Revising Light’s Blurb

A goddess of ancient times, under a volcanic sunAs many of you probably know, I consider myself blurb-challenged. Marketing copy simply does not come naturally to me – or unnaturally either. 😀

I believe I continue to improve – thank goodness! – but improvement comes slowly, and requires lots of help.

Last week I received wonderful help from someone who writes excellent blurbs. He read my blurb for Devouring Light and remarked that it was full of plot, more plot, and nothing but plot. This is bad! To quote Dean Wesley Smith, “Remember, readers want to read your nifty plot, not be told about it.” Exactly.

The really odd thing? Until the feedback on my blurb for Light, I honestly didn’t perceive that it was congested with plot. The instant I read the feedback, it was clear as day. I don’t know why I have such trouble staying out of the plot in my blurbs, or perceiving it when I stray into plot, but I do.

Anyway… once I saw the problem with Light’s blurb, I set to work fixing it.

And now I’m going to share what I did!

Light quote 1

This was the problem child:

Can one small good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio stands watch over the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger, but not from afar. Close to home lurks the real risk that his festival for Sol’s 25th anniversary will be a bust.

Failed negotiations with constellations and his fellow guardians send him to the brink of complete frustration…when a beautiful celestial wanderer fetches up at his domicile, seeking refuge.

Her form beguiles. Her mystery intrigues. And Mercurio’s fascination with his visitor poses yet another threat to Sol’s celebration.

Will Mercurio recognize his role as cat’s paw soon enough? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than any of the guardians imagine – threaten the solar system’s very existence?

This is, indeed, much too much plot.

And while the way in which constellations and planetary guardians appear as characters is clear in the book, it won’t be to someone browsing a bookshelf or a web page. When a browsing reader is confused, he clicks away to another page or sets the book down to pick up another. Not what I want!

Light quote 2

So I tossed the whole thing and started afresh, writing out my thoughts in my journal.

Focus the Devouring Light blurb on the moment when Mercurio arrives home:

• all of his records indicate that something is wrong
• but Vigilem, his clockwork cat, won’t say what (even though he knows)

It’s been a bad day – Mercurio’s planning a circus show for Sol’s birthday, and none of his fellow planetary guardians (or anyone else) wants to help. It looks like he’s going to have to ask Haden, and Haden is no safe power to approach.

But now he’s got problems on the home front as well.

• bad day
• no one will help with the circus
• and now this: problems at home
• little does he know that both sets of problems will meet
  in a much larger one!

Light quote 3

Writing out my thoughts always moves me forward much more effectively than merely thinking them. Once I’d jotted down all of the above, I had an idea for the start of the blurb.

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves his the oddball chunk of rock – with its retrograde out-of-sync spin orbit and spin, its apparent illusion of retrograde motion – almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him to organize a gala celebration circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him. Nobody wants to

After a day of “no, no, and no!” from Saturn’s clowns, flying lions winged bulls, and acrobats, he returns home to learn that something a speck of cosmic debris menaces his planet

• orbit transcript
• rotation transcript
• planetary magnetosphere
• coronal disturbances & solar flares
• Vigilem coy

…to see an anomaly on all the transcripts recording Mercury’s the events in Mercury’s sphere. Something is wrong with his planet. But what?

No obvious answer…

To quote those clowns of Saturn: “No, no, and no!”

I’m down in the plot again. The first paragraph was on the right track, but after that it all went south. Grrr! Try again!

Light quote 4

Mercurio – the guardian of Mercury – loves the oddball chunk of rock, his sacred charge, with its out-of-sync orbit and spin, its illusion of retrograde motion. Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him!

After a journey filled with no, no, and no! Mercurio returns home to learn that his beloved planet…

something out of order with his beloved planet

• a meteor
• a comet
• a wanderer, a hobo, a vagabond

which means a one-of-a-kind celestial body, something Vigilem is not familiar with

Aagh! There I am down in the plot again. Okay. Start on a fresh page. One. More. Time.

Light quote 5

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him.

A joke with lethal consequences in this clockwork universe where the simple “no, no, and no!” of Mercurio’s friends and neighbors prospective circus performers

What kind of story is this? It starts with Mercurio designing a circus performance and ends with [spoiler removed]. It’s a story in which the stakes keep getting raised. It’s a save-the-world story. A save-the-solar-system story.

A joke with lethal consequences as the stakes rise ever higher.

Hmmm. The first three paragraphs of my blurb are good, but I need a good closer, like the closer for Caught in Amber.

Amber quote

A tale of multiple rising stakes

A tale of rising stakes told with all the subtlety and deception word play J.M. Ney-Grimm brings to science fantasy.

J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes with the delightful subtlety, misdirection, and playful teasing wordplay inherent in displayed by typical of Mercurio himself.

As you can see, I started to descend into the plot again when I touched on those “lethal consequences.” This time I pulled myself up, realizing that I needed to go directly to the closer. I tinkered with various possibilities for that closer, but I could feel my brain getting soggy. I’d lost my sharpness. I was nibbling close to what I wanted, but I was just going to get farther away from it, if I continued without a break.

I set the blurb aside and got a good night’s sleep.

Light morning

(Yes, the photo above is the view from my back deck.)

The next morning, it felt like the whole thing needed to sit another day. In fact, I gave it two days, and awoke on the third knowing the right final paragraph was waiting in my back brain. All I needed to do was sit down and start writing. It would come.

Courier for the gods Divine and mMischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

The next paragraph or line needs to be something other than what happens next.

While Mercurio plots to wangle his way around the “No, no, and no!” from his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the guardian of Pluto plots a much darker spectacle a spectacle much darker than a circus.

In a clockwork solar system of the mythical celestial spheres, Devouring Light

Light quote 7a

Gah! I need some way of including “clockwork solar system” in this blurb. But it’s now really time to hit the closing paragraph!

While Mercurio wangles his way around the “No, no, and no!” delivered by his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the somber guardian of Pluto plots a much darker scheme.

A tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system governed propelled ruled by the gods of ancient Greece and Rome told with the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys.

stubborn, ornery, testy, exasperated, impatient, irritable, captious, irascible

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay enjoyed by Mercurio himself, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

Yeah! Nailed it! Time to get the computer out!

(Yes, I was writing longhand. It works better than typing for me when I’m really struggling.)

