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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why Financial Transparency Is Important As An Indie


There's a stigma about sharing financial information. It's hard to do it without seeming like you are bragging (or complaining). However, there are ways sharing this information can actually help those who are either starting to self-publish or who are considering self-publishing. This is why many indies are pushing aside the taboos to openly share sales, income, and expenses. Here are a handful of reasons why I think this is a good thing:

  • Combating unrealistic expectations: This is true for traditionally published authors as well. Superstar authors like Rowling who can afford their own castles are the very visible exception to the rule that writing a book, or several books, may not enable you to quit your day job. While cutting away the safety net may seem like a bold way to go "all in," it's not always wise, and being honest about how long "over night success" actually took can help those considering publishing as a main source of income plan their route.
  • Stopping the naysayers: The flip side of the last item deals with the negative nellies you meet who think self-publishing is a money sink for people who don't really want to make a living off their writing. Since anyone can publish a book now, the "fail" rates are astronomical. Every writers' group I've ever been in has some dark prophet exclaiming how since they couldn't make it, no one can. However, 90% of the time questioning reveals one or multiple problems. They've never tried a promo site or have been advertising in ineffective ways. They did their own cover art or paid someone who gave them rushed out, unprofessional looking work. They have misspellings in their blurb or a badly phrased blurb. They don't know what keywords are or their reviews complain of bad editing. You get out what you put in, and sometimes these people work hard but not smart ... or they got taken in by a predatory vanity publisher or "publicist" who promised sales but just took their money ... or writing may simply not be their calling. Just because you want to do something very much doesn't mean you can be successful at it. There are things you can do to improve your chances, but what really brings success can be hard to pinpoint. 
  • Judging promo sites: There are a lot of sites out there clamoring for your money. Many claim to be able to move mountains of books. Not all actually work. Some work in a small way but won't get you your investment back. Being able to see the numbers an author got running a book through a particular promo site can help an author decide which to invest in (this is the main reason I share my sales data). 
  • So people know what to budget for expenses: You can self-publish for free. The rule of thumb for self-publishing is that you either pay for it, or you learn to do it yourself. Cover design, formatting, editing, promoting ... all of which can add up. Some of it you can do on your own if you have certain skills, or you can trade for it, or find other ways around the fees ... but this won't always be possible and skipping these steps or doing them shoddily because you don't want to spend money can cost you in eventual sales. Allowing people to see how much you actually spent to get your book out there can be very helpful to someone getting started. 

So are their any down sides? 
Potentially, yes. 
Some writers don't want to share for fear of jealousy. This isn't unfounded. There is a small segment of authors who would rather bring down their "competition" than promote their own work. This is probably true in every community, but as authors, we work primarily online where it is fairly easy to torment another individual, leaving bad reviews on their work.  I've seen some people share their details under fake names. 
This also has a flip side. Some new writers or writers who have been struggling but not hitting the numbers through no fault of their own, may be discouraged by seeing how well others are doing at the same business. 
Also, you could get audited. So pay your taxes. 

My main thought is that writers aren't really competing against each other. I've never known an author whose end goal was "I want readers to never read anyone elses' books ever, just mine." We can afford to help each other out, and sometimes that means sharing information about financial aspects. 


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sales Chart Art!



We authors sometimes watch our sales and pages read reports a little too closely. So much so that eventually, our report graphs start to take on a life of their own. 

For instance, a couple weeks ago, this was on my pages read report ...

And it didn't stop there. A few days later it morphed into something fearsome. 

I shared it with some of my author friends, and everyone was quite impressed with my amazing paint skills (so amazing). 

After a bit, though, Copy Cats sprang up ... 


So of course, I had to escalate... Nobody simply walks into my sales chart.

Then Cynthia came back with something very scary ...















See, when you purchase from indie authors, you not only get to read a great story, you have a chance to inspire truly epic works of art. 

