Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Should I or Shouldn't I? The KDP Select Dilemma

I've said it before and I'll say it again - KDP Select, if used properly, can be a very powerful marketing tool used to promote your book to a wide audience.  For some writers, it's understandably a dilemma.  Amazon wants you to exclusively sell your ebook through them for 90 days.  In return, Amazon will give you five freebie marketing days - a tit for a tat, if you will. 

Making your book exclusive to Amazon for 90 days cuts off other potential ebook revenue sources - I get the dilemma part, truly I do.  If you're an established writer with a solid readership, you can afford to expand your horizons, as it were.  However, if you're a newbie writer or one who's still working on expanding your readership, how can you argue the power of KDP Select?  The answer is:  you can't.  Even successful authors like Joe Konrath, who states he sells $100K per month, have recognized the power of KDP Select.

The key to making KDP Select work for you is making sure you advertise your upcoming freebie well in advance.  Doing your homework ahead of time and you'll reap the rewards afterwards.  Case in point:  Today is the last day of my two-day Kindle promo for my new book, CONTINUANCE, on Amazon:

It started yesterday, May 20, 2013.  By 5:00 p.m. today, May 21, 2013, I had 5,657 free downloads with the following stats:

In Amazon USA, CONTINUANCE placed 41st in the top 100 Free in Kindle Store; #1 in the "family saga" genre and #8 in the "suspense" genre.  In Amazon Canada, CONTINUANCE placed 102nd in the top 100 Free in Kindle Store and #2 in the "family saga" genre.  In Amazon UK, my book placed 124th in the top 100 Free in Kindle Store and #3 in the "family saga" genre; and in Amazon Germany, it placed 97th in the top 100 Free in Kindle Store and  #1 in the "suspense" genre.

Below are the stats printed from Amazon USA as of 8:00 p.m.:

Product Details

  • File Size: 433 KB
  • Print Length: 301 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1484123301
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Marta Tandori (April 17, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CF61YJI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

By 8:02 p.m. today, May 21, 2013, I have had 8,223 free downloads.  I may even surpass 9,000 free downloads by the time the clock strikes midnight.  As far as I'm concerned, there's no arguing with the stats, but I'll let you be the judge...

Saturday, 27 April 2013


Thanks to all the Goodreads readers who entered my most recent giveaway for THE TIES THAT BIND and helped make it great! 

And a big fat "Congrats!!" to the following ten winners who will shortly be receiving their signed copies of THE TIES THAT BIND:

Georgie Wiebe
Samantha Gallant
Tami Peterson
Lisa Bryk
Marie Luneman
Kayla Gilbert
Terri Graham
Katherine Stukel
Audrey Lawson
Melissa Garwood

And I'd like to give a very special shout-out to Dawn Lowery, for all of the wonderful work she does on behalf of her community.  Dawn will also be getting a signed copy of THE TIES THAT BIND.  Kudos to you, Dawn.  Keep up the great work!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Defining Moments

Defining Moments...we've all had them at one time or another in our lives.

I think it's fairly safe to say that there are two kinds of Defining Moments in a person's life.  The first kind is the more historical/pop cultural reference kind of moments such as "Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?" or "Where were you when man landed on the moon?" or "Where were you when you heard that Elvis/Princess Diana/Marilyn Monroe/Michael Jackson had died?" or "Where were you when one of the Kardashians broke a fingernail?".  These Defining Moments usually have a huge impact on society or the world as a whole and they serve as markers in our journey through life.

The second kind are the Life Defining Moments which are very personal; the kind that are embedded in our memories for the rest of our lives and are either wonderful "aaahhh" moments like how you felt watching the birth of your baby or the terrible punch-to-your-gut moments like "Where were you on 9/11?".  These are truly the moments/events that define who we were or who we are or will be moving forward in our lives.

Unfortunately, we've had far too many of the terrible Life Defining Moments recently in the form of senseless school shootings where parents are left struggling to rationalize or explain the violence to their children or worse yet, are left to go on with their lives amid the after-effects of carnage that should never have happened in a supposedly safe place of learning.  And let's not forget about the bombings, the most recent in Boston, during a marathon, of all things.  And why happen at all?  We may never really know the reasons why it happened...or why any of these acts of violence happen...only that they do happen.  It begs the question:  As a society, what are we doing wrong?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Goodreads Giveaway Winners of TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Thanks to everyone who entered the Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE!

The following are the winners who will shortly be receiving (I hope) signed copies of my book:

Kathy Worrell
Christine Goode
Shirely Hunter
Michael Almstead
C. Gaetan
Arlene Rodrigues
Jodie Logoglu
Amanda Hilaire
Becky Bruce
Tammy Matte

Happy Reading!