At this point, I knew I had the basic structure of the new blurb. It would need small adjustments, but the heart was there. And while longhand is better for when I’m laboring, the computer is much easier when I’m making adjustments.

Light quote 8

Here’s the blurb in its (current) final form:

Mischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

While Mercurio wangles his way around the captious refusals of his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns – “No, no, and no!” – the somber guardian of Pluto plots a darker scheme.

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

For more about writing sales copy for fiction:
How I Wrote and RE-WROTE Cover Copy for Troll-magic
Cover Copy Primer
What Happens After the Manuscript is Complete?
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!

 

Do Goodreads Giveaways Work?

Goodreads is essentially a social media website for readers. Its stated mission? “To help people find and share books they love.” This April, Goodreads announced that 50 million reviews of books had been posted by users on the site. There’s no doubt that many, many readers frequent Goodreads and that many authors hope to catch the attention of some of those readers.

Goodreads landing page

One of the aids to discoverability offered by Goodreads is its giveaway program.

The author or editor or publisher of a book lists the title in the GR giveaway program, specifying the dates during which the book will be offered, the number of copies to be given away, and which nationalities are eligible to participate. Goodreads chooses the winners. Then the author (or editor or publisher) mails the paperback books.

I first tried the program in 2013 with my novel Troll-magic.

I followed the GR recommendation that I give away 10 copies and that I let the giveaway run for a month, from March 1 to April 1 in this instance. I limited the countries to the US, the UK, and Canada, because I was concerned about shipping costs.

As it turned out, US shipping averaged $4 per book, the UK $5 per book, and Canada $7 per book. I sent each copy directly from CreateSpace. International shipping from the US has become more expensive now than it was back in 2013, so how you get the books to the giveaway winners is even more important. I suspect CreateSpace mails each book from the plant nearest to the specified address and thus gets the cheapest shipping rate possible.

Just last month, when I attempted to mail a brand new copy of Quantum Zoo sitting on my shelf at home to a reader in the UK, I was shocked to learn it would cost me $24 or more! I quickly reverted to sending the book directly from CreateSpace.

thumbnail imageSo how did my first giveaway turn out?

Troll-magic
March 1 – April 1, 2013
Sign-ups: 580
# put on GR to-read list: 239
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$112

I wasn’t impressed.

At the time, Troll-magic had been out for 14 months. When it first released, about ten of my family and friends bought and read it. After that it sold one or two copies a month. It seemed fairly clear that the book was largely invisible, readers who might like it stumbling upon it by sheer chance.

What I wanted to do was advertise Troll-magic in one of the newsletters then available, such as Pixel of Ink or Ereader News Today. But in order to be accepted by such advertisers, my book needed reviews. Most readers do not write reviews. I’ve heard rates ranging from one reader out of a hundred to one reader out of a thousand who will do so. But no matter where the truth might lie, my book was not selling enough copies to garner reviews.

The Goodreads giveaway guidelines state that the average giveaway book receives six reviews for every ten copies given away. They caution that this is an average. Each title will perform differently.

Troll-magic received only two, and their substance was not in the least helpful. One winner’s review was merely a note explaining that she was too busy to read at that moment, but that she planned to bring Troll-magic on her next vacation and maybe read it then. The other winner said that Troll-magic had too many point-of-view characters for her taste. (It has five.)

I did notice that the book sold 5 copies in April, instead of its usual 1 or 2. But I was not convinced the increase was due to the giveaway. I’d tinkered with the book’s keywords. The increase could well be due to that change. I’d also joined a writers’ group that focused on marketing. There were five of us in the group, and the other members were reading Troll-magic in April. I figured 4 of the 5 sales were my fellow writers buying their copy to read.

However, the GR guidelines were talking about averages. With reason. The tire is always going to meet the road in the specific readers who win. And the readers who enter a giveaway will not be as choosy as they might be, if they were spending their own money to buy a book. Some of the readers signing up would be people whose reading tastes are such that they will never like any of my work. Some of the winners could be readers who will never like my work. If I’m really unlucky, all of the winners might be such people!

I decided I would try another giveaway with a different book.

Sarvet cover image, 150 pxSarvet’s Wanderyar
August 31 – September 30, 2013
Sign-ups: 384
TBR list: 149
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70

These were better results! Six reviews, and all of them positive: one 3-star rating (I liked it!) and five 4-star ratings (I liked it a lot!).

The substance was better too.

“I loved this book and recommend it to everyone…” a cup of coffee and a fairytale    “Short and sweet and easy to read.” Nadhirrah    “I enjoyed the author’s style, and how she successfully wove together a brief story that did not sacrifice depth and detail.” Tyler    “Wonderful tale of coming to age…” Jay    “…quite engaging. Sarvet’s Wanderyar is a bildungsroman that depicts a girl’s transformation from an innocent and fearful child to a wide-eyed and open woman.” Shelby Rollenhagen

I’m not sure I noticed that in the month following the giveaway, Sarvet’s Wanderyar sold 5 copies instead of its usual 1 or 2. Since I spent $70 to purchase and mail 10 copies to giveaway winners, and those 5 copies sold (at $2.99 each, with Amazon keeping its 30%) netted me only $10.46, the giveaway was not a cost-effective way to advertise. But I note the increase now. At the time, I remained focused on gathering honest reviews.

Because the results of the Sarvet and the Troll-magic giveaways were so different, it seemed clear that one could not depend on any one giveaway. The sensible thing to do would be running a series of them. I decided to run giveaways for each of the novels and novellas that I had published.
Navarys cover 150 px

Skies of Navarys
November 25 – December 20, 2013
Sign-ups: 509
TBR list: 187
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
JAN sales: 0

“The characters are realistic thirteen years old with all their curiosity, doubts, amiability and daring in the face of adversity.” Wendy     “The plot of this novel was more action driven than character driven.” Lyle Appleyard  (Note the opposite reader reactions!)

thumbnail image of cover
The Troll’s Belt
January 13 – February 8, 2014
Sign-ups: 597
TBR list: 207
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 every 2 months
FEB sales: 3

“Different take on an old classic. Enjoyed thoroughly.” Shelia    “Wow… It was a really good read.” Emilia    “There were a lot of loose ends left.” Bob Stuhlsatz     “The part of the story I enjoyed the most was…about finding courage to get yourself out of a situation that seems hopeless.” Deanna Lenz    “…a good book that I’ll be holding on to to read to/give to my son when he’s older.” Bel

