Lessons Learned from Marie Force

I've been very busy lately. Very busy. I'm not making excuses because a good amount of what I've been doing has had to do with writing. But I've also been working long and strange hours and I've also been putting together another blog, this one on my other loves... vintage and creative projects for the home. I'll let you in on that one later, but for now I want to talk about some of the writing related things that I've discovered when it comes to formatting your ebooks and books for Createspace.

These are the things that would have been done in-house by a traditional publishing house. I remember when I got my first contract and had to submit a style sheet listing information about the story and the characters and even how we envision our covers. I got none of it on my covers. Want to know how bad it can get? Check out my post here on the evolution of a cover. Thank God for Sabrina's Digital Imagery because she saved my book from the dreaded goat cat that was on the original cover.

Anyway, there is more to making a book memorable then having a great story, giving it a good cover and making sure it is error free. Those are all really important, but if you want to grow your readership then you need to make it as easy as possible for the reader to connect. Marie Force visited a recent Maine RWA meeting and she talked about all the things that she does to sell her books. Here's just a couple... (I'm paraphrasing, but the sentiments the same).

1. You have to have inventory for the customer to read. Write. Write. Write. If you don't have the next book ready when they finish the first will they really come back and get it later? Besides, who needs a store with just one item in it. You've got to have the inventory. 

2. Make it easy for the reader to find your books. Sounds simple, but try picking up one of Marie's books (You can start with Maid for Love from the Gansett Island Series. At the moment it's free on Amazon as an ebook) and taking a look at how she lists her books available, adds links to the where the books can be purchased and encourages readers to follow her on social media.

3. Give them a taste. At the back of each book she adds an excerpt to the next book with a link at the end that takes them directly to the spot to purchase it. It's worked so far for me. I'm on book 4... or is it 5? Either way, I'm making my way steadily through the series. It works.

Then there are some other things that I don't think she mentioned, although I may have been writing furiously and missed them. But I have noticed a few things about her books that make them stand out. 

4. Forgo the boring formatting. I'm not talking about throwing caution to the wind and making crazy indents, but I'm talking about little things like changing the fonts on the chapter headings. Varying the size of the fonts and style. Those little things make it feel more like reading a bound book then an ebook. Take a look at some of the books out there. Not just read them, but take a look at the transition between the chapters, the way the pages are formatted and the over all presentation of the book. Play with the formatting. Nothing is hurt by trying something new.

5. Make them personal. The more you can make the readers feel familiar with you, the more they'll read your books. Make them relate. Make them believe that they know you and you've got a reader for life.

6. CYA: Otherwise known as "cover your butt". Sort of. Make sure that you've got all the legal stuff in there to protect yourself and your work. It's your work, don't give it away because you didn't bother to learn how to protect it.

7. Making it hot doesn't hurt. By hot I mean SMOKING HOT. She doesn't categorize them as anything other than romance, but a good portion of each book is the characters not being able to keep their hands off each other. That's not to say that they have indiscriminate sex. The basis is all there for the hot and sweaty stuff. But that just proves that most readers don't mind a little hot.

8. Consistency. Follow through on all books, not just on story, but on content. Give them all of the information on all the books. The great thing about pubbing indie-style is that you can go back and change and edit to your liking. I'm working on that project now. Maybe that's why my eyes are crossing. ;)

Lastly, there was something else that goes along with making it personal and making it easy. Marie has said that she tries to respond to all her readers, that she acknowledges their comments and makes them feel treasured. That goes a long way with relationship, but it's really important if you want to bring them back.

A debt of gratitude, I offer to Marie. She has no idea how much she's helped me. Well, maybe she will if she reads this post. There is always something new to learn and I thank her for showing me some great new ways to look at my own work. As for me? I'm off to download the next book in the Gansett Island series. After all, who needs sleep...

More Adventures at Createspace

Some of the things you should never do when you are exhausted...

