Don’t miss your pre-order deadline! #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #BookMarketing

Amazon allows indie authors to put a book up for pre-order as early as one year before the release date. And how awesome is that? If you are unable to write as quick as the dickens but want to profit from having a series of books, pre-orders are the way to go. After all, you want readers not only excited about the next book in the series but able to get their hands on that book (even if it is only as a pre-order). I could wax poetic about pre-orders for a while, but that’s not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about why you don’t want to miss your pre-order deadline.

Amazon penalties.

pre orders

Classic Peanuts by Charles Schultz

As an indie writer, the absolutely last thing you want is for Amazon to penalize you in any way. Trust me, I know. Yesterday, they decided one of my novels is a get skinny quick scheme and now I can’t use Amazon ads service. It takes forever to get out of the Amazon penalty box. If you cancel a pre-order on Amazon, you won’t be able to set up a pre-order for any eBook for one year. One year! Yikes! That’s some penalty. Trust me, you want to stay out of the box.

Reader expectations.

Not meeting reader expectations is actually the reason I started writing this blog post. Let me explain. I have a huge wish list on Amazon. HUGE! I check it every day to see if any books I’ve been eagerly awaiting have been released. One of my wish list books changed its release date to a month later. Bummer, but I can deal. Mostly. (Amazon allows you to delay your release date up to 30 days ONCE. After that, it’s into the penalty box.) But then I went to my wish list on the date of release and the book had disappeared. Poof! Where did it go? I searched for the book. Nothing. Then, I searched for the author. The book was no longer on the author’s Amazon page.

I was annoyed. This isn’t the first time this particular author promised a novel and then didn’t deliver. My response? I stopped following the author. I’m done. There’s nothing worse than having your expectations crushed. And this is exactly the reason why I advise indie authors to stick to their pre-release deadlines. As much as possible, of course. Life happens.

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For information about Amazon pre-orders, head over to KDP. Avoid the Amazon penalty box and angry readers and meet your pre-release deadline!

Review of The Red Tent #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #AmReading #Theredtent #AnitaDiamant

red tent coverOctober’s book club selection was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Apparently, if you are a woman, you HAVE to read it. I’m normally one of those people who hears I have to do something and runs in the other direction. Unfortunately, my book club votes on which book to read rather than allowing me to choose all the books (bummer, right?), because the description of The Red Tent didn’t tickle my fancy. I suffered through a history of the bible course in college and that was about enough of biblical characters for me, thank you very much.

 

~ Blurb ~

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

~ My Review ~

(Contains spoilers)

red tent family treeIt took me approximately 2,919 years to read the first fifty pages of The Red Tent. Slight exaggeration. I did find the start of the novel to be a slog to get through. This family is impossible to keep straight! Thirteen children, four wives… all with impossible to pronounce names. Too bad I didn’t discover the family tree until after I finished the novel.

I finally gave up on trying to remember who was who and things went much better. Once I got over the names, I had to get over the sister wives issue. Somehow Jacob had four wives and still had time to be gentle and loving to each of them. Not only did he have time for them but he was apparently a gentle lover. Hmmm… If you’re his only daughter, though, he won’t be able to recognize you. He will, however, avenge you by killing your beloved and his entire family. Oh my. The family saga aspect of the novel was obviously not my favorite part.

I also struggled with the blatant sexism portrayed in the novel. I realize this is historically accurate, but it only served to remind me that there are many cultures where treating women as second class citizens remains the norm. I usually enjoy novels that take me away from my daily life instead of reminding me there’s a lot in society we still need to improve.

The description of the daily life in Dinah’s time period is the crowning achievement of this novel. The herbs they used for midwifery, for example, was incredibly detailed as was the description of what daily life looked like for women of the time period. It made me more than a bit thankful for living in a modern age.

As someone who studied history, I enjoyed the descriptions of the locations and the various tribes. The landscapes and rivers were easily recognizable despite the passage of thousands of years. Thanks to Diamant’s descriptive voice, I could imagine what Ancient Egypt was like when Dinah arrived there.

Although there were aspects of the novel I appreciated, I wouldn’t have slogged through those fifty pages had it not been for my book club. If you enjoy historical novels, give it a try.

That time I almost bought a house of ill repute #Memoir #Nonfiction #TrueStory #CreativeNonfiction #ThisIsMyLife

lady justice

What I thought being a lawyer would be like. It wasn’t. 

