Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Story of the Copperhead Snake

Once upon a time, in the land of Carolina North, there lived a writer who ripped up the rug in her kitchen. Eww, you must be thinking, a rug in the kitchen. Yes, a rug in the kitchen, which is why the writer ripped it up.

It was a large rug, so the writer, who was handy with an electric carving knife, cut the rug into manageable portions, rolled these portions up, tied them with an old clothesline and laid them in a small pyramid out in the carport to take to the dump at a later date.

As the writer knew deep down she would probably never go to the dump, she decided to place the rolled up portions of rug into the trash can. There were six portions in all, three small and three large. The writer took the smallest three and placed these portions down the street in her parent's trash cans, because, although not being the brightest bulb when it comes to math, she does have decent knowledge of what will fit into a trash can.

With that, she lifted one of the larger portions of rug to heave it into her own trash can and to her surprise, a snake laid in between the two remaining portions of rug. The snake was lovely, brown and yellowish green, small, and wrapped around in a lovely coil. He lifted his head slightly, as if to acknowledge the writer's presence and wondering for a moment why she had taken his warmth away, but then placed his head back onto his lap and returned to sleep.

The writer wondered what kind of snake it was, although did not give it a second thought that it could ever be something potentially dangerous, and so placed a box over the snake and then a large rock on top of the box.  Knowing the woman across the street liked snakes, the writer called her. However, the woman would not be available to look at the creature until later on that day.

And so, the writer continued cleaning the rest of the carport, cleaning the house, going about her regular Saturday cleaning business; laundry, kitchen, bathrooms. (If you thought this writer had a cleaning staff, I'm afraid you have the wrong writer.)

Early evening brought the woman across the street to the carport. And she was excited because all day long she had dreamed this small snake would be a replacement for a corn snake she had lost after 27 years. The woman eagerly lifted the box, and then quickly placed it back over the snake.

The writer asked, "What is wrong? Do you not like the snake?"
The woman said, "It is not a corn snake, my dear. It is a copperhead. And they are exceedingly dangerous."

The writer, who had grown up on the shores of Rhode Island, who had only ever seen a garter snake in real life, who at least had had the forethought to cover it with a box, said to the woman, "Well, what shall we do with it?"

The woman suggested they call -- the police, the fire department, animal control, the science museum, the hospital, the pest control business -- and all refused to deal with the poor little snake. When one last call prompted the response, "Oh, you must destroy it," this made both the writer and the woman very sad. It was a lovely little snake and not bothering anyone, and why was death the only option?

Surely, God had created the snake for a reason, although perhaps did not mean for it to be in the carport of a writer in Carolina North, near a small child, a little cat named Henry, and three very stupid dogs. Was there a way to transport the snake to a better place, where he would not upset so very many people, where he would be safe and not so dangerous?

Well, yes there was, however, the woman and the writer remained stymied as to how to pick up the snake in the first place without getting injured. He was a copperhead after all. Unfortunately, what they needed, was a man. A man who would not be afraid to deal with a little snake under a box. Okay, a poisonous little snake under a box.

Surprisingly, the man down the street had a son, a very lovely young man who was not afraid of anything, and after much deliberation, killed the little snake with one quick chop of an ax. The woman and the writer each said a prayer releasing the little snake's soul up to the Lord and asking for forgiveness in killing it.

Let this be a lesson for you all -- Be careful what you leave outside in the carport in the fall.

Did I happen to mention this writer also has a cord of wood stacked on the other side of the carport, and that copperhead snakes like to curl up into wooden stacks to hibernate?

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Marketing the New Book

I'm not exactly the best marketer in the world. Matter of fact, I hate marketing. Just the thought of hawking my book makes me cringe. I feel like becoming an ostrich and hiding my head in the sand. You know, and it's not because I couldn't come up with a campaign. It's because I just don't want to bother anyone.

So what do we do? How much of a pain in the ass to our friends and followers do we really want to be?

I, for one, despise blog tours. I won't do one, and with over 12 tomes out in the last two years, you may wonder how I ever got noticed. (Yeah, I'm not really sure of that myself.)

Guest posts? Not so much. I can't write anything unless I'm given a topic. Not big on personal essays, unless you count blog posts, but that's different. I remember when I did a guest post for Tara when I first released Remembering You. I had to rewrite it 3 times, at her urging.

Twitter campaign? Nah. Did one of those for one of the  books and the markers drove me over the edge. However, the thing that kills me, every time I turn around, there's some multi- million dollar author says that's how he made all his money.

