Thursday, April 30, 2009

Question: Virtual touring

Hardly a book signing goes by without a writer coming up to the table to ask me about the business or craft. Likewise, my lovely wife Denise gets queries about publishing and since we’ve learned all we know from the doing, people know they’ll get the nitty gritty from us. For the next couple of weeks, we’ll try to respond to some of the most frequently asked questions, on the theory that if one new author asked, a dozen more want to know the same thing.

Here’s a pretty common one, and it’s timely as I’m about to set up a blog tour to promote Russian Roulette:

“I'm considering methods to "get the word" out on my first book, so I'd be very interested in your honest appraisal of the effectiveness of virtual tours for POD authors.”

Once you get the hang of it, the virtual tour thing is pretty easy. Assemble 3 or 4 documents – an interview with yourself, your opening chapter, a blog entry-type essay about something related to your writing – and offer them to bloggers on blogs relevant to your work, or to other writers’ blogs. You will also want to send them a jpg of your book cover.

The challenge for me has been finding the right blogs to appear on. The important thing is to find blogs that your potential readers are already reading. And be sure to give back to that blogger who hosts you. That means making an effort to drive traffic to their blog, and watching it closely the day your guest blog appears. If there are questions among the comments you’ll want to respond to them.

I have no real metrics that can tie sales to the “virtual tour” idea, although novelist Cheryl Tardif has had great sales success using them. As far as I’m concerned, anything that costs me nothing and helps make my name more recognizable is a good thing. Plus, it’s one of the few places where being POD is no different from being published mainstream.

But make sure you get a web site for people to link to. Your guest blog spots are only hooks to get people to want more detail about your work. They need to have a place to go for that. If you don’t want to build a site from scratch, consider setting something up on

And BTW, if you have a blog and would like to have a guest post some fun and interesting stuff in June, let me know. I still have some dates open.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lightning Source Tips and Tools by Denise Camacho

Lightning Source (LSI) Tips and Tools

I have decided to blog about LSI because it has been a very successful place for us to publish and because I am asked numerous questions about it by other authors wanting to know how it works. We used LSI when we published Austin's latest Hannibal Jones Mystery, Russian Roulette.

So the next few blogs from me will be explaining some of the ways LSI works. Please feel free to contact me if you have specific questions about them and I will be happy to answer.

First thing I am going to talk about is their Book Design Essentials tool that they have on the front page of their website. There are a number of tutorials that will guide you through the process of making your book ready for production on LSI.

There is a Cover Template Generator, this will generate the bar code you need to add to your cover template in order for LSI to produce a complete cover.

All you need to do is complete a few key questions such as:
ISBN (with dashes):

Content Type:
B&W Color

Paper Type:
Creme White

Book Type:

Page Count:

File Type to Return:

Email Address:

Retype Email Address:

Optional Information:
Price (including decimal): Currency:

Price in Bar Code:

Once you have answered the questions and clicked on the SUBMIT button an email will be sent to you with the file attached that is the specific File Type you chose above, ie. PDF.

You can then use that template for your cover. It is extremely easy to do.

Another very nice tool they have provided for you is the Weight and Spine Width Calculator. This gives you the precise dimensions based on the following criteria for your cover:
ISBN: (optional)

Content Type:
B&W Color

Paper Type:
Creme White

Book Type:

Page Count:

This tool is invaluable for giving the information your cover artist or book designer will need to be sure your artwork is in line with LSI's requirements for having print ready artwork.

A tip for you with regard to the inside book design. If you are going to be sending it as a .pdf file, be sure that all of the fonts have been embedded or they won't accept it.

More soon!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Free Food Bribe as a Marketing Tool

I promised to try to keep you aware of my writing and promotional progress. Well, I’ve made some progress, at least with the latter.

Did you know that there are 47 bookstores in this country that specialize in mystery fiction? That’s after you eliminate the ones that focus on collectible and antique books, and those that are only on line without a brick-and-mortar store. I’ve just sent each of them a letter informing them of the imminent release of Russian Roulette and respectfully asking (alright, begging them) to order a few copies. I told them all about the 50 review copies I sent out, the new web page, the print ads in Mystery Scene and Crimespree Magazine, the professional book trailer from Circle of Seven Productions, the 5,000 piece postcard mailing to mystery readers, the planned blog tour and on line radio appearances, the book giveaway for fans who post reviews on the internet, and all the cool blurbs I got.

I also promised them a pizza party for their staff if they sell 50 or more copies of Russian Roulette. Yeah, I’m shameless. We’ll see if it works.

Meanwhile, my lovely wife Denise has finalized arrangements for the gala launch party for Russian Roulette. She has arranged a very classy affair at the Farr House in Fairfax, VA. The venue often plays host to weddings, bridal showers and fancy luncheons. This Colonial Revival style home in the heart of Fairfax has been party central in these parts since the Farrs’ marriage ceremony in 1915. It was updated in 2001 but retains many of the period details, like Georgia red pine floors. The aforementioned lovely wife has arranged for hors d'oeuvres and wine to be served on June 6th from 2 pm to 6 pm. I have arranged to have copies of Russian Roulette available, a full week before they appear in any stores, for anyone who would like an autographed copy.

Why am I telling you all this? Because each and every one of you is invited! Hey, it’s free food and wine folks! Click here to RSVP for the literary event of my year!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend update and Big Book Giveaway!

Friday afternoon at Borders in Washington Dulles International Airport was another fun time of ups and downs as the store filled up after a landing, then thinned out for a while. I got to send my novels off to Zimbabwe and Ghana, among other places.

Saturday I hopped up to Baltimore to read from my story in Maryland Writers Association anthology. It was an intimate little group at the Roland Park Branch Library, but since I'm a fan of many of the other authors in the book I get a kick out of hearing them read their work.

The big news today is that my web site is finally back on line. A lot has changed since the last time you saw it, including a featured review from Tina Vicini who I talked to at the Love is Murder mystery convention. Tina Vicini was one of the few people who knew right off the bat that my character was named after the Hannibal who marched over the Alps to attack the Roman Empire. Not everything works just right yet, but the two most important things are in place.

The most important thing for me is the link in the middle of the page that allows you to e-mail me. This is how you can send me feedback about my writing, and I will always respond. You should send your friends to that link so they can ask to receive my newsletter. That way they'll always get the latest update on my travels and the progress of my writing.

The most important thing for YOU is the Big Book Giveaway link. Click that and you will find out how you can get an advance copy of Russian Roulette. You'll not only get to read my latest novel before everyone else, but you'll get it for free!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The e-future of Fiction

I have not been a strong proponent of e-books, mostly because they don’t appeal to me. But since I received a nice review from a Kindle reader a couple days ago I’ve been rethinking the issue.

My pal and fellow mystery writer Joe Konrath is a Kindle bestseller. He says that e-books are the future and as always, he’s hard to argue with. His new horror novel, Afraid, is available for both the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader for $1.99. That’s way cheaper than most, but it may be worth it. The book is the #1 Kindle download in the horror fiction category and #11 overall, without advertising or a book tour.

It’s nice to move numbers like that, but will authors make any money? Royalties are in no way uniform, but here’s an example. Literary agent Richard Curtis says that Simon & Schuster contracts offer a royalty of 25% of net receipts for e-books. Notice, that’s not 25% of the sale price. But even if the web site retailer takes a 50% cut of a $10 book, it’s more cash in the writer’s pocket than the usual 7% or 8% he’d get on a $15 trade paperback. Of course, Joe Konrath’s not getting rich on a $1.99 download, but he IS getting new readers who may well look for his other books.

BTW, the Kindle gets all the press these days, but my novel Blood and Bone has long been available on Fictionwise, an e-book retailer that Barnes & Noble recently bought. Sony and Google are teaming up to give Sony Reader users access to the books in Google’s book digitization process. B & N is giving away an e-book reader application for the BlackBerry. And Amazon will make Kindle books available on the iPhone and iPod.

I don’t think e-books will replace hard copies any more than iPods have eliminated CDs. And I must admit that I will always want to feel the pages under my fingers. But I do think that e-books will be a dominant force in the marketplace at some point, and we writers should be happy for any technological change that makes it easier and less expensive for readers to find and own our work.

So it was nice to see that Readermouse in Louisiana not only gave The Troubleshooter five stars, but made a point of saying in the review that there were no format problems with the Kindle version.