I think all books in a series should have a beginning and and end…leaving a book with a cliff hanger so people have to buy the next book to find out what happens is a cheap trick – I think you destroy the trust your readers have in you and then you’ll never sell to that reader again – or to their friends and relatives.

Cristian Mihai

A short disclaimer first: I have yet to self-publish a book series, so you just read this post and take what you think would work.

Ah, one more thing: there’s no recipe, no secret marketing formula that’s going to ensure huge sales. I don’t have it, and quite frankly, no one has it.

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Musings of Mistress of the Dark Path

Crooked BusinessA few of you may have caught this news if you’re like me and regularly follow the blog posts over at The Passive Voice.  It quoted from an article which I’ll be discussing today about using “bestseller campaigns” to give your work a boost on its release day.  You can see the original post by Soren Kaplan here.

It deals with Mr. Kaplan admitting to a reporter at The Wall Street Journal that he used a company called ResultSource to help him achieve best seller status with his business book, Leapfrogging, in the first week of its publication.  I’ll quote below a portion of what he said they did to help him reach #3 on the Journal’s list below:

The strategy the firm laid out for me was relatively straightforward. I would contact my Fortune 500 clients and others and ask them to preorder copies of my book…

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Review – Ever After by Kim Harrison

I was up most of the night reading this book. Because I loved it so much, I’m breaking my usual rule about only reviewing indie books. If you are a fan of The Hollows series, you won’t want to miss the latest installment. If you love urban fantasy and haven’t read any of the books in the series, you’re going to want to pick up Dead Witch Walking and get started today.

Ever After is beautifully written, engaging, entertaining, suspenseful, and at times heartbreaking and funny. Rachel Mariana Morgan and her band of loyal and interesting friends are back for mischief, mayhem and revenge in the latest Hollows book and things have never been better (or worse) for the Cincy based witch and her vampire, pixy, and elf pals.

I have read reviews of Ms. Harrison’s books where other reviewers bashed Rachel and her lack of leadership and propensity to screw things up and I completely disagree. Those characteristics are exactly what makes Rachel so likeable. Her ability to forgive and move forward make her admirable. Her willingness to share in the glory and blame make her memorable. Her propensity for diving in and her determination to make the hard choices make her someone I’d want to hang out with. She has style, and as long as you can have style while battling demons I’m in!

This wild ride of urban fantasy finds Rachel in a few unlikely alliances to set things straight and right again in her world and the Ever After. The usual suspects appear (actually, I think she managed to get them ALL in this book) from Al to Newt; From Quen to Trent; From Jenks and Bis to Ivy and Nick.

Sometimes, the story becomes confusing (almost as if I missed a book – which I didn’t) but I have so much faith in the author that I just forged ahead, knowing that at some point she will bring it all together – be it in Ever After or in the next book. That’s the great thing about the series – little cookie crumbs are left in earlier books that come back later to lead you to a delicious and utterly satisfying end.

If you’re looking to read a book you can’t put down pick this one up. Between the beautifully crafted world, the elaborate descriptions that make the movie in your head run in vivid Technicolor, and the interesting and wonderfully flawed characters – Ever After is a gem and a satisfying read!

We used to call them chapters

I have just finished reading YET ANOTHER book without an ending. In order to find out what happens, I have to buy book 2 in the series – and I strongly suspect that will end in a “cliff-hanger” that will be the beginning of book 3. This is the fourth book I have read that really is just the beginning of the next book.

I think these used to be called chapters or even Part II. Now, it seems like more and more people are publishing “books” that are really more “introductions” or “prequels” or “serials”. As an author of a “prequel”, I would like to proclaim loudly that all of my books begin and end. I do not write a “cliff-hanger” ending so the reader is forced to buy the next book just to find out what happened.

In all honesty, of the four “books” (I’m using the term loosely) I read there wasn’t one of them that was good enough for me to care what happens next. I’ll just have to live with unanswered questions because getting to the last page and finding out there isn’t a real ending makes me throw up my hands in disgust and vow to never buy another book by that author. The author has lost my trust and wasted my time – that is not a relationship I want to continue.

There’s a difference between a “series” and “serial fiction” which I interpret to be a marketing ploy. I read series – I’ve even written one – but a marketing ploy to try to get me to buy the next book – not so charming.

The books in my series start and end. The next book might use some of the same characters, but there is a different plot and if you need to know something without reading the first book, I explain what you need to know – I’m not spoiling the plot if you read out of sequence and I’m not making it necessary for you to read all of them. They stand alone. I want you to trust me to take you on a journey and not leave you stranded in the middle of the desert, or ocean, or mountains.

I will post reviews for the “serial fiction” books on Amazon, but I’m not giving them page time on my blog. In the future, I hope other reviewers will post comments that reflect the truth of some of these books – there’s no ending; if you read book one the author leaves you hanging in the hopes of making you buy book two, etc.

What the authors of these works don’t consider is the reader. Someone reads your work in the hope of being taken someplace special and brought home safely feeling like they have been enriched by the time spent with your story. To drop the reader off at the side of the road and wave cheerily as you speed away toward a new destination doesn’t build trust, loyalty or a reader base.

Self Published Blunders

I try to review self-published books on this blog, but in all honesty for every one that I’ve been impressed with, there have been three that have annoyed me so much that I put them in a special folder on my Kindle titled “GAVE UP”.

These books have something in common with each other, and there are a few major errors I want to point out to self published authors. We can’t run with the big dogs if we’re rushing to publish – bringing a traditionally published book to market takes many months at least – years at most. There are edits and beta reads and publicity campaigns. While I admittedly suck at the publicity thing, I do pay attention to editing and I have my books read by many readers before I publish. Here’s how I can tell instantly that a fellow indie has rushed to publishing:

1.) The first chapter is tight, but the subsequent ones shoot off on wild tangents or have random thoughts inserted at odd places. This is a case of too much editing in some spots, and not enough in others. I read 3/4 of a book that I thought was decent and then found a rambling twelve page scene that was inserted to “tie up loose ends”. It was so out of sync with the rest of the book that I read the first line of every paragraph to try to get through it – even that was more trouble than it was worth. The book was excellent – until the tangents started. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought so – Amazon sent me an email that the book had been revised significantly due to editing issues.

2.) Different fonts, line spacing, and margins appear throughout the book. Seriously? Amazon has a preview file that needs to be meticulously checked to avoid this. I hate bad formatting. It’s the easiest thing to fix and it just looks lazy if you don’t do it.

3.) A cast of thousands. It’s distracting when I have to try to remember who everyone is, what their back story is, and how they relate. I shouldn’t need to keep notes to follow the plot.

4.) Plot, sub-plot, sub-sub-plot, under-sub-plot. Again, the reader shouldn’t have to work that hard.

5.) The vast wasteland of extra information. This is the one that really separates traditionally published books from indie books for me. The story’s going along great and suddenly it comes to a grinding halt while everything is explained and the characters get ready for the big finish. I think of it as D-Flailing. The appetizer (point A) is well thought out and makes you want to read the story. Points B-C (B)build some tension and (C)characters. D-Flailing grinds the story to a halt while the author (E) explains everything you need to know but he/she couldn’t fit (F1) into A-C and then you’re off again with a great build up for the (F) finale.

There are other things that I find distracting, but they’re not usually serious enough for me to give up. Numbers 1 and 5 are similar but they occur in different parts of the book and I think they serve two very different purposes. An author who has too much going on in the book takes wild tangents throughout the manuscript. An author who can’t figure out how to connect the tight beginning to the fantastic ending suffers from problem 5.

Over the next few weeks I’ll post pointers about how to fix these problems. Along with a review of a book that I’m currently reading – as long as the book doesn’t flail too much.

Hard at work on the next novel

Fortunes Bought and Sold Cover

I’m hard at work on my next novel – Fortunes Bought & Sold. This is the working cover and here’s the working synopsis.

Caly Mendelsohn has more problems than charms on her bracelet. It’s the downside of being a con-artist. Eventually people figure out what you are and then you have to start over in a new place and hope you never cross paths with your former marks. Sometimes, it works – other times you find yourself face to face with someone you were hoping you’d never see again. Unfortunately for Caly, some people think she has more talent with her deck of hand me down Tarot Cards then she’s let on – and others think it’s all part of the con. The trick is to keep them happily ignorant about what those worn cards really mean to her. Working as a psychic reader in Salem, Massachusetts has brought Caly face to face with her darkest secret and her greatest hope. There’s more to being psychic than she’s bargained for, and the only way out is to flip over the next card and cross her fingers

Adding another job title

I call myself an independent author (“indie” if you’re new here); I thought that pretty much summed up what I did. I’m an author. I write. I publish. I am also sadly mistaken and slightly delusional. Along with writing and publishing my own books, I have taken on a host of other jobs. Some of them I love, some not so much. So as an indie, I am a self published author and since I do my own cover art I am not just an artist, I’m a cover designer. I am an editor, accountant, agent, and (groan) director of marketing. I hate being a director of marketing almost as much as I hate being an accountant.

I agonize over the cover blurb and book description when I get ready to publish. I go through a few drafts, call my beta readers and read them the blurb over the phone asking paranoid questions like: “Does that really describe the story?” “What would you add?” “Did I miss anything?” I secretly fear getting a review that says something like: The book in no way, shape, or form has anything to do with the description and whatever fool wrote it has obviously not read the book.

Then as marketing director, I’m supposed to write a new blurb, tailored to each site I wish to advertise on, which targets my audience so well that they can’t but help to buy my book. Puh-lease! I’m lucky my book got a concise description in the first place. If I wrote new blurbs all the time, I would never publish another book because I’d just be writing blurbs and descriptions and my beta readers would stop taking my calls.

I was up before the sun this morning (pretty typical, really) and managed to get a little marketing done because…well, I felt like I had to. I posted on independentauthors.org (love that site) then flipped over to facebook – a site I’ve been avoiding for MONTHS because it makes me feel like a social pariah. I am still languishing out there as the only person at the virtual party with ONE friend (Kate, you’re a great friend but even you must cringe when you see that you’re still the only one who wants to be my friend. But that’s a rant for another day…)

I patiently created a facebook page for my second book and after three minutes I was totally uninspired. I love my books. I have read them many times and I am proud of them. I just can’t think of what to say about them. I’ll have to work on that, because that’s part of this crazy adventure.

The moral of this story is there are ways of marketing that are less painful than copying and pasting your blurb all over the internet (or writing new ones every month or so). There are facebook pages (granted, someone actually needs to SEE your page for that to be considered marketing), blogging, pinterest, and a host of other avenues that aren’t so painful. That is my goal: find interesting ways to market that don’t cause me to obsess, feel like a social failure, or leave me uninspired.

Since I am a reluctant marketing director, I will post about things I found entertaining to do because if it’s not fun and it’s eating up a chunk of my writing time, I’d rather not do it (and the past year has shown that I am a master at avoiding it).

I’d fire me as marketing director, but since nobody else wants the job at what I’m paying, I guess I’ll have to put up with my own temperamental marketing strategies. In the meantime, I’ll be pinning and blogging and I might even write a new book description – heaven knows I won’t be spending hours catching up with all my friends on facebook. 🙂