Interview: The Forged in Dreams and Magick Beta Readers

Hello, everyone!

Today, I have a special treat for you.

The driving reason for my Transparency in Self-Publishing Series over the past four weeks was to share a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the self-publishing process. Much of the information contained in those posts came from my curiosity along my journey and an absence of detailed information elsewhere.

Have you ever had a peek into the minds of beta readers?

No?

Me either.

I’m not sure anyone has ever interviewed their beta readers before, let alone posted the fodder for public consumption. So here is the first ever beta interview! {grins} I hope you enjoy!

First, let me introduce you to my beta readers, beloved friends of mine who love me, and luckily for me, also love to read:

City Beta (Heather) is an avid reader, and she’s also my critique partner. A huge paranormal fan, her favorite books involve those with a bite. ;) We met through a common love of books at a Romance Writers of America function. When I shared the rough story idea of Forged in Dreams and Magick with her at a conference in 2010, she’s the one who said, “That’s the story you need to write.”

Swamp Beta (Misty) is an occasional reader, loving wife, and mother, who is a huge Twilight fan and talented photographer. We “met” online in 2011, and although we’ve never met in person, she’s become one of my closest friends and a fervent supporter of my writing. She beams with pride of being born, raised, and living in the boondocks of the South.

Alpha Beta (Stone) is my real-life alpha. Before reading my stories, he’d never read a romance novel. As you’ll find out below, he’s an action-adventure fan, Clive Cussler being his poison of choice. Since his trial by fire with me, he’s read and enjoyed Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard, Tangled by Emma Chase, and Wallbanger by Alice Clayton. {grins}

What is your favorite genre of Books?

City Beta: My favorite genre of books is paranormal, but I’m an avid reader of all genres. As long as there’s romance, I’ll read it.
Swamp Beta: ~laughs~ Normally I read Christian books like The Shack! But any book that makes me feel better is definitely worth my time!
Alpha Beta: Action-adventure with a bit of romance intertwined…

What was your favorite book as a child?

City Beta: My favorite book as a child was Where the Wild Things Are.
Swamp Beta: Hands down…Return of the Black Stallion. I rented it so much from the library as a child that the librarian finally gave it to me. It was a very old, green colored, hard bound edition!
Alpha Beta: Anything with “Marmaduke” or “Family Circus”…HeHeHe…

Before Forged in Dreams and Magick, had you ever read a Highlander romance? A time-travel romance? What are your thoughts about Forged in Dreams and Magick?

City Beta: Yes, I’ve read many Highlander romances.
Time travel is one of my favorite possibilities in a story, though it is hard to find one written so well.
I loved Forged in Dreams and Magick from the very moment Kat brought up the idea to me.
Swamp Beta: Nope. Guys in skirts never did anything for me. But that was before Forged in Dreams and Magick.
Nope. Time travel normally confuses me so I stay away from them typically.
Well that’s a loaded question. I think I now love guys in kilts, plaid, Highlanders, time travel, and…Cupcakes!
Alpha Beta: Highlander? Um, Nope…
Time-travel romance? Nope. Though I never read the book connected with a time-travel movie I saw decades ago, “Somewhere in Time”, it really moved me then and I remember the depth of the romance today…
What are my thoughts about Forged in Dreams and Magick? Love the story, the way it flows and the depth of characters and how they deeply care for the others within their sphere…

What were your thoughts when Kat asked you to Beta for her?

City Beta: Um, yes. I couldn’t say no to Kat. And besides, fair is fair. I read hers, she reads mine. *grin*
Swamp Beta: Honored doesn’t even begin to cover it. I know how long she has worked on this book. I know how protective she is of this story and how much she wants everyone to enjoy it. I know it was hard for Kat to entrust people to read her raw emotions in this book and be open to feedback. Isn’t that hard for every writer? To bare your soul and pray people love it? So yeah…honored will never cover it but it’s the best the English language can do.
Alpha Beta: Honored!…

What was your favorite scene? Chapter? Sentence?

City Beta: My favorite scene would have to be where Isobel is first transported to Iain.
My favorite chapter is fourteen. Where Isobel meets Velloc, her second soul mate.
My favorite sentence is: “But in the pulse of a heartbeat, the rogue wave of a new paradigm crashed upon the rocky outcropping of my life, scattering accepted principles into a million effervescent bubbles, each one bursting with every thought I’d known to be true.”
Swamp Beta: There is a blanket picnic scene to die for. Alpha Male…letting his alpha-ness (If that’s a word. If not…we just damn well made it one) down and showing the soft and thoughtful side that no one gets to see but the lucky lady! I’m a SUCKER for Alpha Males being brought to their knees!
Alpha Beta:
Favorite Scene = Several!…
Favorite Chapter = Many!…
Favorite Sentence = Lots!…

In one word and one word only, describe Forged in Dreams and Magick. Explain your word, if you’d like.

City Beta: Transcendental.
This book takes you on a journey of faith, love and self-discovery. You cannot ask for anything more in a story.
Swamp Beta: ~mumbles about how impossible this actually is~ Life-Changing (and yes I can use life and changing as one word because I put a “-” in there connecting the two! It’s like duct tape to a Southerner!!!)
Explain? Oh hell yes! Take a seat! You know those love stories that shape our culture and our views of what love -should- or -shouldn’t- look like? Stories like Romeo and Juliet, Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, and even Sleeping with the Enemy (showed us what it shouldn’t look like) all those come to mind. Not to mention The Notebook ~swoons~ All those movies and books leave us wanting for a love like that in our lives. They challenge us to stretch beyond our stereotypes and grow as individuals. Well…that’s what Forged in Dreams and Magick is going to do for those who “allow” it! It is going to challenge the old thinking of having only one soul mate. It’s gonna make you proud to be a woman and pull for a woman who is thrown into a heartbreaking life being torn from those she loves. You’re gonna root for Isobel. Be mad at Isobel at times, but even when you’re mad at her…you’re still proud she didn’t lie down and just give up! In the end…she’s gonna challenge you to be open and love who you are and who you’re with! See? Life…changing!
Alpha Beta: “A-Must-Read!”… Um, is that a word?…

What three words describe your favorite character?

City Beta: Alpha, sensual and leader.
Swamp Beta: Dominant. Feisty (as fuck…and no those don’t count towards my three word limit cause they are in parenthesis… LMAO.) CAPTIVATING. (as in will leave you BEGGING for more of him…UGH!)
Alpha Beta: Don’t have one favorite…

Do you have a clear, favorite character?

City Beta: Yes, but like most books I fall in love with each character will always have a special place in my heart.
Swamp Beta: ~laughs and points to my answer above~ Uh…yeahhhhh
Alpha Beta: Um, Nope…Connected to various characters for their depth…

Who is your favorite character and why?

City Beta: Velloc is my favorite character. I think he meant so much to me because he was the underdog. I always root for the least likely to win the race.
Swamp Beta: I will say this…I have a new found yearning for Cupcakes! Damn! ~fans myself~
Alpha Beta: Um, a favorite in various categories would be easier for me to answer:
Perseverance = Isa
Leadership = Iain
Sacrifice = Velloc
Friendship = Brigid
Calmness = Orion
Primal = Skorpius

What themes run through the story that resonated with you?

City Beta: That love transcends both place and time.
Swamp Beta: Well alpha males ooze out of every scene…almost every page. But the thing I am most “proud” of is the strong, independent females that are a refreshing sight! It’s not your typical “damsel in distress” book. While the damsel is certainly distressed….she can handle herself quite well and it’s in -that- where we watch the Alphas cringe and learn to ~clears my throat~ UP…their…uh…game! ~winks~
Alpha Beta: Love, Fortitude, Destiny, Redemption…

What was the most memorable comment about the book that you made to Kat?

City Beta: “This book is the one. This book is the one you need to write.”
Swamp Beta: Oh Fuck. I have no clue. I imagine it’s something about Cupcakes! But if I know Kat like I do, she remembers and can tell you her favorite! Maybe she should tell you all her favorite quotes we all said! ~laughs~
***Interjection from Kat*** From my texts? Which one? {dies laughing}
“OMFGGGGGGGG! BEST. BOOK. EVER.” OR
“She had Sunshine at her beck and call LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!” OR
“OMFGGGGG I had tears in my eyes!” OR
“Your book…is the ULTIMATE ULTIMATE TEST…to let the woman you love go and be with another? No one has ever portrayed that more beautifully (if they’ve ever attempted at all.)
Alpha Beta: I am amazed I know somebody who can write with this skill, and I reminded her to never let anyone tell her she cannot write…

When, where, and how did you read the book? Like…how quick did we read and what were we doing at the time?

