Reviewers – An Author’s BFF

Honey Lemon and one of my favorite fans – Daniela

Whenever you meet authors at conferences or conventions, what is one thing we always say, besides the heart-felt THANK YOU? I think it goes something like this:

“I hope you love it. And here’s my card and information, so you can follow what I’m doing. If you can, write a review. I’d love to know what you think.”

I like to take time and thank those who invest in me as an author. I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation for choosing my series over the sea of other authors – and I mean every word. As crazy as this sounds, I didn’t start in this business to sell books, but to create art and find readers and keep them coming back. However, selling is the inevitability, or authors will cease to exist. Books are art, a creative expression and collaboration, but they are also a business, and artists like myself are losing.

There is a price with selling, and not just the cost of the book. I’ve said many times that authors are the worst at selling their books. Unless they have a knock-out elevator pitch, they frankly know too much about the story. Where should we start? What would grab their attention? What part would they like most? I think they’d like all the parts. And like Tommy Boy, we inevitably, kill the sale.

So, when I have someone interested, and I know they will absolutely love it, and YES, they bought a book – it’s a celebration. I have a new best friend, a fan, and they are so precious to me.

Many of my readers I meet at cons or author events, where I’m present to sign their books and talk with the readers one-on-one. Many are teens and aspiring writers. I love that interaction. I’d never trade it.

12039499_10101364253906231_2632341432076338814_nBut, here is the problem that I have, it doesn’t translate to sales on Amazon.

Amazon is a juggernaut, driving sales of our products and controlling a lot of what we can do as authors. The truth is we have to play the Amazon game in order to show PROOF we are a validated author. The main way on Amazon to prove our validity is through reviews. If someone buys my book on Amazon, an email will be generated and asks for a customer review. If you buy an ebook, it’s an easy click to review and you’re done.

So, as much as I love meeting and talking with readers, it doesn’t turn my rating on Amazon.

Amazon is so big that a small fish like me is not going to matter that much to them. I am in the invisible bottom-feeding ocean, along with the other creative creatures that flounder, making their own way to survive. I’ve been swimming in the ratings around hundreds of thousands for a while, until I learned a few secrets. There is a magic number of reviews, if you didn’t know, that needs to be met in order for Amazon to pay attention to you. Once you hit that number Amazon is like, “Hey, this might make us money. Let’s pair it with this and see if we can get more hits?” Do you get those emails or bottom scrolls that show you this? It’s a game of numbers. As an author, I have zero control over this. It’s completely in reviewers’ hands.

Goodreads, owned by Amazon, has become a good friend. Readers love networking with other readers and authors- it’s a symbiotic relationship existing in an internet realm all about books. Several of my readers are a part of this world as well and celebrate their thoughts in this cyber-community. But, I’m having the same kind of breakdown with my readers, not because of the cultivation, but because of the age – several of my readers are not on Goodreads or Amazon, because, candidly, they are not old enough.

Isn’t that a funny conundrum?

There are other ways to break the Amazon code, but several I don’t have control over. Sell a lot in one day, Amazon pays attention. Kindle-Unlimited is an amazing tool if you have control of your books. Setting up a FREE book through them could spike your rating to INFINITY, but being with a small press, I don’t have that freedom or control either. There are so many circumstantial variations to this game, what works for some, doesn’t always work for others. Nothing is going to work the same for everyone, so please don’t hurry and run out and sign up for these programs thinking you’ll be an overnight success. But what I am coming to understand is my limitations with control when it comes to Amazon – you have to play or you drown.

So, I’ve come up with a plan…

As a reward for finishing the hardest book I’ve ever written, my third and concluding novel to my series, EVERSTAR, I thought about rewarding myself. I wanted an art piece, something I could frame and display in my home, a reminder of this staggering accomplishment. I contacted Khai Vinh of Ghost Illustrations.com and commissioned a painting of my world. What he came up with is beyond stunning. He drew for me Southwick, the southern most point and the capital in my world of Parbraven. He captured it at the most pivotal point in the series, simply put – at the end. The artwork is full of secrets only a fan would notice and I decided that this couldn’t be just for me, this needs to be shared.