Free doesn't work anymore. There's so many books still out for free, I'm hearing they're only producing a couple of hundred takers at best, with no reviews, whereas 3 years ago, you'd get 10,000 downloads and at least 100 reviews. My how times have changed. But free doesn't work anymore anyway.

So what else is there to do?  I announced I wrote a book. I have buy links on all the blogs, I made 1 (one) announcement on Twitter (through LinkedIn -- killed 2 birds with one stone there) and now, even though I feel like I should be doing something, I'm not.

But this is a different kind of book. (Yes, I'm speaking of my recently released Regency -- the "school story" project). It's not my typical Regency. It was written for a specific clientele, so I guess I'm going to market to them, in person. I'm going to have to push the paperback version because it's a fundraiser after all. That should be fun.

And you know, I think really, the best way to market is to have a couple of reviews in place when you first publish the book. I keep forgetting to do that. But how many of my friends really want to read one of my books and then leave a review, especially if they don't like it. I know how I feel when one of my friends asks me to write a review. (And I've gotten stuck with a couple of really shitty books so I know exactly how they feel. I never wrote the review.)

I guess the only thing to do really is just to write the next book. I believe in this atmosphere if you're not seen every 3 months or so, people forget you. At least that's what's happening to me. But that's a story for another day.

Tell me -- Do you have any marketing or promotion tips other than the above mentioned? Keeping in mind I hate marketing. lol

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taking a Break

School is starting next week, and I need to take a little break. I'll be back soon.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

They Say Authors Shouldn't Spam, But What is Everyone Else Doing?

Okay, I don't know what's going on, but lately I've seen ads popping up EVERYWHERE.

Take Twitter for instance. I haven't been on the site in a while now. A couple of months anyway and when I finally did get on to share my news that I published WHEN WE WERE IN HEAVEN (my one and only promotional Tweet) I was hit with advertisements to get rid of unwanted belly fat and how I could get my bachelor's degree in less than two years. (Sorry, already have mine and it took 6 through no fault of my own.)

Then, I was doing some stuff to my other blog, through Google Chrome because that's the only way I can get my pictures uploaded, when BAM, a bunch of pop ups started happening and I couldn't get rid of them. I finally had to shut down my computer to close all the pages.

What the *&$#& is going on?

When I first started blogging, I saw blogs that had ads on them. It's called AdSense, and I guess how it works is for every time a person clicks through to the ad, the blog makes money. Yeah, okay. I guess if that's how you want to blog, fine. It's just not my thing. I blog because I have something to say. I don't blog with the hope I'm going to make money.

They say we need to build an online relationship with readers and not to spam them every five seconds with unwanted crap. I used to Tweet all the time about my books, but then THEY said it was a no-no. That wasn't the way to sell books. But I see it all the time on Twitter. Every other Tweet that hits the roll is a link to buy a book. Or a review with a link. Or a ReTweet with a link.

And now, they have these big glaring ads coming in as well. Do I really want to see spam about how to enlarge my penis, (sorry no penis here) or any other crap they're trying to sell? Do the marketing directors of these huge conglomerates think that we will click on these links? Are they really so stupid that they think we'll trust them not to infect our PC's?

It's bad enough I get emails all the time from crazy people in other countries telling me I've won 8 million dollars in a foreign lottery and for only a small fee (thousands of dollars) I can be the recipient of the cash.

Yeah. Right. Like I'm going to fall for that.

So why would anyone in their right mind click on any of the links on Twitter or through Google?

I have all my stuff on my computer. Thousands of hours of writing material, not to mention pictures. Would I really want that to be corrupted? I don't think so.

I mean, it's bad enough we only get to watch tv for 8 minutes and then are bombarded with commercials. (Thank God for PBS!) It takes an hour to watch a whole program that's only 42 minutes long.

Yeah, sure I get it. That's how they sell. We're not living in the same world we used to. When newspaper ads were all they had. But jeez criminy, is this what it's all coming down to now? Ads, ads and more ads.

Pretty soon, we'll all just be walking billboards. Buy This, Buy That, Buy ME!

Makes me just want to get off ALL social media.

But then again, I live a solitary enough life as it is. Social media IS really the only way I get to be sociable.

Tell me -- Do you click through on anything you see that may interest you? Or are you still old school and Google the brand you want to buy and click on the trusted link?

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I Applaud J.K. Rowling

With the publishing world like the weather these days, (wait five minutes, it will change), the hubbub over J.K. Rowling's apparent try for anonymity is lessening.

I for one applaud Ms. Rowling's attempt at gaining another name for herself and her work. I mean, if you're one of the most famous authors in living history, (next to Stephen King), no matter what you write will be scrutinized down to the last undotted i.

Look at what happened to CASUAL VACANCY. Panned by the critics, nothing she could ever write would compare to Harry Potter. I'm sure she knew that going in, and for God's sake, CV was an adult book. It wasn't meant to compare to HP. But everyone did it nonetheless.

I maintained that she should have found herself a pen name for that book. But, not knowing her on an intimate basis, I couldn't tell her that.

I'm glad she tried to do it with A CUCKOO'S CALLING. I'm sorry it didn't work out. I would have liked to have read it without the notion it was written by J.K. Rowling. No matter how we say we wouldn't compare, deep down I know I probably would have. But then again. Maybe not.

I think I've read two of the Harry Potter books. Yes, they were entertaining. Yes, they were very well written. But they were also out of my genre. I don't read paranormal kid/tween/YA lit. If that's even the genre classification they are. (Truthfully, I think they're their own genre now.) But with HP, Rowling could do whatever she wanted. It was her world, her characters, she could create at will, the more fantastical the better.

With her two adult novels, she needed to stick with what adults know. Contemporary world, with contemporary characters. No pulling ghosts out of picture frames, or griffins, or magic.

However, if I read CUCKOO'S CALLING by Robert Gailbrith and I liked the book, then I would have liked the author. If I found out later it was actually written by J.K. Rowling, I would have thought she was a good writer regardless of what her name is.

I don't blame her for wanting to find out if she was a good writer. Or that she could make it in the publishing world without the use of her real name. People do it all the time.

I know a woman who writes erotica. She's a stay-at-home soccer mom who goes to church every Sunday, assists in her kid's classrooms, and does volunteer work at the old folk's home where her grandmother resides. Do you think for one second she wants people to know she's really a mass producer of triple xxx porn? Okay, tasteful sex-capades. There is a "story" behind her erotica. She's not just writing sex for sex sake.

And although J.K. Rowling is famous for Harry and friends, why should she submit herself to the scrutiny of the public eye when she wants to write something else?

I mean, how do you know if you're "good enough"? And I believe that's all she wanted. Was to find out if she was good enough. Sure she didn't sell many books, most first time authors don't. But she did get some good reviews out of it. So there was something.

When I first published REMEMBERING YOU, it was under my Anne Gallagher name. Everyone was aghast that I, as a writer of sweet Regency romances, could drop the F-bomb (in Italian mind you) so many times. I received one review (that was very good) but it was from a friend, so that was to be expected.

I decided to republish it under Robynne Rand. I now sit with 7 reviews (4 and 5 stars) from people I don't even know. Naturally, I'd like more because I love that story, but hey... the only way to do that is to publish another book and I can't do that right now. Too many other things keep me from writing.

I hope Ms. Rowling tries to write another book. Under another pen name. This time I hope she self-publishes it. Better chance of making it than through a regular publisher. Then she'll really be anonymous. And she'll be able to find out if she's good enough for the masses. And the critics.

Then again, she's the richest woman in the world (next to Oprah) so she can do whatever she wants with her writing. Even though A CUCKOO'S CALLING wasn't selling, as soon as it was revealed she wrote it, the book hit the best-seller list.

So, if you're listening J.K. try it again. This time self-publish. You'll never know who you really are until you do.

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Paperback Pricing

Back when I used to read torrid romances on the beach, I could pick up a mass market paperback for around $2.99. Harlequin romances were .99 cents at the supermarket, and the church thrift story usually had some hanging around for .25 cents. Needless to say, I was always reading. (Check those prices and you'll see how old I am. lol)

Two years ago when I was going on vacation I decided to pick up a couple of books to read. Imagine my astonishment when the price tags were $7.99 and $9.99. For a mass market paperback! Ouch.

Back in the day, the New York publishers would print up a run of 20,000 books at a time (or so, depending on who the author was and if they thought the book would be a best-seller). If they didn't sell, they would get returned to the publisher and pulped. Or they would rip the covers off and sell them to an outlet store for pennies on the dollar. Now, I'm finding more and more stores (Cheap John's or Building 19, The Dollar Tree) are selling them at 95% off.  Hardcover, and/or paperback for so cheap, sometimes I think it's easier to wait a couple of years for a best-seller. And those authors never receive a dime from those sales.

It broke my heart to see a friend of mine's book at the Dollar Tree, in hardcover no less, for a buck. It was an international best-seller, and she's become quite famous in literary circles. Yes, she made money from the sales of her book, but I know her royalty statements do not have any money from the outlet sales. And that is a shame.

When I decided to publish my own paperback books I went with Create Space, a pay-on-demand publisher. Of all the p.o.d companies, they seemed the easiest for me to work with. They also have a tool to show you how much it cost to produce a book, how much you'll make for profit, and how much each distributor will make. (Because everyone takes a piece of the pie.)

You need to input such things as how many pages there are in the book (including front and back matter, and also extra blank pages), what the size of the book is (mass market paperback, trade paperback, etc), and what the color of the paper is (yes, really. Cream paper is thicker than white and creates a different spine width for the book). Yes, indeed, there is much more to know about how to "create" a book, than I ever imagined.

When I published my first Regency paperback, I sold two copies. And I know who bought them because they told me. Other friends said they were too expensive. They were priced at $14.99. (Okay, ouch. I get it now) But I had to take into consideration how much money I would be making on each book sold. I needed to make a profit somewhere. I didn't want a mass market paperback size, I wanted my books to be different, ergo, cream paper, 6x9, and Times New Roman font pt. 12 -- easy on the eyes.

But now, I'd like to publish REMEMBERING YOU in paperback and I'm having fits trying to decide which size, what color paper, and which font size to use. Fit's I tell you. I also have 3 different covers and trying to decide which one to use is also giving me a headache. (But more on this at a later date)

Depending on where you buy a book from, an author website or Amazon, (And I'm strictly speaking self-published authors here) there's a lot of difference in profit margin. Because I used Create Space to publish, they give you your own link, which then you create your own "store" as it were. You order directly from them so  there is no middle man. It's just you and Create Space and I make more money.

If you order from Amazon, the book gets made at Create Space, then ships to Amazon, then ships to you. Amazon takes a cut off my price tag, so my profit decreases. (Technically, I'm not sure if this is true because Amazon owns Create Space, so there might not be any shipping involved other than to the customer, but Amazon gets a piece of the profit sharing pie.)

Having only published my Regencies in paperback, I'll be discussing these for my numbers.

No matter which book of mine you buy, it cost me almost $5.00 (average) to produce. That's how much Create Space charges me to "make" one book. Even if I order 100 copies, that price doesn't change. (The only thing that changes is the shipping price. If I order one book, it cost $3.95 to ship to me, if I order 100, the shipping price is .80 cents per book.) And the shipping price is not built into the average above, so we're looking at around $5.50 to "make" a book. (and that's if I want to hand-sell at events and such.)

So for some real numbers --

On average, if I sell my book for $14.99, I make about an $8.00 profit if you buy my books from my website at the Create Space "store" I set up. (Yes, I know the math is wrong from above, but I've never been good at math. I'm missing the actual page count numbers -- Create Space charges a finite amount for pages, so, the more pages a book has, the more they charge to make it.)

At $12.99, the profit decreases by $2.00, naturally. And so on and so forth.
However, if you buy the book from Amazon, my profit decreases by another $3.00. So on a book priced at $14.99, I'm only making $5.00. At $12.99, around $3.00. Not nearly the 70% profit margin I make in e-versions. (But that's another blog post.)

And to get down to the real nitty gritty -- if you should buy my book from a bookseller, say Ralph's Bookstore in Seattle, (who in this scenario would be a third party dealer -- known in the industry as an extended distributor ) I make only $1.50. That's a big drop from nearly $8.00 if you buy direct from me on my website. I have no idea what the percentage is for this. Like I said I can't do math, but it's pretty big. More than 50% I know.

In the publishing industry, everyone makes money. Well, I guess in every industry, right? Everyone needs a cut.

Now, I've read some blog posts that say putting a Create Space link on your website to sell your books is kind of a sleazy thing to do. It makes you look like you're money hungry. Like you're trying to get the most out of your book and duping the customers who buy it.


Duping them into what? It's the same book if they buy it from me or Amazon or Ralph in Seattle. The only difference is, I'm making more money. And shouldn't I benefit from that? I mean, I was the one who wrote the book in the first place. I slaved through how many revisions, rewrites, formats, cover designs, and then the final push of marketing and promotion. Why shouldn't I get the most out of my book as I can? If I'm doing all the work, shouldn't I get more pieces of the pie?

Author, proofreader, copywriter, book designer, formatter, marketing manager, publicist. That's a lot of hats for a self-published author, and if I paid everyone of those people (as the publisher) they'd make about $1.15 each.

If I wanted to buy blueberries, would I go to a supermarket and put money in their pocket, or would I go directly to the farmer and put money in his? I'd rather put money into the farmers pocket directly. He's the one who kept the crows from eating them, watered them during the drought, and picked them by hand to ensure their quality.

My advice to you, if you do decide to buy a paperback book, not just from me, but from anyone, especially if they're self-published -- buy it from their website, (or blog if that is their website -- like mine are). The author will make more money than if you buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or from any other bookstore. And don't you want the author to make more money? Isn't that what book buying is all about?

They create a product you want and like. Don't you want to support them directly? And why would you want to support Amazon? (If that's where you buy your books from -- they're taking money out of the author's pocket.) And I didn't tell you that so you would buy one of my books, I told you that to help you think about HOW you buy books and from where. I always want the creator of a piece of work to get the best part of the deal, don't you. I mean, it all goes back to blueberries, doesn't it? Just cut out the middleman.

And yes, I know that Amazon offers deals on shipping and percentages off on books with their Prime Membership and all that. But are you really saving all that much money? Would you rather support Amazon and their global industry or would rather support the local economy and give a well-deserved hard working author a chance to support themselves?

Think about that -- that's all I'm saying.

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

And just so you know, I dropped all the prices on my Regeny romances to $12.99, with the exception of THE LADY'S MASQUERADE which is now $10.99. You can find them all at my Anne Gallagher blog.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Drama Continues....

I bet you think I'm talking about the latest story I wrote. I'm not. Today it's all about my mother.

As a good friend of mine once asked, "When did we become the adults, and our parents become the whiny, bratty children?"

You see, we were supposed to rent a beach house for a month back home in Rhode Island. But then my father had a melanoma scare. We had to wait until July 10 for the results from his test. So my mother put off the idea of going up until we knew what was going on with my father. Luckily, the results of the surgery came back negative. yay

So he's all comfy cozy, not going to die, or have to have chemo. Which means, we're free to do whatever we want for the rest of the summer.

I told my mother if she wanted to rent a beach house up there, she needed to get on the stick and find one in January. By March, everything is booked solid. (I used to live in a resort town, I know how it works.) And naturally, my mother didn't do that.

Having owned our own beach house for 30 years, my mother can't grasp the concept that she must "rent" now. She thinks we can just go up there, and something will magically appear. For less than $500- a week. (I've checked -- if you can find something for a $1000- a week, you're doing something.)

Now, she has a good friend that we (Monster, me and my mother) stayed with a couple of years ago. It's right up the street from the beach, very quiet and cozy, and even though I was worried Monster would drive the old lady crazy, she didn't. She was a very good little kid.

However, this year, my mother doesn't want to bother Mary. (Mary's 85.) Well, actually, my mother doesn't want ME to bother Mary. I don't know why, I cook, clean, and stay out of Mary's way. We were down the beach most days last time. It's not like we throw giant parties or drink or I have 10 kids.

So I told my mother that she could stay at Mary's and I would stay with my cousins. Or rather that Monster and I would stay in my brother's camp trailer at my cousins house. They have a pool, and a 2 year old girl that Monster could play with. (She's very good with little kids.)

You'd think I told my mother I was going to stay on the moon. "Well, I have stuff to do when I go up there. I don't need to be carting you and Monster to and from the beach everyday."

Um, did you miss the fact there's a POOL at my cousins house? A big freaking pool. That nobody uses. Monster doesn't care where she swims, as long as she CAN swim.

I get the idea that my mother doesn't want me around. Problem is, my father won't let her drive up there alone, so someone has to drive her. And that would be me. And wherever I go, Monster goes.

And you know, I need a vacation. Bad. I'm almost ready to chuck the whole idea of doing anything with my mother and just packing me and Monster a suitcase and cruising up there by ourselves. But if I do, then my mother will just be a whiny brat.

All I know is she needs to make up her mind what she's going to do within the next two weeks. I've got someone lined up to watch the dogs. I've got the bills paid through August. I AM going to the beach, whether up there or in NC.

I don't understand -- I gave her two viable options to stay in RI. What is the big deal? Pick one and let's get on with it. Why is there all this drama?

Robynne Rand (c) 2013