Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why I Decided to Self-Publish


In case you missed my recent announcement, my next book, Keep No Secrets (the sequel to Tell No Lies) will be hitting the virtual book shelves very, very soon (ebook and print), and this time I've decided to self-publish it. Also, I recently got the rights back to my first two novels, Tell No Lies and Rescuing Olivia, and I've re-released Tell No Lies as an ebook on Amazon (only $2.99!). Rescuing Olivia will follow any day now.

Of course, the first question I received from many folks after making this announcement (primarily other writers, but not always) was this: Why did you decide to self-publish?

The answer is a lengthy one, and it's multi-faceted. There really isn't just one reason.

So in the interest of saving myself the trouble of having to answer the question over and over, and also realizing that there are probably people who want to know but are too afraid to ask, I've decided to discuss it here on my blog. The full answer will come piecemeal – one, because as I said, it's long and multi-faceted, and, two, because on any given day I remember more of my reasons. (I'll also add the answers to my website, so by the time I'm done, all of my answers can be found in one place.)

Today, I'll start with two, very simple reasons.

Reason #1 why I decided to self-publish: As I write, it's been twenty days since I first released Tell No Lies by uploading it as an ebook to Amazon. In those twenty days, I've sold more copies of the book than I've sold in the past two years. Surprised? So was I, but only a little.

See, with traditional publishing, your book is released and it hits the shelves in some bookstores (but not, as some think, in most bookstores – I'll discuss this further in a later post), where it remains for two months or so (if you're lucky), and then any leftover copies are returned to your publisher to make room on the shelves for the next crop of releases. After that, the print book can still be purchased (1) from the bookstore if you want to wait for them to order it and get it in, or (2) online, either as a print book or as an ebook, but the print book is now competing with the used copies being resold for two cents, and the ebook, priced at $9.99 or sometimes even higher, is competing against all of the other $9.99 books by New York Times bestsellers and the free, 99 cents, $1.99 and $2.99, etc. books by authors doing it themselves. In other words, once you reach this point, you won't be selling too many more copies. The heyday of your book's life is behind it.

By getting my rights back and re-releasing Tell No Lies and Rescuing Olivia, I'm able to give the books a little CPR and bring them back to life. Forever. Plus, I can set my own price so they stand a chance of competing against the books mentioned above. It's amazing how many people are willing to give a relatively unknown author a chance when they're asked to spend only $2.99 to do it. You don't get the benefit of that “sampling” when your book is priced at $9.99 or higher.

You might ask, why do traditional publishers set the price of ebooks, especially for lesser known authors like me, so high? Beats me. Or rather, I know why – I simply don't understand why. Again, that's a whole other post, but if you want a great explanation now, I'll refer you to a short book (free!) called Be the Monkey - Ebooks and Self-Publishing: A Dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath. Frankly, I'd call it required reading for anyone considering any kind of publishing in this day and age. Do I agree with everything they say? No, but the discussion of print and digital publishing is spot on, in my opinion.

Reason #2 why I decided to self-publish: The traditional publishing route isn't as glamorous as it's cracked up to be.

I could try to explain this, but I would never be able to write such a funny, yet honest explanation as given by Adam Mansbach in this essay he wrote for If you really want to know what it's like, all I can say is: What Adam said!

So that's it for today, folks. Time to get back to preparing Rescuing Olivia for its re-release. Stay tuned for more reasons . . .

I welcome all comments or questions about my decision and my experience. I'll try to answer as best I can. (If a question would be answered by an upcoming “Reason why” post, I may defer my answer to then so I can answer it adequately. Please be patient. I still have to find time to actually write fiction.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not here to declare one way is better than another. My intent is to discuss why I've decided to do this at this point in time. Will I always do it this way? Who knows? This is a new venture for me and I may end up loving it or I may end up hating it. Would I consider going back to traditional publishing? It depends. I know plenty of authors who are doing both, and I can see that as a possibility if the terms were right. After all, there was a time when I didn't think I'd ever write a sequel to Tell No Lies. But I did. So if I've learned anything, it's never to say never. The beauty of what I'm doing is that I can be flexible.

So, if you're interested in the details of my journey, stick around and follow along. If all you care about are the books – that's great, too! I recommend signing up for my mailing list, though, so you won't miss the news of any upcoming releases.

Talk to you soon!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Nancy Cohen on Reader Reviews: An Author's Best Friend

I met fellow author Nancy J. Cohen through the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She recently wrote a great post on her blog, Nancy's Notes from Florida, about how readers can help authors whose books they enjoy. With her permission, I'm re-posting it here for your reading pleasure.

Nancy's post:

When you finish reading a book, do you write a brief review and post it online? If your answer is negative, why not? Do you feel you have nothing to say? Are you afraid your opinion won’t count? Is it too much bother?

Reader reviews count a great deal to potential book buyers. When you’re thinking of ordering a book, do you go to the virtual bookstore and read customer reviews? I know I do. It’s possible that the more customer reviews on an Amazon page, the more chances of Amazon’s algorithms picking up the title and including it in their promotion, “If you like this book, you might like…” This recommendation is of tremendous help to authors. So are five star reviews. But be honest in your opinion and assign however many stars you feel is appropriate. Just please don’t trash someone’s work. If you don’t like the book, leave off your opinion. Nothing hurts worse than seeing someone give my book one star and condemning it. Maybe it just wasn’t their cup of tea and another reader will love it.

So how do you write a review? Start out with a blurb about the story. Pretend you are summarizing the tale for a friend, but omit any critical plot points that may act as spoilers. Then mention what you liked about the book. The exquisite setting details? The engaging characters? The non-stop action, or the quirky sidekick? Surely you can find something good to say. End your review if you can with a quotable line encapsulating your opinion. This may range from “A charming historical mystery that will sweep you away to the Victorian era” to “Starships, space battles, and snarky sidekicks…what’s not to like about this action-packed sci-fi adventure?”

Since the New Year is upon us, hereby resolve to start writing reader reviews and posting them online to support your favorite authors. Where to put them? Here are several sites where your opinion matters.

Go to the book’s page. Scroll down to where is says Most Helpful Customer Reviews. Scroll down some more until it says Write a Customer Review. Then click there and follow the directions. You’ll need to be signed into your account. Preview and Publish your review as the final steps.

If you want to see my reviews as an example, go here.

And if you’ve read any of my books, even backlist titles, I can use more reviews! Go here to access a list of all my titles.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble is often overlooked, but with so many NOOK owners, this online bookstore still carries weight. On a book’s page, scroll down to where it says Customer Reviews. Then fill in your star rating and write your review in the box provided. Click Submit to finish. Again, you’ll probably need to be signed into your account first.

Here’s my author site on B&N. This online bookstore isn’t as author friendly as Amazon so it’s harder for us to make changes, like eliminating books under my name that don’t belong there.


Goodreads is a popular reader site where readers review books they’ve read, file these reviews on virtual bookshelves and create genre lists. Readers participate in group discussions, offering each other recommendations. A good review here really helps, and so does a recommendation in any of the groups! You can also look for book giveaways under Explore to get a taste of new releases. It’s easy to register for a free account. Then you just go to My Books, click on Add Books, and type in the book title. The book should pop up. Click on it and give it a star rating. Then click on Edit my Review and write in your review, or cut and paste it from your home computer. Be my friend at Goodreads

Library Thing

Here’s another site for you to post reviews and keep track of your reads. I need to update my bookshelf here. Librarians frequent this site. Find me on Library Thing here. And, it’s another place for authors to offer giveaways of upcoming new releases.


This site is linked to Amazon, so any book details you add in here may show up there. I need to update my reviews on Shelfari, too: .

Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with each place. Once I get caught up, though, I can just copy and paste my book review to each site once I finish reading a title.

Your opinion as a reader truly counts now more than ever, with professional reviews almost impossible for authors to get on their own, reviewers swamped with hundreds of titles, and the days of bookstore browsing severely diminished. Word of mouth is critical, and this is where you come in. Offering positive reviews and recommendations online of books you’ve read is one of the best forms of support you can do for authors. Consider yourselves our street team, and get involved.

Are you already doing online reviews, and if so, where?

Learn more about Nancy J. Cohen and her books at her website.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

My New Year's Resolution: to Keep No Secrets . . .

If you're connected with me on Facebook, you might have noticed a few posts in which I hinted at some exciting news. It's also a bit scary - for me, at least, because I'm trying something new and might just as easily fall flat on my face as succeed. But as I've always told my daughters - nothing ventured, nothing gained - and I figure I'd better practice what I preach. Plus, I've always been a bit of a control freak (those who know me well are smirking about now), and what I've chosen to do places the responsibility for the success or failure of my writing career squarely on my own shoulders. Just the way I like it!

For those who are interested, I'll be sharing "the story behind the story" on this blog in the next few weeks, discussing why I've chosen this new route. But for today, I'm simply sharing the meat of the news:

KEEP NO SECRETS, the sequel to my debut novel, TELL NO LIES, is just weeks away from being published, and this time I'm doing it myself! Okay, not all by myself: I've got a fabulous new cover designed by an up-and-coming designer at SCAD (who just happens to be my oldest daughter, Jessie):

For those of you who read TELL NO LIES, you probably can tell from the KEEP NO SECRETS cover that a key character from the first book will be making an appearance in the sequel. A big appearance.

For a sneak preview of KEEP NO SECRETS, click on over to my website to read the first chapter.

Speaking of TELL NO LIES, it, too, has a brand new cover (courtesy of Jessie) that nicely complements KEEP NO SECRETS, and just days ago I re-released the eBook edition on Amazon. The Kindle edition of TELL NO LIES is now priced at only $2.99! That's right, for less than a Starbucks grande nonfat mocha latte, you can buy an entire book! (Even if you've read the novel, I'd really appreciate it if you'd "Like" it on the Amazon page, and even better, if you'd write a review. I'm told these things help a book rise in the Amazon search rankings, which in turn helps other readers find it.) Oh, and did you know you can also buy an eBook and gift it to someone else?

So that's the news! If you like my books, it would mean a lot to me if you'd tell others about them.

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of nitty, gritty details behind my decision, and for those who want to know more, I'd recommend following this blog and/or connecting with me on Facebook. Eventually, the FAQ section of my website will discuss it a bit, too. And of course, I always love to get emails!

As always, THANK YOU for your interest and continued support! The notes and emails and comments I get from my readers are the best part of what I do - right up there with the incredible joy I get from the actual act of writing. Last night, on New Year's Eve, a reader posted a comment on my Facebook page that said:
"julie please im so scared! i need this book like air! ive been waiting for so long. but im so scared im scared hes going to break my heart all over again. please tell me he wont"
What a lovely note to start the New Year! The funny thing is, all of my readers, and notes like these that come from them, are MY air. So thank you for helping me breathe!

Here's hoping all of you have a fantastic 2013!