If you want to see any of the books that caused these dramatic images, you can check out my author page below.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review Gathering: Tomoson


As an Indie author I'm forever looking for ethical ways to speed up the review gathering process for my books. There are various sites that offer to put your book in front of reviewers for a fee. Since paying for reviews is against Amazon's policies, you want to avoid any site that has a direct payment for the review or gives any incentive to the reviewer to review other than the product/book they are going to be reviewing.

Tomoson is paid service that allows you to contact "influencers" and offer them a product in return for their honest review and social media posts.

Cons


  • Even if they worked extremely well, I think their price point is simply too high for them to be a viable resource for most indie authors. If you are making enough to write off a $100 a month towards review gathering, that's great, but I am not currently at that point in my career and most of the indies I know either don't have budgets like that or have them but already have allocated them to more proven methods (Bookbub Promotions, for instance, are higher than $100 but they have a proven record of return on that investment.).
  • The Site really isn't set up for ebooks. It was designed with physical products in mind, and if you want to get an ebook to someone you have to message them and get their email because it isn't provided. They do provide a physical address, so if you want to spring for paperbacks, this works. 
  • While people can put "books" as one of the things they are interested in reviewing,  they don't specify genre, and you may send out a ton of requests to  influencers only to have them not be interested in your book because it is fantasy/romance/mystery etc. This makes the process of finding active reviewers a little harder. 
  • I did not find the system particularly easy to use. The Dashboard was simple enough when someone did apply for my promotion, but if you just wait for the influencers to find you, you won't get many offers. You need to compose a "pitch" and message the influencers within the system. To do this you click on the sort of influencers you're interested in (in my case ones who put "books" under their interests) and then you have to message them in groups of like 10 (there isn't a way I found to get it above ten), so I would go down the list and select ten influencers at a time, message them, select another ten ... it was time consuming, and felt spammy, and I'd say maybe one in fifty got back to me. I also didn't see a way of telling whether I'd already messaged an influencer, and I hate being spammy messaging the same person repeatedly. 
  • They call you a few times checking up on you, and trying to sell you their paid service. Not a huge con, if you aren't anti-phone-conversation like me, and so far they haven't tried to contact me since I let my subscription lapse. 

Pros

  • They offer you a month free and don't even ask for your credit card information, so there is no chance of them charging you if you misread the small print or forgot to click a box. 
  • Since the influncers aren't paid to be on site and are only receiving the product you gift, this does not violate Amazon's TOS. Some larger influencers do  have fees involved with blog posts and are free to charge them; however, you should be able to set your account to avoid these (I actually didn't  figure this out, but I just declined any influencer applications where the influencer wanted a fee).
  • All the reviewers who I got through this site (I think 20 applied, but only six completed the task before my free trial ran out), wrote sufficiently thorough reviews. There weren't any "I liked this book. It was good," cop outs.  I'm odd in that, I wouldn't have minded seeing a negative review come out of this. It would've given the site more credibility in my mind, but all the reviews seemed to reference things that actually happen in the book.
  • I also  got some social media posts out of it. Tweets, a youtube video, and Facebook/Blog mentions.  These add some value. 
  • They have phone centers where people seem to pick up pretty quickly if you have questions. I probably could've made more use of this, but with young children, phone conversations are both a luxury and a torment.

Conclusion

This is a useful tool. It actually made me kind of want to sign up as an influencer to get some free stuff. However, it's too expensive (and a little time consuming, just figuring things out and composing messages and dealing with details) for me to really recommend the site. I know that reviews are writer gold, but they do come in, albeit slowly (1 out of 100 sales usually equals a review, negative or positive. I broke 1000 sales on Dragon's Curse in July, and that's not counting the easily 10x that I've given away during various free promotions ... it currently has 62 reviews.). I know we freak out about this, and I think giving away books to bloggers and readers in return for a free review is an excellent strategy. However, don't freak out about it. Don't drop massive sums of money. Just chill out a little. 

If they are offering the month free, save it for a month when you have some time on your hands (maybe between writing projects) and be prepared to put about an hour a day into it. 


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall Into Reading: Clean Indie Reads Sale!



