Wednesday, September 20, 2017

At Some Point, You Might Have to Give Away Free Books

For some authors, giving away free books makes their heart rate increase and their stomach clench. Giving away free books means that you aren’t selling books, which is the whole reason you’re an author, right? You didn’t pour your heart and soul into that story to go to the poor house. There are even some authors that won’t give copies away to reviewers because they are bound and determined to make money on their creation. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. We as authors deserve to be compensated for our work. Our art and time is worth something, so it’s not too much to ask for people to pay to enjoy it.

When it comes to reviewers, there’s an industry rule (standard, maybe?) that they get free copies of your books. It’s their payment for reading and reviewing your work. But sometimes, you send your books away for said reviews and never receive the review. This is incredibly frustrating. It makes us authors wonder if the person was just looking for a free book.

When it comes to giving your book away for free or not, you make the final call. There are plenty of reasons why it’s beneficial and why it’s not.

Publishing has changed a lot over the last decade, and with the advent of indie publishers and self-publishing, there are a lot more books in the world than there were before. There are also more new authors. Giving your books away for free doesn’t cheapen you or your work. In fact, it could help you.

Personally, I enjoy giving away books. For readers that might be on the fence about whether or not they are going to read me, this is their introduction to see if they like my work—at no obligation to them. If they like the book, I have others they can purchase, which benefits me.

I’m even okay with it if a reviewer doesn’t leave a review. I would like them to, but I can’t force them to, and reviews aren’t about me anyway, they are about the reviewer’s relationship with my story—whether good or bad. I’ve written a couple different posts about reviews and reviewers, which can be found here and here. Obviously, I’ve gotten reviews for my books—some good, some not. It all boils down to the reviewer’s personal preference and experience how they react to my book.

Isn’t that what it all boils down to anyway? How a reader reacts to your book? Don’t you want readers reading your book? I know I do. And in all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve discovered that sometimes the best way to entice a reader to read your story is to give it to them. Sure, you might not get any royalties from that particular book, but you might get a loyal fan who is willing to buy all your other books.

I’ve found quite a few fans (some who have become my friends) using this approach, and I’ve even found beta readers who give me valuable feedback on new work. All they ask in return is a free copy of the final version; sometimes an ecopy but more often a signed paperback, and I’m more than happy to send it to them.

You have to decide what you want out of your writing career and how you’re going to accomplish those goals. If you don’t ever want to give away a free copy of your book, don’t. No one can make you. But if you’re willing to take a chance, take a chance.

The saying goes that you have to spend money to make money, and maybe that also applies to giving away free books.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Life in Nebraska

It’s hard to believe that 3 months have passed since we moved to Nebraska. To be honest, it feels like it’s been a lot longer—but not in a bad way. We’ve been settling into our new lives, so I thought I would share our progress.

My family is from the Midwest (Iowa), so moving here wasn’t a culture shock. The weather and the humidity weren’t even an issue. I have to say, when I first got to Nebraska, the first thing I noticed was the smell. It’s a moist, earthy, vegetationy smell, almost mildewy, but it’s amazing. It reminds me of my childhood when we visited my grandparents. It brings me comfort.

I posted last week about my garden, and it’s getting to be that time of year when I’m doing my final harvest and letting the plants take their natural course. It’s fun going outside to pick the rest of my plants, and I’m looking forward to having another garden next summer.

The boys started football back in August, and things have been amazing. It keeps them busy, and we get to watch their games every Sunday. They’ve found some great friends to hang out with, and school seems to be going pretty well so far.

My oldest plays tackle in full pads.

My youngest plays flag football.

