My Thoughts on Exclusivity With Amazon

I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. F’real.

Remember how they took down some of MMSFG’s five star reviews? Or when I ordered 100 books, 30 of which were lost in the mail, and the quality was so bad that I argued with them for five days over replacements and they refused? <– oh, that’s probably news to you.

But here’s the deal: they sure know how to sell books. There’s also the fact that I agreed with many of their points in the whole Hachette vs. Amazon debate.

Hugh Howey said it pretty well in his epic post Ruminations on Exclusivity.

My thoughts on enrolling in #KDP and how #Kindle has helped sell my books.

How I Decided to Enroll in Kindle Select.

Deciding to enroll Antebellum Awakening and MMSFG in KDP Select was a decision I came to with a bit of gnashing my teeth and ranting about how much I hate Amazon, but need them at the same time.

I’d suggest you read the following if you’re interested in enrolling KDP Select (as I did):

Hugh Howey’s take on exclusivity.

Joanna Penn’s take on exclusivity.

Kindle Direct Publishing page.

Chuck Wendig’s take on Kindle Unlimited.

Jakon Rath’s take on Exclusivity (he made over 100k after enrolling. Of all the posts, this may be the most informative. His Q&A at the end is awesome.)

Then I dragged author GS Jennsen to Starbucks and bled her dry of all her secrets regarding KDP Select, so naturally she was the first to start breaking me down. I also spoke with fantasy author LaDonna Cole (who has 3 books in KDP and an overall positive experience) and many others.

To say I was torn is an understatement.

In the past, I had pointed the quiet finger of scorn at LOTS of KDP exclusive authors for ‘caving in’ to the Amazon beast and pulling out of Nook, iTunes, Kobo, etc. I even told LaDonna that I wouldn’t enroll in KDP out of a moral obligation to keep my books spread out.

But then I did.

Why I Enrolled in KDP Select

Why I Enrolled in #KDP Select, and How it Helped My Sales. #amazon #kindle #indiepublishing

I approached the release of my second book, Antebellum Awakeningwith the hopes of giving it every single chance to excel. Mostly, however, I wanted to really boost the first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls in order to generate a greater audience to actually buy  book 2. Sales had dwindled to about 25-30 overall during the month of August because I’d thrown all my attention into finishing Antebellum Awakening.

My goals in joining KDP Select.

1. I wanted a broader audience to get the series really going.

2. I needed money to cover all the money I threw down on a BookBub ad for MMSFG, the editing, proofreading, and release-day costs.

3. I wanted to try for the sheer experience of it.

4. Sales from B&N, iTunes, and Kobo had dwindled ridiculously low. Let’s say miniscule. The highest peak I’d ever had at B&N was 45 books after they featured MMSFG in this article: 4 Books Proving Witches are the New Vampires.

5. I had fans emailing and asking if they could preorder the second book, which could only be done at the time on Amazon if enrolled in KDP. I also read this article that made me think preorders could help marketing before the release.

The Results of Joining KDP

After joining KDP and having such a successful month in October, I picked up my ancient kindle one day to see that they had put up an ad for it. I’m not saying this happened because of KDP, but it only happened after KDP.

My Thoughts on Exclusivity with KDP Select by @kcrosswriting. #amazon #indieauthor #exclusivity

Here are a few graphs to help you visualize how it changed my sales.

MMSFG Sales Trends without KDP Select.

Why I Enrolled in KDP Select. #amazon #kindle #KDP

As you can see, Smashwords and affiliates provided less and less help in selling books, while Amazon stayed fairly steady.

In the next graph, I show MMSFG sales while enrolled in KDP Select, and the comparisons of purchases vs borrowed. Special note: I don’t show a figure for purchased MMSFG kindle books in October because it skewed the graph so you couldn’t see the other trends. I sold 2, 241 with the release of my second book and a Book Bub ad.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls Sales Trend With KDP Select

My Thoughts on Exclusivity with KDP Select by @kcrosswriting. #amazon #indieauthor #exclusivity

As you can see, overall numbers of sold/borrowed books increased exponentially.

With all that information being laid it, it would seem like a great idea to stay with KDP Select, right?

Well . . .

Why I Won’t Re-Enroll in KDP Select Again

1. I had about 4-5 fans email me in October to ask when Antebellum Awakening would be available on Nook or iTunes. While that not seem like many, that only represents people who were willing to research my email address and  reach out, not those who simply moved on and did not purchase. (To all those who did email me, I sent them a free copy.)

2. You can’t remove your book whenever you want.

Once you use one of their “promotions” such as a countdown deal or a free promotion, you cannot pull the book out. Trust me. I figured this out first hand.

3. You can’t change the price of your book for two weeks after a promotion.

*While 2 & 3 may not seem like a big deal, I don’t like the idea of KDP saying what I can and cannot do in regards to my own book, the pricing, or the selling thereof. I’m not attacking the fact that they have these rules, because I get it. Their toys, their rules. But I am saying that I don’t like being restricted. I’m an indie author for a reason. 

4. The effectiveness of the Kindle Countdown Deals shows decreasing effectiveness after the first or second one. My sales in January, as you can see above, are higher than December because I did a Book Gorilla campaign.

