Saturday, April 30, 2011

Update: The Great John Locke 99 cent Experiment

It's been three days since I lowered the price of The Soulkeepers on Amazon from $2.99 to 99 cents following what I dubbed the John Locke pricing strategy.  Not surprisingly, my sales have increased.  What may surprise you is the other side effects of the price change.  Remember, I've done very little promotion.  In fact I've only tweeted about it maybe two or three times, significantly less than normal in an attempt to isolate the price variable.  Here's a brief recap of how things stand so far.

  • My sales have almost tripled the last three days.  You will recall I would have to sell six times the number to make up the difference in royalties.  So far, that hasn't happened.
  • However, my Amazon rank his improved significantly from approximately 80,000 to a high of 10,000 yesterday.  This is something that fluctuates every day and throughout the day but the movement was significant.
  • I sold books in the UK for the first time this month. (I don't target this market so I was pleasantly surprised to see this)
  • A couple of readers who bought the book on Wednesday night have already read it and entered reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
  • For the first time, free books have appeared in my "customers also bought" section, meaning I've attracted a new audience, one that also downloads free books.

Bottom line, I'm making less money but entering new markets.  As a new author, that's pretty important.  The question in my mind is if the pool of 99 cent buyers is the same as the pool of $2.99 buyers.  If there are buyers out there that assume the book is of poor quality because it is listed at 99 cents, then I'm missing out on potential customers at this price.  I'm also curious if there will be diminished interest at a stale 99 cent price.

I plan to leave it at this price point for one full week.  Be back Wednesday with the final results.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Great John Locke 99 Cent Experiment

Have I mentioned I love guinea pigs?
Earlier this week, I posted on the four P's of marketing your indie novel.  One of those P's was pricing and turned out to be more controversial than I expected.  So far, I've followed the J.A Konrath method of sticking to a $2.99 price point.  Some of my favorite authors Icy Sedgwick and John Wiswell also posted recently about the beauty of higher pricing for indies.  The price point has worked well for me, making my book profitable within the first month of sales.

But then a reader, Coolkayaker, pointed out a recent article in The Wall Street Journal about John Locke.  I follow Mr. Locke but hadn't researched his strategy much; he doesn't write in the same genre as me.  But after reading the article, I had to admit I was intrigued.

I've decided to be the Guinea Pig!  I'm going to run a little experiment and reduce my Kindle price to 99 cents for a limited time.

Will I sell 6 times the number of copies as usual?

That's what I need to sell to make this experiment worthwhile.  I'll report back to you on the results at the end of the experiment, including how the change impacted my ranking on Amazon.  I'm not doing any other promotion over the course of this experiment so all other variables should be near equal.

Be back soon with the results!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Marketing Your Masterpiece

Every business major knows the four P's of marketing: Product, Price, Placement and Promotion, but how do they apply to your profitable indie novel? I say profitable because I've seen self-pubs sell a lot of books but make no money.  I've also seen them pay so much upfront for premium services that they are never able to earn it back in sales.  At So, Write, all of my articles are based on helping you reign in your break-even point because once your novel is making you money, you'll have a better idea of where you should invest those profits to extend your reach.

Lets face it, when it comes to paperbacks, legacy publishing has the advantage on price, placement and probably promotion too.  There's just something about seeing a book in a bookstore that is enticing to shoppers.  Plus the higher costs associated with indie paperbacks and shipping costs are a deterrent for some buyers.  But indies have plenty of control over all of these marketing elements in the ebook universe.

