Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Amazon Acquiring Goodreads Could Mean for Readers and Writers

David and Goliath. A little extreme...or not? Source
David and Goliath. A little extreme...or not? Source
The big buzz in the book world today is that internet giant has reached an agreement to acquire Goodreads, the wonderful book-centric social network site used and loved by millions. What does this mean for us as authors and readers? The details have not been revealed, but I have some speculation on what the future could look like:

As of now, Goodreads has links on book pages to numerous retailers. For authors, this means that when a new reader checks out a book on Goodreads, she has the option to be directed to the retailer of her choice to make a purchase. A comment on the announcement blog post, left by a Goodreads employee, states, "... We have no plans to change how the links on our book pages work. ..." (emphasis mine) Maybe I'm a cynic, but I can't see the links staying as they are. (More likely, this is Goodreads' way of saying, "We won't change the way links work, but once Amazon is in control, all bets are off.") I can't imagine Amazon would ever, on a site it owns, link directly to its competition. Just like on IMDB, another Amazon-owned site, all links will point back to the mother ship.

Reviews, the backbone of the Goodreads community...with Amazon playing Big Brother, will the Goodreads review policy be changed? A statement, again found in the comments thread of their announcement post, added by a Goodreads employee, says, "We don't expect to make changes to our review policy. Our reviews are obviously a strength of our site, and we don't plan to change how we handle them." (emphasis mine) Again, the clever wording leads me to believe that they are leaving things open to change under the reign of King Amazon.

Amazon's review policy, while seemingly innocuous, is actually a huge problem for reviewers, many of whom have stopped reviewing on Amazon and now review strictly on personal blogs and Goodreads, because:
  1. Amazon claims ownership on reviews, meaning all the time and effort you put into crafting your review? ... that now belongs to Amazon, and they can use your words however they see fit.
  2. Authors are not allowed to review books on Amazon. You're an author? And a reader? Preposterous! Not too long ago, Amazon quietly (read: without warning) began deleting any reviews written by authors of books in the same genre. So I'm a YA author. And, not so coincidentally, I LOVE to read YA. But review it? Not allowed, according to Amazon.
  3. Amazon has very strict rules about the language reviewers use, ostensibly because they now own the words and don't want to be held responsible for anything inflammatory or offensive. While I personally prefer to read reviews that are honest, but kind (yes, even a negative review can be kind), many reviewers like to be snarky and even use - gasp! - some foul language. That's a no-go on Amazon.

Goodreads is a place where reviewers can say what they like, how the like, without fear of having their review removed without warning, or fear of their words being used to benefit a company (when they themselves are no longer even allowed to use the review on their own website, technically). Like I said above, the statement as of today is that there is no expected change for the review policy, but given Amazon's track record, reviewers are nervous, and rightly so.

While, on the author side of things, changes to the Buy Links and review policy may be the most worrisome aspects of this acquisition, readers may have a bigger issue with:

The loss of a neutral place to meet up and talk about books we love.

For years, that's exactly what Goodreads was. We could go and talk with fellow book nerds about the books and authors we adore, and there was no pressure to buy, because Goodreads had no vested interest in book sales. With Amazon owning the company, you better believe there's a vested interest; every member is now a potential customer. How long before our Goodreads pages look like Amazon sales copy?

So what is a reader to do?

There is very little out there by way of social network sites geared toward readers. Goodreads was basically it. Sure, Shelfari had a brief run where it looked like it might become popular. Then Amazon bought the site, failed to support it, and let it all but die. (Will this be the future for Goodreads? I doubt it.)

Another option is Library Thing. On the surface, it looks great: perhaps not as fully featured as Amazon, it has potential. After one adds 200 books, it is no longer free, but the pay options are very reasonable: $10 a year, or $25 for life. Under the surface, however, you will find that Library Thing is owned 40% by Amazon. (A note on that link: AbeBooks is now owned by Amazon, which is how ownership of Library Thing was acquired.)

So, yeah. If you want social networking revolving around books? It's owned by Amazon. That's your option, sorry. This Goodreads purchase just blasted open a HUGE niche in the social network market. Geek Husband and I are already scheming. :)

Your turn! What do you think about Amazon buying Goodreads? Are you concerned at all? Leave it in the comments.

(this post is cross posted at my personal blog.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let's Talk About Websites

We live in a digital world. Everyone is online, and it's not uncommon to see toddlers with their own iPods and iPads. Gone are the days where a reader hears about a new author and checks said author out at their friendly neighborhood bookstore; now, when hearing of a new book or author, a reader hops online to see what the hype is all about. Without a website to land at, where is the reader getting the information?

Truth time: it takes a thirty-minute drive for me to get to my nearest bookstore, and their YA/NA (my most read categories) section is nearly nonexistent. The nearest Barnes & Noble is an eighty-mile drive. We have a decent public library, but it is still sadly lacking in many of the books I like to read. The internet is where I need to go to get what I want.

Amazon has done great things for those looking for information; often I peruse author and book pages, looking over reviews to see how others seem to like the book I'm interested in. But I've found that many readers, myself included, like a more personal look at the author, something that shows unique style and personality, and this is where the author website comes in.

Websites don't have to be a scary thing, I promise. While learning HTML and CSS (it's okay of you don't know what that means) can help you get your site looking exactly how you want it, it's not at all necessary to get things going. So what do you need?

  • A Domain Name: This isn't totally necessary (you'll notice this blog is not on a custom domain), but having your own domain name has its benefits, the most obvious being that readers don't have to remember if your site is at blogspot or wordpress or any other number of free hosting sites. Domain names are cheap, and you can point them to one of these sites, keeping your hosting free. 
  •  A Web Host: You can host your website through Blogger and, and that is a great route to go, especially when you are first starting off. If and when you want more control, you will need paid hosting. A quick web search will turn up many great options for this. 

Yeah, that's pretty much it, and you'll notice that both of those things are easy and potentially free. That's how simple it is to get yourself a website. It's really something that we, as writers, can't afford not to do. A quick Twitter poll shows me that I am not the only person who has bought an author's book in large part because I liked what I saw on her website, nor am I the only one who skipped a book I was neutral about when I was unable to find anything on the author. There are a lot of books out there, y'all, and we need to be doing what we can to make information about ours as accessible as possible. 

After asking around, I found that most people have specific things they like to see on an author website. So if you are just getting started on your site, or looking to update an existing one soon, consider making sure you have these elements: 

  • An About the Author page. Yes, people want to know about your books, but especially in this society of knowing the ins and outs of everyone's life, they want to know about YOU. This doesn't mean you have to tell us all the gritty details of your life (in fact, please don't), but a little something is nice. Help us put a person behind the words. 
  • Pages About Your Books. After all, why are we there? Give us synopses, teasers, extras, playlists... whatever you are comfortable sharing. Your books are your babies; this is your chance to make them shine and convince readers to read them.
  • A Contact page. How else will your adoring fans send you gushing letters of endless love?
  • A Blog. This one comes with a caveat: only have the blog if it's something you enjoy doing. Don't force it; readers will be able to tell.

You can have much, much more than this, and many authors do, but I suggest having at least these basic elements. 

I've been studying author sites for weeks now, taking notes of things I like and dislike about them, as I set out to redesign my own website, and I'm interested to hear from y'all: 

Which author websites are your favorites, and why? Leave it in the comments. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cover Reveal: IN STONE

 Hi Indie Igniteers!

It's me, ST.  And boy howdy, do we have a book for you.  Today I'm excited to introduce the cover of IN STONE, the debut novel from the always sassy Louise D. Gornall.  Louise is all kinds of fabulous, and I know you're going to love her every bit as much as I do.  Congratulations, Louise!

Beau Bailey is suffering from a post break-up meltdown when she happens across a knife in her local park and takes it home. Less than a week later the new boy in school has her trapped in an alley; he’s sprouted horns and is going to kill Beau unless she hands over the knife.

Until Eighteenth century gargoyle, Jack, shows up and saves her.

Jack has woken from a century long slumber to tell Beau that she’s accidentally been drafted into a power struggle between two immortal races; Demons and Gargoyles. The knife she picked up is the only one in existence capable of killing immortals and they’ll tear the world apart to get it back. To draw the warring immortals away from her home, Beau decides to go with Jack to Bulgaria in search of the mind-bending realm known as the Underworld, a place where they’ll hopefully be able to destroy the knife and prevent all hell from breaking loose. That is providing they can outrun the demons that are chasing them.    
About the author:
Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy. She’s currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. She’s a YA aficionado, Brit bird, film nerd, identical twin, junk food enthusiast, zombie apocalypse 2012 survivor and, above all things, an avid collector of book boyfriends.

Find Louise online at or follow her on Twitter.

And be sure to add IN STONE to your Goodreads pile!  

Calling all New Adult Readers!

New Adult is an exciting new genre in fiction writing. So many wonderful authors are jumping on board including quite a few of the indie ignites team. This December, the first ever NEW ADULT SLEEPOVER WEEKEND will be held in Savannah, GA!
This three day convention focuses on what the READER wants from a convention. Awesome panels, face time with authors, great giveaways, book signings, parties, and contests!

For more information, check out New Adult Sleepover Weekend’s website.

NASW featured author, Dawn Pendleton, is giving away one free registration.  Fill out the Rafflecopter below to be entered to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dawn Pendleton is a New Adult author living in Maine. When she isn't plugging away at a manuscript, she spends her time delving into photography and reading. You can catch up with her on her blog:


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Author Interview with Gerald G. Griffin

Author Interview with Gerald G. Griffin.
Here at Indie Ignites we want to feature not only reviews of indie books, but indie authors as well! Each month we will meet one or two Indie's who have made their chosen path work from all over the globe.

1. How did you get started with your writing career?

Unofficially, it began when I was in the 9th grade.Then, while reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, I said to myself, "I can write like this!" And so I did. Beginning right then, I wrote a book with a similar theme I entitled, "Sir Griffin and the Fair Princess Velva" --- Velva a girl in my class I had a crush on. My teacher found out about the book and read it chapter by chapter to the class, a new chapter each day. She was so surprised by the story, my classmates so amazed, that this set in motion the genesis of my writing career much later on.

Officially, this writing career was started when, while involved in private practice as a Ph.D. psychologist involved in some marriage counseling, I was prompted to write my first published book, THE SILENT MISERY -- WHY MARRIAGES FAIL, a non-fiction work. This reactivated the "writing bug" in me, and from there I wrote several novels, four of them published, as well as two published ghost-written non-fiction books.

Why did you choose to go Indie?

With my current novel OF GOOD AND EVIL I had no choice. My literary agent had died before I wrote the thriller so, to obtain another agent, I queried, with sample chapters, all the big and not so big literary agents in New York and elsewhere, but to no avail. I received a rejection notice from each one. I believe, unlike my 9th grade teacher, that a majority of these agents just summarily rejected my material without reading it.

3. If you had the chance to go the traditional route, would you take it?

Yes, if as before, I had found a literary agent who viewed my book with the same enthusiasm expressed by some of my reviewers i.e., "One of the best books I have ever read"; "Breathtaking"; "A truly great storyteller."

4. What is the hardest thing that you had to learn from being an Indie?

How to do all the marketing myself. Marketing your book on your own can drag you into an unsuspecting mire of struggles, what with the barrage of limitless, promising and costly marketing schemes thrown at you, many of which invariably fail to deliver what you had hoped they would deliver, social networking and engines included. Marketing becomes a madhouse! It's as though you become part of some freakish high wire circus act without a net where you leap haphazardly from the swing, twisting spasmodically into thin air, then frantically grasping outward toward your "catcher's" hands just at the moment your partner is suddenly seized with severe dizzy spells killing any semblance of timing. "Look out below!"

5. What is the best part of being an Indie?

Publishing independence sparing you the wasted time and discouragement of rejection city --- if you can handle on your own the madhouse of marketing.

6. Tell us about your book, OF GOOD AND EVIL.

It's a hard-charging suspense thriller engulfed in mystery; an unusual gripping tale of nobility versus tyranny, with vivid and unforgettable characters, harrowing action, international locales, and a captivating love story.

The protagonist, Ron Sheffield, a gifted but troubled Green Beret, plagued by suicidal guilt because of "special abilities", is discharged from the army for going "crazy" and from there the fireworks begin. Almost immediately, Ron is brutally beaten and shot by the Mafia and is hospitalized, the doctors certain he will die. But his life is dramatically saved by
amber Ash, a young wealthy woman whom also possesses "special abilities" not unlike Ron's. This is the spark for them falling in love but also propelling the two into unending danger, including battles with the Mafia, terrorists and a government cell out to kill them over secret, alarming Iraqi documents Ron possesses from his army service. In the midst of these battles, with surprising twists at every turn, Ron, to save his sanity, is forced by his own mental demons, with the strange help of Amber's estranged father, to become a specialized hit man for the Mafia. This, in turn, brings Ron and Amber face to face with an extraordinary secret society with powers beyond the imagination and with a different mind-set from their own, confronting them with a different kind of conflict.

Throughout these unnerving encounters, some of them never really settled, Ron is eventually confronted with the imminent nuclear obliteration of a major American city --- and Amber and the secrets society with it --- by a suicidal terrorist cell that only Ron can possibly stop, but finds it impossible to do so. A cliff-hanging ending.

7. What inspired you to write OF GOOD AND EVIL?

To begin, a combination of two things: first, world and internal events affecting our national security, especially the 9/11 attacks; second, the volatile stress on war veterans suffering from combat trauma to adjust to normal society (work, love, friendships, etc.) after discharge from service because of the persistence of this trauma. Then, adding to the inspiration, was the challenge of combining these two aspects into a different approach to the concept of good and evil never before attempted, while at the same time writing a spellbinding story of action, surprises, love and nobility that was crisp, clean and clear, with characters resonating flawlessly with an innovative galloping plot keeping the reader on edge and glued to the book from start to finish.

8. Do you feel you have accomplished this?

Yes, according to my reviewers.

For example, one reviewer, Shane Porteous, said of the book: "Of Good And Evil is the very embodiment of what a paranormal thriller should be. This book is perfectly paced, with a great sense of mystery. It truly boggles my mind the sheer calibre of talent this author possesses. It is extremely rare to find such a skilled writer. Of Good And Evil is such a marvelous tale that you don't even have to be a fan of its specific genre, and to me that is the mark of a brilliant story. One of the best books I have ever read."

Another reviewer, Rick Friedman, said: "Of Good And Evil is a novel so finely written, so well plotted and paced, that the reader is immediately drawn into the book from the first page. That Mr. Griffin is able to use mere words to introduce the reader to Ron Sheffield is nothing short of breathtaking --- it is not often that a writer can make so complex a character resonate so perfectly with a plot and locations as to keep the reader so captivated. A must read!"

And still another reviewer, Tracey Alley, said: "Gerald G. Griffin has that special talent of a great storyteller. In his brilliant story 'Of Good And evil' he takes the reader on a wild ride with the real world as his background. He also goes that step further that separates writers from great writers."

The producer of the to-be movie based upon Of Good And Evil, Alexandria Altman, said: "You have a giant on your hands! A masterpiece! A major movie!"

9. How did you feel when you heard that Alexandria Altman wants to turn your book into a movie?

I felt ecstatic! It strongly validates the appeal of my story; something worth reading and bringing tot he screen.

10. How much input do you have with the movie? Do you get to help pick the actors?

Regarding specifics, other than to say that the prime producer of the movie is Alexandria Altman and that the movie is being handled by a major movie company in Beverly Hills, I'm presently under non-disclosure. I'm on a film slate, and the film is being negotiated in Hollywood. As part of that, I'm in negotiation to be a co-producer. In this capacity, among other things, I would have a voice in changes made to the script as well as determining how true the movie would be to the novel; and perhaps have an influence on what actors are to be chosen to play the major roles. It all depends upon whether this turns out to be an independent production or a major studio production.

11. What are you writing now?

I'm putting the final touches to the sequel, A TIME OF RECKONING. It's another jarring, breathtaking , action-packed suspense thriller with periods of comic relief from two disgruntled FBI agents who were disgraced in OF GOOD AND EVIL. Also, there is tragic comic relief from an unbalanced, one-sided, impossibly hoped for love relationship amidst impending catastrophe where secret cells of Al Qaeda terrorists in the U.S. are bent on annihilating 24 American cities simultaneously in suicide missions, pursuing a plan impossible to stop.

12. Do you ever incorporate your real life into your novels?

Only in one novel, the first one, THE CORRUPTORS. The story here was based somewhat --- with plenty of poetic license ---- upon my experience as a grad student and the first year of my psychological practice after receiving my Ph.D. My second novel, THE DEATH DISCIPLE, did not incorporate any of my real life but was based more on creative imagination. This also was the case with my third novel, THE LAST COMING, though here there was some vague hint of my real life experiences. My fourth and fifth novels, OF GOOD AND EVIL and its sequel, was more a mixture of my creative imagination intertwined with real world events that in some way affected my life experiences.

13. Where can OF GOOD AND EVIL be purchased?

To order, click my author blog, On the home page, at the top, click "Buy the Latest Book" box. Then on the page that comes up, go down to, and to the side of it click "Paperback & Kindle, or go to the side of Barnes & Noble and click "Paperback." In either case you're taken directly to the page where the novel's book cover appears and from where you can order the book. Or you can order there from the publisher by clicking "through the publisher book page" in red. To order from Great Britain, click and use the search box. In addition to Kindle, the eBook version can be ordered on Ipad, Iphone and other eBook providers.


Born in Flint, Michigan, Gerald received his AS and BBA from colleges in his home town, then received his MA and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Upon graduation, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, there joining the private practice of an established psychologist. A year later, Gerald set up his own private practice as a consulting psychologist, his professional activities including marriage counseling, psychotherapy, psychological evaluations and executive consultation. While in practice he was listed in WHO'S WHO in Georgia; Marquis WHO'S WHO in the South and Southwest; Outstanding Atlantans; Personalities of the South; Personalities of America; and Notable Americans. During his 18 years as a consulting psychologist, Gerald wrote the published non-fiction book, THE SILENT MISERY--WHY MARRIAGES FAIL, followed by the three published novels, THE CORRUPTORS, THE DEATH DISCIPLE and THE LAST COMING. Easing out of psychological practice to enter writing full-time, Gerald moved to Gainesville, Georgia, there producing two published ghost-written non-fiction books. Then he wrote the published novel, OF GOOD AND EVIL and is now putting the final touches to its sequel, A TIME OF RECKONING.

Gerald is divorced, with two grown sons, and is presently engaged. He loves nature, dogs and cats, travel, theatre,great books and sporting events, especially golf and football.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Firing Up the Indie Passion

Words. They're so important. They tell you what to do, how to do it, explain feelings, sights, and sounds. Words can be used in many different ways, in so many combinations it's unfathomable to the human mind. Life without words would... (See? That sentence would be so much better with a word at the end!)

We writers depend on words. We whip them around, smack 'em down, misuse them, and attempt to perfect them all the time. Words come and go and get deleted and revised continually throughout our careers. We celebrate them when they seem perfect (It's gold, I tell ya!"), claim our genius; then months later, go back and delete everything because it was absolutely horrible wasn't nearly as good as we thought it was. But do we stop? No. There's a desperation embedded into us that compels us to share our words with as many people as we can.

Which brings me to my point: Writing. Rejections. Moving on. Writing more. Rejections. Forms. And so on and so forth. This is what keeps our words from moving on and getting into the reader's hands. And, at the end of the day, that's ultimately what matters, right? Getting our words, our stories, our love of our characters and their predicaments and sadness and celebrations in front of the eyes of the world.

In reality, the writing + editing + queries = big publishing deal!!!!!!!  formula isn't so simple; nor is it always an option. A lot more steps are involved in the actual process: work and writing and research and more writing and revisions and edition and so on and so forth and... like I said...  after all of that... there's the very real possibility of rejections. Forms. Submissions out for months upon months resulting in... dead ends. 

Everyone has a limit as to when they decide they're done with that process. Some quit at 100 rejections; others at 200; some use the ol' I will keep sending queries until the only way they can get me to stop is to ask for a submission theory. (Side note: some never go that route at all and choose to go indie from the very beginning.) I'm not going to tell you my personal story today because I think this photo explains it better:

 photo 55d6c91e-8cde-4b6d-9073-986ff8a02700_zps718f7587.jpg

These are my agent/publisher stalker query folders from my first and second MSs. (There's a Coke can to the right of the stack to show you how tall it is--this isn't counting the files I saved online.) Pity Isn't An Option is actually the third MS I completed. The first two didn't go anywhere. I was devastated at first. You see, there's this stigma floating around that writers tend to latch onto. It says, "You don't matter unless a small group of people really high up there in publishing-land decide that you do". 

I'm going to let you in on a secret: That simply is not true.

Indie Ignites is here to shed light on this untrue rumor. We are here to inspire writers to be writers, and get their words into the reader's hands. We're also here to lift those of you stuck in the going nowhere process out of your ruts, dust you off, and send you on to the next part of your process. To keep that passion for writing ignited, to assure you it is okay to take the "indie" step.

We encourage you to submit to a smaller press. We accept you whether you have an agent or not. We support your choice to self-publish your book. We want to fire up that passion for indies everywhere and, hopefully, make that passion spread like... wildfire.

To those of you who are frustrated, who feel less like people and more like nobodys in your writerly process, or feel all alone, or aren't sure where to go, or still feel that pang of unworthiness when you tell someone you're indie published, we're here to tell you we've all been there--and you don't have to feel that way any longer. 

Hence the author interviews. The book reviews. Stories about our own personal journeys. We are here to bring indies together and spread the word that being indie doesn't make you "not as good", it only makes your journey a little different.

So, wherever you are in your journey, take that next step. Get beta readers, get to editing. Listen to your heart and submit to the places you feel you should; research publishers of all sizes (take your time) and let the pros and cons speak for themselves. They're your words, and the steps you take to get them to readers is your decision.

Know that we get where you've been, and are okay with where you are going. And, most importantly, no matter what you choose to do in the end, we're here to support you.


Pity Isn't an OptionJessica resides with her husband of over fifteen years, three awesome daughters, and a plethora of pets in Central California, where fog, frost, triple-digit heat and various items of produce arrive bountifully, depending on the season. She loves owls, drinks coffee like a champ, and reads and writes (mostly) YA fiction. Pity Isn't An Option is her debut novel. 

Jessica would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads. You can also find her on Smashwords and Amazon.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wander Home review

Wander Home

Blurb from Goodreads:

Death is what you make it. . . .

Eleanor never wanted to leave the daughter she loved so much. The overpowering urge to wander -- to search, without knowing what she sought -- drove her away. She left little Cassidy in her family's loving care. But Cassidy and the others died in an accident before Eleanor could find her way home.

Now, they are all reunited, in an afterlife where nothing is truly lost: places once loved may be revisited, memories relived and even shared. Surely this is a place where they can understand and heal. And yet, the restlessness that shaped Eleanor's life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life -- or none of them will be at peace.

Wander Home* is centered around four generations of one particular family. A few different themes have been woven into the story, including:

1) The potential of aspects of the afterlife

2) marriage

3) family


4) healing/forgiveness

Wander Home begins in the afterlife--Eleanor's family is there, waiting for her to arrive. There are a lot of differences in Wander Home's afterlife that I have never seen taken on before; the main one being people having the ability to change their age whenever they want. (This happens often, and takes some getting used to.)

Another difference, which I enjoyed, was the fact that people in the afterlife were able to recall their favorite memories and acquire items from that favorite memory almost instantaneously. (Like a favorite cup of cocoa, from a specific good memory, for instance, including the cup it was originally served in.) They're also able to share memories from different points of view.

As I said earlier, the story centers around one family--Eleanor and her daughter, Cassidy, in particular. Four out of five of the main characters are female, and Jack, Eleanor's father (Cassidy's grandfather) was by far my favorite character as he added a different emotional element to the mix.

Wander Home is original, well-written, and greatly paced. Being as I read mostly YA, I would say this is definitely written for an adult literary fiction audience, specifically those who would like to explore new takes on what could possibly happen after we take our last breath, issues with family and relationships, and/or traveling and sightseeing.

Find it on Goodreads
Find it on Smashwords (currently for $2.99)

*I was given a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Does a cover really sell a book?

Hello, all!  Jaycee DeLorenzo, here.  Aside from being an indie author, I also have my own cover design business, Sweet 'N Spicy Designs, and because of such, I was asked to present about cover design at Tucson's annual event, The Tucson Festival of Books.  

I was so excited to attend and planned to recap some of the highlights of the festival…and then, well, you know what they say about best laid plans.  My daughter came down with the roseola virus, my son had a fever, and my hubby was feeling under the weather, as well.  So, I had to miss most of the festival.  I was only there for about two hours.  An hour and a half of that was spent doing my own presentation, along with Jim Azevedo, marketing manager from Smashwords. So, because I didn’t get to stay and my only real highlight of the festival outside of the panel was meeting Lynn Rush (very cool!), I’ll share some of the highlights of my presentation, because it's information that every indie author should be aware of: 

“Does a cover really sell a book?” 

In short...

Packaging is Everything!

For the unknown author, which many of us indie authors are, the cover is the single most critical marketing tool you have. Make it a good one!

Cover design is both an art and a science, and it’s market-tested.

Make an Impression!You have approximately 3-8 seconds for your front cover to make an impression.  

Your cover should:

  • Grab the reader’s imagination and make a promise ( it should tell them you’re going to either entertain, teach, inspire, or motivate them).
  • Make the reader want to find out more.
  • Reflect the quality and professionalism of your overall work.

Visually Engage Your Reader!

Your title, font and imagery should make the reader want to take notice.  

Imagery can be beautiful, bizarre, funny, scary...whatever you want, as long as it correctly sets the tone of your book and elicits an emotional response.

  • Know your category and genre.
  • Study books that have been successful in your genre.
  • Get unbiased feedback from others.  This does not include your mom or best friend.

Know Your Audience!
Does your cover match your audience’s expectations?

Look at other covers in your genre and take note of design aspects they have in common (font, imagery, colors, etc.)

Utilize these elements because they’ve been market-tested and proven effective.

Make a Promise!
Everything about your cover should indicate what the reader should expect from the book.

Once you’ve made a promise, KEEP IT! Readers do not react well to a promise that has been broken.

Quality Matters!
Writers are professionals.  Everything about their cover should reflect professional quality.

If your outside packaging unprofessional, readers will assume the same of your book (poor story, poor editing, etc.)

You need to make the reader feel confident that your book is worth their time and money.

The Market is…

...Glutted with books.

Find a way to make your book stand out and simultaneously fit in.

If you can’t design your own cover, hire a professional. It is a worthwhile and critical investment.

Make readers want to buy and read your book!

In the end, you have to ask yourself:

  • Does design support the story you’ve written?
  • Is your design going to engage your audience?
  • Does it elicit an emotional response? Can it make a reader feel a connection?
  • Does your cover make the right promise to your readers?
  • Will your audience be able to identify with the cover?
  • Does it promise quality and professionalism?
  • Will it fit in (and stand out) with other covers in your genre?
  • Have you received positive, unbiased feedback on it?
  • What does your gut instinct say?

If it’s not working, try-try again! In the digital age, you have the freedom to change your cover until it works.

Until next time!  


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Twitter Pitch Parties and Author Advice

Hi IndieIgniteers!  I’m ST Bende, and I like baking, skiing and watching IndyCar.  I also love all things Scandinavian (but not fish), and I love writing about Norse mythology.  My debut series, THE ELSKER SAGA, will release in April from Entranced Publishing.   It’s great to meet you!

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer.  And if you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard about Twitter pitch parties.  Writers post their query in 140 characters or less, hashtag the name of the pitch party, and hope an agent or publisher will ask for pages.  These gatherings can be a great way to bypass the slush pile… but it’s seriously hard to condense your baby (what, you don’t call your manuscript your baby?) down to 140 characters.  Trust me, I’ve been there before, and I’ll be there again.  It’s not always pretty. 

Entranced Publishing has jumped on the Twitter pitch party bandwagon, throwing pitch sessions under the hashtag #FridayFrenzy every Friday in March and April.  And the Entranced authors, many of whom are veterans of (and current soldiers in) the pitch party trenches, want to help you.  We’re holding Twitter pitch workshops on our blogs to help you work your pitches.  Just post your pitch in the comments section of our blogs, we’ll share ways we think you can make it stronger, and you do the same for at least two other pitchers.  We’re all on this publication journey together, so let’s help each other out!

Start at my blog, .  It's got all the details (but you can always send me an e-mail or DM if you have more questions).  I’ll be helping with YA and NA pitches starting today, Wednesday March 13, and I’ve posted links to Entranced authors who will be helping with other genres (Romance, Chick-Lit, you name it).  Let’s work together to make our pitches pitch perfect! 

-ST Bende 
@stbende or stbende(at)gmail(dot)com 

Indie Release: EDGE OF THE FALLS

Look what just came out today...

... by our very own Nazarea Andrews.

Five reasons you should check out this book:

1. Nazarea is pretty awesome so you know she's written something pretty awesome
2. Hello-- it has a pretty cover! *duh*
3. Edge of the Falls is a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast in a dystopian setting. So yeah. There.
4. It won't break the pocketbook at just $3.99
5. What? Don't believe me? Check out a sample on Amazon (or you know, B&N, or whatever), then click the buy it now link. You won't be disappointed. :)

GUEST POST: The Future Looks Bright for Indie Authors by Kim Donovan

The Future Looks Bright for Indie Authors

Kim Donovan is an indie author and one of the co-founders of Electrik Inc, a collective of children’s writers in the UK involved in publishing their own books to a professional standard. She has an MA in Writing for Children from Bath Spa University. Kim’s series, St Viper’s School for Super Villains, was the first book to be published with an Electrik Inc logo.

I’ve been asked to write about my vision for the indie market. If I had a crystal ball, images of the rapidly changing environment and technological advances would be flashing before my eyes. We’re in a period of significant change. I’m sure if you asked a mainstream publisher or literary agent for their vision of the future
they’d have very different predictions. No one knows exactly how things will turn
out, but I do know that indie authors will be quick to adapt and will grasp new
opportunities as they appear.

Indie titles will continue to become bestsellers

We’ve all read about indie success stories: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, E. L. James and Colleen Houck to name a few. There will be many more. Independent authors have creative freedom to experiment, change direction and break the mould. Traditional publishers will increasingly look to the independent market for authors they can turn into mega brands, whose books are selling well or have a ready-made readership for them, for example on YouTube. Interestingly, Colleen
Hoover whose first two self-published novels were subsequently sold to Simon & Schuster has decided to self-publish her latest book. She says her experience with the publisher has been great, but she ‘loves the royalties provided through self-publishing and also the control.’ Wisely, she says she’s not discounting being traditionally published again (1). Hoover is a business woman and a writer – she’s right to keep her options open.


We only really hear about the jackpot winners but the reality is that the majority of unknown indie authors, like myself, have to work hard for every sale. The market is already saturated and I predict it will become even tougher to get new writers books noticed in the future. As Mark Croker, the founder of Smashwords says, ‘In the next few years, I expect millions of out of print books will come back to life as ebooks. Millions of writers will self-publish new titles. The virtual shelves of online
ebook retailers will expand to accommodate a limitless supply of ebooks.’ (2) The expression: cream will always rise to the top is relevant here. I believe more authors will join forces and form collectives, like Electrik Inc, to compete on quality. They may also purchase services together. All the indie writers I know are concerned with producing great books. I actually feel my work is under more scrutiny than the books of my traditionally published friends. Croker envisages there will be more professional editing and more professional design cover for everyone. There will also be more costs! At the same time, authors will also have to compete against those who are growing a readership by giving their work away for free.

In this information-overloaded environment, readers will seek out the work of writers they know will be a good read. I believe people will continue to pay for these titles. In a bookshop, a browsing reader might pick up an unknown author’s book, flick through a few pages, like the look of it and buy it. I don’t think anyone has ever bought my children’s series, St Viper’s School for Super Villains, purely from browsing the Amazon store. Sales have come from social networking, school visits, interviews with the press and readers talking about my book on review sites. This all takes a huge amount of time. I predict we’ll all be spending even more hours on marketing in the future.

Technological advances

There are mixed views on whether the paperback book’s days are numbered. Print lovers cite the slowing of ereaders as a sign that physical books are holding their own (3). Sales of ereaders have also been affected by the advent of tablets (4). Up until now, the children’s market has been somewhat resistant to digital books (5), but a recent report commissioned by Scholastic found that ebook reading is now on the rise among young people (6). For the foreseeable future, indie authors will continue to publish both physical and electronic books. The more formats the reading material is published in and the more platforms it is sold on, the more readers the writer can reach. It seems like almost every day one of my Electrik Inc colleagues sends me a link about a new development – interactive apps, adaptive ebooks for kids that have multiple levels of difficulty (7) the first 3D video-
supported ebook (8) . . . the list goes on. I envisage more indie authors working in partnership with developers in the future.

There is so much to talk about, but I’ll stop here. One of things I love about being an indie writer is how openly people share information and help each other. Go to any indie forum and you’ll find posts on all the issues that matter.

1) Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter. 23rd February 2013. Volume 23.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Path So Far

In this strange, amazing world of writing and publishing, everyone has a journey, and each story is different. This is far.

Like most authors, when I decided writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, my first goal was to publish a book. The problem was when I first started writing I knew nothing. After I finished writing my first book, an adult Urban Fantasy, I took to the internet for advice on what to do next. After reading several (hundred) posts on editing, I went back to work.

Arguably, my first book wasn't that good--truth time: my first book was awful. It needed work. A lot of it, and I needed more experience. So I wrote another book, a sequel to the first. It was so much better, but, of course, I couldn't submit a sequel when the first book still wasn't up to par.

After pulling out my hair for nearly a month, I did what any sensible writer would do. I moved on, started plotting another book. After reading many in the young adult genre, I decided to try my hand at writing it. At first, I struggled with voice, going from adult to young adult was different, to say the least, but I fudged my way through a first draft. After several rounds of edits my angel book was ready for another set of eyes. Off it went to my critique partner. While it was gone, I read as many YA books as I could get my hands on, and researched agents. When CP notes returned I did several more rounds of edits, and wrote about ten query letters.

Finally, my young adult angel book was ready for the world. The problem now? So was everyone else's. I sent out a small round of queries and watched agent blogs and twitter accounts. The one thing agents were seeing a lot of was exactly what I was sending out. Angel books were going to be the death of me. I'd waited too long, spent too much time perfecting it. *cue more hair-pulling*

The inevitable rejections stated rolling in. Those were tough to get through, heartbreaking. In the end I must have sent out over 60 query letters. I did gain some interest, some partials and even a few fulls, but ultimately, more rejection.

It was time to move on, to go back to what I really loved, write. So, I started on another story. While I wrote, I also entered a few contests with my previous novel, hoping to gain the feedback I might need to help better it. In one of those contests, Sourbooks Fire YALitChat Writing Contest, I actually made it through semi-finals, then the finals, and was chosen as one of the winners! Which was a huge surprise. I now had feedback from several contests and a credit to add to my query. I pushed the other manuscript aside and revised my angel book again, then queried another set of agents. To no avail. I still didn't have what they were looking for.

In the meantime, I wrote two more books and revised them. One I had worked on enough to finally send out to critique partners. So I did. While I waited, I took one more look at my angel book. I had so much love for the story, and I now had more experience, so I revised one more time, polished up a snappier query, and when the other book's notes came back, I sent out what I swore was my last round of queries for my angel book before I would put it in a drawer for good. This time I subbed through YALitChat's Submission Mailbox and got two requests. Both from publishers. Publishing with a smaller press had never been in my "ultimate plan," but no one would read it if it sat in a drawer. So, I submitted and waited. Not long after one publisher requested the full. Less than two weeks later, I had an offer in my inbox and tears in my eyes.

Suddenly it didn't matter that I was working directly with a small press publisher instead of an agent. Month9Books, a brand new publishing company wanted my angel book to be their first young adult release title! Georgia McBride, the founder of YALitChat and creator of Month9Books, admitted she loved my story when I subbed it for the writing contest, she loved it as a new publisher, and she loved it as a reader. The moment we spoke and I heard her passion for my characters and my story, I knew I'd found an amazing home for ASHIMMER OF ANGELS, which recently released on January 29th (and is available now *winkwink*).

I might still be looking for an agent, but if I never found one, that would be just fine with me, as long as I could continue to work with people who get my stories and want to share them with others as much as I do.