5. The past month of February-March, I’ve seen less and less KU/KOLL borrows, but more and more purchases. In fact, I’ll have up to 5-7 sales per day, and no borrows at all. Borrows are equating to less than 15% of my monthly output. Considering that’s only on ONE platform, I figure I’m missing sales on other platforms. Also, if I had MMSFG available on ALL platforms for the BookBub ad, my sales could have been much higher, and given me greater visibility in rankings on the other platforms.

6. I spent a lot of time at the Superstars Writing Conference talking with people like Kevin J Anderson, Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Leslie LeFebvre, Dean Wesley Smith, and others specifically about exclusivity with KDP Select and whether they recommended it. It was a resounding: NoIt takes time to build up a following on any platform. If you remove it again and again, you’ll lose what ranking and following you had before.

7. Amazon has helped me build a greater following and get more books out there, but I don’t enjoy having such a narrow margin of availability. I tried it, went for it, and now I’m done with it.

For the record:

I am NOT here to say that KDP Select is a bad thing. I’m not here to say it’s a good thing. I’m here to say that it’s a thing I tried for 3-6 months and will not participate in again. I’m also not saying you should or should not do the KDP Select thing.

I’m just saying that I did try it, these are the results, and these are my thoughts.

Thaz it.

What are your thoughts on exclusivity? Have you enrolled and had a good experience? A bad one? Are you thinking of joining?

I have a new writing child on Wattpad! Check out "Bon Bons to Yoga Pants" to read more! @kcrosswriting. #chicklit #wattpadMy latest writing-child is titled “Bon Bons to Yoga Pants” and is available to read free on Wattpad! No registration, sign up, or email required. I upload new chapters every Monday and Thursday.

A Question of Entitlement: What do Authors Owe Readers?

This is Helena Hann-Basquiat. Except it’s not.

Helena Hann Basquiat reveals her true colors today at kcrosswriting.com.

Helena Hann-Basquiat is actually . . . well . . . Ken, from Canada.

Meet the real face behind the world's favorite dilettante: Helena Hann-Basquiat!

Helena is a dilettante. (And is about to publish her second book) A woman that loves music, can’t have MSG, and once ran away to England when she was 17 when she fled an abusive father and for a guy she had a crush on.

Ken is a father of 3 girls that suffers from clinical depression and loves to write. He recently told the whole world on the Sisterwives blog about the person behind the Helena mask. I was one of the early few honored to learn his secret early—thanks for the lovely phone call from Canada, Ken :) and have been so excited to have him over today.

So, without further ado, here is Ken, uh, Helena talking about the line between how much honesty authors owe their readers

How Much Honesty do Authors Owe Their Readers? with Helena Hann Basquiat. @Kcrosswriting. #amwriting #honesty

The Question of Entitlement:

The question of entitlement and responsibility keeps surfacing in my mind — how much does a writer owe their readers? Do I owe you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? When you read my stories, do you love the stories, or do you love me?

But how much of ME are you entitled to?

When I first started out as Helena, it was a complete roll of the dice, as far as my ego went. Nobody knew who I was, and the writing would either stand on its own—in which case my ego would be placated—or it would flop, at which point my ego would pack its bags and move to Tiujuana and likely overdose on some bad Mexican brown.

I had never told these stories before, but Helena could tell them. She could be that person for me. She could be vulnerable, and people would accept her—people would even love her. And I think that I have been brutally vulnerable at times—perhaps too much so. I’m always worried that by being vulnerable, I’m going to push people away.

And so I wear a mask, so that it’s not ME that’s being vulnerable, it’s Helena. But I’m not milking artificial pain for readers. My laughter and my tears are genuine. There’s a real person behind Helena.

"I am a writer of fictions great and small." —Helena Hann Basquiat @kcrosswriting

Why wear the paper mask at all?

I’m fiercely protective of my privacy, and I’m honestly a bit whigged out by the manufactured intimacy of the internet. On the one hand, it’s a great place for people to share—whether ideas, stories, etc—but it’s artificial, isn’t it?

There is a thin line between blogging and writing/storytelling — and I’d say that most of the really engaging bloggers are actually storytellers. The great thing about being Helena is that I can tell deeply personal stories — sometimes painful stories — without bleeding all over the page.

Let’s cut to the chase.

First and foremost, I am a dilettante. I have dipped my hand into any endeavour that I took a shine to. I’m a wanderer, and for the first time in my life, I’ve been in the same place for longer than I can believe.

I’ve been a poet and a painter (horrid things), a novelist, an actor, recently a playwright, an editor of a literary magazine ever so briefly. I’ve been a smoker, I’ve been a midnight toker, and more than once I’ve played the fool (I’ve got pictures to prove it). I’m a musician, a singer, a lover of wine. I’ve lived in abject poverty, and I’ve eaten food that would cost most people a week’s salary. I’m a survivor of child abuse, and I suffer from clinical depression.

I’m a storyteller — which some might say is a fancy word for liar, darlings, but I’m not one of them.

I am a creator, and I created Helena — and became her — to see if I could. What began as just a paper mask to wear so that I could differentiate myself from my writing has become my persona, and I’ve spent more time over the last two years being Helena than I have being myself.

I’ve already hinted that one of the main reasons I don’t go by my own name is because of my father —that I didn’t want to be associated with him. That is 100% true. See, he named me after himself.

My name is Ken, and for the past two years, I have been writing as Helena Hann-Basquiat (and hey, Jessica B. Bell, too).

