Friday, September 25, 2015

Book Promo!

It's been a hectic week. My newest book, ACAPULCO NIGHTS, was released on Tuesday, September 22nd. Some may believe you just write a great book, slap a cover on it, and the money starts rolling in.

Oh, contraire, my friends.

Not only are you more likely guaranteed to make very little off of your writing, you can't even count on your family & friends to buy your book (and I'm not complaining, mind you, I'm just telling you the truth).

Your family & friends are there to support you, but not finance you. Why would Uncle Joe buy my book about a woman seeking a divorce from her long-lost husband? Doesn't sound like something he'd want to read, or even have on his bookshelf, frankly. Plus, Uncle Joe would have the added pressure of pretending to like/read my book, because he might assume I'll ask him about it and want his 'opinion' on my latest work of fiction.

I would NEVER do that to anyone! I want people to buy and read my book because it actually sounds interesting to them and is in a category of fiction that they read.

This leads directly into the topic of my blog post: book promotion.

Although I've been published since 2009, 6 years later, I'm just now getting the hang of promoting my book to strangers. Most writers are not outgoing people. We tend to be introverts that sit in front of our computers with the door shut. We like living with our characters in the make-believe worlds we create, rather than deal with real people! The thought of chatting up my book with strangers is uncomfortable for me...but I've had to get used to the idea, because how else is anyone going to know about my book?

With ACAPULCO NIGHTS, I wanted to change my usual 'hide in the corner and hope someone finds my book' attitude. Here are some things I have learned in the past month or so about how to promote yourself. These are not ALL the possibilities, mind you, but just what I've discovered so far.

1) Get your book into print. If you are self-publishing, this is a MUST. Having physical copies available allows you to do a couple of other promotional ideas that come later in my list. I used CreateSpace, but there are others:
 (FYI, I know nothing about the 3 sites above, but they looked legit, and I have heard of people using Lulu before.)

2) Make sure your book is listed in GoodReads or another site for readers (like LibraryThing). This allows readers to mark your book for reading. I would also recommend you make yourself an account on GoodReads and start participating on there by writing reviews, adding your books, etc.

3) Once you've gotten print copies made, sign up for a GoodReads Giveaway. This was a new one for me. Not only are you getting books into the hands of strangers (the winners of the giveaway), you also get exposure to the rest of the GoodReads community. People will add your book to their list of things they wish to read. Your name is out there. You never know when that will turn into a sale.

4) Start getting reviews. Okay, this was a whole new world to me. I had NO idea how people did this. I assumed it was more about 'who you know' or that someone lucked into your book somehow (I know, naive). BUT, I stumbled across this incredible resource, which has changed my outlook on book promotions: Book Reviewer Yellow Pages.

I am sure there are other resources like this one, but this is the reference I purchased. It is an amazing resource! They come out with a new one every year, so the information is very up-to-date.

What's inside? Well, it contains dozens and dozens of book review websites and blogs. It details what genres each reviewer is interested in, what their likes and dislikes are, whether they take self-published books, contact information, etc.

I received my reference about 2 weeks ago. I read through the whole thing, marking which
reviewers read romance, women's fiction and chick lit (the 3 closest genres for my book) and then sent out about 50 review requests to the best candidates. So far, I have had 6 review requests and one contact turned into a free promotion opportunity (which went live today):

Beck Valley Books promoted my book today!

These review sites also offer additional opportunities for ad buys, blog tours, author interviews, etc. This book has literally changed how I view being an author and what my 'job' actually is. Yes, writing the book is important, but selling that book is probably MORE important.

5) Lastly, social media. We all know about Facebook. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. You can have a Twitter account, Instagram account, Tumblr account, and Pinterest account, among others. I only recently learned about the value of having a Pinterest account from a very informative podcast from the Author U website.

Please follow me on Pinterest!

Now I use Pinterest to create inspiration boards for my books. I have a board for my science fiction thriller in the works, FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST. And also created one for an inkling of an idea I had for a book set in Nome, Alaska. I never thought about using Pinterest in this way before. I also have a board for all of my books, clothing interests (for Stitch Fix) and recipes.

Those are my 5 tips for you. I am sure there are other ways to get noticed, but I'm still learning myself. It may take some time for reviews to start appearing online for my book, but I'm hopeful that readers will be more likely to take a chance on my book once those reviews appear.

