October 31, 2012

Win a copy of my book (and other marketing exposure)

Happy Halloween, everyone!

The last couple of weeks have been the best by far for me in terms of getting exposure.

First of all, as the title of this blog post implies, you can win a copy of In the Hands of Children or George and the Galactic Games! The folks at Me, My Shelf, and I were nice enough to have me as part of their My Indie Monday feature this week. Their post contained a short biography, a description of In the Hands of Children, an excerpt from the book, and a giveaway. You can read it here and enter the giveaway, which ends on Saturday.

Today, the Predatory Ethics blog also featured me, or rather, In the Hands of Children. They have an Indie Author Feature that runs every Wednesday and Sunday.

Lastly, my first ever review to be posted on a book blog appeared 2 weeks ago at The Indie Book Blog Database. I was super excited when I saw it, not only because it was my first blog review ever, but also because the reviewer gave me 4 1/2 stars!

October 27, 2012

Working with book bloggers

Before publishing In the Hands of Children, I didn't reach out to any book bloggers. I used to think that people wrote book reviews because they bought and read the book and decided to post a review. After all, that's how the reviews on this blog come about. :-)  I didn't know that authors and publishers contacted book bloggers, I didn't know what ARCs were, and I didn't know how many book blogs were out there.

As part of my growth as an author, I learned the role of book bloggers to my writing career. Shortly after releasing In the Hands of Children (still too late, I eventually learned, because I didn't have a "book launch"), I began looking for book blogs and contacting them in the hopes of garnering a review. I don't know what the experience of other authors have been, but I found it to be both frustrating and rewarding.

The frustrating part has been how few reviewers returned my emails. Out of the hundreds of book blogs I visited, I sent emails to about fifty of them or submitted their online forms. Of those, I heard back from less than ten. To date, two have posted reviews.

The rewarding parts of the experience are the interactions I've had with the people who have responded. They've all been very nice, even when they tell me that they'll add my book to their TBR pile and don't know when they will get around to reviewing it. I try to be courteous in return, and I hope that these relationship won't end with this one book review.

When working with book bloggers, I try to follow these principles:
  • Always read their review policy - The reason I filtered down my initial list of hundreds of book blogs to the fifty or so that I contacted was because of their review policy. If a blogger isn't currently accepting review requests, I won't send them one. If they don't review books in my genre or they don't review indie authors, I won't ask them to. After all, if they took the time to write a review policy, I should take the time to read it and honor it.
  • Be polite and helpful - I feel that the book bloggers are doing me a favor, so it's my job to do anything I can to make it easier for them to review my book. That includes making sure I send all the information they're looking for, not pestering them (where's my review? where's my review?),  thanking them for their help, and just being a nice person in general.
  • Keep expectations in check - I went in thinking I'd get a ton of reviews, but I haven't. And I have no idea what kind of reviews I'll get from the bloggers who agreed to read my book. Fortunately, the two who posted reviews of In the Hands of Children liked it, but I'm preparing myself for the nasty review that I'm bound to get one day.

What's been your experience with book bloggers? Or if you're a blogger, what's been your experience working with authors?

October 20, 2012

Free short stories this weekend

My two short story collections are free this weekend on Amazon. Numbers Plus Four is free today (October 20) and With Five You Get Fortune Cookies is free tomorrow (October 21). If you missed these free days, but you're an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow both of these books for free in October and November. Enjoy!

October 14, 2012

Dean Wesley Smith's blog

This is going to be an unusual blog post because all I'm going to talk about is another author's blog.

I don't remember how I stumbled across Dean Wesley Smith, but his blog has become a must-read for me. If you're an indie author (or any author for that matter), I recommend that you read it too. His posts are like an anchor when, as an author, you're buffeted by a million pieces of advice and feeling like you don't know what to do.

When I come across a really good article about indie publishing, I add it to my browser's bookmarks. This doesn't happen often, maybe once or twice a month. As of this week, guess which blog has more bookmarks associated with it than any other? Yup, Dean Wesley Smith. Even more than Joe Konrath, whose blog inspired me to be an indie author!

Here are my favorite articles from DWS, listed chronologically:

October 7, 2012

Why are some books so long?

Is it me, or has the average length of a novel gone up? I don't know if I'm reading different books than I used to, but it seems like most books I read nowadays are over 400 pages, and it's not rare to pick up a book that's over 500 pages long.

The length of a story in itself isn't that important to me. Some of my favorite books are over 400 pages. For example, my edition of Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring clocks in at over 500 pages, and it's one of my all-time favorites. However, what bothers me about some of the long books I've read recently is that they don't need to be so long. It's as if the author stretched out the story on purpose or the editor did a poor job trimming it down. There have been two occasions this year when I gave 4 stars to a novel that was potentially 5 stars, but the length/verbosity slowed down the flow of the story. In those cases, if the author had cut 20% to 30% of the book, I believe the story would've been a more interesting read without losing any substance.

Why are authors and publishers releasing so many unnecessarily long books? Do they think that length is a proxy for quality and that they can charge more for books like are longer? Are they just not doing as good a job editing? I will gladly pay for a 300 page book if it's good. For instance, all three books of the Hunger Games trilogy fall under 400 pages, and I don't regret paying for any of them.

If a story requires more than 400 pages to tell, by all means make it as long as it needs. However, I hope that authors are conscious that writing overly long books doesn't make them better. Oftentimes, they are worse because they are longer.

October 1, 2012

Book review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

When I first picked up Graceling, I didn't know what to expect. Goodreads recommended the book to me, and I'd read a few glowing reviews, but frankly, the description didn't sound all that interesting.

Well, the reviews were right, and I'm glad I read this novel. After the first few pages, I had trouble putting this book down. The plot became more interesting as I continued reading it and as the author introduced new elements to the world with each passing chapter. The story moved at a pretty good pace that kept me interested.

It took me a while to get into the characters, but once I did, I really liked them. I think that one of the reasons why I didn't take to them right away was because I didn't understand how the graces worked. There were times in the first third of the book where I wondered "Why didn't so-and-so do this?" with his/her grace or "Why didn't so-and-so do this?" to combat a grace. It wasn't until later that I found how how graces in general worked and the graces of the main characters in particular.

I recommend Graceling for all readers. This book is the first in a series, but from the book descriptions of Fire and Bitterblue, it appears that Katsa and Po's story ends here, while the sequels focus on different characters in the same universe. It's a shame because now that I'm fond of the two, I would've liked to read more about them.