After working as a lawyer for a decade, I was done. D-O-N-E! Done! I loved law school. Loved it! But the actual practice of law – yuck. Hated it! I tried – literally – ever legal job I could land. I worked for the government, non-profits, boutique law firms, big corporate firms, etc. etc. Spoiler alert – they all sucked.

Law was obviously not for me. Okay, then. What now? After much soul searching and having a billion ideas shot down by the hubby, I decided to start a spa. But not just any spa – a weight loss spa. There was no way we could set something like that up in the Netherlands. The housing prices are obnoxious in this country. We decided to start our search in Belgium.

While scrolling through the property listings one day, I found a place near Spa-Franorchamps. It’s a beautiful location and not too far from the Netherlands. Score! I called the real estate agent to arrange a viewing. She was overly cautious when I spoke to her. “It was a private club,” she said. I had no idea what she meant. Just like any other time I didn’t understand what was going on, I plowed forth.

When we arrived at the location, nothing seemed amiss from the outside. It was a large house with lots of property – exactly what I was looking for. The first rooms were fine as well – kitchen, living room, etc. Then, we went upstairs and toured bedroom after bedroom after bedroom. Each room had not only its only sink – which is normal for older houses in the region – but also its own toilet right in the middle of the room without no type of separation for privacy. Okay, this is getting weird.

Frahan_JPG01

The Belgium Ardennes region.  By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=895642

Then, we entered the master bathroom. The entire thing was pink with gold trimmings. Not only were the faucets gold but they were shaped like dolphins. At this point, I’m starting to get a bit giggly. We walked through the connecting door to the bedroom and lo and behold there was a mirror so the occupants of the bedroom could watch the goings on in the bathroom. My imagination starts running wild.

We moved on to the attached ‘club’. I thought an attached club would be super handy for my business idea. I could turn it into a gym or restaurant. What I walked into was a strip club complete with stripper poles on each table – each glass table. The glass tables threw me for a loop. I don’t think I want to see a strange man’s lap when he’s  watching a pole dancer. Nope. No, siree bob.

I quickly marched onto the attached pool – another reason I thought this property would be perfect. A pool is a necessity for a weight loss resort. The pool needed some reconstruction. No biggie. No, the problem was the hubby who kept making snide remarks about how much we’d need to clean it. I was losing my battle not to laugh.

red-deer-76961_1920The view from the pool was gorgeous. The property included several acres of land. And deer. Yes, a herd of deer came with the property. What also came with the property? A restrictive clause in which we had to promise not to eat the herd of deer. At that point, all hope was lost. I quickly thanked the realtor and hurried to the car where I collapsed in fits of giggles.

We ended up not buying the property.

 

 

Why I decided to use Findaway Voices to produce my audiobook #WriterWednesday #Audiobooks #AmWriting @FindawayVoices

audiobook 1The fastest growing segment of the book world is – hands down – audiobooks. I first thought about having my work produced as audiobooks after the London Book Fair of 2017. The advantages of having an audiobook are plentiful. Besides being the fastest growing segment, more younger readers listen to them (a segment I struggle to reach), and commuters (who are not necessarily readers) listen to them.

As an indie author, there are basically three ways to produce an audiobook: (1) ACX (owned by Amazon) (2) Findaway Voices (or another aggregator), or (3) do-it-yourself solutions.

Do-it-yourself solutions

By this I mean finding a narrator yourself and having the audiobook produced by them and then uploading the audiobook to whatever distribution channels you decide upon. I have to be honest here. I didn’t even consider this option besides thinking ‘Nope! No freaking way!’ Not only is it a lot of work, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I barely have time to keep to my writing and marketing schedule as it is. I certainly don’t need to add this type of project to my to-do list.

ACX

acxWith ACX, you audiobook is made available on audible.com, Amazon and iTunes. If you grant Audible exclusive distribution rights, you earn a 40% royalty. ACX offers three options for audiobook production: pay for production, royalty share, or do it yourself.

Pay for production. If you pay for production of the audiobook, then you keep all royalties and control of the distribution. If you go for the non-exclusive option, you earn 25% royalties. This allows you to upload your audiobook on other retail websites.

Royalty share option. The advantage of the royalty share option is the lack of out of pocket expenses. Your audiobook is exclusive to Audible and your earn 20% royalties (with 20% going to the producer). You are locked in to a seven-year term with Audible, though. There’s also a new royalty share plus program, which grants you access to a higher tier of producers for a one-time payment.