Product:  You have to write a brilliant book.  Even at 99 cents, poor writing and/or storytelling doesn't sell (or won't sell for long).  To get your book in the best possible shape, I recommend having it read by a minimum of three different people. You can pay people to do this for you but it will cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. A much better idea is to find other writers you trust to swap manuscripts with.  The first person, treat as a developmental editor.  You want this person to tell you if there are flaws in your character or plot development, as well as the overall arc of your story.  When you get their feedback, make all of the changes necessary before sending it to your second person.  The second person is your copy-editor.  Tell them you want a strict, line-item look at punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc. When you get back that feedback, make all of the changes you agree with.  Then read through the entire manuscript yourself one more time before sending it to person three.  This third person is your proof-reader.  They should be able to read through your entire manuscript without noticing many errors at all. They are your last line of defense against typos and missing words.  Many writers have beta readers read their novel at the same time, but this isn't as effective because when you make needed changes, those changes won't be edited again, and may introduce new errors into the work. 

Your cover and formatting is also part of your product.  You want a cover that looks professional without costing so much that it impacts your ability to become profitable in a reasonable amount of time. Createspace advertises illustrated cover art for $1500.  I pity the Indie that starts life in that hole-o-debt.  It shouldn't be too difficult to find a professional graphic designer to do the ebook and paperback covers for you for around $200, if you do your homework. And as for formatting, the going rate is around $75. But you can do it yourself if you give it some time. Would you rather spend $75 on something you can do yourself or on promoting your book once it's published?

Price:  More than any other factor, indies have the advantage when it comes to pricing below their legacy competition. I agree with the overwhelming opinion that $2.99-4.99 is the optimal price for new authors.  Pricing above this dissuades buyers from taking a chance on a new author where pricing too low off the bat, gives the impression that a book is of inferior quality.  I've never understood those indies that choose to charge $8.99 and up for their ebooks. I think, in theory, this price point is an attempt to camouflage a self-pub as a traditionally published work but I think it undercuts the one real advantage indies have and ultimately limits the number of copies sold and overall revenue.

Placement:  Placement refers to sales channel.  In the ebook world, I think having your book available on Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble will cover you.  If you've taken care of product, it is difficult for a customer to tell a traditionally published book from a self-published one in this placement. 

Promotion: More than any other element, I see unscrupulous people try to take advantage of self-pubs in this area.  Certain review agencies will review your book for a phenomenal price but then the results of your review are not mixed in with the traditionally published reviews but rather listed separately...where the majority of reader traffic doesn't go. I fail to see the benefit of paying for a professional review that isn't treated equally to the legacy competition.

Personally, I think grassroots promotion is an indie's best bet in the beginning.  The trifecta of Facebook, blog, and twitter accounts are essential. Giveaways, interviews, guest posts, and book blogger reviews, are all inexpensive ways to get your book in front of a progressively larger audience.  I'm sure paid advertising works for some people but, in my opinion, word of mouth and personal selling are just as effective and again promote quick profitability when you are first starting out.

What's your opinion of the four P's for indies?  If you have a book published, did you consider your break-even point before you launched? How important is it to you to have a profitable novel and how do you balance this with promotional opportunities?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Six Star Review of The Soulkeepers From Fiktshun!

An independent book reviewer gave The Soulkeepers her special 6 star, off the charts, rating today.  You can read her review on her blog, Fiktshun or on Goodreads.  I'm especially proud of this review because she says the eleven words every indie author wants to hear most, "The Soulkeepers does not read anything like a typical self-published book."  Thank you very much Rachel from Fiktshun.  I worked very hard to make sure it didn't.

I've gotten several personal notes lately from readers who ask, "Why didn't New York pick this up?" or "I can't believe agents didn't want this."  While I'm flattered, I can't answer the question.  It is what it is.  The reality is that I'm doing this on my own with assistance from my sisters at DarkSide Publishing(an author cooperative).  As such, I just wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to all of you that help me promote my book by word of mouth or on the internet.  In my world, every sale counts and every reader counts. I am so appreciative of you, my readers, because each of you is a reason I get up in the morning and try to beat the odds all over again.

Thank you for visiting today, and for your ongoing support!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Signed Copies Now Available

Want a signed, personalized paperback of The Soulkeepers?

Send me an email at gpching(at)

Tell me:

  • How many copies 
  • Who to make the book(s) out to
  • Tell me whether you want Priority Mail (approx $8) shipping or media mail ($2.82 + .80 tracking)
I will send you a bill through PayPal

Once the bill is paid, I'll ship your signed book to you.

