Sunday, March 31, 2013

Zuckerberg Strikes Again

Facebook has graciously handed me yet another topic to discuss while on my quest for literary fame.

This week I was contacted by a zombie fan whom I had previously connected with through one of my Facebook advertising efforts. She has been a most excellent and loyal fan, liking and commenting on many of my FB posts and forwarding me a number of interesting events. She is one of the few successes of my FB advertising campaign, which I have discussed in more detail in the past.

Anyway, this week, my friendly zombie head invited me to a virtual  zombie event. There are some 45 confirmed zombie authors that will be giving out free copies of their books, a couple artists, and even a publisher. So far the confirmed attendance is 200 and growing with a month to go before the event begins. Naturally, I am interested in not only attending, but also giving out some copies of my book.

In order to RSVP for the event as writer, I had to private message the event coordinator. I danced over to the coordinator's profile and clicked the "Message" button. What do you suppose I found? Wait for it. This one made my jaw drop. A dialogue box popped up and informed me that I am not currently friends with this person and my message will be screened into a junk mail folder. BUT if I pay $1, my message will be sent to his inbox. SERIOUSLY?

I'm not sure what pisses me off more, the fact that Zuckerburg is trying to squeeze cash out of me as a business or that as user I can be bombarded with spam if the price is right. In the past you couldn't contact non-friends with high security settings for privacy purposes. No you can't contact non-friends for financial purposes. Un-be-lievable.

So I promptly made friends with the coordinator to dodge the toll and RSVP as a writer. As much as I am beginning to hate Facebook, it is a market that can not be ignored. It is so ubiquitous and controls too much to boycott. It has all the trappings of becoming my second most hated necessity, second only to Microsoft. Gah!

Happy Easter! I'm going to go drink some wine, have a drunken egg hunt, and celebrate the true zombie holiday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I have been procrastinating and avoiding the process of figuring out what brilliance I was going to spew into the world today. As it so happens, the actual art of procrastination brought me my topic.

On Saturday I included  in my post a free giveaway. Just now I was trying to make good on that offer and attempted to send copies of my book to those who had shown interest. I had assumed I would be able to send people copies of my book via private message. You can PM videos and pictures, why wouldn't you be able to also attach a .DOC, .PDF, .MOBI, or some other format? Well, it seems that I may have made a poor assumption. I have spent the last hour hunting around for a button, link or something that might allow me to email or PM a file to a follower. No dice.

In the process I have learned that you CAN email people using G+, but only if they allow it. More importantly, I learned that I was not allowing people to contact me. Apparently, there is a profile setting that can be toggled on and off and allows people to send a direct email. Apparently, I didn't have that setting turned on for my own profile and, therefor, someone trying to contact me would have the same difficulty I am having trying to contact my interested readers.

As a writer trying to hawk my wares, I want to be as accessible as possible. I want people to be able to send me emails, private messages and public messages. Hell, I'd even take a message in a bottle or skywriting if it meant another new reader. So, I promptly turned on my email setting in hopes of making it just a little bit easier for people to find me and contact me.

To those of you who are still waiting to collect on your free copy, I have not forgotten you. I am just back at the drawing board figuring out how to make technology work for me. If you're impatient you can send me an email at, otherwise the answer may be that you will have to wait until I'm up on smashwords. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thoughts on KDP

Yeah, I know I'm late and missed my 10 PM deadline, but at least I made it before Sunday.

For those of you who don't know, Rising Tide is self-published on Amazon using the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. The actual act of publishing using KDP is not only free but also ridiculously easy.  I s'pose that is why there are so many self-published books on the market right now.

Once your book is written (no big deal right?) it is simply a matter of creating an account, formatting your document, and uploading it to Amazon's servers. Formatting, admittedly, can be a challenge; but there are a lot of great resources out there that make creating a professional looking e-book easy as pie (this was my go to resource). One thing to keep in mind is that you have to be prepared and willing to give up that awesome title font you chose for your chapters or that perfect spacing, because e-readers snag those options away from the author and hand them over to the reader. An e-book's format, by nature, must be basic so it can be easily adjusted when the reader bumps up the font size or adjusts the viewing options.

My mind was completely blown the first time I uploaded Rising Tide. Really? That's it? If it weren't for my own editing errors, mistakes and inadequacies as a self-publisher, I dare say it would be indistinguishable from a professionally published e-book.

When publishing with KDP you basically have three options:
  1. 35% Royalty with no Distribution Charges and a $.99 minimum price;
  2. 70% Royalty minus Distribution Charges and a price between $2.99 and $9.99; and
  3. Option 1 plus KDP Select Enrollment
When I first published Rising Tide on Amazon I selected Option 2, as my book is relatively short and the file size based distribution charges were minimal. If my book were a Stephen King style epic or a cookbook with large, colorful pictures designed with the Kindle Fire in mind, Option 1 would probably be the better choice.

Back in January, I shifted over to Option 3, reduced my royalty rate and enrolled in KDP Select.  KDP Select is an additional service offered by Amazon to help promote your book. It might be free, but everything has a cost.

To be eligible for Select you must agree to make your book exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. The agreement requires you to pull all digital copies from the internet including your own website or blog. And there is no cheating, I forgot to pull my copy from Barnes and Nobel and received a nasty email from Amazon informing me that they had found it and if I continued to break the terms of my agreement, they could permanently remove my book from Amazon, revoke my usage of KDP, and/or recoup funds from books sold. No small threat to a gnat like myself.

