Tag Archive | publishing

Getting the Courage to Change your Bookcovers

This has been a very big week for me. I changed the covers for my Kelsey Porter series right before Book #5 is going to come out in the next month or so. The first novel, THE HUNT FOR XANADU, was published in 2013. I worked with Laura LaRoche from LLPix to create it. With a series that oozed Buddhist spiritual mysteries, but was a thriller, we wanted the cover to include those aspects. With each subsequent novel, we wanted to keep the same theme that we did with the book before it. A cool image on the top focusing on the locale of the book (such as the mountains of Tibet or the pyramids of Egypt), a relevant background (such as a sand mandala or a sun dial) and then some objects that were relevant to the story (such as a phurba dagger, herbs, a gun).

Top Row New Covers
Bottom Row Old Covers

But I’ve been told by numerous people that the old book covers don’t scream thriller. That you can’t really tell what genre they are. I did a ton of focus groups and talked to a bunch of authors and PR folks and to be honest, the consensus was 50/50 to change them. Some folks liked them just fine, others wanted me to completely scrap them and others felt they just needed some tweaking.

So I tweaked. We kept the same artwork and played with the fonts to make them more eye-catching. Laura darkened the covers as well to give them more of a thriller feel. I think she did a fantastic job and this week I put the new covers up on Amazon, my website and on my facebook author page.What do you think? Would you pick these books up more now if you were scrolling through Amazon versus before? Love to hear!

Querying Agents… yet again…

dream bigI think I might be a masochist. The definition is “someone who receives gratification through humiliation and physical pain.” I mean, here I am, I have seven books I’ve indie published and now I’m attempting to get back into the hybrid mix and see if my new fantastical thriller, THE EXPERIMENT, could get picked up by an agent.

You see, all along, I’ve always wanted to have an agent and a publisher behind me. And I did at one point. But life happens, companies fold, agents can’t sell your work and you are left with your polished babies that need to get out into the world.

But, there’s this little part of me that still wants that “space on the bookshelf” or that “acceptability, or cool factor to say I have an agent.” I know, it’s crazy. Is it a validation of my worth? That someone “likes me enough to represent me?” I can make more selling ebooks (though I’m not there yet), but I keep thinking that having an agent and a publishing house behind me will help push me into a situation where the other books might also gain some traction and get better exposure. There’s that added little carrot of “Hollywood TV and Movie dreams” that keeps sitting in the back of my mind, as well.

Maybe I’m a dreamer. I think all of us need to dream to some extent, because if you didn’t dream, how could you ever get the guts to do this in the first place, right?

Which brings me back to THE EXPERIMENT. Starting in 2007, for five years I tried to get this book published. Over those five years I sent the books to twenty-three agents. I did the requisite waiting around for months at a time, giving exclusive reads to those that wanted… waiting two, three, six months at a time for a reply. But no agent picked it up. Then, three years ago I decided to ditch the process and work on getting my other books to market. I’ve done that and now, well, I’m back with this little tale sitting in front of me.

So, I’ve written a synopsis and I’ve started the query rounds again. I forgot how defeating this is. So far I’ve sent out thirteen queries and four responded no. I forgot how much I dislike waiting for people to respond to me. These days a “no” from an agent is not even a “no thanks” but a complete “ignore.” Gosh, I hope that doesn’t happen again. I really hate being ignored. Just tell me it’s not for you and I can deal with that, please. But, being the optimist I am, I’ve decided to answer every single no with another query.

Look, maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I’m not, but if you don’t dream big, you might as well go home.

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Now, there are just a few more days to enter my contest to win one of five signed copies of THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB, launching 2/28.

fanshoutoutAll you have to do is upload a snapshot of yourself holding a copy of THE HUNT FOR XANADU, or of you with the cover showing on your iPad or Phone and UPLOAD it to Instagram, Twitter or my FB author page, with the Hashtag #xanaduquest – Don’t forget the hashtag #xanaduquest as that’s how I’ll find you. I’ll keep a record of all the names and FIVE people will win a signed hard copy of THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB in a random drawing. You could even get on my fan shout-out on my webpage! Here’s what it looks like right now!