City Beta: This one I really can’t answer. I have read this book by email, by chapter from beginning to end and then back again. Each time the story came to life a little bit more. The characters became more compelling and every word gave the book its breath of life.
Swamp Beta: I was in my vehicle taking a 19 hour…ONE WAY…trip to pick up a Great Dane puppy! Let’s just say it was the best escape POSSIBLE for that trip!
Alpha Beta: Like….how quick did we read and what were we doing at the time? Late in the evenings while lying in bed with my Kindle glowing under the folded edge of the coverings…

What suggestions did you give Kat to improve the story?

City Beta: Show don’t tell! *laughs*
Swamp Beta: Honestly? As far as improving the story itself…I don’t think anything I suggested helped improve the story. Most of mine were mistypes or small places where I might have been confused. But being from the Swamp….that’s a constant state! Kat is accustomed to this! She has this story played out in her mind so beautifully that all my suggestions were mere grammatical.
Alpha Beta: Barely any comments other than a few word addition or changes…

Would you recommend it to others?

City Beta: I would and I have.
Swamp Beta: Yes! But I feel the need to add this small, tiny, itsy bitty, teenie, weenie disclaimer! Any and everything to do with cupcakes…I call DIBS! There…now that -that- is settled! Let’s continue! ~dies laughing~
Alpha Beta: Abso-freakin’-lutely!… Um, Abso-bloody-lutely!… Um, er, Yes!…

Who do you think would best enjoy Forged in Dreams and Magick?

City Beta: Anyone who believes love can conquer all.
Swamp Beta: Anyone who has had sex, who hasn’t had sex, who wants to have sex, who doesn’t wanna have sex (cause after this they will), Oh and…those who love Alpha males, who hate Alpha Males, who have Alpha Males, who wanna have Alpha Males. So basically, any woman who has a pulse. Read it then do all your female friends a favor…and give them Oozing Alpha Males for Christmas presents! ~whispers~ You can even probably find some ribbon in the “Brodie clan colors” and wrap it all nice and neat!!!!
Alpha Beta: Anybody with a heartbeat resonating in their chest who enjoys love, being in love, time-travel, adventure and the power of intertwined hearts accomplishing near-impossible tasks related to survival…

Who is your dream cast for the movie?

City Beta: Can I say Channing Tatum here…please. No, seriously I would love to see Chris Hemsworth as Iain. Jessica Alba for Isobel. As for Velloc…Orlando Bloom or Taylor Lautner.
Swamp Beta: Well Hollywood doesn’t have males like the ones in my mind. But I will volunteer to play the role of Brigid! And I will play that role for free. Just give me my Alpha! #ThatIsAll #LipsAreZipped ~grumbles and crosses my legs squirming~
Alpha Beta: Will have to actually look-up some names versus me saying “that guy/girl in that movie where that thing happened, remember?”…

Okay, my beloved betas, you’e been grilled enough for one interview. Do you have any questions for me?

City Beta: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
The moment I finished my first 100,000 paranormal romance draft in June of 2010, with the unique exhilaration of having created a story flowing hot through my veins, I knew.

City Beta: What is it that draws you to having a Scottish Highlander for a hero?
Due to the rugged Scottish Highland terrain, clan disputes, and invasions over the course of their history, the warriors of their time are the quintessential romantic hero.

City Beta: How did you come up with the title of your book?
Upon several days of reflection, I settled on a rhythmic sounding title that captured the essence of the story. The longer name also enabled it to be unique among book titles, which is advantageous to an author.

City Beta: If you could offer one piece of advice to beginning writers, what would it be?
Relax and have fun with every part of the process. Creativity flows from most easily when we’re in our best frame of mind.

Swamp Beta: Who is your favorite character?
Oh, wow. Each of the characters holds a special place in my heart for different reasons. I love them all!

Swamp Beta: Is there anything you had to omit due to length restrictions that you wish you would have included?
My goal was to fit the enormous story into 100,000 words, while choosing the best words and scenes to reflect emotional depth of the characters and the key parts of the story. The pacing is intentionally kept fast and tight to be an edge-of-your-seat page turner. At the end of the novel, there are a few secrets remaining about our story world and Isobel’s exact role in the bigger scheme of things, but those will be revealed at the appropriate time in the other Highland Legends novels.

Swamp Beta: What was the hardest part of the journey for you? The best part?
The hardest part of the journey was receiving rejection letters from agents and publishers in the industry. I eventually took their passes in stride, because I understand the shift in the industry has compelled them to avoid risk. My novel is not your typical cookie-cutter home run, but instead has a unique edge with a story line never before written. Those rejections led to the best part: my decision to self publish, making the manuscript into The Best Book Possible, and having total control over the timing, marketing, and pricing decisions.

Swamp Beta: What’s the best piece of advice you got from each of your betas?
All three of you gave a similar piece of advice in specific different areas of the novel. You each highlighted sections of confusion, which was key in enabling me to tighten up those scenes. Oh, and City Beta’s mantra to show and not tell! And there was something about a car snorting… {dies laughing}

Alpha Beta: You keep your stories a secret from the betas while you draft and edit. Explain your rational behind the zipped lips.
I want you to enjoy the story as readers. If you don’t know any of the details, the twists and turns are a surprise to you, enabling your spontaneous reactions. Those uninformed responses are vital to me as an author to gauge how a reader would receive the story.

Alpha Beta: What’s next for us as betas and the readers? When will we get more Highland Legends to read?
After the promotion period for Forged in Dreams and Magick (releasing September 23, 2013) and the promotion for Bound by Wish and Mistletoe (releasing November 4, 2013), I’ll begin drafting Born of Mist and Legend. I will start writing in earnest in January, so expect to have a story to beta read around April-May of 2014. I intend to release that novel in the fall of 2014. The final novel will follow a similar schedule in 2015.

Alpha Beta: Who’s your book boyfriend? You can’t name your characters.
Hmmm . . . I don’t have book boyfriends. They all pale in comparison to my alpha. :)  However, primal characters with hidden depth are the most intriguing to me, such as Barrons and Ryoden from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series. I’ve also developed a fondness for the more refined, but oftentimes surly master-of-art-and-seduction, Professor Emerson.

~~~

That’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the minds of my closest friends and beta readers.

12 more days until Forged in Dreams and Magick releases! Mark your calendars for September 23, 2013!

Forged in Dreams and Magick Cover

You can add Forged in Dreams and Magick to your Goodreads to-read shelf here:

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Be sure to follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook, and friend me on Goodreads to catch all of the exciting events coming up with Forged in Dreams and Magick and Bound by Wish and Mistletoe!

Thank you for all your support, my friends. I cannot wait to share my exciting world of Highlanders and magick with you.

Until next time . . .

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Transparency in Self-Publishing: The Perfect Book

Good morning, everyone!

Only 2 weeks until the release of Forged in Dreams and Magick!

Which leads into the fourth installment in my weekly series, Transparency in Self-Publishing: The Perfect Book.

The perfect book?

No such thing.

In fact, my supportive husband keeps highlighting typos from bestselling authors to help calm the anal-retentive perfectionist in me. Because at some point, we have to let the book go to get it published.

But . . . we have a variety of tools available to make our book The Perfect Book, or what should be more accurately described as The Best Book Possible.

After all is said and done, and the publishing button is irrevocably clicked, don’t you want your masterpiece to be well written and grammatically correct?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, our published books are out there forever. They are our immortality. Commit early to your level of quality, and hopefully readers will devour your books for decades and beyond.

Below are various resources that helped me write The Perfect Book The Best Book Possible.

Craft and Conferences

If you’ve been following my posts, you know I first began writing in the spring of 2010. As an escape from my Type-A side. The last thing I wanted to do was learn how to write. Nope. The whole writing thing began as a hobby and outlet for my creativity. And so I simply wrote.

After the draft was finished and an inexperienced edit was done (by me, who knew nothing about editing), I thankfully attended a national RWA conference. And promptly buried myself in every craft and editing workshop I could squeeze into my wrinkled, well-perused schedule. From 8am until 5pm for three days straight, I absorbed myself into all things writing, took copious notes, and realized I still had a lot of writing and editing development to do.

I highly recommend attending workshops at conferences. The caliber of talent at the national RWA conference was unparalleled, sage advice being doled out by bestselling authors and other professional experts in the industry.

Still, my aversion to doing anything too formal and outlined governed my learning tendencies. In keeping with my ruling creative, I only retained one or two nuggets of wisdom from each workshop to help improve my fledgling writing.

Writing Contests

Luckily, one of those workshops happened to be about the benefits of writing contests. I have a post from last year dedicated to the topic in Why Writing Contests Matter, which talks about the benefits, drawbacks, and process. But suffice it to say, writing contests were integral for my moving forward with my writing. Knowing key points that needed improvement, such as eliminating repetitive words, avoiding passive voice, and increasing the emotional depth, helped me hone my early craft.

Was it nice to have them praise me for my strong points? Absolutely. But setting aside my ego in favor of learning valuable lessons to improve my writing was the true benefit.

I strongly recommend them, if for no other reason than to get early opinions about your strengths and weaknesses. Later contests were entered with new material, what’s now known as Forged in Dreams and Magick, and I began to final in several, winning two of them. Although I’m immensely grateful for the awards and the validation they provide, the greatest benefit to me was in knowing how much I’d improved as a writer.

Books and Posts on Writing

As someone who did not want to “learn” about writing in a school-type atmosphere (nuts and bolts are too anal-retentive for me), I did shockingly pick up one or two books. Now, truth be told, I only thumbed through and scanned, seeking the get-it-now golden nuggets of wisdom.

Actually, the very first book I ever read about writing was J. R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide. {laughs} Yes. I am a fan, and it’s mainly about the BDB. But you know what? When I was in the middle of drafting my very first book in the spring of 2010, I read a golden chapter in there entitled “For Writers: Writing Tips, Advice, and the Original Proposal for the Brotherhood.” And then I reread it. As a fledgling writer, it was fascinating to understand the entire process and terminology from draft to published from an author I admired. And one phrase sticks with me as a mantra to this day. “Finish the book.”

Another book whose advice went from thumbed-through pages and into my hungry mind? The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. The absolute two best things I pulled from that book, but there were many others, are the importance of tension and the merits of scene rewriting.

Tension should be everywhere in a good book. If there’s a slow part? If readers (or you) are skimming over something instead of hanging on every word? You are missing tension. In order to create that page-turning, can’t-put-it-down novel, you need emotion and tension woven into each sentence, paragraph, scene, and chapter. Okay. Maybe not every single one. We do want the reader to take a deep breath now and again. But you get the point.

And on the second point, he makes assignments to the readers that involve rewriting scenes. After the internal groaning ended over how long it took me to create the coveted scene in the first place, I realized the exercise creates a talented skill. Soon after, I read a post by Karen Marie Moning (another amazing author I admire) about how she often writes a scene from several different perspectives until one feels so right, she knows she nailed it. Well, hell. If Moning sees value in such massive scene rewrites, so do I. Embrace your inner editor!

Beta Readers

Beta readers are invaluable in the writing process. Usually trusted friends, they are willing to read your manuscript for free and give you their opinion. Done prior to editing, their main role is to find slow areas, missing elements that should be there, or unnecessary inclusions. Ask them to tell you if it sucks. And where. And why. If you insist upon this brazen honesty and can take the brutal truth, your writing and story will be all the better for their invaluable feedback.

You can read more about the topic in my post from January of this year, Beloved Beta Readers.

In my humble opinion, beta readers are a key element in the writing process and an integral part of any writers team.

And keep an eye out this Wednesday! I’m sharing a behind-the-scenes look into my team in The Beta Reader Interview. :)

Online Workshops

This spring, about a month before I sent Forged in Dreams and Magick to my editor, I took an editing workshop. Yes. You read that correctly. Unfortunately, I’m unable to leash my anal-retentive side everywhere. Hey, perfectionism is a valuable asset! So I allowed the overkill to occur.

And you know what? I’m SO glad I took that editing workshop.

The professional-editor instructor reinforced things I already knew and introduced techniques I hadn’t considered on my own. I swept through the manuscript and employed all the new nuggets of wisdom I’d gleaned before I sent it off to my editor.

The result? She said mine was the most polished manuscript she’d ever received. Did I take that as an ego boost? Nope. My extra diligence helped to make the product the readers will hold in their hands The Best Book Possible, which is all that matters to me.

The Price and Value of Editors

A strong reason for doing the Transparency in Self-Publishing series is to help writers understand more of the self-publishing process than I did when embarking upon it. Editing is no exception.

Editing is EXPENSIVE.

There. I hope that saves you from the heart-stuttering sticker shock I had. My editor sensed my unpreparedness and blessedly broke the news to me gently, but I gasped for air nonetheless. And researcher me should have known, as pricing is easy to find online. You will also find that pricing and experience varies significantly. After the sticker shock wore off, I vetted my choices carefully, asking for references and speaking to said references before shelling out the wad of cash for the much-needed service.

How expensive? Well, I was initially thinking $500-1000 for my 100,000 word novel. Perhaps, I’d read an article or two on book lengths of 50,000-70,000 words and hadn’t paid close attention. I truly hadn’t paid much attention at all and just had a lower-than-reality ballpark figure in my head. The cost for the developmental and copy edits was $1,750 for my 100,000 words. That didn’t include proofreading or formatting.

Lucky for me, we had a savings account to dip into. From there, proofreading and formatting seemed a bargain at around $400.

The value of the edits? PRICELESS.

I can’t underscore enough the incredible benefit gained from good editing and proofreading. Sure, they caught every typo and proper hyphen usage I’d missed. And I’m apparently the queen of dangling modifier, emdashes, and ellipses. But even greater than all of those corrections? The continuity issues, plot holes, historical inaccuracies, and conflict issues that were captured and corrected.

Every item corrected through the editing process keeps the reader out of grammar-groaning mode. Instead, they get lost in your engaging story, exactly where you want them to be.

How Much Editing is Enough?

Edits need to happen until you have The Best Story Possible.

I imagine the need varies from writer to writer. Anal-retentive me believes the story should be in the best condition possible prior to every stage.

My beta readers deserved to read a sufficiently edited version. Prior to sending to the professional editor, I swept through the story once on my PC with beta-reader suggestions and a second time on my Kindle. Prior to the proofreader? Yours truly proofread my copy edit changes again on my Kindle, reading every single word of the manuscript from the first page to the last.

A side note here: I find reading the manuscript on my Kindle to be invaluable. I catch many typographical errors and reading-flow issues on my Kindle, and believe reading the manuscript on an e-reader helps our eye catch more flaws.

Why go through all the time and effort of reading through before each professional stage? Isn’t that what they’re paid to do?

Well, that baby is MY manuscript. Anything I can do to polish it to shine, I’m willing to do. No matter the time or effort necessary. If each team member has the manuscript in the best condition possible, then they can make it even better.

As a well-qualified and hard-working team, we publish The Best Book Possible.

~~~

Thank you for joining me for the Transparency in Self-Publishing Series! More on many of the topics can be found in my posts in the Writing Tidbits category, including Seducing Your Story ~ The Magic of Editing

I’ll likely add more posts to this series in the near future, perhaps one on budgeting and another on publishing decisions. Let me know if there is a fresh topic you’d like to see here or one you want expanded upon.

~~~

Also, please mark your calendars for the upcoming posts and events:

9/11 – The Beta Readers’ Interview
9/16 – Forged in Dreams and Magick promotion event begins (organized by AToMR Tours) *
9/21 – Forged in Dreams and Magick launch party hosted by Bookish Temptations (begins 7pm EST on blog and Twitter)
9/23 – Forged in Dreams and Magick RELEASE DAY!
9/23 – ARC Review Tour begins and promotion event continues (through 9/28)

* Any bloggers interested in signing up for the promotion event can still do so by clicking on Forged in Dreams and Magick AToMR Tour link here. Sign-ups for the promotion event will remain active until 9/25. Although the Review Tour portion of the promotion is now closed, reviewers can still obtain review copies either by contacting me through my Kat’s Connections page or by requesting a copy from NetGalley.

A huge thank you to everyone posting the wonderful early reviews of Forged in Dreams and Magick on Goodreads. I greatly appreciate each of you for taking the time to read and review the book. That so many of you love the story and are raving about the writing means the world to me, especially given the effort taken to write the best book possible. I’m incredibly grateful and truly honored.

I shall endeavor to write many more of the best books possible for you to read in the months and years to come.

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Transparency in Self-Publishing Series: Marketing

Good morning, everyone!

3 weeks until the release of Forged in Dreams and Magick! {{{vibrates}}}

Okay, on to the actual post. What?
That was a stellar marketing plug. ;)

Today’s post should truly be entitled “Author Platform, Social Media, and Promotion. Oh. My.”

Last week in my Transparency in Self-Publishing Series, I talked about the fourth, but no less important, element in the components of a successful book, The Price of a Book. Those elements in a nutshell are a great story, compelling description, eye-catching cover, sweet-spot price.

There is, however, a fifth element:

Marketing.

In The Price of a Book, when I referenced the college class taken the last semester of obtaining my BSBA, I neglected to mention the emphasis of my study. I had no idea at eighteen what I wanted to do with my life, but I had a natural inclination toward business. At that tender age, I knew myself very well and accurately guessed my Type-A side would purr like a kitten with business. But what about the creative within me? It may have taken me another twenty-plus years to finally let the author prowling within me out of her cage, but I listened to the vibrations deep in my heart even back then.

So it should come as no surprise to any of you what major I chose.

Marketing.

To say I’ve been thinking of marketing ever since I’ve been writing would be inaccurate. Observing how anything is brought to a consumer in a target market is something I’ve done intrinsically for decades. Only when I’d finished the draft of my manuscript, and had something to sell that a reader might actually be interested in, did I let my attention drift toward marketing in the book industry.

I’m no expert. In fact, on an interview last month with Debra at Words from across the Ocean I shared my motto. Formulated on the powder-covered slopes of a ski run, but deeply branded as the underlying philosophy to my life, it’s a phrase I repeat to myself often:

Always the student, seeking to master.

As someone constantly learning and evolving, below are marketing nuggets of thought and insight I’ve discovered along the journey thus far . . .

Write It and They Will Come

Can you just slap your book up onto Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo the moment the ink dries on the page? Sure.

The more important question is . . . should you?

Well, if you subscribe to the “if you build it, they will come” Field of Dreams notion , I hope you’ve erected a shining new baseball field in the middle of a spiritual cornfield gateway.

Not sure? Pray for a miracle then. Or keep reading . . .

Ethics in Marketing

One enormous issue I had in my marketing classes involved the ethics of marketing. I’m sure it had a heavy hand in my choice NOT to take a job in marketing or sales.

To be a master in marketing, you must convince a consumer who had no idea about your product that they need your product and want to buy your product, whether or not they actually do. That my friends, is Marketing 101.

The crass way it’s looked at in business is underscored by a phrase I heard later from a co-worker who said she knew she’d done her job right when she could “tell someone to go to hell and make them look forward to the ride.”

Further underlining the success of marketing in our society is the dumbed-down commercials on television. Although we mostly mute them now, whenever a marketer has chosen to emulate idiots as consumers, I always say to my husband, “Gee, I wonder who their target market is.” It sure as hell wasn’t us!

In case you hadn’t picked up on my brief soap-box sidetrack with derision-filled undertones, I don’t subscribe to those notions . . .

Your Book as a Product to Sell

Instead of hawking something you don’t believe in, create an item of worth before you ever think of selling it.

Let me repeat that.

Create an item of worth.

I could be soap-boxing it again, but the point is valid. The book industry is crowded with lots of authors churning out books to make a dollar. It’s fueled by success stories of those who slapped together a book filled with bad grammar, poor editing, and thrown out there, but lucky them, its subject matter is so HOT it sells like a new shipment of Cabbage Patch kids days before Christmas in 1983 to a pack of rabid wolves.

If your ear is to the ground on Goodreads and Twitter, it’s happening in real time. Readers describe these successful and addictive books as literary crack.

But if you’ve paid attention to any get-rich-quick scheme, they are short lived. The consumer moves on when the novelty wears off. Readers are no different. Grumblings of reader dissatisfaction are happening right now on Goodreads and Twitter. Bloggers are tired of reading the same old story regurgitated a billion . . . {coughs} . . . different ways. Fifty might just be their limit. ;)

Even so, reader frenzy is at an all time high. They are hungry and wanting the next great read. But in a field of new authors all wanting some of the money pouring out of the progressive slot machines, how will your book get noticed?

I have no crystal ball for you, my friends. All I can share with you is my belief.

When you put yourself out there, it’s forever. You’ve immortalized your words. When you pull forth something from the depths of your heart and soul, take the time to make the package you present to the world reflective of your work of art.

I believe writing is our immortality.

And with that thought in mind, if you hadn’t already picked up on my message, I will say again to all you authors out there, coming from not only an author, but from a reader who is looking for your book . . .

Create an item of worth.

Where, When and What to Start Marketing

Everywhere, early, and you are the correct answers.

Marketing begins within your spheres of influence. It’s all in who you know, your reach. That, my friends, is your author platform.

But with the advent of social media, our potential reach is astronomical. As I’m only one person, I started out with one social media platform at a time. Just over a year ago, I joined Twitter. A few months later, I created my Facebook author page and my TalkToTheShoe blog. At the end of last year, I joined Goodreads. Each platform has it’s nuances, and I’m still learning on both Facebook and Goodreads, but if you spend smart time there forming connections and reaching readers, the efforts you put forth will reap benefits in the long run.

With all good things, however, there are limits. We only have so much time as a writer. As a fledgling self-publishing writer, you wear all the hats. Be sure to allot plenty of time to get it all done. Don’t be in a hurry to have it all now. Lasting connections take time to grow. Give yourself all the time needed to plant a healthy garden, and the seeds you sow will flourish.

Here’s a little nugget for you, though. You aren’t marketing a book. You’re marketing a brand.

What is brand and when do you begin marketing it?

Your brand is who you are. It’s definable and oftentimes indefinable. Brand is everything you put out there about yourself. It includes your image, your product, your beliefs and ideals. Your brand is how you represent yourself to the public and to your market. Your brand actually creates your market, because it draws people in to you. Those who like who you are and how you represent yourself. Consumers who share similar likes and beliefs. Readers who absorb every word you say, because your writing touches their soul.

Brand takes a while to create. Be true to yourself, express who you are and how you want to portray yourself, and your brand will shine through.

My brand is that I’m an award-winning paranormal romance author. My bio shares that I’m a “poetic warrior” and I donate proceeds of the sales of my books to charities that fight human trafficking. My shoe avatar is my public “visual” image; people recognize my shoe everywhere I go: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, my blog, comments on other blogs. A blogger friend of mine shared that when she was talking about me to her husband, he said, “The Shoe Girl” in identifying me. Yep. That’s me. Mission accomplished.

As you can see, opportunities abound to connect with others and present ourselves to our future readers. Start early and lay foundations. When you finally bring the book to market, you will have made wonderful friends, connected with great supporters, and gained faithful readers who can’t wait to read your upcoming books.

Social Media and How to Correctly Use It

Every social media platform is different. I think how you use each depends on what you want to say and how you can say it there.

Twitter

Twitter is a real-time interaction tool. It’s your fifteen seconds of fame. And in that fleeting moment when you’re trying to express yourself, if your followers don’t see you, you’re gone. Right?

Well, almost . . .

I’m dedicating an entire section on Twitter here, because there are smart ways to use the platform, and unfortunately, too many authors fall into the wrong ways.

Don’t abuse Twitter.

Twitter is the most amazing interactive social-media platform. Seconds after posting a Tweet, someone can talk back to you. You can have a conversation. If you’re lucky, like me, you make wonderful friends. Daily.

You won’t make friends on Twitter if you hawk your wares like a cheap booth vendor at a carnival. Vying for attention by blaring in an egotistic manner to “buy my book” will get you unfollowed. Fast. DM automated links to new followers to see your website (which sells your book)? Yep. Unfollowed. Schedule automated Tweets every few hours with links to where your book can be bought? Yep. Unfollowed.

The above described Twitter behavior is actually defined by Twitter as spam and can get your account suspended. Links in every Tweet and RTs only of people who have links in their Tweets? Also become spam from you when you’re RTing it on your timeline.