Individual copies are $12.99 plus shipping costs (US only).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tag You're IT!

Do you know about tagging on Amazon?
If you visit a book's page, and scroll down past the reviews, you'll see a section that looks like this--

If you click on the boxes, it increases your visibility in that category.  Until recently, I wasn't aware  of how important tagging was. Each person can only check the box once and can only tag a book with up to fifteen tags.  So, I'm having a tagging drive for The Soulkeepers to increase my kindle visibility.

If you could go to Amazon, click on "see all tags" and check the boxes, especially inspirational fiction and young adult paranormal, I would greatly appreciate it.

If you would like me to return the favor, after you have tagged mine, please comment that you have done so and leave a link to your book's page.  I will do the same for you.

Thank you all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Club Discussion Questions

The Soulkeepers

1. Do you think forgiveness came easily to the characters in The Soulkeepers?  Do you think it would be easy to forgive if similar events happened to you?

2.  Are the prejudices of past generations more forgivable or understandable than those of today? For example, do you find it easier to gloss over a racial slur said by a grandparent than a peer?

3.  Why do you think the concepts of faith, religion, and spirituality are avoided in most Young Adult literature?

4.  Uncle John asks the question, "Do you think a person is only as good as the worst thing they've ever done?"  How do you feel about this question?  Are there certain actions that define a person's character permanently?

5.  Mysterious biblical history plays a pivotal role in the plot of The Soulkeepers.  Are there parts of the bible (or your particular holy text) that you find disturbing or paradoxical? How do you reconcile that with your faith?

6.  How do people create their own prisons in their life?  Do you think an individual can be his or her own harshest judge and jury?

7.  Is there an evil force in this world that can push otherwise good people over the edge?

8.  What do you think about the way God is depicted in The Soulkeepers?

9.  How do people growing up in rural communities have a different reality than those in urban or suburban settings?  Do you think this upbringing effects how they think about moral choices?

10.  Do you think our culture is obsessed with our physical appearance, what we wear, and how we smell?  Do you think the focus on outside beauty is an attempt to capture something else?

Weaving Destiny

1. At the beginning of the book, Malini thinks Jacob is her destiny.  Do you think there is only one person in the world who you are destined to fall in love with?

2. Malini has to face deadly challenges throughout Weaving Destiny. What do you feel is the source of her strength?

3. Do you think that parents who are immigrants to the United States like Malini's have unique challenges with raising their children and adapting to American culture? 

4. Mara comes on strong to Jacob. What would make a person try to woo someone they knew was in a relationship? Do you think her background had anything to do with it?

5. Malini grows up and discovers who she is in Weaving Destiny. Do you think it's possible for someone to love another person fully before they know and love themselves fully?

6. The Healer cannot die without Malini's help. Jacob says it is not murder but mercy. How do you feel about this scene? In your opinion, are there any circumstances in the real world (people or animals) when killing would be mercy?

7. Mara and Death have an instant connection. Do you believe in love at first sight?

8. Malini views snippets from her past to learn ways to approach the problems of her future. How do you feel your past experiences have prepared you for your future? Are any experiences truly a waste of time?

9. Dane and Malini have a special friendship in Weaving Destiny. Do you think the relationship was completely platonic or did one of the parties secretly want more?

10. Mara has a formidable skill in Weaving Destiny, the ability to stop time. If you could stop time, what would you do with that power?

Return to Eden

1. In Return to Eden, Abigail tries to be something more than she is.  Do you believe people can truly change? Or are we born what we are?

2. Have you ever been tempted in a way that you felt was impossible to deny?

3. The immortals in the In Between sometimes break the rules in order to maintain the balance between good and evil. Are there circumstances in real life when the moral choice is to take action that in other circumstances would be considered immoral? Is there such thing as a "white" lie?

