Monday, May 23, 2011

Investing in my book

I didn't expect to have my novel up for sale on Smashwords and Amazon so quickly.  I was expecting THE TRAZ to be published this week and semi-scheduled my celebrations to coincide--so I've been caught off guard but in a very good way.

Smashwords had THE TRAZ posted before I'd even finished filling out all their e-forms.  That was startling. 

You can purchase or sample THE TRAZ by clicking on the little green Smashwords button above my picture to the right of this article.  Smashwords offers their ebooks in a variety of formats, including Kindle, pdf and rtf for computers, Kobo, Sony, and even for iPhones and such.  Amazon offers their ebooks in Kindle format and if one doesn't have a Kindle e-reader, one can download free Kindle software and read THE TRAZ on one's computer.

Both Amazon and Smashwords let you download a free sample before purchasing the book.  I dare you to do that--knowing you'll be compelled to buy the book to find out how the story ends.

When I first contemplated self-publishing, the major warning circulating in cyberspace was the amount of time and effort self-published authors had to invest in order to sell their work.  I am just now embarking on that task so I can't comment based on experience.  However, I can comment on what an author ought to invest in BEFORE self-publishing.

Hopefully, the time and dollars I've spent on these pre-publishing tasks will make the post-publishing marketing easier.

Self-publishing requires many specialized skills.  One must either learn these skills or be prepared to hire experts.  This means self-publishing requires both time and money and one would be wise to research, budget, and schedule to make the self-publishing journey smooth and enjoyable.

My journey began with joining writers groups and connecting with the experts.  This required an investment in memberships and conference fees, an investment of time in networking and researching the publishing industry,  and an expenditure of dollars for the services writers groups offer such as contests and Reading Services.

My next step was to hire a book marketing coach.  Following her advice, I set about creating a strong online presence.  I paid to have a website designed, I spent hours learning how to update this site, I spent money to secure my domain name, I learned how to blog and tweet and facebook. 

The number of people an author is likely to meet at arranged book signings and other such events is very tiny compared to the number of people who will learn about your book online via social networks, websites, blogs, search engines, and press releases.

Reaching out to a potential readership and currying that readership on line is a great marketing ploy.

Another major investment I made was hiring editors.  Good editors do not come cheap but will earn their keep when it comes to market a novel.  Smashwords and Amazon both have sample download features.  If your work is full of errors,  you will lose many sales.  You will also lose many good reviews and good reviews drive sales.

I also invested a significant amount of time in connecting professionally with the media, reviewers, libraries, and others appropriate to the genre of my book.  For example, I approached professionals who work with at-risk teens to review my book and advise if they might consider using THE TRAZ as a teaching tool.  Smashwords allows me to generate coupon codes so these professionals can download free copies of my book.

I'm not a graphic artist and had no time to learn to become one, so I hired professionals to design a book cover and create a book trailer. 

Instruction for correctly formatting manuscripts before uploading were lengthy and complicated so I chose to hire someone to properly format my manuscript for both Amazon and Smashwords.  If one's ms is not properly formatted, it could be rejected for publication or (perhaps even worse) it can published and look terrible and be difficult to read.

With my experience in journalism I was able to write my own press release, but I did pay someone to proof and advise.

When one considers the amount of money that one would have to invest in a university or college education in order to pursue a career, the above expenses and time that an author invests in a writing career are minimal.  I invested money I saved from quitting smoking in self-publishing The Traz--I'm hoping it will prove to be a good and wise investment. 

The better your final product is, the easier it will be to sell.  Therefore, please consider these expenses an investment; not a rip-off by coaches, promoters, web designers, editors, artists, writing organizations, etc. 

Remember, successful marketing begins long before your book pops up on Amazon. 

Sample or purchase THE TRAZ:

Web site:
Eileen Schuh, Author of THE TRAZ

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gearing up for Sales

While my manuscript continues to be formatted for eBook publication, I'm gearing up to promote THE TRAZ so that it will make me a rich and famous author.

Aside from becoming extra active on my social networks and my blogs, I posted an excerpt from THE TRAZ on my website.  I also began creating a pre-release press release, designed to stir advance interest in my book and net me some interviews and media coverage. 

I have a strong desire to call such publicity "media releases" or "news releases" because way back decades ago when I was a journalist,  TV and radio reporters objected to the phrase "press release" as 'press' refers only to print media.

Today, it seems "press release" is once again the phrase in vogue.  During my years as a reporter and editor, I gained lots of experience with press releases--reading them.  I quickly discovered that writing them requires an entirely new set of skills. 