I am totally gobsmacked/amazed/grateful for the attention my book TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE has received since I announced my giveaway on Goodreads back in February.  Since then, I've received all kinds of emails from readers asking about the inspiration for the book, how long it took me to write it, etc.

Although the genre of the book is best characterized as women's suspense, the really cool thing about it is that it has cross-over appeal to Young Adult (YA) since one of the main characters is 17-years-old.  However, given the grim subject matter, dark elements and coarse language in some parts of the book, I've been reluctant to promote it to younger YA.  I recently did an interview/giveaway with The Young Adult Book Club on Goodreads and the response there from readers has been terrific so it seems to reinforce my belief on its cross-over appeal.

So, for those of you who have asked about me and the nitty-gritty details about the inspiration behind TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, the interview I did with The Young Adult Book Club is reproduced below:

1. Tell us about your book and what was your inspiration for writing it.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE is about two stories, really.  The main story deals with seventeen-year-old Karen Devane, a spoiled Hollywood princess who gets into a confrontation with a homeless woman, who’s killed by a hit-and-run driver as she’s trying to escape from Karen and her two friends.  Karen’s involvement in the woman’s death sets off a chain of events which eventually reveals some pretty awful family secrets, all of which revolve around her beloved grandmother, Kate.  The back story is all about Kate’s past.

The inspiration for TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE came in kind of a roundabout way.  My son used to play high school basketball and one Saturday, I got up really early because he had a game and I guess I was worried about a snowstorm that was supposed to happen later in the day and I couldn’t sleep.  Anyway, I turned on the TV and there, on the History channel, was this documentary on war children that caught my attention.  What was really sad about these war children was that when the Second World War was over, they were hated and treated really badly by adults and by other children and many were thrown into mental institutions while their mothers were treated as traitors and ostracized for the rest of their lives.  Some of these war children grew up to become famous like the musician, Eric Clapton, as well as Ani-Frid Lyngstad, one of the singers from the Swedish pop group, ABBA.  I thought this lesser-known aspect of the Second World War would make an interesting, and powerful, back story to my book.  Ani-Frid Lyngstad, who’s now a real-life princess, became the inspiration for the grandmother in my book, Kate Stanton.

I also love everything about Hollywood and when I started writing this book, all you seemed to hear about in entertainment news at that time was the Britney Spears meltdown or LiLo’s latest crisis or the feud between Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchey.  These guys combined were sort of the inspiration for the character of seventeen-year-old Karen Devane.  Karen comes from Hollywood royalty, she’s spoiled and dealing with the break-up of her parents and some recent developments in her father’s love-life have her pretty messed up.  She’s a good kid who makes some not-so-great choices which ends up landing her in major trouble.  Although both her parents love her dearly, Karen believes the only constant in her life is her beloved grandmother Kate.

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?

First off, I’ve always loved reading YA but when I started writing TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, I envisioned the book more as women’s fiction rather than YA because the back story has some really dark elements to it, not to mention coarse language.  Then as the story evolved, it became clear to me that the story would also have cross-over appeal to older young adults because of seventeen-year-old Karen and her struggles throughout the book.

I think one of the reviews I received from someone on Amazon.com summed up my book really well:

From the synopsis of this book, the reader might think it’s a mystery-thriller centered around the 17 yr. old Karen.  What it really is, is a disturbing book about family secrets; taking the reader from WWII Poland, post war Norway, and landing in Hollywood.  It’s a tale about the characters surviving horrors, and having the resilience to create new lives for themselves.  Karen’s involvement in the killing of a homeless woman is the culmination of events in her family that she has no inkling about. 

3. How long did it take to write your book?

It took me about eight months to write the book and another two months to edit it.

4. What was your favorite scene to write and what was the most difficult scene?

There were two really difficult scenes for me to write.  The first scene starts off the book where Karen and her two friends gang up on this feisty homeless woman.  Without revealing too much, I can only say that things get out of hand pretty quickly.  The concept of ganging up on anyone, much less a defenseless woman who has mental challenges, really bothered me but that particular scene is integral to the story.  The second really difficult scene for me was writing about the grandmother Kate and her sister, Lilly, as little girls and what they went through at the hands of the man who saved them from life at the internment camp.  Again, the thought of someone harming a defenseless child in any way brings tears to my eyes so to write that scene with the two sisters was really, really difficult.

I think my favorite scene to write was the one involving Karen and Liz, the homeless woman’s daughter, near the end of the book, when they meet up with Kate in the cemetery.  So much has happened to those three characters and there’s been such a shift in their relationship that it was a real joy for me to write.  I’m one of those people who cry over a cute toilet paper commercial so it’s not uncommon for me to be laughing or crying over a particular scene as I’m typing it.  Crazy, I know, but what can I do?

5. Can you share an interesting quote or excerpt from your book?

That would have to be the very first line of the book:  The dirty clothes and foul body odor were a lethal combination, infusing the already cloying humidity with a pervasive stink.

6. Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

I can’t say that I’ve ever really had writer’s block but then again, I don’t actually sit down and write until I have a pretty good idea as to what’s going to happen with a particular scene(s).  In other words, I have to close my eyes and let a scene or scenes play out in my mind before I can put it down on paper.  Lying in a bubble bath, in a dark bathroom lit only with a nightlight, seems to work great for me.  It’s sort of like watching a movie in your mind – I replay each scene in my mind several times and then I’m usually good to start typing.  It’s a weird process but I guess every writer seems to have his or her own “process”.

7. If you gave one of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?

After all is said and done, I think Kate would probably have this to say:  Even when people say they’re ready to hear the truth, very few really are…

8. Who designed the cover of your book?

It’s a company in Poland called Formatting Experts.  Their website is at www.formattingexperts.com.  They do ebook formatting as well as custom cover design.  This is actually the second cover they came up with.  I didn’t like the first cover because it didn’t seem to capture the elements I thought the cover should have.  When I explained exactly what I wanted, I expected them to rework the old cover but what I got was a brand new cover that totally captured the various elements I wanted.  They’re a great company, very service-oriented.  They also did my cover for the stand alone prequel to this book, THE TIES THAT BIND, and I’ll be using them again for my other covers.

9. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I know most aspiring writers hear this all the time but the best advice I can give is to keep reading and to keep writing.  I really think you have to be a reader to be able to write and you must keep writing in order to hone your skills and become better at it.

10. What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading TWILIGHT (a little late, I know) and I’m about to start SAFE HAVEN by Nicholas Sparks.  

11. Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?

I’ve always been a paperback girl but you can’t beat ebooks for their convenience.

12. Any authors or books that inspired you and your writing?

Absolutely!  As a young girl, I used to love, love, love Judy Blume (who didn’t?).  She would write about “taboo” subjects with such honesty and openness.  I really liked that.  By far, though, my biggest author influences have been Tess Gerritsen, who writes medical thrillers and has a really broad scope as a writer, and Nicholas Sparks, who writes with such emotion.  It’s unusual, especially for a man, to have such emotional depth as a writer, I think.

13. What’s a typical working day like for you?  When and where do you write?  Do you set a daily writing goal?

In addition to writing, I also have a day job so my writing life is structured around my day job.  On weekdays, I’m up at four in the morning and that’s when I write, answer emails, etc. until six in the morning at which point I have to get ready and leave for work.  I usually put in a few hours every night as well when I get home from work.  On weekends, I write from four or five in the morning until about noon.  I don’t have a set daily writing goal but I do have monthly ones.  I find that because I have a day job, monthly goals are easier to meet than daily ones.

I have a dedicated office in the basement which I love.  It’s pretty much cut off from the rest of the house and has only one small window so there isn’t much to distract me!

14. What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing, I love to garden and travel and of course, read.  I’m never far from a book.

15. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

My life is constantly evolving so I think an apt title would be something like, MARTA:  THE NEXT CHAPTER.

16. What book would you like to read again?

I hoard books and I love re-reading them.  If I had the chance, I would love to re-read all the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books as well as a book called THE SECRET LANGUAGE which I read as a young girl.  It was about these two young girls in boarding school.  I thought the book was absolutely magical.

17. Is there a particular movie that you preferred over the book version?

I rarely like movie adaptations of books because when someone reads a book, that person has an idea in their mind as to how a character looks or how a place in the book should look and when it’s adapted into a movie, the results tend to be a bit disappointing and not at all like you envisioned it when you were reading the book.  Having said that, I personally liked the Harry Potter movies better than the books.  I’m not sure why, I just did.

18. You’ve described your other book, THE TIES THAT BIND, as a standalone prequel to TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.  What’s it about and why do a prequel rather than a sequel?