And this is where all of you come in.

I’m giving a print of this beautiful painting exclusively to those who place a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It seriously is something I’m so proud of and special to me. To share it with you makes me all warm inside. I had a parent post for her son, who loved my books, but didn’t have an amazon account, so it’s still possible if you want your kids to have some wall art in their room.

Click here: WRITE A REVIEW

This link will take you to my page where you can fill out your name, email, and where you posted. I’ll follow up and send you one of these posters FREE! I’ll even sign it if you like. I’m looking for honest reviews, of course. Fives stars are wonderful, but I know that my book is not everyone’s taste. Readers needs to know if this book is for them. This is my THANK YOU for taking your time and sharing your thoughts on my art.

Authors need you. Regardless of where you bought the book, reviews are IMPORTANT. They are an essential part of a delicate author ecosystem, like algae to coral reef, a sustainable resource that can keep us creating, producing, and gifted back to you. The only way we survive in such a huge ocean is with a little help from our friends – you, our readers.

The Other Side of the Door – My Epic Journey from Writing to Publishing

In preparation for the SLC “Compel, Polish, Pitch, and Sign” Writer’s Conference, I’ve been reflecting on my own journey into publishing. For those who are attending the conference, we’ll talk 🙂

Becoming published is a mystery to many writers. Even when I started getting serious about publishing, I had NO CLUE how to get started. Google search can get you places of course, but in many cases, it’s the wrong place. Networking with other writers can also help – people who have actually published.

But it’s never the same, each author has to find their own way to publishing, their on path.

So, imagine a door, whatever kind of door you like. See my door? It’s fanciful and unique and extremely interesting. All I ever wanted, in this entire world, was to see what lay beyond this door.

Here’s the problem – there’s no path. And there are stickers and briars and thorns of all kinds here and there. Some people find a good path and only get a few scratches, some get lost at the side of the house peering in the frosted glass, and some, like me, got scratched and bruised and bled a little before they got to the door.

I think this is the more typical answer you will find among those who are published. I really feel like I earned my passage to what’s beyond the door.

 

Bruised from Queries

My first attempt to get published was through querying agents, and was a pretty miserable failure. I made some huge errors. I am a Young Adult Fantasy author and my manuscript was 170k words.

So, let’s look at the mistakes I made:

  • I queried Young Adult agents.
  • I had never written queries before.
  • I didn’t understand the difference between synopsis and summary
  • I had no publishing credits, no awards, no articles, nothing.
  • I had a big word count.
So, I’ll quickly breakdown some things for you. In a fantasy genre, a manuscript with 170k might be acceptable for an epic journey, but I was querying the wrong people. I queried YA, where they are looking for 50-100k tops. If they see a 170k word count, all they see is Edit! Edit! Edit! I’m not going to waste my time with this author who obviously doesn’t understand how to write for YA.
Also, research how to do a proper query. A candid – “Hey, I’m a writer, and I got this super cool story with fairies and dragons, and I think you’ll really like it,” is going to get a quick DELETE. During my failure years I joined a local writers chapter and attended a class about writing queries. Boy, what a difference that made. I think the worst person to sell a book is the author. We know too much of the story, what do you focus on? The query class helped me narrow what publishers and agents are looking for. A unique hook, some angle – however slanted, that gets you in the door.

And the meat of it, I needed some kind of proof I was worth time and money. I had nothing. So, I entered a few small writing contests. I ended up getting an Honorable Mention in a state wide competition and a First Place in my local chapter. This greatly helped my confidence and proved my worth as a writer. When you received multiple rejections you can start to doubt your abilities. Don’t ever doubt your talent!

So, research your agents, enter some competitions, and take time to do a proper query.

 

The Scratches Came From Releasing my Book Too Soon

After feeling hopeless, feeling no agent would ever pick me up, I looked into Self-Publishing. My dad is a self-published author, granted he writes books on process improvement – very different from me. And at that time (2010 – so long ago) self-publishing was a scary endeavor. But, as a favor to my dad, I looked into it.