We’ve also been to the local swimming hole, as well as to the roller rink. I kid you not, I’m pretty sure the music playing at the rink was the same soundtrack that was playing when I was a kid and went skating. It was a lot of fun. I almost put on a pair of quads, but I ended up with blades. Maybe next time I’ll take a far trip down memory lane and put on the pair of quads…




The past 3 months have had their challenges, but we’re settling nicely into our new schedule. I’m looking forward to the future in Nebraska.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Finding Time to Market

I recently started a new job, which means that the vast majority of my day is spent away from my computer. When I come home, I’m tired. I still have to take care of my dogs and kids and get to bed at a decent hour. On the weekends, I’m catching up on cleaning and laundry and trying to find time to write.

Most days, it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. More often than not, marketing is the last thing I’m thinking about. I don’t want to look for ad options or contact readers for reviews or do any of the million other things they say I should do to market my book. It’s too much.

Marketing isn’t a lot of fun. And it takes a lot of time—time you’d much rather be spending on writing. But there are ways to squeeze it in throughout your day.

One of the easiest ways to market is to work on your branding. At some point in the day, you’re probably going to be on social media, so take a few minutes to promote your brand. Talk about something you’re reading or share a link to the blog post you wrote—even if you didn’t write that post recently. Take a few minutes to find and follow new authors on Facebook or Twitter. Post a picture on Instagram (you were probably planning on doing this anyway!).

You can even schedule posts. There are a variety of programs out there that help you do this. You’ll still have to take the time to write the posts and schedule them, but it can be done. I spend maybe 5 minutes every morning scheduling the posts I want to go up that day. I could absolutely make more time if I need to, but this schedule works well for me.

Take 10 minutes each day to read some posts from other authors and share them or comment on them. Search for other things you’re passionate about and comment on the articles or share the posts with your followers. It doesn’t have to be book related. In fact, if you’re branding, it probably shouldn’t be related to your book at all.

If you have the means, you might consider hiring a book manager or marketing firm to help you market. Or maybe you can ask a friend or family member who has time to help you (you’ll have to work out the payment details with them). No one said you had to do this alone. Better yet, take some time to find multi-author events that you can be part of. Join a blog hop. Doing a Google search brings up many options, I’m sure you can find one that works for you.

I get that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to accomplish. I’m struggling too. Marketing doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, but you have to make some time to get it accomplished.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My First Garden

I’ve always wanted a garden. When we moved into our first house, I had visions of planting a garden. The yard wasn’t done, so it would have been easy to create a special area just for the garden. But it never happened. The entire backyard was covered with sod without a dedicated garden space.

That probably wasn’t a bad thing. With two small kids, I wouldn’t have had time. Plus, the soil at that house was less than desirable. I doubt my plants would have done very well.

When we moved into our second house, I had no delusions about putting in a garden. I knew I wouldn’t have time.

When we moved to Nebraska, there was already a garden in place. All I had to do was plant some seeds and let nature take its course. 




One of the best things about my garden is how easy it is to take care of. It would have never been this easy in Wyoming. Gardens in Laramie need a lot of attention and tender loving care. Here in Nebraska, they just need sun and water. We didn’t even do a very good job of spraying for weeds and bugs, but the garden kept growing.

I learned a few things about gardening this year that will help me next year. They are as follows:
  • The seeds did much better when they weren’t planted super deep in the ground. Since this was our first garden, we weren’t sure how deep to plant them, so we used a lawn aerator to make the holes. Next year, we’ll probably just use a tiller.
  • There’s no reason to plant a ton of bean plants. I have so many beans at the moment, and more developing. Next year, I think we’ll be fine to get away with a couple plants. 

This is part of one bag that is currently in my freezer.
  • The bean and tomato plants need their own areas or a barricade. Without one, they spread out and take over. My poor onions got blocked by the bean plants, and the tomato plant took over an entire corner of the plot and has been slowly creeping to other parts of the garden.
I got one onion out of my garden. Just one. My hand is there for size.
  • Corn earworms are pretty gross, but they don’t actually harm the plant. I threw away several ears of corn that could have been saved before I had this realization. All I have to do is cut off the top and the rest of the corn is fine. Next year, that will be done differently. 
    • My oldest was really creeped out by the corn earworms. It got to the point where he wouldn’t even open the husks for fear a worm would be in there. Like they were going to jump out and latch onto his face. Made me chuckle.
  • Corn smut totally looks like an alien egg sac, but it’s just a fungus. It’s a little less fun knowing exactly what this is. I prefer to think of it as something otherworldly.
  • You get some really cool bugs in your garden. From lady bugs to praying mantises to whatever is pictured below (we’ve been debating whether it’s a walking stick or praying mantis—cast your vote in the comments!), the bugs rock! The ants weren’t that cool, but a little pesticide took care of those. 

  • Carrots suck to pull out of the ground. You’d think they’d be easy—just pull on the tops and out they come, but that’s a lie. I’ve had maybe four carrots that came out easily. The rest I’ve had to conduct an archaeological dig to get them out of the ground. 

This was our first garden, so we really had no idea what we were doing. Not to mention, we planted late in the year (middle of June), so we weren’t sure what would grow. We randomly planted seeds in the ground and waited to see what popped up. Now that we have a season under our belt, we can make next year’s garden even better.

We already have plans of how we’re going to organize it, putting up a barrier so that the tomatoes and beans stay on their own side of the garden. Then, we’ll create rows and organize the seeds accordingly. I even have a list started of what we’re going to plant next year. I can’t wait!

Gardening in Nebraska is easy, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Sure, I have to spend some time out there making sure the plants are healthy and to see what is growing, but it’s time I enjoy. It’s also not overly time consuming. Oh, it could be. I could spend a lot of time out there if I really wanted, but I don’t, and it still works out.

The boys and I have a lot of fun watching the plants get bigger and then harvesting the crops—and they taste delicious! Now that I have a garden, I can’t imagine what life would be like without it.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Authors Should Collaborate to Potentially Find New Fans

Writing is mostly a solitary activity. As an author, you no doubt lock yourself away for hours at a time—days perhaps. Even if you aren’t physically locking yourself in a room, you’re mentally disappearing into another world. As a writer, it’s hard to be pulled out of that world. And when some does pull you out, it irks you like no other! I mean, how hard is it to focus on what they are saying with the vast majority of your brain stuck in some fantasy world?

But I digress.

When it comes to marketing your masterpiece, it shouldn’t be a practice that you do alone. Sure, you’re the greatest champion of your work, and you’re going to shout the loudest that people should read it. But how many people are listening? How many people care about your message? There are some, for sure. There are those loyal fans and dedicated readers who can’t wait to get their hands on your new story. But how do you attract new ones?

There are the traditional ways, including Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and ads (both print and online). But it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the shuffle of this world. Plus, you’re not supposed to be out there shouting, “Buy my book! Buy my book!” because no one will buy your book.

If you work with other authors to market your work, you might be more successful. Not only will you be able to target your fans, but you might find some new ones because your work is similar to another author’s work—one you’re collaborating with. Plus, as a community, we should be supporting and helping each other anyway.

Some of the best marketing tools I’ve used involved working with other authors. More often than not, these campaigns include having people sign up for your newsletter, but I’ve also had the opportunity to work with other authors to raise money for charities.

If every author shares the fact that they are part of this giveaway or fundraiser, more potential readers are reached. If you send it to your 100 fans, and Beatrice sends it to her 1,400 fans, and Dexter sends it to his 3,600 fans, you’re reaching a lot of people. If those fans share that message with their friends and family, you’re reaching even more.

Sure, there are no guarantees that you’ll increase sales (no one can make that promise), but you might. Someone might look at your book cover, think it looks interesting, and click through the link and buy it—you never know what might happen until you try.

Writing your book was a solitary venture, but selling it should be a group effort. Support your fellow authors, help them and yourself get discovered, find some new fans in the process. Marketing is tough, and you shouldn’t go it alone.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day!

For those of you who get to celebrate this holiday, I hope you have an amazing day!  Spend some time with friends and family and enjoy a great meal!