Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Christmas!

This holiday season I am reminded how fortunate I am to have faithful cyber friends like you who come back week after week to read the new posts here on A Book Inside. Over the years, many of you have become personal friends as well, and I am grateful for that blessing in my life.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season wherever it might be that you celebrate the season in this beautiful big World we share!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Possibly the Best Book Marketing Tool on the Web!

I always love to share my greatest Internet finds with you. I think I may have found exactly that—the best! While visiting my friends Blog, In His Name, I saw a really cool widget you can put on your site.

Everyone likes to read excerpts from your book before they buy. Amazon and many of the other book sale outlets have “look inside” features which are wonderful, but first you need to get your site visitors to click on to that sales Website. Sometimes we have trouble “hooking” the potential buyer. Try putting this new and “free” widget right on your Website or Blog home page to gain interest in your book.

It takes about 15 minutes to set up and you will need to have your book available in PDF as well as having a quality book cover image to upload. Happy sales!
Here is mine:

www.bookbuzzr.com


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reviews sell books! Here’s an Opportunity

Good reviews do sell books; poor reviews don't. Never post less than a 4 or 5 star review—it kills the author's chances for sales. Just like the old saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Let's get our books reviewed!


I am looking for fresh new reviews on one of my books. Please be willing to post your 4 or 5 star review (only) on Amazon.com.
Keep Your Sanity, Understanding and Coping With Stress in a Changing World. 138 pages. Offered for review as a PDF file only.

It is estimated that as many as 80 percent of physician visits may be stress-related. Without knowing how to reduce stress, we leave ourselves susceptible to life-threatening illness, disease, and just plain unhappiness.

In this book you will discover:
• Why you are susceptible to stress.
• How to apply “quick fixes” and ultimately achieve long term relief.
• How to adjust your lifestyle to permanently take control and live a more stress-free life.

For your free review copy, please e-mail Carol Denbow at chipanugget@gmail.com.
Websites: Author’s Box http://www.authorsbox.com Plain & Simple Book Publishing http://www.plainandsimplebooks.webs.com

The Amazon.com listing on this book can be found HERE.

Now it’s your turn. If you would like your book to be offered up for review, list your book title and contact information in the comment section. Please include whether you will mail a hard copy or PDF (e-book).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Writers, Please Offer Me Your Input

Here’s the story. I’m considering authoring another book, and as per my own advice, as well as bit of personal concern, I’m asking for your feedback.

I always preach that a writer needs to “find their audience” before writing a book, simply to be sure there actually is an audience for their work—I’m no exception. Since all of the visitors to this site are either writers, authors, or want-to-be authors, I would guess this is the best way to explore my own potential audience.

I hadn’t planned on writing another book, but as usual, I thought I sensed a need out there (LOL). Last time I felt this way, I put together 100 Ways to Market Your Book For Free (or really cheap). The book sold, but wasn’t as popular as I had anticipated.

So I’m considering the gamble once again with a book on simple editing; basically punctuation and sentence structure. If completed, Period A Quick-Guide to Basic Editing would be released in 2011. The new book is designed to provide all writers, including students, want-to-be authors, and the common work force, with the tools and information they need to present a more polished and well-written piece of work. Its format is easy-to-follow and presents much of the information we all learned in our high school and college English classes—but forgot! Even educated writers should find this book to be a useful tool. We all make editorial mistakes, but presenting a better manuscript can give us an edge when submitting work to a traditional book publisher or ?. The perfect aid for self-publishers as well.

Okay, so I’m sure your first thought is, “But Carol, you’re not an editor. What’s up?” Yea, yea, I know I’m not—far from it! I will be co-authoring this book with an acquaintance of mine who is a professional editor; and a very good one at that.

So there you have it. E-book ($4?) and paperback ($10?), very inexpensive, and written as a step-by-step guidebook (75-100 pages?). Please give me your thoughts. Is this something that would appeal to you as a writer? Or will I be wasting my time? Please be honest—I can handle it!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Still Need More Hits After Blog Jog Day?

As a follow-up to Blog Jog Day, and to help those who participated by including their Websites, I’ve decided to offer some help to them. Many said they did get fresh visitors and some new followers to their sites, but asked in the same breath, “How can I consistently get more?”

As an author, new visitors to your Blog or Website are crucial to getting noticed as a writer as well as selling your books or services. Getting hits comes from knowing how popular your site is with the search engines and being able to draw visitors through them as well as through your own “side-line” efforts. So how does your site rank?

First, use the Website Grader at http://websitegrader.com/ to see your stats. Simply type in your Website URL and click “Generate Report” (un-check for “Monthly Updates”). This is the best free tool online to find out where your site ranks.

Now you know; so how do you improve these rankings? Start by sending a note to Google and other search engines every time you post something new. Yes, the search engines will automatically look for new posts, but not very often on a less popular site (as most of ours are). So you need to step up and submit your Website yourself (below are the links to do that). Make sure you are submitting the “exact” URL for your new post. Each time you post, Blogger or whoever you use, creates a special link just for that new post. Example:

My URL is http://abookinside.blogspot.com
Bloggers assigned URL for my post on Publishing is http://abookinside.blogspot.com/2010/11/to-be-or-not-to-be-self-published-that.html
See the difference?

Here are the links to submit your new posts:
Google http://www.google.com/addurl/
Yahoo http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html
Bing http://www.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx

Next, get some inbound links by visiting sites which are similar in content to yours and asking for a link exchange. Scroll down to the bottom of this home page to see all the related links I have swapped with and how I place them on my page. Also, every time you visit another Blog, leave a comment with a link to your site.

Another appealing asset the search engines are happy to see is consistent new useful content on your site. The more good information you post, the more value they see in your site. More value means better placement when a potential customer is searching for your product.

For added hits to your site, I like Entrecard. You put the logo on your site (create one for yourself) and share advertizing spots on other members sites. Yes, over time many become repeated visits and quick click-throughs, but that still looks good to the search engines and you will get fresh visitors through your free ads. Sign up for Entrecard at http://entrecard.com/rr/29732v.

Finally,
Make sure you have a “Share” button on your Website. That way visitors who like your site can share it on other social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Find the Share button at http://free-7.blogspot.com/2009/06/share-button-complete-bookmark-for.html.

I hope this information is helpful to you as we’re all in this together and I would love to see all those in this field become more successful! Notice all these marketing avenues are free?

This site (A Book Inside) has reached a page rank of 5 (that’s really good), but it took 5 years and a lot of work to get here. Even so, my visitor count could be better. I have a lot to learn; but what I do know I have shared with you here. If you know of some great ways to build a following, please share that with all of us in the comment section below.

Even right here and now, you can help my site by clicking the Share button and posting this on your own social networking sites! Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Welcome to blog Jog Day!

I have a special gift for you just for stopping by! Leave your e-mail address in any of the comment areas and I will send you The Writer In You, a short e-book full of advice from published authors in all fields of writing.

When you’re done peeking at my site here, please click over to Rose Firewalker’s TeaGarden at http://rosefirewalker.wordpress.com. I had the best time browsing through her Blog!

Remember Joggers, if you drift away from the chain of Blogs, click back here or start over back at http://blogjogday.blogspot.com. Enjoy your journey!

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Be, Or Not To Be Self-Published; That Is The Question


This article coutesy of Angela Joseph. Thank you Angela!

The term self-publishing carries with it a lot of negative connotations. As writers, we are led to believe that if you self-publish your book, you immediately brand yourself as “not-good-enough.” Truth be told, most of the self-published books I have read have made me cringe, but some traditional books also come in for my mental red ink. With traditional publishers falling on hard times, editors are becoming more leery of taking on new names these days and are sticking with their tried and true authors. Occasionally, a new name makes it into the hallowed halls.
Knowing al this, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish my first non-fiction book Women For All Seasons which was released a few days ago. Why did I self-publish? Mainly, for reasons listed before. As a newbie without a platform, having a work of non-fiction accepted by a traditional publisher seemed as unlikely as snow falling in Florida. Also, I’ve heard that authors, indie or otherwise, must do their own promoting. You cannot rely on your publisher to promote your book for you. Since my book is a niche book, I thought if I market wisely, I could see some good results. For those reasons I never approached an agent or editor.

