Introducing the FIFTH Effie Story – Effie Goes To Prom

The Effie Stories

I know I’ve been a bit silent around the blog, so I thought I’d pop in for a quick update!

Yesterday, I was a guest blogger for PiBoIdMo. You can see the CHALLENGE I threw down here. (Hint: It involves a marathon metaphor, trapeze lessons and picture book inspiration.)

I sent another newsletter for writers about A Common Query Letter Pitfall.

My newsletter list includes both writers and my readers, so if you want useful news for writers like the email above, you can sign up here and click “I am a… writer.” If you want news about my own books, including new releases, you can use the same link and click “I am a… reader.” If you’re BOTH a writer who is a fan of my books, I’d like to give you a giant ::Internet Hug!:: and ask you to click both “reader” and “writer.”

On the book front, I’ve been very busy with…

The Effie Stories

You can find out about all five Effie stories, including the brand-spankin’-new-just-published-earlier-this-month Effie Goes To Prom by clicking the image above. I’m hoping to have the sixth and final Effie short story – Effie At Graduation – available in 2013.

When I’m Not Writing

 This post was originally posted at Dog-Eared and Bookmarked as part of the Teen Book Scene Book Tour for Effie At The Wedding.

When I’m not writing (or doing anything related to my writing), I’m most likely editing manuscripts for my clients. This past May, I marked my one two year anniversary as a freelance editor and writer, having left a literary agency last year in 2010. (Huzzah, anniversaries!)

But if I’m not doing anything book related at all, then I’m probably trying to cross something off my bucket list. One of my bucket list items was to run a marathon, and after a year of training and qualifying races, I completed the New York City Marathon in 2009. It took me six hours and a stop at the medical tent to grease the inside of my arms (gross, but true), so I don’t think there’s a chance that I’ll be giving up writing to become a professional runner any time soon. I’ve also crossed off “go on a writer’s retreat” (France) and “pick one hair color and stick with it” (my natural color, for fear that my hair couldn’t take anymore bleaching and dying.)

I also love to sew, and have made everything from a taffeta retro party dress to a really embarrassing but super comfortable flannel nightgown. (It’s bright red and has ruffles. No, I won’t share pictures!) I like to knit in the winter, but I am the worst crocheter you will ever meet. (Luckily, ‘crochet a sweater’ is not on the bucket list. Actually, my knitting abilities are limited to squares and rectangles, so knitting a sweater probably won’t happen either.)

I enjoy making special things for my friends, like baby blankets when they’re expecting and linens for their new homes. One Christmas, I tried to hand make every item that I gifted, but as it turns out, it’s really hard to hand make things for your brother and most other men. Especially if they don’t wear scarves, or other things that can be knit as a square or rectangle. (Thank goodness for gift cards.)

There are definitely some more ridiculous items on the bucket list (“be on Wheel of Fortune,” “have a pet duck,” “chase a tornado with meteorologists”), but I’ve got time to work on those later…. when I’m not writing.

Top 5 Wedding Songs Effie Is Glad To Be Missing

Effie At The Wedding

This post was originally posted at Dreaming of Books as part of the Teen Book Scene tour for Effie At The Wedding.

Since Effie’s at a wedding and loves lists, I thought that instead of talking about music myself, I’d hand the post over to Effie. Here goes:

The Top Five Wedding Songs I’m Glad I’m Missing While Stuck In This Bathroom Stall

5.) The Chicken Dance

Since most of my relatives dance like the video above, and not the video below, missing the chicken dance is more of a miracle than a tragedy.

4.) The Electric Slide

Three reasons why the electric slide should be banned from all weddings, proms, parties and group events from now until eternity:

3.) It’s confusing. I always end up next to the person who is going the wrong direction, which means that I’m stepped on at least eighteen times by the song is over.

2.) It’s dangerous. One time my friend that’s not a boyfriend, Robbie, accidentally knocked himself in the head doing that twirl-your-fist and move forward part. He could have lost an eye!

1.) It’s a date killer. It’s impossible to look attractive when you’re being covered by the drink of the person in front of you.

3.) The Cha Cha Slide

It’s no coincidence that I picked a video of The Cha Cha Slide in prison. After years of cha cha sliding, I still have no idea what I’m doing. Unfortunately, by the time I remember that I don’t enjoy this dance, I’m stuck in the middle of a group of people hopping at strange intervals.