Have you ever heard of the term “flier blind”? When everyone pins bright flyers up on the bulletin board, soon people walking by stop seeing the flyers.

Your spammish buy-my-book Tweets are annoyingly bright flyers and your followers stopped paying attention the moment you posted your first one. And second one. And they unfollowed on the third one, if not sooner.

Engage on Twitter

Talk to people on Twitter. Tweet interesting or funny things about yourself. Engage others into conversation.

{whispers} Make sure everything you Tweet is in line with that “brand” thing we talked about earlier. No one wants to hear about your bathroom habits unless what you’re selling is something greater than Charmin, and you simply must describe its softness. But seriously, use your personal filters, people.

Speaking for the naturally shy crowd, I know from experience how hard it is to engage people on Twitter. It’s so much easier to wait for people to talk to you. Sometimes I catch myself lurking or talking without engaging. When I realize my shyness is ruling my Twitter behavior, I push myself to step outside of my comfort zone and talk to people on my timeline.

Do some people never talk back to me when I put my tender heart out there to speak to them? Sure. But many others do respond. When I reach out, I often express myself through humor, charm, or a caring sentiment, and I find being true to myself pulls others into conversation.

Sell Your Book Softly

Even with my marketing degree, I’m still uncomfortable “selling” my book. Perhaps it stems from the moral dilemma I had back in college of “convincing” someone to buy something they hadn’t known they needed. Even though I want them to discover my book and realize they needed it all along, they just had no idea until they stumbled across my masterpiece. :)

In looking for the best way to use Twitter to sell your book, what I’ve learned from reading articles and watching the behavior of best-selling authors is that selling your book softly results in many people taking notice.

How do you sell your book softly?

Talk about your book occasionally and mention it in intriguing ways to your followers. Use the RT feature to tout what others are saying about your book.

When you get a great review, share it with your followers. But do so only once or twice in any given day with the same review.

The rest of your Twitter timeline should be filled with you engaging your followers. When you use Twitter to truly connect with your followers, the rewards of building lasting relationships on Twitter’s real-time platform will grow exponentially and eventually transform into buzz about your book.

Blogging and Facebook

My blog, Facebook, and Goodreads are the only other social media I’ve ventured into and will likely be the only places I go.

Why am I limiting myself to only four social media platforms?

Because I’m an author, and writing is what I want to focus the majority of my time on.

I’m also a Type-A perfectionist who seems inclined toward obsessive-compulsive behaviors when it comes to social media. The tendency manifests itself into adult ADD of the worst kind.

Sound familiar? Before you know it, you only meant to be on social media for ten minutes, and by the time you made the rounds, it turned into two hours.

Yeah. So I try to blog once a week. Try to go to Facebook once a week to post that blog and reply to comments.

Goodreads? Well, that, my friends, is an entirely different matter. Goodreads is the newest frontier to me on social media . . .

Goodreads

I’m still learning the ropes over at Goodreads, but I’m liking very much what I’m experiencing over there. Goodreads is a mecca of a reading community where you can connect with other readers. In real time!

Goodreads seems very promising if used in an engaging manner to find readers with similar interest as yours.

So far on the marketing front, I’ve run a giveaway on Goodreads for signed copies my book of romantic poetry for charity, Utterly Loved. I’m now running a giveaway for signed copies of Forged in Dreams and Magick and intend to run one for Bound by Wish and Mistletoe starting later this week.

In addition to the giveaways, Goodreads has a nice “event” feature to broadcast to selected friends, or all of your friends, upcoming events such as cover reveals, blog tours, signings and releases.

Finally, and I can’t believe I have to say it again, Goodreads is a reading community, so be sure to engage people. Like their reviews. Comment on their postings.

What not to do? Send a message to a new friend that accepted that says “buy my book.”

Yep. I kid you not, happened to me a few days ago. As I’m carefully selecting and requesting friends who read and love the same books I read and love, I get a friend request from a male author. Seconds after I accept, I get a message from him that says “buy my book” in great detail and at exhaustive length. Baited, and unable to let it go, I engaged him in a conversation which resulted in him admitting that he doesn’t read in my genre and I don’t read in his. It wasted both of our time, and I unfriended him at the end of that conversation. We had nothing in common. Not even our marketing approach.

I’m no expert, but I am a consumer. I am a reader. I will respect my fellow readers on Goodreads. I’m there to share and talk with others about books I love to read with readers who love to read the same genres of books.

Am I going to let all of my Goodreads friends know when I release my debut book in three weeks? Absolutely. Will I let my blogger friends know when my holiday novella also goes up on NetGalley or when the promotional and ARC tour opens for the holiday novella? You bet I am. But as I’m only releasing two books this year, and the third not for another year, my event announcements will be rare and only done when appropriate.

Again, I’m a big proponent in selling your book softly.

Book Tours, Book Reviewers, and NetGalley

Four to six months (or earlier) before your expected book release, schedule a promotion and ARC review blog tour. Choose a tour company who has a large reach to the reading market you’re targeting. Having an expert handle the connections for you, and their instructing you on how you can help them help you, is worth every penny an expert tour company charges.

Once you secure a blog tour, reach out to other bloggers and book reviewers who might not participate in blog tours, or might not have noticed the tour invitation email. They may want to participate in the tour (I had many who decided to sign up for an AToMR Tour for the very first time because of my direct contact) or they may want to review the book directly. Either way, after you’ve carefully read a blogger’s review policy and tailored a contact specifically for them, even if they don’t accept your ARC for review right away, they will now be aware of your book for the future.

NetGalley is a surprising find. After checking with a couple of blogger friends on how they use NetGalley, I bit the experimental bullet and paid $399 for a single-title placement in their catalog with surprising results. My book has now been requested by over 100 reviewers, media professionals, booksellers, educators, and librarians. I’m still getting requests daily. But the gold-mine result to me is the reviews that are already on Goodreads because I chose to place my title on NetGalley. The continued exposure I receive by having it on NetGalley for its six month period more than pays for itself in marketing dividends.

For an additional $50 per title, I’ve also chosen to place both upcoming titles, Forged in Dreams and Magick and Bound by Wish and Mistletoe, in NetGalley’s Roundup email, which will feature about ten titles and be sent to all of its 93,000+ members.

KDP Select or Not?

The choice to become involved in KDP Select or not is a greater discussion than bears relevance within this marketing article. I am, however, making mention of the choice here, because the choice IS a marketing decision. It is also a distribution decision, a pricing decision, and an entire whole-business decision that I think should not be taken lightly or without great research and thought.

Just like with my decision about price having the reader in mind from the very beginning, so should your marketing. That said, KDP is a decision about your reader. It is making the decision about who gets to read your book, or more importantly who does not.

What the heck is KDP Select? Yes. Perhaps I should back up a second and insert an unbiased, but summarized and therefore understandable, definition here.

KDP Select is a feature a self-publishing author is offered on KDP when publishing their ebook. Amazon’s KDP lures the self-published author to their KDP Select program with the promise of a share of a pool of cash entitled the KDP Select Global Fund, which is $1.1 million for September 2013, when readers borrow books from their lending library. Plus they entice the author by offering to make the book available for free to readers for a limited time, which is a marketing tactic in and of itself. KDP also sells the author on having an expanded reach by distributing your books through their lending library.

Is there a catch? You bet. And it’s a costly one. You agree to exclusivity with Amazon’s KDP Select for your ebook for a period of 90 days.

Is that of benefit to you or your potential global readers? No.

Do you realize that Amazon holds approximately 60% of the market in reader purchases? That other 40% is an enormous slice of readership pie.

The methods some authors use with regard to the free feature vary, and I suppose may work for some authors, but at what cost to benefit ratio?

I’m going to end my discussion about the Select program here, because articles about the KDP feature abound if you look for them. My research on the subject existed mainly because I couldn’t understand why anyone would exclude a reader base. Surely the dollars they receive vastly outweighed the readers lost, right?

I couldn’t tell you. There was no definitive answer. In fact, some of the authors who addressed the reader exclusion called it a trade-off, but seemed to be relatively satisfied with their monetary results.

Ultimately, I believe I read those articles with a biased eye. When I keep the reader in mind with both price and marketing, I mean all readers. Although my mindset pertains to Kindle readers, as well it should with their lion’s share of the market, it also includes the equally important readers of Nooks, Kobos, Sony, and Apple and other tablet products. They make up 40% of the readership. If you exclude such a large share of people, especially when you’re making the first impression of releasing your book, you’ve limited your potential readership by sheer definition.

My opinion on KDP Select? It benefits KDP.

Marketing into the Release

Come along with me on the final journey into the upcoming release week and beyond . . .

Today marks exactly 3 weeks until the release of my award-winning debut in the Highland Legends Series, Forged in Dreams and Magick.

The marketing foundation has been laid. Lasting social connections have been made and are continuing to spark anew. A promotion event and ARC tour is scheduled. ARC copies have been sent to reviewers. Early reviews are posting on Goodreads, and thankfully they’re coming back in the 4, 4.5 and 5 star range. Reviewer requests for ARC copies that continue to come by email and on NetGalley are still being accepted and fulfilled.