Writing a press release is not at all like writing a news story.  Nor is it similar to pitching your manuscript to an editor or publisher.  It is not like tweeting or facebooking.  It's just...well, it's just it's own kind of writing.

Firstly, I needed a catchy headline, short but informative.  Accurate but alluring.  One promoting THE TRAZ but not obviously so.

Below that catchy headline I needed a sub headline--a short and sweet something to keep the reader reading.

Then I needed to remember to put in the dateline (ST. PAUL, AB 19 May 2011).  In my journalistic days, the place in the dateline was always the location from which the reporter was writing--not necessarily where the action was occurring.  I understand that not all media outlets still follow that rule.  Whatever the case, what better town to put in the dateline than my adopted home of St. Paul?  Surely that will catch the eye of the local newspaper and radio station and get me an interview or two.

For my first sentence, I needed an exciting summary of the press release and I had to keep in mind my target readership.  Although THE TRAZ is being marketed as YA, it won't be young adults receiving my press release. 

This introduction needed to excite media people, educators, librarians, child support people, and book reviewers. 

Following all that, I found it fairly easy to complete the body of the press release--describe the book (I used the back cover text that I'd  already prepared), include wonderful blurbs from famous Canadian authors (which I already had solicited and received), inform people how to buy the book (which they can't do yet, but contact me and I'll set you up), and paste in my already-prepared author bio.

I highlighted my contact information for those wanting to request interviews or further information.

I polished it all off with some visual and auditory stimulation: my video trailer, the picture of my book cover, and my author picture.

Now the press release sits on my hard drive, its tab on my tool bar.  Every hour or so, I open it and proof it again.  I email it to a few friends for comments and corrections.

While it ages and improves, I research the big WWW for press release outfits to which I can email this promotional masterpiece.  I learn how to format according to each company's guidelines.   I collect the contact information for media outlets in all my past and present home communities.  I play Bubble Shooter, check my email, and bemoan the facts that it's Friday the 13th and Twitter has disappeared from cyberspace.

I set the release date for Tuesday May 17th (as Mondays are generally the busiest news days of the week and my press release may be overlooked) and hope that by then I can Tweet about the latest step in my seemingly endless journey to eBook publication.

Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sooooo Close!

THE TRAZ manuscript is now in the able hands of Cheryl Kaye Tardif to format for ebook publication.  As can be expected, there were a few last-minute snags.  One beta reader disappeared from cyberspace before remitting her feedback.  One famous author from whom I'd requested a blurb advised me to get rid of 1,959.02 exclamation points in the ms and to delete almost as many dialogue tags. ("he said", "she said", etc.) 

After deleting so many cuss words, exclamation marks, and dialogue tags my story is probably 10 pages shorter than when I started.

It will take about week to get the book formatted then, depending on my technical skill, patience, intelligence, and perseverance THE TRAZ will be uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords.  I'm making no promises about the time frame that will involve.

In the meantime, I will begin to actively promote THE TRAZ.  I'll put a sneak peek preview somewhere on line (watch for it).  I'll blog about my bikers for National Crime Writers Month (tomorrow) and also on my website

I'll compose a media release to coincide with the publication date of THE TRAZ .  As the next school term approaches, I'll also be publicizing the Discussion and Teaching Guide included with THE TRAZ.

Once THE TRAZ is on the market, I'll be hinting around to my cyberspace pals to interview me and/or let me guest blog and I'll be asking readers and reviewers to post comments on Amazon, Smashwords, blog sites, Twitter, Facebook...everywhere.

The draggiest part of this experience so far was getting the editing done.  It took a long time to find an editor that operated on my plane of reality.  The editing process itself took much longer than I anticipated, mostly because I did it twice--something  that was unexpectedly required because the first editor recommended substantial changes.  This draggiest part of self-publishing was also the most expensive part.

The most difficult part of this experience was adapting my writing, my story, my characters to make THE TRAZ marketable.

The most confusing part of this experience was ascertaining the target readership for THE TRAZ.  (I want EVERYONE to read THE TRAZ, not just young teens!)

The most exciting part of this experience was seeing the front cover done.  The trailer (a short video ad) which is still under construction, has me very excited, too.

The most uplifting part of this experience was getting positive, wonderful blurbs and feedback from accomplished authors after I'd nervously sent them advanced reading copies.  (Thanks, Lou, Garry, and Cheryl!)

The very best part is yet to come though--selling my first book, followed by a wonderful review from that very first reader.

Then there's the possibility of bring THE TRAZ out in print--and holding my very own book in my own hot little hands....


Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Final Steps to epublishing

So, we're now into May, how's THE TRAZ coming along?  Well, I thought I had it all wrapped up when I discovered I'd forgotten to get some pithy "blurbs" to promote the story and decorate the cover.

cover by
"These blurbs should be written by authors who have a bigger name than yours," Cheryl K Tardif, ( my Book Marketing Coach, advised.   Since Schuh only has 5 letters, I figured it would be an easy task to find authors with bigger names.

That wasn't what Cheryl meant, though.  What I needed to do was ask successful authors, perhaps ones with several published books, perhaps ones whose books had sat for a few weeks on the Best Seller's List, perhaps authors who had won awards.  That was a bit intimidating--kind of like asking a brain surgeon to take a quick look at the mole on your toe. 

But authors are generally very supportive of each other's endeavours and it wasn't long before I was sending out my first official ARC (Advance Reading Copy) to these illustrious authors to peruse and then blurb about.  It was tense. 

Today I got my first blurbs back and they are wonderful and I'm all happy again.

Late last week I got feedback from my young beta readers.  One was concerned about the amount of swearing in the book. 

"You ought to address this concern," Cheryl said.  "If a youngster is concerned about the coarse langauge, you can bet adults will be.  It could cut into your sales."

To me, writing a book about drug dealers and biker gangs without using any cuss words, seemed an impossible task.  After throwing a few ceramic pots against the crystal table top, I buckled down and did a search for the 'f' word.  When I reached page 7 and had already topped 25 occurances, I decided my young reader had a valid point.  Although bikers may talk that way, I didn't have to repeat their conversations word for word.  After all, bikers also go to the bathroom and perhaps pick their noses and I'd mentioned none of that.

My daughter, who was beta reading for me as well, said she didn't notice the language but suggested it wouldn't change the story or the characters if I  deleted the swear words or at least toned down the language.  After all, she said, the bikers' brutality was readily apparent in their beady eyes, their abusive relationships, and their evil motives.  If they said "hell" after torturing a young lad instead of "f", it wouldn't make them appear any nicer.

It didn't take long, thanks to "find and replace", to overcome that last minute hurdle.  In fact, I rather grew fond of the 'bloody hell' and "Sheeeet!" replacement phrases.  I emailed back my young beta reader to thank her for her feedback and advise that I had taken her concerns to heart and cleaned up the language (well, most of it.)

I also added the issue of swearing to THE TRAZ discussion and teaching guide--asking my readers to consider why people swear (to intimidate, to cover up fear, to belong, etc.) and to contemplate their reactions to incidents of swearing that might occur in their own lives.

Having got the "f-ing" under control, I went back to my inbox and opened an email notice from Crime Writers of Canada--a group of which I'm a member--reminding me that May is National Crime Writing Month. Alison Bruce was offering member authors the chance to post a blog on the NCWM site about our literary bad boys and demonic dames.  I put my name in to blog about THE TRAZ bikers and was accepted.  Sometime this month, you will be introduced to Pepper, Zed, Gator, Stack, and Shrug--the vilest of  evil criminals.

This week is also the week that Kelly Komm begins working on my trailer--a short video flick to promote THE TRAZ.  I will need to forward her the blurbs I receive.

Also, once I receive all blurbs I will find out where to put them in the ms and that should be the last thing I have to do before shipping THE TRAZ out to get formated for Amazon and Smashwords.

At least I think that is what will happen.  It seems there's an unending stream of unexpected chores that keeps rippling past me.  But hey, I'm up for it.  I'm learning.  Got my rubber boots and life vest on.

For those who are terrified to face these hassles, there is always Cheryl Tardif's publishing company, ImajinBooks which is accepting submissions.   If Cheryl likes your novel, she'll take care of these issues for you in exchange for a percentage of royalties from the sale of your books.

I thought about using ImaginBooks but this publisher wasn't accepting submissions when I first decided to epublish.  As well, I subsequently decided that since my goal is to use THE TRAZ to attract the interest of top-agents/big-publishers, it would be best if I self-publish.  That way, I keep all publishing rights and if say, DoubleDay, wants to buy both the print and epublishing rights to THE TRAZ, those rights will be mine to sell.

Many things to consider when self-publishing.  Many things to do.  Then...just when I think I'm almost done, my lovely coach casually mentions something about "...when you bring THE TRAZ out in print...."

Do you think she has another project in mind for me?

Don't forget to visit my website for some interesting trivia contributed by my author friends.  Each time you leave a comment below a contest trivia posting, you'll be entered to win one of many books.  I'll be posting some of my own trivia about bikers and gangs and THE TRAZ in the coming weeks--you won't want to miss it!

Photo by Dave Brosha Photography

Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer