Friday, February 18, 2011


I think I over do it sometimes.
I take that back. I know I do!

The world of a writer can be overwhelming. I've talked about this before. If my memory serves me correct, I think I said that writers are perfect candidates to be sent off to Crazyville. And if you're a writer, you know what I'm talking about, because you're probably half way there already. Today, however, I'd like to relax and take a minute to recharge my lit-thuim batteries...Get it? Lit as in literary and thium as in lithium, ah never mind! I've never been much of a humorist. Seriously. Ask anyone who knows me; I'm pretty dull, and I rarely get jokes. Guess that's why God made me a thriller/suspense writer. Anyway, I digress. But that's okay...because I'm relaxing...I'm chillin'.

That's right. I'm going to slow down for a couple of hours and stop thinking about books, and writing, and publishing, and cover art, and blog tours, and ISBN numbers, and wholesale discounts, and return policies, and blog posts (ehem), and Pixels Per Inch, and reading, and studying, and Garamond font, and setting up accounts, and web traffic, and, and, and! Whew! I really needed to throw all that junk on the table. Hope you don't mind me regurgitating my literary vomit in front of you. Sorry. I know - that's gross. But so is having a one track mind. And that's the point.

I can become pretty yucky when all I think about is writing. Ask any writer! I'm sure he or she has been there before. Writers are all too familiar with the tell-tell-signs of our friends and family going on with their lives, saddened, as we wander off into the writing abyss of MSs and all the other crap that we find ourselves wrapped up, twisted and drowning in. They have this look about them that screams "There he goes again... off into the stormy sea of words and busy work that means so little to us! Man over board! Dads lost it! Hurry! Get the life preserver. He's turning blue!"

Do you ever get that? Do you have a method to keep you in check? I don't and that's why I'm writing this post. Well I take that back. Now that I mention it, I do have this new rule that after 8:00 pm when I'm home - I'm done with all my writing stuff - everything, emails, twitter posts, facebook, etc. But other than that, I've got a bad case of authorschizoitis - as in I can't stop, 'cause I choose to embrace everything they tell us writers are supposed to do. I know. You're shaking your head. Poor, poor, Jeff.

Thank you for the sympathy. But there's no need for pity.

I'm going out on a limb here, but aren't writers supposed to embrace the more important things in life like family, balance, health and faith? Or should I ask - Can we embrace those things if we need meds for authorschizoitis?

Maybe you aren't here...yet...where I am. But when you get there, be sure to shoot off a flare, wave a white flag and RELAX. I am...for a time...and it feels good. BOOM!

Be sure to get your copy of The Red Church, by Scott Nicholson. It's the Thrill of the Week. Do you have a thriller worthy of next weeks thrill? Let me know and I'll post it FREE!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Trailers 101

I don't know about you, but sometimes the post-editorial aspects of publishing can be almost as fun as writing the book in the first place. Take for instance, the book cover. You all know how much fun I had designing and laying out that puppy! And then there was the contest (i.e. subliminal book promotion). How fun was that?  And if you thought I was finished with the pre-pub excitement...I get to talk about book trailers. Oh yes, the HOT new method to promote your book.

They say the best way to get your message across today is through video. That's right, if you want anyone who's anyone to notice your precious little baby, you have to go VIRAL! Of course being the high tech wannabe that I am, I have to get in on the action. It cost me $5 to make a decent book promo. And I'm going to tell you how I do it!

It's easy really. I use It's FREE if you only create a 30 second video. But that's not much time. I upgraded to the "Plus" account ($5 a month), so I can make a 60+ second trailer. When I'm done using the program, I end my subscription and pay only $5 for each month used.

Basically all you have to do is upload pictures, text or video into the slots provided. They offer several backgrounds to choose from and a pretty good sized library of music. can pick any style of music to match the genre of your book. The pace of the video and the type of action displayed, is based on the genre and song choice. And you will never get the same results twice, because every time you make a change, Animoto recalculates the entire sequence.

In my opinion, the videos turn out very classy. Yet, there is more to the book trailer concept than flashy graphics and sweet tunes. You have to tell the story. And here are lots of companies that will do that for you. A book marketer can create a video with more text options, video and the mother of them all, the book trailer that actually plays out like a movie. And lets not forget the good old fashioned author interview!

Or, if you have a good digital video producing program, you can do it yourself!

In order to be the helpful guy that I am, I looked up a few companies that offer this service. There's a whole lot more of them, but this'll get you started. I'm pasting the links further down the page.

THE REAL QUESTION is...are book trailers worth the expense? Do they pay for themselves in book sales? I think they can. I think they have the ability to generate excitement. But do they bring the right reader to the point of sale? That's the million dollar question. I could've upgraded to $39 a month and had a link button at the end that'll take the reader directly to the point of sale...but I didn't...not yet anyway.

What do you think? Have you had any luck with book trailers or live author interviews? Let me know. BOOM!

Book Video Creation - Their videos looked pretty decent and cost anywhere from $99-$299 for more advanced videos.

Book - This producer makes really good trailers. They made the video for the best seller "Huck"

Ghost Writer's Extraordinaire - They're more affordable, although quality is a bit lower. Prices start around $79.

Again, I am not an affiliate! I do not get paid for posting these links.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

CreateSpace or Lightning Source???

Are you an indie author preparing to publish your latest and greatest work of art? Your masterpiece? Your baby? If so I want to applaud you and congratulate you for accomplishing one of life’s greatest feats. Lots of people talk about writing a are one of the few who actually did it!

But wait!
Before you ship your precious baby off to LuLu or CreateSpace, did you get your little darling professionally edited? I hope so! Is the cover art up to snuff? It better be! What about the interior? Is your PDF perfect? Are your ebook paragraph indentions and chapter headings in the right place? I sure hope so.

Have you thought about using Lightning Source as your printer? Huh? Who? Lightning Source, L-i-g-h-t….oh, never mind! Lightning-Source is one the biggest and best printers for small and independent publishers…and if your an indie author, that means you! After much debate and research I’ve decided that there is no better choice.

If you're interested in selling digital books only and paperback books via Amazon & B&N, than Create-Space or LuLu is probably the best place to go for your print copies. They’re quick, cheap, easy and come with a FREE ISBN. But if you want to sell books to brick-n-mortar stores or have a book signing at your local B&N or Books-a-Million, you better go with Lightning Source. 

Don't let CS or LULU fool you into thinking advanced distribution means you can sell in stores...You can't!       

Here's a few things you need to know that CS & LuLu won't tell you.

  •      Lulu and CS, do not offer the industry standard wholesale discount of 40-55% to retailers. They offer more like 25%, which is not high enough to get into stores. I tried having a book signing 10 miles from my house with a B-a-M and they flat refused, because my book did not offer a 40% discount through Baker & Taylor. I had no idea! I thought I had paid for full distribution. WRONG!

  •      Another major stopper is the issue of “Returns”. If you want to get your book into stores, you have to offer returns (be willing to pay the bookstore back the wholesale price of the book if they don’t sell). Some local stores and B & N’s might let you place a book on consignment…but maybe not. Most stores demand that your book be returnable, especially if they want to buy it through their distributor.

  •      Lightning Source, allows you to do both. You can choose the wholesale discount and the method of taking returns. You can pick a 25, 40, or 50% wholesale margain! And, you don’t have to feel embarrassed when you tell your local bookstore manager that your book is non-returnable.

  •      At lightning Source, you are the publisher, no longer giving Create-Space 60% of your wholesale margin. You do, however, have to provide a print ready cover (front-back-spline) and interior PDF’s. But fear not, if you can’t learn to do this yourself, there are many affordable folks out there who will format your interior for $99 and create a polished cover for around $300 or less (I paid $40 to have an artist add the back cover to my front cover that I designed. That’s extra, but a great incentive to learn how to make a good cover! If you were planning to sell in stores, it could be worth the expense. Besides, $300 is cheaper than the going rate for many self-publishing companies who offer custom covers.

  •             Lightning Source will also upload your book to Amazon and B&N and other sources for you. Best of all, you get ALL the publisher's profit! You have to do a little more work, but it’s worth it.

  •      Lightning Source offers great service! You get to talk with a real person. So if you have questions, you just dial a number and POW! there’s a live person BAM! on the line SMACK! waiting to help. (How'd you like the Batman reference?)

  •     Lightning Source is cheap. A $75 set up fee and a $12 a year renewable print fee. That may sound like more than the $0 for Lulu and CreateSpace' $39 Advanced Distribution Channel. You'll have to buy your own ISBN, which can cost up to $125, or as little as $1, depends on how many you buy, but you will be the publisher. Period.

Listen, if you want to go indie, and go all the way, you have to think like a publisher...become a publisher and LEARN everything that goes with it. 

  • You have do what they do. 
  • Get Arc’s (advance reading copies) and send them out to reviewers. 
  • You have to take your time and plan a blog tour, contests, giveaways! 
Publishing isn’t just about writing a book and having it magically appear on Amazon. There’s a reason the process takes 2 years in the Pub industry. Even if you publish an eBook, you should still take your time, get it edited, polish your cover and publicize and get reviews first.

If you think of self-publishing is a business, indie authors will always have a much leaner structure. You only have to report to yourself and your readers; you owe them that much. Anyway, you can get that book out their quickly, professionally, and with the same quality and wholesale policies as the big boys, but ONLY through Lightning Source.

I used Lightning Source with REUNION and it's only cost me about $100 to get my cover assembled. 

I used CS to get an initial proof of the interior and Cover art. They did a great job, but in the end, I’m going to publish more books (Act of Vengeance in October 2011), and I’d like to be professional and match publishers pricing, discounts and returnability. 

We indies have a stigma of poor quality to overcome. It’s time we take the bull by the horns, create our own destiny and do this right! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Mistakefree Zone!

"This is your life...Are you who you want to be?".

Ahhh... words beautifuly sung by Switchfoot. Followed by..."This is your it everything you dreamed that it would be...?" I think I've struggled with those questions more than any other over the course of my adulthood. For the longest time I was constantly pushing..pushing for what I thought life was meant to be...what I thought I was supposed to get from life, work, relationships, only to find that I had not met my own expectations. Asking questions like the ones above may put your selfesteem at risk, if you (like me) have had such big expectations that you unknowingly have set yourself up for disappointment.

But, hold on a minute! Why be disappointed? What can possibly be disappointing about learning from our mistakes or having opportunities to grow? I've made some ginormous mistakes in my life. There are consequences, yes, but did I learn some ultramegalifelessons? You bet! I think the best we can do is to learn from our mistakes, work hard at changing the things that are broke in us and enjoy every experience as they come especially with our family and friends.

In fact, if I hadn't made said mistakes in my life; if I hadn't sunk to the deepest, darkest holes in Hell, I might not have started to write, to meditate with words, to escape into another world, where its just me and the story - a very mistake free zone.

How about you? How do you deal with screw ups? Does writing help? Is writing or reading your mistake-free zone?  Please comment vigorously. BOOM!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mistakes I've made in Publishing

Like many indie authors, I've made mistakes... and I've payed for them, dearly.

I learned a lot about the book biz after publishing my first novel, Killing the Giants, with Outskirts Press in 2008-2009. Of course, I didn't really have a choice in the matter - I didn't know diddly squat to begin with. All in all, I payed about $1500 to get that gem of mine in print... and my left eye still shakes and jerks every time I think about it. Yeah, big mistakes have a way of creating new bodily ticks!

But why has that experience damaged my optical nervous system, you ask? Simple. I hadn't heard much about going indie and I didn't know anything about the Kindle at that point, and after a long, disappointing run with agents and publishers, I finally gave in to my impatientness. Besides, I wanted that book darn it! And I just knew the rest of the world did too!

So what did I learn about the "self-publishing" world that is so disappointing? Here's a list of some of the things I know now.

  • Don't get in a hurry. This seems to be the second biggest mistake authors make, and self-publishing companies rush you through the process, because they want to publish as many books as possible. I rushed the whole process, even to the point of neglecting to get a professional edit. If you want your book to succeed, you have to take the time to get it edited, and plan for a longer pre-release schedule (more on that to come). Slow down and do this right.
  • Only spend money on the essentials. No one should pay to publish when you can epublish for free. That sounds so simple, but it's true. The publishing world is changing so fast it just about makes my head spin, and so why would you want to invest your $$$ in publishing a print copy of your book, when technology in 2011 allows you to go online for free with Kindle/Smashwords publishing and/or Createspace/Lightening Source? You don't have to. All of these sites have excellent tutorials and customer forums that will help you format your interior and or provide you with names of people who will do it for you for next to nothing ($35-99). Good formatting is vital, but you don't have to sell off your body parts to get it done.
  • ePublishing makes great training. If you are working on your first book, and have tried the agent/publisher routine, you should definitely take advantage of these low cost publishing options. Then as you grow your audience and your platform, you can spend more on cover, design etc.
  • Cover art is massively over priced ($299-$599). Although the first step to getting someone to buy your book is through good cover art, I've learned to make pretty decent covers by using and it has cost me $0. I've seen some book covers professionally designed and wanted to puke! I felt so bad that someone payed for junk. I did - it came with my "package". But now, all you need is a picture that fits with your book and lots of practice. has an array of cool tools that will make a good cover. You can always spend more later on your next masterpiece.
  • Do pay for the most important things. If you are no good at cover design or formatting, you should pay for those things, including editing (the number one thing authors fail to do). They are that important.
  • Don't pay for Amazon add-ons. I payed extra to get my book in the Kindle edition and to get the "Look inside" option. Duh! It is all FREE. I was too scared to investigate and figure out how to format my book, so I payed about $299 for those "services". Nuf, said. That was stupid. Lesson learned.
  • Don't pay for reviews or a blog tour. I've sent out about 45 review/blog tour requests and to my surprise, the blogger/reviewers are graciously accepting to review my book AND do an interview/guest blog spot. This cost me zero, but would have cost at least $299 if had someone else arrange it. 
  • Allow time for Reviews and a blog tour, because no amount of local media and local book signings will give you near as much exposure as a blog tour. The fact is, a good book signing will net maybe 5-10 book sales. You should do book signings and book release parties, but they are only good for building local hype, and will not help near as much as a blog tour where book buyers are waiting to hear specifically about your genre. Again, don't get in a hurry to publish...take your time and plan to get reviews before you publish. You can even use some of the review blurbs on the back cover! Here's a link to a long list of reviewers.
  • Plan a release date. This is the number one way to get a major jolt in intial book sales. After all the reviews and guest blogging and Q & A sessions, you'll have a gazillion readers standing in line to buy your books. So why not have an online book signing/release party the day you release your book? You'll get a much better initial rating with a sudden leap in book sales, which will in turn, create more visibility through the ranking systems. The authors of Machine of Death accomplished this with great success. Of course the authors already had a following, but if you utilize a blog/review tour, you can do it too. Also you can use the same Press release site the self-publishing sites use to post a press release. They don't pay anything, why should you?

  • Get Social Media. Get involved in Facebook and Twitter and blogging. Don't always talk about your book. Share other valuable information dealing with the content of your book or writing or reading, but get people to listen to you and just be yourself. People like buying from writers they know and trust.

Mainly, I've come to the conclusion that I can do almost everything I payed for, with more passion, greater attention to detail, and at or near zero cost (with the exception of time).  There are other things I've learned, but I think I've demonstrated enough of my stupididy for one day. My pride can only take so much abuse, you know.

But what about you? What have you learned that could help the unsuspecting  author ready to cash in his life savings to publish his or her latest and greatest masterpiece? Got any more ideas? Share them and comment vigorously! BOOM!