Contest ends on 2/21/15. Want to grab a copy of THE HUNT FOR XANADU? Grab it here:

US AMAZON: http://amzn.to/1CEvEab
UK Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Cp2awz

And the best news? I’ve reduced the price of THE HUNT FOR XANADU down to $2.99 where it will now live for its lifetime. Happy reading!

Stop Being a Stodgy Writer – Get out of your Comfort Zone and Move into 2014!

ebookEvery generation complains about the generation before it. With the publishing industry, it’s no different. I swear if I’d tried to publish what I have now twenty years ago, my books just may have been picked up by a big six. (or so I tell myself as a pep talk) I think at the very least I’d have had some agents vying for them. Of course I wouldn’t have had social media to rely on at all but I think the environment was very different. There were less writers and more brick and mortar stores. Places like online bookstores just didn’t exist.

So here’s where we need to change our thinking. The world has changed. It is now viral. You may think you don’t need to jump on board, but that’s a big mistake because these kids you think you don’t need to reach now are going to be immersed in this medium… well, forever. Social media is where you advertise and meet people. This is the way of the world and this is how it is changing. It’s time for writers get out of their comfort zone. This is not the 70’s or 80’s. Saying “sorry, I’m old school and only read paperbacks” is just plain silly talk. It’s 2014 and the world has forged ahead. You can get on a plane now, or travel with a small electronic device and have literally a 1000 books on it that you’ve downloaded.

But there are downsides to this as well – as authors well know. The changing industry has also changed reader’s perceptions. Many think “well, I’ll just wait for the book to be free or just 99 cents.” That hurts a writer’s ability to make a living, for sure. But this is the way of the world and you see this very struggle happening with the big publishing companies on how to get people to actually spend money on books. It’s why they are limited now with taking on debut authors. They desperately need to know that the books they promote will actually sell. So that’s why you see the same celebrities getting book deals (or ridiculous ones like the Kardashians). Or famous authors who just put out book after book. They have a built in fan base and it’s a surer deal than taking on someone that is an “unknown.”

But, there are places for the unknown to shine, and self publishing is it. But it comes with its own set of rules and struggles. With Amazon now doing unlimited monthly readership memberships (which I think is actually pretty cool for a reader, though pretty tough for a writer) it changes the playing field again. Still, we need to look at this with an open mind. The publishing environment today will most likely look very different in ten years. Just look at the last ten years to see what I’m talking about.

I’ve got Book #2 in my FLYING series coming out August 30th. I’m going to try to do a free book promotion with a company I’ve never used before. The concept of PAYING money to offer a free book is a startling, and quite uncomfortable, concept for me and is definitely out of my comfort zone, but this entire past year I’ve done nearly everything out of my comfort zone. I did a Vlog where I talked about comparing publishing to growing pumpkins (and boy, did I obsess about what I’d look and sound like), I’ve done book signings, author chats, put out my novels knowing that once they went into the world, the critiques would begin. But the fact is, if you want to be heard, you have to yell.

So I leave you with this. Stop being stodgy, go into things with an open mind. Don’t worry if you don’t know at first what you’re doing – just try it. I assure you, age is never a limit to what you can learn if you just try. Don’t miss the boat simply because you refuse to get on the water. Do that and you’ll never go anywhere.

And for folks who would like updates on when my books will be free or when new releases are coming out, please sign up for my e-newsletter here: http://www.elysesalpeter.com/contact.html

When You Have Too Many Things on Your Plate….

Fill with coffee please

Fill with coffee please

Everyone’s life is hectic. I know very few people who are not stressed in some capacity. But, I think there are other people that put way too many things on their plates. Apparently, I’m one of them.

I didn’t think I was one of those people. I thought everyone out there does 5,000 things before breakfast, works full-time, raises kids, has a garden, does hours of social media a day to promote their books, and tries to write novels – all at the same time. I thought no one sleeps and spends their evening hours stressing about all the little things that have to get done the next day. I know I’m not alone because at any given time I can find friends tweeting and facebooking at all hours of the night. We kind of giggle at the “Oh, you’re still up?” comments.

The thing is, I do have a lot on my plate. Besides all that above, I’m hosting a party next weekend for 22 people (which I’ve not done a THING for yet as I have to get through a two day business trip first mid-week), in July I’m putting a huge family party together for my kids for 65 people (complete with photographers, entertainment and goodies) and I’m prepping for a HUGE family vacation this summer (which I’m kind of working on), among a host of other things. Add to that a workout regime where I squeeze in yoga at a 6 am class during the week and a Pilates class early morning on the weekends. (and yes, I have a husband, and yes he helps)

All while trying to edit one book, THE QUEST FOR THE EMPTY TOMB, book #2 in my Kelsey Porter series, and put out and publish my finished Book #2 in my YA Deaf thriller series, FLYING TO THE FIRE. I just have to get through the final proofs on that, get it formatted and it can be submitted to the universe.

Flying to the Fire - coming July 2014

Flying to the Fire – coming July 2014

Maybe I just don’t want to slow down. Maybe I need this insanity for some reason. There’s this crazy saying I like “You’ll sleep when you’re dead.” That’s sort of true… though every now and then I would love to be able to string more than two words together that doesn’t require me having two cups of coffee to do it! A publicist would be great too… but until I can get my own – I present you some of my books:

Want to read Book #1 in my adult thriller series? THE HUNT FOR XANADU here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1m1jUli
Want to read Book #1 in my YA Deaf thriller series? FLYING TO THE LIGHT here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1lJHFCS

Anyone else have too much on their plate? Love to hear… and commiserate…

Does Your Book Have a Hook? Find it!

Millneck Manor Talk

Millneck Manor Talk

You’ve written this great book, told all your friends, family, promoted on FB, Twitter, Google+. Maybe you’ve done a little ad here and there, a goodreads event. Is it selling? Could you sell more?

Here is where the hook comes in. Think about your novel and think about where else you could sell this book and who would be interested. I wrote a buddhist based thriller called THE HUNT FOR XANADU. I’ve actually gone onto different buddhist sites and promoted the book there, did a signing at a tea shop and contacted buddhist bookstores to see if they’d like to carry it. The book is really just a thriller but the over-riding element is a buddhism theme.

I’ve also done a YA novel with a young deaf boy called FLYING TO THE LIGHT. This has been a much easier book to find a hook for. I’ve contacted every single deaf school in the country – with an email to their librarian and principal, discussing the novel. I’ve locally done two “talks” at deaf schools and while I know some ASL, they had an interpreter for me. I’ve gone onto a lot of different deaf sites on FB and promoted the book, and the book trailers there. I’ve also gone online to various deaf websites to see if they would like to give the novel a write-up as well. Nothing is a bad idea. What’s the worst thing that can happen? They say no? We’re authors, I think we’ve heard the word “no” enough times to be able to handle it.

My newest angle is specialized book fairs. On May 18th, I’ve been selected to join a Book Fair at Mill Neck Manor’s School for the Deaf in Millneck, New York. The program is from 12-4, is free to everyone and is to help support their Literacy Program. If you live on Long Island and want to come, please check out the information included. There will be raffles and activities for children. millneck

The trick is to find the hook in your novel and run with it. Maybe your character loves cookies – try to do a signing in a bakery, maybe they are a fantastic runner – contact the local running groups and make some friends there, maybe they like to fish, are a veteran, etc… you get the idea. Find out some distinguishing factors about your characters and how you can find that little “in” to promote it someplace else versus the standard fare.

Any cool ideas you’ve done? Can’t wait to hear them!

Tired of Giving Your Books Away for Free? Then Stop.

freeIndie Authors: Are you struggling with how to get your books in front of readers? Do you feel like you’ve done everything you possibly can and it still is not enough? Do you resort to giving your hard earned work, after paying for edits, covers, trailers, away for FREE? Or, just 99 cents in the hope someone will pick it up? Does that dream of writing for a living just seem to drift away in a sea of 33 cent royalties?

Maybe it’s time we started asking for the same respect as the authors in the Big Six. We are doing the same work, and even more. We are learning the craft of social media, we are the ones blogging, tweeting, posting and trying every single promotion under the sun. But maybe it’s time we sat back and said, “You know what? My book is worth more than free.”

My good friend Denise Vitola has a blog this week that resonated with me and she’s allowed me to post some of her content here and offer her link to folks that would like to read more.

http://thomas-talks-to-me.com/blog/blog.html – Denise’s Blog (you should follow her – she’s also a phenomenal editor and edited six of my books)

Denise has a few rules in the publishing industry. “The most important rule? Act like the professionals you are. Write a great book. Have it professionally edited. Hire an artist to create a cover that will attract attention. Market your books like your pants are on fire.