Livli's Gift, 150 px cover
Livli’s Gift
February 17 – March 22, 2014
Sign-ups: 848
TBR list: 332
Reviews: 4
Money spent: ~$90
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
APR sales: 3

“…the novel was beautifully written.” Eva     “It was truly a trip reading Livil’s Gift. Especially when the character goes into trance…” Jay    “…a good story.” Sabrina Bradley    “I cannot believe how lucky I am to have received this incredible treasure of a novel for free…” Joe

A medieval lady stands in an ancient stone hall
A Knot of Trolls (anthology)
April 14 – May 10, 2014
Sign-ups: 789
TBR list: 295
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$95
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
MAY sales: 2

“I don’t read a ton of high fantasy so I was a little apprehensive to start reading this book. However, I found these stories to be a fun and interesting read. Ney-Grimm has created a fascinating new world rich with details and memorable characters. Very well written, Ney-Grimm paints a vivid world full of magic.” Alisha

A goddess of ancient times under a volcanic sunDevouring Light
June 30 – July 26, 2014
Sign-ups: 599
TBR list: 238
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$85
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 4 months
AUG sales: 2

“Pretty accurate understanding of astrology… Hades: I have a real problem with people always portraying him in an ‘evil’ light; as far as gods go he was actually pretty nice.” Jodi

(Okay… the reader is always right about her experience. Yes. But this is my blog, so… my novella Devouring Light has nothing to do with astrology; it is inspired by mythology and the ancient Greek cosmological model of the celestial spheres. I portray Hades as a complex character, not an evil one. Just sayin’.) 😀
thumbnail cover image
Perilous Chance
August 18 – September 19, 2014
Sign-ups: 859
TBR list: 351
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$75
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
SEPT sales: 4

“…lovely fantasies …quite enjoyable …great characters… Thank you.” Vykki    “It was almost poetry-like. That threw me off a little bit and caused me to not enjoy it that much.” Tyler Knight  (Ah. Not fond of lyrical prose!) 😉

At this point I’d run 8 giveaways, spent ~$665, and had seen only 1 or 2 reviews for the last 4 giveaways. It was time to assess my overall results.

My first thought? Goodreads giveaways are awfully expensive for the results they generate! I can’t afford to carry on in this way!

Looking at the average numbers… $84 spent per giveaway, 645 sign-ups per, 250 TBR, 3 reviews generated per, I decided I was done with giveaways.

There the matter lay for nearly a year and a half. “But, but, but…” as Ian Fleming writes in the delightful book (not movie) Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

QZ spine photo 600 px

I had 8 lovely, brand new copies of Quantum Zoo sitting on my bookshelves, because I’d wanted to see a pile of them all in one place and I’d been convinced I would give many copies as gifts the previous Christmas. (I gave two of the ten I’d ordered. Ha!) 😀

And then I heard several indie authors say that the optimum number of copies for a GR giveaway was one or two, not ten.

What if I tried a 2-copy giveaway for Quantum Zoo? I’d already paid for the books. Even if both winners lived in Canada, I’d need to spend only $14 to learn how a 2-copy giveaway performed.

I set it up. And then, in a burst of enthusiasm, I set up 2-copy giveaways for Hunting Wild and Caught in Amber as well.

So, how did they go?

First, let me say that I was ill-informed about international postal rates here in the US. The last time I’d mailed a gift to a friend who lived across the Atlantic, the shipping rates were reasonable. Apparently that changed sometime in 2015. As it chanced, one QZ winner lived in Canada, the other in Britain. I would need to spend $24 each in order to get the books to the winners, for a total of nearly $50. No way! I quickly reverted to my old standby of sending them direct from CreateSpace, but it meant I spent ~$24 (for books and postage) instead of the $14 I’d estimated.

Quantum Zoo thumbnail size coverBut what about sign-ups and TBR lists and sales?

Quantum Zoo
May 18 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1205
TBR list: 294 +292 = 586
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$24
2016 average sales rank: ~#300,000
JUNE sales rank: #112,624

“5 stars… an interesting collection of stories… through the weird and the wonderful…” Michael

(Quantum Zoo is on my fellow editor’s KDP desktop, not mine, so I don’t have immediate access to sales figures.)
Hunting Wild cover image, 150 px
Hunting Wild
May 17 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 811
TBR list: 315
Reviews: 0
Money spent: $15.47
2016 sales rate: 1 per month
JUNE sales: 1

“This is really well done. I only meant to read a few pages, and looked up a couple hours later when I finished.” Amazon review

Amber cover 150Caught in Amber
May 12 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1069
TBR list: 428
Reviews: 0 (one 4-star rating)
Money spent: $20.71
2016 sales rate: 3 per month
JUNE sales: 3

“The writer gave herself a difficult challenge with the setup, as for most of the book there is just one character, trying to survive and figure things out. It works. The writing is atmospheric and lyrical…” Amazon review

Obviously the proponents of the 2-copy (or less) giveaway were correct in asserting that it made no difference to the number of sign-ups. The most I’d ever received for a 10-copy giveaway was ~800. Yet both Quantum Zoo and Caught in Amber broke the 1000 mark. Hunting Wild is a novella. It received 811 sign-ups, compared to the ~500 that my other novellas received.

Nor did the fewer copies offered seem to negatively affect the number added to TBR lists, each in the 300 – 400 range.

For making readers aware that a book exists, 2-copy giveaways seem just as effective as 10-copy giveaways.

What about reviews?

Honestly, I’m no longer pursuing reviews. Sure I like receiving them, especially the glowing ones! If a reader were to ask me my preference, I’d say, “Please! Do leave a review! Yes!” But I’ve had the chance to try some of those newsletter ads that have review thresholds, and none were effective.

Glory review image

Most require that the book advertised be on sale for 99¢, which means I’ll make 35¢ for each sale. The ads cost between $15 and $40 (or more). So I’d have to sell from 43 to 115 copies in order to break even. I don’t. So far, the best a newsletter ad has done for me is 8 copies sold – nowhere near good enough.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my audience are not finding their next good book from such places. I’m not myself.

Oh, I tried the newsletters as a reader for several months. And I regretted buying (and reading) the few books that caught my attention. Maybe that makes me a cranky old cow, but I don’t think so. I suspect that not many writers are writing the type of book I enjoy, and those that are do not advertise on Ereader News Today, etc.