Findaway Voices

findaway voicesAccording to Findaway Voices, it has the largest network of audiobook sellers, including both retail and library channels. The team guides you through the production of the audiobook. They suggest narrators, manage the production, and prepare the digital files for distribution.

Sound great, right? But hold up. With Findaway Voices, you need to pay for the production yourself. My audiobook (55,000 words) cost € 1406 to produce. That’s a heck of a lot of sales I need to make before I break even, which is totally freaking me out.

Hybrid Royalty share (aka Voices Share). As an author you pay half of the normal cost of audiobook production in exchange for sharing 20% of royalties with the narrator. You can even buyout the royalty share. As this product launched after I had begun production of my audiobook, it wasn’t an option for me. I may consider it in the future, though. I like that the royalty share is 20% instead of 50%.

Royalty rates. The royalty rates vary depending upon the retail channel, but Findaway retains 20% of all royalty receipts.

Why I went with Findaway

audiobook AF with headphonesUsing ACX seems like a no-brainer. With the royalty share option, you can literally get an audiobook made and distributed without being opening your pocketbook. Ching! Ching! But there’s one teensy weensy problem with ACX – it’s only available in the US and the UK. Okay, I thought. Not a problem. I can use the address of one of my sisters. But then I discovered, you need a bank account in the US or the UK. Getting a bank account in the US when not living there is almost as difficult as getting a bank account in the EU as an American.

I did a bunch of research and read a lot of blogs of others who had decided to go with Findaway. I’m comfortable with my decision, but I will be waiting to see how well my current title sells before having a second title recorded.

 

 

 

 

Things I learned from making my audio book #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #AmWriting #Audiobooks

I just pressed ‘submit’ for my first audio book ever. Yes! I’m super excited, but I’m also more than a bit worried. The entire process of creating an audio book is not a cheap endeavor. Will I earn back my investment? *Bites nails* Only time will tell. I just keep telling myself at least I learned a lot from the process. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far.

Time – the entire process takes up oodles of time

findaway voicesWhich provider to use? First, you have to figure out which company to use. As I don’t live in the US or the UK, my options were limited with regards to Amazon’s Audible. I spent some time trying to figure out how to get around their requirements, but finally gave it up and went with Findaway Voices. I’m planning a blog about why I chose Findaway, so stay tuned for that.

Choosing a narrator. I decided not to narrate my own audio book. After a bit of research, I realized two things. One – I didn’t have the time to narrate a book. And two – I had no desire to buy all the equipment necessary for this ‘experiment’. I asked Findaway to give me some choices. I thought this process was going to be difficult, but the second voice I heard nailed my character. I went ahead and asked for auditions from three narrators, but ended up going with the first voice anyway. This entire process, however, took nearly a month. No one will confuse Findaway with Speedy Gonzales.

Proofing. Oh lord – the proofing! Other authors had warned me about the time suck proofing would be. I thought yeah right, it can’t be that bad. WRONG! I can be that bad. Proofing my six-hour novel took me the better part of a work week. BE WARNED.

Prep work – You’ll need an audio book version of your novel

Yep. More work. But all those click links don’t translate well to an audio book. My books also have a ton of back matter. Every minute the narrator records is more money. Do you want all that stuff read? Is it necessary? Something to think about. You’ll also need to make a new cover as audio book covers are square.

Editing – I ended up updating the novel and uploading a new version to Amazon

AB audio coverAbout Face, the book I’ve transformed into an audio book, has been out for a few months. It’s been to the editor, I’ve self-edited a gazillion times, and early reviewers have provided commentary. I knew it wasn’t perfect. Nothing I do will ever be perfect! But I didn’t realize how much listening to my novel would make me want to make changes (I do read the novel to myself while editing but obviously I suck at that). These are the things I learned about my writing while listening to the audio book:

Character names. I write the character names WAY too often. I worry readers won’t know who’s talking and err on the side of caution. After listing to this book, I am going to make some changes in future books.

Repeated words. Like all good self-editors, I have a list of words I use over and over again. That, yet, so, shrugs, just, really, only …. etc. etc. These were not the problem. Not at all. No, the problem was the use of the same word in one paragraph. UGH! Lesson learned.

Missing words. Apparently no matter how many times you and your editor review your novel, you will still miss words.

Conclusion Wow. Yeah. I’ve learned tons about my writing and the audio book world during this process. If the experiment is successful, I’ll be well prepared for the next round of audio book preparation.

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

authortoolbox 5

Should you respond to Facebook ad comments/questions? If so, how? #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing #AmWriting

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times – don’t respond to comments from readers. But wait! What about nice stuff? Or genuine questions? Shouldn’t writers respond to those? I say yes, yes they should. In particular, I’m talking about responses to Facebook ads. It’s important to respond to readers and create a dialogue with them. Who knows? Maybe one question will lead to a super fan? And what writer doesn’t want or need more super fans?

Here are some ways to respond to Facebook ads.

Invite to like page. Inviting someone who likes your ad to like your Facebook page is a super easy way to grow your following. Sure, Facebook makes you now pay to reach that following, but you can also use your following for targeting ads. It’s super simple. Just click on the thumbs-up under the ad and you’ll get a dropdown of all those who have liked your ad. On the right-hand side of each name is an invite button. Click it and let the magic begin.

FB Ad responses 2

Requests for information. Respond to all requests for information. Some requests will be completely silly. What’s the name of the book is one. Doesn’t matter. Respond as quickly and professionally as possible. You are building a connection with a reader. In my experience, readers are quicker to read your book if there’s some type of personal connection involved.

Deleting or hiding comments negative comments. Before I get into how to respond to these comments, let me explain the difference between deleting and hiding comments. Hiding the comment will ‘hide’ it from everyone except the commentator and their friends. They won’t know it’s hidden. Deleting a comment will completely erase it. No one will be able to see it.

I’ve chosen to hide comments instead of delete them. Initially, I deleted a few comments and sure enough, the person came back and made the same comment again. Ugh! People can be nasty. Now, I hide comments and the commentator is none the wiser.

But when do you hide comments? This is the hard stuff. What to do with negative comments. Some negative comments are easy to deal with. For example, one of my books is a historical fiction and features a German boy and Jewish girl. Unfortunately, I sometimes get negative comments about this relationship. This is an easy one to deal with. I hide the comment.

But what about negative comments that are ‘justified’? For example, I use a picture of a man and a woman saying a heartfelt goodbye at a train station for one of my ads. The goodbye is supposed to be in Germany, but the train is – or at least according to several readers – British. Initially, I didn’t want to delete the comment. The person had the right to point this out and they weren’t wrong. But I noticed the ad, which had been performing very well, stopped performing. Lesson learned. And, technically, what type of train was in the picture had absolutely nothing to do with my book (the goodbye happens on the street with a moving van).

How to hide a comment – Just click on the three dots after the comment and a pop-up will ask if you want to delete, hide or report the comment. Easy peasy.

FB Ad responses

How do you deal with comments on your Facebook ad? Do you agree with hiding negative remarks?

I was once slapped by a monkey ~ Adventures while traveling in India #TrueStory #Travel #India #Expat #MEMOIR #NONFICTION #CREATIVENONFICTION #THISISMYLIFE

It was actually an ape, but for some reason being slapped by a monkey sounds way cooler. Anyway, here’s the story:

On our trip to India a few years ago, we stayed in Udaipur for three days. Totally cool town, by the way. I recommend visiting. During this visit, we decided to go check out Chittor Fort. I was a little leery. If you’ve been to India, then you know getting around is anything but easy. Always an adventure, but never a simple one.

Chittorgarh_FortChittor Fort is a two-hour drive from Udaipur. Like so often in India, public transportation wasn’t an option. We’d need to rent a car. There was no way I’d drive in India myself. I can’t even imagine how you would go about renting a car. The paperwork such an action would create must be crazy. Did you know India and bureaucracy are synonyms? Then, of course, there’s the chaos of driving on Indian roads. Um. No thanks.

With limited time, we decided to hire a driver. This decision did not fill me with joy. I have a bit of a problem with riding in a car when I’m not driving. It makes me kind of anxious. I need control of the vehicle! Don’t even get me started about buses. *Shivers*

Anyway, we hired a driver and off we went to Chittor Fort. What none of the fancy travel websites mentions is that among the old palaces, temples, and towers, there are apes everywhere. Literally, every-freaking-where.

India_cow

Couldn’t find a picture of an ape from our trip but here’s a cow – because cow’s are cool.

What I also didn’t know is that apes are adorable, especially the babies. I couldn’t help myself from taking tons of pictures and leaning down to get closer to the babies. I may have reached out to pet one. Big mistake. Mama ape took one look at me and knew I was trouble. She slapped me against my calf and yelled at me. I’m sure she said something like ‘get away from my baby, you brute!’

Properly chastised, I ran off while my husband laughed his ass off. And that’s how I learned to never pet baby apes again.