Interviews, guest posts, and promotional posts are being written over the next few weeks, and I’m softly touting those reviews on Twitter in addition to supporting other authors and laughing and chatting with friends, readers and new followers.

In two weeks, the promotion event begins, with bloggers sharing carefully chosen excerpts, interviews, and a guest post or two. Copies of books will be given away.

I plan to visit every participating blog to comment and/or RT their post on Twitter, thanking them for their support and sharing in their excitement.

During the release week, while the ARC review tour is happening, I plan to comment on their blogs and thank them for their time in reading and reviewing the book.

Everywhere I can, my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, I plan to comment, laugh, celebrate and commiserate right alongside my readers.

I write for the love of writing, but every decision I’ve made along the road to publishing has been with the reader in mind, and I intend to be and remain as connected to my readers as possible.

Also, mark your calendars! A special book launch party will happen on both Twitter and on a beloved blog, who has been a fervent supporter from my very first blog posts. I hope you join me for the upcoming event hosted by Bookish Temptations, scheduled Saturday, September 21st, 2013 at 7pm EST. Stay tuned for more details!

My husband reminded me to slow down and enjoy the promotion and launch of my first book, as it only happens once. Enormous gratitude to all of you for enjoying the incredible once-in-a-lifetime journey with me.

I hope you enjoyed today’s foray into marketing.

Do you have any thoughts or comments with regard to book marketing? What elements do you enjoy as an author or reader?

Thank you all for your continued support. Until next time . . .

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Transparency in Self-Publishing Series: The Price of a Book

Good morning, everyone!

Today marks exactly four weeks until the release of Forged in Dreams and Magick, and it’s the perfect time to talk about a very important book-publishing decision.

The price of a book.

Do authors take this decision lightly? Is it arbitrary? Are there blindfolds and dart boards involved?

Not in my world.

There are many components of creating a book, and each one deserves proper attention with research and sound reasoning. While I spent my time over the last year writing and researching, I read along the way from many sources that the four most important elements of a successful book are the story, book description, cover, and price.

Although price is listed last in the list, I centered my attention around price earlier this year. Before I sent the story off to the editor. Before I had polished the book description. Before I had begun to research cover designers.

That is just how important the price of a book is to me. I’ll share with you why, what I found, and what I decided.

Best Price Picture from Shutterstock

Price in a Business Model

I suppose to be perfectly honest, I’d been researching price about twenty years ago. In my last year of obtaining a BSBA, we took a required course on business operations.

The entire semester was a rather unorthodox. The mission? Simple. Be the best team of six in selling widgets. (Yes, I kid you not. Widgets.) First place went to the company who made the most net profit.

We spent very little time in the classroom and an enormous amount of time in a computer lab with archaic machines (even for that time) blinking white cursors at us on black screens. Planning and strategy meetings were held in the business school lounge and the student union.

Of course, my team had to have two fashion divas on it {coughs}, so we ensured our widget was a luxury widget. There might (or might not) have been spying on the other teams to be sure that our widget was the highest-priced, highest-quality widget. {hides my mission impossible gear}

Now, we knew we had our work cut out for us. It only stood to reason that a well-run company with a low-priced product would sell well all on its own. The masses could afford the lowest price widget even if their product quality was sub-par. Our challenge was to compensate for our high price with the best strategy possible. From our budget, we apportioned a great amount of money to developing the best product. We spent the appropriate amount of money into distribution to reach those customers we were targeting. And we spent a large amount of money on marketing.

Miraculously, we came in second. I say miraculously, because in our bravado of thinking we could come out on top even though we’d emulated what every elite brand worldwide had ever done, we’d guessed wrong. Our thinking was flawed.

Guess who won first place in the semester? Who was always destined to win first place? The lowest-priced widget. The entire semester was designed to teach us all that nugget of information.

Aha! So, does that mean the lowest priced book will always make an author the most money possible?

Not exactly, my friends.

Keep reading . . .

Imputed Value

My research earlier this year on price and marketing included reading every article I could find from all sources, but mostly included self-publishing authors, Digital Book World, Publisher’s Weekly, The Huffington Post, Forbes, and the most important and ongoing one of all . . . diligent weekly scanning of the Amazon Best Sellers lists and an occasional glance at the New York Times Best Sellers list.

I first read about Imputed Value in Elle Lothlorien’s fabulous guest post on Joe Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: Why Your Novel is a Tall, 6-Pump Vanilla, Breve Latte Grande, Extra Hot, Heavy Whipping Cream, Extra Dry Cappuccino (Or It Should Be).

Well, hell. If any of you have read Forged in Dreams and Magick’s early reviews on Goodreads, my book IS all that.

Tall? An alpha-male buffet.

Extra hot? Oh, the scorching, emotionally charged sex scenes . . .

Ooops . . . I digressed.

Lothlorien’s article beautifully illustrates the importance of price from the concept of the inherent value of the item. In other words, a higher price will command more attention simply because it’s perceived to have greater worth.

The college student in me flared to life, and I saw that she was on to something. But with that fashion-diva, second-place win under my education belt, I felt further research, thought, and study were in order.

Considering the Reader

In the fledgling stages of my consideration of book pricing, my first thoughts have been to the reader. The future buyers of my books have been a major factor in consideration of price all along.

That’s right. Ahead of my lining my pocket, I’m thinking of how the reader will be able to afford my book. I think it should be an important consideration of every single author.

I am that reader too.

I’m the reader who is so in love with her husband that when he argued against buying Clive Cussler’s latest release because it cost $12.99, I confiscated his Kindle and downloaded it as my “gift” to him.

I’m the reader who is so addicted to Karen Marie Moning’s writing, I wait on the edge of my seat for her new release and swallow the hard pill of the $14.99 Kindle price to be able to read it immediately.

I’m the reader who just discovered Nalini Singh’s incredible writing in her Psy/Changeling Series who blinks hard every time I download the next book in her already twelve-book series, each one at the Kindle cost of $7.99. You do the math. {hears my credit card groan}

Who decides those outrageously high prices?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the authors.

Publishers decide what you will pay for their books. More on publishers in just a moment . . .

In considering the reader, I’ve made a lot of decisions. Because I chose to self publish, I was able to have total control over the process: I wrote the best story possible by running it through several rounds of my own deep edits before my beta readers ever had the chance to give their opinion. I created the best book possible by hiring a professional editor, a professional proofreader, and a professional to do the formatting. I created the best cover possible by hiring a design professional known to create spectacular covers.

When putting the reader first with regard to price, I did not consider the writing hours logged in the over two years it took to write, edit, and promote the book. I did not consider the awards the book has garnered. I am not considering the early rave reviews the book is receiving.

Why? Because the fact that I could charge more for the book makes no difference to me. I want to ensure that readers can buy something of quality for a low price.

They are making the important decision to buy my book, and I want readers who do so to be glad they made the choice in every way.

A final consideration to the reader, which I felt was an important one, is the great amount of savings I realize in the book’s price versus net by being a self-published author. Rather than pocket those savings myself, my intention the entire time has always been to pass those savings on to the reader.

The Department of Justice: Apple, Publishers, and the Price-fixing Case

If you’re a writer, reader, or book blogger, and you haven’t caught wind of the Department of Justice cracking down against Apple and the big five publishers in Apple’s attempt to gain a competitive (and illegal) advantage over Amazon, visit this article and press release on Digital Book World: Department of Justice Wins Antitrust Suit Against Apple. I hope you take the time to read the article. It’s eye-opening.

The decisions of heavyweights in the industry affect the consumer. Us. The readers.

A snippet from the article’s included press release:

““As the department’s litigation team established at trial, Apple executives hoped to ensure that its e-book business would be free from retail price competition, causing consumers throughout the country to pay higher prices for many e-books. The evidence showed that the prices of the conspiring publishers’ e-books increased by an average of 18 percent as a result of the collusive effort led by Apple.”

Don’t despair! Digital Book World also has another fabulous article: Why Ebook Best-Seller Prices Will Continue to Decrease.

Did you happen to catch the last reason listed? {smiles slowly} . . . “3. The rise of self-publishing.”

MmmHmmm . . .

Best Seller Lists

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been scanning the Amazon Best Sellers lists and occasionally glancing at the New York Times Best Sellers list. I say occasional, because I only jumped over there a half a dozen times out of curiosity to see how staying power at the top spots in Amazon’s list translated into placement on the New York Times list.

What did I learn? What can any of you learn?

What I learned is that class in college taught me well. And keeping a watchful eye those lists, I continued to be a very diligent student.

I only watched a hand full of genre lists on Amazon. Namely those categories where my book would be listed, those categories of other books I read, and the hottest best sellers. Those include, under the category of romance: time travel, fantasy and futuristic, erotic, contemporary, and under the category of literature and fiction’s genre fiction: action adventure and coming of age.