I’m a husband, a father of three girls, a feminist, a writer, and some of you call me friend.

And I’ve been juggling all this for some time now, and my arms are tired.

I open up the floor to you, and will gladly answer your questions, so long as they’re not about underwear.

_____________

If you’re interested in more things Helena, follow the links below!

The Question of Entitlement: How Much Honesty do Authors Owe Their Readers? @kcrosswriting

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Memoirs of a Dilettante

PreOrder Memoirs of a Dilettante 2

It’s a Baby!

So this happened.

:D

Baby Cross: comin' atcha August 2015. Now Mom's, tell me all your secrets. How are you author AND Mom? @kcrosswriting #newmoms #authors #mommatobe

This handsome little child will be comin’ atcha August of 2015. Are we ecstatic? Totally.

Ready for this? Oh, aren’t you adorable?

Freaked out? Way more than I should be. A previous miscarriage and too many months of trying to get this sweet pea here makes me a bit gun shy.

Nowadays I dream about peanut butter and Great Harvest Bread. I wog (walk/run) because the Spawn is taking all my O2. (Don’t worry: I dominated the 5 mile trail run today, so it’s coming back now that we near the end of the trimester of death.) Maybe I’ve gone to bed at 7:30 more times than should be legal, and don’t get me started on how many times I’ve cried for irrational reasons.

3 in the past 3 weeks.

And then there’s the writing career to worry about.

Moms and Dads: How do you write AND parents at the same time? Give some advice to this soon-to-be-Mama. @kcrosswriting #newbaby #author #entrepeneur

So Moms (or Dads) give me your best advice: how do you balance a full time career with full time baby?

*cracks knuckles*

Cuz I’m ready to hear the strategies.
Thanks guys. You da best.

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look at using email subscriptions to market your indie published book. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla

It’s not news that one of the “tricks of the trade” these days for getting your book out there is to use email subscription services like Book Bub, Book Gorilla, Book Daily, or Book Bear to advertise your book when you put it on sale. But every service is different, with different prices, audiences, and ways of doing it. I’ve only used two so far, so here is a comparison side by side.

Book Bub.

I paid $280 for BookBub to send out an email notification that MMSFG would be $0.99 to their fantasy email subscribers.

A few facts.

– They only plan for a month out. So if you want it on sale March 7th, you can’t request it until February 7th

– BookBub is notoriously fickle in who they choose. Typically, you need to have about fifty reviews, most of them five star. If you don’t get picked, don’t feel bad. It happens ALOT.

– They are a bit pricey, but most people make their money back.

The ad ran October 14th, the day before I released my second book, Antebellum Awakening. Doing it the day before was key, I think, to the successful launch of AA. Pre-orders increased to almost 40 and downloads of my novella boomed.

Here are a few numbers. Book Bub sent out the email in the morning, so by noon, I’d already started selling hundreds of copies at $0.99. That evening, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls flew to the top of the Fantasy list for books and the Kindle store.

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look into marketing your indie published book via email services. @kcrosswriting. #bookbub #bookgorilla #indiepublishing

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look into marketing your indie published book via email services. @kcrosswriting. #bookbub #bookgorilla #indiepublishing

But that wasn’t the only effect I wanted. That also boosted my author rank the day before I knew sales would increase for Antebellum Awakening

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look into marketing your indie published book via email services. @kcrosswriting. #bookbub #bookgorilla #indiepublishing

A BookBub Summary:

In the end, I made back the $280, and more. I sold roughly 2,841 of MMSFG, 268 of Antebellum Awakening, and 706 of The Isadora Interviews on Amazon US alone. The snowfall lasted for at least a month (sorry, no graph to show it) and the increased sales meant that Amazon advertised my book a lot more than expected.

Like advertising it on Kindle. (Imagine my surprise when I picked up my ancient Kindle to see this!)

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla: how I used email subscription options to increase my exposure. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla
Would I use them in the future? Definitely.

Book Gorilla

Book Gorilla is not BookBub, and they don’t pretend to be. I decided to try them to give my book a little boost in the months after Christmas after tweaking the categories that I’d listed MMSFG under.

A few facts.

– They plan out farther in advance than BookBub

-They are not nearly as expensive: and you can name your own price. I paid $30.

-They send a lot more suggestions and offers per email (I subscribe to all the email services that I want to attempt on my own book. I’m eyeing Book Daily now, but am not too impressed with their terms thus far.)

My ad with Book Gorilla went out January 28th and peaked at 59 copies (I sold MMSFG for $0.99 again). You may be interested to note that my KDP unit “borrows” in blue are almost zero when the price is down, even when it’s at $1.99. Green is how many free units went out.)Book Gorilla vs Book Bub: a look into email subscription services to promote your indie book. @kcrosswriting #indiepublishing #bookbub #bookgorillaMy goal with Book Gorilla was NOT to rank like I did on the BIG lists with BookBub. It simply doesn’t have the following. And I only paid $30. #reality

But my goal was to get MMSFG higher in rankings on the smaller lists because I had changed my ‘categories’ under which MMSFG is listed so it could be visible for longer.

This was taken at 1141pm the day the ad ran.

