Thursday, December 29, 2016

Whisper Falls sale ends Tues

Whisper Falls e-book will remain on sale through Tuesday-- 99 cents USD (and 0.99 euro / GBP / AUD / CAD).

I have a large stock of the Whisper Falls series paperbacks (old covers) in my living room. If you're interested in having a signed set of the trilogy (US addresses only), contact me through my website. They're $15 for the trilogy ($10 for the books and $5 for the shipping.)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

If you're looking for a great book for the holidays...

If you have a few days off for the final week of the year, grab a book and read!

There are a lot of great books on sale. Most e-book retailer sites make it easy to find inexpensive books, so take a chance on an author you've never read before. And you don't have to have an e-book reader; Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, and other retailers have e-book apps for your laptop or mobile phone.

I'd like to recommend Whisper Falls, the first book in my Whisper Falls series. It's on sale for 0.99 everywhere-- 0.99 dollars in US / AUS / CA, 0.99 Euros in Europe, and 0.99 GBP in the UK.



This book is set in two centuries--18th and 21st. It tells the story of a modern teen mountain bike racer and the mysterious girl he meets through a magical and temperamental waterfall. Mark and Susanna build a friendship across 200 years. When Mark sees how hard her life is as an indentured servant in the household of a brutal man, he uses modern technology to uncover Susanna's fate...and has to decide whether to let history play out or intervene to save Susanna.


This book will appeal to readers of all ages (14 and up). It has history, adventure, suspense, and romance.

Have a great holiday season--and enjoy the gift of stories!


Praise for Whisper Falls:
  • "... a fun, action-packed story" - School Library Journal 
  • "I am an avid reader, and this book ranks among the top. It is fantastic - I couldn't put it down. I was told that it was a book for young adults, but I am 61 years old and I found it fascinating ... I HIGHLY recommend this - it is beautifully written, as well as being historic, and thrilling. An absolutely GREAT read! I am planning to recommend it to my library and my own kids."
  • "The research the writer put into the book is apparent everywhere you look."
  • "[the author] delivers with this time travel historical and current day romance. She effortlessly switches the narrative between Mark, the present day character, and Susanna, the indentured slave who is living in 1796. I have read few other books that switch the voice so well."
  • "I usually don't enjoy historical books at all, but Whisper Falls was fantastic. I could barely put it down. It's beautifully written, great editing and a unique story."
 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gifts to give your favorite author

It's the holiday season, a time when many of us look for ways to give to those we love or admire.

So, just in case you're wondering how to show your favorite authors how much they're appreciated, I have a few suggestions--and they are (almost) all free!




Leave a review.  Please, if you've enjoyed a book, leave a review! Especially for authors with a smaller following, reviews really do help us. You don't have to write much. A few words work. You can say what appealed to you most about the book--or why you'd recommend it.  Even something as simple as "I enjoyed this book. Recommended." And if you have to choose just one review site, pick Amazon; reviews there carry more weight for promotions and visibility.

Make a suggestion to your local library. Most library systems have a form for submitting suggestions for books. Authors love to have their books carried in libraries!

Tell your friends. Word-of-mouth is the number one way that readers learn about new books. Whether it's during a book club, over coffee, or online through social media, sharing your recommendations helps authors--and you'll be giving your friends the gift of beautiful stories.

Give books to the people on your holiday shopping list: Okay, so here is the one suggestion that will cost something. Books are a great gift. If you want to wrap a package and leave it under the tree, books come in paperback, hardback, or ebook (which you can give via a paper or plastic giftcard). If you watch for sales1 or great deals2, books don't have to be that expensive.