(By the way, choosing categories is an entirely different research topic that came to light by watching those lists. I’ll likely share my findings on category selection in an upcoming Transparency in Self-Publishing Series post.)

By watching the lists on a daily or sometimes weekly basis, I learned something very valuable. Most of the time, the top of the list was dominated by books priced $3.99 or under. Any time a well-known best-selling author released a book, it sometimes rose to the top to take the number one spot in its category. If it did, it didn’t stay there long. Lower priced books edged out higher priced books. Those lower priced books, held their spots the longest.

In fact, as I’m typing this post at 10am EST on August 26, 2013, in the romance category, only two titles are greater than $4.99: Risky Business by Nora Roberts is at #13 priced at $5.38 and Burn by Maya Banks is #19 priced at $8.89.

The rest of the titles break out as follows:

8 at $ .99
5 at $3.99
2 at $4.99
2 at $2.99
1 at $1.99

If you watch those lists as I have, you see the same trend happen over and over again.

In the world of price, where the almighty dollar is king, the customers are speaking with power. The cream, as chosen by the reading public, floats to the top. The heavy-priced, even best-selling titles, sink.

The Best Price for a Book

There is no magic price for a book that guarantees the book’s success. Big publishers have been searching for years for the perfect recipe for a best seller, but they haven’t found it yet. Various elements increase the odds of a book’s success. My opinion is that after you write the best story possible, create the most compelling book description, and design an eye-catching book cover, price is the next most important element and carries a large amount of influence, perhaps equal or marginally greater in weight to a reader than each the other three to a debut author, a self-published author, or even a best-selling author.

I say equal or marginally greater influence, because cost is dictating purchasing behavior by readers. I see it on my Twitter timeline. Some are balking at $8.99. Some draw the line at $5.99. Many buy so many books, they have only a few of their favorite authors on auto-buy above $3.99.

Remember when I mentioned that I wanted to pass my cost savings on to the reader? Let me walk you through what I meant by that:

If I went through a big-five publisher at $9.99, it would only net me $.99 at the traditional 10%.

That’s right, 10% on the old-school contracts with publishers. (Now I heard some authors are fighting for 50% of digital sales. But most are losing. I’ve read the most business savvy are striking deals in the 30-35% range. Let’s be generous and assume 30%.) That brings the net to an author up to $3.00. Yay! Don’t celebrate yet. In most circumstances, agents serve as gatekeepers into the big publishers. They take 15%. So now we’re down to $2.55 net profit. before costs and taxes.

Well, guess what?

If I price my book at $3.99, at Amazon, I make about 70% of my list price, which is $2.79.
At Barnes and Noble the royalty is 65%, which at $3.99 makes me $2.59.
Both are equal to or greater than the net I would make at a big publishing house.

That calculation, and the fact that I wanted to pass the self-publishing savings on to my readers, swayed my decision to price at $3.99.

But then, I saw an article that set in stone the decision. The article, New Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More Ebooks by Mark Coker, is a gold mine of information for us price-researching types. In particular, I love the yield graph results described in #6 and their closer look at it in #7:

“I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It’s possible I’m being too conservative.”

The gist of the entire article, however, demonstrates the point made by my wise instructor so many years ago in college.

{smiles slowly}

You can have the best book, the best description, the best cover, and the best marketing. But only if you have it priced low enough for the greatest amount of readers to buy it, will your book sell well.

Quality AND Low Price

Both quality and low price equals value to a consumer in any product or service. It means we the buyer are getting a good deal.

Please remember the value you receive when buying well-written books at low prices. In fact, write a great review of the books that you discover and love. Your taking the time to do so, helps in each book’s success. Which helps authors keep those book prices down. Which, in turn, helps readers to be able to afford to buy more books. And so on . . .

Eventually, as we celebrate and exercise the power we as readers and self-published authors have in our buying power, the book industry will take notice. They will realize that it’s not in raising prices for them to win that is key.

It’s in lowering prices so that everyone wins that is the most important pricing decision of all.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my foray into The Price of a Book.

Let me know what you think!

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Transparency in Self-Publishing Series: Extraordinary Book Bloggers

Wow. I am overwhelmed with how amazing the welcoming group of book bloggers (and reviewers) are.

I don’t even know where to begin with the gratitude I feel toward such a generous breed, but like all good stories, the beginning is usually a good place to start.

An Incorrect Prediction

The past is not always an accurate predictor of the future.

At the writing conferences I attended in 2010 and 2011, several workshops on social media wrinkled their noses at blogging. Back then, apparently something I’d not even become familiar with had already run its course. The prediction and advice with regard to an author blogging was: don’t bother.

Blogging was old hat. Not beneficial for an author’s career. A waste of time and effort.

Boy, have things changed. Rapidly.

Thankfully, I chose to look beyond the dated advice of a few and created my own blog in July of 2012. Meant to be a means for sharing publishing adventures and news about my upcoming books, it has grown into an opportunity to reach readers, other bloggers, and make connections and friends.

Fast Forward to Present day

Book blogging today has become a vast network of readers and reviewers connected by one thing . . . a love of books.

A vibrant community of book bloggers has blossomed, flourished, and continues to grow. Not only are book bloggers a trusted source of reviews and book recommendations for readers (and us authors who love to read), for many readers, book bloggers are the only source of recommendations for both self-published and traditionally published books.

The Brave Solicitation

As the upcoming release of Forged in Dreams and Magick approaches, I’m having more and more interaction with book bloggers. Initially, as a naturally shy person (yes, believe it or not it’s true), I felt enormous relief when I’d secured tour and promotion slots with AToMR Tours to gain reviews and exposure for before and through the release. After all, I didn’t have to ask all these people I don’t know directly. AToMR Tours would do it all for me.

Which they have and did, an invaluable service that I’m immensely grateful for.

But . . . I decided to become the brave warrior I depict in my novel and throw myself out there to solicit book bloggers who might not work with AToMR Tours. I crafted a professional letter, but tailored each email to the individual blog I was soliciting. If their interests in books fell in line with my own, I sought common ground with them in the very first paragraph of the email.

A Humble Approach

My request to the hundred and fifty (or so) bloggers I contacted was very humble. Because I was asking busy people, most who have kids and/or jobs and a TBR (to-be-read) book pile that rivals Mt. Everest, for something very valuable—their time and opinion—I was thankful they were even reading my email. I’d be thrilled for them to request my book.

In fact, after carefully reading each and every site’s review policies and scanning through their blog (which took 5-10 minutes, and I believe is the very least a requesting author should do when asking for hours and hours of their time reading your book and crafting their review of your hard work), I didn’t expect a response from many of them. Some specifically stated they would only reply if they were interested.

In anticipating my book request being among thousands they read through with bleary-eyed apathy, I set my expectation bar low.

The Unexpected Response

Replies began to populate my inbox. And it was not only what the overwhelming majority said but how they said it that surprised me.

First of all, a few responded with a line or two telling me how they really loved the book description, but were too buried under books that they were already committed to reviewing to have the time to review mine. I appreciated their even taking the time to respond.

A couple of the blogs said they wouldn’t have the time to review, but wanted to help me with the promotion of my book.

{blinks}

This was my first clue that I was the new kid on the block. I ask them for a favor, and even with their busy schedules, they want to help me. Incredibly grateful for space on their calendar, I resoundingly replied with excitement that I would love to included in a guest post or interview (or whatever they’d suggested) and thanked them for the opportunity.

Those that did reply requesting an ARC copy to review?

Thanked lil’ ol’ me for giving them the opportunity.

Thanked lil’ ol’ me for thinking of their blog.

And many? Asked me to also provide them with links once the book goes live to share and help promote the release to their social media networks. And they hadn’t even read my books yet.

Again, all I have to say is . . .

Wow. I am overwhelmed.

Above and Beyond

A small group of bloggers I’ve become close to over the last year (about six or so) have always cleared a place on their schedule for me. You know who you are, and I love you for all that you’ve done and continue to do to support my writing endeavors.

With other bloggers, we’d followed each other on Twitter for over a year, and although we’d only talked once or twice, the moment I struck up the heart-racing conversation with my request, they pulled me into their welcoming arms like I was long-lost family.

{takes a deep breath}

Wow.

And now that some of those bloggers have reviewed my book? They’re touting it on Goodreads, Twitter, their blogs, and even on other author’s blogs. And together we chat. And laugh. And commiserate. And swoon. It’s so amazing how coming together through a book can bond book lovers. I’m overwhelmed daily by the generosity of strangers who embraced me so readily as a friend.

Wow.

Speechless in Gratitude

Yep. This writer has gone speechless. The repetitive monosyllabic word “wow” keeps coming out. The medical diagnosis for my condition is “mind blown”, but I’m pretty sure they don’t make a pill for being humbled by such awesomeness, and frankly, I wouldn’t want the cure.

I guess that’s what happens when in today’s self-centered society, a class of people show you their hearts first. In my experience, book bloggers are leading by example, rewriting history about how people should treat one another. With kindness, acceptance, and grace.