Book Gorilla vs Book Bub: a look into email subscription services to promote your indie book. @kcrosswriting #indiepublishing #bookbub #bookgorillaThe next morning at 0745

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla: how I used email subscription options to increase my exposure. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla

As of today, February 4th, the rankings stand as follows:

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla: how I used email subscription options to increase my exposure. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla

Book Gorilla Summary:

So, a week later, MMSFG is dropping, but still a bit higher in lists like ‘sword and sorcery’ and ‘girls and women’. For paying $30 . . . not that bad. They were easy to work with, I liked naming my own price, and the emails they send out have a lot of options.

Would I use them in the future? Probably.

Have you ever used Book Bub or Book Gorilla? What are your thoughts on finding deals via email subscription services?

Using Goodreads Giveaways for Exposure

How I Used Goodreads to Increase My Book Exposure. @kcrosswriting #goodreads #giveaways #MissMabels

Seriously, I wish I could contact Goodreads and see if I could get some kickback or ad points for writing this post. Show the little guy some love, Goodreads.

When I first released Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, I decided to do one giveaway (of 5 paperback books) per month for the first few months. I figured, hey, people can add it to their to be read pile. Then other people will see it, and maybe add it to theirs. Even if it wasn’t a perfect system, at least my book would be seen. At the very least, five people who wouldn’t have gotten my book before will get it, and maybe they’ll tell a friend.

My whole goal was exposure to new people.

Well, I liked it so much that three months turned into every month. Here are the results.

The Math.

First of all, the breakdown of cost isn’t as heavy as you think, but it’s not cheap either.

I can get paperback copies of my book for about $3.50 a book in bulk order. USPS ships via media mail (within the US) for about $3.53 per book. Including the padded envelopes I buy—which you can get wholesale for supah cheap—it works out to about $8 per book.

So, per month, I’d be doling out about $40 for giveaways, give or take. (Months I opened it to Canada meant higher, but I only did that when I had allowance for extra funds based on sales the previous month.)

Because moolah doesn’t grow on trees, especially for an indie, I planned this into my budget every. stinking. month. At the beginning, before MMSFG was making much, it got a bit tight. I’m not lying when there were days that I was scraping together loose change in my car and from between my couch cushions. $40 is a lot of money when you live paycheck to paycheck, and my royalties around last July-August were nothing to brag about.

The Breakdown.

How Goodreads Giveaways gave my book exposure. A breakdown with @kcrosswriting. #goodreads #giveaways #indiepublishingAs you can see, my highest month for entries was November of 2014, with 1973 people requesting. 1892 people requested Antebellum Awakening before it was even released. Right now, the highest request giveaway books on Goodreads tally in at 3969 requests.

These are the stats provided by Goodreads on MMSFG.

How Goodreads Giveaways gave my book exposure. A breakdown with @kcrosswriting. #goodreads #giveaways #indiepublishing

I wish I could give a more definitive breakdown of how the giveaways correlate with ‘adds’ to TBR lists, but this graph below is the best I can do. Those large green spikes correlate with the end of a giveaway, but all the ramping up TO those spikes are also adds to TBR lists.

Currently, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is on the TBR list for 5056 people. It has 289 ratings and 109 reviews. It’s pretty small sauce compared with, you know, Outlander which has 338,302 ratings and 23,682 reviews or Harry Potter which has 3,017,967 ratings and 45,130 reviews, but I can definitely say that a good portion of my ratings came from the Goodreads Giveaway program.

The Other Stuff.

– I met my biggest fan (who later started the Miss Mabel’s Instagram fan page) Samantha Shaw because was a giveaway winner and loved the book so much she tracked me down and wrote me a sweet letter. We besties now.

– I met my current typesetter, Chris Bell (click on his name to check out an awesome guest post on typesetting your book!) with Atthis Arts, because his wife, author E.D.E. Bell received one of my books as part of the Goodreads Giveaway.

– At least five reviews have mentioned being giveaway winners and reviewing. They’re really cute about it too, almost always starting with ‘First of all, I won this through the Giveaway program.’ I don’t keep track of all their names, but I know more people have reviewed that receive the books.

My Conclusion.

This is not necessarily a ‘thing’ for everyone, I know. Trust me. I get it.

When it comes to cost/time, it can be challenging. It was challenging for awhile, but all in all, I feel the returns are justified. This was just something I’ve tried, and found relative success with, that may be of interest to you or others. I’m putting this information out there for those who have wondered or tried it themselves.

In the end, it’s different for everyone.

Give me your thoughts.

Have you tried this with less success? Are you wary about giving away that many books? Have YOU won from the giveaway program?

What Have You Sacrificed for Your Career?

What have you sacrificed for writing? #writing #authorlife @kcrosswriting

I’m not all author . . . and I suspect none of us are.

I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity of spending lots of time in ER’s, OR’s, hospitals, MD offices, and medical places in general the past week or so. (All is good, BTW.)

But it reminds me of a time in my life when I wasn’t KCrossWriting. I wasn’t author, creator, fantasy-writer, or small business owner. I was nurse Katie, healer of small children and comforter of terrified parents.

Of course, some kids called me monster. Husband still does.

My life as a nurse.