Happy holidays and may your new year be filled with great stories, magical places, and characters that you can love!

~~~

1 Whisper Falls is on sale for 0.99 USD, through January 3.
2 You can buy paperback copies of my books directly from me through my website, and I'll sign and ship them to you (US only.)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Holiday cookie exchange and giveaway

I'm in a group of 16 romance authors who are hosting a holiday cookie exchange and hop. Each author has posted a cookie recipe on their blog, FB page, or website. If you visit each site--and "collect" the names of all 16 recipes--you can enter to win a chance at the grand prize--a $150 gift card.
 

Also, along the way, you may find other bonus giveaways. So join us on the hop for cookie recipes and holiday fun!

To get you started, my cookie recipe is for Orange No-bake Cookies.

For more details, visit our blog - Ruby Cookie Exchange.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Parent opting out of standardized testing

I've just read an article in Slate about a parent who opted her two daughters out of standardized testing. The bottom line is that the schools strongly resisted her decision with oddly unconvincing reasons. She had to contact the state board of education to get the real scoop.  It didn't change her mind.

When my daughters were in school, I sought ways to get them out of standardized tests. It wasn't that easy in my state (North Carolina.) As I began to consider home-schooling (for that reason as well as others), I learned that, during the month of May, I could not form a homeschool--just to prevent me from skipping end-of-grade (EOG) tests.

Clearly, my husband I were not the only parents who hated high-stakes testing. Not only are the tests nerve-wracking and high pressure for the kids, but they also became the main focus of the entire school year. Teachers taught the subjects that would be tested, and ignored the subjects that were not.

I didn't want grades/ scores/ numbers to be what defined my children. We homeschooled both of them for high school. Mastery of material and enjoying the process of learning were our focus.

The girls took their SAT / ACT with their age-peers--with zero preparation. None. No SAT classes. No ACT prep manuals. No looking online for practice questions. I work them up the morning of the examination, handed them a pencil, and drove them the testing center. That was all. My daughters did very well on those exams, proving that the missing of state EOG tests had no negative impact. Both girls got into the colleges of their choice without any problems.

I know that this decision isn't possible for all parents. Top-tier colleges may look askance at students without a transcript from a bricks-n-mortar high school. Homeschool was a huge time commitment from me and my husband to homeschool our daughters. It wasn't cheap either. But they've thrived since--and haven't missed out on a single goal because they skipped standardized EOG testing.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Kobo promotional sale for I WISH

I Wish is on sale at Kobo from November 1 - 15, for 99 cents.

If you use Kobo for e-books, here's an opportunity to get the first book in the I Wish series at a sale price. (If you're not familiar with Kobo, they're a great place to find e-books--and they're a major e-book retailer presence in Canada and around the world!)

Just for a little fun, I leave you with a look at my newest SWAG! Bookmark design by the talented Laron at Ninth Moon.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Innovative high schools breed success

I live in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.  Recently, a local business journal published the rankings of local high schools. I was happy to see that the top six schools are all using innovative approaches to teaching teens. Five are "early college high schools" and one is a charter school.

If you're not familiar with early college high schools, it's a wonderfully simple idea. Early college high schools give students 2 graduation paths. A student can attend for the typical 4-years and leave with a high school diploma. However, if the student stays for 5 years, he or she can leave with a diploma and an associates degree--and it's free for the student.

I've volunteered at an early college HS and left so impressed. The teachers are creative and passionate. The students are excited about learning. Many of them are the first generation in their families to get a college degree.

I hope early college HS's are adopted in more states. It's a win for the kids and a win for America.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Goodbye to homework

There is a growing number of schools, especially in the elementary grades, that are eliminating homework. For instance, from VT to Texas to NY, schools are finding better ways to reinforce lessons without depending on homework.

Frankly, as a parent who had many miserable nights coaxing her kids to complete their homework, I'm glad this issue is being scrutinized. When my kids were in elementary school, I found that most of their nightly assignments were busy work, to the point of being ridiculous. Once the girls reached 4th/5th grade, they did have a few homework assignments, usually involving research and writing skills, that felt worthwhile. But the routine stuff? We would sometimes allow them to skip it, and I would write notes the next day letting the teachers know. It's my belief that:

  • Sleep is more important than that last little problem.
  • Choice promotes more love of learning than drudgery.

By the time my girls were in high school, we were homeschooling them. They completed their *total* schoolwork in four hours or less each day. Both did well on standardized tests. Both have been successful at the college level and beyond. (Granted, they didn't attend top-tier/Ivy-League type universities. Nor did we want them to.)

I hope we can continue to research and debate the effectiveness of homework. Perhaps there are kids who do benefit. Their specific demographics need to be identified to ensure the amount and kind of homework that will serve them best. But not all students should be forced into the misery of homework when there really isn't much data to support how well it works--and possibly suggests that it can have a detrimental effect on the creativity and agile thinking that America needs from the next generation.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cover reveal(s) - new covers for books 2 and 3 of Whisper Falls

The new set of book covers for Whisper Falls is now complete.

Here they are--the covers for A Whisper in Time and Whispers from the Past.






Both e-books (with their new covers) will release on Amazon on October 15 and soon after that on other e-tailers.

Print books will have the old covers for several more months via most online retailers. You may also buy them directly from me if you have a U.S. address and I'll ship them to you. ($6 + S&H).

Thanks to my lovely and talented cover designer, Lisa Amowitz, for creating a trio of gorgeous book covers for Mark and Susanna's story!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cover reveal - a new cover for Whisper Falls

Whisper Falls has a shiny, new look.

If you're wondering why, the reason is simple. The original publisher of the Whisper Falls series returned all publishing rights to me. I'll be making them available online through e-retailers. I'll receive all royalties; no sharing anymore (Yay!) But part of this agreement required that I change all of the covers.

