Thursday, February 21, 2013

Indie Author Series: Smashwords (Are They Worth It)

As part of our 2013 Indie Author Series, you've heard me brag about Amazon's contribution to my book sales as well as my ability to promote and market my books. You've also heard my opinion as it relates to the minimal efforts Barnes & Noble puts forth. This week, you're going to hear what I think about Smashwords.

For me, Smashwords will always hold a special place in my heart because it's the site where I learned publishing without an agent or a traditional publisher was a possibility. I will forever be thankful for their contribution to indie authors.  

For anyone who wants to publish an eBook, Smashwords Style Guide is a must read. It helps you format your book to the specifications of iTunes, Barnes & Noble's, Sony, Kobo, and Diesel. Take it from me... those specifications are nearly impossible to meet without step-by-step instructions.

Smashwords also offers a one-stop shop where indie authors can upload their books, and they will do all the work for them, making their eBooks available on any and all eBook sites. I take full advantage of their offering with the exception of (you guessed it) Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I personally manage those sites, but with Smashwords' assistance, I'm left with only three sites to manage even though my books are available everywhere.

I also LOVE Smashwords coupon manager. I can gift ebooks to people, and it doesn't cost me a dime. That is not true for Amazon or Barnes & Noble's. If I want to gift a Kindle or Nook book, I have to pay for it (at least... I've been paying for them). With Smashwords coupon manager, I can give away as many as I like.

In summary, Smashwords is committed to indie authors, and it shows. We can achieve things we never would have been able to achieve if it were not for them. For that, I'm thankful to Mark Coker and his dedicated team.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Indie Author Spotlight: Laura A. H. Elliott

We are pleased as punch to intruduce our own, Laura A. H. Elliott. She's officially an Amazon best-selling author as of last week when Winnemucca, a small-town fairy tale hit #1 in Science Fiction & Fantasy (three seperate categories):
 Laura A. H. Elliott
Laura A. H. Elliott, best selling author, loves writing about enchanted road trips, shadow worlds, and alien romance while eating lots of popcorn. She lives in a tree house on the central California coast. After twenty-plus years as a freelance graphic designer/animator with clients including E! Entertainment Television and The Los Angeles Times, she crossed over into the world of publishing non-fiction and followed her heart to the world of fiction. She is the author of the paranormal romance Shadow Series (also available in audiobook format), the sci-fi romance Starjump series, and stand alone literary romance novel Winnemucca, a small-town fairy tale. Her latest release is Shadow Slayer, book 2 of the Shadow Series. Moon Killers, book 3 is due out this spring. She's also due to release her first adult title later this year. She's happy to have been included in the new adult anthology Midnight Surrender.
 

A Valentine Story From Laura:





 
Valentine's Day is full of happy memories for me. Once upon a time, I got married on Valentine's Day and had a beautiful snowy Chicago wedding. And once upon a longer time, Valentine's Day was the very first holiday that a boy did something so over-the-top amazing, it was the first time a boy made me feel special. And, isn't that how every girl/woman wants to feel every day, but especially on Valentine's Day? I was a junior in high school and home hanging with my family when the doorbell rang. I think Mom beat me to the door so I settled back to my spot at the kitchen counter talking with one of my brothers when Mom calls, "Laur, it's for you!" I'm like what? It's never for me. Really? It took about two seconds for me to scoot to the front door. A guy I had met on a blind date stood out in the cold, his feet buried in snow––holding a box. He handed the pizza box to me, winked, said "Happy Valentine's Day, beautiful" and made a dash back to his delivery car. I watched him back out of the driveway. When he turned the corner and vanished I slammed the front door shut and ran to the kitchen. My brother was like, give me some. The smell of pepperoni hit us all at once. I flipped the lid open and there, sitting in the box was a slightly oozy, wonderfully gooey pepperoni pizza in the shape of a heart. Do you love love this year? Or has love punched you in the gut? I guess it doesn't matter, it's always fun to read about a happily ever after. Even if that happily ever after is nowhere you thought you would ever want to go. So, this Valentine's Day I've reduced Winnemucca, a small-town fairy tale to 99 cents! It's #1 on three different Amazon lists at the moment and is my first best-seller. If you want to read a story where fear's as blind as love, click here to get your copy now. The deal's over after the last piece of heart-shapped pizza is devoured :)


Laura A. H. Elliott's Books:
Moon Killers (Shadow Series #3) Spring 2013
(Shadow Series #4) Fall 2013

Winnemucca a small-town fairy tale (YA literary romance)
 
When fear’s as blind as love, how far would you go to find your own happily ever after?