Once Upon a Time I was Nurse Katie, not KCrossWriting. What have you sacrificed for your writing career? #writing #sacrifice @kcrosswriting

This is me at 6am taking over as charge nurse for 1 of 2 pediatric hospitals where I worked. I’m on the right, and yes. I SO miss my highlights :)

Most days I spent 13 hours on my feet. I had guitar hero tournaments with teenagers, was shoved by an angry, desperate grandfather, and administered CPR to a two year old who didn’t make it, sometimes all in the same shift. My life was filled with meds, syringes, and charge nurse meetings. I often didn’t eat lunch until 4 pm because I was busy reassuring a frantic parent who didn’t understand the terminology the doctor used. The haunting beep of a low sat alarm often woke me from a dead sleep. I worked for and with people.

And I loved it.

Life happens, however, and I spun onto a different trajectory that lands me right where I am now: Katie Cross, Author and Small Business Owner. That’s another post, another day.

So this last week, sitting in an ER, bantering back and forth with docs and surgeons about medications, vital sign trends, and pain control, put me back into nurse Katie mode. I knew what I was talking about. I felt comfortable. I felt good. The nurses and docs helping knew that I had experience in the medical world, and that quiet respect and acknowledgment felt awesome.

This, I kept thinking, is the world that I loved that I also left. Why?

What’s haunted me more than any other question is this:

Would I give up writing to go back?

Reconciliation

After days of living on a few hours of sleep, long trips to the hospital, and the stress of uncertainty, I managed to wiggle in a few minutes to work on my current WIP The Ambassadors Assistant, if only just to get away.

Suddenly I remembered all the nights I left work as an RN just to climb in my car and scream or else I’d sob. I remember the frustration of dying children, or parents I couldn’t calm because the truth was just too ugly, and the awful havoc that working three nights in a row while only sleeping four hours in between wreaked on my body.  I remember wishing I didn’t have to stretch myself too thin, or be the leader at 22 of nurses twice my age. The pressure, while somewhat addicting, was damning.

But in the midst of all the chaotic stress of being RN, I remembered I had also been a writer. I’d write stories and email them to myself during late nights to go over when I was more lucid the next day. I read constantly because I couldn’t stop. I imagined all the wheelchair bound, mentally delayed children that I worked with really living in a different world while the rest of us took care of their broken bodies. To escape the intensity of some shifts, I went home and buried myself in stories to forget.

So really, I was never all nurse either.

In the end, I am not all author . . . nor all nurse.

I’ll never stop being an RN, not really.

I’ll never stop being an author, not really.

I’ll always be a weird hybrid of the two. When I was a nurse, I sacrificed my time and emotional energy to take care of others instead of creating. Now as an author, I’ve sacrificed my experience as a nurse to fulfill a creative instinct.

And for now, that’s just fine.

How about you?

What have you sacrificed for your writing career? Time? Money? Relationships? A job you love? The security of a paycheck?

Lay it down, guys. Tell me what you’ve given up, and if you’d go back.

Because I love you guys, I’m offering up 25 FREE audiobook copies of my first novel, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. Just go to the official website here to see how to enter (you know it’s easy).

Who Wants to Win a Free Audiobook? Enter at www.missmabels.com #free #audiobook #fantasy @kcrosswriting

 

Marketing Outside Book/Writing Blogs.

First of all, big shout out of thanks to all those who have been patiently dealing with me the past couple days. With some last-minute plan changes and family stuff, I’ve been out-of-touch and have hundreds, literally, of emails awaiting me.

Your continued patience is amazing.

A lot of authors ask me how I advertise my book releases and/or my books.

Well, I have many  methods, so I’ll visit just one of them today with a bit of explanation.

Blogs Unrelated to Writing or Books.

Most visitors to my blog are authors, fans, or aspiring authors that are on the indie journey like myself. Awesome. I’m grateful for every one of you. But lets face the truth: you aren’t my book audience.

My goal for Antebellum Awakening was to reach outside my incredible field of friends and reach fans I wouldn’t otherwise. I decided to branch away from book/writing blogs, and go into others.

I have a lot of blogs that I follow that aren’t author-run, book-geared, or how-to on writing, and one of them is SisterWives Speak.lurve these women, and it’s all Beth Teliho’s fault. They receive lots of interaction, comments, and all the people write raw goodness.

SisterWivesSpeak is an uncensored, open-heart blog that everyone should follow! #blogs #bloggerstofollow

When I released Antebellum Awakening, (now available on Smashwords!) I wanted to try something different to reach outside my already established audience, so I came up with a killer idea for a blog post, and approached the SisterWives on my knees while saying, “Please, please let me do a guest post 1-2 days before my book release.”

They said, “We shall bestow this honor on your unworthy shoulders.”

And then I screamed.

How I Made it Epic

My post Hotness Scale Rebel (included at the end of the post) is something I’ve been thinking about for the last three years. It’s sensitive, hysterical, short, and something that nearly every human can relate to. (I say nearly because there are a lot of ridiculously beautiful people walking around out there.)

I also put a really embarrassing photo of me on it, which always draws people in. I call it my “bowling ball face phase.”

I was frump girl.

@kcrosswriting went through a 'bowling ball face phase' for 20 years. #selfesteem #selfacceptance #humor

I put my first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls on sale for $0.99 3 days prior to the book release of Antebellum Awakening and made sure that the links to my books were at the end of the post.

The Results

I knew this post would intrigue new readers, which could help spike sales, especially if the price was right. And, in fact, it did.

Preorders for AA shot up, and I sold 4x the copies of MMSFG on the day that post came out than I had nearly all week. It was easy to share on FB, and was something that new people, and people that knew me, loved.