The second most important rule? Charge what your books are worth—what your time and talent is worth. Do not listen to the bleating of Old World propagandists, for they open their mouths to spit out bull twinkies. They want to see you fail. They want to see our Indie Publishing Industry go belly up.”

She’s got a point. Another one is this:

“Personally, I buy Indie books all the time and most of those e-books are in the $6.99 to $8.99 range. I feel like I’m getting a good book when I pay more for it, and I’ll bet I’m not alone. Mr. Joe Reading Public looks at the value of things the same way I do. Sometimes, cheap is not better. Sometimes, cheap is just cheap.”

While I’m not going to go and bring all my books up to $6.99, I did move my full length novel THE WORLD OF KAROV from $0.99 to $2.99. It’s Book #1 in a series and it has 27 reviews. That’s nothing to sneeze at. I paid hundreds of dollars editing this baby, money to make a professional cover and a book trailer, too. It’s really enjoyable if you like dark fantasy tales and is definitely worth more than $0.99. And the fact is, at 99 cents it wasn’t even selling, so what’s the point? I’ll use that price point as a special promotion, rather than keep it there permanently. The only thing I will ever do for a freebie any longer is a short story. That will give my fans the chance to read something of mine and get a taste of my writing. As a result, I’m going to put up more short stories (professionally edited, of course) on Amazon and only use those as my freebies.

I’d love to know what other indies think? I have read all of your efforts and celebrated with you when your freebies generated thousands of “sales.” I won’t tell you the pain I actually had for you, knowing that had you been able to get the value of your worth, you could have actually made some money on this — money that you earned for all your hard work. Honestly, because of what we’ve all done I’ve had many people tell me “Oh, you wrote a new book? Tell me when it’s free and I’ll “buy” it.” Did you hear what I just said? Tell me when “it’s free” and they’ll consider reading it. That’s pretty horrifying and I know I’m not the only one who has heard that. We need to change reader’s perceptions. It starts with us.

Trust me, the Big Six aren’t giving anything away for free.

So I leave you with this… your work is valuable… but first you have to believe in it yourself before anyone else will.

Food for thought.

Can You Make Up Words in Your Novel? Yes… and No.

gobbleyI’m deep in the edits of THE HUNT FOR XANADU. My action adventure thriller about a girl on a mission to avenge her parent’s murder… and I’m finding that I’ve taken quite a bit of literary license with the English language that my editor is “calling me out on.”

What do I mean? Well, one of my characters has a cute affectation. His mouth quirks up at the corner so I made a comment that “his mouth is quirking.” In the edits my editor, Denise Vitola, replied “that’s not a word, delete.” I asked “why?” Her response? “Quirk–a person is quirky or he has quirks. Quirking is not a word and quirk doesn’t have anything to do with expressions unless you say, “He had a quirky expression.” Although, that doesn’t tell the reader anything so I wouldn’t use it.” (twerking is also not a word, by the way! 😉 )

Another time I had my character “scootching” up next to a boy. To “scootch” is a word I’ve used nearly forever in my family – it means to “sidle up next to someone.” Again, I was told: “scootching is not a word, delete.” Apparently “connectiveness” is not a word either (what am I thinking and where did I learn to speak?)

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t make up words in your stories. In fantasy, every other description seems to be a fantastical word. In my dark fantasy series I use the word “Semptor” for Wizards, “Manogs” for these wild dog-like beasts, etc… you get the idea. In XANADU I also have fantastical animals and had named all of them. My editor balked at this. “Why do you need a name for every single animal and insect? Just describe it.” I couldn’t understand why naming this one cute little creature a Timblit was a problem… but it actually was. I’m asking my readers to remember all these crazy names that might only be mentioned one time in the book. My editor said, “Describe the “cute little ferret-like creature with eight legs” rather than just give it a fantasy name.” She’s right – the reader will remember this description a lot better than a throw-a-way name.

So back to making up words. As writers, we need to be buttoned up. We need to use correct English. It’s one thing to talk about a vicuña coat (like my favorite authors have done) and not know what this is and need to look it up and discover “vicuña is a relative of a llama.” It’s another to make up words that are slang in the first place and will confuse our readers if they don’t understand what we’re trying to say. It’s all about credibility.

My two cents for the day.