Scene CPR – The On-line Workshop

Coming up in just a few weeks is the new and improved, and also extended, version of my craft of writing workshop Scene CPR: Breathing Life Into Ailing Scenes With Scene Goals, Disasters & Sequels.  This is a great workshop for beginners or professionals, focusing on a set of writing tools that bring scenes and scene sequels into focus, help you plan and/or revise your manuscript, and give your manuscript more page turning power.

These tools are the foundation of every scene or sequel in your manuscript.

If you’ve taken my Scene CPR workshop before, please note that this time it is four weeks long, instead of 2 weeks (or two hours if you’ve taken the “live” workshop!).  I’m including a lot of new examples, and will be delving into more variations on the techniques than I was able to previously. 

If you haven’t taken an on-line workshop before, they are pretty easy to manage.  You don’t have to be on-line at any specific time and can actively participate or lurk as you feel works best for you (though I advocate active participation as you get more out of a workshop that way!).  I’ll post 2-3 lectures with exercises per week.  There will be some reading with the exercises, also posted. In between you get to ask questions and pick my brain.  There’s plenty of opportunity (and encouragement!) to apply the exercises to your own work, but I do not require you to post your scenes to the group.  If you want more specifics about how the workshops are run from the technical side please click on the link below and contact the workshop coordinator — I’m just the teacher, not the techie.  If you want more information about the content or organization of the workshop, you can contact me at Laurin@Wittig.com

So here’s the skinny – click on the link for full registration info: 

Scene CPR: Breathing Life Into Ailing Scenes With Scene Goals, Disasters & Sequels 
March 4-31, 2011
Through Lowcountry Romance Writers on-line workshops
Registration deadline: March 2, 2011
Workshop fee: $16

I hope you’ll join me on-line in March!

P.S. Please feel free to share this post with your writing friends.  Share buttons below make it easy!

Pricing eBooks: Food for thought

I’ve been having a great ongoing conversation with my two best friends, one yet-to-be-published and one a NYT and USA Today best-selling author, about the shift in the publishing world that is happening.  Yes, I’m talking about the surge not only of ebooks, but of authors re-publishing their backlists themselves via the usual e-outlets, Amazon, B&N, etc., and the choice that is now viable for both traditionally published and not-yet-published authors – Independent e-publishing.

One facet of the conversation, not just between me and my friends, but between everyone involved in publishing and, perhaps more importantly, readers, is the pricing of e-books.  I regularly choose not to buy books I’d like to read because the Kindle price (my e-reader of choice) is equal to, or, amazingly, more than the price of the paper version.  This is not Amazon’s doing. It’s the publisher’s doing.  I regularly tag those books as too expensive because, well, I need to vent my frustration somewhere and that seems a relatively civil way to go about it.

Pamela Palmer, the said best-selling friend, sent me a link today to a great article on the pricing issue.  Now there’s math in this article that, frankly, I might have understood back in grad school when I was taking statistics but find incomprehensible today.  However, there are pretty graphs (I love a good visual aide!) so skim over the math if it bothers you, but do look at what this guy learns from his analysis.   In a nutshell, publishers are kidding themselves if they think they can’t lower e-book prices and still get a damn good return on a per book basis and sell more books.

Evil Genius Chronicles: Ebook Pricing vs Revenue

Seems I’m not the only one that thinks ebooks can be, and should be, priced lower than their dead tree counterparts. 

Your mileage may vary, but here’s my personal experience with this pricing issue:  Only one of my books had ever been released electronically by its NYC publisher.  In the last 6 months it was available from the publisher (roughly the second half of 2009) it sold 6 copies (down from 12 the previous royalty period), priced at $5.99, the same price as the paperback.  When I republished that book electronically, priced at $2.99, it sold 6 copies the first day and has gone on to a respectable 83 copies sold in December at Amazon alone.

Shameless self promotion: My backlist eBooks are all priced at $2.99. It’s working for me.

It’s becoming more and more clear that the traditional publishers are scrambling to keep up with the rapid changes in the book world.  Let’s hope they all figure out the pricing issues soon.  It will be a win-win-win for publishers, their authors, and readers if that happens!

It’s a Writer’s Revolution

The following article was first published in the January, 2011, Virginia Romance Writers newsletter, Novel Ideas:

The e-book buzz has been building for years but now, with e-reader prices coming down, readers are moving to e-books at a faster and faster clip.  

It’s an exciting new world for readers. 

As e-books become a more important part of the market, publishers have to figure out how to shift to accommodate multiple formats, enhanced content, pricing expectations, and timing of digital vs. print releases. 

It’s an expanded and complicated new world for publishers. 

New ways to publish books digitally and directly to distributors means writers have options they never had before.  Backlist books can have new life.  Unmarketable stories (according to agents or editors or marketing departments) can find their niches.  Or traditional publishers can be skipped for the independent route altogether.

It’s a revolutionary new world for writers.

In the last quarter of 2010, I became a revolutionary.  About a year and a half ago I started reading A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Joe Konrath’s blog, and I started to get excited by the possibilities of this new paradigm in publishing. I realized that my backlist, all out of print, though one was still offered electronically, was languishing.  A whisper was beginning among published authors that perhaps, just maybe, we could take these oop books back and give them a new and exciting future.  Maybe, just maybe, we could take back control of our careers and find new ways to be published authors.

I started by getting my rights back from my publisher — a lengthy, but ultimately not difficult process, especially since my agent managed this. Over the summer I found a talented young artist to create new covers for my books, and I began to proof my electronic copies of my books against the edited paperback versions.  Next I used the Smashwords.com formatting guide to get my files ready for publication.  In late September, 2010, I put The Devil of Kilmartin up at Kindle, then Smashwords.  It had been the only one of my backlist available from my publisher electronically. 

In the previous royalty period (six months) it had sold six electronic copies at the paperback price of $5.99 with a 15% royalty.  The first week it was up at Kindle for $2.99 (70% royalty on US and UK sales!) it sold six copies without me doing anything other than adding it to my signature line on my emails. Two of those sales happened before I even told anyone the book was available. 

In one week I’d equaled the previous six months worth of sales.

In October I republished Charming the Shrew and Daring the Highlander.  I joined Backlist eBooks, a marketing group dedicated to authors republishing their traditionally published backlist books, began tweeting more often, and stuck my toe in the water at Kindle Boards.  In November I revamped my website completely.  I joined KindleKlatch, an email loop dedicated to the topic of marketing e-books (backlist and digital originals) for traditionally published authors.  Every time I get a moment to catch up on my email loops, I learn new things about prepping books for the different e-reader formats, new spinoff services for those who don’t want to do the prep work themselves, and new ways to get the word out, not just about my specific book, but about the whole idea of e-books. 

My sales are steadily rising from that modest beginning of 6 copies sold in September, to a total of 227 copies as of December 15th at Amazon, and 14 at Smashwords.  Smashwords has also distributed my books to all the other major e-book retailers and I’ve just begun to get sales reports from those sources: 13 copies at Barnes & Noble, 1 at Sony, and 2 at Apple. The books were also distributed to Kobo and Diesel, but so far no sales have been reported through those outlets.  I hear of many authors who are doing a lot more sales than I am, but again, I haven’t done much for marketing yet and I only have three books available so far.

What does this new publishing paradigm hold for the not-yet-published writer?  It’s hard to say, but there are stories cropping up of those never traditionally published authors who are going the indie route and are being discovered by readers.  Professional editing, professional covers, a professional looking web site, great book blurbs and as many reviews as possible are all required to show your book, whether previously published or independently published, is a professional product.  It’s a lot of work that traditional publishers have done for authors in the past, but in exchange for doing the work yourself (or hiring professionals to do it for you) you will have more control over your books and your career.  For some writers the trade off isn’t worth the work and, honestly, the up-front money.  For others, it opens up new vistas. 

Fortunately, both paths to publication are available and both have obstacles and opportunities. Many authors are taking both paths, using the new paradigm for some books and the traditional paradigm for others.

However, the revolution is gaining momentum as more and more authors see the possibilities of this new publishing model.  Readers are also jumping on board with blogs and bulletin boards dedicated to bargain e-books and indie e-books.  Marketers and PR folks are starting to join the revolution as the method of getting the word out changes to match the e-format of the books themselves.  Artists, editors and copyeditors are finding new work as authors begin to seek out professional services themselves, rather than through the traditional publication process.

This new path has allowed me to rediscover the thrill of both publishing and writing after a long disenchanted lull in my career. I’m working on a new Scottish historical now.  I’ll publish it myself.  It’s a lot of work, and there are no guarantees of success, but then, that’s writing. My publishing future will be in my own hands. 

I’m taking the revolutionary route.

Please visit Laurin’s book site, LaurinWittig.com , for more info on her latest ebooks.

Happy New Year!

Every year, about this time, my two critique partners and I set goals for the year.  There’s a little of that lose-10-pounds sort of thing, but mostly we focus on writing goals, both the creative side and the business side.  We start by assessing how we did on the previous year’s goals, then set new ones.  I find I almost never look back at those goals as the year goes along (not after January, anyway) but I always accomplish better than 75% of them.  Just writing them down and sharing them with trusted friends seems to set them in my subconscious and keep me (mostly) on track.  I think it sets them in my friends’ minds, too, so they help steer me back on track when I wander off chasing pretty butterflies.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m big on goals as a craft tool for writing, but setting personal goals FOR your writing is also a useful tool.  I got friended on Facebook by The Happy Writer today and discovered a wonderful new blog that I intend to follow closely this year.  Shannon McKelden has written a good post at The Happy Writer on the topic of setting goals, so instead of me repeating myself go here and enjoy!

Contest Congratulations!

Celebrate!Big congratulations going out to not one but two Between the Lines Critiques clients for their great showings in the On The Far Side writing contest sponsored by the RWA Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter (FF&P)!

Jennifer Parkinson received an Honorable Mention in the Dark/Light/General Paranormal category for A Surefire Way.

Isis Rushdan received second place in the Dark/Urban/General Fantasy category for Paradox

I didn’t critique Paradox, but I did get to work on another of Isis’s great stories, Kindred of the Fallen, and it’s doing great on the contest circuit, too!

Congratulations to both of these great writers!  Many wishes for continued success with your work!

Laurin

Adventures in Republishing

Charming the Shrew - The MacLeods Book IIt’s been quite a while since I’ve had a book out so I’m really excited to have, over the last couple of months, republished my backlist electronically.  The Devil of Kilmartin, Charming the Shrew (The MacLeods Book I), and Daring the Highlander (The MacLeods Book II) are all now available through Smashwords.com, Kindle (US and UK stores), and at least Devil has been distributed to most other ebook retailers.  The other two are in the pipeline for those other retailers and will, hopefully, show up there before Christmas day.

I never liked the way the business of publishing treated (most) authors in general, or me, in particular, so this has put the control, and the full responsibility, back in my hands, which is right where I want it.  As a result of this empowering process, I’ve rediscovered the thrill of both publishing (it’s always fun to have books out where readers can find them!) and of writing, after a long lull.  It’s particularly gratifying to be able to check the sales reports at Amazon and Smashwords and see books actually being sold! 

Three dead books now have new life.  What can I say – that makes me happy.

Daring the Highlander - The MacLeods Book IIIt’s been a steep learning curve just to get the books republished, and I’m now embarking on the brave new world of marketing ebooks – another steep learning curve from what I can tell.   If you’re considering taking this path with your backlist, I’m happy to share my experience.  If you have knowledge about marketing ebooks (and I know some of you do!) I’d love to know what’s worked for you, and what hasn’t.  It’s been a few years since I had to play the marketing game and everything has changed just that fast.

If you’ve never been traditionally published, I’m not sure what my advice is on whether to independently e-publish or to stick it out and go for a traditional publisher.  There is still a certain status that is conveyed simply by a traditional publisher taking a chance on you and your book.  At the moment, there really isn’t an equivalent “gate keeper” on the independent publishing side of the business.  I’m not saying there should be, just that we are in a between area right now and the judge of what makes a “professional” writer still falls on the side of traditional publishers.  

But that’s going to change. 

I’m not sure how that change will manifest or exactly when the validity of a well-selling independently published ebook will begin to bestow “professional writer” or “a writer to be taken seriously” status, but it’s going to happen and not that far in the future.

But in the meantime, there is still value to a writer’s career in going the traditional route with a traditional publisher.   You need to assess that value when deciding which roThe Devil of Kilmartinute you want to pursue in publishing.

So as Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, I find I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is that once more these books that I love have been given a new lease on life, and I’ve been given a renewed sense of optimism about the book publishing industry.  I think that’s a pretty good place to be.

 I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 Laurin

Brainstorming at the Beach: Ninc Conference

Novelists, Inc held their conference on Oct. 6 – 10 at the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach in Florida this year.  It was my first time at a Ninc conference, but it won’t be my last.   The conference was a phenomenal experience (if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ve heard me rave about this conference already and maybe seen some pics from the beach). 

One author I met there was Sasha White.  Sasha did a series of interviews of the attendees and speakers and is putting them up on a couple of blogs she posts on.  Here’s one, and yes, that’s me in the shades at the beginning:

Sasha is posting more video interviews from the Ninc conference at her blog: http://www.sashawhite.net/blog/ 

I have a ton to report from the conference as well, but for now I’ll let Sasha sum it up for me!

Laurin

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