Furthermore, I’m guessing that readers of J.M. Ney-Grimm books are also not able to find a lot in the newsletters that appeal to them.

Now that I have the ability to buy spots in the newsletters, I’m no longer very interested in doing so. Wouldn’t you know! 😀

However, I’m reconsidering the proper purpose of GR giveaways and whether they might be useful for overall discoverability. As I prepared to write this post, I did a little digging online (again) for what other authors had to say about giveaways, and I found a very interesting post by Catherine Ryan Howard. She agrees with two of the conclusions I’ve come to: 1) don’t use GR giveaways to get reviews, and 2) don’t give away 10 copies at a time.

I wish I’d encountered her advice before I did all my expensive experimenting! Although she wrote it just as I was starting my last 10-copy giveaway, so… too little, too late? 😀

But I’m wondering if a 1-copy giveaway might have a place in my launch strategy for new books. Reviewing the effect that giveaways had on my sales, looking at the long term, not the short term, was very interesting.

Up until May 2013, I sold very few books. With each new release, the four friends who’d decided they actually enjoyed reading my fiction would make their purchases. Another handful of strangers would buy their copies. And then the book would settle down to selling very sporadically.

Business for Breakfast, cover imageI was in what Leah Cutter, author of Business for Breakfast, calls the “drips stage.”

You write a novel and publish it.

Somebody buys it. Great! This is a drip. You make another sale that month. Maybe you don’t sell anything the following month. Then you have another sale. … A sale here, a sale there.

She described my experience well.

But in May 2013, something changed for me. I reached what Cutter labels the “trickle stage.” (Cutter calls books “properties” in the quote below, as in “intellectual properties.”)

Everyone who has read your stuff loves it. You continue to write and publish. But your work hasn’t found its audience yet. Drips continue. Then, at some point… you notice a change. A single property may still only have a sale every other month or so. However, this other property is also selling a copy every other month. … Not a single property is selling consistently or well. However, all your properties sell one or two here or there. Suddenly you have a trickle.

That was it exactly.

From the time my first book released in December 2011 through April 2013, I sold in drips. Most months I sold 1 copy of one of my titles. Some months I sold 4 or even 8 copies. Some I sold 0. Once I sold 14 copies! That was exciting! But I never knew what to expect. I hated the “drip stage”!

I won’t claim that “everyone” who read my work loved it; the reviews that appeared were by-and-large positive and one reader who kept a blog posted several glowing reviews on his site. I was encouraged, but eager to reach more readers.

Wanderyar review image

Then, in May 2013, I sold 20 books. From that month onward, my sales stabilized. I averaged 12 sales per month, with a low of 6 and and a high of 33, most often hitting the 9 – 15 range. I had reached Cutter’s trickles stage. And – looking back – I suspect it may have been the Goodreads giveaways that did it.

It couldn’t have been the writers’ group I joined (as I surmised in the immediate wake of the Troll-magic giveaway). There were only five of us, and when the other members read Troll-magic for the purpose of giving me marketing suggestions, only two of them purchased the book. The other two sideloaded it to their ereaders from a file I emailed to them. And after they’d read it, three of the four said, “I don’t usually read this type of fiction, but I liked it anyway.” I seriously doubt they converted to Ney-Grimm fandom. 😀

Sales stats May - June 2013So, where did the sudden and sustained increase in sales come from?

It could have been the keyword changes I made, but I doubt it. Their main use is to determine which categories Amazon places your book in, and which “bestseller” list it will appear on when sufficient copies are sold.

Some writers get a lot of sales when their book appears on a bestseller list, due to the increased visibility. My sales have always worked exactly opposite to this. Some unknown factor will prompt a spurt of sales and pop Troll-magic onto the Norse bestseller list. But once the book is there, the extra visibility does not result in more sales. Instead, the book slowly slides down the rankings and eventually off the list. Until the next time a spurt of sales pops it back onto the list.

That behavior fits with what I suspect about my audience. They don’t get their reading recs from bestseller lists, any more than they do from newsletters.

Which means… that the greater visibility for my books that suddenly arrived May 2013 was caused either by the Goodreads giveaways or by some other unknown factor. There’s no way to know for sure, of course.

But my next step will be trying a 1-copy giveaway. Will it receive as many sign-ups as a 2-copy giveaway? What about additions to TBR lists?

I currently average 20 books sold per month. Would a series of 1-copy giveaways with short, 7-day durations as recommended by Catherine Ryan Howard boost my visibility to the next level (Leah Cutter’s “streams”) the way the first giveaways boosted me from “drips” to “trickles”?

I still have more questions than answers, but I’ve got some new questions. 😀

 

Kobo Knows How to Do Ebook Links Right!

In November, I decided it was time to update the links on my site that point to my books’ Amazon pages.

When I first started my blog, in February 2012, I included links to Amazon.com and Amazon UK, figuring that since I write in English, the residents of the UK were in my potential audience.

Then I had my first sale in Germany. Another in Spain. One in Italy.

Continental_models-Australia

It became obvious that there are English speakers, or readers, all over the globe. So whenever a new country showed up in my sales, I’d add that Amazon to the links.

That method brought the number of Amazon links up to 10 out of the 13 Amazon stores this year. Since most of my books are also available at B&N, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo, the list of links after each title was 14 stores long. Too long, especially for my readers who shop at one of the stores in the middle of the alphabet.

So I found a source for a global Amazon link. All thirteen Amazon stores are accessed from one link that directs the browsing reader to the Amazon store serving his or her country.

I asked my international visitors to test these new global links and let me know if the links worked. My visitors tested. Thank you! The links worked. Yay!

I celebrated my link success for all of a day, before it occurred to me that B&N also has separate websites in different countries, and Kobo as well. The links on my site led only to the US B&N website and the US Kobo website. That was a serious problem.

I tackled B&N first, with absolutely no luck. If there is a way to make my B&N links global, I can’t find it.

Kobo log in window

I moved on to Kobo, and what I found impressed the heck out of me. Not only is there a way to make Kobo links global, but that way is native to the Kobo’s own set-up. For the Amazon links, I have to rely on an outside provider. If that provider ever goes out of business, I’ll have redo all my links. But the Kobo links are likely to be good for as long as there is a Kobo.

Kobo has a user guide, which I’ll link to here.