I also met a lot of new people that I’ve loved interacting with, and following the comments was a blast.

Overall, this is a strategy to break into new audiences that I’m definitely planning on continuing. A couple of people commented on the writing style and visits to my blog from Sisterwives Speak rocketed.

Click here to read the original article on SisterWives Speak, or continue scrolling to read Hotness Scale Rebel.

Hotness Scale Rebel

Where the scale of hotness is concerned, I broke the rules.

I married someone way hotter than me.

Before you throw tomatoes at me with You’re Beautiful Just The Way You Are written on them, let’s turn down the Bruno Mars song and have a frank discussion.

I grew up with a bowling ball face, a frizzy mess of curls a mile wide, and what curves I did have certainly weren’t in my chest. While I never had the curse of braces, the tune of ‘you’re just big boned,’ whistled in my ears from total strangers.

Trust me, that’s way worse than braces ‘cuz you can’t change bone structure.

I’d walk down the halls at school and hear my teachers say, “She has a great smile, doesn’t she?” While my brothers friends said, “Well, she’s not the brightest bulb on the tree.”

Fast forward a decade and I landed on my feet, a full-time RN, living in a downtown and working with kids. My career made me awesome, but not enough. Here’s the shocker: I was single. I dated all kinds of guys. I mean all kinds. I got an Air Force guy who yelled at me for not being willing to pick him up for our first date; a gentleman that worked for the forest service who was so quiet that I had to lean over my pasta to hear what he said; then there was Mr. Medical School Man. He used me for a few rides, a couch to crash on, then broke up with me over a text message.

Classy.

The common thread besides being total a**holes was this: they were all pretty much my facial equal. Attractive enough, but nothing so beautiful that I wanted to attach to it with suction cups and scream, “Never let me go!”

Then I met the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.

I was twenty four. We’d been emailing for weeks via eHarmony before he flew out to see me. I’d already had a good feeling about this one, and I was a pro about dating vibes. I pulled out all the stops and dressed in my power outfit: black yoga pants, a vest with fuzz on the inside, and hiking boots.

Yes, hiking boots.

My curly hair is an entity until itself, so after an hour-and-a-half battle, I’d tamed the tresses into long, highlighted strands, then arrived at the airport with my hands steepled in prayer, begging the gods of first dates that I wouldn’t get sweaty pit stains. Which I so did.

He strode off the plane and right into my heart. The moment I saw him my mouth dropped open, my hands turned to ice, and all I could think of when I stared at his strong jaw and crooked smile was, hot damn.

He is way too attractive for me.

Although I stood there like a mute, he put his muscled arms around me in a warm hug. I melted like butter in southern Alabama on a hot July afternoon. My heart fluttered. Is this real? Is this a joke? He’s too beautiful. I could feel the suction cups forming on my fingertips. He wasn’t Calvin Klein model perfect: he was rugged, manly, five-shades-of-stubble-in-the-morning perfect.

I pulled myself back together, managed a somewhat coherent mumble, then started toward my car so I didn’t have to see his face. We enjoyed a forty five minute drive up a mountainous canyon to the famous Ruth’s Diner for brunch. My eyes never strayed from the road. His gleaming, angelic face would certainly blind me if I looked over.

More than that, I didn’t want to face the reality behind the voice in my head.

He’s way too hot! Scale of hotness is tipped! Must. Stop.

We sat across from each other at a shabby table and ordered eggs benedict with toast and OJ. I glanced up to find the truth again. He was beautiful. He was everything sturdy and strong that I ever wanted. The voice screeched on in the back of my mind.

You’re breaking the rules!

Never mind that we hit it off like a pair of gloves missing their mate. Never mind that his eyes sparkled when he laughed at my snarky comments because he thought I was funny. Never mind that he held my hand that night and it felt like coming home.

All I could think was: I can’t do it. I’d never match up. I have big hips and volatile hair. Doesn’t he see the issue here?

To my dismay, he didn’t seem to get it.

It would have been a lot easier if he would have just stepped away after the first date with a kind smile and flippant let’s do this again! just like the rest of them. But he didn’t. He wanted to see me in the morning, so I took action into my own hands. This handsome man would not be forced into an unequal relationship that surely he’d regret.

The next day, after styling my hair back into full-scale-curly-haired-massive-glory, and ensuring it was full and wild, (because who wouldn’t that scare off?) I picked him up from his friends house. My plan was already in action.

“Want to go for a run?” I asked.

That’ll show him, I thought with smug superiority. He’ll see my wobbly legs and butt trying to get up the hill and he’ll realize what I’ve known since the beginning.

“Of course!” he said, as I knew he would.

We ran up a mountain trail (where I practically reached down and grabbed handfuls of dirt to rub on my face as I went) and then back down. We laughed when he accidentally embarrassed himself by farting. We swapped stories about nightmare dates. We enjoyed the sun and crisp mountain air. He didn’t turn away in disgust, the jerk.

No, we just kept having a great time.

Three days later, my heart broke as I watched him walk back into the airport on Valentine’s Day. Our weekend of sharing frozen yogurt, cuddling up to Finding Nemo, and star gazing from the top of a mountain had altered my universe forever.

He’s my perfect match in all ways . . . except one.