One mistake will change Ginny’s life forever. One answer will set her free. Once upon a time Ginny’s road blood ripened, the day she got wise to love. Engaged to the high school quarterback, his quarter-carat ring and enchanting smile should have been enough for her. But, she stands him up and takes a walk where every step questions her happily ever after gone-bad and the fate of the mother she never knew. The mother her father refuses to talk about. Ginny fights to untangle her big, fat, lie-of-a-life on an enchanted road trip to Winnemucca, where she believes all her answers lie. To solve the riddle of her past, she must outrun everyone who wants a piece of her future–including a man determined to see she never has one.  

Transfer Student (Starjump #1) (YA Sci-Fi Romance)

Two Worlds--Two Teens--One Wish
 
Rhoe and Ashley would never be friends.
Even if they lived on the same planet.
But, they'll become so much more.
They'll transfer.

Earthling Ashley's world revolves around winning daily popularity contests at Beverly Hills High School and surfing competitions with sweet scholarship prizes that will finally help her break free of her control-freak mother. Meanwhile on planet Retha, Rhoe misses his dad, loves his mom's home-cooked Glechy crag with a side of ory sauce, is desperate to heal his sick brother and wants more than anything to win The Retha New Invention Competition. But Rhoe's invention teleports him across the universe with an unintended side effect, Ashley and Rhoe transfer. They swap lives when they make the same wish at the same time.

Popular-surfer-turned-boy-geek alien Ashley must handle life on Retha as Rhoe complete with webbed feet, low-gravity, and an obsession with Yuke, all the while being hunted by Rethan spies and resenting her hairy, flat chest. Boy-geek-turned-popular-surfer Rhoe must fit in at Beverly Hills High School as Ashley, compete in The Laguna Beach Invitational without becoming shark food, dodge boys' affections, cool his preoccupation with Tiffany and his new body, and find the healing rocks he believes will save his brother's life.

If only it were that simple. Some wishes can't come true. Some have to.

(THIS ENHANCED EBOOK CONTAINS LINKS TO THE MUSIC, STORIES, PHOTOS & VIDEOS THAT INSPIRED THE STORY.) 
13 on Halloween (Shadow Series #1) FREE (YA paranormal romance)
 
Roxie has the best night of her life until the popular kids decide they want to celebrate her birthday in a way Roxie never expects––in her attic, with a gift that’s out of this world, and a pact to never tell a living soul what happens next.
Twelve-year-old Roxie wants to be like Adrianne, the popular girl who gets everything she wants––a flock to prowl around the mall with; invitations to parties; and for Hayden, the cutest guy in the eighth grade to, you know, notice her. When Roxie invites all the eighth grade peacocks (code word : popular kids) to her first ever thirteenth birthday party on Halloween, they all come and give her a gift that’s literally out of this world. Roxie astral projects to Planet Popular where she becomes seventeen instantly and gets everything she’s always wanted, but nothing is as it seems. Being a high school peacock is complicated and Roxie will risk everything to be who she thinks she wants to be. Oh yeah, there’s Prom, doppelgangers, a mysterious map, and lots of bad peacocks too.
BONUS EXCERPT! Two Chapters of Shadow Slayer, Book 2 in The Shadow Series
13 on Halloween, (Shadow Series #1) is now available as an audiobook on iTunes, Audible or Amazon.
Shadow Slayer (Shadow Series #2) (YA paranormal romance)
Shadows will do anything to become human. You see their influence everyday. You say things you don’t mean or do things that aren’t like you. You look, different. Friends you’ve known forever suddenly never call.
As a freshman, Roxie just wants to fit in which is impossible because she barely runs into her friends at her huge high school. Adrianne’s disappearance and Hayden’s attention rock Roxie’s world. But nothing rocks it like the most gorgeous guy at school, Drew. And nothing is more important to Roxie than astral projecting back to Planet Popular to solve the mystery of the map. But that changes when Drew invites Roxie to homecoming. Hayden warns her that something’s wrong. Why would a guy like Drew like Roxie anyway? Drew must want something. Hayden’s right. Drew is…different. Planet Popular was just the beginning. Part of a bigger world, the Shadow World. There’s a war brewing between the world of humans and the world of shadows. When the shadow invasion begins at Roxie’s high school, she’ll not only fight for her life but the lives of her family and friends, when she discovers she’s the Shadow Slayer, the one human who can save Earth from the shadow onslaught. But, Roxie can’t even kill a spider. Oh yeah, there’s an evil English teacher, an enchanted play, a sword of Sandonian steel, a homecoming of horrors, and seven magic words too. Audible (Audiobook) |iTunes


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Copyright Infringement OR Coincidence: You Decide


Most of the time, my indie author role is unbelievably fantastic (filled with new fans, friends, and followers and amazing reviews). Periodically, this role puts me in situations that are uncomfortable as best. When that happens, I'm left to wonder if the morals and ethics of the world at large have regressed to a level so low that there may be no hope for people who work hard every day of their lives and try to do the best by others every chance they get to survive. 