4. Mara learns that she can create her own reality in the In Between.  If you could create your own reality, what would you change first?

5. With her transition to the In Between, Mara loses her power. Later, she rises to the challenge presented to her.  What do you think motivates Mara's character to accept the challenge in spite of her new vulnerability? Would you do the same?

6. In Return to Eden, God appears as the best version of the person viewing him/her. What do you think of this depiction?  Do you think we see ourselves in God?

7. During the battle scene, Abigail and Gideon get what they want at the worst possible time. Have you ever received a blessing at a time that makes it feel like a curse? 

8. In many young adult novels, the main character changes from being human to a supernatural being. In Return to Eden, the change is in the opposite direction.  How did this make you feel? Do you think becoming human is a worthy goal for a supernatural character?

9. When characters in The Soulkeepers Series use the red stone, they enter a reality that helps them interpret their experiences. Why do you think Gideon's mind chose a 1950s diner?

10. Return to Eden introduces a new Soulkeeper who is openly homosexual. Were you surprised by this? Discuss.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 Common Errors Formatting an eBook

So, you've decided to e-Publish your masterpiece. Here are ten common pitfalls to avoid when formatting your manuscript for upload to Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook pubit, or Smashwords.

1. Manual tabs. Take them all out and replace by setting a first line automatic indent of .3-.5.

2. Standard headers.  You added your name and the page number when you submitted to agents or publishers. Delete it all.  You don't need page numbers with an eReader.

3. Double spacing.  Single spacing is preferred.

4. Multiple styles.  Change everything to "Normal" style except for chapter titles which should be "Heading" style. 

5. Too large font size.  10 point is large enough with 11 or 12 for title and chapter headings.

6. Unconventional fonts.  For best results use something that translates well into HTML like Times New Roman or Verdana.  

7. Extra paragraph returns.  Also, no paragraph returns between paragraphs unless you want a purposeful break and never at the end of a line.

8. Auto-generated Your Table of Contents.  Instead hyperlink each heading to manually build the TOC.

9. Tables or Columns to format text.  A disaster waiting to happen.  Try to remove them.

10. Margin size greater than 1 inch all around.  Don't do it. You won't like the results.

I hope these are helpful to first timers.  Any other tips from veteran ePubbers out there?  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How Resilient Are You?

Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing Jennifer Rothschild at a conference I attended.  Now, if you are not familiar with Jennifer, she's a lot like me.  She writes, blogs, and speaks professionally, only she has sold a half million copies of her six books (a few more than me *cough*), and has been on Dr. Phil and Good Morning America.  Oh, and she is a phenomenal speaker.  If you get a chance check her out.

Here are some ways Jennifer is not like me:
  • She has never seen her own blog
  • She has never seen her own books
  • She has never seen her own husband or child 

Jennifer has been blind since she was fifteen years old.

But I wouldn't be telling you about Jennifer if I thought she was superwoman.  The reason I decided to write about Jennifer is that she admitted on stage that being blind sucks, it's hard, she's had some terribly humiliating moments living with her disability.  Jennifer's message is not about how she's so great she overcame her blindness.  Jennifer's message is about how each person has a unique gift and it might come in an unusual package.

Sometimes being a self-published author sucks. After finishing my book, my soon to be thirteen year old daughter excitedly questioned me about when she could tell her friends at school they could buy it in the bookstore.  I had to explain that The Soulkeepers wouldn't be in the local Barnes & Noble but they could buy it from Amazon.  "But it's sooo good," she said. "Why not?"

As I've started getting fan mail from all over the country about The Soulkeepers, I've had days when I've felt sorry for myself for not having a hardcover in a bookstore window. "I'm good enough!" I say. "It's not fair!"  Well, who the hell said life was?

Then I'm reminded of the picture my friend sent me when I made this decision.  She found this tree in Colorado, growing out of a rock.  For her it reminded her of being a mom.  She said, "I spend so much time making sure my kids have everything...a rich soil of activities to help them grow into the perfect adults.  But then I see this tree, an evergreen growing out of the rock, and I realize that whatever it is they're supposed to be will come as much from their hardships as what I'm doing to make it easy for them. " This tree doesn't have any advantages but it is because it's supposed to be. Well isn't that a swift kick in the butt?

So here's to all the people out there with unique gifts in unusual packages!  Whatever has brought us to this place in our lives, it is not to fail but to succeed, to learn, and to grow out of our hardships. 

Today, I am that little tree and I've realized that my readers are the rain and, for now, that is enough.   

Friday, April 8, 2011

How My Guinea Pig Broke My Washing Machine (A Mostly True Story)

I've been distracted. Publishing and then promoting The Soulkeepers has absorbed every free moment of the last several weeks. So, when my washing machine began to hiccup during the spin cycle, I gave it a few light slams and told it to get it's act together, we all had problems, and I didn't have time for its mechanical bullsh*t at the moment. Apparently, that line doesn't work on husbands, children, OR washing machines. It responded by refusing to drain and leaving my clothes in a wet, smelly lump.

As I have never fixed anything in my life, I called over my husband to work some of his masculine magic on the beast. After all, his father was a handy man and, lets face it, boys just know how to fix things. It's in their DNA, right?  Wrong. He gave it a few slams on the side and called a repairman.

My washing machine is only three years old and was thankfully under warranty. But the last repairman that came to the house from Company X was a shifty-eyed, plumber panted, overweight, mess. Imagine my surprise when Burton came to the door--a straight backed, athletic-looking, professional with a smile to rival Obama's.

"Hello Mrs. Ching. I'm Burton. I'll be your repairman today. May I see the appliance in question, Mrs. Ching?"

I used to supervise a team of customer service representatives. I noticed the repetitive use of Mrs. Ching as the product of a "How to kiss as*" training course but honestly it just made me feel ninety years old.

"Sure. Come on in."  I showed Burton to my washing machine and explained the problem. He started hitting buttons in a seemingly random sequence. "If you'll excuse me, Burton, I have some work to do.  I just published a book....Say, would you like to buy one?"

"That's great, Mrs. Ching, but no."

"Okay, well I'll be in my office if you need me...or an exciting story of an orphaned boy embracing his destiny." I exited my laundry room and promptly procrastinated by posting on Facebook about how my dumb repairman had punched buttons, seemingly unaware of how to operate my machine.

Five minutes later, Burton called to me, "Mrs. Ching, I've found the problem."

Impressed at the speed of his work, I returned to the laundry room to find my washer in pieces on the floor. In his hand, Burton held up a cylindrical filter packed solid with timothy hay. When I say packed, I mean you could not have fit a finger between the strands of hay jammed in there.

"Do you know what this is, Mrs. Ching?"

"Is that a rhetorical question?"

"No. Seriously, do you know what this is?"

"It looks like hay."

"How is hay getting into your washing machine, Mrs. Ching?"

I thought about lying. I wasn't sure if stupidity was covered under warranty. But I decided to tell this overly polite repairman the honest-to-God truth. "It's from our guinea pig."

"How is hay from your guinea pig getting into your washer, Mrs. Ching?"

"Well, see, my nine year old daughter cleans her own guinea pig environment and the bottom of the area is a fleece blanket. She is supposed to shake the blanket out in the compost heap out back before she places the blanket in the washer. I suspect, since it's been a long, cold, winter, she hasn't been shaking it out very well before she shoves it in there."

"The Affinity 2000 unit is not designed to wash hay, Mrs. Ching. See this filter rests in the drainpipe and if this gets clogged it stresses the pump. I'm going to replace both for you but I don't think you should put hay in your washer anymore, Mrs. Ching."

Was it just me or was he speaking sloooowly, as if he'd decided I wasn't very bright and he'd have to explain at my speed?

"Umm...yeah... I... uh...really wasn't washing the hay. I mean...She's nine. I'll talk to her about being more careful."

