Friday, September 23, 2016

MEET ME AT THE (BOOK) FAIR



I’m on the road again today, back to my old home town of Fredericksburg, Virginia to try and sell a few books.

This is Fredericksburg’s first such book fair, and I’m grateful to my friends at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library for letting me know about it so I could participate. Steve Watkins, a good friend of mine from the old days, will be a featured speaker, holding forth on his successful career as a writer of award-winning young adult fiction. And my kids (and grandkids) will be there to help me set up, take down, and attract folks to my table in between. So this will be a homecoming in more ways than one.

The helpful folks at FIBF sent the authors this great article on “Selling at Conventions” by Travis Heermann, author of Spirit of the Ronin. Travis has some terrific advice for anyone who has never done something like this before (which also serves as a reminder for those of us who are returning to the trenches).

This is what I can add, based on two years at the Shore Leave STAR TREK con and various library and coffeehouse signings:

--Don’t sit down. The table is barrier enough between you and your potential reader/buyers. Don’t increase the distance by sitting and getting engrossed in your own favorite book or what’s happening on Facebook. Keep to your feet where you can greet everyone who comes by. (I know—seven hours of this? You are allowed to take an occasional break.)

--Don’t become a circus barker. That doesn’t mean you hassle everyone who passes with, “Hey, you really need to read this book!” Just say hello. Maybe comment on a neat cosplay outfit or tee-shirt. If they slow down, ask how their con or book fair is going.

--Take time with your table display. Make it attractive and eye-catching with lots of color and something unique to draw attention. I’ve invested in a professional bookrack and signage. But I’m lamenting the fact that my cut-out of Captain James T. Kirk can’t be with me this time, since it’s an outdoor show. He’s an instant draw with an Interstellar Rescue tee-shirt on.

--Make it easy for folks to buy. I have Square now, which allows people to pay with credit cards directly into my bank account, using my iPad. (I pay a very small fee.) Post prices so people don’t have to ask you. Offer discounts for multiple buys.

--Capture readers even if they don’t buy. I offer giveaways (tee-shirts, signed copies, Amazon gift cards) as an incentive for folks to sign up for my Interstellar Rescue Squad Facebook group (my version of a mailing list). Some of them turn into my biggest fans.

--Tag team it. My daughter Jessie is my convention selling partner. She’s young, she’s attractive and she’s very outgoing. She’s not afraid to engage folks on just about any level. Let me tell you, it’s fantastic having her around! But there are other advantages to working with a partner. You can relieve each other for breaks, or to go get food. More books to sell always means more interest from the crowd. And if you know each other well, the very fact that you play off each other is a draw.

--Keep smiling! No matter what happens. This is the equivalent of Travis Heermann’s “don’t be a dick” admonition. Misunderstandings occur; space is at a premium; oddballs attach themselves to you for no clear reason; undisciplined children grab handfuls of freebies meant for adults; it’s hot (or cold); you get hungry and thirsty and tired. But people will remember how you treated them that one time FOREVER. God knows I may never be famous, but if I ever do breathe that rarefied air, I hope folks remember they met me one time in Fredericksburg (or at Shore Leave) and I was not some kind of ogre.

So wish me and the folks at the Fredericksburg Independent Book Fair well. And if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and visit!

Cheers, Donna


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Big Fat #Kobo Fail: Full Version & Finale #publishing

In the past year, I'd been focusing on Kobo as the only ebook retailer that could potentially rival Amazon (for me, at least. I feel like B&N have given up, iTunes is unfathomable to me without a Mac, Smashwords is still an archaic mess, I don't sell much at ARe and their weird rebate thing confuses me, and Google Play...complicated and prone to random price drops that can screw up your pricing on Amazon with their price match thing). No, Kobo looked like a good alternative and they were clearly on a drive to improve.