For those who follow me, you know being an indie author is my second job. It's one I take as seriously as I do my primary job. Typically, I spend forty-five to sixty hours per week working as a director for a not-for-profit hospital system.  I spend another twelve to fifteen hours commuting to work, and the rest of my time is spent being a wife and mother of two while writing, socializing, and performing every last duty necessary to make sure I release books that are as professional as those released by traditional publishers. 

If you are not an indie author, you probably will not understand - or believe - the amount of detail that goes into every book release. Over the course of three to four months (often times longer), indie authors write, proof, edit, format, book cover design, upload the book to sites, market, blog,  and anything else necessary in order to publish our books. 

Given the hours I put in, the sacrifices my family and I make, and the sleep I'm deprived, I can't help but get upset when I see my hard work and the hard work of others infringed upon. It's going to take a few minutes for me to build my case. Once I'm finished, I'll leave it up to you to decide: Copyright Infringement OR Coincidence. 

Here's what I know to be true:  

Several months ago, my dear friend and cover design artist, Claudia Lucia McKinney (Phatpuppy Art), sent a marketing notification to her authors. With it, she let us know that she was having a pay-it-forward day whereby she graciously offered her services to us for donations only, meaning whatever we paid (and we decided) would go to charity. Claudia's been so successful in her career that she wanted to give back to others. I was impressed with her selfless act and paid her exactly what I would have paid if she were not having a pay-it-forward special. 

As soon as I got the notification from Claudia, I went straight to depositphotos and spent hours looking for a photo that would accurately represent the story I was planning to write for NaNoWriMo 2012. With my options narrowed, I sent all of them over to Claudia and asked her to pick her favorite. I was thrilled with the picture she picked because it absolutely was my favorite. To the right is the picture/models in question: 

Within no time, Claudia had a cover design back to me that encompassed my many requests. Like everything Claudia's ever done for me, I was amazed... awed... thrilled. I should tell you that traditionally I write paranormal and fantasy. Claudia knows this; therefore, she added a hint of sparkly magic to the woman's eyes and the hair around her face. To the left is Claudia's finished product as sent to me for my book cover. 

Now, Claudia had no idea I was completely switching genres for this book and writing an adult contemporary. She and I talked, and she recommended that I decrease the pixels to minimize the 'touch of magic'. I did, and it worked. I also went to work adding the title to the design and making it a real book cover worthy of release. After that, I announced my next book and revealed the book cover. To the right is the finished book cover for Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) to be released 3/1/13. 

I spent November writing 50,000 words and winning NaNoWriMo 2012 (a writing marathon for authors). December was spent finishing and fine-tuning this powerful story. In January, I did my own proofing, editing, and perfecting of the details. This month, Grave Bound is at my editor, Gathering Leaves. Cassie is an amazing woman who takes my book and looks at it with a magnifying glass. She picks out typographical errors, time-line problems, confusing statements/comments, and anything else that will cause a read to pause. In other words, this month Cassie gets to do all of the hard work, and I get to sit back and anxiously await her formal recommendations. 

While I was catching up on my indie author housekeeping chores, ones that had to be pushed to the side while I wrote Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1), I noticed something that may have slipped past me any other time. A fellow author had scheduled a cover reveal. It was such a big announcement that many, many of my author/blogger friends turned their pages over to her so that her announcement could reach as many people as absolutely possible. Imagine my surprise when I saw the picture to the left. 

I can assure you that I would not be saying anything IF the stock photo had been taken and manipulated into something original. Instead, the tiniest details of Claudia's design were present in this cover. I instantly contacted Claudia who began researching and investigating. She's as concerned with the similarities as I am. 

Please know, that I am in no way, shape, or form suggesting Katie Salidas did ANYTHING wrong. She saw a book cover that met her needs, and she's using it. Remember, I know how hard so works because I work just as hard. My 'concerns' lie with the book cover designer herself/himself. 

