NetGalley and Goodreads and the unpopular decision….

So, this is old news by now, but from what I understand NetGalley and Goodreads made some unpopular choices lately, both of which hurt the international book community.

I’ve never used NetGalley. I do the occasional review, but I’m really not much of a book blogger or reviewer. But I’ve heard plenty about NetGalley, and if I were a faster reader, I’d be all in for it. Unfortunately for readers outside the US, I guess they just don’t get stuff from NetGalley like they used to. Which sucks.

Apparently Goodreads is also no longer including its non-US residents in their giveaways anymore, too, which is just double sucks for all the wonderful readers of the wider world, of whom their are plenty.

What the political, practical, and legal reasons are for this, I don’t know, other than that shipping internationally is more expensive–though, I’m sure that there’s more to it than that, especially for Goodreads, since it’s the authors who pay the shipping (unless they’ve changed that policy).

To all my non-US resident reading friends, I’m sorry. It’s really lame. Super-duper lame.

Will this affect me? No, I don’t think so. At least, not beyond hurting people that I care about, so actually yes, I will be feeling some sympathy pain for them.

But I don’t like Goodreads giveaways too much. I don’t hate them either, but I’m not enchanted by them. Now that Goodreads is making authors pay an arm and a leg just to give away a copy of their book, I don’t think I’ll be using that service anyways. Seems ridiculous to me, but I’m not going to rant.

To all book bloggers out there, Goodreads and NetGalley might be giving you the shaft, but I won’t. Anyone who wants a free e-copy of one of my books need only ask. I don’t care if you live in the US or on Mars, I’m just happy to share my work with someone.

But what do you think? Is anyone not surprised by this? Think that it’s justified? Believe that the Trump administration is secretly behind it? Share your thoughts!

Evolution of a Cover – Home To Roost

Hello!

A couple of weeks back, James J. Cudney did a review of Cleaving Souls, my second novel. There were quite a few comments praising the cover art, which was lovely to see since I’d created the artwork myself.

A few weeks before that, my cover art for both Cleaving Souls and my debut novel, Home To Roost, won 1st place in a cover-art contest for their respective genres (thriller and horror).

Between those two things, I thought: Hey, maybe I should do a little post about cover art creation.

And so here it is.

Now, first thing’s first: If you are self publishing, the recommendation you will find 100% of the time is to NOT do your own cover art. I think that is good advice. Does that make me a hypocrite? Yes. Do I care? No.

I didn’t follow that advice for a number of reasons.

  1. I’m a control freak? Could be this.
  2. I genuinely like the idea of producing the artwork on my own.
  3. I know a little bit about how to do that, and am not afraid of messing up.
  4. I have the time to make it look decent.
  5. I don’t have money to spend on professional help at this juncture.

I used a program called “Inkscape.” It’s completely free, and is used for creating Vector Art images. You can get it here, if you want to try it out. Vector Art is a bit different from the stuff you might have worked with in Microsoft Paint. Pro Tip: Unless you are trying to be ironic, do not make any cover art in Microsoft Paint.

I took a design course in college. It was taught by a graduate student, who was fired three-quarters of the way into the semester. Never found out why, but it hasn’t made me feel incredibly confident in the things I learned there.

Regardless, I try and apply the simple principles I learned in that class, as well as things I’ve observed by looking at other book covers. I fiddled around in Inkscape until I’d learned the ropes–or at least some of them. There are plenty of semi-helpful tutorials that can guide you through the things you can’t figure out alone.

I started with a few sketches. Unfortunately, I couldn’t include those here, as they’ve disappeared. They were hideous anyways, and not incredibly interesting, so I think we’ll manage to get along without them.

Once I had some ideas, I got to work in Inkscape. Mind you that my ideas had to be tempered by my abilities. Therefore, a more simple design was essential.

For those who haven’t read Home To Roost, it’s based on a the true story of a chicken my family owned about a decade back. Yes, a whole novel based on a chicken. It’s rather serious, too. Deals with a number of different issues, and has an ending that’s darker than people often expect. Those were all things I wanted captured in the cover art.

Without much further adieu, below are the different drafts of the cover art for Home To Roost, with a bit of commentary in the captions. They are listed in order of their creation, so as to give you an idea of how it evolved.

Title 1: I was hoping to show some of the duality of the characters–ergo the black rooster and white hen, inverted against one another on a horizontal plane, with their silhouette’s in an oval that I hoped would be reminiscent of an egg. The egg is cracked, alluding to some of the drama that occurs in the story.
Cover 2: I decided to scrap the hen and put the rooster in an obvious egg. The crack was changed as well, with the hopes of making it look like both a crack and a lightning bolt, as there are several storm scenes within the book. Which, if you’ve never seen a Midwest lightning storm, they’re pretty amazing.
Cover 3: Versions 1 & 2 had a border which I decided to ditch here. Part of the reason for that was that Amazon Print-on-Demand services are not perfectly exact. A thin border could look bad if it isn’t exactly on–one side would be noticeably thinner. I’ve also set the egg/rooster upon a hill. There were a few other renditions of this same design, mostly just fiddling with the hill’s slope.
Cover 4: Placing the rooster/egg upon a hill made me consider the idea of a sunset. Initially, I wanted to maintain the cracked egg while adding in the setting-sun look. To do that, I darkened the “sky” in the picture more.
Cover 5: As you can see, I decided to ditch the egg, realizing that having a chicken is probably chickeny enough. I went further with the sunset idea, adding in a very big and very yellow sun. The yellowness was intentional: I was still holding onto the egg idea dearly, and the yellow sun was an allusion to an egg’s yolk. The sun is further important as the chickens in the story are actually sun worshippers–like Aztecs, but without the human sacrifice! You may also notice the quote at the top from a “Jane Doe.” I decided (after reading some different opinions) that the quote on the book cover is something many readers expect. I therefore adjusted the book cover to allow room for one.
Cover 6: I reined in the title on this version, because before it was much too close to the right edge of the cover. I also added in the taller grasses. The added grasses where a better reflection of the story, created a bit more complexity and depth on the cover, and made a nice cradle for the sun.
Cover 7: By Cover 6, I was quite pleased with the picture. It wasn’t quite there yet, but I could feel that it was close. For the next rendition, we dropped the idea of a quote on top, and instead just threw up some text to give people an idea that this really was a serious novel. (Also, I had no big name “Jane Doe” reviewer’s statement to use.) The other thing was adding the dipping red hue to the sun itself, turning it orange towards the bottom. The flat yellow, it was decided, looked too fake.
Cover 8 – Final Cover: And here’s the final cover. All we did was adjust the text at the top to give it a more balanced look. I was quite pleased with the final product.

So there you have it. The one part of this process I haven’t yet mentioned is my wife. I saved her for last, because she’s the most important. Not every idea she has is golden, just as not every idea I have is any good. But we can bounce ideas between us, shoot down one another’s bad ones, and let the best ones rise to the top.

What do you think? Anybody prefer one of the earlier cover images?

Stay great.

Bookstagramming, almost….

I’ve never posted anything to Instagram. I have an account, but haven’t touched it. Earlier this week I decided to change that, and tried my hand at Bookstagramming.

Probably, you already know what Bookstagramming is, but in case you don’t, it’s quite simple. It’s a celebration (via Instagram) of the visual beauty of books. People setup their favorite (or prettiest) books  in little poses alongside other stuff–sometimes other pretty things, or sometimes little things related to the plot or subject of the book. They take the picture, then post it online, and everyone oohs and aahs over the books.

It’s kind of weird, but humans are, as a rule, a rather strange species.

Since my phone’s camera is two steps away from garbage, I borrowed a much nicer camera for the pictures I took. Check ’em out!

I felt rather silly doing this, but sometimes it’s good for me to step out of my comfort zone. As you can see, it takes more than a good camera to make a good picture, but it certainly helps.

Did I end up posting these on Instagram? No, I did not.

Apparently you can only upload pictures to Instagram through the app. Since I have no Instagram presence, and since I don’t plan on having an Instagram presence anytime too soon (owing to my next-to-rubbish camera), I didn’t bother downloading the app. Besides, my phone has no space.

I’ll just share some of the photos with you. Perhaps someday I’ll invest time in Instagram, but not now.

Countdown Sales Experience

Well, I tried my luck with another marketing thing. Two, actually.

The first was to lower the pricing on Home To Roost from $3.99 to $0.99 for a week, just to see if that would boost the number of sales coming in from advertising on Amazon. Which I suppose it did. They jumped from zero to one. It’s something!

The other thing was to try tweeting about it with the #99c tag. To make a confession here, I have very little idea what I’m doing on Twitter. I’ve had an account for a long time, but used it very little. In fact, my tweet about the sale was the 18th tweet I’d ever made, and probably the first one I’d made with a real hashtag on it. I’ve been meaning for the past two days to look into using Twitter as a more effect platform for connecting with readers and other writers, but have yet to do anything about it.

Anyways, the tweet went out and… I got another sale! Was it related to the tweet? Probably not. But it might have been. But probably not.

So basically, a week of putting Home To Roost at $0.99 has almost passed, and I’ve made two sales. Once Amazon takes their cut, I made a whopping $1.40 or so. Again, it’s something!

But this is all a great learning experience. I’m making very different plans for how and when to release Cleaving Souls. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply this wisdom to miraculous effect!

 

Apps, Chickens, Sheep

I made a decision just now: I will not be using the WordPress mobile app to create blog posts. Here are my reasons:

  1. I don’t think that it syncs well.

That’s pretty much it, actually. Everything else would be fine. But I’d just written up a nice little post, published it, went to check it online and…..nothing! So I checked it on my phone, and it had the design for site a mashup of its current design and its former design. Yikes! I waited for a while, and the post never did show up on my computer, so I’m just ditching the app when it comes to writing posts.

But what I had posted about was this:

We had a nice little book club meeting. My wife is a member in a small book club, and they gave Home To Roost a try. We had the club members over to our place for a luncheon and a tour of the actual locations in the book, given by the author, yours truly!

I wish I’d prepared for the tour better. Maybe come up with some more amusing anecdotes or something. But it was muggy outside, and I was nervous, and it was probably for the best that it didn’t last too long.

I did make a great chicken cake, though! (Don’t worry, it wasn’t a chicken cake. Just a chocolate cake with a picture of a chicken on it.)

Yummy Chicken Cake

In other news:

  • I think I’m going to dedicate some time to learning the ropes of some social media tools that I’ve ignored up until now.
  • I need to start being a little more cautious in how I phrase and share opinions on other people’s blogs. I know I’ve been guilty of leaving too long of comments, and perhaps some other sins as well.
  • I had to put my sheep in time-out today. My three-year-old was jumping on the trampoline, and the sheep decided to attack her from beneath. She ran under the trampoline and was headbutting directly beneath my daughter, which was very alarming for her. Lots of tears. Ba-a-a-ad sheep.

What am I doing here?

Okay peoples of the internet, it’s time for me to decide just exactly what I’m doing here.

Not here on earth. I’m not wanting to launch into some big existential conversation or anything. I just mean here, as in here on this blog.

Originally, I’d hoped to mostly keep it to publishing and writing news. Make it about being an Indie author, and the process of trying to make that work for me. But I suppose it’s high time that I reevaluate what that means.

The truth is, I’m not a very successful author yet. I’m working to change that, but for now, I’m still trying to break into triple digits on sales, and it’s been almost four months now. I haven’t lost hope, but I’m realizing that for me to post regularly on this blog, or even semi-regularly, I might have to include some other things.

Things about myself, outside of writing, perhaps.

And so I’ll probably start doing some of that. At least, I will for the foreseeable future.

At first I’d wanted to avoid doing much of that, because, well, it seemed pointless. Then, as I was looking into different book bloggers’ sites, I found this one, by a wonderful person named Kerrie.  She really opens up to her readers in her “About Me” section (which is where the link will take you), and it was such a nice change. Most of the blogger profile pages I’d come across were very guarded. “I’m so-and-so. I like fish, but I hate fish. LOL!” And that was about it. But because Kerrie was willing to share more about herself, I took greater interest in what she had to say.

Now, writing about myself might not have that same effect, but I still want to do it for two reasons.

  1. I think that the world will be a better place when people open up with one another more. If we’re open with each other, then we might understand one another better. And when we understand one another, we will probably be far less likely to hurt one another. I’m not saying I feel misunderstood or anything, but I do hope that by opening up a bit more, maybe somebody else will feel inspired to do the same, just the same way that I felt inspired to open up after reading Kerrie’s blog. (That’s my altruistic reason.)
  2. I need things to talk about. You’re supposed to post semi-regularly on a blog to keep it rolling. Once a month does not qualify as semi-regularly, I’m pretty sure. So, I guess I’ll just talk about myself and other writerly-related things. (That’s my shallow reason.)

And now I’m off to update my “About Me” section. Then I’ll probably do some editing on Cleaving Souls, and then work on an Amazon Marketing Campaign for Home To Roost.

Peace!

My Free, Passive Marketing Experiment, Day 2

Well, yesterday was day two, as the post’s title suggests, and I’m starting to think that maybe this isn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. Granted, I didn’t think it was all that brilliant to begin with–more interesting. I suppose it’s given me something to write about, so it’s not a total loss.

Obviously, it didn’t go too well.

I set the book down at about 10:15 AM. Then I started looking into book sales for Home To Roost. I was going hither and thither on the internet, getting into whatever kind of free book promotions I could find (for those interested, here’s a listing here of places that do free book promos, except, only some are free, and only some are still working).

I got a bit too engrossed in what I was doing, because at some point between 10:30 and 11:00, Home To Roost disappeared. *GASP*

Now, this wouldn’t have been all that big of a deal, since a paperback is less than $12 (just kidding. $12 is a big deal.) But this wasn’t just any ol’ copy. This was the very last, final edit copy. The one where my wife finally found the last few sneaky typos and marked them. The one that I was going to use to make the last corrections on Home To Roost‘s manuscript, because you can do that when you’re using Amazon.

I didn’t exactly panic, per se, but I was concerned.

Turns out, I didn’t need to be. After a few minutes and a couple (rather embarrassing) conversations with librarians, I found the copy. It had been scooped up to be re-shelved, and then dumped with the books that the library was selling. No trip to the lost and found.

Oh well. I guess I should just be thankful it wasn’t the garbage.

I may need some time before I do this again. Maybe a different library. We’ll see.

In other news, deciding to make my book free has been interesting. As I mentioned, I spent almost the entire day yesterday trying to get it involved in promotions. A word of advice to other newbie Indie authors out there: don’t haphazardly give your book away for free. I would have been much wiser to plan this out a bit. Most places let you schedule a month in advance. Many of them require you to schedule at least 3 days in advance. So make a plan, mark it on the calendar, and then start trying to get in on promotional things.

This time around, I’m only doing free options. In the future, I might just bite and try some of the $15 or $30 dollar promotional packages. We’ll see.

But, as for results, yesterday my book climbed from #1,293,234,674,103 (not really, but it was some big number) to #140sh in the Horror genre, and to #8 in the literary mystery and thriller genre on Amazon (of the free books, that is).

I’ll be curious to see just how high I can get it before the promotion period ends at the end of the day Monday. Hopefully, some good will come of this.

My Free, Passive Marketing Experiment, Day 1

It’s a simple plan, really, inspired mostly by my wife and my sister in law.

What happened was this: my sister in law was kind enough to purchase a copy of Home To Roost, even though she’s not an avid reader. That’s fine, of course. She had said copy lying about her home when a friend came over. The friend saw the copy on the coffee table, was drawn in by my brilliant cover design (I’ll let you decide if that’s sarcasm or not), and asked about the book. My sister in law, who hadn’t read it, told her what little bit she knew. Her remarks, combined with the blurb on the back, were enough to get her friend to ask if she could borrow it.

A few days later, that experience had translated into another 5-star review. Hooray!

My wife, after hearing that story, has joked about leaving copies lying around for people to see. And then I thought I’d actually give it a try, in a limited fashion.

See, I work in libraries often. I pick a table, pull up a chair, set up my laptop, and write for hours. So, what I’m going to do is bring a copy of Home To Roost with me to the library, set it out on a table, and just keep an eye on it while I work–see if anybody glances at it, picks it up, etc. Maybe it will be revealing, maybe it won’t.

Today was a won’t-be-revealing kind of day, I decided.

I set up to write in my usual place, and left the paperback a good twenty feet away, on a separate table. I’d only been working for about ten minutes when I got my first interaction between the paperback and a library patron.

Unfortunately, it was also the last.

Some young people–I want to say that they were homeless based on their level of grunge, but it can be hard to tell with millennials–came and sat around the book. One of them, a tired girl in a drab hoodie, glanced at the book. Then set her Mountain Dew next to it.

The group had apparently come to the library for a ten-year-old’s version of a feast, because they proceeded to pull out candy from their backpacks. Red Vines, Peanut Butter Cups, Jelly Beans…it seemed everything was represented. Then they ate candy, drank soda, and watched loud videos on their phones, alternating between ones where people were screaming, and ones where people were laughing.

Eventually the girl fell asleep. The guys took turns going outside for a smoke break, one of them always standing guard over their candy-wrapper horde while the others smoldered their cigarettes away outside. The lot were kind of like a group of dragons. (What is the term for a group of dragons, by the way? I don’t know. I’ll make one up.) The lot were kind of like a fantasy of dragons.

Anyways, one by one, the candy got to them. Just before I left for the day, the last one slipped into a sugar coma on the library’s couch, my book lying between the lot.

I packed up my computer, then sneaked between the sleepers and recovered my paperback, then went home. As soon as I arrived, I adjusted the e-book price of Home To Roost from $2.99 to FREE, but only for the next five days. I suppose, after how things went at the library, I felt like I still needed to do something. This is all experimental, anyways. All in the name of science. Whatever.

Anyways, get it while it’s hot. Or free.

And hopefully, tomorrow’s library experiment will go better.