Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Four Favorite Book Series (still in process)


My last post was about my four favorite book series that have been completed.  I also wanted to list my favorites series that are still being written.  This one was harder as I read a lot of series.  Narrowing it down to a few is difficult but here they are, in no particular order:

Savannah Martin by Jenna Bennett
This is a mystery/romance series.  Savannah is a southern belle who is trying to build a life as a realtor after her first marriage ends in divorce.  She was raised to be a lady but manages to fall in love with a bad-boy criminal.  Rafe is sexy, fun, and all alpha.  Their relationship is a lot of fun.

The books are:
A Cutthroat Business
Hot Property
Contract Pending
Close to Home
A Done Deal
Contingent on Approval
Change of Heart
Kickout Clause

Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
This is an urban fantasy series with a nice romance.  I love that Kate is such a strong character.  She is tough but soft at the same time.  The relationship between her and Curran is a perfect blend of caring and tough love.  One of my favorite things about this series is the relationships that Kate keeps building along the way after begin alone for so long.

The books are:
Magic Bites
Magic Burns
Magic Strikes
Magic Bleeds
Magic Slays
Magic Rises

Chrissy McMullen by Lois Greiman
This is a mystery/romance series.  These books are some of the funniest I have ever read.  I have a fairly sarcastic sense of humor and these books are my type of humor.  Chrissy is a psychologist who keeps getting involved murders.  Her love interest is Jack Rivera a police officer.  The witty dialogue between the two main characters keeps me coming back.

The books are:
Unzipped
Unplugged
Unscrewed
Unmanned
One Hot Mess
Not One Clue
Uncorked

Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs
This is an urban fantasy series.  Like most people who read unban fantasy, I enjoy a good story along with the werewolves, vampires, and like.  This series delivers.  I like the relationship between Mercy and Adam but the storylines are also very compelling. 

The books are:
Moon Called
Blood Bound
Iron Kissed
Bone Crossed
Silver Borne
River Marked
Frost Burned

If you have any favorites, please let me know.  I would love to hear from you.  I am always looking for a new series or author to read.  Have a happy and safe holiday season.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My Four Favorite Book Series (completed)


The other day I was looking for something to read that was familiar and yet still captured my attention.  I picked a mystery/romance series that I have read several times.  It was like visiting with an old friend and it made me start thinking about my favorite book series.  I really enjoy reading series.  I like revisiting characters and watching them move forward with their lives. 

So I decided this post would be about my favorite book series.  I know that many people will think that my choices show a certain lack of sophistication but I read mostly for enjoyment and these are the ones I truly enjoyed. 

I didn’t think it was fair to include ones that are still being written with ones that are already completed so I picked my four favorite series that I considered finished.  Here they are (in no particular order):

Vicky Bliss by Elizabeth Peters
I wrote about this series when Elizabeth Peters passed away a few months ago but I had to list it because it is one of my favorites.  These books are mysteries with a touch of romance.  Vicky Bliss is an art historian who works at the National Museum in Munich.  Her love interest in most of the books is John Smythe who is a thief.  The relationship between these two characters is what I like best about the series.  They are both sarcastic but charming.  The mysteries are interesting and stories are well-written.  The books are:
Borrower of the Night
Street of the Five Moons
Silhouette in Scarlet
Trojan Gold
Night Train to Memphis
The Laughter of Dead Kings

The Belgariad by David Eddings
This was the first science fiction/fantasy series I ever read.  I remember it clearly.  I was working in a mall at a gift store back in the mid 80’s and had a second job at another store nearby.  I had time to kill before starting my shift at the second store so I went to the bookstore and found Pawn of Prophecy.  I wasn’t sure about it but it sounded interesting so I took a chance and was hooked.  I quickly devoured the others in the series.  These books are not exceptionally original but they are very enjoyable.  They are fun to read.  The books are:
Pawn of Prophecy
Queen of Sorcery
Magician’s Gambit
Castle of Wizardry
Enchanter’s End Game

Jason Bourne by Robert Ludlum
Some may think I am cheating on this one as Jason Bourne novels keep coming out but as far as I am concerned, this series consists of only three novels.  I first read the Bourne Identity in high school and was blown away by the novel.  I had never read anything like it.  I know that there are a lot of books out there that are considered better examples of espionage novels but this was my first exposure to the genre.  Because of these novels, I read many other books in this field.  The books are:
The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Ultimatum

