Tag Archives: Kindle

Giving more books away and a new review

I was recently asked how my strategies for getting reviews were working, and all I can say is – not. I have several people interested in doing an interview with me, though. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Writing a review is definitely more work than sending out interview questions and then posting them to your blog. I’m not knocking it; it’s just an observation. I’m learning as I go here.

I did get a review yesterday, though, completely unsolicited, for my new story collection Never Ever After. By a guy who must be another ideal reader of mine. *g* I got such a kick out of it that I have to quote it:

First off, I’m struck by her lyricism. Although she’s writing in a novelistic style … there is a kind of poetry to her language, a rhythmic and musical quality to it. Unlike texts that hew completely to a novelistic style–where the reader can “forget” the language and thereby concentrate on the story–Nestvold’s stories really make you revel in a good turn of phrase.

Gotta love it when someone thinks you’re talkin’ purty, right? 🙂 The flip side of the kind of style I used in these stories is that for some readers the language gets in the way of the story proper; it draws attention to itself, something we are taught not to do. But it’s fun to break rules now and then.

So if you like revisionist fairy tales and language that calls attention to itself, you can get my short story collection, Never Ever After, FREE from February 5-7. Pass the word along!

I’ve mostly been sticking with the two days of marketing a week, while the rest of the time I’ve been editing Shadow of Stone. I’m about halfway through, now. Still haven’t contacted the professional editors I’m considering hiring, though. I really should do that tomorrow — as long as I can get it taken care of before I have to pick up my granddaughter from daycare. 🙂

Despite marketing efforts, sales of Yseult have dwindled to just a couple a day, and it has dropped off the bestseller lists. But if I spend too much time marketing, I won’t have any new material. According to Those Who Know, publishing new books is the best way to draw attention to the books you already have. I need to keep that in mind when I’m tempted to try Something! Anything! to push my sales figures back up.

If anyone has any tips on getting reviews, I would love to hear them!

Never Ever After, Monkeys, and an Interview

It’s been a busy week. I got another short story collection up for Kindle, Never Ever After, containing three previously published stories based on legends and fairy tales.

Never Ever After

Here’s the description:

“A Serca Tale” is a retelling of the old Irish legend “The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne.”

“King Orfeigh”: A young Irish king has lost his wife to the king of Faerie. Is there any way he can win her back?

“Happily Ever Awhile”: Everyone knows the story of the filthy girl who married the prince by not bleeding into a glass slipper. But what happened to Ellie after the happy ending?

Kipp Poe has put up an interview with me on his blog. Check it out!

For those who subscribe to Daily Science Fiction, my story “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey” will be dropped into your email on Thursday, Feb. 2. It will be posted to the web a week later.

Yseult continues to hang in there in the top 100 in historical fantasy. Last time I checked, it was back into the 80s at #86. I still haven’t managed to get back into the double digits on daily sales, but at least it’s still selling consistently and remaining on at least one bestseller list, which I suspect right there might be fueling more sales.

I’m making steady progress on this editing pass of Shadow of Stone, although I’m not as far as I’d hoped to be. But I’m far enough that in the next few days I’ll be contacting a couple of freelance editors to get samples, quotes, and estimates as to when they might be able to fit the novel into their schedule.

And with all of this I notice that slowly I am becoming a businesswoman in charge of my own career. Yes, I have less time to write than I did before, but at the same time I have more focus. But it’s all still in the experimental stage, and it remains to be seen how it will play out. Wish me luck. 🙂

Marketing is Eating my Brain: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ebook Revolution

I’ve had a couple of things up on Smashwords and Amazon for several months now, but I never really got serious about this whole publishing revolution until I decided to put Yseult up as an ebook. Ok, so I’ve written hyperfiction before (hyper-what?), but that was back in my former life, when I was concentrating more on literary criticism than fiction. My creative writing ideas at the time reflected the research topics I was writing about for my day job.

Ebooks now are a completely different animal than hyperfiction was back then. People who wrote hyperfiction were experimenting with new ways of telling a story; people who are publishing their works as ebooks are exploring new ways of trying to make a living as a writer. The hyperfiction crowd didn’t have to worry about that, since most of them were employed at universities, like I was. While I still find the narrative potential of hyperfiction fascinating, I think the developments going on right now in publishing much more far-reaching. Stories told in linked text fragments may yet become a more common way of telling a story, although even in the dark ages at the dawn of the World Wide Web when I was writing the stuff I had my doubts. But the authors now who are becoming successful with models outside of traditional publishing might well be at the forefront of a paradigm shift similar to that which eventually led to the medieval patronage system being almost completely abandoned. (It could be argued that vestiges still survive in various forms of “writers in residence.”)