I've been published direct there since I released my SFR short Terms and Conditions Apply back in 2012. I was there just because I could be. With only the one short story up and being relatively unknown, I didn't sell much and their payment terms (you had to make $100 to get paid) meant I didn't even get the few pennies I'd earned. But I was okay with that. I was new, naïve, had only two titles - the main one being with a publisher - and those few pennies weren't going to make much difference. It was just being there.
Things changed in 2015 when my main publisher - Breathless Press - closed. I was already in the process of re-releasing my debut novel Keir after the rights reverted back to me, and suddenly I had five more titles homeless. In a moment of madness I decided to go ahead and re-release all but one of those on top of Keir. That's five books in one month. Crazy, right?
But it got done, and in the process I discovered Kobo had made changes to their payment policy. You still only got paid if you earned a minimum $100 a month but now, if you didn't make that threshold, you would get paid every six months regardless. Woot!
Now, this is still pretty slow compared to most retailers. Amazon pays me monthly regardless, even if two months in arrears ie in August I got paid the royalties earned in June. Draft2Digital pays me every month as long as I make a minimum $10 (right now that gets me paid once every two months, but still good). Smashwords and ARe pay me quarterly (which was also the standard for most of my publishers). But six months is still better than nothing, right?

Since I'd never been paid, I contacted Kobo to point this out and promptly received a payment. It was pennies but it was still payment! Thanks to my newly self-pubbed titles I started to earn a bit more (only just into double figures but it was going the right way). Even though I marked November as the next payment point (six months), I received my second royalty payment promptly in October.
Come 2016 I asked to access the newly launched authors promotions options and ran my first in May, seeing a good boost. I focused more on buying my books there rather than Amazon, and using my Kobo sales links for my own books in preference to Amazon's. While I still didn't sell as well there as Amazon, it was getting better.

But in May 2016 I realised I hadn't been paid as per the six months regardless. Theoretically that should have happened in April as I last got paid in October, but I figured well, first payment was May 2015 - maybe I get paid May and October.  Either way, I decided I'd best email them. After the usual wait (I find Kobo are slower/less responsive than Amazon) I received an apology and the assurance that I'd been added to the June payments and would be paid end of May. Uh, what? Not quite sure how that made sense, but I assumed that meant I'd get paid by the end of June at least.

No royalties showed up in May. June came and went, with no sign of Kobo royalties, so I emailed them again. They apologized again and assured me I would get paid in July.

I didn't.

At this point I was getting quite stressed and rather distressed about the whole thing. I've never had any issue with any retailer or publisher over royalty payments. My book sales had been dropping steadily across the board since July 2015, and by now I was struggling to find money for essential edits. I wasn't even making a living wage (if you want to know my true income, I generally make $30 a month. That's $1 a day essentially. Still think authors earn enough for it to be okay to pirate their books? Piffle. This is why I'm going back to a day job...if I can even get one). I had a decent amount sitting in my Kobo account, enough to almost pay for a cover or a chunk of editing on another book. I needed and wanted that money, and it was legally owed to me, so not getting it despite numerous promises was making me edgy and frustrated. It was a simple enough ask after all.

I'm not going to detail every communication I had from Kobo. I received numerous apologies and promises of payment by email, followed by a sudden silence. At that point I chased the Kobo Help account on Twitter and received more meaningless apologies but at least started getting emails again. I was offered a Kobo ereader which I damn well took - I figured worse case scenario I could always sell the ereader to cover the non-payment of royalties, though I fully didn't expect one to turn up any more than the money owed.

Surprise - the ereader arrived on the 27th of July. The royalties still didn't.

By now I was meant to be into the second week of my long summer break and instead I was still chasing Kobo for payment. While the money owed wasn't anywhere near enough to justify taking legal proceedings to get it, the amount was enough that it would make a significant difference to my publishing finances. After more empty apologies and promises to pay, and even assurances that a certain payment system had issued the payment at the end of July, still nada.

A new Kobo rep took over and sent me a screen shot of the payment issued. I still didn't receive it. They then said the payment company had issued 'the wrong type of payment'. Really. That's about convincing as the excuses given by our British Rail system for delays, like leaves on the line. Wrong type of payment?! Funny, because none of my details had changed and that same banking system had worked perfectly fine twice before. If any changes were responsible for the error, it was all happening at Kobo's end and not mine.

TBH, come 12th August with still no sign of payment despite Kobo's screen shot of payment being issued (BTW, 1st rep said 30th July, 2nd rep said 26th July so they couldn't even get their dates right), I began to feel like Kahmunrah in this scene from Night At The Museum 2 (except I still didn't get the combination aka royalties, and it took weeks instead of minutes). As in 'OMG, I can't believe it...'
On the 19th of August I accessed my bank account, more to double check my spending budget rather than in any real expectation of a payment from Kobo. To my surprise, it was finally there as of the 18th. Colour me amazed, and forgive me for not feeling the least bit grateful since this was four months late. I emailed the Kobo person who had been dealing with it to say that it had arrived, but didn't thank them. Do they qualify for a thanks after taking four months to actually do their job?! I didn't think so. I got an automated out-of-office response...and that was the last I heard from them to date.