And on page 36 of that user guide are instructions for creating global links. Page 36 says:

A big part of promoting your Kobo ebooks is making sure your readers can easily find them. If you give readers a direct link to your ebooks’ item pages, readers can easily access your Kobo ebooks from your website or blog. The creation of links to product pages is fairly simple. To direct readers to a particular ebook on Kobo, you drop your ebook’s ISBN into the following formula:

http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=[eISBN-13]

I visited the Kobo web page for each of my books to get the eISBN-13 number assigned by Kobo and pasted it into the given formula. Easy peasy! Did I say I was impressed by Kobo?

thumbnail imageThus my link for Troll-magic became http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=1230000222926.

My link for Sarvet’s Wanderyar became http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=1230000118098. And so on.

Of course, I tidied up the links so that they look neater: Troll-magic and Sarvet’s Wanderyar. Or Kobo and Kobo.

So, readers who favor Kobo, my site is ready for you! 😀

 

How I Wrote and RE-WROTE Cover Copy for My Novel

How to Write Fiction Sales Copy by Dean Wesley SmithI recently read How to Write Fiction Sales Copy by Dean Wesley Smith, and it is excellent. Excellent! I can’t say enough good things about it.

In the course of writing “blurbs” or cover copy for my own stories, I’ve perused a lot of how-to advice for same. Some advice proved helpful. (And I needed a lot of help! Marketing does not come naturally to me.) Some of it sounded reasonable, but when I followed the instructions, I generated some of the worst copy of my life. And most of the advice available was geared toward non-fiction.

But Dean has succeeded in bottling lightning – or come very close to it, indeed.

In How to Write Fiction Sales Copy, he lays out two general guiding principles and then proceeds to describe seven patterns or “formulas” – the structural bones – for writing sales copy. He includes numerous examples (for real stories destined for the marketplace) illustrating each approach.

I learn best by example, so this was pure gold for me.

But the bottled lightning? After reading the 32 example blurbs, I wanted to go buy and read every single story they presented. Every single one! Now that’s successful sales copy!

lightning

TWO FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES

So what are Dean’s two guiding principles? Because I’ve taken workshops taught by him, I’d heard them before, and blogged about them, too. But in the interests making this post about cover copy complete, I’ll restate them.

1 • Stay out of the story’s plot.

Readers read a book to experience the plot in all its magnificence, told with all the skill that the storyteller can manifest. Regurgitating the plot in the sales copy will do nothing but wipe the wonder from it. It certainly won’t sell the story. There are better ways.

How do you know you are down in the plot? Your copy will have a lot of what boils down to “and then this happened.”

If you see a lot of “and then this happened,” you’ve done it wrong. Delete and start over.

If you’ve got a little dash of “and then this happened,” figure out how to get rid of it. The rest of your copy might be good.

Writing blurbs that sink into the plot of my story is my great weakness. I cannot tell you how many times I solicited feedback in Dean’s first workshop, “Pitches and Blurbs,” only to be told: “Nope. You’re down in the plot again.”

I must always check my blurbs for this problem.

2 • Use active verbs; avoid the passive voice like the plague.

That means avoiding verb constructions that require “is,” was,” “had,” “have,” and the like.

I’m lucky enough to possess a knack for avoiding passive verbs when I write sales copy. Occasionally an “is” sneaks by me, but that’s rare. However, most fiction writers, when they start writing sales copy, fall into either the trap of focusing on the plot of their stories, or the trap of using passive verbs, or both.

And no matter how agile I am at avoiding passive verbs, my tendency to dive into the plot still kills my blurbs just as dead.

Those are Dean’s two principles, and they are critically important, but it was his “formulas” and examples that really brought my understanding to a new level.

DEAN WESLEY SMITH’S BASIC BLURB PATTERN

In this blog post, I thought I’d talk about the first formula presented in How to Write Fiction Sales Copy and show…

Kay Nielsen art depicting a lassie aback a north-bear…not only how I used it to improve the sales copy for my novel Troll-magic, but the entire journey that particular blurb has traveled: from its first incarnation (when I knew exactly nothing about writing sales copy), through my poor first stabs at using copywriting principles, and on to my latest version, created after reading How to Write Fiction Sales Copy.

At the very least, you’ll get a good laugh at the absurdity of my student efforts. But I hope you’ll also learn a little something.

So what is the basic blurb pattern?

Paragraph 1: Introduce the protagonist and/or the world. Nail the genre, if at all possible.
Paragraph 2: Introduce the story problem. Limit yourself to the content of the first page of a short story, the first scene of a novella, or the first chapter of a novel.
Paragraph 3: Raise the stakes.
Paragraph 4: State why the reader wants to read the story, using largely genre tags or keywords.

Now, that is too abstract for me. I’m sure there are those of you who could go on swimmingly from there, but I am not among that lucky company, alas.

But no troll-witch permits...

AN EXAMPLE

So, to use an example, let’s look at each paragraph of the most recent, updated blurb for Troll-magic.

North-land spellcasters who summon excessive power transform into trolls – potent, grotesque, and hungry for control.

This first paragraph introduces the world – a fantasy world featuring spellcasters and trolls and malevolent magic – and identifies the genre.

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And his thoughts spin out of all sense, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

This second paragraph introduces the protagonist and his problem. Prince Kellor suffers from a nasty curse. Some way of escaping from it exists, but Kellor doesn’t know what that might be.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own life and save his? Should he?

Troll-magic is not only a novel, but a l-o-n-g novel, told with five point-of-view characters, although largely from the vantages of Kellor and Elle. So this paragraph is really just an extension of the blurb pattern’s “paragraph 2.” It introduces Elle as key to solving Kellor’s predicament.

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

Paragraph 3 raises the stakes. In other words: Not so fast, Kellor! Most curses have loopholes, but not this one. Not really.

J.M. Ney Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory and dark magnificence, tumbling toward a lethal battle of wills and the impossible choices forced by clashing loyalties.

Paragraph 4 tells the reader that Troll-magic is a beauty-and-the-beast type story, that its events produce feelings of exaltation in the reader, that its theme deals with catch-22 choices and stubborn frenemies, and that its prose is well-crafted.

(Many of my readers comment on my “lyrical prose” and remark that certain events in my stories evoke such strong feelings of sheer joy that they’re transported and amazed. So I include phrases that touch on those elements. They are reasons to read my work.)

No doubt this is far from a perfect blurb. I’m still learning. But you can see Dean’s formula for his Basic Blurb Pattern at work. And, as you’ll discover when you read on, this is far better than any blurb for Troll-magic that I’d produced before.

"Why had he never noticed...

MY ATTEMPT TO CHEAT FATE

Now let’s visit my first ghastly stab at a blurb for Troll-magic, which surely deserved better than I was able to give it at the time.

“In short, she was the friend from his childhood . . . and yet not his old friend: taller, hints of curves. Why had he never noticed she was beautiful before? All his planned introductions slipped away.”

Kellor’s a prince in trouble. Lorelin’s a musician trapped by bucolic traditions. Both must defy a troll-witch’s curse while navigating a maze of hidden secrets.

So what the heck was that?

It’s not really a blurb at all, but merely an excerpt from Chapter 6 of the novel!

I was so utterly clueless – and I knew I was clueless – that I didn’t even try to write sales copy. I picked a delightful moment on the story, quoted from the manuscript, and then added a brief gloss following the quote.

Which meant I spoiled that moment for the reader, because it won’t be fresh for him or her when those three sentences arrive. And I shirked the job that belongs squarely in the publisher’s court.

Many books that go through traditional publishing never receive the attention of the sales force, and thus the sales copy is written by a book’s acquiring editor or even the intern who read the manuscript. And sometimes that person does just what I did: quotes from the story and avoids writing any copy at all.

But that’s not the way to interest readers in a book. And I chose the indie publishing route because I wanted to do better than the mediocre job often done by traditional publishing for novels written by midlist authors.

Just because I’m bad at the marketing angle doesn’t excuse me from learning how to do it properly and giving my books the marketing support that all books need.

Fighting against a nightmare...

MY STUDENT VERSION OF THE BLURB

So let’s look at what I developed after my first class on writing sales copy for fiction.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

An accursed prince and her own longing for music challenge Lorelin to do both.

But tradition and a hidden foe stand squarely in her way. How do you make dreams real when vision fails, allies undermine you, and all roads toward hope twist awry?

Can courage, honor, and loyalty prevail against a troll-witch’s potent curse?

Set within her enchanted North-lands, J.M. Ney-Grimm’s new take on an old Norse folk tale pits distorted malice against inner wisdom and grit.

Courage, honor, and loyalty...

WHY IT FAILED

First off, it is an actual blurb, not a mere pretense at one. Score one for Ney-Grimm!

The first line is an excellent hook. Dreams and nightmares are emotion-laden words. Nearly everyone has awakened from a nightmare with pounding heart and sweat-drenched brow, because the monster had caught them, the villain had pulled the trigger, or the zombie’s teeth had sunk into their flesh.

And most of us have cherished heartfelt dreams that meant everything to us.

Pairing the two concepts – fighting against a nightmare, fighting for a dream – let’s just say that it pleases me, lest I toot my own horn too loudly. 😉

The last paragraph also heads in the right direction. It lets the potential reader know that I’ve written many stories set in my North-lands, which is a fanatsy milieu. It indicates that the story is a retelling of an old Norse folk tale. Although, a caveat: many more readers will be familiar with Beauty and the Beast than know of Norse folk tales. And the last phrases tell the reader that the theme treats of inner strengths pitted against fear-inducing malevolence.

The paragraph works, but it could be much stronger.

The rest of the blurb is hopelessly vague. Clearly I was reacting to my known tendency of drowning in plot by flying so far above it that no one can figure out anything at all about my story.

That was certainly the reaction of my writers group when I asked their feedback.

Beyond the fact that Troll-magic featured a cursed prince and a musical country girl, the only certainty was that the story possessed a villain. But most stories have a villain – or at least an antagonist – so what is special about this one?

This was a blurb that failed to deliver the goods.

Elle quote

HELP FROM MY WRITERS GROUP

In the winter of 2013, I helped form a writers group with other indies who were interested in focusing on the publishing side of indie pubbing one’s books. We looked at one another’s book covers and gave feedback. We assessed our story openings for reader appeal and gave feedback. We brainstormed ways to let readers know that our stories existed.

And – writer by writer – we worked on cover copy.

When it was my turn, my fellow writers were incredibly generous. Every single one of them was better at cover copy than I was, and they each not only read Troll-magic (you do remember I said it was l-o-n-g, right?), but they wrote their own version of cover copy for it. Some of them wrote two or three versions! Super wonderful folk!

I studied each version, learned from them all, and then tried to produce my own improved version.

The idea was not to lean on one another permanently, but to learn and get better at the various skills necessary to publish a book well.

...from cool pine forests...

AFTER THE HELP

North-land spellcasters who wield excessive power transform into trolls – potent, twisted, and hungry for dominance.

Prince Kellor, cursed by a troll-witch to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. He sees his childhood friend Elle as the key to his escape.

But charming Elle will be no easy task. Traversing that delicate passage between adolescence and adulthood, she struggles to balance family loyalty against her passion for music.

In this epic adventure across a stunning landscape, from cool pine forests to an icy pinnacle of basalt so real it leaves you shivering, Elle and Kellor must summon essential wisdom and grit to prevail against a troll-witch’s malice in a lethal battle of wills.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

If you compare the first two sentences od this version to my latest version, you’ll see that they are the same. They introduce the world, Prince Kellor, and his dire problem well.

But Elle appears as a means to an end, rather than an important POV character in her own right. And we still don’t know – from content of this blurb – what sort of a story this is and what exactly Kellor and Elle are trying to do, other than defeat the villain. Or prevent the villain from winning.

There is no clear statement of the stakes, let alone a raising of them.

I kept that blurb for a long time, however, because it was better than what I’d managed before. My skills at blurb writing were improving, but I still had more to learn.

The illusory loopholes...

DRAFTING SALES COPY

Finally, this August of 2015, Dean Wesley Smith wrote a series of detailed blog posts on the topic of writing sales copy for fiction, and it was as though the proverbial curtain were drawn back before my eyes. I read and re-read those blog posts. I took copious notes. When Dean turned those blog posts into a book, I bought it and reviewed the material.

And when I wrote the copy for my five new books – released November 12 – I followed the guidelines outlined in that book. I could see that they were much, much better than cover copy I’d developed before.

Then and there, I vowed to return to my backlist, once the new books were well launched.

Because the blurb for Troll-magic struck me as the worst of all the blurbs written B.C. (before How to Write Fiction Sales Copy), I tackled it first.

One thing I’ve learned through all my years of struggling with copy is that I have to wrestle a draft into shape first, using all my know-how (such as it is at the time), and then let that draft sit overnight. If I’ve done my work properly, a lot of that draft will be right on target.

And the next day, I’ll be able to see which parts are good, which parts need tweaking, and which parts should be ditched completely.

I cannot see any of this without a night’s sleep between draft and revision.

She once shared...

THE ALMOST-RIGHT VERSION

The following was my first draft for Troll-magic’s updated blurb.

Just to be clear, it’s not what first came from my pen. My working pages include copious “notes to self” about what I was aiming for, numerous sentences that I jot down to capture an idea and then cross out, even more paragraphs with lines drawn through phrases, other phrases inserted, and so on.

My blurb writing process is messy. It almost has to be.

So when I say, “first draft,” I mean what I hammered out over 6 hours of work!

Anyway, here it is!

North-land spellcasters who summon excessive power transform into trolls – potent, grotesque, and hungry for dominance.

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. Maddened by pain, his thoughts spin out of all sense. Rage shakes him unpredictably. And confusion dogs his search for one of the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s wilderland rambles. She now loves all things musical and struggles against the lack of opportunity in her bucolic surroundings.

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse twist back into its dark heart. Unless Kellor unravels a paradox. Unless Elle performs the impossible.

A lyrically told Beauty and the Beast story in which distorted malice tests inner wisdom and essential grit.

That felt almost right to me. Almost, but not quite.

North-land spellcasters who...

WHAT NEEDED TO CHANGE

After I’d slept, I knew what needed to change.

First issue: “hungry for dominance.” The phrase inched too close to what one might find in steamy romance. It strikes the wrong note for epic fantasy with a thread of sweet romance running through it. I’d wanted to avoid the word “control,” because it seemed too modern for my Steam Age setting, and I still wouldn’t use the term in just this way within the story.

But sales copy can stand to be a little less scrupulous about anachronisms than can the story itself. And the issue with many trolls in my North-lands is one of control, although they would not say it that way.

So “hungry for dominance” became “hungry for control.”

Second issue: the string of sentences starting with “Maddened by pain,” isn’t punchy enough.

I have to strike a careful balance with this. Marketing copy needs to have impact. It is usually punchy and short. I like to follow that recommendation, but I also need to present a hint of the lyricism that surfaces here and there within my stories and is a reason why readers read my books.

But the “Maddened by pain” sequence is not lyrical. It’s merely dragged out and inefficient. I changed it to: “Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And his thoughts spin out of all sense, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.”

Third issue: “…and struggles against the lack of opportunity in her bucolic surroundings.”

No. Just, no. We need to focus on what lies between Elle and Kellor, rather than haring off on Elle’s issues. Yes, she has them. But the blurb is not the place to explore them. Blurbs need to stay tightly focused.

Fourth issue: “Unless Kellor unravels a paradox. Unless Elle performs the impossible.”

I strayed into plot with those remarks. Or else I was gilding the lily in my raising of the stakes. Cut!

Fifth issue: “A lyrically told Beauty and the Beast story in which distorted malice tests inner wisdom and essential grit.”

The first phrase is right on target, but everything after “in which” is vague and doesn’t tell the prospective reader why he or she will enjoy the book. It needs to go further than it does.

Rife with moments...

THE UPDATED BLURB

We saw the fully updated blurb at the beginning of this post, with my commentary between each paragraph.

Let’s look at it without those interruptions.

North-land spellcasters who summon excessive power transform into trolls – potent, grotesque, and hungry for control.

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And his thoughts spin out of all sense, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own life and save his? Should he?

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

J.M. Ney Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory and dark magnificence, tumbling toward a lethal battle of wills and the impossible choices forced by clashing loyalties.

Better, don’t you think?

What has your experience with cover copy been like? As a reader, have you ever bought a book because of its sales copy? As a writer, do you struggle with writing it? Or does it come naturally to you? (It does for some, just not me!)

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

For more about cover copy, see:
Cover Copy Primer
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!

Be aware that these earlier posts will carry you back in time with me on my journey through writing sales copy. The principles I put forward are sound, but my ability to execute them grows ever less, the farther back in time you go. 😀

A few places to find How to Write Fiction Sales Copy:
Amazon I B&N I Kobo

And few places to find Troll-magic:
Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords

 

What Happens After the Manuscript is Complete?

Once you have a complete manuscript – ready for publication, ready for readers to enjoy – what happens next?

workflow ms

Several of you have asked me this question, and it is well worth considering.

Writing has a natural flow. When you finish one scene, you write the next. When you complete the first draft, you send the story to your trusted first reader. When you’ve fixed the errors pointed out by your first reader (or readers), you send the manuscript to your proofreader. Step three cannot be performed until steps one and two are complete.

workflow: too muchBut once the manuscript is completely finished, the next step is less obvious. Especially if you prefer to do the work yourself, as I do.

Do you create the cover?

Do you write the cover copy? (Sometimes called a “blurb,” just because “blurb” is one syllable, while “cover copy” is four!)

Or do you format the file for uploading to the different etailer sites?

It can feel like all of these tasks are rushing you in a group. But they aren’t. You pick one and work on it. Then you pick another and work on that one.

I have published fourteen ebooks so far, and I have another five underway. Somewhere between the first book and the fourteenth, I arrived at a workflow that feels comfortable for me and that allows me to do my best work.

I’ll outline it below.

workflow: early blurbThe Blurb

I always tackle the cover copy (or blurb) first, because I find it to be the most challenging piece of publishing a book. I have to take multiple passes at it to get it right.

How I feel about my first attempt at a blurb varies wildly!

Sometimes I’ll write it and think: I nailed it! This is it! Woot, woot!

More often, I’ll struggle and groan and feel as though someone is driving spikes through my head, and think that whatever I’ve created for cover copy is awful! Blurb writing does not come easily to me.

But once I’ve put in solid, committed effort and have a complete blurb, I move on.

If you’d like to see the principles I follow when writing blurbs, I have two posts about blurbs on my website: one here and one here.

workflow: cover artCover Design

I tackle the cover design next. Finding the right art for the cover can be very challenging, but usually I’ve started looking for art while my first reader is reading my story. Often I’ve found the art and purchased the right to use it before the manuscript is back from my proofreader.