The Clean Indie Reads  site is hosting a Fall Sale. Amazing books, all free or discounted between September 23rd and 27th.

Click the link to check out the deals, including two of my own books discounted to 99 cents!

http://www.cleanindiereadsale.com/

Beggar Magic


Fall Into Reading Banner
 Happy fall! Can you believe it's fall already? I know I can't. This summer seems to have gone by very quickly. As we batten the hatches and prepare for winter, are you ready to snuggle in front of a nice warm fire with a good book? Maybe you have the nice warm fire, but not necessarily the perfect book. I have just the thing for you! A bunch of authors and I collaborated in putting together a "Fall Into Reading" sale. The first page on the website has all the books on sale categorized by genre. Some are free, and others are discounted. If you want to find other clean books that aren't necessarily on sale, check out the second page.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Try, Fail, Succeed


Try, Fail, Succeed: 100 Creative Writing Prompts in Haiku

Matthew J. Earl

Haikus capture a moment in time, the essence of the situation in a few short words. Is your imagination stuck? Haikus can be the seeds to a grand, wild adventure in your very own imagination. Whether you are an writer, a dreamer, or someone who just loves haikus and poetry. I offer this book, Try, Fail, Succeed to you. 

I wrote these haikus to have a purpose besides being only poetry, they are creative prompts beyond the usual prompt. I wrote them to be a spark of a story. Creativity begets creativity. A single word or sentence or haiku can be the start of a short story, another poem, an epic tale, or some other form of art! Who knows where your imagination may take you from these haikus. Each haiku has a page to itself, to let you focus on it alone while your mind explores the haiku’s depths. 

The haikus within this book have been crafted around the idea of Try-Fail cycles. A Try-Fail cycle is a writing technique where a character attempts a problem and fails, followed by another try and another fail, growing throughout the process, finally leading to success. Thoughtful, with themes of adventure, romance, struggles, and trials, Try, Fail, Succeed offers an amazing adventure through your own imagination and creativity. 

“In many ways, this might be a superior approach compared to other writing prompt books as it engages the imagination on a deeper level as one tries to untangle the haiku.” 
- R.F. Kacy



Click below to purchase on Amazon
Try, Fail, Succeed: 100 Creative Writing Prompts in Haiku

My Review


I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I don't read a ton of poetry and even less haiku. However, it is a really charming sit of "micro" stories. Some set a mood, some a setting, some a character, all in three lines. 
A few made me laugh. 
The content makes these a good jumping off place for workshop exercises that would be appropriate for all ages and most skill levels. 
For me, though, it was just a smile inducing quick read. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review: Mia and Snouts


Mia and Snouts

Day Jamison

Mia has the perfect imaginary pet in Sparkle Wishes, an elegant and deferential horse. But what Mia wants most is a real pet. Suddenly she gets one in the form of mischievous Snouts, a pig-dragon from another country. Mia immediately shoves Sparkle Wishes aside to make room for Snouts. 

Mia and Snouts is the first in a series children's chapter book for ages 6-8.

You can download it on Amazon through the link below:

Mia and Snouts

My Review

I really loved this book. The girl really reminded me of my younger daughter (who is only three but has this sense of bossiness mitigated by adorableness). Mia likes things a certain way and has big ideas. She wants a party and she wants it just so. She wants a pet and she wants it just so. When a Pig-Dragon appears in her backyard, she thinks all her pet dreams have come true, but Pig-Dragons aren't as easy to manage as imaginary horses, and Mia soon begins to doubt that Snouts is the pet for her.
I loved the humor of this book. It really made me laugh out loud in several places, plus the main character learned a lot about loving a pet in spite of the difficulties of getting the pet to behave. 

I got it to read to my daughter but had to finish it up on my own while she slept, which means I'll be reading it twice. I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: Dream Eater's Carnival


Dream Eater's Carnival

Leslie Anderson and David T. Allen
Desperate for adventure, the headstrong Leisl abandons her sterile cathedral life for a mysterious traveling carnival. Surrounded by vibrant energy, she finds a sense of belonging among the troupe of tarot readers, jugglers, acrobats, con artists, strong men, and an ill-tempered flame-breathing goose. 

