Sunday, December 30, 2012

Free Downloads On Kindle

By Mike Long

Until recently I’ve steadfastly resisted giving any of my books away.  Sure, I sent copies to folks for reviews (with mostly good results) and even donated a case to a US Army aviation unit in Afghanistan – but that’s not the same as listing a book as ‘Free’ on Kindle for several days.  Why on earth would a sane person do that?

I’m not sure why sane folks do anything, but what pushed me to try a ‘free download’ promo was the fact that I just wasn’t selling many copies as E-books.  I had my first novel (No Good Like It Is) and the sequel (Dog Soldier Moon) available on Kindle, Smashwords, Sony, Nook, etc., but was only moving maybe twenty or twenty-five on each per month.

I’d already gone through the Kindle pricing drill, starting at $9.99, then $5.99, then 99 cents and finally establishing my ‘sweet spot’ as $2.99 per.  At that price or higher, the author gets 70% of each sale; below that, it’s only 35%.

And when Kindle offered their Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), I was slow to join up (why loan books for free, rather than sell them?) – until I learned that the KOLL program actually pays a little to the participating authors.  You do have to give Kindle an ‘exclusive’ on your books, but I’d never received a penny from Sony, Smashwords, Nook, etc. anyhow.  Another no-brainer, once I studied it.

And all that led me to the free download promo.  A friend explained that the folks who hold out for freebies on Kindle were probably never going to pay for one of my books – unless maybe they got the first one free and just had to have the sequel, especially if it didn’t cost much.

I ran my experiment Nov. 26-30 2012, after a good deal of mostly free advertising.  I used Facebook (all my groups therein) and LinkedIn, and found more than a dozen sites that would blog or advertise my effort for little or nothing.

There were over 6500 free downloads during that five day promotion; most (6200) were in the first three days, so a two or three-day promo is probably enough.  But what happened afterward is what has really surprised me.

In the nine days since I stopped the promotion, I’ve had over 220 paid downloads (purchases, KOLL Loans) of my first novel; the figures on the sequel aren’t in yet.  Remember, I was only doing about 22 of each per month before.  I don’t expect this pace to continue, but it’s sweet now.

And there are still 6500+ potential buyers for the sequel.  Write On!        











Sunday, December 23, 2012

'How To' Sells

By Fred Fields
"If you want to sell books and make money, 'how to' sells better than fiction, at least until you're famous." That's what an editor from a book publishing company told me at the South Carolina Book Festival.
She was right about selling more books.

Also, if you're a novice writer, as I was, and know little or nothing about your craft, 'how to' is much less demanding.  Your reader is more interested in substance than in form.

So the episodic biography that was expected to be my first offering was tucked away, and I wrote a book about how to play golf, a subject I had studied in earnest for almost sixty years.

The 'how to' book was self-published and listed on the internet. It sold a few copies, but not enough. In an attempt to increase sales, I invested in a course to teach me internet marketing, and the sales multiplied far beyond my hopes and dreams.

Looking at that book now, after two years of learning something about how to write, It's obvious that, although there are some good points to recommend it, the book really is not well written. There is more to professional writing than getting 'A's' in Writing 101.

Now, with more experience and knowledge of the publishing business, I am about to do what most neophytes do, ignore proven good advice. Within the next several months, I expect to publish the biography which was put aside earlier. My hope is that it will sell one-tenth as well as the golf book.

Now, profiting from lessons learned, I know two things that I didn't know at the beginning. The new book will have to be written much better than my first effort. And it will have to be marketed differently if it is to experience even minimal success.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Recycled Character

