Thursday, 30 January 2014

Behind The Finest Line pt 2

I have read extensive debate about the offering of your books for free. Some have mentioned that people will download your free book and probably never read it. Others have said that you are making your hard work look cheap by offering it for free. Very valid arguments but for me it came back to my reasons for writing The Finest Line in the first place.
I have been writing for over forty years. Hardly a day in my life has gone by when I haven't written something, whether it be a silly poem, a stage play, a screenplay, notes for a plot I might use one day, my thoughts, my ideas. I have a burning passion to write. What I have published is the very tip of the iceberg of my writings. It is a passion that has been passed onto two of my children.
Getting a book out there for the world to read was a celebration of my writing life. I didn't expect it to make any money. All I wanted was to give people a chance to celebrate with me, so The Finest Line was released for US$2.99, which was the cheapest option that KDP would allow me at that time. I released it to Smashwords for the same price but discovered that Smashwords would allow me to give it away for free, so I did.
Completely green to the world of book marketing, I was astonished when I saw that my book had gone free on Amazon. They hadn't contacted me to tell me they were doing this and it took me a while to learn about the concept of price-matching. I was a little annoyed because I thought that there should be a regular communication between myself and Amazon whenever there were changes to my book. How wrong was I?
What happened next completely astounded me. The Finest Line shot to #1 in Free Kindle Erotica in the US, two months after publication. Not long after that it went to #1 in the UK, France and Italy. People around the world were reading my book, well at least downloading it. That was all the reward I would ever want, but when I released my second book in December 2012, I discovered how much people had enjoyed their free read. A Line Crossed had 200 downloads in the first week of release as PAID. It went to the top 100 Bestsellers in Erotica. Suddenly I was an established erotic romance author. The third book had the same reaction when released in May 2013.
Now in 2014 my fourth book is doing fantastic, already in the bestselling lists in Amazon UK and Germany two weeks after release. I  now work full time as an author and yes, I am writing another book.
The Finest Line remains free but a strange phenomenon occurs over which I have no control. Whenever it looks to go #1 again on Amazon, it suddenly appears with a price. It drops out of the ranking to obscurity but within hours has sold so many that it begins to hit the paid erotica bestsellers. Then just as suddenly it goes back to free. I don't know what that is all about but it keeps it interesting.
To this day, The Finest Line has had about 80,000 downloads, most of them free. Not everyone likes the book, but that's okay, because I really like to think they didn't have to pay for it at least. By being free, the reader can make the decision without cost whether they like my writing or not.
To release a book free, even if it's only temporary, can only be a great marketing strategy that I stumbled upon in my ignorance. There are numerous sites that will also advertise a free book for nothing, and this might just be the strategy you've been needing to share your own passion with the world.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Behind The Finest Line Pt 1

In August 2012 I had just completed the manuscript of a full length novel (93,000 words) which I called The Finest Line, a highly erotic suspense novel with some BDSM and domestic discipline themes and a very twisted plot. Hell, I was excited. I read it through again and knew I loved my story and I wanted to share it with the world, but I knew absolutely nothing about getting published.
Immediately I went to publisher's websites and started reading the exhaustive process of how to submit my manuscript with a synopsis and the first chapters etc. I felt my balloon of excitement beginning to deflate. If I was incredibly lucky, I might have my book out in six months to a year, if I could get anyone to accept it. That's not what I wanted. I had this book all ready to go. I want it out now!! It was then that I came across this strange phrase "self publish" and discovered that you can do that yourself for nothing, but first I needed a cover.
Again, the price of getting a cover was going to be costly and at that time I literally had no money. My husband and I had our own business for four years, but had suffered a major setback which left us with little money to live, let alone buy a book cover. Never one to give up, I wondered how hard it could be to make one myself. I knew what I wanted. My book explored themes of dominance and submission, pole dancing, spanking and romance. That's what I want to capture.
Through my life I have been blessed by truly incredible friends. Being a part of the film and drama circles in our community I had two dearest friends that were actors and models, one a gorgeous six foot three man and an incredibly beautiful girl, Maggie,  that would be perfect for the cover. I approached Maggie first and said, "How would you feel about being naked on the front cover of my book?"
Always the complete professional, Maggie grinned and said, "Sure, I'm keen." My male friend was just as eager and so my cast was set. Another dear friend Leah was a brilliant photographer and was incredibly excited to be involved. I told them all that I couldn't pay them unless I got some sales, to which they all brushed me off and said they wouldn't take anything anyway. They were in it for the fun.
We approached a strip club where I knew they had poles and again I discovered the kindness of strangers in the manager. When I told her what I wanted to do, she immediately got excited and started suggesting ways to set the lights. She also wanted no money, but asked if she would be able to have a blow-up of the final photo for her club. Of course!
The photo shoot took about two hours in which we spent more time laughing than we did working. We captured about 200 shots but it was one photo that stood out to all of us. That photo would go on to be the cover of The Finest Line.
Love it or hate it, that cover has been a huge draw card to my book. I've had emails from random people in Germany, France and the UK just to tell me how much they love my cover. One guy begged me permission to blow it up as a poster for his wall. I was quite happy to do that and sent him the 300 DPI file so he would get great resolution.
So what did it cost me to publish my book? A carton of beer to share with my friends as we celebrated that incredible release. How long did it take from finishing my manuscript to appearing on Amazon? Three weeks. Is it a perfect book? No, it has errors that I missed in all the excitement. I could update it to be error free but I don't because the book is free and it taught me the valuable lesson of getting someone to proofread your work. It doesn't stop it being popular. With over 120 five star reviews, I know that people have enjoyed my story and I keep it free for them to do just that. How do I do that? Well, that's another story that I'll share with you soon.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Sometimes you have to be a little cocky to be an Indie author

Promotion for self published books doesn't come easy. You don't have the luxury of the advertising team of the big publishers. If you want people to know that your book is out there, then you have to do it yourself. Sometimes this might come across as a little conceited, but if you don't blow your own horn, no one else will.
Through my own experience, and from what other Indie authors have told me, you are forever conscious of that fine line between being confident and being a show-off. How much is too much? Do I sound like a pretentious git? Maybe I should just lie low and see how my book does.
Social media is the one I stress over the most. I've posted about my books on Facebook and Twitter, but I always worry that I am going to annoy someone, so I do try to keep my posts there to a minimum.
What I have discovered is the support that exists for Indie authors. There are people like Gary Walker at Look 4 Books who want to advertise to the world what we are writing, and all for free. I am astounded at the kindness of strangers. Gary puts his heart into this. I am constantly seeing his tweets for my books and for many others. He even goes that step further and creates an amazing picture for our book covers, as he has for mine here:

For a small fee, you can join up with Self Publisher's Showcase and get an awesome author's page like mine, with links to your books, your bio, video book trailer and they also constantly tweet your books. 
There are people out there that want to help you and I will constantly update this post to let you know what is available. Yes, you do need to advertise your book if you hope to get some sales. My advice is be humble, always be polite and friendly and always be ready to reciprocate the service. Put a link to them on your website. Post about them in your blog. 
It's alright to be a little cocky about your books. You've worked hard on them and you want to show them off. Do so, but always remember to thank the people that give you a shout out, share a link or make a comment on their social network. Be appreciative of all the reviews that your readers leave, good or bad. They took the time to read your book. They didn't always have to like it.