Thanks for stopping by! If you have any other ways to promote your books, please let me know in the comments. What worked for you? What have you tried?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ACAPULCO NIGHTS - Release Day & A Contest

Good morning, all!  Today is a beautiful day. Why? Not only is it bright and sunny out at my house, but I have a new book available for sale. Yes, today is the day...ACAPULCO NIGHTS is now on sale at Amazon in e-book and paper back.

The story of ACAPULCO NIGHTS was inspired by my own experiences living as an exchange student in Mexico many years ago. I've visited Acapulco several times and traveled all over Mexico visiting museums, pyramids, and other spectacular sites. I may have also had my own bit of romance while living there. 

ACAPULCO NIGHTS was selected as a Write Affair finalist on Wattpad as an 'Editor's Pick.' Although I did not win the contest, I was flattered to be included in the top 14 entries.

Suzie's fiancé, James, is pressuring her to pick a day for their wedding. She's cancelled three dates, and he's starting to wonder if she really wants to get married. But how does she go about telling her fiancé that she's already married to a man in Mexico? She needs a divorce, and she needs one fast. Her marriage has been a secret from her best friend, Janice, her fiancé, even her own mother, and she wants to keep it that way.

When Janice asks her to come along on an all-girl vacation to Acapulco, Suzie leaps at the chance. A search on the Internet gives Suzie all the information she needs to track down her husband, Joaquin, while out of the country and finally get that divorce.

Unfortunately, Joaquin won't give her up so easily.

When James appears in Acapulco unexpectedly, all hell breaks loose, and Suzie stands to lose everything she's ever loved. 

CONTEST: I also have a contest that started today on GoodReads. You can see the entry link in the sidebar. I am giving away 5 signed copies of ACAPULCO NIGHTS. The contest runs from today (September 22nd) through October 6th. Please consider entering!

I hope you enjoy my new book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fix #14 From Stitch Fix - September 15, 2015

I am so happy it's September! That means Stitch Fix time, baby. It couldn't have arrived at a better time. Fall appears with a whallop here in Idaho. One day it's hot and summer and all swimming and camping...and then you wake up in September to temperatures in the high 50s and cold rain falling. What just happened? It can't be the end of summer yet...can it?

Yes, fellow Stitch Fix junkies, the end of summer has arrived.

However, end your weeping now, because the end of summer means fall fashion! Those shorts can get tucked away, and you can start hauling out those pants and sweaters and infinity scarves.

Did someone say infinity scarves???
This year I have reduced my Stitch Fix deliveries to one a quarter. I was looking forward to finding out what my stylist had picked out for me. Last month, I'd complained a bit to her about the lack of color in my box. I was hoping that she'd taken my complaint and turned it into a box of colored happiness.

But first, if you are a new visitor to my blog, and don't know anything about Stitch Fix, please go to my very first fix here:

Fix #1 - May 2014

It will explain what Stitch Fix is.

If you are still a new visitor, but you totally get what Stitch Fix is all about and just love reading Stitch Fix reviews, please contain your joy. I have a plethora of reviews you can read if you've got the time:

Fix #2 - June 2014
Fix #3 - July 2014
Fix #4 - August 2014
Fix #5 - September 2014
Fix #6 - October 1, 2014
Fix #7 - October 29, 2014
Fix #8 - November 2014
Fix #9 - December 2014 
Fix #10 - January 2015
Fix #11 - February 2015
Fix #12 - March 2015 
Fix #13 - June 2015

But let's get to business, shall we? What did I get in my one and only Fall 2015 Stitch Fix box? Did it light my soul on fire? Did I roll around on a pile of clothing and cackle like a maniac at my haul? Perhaps...

Let's review what I wanted to get in this box:
  • Bright colors
  • Cardigans
  • Long-sleeve or mid-sleeve length dresses.
I think that was the gist of my request. I've had the same stylist for about a year, and she's done a pretty great job of finding things that fit me and my style. So I don't direct her too much any more. The color bullet point was probably my biggest one.

So, my box arrived this morning, and I opened it up. Two separate wrapped stacks waited inside. Hard to tell what was in there. But I knew it was all clothing and no accessories just based on the size of the stacks.