The Ozark Trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin
I first read these books in the late 80’s.  I had only been reading science fiction/fantasy for a couple of years and I was intrigued by the folklore that runs through these stories.  They were released in 1981 but I think they still hold up today.  The novels are set on a planet ruled by magic users and inhabited by people originally from the Ozark region of earth.  It is a fun series.  The books are:
Twelve Fair Kingdoms
The Grand Jubilee
And Then There’ll Be Fireworks

Anyone have a favorite series that you have to read over and over again?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 4 – Smashwords


After publishing my books on KDP, I spent a few months advertising and trying to sell them.  I did okay for a first time author with no previous experience but in June, they stop selling.  I decided I needed to try something different so I started looking into publishing them on other sites, specifically Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

It took a little bit of work but I did sign up on both B&N and Kobo.  I hadn't started the process of publishing because I wanted to see what all of my options were before I began.  On Twitter, I had been following several authors and some of them mentioned Smashwords.  I was not familiar with Smashwords but assumed it was another online eBook retailer.  So I decided to check it out.  I am very glad I did.

Smashwords does sell eBooks but they are really a distributor.  Their website is very basic for viewing and buying books.  Their main objective is to distribute your book to other retailers.  Currently, they ship to B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, Diesel, Page Foundry, and a couple of libraries.  They also recently announced a distribution deal with Flipkart (India) and Oyster.  They do distribute to Amazon but it is limited and based on sales.  As I already had mine on Amazon, I opted out of this option anyway.

The great thing about Smashwords is that you upload your book once.  They take it and convert it to the format that is needed and then ship it to the different retailers.  Payments are sent back to Smashwords and they pay you quarterly.  Yes, they take a cut but it is fairly small and for me, it is worth it.  I do not need to know how to format my book for each retailer and if I need to make changes, I only need to do so on one site.  I love that!

Publishing my books on Smashwords was fairly easy.  It did take time because they do have their own requirements.  They provide you with a step-by-step guide.  I did have to make changes to the word document that I had for KDP but once I had it in the Smashwords format, I was able to use that format for Amazon.  When I completed by third book, I put it in the Smashwords format and used it for both KDP and Smashwords.

They also have requirements for your cover.  This was once again the area where I had the most trouble.  My covers were not sized properly for Smashwords so I had to spend a lot of time to get them formatted properly.  However, again, once I had formatted for Smashwords, it worked for KDP.

When you upload your book to Smashwords, it goes through an online auto check.  If you are only publishing your book to Smashwords, then it will be put on the website.  If you want to have it distributed to other retailers, then the book must first pass the auto check.  If the auto check finds any errors, you are notified and can correct them.  Once it passes the auto check, then someone at Smashwords will review it before it is distributed.  This took about a week for mine but I know it is based on their volume so the timeframe will vary.  Once it is approved, then it is listed in their Premium Catalog and they will ship it to the other retailers. 

Smashwords ships to some retailers daily and other weekly.  Once it is shipped, then you have to wait for that retailer to put it on their site.  So unlike, KDP, this does take more time.  You should plan for a minimum of four weeks. 

Another option that Smashwords has is pre-orders.  You can upload your book and have it available for pre-order with a future release date.  I am trying this for my third book, Trust Me, which has a release date of October 4, 2013.  I am looking forward to seeing how it works.  So far, so good.

I also really like the reporting that I get from Smashwords.  I can see how many sales I have on Smashwords immediately.  It also shows me how many samples of my book have been downloaded.  The one area that is frustrating is that I don't get immediate results on sales at the other retailers.  I know that Smashwords has no control over that but I get anxious. 

You might be able to get better royalties if you go directly with the retailer instead of Smashwords.  I didn't check that.  For me, it is not worth it.  I love the convenience of having everything in one place.  I definitely recommend Smashwords.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 3 – Promotion and Advertising


My last two posts dealt with getting my books published which I did with a lot of effort but no outside help.  So now what?

My books were out there, sitting on Amazon waiting for someone to notice.  Obviously, they didn't.  I needed to get the word out.  I needed to advertise.  But how?  One of the books I purchased about selling on Amazon had a list of Twitter accounts and Facebook pages that would advertise your book.  It was a very helpful list.  It gave me a place to begin.

I decided to offer my first book free for three days in the hope that it would attract people to my work.  This was fairly successful.  I had over 1500 downloads of my free book and then several purchases of my second book.  I used the Twitter accounts to promote the free book and I believe that lead to the purchase of the second.

After the first three days, my books continued to sell a little.  I was never expecting a lot of sales.  I know that what I write and the fact that I am unknown was not going to lead to a lucrative endeavor.  Over the next few months, I would sell about one or two books a week.  Then in late June, it dried up.  No more sales.  That is when I decided I would published my books with other retailers, specifically Smashwords (next week's blog.)

I also tried a few other sites that advertise.  I needed to get the information in front of different people.  It helped and sales picked up some.  I am not a promoter but I have attempted to put my books out on any website, Twitter account, or Facebook page that will let me.  My books will never be best sellers and I will never be able to make a living writing but I do enjoy knowing that someone is willing to read my work. 

I am sure there are many other ways to advertise.  You can do press releases, book tours, conventions, and associations.  I haven't tried any of those yet.  I don't know if I will.  I am not a very extroverted person and interacting with a bunch of people to promote my books makes me a little uncomfortable.  If you are interested in those options, there are a lot of choices.  I have a few and will share if you wish to contact me.  You can do so via my website, blblair.com

Below is a list of some of the websites and Twitter accounts that I have used.  They are still active as of today.  Some cost but some are free.  They all have some specific criteria or "rules" you need to follow so read the directions.  Most have a free option and a paid option depending on what you want.  All the websites also have Twitter accounts and tweet your books so I did not put those on the Twitter list.  I

If you are on any of the sites, please stop by my page (B. L. Blair) and "like" it or tweet it if you don't mind.  Every little bit helps.  Good Luck!

Book Listing Websites (cost)                         Book Listing Websites (free) 
independentauthornetwork.com                     goodreads.com
bookgoodies.com                                            authorsdb.com
goodkindles.net                                               awesomegang.com
askdavid.com
bookdaily.com
derekhaines.ch/whizbuzz/

Twitter (some cost/some are free)
@SweetFreeBooks
@Promoting_Books
@KindlePromoFree
@ereaderbuddy
@BookTweetTeam
@ReadersAlliance
@AuthorAlliance
@AuthorPromos
@magazinetwit
@AuthorLaunch
@BookTourRadio
@IndieBooks
@free_kindle_fic
@kindlepromoter
@KindieBooks
@IndieKindle
@SnicksList
@freebookpromos
@eBooksLister
@dailyfreebooks
@flurriesofwords
@IBDBookoftheday
@ebookdealofday

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 2 – CreateSpace


After I finished self-publishing my books on KDP, I learned about CreateSpace.  This is an Amazon company that allows indie authors to self-publish their books in paper form.  I decided this would be a good idea so I set out to complete the process.

For me, this was much harder than publishing on KDP.  The website is very good about walking you through the process, but I did have several issues.  The first issue was the setup of the title information.  It should have been easy.  It was definitely my mistake, but I listed the book as volume one.  My book is part of a series so when there was a space for a volume, I put one in.  So on the Amazon site the paperback version of my book is listed as Convince Me: Holton Series #1 (Volume 1), and I cannot change it myself.  I might be able to get CreateSpace to change it for me, but I haven’t looked into that.

The second issue was formatting the interior of the book.  You have to choose the book size before you can upload the document.  I had no idea what size would be best.  They do give you several options and even recommend certain sizes.  I made a choice and then had to format my word document to match.  It wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming.  They give you a template so I was able to cut and paste, but I had already formatted my book for the kindle version so it was annoying to have to reformat it to work for a paperback.  I know now that you can have CreateSpace upload your book to kindle, but I didn’t know that at the time so I did it backwards.

The third issue was the cover.  I mentioned on my last entry that I have created the covers for the books in my Holton series.  The cover I used for the kindle version was the one I had planned to use for the paperback version as well.  Unfortunately, that did not work out.  The sizing was all wrong and once, I did manage to get the size to fit, the pixels were off.  The cover from the kindle version was just the front so I also had to match the back cover.  The color options on CreateSpace are limited so I could not match the green which was what I wanted.  I used a color that was close to the color of my title font.  After working on it for several days, I was fairly pleased with the cover.  They suggest that you get a proof copy of your book which I did.  You don’t have to do this step but I definitely recommend it.  It does cost, but it is not much-less than $7.00 for me, shipping included.  A few days later the book arrived.  The cover just didn’t look right.  The issue with the pixels made the picture a little blurry, and the back cover color didn’t look as good in the physical form as it did on screen.

So it was back to the drawing board.  CreateSpace has cover templates available so I used one of those.  When I uploaded my cover picture into this, it worked better.  The picture is only on part of the cover so the space was smaller.  I didn’t have the pixels issue.  I was able to adjust the color to work with the picture, and this printed version looked much better.  The only problem was the kindle version of my book has a different cover from my paperback version. 

The next issue I had was getting the paperback and the kindle version linked on Amazon.  The help section said that it sometimes takes awhile.  So I waited and waited.  I had the kindle version listed and the paperback version listed, but they weren’t both listed together.  I contacted CreateSpace, and they resolved the issue.

Finally, I recently found some errors in my book and wanted to upload a new document.  It is easy to do on KDP and fairly quick.  However, I once again had to reformat the document before uploading it on CreateSpace.  Also, they remove your book from Amazon while they are approving the changes.  That was annoying.  Luckily, the approval did not take long.

Reading this, it appears that I have a very negative opinion of CreateSpace, and that is actually not true.  I believe CreateSpace is wonderful option for indie authors to get their book into paperback.  I could not have done so without this website.  The site provides step by step instructions and templates for formatting of the documents as well as the cover formats.  The one time I needed assistance, they responded very quickly.  It is a good option.  I just had a lot of issues that made it a little difficult.  When processing my second book, I found it much easier.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 1 – Kindle Direct Publishing


If anyone were to ask me if they should self-publish a book, I would answer with a resounding yes.  Although it was a long process, it has been very rewarding for me. 

I am an avid reader and the kindle app was my best friend.  While experimenting with all the options kindle offered readers, I stumbled upon Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP.  After reading about it, I decided to return to writing in a more serious way.  I have been writing since college but I hadn’t given it much attention in the past few years. 

I had two books, the first two of my Holton series, and a novella already written.  So I brought them out, dusted them off, and went to work.  I had to update all of them.  It is amazing how fast a book becomes dated in our fast-paced technical world.   I really wanted to publish the two Holton books but I wasn’t sure about the process so I decided to publish the novella first as sort of a trial run.  

It was really a simple decision.  I love reading kindle books and thought this would be a great platform for my books.  I knew that I would have a really hard time going the traditional publishing route so I thought this would be perfect for me.  And it was.  It was actually fairly easy.  Maybe too easy?  It was a lot of work but I was able to do it without actually speaking with or emailing anyone.  I did read a couple of books but that was it.  Looking back on it now, I realize I did so many things wrong but at the time, I just plowed right through. 

The two books that helped me the most were Building Your Book for Kindle and Publish on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing both by Kindle Direct Publishing and both free.  Building Your Book for Kindle walks you through the steps of getting your book in the correct format and what needs to be included as well as uploading and publishing it to Amazon.  Publish on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing does some of that but also talks about royalties, sales, reporting, and Amazon lending.  I would recommend both.

I also purchased a couple of books from other authors who wrote about how to self-publish on kindle and make money.  They really didn’t tell me much that the two free ones didn’t; although, one of them did have a list of Twitter and Facebook sites that would help with the promotion and advertising of your book.  That was very helpful.

The hardest part for me was creating a cover for my books.  If you can afford to hire someone to create your cover, I would recommend doing so.  This was the part that gave me the most trouble.  I did create the covers myself and I think they are okay but for the next series of books that I write, I intend to get a professional.  There are some inexpensive options available but I didn’t know about them at the time.  I used PowerPoint and created a slide with public domain clipart.  I have four books planned for the Holton series and have all the covers created.  I think they work but may someday get them redesigned by a professional.

The biggest issue with the covers for me was the sizing.  I had a hard time getting the cover to meet the requirements of KDP.  This was mostly because I am not very familiar with jpgs and tiffs.  I do a lot with PowerPoint and felt very comfortable creating the slide I used as the cover and saving it as a jpg was easy enough but getting the dimensions correct was a bugger.

Once the novella was uploaded, I expanded and flushed out the first Holton book, Convince Me, and then had to decide how to promote it (future blog) and how soon to publish the second.  Most of the information that I had read stated that publishing more than one book was the way to go as it would boost sales.  If someone liked one of your books, they would be more likely to purchase another one.  Because of this, I did upload the second Holton book before I started on promotion.

If you have any questions about the process of self-publishing on KDP, you are welcome to contact me.  Just go to the contact page on my website, http://www.blblair.com/Contact.html and fill out the form.  I will do my best to answer your questions.  Next week, I will discuss how I also worked with an Amazon company, CreateSpace, to create a paperback copy of my books to sell.

Future Blogs:
My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 2 – CreateSpace
My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 3 – Promotion and Advertising
My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 4 – Smashwords

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss

When I heard about Elizabeth Peters passing earlier this week, I was reminded about how fast things change.  I was introduced to her work about 20 years ago and have several of her novels in paperback.  But just a few days before her death, I was able to get one of the books I had been wanting on my kindle.  Obviously to me, her books stand the test of time.

Elizabeth Peters, also known as Barbara Michaels, is best known for her Amelia Peabody series.  I read a few of those and enjoyed them but I absolutely love the Vicky Bliss Mystery novels.  Vicky is an art historian who works at the National Museum in Munich.  Her love interest in most of the books is John Smythe who is a thief.  He has a strong sense of self-preservation and even stronger fear of pain but he often ends up sacrificing himself to save Vicky.  The relationship between these two characters is what I like best about this series.  They are both sarcastic but charming.  I really enjoy their verbal exchanges.

Book 1 is Borrower of the Night.  This book introduces us to Vicky who is working at a small midwestern college.  She goes to Germany to discover a religious shrine that has been missing for hundreds of years.  Here she meets one of the characters that will play a major role in the future stories.  This is my least favorite of the series mostly because John Smythe is not in it but it is a good introduction to the series and it also sets the stage for the other novels.

Book 2 is Street of the Five Moons.  In this book, Vicky heads to Italy to find the person who created a replica of a famous piece of jewelry.   Here she meets John.  She also acquires Caesar, a overly affectionate doberman.  This was a good mystery.

Book 3 is Silhouette in Scarlet.  Vicky hasn't seen John in over a year but she receives a package with a plane ticket for Stockholm.  Her curiosity got the better of her and she heads to Sweden.  Here she meets a sweet old man who thinks Vicky is a distant relative of his.  Vicky realizes John had involved her in another risky scheme of his.  This book ends with John "dying" as he sacrifices himself to save Vicky.

Book 4 is Trojan Gold.  Vicky receives a bloodstained envelope and a photograph.  This leads her to search for gold that disappeared at the end of World War II.  Vicky places an ad in papers all over Europe to see if John will respond.  He does.  This is probably my second favorite book in the series.  At the end of the book, Vicky forces John to confess his love.  It is a fun scene.

Book 5 is Night Train to Memphis.  Vicky is lured onto a cruise as a guest speaker.  John appears newly married.  In her jealousy and anger, Vicky vows to discover and stop the thief of antiquities she knows John and his friends are plotting to steal.  John, of course, is trying to protect her.  This is my favorite book of the series.  You learn how much John is willing to do to protect Vicky.  There is also a very sweet scene where Vicky confesses her love for John.

Book 6 is The Laughter of Dead Kings.  This is the final book in the series and is was written about 35 years after the first book.  Times have changed.  Ms. Peters includes a forward that addresses the problem of having a series written over a number of years but is set in real time.  Basically, the reader just has to go with it.  John and Vicky are together and once again, get involved in a mystery.  A priceless Egyptian mummy has been stolen!  This is another good mystery.

If you like mysteries with a touch of romance, this is a great series.  Ms. Peters is an excellent writer.  She will be missed.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Blogging

This is my first attempt at blogging.  I recently published by first two books and everything I have read has lead me to believe that I need a blog.  So here I go.

Like a lot of authors, I am something of an introvert.  I am not shy - just not the type of person who enjoys making small talk and chatting.  Social media has been something of a challenge for me as I have never seen the need to tell anyone what I had for breakfast or where I am right now.  But I am learning and I have already made a few friends.

Twitter had been fun as I have found several people to follow that are quite interesting and some that are very funny.  Unfortunately, not many of my personal friends are on twitter so I am mostly following people I have never met.   I usually tweet about my books or re-tweet for others but have been trying a few new tweets that are a little more personal.

As for Facebook, I created an author page to showcase my books but also a personal page that I use to connect with friends and family.  This has been a bigger success personally as there are a lot more people I know personally on Facebook.  I get to see all the pictures of my great-nieces and great-nephews.  Yes, I have nieces and nephews that are parents! :)

I hope to have a more interesting topic next time so please come back next week.  If you would like to connect with me, I would love to meet a new friend.


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