2.) “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey

I like Journey, but by the time this song is played, that means that my aunt is drunk enough to believe she can sing (and does so, loudly), my uncle believes he can dance (and does so, poorly) and everybody starts getting all sad and melancholy and nostalgic because the “best reception ever!” is about to end. Ugh, what a mess. This is when I know that it’s time to high-tail it out of there, because all the boys that did not approach me during the night and also did not get to dance with any of the hot girls they wanted to (read: Ophelia) are going to try a last ditch effort to hit on me. No, thank you!

1.) Any slow song whatsoever

If they never played slow songs at weddings, then I wouldn’t have to pretend like I’m really interested in whatever bits are left on my plate while all the other girls are asked to dance. When we’d go to family weddings, sometimes Ophelia would hang back with me for some dances so I wasn’t sitting alone. But now that she’s got George, she’ll be doing all the anniversary dances and all that, and I’ll be looking at the moldy grape on my cocktail hour plate hoping for even The Cha Cha Slide to save me. (And we already know how I feel about The Cha Cha Slide.)

That about covers it. I hope they get all these songs out of the way while I’m in here… but given my luck, I’m not very hopeful!

Thanks Effie!

You can find out more about Effie and her stories by clicking here, or going to Amazon and other online retailers.

Lessons Learned At My One Year Indie-Versary

Today marks my one year Indie-Versary!

Pub Speak: A Writer’s Dictionary of Publishing Terms was first published on March 30, 2011. The next day I uploaded Effie At the Wedding, and over the next few months published my middle grade mystery and a few other shorts, including a sequel to Effie.

In that year, I’ve also been published in a traditional anthology and an indie anthology. I’ve also secured a new agent (huzzah!) and come back to blogging with some renewed enthusiasm.

Being an indie author has changed in just the short time since I’ve started. KDP Select changed the way that people organized and used free days to promote their books, and also begged the questions — Long term, what does exclusivity mean for your sales? Does the short term benefit outweigh any long term plans?

Book bloggers have become inundated with reading material, making it more difficult for some authors to find reviews and forcing some bloggers to close their once-open doors to books from indie authors.

Readers are also becoming inundated with free and low-cost material, worrying some that buying books will become a thing of the past. (I don’t think this is true – I buy books all the time. Though I did just delete some freebies that I’ve now decided I don’t have time to read.)

On the bright side, the stigma of self-publishing continues to change as more traditional authors upload their backlists, and as people who see it as a get-rich-quick scheme slowly peter out.

Most important to me personally, are the things I’ve learned this past year:

1.) Things are going to change. When I started, there were so few free books price matched on Amazon that getting several thousand downloads was a piece of cake. As more authors use KDP Select, it seems that the power of free is just not quite as powerful. For example, Effie at the Wedding has been price matched at Amazon UK (which, I should mention, has always had a lower download rate for me than that of their US counterpart) for several months, and it seems that the number of free downloads (aka “freeloads” on the Kindleboards) continue to decline:

Amazon UK Free Downloads:

December: 839
January: 1795 (First full month)
February: 1480
March: 1050

[I should also mention that I don’t publicize the free UK download of Effie, except perhaps a few tweets the first month.]

I’ve also noticed that sales of the sequel are slowing, perhaps because people no longer have time to read everything they download and/or because I’m not reaching as many of the right people. Recent KDP Select price matches have also resulted in fewer downloads than earlier price match campaigns. Granted, there are a lot of factors that could be at work here, but it seems to me that free isn’t what it used to be, in the same way that 99 cents worked to boost some before I started, but is no longer the draw it once was.

Future thought – While I will continue to offer books on a rotating schedule for free download (and if you haven’t picked up The Engine Driver, I would do so while it’s still free on Amazon US and Barnes and Noble), it seems that just as much effort must be made in order to publicize a free book as to publicize a book which you’re offering for sale. If that’s the case, then I wonder if it doesn’t make more sense to use the (potentially diminishing) power of free less frequently, and focus on a more solid, long-term way to market. It seems that filling Kindles with books that people might want to read no longer seems like a strategy for building a real fan base, and I’d much rather have 1,000 readers that are excited and love my books, versus 1,000,000 readers that will probably never get around to actually reading them.