~~~

So when eloquent words fail, and you try to describe how you feel the best way you can, sometimes simple words become the best.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being the generous-hearted souls that you are.

In my opinion? Book bloggers are awesome! You all rock!

Your greatly humbled and appreciative shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Up on NetGalley! First day results…

Hello, everyone!

I’m thrilled to share some great news. Forged in Dreams and Magick  was uploaded yesterday on NetGalley to a wonderful first day response!

Enormous thanks go to my friends, Kristi from Kindles and Wine and Annie from Under the Covers Book Blog, for giving me phenomenal feedback on how they each use NetGalley.

In the coming months, I’ll be posting some of my behind the scenes planning and results in my book-publishing odyssey with a series entitled Transparency in Self-publishing. For now, I’ll share a small taste of my research and first day results of my foray into NetGalley.

So far, after 21 hours of the title being active, I’ve had 29 requests from a fabulous mix of people:

3 Booksellers
~ (2 large US booksellers, 1 large British bookseller’s reviewer)
4 Librarians
~ (who read to recommend books and purchase for their libraries)
1 Reviewer for a book-promoting radio station
1 Editor-in-chief from a national best-selling magazine
20 Reviewers of all levels of reach
~ (many belonging to book clubs and book groups)

Without knowing what to expect from taking the plunge and experimenting with NetGalley, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. My goal with NetGalley was to reach new audiences through potential influencers in their fields, and it seems my title has interested a wide variety of the very people I hoped to reach.

I’m staying grounded with the results, as their request only means Forged in Dreams and Magick captured their interest. My wish is that they will read and enjoy the book. Should they enjoy the book, I’m hopeful they will review it and buzz about it within their spheres of influence.

We shall see what happens, and I will keep you all posted!

Meanwhile, if you’re a reviewer, blogger, bookseller, librarian, book club or book group participant, media professional, educator, or anyone who enjoys reading books and sharing your thoughts about them with others who enjoy reading books, I encourage you to join NetGalley.

If you’re interested in sensual romance, an epic-adventure romance, Highlanders, paranormal romance, time-travel romance, the enigmatic Picts of ancient Scotland or a fresh and unique story, please check out:

Forged in Dreams and Magick on NetGalley

If you would like to participate in the Forged in Dreams and Magick promotional tour and/or ARC tour please see the sign-up forms in the link below:

AToMR Tours Forged in Dreams and Magick Tour and Promotion Event

I would also love for you to add Forged in Dreams and Magick to your Goodreads shelf here (plus there’s a signed-copy giveaway too!):

 

Add to Goodreads Button

 

Also, be sure to friend me on Goodreads from the link above, follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook to catch all of the exciting things coming up on other blogs with Forged in Dreams and Magick!

Thank you for all your support, my friends. I cannot wait to share my exciting world of Highlanders and magick with you.

Until next time . . .

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Talk to the Shoe One-Year Blogiversary ~ Celebration and Giveaway

Hello, my friends.

{tosses confetti and streamers}

Shutterstock Celebration with Champagne and Confetti

Happy Blogiversary
Talk to the Shoe!

Has it been an entire year already? So many incredible events happened over the course of these first 52 weeks, it feels like my first blog post went up only yesterday.

To commemorate a bustling year for a blog meant to chronicle my adventures in writing and publishing, I’ve decided to highlight memorable and favorite moments.

{sips champagne with you all and starts the slide show}

My First Blog Post

I was recently asked an interview question by Debra on her blog Words from Across Oceania:
“What do you think about social media as an avenue for getting independent writers out there?”
My answer: ” I think it’s unparalleled.”

On July 20, 2012, I penned my very first blog post:
The Twitter Trap – Social Media: Blessing and Curse.

It’s wonderful to look back at the thoughts and suggestions I gave after being on Twitter for a short six weeks. I’m forever grateful for learning the ropes while trusting my instincts.

Twitter is an unrivaled virtual coffee shop filled with friends just waiting to meet us and chat over a coffee and zero-calorie online danish about the latest web happenings and favorite book boyfriends
. . . or Highlanders . . . or shoes.

And let’s not forget the #StilettoSports discussions!

I’ve made wonderful friends on Twitter in the past year, lasting connections with kindhearted, generous, and supportive people who are there to interact, laugh, and share love.

The Most Popular Blog Post

On August 29, 2012,  something seismic happened . . .
I posted The Lure of the Great Alpha Male.

Wow.

That would be the post that had over 170 hits on my fledgling blog in one day. It also had 46 comments and a fun debate that spilled into Twitter over which of our alpha males was the hottest, resulting in a dead heat between Jericho Z. Barrons and one Gabriel O. Emerson, The Professor. And I still had yet to meet The Professor . . . {laughs}

It was my first post to be reblogged on a fabulous new-to-me back then blog Bookish Temptations. The Lure of the Great Alpha Male is still the most popular daily and weekly post on my blog. It has multiple daily views, and is often the first or second in views for the week. It seems the Lure of the Great Alpha Male is quite undeniable indeed.

Aftershocks from those great alpha males still occurring daily . . . ;)

My First Poem and Utterly Loved

September 12, 2012 brought to the blog and the world a most unexpected development. I created and shared my first poem Heaven… Found. Surprised to have poetry flow from my heart onto the page, I was thrilled when it was reblogged, liked, and shared on Twitter with everyone raving about the sensual poetry.

A burst of poetic creativity followed, which led to the publication of Utterly Loved, a book of romantic poetry for charity which includes a brilliant foreword written by the inspiring humanitarian and New York Times Bestselling Author Sylvain Reynard. Several other poems not included in Utterly Loved can be found in the poetry category on my blog.

A Most Uplifting Post 

On October 17, 2012, I gave a glimpse into who I am and how I live my life along with suggestions on how to increase your optimism in the post Adventures of an Optimist.

Throughout that day and the next, people contacted me on the blog and social media to let me know how my post brightened their day. To know that I helped others by sharing how I strive to be and stay positive made my day . . . and then some.

My First Guest Blog Post

By October of 2012, I’d posted just over dozen blog posts when I received my first invitation to write a guest post on another blog. The guest post, Embracing Sensuality, appeared Tamie’s blog Bookish Temptations for her one-year blogiversary celebration. I was and still am deeply honored to have been included.

A Glimpse of Heroes

In April 2013, in the wake of the devasting bombing at the Boston Marathon, I was invited by Jenn at Argyle Empire to participate in their fundraising efforts for the Red Cross in support of the bombing victims. As a part of those efforts, I shared an experience from my past with the American Red Cross. I revisited that heart-wrenching night and made a plea for donations to the American Red Cross and the Boston One Fund to support those charties in A Glimpse of Heroes. Jenn and Argyle Empire, thank you for wanting me to be a part of such a worthwhile cause.

Charity Support and Awareness Pages

In June of 2013, I became more involved in using my author platform to benefit charities, especially those that fight against human trafficking, by launching the Charity Support and Awareness pages on my blog and website. The page shares my thoughts and feelings, ways we can all help, and links to their various pages.

Highland Legends: Forged in Dreams and Magick

Throughout the entire year, hints and teasers have been posted about my upcoming release, from the series and book names, to the book description, and ultimately to the Cover Reveal on July 9th through AToMR Tours.

Take a peek at the cover described as “lush” and “stunning” and the description one said “hooked me immediately” for my debut Highlander, time-travel, paranormal romance novel Forged in Dreams and Magick.

~ ~ ~

And . . . there’s one more post I’d like to share as we step off memory lane into the future . . .

Teaser for Forged in Dreams and Magick

I’m thrilled to announce that an exclusive teaser for Forged in Dreams and Magick will be posted on Bookish Temptations on Monday, July 22, 2013. In just two days, that teaser post will mark the two month countdown to the release of Forged in Dreams and Magick on September 23, 2013.

Blogiversary Giveaway

I’m giving away a few party favors to commemorate my Blogiversary. Four winners will be chosen by Random.org. Each of the four winners will win a $25 Amazon gift card AND a signed copy of Utterly Loved!

It’s easy to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment on this Blogiversary post OR leave a comment on the Bookish Temptations’ Forged in Dreams and Magick teaser post. That’s it!
And if you leave a comment on each post? You’ll be entered twice! (Only two entries allowed per person.)

Comments until midnight EST on Thursday July 25, 2013 will qualify for entry to win the giveaway.

~ ~ ~

So leave those comments! I’d love to hear about your favorite moments from my blog over the year.

An enormous thank you to all my friends and followers. Your excitement, support, and love along my adventures on the road to published are deeply heartfelt and tremendously appreciated.

Your humble shoe,

~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion