Lena Nelson Dooley

Lena Nelson DooleyToday we welcome Lena Nelson Dooley, author, speaker, and radio host , to 3 Questions Wednesday.

(1) Do you watch reality television? Why or why not?

Lena: We watch Survivor and The Amazing Race. We like to see the places where they’re shot, and we enjoy the things they have to accomplish to move forward in the game. Some members of my extended family have been watching Duck Dynasty, and I wasn’t the least bit interested … until James and I watched one when all that was on other stations was reruns. Now I love watching it as well. I like the fact that they have good life lessons on the show and the family openly lives their faith.

(2) What are your thoughts on e-publishing?

Lena: It’s here to stay, and there’s room for both print books and ebooks. I love being published by major publishers, but I’m happy for the chance to put back list books that the rights have reverted to me as ebooks. I actually own two ereaders, and I carry one in my purse at all times. I read when I’m waiting places, and sometimes when my husband is driving. But at home I like to read print books.

(3) Which do you prefer? Facebook or Twitter?

Lena: I like and use both of these forms of social media. I probably spend more time on Facebook, but I have to be careful and not let it take too much of my writing time.Catherine's Pursuit This one

Thank you, Lena, for joining us on 3 Questions Wednesday! Make sure you leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for Maggie’s Journey, a McKenna’s Daughters series, in print or PDF file in the US, PDF file if not in the US.
Maggie's Journey

Award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 800,000 books in print.
Helping other authors become published really floats her boat, with over 20 signing their first book contract after her mentoring. Three of her books have been awarded the Carol Award silver pins, and she has received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award. The high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially people whose lives have been changed by her books.Mary's Blessing

Her 2010 release Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, won the 2011 Will Rogers Medallion Award for excellence in publishing Western Fiction. Maggie’s Journey appeared on a reviewers Top Ten Books of 2011 list. It also won the 2012 Selah award for Historical Novel. Mary’s Blessing released in May 2012. It recently appeared on a review site’s Top Five Reads in 2012 list. Catherine’s Pursuit released in February 2013.

In addition to her writing, Lena is a frequent speaker at women’s groups, writers groups, and at both regional and national conferences. She has spoken in six states and internationally. She is also one of the co-hosts of the Gate Beautiful blog radio show.

Lena has an active web presence on Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linkedin, and with her internationally connected blog where she interviews other authors and promotes their books.

Find her online here:
Website: http://www.lenanelsondooley.com
Blog: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lenandooley/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lena.nelson.dooley
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/lenandooley
Official Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lena-Nelson-Dooley/42960748768?ref=ts
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/333031.Lena_Nelson_Dooley
Shoutlife: http://www.shoutlife.com/lenanelsondooley
Blogtalk Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/search/gate-beautiful-radio-show/
Other blogs where she’s a regular contributor:
http://christianfictionhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/
http://justthewritecharisma.blogspot.com/
http://www.bustlesandspurs.com/

A Writer’s Journey (Part II)

Christina here. I’d like to welcome back Virginia Carmichael for Part II of A Writer’s Journey

VA-CarmichaelHello everybody! Welcome back to A Writer’s Journey to Self Publication!

If you remember what happened last time, we followed a simple flow chart to see if self-publication was a good fit for you.

writeralley

writeralley

Now I’ll get to my personal story of how I started self pubbing. All of those boxes on the flowchart led me to this point in January 2013. My husband had been laid off for a few months and although we had a wonderful Christmas because it’s about family and not presents etc., etc., etc. it was still sobering (okay, it was downright frightening) to look at our non-existent bank funds. Of course we were praying for some kind of financial breakthrough, but I just didn’t see it arriving like a bolt out of the blue. I felt God was telling me that I was already holding what I was seeking.

I prayed that God will give us what we needed and He said, “You’ve got it.”

I waited, confident in that answer.

He said, “No, you really got it. Already. In your hands.”

I stared around a little. (You can imagine God heaving a big sigh.)

Then I clued in. RIGHT! I had books.

I didn’t know anybody who was self-publishing (besides just a few names on facebook). I didn’t know anything about formatting or getting a book ready to submit to Amazon. I didn’t know about platforms or file sizes or covers.

Sounds like a recipe for success, right???

uberhumor

uberhumor

Hm. Well, on January 1st  of 2013, without telling a single soul, I put up a book called ‘Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits’ here. (Remember that Bridget Jones Diary idea but without the swear words and the sex? Yeah, I still had it.) My kids were watching a Christmas movie. My husband was taking a shower. I wasn’t nervous about putting it up on Amazon because I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING!

MaryJaneHathaway_PridePrejudiceAndCheeseGrits800 I’d created a terrible little cover from a free site. (This is not it. I won’t show you that one.) You could hardly read the title. I’d formatted it with Calibre (which apparently has the worst record for formatting anything, although it’s free). I didn’t have it edited because I didn’t want to pay anything out of pocket.

Are you sensing a theme? I did it all for free, because basically I had no money.

Cool. There it was. And no one was buying it. So, after a week of no sales, I checked out some sites like J.A. Konrath’s blog. He talked about free runs. Oh! I didn’t know I could do that! I enrolled in KDP (Amazon’s exclusive site) right away.

crosswordfiend

crosswordfiend

On the next weekend, it was downloaded two thousand times and I actually got a good review!! And then I got bad reviews. The formatting was terrible. There were typos. The cheese grits never really appeared in the story.

Around this time my agent and I decided we didn’t share the same vision for my career. I kept talking like it was a business, when my sales were saying ‘hobby’. I kept outlining plans for book after book, under different names, different genres, different series, when Love Inspired was my only publisher. I thought there was room for just ONE MORE Jane Austen book, even if it was set in Southern academia and had two Civil War historians as the main characters.  We parted ways and I decided I was going to go full-tilt on self-publishing, to see if I could make any money at all. Anything would be better than nothing. Anything was better than the bottom-of-the-barrel bank balance we had.

The best thing about digital is your book is not set in stone. With every new review, I cleaned it up as much as possible. I reformatted following another guide I found. I made another cover (again, by myself, and I still sort of like it) that was more like a romance and less like an academic tome. I also added some recipes at the end.

It started to sell. Not really quickly, but in the next few weeks I made about $400. To me, that was HUGE. Why? Because I did it myself. And it felt really, really good.

VirginiaCarmichael_AllTheBlueofHeaven_200In February, I put up a historical called ‘All The Blue of Heaven’ here. I wrote it back in 2010 and it had never found a home. It had a terrible cover (again, I didn’t want to spend any money yet) but I had better formatting, my sister edited for free (love her!!) and I put it up for free right away since that seemed to be the right way to start sales.

That first run it was downloaded 15 thousand times. When I put it up for .99, it went right to the top of the historical Christian fiction charts. COOOOOL!

In the next few months, I paid for covers and edited constantly whenever anyone complained of a typo. But most of the time, there were some really good sales and reviews.

grosvenorsquare

grosvenorsquare

In March I got call from Shana Smith, offering to buy the second in my series, the sequel to the book that came out Nov. 2012. It’s set for Nov. 2013. Cool!

In April, I joined the self-publishing loop on Yahoo and learned there was a method to this madness. Beyond the usual ‘write a book and publish it’, there were all sorts of tricks and tips to sales.

What did I learn? I’ll condense what I know so far, which is a very tiny part of what the really big movers and shakers know and practice on a daily basis. You can say this is just an opinion, but every time I’ve tried it, on every book, it’s worked. I have four books now on the top Christian fiction romance lists, and it’s not by accident. What Marie Force has shared, along with many other NYT bestsellers, on that loop has been nothing short of a crash course in how to be successful.

ONE- Low price. You can make much more by selling two hundred copies a day of a .99 book that sits on the top spot, than by selling ten copies a day of a 2.99 book that is invisible. You keep .35 (about what I get from my Love Inspired books) of .99 but that makes $70 a day. You can’t imagine giving away your baby for less than $2.99? You keep $2 of $2.99 but you’re only selling ten, so you’re making only $20 a day. People talk about fair price. I like to look at the bottom line. Unless I’m famous and a NYT bestseller, I’m not going to get away with pricing my book above .99. And since I actually make more that way, it’s all good. See how this works? I don’t feel like I’m giving my book away. I’m feeling… like I’m making some money.

TWO- good editing. I still get slammed when people get around to reading an old copy of that first book. It’s cleaner now, but that won’t help those one stars. Once I had money coming in, I paid for editing. Every book still has typos. Even my LI books have typos. But it’s cleaner than trying to find them with just me and my old eyes.

THREE- invest back into the book. Whatever you make, take 30% and put it back into your business. Maybe that means your office, supplies, chair, massages, lattes, whatever. For me, it meant great covers. They cost about $235 a cover and I love them. LOVE. I don’t think my books would have gotten to the top of the charts (free or paid) with the old covers.

Despite what you hear, people will not download just anything that is free. It still has to look good. Kindle space isn’t infinite. You put your book up for free and if it has a bad cover and typos in the blurb, you’re not going to crack that all-important top 100 Free list.

EMMAcover2FOUR- if you’re writing a series, set the first for free WHEN you put out the next in the series. Really, it works. The second time I put up Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits for free, I paid for a Bookbub ad. It was $120 and I had 70 THOUSAND downloads. You read that right. And on the self-pub lists, they say you’ll get about 1% of those reviewing. I went from 28 reviews to 210 in 3 weeks and they’re still coming in. The book sells about 100 copies a day at .99 so I can’t tell who’s reviewing a free book and who’s not, unless they say that, but I’m just glad I’m getting any reviews at all. With self-publishing, reviews are gold.

There’s also a certain percentage of those that will buy the second in the series. I put up ‘Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili Slaw Dogs’ on the same day as my big free push of the first in the Austen Takes the South series. I started it at 2.99. From day one, it’s sold about 30+ copies a day. So, $60 a day, right off the bat… NOT TOO SHABBY!

You see the method to the madness? I was starting to clue in. I needed to work on these series but I also had books on the hard drive that I needed to get off my mind. So, I’m alternating between putting up books in a series and stand-alone books from the hard drive.

My traditional contract has a non-compete clause, so all of these books had to be passed by my Harlequin editors. My next book took a while to get rejected and I was sweating bullets. I’d made a mistake and already PAID FOR A COVER! Duh. Don’t do that. If they had made an offer on the book, I would have been out $170. But Shana Smith sent it back to me as not quite right for LI, so I was free to throw it up on Amazon.

VirginiaCarmichael_LeavingLiberty_200pxIt went up July Fourth, for a free run. It’s a single title, not part of a series, so after two days and 12 thousand downloads, I put it up for .99. It sold 150 copies a day, from the very first day. On July 14th, it was number one on the Christian romance charts and sold 600 copies.

So, here we are, back again at why I’m doing what I’m doing and if it’s right for you. (Are you a square peg in a round hole?) There are many kinds of self-publishing, but this is the one I chose. I’ve never regretted it. Not for one single moment. It’s been life-changing for my husband, for my kids, for our family, for my extended family and for myself. I can see this as a business now. I can see a lot of things that I just couldn’t imagine even seven months ago.

Thanks again to Christina for inviting me to your blog and I hope that sharing my story will help anyone make the decision to take their writing career to a place that’s right for them. Whether you stay with a traditional publisher, go all indie, or become a hybrid, may God bless your every effort and give you wisdom in all your choices!

You can always come visit me at my facebook page of Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits or my author page of Virginia Carmichael.

Christina here. Boy, I’m a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. How about all of you? Leave a comment and be entered for a chance at one of Virginia’s books. Winner’s choice. Digital or hard copy, except Leaving Liberty (digital only). United States residence only for hard copy.

How To Spot A Predatory Publisher

Thank you Randy Ingermanson for permission to pass on this informative look at vanity publishing…

The phone rang just as I was sitting down to write my next blog post. One look at the caller ID told me it was trouble. My plumber, Sam, who has an endless number of ways to drain my bank account.

I let the phone go to voice mail and logged in to my blog.

The doorbell rang. Twice. Three times. Then one long continuous ring.

I peeked out my office window and saw a very short, stout older woman on my porch holding a plate stacked with the largest cookies I’ve ever seen.

I went to the door and opened it. “I’m sorry but–”

“See, he’s home after all!” boomed a familiar voice. Sam the plumber jumped out from behind an enormous tree.

“Dear boy!” said the woman. “Little Sammie’s told me all about you! Thank you so much for offering to help with my book. Here, have a cookie!” She handed me a chocolate-chip cookie the size of a small pizza. It felt like it weighed ten pounds.

I suddenly realized that the woman looked a lot like Sam, except scaled down in size. Sam is well over six feet tall and weighs about 300 pounds.

“I see you’ve met my Ma!” Sam bellowed as he wiped his boots on the welcome mat. “She’s got great news. Wanted you to be the first to know.”

“Um, that’s … great.” I noticed that some of the chocolate chips were already melting in my hands. “Listen, I need to go put this cookie down.”

“Go on ahead.” Sam pushed open the door. “We’ll just make ourselves at home.”

Which was exactly what I was afraid of. I backed into the kitchen, dropped the cookie on the counter, and washed about a pound of melted chocolate off of my hands.

When I got back to the living room, Sam had taken over my favorite chair and his mother was perched primly on the couch.

“I don’t think we’ve been introduced,” I said as I sat down. “I’m–”

“Sammie’s told me all about you already,” she said. “You can call me Minnie.”

“Well, um, Minnie. What sort of news do you have?”

“Dear boy!” she said. “I’m going to be published! By a real publisher. I’ll be an author at last!”

Will Minnie become an author? Read the rest of this insightful article at Advanced Fiction Writing.

Michelle Weidenbenner

michelle

Today we welcome Michelle Weidenbenner, writer, blogger and encourager, to 3 Questions Wednesday.

(1) Do you watch reality television? Why or why not?

Michelle: No, I don’t because I love to spend my evenings writing or reading. I’m weird, a bit of a nerd. The only TV I watch is FOX news and sometimes Good Morning, America. I love Robin Roberts.

But I love watching movies and dissecting them. I call it MOVIE BIOLOGY. I try to find all the elements of fiction. You know, the inciting incident, the glimpse of hope, the quest, the black moment, the climax—all those fun things.

(2) What are your thoughts on e-publishing?

Michelle: I’m publishing an eBook July 30, so I’m all about ePublishing. It’s my debut novel, CACHE a PREDATOR. I rarely read a paperback novel because I don’t like the bulk of a book. I don’t like the clutter. As I age I tend to be more of a minimalist. I love my Kindle. The only time I value a paper book is when I use it as a reference guide. I’m also going to offer an eBook as a FREE download at my blog (Random Writing Rants, Teaching Adults and Teens How to Get Published) as an incentive for writers to sign up for my newsletter. The eBook is called the PITCH PAL, teaching authors how to summarize their novel in one-sentence. It’s something every author can use for advertising, marketing, or pitching to agents and publishers.

(3) Which do you prefer? Facebook or Twitter?

Michelle:
I like FB because it’s more visual. If I’m not sure who’s who I can visit their profile page and see their personality fairly quick. Twitter takes me longer. FB feels more personal. It gives me a place to post and share lots of writerly information for my fellow writers and authors. I like to ask quirky questions. The responses are often surprising and funny.

Here’s my little PITCH from my novel:
When a five-year-old girl is found wandering the streets, her father tries to gain custody, but first he must convince child protective services and a deranged psychopath who’s attacking pedophiles in their sleep, that he’s a loving father.

Thank you, Michelle, for joining us on 3 Questions Wednesday! Make sure to leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a free e-book or paperback of CACHE a PREDATOR .

Michelle blogs at Random Writing Rants where she teaches adults and teens how to get published. She loves encouraging writers of all ages. She writes stories that move her, mostly suspense for adults, teens, and children.

She’s been published in Kryia.com, Adoptive Families, Brio Magazine, Church Libraries, and has won short story contests in The Writer’s Digest, Harpstrings Magazine, Splickety Magazine, and The Writer’s Journal.

In her debut novel, Cache a Predator, M. Weidenbenner splashes the emotion of one father’s love into the sea of a gripping tale that will leave readers locking their doors, and pedophiles sleeping with their eyes open.

 

When she isn’t writing she’s winning ugly on the tennis court.
Check her out at goodreads…http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7171873.M_Weidenbenner

She is represented by Diana Flegal from Hartline Literary Agency.