Telling the whole picture with a side-by-side comparison, I've included each picture. If you study Claudia's design and compare it to the book cover in question, you will see that the 'touch of magic' appears to be there.  
  1. The original picture from depositphotos
  2. Claudia's original picture as sent to me
  3. The book cover revealed

I can summarize this entire situation by saying that I don't plan to do anything about it. Instead, I'm leaving it up to my peers, fans, friends, and followers to study the facts of this case (and the pictures), and for them to let Claudia and me know their opinions (comment below). The one thing I can say for sure is that I will ALWAYS use Claudia so that I'm not put in a position of collaborating with someone whose works of art are nothing more than copies or infringements. I value creative originality and a pristine moral character too much to settle for less.

A thief of someone else's creative work is still a thief.







Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) by

Emily Riddle has lived her entire life inside a patriarchal commune led by her father. There are many rules, but the most important one, 'keep it in the commune', is the most difficult for her to follow... especially since the only people willing to champion her cause live on the outside.

When Emily learns her father has promised her to Lorenzo, a perverted man who has plans for her that extend well beyond marriage and kids, she rebels. Regardless of the consequences, she refuses to marry someone who'd rather beat her than caress her.

A day of hooky that starts out as a tiny act of defiance - sneaking out of the commune for a swim - turns into a day filled with hope. After spending time with Levi, a man camping near the lake, she finds what true romance looks like and catches a glimpse into a future that's filled with love and admiration rather than hate and submission.

That tiny peek is enough to change the course of Emily's existence and makes it nearly impossible for her to go back to the commune and pretend she'll ever be able to tolerate the life chosen for her instead of the life she longs for. One that includes Levi.

Fighting to escape the commune, its leaders, and her fiancé proves to be more dangerous than Emily expected. The secrets she knows, as the leader's daughter, will either follow her to the grave or send her - and Levi - there.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Indie Author Series: Nook/Barnes & Noble/Pubit!

This week, the YA Indie Carnival sponsors talk about Barnes & Noble and the opportunities they offer indie authors and their books. At the bottom, you will find links to the other sponsors' sites where you can read about our very different experiences. Don't forget to leave comments. We love hearing from  you.
 
Barnes & Noble's self-publishing portal is called PubIt!. It's just as simple to use as Amazon's KDP. Utilizing this portal, indie authors can upload their books and make them available for sale through Barnes & Noble eBookstore. The time from upload until availability is twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
 
I've talked to lots of indie authors who've had great success selling their books through Barnes & Noble. I'm not one of them. Don't get me wrong. I sell books on that site, but it's a small fraction of the number I sell on Amazon's site. I'm sure that has to do with there being something I'm not doing because I don't know I'm supposed to be doing it, but that in and of itself is problematic for me. The whole book publishing process has been filled with secrets and controlled by traditional publishers' gate keeping long enough. I don't want to have to 'figure out' what I need to do in order to become a best selling author on a site. I want that site and its experts to lead me... guide me... partner with me... market for me. I get all of that (plus some) with Amazon.

I should say that no one is more disappointed with my Barnes & Noble sales than me. When I uploaded my book to PubIt!, I just knew Barnes & Noble, being the best-of-the-best, would be where I sold the majority of my books. The next thing, I knew my Amazon sales soared, and my Barnes & Noble sales slowly trickled in. Without a doubt, I'm going to keep uploading books there and hoping for the best, and if all the stars align, I'll find the same success I've encountered with Amazon. All I can say is that I expected more.

While Amazon has options for paper books and audio books, PubIt! has four programs that allow indie authors to make their books available next to traditionally published books (per PubIt! Support and Resources Page):

Read In Store:

Read In Store allows customers in Barnes & Noble bookstores to browse the complete contents of eBooks available in our NOOK Bookstore at no cost for up to one hour on any given day and browse through as many eBooks that have the Read In Store option as they wish. This innovative program will provide further exposure for your eBooks, offering customers the chance to sample the entire contents of the book for up to an hour.

Sharing eBooks with LendMe Technology:

Only Barnes & Noble offers customers the ability to share eBooks with friends through its breakthrough LendMe? technology. Customers can share LendMe-eligible eBooks once, for up to 14 days. Customers can send a lend offer and a personal message about the eBook they are offering to any friend's email address. The lend offer is available for 7 days and can be accepted or declined on a NOOK or online.

The recipient can easily download the book to their NOOK eBook Reader or on a computing or mobile device enabled with free NOOK eReading software. While the eBook is with the recipient, the customer who shared the title will not have access to it. All eBooks offered via PubIt! will be eligible for sharing through the LendMe program and noted with the LendMe icon.