Although she embraces her new life, Leisl is unable to shake a strange sense of unease. There is more to the reclusive carnival owner than meets the eye. Soon she learns that his fantastic performances are not all illusion. There is dark, terrible magic at work. 

If Leisl isn’t careful, falling from the tightrope may be the least of her problems. 
----- 
Dream Eater's Carnival is a short prequel to the Bitlather Chronicles series and is Leslie and Dave's debut novella. 
Bitlather Chronicles is an epic arcane steampunk series set in a fantasy Victorian world.
Click below to purchase from Amazon:

Dream Eater's Carnival: A Bitlather Chronicles Novella


My Review

I really enjoyed the characters and the aesthetic of this world. It was a lot of fun with constant surprises. I wasn't crazy about how abruptly it ended, but since it flat out says it is a "prequel" in the description, it is obviously meant to make me want to buy the rest of the series ... and it did, but the series isn't out yet. Tsk. 
The piece is wonderfully atmospheric with a great mix of realistic grit and dreamlike haze. There were a few moments where I chuckled out loud and a few more where I felt actively anxious ... I still want to know what happened next, but at least it wasn't a huge cliffhanger (no one is about to die or hanging off of a literal cliff). It probably would've been less of a let down, but my Kindle Ap said I was only at 72% when it ended (due to backmatter) so I had hoped for at least two or three more chapters. Definitely leaves you wanting more.
Parental concerns: mostly YA safe. Like one or two cuss words and some innuendo. Definitely nothing past PG 13.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Review: The Quest for a Wide-Awake Princess

The Quest for a Wide-Awake Princess

Lia London

Jack gently pulled aside the gauze and took a good look at the Princess Asnora, snug in her bed, lovely and fully primped by her doting maid-on-a-stool-guard person. “She is very beautiful.” 
Espressa clapped her hands in a little flutter. “Go on. Kiss her.” 
“Well, I suppose that would wake her up,” he said with a shrug. He leaned over tentatively and placed a polite kiss on her forehead. 
“No, no, no! Not like that. Kiss her properly. On the lips. Why do you think I put on the lipstick?” 
Jack was still staring at the princess, bewildered that she had not yet moved with all the talking and movement around her. “Are you sure?” 
“Give her a good, big kiss!” 
Not enjoying this quest as much as he would have imagined, Jack tried harder. He kissed the Princess Asnora on the lips and then took a step back. 
“Wait for it,” said Espressa, eagerly peeking at the princess. She clawed at the air as if trying to pull the princess out of slumber. Gritting her teeth, she muttered, “Come on…Wake up…” 
“Wow, she’s a really sound sleeper,” said Jack, shaking his head. “I’ll give it one more try, and then I probably need to move on.” He knelt beside Princess Asnora, brushed a strand of her hair from her cheek and planted a movie-style kiss on her lips. 
Nothing. 


In the tradition of Fractured Fairy Tales, the Snarky Princess Stories poke fun at traditional bedtime stories and liven things up with a layer of satire. Perfect for tweens and teens who have outgrown their Disney princess nightgowns. 

Be sure to look for the other titles in the series! 
**Princess Pennilopintha & the Magic Mouse-Made Momphibrak 
**Saccharine White & the 7 Dwarfs of SAGA 
**Jane & the Lake Serpent

My Review 

I've read and reviewed most of the books in this series (three out of four, now, I think), and I think this one was my favorite. There are a lot of sly modern day references tucked into a story that subtly mocks the Fairy Tale but not in a mean way. I really liked the horse, but I don't want to give away the two laugh out loud jokes involved with that. 

This is a short story, mind you. I finished it in about ten minutes before bed, but I still really enjoyed it. I'd like to see all of these stories combined into an illustrated volume, a bit like Gail Carson Levine's fairy tale series. 

The story is currently 99 cents or free through Kindle Unlimited. Click below to download. 


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cover Reveal: Mercy's Gift

Cover reveal for MERCY'S GIFT, Book Two in the fantasy series He Who Finds Mercy by Katy Huth Jones:


Peace is fragile. Gifts have limits.

While Prince Valerian adjusts to marriage as well as his new title, conspiracy brews in the south among disgruntled lords who wish to separate from the north. The situation is made even more volatile by a charismatic rebel leader whose guerilla tactics are swift and brutal.

The clandestine efforts of a witch hired by one of the lords render Valerian's gift of Sight ineffective, and Merry's Healing gift is sorely tested.

It has become dangerous for a northerner living in the south, and if the gifted young royals fail to stop the growing rebellion, evil will reign in Levathia.

The story begins in Book One, MERCY'S PRINCE:


A heart of peace in a time of war

As second son of the King of Levathia, seventeen-year-old Valerian desires the quiet life of a scholarly monk. But when he fails to save his older brother in battle, Valerian must instead become crown prince.

While a traitorous knight schemes against him, Valerian meets Mercy, a pacifist Healer with whom he can speak mind-to-mind like the great dragons. Their bond emboldens Valerian to seek out the legendary dragons and ask for their help against the monsters who killed his brother.

Can Valerian survive the traitor’s assassins long enough to find the dragons? And if he does, can he convince them to lay aside their hatred of humans and help him save the land from destruction?

Praise for MERCY'S PRINCE:

"Easily one of the best indie books I've ever read." Story Sanctuary

"A truly believable fantasy world saturated with suspense." Marcha's Two-Cents Worth

"The action is heart-stopping, the love is pure, and the emotions are real." Amazon reader

"A lovely, spiritual tale with all the adventure, mystery and romance a reader could want. Oh. And dragons!" Amazon reader


MERCY'S PRINCE will be FREE on Amazon September 17-19, and MERCY'S GIFT will be released September 25.


Link to Katy's website: http://www.katyhuthjones.blogspot.com


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dreamthief: Excerpt

Dreamthief
By Tamara Grantham
Olive Kennedy, Fairy World MD. (Book 1)
This is a Crimson Tree Publishing Title
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Tour Dates: September 1st - 12th
Visiting Faythander is a nasty business. Forget the fairies and unicorns, most people come back with lost memories and mental problems. Olive Kennedy knows. She's the therapist who treats patients suffering from Faythander's side effects. Despite her empty bank account, she takes pride in her job as Houston's only Fairy World medical doctor. She's never failed to cure a client—until now. 
Traveling back to Faythander wasn't on Olive's to-do list. But she has no choice. The fate of both Earth and Fairy depends on her ability to stop an ancient being called the Dreamthief. To complicate matters, she may be losing her heart to someone who can't love her in return. Saving the world, she can handle. Falling in love—not so much. 
As if battling the forces of evil wasn't difficult enough…


Tamara Grantham was born and raised in Southeast Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Lamar University. After marrying her husband David, she followed him through his training to become a burn surgeon. Tamara and David have five active, sweet, and almost always well-mannered children, ages zero to ten years. Their two pets, June and Chester help to keep the house lively (in addition to the children.)
Sign up for Tamara's email list by clicking here!
 Release Day Blast Hosted and Organized by

