Last weekend my father-in-law’s book launched. We got advanced readers to pile their reviews on day one, bumping us up to about 20,000 overall in the paid store before sinking back down. Within the genres we got MUCH higher. For this launch we budgeted $100 in Facebook ads and $100 in Amazon ads. Here’s what happened.
Dear Indie Authors,
It is acceptable to make Tumblr collages in which you cast Lucky Blue Smith as Draco Malfoy. Nobody will come after you for putting song lyrics on a photo of Jennifer Lawrence to express all your feels about Peeta on Instagram. Fair Use protects these exercises in fan art because you’re creating commentary without profiting or interfering with anyone else’s ability to profit off of their work.
But as soon as you slap a price tag on your work, it’s no longer fair use. As soon as you are selling your book on Kindle (even for 99¢), you don’t get to use copyrighted work to promote it. It’s illegal to rip someone’s beautiful illustration off of DeviantArt and use it as an ad for your novel on Facebook. Let me repeat: it’s illegal!
In the past twelve hours I’ve seen indies stealing art TWICE on my Facebook alone. One post was an artist who does hyper-realistic romance novel illustrations. He was ranting about someone ripping his art off of Facebook and using it as a straight-up cover for their novel on Amazon. THIS IS ILLEGAL.
He was rightfully upset, but instead of reporting it to Amazon, he assumed Amazon was in on it. This is bad, because it makes Amazon, KDP, and all indies look complicit. It gives readers the impression that we’re not professionals BECAUSE THIS CRAP IS STRAIGHT UP UNPROFESSIONAL and ILLEGAL!
That was last night around 2a. This morning I saw another flagrant case of copyright infringement in a group. Someone was using this piece by Jonas Jödicke to advertise her Native American shifter novel:
After the initial shock of, “Dude, white lady, way to be racist using a piece of fan art from a JAPANESE anime to advertise your NATIVE AMERICAN shifter novel,” I commented because I love my artist friends and family and I respect their legal rights. How would I feel if I caught someone using my mother-in-law’s paintings on their book covers? How would I feel if someone was using my writing illegally?
Authors, DO NOT DO THIS CRAP. You are a professional. You are making us all look bad. I am a professional, which means I obtain legal rights to use my cover art. Need an image for an ad that isn’t your cover? Pay for another one or go get one at MorgueFile or one of the other Creative Commons 0 places like Unsplash (where I got the dog at the top of this post) or ANY OF THE OTHER SITES ON THIS LIST. Just stop doing illegal and unethical crap like stealing from artists. We’re all artists. Let’s stop ripping each other off.
Alright. I’m going to write.
*mutters under breath*
Serious guys, I shouldn’t have to say this.
Three years ago, someone posted an ad for her daughter’s book on the Facebook page that was then the Olympia Heights page, but now my general author page. I went on a huge rant about why you don’t do that, but I blurred out concrete identifying information because I’m not interested in doxxing someone.
Well, it’s happened again. This person, who this time posted on my publisher’s company page for her own novel (not for someone else), is exactly the kind of person who gives indies a bad name. So let’s talk about how not to promote your book. Once again, I’ve blurred out identifying info.
Last year I talked about how we could make better book trailers, focusing on action and refraining from spoilers. I don’t claim to be the queen of book trailers by any means. I have taken one film class at the college level: I am not an expert. Still, I am quite good at making book trailers on the cheap.
This one cost $150.
And this one cost $100
I have another in the can right now that cost $60. I’m just waiting for a book cover to insert. I didn’t rely on still images, and I edited them together with free iMovie software. So what did I do?
Tell me about your book. Go.
Okay, stop. Now think about what you just said. How long did it take? Did you give me the names of multiple characters? Did you use more than one made-up word?
Last weekend I went to a convention, UtopYA in Nashville, and like every convention I attend where there is more than one author, I meet some authors who are great at pitching me their books…and then some authors who are not.
On Thursday night of the con, that was the focus of one of our hotel-room conversations: people need to learn how to pitch their books concisely and without making potential readers’ eyes glaze over. If you’re rambling on about multiple characters, telling me every twist and turn of your plot, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re giving me the entire history of your world, you’re doing it wrong. If I hear the phrase, “but it turns out, she’s the chosen one,” you’re definitely doing it wrong.
See Boo there? That’s my face when some of y’all talk about your books. And I’m trying to care. I really am.
Writing Book Descriptions
If you’re at a loss for how to write a book description, get your butt to the DVD section at Target and walk around reading the backs of movie boxes. What catches your attention? What drives you away? What tense are they writing in? What tone? How long are the blurbs?
Bullying sucks. I think we can all agree on that. We all felt a little sense of schadenfreude when we saw that Australian kid who was picking on the fat kid get body-slammed into the ground—even if it was not the appropriate way to handle the situation. And sure, signing a petition to stop bullying sounds great, but you have to be careful what train you hitch your wagon to because it’s actually a very complex issue.
What the Heck Am I on About?
Every once in a while in one of the author-groups I’ve joined on Facebook, I’ll see a petition pop up to stop review bullying. It seems great in theory, right? Be very careful before signing on to any movements or petitions that claim to be trying to stop review bullying on Amazon and Goodreads. That goes doubly for you, authors.
We’re coming up on that time of year when we madly Google listicles for gift ideas. You’re probably here because you know a writer and you just can’t figure out what to get them for Christmas or their birthday. There are tons of books on writing that you could buy them, sure, but how do you know before reading them which books are actually helpful?
Here are five ideas for writerly Christmas gifts that are NOT books on writing or fancy notebooks (like they probably have dozens of).
The New Rules of Marketing and PR
This is the best marketing book out there. It’s a must-read for anyone trying to establish themselves as a brand online. David Meerman Scott has put out several editions of this book because the web is a quickly-changing environment. He teaches readers how to promote themselves by creating content and engaging in meaningful discussion. His method is a great start for any aspiring author looking to built an audience online.
At UtopYA 2014, Carly Strickland and I attended a panel on book trailers. We got to hear a lot of interesting ideas for promoting with book trailers and how to make a proto-trailer on a budget. We heard about some elaborately produced book trailers with budgets well over a thousand dollars. Most importantly, it started a conversation for us about book trailers at Matter Deep Publishing and what we’d like to see from them.
I love movie trailers. I don’t want to fast-forward the Redbox DVD to get to the menu because I like to get a little taste of what I might watch next. My husband is different. If he knows he wants to see a movie, he doesn’t even want to see a trailer. But even I can’t stand watching a bad movie trailer. Inspired by our discussion at UtopYA, I started considering what made a good trailer and what made a bad trailer.
BAD TRAILERS ARE:
- Full of spoilers
- Quick to move past the inciting incident to show every plot arch
- Inappropriate for tone of the movie/book
- Filled with too many talking heads
Too many trailers fall into the trap of showing too much. Like with a good book blurb, I only need to hear the premise to know if I want to read the book. Tell me much more and I’m either overwhelmed, bored, or annoyed that you gave away half the novel.
GOOD TRAILERS ARE:
I’m a few days behind on doing this recap. Last weekend I went to the Geek Gathering in Sheffield, AL. It’s a small con in its third year with a costume contest, live music, and lots of awesome vendors. I attended with my sister-in-law, cover designer and illustrator Carly Strickland.
Here’s our table:
Our tables at these events keep changing because we’re always trying new things. The cardboard cutout you’re looking at is a promotional piece for the Olympia Heights: Lightning Rod Kickstarter.
For any other authors thinking of attending this con, here are the pros and cons.