Createspace makes everything so easy. They have templates, ISBNs, cover images, formats, pricing guidelines… geez, I was overwhelmed at how much I had to do. I edited down my manuscript to 140k, formatted it, had my sister design my cover, had beta readers test it and write reviews, I swear, I put soooo much work into it and what I came up with was, what I thought at the time, had to be a work of art.

Yet, this went nowhere. I mean, NOWHERE! The book was still too big to make money. The cover was pretty, but crafty, I couldn’t get it into book stores and I had no idea how to market it. As an ebook is flopped in format I knew no other authors. In many ways I felt like a bigger failure.

A good friend and very avid reader bought it and read it. She liked it, but offered me some advice. “I think you released it too soon.” But, I had a finished product! What did she mean “too soon”?

But she was right. I was in such a hurry to get my book out, that I didn’t stop to think if it was ready. Would it be marketable? Would it find readership? If I’m building a brand, would this help me or hurt me? And I STILL didn’t know what was beyond the door.

Self-publishing may work for some, but not for me. You need a lot of confidence in your talents in order to be self-published. I didn’t have that. I wanted someone, a professional editor in the business, to tell me what was wrong with my story. I knew there was something, but couldn’t see it. So, I yanked it.

(Side note: I found a copy on Amazon for $800. Fools. All previous copies should be burned.)

 

Signing Made Me Bleed . . . A Lot

What? What do you mean? It’s the dream, right?
This is absolutely true, and I think several authors would agree with what I’m about to tell you – editing IS the key to the door.
So, I shelved my novel and went on to write other things, other projects. I did NaNoWriMo and had some great success there. Summer 2012 I came back to the idea of maybe trying to find a publisher. I had written the sequel and loved it and regained hope in the writing world. This time I took a risk and sent it directly to some publishers, knowing I would be in the slush pile. I re-edited it down to 135k, a slight improvement.
I received one rejection before I found my publisher. Xchyler Publishing was the first to acquire my entire manuscript. The acquisition editor, a fine girl named Lissa (who later became my content editor) fell in love with my story and absolutely insisted they have it. I was nervous. I mean, was this the right place for my story? But they were the first to read it. If others read it, maybe they would react the same way. The deciding factor was something that made me think, and something also, that I appreciate to this day – They didn’t want to lose the integrity of the story. That was so important to me. I was afraid bigger presses would make me change the story into something that it wasn’t, make me add the swearing and the sex that I tried so hard to keep out of it. The whole team wanted this story, my story, to succeed, so I signed with them, and have never regretted it.
Here is where I bled.

Editing was an eye-opening experience. I had a main content editor, a line editor, a proof-reader, and then everything had to go through the Editor-in-chief. They did this to refine the story at various levels. It really is magic. In content, they decided to hack a large portion because it slowed the pace (they were right); I had too many POVs and needed to narrow it down to four – so I had to rewrite a lot of the book to accommodate this (and it was a great idea); they asked that I write more chapters from a specific POV of a main character, who was super mysterious, and explore what happens with him to layer the story (wow, okay); and they then asked me to do a writing exercise about this said character, where he grew up and how he got the magic in the first place, something that would NOT appear in the book, but for me to understand my character better (you want me to do what?).

This was a mountain of work with a pretty intense deadline. I tried hard to keep up with the intensity. I even took a two week LOA from my real job to finish it. I worried about the cover design and stuck with my gut about changing it to a talisman, which turned out beautiful and I love. But, with everything, it was very hard – like ulcer-inducing hard.

Then three weeks before my book release, I received notification that the company was changing hands. I nearly died. The change was definitely for the better, but at the time, after so much hard work and sweat and blood, I didn’t know anything about its future. Even at the time of the release, because of the changing in tax documents and everything that I don’t understand, it was slow coming out. But it did and it was beautiful.