I wouldn’t hear from him again, I already knew that. And really, who would blame him? The scale of hotness never lies. It cannot be broken. There was a Mrs. Perfect with blonde hair and blue eyes waiting for this Mr. Perfect. Except she was probably wearing heels, not hiking boots, and spreading her divine glitter over orphaned puppies. I couldn’t deprive the world of their stunning children, so I drank in his perfect smile and brown eyes until he disappeared from view.

Every heartbeat on my drive home caused me pain. Just as I was sitting down in front of the TV, Lifetime movie at the ready, a barrel of fun sized Snickers and a box of tissues in hand, the doorbell rang.

“For you,” a delivery man said, holding out a long box that said 1-800-Flowers on the side. I dropped the Snickers, snatched the box,  slammed the door in his face, ripped through the cardboard layers, and found a dozen red roses nestled inside. A note accompanied them.

Thanks for the perfect weekend of running, laughing, and playing. I can’t wait to see you again. I’ll call after my plane lands. Let’s talk all night.

My hands trembled. I blinked in disbelief and fell to the chair behind me.

The letter, and the gorgeous red flowers with dark veins running through the petals, were from him, there was no doubt. But how could that be?

The scale of hotness never lies.

Right?

After 3 years of gritty-faced runs, listening to him say I love your beautiful face, wife, and staring at his stubbled jaw, I’m finally beginning to see that perhaps the scale of hotness I judged myself by was never really a thing after all.

My Blogging Year in Review

For those of you that are interested, click on the banner below for my year-end report for 2014.

Letum Ivy, courtesy of my typesetter, Chris Bell from Atthis Arts.

Year End Report for 2014 with @kcrosswriting #blogging #indiepublisher #writing #blogstats

All of you are fabulous.

To my top five commenters, or anyone that commented at all, let’s all go to Starbucks for a chai on me.

Except for you, Beth Teliho. Let’s go to Disneyland and take pictures with all the characters.

PS- I just switched over to MailChimp, so if you’re getting two email notifications about my posts, I apologize. I’m working it out right now.

My Thoughts on Book Signings

There’s a definite art to conducting a good book signing.

 

Have you ever been to—or conducted—an awkward book signing? They're somewhat inevitable, but these things may help you push past that. #booksigning #books #marketing

Argue if you must, but I’m convinced there’s a bit of a secret to it. I know author J.S. Bailey rocks book signings like she was born for them, because she does them almost every week.

Perhaps that’s the secret.

These are my thoughts/observations on running a book signing that works.

1. I’ve never had success from the back of a bookstore. Where there is movement, there are readers.

2. People buy books from nice people.

3. Asking really generic questions like “Do you like to read?” and “What is your favorite genre?” goes a long way in breaking the ice.

4. The first fifteen minutes of every book signing I’ve done is extremely awkward. I can’t break that curse. After that, I find I can locate my inner extrovert and talk to passing strangers.

5. Free sugar is a wonderful draw, especially if they are melt-in-your-mouth caramels.

6. Being the first to smile and make eye contact often convinces people to come to chat.

7. Down time is inevitable.

8. If there are people outside, take your table outside, even if it’s cold and you’re not adequately dressed. I’ve found that most book stores don’t care, because you’ll pull more business in if you’re visible. I speak from experience. Lots of it.

It was SO COLD at my last book signing!

It was SO COLD at my last book signing!

9. Having a bookmark (with your book info/websites) to give to people who aren’t quite ready to buy a paperback goes a long way in exposure.

10. Selling in even denominations really pays off. I sell my books for $10 unless the bookstore requires otherwise.

11. Teaming up with a bookstore (and selling through them with split royalties) means that I don’t have to worry about paying sales tax for the books later, because the store charges tax. Saves time and headaches.

12. Used bookstores are generally quite eager to support indies, and can often have more clients because the books are less expensive.

13. Having info about my book available has helped persuade the uncertain. I’ve gone with, “Miss Mabel’s hit #1 on kindle fantasy in October,” OR “Barnes and Noble featured my first book in an article on their book blog regarding witches being the new vampires.”

14. I never assume someone “wouldn’t” be interested. Despite the all-female cast of my first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, a lot of people I sell to at book signings are men buying for a daughter, girlfriend, wife, granddaughter, niece, neighbor, etc.

FullSizeRender (5)

15. Exposure is exposure. Even if I only sell a handful of books, I usually giveaway tons of bookmarks and talk to people, so I take that as a win. It’s all about getting the books seen.

16. Some book signings flop.

17. Book signings happen anywhere. I’ve done local coffee shops, Starbucks, festivals, used book stores, real bookstores, and this summer plan on trying out farmers markets.

18. Some people just won’t make eye contact. I typically let them pass. It’s probably not good to harass everyone.

19. It’s become easier with practice.

20. Having an amazeballs cover goes a long way in catching attention.

21. Not dwelling on the awkwardness of “Hey! Buy my book total stranger, or at least let me tell you why you should!” helps it not feel that awkward. I embrace it, try and get people talking first, and sell later.

22. Everyone is an author. At least, it feels like it when I do book signings, because inevitably I hear a lot of, “Hey! I’ve been writing a book for the past eight years!” and lots of request for advice. I always chat with them and answer their questions. Most of them I give my blog address too. Because . . . networking.