THE TIES THAT BIND focuses on the lives of Karen’s father, Dr. Eric Devane and his relationship with his fiancée, Brooke Connelly.  Brooke comes from a polygamist family and has a pretty messed up past, including ties to a mobster and also to one of the most powerful men in Las Vegas.  When I finished TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, I didn’t feel as though there was anyplace further to go with these characters.  However, I wanted to do something with the characters of Karen’s father and his fiancée so I thought a prequel might be the interesting way to go.  The back story for Brooke is not very pretty but it is interesting, especially how she hooks up with Chaz Longo, a fellow polygamist, and how they hook up again years later.  I think this book also has cross-over appeal to YA despite the adult subject matter.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Business of Writing

As writers, we tend to cultivate any and all resources in order to help us better understand the business of writing.  If you're a writer with a powerful agent in your corner, you may be less inclined to understand the actual business of writing than an indie author facing a learning curve the size of Everest after his or her book has been published.

The million dollar questions for most indie authors are,  "Where do I go from here?" or "How do I get my ebook to stand out from the others vying for attention that are just as good as mine?" or "Do I need to release a print version of my ebook to generate more sales?" or "What about advertising - Where do I do it and how?".  I have no easy answers to any of these questions but what I do have are a few wonderful gems I've found along the way that have helped me gain some insight and better understand the business of writing:

1.  Carolyn McCray wrote a series of articles for Digital Book World in 2011 and 2012 that really explain how Amazon works, how their rankings work, etc.  Some of her articles include Best Practices for Amazon eBook Sales, The Anatomy of a Successful eBook Giveaway, Maximizing Digital Book Sales, etc.  The link for the last article may be found at http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/maximizing-digital-book-sales.

2.  If you've published through Amazon, then you know about KDP Select.  In an nutshell, this is a program whereby you list your book exclusively with Amazon for 90 days, making it available through Amazon's lending library.  In return, you have five days in which you can give away your book for free.  You get to choose the days.

This is a powerful marketing tool and a wonderful way to gain exposure for yourself and your book.  However, you have to use it the right way to fully take advantage of its power.  When I published my first book TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, I joined KDP Select and immediately picked two days in which I intended to offer my book for free.  My mistake was that I did no advertising - nada, nothing, zippo - so the end result was, I gave away NO books which meant that nobody in Readerland knew I, or my little book existed.

Utterly discouraged, I began trolling through the Internet, read a bunch of blogs and eventually stumbled across the Author Marketing Club at www.authormarketingclub.com.  This is a site which gives writers access to other websites where they can advertise their free Kindle books and the majority of these sites let you do it for free!  What a find!  However, some of these sites require several weeks' notice while others won't let you post until the day of your giveaway.  Do your research ahead of time.

I decided to lump my last three freebie days together and went and signed up on every site listed on www.authormarketingclub.com as well as anywhere else I could think of.  This time, the results were pretty amazing.  Four hours after my promo started, my book had 40 downloads.  By the end of the third day, my book had gotten 7,742 downloads and in the three-day period after that, I sold another 170 books.  For two of those days, my book was in the free Top 100 Amazon Best Sellers list but what really made my day was when a blogger in Germany contacted me to say that she advertised my book on her German website that promotes free English ebooks and that my book had made the Top 50 Kindle freebies on Amazon's German site!  I had no idea how she found out about my book but this just gives you an idea of how far-reaching Internet promo can be.

KDP Select gets even better results if you have a backlist.

3.  For a no-holds-barred, take-the-world-by-the-balls overview of indie publishing, a must-read is Joe Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com.  Not only is Konrath enlightening but he's also entertaining.  Gotta love the guy for his insight and his willingness to share info.

4.  My favorite go-to site for all my book questions is Book Blogs at http://bookblogs.ning.com.  It's a site with readers, writers, bloggers and book lovers and it's a wonderful place to go if I just want to browse or if I have a question I need answered.

I'm sure that three months from now, this list will probably triple in size.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

It Only Takes A Spark...

As a writer, I'm always asked (as I'm sure every writer is always asked) where I get my ideas from and my response always seems to be the same - from anywhere and everywhere.

Back in the days when the Earth was cooling, I remember as a kid having had to recite the Lord's Prayer after singing the national anthem every morning in school.  In those days, "political correctness" hadn't extended beyond the realm of politics.  I also remember being taught all kinds of songs in music class, including hymns and songs of faith.  One of those songs started off with the phrase, "It only takes a spark to get a fire going...".

For me as a writer, this phrase sums things up to a T.  Sometimes, all it really takes is a spark in the form of a gesture or a tidbit of inconsequential information to fire up the old imagination.  Other times, it's something else altogether, like a newspaper headline or news announcement - or, in the case of my book, TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, the idea came after watching a documentary on the History channel about Norway's "children of shame", born to Nazi officers and Norwegian mothers, who were subsequently ostracized once the war had ended.  I immediately thought this lesser-known aspect of the Second World War would be an interesting back story to a book one day...and after adding some interesting characters, a modern-day twist and some suspense, it eventually became TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.