Pulling my book from Barnes and Nobel and Smashwords didn't really bother me since most of my sales had been through Amazon anyway. What did freak me out a bit was that for 90 days I would lose control over my own work. I have found that my staunchest supporters and fans who have been actively contributing to expanding my readership, are those from the early days; those who I personally emailed a promotional copy. I like having the ability to hand a copy of my book to anyone I please, anytime I please.

Just to prove my point, for the next week I will send a free PDF, MOBI, or EPUB to anyone who +1 this post and tags me, my book, or either of my blogs in one of their posts.

If I hold my right to do as I please with my work so dear, why would I possibly enroll in KDP Select? What does it offer? That is the million dollar question and, quite honestly, the jury is still out. So, I will share with you what I do know and what I have learned.
  •  You gain entry into the Kindle Owners Lender's Library. Amazon Prime members pay an annual fee to get free 2-Day shipping on Amazon fulfilled items (I am a member and love my two day shipping). Bonus perks of the membership include access to free streaming videos and free books in the Lender's Library. Each time your book is borrowed, you receive a percentage of the Select pool (it is currently worth $1,000,000). In 90 days, I did not lend a single copy and, therefore, received no benefit from this part of KDP Select.
  • You are given 5 free promotions to use during the 90 days. This was effective in getting copies of my book loaded onto a large volume of readers' Kindles. But I am uncertain how effective volume is in relation to my overarching goals of getting positive feedback, reviews, and increased readership. 
Amazon makes buying a free book too easy. With a single click it is done and loaded. How many people buy a book because it is free and never end up actually reading it? What good is a promotion that sells my book to hundreds of people who never even look at it?

I have far more confidence in the promotions I have run through more manual channels, such as the offer above in which I send a copy in exchange for some small token of publicity. Those promotions, though the volume was far less, resulted in valuable personal interactions with my readers.
  • I have noticed an uptick in full-priced sales the week after a promotion and this leaves me a bit on the fence about KDP Select. 
I have decided I will not write off the Select program yet, but I will take a break from it. So let's see if we can get some sales going through other sources. I hope to have Rising Tide up on B&N and Smashwords by the end of the week.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Soul Suckers

Today I had a bit of a zombie apocalypse moment. I walked into work and found the office empty. Either I was missing a meeting or there had been some sort of apocalyptic event. As it turned out, it was the former; although sometimes I consider both options one and the same.

I know what you are thinking. Wait, why were you at work? Didn't you quit your job to write full time? Yeah, that's what I thought too. But, alas, I am a weak and soft creature; easily bent to the will of others. The evil overlords known as The Man convinced me to stay on board part time, at least on a trial basis for the next few months.

Naturally, they are in the dark as to the true reason why I couldn't continue to work (they are not worthy of knowing my secret identity). But they are willing to to provide me with a touch more flexibility in exchange for the continued leeching of my soul. How much is your soul worth? Apparently, mine is worth about 8 hours a week and health insurance.

So much for jumping into the frigid North Atlantic. I do have to say that this should prove to be an interesting test; to see if I can find a manageable balance of love and hate. But I have a sneaking suspicion that working part time and writing will be more challenging than working full time and sort of writing. Before the rules were simple: if you get home from work and your brain isn't fried, you write. Now I have no excuse. Now I actually have time that I am supposed to dedicate to my writing. Gah! That's a scary thought.

Looking at my recent past performance (my last update to Surviving the Apocalypse was exactly a month ago) I recognize that time (or lack there of) is not the only problem. As much as a flexible, carefree artist (not that these are adjectives I use to describe myself) hates to admit it, deadlines and schedules are important for being successful at actually producing anything.

Nearly 10 years in a structured environment has taught me that I perform best under pressure with deadlines looming. So, my first order of business is to apply that knowledge, take my own damn advice, and set some deadlines.

1. This blog will now be updated bi-weekly; no later that 10 PM EST on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

2. Surviving the Apocalypse will be updated weekly; no later than 10 PM EST on Sundays.

3. My exclusivity agreement with Amazon has expired. I will get Rising Tide updated and back on B&NSmashwords, and Good Reads by the end of the month.

There, it's in writing. That makes it law . . .

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Has it really been 90 days?

Today marks the last day of my 90 day exclusivity agreement with Amazon and with it comes my last Amazon promotion, at least for now. So if you haven't already, go pick up a copy of Rising Tide for free.

Also, check back later in the week for my thoughts on the KDP Select Program. I'm going to wait and see how this promotion plays out, there were some interesting results during the last promotion and I am curious to see if they repeat or if it was a fluke.

If you want to sample some of my other writing before you make the commitment to purchase a free book, check out my other blog Surviving the Apocalypse. Happy reading.

Monday, March 4, 2013

It is done.

February 11th was the last time I posted. I have been avoiding my blogs for nearly a month because I am a coward and could not bring myself to write without having news to share. Well folks, I have news to share now. 

On February 11th I had posted that I would be quitting my day job with the full intention of putting in my notice on the 15th. That did not work out so well. Few things in life do. I walked into work on the 12th to find that one of my teammates had put in his notice. I panicked, I could not make a major life change and tell my boss that he was going to be losing not one but two employees. So I held my tongue and waited until the time was right.

As the days and then weeks passed, conditions did not improve to make me feel any better about dropping the bomb on my boss, but each day I grew more resolved that it was the right decision. Finally, last week my desire to move on outweighed the discomfort of upsetting another. I handled it formally by scheduling a meeting for Friday afternoon. 

Upon entering my bosses office, I promptly noticed a thick manual entitled Managing People. I had to stifle a laugh, at least he had a good idea that something big was coming. He handled it surprisingly well considering he is a man known for is gruff behavior and mood swings.  

It is done. My last day will be April 5th.