23. I’ve run facebook ads, facebook events, listed book signings on the official website, put up flyers, created small flyers for the bookstore to hand out in advance, listed on Craigslist, etc, to get the word out. I don’t know if that’s helped or not. Just thought I’d put that out there.

24. I’ve heard the phrase “Wow, this was the best book signing we’ve ever had” more than once. Inevitably, when I ask why, they say, “Well, most authors just kind of sit there and look sad. They don’t really talk to people the way you did.”

Have you ever attended (or conducted) a book signing? Was it awkward, or was the author pretty approachable?

What are YOUR thoughts on book signings?

My Experience Using Audible to Create an Audiobook

I love all things Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. But I especially love it when someone is reading it to me while I’m running. That’s why I’m here to today to tell you about my experience creating an audiobook out of my first novel, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls.
Miss Mabel's School for Girls is on sale for $0.99 this week!

The Beginning

I started the audiobook process April 22, 2014 with a scene between Bianca and Miss Mabel, because Miss Mabel’s voice was one I felt that I really needed to love.

I would recommend sending a scene in your book that involves several of your key characters so you can learn the inflections/tones of the narrator.

My first audition popped up the next day. Over the next ten days, I received seven total auditions through ACX without doing anything on my part. Then I browsed through the ACX narrator samples because I wasn’t in love with any who had auditioned.

I recommend being picky and waiting/finding the person with the right tone. Shopping around and emailing narrators to audition is a great idea too. The wider range of voices you hear, the better choice you can make.

Then Becca Ballenger came a long.

Miss Mabel's School for Girls is now available as an #audiobook!

She’s got a very edgy, Bianca-y feel, so I emailed her with a lot of questions including “Will you read another block of text as part of the audition?” because I wanted to know how she would do the other students in the book. Miss Mabel’s has an all-female cast, so I was concerned about the different voices. I had a few questions about the inflections in her tone that she answered as well.

I would recommend that you email any narrator that you’re interested in and ask questions. They all knew the process much better than I, and most were extremely helpful.

Rejecting and Accepting

You don’t have to respond directly to the narrators, but you certainly can. I ended up sending Becca and another girl a paperback copy of the book so they could read it and get a feel for the story.

The narrators that I thought had a chance I always emailed about their submission through the ACX email.

Becca submitted a second audition for me on April 30th (8 days after I submitted MMSFG for auditions) with a scene involving several students. Although I was really excited about how she did it, I had a narrator that I requested an audition from that I was waiting for, so I just let Becca know that.

I would suggest being upfront with the narrators about other auditions. They already know that other people are going to submit auditions anyway.

In the meantime, I waited. Other auditions rolled in that didn’t earn my heart. Finally, around May 27th, I extended the official offer to Becca. She accepted May 30th.

I’d suggest taking your time if you can. While waiting for that narrator, other auditions rolled in that I was able to listen to, which only made me love Becca more. 

The Process

From there, I sent Becca the MS. She recorded the first 15 minutes, and could not upload anymore until I approved it. This is a step ACX takes to ensure that you still want that narrator. At this point you can still legally back out without owing money.

On May 26th I listened to the first 15 minutes and had an issue with the way Becca did Derek, Bianca’s father. I emailed her and she revamped and resubmitted. Since I loved that version, I approved it, which meant Becca was free to record.

I had a wide time frame and told her I didn’t really need it until August/September, which worked for her schedule. She started uploading the tracks July 17th and it was ready for my final review on August 1st.

Bestowing Final Approval

Once the tracks were loaded, I downloaded them to my phone, listened over the next couple of weeks whilst working out, driving in my car, and doing my dishes. I kept a google doc file with 4-5 things that I ran into (the track skipped, lines repeated, or mispronounced words) and let Becca know. She fixed them, I gave final approval, and the book was complete.

Paying Becca

Payment was easy: I just sent the final amount to Becca via Paypal. As soon as she verified she received the money, she let ACX know and they started final production of MMSFG.

Note: when you start the audiobook process, you check a general amount you’d be willing to pay. IE- $50 per finalized recorded hour, $60 per recorded hour, etc. Audible estimates how long they thing your book will be based on word count.

They estimated MMSFG at 10 hours, but it came out at 12 hours 30 minutes, which meant that I spent more than I was planning.

I would recommend planning on at least two hours longer than guesstimated so that you aren’t surprised, like I was. 

Creating the Cover

I didn’t know that the cover for ACX has to be a very specific size, include the authors full name, the book title, and will be approved by them.

Translation: you can’t fudge it.

I had to contact Jenny my cover designer for my second book, Antebellum Awakeningto help me out with fixing Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. This is what she came up with. It’s phenomenal.

Miss Mabel's Is Now Available on Audible! #audiobooks #newreleases #missmabels

 

A Few Extra Tidbits

– When ACX says that it takes 6 weeks to process, it literally takes six weeks to process.

– You have to have all your tax information entered before you can proceed with final steps.

– ACX has a QC person listen to the entire book to ensure there were no errors on the narrators part on top of the author giving final approval.

– If you are an author going through ACX, they will often send you an email with a list of codes to give out to people to start spreading the word about your book. I have not received this email so far (although I’ve been holding off this post to see if it would come) but it is an added perk/advantage. MMSFG started selling on it’s own right after releasing, so I’m not sure if I will get those codes.

Now you can get Miss Mabel’s School for Girls through audible!

Click here to get your copy today—and let me know what you think!