Enjoy An Excerpt Below



A hand grabbed mine. Jeremiah stood beside me. I knew I’d made it inside his mind—into his dream—but how could he be dreaming about this place if he’d never been here?
“You came,” he said and smiled. Short, cropped curls covered his scalp. He’d always been on the chubby side—baby fat, I guess—and his large, chocolate-brown eyes sparkled when he got excited. They lit up when he looked at me.
“I’m sorry I didn’t visit sooner,” I said.
“It’s okay. Are you going to take me bowling again?”
“You liked it that much?”
“I loved it.”
“If you loved it, then I don’t have a choice, do I? But I’ve got to figure out what’s wrong with you first.”
His face darkened. I felt his fingers tighten around mine.
“Are you afraid of something?” I asked.
He nodded.
“What’s scaring you?”
“I can’t tell you,” he whispered.
“Why?”
He shook his head in a quick motion, his fingers cutting off my circulation. I knelt to be eye level with him. “Why can’t you tell me?”
Tears formed in his eyes. “Please don’t make me talk about it.”
I hugged him to my chest. “I’m sorry. I’m only trying to help you.”
The wind picked up around us, blustering with a wail that rose in pitch.
He sniffled with his nose buried in my shoulder. Tears moistened my sleeve. I hugged his tiny body to mine, praying I could find a way to get him out of this place.
“It hasn’t been here in a while,” he whispered after a few sobs.
I pulled away. It? “Can you tell me what it looks like?”
He cried. Fat tears streamed down his cheeks.
What had him so spooked? I knew I didn’t have much time. “Can you tell me anything about what’s been scaring you?”
“No, no, no…”
I pulled him back to my chest as his body shook with sobs. I needed more information. Anything he could tell me would help, but I didn’t dare ask him again. If he told me anything, it would have to be because he wanted to.
His body went rigid. I felt an iciness behind me, a feeling that crept up my spine and chilled me to the bone.
“Dreamthief,” he whispered.
“What?”
“Behind you.”
I rounded slowly. All the irrational fears I’d experienced as a kid came rushing back. Fear grabbed hold and wouldn’t let me make the tiniest of movements. It wouldn’t let me breathe. I stared in horror as a humanoid form materialized in the mist. Chills spread through my body as if I’d been submerged in ice water. The image in my bathroom mirror, in my dreams as a child, formed in front of us. A tattered black cloak, a face like a human skull, as tall as two men—I knew who this was.
Charon.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Guest Author H L Burke (YA Fantasy)









I could probably do a whole post about how chaotic trying to film this was. They say never work with animals or children? I tried to do an interview and was constantly interrupted by both. The interviewer did a great editing job, so you miss all the "fun" stuff but you can still hear the dog in the background at some points and Claire makes an appearance.


Oh, and for extra fun today, DRAGON'S BRIDE is free 9/7 through 9/10 so you can pick up a copy!

Dragon's Bride (The Dragon and the Scholar Book 4)


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Click Bait Fiction

Click Bait Fiction



the practice of giving a novel a punchy, sensationalized, and possibly deceptive headline in order to get people to CLICK!

No, this isn't a thing ... yet! But I bet you anything, eventually we'll see book titles like the following:

A Scholar goes to visit a dragon AND YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!
Dragon's Curse (The Dragon and the Scholar Book 1)

This kitten was so cute, it was owned by a princess, BUT JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU MEET HIS NEW OWNER.
Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon

Leilani is a Common girl who meets a lost Highmost girl in the woods. YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT SHE DOES!
Beggar Magic

Brode just wants a safe, normal life, BUT WHAT FATE HAS IN STORE FOR HIM WILL SHOCK YOU!

Lands of Ash (Elemental Realms Book 1)

So what famous novels would you redo with Click Bait Titles?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Review: Waiting for Appa


Waiting for Appa

A SciFi Short by Mirtika

To save his family--and his people--he defied the laws of his faith and returned to the perilous deep of space. He promised his wife, daughter, and son that he would return... 

~~ 

On Dorna III, a planet colonized by members of a strict religious sect, these settlers suffer through a severe and prolonged famine. Melmedain of Havenheart feels called to use forbidden technology and seek aid. He leaves behind his family, now shunned by the rest of the community. 

During his absence, something worse than hunger or the unseen "devils" underground gnaws at the peace and sanity of the colonized towns. And soon, the last of the food will run out. 

Will Appa return in time...or at all? 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
This short story won the 2006 annual fiction contest of THE SWORD REVIEW.


My Review


This was a really solid, emotionally written short story. 

It quickly immersed me in a world both alien and familiar and made me feel for the characters.
There is a definite theme of grace and listening to God's leading over the hypocrisy of unyielding laws imposed by men. I definitely enjoyed this and devoured it quite quickly. 

Click below to purchase: