Insecurities Abound!

I’ve been pretty down in the dumps, guys. A real sophomore slump. Let me explain. My prelude novella, Blood in the Past (released this time last year), did pretty well. No one really had a bad word to say about it. I was proud of myself…and then terror set in.

Last year, as I was editing and revising the full-length follow-up to Past, Blood in the Paint, I began to worry that it wouldn’t measure up, that my creative prowess had a quota and I had used up everything in my reserve to write Blood in the Past. As a result, I hit the Publish button on Blood in the Paint a few months ago with closed eyes. I dragged my feet with the paperback edition. I haven’t sent out many review copies, and I haven’t done much promotion. I’m subconsciously forcing myself, and my Blood for Blood series, to fade into oblivion. I’m making my own nightmare, of my sophomore release not measuring up, a reality. Or am I?

When the news of Blood in the Paint’s release broke, I had an immediate spike in sales. I might have been able to capitalize on those numbers had I done some promoting. After I ordered my first shipment of Blood in the Paint paperbacks, I almost sold out of them…and I still have two events to do this week. And the reviews? The reviews have been pretty awesome. There are only nine so far (actually, as I’m writing this, a TENTH popped up!), none of which were written by me or hubby-pants, but they are all FIVE-STAR. Every single one of them. My mother-in-law, who awarded Blood in the Past with a three-star review, is raving about Paint. As is my father-in-law, who keeps asking how the next book will unfold. My niece even forgot about her “ghetto reality shows” (her words, not mine), because she’d been so caught-up in reading it. You guys don’t know my niece, but that’s probably the best compliment I could have received, short of something from Gillian Flynn herself.

So what’s the problem? Why haven’t I really written anything since April, when I went on a writing retreat, where there was nothing to do BUT write? I still feel unworthy, I still feel talentless, I still feel like everyone’s compliments are a fluke. Then I read a recent review of Blood in the Paint written by Ileandra Young. You can read the full review here, but the part I want to point out is when she mentioned a Facebook status where she posted, “Soooooooooo that feeling of inadequacy you feel while reading a fellow indie author’s novel then returning to your own WIP.” Guys, I actually remembered that status, I even Liked it because I knew the feeling. Turns out, she was talking about Blood in the Paint. Words cannot thank her enough for sharing that with her followers and blog readers and, most importantly, me. Between that and the pep talk hubby-pants gave me recently (more on that in another post, I think), I might be ready to write again. At the very least, I might be ready to begin my medico-legal research to make sure my next book, Blood in the Paper, is on the right track.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this week, which happens to be the one-year anniversary of Blood in the Past’s publication. To celebrate (and get back into promoting for the love of everything sacred and holy), Blood in the Past will be FREE on Wednesday, June 18th, and Blood in the Paint will be dropped to $1.99 today through Friday, June 20th. If you haven’t read them yet, now is the time to do so. Because, I’ve been down in the dumps and sales will make me feel better. ;-)

How I Got My Book Into an Actual Bookstore!

I cheated. Plain and simple.

Okay, maybe I just cheated a little bit. It’s not like I had a friend distract the shopkeeper (Do people still say ‘shopkeeper’?) while I shoved a stack of Blood in the Past paperbacks on a shelf between Gillian Flynn and Dean Koontz.

You see, I belong to a couple of local writing organizations and one of them recently gave me a job. Of sorts. You’re now reading the blog of the South Jersey Writers Group new Account Manager! Please hold your applause. As such, I’m in charge of stocking the local bookstores and cafes with the group’s anthologies and any other books published under their press company, Hypothetical Press. Last Saturday, the president of the group, Amy Hollinger, invited me to join her to have coffee and meet a couple of the vendors, in the hopes it would make the transition easier (meeting the vendors, not drinking coffee).

The first contact I met was the owner of The Book Asylum in Blackwood, NJ. Amy gave her spiel and the owner readily purchased five copies of the current anthology, Tall Tales & Short Stories, as well as five copies of a member’s book, What to Expect When You’re Dead.

I must admit, I was a little nervous to even bring up the fact that I had a few copies of Blood in the Past in my purse. After all, I’m not published under Hypothetical Press, I’m published under my own company, Blood Read Press. Plus, the shopkeeper (Yes, I’m sticking with this antiquated term for now.) had already shelled out quite a bit of money to pay for the other titles. But it turned out that the woman was very nice and we ended up staying to chat and we even tried to get a little writing done, which really only led to more chatting. Then a regular customer joined us and we were all having a merry ole time when the newcomer asked me what I was writing. I immediately pulled out a copy of Blood in the Past for her the flip through and, wouldn’t you know it, the shopkeeper (Stop judging me, it’s my new favorite term.) immediately asked if I wanted her to stock my book as well!

Over the moon, I handed her the other two copies in my purse and quickly decided the affiliate price would be $5/copy so she could sell them for $7 and make a little profit. Yay!

I know. It’s only two books. That’s all I had on me at the time, besides the one the customer was looking at that I’d hoped she’d buy, but didn’t. But it gets better. While discussing that I was working on the next installment in the series, she offered to host a new release signing in her store! Yippie! (Keep checking the Events page for details!)

I plan to drop off more copies in a month or so when I stop in to iron out the details of the signing, but it looks like it might be as simple as finding a friendly shopkeeper and talking up your work! I’m sure it also helped that I’d showered and dressed somewhat nicely, too.

If you plan on doing this with your own work, might I suggest the following:

  • Create a spreadsheet listing all the businesses you intend to visit. Include the name of the point of contact (AKA shopkeepers), phone number, address, email, and a running tally of how many books you last stocked them with, as well as whether or not they paid you in advance or on consignment.
  • If someone pays you for your books up front, write them up a receipt on the spot (I believe you can find receipt pads at any office supplies store) or email them one later THAT SAME DAY. Don’t dilly-dally because you don’t want them to forget about the transaction, delete the email because they have no idea what it pertains to, and then have no record of your arrangement.
  • Keep a folder where you store your copies of the receipts. You might need them to prove your arrangement to another worker in the store and you might even need them at tax time.
  • I didn’t have these at the time (It was snowing and there was only so much I could tuck safely into my purse), but I recommend creating a flyer about yourself and your work and having it on hand so the store can create more of a display and shoppers know they are supporting a local author. You might even want to invest in some upright plastic sign holders in case your books are going to be displayed on a shelf.
  • Be friendly! If you’re gonna walk in there like the grumpy starving artist we all know we can be sometimes, you’re probably not going to get anywhere. Just saying.

Now, before you guys head over to The Book Asylum in Blackwood, NJ and fight over those two copies of Blood in the Past, does anyone have any questions?

What I Learned About Author Events: Part 1

Many of you will remember that Blood in the Past was originally available in ebook only. Then something strange happened. Friends and family and acquaintances and random people on Twitter (okay, that was only one person) were asking for a print version. I started to realize that even though my own Kindle is never more than seven inches from me and much of the population has embraced digital reading, there’s still a substantial chunk of readers that prefer holding actual dead trees in their hands. And I was neglecting them. And that wasn’t all. I belong to two local writing groups and they often organize signings and author panels. Not having a print version of my books to sell at those events put me at a disadvantage.

So in September I made Blood in the Past available in paperback and in October I had three, count ‘em THREE, author events. Today I’ll discuss the first event, how I handled myself, and what I learned from it. (This will be a three-part series as I share my experiences regarding each event.)

The first event was my town’s Book Festival. My town is small and cute and quaint and they often shut down the main street for fairs and stuff. From what I’m told, the Book Festival started off as a very pitiful affair and has grown to be the big deal that it’s been in recent years, so I was excited to take part. The South Jersey Writers Group bought a space to recruit new members as well as promote their anthology, Small Tales and Short Stories (written by members), and they were generous enough to open up their space up to members who had their own works to promote. Here’s the run down:

  • I got there a few minutes before the festival started, thinking I was early. All I had to do was put a sign and a stack of books on a table, right? Wrong. Everyone was already there and all the good seats under the tent were taken. Bummer.
  • I sat in the sun, not under the tent. I wasn’t prepared for the unseasonably hot autumn day. I should have brought a hat, worn sunblock, had sunglasses, etc. I even had to borrow a scrunchie from my Hubby-pants (he has long, flowing hair now) because I wore my stupid, curly hair down. I had been so busy worrying about my books and my business cards before I left the house, that I forgot to take care of myself. I can’t let that happen again.
  • The SJWG had two tables. The one under the tent was where their anthology and the members’ books were displayed. The other table was where the sign-up sheet for new members was laid out. I spent most of my time there, as those were the seats that were most frequently rotated. I suppose this is advice for the group, but I think the anthology would have been more useful on the table with the sign-ups, as a recruiting tool. At least a few of them. Also, SJWG had a couple of members out in front of the tables to try to flag people down and draw them to the tables. My husband was out across the way and he said that those members were actually blocking the tables from view and when passersby couldn’t see what the table was about (be it ours or the ones on either side of us), they kept it moving. The “hype man” concept may have seemed like a good idea (it certainly did to me from behind the table), but it actually ended up hurting us. I’ll remember that for next year when I have my own table.
  • This was the event where I learned just how terrified I am of talking to strangers about my book. I eventually worked up the nerve to talk to people about joining the group (and I got very good at that), but when a spot opened up to sit behind MY OWN BOOKS at the other table, I balked. Pathetic, I know. But I did watch as one author in particular would engage people when they picked up his book. All he would say was, “It’s a political thriller.” Not much. Simple, did the trick. I made a note of it.
  • I sold fifteen books at this event (some were after the fact, after we’d broken the tables down, on my way home), but only three to strangers. A lot of my friends and a few of Hubby-pants’ coworkers purchased books which was awesome, but one of the other authors, a professor at Rutgers University, outsold me (he was the only one to do so). Granted a lot of his students visited, but he stood up, he interacted, and he was generally a likable character. (He also had an affable British accent that I couldn’t compete with.) Who knows how many strangers he sold to.
  • So what did I learn? I need to get there early if I’m sharing a table. To prepare not only my box of wares, but to prepare myself for the day ahead. I learned a little about how to set up the display and how to run the table. And most importantly, I learned that interaction with the customer is key.

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of the series!

Jerks & Irks LIII: I Didn’t Have A (Witches) Ball

Some of you may have noticed that Events tab up there. I’ve been busy this month! Two Saturdays ago my town held its annual Book Festival and I shared a table with the South Jersey Writers Group and last Saturday, I shared a space with fellow author Kristin Battestella at the Witches Ball in Mount Holly, NJ. I have one more event this month (this Saturday), and following that, I plan on posting a three-part series enumerating what I learned from each event. It promises to be super informative. But for now, I’m going to rant about my crooked wig and whale-tail.

It all started with the rain. It had been raining for days here and had also been forecasted to rain on Saturday. The Witches Ball was all but guaranteed to be canceled and rescheduled for the following Saturday. So I got it in my head that I wasn’t going. I didn’t prepare my supplies, choosing instead to work on my short story and read Headhunters by Jo Nesbo. Great book, by the way. Then I woke up Saturday to blinding sunshine and a scattering of rainbows. The clouds eventually closed in (delaying my preparations a bit longer as I still thought it was going to rain), but the event wasn’t canceled and I was left scrambling to get my life together. That’s when tragedy struck.

The email Kristin sent me that contained my parking pass and instruction sheet was gone. I had deleted it accidentally while we were chatting. I was forced to go to the ball blind. When I arrived in the town, I flagged down a cop and he told me I should have gotten there earlier, which I would have known had I had my instruction sheet. I asked him where the vendor parking lot was. He gave me detailed directions…then told me that the vendor parking lot was now blocked off and probably full anyway. I looked at him like he was mad and he looked at me with confusion. Then I parked in the free parking lot…which was five blocks away. Next I went on a recon mission to find Kristin, without my heavy supplies, thinking that if she was too far away, I would just go home, defeated by the universe. I stopped at the Information Tent and inquired about the location of Space 11. They told me their map only went up to Space 8. I looked at them like they were mad and they looked at me with confusion. What do you think they put in the water in this town?

Anyway, Kristin ended up being not far from the Information Tent, so I trekked back to my car and gathered my stuff. And here’s where the fun begins. The event required participants to be in costume. All I could muster was a fire-engine-red-wig, heavy makeup, and a black shirt and pants with a black and red shawl. It was cute-spooky. Anyway, the pants were a little loose. No big deal, until I started lugging my tiny collapsible dolly loaded with my supplies, folding chair, and card table through the crowded streets. My pants kept sliding down, showing the crowded streets of Mount Holly, NJ my black thong undies. (At least they matched?) The wind had also picked up and kept knocking my poor wig askew. It took me FOREVER to get back to our beloved assigned Space 11 because I had to keep stopping to hike up my pants and straighten my fake tresses. And the moment, the exact moment I straightened said tresses, the wind would blow again, the wig would sit crooked, strands sticking to my lipstick, and getting caught in my eyelashes, etc. It was just a mess. Probably, the jerkiest, irkiest  day I’ll have all year.

And after all that, it started to rain all over my beautiful Blood in the Past paperbacks a mere two hours after I got settled and I had to pack it all up and haul ass back through the crowd to my car. Oy.

 

Hey You! Giving Away Stuff Over Here!

Okay, maybe I’m not technically giving away stuff over here per se, but if you travel through the vast lands of the internets, via a very insignificant click of your mouse/touchpad, you’ll find the blog of Lori Verni-Fogarsi. When I first released Blood in the Past back in June, I reached out to her, having helped her with her own new releases, and offered her a review copy. If you don’t know Lori, she pens some pretty popular chick-lit and women’s fiction, so I didn’t really expect her to read my little thriller, let alone enjoy it.

Well, enjoy it she did. When she finished reading it, she posted all over Facebook and Twitter and I was beaming like a proud mama bear that had just watched her cub snatch its first salmon out of the stream. Then she emailed me about hosting a giveaway…on HER blog! Holy salmon snatching bear cubs!

Today, folks, is the day of that giveaway. Lori has graciously donated a tote bag and a mouse pad from her own “Find Yourself in a Good Book” collection (images of which are on the official giveaway page), and I have, of course, donated two hand-crafted, customized bookmarks, to celebrate the recent paperback release. One bears a “Keep Calm” charm and the last line from Blood in the Past, the other bears an actual Blood in the Past cover art charm. The contest will run until Tuesday, October 15th, so you have plenty of time to enter. There are also about a dozen different ways you can enter on the Rafflecopter entry form, so what are you waiting for??? CLICK HERE!!!

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Interview At Creative Difference!

The incomparable Sandra Hessels, all the way on the other side of the world in the Netherlands, where her website is kind of in Dutch, has interviewed me on her blog! Don’t worry, the interview is English. Here’s a snippet:

How do you find your readers (as a self-pubbed writer) and reach the largest possible audience? Right now the three biggest mysteries of the world are: 1. What is the meaning of life? 2. Is there life outside of Earth? 3. Where are the readers? Haha. It feels like we, as authors, are all still kind of marketing to ourselves. We ‘like’ each other on Facebook, we follow each other on Twitter, we read each other’s blogs, et cetera. So, I have no idea. I hold out hope that other authors are like me and read a book a week? But I don’t pretend to know where the readers are. My research has suggested that the most effective marketing tools are Pixel of Ink, BookBub, and eReader News Today. Basically, they are services that have already found the readers, but they hog them for themselves, and authors have to (sometimes) pay them to tell the readers about their books. Figures. Do you have to do a lot of self-marketing or do you have help? I don’t really have help. A couple of internet pals pitch in here and there and share stuff for me when they can, which I appreciate with the warmth of a thousand kittens, but I don’t have a street team or an assistant or anything. I post to my blog and my Facebook author page most regularly, but I also post to Google+ and LinkedIn, and of course, Twitter. I’m a member of various reader sites, Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, and so on. And I’m always scouring the internet for websites that showcase authors and their books. According to your Twitter bio, you love killing off characters. Is it that easy? It’s very easy. George RR Martin and I should go for drinks (Game of Throne fans, the books or the TV series, know what I’m talking about). He and I would toast our frosty mugs and laugh over making our readers become attached to certain characters, even root for them, and then we break their hearts, thus giving our readers PTSD. It would be a grand old time.

If you would like to read more of my interview with Sandra, which I would totally recommend, then please click this link to her blog over at Creative Difference. You know you want to learn a little more about me, because, well, I’m fascinating.

Also, don’t forget, there’s still time to enter to win a signed copy of Blood in the Past over at Tonya Kerrigan’s blog, so you should also head over there, follow her blog, and leave a comment telling her that she’s awesome, you’re awesome, and I’m awesome, and together we’d all make an awesome-ass club sandwich of some sort. (Okay, maybe that’s creepy, but I don’t know she’s picking the winner and maybe creepy will give you an edge.)

AND, speaking of paperbacks, Blood in the Past is now available in paperback! For real this time! On Amazon! Linked with the ebook! So you can see all 32 reviews! Yay!

The Proof is in the Print! Paperback is Here!

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Today is the day!

Well, today is supposed to be the day. I approved the proof of Blood in the Past for paperback days ago, but so far it isn’t available yet on Amazon. I’m told it should be there within a day or so. No worries though. If you absolutely can’t wait, there’s always Createspace. It’s there right now for $6.99. And, of course, the lovely Tonya Kerrigan is holding a contest on her blog where you can enter to win a signed copy! (Hubby-pants thinks I should sign the winner’s copy with, “Thanks for the support! Love, Jordanna East #YOLO SWAG.” Yeah, I’m not gonna do that to you if you win. I promise.) So, head on over to Tonya’s blog, read my favorite excerpt from Blood in the Past, check out her amazing review (there are now 32 reviews, 20 of them FIVE STAR!), and follow her directions to WIN! Good luck! Go!

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Gotta LOVE being able to HOLD your own book!