies (since I put it up as a “set-your-your-price”) plus 1,526 free downloads. It has been a slow but relatively steady progress.

At least for the moment, I can conclude that I may not be able to retire on my self-published work, but I can expect modest royalties. Not bad given the effort, but I can up the ante by tweaking my marketing plan.

It all remains very interesting and exciting – especially because the market is still evolving.

I was very excited this afternoon when I got an e-mail notification about a review for the cookbook. My heart sank when the first word was a typo (This can’t end well!).

She hated it. She did not like the way it was written, she did not find one recipe worth a try. You know that proverb about how you can’t please all the people all the time? This reviewer is their leader.

I appreciate her opinion, even if I do not agree with her (obviously). A collector of cookbooks, she especially disliked the structure of the book – I supposed she wanted a more traditional Western format. But what really saddens me is that she couldn’t find a single recipe to inspire her.

With this particular reader I failed. What I wished for more than anything was for someone to read the essays or even the recipes and want to taste, to cook, to experiment with ingredients.

I was hoping that I could take the criticism, when it inevitably came, and be able to use it constructively towards other projects (like I am doing by compiling the Family Tree edition). I’m not sure what to do with this review other than feel bad she couldn’t find one thing to try out. She mentions a 30-year-old book she loved. She knows what she likes. I simply did not wet her palate.

Am I upset she gave the book a bad review? Not really. She tried it and it wasn’t her cup of tea. I can live with that.

I would be upset if someone tried one of my recipes and it killed them.

Folks offering up their opinion are just exercising an inalienable right. And there’s no accounting for taste, is there? 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Excellent Adventure as it Stands

On the creative front, I started writing some scenes that may be a part of the steampunk series, but I am not entirely sure where they fit. I think I found the dark man character that makes a mysterious entrance and remains a shadowy vision for a bit. Again, none of this is clear to me. I do not want to force it because that just never works, but he is not fully formed. I don’t know how he figures in the story, but he insists he belongs…

I seem to be stuck for the last recipe for the cookbook. Originally there was going to be a coconut recipe, but I am not happy with anything I look at and there needs to be a better story to lead it.

The current government standoff regarding the debt ceiling seems to be applying external pressure for me to finish the other project – because in it the US cedes some territory to China to pay its debts but it won’t work if that fact can no longer be called “fiction.”

At the start of summer, I sat back to watch how my titles would do after the Smashwords sale began. The action in the last 2 weeks has been again dominated by the Kindle Store with over 400 copies of the cookbook sold. There is absolutely no action at Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store. It’s almost as if the books are invisible there!

Downloads have increased at Smashwords as well – 1518 for the cookbook, 63 for the novel and 30 for the short.

It’s not enough to retire, but that is with no new marketing. Interesting.

On other news, I lucked out and got in on the Google+ beta. I still believe it has great potential and hope that when we are done tweaking it we’ll have an extraordinary social media tool. I love the circles and the potential for people who want to maintain a private persona but still need a public one…I especially like the potential for video chats (hangouts) for the ebooks.

I edited a first person account of a concert that I wanted to release a short (cover attached) and do an event to launch it. The response was underwhelming (though those who responded were enthusiastic). Perhaps I will not do it for this project, but I think that it puts a lot more tools in the hands of epublishers and ebook writers to take charge of their marketing activities online.

As with everything, details as it all develops in my excellent adventure.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Summer So Far

The action at Smashwords picked up a little bit in the last week or so. The novel sold one copy and a handful of people picked up the cookbook. There seems to have been a marked slowdown at Smashwords, and apparently Mark has noticed it as well. They’re addressing the issues and books will run through the premium catalogue faster.

There is no action at the independent sellers and apparently my titles are not there, which is a little strange because they were there earlier – but I suppose because I made changes last month and the titles needed to be resubmitted.

Amazon seems to have deleted the bad review for the cookbook, so now I have two five-star reviews. That’s good, but I wish they’d left the bad review in as it was the raison d’etre for the second volume, Family Tree

Most of the action these last two weeks has occurred over at Amazon with 729 sales of the cookbook and one short. At Barnes & Noble nothing is happening. Nothing at all.

There is a translation of the short still in limbo because I have not received the final word from the editor. (That’s the draft of the cover, a sort of metaphysical call for a resolution…)

Everything else has slowed down at my end. I’ve been toying with a story but it refuses to shine. It keeps suggesting itself but it goes nowhere. The other day, just for fun I gave to a Michael Bay treatment. It still sucked, but the explosions were freaking awesome!

In the meantime, I am reviewing work in the drawers to see if any of it is ready to be published. Sometimes I find this part harder than the actual writing itself, especially because in my role as Publisher I appear to have become hypercritical. I was always a harsh editor, but who knew I’d be such as harsh mistress as a publisher.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Reading Sale at Smashwords!

Over at the Kindleboards, some authors have created a Smashwords Summer Sale and I decided to join them. If any of you would like to take advantage, please be my guest and happy summer reading!

Justified is 50% off with coupon code QN65G. Putting May to Rest is 50% off with coupon code HB99A.  