2.) Just like traditional publishing, you need a little luck. – Like the traditionally published book who is chosen for a high-priced marketing campaign behind closed doors, the indie author prays for that email from Amazon that says they’re part of the Kindle Daily Deal. (Or maybe the Nook Daily Find, though I find it a bit troubling that in the last paragraph, I used “Kindles” as synonymous with “ereaders” in the way that “Kleenex” has become nearly synonymous with any tissue.)

So far, I haven’t stumbled upon the way to catch the Kindle merchandising team’s attention, other than having a book that is “ready” for the big leagues (great cover, great story, great reviews, good solid ranking, priced around or above $3.99). I don’t think anybody’s tried haiku though, so here we go:

Hello Jeff Bezos!
KDD + my ebook
= awesomeness.

(Three mathematical symbols in one poem if you count the factorial, four if you count the period as a decimal. Booyah!)

Future thought – Luck isn’t completely the right word, I suppose, because it implies that there’s no work involved in catching the right attention. Though I am tempted to go on a “KDD or Bust Haiku Campaign,” I’m thinking my agent would prefer that I spend my writing time elsewhere(!) What do you think — can someone make themselves ‘luckier?’

3.) I Can’t Plan Too Far Ahead. – I started a campaign for Luminary with the intention of having the book ready within a month. But as I continued to ready it for publication, I realized that the book just needed much more work… so it’s been pushed back, and back… and back. Maybe other authors can start their campaigns earlier, but I realized that I simply can’t start marketing until the final cover is on the book and it’s already uploaded.

Future thought – Simply stated, I can’t get too far ahead of myself. I’m not comfortable putting out work that I don’t think is ready, and so getting too ahead of myself in the marketing is only embarrassing when I have to push the book back.

4.) When It Stops Being Fun, Don’t Do It. – I used to worry that if I stopped marketing, everything I did would come to a screeching, grinding halt and I would have to start pushing this boulder eight times as hard to get it started up again. But you know what? When you’re not having fun doing it, it shows. And it’s not helpful. So I’ve learned to stop doing whichever it is I’m doing – marketing, revising, drafting – if I find that it’s getting negative energy instead of positive. That’s not to say that I just stop working, but that I take a break and focus on a different area. Something that will renew my enthusiasm for all areas of the project. (Sometimes it’s another form of creative expression – sewing, painting… for me, it all comes together in some way.)

Likewise, though I value the Kindleboards as a great source of information and invaluable to the new indie author, I found that there were times I had to step back from them as well. Sometimes, it’s because I’m disappointed with a recent marketing effort, and it’s hard to read pages of everybody else’s success. (Ugly truth… but probably pretty common.) Sometimes, it’s because I’m noticing that I’m spending too much time reading/researching about what worked for others and not working on something of my own. And sometimes, it’s because I’m reading too many posts about other people who are disappointed in a recent marketing campaign or things which we have no control over, and I just need to keep my own positive feelings going. Basically, the same way I feel about certain shows is the same way I feel about forums – when I come away feeling more drained than inspired, it’s time to take a break! (All that said – it is a community full of really knowledgeable indies, and it seems that people that start there have a much steeper learning curve than those that are not seeking advice.)

Future thought – I will continue to lurk/participate on the Kindleboards, but also try to balance the amount of experimentation I do for myself in regards to all aspects of my writing. I think that what I’ve learned marketing will definitely help with any traditional success I may have (::crosses fingers::) as well as with my indie stuff. But keeping it fun is important — it’s work, but it’s work that I do because I enjoy it.

Final thought – In this next year, I shall endeavor to keep the fun in my work, learn as much as I possibly can, and experiment as much as possible.

Do you have any advice for the coming year?

Happy Holidays and Free Holiday Short Story

Happy holidays my bloggerinos! (Do you think that bloggerinos is the Italian word for blog readers? It should be.)

Anyways, wishing you and yours love and peace during the holiday season!

(Also, did he just say “alligators?” If so, major improvement.)

I have an exciting announcement for 2012, but for now, I want to let you all know that George & Ophelia’s First Christmas is free on Amazon US (UK/DE/FR/ES/IT) from today until December 26th.

Also, I don’t know how long this will be true, but Effie At The Wedding is still free on Amazon UK and Haunting at Heidelburgh Mansion is still free at Amazon US.

I hope you enjoy! See you in the New Year!