But while it’s really cool to think of yourself as a revolutionary at the forefront of a paradigm shift, it comes with a big price tag.

Marketing and promotion.

The short stories and novellas I put up as ebooks last year were all previously published works, fiction I had already “earned out” on, and as a result, I was not too invested in sales numbers. I mentioned the ebooks here and there, and got a few sales here and there, and that was it.

I guess you could say I “earned out” on Yseult too, since I got a very respectable advance for the German translation, Flamme und Harfe. But I spent years on that book, and when I decided to bring it out as an ebook after I got the English rights back, I didn’t want it to sink like a stone. After all my effort writing it, it would definitely be worth some extra time marketing it, right?

Well, like usual, I underestimated what “extra time” would entail. Since I didn’t have a clue how to market ebooks, first I had to research marketing strategies. I signed up for Goodreads and LibraryThing and organized a giveaway. I wrote a bunch of sites that will review ebooks (not much luck until now). I announced Yseult everywhere I could except Twitter (although I did announce there when it went free for two days). I read more articles on ebook marketing. Lather, rinse, repeat, er, repent.

But it worked. I’m not going to be an ebook millionaire anytime soon, but during the first freebie promotion, Yseult had over 8500 downloads. After the promotion, while I was still spending a lot of time on marketing (but not tweeting “buy my book” I swear!), I was getting 20-30 sales per day, the high point being 38. But I wasn’t writing anymore.

I had some excellent suggestions on my blog last week how I might be able to balance writing and marketing, (thank you all!) and I tried to implement them, but I think my problem is that I’m still learning the whole marketing gig. I can’t do it in half an hour a day. I need to read blogs, try what’s worked for others, figure out what works for me. In the last week, while I was concentrating on writing rather than marketing, the sales of Yseult went down from over 20 a day to under 10.

So I have a new plan, given my lack of experience in promotion. Two days a week, I’ll concentrate exclusively on marketing, including researching how best to go about it and trying new strategies. The rest of the week, I get to work on writing projects: editing, writing new material, brainstorming, whatever needs to be done. At some point, I may be able to develop a daily routine of a few minutes a day (hah!) where marketing-related activities are concerned, but I don’t know my way around enough to be able to do that now.

I figure it’s better to be a zombie only two days a week than all the time. Maybe someday marketing won’t even involve turning into a zombie anymore!

Results of KDP Select Promotion: Yseult #20 in Historical Fantasy

… and that’s PAID for Kindle. 🙂

I am stunned and amazed at how well my first freebie promotion worked. I can’t say exactly how many free downloads Yseult got, but when I first checked after the promotion, it was at over 8600 units. Now it’s at over 8700, with 31 units borrowed (for which Amazon pays authors a per unit price, depending on the funds in the Kindle Prime borrowing pot). So no matter how you look at it, it’s a couple hundred dollars in a couple of days. The price for the cover art is already paid for. (Plug: Derek is great to work with, and provided several initial designs before I narrowed it down by asking readers here and on Facebook and Twitter. Check him out!)

Unfortunately, I have not been as successful at getting back to working on original fiction again. My brain seems to function in gears, and now it’s in marketing gear, which makes it very hard for me to shift back into creation gear. I have started work on a new story story collaboration, and I’ve gotten Shadow of Stone into Scrivener for editing purposes, but that’s not new stuff. At least it’s fiction again. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m bad at balancing. But if I want to make a career as an indie author, something I really have to learn is going back and forth between making new words and promoting my work.

If anyone has any tips on how to strike a balance between marketing and creation, please share!

Yseult #1 in Epic and Historical Fantasy

When I came home last night from my father-in-law’s 86th birthday celebration, I avoided the computer for a while. First my hubbie and I watched the late news: the embarrassment of the present German Bundespräsident (of which he is unaware), further crises of the Euro (which we here in Germany don’t really notice, except that books on Amazon are getting more expensive), etc, etc. Finally, after all the bad news, which wasn’t really news, since we could have prophesied it, I turned on my computer and gave in to temptation and checked the stats of Yseult on Amazon.com.