Happy Independence Day!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is a movie anti-tie-in a marketing strategy?

The numbers for some of the retailers carrying my books have started coming. There is a significant delay, in comparison to Smashwords which reports sales immediately – or even Amazon and Barnes & Noble which provide monthly and end of week reports.

Of course, I knew these numbers are behind the sales, but it gives me an idea of how it starts…

At the moment, I only have numbers for Sony. Apparently there have been 84 sales for the cookbook.

Over at Amazon, last week I sold 143 copies of the cookbook.

I chose to take this as good news, although to be quite honest, I have no idea if this is normal (there apparently is no “normal” in ebooks) or dismal (but how could it be?).

It is still too early to try to determine what the numbers think, but I believe it is important to document it so I have a better idea of how this works.

I just entered a few promotions that might result in some attention for the novel. I wonder if I can do an anti-tie-in: “It’s cheaper than a ticket to Horrible Bosses!” 

Then I started thinking, Kevin Spacey would be an awesome Edmond Styles! An author can dream...


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do Not Try This While Hungry!

Writing a cookbook can be a lot of fun but it is also a little frustrating.

Personally, I want to introduce my readers to ingredients they might not usually consider. But you want to make it relatively easy and palatable, so that they try new things. Most people are not very adventurous about food.

That timidity can be conquered with a little intelligence. If you tell someone exactly what to expect, they’ll be more likely to try it.

The frustration is trying to find the right recipes in a sea of options. Also, I only write about recipes I have tried myself or tasted and liked, so my own prejudice comes into play. It goes without saying that you should never write about it or research it while hungry. That is just self-imposed torture!

The challenge with volume two of the Kali: The Kitchen Goddess series is that I am picking foods or ingredients from virtually every continent! That is a lot of stuff to consider.

So far, I have tried to include vegetables, rice, side dishes, desserts, drinks… It’s taking a lovely shape and I am so incredibly hungry!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kindle Sales Rule

Amazon has taken all the action in sales lately. The first two weeks in June there were 177 sales of the cookbook; but nothing for the short story or the novel.

Over at the Nook store, there’s hardly any action with one sale of the short story.

At Smashwords, the downloads of the cookbook stopped at 1499 and one sale. The novel has sold 6 copies and there are still 46 downloads. The short story is still at 19 downloads and no takers.

Clearly, it is time to do another round of marketing and I am considering a few strategies for July to generate some interest. As soon as I have a concrete plan, I’ll post it here. I know I have not explored every marketing and publicity tactic available to me, so there is still a probability that I can turn this around.

Of course, that is no guarantee that it will affect sales but we’ll see. This remains very much a work in progress.

Reviews remain elusive… It’s time to try review blogs again!

In the meantime, my Kindle people are running the show.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Like a Beached Whale

It is not a pretty image: that of a beached whale. But we do not have air conditioning and today was the third day of a heat advisory. Torment is the most I could commit to these past few days. Seriously, this is weather only Sylvia Plath would love because it just couldn’t make her any more suicidal!

I didn’t even feel human through most of it but imagined myself literally a wilting flower, occasionally hit by a blast of indifferent and slightly warm air from my little fan.

After a mighty thunderstorm, the temperatures lifted a bit and I was able to get back to the new cookbook. It is awfully hard to write about food when you don’t want any. It’s even harder to write about deep frying when it is over 100-degrees!

Other than that, the only work I did in the last few days was a note about monkeys in the steampunk novel. (I grin devilishly as I leave that sentence hanging and not explain it further.)

I tried to read, but in my delirious state I am not sure how much of it I retained.

Now, I will go back and try to jot down another recipe before the heat returns and paralyzes all the action.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Best Guilty Pleasure, Ever!

It has been two months, give or take a few days, since I began this journey in self-publishing. I said it then and still maintain that this is a marathon and not a sprint. It goes without saying that any success is a great accomplishment, considering the competition and that I am new at this.

It’s early in the experience, but I want to track it here because I am learning as I go and hope that I can share my successes as well as my mistakes with those who also wish to take a plunge.

The numbers are not the most important thing, but it does allow for at least one kind of quantifying tool to value how well a book is doing. Let’s face it, if it doesn’t sell, it hardly matters whether it is brilliant or not. It is sales that drive more sales, reviews and word of mouth. Promotion helps and the price determines the willingness for readers to take a chance with your title.

Smashwords’ downloads seem stuck at 1498 for the cookbook, 43 for the novel and 18 for the short story. Over at the Nook Store, I’ve sold 3 copies of the novel. The Kindle Store has been the great revelation in the last couple of days. There I have sold a total 9000 units of the cookbook, 3 copies of the novel and 1 short story.

If these numbers are any indication, the idea to publish a second cookbook is the most rational. And at the end of the third quarter, I will actually get royalties paid out!

I just posted a “summer reading” entry in both the Nook and Kindle boards and we’ll see if there are any takers. It is time to release another promotional campaign, but I am probably doing too many things at once, especially since I have been feeling a little under the weather.

It is still too early to get numbers from the overseas distributors, but I am curious as to how well the books will do outside the U.S.