Samples:

Barnes & Noble customers have the option to try before they buy. For all PubIt! eBooks, interested customers will be able to download up to 5% of the eBook to their NOOK or to their computing or mobile device enabled with free NOOK eReading software. From the sample, it is easy for customers to buy the full eBook and download it in seconds.

eGifting:

Giving a digital gift is quick and easy - we call it eGifting! NOOK Books and NOOK Apps can be eGifted to anyone with a valid email address (currently not available on NOOK.co.uk). You do not need a NOOK to purchase a digital gift, and your eGift recipient does not need one to receive your eGift either. For more around the eGifting experience as it pertains to the customer, visit our
eGifting FAQ's. Reference the eGifting section below for more information as it applies to publisher royalties and reporting.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Grave Bound (Secrets, #1) by T.R. Graves

Grave Bound (Secrets, #1) 
by

RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2013

SYNOPSIS: Below Review

REVIEW:

Let me start the review of Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) by saying this book is an adult contemporary written for audiences 18+. The genre is solid without even a hint of paranormal, fantasy, or Christian.

There were two reasons for me to make a change with this series. First, I was ready to explore new challenges creatively. Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) absolutely satisfied that need. Second, as soon as I got into these character's lives and their minds, I knew there was no way to do justice to Emily's story - the inequalities, the passions, the betrayals she endured - without removing the boundaries associated with the young adult genre.

Without limitations, this story unfolded easily and every one of its characters instantly became multi-dimensional... layered in a way that made the characters more real (endearing, hateful, desperate, etc.) than they would have been if I'd have stopped the progression of the scenes or filtered the discussions in order to avoid offending. As soon as you begin reading Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) , you will find there are no filters on this story, and I did not play it safe. It and its characters are frank, open, and real, and I hope the risky scenes are, at minimum, viewed as tasteful.

The Warrior Series will always hold a special place in my heart, but Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) is fast approaching my favorite. I began it for NaNoWriMo 2012, and successfully wrote >50k words in the month of November. Over the course of the next two months, I've made some significant changes, added voices, and finished the first part of Emily's story.

Everything about Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) and its characters were a test in what I could do. 1) How fast can I write a novel? (Answer: 3 months while working a full time job, commuting, and being a mother.) 2) Can I write intimate scenes that don't feel rehearsed or sterile, taking the character's interactions with each other to a level that allows the reader to understand - maybe even feel - exactly how the character feels? (Answer: Of course, the verdict is still out on this, but I gave it the old college try, making sure to ignore my comfort zone and push through so the readers could see... truly... see what Emily was dealing with.) 3) Can I write a story that is not Allison La Crosse's? (Answer: Thankfully, I can. For me, Emily's story is as powerful as Allison's, but the two characters have different hurdles to cross and outcomes to maneuver. Regretfully, Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1) took me away from Dark Angels, but I'll go back and finish that story. I promise.)

Now, let me talk about the characters. Emily is quietly desperate, determined, loyal, strong, and holds her feelings and opinions in until they can't be ignored another minute.  Levi is Emily's knight and shining armor. Levi and Emily's attraction is immediate, and their passion is SUPER-HOT! Tope is strong, silent, and fiercely loyal. He loves Levi enough to give his life for him, and he hates the world Emily lives in enough to go against the grain and fight for what's right. Lorenzo is sick, twisted, and perverted. He's Emily's fiancé as determined by her father and brothers and without her input. Emily's need to get away from the commune has as much to do with getting away from him, as it has to do with anything.  

I can honestly say that I love Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1), its characters, and the chain of events we follow. I hope others feel the same.  In fact, it is all I can do not to begin writing Underground, (Secrets, #2), today. I want to see where Emily's fate takes her and how she's going to handle her next challenge.
*****SYNOPSIS*****
Emily Riddle has lived her entire nineteen years inside a patriarchal commune led by her father and her stepbrothers. There are more rules than she cares to admit, but the most important one, 'keep it in the commune', is the one most difficult for her to abide by... especially since the only people willing to champion her cause live on the outside.

When Emily learns her father and brothers have promised her to Lorenzo, a man she despises down to her core, she rebels. No matter the consequences, she refuses to marry someone who'd rather beat her than caress her.

A day of hooky that starts out as a tiny act of defiance - sneaking out of the commune for a swim - soon turns into the best day of her life. After spending time with Levi, a man camping near the lake, she finds out what true romance looks like and catches a glimpse into a future that's filled with love and admiration rather than hate and submission.

That tiny peek is enough to change the course of Emily's existence and makes it nearly impossible for her to go back to the commune and pretend she will ever be able to tolerate a life chosen for her rather than the life she longs for. One that includes Levi.

Fighting to escape the commune, its leaders, and her fiancé proves to be more dangerous than Emily ever expected. The secrets she knows, as the commune leader's daughter, will either follow her to the grave or send her - and Levi - there.