What you might see at any given time when you click on that link will not match with what I saw after less than a day of my first free promotion on Amazon – #1 in Historical Fanstasy, #1 in Epic Fantasy, #105 in Free Kindle Store:

Yseult #1 Epic Fantasy

I hooted a few times and ran to tell my husband, even though none of those “sales” meant money. But I had never expected a result like that in less than a day. Given my modest number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and LinkedIn colleagues, maybe 1500 all told, I had no idea I could get to sales of any kind reaching #1 within a few hours. If I allowed myself to think about it at all, I might have admitted to hoping for a few hundred downloads. I’d been fearing a few dozen.

What I got was over three thousand.

I’ve been through plenty of dashed hopes in my writing career, so one thing I think I’ve learned is realism. I’m not about to take the initial results of this two-day give-away as a sign that I’m the next big Kindle millionaire. But however my experiment turns out, I think I can pat myself on the back for the promotional work I did for Yseult in the week leading leading up to the KDP-freebie.

It remains to be seen if it will pay off for me in the long run, but as of tonight in Central Europe, free downloads for Yseult are nearing the 7500 mark. At the best point that I noticed, Yseult made it to #43 in free Kindle downloads across all genres. I suspect more important for the future of my novel are the rankings in fantasy, but I’m still very happy at the results.

Hey, what’s a gal to do who no longer has a publisher behind her? Ok, I could have continued searching, but I’m in a really weird situation as someone who can no longer sell the foreign rights, since the book has already been published in translation in German, Dutch and Italian.

Right now I’m happy. I still haven’t managed to get back to producing original work again since I started concentrating on getting Yseult on the market, but it’s so very fun to be #1 in a “bestseller” list, even if all it means is that I’m better at describing my novel than others. (But maybe it also means that there are a lot more readers out there interested in Arthurian fiction than the agents and editors who turned the manuscript down before I sold it in Germany led me to believe.)

Anyway, thanks to all who’ve downloaded the novel! It’s a real ego-boost and I can definitely use that after the developments of the last couple of years.

Now I’m going to take a break from marketing for at least a few days, take a look at the projects that have been on hold for the last month, make a plan, and start trying to do some original writing again!

Ebook Madness: Preparing “Yseult” for Kindle

Yseult has now passed review and is available on Amazon as an ebook. It took me a lot longer than expected, but in the next few weeks I want to try and get a couple of collections of my previously published stories up, so perhaps with practice it will no longer seem quite as complicated.

I know there are lots of resources on creating ebooks out there, but everyone’s process is different, and perhaps my experience can help some folks who tend to work more like me. Here are the steps I took in creating the ebook version of Yseult:

1) Prepare DOC file

Since Smashwords requires books submitted to their site be in Word format, and they have a very good instruction manual for preparing documents, that’s where I started — even though I ended up opting for KDP Select. (In three months I can offer the book elsewhere, and I already have the file for Smashwords.) After “Looking Through Lace” finally turned out looking ok as an ebook (after the second try), I used it to create a template. But according to Those Who Know, Smashwords will soon be accepting other formats, and then, hopefully, we will have a little more control on how our ebooks turn out.

The “Smashwords Style Guide” suggests opening the text in Wordpad and cutting and pasting from there in order to strip the word document of unnecessary coding. I find this much too time consuming, because it also takes out all italics, which then must be manually put back into the document. I have the advantage that I still do a lot of my writing in that old dinosaur Word Perfect, which doesn’t add as much junk formatting code. So in order to get a clean copy of the text without losing the formatting I still want, I convert my Word Perfect document to html and open the html file in a text editor. Using search and replace I get rid of all the unnecessary formatting commands. Here I also change underlining to italics and replace the scene break I usually use (#) with the one preferred by Smashwords (* * * *).

Once the html file is cleaned up, I open it in my word processor, copy the text, and paste it into my template. This might work for Word as well, but as I recall trying to do something like this with Word long ago, there’s a lot more junk to clean up than with Word Perfect. For Word, an option might be to mark the italics etc. with placeholders (e.g. xxx & yyy), use a text editor to strip the html code, and replace xxx & yyy with html code for italics.

NOTE: em-dashes have caused me a lot of grief in the ebooks I’ve uploaded. One time they even disappeared entirely, which makes it very difficult to fix. Here’s an article on what to watch out for and how to make it work, at least for Smashwords.

There’s still a lot of cleaning up to do, however — while I have my styles for chapters and quotes and etc. defined in my template, I still have to go through the text and assign the styles. Depending on the text, this can involve a bit more work. While I was formatting Yseult, I realized that I had a lot of narrative written in letters. I didn’t want to mark every letter as a new scene, so I defined a new style for correspondence that would add extra space before a letter.