Since I loved the covers for books 2 and 3, I asked their cover designer--Lisa Amowitz--to create a complete new set of covers.  And she agreed!

Today, we are revealing the new cover for Whisper Falls.


This e-book will be released on September 15, and I've set the launch price at $2.99 .

If you already have Whisper Falls, this is the same book. Just a lower price and new cover!

Friday, August 26, 2016

August news - paperback available and another giveaway

Here's a quick update for August.

Wish You Were Here is now available in paperback! You can order on Amazon only.

On Darynda's blog today, there's a post on how names were picked for the characters in The Possibility of SomewhereThere's also a giveaway of an ARC (US only). So check it out!

Lastly, just a heads-up, the small press that originally published the Whisper Falls series has returned the rights to me. They'll appear out of print for a week or two. I'll have them available again as soon as possible.

For readers, this news doesn't change much:
  • The overall story in the Whisper Falls trilogy is the same. Other than some light editing to clear up typos or grammar-ish things, these books won't change (although I might have a deleted scene or two to release.)
  • All three books will be receiving new covers.
  • The price will be lower for e-books.
  • The price will be higher for paperbacks (but not much).
  • I've been working on two new companion novels. One will take place 2 years after Whispers From the Past--and it will feature Mark and Susanna's friend Benita (the cellist). The other book will take place in 1771 and feature two secondary characters from Susanna's past, Abigail and Nathaniel Eton. I hope to have at least one of these books done in 2017, but no promises.  I have another book that's already scheduled to release in Fall 2017, which I have to finish first.
 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

ARCs giveaway for Julia Day's YA contemporary romance

The Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day releases in 3 weeks!

We'll have giveaways, guest posts, and Q&As as we launch the book on September 6th. First up is a rafflecopter giveaway of 4 signed ARCs (to US and Canada addresses only).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Watch here for more ways to celebrate!


About the book: The Possibility of Somewhere is a YA contemporary romance, set in a fictional North Carolina coastal town. Advance reviews say:

  • "Raw and intense, yet sensitive and touching. This is a story that will keep you hooked till the very end." - Vanessa Barneveld, author of This Is Your Afterlife
  • "Julia Day's modern day tale of Romeo and Juliet meets Pride and Prejudice will touch your heart." Katie McGarry, bestselling author of Pushing The Limits 
  • "An engaging read ... full of drama." - School Library Journal


Want a sneak peek? Read this excerpt.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

PSA about Sean's cancer

If you've read the I Wish series, you'll be familiar with Sean, one of the main characters in Wishing for You. Early in that book (spoiler alert), you learn that Sean has testicular cancer.

I found an article about testicular cancer in my newsfeed today--and now I'm passing it along as a public service announcement (PSA).

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men from ages 15 - 34. According to the American Cancer Society, if detected early, the five-year survival rate is nearly 99%.  If it has spread, depending on where it's metastasized, the rate drops to 73%. So please browse the 8 Silent Signs of Testicular Cancer, and make sure the men in your life (regardless of age) know.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Giving away signed ARCs of POSSIBILITY OF SOMEWHERE

So, it's my turn to give ARCs away (US only mailing addresses.)

I have 4 copies of The Possibility of Somewhere that I'm giving away.  Now through next Monday--August 1--you can enter for a chance to receive one of these 4 copies.

You have 2 ways to enter:
  • follow Julia Day (my other pen name) on Twitter - @AuthorJuliaDay
  • Retweet the message below on twitter (you may retweet once per day to increase your chances)

Follow or RT for chance at signed ARC (thru Aug 1--US only) POSSIBILITY of SOMEWHERE http://bit.ly/2a4QsyF



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Fun with numbers and graphs - part 1

Recently, I've had the opportunity to combine my day job as a software engineer with my night job as an author.  I used my programming skills--with some help from Robert A., a graphics expert--to analyze how well my I WISH series was selling after I paid for a promotion from Bookbub (a company that provides e-book promos for authors.)

As you'll see in the graph below, the pertinent dates to remember are:

  • January / February 2016: the sales for I Wish and Wishing for You were languishing
  • March 9: the Bookbub promotion ran with I Wish discounted to $0.99
  • March 14: I returned I Wish to its regular price of $2.99 

So my primary interest was to discover: what effect did the promotion have on my book sales? 

To begin, I collected sales data from Amazon, B&N, Apple, and several other e-tailers. Then I ran some analysis on the data and produced a set of graphs to visualize what happened.

In the graph below, I've plotted unit sales for six weeks before the promotion as well as six weeks after.



  1. The first red arrow on the graph marks the day that the promotion ran.
  2. The second red arrow highlights when the book returned to regular price.
On promo day, there is an expected spike in unit sales. Over the five days following the promotion, the unit sales decline, but they are still much higher than before the promo. But the interesting--and unexpected--result is that the higher sales of I Wish continued after I set the price back to normal.

But there is an even happier conclusion we can see in the above graph. Unit sales through May 1st never dip to the pre-promotion levels--a result that has remained true until this day.






This second graph represents the effect that the I WISH promo had on its sequel, Wishing for You. Note that the sequel remained at regular price throughout the promotion period.

The first red arrow shows promo day. There is a mild spike that lasts for several days before going into a slight decline.

Approximately two weeks after the promotion, we see a new spike! As an author, I hope that the second spike means they've read book 1 and enjoyed it enough to buy the sequel.

After the second spike, sales remain somewhat sporadic, but still higher than before the promotion. Just as I experienced with I Wish, I can confirm that the unit sales of the sequel remain higher even 4 months after promo day!

 
Moral of these graphs: I have been delighted with the results of this promotion. The Bookbub ad created an expected spike in unit sales during the promotion period. Since then, unit sales for Book 1 as well as its sequel have been consistently higher than before the promotion. I am a satisfied Bookbub customer!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Happy birthday to Sara's book!

It's the book birthday for Wish You Were Here!

This book concludes the I Wish series. Over 3 books, Grant has helped Lacey, Kimberley, and (finally) Sara to work through some of the hardest issues of their lives.

Grant has been such a fun, amazing, and varied character to write. I'm sorry to say good-bye to him. And the 3 friends as well. (Although this book is Sara's story, you'll see plenty of Kimberley and Lacey, too.) If you asked me which one was my favorite, I'm not sure that I could pick. I loved each of these young women while I wrote their stories--and I knew that I just had to make sure, by the end of Wish You Were Here, we all had hints of what the future held for them and Grant.

Here is a tiny excerpt from the book, where Sara is reflecting on her own birthday.



     Today was my birthday. Nineteen.
     It was one of those boring birthdays. At eighteen, we became adults. At twenty, we left our teens behind. At twenty-one, we could legally drink, which made us dangerous in a lot of ways.
     But nineteen? Meh. A prime number. A non-descript bridge between possibilities and probabilities.
     It was the first birthday I would celebrate without my twin, which elevated nineteen from non-descript to poignant.



For now, Wish You Were Here is available in e-book only. It will be available in paperback later in the summer. Buy links for e-books are:


Thursday, June 9, 2016

enter to win ARC of YA contemporary

My first YA contemporary romance releases in September. You have 100+ chances to win an advanced reader copy (ARC) of The Possibility of Somewhere through June 16.

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 20 copies at St. Martin's website. [Only open to residents of 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding the province of Quebec), age 13 and older at the time of entry.] This giveaway ends Thursday, June 9, at 11:59pm ET.

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 100 galley copies at goodreads.  Only open to US residents. This giveaway ends on Thursday, June 16.

 

Monday, June 6, 2016

1 week until Wish You Were Here and congrats to winners

I've been running two giveaways to celebrate the release (next Monday) of Wish You Were Here.  And the winners are:

  • $25 e-card to newsletter subscriber goes to Thomas M.
  • ARCs of Wishing for You (#2) go to Amanda, Laverne, and Danielle.

Congratulations to the winners!

1 week until Wish You Were Here and congrats to winners

I've been running two giveaways to celebrate the release (next Monday) of Wish You Were Here.  And the winners are:

  • $25 e-card to newsletter subscriber goes to Thomas M.
  • ARCs of Wishing for You (#2) go to Amanda, Laverne, and Danielle.

Congratulations to the winners!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

3 signed ARCs giveaway on goodreads for I WISH #2

In anticipation of the release of Wish You Were Here (I Wish #3), I'm offering a goodreads giveaway of 3 signed paperbacks of Wishing For You (I Wish #2).  US and Canadian addresses only.




Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wishing for You by Elizabeth Langston

Wishing for You

by Elizabeth Langston

Giveaway ends June 03, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

You can enter the giveaway between May 26 and June 3.

I'll have the e-books of I Wish and Wishing For You (books 1 & 2) on sale for 99-cents during the first week of June.  I'll post a reminder here. Or signup for my newsletter for reminders, news, and more giveaways exclusive to my subscribers.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Churches in Canada

On a vacation to Canada, we had the chance to see many beautiful churches.  Here are two basilicas.

Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal
St Dunstan's Basilica, Prince Edward Island

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Giveaway, sale, and Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here, book 3 in the I Wish series, will release in four weeks, on June 13.  The trilogy will be complete!

I'm planning a giveaway of Wishing For You (I Wish #2) on goodreads during the last week of May, and a 99-cent sale on books 1 & 2 (e-book version) during the first week of June.

So if you haven't had a chance to read I Wish or Wishing For You--June will be a great time to get them. And you can pre-order the e-book version of Wish You Were Here now.


I'll post again here as a reminder, and if you subscribe to my newsletter, you'll get all of the details in my June newsletter, plus an exclusive giveaway available to newsletter subscribers only.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Wish You Were Here - the 3rd I WISH book

Wish You Were Here will release on Monday, June 13. In this 3rd and final book of the I Wish series, Grant returns to help Sara Tucker through the hardest summer of her life.

She can't forget what she's lost. He reminds her there's more to be found.

Months after the loss of her twin, Sara Tucker still struggles to recover. She ought to be getting ready for college; instead, she's frozen in place. But when her plans for the future begin to unravel, Sara knows she can no longer handle her problems alone.

Grant is a supernatural being, dedicated to serving humans in need. He's enjoying his promotion to guardian, but he’s restless, too. There’s someone he met on a previous assignment that he wants to help--except Sara needs wishes, and Grant's not a genie anymore.

When his league accepts her case, Grant volunteers to go. As he works beside Sara to fix the mess of her life, they may both discover that, sometimes, the best way forward is to find a new path.



Wish You Were Here can be pre-ordered as an e-book on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and other online retailers.

The paperback will be out later in Summer 2016. Readers who prefer print books can watch goodreads or my newsletter for a future chance to win an advance paperback copy.

And check out my website for an excerpt from the first chapter of Wish You Were Here

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Getting a signed paperback

For readers who already have paperbacks of my books, if you would like to have them "signed," I can do the next best thing by sending you a bookplate.
  • A bookplate is a large, peel-off label that I can sign, inscribe, and mail to you. Once you've received the bookplate, you can stick it to the title page of your book.
  •  I will send bookplates to readers in the United States or internationally. Send me an email through the contact form on my website, and I'll respond with the details.

~~*~~

For readers in the United States only, I have a limited number of paperbacks available for purchase.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fun times with self-publishing

In March 2016, I presented a lunch-time seminar about self-publishing to aspiring authors who work at my day-job employer.  This post is based on the topics from that presentation. [Updated June 2018.]

Disclaimer: these ideas are based on my experiences, business goals, and temperament. You will bring a different perspective to self-publishing, so consider what resonates and ignore the rest. Also, this post is not financial advice or legal advice. Seek assistance from an accountant or an attorney for legalities and money matters. Every state has different statutes to follow for your small business.


Establishing a publishing house


By self-publishing your books, you have become a small business owner. You are selling a product that you create. Your publishing house is a small business; run it like a professional.

Name – Consider picking a name for your publishing house. I picked “FictionEtc Press” since my initials are ETC. I also recommend searching the internet and the US Patent and Trademark Office for your “publisher name” to ensure you don’t violate a trademarked name.