"I think you should, Mrs. Ching. The Affinity 2000 is a sophisticated high efficiency washer. Are you maintaining it monthly?"

"Maintaining...whatsy howzat..."

Again with the kindergarten voice. "You should be running an empty load of white vinegar through it once a month to clean out any residue, Mrs. Ching. I noticed some build up. Regular maintenance can extend the life of your appliance, Mrs. Ching."

"Um...huh...Yeah, want to do that. Sure."

I watched as he swiftly reassembled my machine.  I think the silence made him uncomfortable.

"So, did you get your degree in writing from around here?" he asked.

"Actually, my degree is in accounting from Illinois. And nursing. I'm an RN, too."

"You have degrees in accounting and nursing. How does that prepare you for writing?"

"It's esoteric."

He made a grunting sound. I couldn't tell if it was a verbal eye roll or in response to re-positioning the washer where it was supposed to be.

"Where did you go to college?" I retorted.  I fully expected some sort of trade school that would make me feel better about my seemingly pointless education.

"I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Illinois, Mrs. Ching."

"Wow," was all I could manage.

"You are all set, Mrs. Ching," he said. He walked past me towards the door and let himself out. At the bend in my walkway, he stopped and looked back at me standing in the doorway. "And, Mrs. Ching..."


"Keep the guinea pig away from the washing machine."

He climbed behind the wheel of his truck, laughing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reviews Up at That Bookish Girl and Me, My Shelf & I

My first, independent, book reviews are available today at That Bookish Girl and Me, My Shelf and I. Thank you in advance for stopping over and giving these very thoughtful reviews a read.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And The Winners Are...

Without further ado, the winners of The Soulkeepers launch contest are as follows.

The $5 gift certificate goes to...

Tim VanSant

The autographed copy goes to...

John Wiswell

And the autographed copy and $20 gift certificate goes to...

Jennifer Leigh Bonges

Congratulations to all the lucky winners!  Please send your contact information to to claim your prize.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Launch Contest Mayhem!

Have you heard?  The fourth DarkSide author, Angela Carlie, has released her first title, Dream Smashers. Visit her blog to learn about her launch contest and pick up a copy of Dream Smashers, a contemporary YA novel.

Also, you have until today at midnight to enter The Soulkeepers launch contest.  I'll be wrapping that up and posting the winners ASAP.  Goodluck!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

5 Free Ways To Support an Indie Author

If you've purchased an indie title this month, give yourself a pat on the back for supporting the arts.  Independent authors provide a rich diversity of talent and an unbelievable value to the reader.  But beyond buying an author's book, there are five ways you can support a writer that cost absolutely nothing but go a long way toward helping to foster their potential.

5.  Forward their press 
Whether it is a tweet, post, or status message, someone who follows you might be interested.  Retweeting or sharing a post only takes a second but could mean connecting a potential reader with an author they'll love.

4. Tell a friend
If you like someone's work, there's no better way than word of mouth to promote their cause. Even if you haven't read the specific book yet, your comment can inform someone of the book's availability.  And, of course, if you have read the book, let others know you liked it.  Indie authors don't have large publicity budgets and rely on personal connections more than anything else for promotion.

3.  Tag and "like" their book on the bookseller's site
At the bottom of a book's page on Amazon, there are check boxes to tag a book.  When you check one, it strengthens the association between the book and that category. So, when someone else searches on the category, books with more tags appear higher in the search results.  This increases exposure for the work.  

When you "like" a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it adds a message on your Facebook newsfeed and is good promotion for the title.

2.  Add the author's book to your To-Be-Read pile on Goodreads
All of your Goodreads followers get a glimpse of the cover and can see that you added it.  Plus, it increases the number of people associated with the book which can garner interest in the title.

1.  Write a review
Often if your intention is to write a review, an author will provide you with a free copy of the book.  Whether on a blog or on a bookseller's site, reviews help authors sell more books and are greatly appreciated.

What do you think readers?  What are some ways you support your favorite authors, even after you've bought their books?

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