It had been out for a month or so when I thought I would enter it into the League of Utah Writers Novel award that would be announced at their annual conference. I thought, well, it took an Honorable Mention a few years ago here, maybe it might go somewhere. Obviously, I didn’t get my hopes up, because I didn’t even attend the awards banquet. When I arrived at the Writer’s Conference the next day a friend from my chapter ran up to me and said “You won!” my response, “I won what?” “You won Novel of the Year!”

WHHHHHHAAATTT???? Turns out my novel took TOP PRIZE, the Diamond Award. It won over all the other novels that year, my little fledgling was the best in the whole state!

This helped me open the door.

 

What I found on the Other Side of the Door

I’m going to tell you, just in case you thought I would keep it a secret from you. It’s been a slow-creaky door to open. But I’m most-definitely on the other side.

There is a room full of people, other authors, packed full – all looking for another door.

Some are desperate, some are casually looking, but there are some that I have found who are willing to help one another find the mysterious hidden door. That’s what I’m most impressed by, the cooperative effort made by others to help me succeed. Seems backwards, right? I mean, aren’t they also your competition? Actually . . . No, they aren’t, they are my peers. I’ve found better success through a healthy community of authors. It could have been a nasty bludgeoning of jealous rage at the success of one who finds the door, but instead, its the opposite – it’s a celebration!

However you make it to the door will be the right way for you.
It is an epic journey – remember that, and should be one that you are proud of, one that made you bleed a little. Don’t be afraid to bleed.
There should be sweat – and heavens above, there better be tears.
Wear your scars with pride.
Don’t let the briar patch get you stuck.
And when you get there, push hard on the door.
And never forget – inspire others to find the key.

I’m just behind the door waiting for you. I have a place reserved at my table and I want to see you there.

Welcome. (first drink’s on me)

Cover Release for Everstar – Final Book in the Vivatera Series

Everstar-front-web“Bring daytime to darkness and shadow to light.” ~Vivatera

It’s finally here.

I remember the day I decided to sign the contract with Xchyler back in 2012, the day after Thanksgiving. I was at my In-Law’s eating a hot turkey open-faced sandwich. I remember opening the email and freaking out a little… well, actually, a lot. They liked Vivatera so much they wanted the series. I remember thinking that if I do this, I am making a commitment to readers. There was just so much story to tell. We all know the rest.

The second book, CONJECTRIX, was written by the time I signed with the X. The third, however, was not. When I finished editing Conjectrix in 2014, the story and characters had become alive to me, like really great friends. And then something strange happened, I didn’t want to finish the series. I didn’t want anything tragic to happen to my friends, I liked them all too much. Just keep them in this safe glass dome forever.

So, facing finishing EVERSTAR was a battle, the biggest uphill-both-ways type of struggle. Several tears were shed, many heart-wrenching hours were spent agonizing over what I wanted to write and what the story needed to tell – it happens. But, through all the sweat and sacrifice, comes joy.

I’m very, VERY proud to introduce to you EVERSTAR, the FINAL chapter in my trilogy, my labor of love. The date has not yet been released, but look forward to early spring. I will soon have ARCs available for review. If you’re interested, follow the link here to Xchyler’s Bloggers and Reviewers page. You can find EVERSTAR in NEW RELEASES.

And because I love you all so much, I am giving a special gift to those who review my books on Amazon or Goodreads. Every star helps. Click on my STAY CONNECTED page to find out more.

New Books! Prizes! What fun!! – Kingdom City: Revolt

I’m excited to be part of Ben Ireland’s newest release KINGDOM CITY: REVOLT. Don’t miss him as he travels the world (no, really, seriously) on his International Blog Tour. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter below. Ben’s giving away fantastic art from Luke Spooner, the artist that designed his covers. And don’t forget to check out my interview with the man himself on my blog. ~ Candie

KINGDOM CITY: REVOLT by Ben Ireland

KINGDOM CITY: REVOLT by Ben Ireland hits the interweb January 3oth. Follow our blog tour and Rafflecopter giveaway for the chance to win great prizes! Visit each blog each day for more ways to enter. KINGDOM CITY: REVOLT is Book 2 of the near-future dystopian series by Ben Ireland, with strong science fiction and urban fantasy elements.