2) Add marketing blurbs, title page and cover

On the first page, I put a smaller version of the cover, since I myself think it’s nice to open the ebook and see the cover first.

On the page after the cover, I have what I call my blurbs. If you have quotes from reviews of previously published work or any other bragging rights, this is where they could go. Alternately, if you’ve solicited blurbs from more well known writers and don’t want to litter the cover with them, those could go here.

After the blurbs, I have the title and copyright page. For a Smashwords ebook, the Smashwords disclaimer goes here. In addition to my own copyright, I also include the copyright for the cover design.

3) Metadata

Before you upload, you should probably give some thought as to how you are going to describe your ebook in as marketable a way as possible. For Yseult, I put this in a text file so I would have it handy when I upload the book to different places. Common metadata includes:

Contributors
Description
ISBN
Language
Publication Date
Publisher
Title

The most important for marketing purposes is the description, but be aware that different sites have different length limitations. Amazon allows 2000 characters, so in addition to the description, I also include quotes and a bio. Smashwords requires both a short and a long description, short 400 characters, long 4000. If you know anyone with experience in marketing, you might consider asking for their help when when creating the short description. This is what I came up with for Yseult:

For the price of a truce, Yseult is sent to a world where magic is dying – to marry the father of the man she loves.

Yseult of Eriu stands on the brink between two ages. The daughter of the Queen of the Tuatha De Danaan, she is an Erainn princess with the power of the old race, but when her family is taken hostage, she is married off to the British King of Dumnonia, Marcus Cunomorus.

Marcus’s son Drystan would have saved her from a loveless marriage, but Yseult cannot endanger her relatives and must go through with the marriage. The tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan plays out against the backdrop of a violent world threatening to descend into the Dark Ages – only Arthur’s battles to push back the Saxon hordes can save what is left of civilization. With her background, Yseult could act as a bridge between the old age and the new – but will the price be too high?

If anyone has any suggestions, I can still change it! That’s one of the joys of ebooks and being your own publisher.

4) Create Ebook

According to Amazon, ebooks can be uploaded as Word, epub, plain text, mobipocket, HTML (zipped), PDF, or RTF. For my first attempt with “Looking Through Lace” I uploaded an edited DOC file based on the one I had uploaded to Smashwords. And it looked horrible.

I don’t remember anymore exactly what experiments I tried before I got it semi-right, but I do know that the method that finally worked for me was to make an epub file myself and upload that. I’m still experimenting with the best way to make the actual epub file, so all I will offer here are some of the options. The best method depends on the file you want to convert and how much formatting you still need to do.

a) Scrivener – You can make a great looking ebook with Scrivener, but the problem is that with the Windows version, it creates an automatic table of contents, and I don’t want a table of contents including every single chapter. The Mac version supposedly has the options I would need. You can find out more here:

Youtube Tutorial

Step by Step Scrivener to Kindle Tutorial

If you’re working with a completely formatted DOC file, you need to divide the file up into sections at each chapter (Ctrl+K) and make sure the compile options in the meta-data pane are all checked (Include in Compile, Page Break Before, Include As-Is).

b) Mobi Pocket Creator – Couldn’t figure this out myself, but others swear by it.

c) Online converters – Haven’t tried many of these, so can’t say which is best for which type of file. Would love some info on which work best!

d) Atlantis – Atlantis is a word processing program that will also compile documents as ebooks. Worked pretty well for me, but I did lose some formatting. It also has the disadvantage that it is yet another word processing program, of which I have too many already.

e) Jutoh – This one requires Open Office (see comments on Atlantis above). I haven’t tried it, but check out this discussion for a lot of rave reviews.

f) Sigil – I couldn’t figure out how to do the actual conversion to ebook correctly with Sigil, BUT it did solve my problem with the unwanted table of contents created by Scrivener. All I had to do was open the epub file I compiled in Scrivener, move the table of contents to where I wanted it, delete the Scrivener TOC and replace it.

In all of this, I still lost some formatting, mostly in the epigraphs before each chapter, so obviously I don’t have the perfect solution yet. But once I do figure it out, I can replace the file I have up on Amazon now. (BTW, the preview on Amazon looks pretty messy. The actual ebook looks much better, so if you want to see how it came out, download the sample for your Kindle.)

Here are some other articles that might also be helpful to others struggling with creating ebooks:

Kindle guidelines

eBook Formatting Series

Ebook formatting

Smashwords checklist

Step by Step Kindle Ebook