Bigger Royalties
Traditionally published books earn an average of 10% in royalties, which in most cases is just around $1.00. If you did get a big advance, that may help, otherwise $1.00 is not enough to make you give up your day job. To my great amazement, I realized that my self-published book would earn just slightly more on Amazon after the publisher has taken out his share. And it’s not likely to get into bookstores, nor is it likely to be reviewed, unless I choose to pay for a review. However, if I convert to an ebook or Kindle, which I plan to do, I can make much higher royalties.

The Advantages of Self Publishing
So what are the advantages of self publishing? First, it ensures that your masterpiece (if you can call it that) goes before the public instead of staying on your hard drive. Second, it's quick. Your work gets out while it’s still fresh in your mind and you still feel some connection to it. Third, if your book is well written, you can get positive feedback from your readers and your book may eventually be picked up by a traditional house. Fourth, even though you may not make a lot of sales, a good self-published book can lead to other things; speaking engagements, writing contracts and the like.

The Company You Keep
If you still think your self-published book puts you in the company of the less-than-noteworthy, think again. Ever heard of Virginia Wolf, Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, John Grishman? These famous scribes all self published at one time. So if you decide to go the self-published route, here are some things to consider. Do your homework. If you are tech savvy, you may opt for a service like Lulu where you can convert your work to a PDF file and upload it. Then you can design your cover or have someone do it for you. If not, you can research one of the many POD publishers, as I did, and choose the one that gives you the best value for your money. Polish your work as if you were pitching it to a reputable agent. Get someone to edit it, or enlist the help of your writers’ group (as I did). Only when you are satisfied that your book meets and passes the sparkle test, then go ahead and publish. Once you have submitted it, begin your marketing efforts. Make use of social networking sites, blogs and other communities to create buzz about your book. You may find that once you have done all that you can do, and then some, you will enjoy the journey of bringing your baby into the world.

Post courtesy of “Angela’s Freelance Writing.” Please visit Angela’s site at http://www.angelasfreelancewriting.com

If you are undecided as to how to publish your book, visit Plain & Simple Books Publishing at http://www.plainandsimplebooks.webs.com and learn about alternative book publishing options.

Image: George Bernard Shaw 1912

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Publish Your Book For Free? Yes!

Are you a writer ready to publish your book? Is the process confusing and frustrating? Not sure what publishing method to use? I may have a solution for you.

For more than five years now, I have had my own publishing company, Plain & Simple Books, LLC. The company was formed strictly for the purpose of publishing my own books; I am now ready to open my business to outside authors seeking alternative publishing.

What Plain & Simple Books is offering authors:
*No upfront costs
*Free basic layout and design (value $200+)
*Free basic cover design (value $300.00+)
*Commission on Amazon and Kindle sales
*Significant discount off the cover price for author book purchases (no minimum order)
*Authors maintain rights to copyright
*Finally, and most importantly…your finished book in hand!

To learn more, please visit my new “temporary” Website at http://www.plainandsimplebooks.webs.com or e-mail me with your questions at caroldenbow@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blog Jog Day Sign-Ups in the Works

40 sign-ups so far for Blog Jog Day November 21st. Can we reach last years total of near 150? Sign up now to get your blog seen! Visit http://blogjogday.blogspot.com for more info.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another Great Way to Get Hits to Your Blog!


When I first began this Blog two years ago, I would get only four or five visitors per day. I was frustrated because I wanted to share book writing tips with others and I didn’t know how. I had befriended a wonderful person online who I shared my frustration with and she told me about Entrecard. Entrecard is a free service where all I had to do was add a link to my site (see link to the right) and other related, as well as some unrelated Bloggers, click on to my Blog to earn credits towards their own advertisements on other sites. It’s all free and increased my hits to over 50 per day! Now my site is highly ranked by the search engines and I get new visitors every day.

Entrecard has been a terrific asset to my Blog and has really helped me grow. I suggest if you have a Blog or Website, try it and see if your visitor count doesn’t increase substantially. If not, you can easily remove the link (but I think you’ll be surprised!). Click on to Entrecard!

Read the Entrecard Blog at http://entrecard.com/blog/?p=1593

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2'nd Blog Jog Day Coming Soon!


Our second annual Blog Jog Day will be held on Sunday, November 21!

Plug Your Blog! Potentially thousands of hits in one day! Long-term results! Permanent links! Join us for Blog Jog Day on November 21.

What is Blog Jog Day? It’s a one-day event where Bloggers are joining together for a pyramid effect promotional rally. We all post on the same day with each post leading the visitor to the next Blog, and so on full circle. That’s it! Visitors explore your Blog, and then click on to the next one bringing potentially thousands of unique visitors to your site.

How Blog Jog Day Can Benefit Bloggers
*More unique visitors to your Blog
*More subscribers
*More comments
*More inbound links
*More Followers
*More exposure and sales
*Grow your daily hits
All which look great to Google, Yahoo, Bing, and the other search engines! With popularity comes a higher Page Rank and greater exposure for your Blog!

How It Works
Bloggers can sign up at http://blogjogday.webs.com. There is a one-time $2.00 participation fee which helps support additional advertizing for Blog Jog Day.

Then follow-up with an e-mail to chipanugget@gmail.com with your Blog address. Within a few days, you will receive a post to copy and paste as a post on your Blog. It will look similar to this:
“Thank you for stopping by my Blog! Please explore all this Blog has to offer, then jog on over to (add next Blog link here). If you would like to visit a different Blog in the jog, go to http://blogjogday.blogspot.com.”

You will be allowed to personalize your Post to suit your own Blog and personality. Maybe a good opportunity for a giveaway, contest or poll on your Blog? However, we will be providing the required link to the next Blog.

I can’t guarantee massive results, but I can assure you of numerous new visitors to your site! The more of us that do it, the better the results for all of us! Last year was great!

We all have Blogs, we all have friends. What are you waiting for…get on board now!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Virtual Book Touring with Author Patricia Rockwell


Patricia Rockwell has spent most of her life teaching. From small liberal arts colleges to large regional research universities and even a brief stint in a high school; her background in education is extensive. She has taught virtually everything related to communication. Patricia was on the faculty at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for thirteen years, retiring in 2007.

Sounds of Murder, her first novel, is a cozy mystery which follows the exploits of amateur sleuth and acoustics expert Pamela Barnes, as she attempts to use her knowledge of sound to solve the murder of a university colleague strangled in the departmental computer lab.

Recently, Patricia organized her own virtual book tour and is here to chat with me about that experience.

Carol Denbow: Welcome Patricia, so glad you are here to help our visitors understand what a “virtual book tour” is and how it works to promote your books. Please start by offering us your definition of a virtual book tour.

Patricia Rockwell: Carol, my understanding is that a “virtual book tour” occurs when an authors “tour” around the blogosphere visiting different blogs and at each stop to promote their books. It takes the place of a “real” book tour in which authors would actually travel around the country from bookstore to bookstore promoting their books. The major benefit is that the “virtual” tour is less expensive and less time consuming.

Carol Denbow: You set up your recent virtual book tour yourself. How did you locate and make contact with online sites for your tour stops which would be suitable to your genre?

Patricia Rockwell: Well, for me it was a no-brainer. I have two blogs and a number of followers; a number of whom I’ve gotten to know quite well. I put a request up on both my blogs for hosts for my book tour, indicated the dates and what would be involved. I received responses from six bloggers which covered most of the dates I had planned for the tour.

Carol Denbow: When contacting potential tour stop sites, how receptive were the Webmasters to your requests?

Patricia Rockwell: Very. As I said, I posted the request on my blogs and bloggers responded to me—so I knew they were willing.

Carol Denbow: Did you set up individual interviews at each stop, post book reviews, or what?

Patricia Rockwell: I gave each blogger the choice as to what they preferred. They all chose interviews so that’s what I prepared. Some gave me prepared questions, and some let me create my own.

Carol Denbow: How did you promote your virtual book tour?

Patricia Rockwell: Mostly, I just posted about it on my blogs, mentioned it on Facebook, and tweeted on Twitter.

Carol Denbow: In your personal opinion, how hard was it and how much time did you need to invest to set up a successful tour?

Patricia Rockwell: I found it was less time-consuming than I imagined it would be. The important thing for me was to maintain a calendar of each date of the tour and know exactly what was to happen on that date and make certain I was prepared and had delivered the appropriate material to each blogger in time for the visit of the day.

Carol Denbow: Was there any monetary expense in putting together your virtual book tour?

Patricia Rockwell: No.

Carol Denbow: Where did you learn how to put your tour together and make it happen?

Patricia Rockwell: Mostly from your blog and other online sites.

Carol Denbow: In your eyes, was the tour a success and would you recommend other authors try it?

Patricia Rockwell: It’s hard to evaluate how successful it was because it’s difficult to attach book sales to one particular event. I can’t say I saw a dramatic rise in book sales from the tour, but I certainly got more press that week than I had previously.

Carol Denbow: Is there anything you would do different if you decide to do it again in the future?

Patricia Rockwell: I think I might expand beyond just the followers of my blogs—maybe investigate some book bloggers or other book sites, particularly sites oriented to my genre.

Carol Denbow: Thank you Patricia, great interview!

Patricia Rockwell’s publications are extensive; with over 20 peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals, several textbooks, and a research book on her major interest area of sarcasm published by Edwin Mellen Press. In addition, she served for eight years as Editor of the Louisiana Communication Journal.

Dr. Patricia Rockwell is presently living in Aurora, Illinois, with her husband Milt, also a retired educator; the couple has two adult children. Visit Patricia’s Blog at http://subjectivesoup.blogspot.com.

If you are interested in learning more about organizing a virtual book tour of your own, read the e-book, How to Organize a Virtual Book Tour, available at Authors Box.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On Book Marketing




While waiting on an “in-progress” special post for A Book Inside Blog, I’ve decided to offer a one-time deal to my blog visitors to help with their pre-holiday book marketing (no, it’s NOT too soon).

Now through October 31st, when you order either of my e-books, How to Organize a Virtual Book Tour or 100 Ways to Market Your Book For Free (or really cheap), I will include the other one free! Each of these books is available on my Website for $3.99, but right now you can get twice the help for the price of one book. That’s a boatload of marketing information for a very affordable price!

Also, if you have your heart set on the new e-book version of A Book Inside, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Story, order it and I will include one of the above titles for free as well!

To order, please visit my Website at AuthorsBox or go directly to the Webstore at http://authorsbox2.webs.com/apps/webstore/. Please specify your desired free e-book when ordering.

I wish every author out there successful holiday sales for 2010!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to Promote Your Book Online

Since I’ve recently been on the topic of book promotion, I think I’ll go one more. It’s a trying ordeal to compose and publish a book, but selling it can be the biggest and most frustrating part of the journey. So I believe this topic to be the most relevant to authors, especially those newly published.

The key to selling books is exposure; if no one knows about your book, they won’t buy it. So how do we get noticed in this competitive field? Statistically, most books are not sold through traditional brick and mortar book stores. 52 percent of all book sold are sold via mail order, online, book clubs, discount stores, and nontraditional retail outlets. Since 2008, online sales have nearly doubled and are expected to increase steadily year after year.

Realizing this, I suggest authors focus on strengthening their online presence. Personally, I’ve been working this method of marketing for more than four years. Just for fun, Google me and see how much exposure I have accumulated—“Carol Denbow.” Now hold the chuckles, some of my search results are for recent news unrelated to books (I’m a golfer in a small town, always makes the news!). But for the most part, you’ll see a massive number of links to my books and marketing articles, interviews, etc.

I have found the best means to gain online exposure is through author interviews and submitting book related articles to article sites such as Amazines.com and EzineArticles.

Join sites like Author & Book Event Center or get in the “Author Spotlight” for great front page exposure.

The restaurant business is one of the toughest out there. Even as a competitive business (as we are), there is a saying amongst restaurant owners which is, “where there’s a restaurant, build another and they will come; ever heard the expression, “restaurant row?” Authorship is a tough business as well and we must work together. How about swapping author interviews on Blogs? I, as an author, will interview you this week on my Blog, and you interview me on your Blog next week. Surely you know an author with a Blog? No? Google one! Do the same with book reviews.

So with that in mind, I’d like to ask that all published authors add a comment to this post and tell us what your most successful marketing tool has been. Let’s share our ideas and get some books sold! Don't forget to leave a link to your Website or Blog!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Finding Your Book's Audience

The following is an excerpt from A Book Inside, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Story. It is crucial you recognize and make plans to target your specific audience before you sit down to write your book. Please read on.

Before you decide exactly what to write, figure out who will be buying and reading your book. If you’re writing a family history for instance, your audience may be limited to your friends and family members. In that case, book market statistics won’t be a concern to you. But if your plan is to sell your book to the public and make a profit, you’ll need to research the market to determine what your audience will want to buy.

People generally buy nonfiction books to learn about something and they purchase fiction books for the pleasure of reading. You might want to consider nonfiction for your first book. It’s easier to write and considerably more nonfiction books are published than fiction. In fact, nonfiction generally outsells fiction by two to one.

Half of all books sold in 2006 were sold to people over age 45. Women buy 68 percent of all books sold, so it might be wise to consider targeting your book idea to include a more mature and primarily female audience as well. The highest percentage of books sold was mass-market paperbacks and college textbooks.

The following are statistics on what age groups purchase which type of books. Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 adults, aged 18 and older.

Ages 18–29:
• 72% — Biographies or books about history
• 60% — Self-improvement books
• 58% — Thriller or suspense novels

Ages 30–49:
• 72% — Biographies or books about history
• 60% — Religion and theology
• 60% — Self-improvement books

Ages 50–64:
• 74% — Biographies or books about history
• 60% — Self-improvement books
• 59% — Current literary fiction

Ages 65 and over:
• 76% — Biographies and books about history
• 58% — Religion and theology
• 53% — Current events books and mystery novels (tie)

Aside from those listed, the genre choices in the poll included business management and leadership books, classic literature, horror novels, personal finance books, science fiction, and romance novels. All rated between 7 and 48 percent.

References:
Lou Aronica, Publishers Weekly (March 22, 1999).
Gallup, Inc., Gallup Poll, Do Reading Tastes Age? (February 4, 2003). To learn more about this study, visit http://www.gallup.com/poll/7732/Reading-Tastes-Age.aspx.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It’s About Time – New Facebook Page

In keeping up with the “Jones,’” I decided we needed a place we can all share our interest in book writing and publishing. So I have created “A Book Inside” on Facebook for us all to share! This will be a place we can post our own questions, advertize our books, post reviews, excerpts, get critiqued, or list available writing, publishing and marketing services. Basically anything book related!
So please click on over and get the buzz started; this will be fun! If you would like to share this Facebook button, let me know and I’ll get the HTML to you! E-mail me at caroldenbow@gmail.com.

A Book Inside

Promote Your Page Too

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Poll is Finished!

Here’s what we’ve learned from the results:

*Most people choose to write in order to express their creativity or document a personal story. To my surprise, most don’t seem to care whether or not they become famous or get rich from their book. So why is it I hear so often, “Maybe I can be the next Rowling or King?” LOL!

*Even with so much competition in the publishing industry, the majority of authors seem to still be holding out for the big traditional publishing contract. They are also not succumbing to the “e-book is easier” theory and desire to see a physical copy of their book in hand; can’t say I blame them.

*More than half of all books are now sold online. Many of even the bigger named brick and mortar book stores have called it quits due to the increasing volume of online sales. Yet our poll revealed that most writers still plan to sell in traditional retail book stores. Will they be missing the market?

On a more personal note…in 2005, while preparing my first book for release, I researched the market to learn where my audience would be making their purchase. At that time, the statistics showed that only twenty percent of my sales would be over the Internet. Wow! What an increase over just five years!

*Most writers seem to rely on the guidance of “writer help books” to get them through the process of writing and publishing their work. Personally, I think this is smart, and not because I am the author of such a book, but because I spent countless hours (more like years!) myself researching the process never knowing such books were available to me.

*Finally, this poll showed that even though on the average, there was little or no profit in becoming a published author, the authors who took the poll stated overwhelmingly they were happy with the outcome and recommended unpublished writers follow in their footsteps.

My initial intent of this poll was basically to fill space on the Blog while I was on vacation. But to my surprise, it was a very interesting “quiz” with some surprising outcomes. It inspires me to continue the Blog indefinitely. I think new authors really do want and need the guidance offered here (when I’m not on vacation!).

Thank you to all who participated! You comments are always welcome.

Friday, July 30, 2010

BOOK DIFFERENTIATION

Contributed By Hank Quense
© 2010
This three-part article describes one aspect of marketing and selling books. With the gazillions of other books available, authors need something to make their book grab the reader's attention. Book differentiation is one way to do this.

Part One: The Differentiation Process
Getting a book published means you can call yourself a "published author." You may not know it yet, but it also means you can add the titles "marketing manager" and "sales manager" to the title of "published author." In other words, you, the published author, are in charge of marketing and selling you book. Surprised? I was.

What do these new titles mean? As marketing manager, you have to spread the word on
your book and create a buzz about it. This will get some folks interested in or curious about the book. These folks will visit your selling site. As sales manager your job is to convert these visitors to customers. Your differentiation statements are the key to converting the visitors. These statements tell the world why your book matters and why readers should buy it.

This is a vital aspect of self-marketing. Consider this: thousands of new books become available every month. Consequently, your book is competing against all these other books for the readers' attention and money. Your book has to stand out from all the others and persuade readers to shell out money to get a copy.

I've read a number of books on self-marketing and using the internet as a marketing
platform. While they all contain good ideas, many ignore this subject. When it is
mentioned at all, it is covered rather quickly and shallowly. I intend to cover the subject in depth because I believe it is of paramount importance.

For many years, I worked selling high-tech telecommunications equipment. If I wanted
to talk about a new product or new features on an existing product, I'd call a customer, explain what I wanted and the customer would set up a meeting with other interested departments. Later, I'd give a presentation and answer any questions. The critical point to make is this; I knew the customers and could get a face-to-face meeting whenever I needed to. Marketing and selling on the internet are entirely different processes for several reasons. First, you are selling from websites, not in-person. You don't know the website visitors and the majority of them don't know you. A second reason is that I presented my product to what amounted to a captive audience. Website visitors are not captive; they are capricious and fleeting.

To sell your book, you have to devise a sales plan. Yeah, a sales plan. You're the sales manager in charge of selling the book and sales managers develop sales plans. After you develop the plan, you then implement it. The sales plan consists of two parts. The first part is to develop your differentiation statement. The second is to develop the means to use the statement most effectively. That is, place the statement where potential customers can see it.

The good news about the sales plan is, that unlike many other marketing activities, it's free. It can also be completed before the book is published. I start working on a differentiation statement for a new book long before the book is finished. This gives me ample time to tinker with the messages and to perfect them.

Part Two: Differentiation Development
Essentially, what this process entails is developing three sentences or short paragraphs that can be used to sell your book. The pitch line is the hook to grab the readers' attention. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to keep reading the other two statements. It should be simple, a few short sentences at most, and it must make a clear statement about your book. What's in it for the buyers? is a statement that explains what the reader (i.e. a book buyer) will get in exchange for money. This must be explicit. This statement is not the place to get cute. Don't come across like the legendary used-car salesman. Tell the readers what benefit they'll get from buying the book. Think of this statement in this way: If your
book is surrounded by hundreds of similar-sized books on a shelf in bookstore, what would persuade the buyer to choose your book instead of one of the others?
What's different about this book? With all the books published every month, what
makes your book stand out from the others?

These dry descriptions are difficult to grasp so I'll use examples from my published
books. Tunnel Vision is a collection of twenty humorous short stories. Here is my differentiation statement.
Pitch Line:
Live longer. Laughter is good for your health. Read this book and you may live longer.
What's in it for the buyer?
Unusual characters, settings both strange and familiar, and bizarre plots are a few of the things you'll experience and enjoy.
What's different about this book?
Aren't you tired of reading scifi and fantasy stories that take themselves too seriously? Well, you won't find any stories like that here. It doesn't take anything serious. Politics, Shakespeare, Lord of the Rings, the military, aliens, the undead, they all get cut down a notch or two.

Fool's Gold is a retelling of the ancient myth of the Rhinegold. The story involves a magical horde of gold and ring of immense power. Sound familiar? Tolkien borrowed part of the myth to write Lord of the Rings. My version takes place in the future and uses aliens instead of fantasy creatures. Here is how I worded my differentiation statement.
Pitch Line:
A Ring of Power? That is soooo yesterday. Now it's the Chip of Power and it produces
laughs.
What's in it for the buyer?

Differentiation-2
Aliens, ancient Gods, humor, beautiful Valkyries, heros, conniving nobles, betrayal,
greed, incest, a magical gold horde; this story has something for everyone.
What's different about this book?
This is the only retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth that is set in the future and is a humorous scifi tale.

Finally, there is my nonfiction book Build a Better Story.
Pitch Line:
Have a story that needs to be told? Here's the best way to go about doing it.
What's in it for the buyer?
The book describes a process that eases the work involved in developing a story. This
reduces the time spent in reworking flawed and imperfect drafts. Following the process allows more time to be spent on the creative activities and shortens the time spent on less creative work.
What's different about this book?
Besides the process, this book takes a unique approach to character building and
plotting. It identifies problem areas that inexperienced writers struggle with and explains how to address those areas. Two of them are character motivation and scene design.

Of course, when you use the statements don't use the questions, just the answers. So
my complete differentiation message for Fool's Gold looks like this:
A Ring of Power? That is soooo yesterday. Now it's the Chip of Power and it produces laughs.
Aliens, ancient Gods, humor, beautiful Valkyries, heros, conniving nobles, betrayal,
greed, incest, a magical gold horde; this story has something for everyone.
This is the only retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth that is set in the future and is a humorous scifi tale.

Do you get the idea? How do you start? Take a blank sheet of paper or a start a new
mind map file on your computer. Jot down every possible idea that comes to you for each of the three statements. Don't eliminate any ideas because you think they are too dumb. This 'dumb idea' may trigger a great thought or two later on. Keep refining the ideas. Add more ideas, combine others. Eventually, suitable statements will evolve out of this exercise, but it may take more than a single session to get it.

Once you develop the complete statement, don't sit back and relax. You need at least
one, preferably two paraphrases of the message. These are used to repeat the message -- to emphasize it -- without using the same words.

Part Three: Using the Message
What do you do with these statements after you develop them? You stick them
anywhere they'll fit. On your website, on blogs, on ads, press releases, in your trailer. If you can't fit the entire statement someplace (such as Twitter), use the pitch line by itself.

WEBSITE USE
On your book-buying page, make the pitch line the opening statement followed by the
rest of your differentiation message. Why? Earlier, I mentioned captured audiences when I made a sales presentation. On the Internet, no one is captive and their attention span is too minuscule to measure. When these visitors land on your Web page, you have a second or two to persuade them to read beyond the first line of text they see. That is the job of your pitch line; to get the visitors to read further. The next statement (what's in it for the buyer) has to tell them there is something of value here, something they can use or enjoy.

Finally, your page tells them what is different about your book, what is in it that they can't get elsewhere. If this works, the visitors will read even further where they can learn how to get a copy and how much it'll cost. If you get a sale, you have accomplished the difficult process of converting a visitor to a customer.

TRAILER USE
Make sure your differentiation statements are clearly visible and emphasized in the
trailer. Get the message in the beginning and the end of the trailer. Innumerable people from all over the world will view the trailer and you want them to understand your message.

INTERNET ANNOUNCEMENTS
Log onto social media sites and post an announcement that your book is available.
Include the differentiation message in the announcement. Log onto book sites like Goodreads and Librarything. Add information about your book. You can upload the cover and add descriptive text about it. Make sure that text includes
your differentiation messages.

PRESS RELEASES
Display your differentiation messages prominently. Make them the opening statement in
the body of the release. Rephrase the message and place it a second time further down in the body.

EMAIL
Use the signature capability in your email program to build a unique signature using the pitch line by itself. Link that pitch line to your book-selling Website. Now, every time you send an email, you'll also be pitching your book.

Once the differentiation statements are completed, you've taken a big step toward
getting people to buy your book. Keep going! You can do this.

Hank Quense writes humorous fantasy and science fiction along with an occasional article on fiction writing. He lives with Pat, his wife of many years, in Bergenfield, NJ. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

To date Quense has over forty stories and articles published. His novel Fool's Gold is a sci-fi retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth. Tunnel Vision, a collection of twenty previously published stories. Both books are available in e-book and print formats.

Build a Better Story is non-fiction and will help fiction writers with a process to develop a story.

His latest, Tales from Gundarland, is a collection of humorous short stories and novellas.

He is presently working on a novel that is a blend of fantasy and science fiction and a second novel that is pure fantasy.

Visit Hank’s Website at http://www.hankquense.com or his Blog at http://www.hankquense.com/blog.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

YES YOU CAN Easily Create an Author Website

Since most books are now sold via the Internet, it is an absolute must that authors have an online presence; and I don’t mean a simple Amazon listing or online publisher listing. What I’m referring to is a Website or Blog of your own.

In the past I have tried to persuade most of our “new author” Blog visitors to create a Website for their book(s). Some of you have done so and might I add, done a great job of it! Others are not so easily persuaded, mostly because they think they just don’t have the technical knowledge to conquer such a task. In reality, Website development is much easier than you think.

Al Albers is an author who I have in the past attempted to persuade to build a Website for his books; finally, he has done so and his new Website looks fantastic! In this interview with Al, we will find out how the process was for him and maybe we can encourage some skeptics to give it a try. After all, writing a book isn’t an easy task, but if you can accomplish that, creating a Website should be simple enough!

Carol Denbow: Welcome Al, so glad you’re here to help our Blog visitors learn how to combat their fears and get to work building a Website to promote their books.

Let me start by asking you if you are indeed one of those authors who thought they were not capable of building their own Website?

Al Albers: Before I begin, I want to say, “THANK YOU, CAROL” for the interview; it’s much appreciated. I hope my experience in creating my Website will encourage others to take the plunge.

I was positive this was something I could not do. In fact, two years ago I was given the book FrontPage for Dummies so I could learn how to build a Website. As I started the process, I realized it was going to take time—lots of it. I managed to build two pages, but there were a few “glitches” that I couldn’t figure out. After a frustrating hour, I came to the conclusion that I needed to decide what was more important: the Website, or the new story I was writing (I had alternated my weekday evenings so that one night I’d work on the Website, the next night on the story). Right or wrong, in my mind, the story was more important and that’s where I focused my attention.

My new plan was to work on a Website after the second novel was published. Sadly, that didn’t happen. I had an idea for a third story (I’m almost finished) so I jotted down some notes and then began writing.

The Website would again have to wait.

Carol Denbow: When you decided to take the plunge and give it a try, what was your first step in the process?

Al Albers: The first step was to decide whether to return to FrontPage or hire a Website designer. As fate would have it, I was talking with author Clyde Dowell and he asked if we could swap Website links. I told him that I didn’t have a Website…yet. After I related my story, I found out that he created his Website on Yahoo in a matter of hours.

“You don’t need to learn HTML?” I asked.
“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Everything you need is at your disposal; all you have to do is add content.”

Later that day, I learned that Microsoft Office Live also offered a similar service. After I read the FAQs and the information in the other links, I compared notes; I decided to use Microsoft.

The issue now, was when to begin. I didn’t want to work on this in the evening hours, so my only option was a weekend. I played devil’s advocate by asking myself, “What if it takes longer than one day?” That’s when it dawned on me that the July 4th holiday weekend was less than two weeks away. Furthermore, I had planned on taking one day of vacation to have a four-day weekend. Perfect!

Now that the decision was made, my first step was to decide what page titles and their respective content did I want to include on the Website. Fortunately, I had my original notes to fall back on.

For those contemplating taking the plunge, my suggestion is to look at what others have done, and not just authors. What you’ll find is that there is a lot of commonality, specifically, a bio, product or service reviews, and a blog, to name just a few. Authors include their book covers, an excerpt, and reader reviews. Since the protagonist in my novels is a magician, I included a page that gives the visitor a smidgen of information about the two main magic organizations in the United States, including hyperlinks. So do your research; you might find a great idea for a page on your Website.

Carol Denbow: Were you surprised at your ability to do-it-yourself?

Al Albers: I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it would be much harder, but the hard work is done long before the Web design begins. By that I mean the page titles, content, pictures, book covers, etc. Once you have these parts readily available, placing them into their respective pages is easy. If you’re not happy with its initial look, it’s easy to change the page format and start anew.

Carol Denbow: Did you need much computer experience to complete this project?

Al Albers: You don’t need to learn a computer language, nor do you need to buy a “Dummies” reference book. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with these books. I have a few and they’re helpful. If you can type, cut, and paste, and know how to save your work, you can do this project.

Carol Denbow: How much time did you need to invest before your site was first published online?

Al Albers: I have to answer this question in two ways. For the Website, I completed it in one day—a Saturday. The following day, I accessed the site and carefully read each page. I found a typo and that took all of two minutes to fix. For the content, it was about two hours. I had to search the computer’s hard drive to find the information from my initial foray two years earlier.

The important point to remember is that you’re not writing a complete chapter of your book in one sitting. Once you’ve gathered all the information, the next step is to drop the bits and pieces into place. I sincerely believe an author can create their Website over a weekend.

Carol Denbow: Do you need to update information on your Website and if so, how often?

Al Albers: Some pages may not need to be updated, for example, an excerpt from your book. Other pages may need to be updated when you have new information you wish to share. When I created my Website, I was in the process of having my books converted to e-Books, so I added a note stating that they’d soon be available in this new format. When my publisher notified me that they were available, I updated two pages of my Website. There’s nothing written in stone that dictates when an author should update their Website. In my case, I’ve made two updates to it since the 3’rd of July.

The day after I added the last one, a light bulb went on. “How will a visitor know if I posted something new?” That’s when I realized I needed to add some notation that indicates new information has been posted. On the “News” page, I added “updated on 7/23/10.” When the visitor clicks on that page, he or she will see a complete list of recent (and not so recent) events.

That said, don’t let your Website become dormant once it’s up and running. Continually adding something will encourage visitors to return to see what’s new.

Carol Denbow: Was it easy to add different pages to your Website, i.e., contact page, bio, etc.?

Al Albers: It was very easy. There are various templates available and each has generic pages that are ready to be populated. All that needs to be done is to rename them to reflect your preference and choose the page layout. After that, you cut and paste the content. One thing I strongly recommend is that you click the “save” button every 10 or 15 minutes. There’s nothing like having your computer burp at the most inopportune time, and in that microsecond, see your work disappear.
I’ve only added one new page since the Website went online. Once I had the information to populate the page, it took all of 15 minutes.

Carol Denbow: How expensive was it to build your Website?

Al Albers: Microsoft Office Live hosts the Website for free. When you initially start, you’re given what’s called a “fourth domain name.” That means there are three “dots” in between the URL (uniform resource locator) name that identifies your new Website. I wanted a standard domain name, which I had to purchase at a cost of $14.95/year (a bargain if you ask me). There is a link to do that on the Microsoft Office Live site and the process is explained in great detail. Trust me, it’s very easy. By the way, you are not required to buy a standard domain name, it’s an optional feature.

The only thing you’ll need to remember is to initiate the process to renew your domain name a month or so before your year ends. If there’s an option to renew for a longer period, two or more years, you may want to consider taking advantage of that deal. Bear in mind that if you don’t renew in time, the domain name goes away.

The last thing I did was to add a personalized e-mail address. In my case, I used al@alfredalbers.com; no sense making it complicated. The reason for this personalized e-mail is to allow visitors to leave feedback, or ask questions about your books, and not send their questions to your personal (home) e-mail address. By the way, there is no cost for this feature so I would definitely take advantage of it.

Carol Denbow: Now let’s show our viewers what you created. What is the link to your Website?

Al Albers: www.alfredalbers.com

Carol Denbow: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. Al, hopefully you have persuaded some of our visitors to step up and get more exposure for their books by building their own Website. I know I was glad to hear you finally did!

Again, visitors take a look at Al’s Website at www.alfredalbers.com. You can do it too!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Hook Your Reader

Contributed By Cindy A. Christiansen

There's nothing more important than a perfectly written beginning. It is necessary to grab the attention of the reader and hook them so they won't put your book down.

You can accomplish a great beginning with four easy tips:
1. Establish who, what, when, where and why.
2. Ascertain what kind of story you are writing.
3. Let the reader care about the character(s).
4. Set the tone of your book from the beginning.

Let's take a closer look:
1. ESTABLISH WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE AND WHY.
Fiction writing is no different from any other writing. You must answer all of the "w" questions right up front as much on the first page as possible without being obvious. Let's look at each one:

WHO: Give the character's name right up front to establish from whose point-of-view (POV) the story is being told. In first-person that is "I". In third-person you want the name to reflect the time period, the personality of the character, and the tone of your book. Think about how you want the reader to relate to the character.

In my current work in progress, my heroine's name is Lizzie Cantrell. I point out in the story that Lizzie is not short for Elizabeth but that her mother named her after Lizzie in the play, Rainmaker. She is an artist looking for adventure. The hero, however, is Phillip E. Van Dyke. He insists that his employees call him Mr. Van Dyke, and if they call him Phil, he is extremely upset. Seriously injured, he is determined to keep people from getting too close. By having everyone use his formal name, he believes he can keep his emotions locked away.

Choosing the right name can greatly impact how your readers relate to your characters.

WHAT: To establish a relationship between your reader and your character, you need to suggest what the character is trying to gain or lose based on their goals. In the story above, Phillip keeps pulling up his turtle-neck. I suggest there is something wrong, but I don't give it all away yet. You need to suggest what is going to happen and make the reader curious to find out.

WHERE AND WHEN: Let the reader know up front in as little detail as possible where your book is taking place and what time period. You don't have to state the precise date, however that works in some cases. In contemporary novels, any detail about modern conveniences is usually sufficient. If you are writing a historial, use a known event, war, or invention that will signify the time period.

WHY: Again we don't want to give the story away, but this is where you reveal what drives your character and why. You just need to give a clue as to why they are pursuing what they are to let the reader know more is to come.
This may sound complicated but it's not. Here is an example from "A Novel Approach" by Kathy Jacobson that shows all of this important information in just a few short sentences:
Liz had nothing against sleeping with men, but she never again wanted to be married to one. After three years of freedom, even Jeff's wealth didn't look like a good trade-off. She smiled at him across the breakfast table and handed back the diamond ring she'd almost cracked a tooth on.
"It was clever of you to hide this in my muffin, but I really can't accept it."

Here's the summation: Who - Liz. What - she's declining a marriage proposal. Where - her breakfast table. When - three years after her divorce. Why - she prefers her freedom over wealth. Everything in one neat little paragraph. Wow!

2. ASCERTAIN WHAT KIND OF STORY YOU ARE WRITING.
The next important part of a beginning is starting with an important action when the character's life changes. A good resource for understanding this is Orson Scott Card's MICE quotient taken from his book, "Characters and Viewpoints." This will affect your beginning in different ways. For MILIEU it would be when the character enters the new environment. If you are writing an IDEA story, you want to start with something that affects the question being asked. When writing a CHARACTER story, you would concentrate on the character's emotions concerning the change in environment. With an EVENT story, you begin with the event that pushes the character into a new adventure.

Don't start your book with the character's back story. Begin with the circumstances that changes the character's life. Back story is very important and can be added throughout the book in interesting ways, but starting out with the character's life story is boring to the reader and you will lose them.

You do, however, want to have your character performing some natural task to make your reader identify with them. Then take them on the journey. If you throw them into the middle of the action too quickly, the reader is confused about what is happening, who the character is, or why they should even care.

3. LET THE READER CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTER(S).
Make sure you give the reader a reason to relate or like your character. You can accomplish this by making sure your character has goals and their reasons for their choices are clearly stated, especially that first scene. Make sure your scenes are well thought out according to POV. Remember that if you switch POV you lose the tension in the scene. It is important to stay with the opening character long enough for the reader to bond with them.

4. SET THE TONE OF YOUR BOOK FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
Choosing your genre will help determine the tone of your book. Is it suspenseful, humorous, or gory? Your writing needs to reflect that. Even your synopsis should reflect the tone of your book. The editor needs to know you can project the same tone that the book will be written in.

Well, that's it. It sounds simple enough and really it is. It takes some thought and practice, but it can be done. Given these four tips, you will write a book that will hook your readers and keep them turning pages. Good luck.

***Cindy A. Christiansen is a multi-published fiction writer. Visit her at: http://c.a.dragonfly.googlepages.com

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Entrecard Clickers, Let’s Make Money!


Many of the visitors to this Blog stop by just to click on the Entrecard Drop button. Several of you who are Entrecard members also run ads with CMF or other online advertizing methods where points or cash is paid for each click; so I have a plan. What if whenever an Entrecard member stops by a Blog to drop, they also click on a CMF or other ad? We could ALL benefit more, couldn’t we?

The next time I go “dropping” for Entrecard, I plan to click on just one other ad on the site and see if I can’t help my fellow Bloggers get some extra perks for their hard work—join me?

Have a Blog and don’t know about Entrecard? You’re missing out on many additional hits to your Blog. Click HERE to learn more about Entrecard and sign up. If you have trouble because you don’t know how to create a logo for your drop button, just let me know and I’ll help you do it. Don’t miss out, Entrecard is great!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GuideGecko Launches International Writing Contest 2010

When I find useful information I like to share it with our visitors. We have numerous travel writers who regularly stop by here so I'd like to share this with them. If you know of a free upcoming contest for writers and have all the pertinent information available to share, e-mail it to me at caroldenbow@gmail.com and I'll share is as well.


Winner receives Trip to World's Largest Book Fair in Frankfurt and Jump-Start into Professional Writing Career

The innovative publishing platform for travel and lifestyle guides today launches its 2010 International Guidebook Writing Contest. Three winning titles will be showcased at the prestigious Insight Guides booth on the world's largest book fair in Frankfurt, Germany, and the winner will be flown to the fair to meet and mingle with publishers from all over the world.

From now to September 15, writers worldwide can submit their own guidebooks on www.GuideGecko.com/writing-contest and stand a chance to jump-start into a professional writing career.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to meet international publishers and gain exposure to 299,000 visitors and 10,000 journalists", says Dr. Daniel Quadt, Founder and Managing Director of GuideGecko. "We are happy to partner with world-famous Insight Guides; showcasing one's title on their booth is a big boost for any writer."

The contest is open to casual writers, bloggers and established authors. All travel, food, lifestyle and entertainment guidebooks with a minimum of 32 pages are welcome. Submissions can be new titles as well as existing titles previously published on GuideGecko or elsewhere.

The winning titles will be selected by a jury of guidebook industry veterans. "We have assembled a jury of renowned travel writers and editors with Tom Le Bas, Nicholas Gill, Maralyn Hill and Tim Leffel. Their feedback alone makes it worth to participate", adds Quadt (jury profiles are included in the appendix).

The jury's decision is augmented by popular online votes, starting with immediate effect. The submitted guidebooks will be published instantly and listed on GuideGecko's front page to receive maximum visibility. Viewers can choose to vote for and even order these guidebooks immediately. Participation in the contest is free and the authors receive full royalties and retain their copyrights.

The Frankfurt book fair takes place from October 6-10, 2010. The winner will fly with Lufthansa German Airlines and stay at contest sponsor Maritim Konferenzhotel Darmstadt while in Frankfurt.

Closing date for submission is September 15, and prize winners will be announced on October 1st. For more information, to enter the contest and to place votes, please visit www.guidegecko.com/writing-contest.

About GuideGecko
GuideGecko is an innovative publishing platform and online travel bookstore for travel, lifestyle and entertainment guidebooks. GuideGecko currently offers more than 3300 guidebooks as print and PDF download, on 169 countries and 270 cities and regions around the world. All well-known series are available, including Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Insight Guides, along with a large variety of less conventional titles such as Hedonist’s Guides and Trailblazer, amongst many others.

GuideGecko invites casual writers, bloggers and established authors to publish and sell their own guidebooks on www.GuideGecko.com. GuideGecko makes such guides available as PDF downloads and as printed books/booklets. Publishing is free and authors earn 50-75% on every copy sold. Become a writer and get published on GuideGecko!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why Have a Barcode?


Back in earlier times books were marked with a simple price tag on the cover. But if you look around a bookstore now, you’ll likely notice that nearly all the books have a barcode on the back cover; why is this necessary?

Although it is not law that you have a barcode on your retail product or publication, it is often required by re-sellers and distributors. They use the barcode to efficiently keep active inventories and sales records. Most retailers will no longer carry your book unless it has a barcode.

So how do barcodes work?
There are lots of types of barcode, but the common one we all see all the time is called UPC, the Universal Product Code.

Each digit is coded by two black and two white stripes. The stripes have widths of from 1 to 4 units, and the total width for each digit is always seven units.
This code is not quite all there is to it, however. Some digits of the barcode are reversed, so that they read right to left. Part of the code has black and white inverted, so black stripes are white and vice versa. This helps cut down errors and allows a computer to work out if the code was read from the wrong end when it was scanned.

The barcode is made up of 12 digits, in various groups. The first two show the country that issued the barcode. The next four digits indicate the manufacturer. Some countries have a three digit country code, so they only have three digits for the manufacturer code.

Example:
00-13 USA & Canada
20-29 reserved for local use (store/warehouse)
30 -37 France
400-440 Germany
45 Japan

There are some quirks in the system. Often books, which have the code 978, actually start the code with 78, so that there are enough digits left in the code to add the complete international book number. Sometimes the missing nine is simply printed in front of the code.

Most small manufacturers or self-publishers are pursuing barcodes to meet some requirement of a re-seller or distributor. This requirement should be specified by those re-sellers and distributors, and may differ from one to the next. There are industry standards, which are most often the requirements. Always check with your re-seller or distributor to make sure you meet their specifications.

Typically, after you obtain the ISBN for your book, you will have the ingredients to create your own barcode. Create a barcode yourself at Bar Codes Inc.
Learn more about barcodes at Bowker.

Article references:
http://www.morethanyouthink.com/shopping/barcodeswork.html
http://www.mecsw.com/info/UPC_FAQ.html

Monday, June 7, 2010

2010 Best Websites for Writers (but that’s only my opinion)

When I set out on my cyber journey to find my personal five favorite writer-related sites, I never dreamed it would be so difficult to locate so few useful sites. I figured with Writer’s Digest seeming to find over 100 good sites, as little as five should have been easy for me.

My back is stiff and my patience is running low; am I too picky? I simply searched for any site with 1) good and useful information, 2) every post or article did not include a sales pitch for “my latest book,” and 3) the text was properly edited (aren’t these are suppose to be professionals writing the text?). I do not mind ad-filled sites as most of these are simply attempting to financially support their mission (to keep the Website up and running, like this site does).

So after hours of searching the Web, here it is. In my personal opinion, these are the best of the best, not listed in any particular order.

Writer Beware Blogs at http://accrispin.blogspot.com/. I like this site because it is no frills; just facts and great information. It’s easy to locate any information you might need on agents, publishers, etc. They also have an extensive list of useful sites for writers. Why our site is not on the list is beyond me!

I’m not sure why it is the URL is so different from the Blog’s title, but because of this, I recommend saving the link to your “favorites” or clicking on to “Follow the Blog.”

Predators & Editors at http://pred-ed.com/. This is still one of the best reference sites on the Web. It hosts possibly the most extensive list of writer-related sites on the Web. A little research goes a long way here!

Booksquare at http://booksquare.com/. An informative site relating more to the traditional book publishing industry rather than self-publishing. Basically, a “what’s hot, what’s not” reference.

Write and Publish Your Book at http://www.writeandpublishyourbook.com/. Now here’s a site with great articles which mirror our course here at A Book Inside. The articles are written my authors who yes, promote their books at the end of each article. But they are well-written and useful. Many of the topics are unique and not often discussed on other sites. I really got into the site and it took me a while to get back to my search!

Writer’s Digest at http://www.writersdigest.com/. An all-time favorite of mine filled with contributed articles from professionals in the industry. And yes, we are in the top 101 Best Websites for Writers, hopefully not to simply fill the list, but because we offer useful information.

So there you have it. My personal favorites! I hope you find these sites to be helpful in your quest to successfully write and publish your personal best!
Feel free to add your own favorite writer Website in the comment section below.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tips on Traditional Book Publishing with Author Carlene Dater

Most writers dream of being accepted and traditionally published by a big-name publishing house. While some are able to achieve this dream, for most of us, striving to become numb to the heart-wrenching Dear John rejection letter is more the normal reality of our book-writing career. So what would it feel like if we were to finally receive that letter of acceptance?

Carlene Dater has received ten acceptance letters and is here in this exclusive interview to share with us not only how it feels, but how we too can work towards achieving this goal.

Carol Denbow: Welcome Carlene, and thank you for agreeing to share your experience and knowledge of the writing and publishing world.

First I would like to ask you to tell the viewers a bit about your personal self, where you’re from, family, and career?

Carlene Dater: I was born in Minneapolis but have lived all over the country. I worked for two International airlines for eight years until I met my husband, Dennis in L.A. We’ve been married for 40 years and are childless by choice. We currently have to huge yellow Labrador Retrievers, Tara and Duke.

Carol Denbow: Sounds like a nice family just as it is!

Can you please tell us what type of books you write?

Carlene Dater: I took my first creative writing course while living in Central Massachusetts from a wonderful man, Gary Provost. Gary taught me that if you can write, you can write anything – and I have. I prefer writing humorous mysteries, but have published romances, horror, and confessions stories, straight mystery and a non-fiction book. I try not to limit myself and am always stretching and trying new things.

Carol Denbow: Sounds like an adventure in itself! So where do you get these story ideas from?

Carlene Dater: Story ideas are everywhere. It’s turning those ideas into complete novels that’s tough. I get ideas from watching TV, reading, talking with people, walking my dogs, and listening to music. I always carry a notebook with me, so I can grab ideas when they pop up. If I don’t, they’re gone forever.

Carol Denbow: I too keep a notepad, but it's more for simply knowing what I need to get done in a day! Age...what do you do???

So with such a mix of stories and book ideas, are all your books all published by the same publishing house or different ones? If so, why would that be?

Carlene Dater: I currently have five different publishers! Silly, I know. I have several books with two publishers and one each at the other three. I sent out multiple queries and just happened to get accepted at different publishers.

Two of my books, Call Sign: Love and An Extra Pair of Eyes are reprints that my first publisher took on. Call Sign will be out in paperback in the next month or so. The publisher was familiar with my work and reissued them for me. Call Sign was the number one bestseller on Fictionwise for August, 2009.

Carol Denbow: Now I'm really curious. How many query letters have you sent in total over your writing career?

Carlene Dater: Oh, too numerous to count. Just for my most recent published book, Roman Circus, a humorous sweet romance, I spend over a year and sent out about 90 queries. Several agents were interested but…I write humor and humor is hard to sell!

Carol Denbow: Many of our first-time want-to-be authors ask how long they should wait to hear back from a publisher after submitting their manuscript. What is the longest you have waited and what has been the normal for you?

Carlene Dater: If a new writer is intent on being published traditionally, in paper, she will need to have an agent. Most of the big publishers only work through agents. With POD or e-pubs, it depends on the publisher. Mind Echoes took six months to be acquired. Roman Circus – one day!!! With a traditional publisher it can take, literally, years.

Carol Denbow: When querying a publisher, what do you think is the key to garner their attention to a particular manuscript?

Carlene Dater: A great query letter. You have to grab the agent/publisher immediately. You have to have all the pertinent information about the book, plus any published credits you have or expertise in writing the book and …all on one page. There are several craft books on the art of writing query letters so it’s advisable to read several and if you can find a published author to read the query first, do that.

Carol Denbow: Do you think first-time writers who are accepted should expect an advance from their publisher? If so, what is considered a fair amount?

Carlene Dater: It depends entirely on the publisher. Once again, with the big boys, Random House, Harper Collins, etc. the typical advance is $5,000 to $10,000. Harlequin/Silhouette I believe it’s closer to $1,000/$5,000. However, if the publisher senses a bestseller in your work it can get into six figures. POD and e-publishers generally do not give advances. However, that’s changing too. I received a small advance for Roman Circus.

Carol Denbow: Do you receive a considerable amount of publicity from your publishers, or are you still required to do most of the marketing yourself (as self-publishers do)?

Carlene Dater: Once again, it depends on the publisher. All of the publishers I’m with have sent our review copies to several sites, but I still have to do a lot myself. I’m not good at publicity. I’d rather be writing new books, but…it is important to get your name out there. I belong to a lot of different networking sites and try to post frequently. I’ve done book signings with some of my paperbacks and it was fun to meet people at the bookstore, but I never sold that many books.

Carol Denbow: Do you have an agent? If so, have you always had one, the same one, and have they always succeeded in getting your books published?

Carlene Dater: No, I’ve never had an agent. I’ve tried several times over the years and just never clicked with anyone. With the advent of e-publishing, I think eventually there will be far fewer agents actively selling manuscripts. With the recession, all traditional publishing is down, along with literary agencies. It’s getting to be just too expensive to print books. If they don’t sell, they have to be destroyed. E-books are forever.

Carol Denbow: Noting that, do you recommend writers obtain the services of a literary agent?

Carlene Dater: If you want a big New York publisher and a print book, yes. They only work with agents. The exceptions are Harlequin/Silhouette, the big romance publishers. You do not need an agent to get published with them, BUT they have very precise guidelines for each category romance they publish, so you have to be very familiar with each line.

Carol Denbow: Okay, now for the good stuff! Carlene, please tell us the titles of your books and where they can be ordered.

Carlene Dater: Here’s a list of where to find my published books:
Roman Circus – a humorous sweet romance
www.nobleromance.com

Mind Echoes – a paranormal romantic suspense novel
Stormy Love – romantic suspense
The Worst Evil – a dark mystery
www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Call Sign: Love – contemporary romance
The Colors of Death – a humorous mystery
An Extra Pair of Eyes – non-fiction book about my volunteer effort at the Sheriff’s Department
www.writewordsinc.com

Finder- a humorous mystery
www.wildchildpublishing.com

Mysterious Gift – an erotic paranormal romantic suspense novella
www.cobblestone-press.com

You can also find some of my books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Fictionwise.

Carol Denbow: Readers, make sure you search those sites specifically for "Carlene Dater."

Carlene, new writers are always interested in successful published authors like yourself. Where might our viewers learn more about you and your books?

Carlene Dater: I currently have two Websites: www.carlenedater.com and www.themysterystartshere.com I try to update both frequently.

Carol Denbow: Thank you for a wonderful and informative interview. Is there anything you would like add or any tidbit of advice you would like to share with our visitors?

Carlene Dater: I’ve been writing for a long time and still love it. I enjoy mentoring new writers and have been judging contests for years. If you have questions about any aspect of writing and/or publishing, email me. I’ll be happy to answer questions or do anything I can to help you advance your writing career. My email is: carlenedater@sbcglobal.net. Just mention you read about me on Carol’s blog and I’ll be happy to help.

I’ll leave you with my favorite writing quote: “The difference between an amateur and a professional is persistence.” Keep writing and never give up!

Carol Denbow: Thank you so much Carlene for sharing this useful information with us and thank you to everyone who stopped by the Blog to read this amazing interview! If anyone would like to leave a comment for Carlene, please do so below.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Set the Retail Price of Your New Book

When you’ve finished writing your book, and you’ve decided to self-publish, how will you determine the retail cover price for your book? Although current book prices may seem high, when you narrow the cost down to the bottom line, the reason may become clearly justified.

Keep in mind, if you pay a POD publisher (print on demand), most or all of the following may be included in your fee. When you obtain an estimate for POD publishing, check and see if it would be to your advantage to do-it-yourself. Remember, most often, paying a large sum of money to a POD publisher will not buy you any books. After your book is published, you will have to purchase your own books from them.

Starting from scratch, I will attempt to break the cost of book production down to the wire so you can estimate the cover price you will need to charge for your finished book. My estimates will be based on the average expense for a 5.5” x 8.5”, 200 page perfect paperback (soft cover) book.

Editorial cost – Unless you yourself are a professional editor or English major, we will assume your first real expense will be having your work edited. Cost - $400-$500

Layout cost – Although it’s not too difficult to layout the pages of your manuscript in book form, I strongly suggest having a professional do this for you, especially if you have an Index. Book printers take what you give them and print it. If you have even slightly misjudged the setup for your book, it can drastically change the final layout. Cost - $150-$250.
On an added note, visit http://www.48hrbooks.com/Templates.asp for some layout templates you can fill in yourself.

Cover Design – Your cover sells your book. Browsing customers who notice your cover amongst the hundreds of other books are obviously more likely to buy. Before you settle on a cover design, make sure you have researched what your customers will be looking for. Don’t skimp here. Cost - $100-$300

Printing cost – Your printing cost will vary according to how many books you order. For now, let’s assume you order the amount of books the average self-published author sells. We'll say 200 copies. Your cost will be $4.85 per book plus shipping cost.
(Again, 48 Hour Books is my favorite. They are an online company who print quality books for as reasonable a price as I’ve seen. Go to http://www.48hrbooks.com/ and enter the number of books, color pages, and zip code for shipping estimate.)

So let’s recap the cost of our 200 page book;
Editorial - $2.25 per book
Layout - $1.00 per book
Cover Design - $1.00 per book
Printing - $4.85
_________________________
Total cost per book - $9.05

Now that we know our expense for the physical book, what do we charge for it? Here’s where we now have to look at our “selling” expense.

Quite possibly, Amazon.com will be your biggest customer fulfillment source. Amazon charges a 55% commission on sales. Most wholesalers and distributers charge the same; some may be less (40-50%). But it is important to set your retail price where you can show a profit with even the highest commissioned distributor. We are most often responsible for the shipping cost to the distributer as well.

So will all this expense, we really need to set our retail price over $20 per book to make anything at all. But keep in mind; you will sell books to friends, at fairs, libraries, and some book stores, all where you will see a higher profit per book making the averages look a bit more appealing to you. Also, if sales are good, you might need to order more books, now the expense is reduced to the printing and shipping cost—looking better now?

Understand these estimates are for a retail product and do not yet include any type of wage for our time invested. The profit you estimate is your wage (before taxes).

My quotes may seem high at some level and low at others, but realistically, it’s not cheap to produce a book unless you want to end up with a cheap looking book!

Although these numbers may be disappointing to some, maybe we should we ask ourselves why we have the desire to write a book in the first place? If we are satisfying a dream, these estimates and financial mumbo jumbo will simply not matter. So enjoy the dream and if you can make a few bucks in the process, celebrate!