Final upshot: yeah, I got a (very nice) Kobo ereader out of it but it doesn't replace the time and stress I went through trying to get money damn well owed to me (and during my 'holiday' too), and for that reason I'm unlikely to ever go back to Kobo direct. I'm not even sure I want to buy my ebooks there any more even with a flash new ereader to put them on, when other authors may be getting hit the same way. So much for Kobo being a viable alternative to Amazon. Maybe I'll just go back to ordering print from my local indie bookshop or charity shops...

In the meantime, I have The Bones of the Sea still up there as it's a freebie (because I don't have to chase for any payment on that one), and Gethyon is up on pre-order via Draft2Digital (which will ensure me getting paid monthly providing I hit $10 each time). The other titles will slowly return via the same distributor, or you can get Kobo compatible epub versions from ARe/Omnilit and Smashwords. I'm not sure if Kobo owe me any remaining monies, and frankly I don't care. I'm done. *walks away*

Update
Gethyon officially releases in just two days (though you can pre-order it everywhere now)!! Woot! I'm so happy to be putting this back out, especially with all the new and improved content, and the shiny new cover. And last week I got the second print proof...and it was perfect. So print will be available shortly. You can download a free sample from Goodreads, and if you read the previous edition, see if you can spot the changes. ;) And if you bought the original and would like the new version, just hit me with your request.

Gethyon
A Scifi Adventure Novel
B&N | Kobo | iBooks
Abandoned. Hunted. Out of control.

Gethyon Rees had always felt at odds with the universe, and hoped for an escape among the stars. But discovering he has the ability to cross time and space with just a thought brings more problems than it solves: a deadly bounty hunter who can follow him anywhere, the unwelcome return of Tarquin Secker--the mother who abandoned him--and an ancient darkness that seeks him and all those with his talents. 

When an unforgivable act sets him on the run, it'll take more than his unearthly powers to save his skin and the lives of those he cares about. It'll take a sacrifice he never expected to have to make.

A science fiction adventure novel previously published by BURST (Champagne Books), and part of the Travellers Universe. A 2014 SFR Galaxy Award Winner for Most Awesome Psychic Talent and a 2015 EPIC eBook Awards finalist in the Science Fiction category. Also now includes the SF short story The Bones of the Sea

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Blurb! New Cover! Big Sale! on Award Winning SFR

Happy Monday! Today, we have some big news to share about a major multi-author promotion for Science Fiction Romance e-books happening this week.

September 19- 23

All books are 99 cents or free!

And as part of it...

The Lowest Price EVER on Two RWA Golden Heart© Nominees

Sharon Lynn Fisher's Golden Heart© and RITA© Nominee, Ghost Planet, and
Laurie A. Green's Golden Heart© Nominee, Inherit the Stars.

Inherit the Stars

 I didn’t just love this, I simply couldn’t stop reading it.
--Reading Reality Reviews

2016 Carolyn Readers Choice Award Winner
2016 Aspen Gold Award Finalist
2011 RWA Golden Heart Finalist
2009 Heart of the West Winner
2009 Southwest Writers Winner

A+ rating on Reading Reality Review Site
Smart Girls Love SFR Site: A Favorite of 2015
Whiskey With My Book Reviews: 5 Stars
4.6 average Amazon rating

And as part of the announcement today here's a special bonus. The first look at the brand new blurb for Inherit the Stars...

SUBTERFUGE AND SACRIFICE

In all the vast galaxy, the fate of one fugitive stud-slave shouldn’t matter, even though Sair has broken free from the household of the Alliance leader himself. All he needs is transport to the netherstars and time to heal a devastated heart. But with a price on his head and a face half of civilization hates, he’d find little help even with the coin to pay.