By Michelle Gwynn Jones

When it comes to character development, I have no problem coming up with the main character and the secondary or supporting characters.  I see them clearly in the office, at the crime scene or eating an ice cream cone by the river.  What bogs me down are the tertiary characters.  I don’t mean the throwaways ones like the guy who sells them their frozen treat, but the one who will contribute in some significant way.  I found myself spending way too much time sitting in front of the computer contemplating whether they are a man or a woman or simply picking their name. 
Then about a year ago I found a solution to my problem.  While with a friend, we ran into a co-worker of hers at the store, a woman I had never met, but I recognized her  co-shopper  as the mother of a child my son played T-ball with.  When you live in a town of twenty thousand residents you bump into people you know from one place or another all the time at the dry cleaner, the dentist or the dump.
That’s when I decided I could, and should, recycle my characters.
Everything I write takes place in the fictional town of New Grace, South Carolina, a town approximately the same size of the one I live in.  It seems so natural to cross over my characters.   The detective from my Rachel Shorte Mysteries is investigating a crime in my Reese Millridge novel.  The mother of twins in The Man in Black crosses paths with a serial killer in another work in progress.  Rachel Shorte’s law partner turns out to be the mother of one of the teenage girls in Transferred Intent.
The character’s history is not important to the roles I am now presenting them in.  A person reading Reese Millridge does not need to know about the complicated life of the detective’s girlfriend or  that the young mother was there when a hit man took out his target or that the attorney has her own problems with the Sheriff’s Department.
A friend reading Reese Millridge called to say she just came across the detective in the wrong series.  I knew exactly what page she was on.  When she finished the novel, we discussed his appearance in the book.   She told me having read books in both series the crossover was a nice touch and agreed if she hadn’t read the other book she wouldn’t have given him much thought other than his investigation.  She said she liked having intimate knowledge of his personal life; it was like reading a newspaper article in which a friend is mentioned. 
I am enjoying scattering my characters about town through my writing, but like anything else fun, it comes at a cost.  Now I need to keep a character sheet for people who were once throwaways, and not only must I maintain a meticulous timeline for each story, I need to make sure their timelines are in line with each other.
Actually sitting here writing this, I have to ask myself if my solution to tertiary characters takes up more of my time than I wasted staring at the computer screen before;  but it’s too late to turn back now, I’m addicted.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Art by Art

By Laura P. Valtorta
Art begets art. Painting has intercourse with music and produces poetry. Playwriting marries the Philharmonic and their children are operas.

To jump-start my own creative writing, I may read, listen to music or see a movie. Maybe all three. For rapid inspiration, I visit an art gallery.

Two things recently helped grease the wheels of my memoir: Visiting Ginger’s house, and seeing the movie “The Sessions,” starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. Ginger’s House is a living art gallery – filled with painted walls, found objects, and junk sculpture. The house has a voice all its own.

“The Sessions” is a movie about love and disability that the directors thought about for many years and had trouble selling to the less-artful commercial world of Hollywood. When I saw “The Sessions,” I immediately understood something about hardship and compassion. Something better expressed in poetry or music, or tales about my clients and how they keep my spirit alive. “The Sessions” sends a realistic message about love.

All art is a rarefied form of communication, a direct pathway to the sensual side of the brain. Like a strong smell, art bypasses criticism and conversation. The best inspiration for a poem about a turtle may be one of Peter Lenzo’s sculptures about schizophrenia.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Is Poetry?

By Alex Raley

Often people, even in our writer’s group, say they don’t understand poetry, or they know nothing about poetry. How can that be? Recently, I took the time to read definitions of “poetry” from different dictionaries. They were remarkably similar. They included such things as words, sounds, meter and verses, but none of them defined poetry as rhymed verses. Perhaps that is because up-to-date dictionaries tend to define words the way they are currently used.

I particularly like a definition of poetry from Merriam-Webster: “. . . writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.”

Edward Hirsch, in his introduction to Contemporary Poetry, says “Poetry is a stubborn art, and the poet is one who will not by (sic) reconciled. Who refuses to vanish – to let others vanish – without leaving a verbal record.”

Think about that for a moment. Isn’t that what we do when we set about to write fiction or non-fiction? We may not be looking for rhythm, but we search for the words to describe the exact experience we have in mind whether that experience is from our lives or from an explosion in our imagination. How often do we write and rewrite to assure that the experience will not vanish but will live in words we have chosen? How often is our fiction filled with unintended poetry?

As Hirsch said, writing poetry is not easy. Don Marguis said, “Writing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”
Nevertheless, we keep turning experiences into words, either as poetry or as fiction and non-fiction.

Several writings read in our group are filled with poetry. One with a mother, who will not give up her long wait for her son, expresses her hopes by talking about her grandson. I have taken the liberty of putting it in verse form:

     That darling boy is my grandson
     And a godsend.
     And when my boy Dobey shows up here,
     That child is gonna pull him back
     Into the real world
     In a heartbeat.                                                    

Another writer ends her book about a female who finally escapes from her island of despair:

    In the expanse of water,
    The air seemed easier to breathe,
    Above them the moon was ending its journey.
    Stars seemed to fade away.
    . . .
    The island gradually disappeared
    And with it, Master Goodwin.

As to meaning in poetry, I think that is the rose petal we keeping waiting to hear echo in the canyon of our minds. I heard a lecture/reading by the well-known poet Galway Kinnell. He said that he is often asked to reveal the meaning of a poem. His stock reply is, “. . .shall I read it again?”

I challenge you to drop rose petals as you write. You might just hear an echo even in your fiction.