For me, cover creation is like playing. All my stress melts away, and I’m just having fun creating a beautiful and compelling visual that fits my story. It’s a good chaser to the agony of blurb writing. 😉

For guidelines on cover design, see my Cover Design Primer.

workflow: second blurbBlurb, Round 2

Then I look at the blurb again.

Inevitably – whether I loved my blurb or hated it – I see that it’s not good enough. It conveys a false idea of the story or it fails to ground the reader in the setting or it doesn’t include any hint of the lyricism that is part of my writing.

A blurb can fail in so many ways, and I think I am slowly discovering them all. 😉

But usually there is some portion (or portions) of my blurb that is useable. I build on that for another draft. And see what my husband thinks about it. And then use his feedback to create yet another draft.

Then I return to my cover.

workflow: tweaking the cover design

Cover Design, Round 2

When I create my covers, I start with the cover for the paperback. I’ve learned that it is much harder to add a spine and back cover to an ebook cover than it is to extract the front cover from a paperback cover and use it for the ebook.

So I pour the blurb into my paperback cover file.

When I do so, I inevitably see that the cover needs some adjustment.

Maybe the font I chose requires that the tail of the “J” in my byline be a little longer. Or a little shorter. Maybe the position of the skier’s cloak (in the art) is too close to the spine. There is always something.

So I tweak the cover.

(The left version of Devouring Light above shows only the harsh black of outer space behind the goddess. It directly contradicted the playful undercurrent of my story. The right tweaked version of the cover has a soft starfield in the background.)

workflow: third blurbBlurb, Round 3

Pouring the blurb into my cover file helps me to see the blurb as a reader, rather than as a writer. That fresh perspective often clarifies where to go next with the blurb. By this time, my blurb should be approaching its final form. A little more massaging will get it to where I am satisfied.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am far from a master blurb writer. Marketing gurus have many years of schooling in the discipline behind them plus years of experience. That’s not me! I suspect I will continue to learn about blurbs and how to write them for as long as I’m publishing books. But I am better at it than I used to be.

Format the Ebook File

I leave formatting the file for last.

I believe that ebook files need to be as simply formatted as is possible. You never know what kind of a device your reader will be reading on. It could be a Kindle or a Nook or a Kobo. More likely, he or she will be using a smartphone and some sort of ereading app.

The more bells and whistles you include, the more likely that something will go wrong. And then your reader won’t be reading at all. Or, if she is, it won’t be your book.

So I make the formatting very, very minimal.

Which means that it doesn’t take me much time. Half an hour at most.

workflow: keywords

Keywords

Not all etailers allow the publisher to attach keywords to a book. But Amazon and Nook Press do. You want to choose your keywords carefully. I choose mine to position my book in as many of the suitable categories as possible.

I use Amazon’s keyword guide for fantasy and science fiction to help me choose. I only aim for categories where my book genuinely belongs. But often there are quite a few that fit. I want my book to appear in as many of those as I can manage. 😀

I make a list of the keywords for this book and keep a record of them in my computer folder for that title.

workflow: final blurbBlurb, Round 4

Sometimes I don’t need this final stab at the blurb. But, often I do.

Just before I upload the ebook file and the cover file, I look at the blurb again. And tweak it just a little more.

Uploading

I double check to be sure I have everything I need. Is the file formatted and ready to upload? Check.

Is the cover file correctly formatted and correctly sized for uploading? Check.

Is the blurb ready to copy-and-paste into the blurb box on the etailer site? Check.

Do I have my keywords chosen and ready? Check.

I log into my account, type in the requisite information, upload the files, type in my price in US dollars, and round the international prices so that they are not a weird number like £3.16.

Then I wait the 12 hours it takes (sometimes less on Amazon, usually more on the other sites) to go live.

Author Central

Once the book is live on Amazon, I visit my Author Central account and “claim” the book as mine.

This will cause the book to appear on my author page on the Amazon site. Whenever a reader clicks my name on the book’s page, he or she will arrive at my author page. I want all my books to appear on that page. I want it to be easy for a reader who loved one of my books to find another.

The other benefit of my Author Central account is that I can format the blurb.

The KDP desktop where you upload the book does not permit any formating. No italics. No bolding. Nothing. The result can look unprofessional and messy. The desktop at Author Central lets me make my blurb look nice.

And – guess what? – when I see the blurb correctly formatted, I often make yet one more tweak! That final blurb often has ten or more drafts that preceded it!

workflow: Author Central blurb

Quality Assurance

When I upload a book, Smashwords and Amazon both have a step that allows me to preview the ebook. I look through every page of it to be sure that a glitch has not crept in unbeknownst to me. I don’t read. What I’m primarily checking for are: odd page breaks, weird formatting, or formatting that appears as text instead of invisibly guiding the text of the story.

My workflow tends to generate odd page breaks from time to time. Not always. Not often. But sometimes. If I find any, then I have to fix the problem and re-upload the file before I click the publish button.

But I like to take one final QA step on Amazon after the ebook is available for purchase. I buy the ebook and look at it on my Kindle. And give a huge sigh of relief when I see that the formatting is indeed fine.

Devouring Light on the Amazon siteDone!

Writing out my entire process makes it sound like a lot. But I move through it fairly quickly these days. Practice!

Of course, this is the workflow for an ebook. Paperbacks use some of the same elements – but they have their own unique workflow. Perhaps, if I hear interest, I’ll blog about it sometime.

Edited to Add

All of the above could be summarized much more tidily.

1 – The blurb: write it.
2 – The cover: create it.
3 – Format the ebook file.
4 – Choose your keywords.
5 – Review steps 1 and 2, repeatedly, and tweak both, repeatedly. 😉
6 – Upload the files.
7 – Visit Author Central and format the blurb.
8 – Buy a copy of the ebook and look at it on your Kindle.
9 – Done!

My hope is that the more detailed narrative will be useful to those who are actually in the throes of the work between completed manuscript and published ebook.

The middle of the real process is a lot messier than nice, neat check lists. Many of us (myself included) find value in an accurate (if complex) roadmap. 😀

The links mentioned above:
Cover Copy Primer
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!
Cover Design Primer
Amazon’s Keyword Guide
Amazon’s SFF Keyword List