The ship that docks in his escape route is no ordinary courier, though. The Specter is the stuff of legends, a prototype with unknown capabilities. Her captain, Drea Mennelsohn, is just as remarkable. Powerful, uninhibited, and ready to take what she wants, Drea reignites a desire Sair thought he’d never feel again. And the fare she asks is his willing body…

Days of risky travel and Alliance attacks explode into lust and connection when they’re alone. But as they race for safety, Sair begins to suspect Drea is far more than just a preternaturally talented pilot. And his own flight from bondage has upset much more than a few guards’ suppers. Together, Drea and Sair might transform the Alliance, perhaps even the fate of humanity itself. But the effort could cost them the only solace they’ve ever known…
 
* * *

Ghost Planet

An absorbing and exciting story full of science, sex, and intriguing plot twists.
—Publishers Weekly

Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy Book Club pick 
2013 RWA RITA Award Finalist – “Best First Book”
Two-time RWA Golden Heart Finalist 
Two-time 2013 SFR Galaxy Awards Winner

A WORLD IN PERIL. A BOND DEEPER THAN LOVE.

Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world--a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she'd struggle with the requirement to shun these "ghosts." She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet.

Reincarnated as a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy--creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone--oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love--Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence.

But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet...a struggle that could separate her forever from the man that she loves.

* * *

Some of the other authors included in this special promotion are Lea Kirk, S. M. Schmitz, Jessica Subject, Sabine Priestley, Diane Burton, Veronica Scott, Aurora Springer and many, many more.

The promotion also includes the full Portals seven volume line up (SFR first chapter samplers, all free, multiple vendors) and the Romancing the Stars SFR short story anthology published by authors of the SFR Brigade.

Click the titles above to go directly to these books on Amazon, or click here to see all the current Science Fiction Romance books at 99 cents or free!


Friday, September 16, 2016

LOVING THE LIFE OF AUTHOR-IN-RESIDENCE IN QUIRKY MARSHALL



I’m not sure when I started to think I might have gotten in over my head. 

Maybe it was when the artist organizer of the Marshall Patchwork Multimedia Art and Fashion Show, brought out the “string dresses” she’d made for a long-ago Mardi Gras, that resembled—no, that were—wildly colored sweater dresses covered with threads of synthetic Spanish moss.

Yarn hairdo and elaborate makeup--but it works for her!
Maybe it was when I had to say—a few times—that I really didn’t need elaborate makeup and a yarn hairdo for the event.

Maybe it wasn’t until the actual evening of the show, when the place was packed, the models were dressing in their unpredictably fabulous costumes, it was a hundred degrees in the old building, and I had to talk one of the designers (my friend) off a proverbial ledge before she agreed to go on. (“This is a circus,” she said. “I don’t do circuses.”)

But this was Marshall, my new adopted home town, and my friend and I shouldn’t have worried. In the end, the show was AMAZING, everyone who participated had a blast and the audience loved us! Quirky is Marshall’s middle name—right there before North Carolina. How could we go wrong with a show that featured music, art, fashion (not the kind you wear, but the kind that draws interest), and, of course, science fiction romance?

The multimedia event was the brainchild of Lois Simbach, a long-time resident of Marshall and a professional artist in several media, including fabric arts. In the carefree way of most artists, Lois just thought, well, let’s have a show, with the theme of “patchwork—all the many things that make up our mountain community.” She asked her friends to join in, with hanging pieces for the walls at the Madison County Arts Council, and fashion pieces, music and, ahem, readings for the show. 

Lois Simbach, Marshall Patchwork show organizer, in her string dress.
 
Living paper dolls from the Marshall Patchwork show.
 
And more living dolls from the show!
 
That’s where I come in. Lois is my friend—she asked me to do a reading from my new book, Fools Rush In. And, like most writers, I’ll do anything to sell a book. So I found myself among all these wonderful visual artists, a fish out of water, certainly, but willing nonetheless.

As the night of the show approached, one thing became clear. The fashion show would be wild, crazy and liable to bring the house down. So I asked to go first on the program. I figured I would have to overcome a fair amount of noise from the folks circulating with drinks from the bar, since the first hour of our 6:00-8:00 p.m. program was reserved for “beer, wine and conversation.” And, sure enough, when I began at 7:00, people kept talking in the back for a while. But about half-way through my excerpt from Fools Rush In (edited to a PG rating), I noticed things got quiet. And the audience stayed with me until the end, their final applause much more than polite. Later, complete strangers came up to say they’d really enjoyed hearing me read. According them, I didn’t sound nervous at all! 

Well, at least SOMEBODY'S listening!
 
Personally, I was just glad to have my part of the show over with so I could enjoy the fun. And, man, was it some kind of raucous entertainment! The pictures here don’t begin to tell the story. I do love my new home town. And I love even more being the author-in-residence!

Photos courtesy Colby Sexton, Marshall NC and Graeme Frelick, Marshall NC

Cheers, Donna