Then, I took out everything and stacked it on my bed.
Okay. So there was a little bit of color in there....but I was really sad to see a lot of gray, black and white. I'd specifically said no more gray! Ugh. But, some very interesting patterns and nice materials...especially the item on the bottom of the pile. Could I be won over by fabulous fit and fantastic fabrics? Perhaps...

Then, I did my usual thing - hang everything up and then try on each item, one at a time. No looking at prices yet. Only trying things on and getting an honest feel for each piece before I make any decisions about what to keep. Come with me on a Fall Clothing Adventure, Stitch Fix-style.

1) The first item I tried on was the Ferra Dress from Kut From The Kloth for $54. When I hung this up, I couldn't tell if it was a tunic or a dress. There was some weird bunching going on around the bottom. I didn't feel so great about this one, just judging by the hanger look. Plus, it was sleeveless. What happened to my request for long- or mid-length sleeves?

Doesn't it look strange? I read the tag and saw that it was labeled as a 'dress,' so then my worry was that it might be too short. I've had that experience before with Stitch Fix. I don't like dresses to be more than a couple of inches above the knee. And since I'm tall (almost 5'10") a regular-length dress can look very different on me.

However, the motto I live by is "Try Everything On." I put it on.
And something magical occurred. The strange item on the hanger disappeared, and an awesome figure-flattering dress took its place. Holy crap! This was a 100% keeper!!!

The most interesting part about this dress is the way it is lined all the way from top to bottom. So you sort of have a built-in slip and body shaper. Then, the gathers all along the bottom of this dress....the ones that made it appear like a weird outfit from the discount pile on the hanger...created this instant problem-fixer. No lumps or bumps to be seen.

I also ended up liking the neutral pattern, which could be paired with a colorful sweater, jacket or cardigan. Lots of possibilities for this one.

Close up phot of material
2) Next on display was the Jordyn Bootcut Pant from Liverpool for $88. I was very excited to see this brand name. Last fall my stylist sent me a pair of black pants by Liverpool that I LOVE and wear all the time. I just knew these would be equally fabulous. And I liked that they were a bootcut style, which was different from my other pair.

Pants never look good on a hanger, but there they are. I also provided a close up photo, because they were an interesting heather gray. In other words, they weren't just different in cut from my black pants...they were different in color/pattern.

So, I was excited to try these on because of my love of my other Liverpool pants. I just knew they would be fabulous. And I was right...although my picture is pretty crummy...
The strange bump near my waist is really a reflection of my knee in the mirror. So your fears about me having a cancerous growth can be set aside. I just couldn't seem to get a good photo of these. But, trust me, they are really awesome pants! KEEP.

3) Next on the hanger was the Laurel Faux Leather Trim Draped Cardigan by RD Style for $74. This was the item on the bottom of my stack...and I was hoping it would fit because the knit for this cardigan is so, so soft!

Although I was unhappy with more gray in my box, I was pleased with the softness and the pretty drape of this cardigan. I had a feeling this was going to be a keeper (3 for 3? Oh my stars!). Let's give it a whirl and see how it fits, okay? I had the Liverpool pants on and a basic white tank, which was the perfect items to use for a try-on.

Front view is amazing.
 This was basically an instant fall-in-love-and-must-have kind of moment. But I always check the side view...don't want to look chubbo from the side, my friends. The cardigans I prefer need to show the figure a bit.
Okay, not the best photo with the blur factor, but side view is equally adorable, is it not??? This was an absolute KEEP.

4) The next in line was the Concord Striped Draped Pocket Cardigan from 41Hawthorn for $58. This was the one item that stuck out from the rest in the pile o' clothes because of its pretty bright blue stripes.
Yes, it was bright blue with GRAY, but I was willing to forgive. This cardigan was a stretchy fabric and not a knit. It had interesting draped pockets in front. Hmm...Let's try it on and see what we get!

I couldn't decide which was the better picture. The bottom one shows you the pocket/drape on the sides. The top pic has better lighting and is clearer. This was cute enough that it was going in the Very Very Likely YES, But Let's See If I Like Item Number Five First pile (I know, long pile name, but tells it like it is).

5) Last item to try on was the Lizzy Colorblock Striped Sweater by 41Hawthorn for $68. I liked the sweater when I hung it up...the material was very soft and fine, and I liked the navy blue with the orange stripes on the sleeves. I had a good feeling about this one.
I like a thinner sweater. One, because you can layer it. Two, because it fits under a jacket. Three, you don't feel like the Incredible Hulk. Number three is important to me. I survived the late 80s/early 90s chunky sweater disaster. Remember that, ladies of Generation X?
80s fashion disaster in the making

Imagine trying to shove those bulky sleeves into a jacket...Not happening. So, yeah, I like a finer gauge sweater. I can always layer a tank under it for more warmth in the winter. I was ready to try it on.
Well, hello there, sweater. You are looking good. I loved it, loved it, loved it. In fact, I wore this sweater the rest of the day. It was a cool fall day at my house, and this sweater was asking to be worn. A 100% KEEP item.

Which means...yes, I did it!  I am keeping five out of five this month, people!  What a triumph. Now that I am down to one box a quarter, it is even more satisfying when you keep the whole box.

I had a $25 credit from a friend who joined using my code (thank you, Lois!), so it was a double win for me.

One fun thing that happened with this fix...I got someone else's Style Cards. Kellie Taylor, if you are missing the right style cards for your fix, I would be more than happy to mail it to you. I do have your email address on the card, so I might try emailing you.

I contacted Stitch Fix to see if I could get my Style Card. I really need the help with styling my new clothes and finding fun ways to wear them. And, I also like to read the personal note sent by my stylist to see where her mind was when she was coordinating my fix. I sent an email to Stitch Fix's customer service. We'll see what they can do for me.

If you have yet to try Stitch Fix, would you be so kind as to use the link below to sign up? I will receive a $25 credit for your troubles. I would appreciate it very much.

Sign up for Stitch Fix!

Thanks again for stopping by. I hope you are enjoying my reviews!

UPDATE - September 17, 2015: I contacted Kellie via her email, and she was most polite and gracious. She told me that all I needed to do was give Stitch Fix the invoice number on my receipt, and they would email me my Style Card. I had already emailed Stitch Fix, but hadn't given them that I did. I got my Style Card last night. w00t!  I'm glad I asked for it because my stylist had given me some very specific advice for wearing one of the cardigans with a previous top and the new pants. I never would've put that together in my head...Yay! Going to try her suggestion today and see how it goes. :-D

Friday, September 11, 2015

GoodReads Giveaway Success...And Another One Is Coming

Good morning, readers & visitors! My first GoodReads Giveaway officially ended last night at midnight, and now I have 10 lucky winners who will be receiving my book, BLOOD MOON, in the mail.

What a fun process! I am so glad that I took the plunge with CreateSpace to craft paperback versions of my self-published books. Without physical copies to give away, I never would've been able to experience what GoodReads Giveaways can do for an author.

Here's an overview of the Giveaway:
  1. I had 1029 entrants in a giveaway that lasted only 1 week.
  2. Over 45% of the entrants added my book to their 'to-read' list.
  3. Most of my winners were from the UK!
  4. I had 2 people add ACAPULCO NIGHTS to their 'to-read' list.
  5. I had 2 people add THE LITTLE BLACK BOX to their 'to-read' list.
  6. I had 1 person add THE NINTH CURSE to their 'to-read' list.
This rousing success (since I had NO clue if people would even be interested in reading my book or would find my giveaway amidst the many listed) encouraged me to immediately schedule another giveaway for my book, ACAPULCO NIGHTS. (You can see in my sidebar the link to that giveaway.) The giveaway opens on the date of its release: September 22nd, 2015 and runs through October 6th, 2015.

I expanded the giveaway time frame, allowing for 2 weeks' worth of entrants. I have been reading up on how to use the giveaway to an author's best advantage and am going to try a couple of different things to see what the results are.

One of the mistakes I made with my first giveaway is not paying more attention to the categories I'd listed my book in. Somehow I only chose "suspense" as my category and didn't add a second one, like "young adult" or "paranormal." That was DUMB. For my second giveaway I made sure to cover the two areas I think my book fits into the best: "chick-lit" and "romance."

I know romance is a popular category, so I'm guessing I will have more entrants than my first giveaway. Which is GREAT. I see now that the giveaway is not so much about the books you are giving to the winning entrants nor the hope that they review it, but the exposure you get. I was shocked at how many people added my book to their 'to-read' list. I get that likely many of them will never get around to ordering my book and reading it, but they MIGHT. And that is what you want as an author. Exposure, exposure, exposure.

I have another plan up my sleeve for promotion. I wish I'd learned all of this stuff years ago...but that's how it goes sometimes. You have to experience what it's like to have no one read your book, no one care to review it and your book falling into a black hole before you find the determination to do better.

The GoodReads Giveaway experience has really kickstarted my excitement into promoting myself more and in better ways.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Getting Ready for Print

I have been working over the last week to finalize my formatting for the paperback version of ACAPULCO NIGHTS. Once I had the Kindle version squared away and uploaded, I needed to reformat the whole book for print.

I can see now why some can be overwhelmed by the self-publishing experience. I am lucky because I know how to do most of the work needed to get your book ready for Kindle and for print.

COVER DESIGN. This is a big one. For my 'day job' I use the Adobe Creative Suite. I am not a graphic designer nor expert user of Illustrator or Photoshop, but I can get by with the basics. It might take me 3 or 4 times as long to figure things out, but with some Googling, I usually can find the answers I am looking for if I run into a problem.

Designing a cover for the Kindle version is 'easier' because you only have to produce that front part of the cover. I am kind of a beast about ensuring my covers look professional and not homemade. Nothing is worse than a cover that screams 'self-pubbed' when you see it mixed in with industry-quality covers.

I spent DAYS (yes, literally days) going through different ideas for photographs on several royalty-free image sites. Ultimately, I found a retouched original photo with a graphic quality at that fit what I was looking for. Then, I reviewed different best selling books in my genre (women's fiction) to get the right 'feel.'

Then, once I had the Kindle version, eventually I knew I'd have to craft a paperback version, which involves a totally different process for getting the right dimensions on front, back and spine. Somehow, I figured it out. Most people probably would pay someone any amount of money to do this for them. But that can be pricey, so I was glad that I had enough skills to do this myself.

FORMATTING. Kindle formatting is pretty straightforward. If you know how to work with Word at a more advanced level, the formatting is simple. Since I'd formatted a Kindle book in the past (BLOOD MOON), I had a document already formatted correctly that I could re-use with my new book.

Formatting for print is a different process. Thank goodness CreateSpace gives you templates to download for the size book you are going to produce. However, you do need to understand the more advanced formatting stuff in Word to correct any problems with cutting and pasting into the template. And, if you don't like the font styles they set it up with, you need to hunt around for just the right font combos (if fonts are your jam) and know how to change styles.

REVIEW PROCESS. This is the part I am working through right now. Even after reviewing the file for my Kindle book multiple times and reading through it while editing, I noticed multiple missed issues when I was reviewing the print version. How did I not see those problems the first time? Ugh.

I am now in my 3rd version of the print file of my book. Every time I think this will be the last mistake I find, I find more. To most, they may be minor. For example, I found one sentence in 11 point font instead of 12 point font. To many, this would not be an issue and they would just roll ahead. But to me, it stuck out like a sore thumb and gave an air of amateurishness (we writers can be sticklers sometimes for this stuff). I also found a double period at the end of a sentence and underlined words that should've just been italicized.

So, yeah, in order to elevate your book above the rest of the self-published stuff out there, these little things are important.

I am sure once the book is out there for sale, I will have missed something. No one can be perfect. I also don't have a copy editor on staff nor the money to hire one, so I am relying on myself, spellcheck and my technical writing skills to ensure the problems are minor. I know many out there would be screaming at me for NOT hiring someone to review my book for mistakes. Maybe someday, if my books actually make some money (LOL), I will do that.

I am on the verge of finalizing the print version and will be ordering a proof copy soon. With a release date of September 22nd, I'm on track to meet my self-imposed deadlines. Looking forward to seeing my book in print!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Enter my GoodReads Giveaway!

Good morning! I am here to announce that my GoodReads Giveaway is now open for entries. If you look in my sidebar, you will see a box with a link that tells you all about it. I am giving away 10 signed paperback copies of my book, BLOOD MOON.

The giveaway started today and ends on September 10th. I'm pretty excited about the response I have gotten so far. Why not throw your hat into the ring?

BLOOD MOON is intended for high school students who will be taking the SAT in the near future, but it would be a fun read for any kid who likes to challenge themselves with new and difficult words. The book contains 1000 SAT-level words with their definitions footnoted in the text.

I have also had several adults enjoy the book and learn a few things as well. So don't be shy. Enter today!


Thanks and spread the word. :-D