Type of business - Decide what type of business you are forming. Ask fellow authors about the pros and cons of an LLC, the various categories of corporations, etc. I chose to be a sole proprietorship--which meant I had to research what was expected in my county/state for someone who was operating a doing business as (DBA) company. My county does require registration as a DBA, which cost about $35 and only took an easy, notarized form.

Banking – Retailers will want to send royalties on a periodic basis. Be sure to have your bank routing/account numbers or a paypal account ready. I have a separate bank account and credit card for my publishing house.

Snail mail address – If you don’t have a personal mail box, consider getting one for your author business mail. There are instances where you will have to provide a postal address, and if you're like me, you want to be careful about surfacing the address of where you live. I’m paying 200 for a year’s lease of a mail box at the local UPS store.

Sales tax – if it’s possible that you’ll be selling print books directly to readers, you should check with your state’s department of revenue to see whether you’ll owe any sales tax. The state of North Carolina does require quarterly payments of sales tax.

Income taxes – Keep good records for your business expenses and revenues. You may wish to consider a small business financial package for your computer or careful use of Excel. I hired a tax accountant to assist me my first year of self-publishing, but my husband and I have been managing it ourselves since. (Turbo Tax does a great job for us!)


Buy your own set of ISBNs. File for copyright protection.


ISBNs – International Standard Book Number is a 10-digit or 13-digit number that uniquely identifies a book. Having your own ISBNs is optional for some distributors, so this step is not required. I wanted my own ISBNs for my books. It's a control issue; I don't want the author platform telling me how to use them. So I bought a block of 10 ISBNs from Bowker for $250. Each book format (ebook and print) needs a separate ISBN. Bowker periodically runs promotions, so watch for a sale and "stock up." I bought my second 10 ISBNs for $100.

Filing for copyright – I recommend filing for copyright protection of your book. It costs $35 and takes about ten minutes to complete the application online at copyright.gov . It'll take a couple of months to get the document. This step is not required; your book is copyrighted as soon as it's in tangible form. But having the copyright filed gives me peace of mind. YMMV.



Know your supply chain. Understand the difference between distributors and retailers.

Retailers – Retailers are the companies that sell your books to readers on your behalf. Retailers keep a portion of the retail price and send “the publisher” (that is, you) the rest on a periodic basis. The biggest retailers are Amazon, B&N, and Apple. Overdrive and Baker&Taylor are big for libraries. And there are thousands of other online retailers and independent bookstores—which is why you need a distributor

Distributors – Distributors give you a central place to upload your book and then they, in turn, distribute it to the retailers that you choose. Most distributors make it really easy to upload your book, get it ready for distribution, and receive royalties. For instance, KDP is the distributor of ebooks to Amazon. CreateSpace is currently the distributor of print books to Amazon (and potentially other retailers.) B&N has their own print book distribution. Ingram can distribute e-books or print books to pretty much everywhere. More on this later.


Preparing the book to sell

Produce great content – First and foremost, write a great book. Then I strongly recommend that you have your book professionally edited and proofread. If you, as an author, get the reputation for producing sloppy books, that impression can be hard to fight and could cost you sales. Freelance editors vary greatly in price. For a 70K book, you could pay anywhere from $500 to $2000 for developmental edits. (And the more expensive fees do not guarantee better edits.) Ask for recommendations. You should also consider line-edits, copy-edits, and sensitivity reads (if you are including diverse characters or issues that you don't have firsthand experience with.)

Front matter – Front matter is the first 3-4 pages of a book--before you get to the text of the story. You should always include the title page and copyright page. You can also, optionally, include a dedication page, a list of your other books ("Also By"), your acknowledgments, and a "call to action" for signing up for your newsletter. Most retailers of e-books require that you have a Table of Contents in your front matter.

Back matter – Back matter is the final 4-10 pages of your book--after The End. Back matter provides a good location for any Author Notes, Author Biography, and bonus content, such as an excerpt for your next book. The back matter may also include the acknowledgments and a list of your other books. (This is my preference--to have Acknowledgments and "Books By" in the back matter.) Additionally for e-books, you can include buy-links to your other books and links to your social media sites. Note: most retailers do not allow you to include buy-links for competitors. For instance, Apple does not surface any buy-links for Amazon. You'll likely produce multiple versions of your e-books, a unique version for each retailer with their specific buy-links.


The interior layout of your book is the presentation of your book's content. You can go for a no-frills approach or invest in applying more care to the format. When making this choice, consider your personality, the costs involved, and the conventions for your book's market.


Making the interior pretty - The interior layout is all about making the appearance of the book’s content pretty. Some frills that you can add include fancy fonts, fancy chapter headings, scene break images, "left flush" or "drop caps" for the first paragraph of each chapter / scene, and maps (or enhanced content.)

Scene break images: I used scene break images for my first two self-published books, but I've stopped now because they are really hard to get right. (I also made an effort to notice them in other books and decided that they're just noise that adds to the book size.)  If you hire a layout expert, they should be able to handle scene break images for you.

First paragraphs: I left-flush the first paragraph of each chapter and each scene break. I played around with drop-caps, but decided I didn't like the way they looked.

Fonts: I limit myself with the fonts, mostly using 2 in a book, a serif font for regular text and a san-serif if my characters are texting. The Garamond font is used for 90% or more of the text in my print books. I use "free" fonts in my e-books. There are some weird legalities with "purchased" fonts in e-books.

Hiring a layout expert - I contracted out the interior layout for my first 2 self-pubbed books. I asked self-pubbed friends for recommendations. The going price seemed to be $75-$150 per book. Now, I do the interior layout myself (but I'm also a software developer, so I do this stuff at work for my day-job). Draft2Digital (a distributor) has good tools for turning WORD docs into pretty layouts. You may use them (even if you don't use D2D), and download the books. I haven't used their tools, since I do the work myself.


The text and images (such as covers) that you include in your book can be published in different publishing formats. Your distributor has a required publishing format that they use for creating and distributing books.

PDF – the text and covers of print books are always uploaded to distributors in PDF. The distributors I use (Amazon/Createspace and IngramSpark) have templates available to ensure that you get covers right.

ePub – nearly all retailers use the ePub format for e-books, except Amazon. There are plenty of tools out there to convert WORD documents to ePub. I use an open source tool called Calibre to create my ePub files and then upload them to the distributors. If you prefer, the distributors have tools to convert WORD to ePub; these conversion tools work very well, but you do lose a little bit of control over the interior of the book.

Mobi/azw – Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has its own proprietary format for distributing e-books to Amazon. You can hire someone to create this format for you, or you can upload a WORD doc, HTML file, or ePub and it will be converted. The KDP conversion tool does a nice, no-frills job.


Book covers – This is your number one marketing tool, so do it well! There are many cover designers out there. Ask for recommendations from your self-pubbed friends. Distributors often have cover designers available. There are also several crowd-sourcing sites that allow you to get “bids” on your book cover design. Prices can run anywhere from $150 to $1000 or more. I've paid $150 for covers and $500 for covers. The quality was good with both. It is possible to create your own covers, but take care that it doesn't look thrown together. Bad covers can kill sales.

Licensing – your cover designer may ask you to pay license fees for stock photos and/or specialized fonts. I paid $10 to license fonts and $50 to license stock photos for my former cover designer. My current one handles the licensing fees herself.


Releasing the Book

 

Let's look at e-books first.

Cost – once you have your interior layout and cover completed, it costs nothing to establish yourself with an e-book distributor. You just open an account, set up the royalty payments and your preferences, and upload your files.

Distributors – Each distributor has a website known as their "author platform." I have accounts with the author platforms on:
  • KDP (Amazon), 
  • NookPress (B&N), 
  • Kobo Writing Life (Kobo),
  • Smashwords (many small retailers),
  • Draft2Digital (iBooks, Overdrive, several international retailers)
I don’t have an account on the Apple/iBooks platform, because I think you need an iOS device to upload files to iTunes. Since I don’t have an iPad or Mac, Draft2Digital distributes to Apple/iBooks for me. I use Smashwords for numerous small and obscure retailers. I rarely get money from Smashwords and intend to close my SW account down this year.

The author platforms for KDP, Kobo, and D2D are amazingly easy to use. Very author friendly. NookPress and Smashwords, not so much. It is a pain to go to so many platforms. Every time you add a new book, you have to publish it multiple places (in my case, 5).

Royalty – review the royalty percentages carefully with each distributor; percentages change with differing price ranges. I have my ebooks priced at $2.99 or $3.99. Amazon and Kobo give me around 70%, B&N - 65%, Smashwords - 50%, and D2D - 60%. Note that Amazon/KDP charges a delivery fee based on the ebook file size.

Release date – Amazon, D2D, and Smashwords allowed me to set the release date in the future and accept pre-order sales. On the release date, everything magically worked. With the others, you just click "publish" and it releases immediately.


Now, let's go over releasing print books.

 Cost – Amazon/CreateSpace charges nothing to set up print books. IngramSpark charges $49 per book. If you need to upload changes to your book after it is established, CreateSpace charges nothing. IngramSpark charges $25 to take changes. I did pay $20 to both distributors to ship a proof copy. Both distributors allow authors to purchase “author copies” at approximately $5 per book plus shipping&handling. (Watch IngramSpark for promotions. In March, I took advantage of a promotion and set up 3 books for free. In June, I uploaded changes to 2 books for free.)

Distributors – I use CreateSpace to distribute paperbacks to Amazon. I use IngramSpark to distribute to everyone else. The quality of Ingram books is a little better, and their worldwide shipping is faster. CreateSpace has better domestic shipping plus you will make much more money per book.

Royalty – review the royalty percentages carefully with each distributor. I make about $2 royalty on my Createspace books and less than $1 with Ingram. (I may drop Ingram because it's a lot of work for lower royalty, but it does have stronger, more loyal distribution to libraries and indie bookstores.)

Release date - Createspace releases your book immediately once you have indicated that the proof is acceptable. Ingram allows you to set the release date. If you accept the proof in advance, they will treat it as a pre-order until the actual release date.



The good and the bad with self-publishing



Let me close these notes with a brief discussion of my opinions about being self-published.

My business goals - Before you make a decision about how to publish your books, be clear about what is important to you for your writing career.
  • Do you write because you have something to say?
  • Do you like the research and potential travel opportunities?
  • Do you want to earn a living as an author?
The answers to these questions could change the choices you make about self-publishing. In my case, my primary goals are to enjoy the research and to share a story with readers. My day-job (which I love) relieves the pressure of earning an income. So making money is great but not as big an issue for me.

Consider your unique situation - As an author, I love to collaborate with a publishing team to help produce my books. I love knowing that there are editors committed to improving my story. I happily lean on the expertise of marketing teams and cover designers.  A traditional publishing experience works best for me when, of course, I can get a contract.

Another factor that I have to consider is my target market. Historically, I've written teen fiction in a narrow sub-genre. Since teens prefer print books over e-books, I have to sell print books, which are harder to produce as a self-pubbed author and make a smaller profit margin.

Self-publishing works especially well for genres with a strong e-book customer base and for authors who can produce quickly and steadily. Neither is true for me.


What I like about self-publishing:
  • Faster release dates (you publish when the book is ready)
  • Higher royalty rates
  • Faster data (it's instantaneous)
  • Faster receipt of earnings (usually every month)
  • Controlling my own price points

What I don't like about self-publishing:
  • The time I spend writing versus publishing "biz"; I'd really rather spend 100% of my "author" time writing the book
  • Making decisions about factors that I have no expertise with (such as book covers and promotion)
  • Working on my own (I love collaborating with a publishing team!)
  • The correlation between social media presence and earnings

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

YA book covers with faces?

Here’s an article with a blogger's choice of the 30 Best YA Book Covers from 2015. Only 6 of them had a photograph of a face on them.

A high school teacher mentioned once that she polled her literature students each year about YA book covers. Consistently, her students (male and female) said they preferred it when a book didn’t have faces on the covers; they’d rather imagine what the characters looked like.

Are her students the exception? Or is it true that most teen readers (or readers of YA) would rather not have faces on covers?


~~~~~~

This post first appeared on juliaday.tumblr.com ; Julia Day is the pen name I use for my YA contemporary romances. The first Julia Day is The Possibility of Somewhere, and it will release in September. Please join my on these Julia Day social media accounts.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

If you were expecting swords and sorcery...



My book, I WISH, is YA magical realism. When I uploaded it to Amazon, they didn’t have a tag for magical realism, so I just left it at Fantasy&Magic.

I Wish is next to JKR!

Amazon has the book listed as Swords and Sorcery. There are no swords and no sorcery in I WISH. Anywhere.

The book was on sale last week, a lot of people downloaded it, but it may not have the kind of magic readers are expecting.

I think they’ll like the book when they read it. But if they were hoping to be introduced to a new author of Swords and Sorcery, that’s not what they’ll find. So I asked my friend Laura for her advice on s&s, and here’s what she recommended:

1) anything by Tamora Pierce (like her Song of the Lioness quartet or her Trickster's Choice duet )

2) Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown - “ long, sweeping training montages and stubborn independence and fighting dragons”

3) Sabriel by Garth Nix - “a perfectly-paced dark adventure involving several flavors of magic, enchanted swords, a menacing talking cat, and ‘two worlds side by side’ worldbuilding”

4) Sherwood Smith’s duet Crown Duel / Court Duel - “starts out as a straightforward rebellion but gets into the doubts and nuance of questioning the story that you tell yourself. Book two is a great piece of court drama with misunderstandings, romance through letters, and magic so subtle that most people in the kingdom don’t even know how it works.”

5) The Oathbound books by Mercedes Lackey - readers of any age will love them for their “most literal sword-and-sorcery pair: Tarma is a warrior priestess with a normal sword and Kethry is a mage with a really inconvenient magic sword.”

[Originally posted on juliaday.tumblr.com]

~~~~~~~

My first YA contemporary romance, The Possibility of Somewhere, will release in September.  I'll use a new pen name for my YA contemporaries--Julia Day. As I move closer to September, I'll begin to use my Julia Day social media accounts more and phase out this blog.  Please consider following me on Julia Day's:


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Who writes better - men or women?

[Originally posted on juliaday.tumblr.com]

I’ve been reading a lot of articles on social media recently about who wins the most book awards: men or women. (If you don’t know the answer, it’s men.) 

In one blog post, the blogger/author (Nicola Griffith) had broken down the data further. She wanted to know not only who won prestigious awards but also if the award-winning books had male or female protagonists. Out of the six awards she studied,
  • men won 54% (which is actually kind of decent–but maybe it’s just the six awards the blogger picked)
  • men writers had 19% female main characters
  • female writers had 71% male main characters
So–if this sample is anything to go by, women writers feature male MCs far more often than men writers feature women.

As an added point of interest, one of the awards in this study was the Newbery, awarded to books of children’s fiction. It’s the only prize where women authors fared better than men. When I remove the Newbery data from the analysis (that is, the analysis is about adult book prizes only), the numbers change predictably. 

  • men won 61% of the awards (clearly, the children’s book prizes were skewing our data :) 
  • female authors had 77% male MCs 
  • male authors had 14% female MCs 

I think we can all conclude that, for a female author to have a prayer of winning, adding a male MC is nearly essential. 

Back to my original question: Who is better? (which is different than who wins more awards?) 

Now, I have a confession to make. I don’t know who’s better because I don’t read enough books by male authors to judge. I checked out my books-read-list from the past 12 months.  I finished about 80 books. Two (yes, 2) were by men. 

I can’t remember specifically excluding male authors because they are male. Maybe they just don’t write the genre of books I want to read. But the results show a distinct bias. 

I write YA, so I read a lot of YA last year for research as well as pleasure. But, yep, just one (of those 2 aforementioned books) was by a male YA author. I should branch out. Probably. 

~~~~~~~

My first YA contemporary romance, The Possibility of Somewhere, will release in September.  I'll use a new pen name for my YA contemporaries--Julia Day. As I move closer to September, I'll begin to use my Julia Day social media accounts more and phase out this blog.  Please consider following me on Julia Day's:


Friday, March 4, 2016

Sale on I WISH (book 1)

I have I Wish on sale for 99 cents until March 14.

The third and final book of the I WISH series will release this summer. Wish You Were Here begins four months after Wishing for You. Grant arrives to help Sara Tucker recover from the hardest year of her life.  (You'll also get to catch up with Kimberley and Lacey; they're around to support Sara, too.)

The e-book of I Wish (#1) will be on sale for 2 weeks. In May, I'll discount Wishing for You (#2) for a couple of weeks. If you know someone who hasn't read the series yet, at 99 cents, it's a great time to try.

He's a genie with rules...


Buy links: Amazon/Kindle   B&N/Nook    iBooks

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Accessibility basics for author websites

This post provides tips for how to test your website to ensure it is accessible to readers with visual impairments or mobility impairments. While these tips can work for all websites, the features we targeted are common on author websites.

Primary considerations for testing your website's accessibility
  • Keyboard accessibility: can you navigate via keyboard to everything, especially using the TAB button?
  • Color and style: have you considered users with color-blindness or poor vision?
  • Text and images: can a screen-reader handle the text on your webpage? Do the images provide captions or alternative text that describe what they are?

Tools that webmasters can use to test your website

Navigation

Try this: To discover how easy it is for a disabled user to navigate your website, put away your mouse/touchpad and use the keyboard only! The short-keys below can be used in place of mouse-clicks.

Key Use
Tab Move to the next focus item (links, text boxes, and other items that can be interacted with)
Shift+Tab Move to the previous focus item
ALT+Tab Change to next window
ALT+F4 Close window
CTRL+W Close tab
CTRL+A Select all
CTRL+S Save
CTRL+D Bookmark (Firefox), Favorite (IE)
CTRL+Q Quit
CTRL+T New tab (Firefox, IE)
CTRL+C Copy
CTRL+V Paste
CTRL+X Cut (Copy and Delete)
CTRL+Z Undo


Website Design Basics 

When you (or your web designer) is creating the site, please consider the following accessibility recommendations.


Color Alone for emphasis
  • Do not use color alone for emphasis. (For those with color-blindness, certain colors--such as green and red--might appear gray or black.) Instead, use color with either italics or bold to emphasize text.
  • Inaccessible example:
    The books in green are available for purchase. The books in red are coming out next year.
    • A
    • B
    • C
    • D
  • Accessible example:
    The books in green italics are available for purchase. The books in red bold are coming out next year.
    • A
    • B
    • C
    • D
     

Links
  • Use link text that provides context. "Author website" is better than "click here".
  • Style your link differently than the rest of the text.
Images
  • Provide alt text for all images.
  • Important images should have meaningful alt text.
    <img src="Arabian_knights_book_cover.jpg" alt="Arabian Knights" />
  • Presentation images should have an alt text of ""
    <img src="background_pattern.gif" alt="" />
Forms
  • Use labels.
    Example code:
    <label="fname">First Name</label>
    <input type="text" id="fname" name="first_name" />
    <fieldset>
    <legend>Gender</legend>
    <input id="gender_f" name="gender" value="female" type="radio" />
    <label for="gender_f">Female</label>
    <input id="gender_" name="gender" value="male" type="radio" />
    <label for="gender_m">Male</label>
    </fieldset>
           
    Example in action. (Note that you can click the word "female" or "male", and the radio button gets marked. This is because we used labels, and it provides mouse/touchpad users a larger target to click when they fill out a form.)

    Gender



Tables
  • Tools for webmasters: ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) is now a part of HTML5, and most attributes and roles are supported by all major browsers. Here's a link to the W3C's documentation on ARIA
  • Use the ARIA attribute role: "grid" for data, "presentation" for layout tables. This helps improve navigation for screen-reader users.
Example for role="grid"
Name Gender Age
Julie Female 21
Michael Male 20
Sam Unspecified 19

Example for role="presentation"
A variety of opportunities available as a part of Given University's student life
Activities Clubs Greek Life
Housing Sports Student Union
Stuff Theater



  •  Use the ARIA attribute scope.
    Row headers (<th>) should have scope="row". (Here with light green shading)
    Column headers should have scope="col". (Here with light blue shading and bolded, centered text)
    Name Population GDP (USD)
    Australia 21,507,717 915,098,000,000
    Canada 33,476,688 1,445,000,000,000
    New Zealand 4,451,017 122,193,000,000
    United Kingdom 63,181,775 2,316,000,000,000
    United States 315,317,000 15,094,000,000,000



  • Multimedia
    • If you have video or audio, have transcripts available.
    • If you have video or audio, provide controls to allow users to, at minimum, pause and play the media. Volume controls are also ideal. Using the native controls available in HTML5 generally provides the most ideal experience.
      <video width="320px" height="240px" controls="controls">
      <source src="interview.mp4" type="video/mp4">
      </video>

    Additional Links for Webmasters

    Saturday, February 27, 2016

    Random images - Canada

    Summer 2015: I cruised through Canada, from Montreal to Boston on the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Here are a few random images from that trip.


    Prince Edward Island-- I've just met Anne of Green Gables.


    A chateau in Quebec City. You can see the funicular on the cliff, for transporting people from the lower city to the upper city. (I'm scared of heights, so the funicular trip was done with eyes closed.)




    Landing in Montreal at night


    Friday, February 26, 2016

    teen blog post about pressure on students

    I found this blog post--The Tipping Point-- on YA Books Central about how pressure is affecting students in college or younger. The post is well-written and thought-provoking. Its eloquent author is a teen.

    It's sad and scary how many teens are making drastic choices in response to bullying or pressure to succeed. Suicide is one of the leading causes of teen deaths (one-third!) Silicon Valley is experiencing a near epidemic.

    These deaths are preventable. If you know someone who shows signs of depression or makes comments that concern you, have them seek help. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 .