Tag Archives: Tristan and Isolde

An Initial Attempt at Rebranding: A New Cover for Yseult

As much as I like the cover I already have for Yseult, the conversion rate for my ads is going from quite respectable to abysmal. Not completely understandable, since I haven’t changed the book description or cover for a long time, but given how many clicks I’ve been getting recently without sales, I decided it was time to experiment again. So without further ado, here is the first cover experiment for Yseult:


The idea for this cover is that it maybe / hopefully fits the epic fantasy conventions better, which often have one decisive image rather than an illustration, like the original cover had. The other consideration is that the first cover might be too romantic in tone to draw the right readers. While Yseult is based on a tragic love story, there is a lot of political intrigue and loads of battles. A bad-ass sword just might be the better image for that than a gal and a moon, even if there is a sword on that cover too. But most people don’t notice it until I point it out to them.

Anyway, wish me luck. This may not be the first, since I’m determined to work on this until I get a better conversion rate for my ads. 🙂

Interview, guest lecture, and Shadow of Stone publication delay (sorry!)

There’s a new interview with me from Lisa Binion up at BellaOnline. Check it out!

Part 1

Part 2

The guest lecture at my old alma mater, the University of Stuttgart, was today, and it went well. Before the event, I only had one anxiety dream about arriving late, and the students seemed quite interested and asked a lot of questions. It was in a seminar in the German Medieval Studies department (Mediavistik), which to me was quite an honor. For my Masters, I double majored in English and German, with emphasis in German on medieval studies, but my Ph.D. is in English. Even though I’m not an expert, people in Germany are starting to notice that Gottfried von Strassburg was one of the primary inspirations for Yseult. Given how completely skewed my priorities are, I am really, really enjoying being treated with Gottfried in a university seminar. I wasn’t a mouse in the corner, so I don’t know how much I was found lacking, (luckily), but it’s still beyond anything I ever would have expected that I was compared to Gottfried in the session before I babbled at the students about the research methods of my buddies in the Codex Writing Workshop. I’m quite sure I flunked, but for those who are not familiar with German literature, Gottfried is one of the gods of the German literature hierarchy, perhaps a bit like Chaucer for medieval literature in English. It’s an honor to flunk when compared to Gottfried. 🙂

Unfortunately, a nearly direct result of the guest lecture is that I’m going to have to push back the publication date for Shadow of Stone. No surprise — I underestimated how much time I would need for preparation, which is not exactly new. Besides, my Wonderful Hubbie ™ is totally overworked this week, and before I send Shadow of Stone out into the cold, cruel world, I want him to at least spot check the manuscript I got back from the copy editor I hired. I’m working through it one more time myself, but I know my eyes are not enough. I spent several years working on the thing, after all. It’s a lot harder for me to see the mistakes. Which is why one hires outside help. 🙂

Working on a science fiction collection, and an experiment

In my continuing attempt to make my previously published fiction available in ebook form, I am now working on a collection of some of my near future science fiction stories. My daughter once again helped me out with a cover, and I would love some feedback if you have the time!

Future Imperfect

This one has taken me a bit longer, since I want to get enough stories into the collection that I will feel justified in charging 2.99 (and getting 70% royalties rather than only 35%). For the first time, I will also be including a previously unpublished story. The novelette is set in the same world as the other stories, so I’m pulling it from the submission circus and adding it to the collection. Might not pay off, but thematically it belongs with the others, and I have plenty more to submit, after all — especially if I spend some time polishing half-a-dozen pieces of fiction that have yet to make their way out into the market.

That, of course, is one of my on-going goals, which I keep shoving to the back burner while I play epublisher. Another thing I really need to do is update the publications on this blog and on my web page. I just joined Amazon Associates, and that could give me a few more pennies here or there if I make sales directly from my links. But the first thing on my list is still to get the new collection finished and up.

I did a little experiment with KDP Select this week: I didn’t a 24-hour unannounced freebie of Dragon Time, no promotion, nothing. I got a total of 37 downloads — compared to 2000 the first day the first time it went free. Of course, I don’t have any exact comparison, since so many other factors play a role, but that seems pretty indicative to me that promoting helps.

Yseult continues to sell steadily, a couple of copies a day. Nothing earth-shattering, but I’m still pretty pleased, since I’m only a newbie to this epub venture. I also managed to have Amazon change the epic fantasy category to Arthurian fantasy, which means it’s back in a top 100 list (not much competition there *g*). I’m hoping the change will help in the long run, having Yseult listed in a category where people who are actually looking for Arthurian fiction might even find it!

Luck and skill to all. 🙂

Epub joys and woes: New review of Yseult, getting reviews for Tears

For me, one of the nicest things about switching from an emphasis on traditional publication to indie is that I’m getting a lot more direct feedback from readers. Ok, direct feedback isn’t always good, as we know, and I tend to approach reviews of a novel that I spent years writing with a certain amount of trepidation. Which is why I do not haunt Amazon, waiting to see if another review will show up — and that in turn is why I’m a bit late reporting about the lovely new review of Yseult by Kriti Godey:

… I opened up Yseult to flip through it and see what kind of a book it was. I’m usually not the biggest fan of romance, even though I love fantasy and historical books, so I wasn’t really expecting to get sucked into this book like I was. I started reading, and couldn’t stop….