1. Make life altering decisions. No jumping into marriage. Buying a house. Having another child... you get the picture.
2. Drive. As an example, you should never try to drive the almost 10 hours from Maine to Pennsylvania and back in one shot just because you are convinced it'll be no problem... it will probably be a problem and no amount of caffeine and blasting 80's music while you sing at the top of your lungs will keep you awake when you are that tired.
3. Buying groceries... sounds innocent enough, but I can tell you that there are a whole lot of bad decisions that are made when you have to rush into the grocery store after working all day and can't figure out what you want for dinner. Hamburger Helper anyone? How about my friend Bun's choice of sardines in a can or Moxie over ice cream with potato chips. Yes... I'm serious. But he is an original.
And lastly...
4. Don't do anything embarrassing. Never try to proof read simple cover copy when you've been working insane hours at your day job. It won't work well and you'll probably post something to Facebook that you'll be mortified by.

In my case, I misspelled the name of my book and then missed it completely. Duh!!!!! But Createspace was very nice and helpful and had it changed at all the Amazon venues. I'm very happy. And very mortified. But the mortification is dissolving at the shear fact that the book is now available  to hold in you hot, little hands. Thank goodness that Blogger has spell check!

Want a copy? Here's a neat little widget to help you satisfy your cravings....

Adventures at Createspace

I've taken another leap of faith... or should I say imagination this time and gone the route of having Three Truths published in book format through the POD-Amazon-Linked Createspace.com. I've been hearing about it for some time and still I hesitated. When going the indiepub route I find that I sit on my decision longer than usual, mostly because I'm afraid to make the wrong jump. Was Createspace the right jump to make? Only time will tell.

The process is not unlike publishing through the KDP Dashboard (Kindle Direct Publishing). It walks you through the process and there are safeguards in place, such as being to opt-in-or-out of a professional editing service. I opted out since Three Truths has already been out there in print format in another incarnation as The Three Truths of Katie Talmadge. It was originally published through a small press that offered no distribution and little else. But again, that was a choice I made in the beginning of the pubbing part of my writing career. I tend to look at everything as a learning curve and this was one of those curves.

But as for Createspace I found the process fairly straight forward. It walks you through the whole process and gives a handy little check off system to make sure you don't miss any steps. There are optional sizes for your finished product.  I went with the 6x9 which makes for a nice trade paperback size. You want to make the most of your pages. Extra pages means extra cost that will get passed along to customer. Createspace does require that you purchase a proof copy of the book, but this can be a very good thing as I found a couple of formatting mistakes and choices that I wanted to change before the final.

For the cover I was given the choice of uploading an already formatted book cover, but since I had the front cover image, but not the entire book jacket format I decided to go with a customizable cover from their selection. This allowed me to use the great image that Sabrina's Digital Imagery created for me and create a back cover option that optimized the selling points for the book. I did come up with a longer blurb for this than the selling blurb that is required for most ebook sites. Be sure to pay attention to the image guidelines when you upload your image. It needs to be a certain size and file type for it to work. Play around with it for the best options.

Once all that was done and my proof approved it goes to the distribution channels. There are three options (all Amazon related) for free distribution and another three channels that can be had for $25. I opted out on the additional channels since this book had already been in print once before. Plus, being new to Createspace I wanted to see how the process went before coming up with the additional money.

So, the book is set and complete and the distribution channels picked. There are additional marketing options like bookmarks, postcards and sell sheets (also press releases and the like), but these are also available at an additional charge. Places like Vistaprint can do postcards and bookmarks for you at really good prices depending on your level of comfort at manipulating your images. It's all up to you.

Createspace gives your book a page on their site, but I don't see how there is much selling going on directly from their site. In 3-5 business days my print book should be available on Amazon directly. I'll let you all know how that progresses and whether this generates any sales. Until then, it is nice to have the option to hold my book in my own hot little hands. As nice as the convenience of ebooks are there is nothing like holding a book to ground you. But both are nice options when you need an escape.

Want to see how the Createspace page looks? Check it here.

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