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!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

books on sale and GR giveaway

Quick reminder: The final book of the I WISH trilogy releases soon.  You can preorder Wish You Were Here now (and read a small excerpt below).

I have the first 2 books on sale for 99 cents at e-retailers and a giveaway of 3 paperbacks of book 2 on Goodreads.

99-cent sale ends Sunday, June 5

The Goodreads giveaway ends Friday, June 3


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


Here is a small excerpt from Chapter 7 of Wish You Were Here.



   Grant smiled at me. “May I infer that the interrogation is about to resume?”
   “You may.”
   His eyebrow arched. “It is only fair to warn you that, while I never lie, I rarely volunteer the entirety of the truth.”
   “Noted. So how long have you been in the League?”
   “My inception was four years ago.”
   “How old are you?”
   “I am presently considered to be the human equivalent of nineteen.”
   “How long has the League been in existence?”
   He straightened. “I cannot answer that.”
   “But it’s been a while?”
   “I can confirm a while.” He wiggled his shoulders, as if trying to get comfortable, and then reclined again. “I can also share that the current environment is relatively new. Not long before my inception, the League underwent a major reorganization. Discipline had become lax. Beings had become overly servile, and human masters had responded with attitudes of…entitlement. The League reacted by overhauling our policies and procedures. While I applaud their attempts to protect Beings and clarify our mission, it is my opinion that the revised rules lack healthy flexibility.”
   “Will you help to loosen things?”
   His lips twitched. “As much as my influence permits.”
   “Influence, huh?” I finished my limeade and waited for him to finish his tea. When he nodded with resignation, I continued. “Can you be other things besides a genie?”
   “Indeed. Benevolence assumes many forms. There are a variety of roles to supply it.”
   “What kinds of roles?”
   “Caretakers for the lonely. The earliest responders at emergencies. Friendly strangers.”
   “How are your roles assigned?”
   “As long we have the proper skills, we can choose.”
   “Skills?”
   He grinned. “There are four experience levels in the League’s hierarchy. We spend one year training as a novice and two as an apprentice. To be promoted to principal, we have to become skilled at fourteen human traits or emotions, such as discernment and compassion.”
   Oh, wow. The more he answered, the more questions I had.    “Name a trait that would surprise me.”
   “Humor.” His eyes brightened.
   “Why humor?”
   “We want to appeal to humans. Humor eases the process.”
   “Are you considered proficient?” I swallowed a laugh.
   “You wound me, Sara.” His smile said I hadn’t.



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

2 weeks until Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here releases on June 13--only 2 weeks away.  

Here is a brief excerpt: Grant (the genie) is talking with his new mistress, Sara.


  “Do you read minds, Grant?”

  “I can, although I’m restricted to situations that warrant it.”

  Creepy or efficient? I was going with efficient. “You may read mine when we’re in here. I’d rather not talk.”

  “Certainly.”

  “You won’t tell anyone what you see inside my head?”


image of boy running
  “Utterly confidential. We have mistress/genie privilege in place.”

  A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth. “Any other superhero capabilities I should know about?”

  “I can run for long distances at great speed.”

  “Don’t think I’ll need that.”

  “My senses are more acute than yours.”

  “As in what?”

  “My senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch. All far superior.”


  “That could be useful.”

  “For me, perhaps. I cannot fathom how it might benefit you.”



The e-books of I Wish (I Wish #1) and Wishing for You (I Wish #2) are on sale now for 99 cents through June 5th. And there's a giveaway (US and Canada only) of 3 signed paperbacks of Wishing for You.

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.  Here are notes from that presentation. [Updated September 2017.]

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 treat is a small business; treat it with professionalism.

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 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.

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. I’m paying $150 for a year’s lease.

Sales tax – if it’s possible that you’ll be selling books directly to readers, you should check with your state’s department of revenue to see whether you’ll owe any 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.



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, 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."

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 copyrights 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 the distributor of print books to Amazon (and potentially other retailers.) 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.

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 the 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 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 "Also 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 that most distributors 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 provides the presentation of your book. 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.  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). I've heard that Draft2Digital (a distributor) has good tools for creating pretty layout, but I haven't had the chance to try those tools yet.

The text and images (such as covers) that you include in your book can be published in different publishing formats. You must check with your distributor to know which publishing formats that they accept and use.

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 paid mid-range. It is possible to create your own covers, but take care that it doesn't look thrown together. Bad covers 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.

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. Amazon and Kobo give me 70%, B&N - 65%, Smashwords - 50%, and D2D - 60%.

Release date – Amazon 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.

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 potentially reach libraries.)

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 choice you make. In my case, my primary goals are to enjoy the research and to share a story with readers--giving them a new perspective. My day-job (which I love) relieves the pressure of earning an income. So that's nice 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 lean on the expertise of marketing teams and cover designers.  A traditional publishing experience works best for me.

Another factor that I have to consider is my target market. I write teen fiction, in a narrow sub-genre. Since teens prefer print books over e-books, I have to sell paperbacks, 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