The book is much more than a love story. It is truly an epic, exploring the conflicts between paganism and Christianity, political maneuvering between the various kings of Britain and Ireland, the wars between themselves and with the Saxons, and a lot more. It reminded me a bit of The Mists of Avalon, although Yseult was much more fun to read. (Complete review here.)

Now that’s the kind of comparison I like! 😀 I also really liked that she thought the way I portrayed the religious conflict of the time as “almost unbiased,” something I was aiming for while writing the book. I tried hard to show the advantages of both the old religion and the new. My “bad guys” are not one religion or the other, they are people who use belief systems for their own purposes, i.e. hypocrites. The German translation got locked into the Celtic revivalist corner pretty quickly, however, which made me feel a bit powerless. It’s wonderful to be reaching readers now who seem to understand better what I was trying to do with that novel. Thank you, Kriti!

Reviews and editors have been the theme of the week for the latest reassessment of my writing goals. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to move contacting book blogs higher up on my list of priorities. As compared to the couple thousand downloads both Yseult and Never Ever After got during their free promotions, If Tears Were Wishes came in at a little over 600 (assuming Amazon is reporting correctly.) I did much the same pre-freebie promotion for all three ebooks, but there was one major difference: If Tears Were Wishes didn’t have any reviews.

I was a bit frustrated by my first few attempts contacting book blog sites when Yseult first came out, but now I realize I just have to keep on plugging, finding more possible venues. Basta.

At least I’m making consistent progress on Shadow of Stone. I’m over three-fourths through on my final editing pass, and this weekend I contacted a number of freelance editors about prices and availability. In the next few days, I’ll be sending out samples to those who responded to try and find the best match. Fairly soon I should be able to announce a release date for the follow-up novel to Yseult.

But as I’ve noted before, most of my writing life these days tends to revolve around the many aspects of the business side of things. Mostly I feel good, since I’m more in control, but I do hope that someday I will have the marketing beast better trained and will have more time for fiction.

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!

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!

Yseult Snack Rating: Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese Kettle Chips

That’s the summary of the first review Yseult received on Amazon. I have never heard of the “snack rating” before, but I have to admit I like it, since I love Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese Kettle Chips, spicy and sweet and salty all at once, an incredibly intense flavor sensation. If they had those things here in Germany, I would probably be a couple more kilos overweight than I already am.

So anyway, the week has been a washout as far as new writing is concerned. I wanted to try to balance marketing and writing, but I’m really not very good at balancing. I’ve been spending so much time figuring out how to promote Yseult that I seem to have temporarily (I hope) marketed my creative gene out of existence.

BUT there are advantages. I had a Photoshop session with my daughter where we developed a cover for a collection of short stories featuring “Dragon Time.” And once we got the cover design completed, I also got the story collection up on Amazon:

New Dragon Time Cover

In other news: Yseult will be available FREE through the Kindle Select program for 48 hours, January 9-10. Please pass the word along! Even if you don’t like the spice of Buffalo Blue Cheese Kettle Chips, the point of one of these free promotions is to increase “sales” and thus visibility. So if you read this, please help yourself to my (spicy) Big Fat Arthurian Fantasy!

“Yseult” is off to Amazon – now what???

I didn’t make it before the new year, but today I finally got Yseult up to Amazon as an ebook! It’s still in the review process, so I don’t have a link for it yet, but it’s a huge relief to have that done. I’ve opted for KDP Select, so I can’t put it up on Smashwords for another three months, but I’ve heard a lot of success stories regarding KDP Select, and my Smashwords sales with my novella and story collections have been more than modest. Seems I don’t have much to lose making Yseult temporarily a Kindle exclusive.

And now I have to start redefining my goals. Perfect thing to do at the beginning of the year. 🙂

In this context, I wanted to link to Kait Nolan’s great post about the test “mile” and goals, but it’s not being found on the Internets, unfortunately. I’ve been working with a very similar test mile to hers for some time now without having the lovely metaphor — the place you can push to no matter what without pain; but also the place where, on a good “running” day, you might well sail past the goal. For many years now, mine has been 500 words a day, or (with two days off, not necessarily weekends) 2500 words a week. Last year, I was shooting for a lot more, but right now I have the big challenge of figuring out how to promote my Big Fat Fantasy once it has passed the review process on Amazon — and knowing how difficult it is for me to tackle the whole self-promotion gig, I think I’m going to stick with my standard “test mile” as a writing goal for now.

Once I can figure out what else I might still be able to tackle when I’ve hit my stride, I can hopefully define a few more specific writing and marketing goals. I want to get a lot more of my previously published short stories up as ebooks, but it’s a huge timesink for me, and I have to figure out what I can realistically do.

Which I guess is also one of my goals for this year. 🙂

Happy New Year, everyone!