Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Plotting. That's all. Just . . . Plotting.

Yesterday, I went to my home county's annual literacy luncheon. This is actually the first time I've attended an event like this, and everything was beautiful and sparkly and the cheesecake was to DIE for. . . . 

The keynote speaker was Nicholas Sparks. He didn't go into too much detail about writing/the writing process (he mostly talked about his books/life), but he confessed that he doesn't do a whole lot of outlining before he begins writing a book. He did share, however, the things he needs to know before he sits down and actually begins writing.  

First, he needs to know who the main characters are (including age). He needs to know how they meet. He needs to know what is going to keep them apart (the conflict). And finally, he needs to have an idea of how the story is going to end. 

Even if you're not a "plotter," this is a great foundation on which to build.

Every book I've written is the result of a different process. I do like a general outline, but I've followed some more than others (I like to let my characters take over when they can). 

Since it was my first attempt at urban fantasy, The Guardian was actually a "fly by the seat of my pants" story. I was just meeting these characters, and I didn't know what would happen (just that it would end badly). I let the plot unfold the way it wanted.

I approached Vendetta differently. I already knew my characters, that they had a history together, and I knew I had to build on that. Since Vendetta was the middle of the trilogy, I also knew things were going to get worse before they (hopefully) got better. I actually wrote Vendetta scene by scene, then re-ordered it in subsequent drafts. In fact, the "love scene" is the first scene I wrote, even though it appears in the next to last chapter.

For the final book in this trilogy, I find that I'm plotting more than ever. There are SO many loose ends to tie up (and not just which guy Genesis will choose—or if she even CAN choose them). I sat down two or three weekends ago and filled about 20 notebook pages with ideas, or things that could happen, and focused on how the story would all come together. By the time I was through, I ended up with 85 strips of paper that tell me exactly how the story will unfold (this might change during the drafting process, but the skeleton of the entire book is definitely in there). 

The point is: you may have to approach each book you write differently. And that's okay. If you're a hardcore plotter and find yourself letting the story tell itself, go for it. If you're stuck to an outline, keep at it. When it's not working, don't force it. Be open to trying new things. 

And, according to Nicholas Sparks, it's never a bad idea to know who your characters are, how they meet, what will keep them apart, and how it all ends. Once you're there, it's time to start writing. 


Monday, August 29, 2011

Post-Hurricane Update

We made it! 

(Through Irene, that is.)

It started raining here late Friday afternoon. The wind was blowing sideways all night, which made it hard to sleep. We lost power early Saturday morning, and decided to trek the five miles (or so) to my mom's house.

There's a reason why you're not supposed to venture out during a hurricane, people. I'll just leave it at that.

It rained more than 24 hours here. Seriously. It's like, Irene just stopped over the state and dumped water because she could.

Thankfully, we didn't sustain any major damage. One side of each of our trees has been stripped of leaves, and some water came in through a window and our sliding glass door. Some water seeped in under our front door, too, and we'll probably have to replace the hardwood floors in the foyer, eventually. Even so, it could have been *so* much worse.

We took a tour of the county this morning, and there are a lot of trees down. We have some friends who weren't so lucky, and there's a lot of clean-up to be done. Still, I'm inspired by the stories of people going out and lending a helping hand. We worked in my parent's yard some yesterday, and we are eternally grateful for the guys who came in from Alabama to help restore power.

In other news, if you haven't seen this already, Megg Jensen was gracious enough to host me on her blog last week. If you're curious, you can find out my latest celeb crush and whether or not I was a band geek, cheerleader, or the nerd. (Answer: none of the above!) If you have a moment, drop in and say hi!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Anything Else?

Ugh! As if this week could get any crazier, there's a hurricane barreling straight for me. 

August has been one of the freakiest months ever. I feel like I've put out little fires the entire month. If something strange could happen, it did. Mercury was in retrograde during much of this, and while I try not to be a superstitious person, *something* cosmic was going on and throwing everything off kilter. If a hurricane is what it takes to usher this nonsense out, well, good riddance. 

In the meantime, if you're in the path of Irene, stay safe. And if you find yourself with some free time, create something! Seriously! Kate Messner is inviting people to submit their Irene-related creations (writing/artwork/otherwise) to her blog. She's calling it the "Hurricane Irene Online Museum." 

Very cool.

As for me, I'm wrapping up this insane work week and keeping my eye on the neighbors, who *really* need to get some of their belongings out of the yard and into their garage.

Oh, and Mr. Klein *finally* went out and got us a flashlight, just in case. 

Then again, should we actually lose power, this girl will be in her car heading to the nearest relative's house. I survived four days without power/water after Floyd in '99, and it was *not* fun. Just sayin'. :)

Have a great weekend! 


Monday, August 22, 2011

Checking Out. . . .

Hey Y'all,

I just wanted to write a quick note to let you know that I'm checking out for a while. It's been a month full of ups and downs (with the summer doldrums and Amazon reporting issues, etc.), and, since this looks like it will be one of my busiest work weeks of the year (so far), I thought it best that I unplug for a week or so.

I do want to let you know that I spent the entire weekend plotting book three for The Guardian series. I'm hoping that, after this little hiatus, I'll be able to start working on it.

Have a great week, everyone! :)


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

YA Indie Spotlight: Jack Blaine

Hi Everyone!

I've been so lax about these Spotlights lately, but now that Vendetta is released, I have a few weeks play "catch up." So . . . today I'm introducing a book that I've had my eye on for a while, because the premise sounds awesome, and I'm always up for a good dystopian. The story? Helper12 by Jack Blaine.

Helper12 works as a Baby Helper in Pre Ward, the place where babies spend their first four months of life before they’re tracked for vocations and sent to training.  She does her job well, and she stays out of trouble. But one day, the Sloanes, Society members who enjoy all the privileges of their station—family unit clearance,  a private dwelling, access to good food and good schools—come to “adopt” one of the Pre Ward babies.

The Director makes a deal and the Sloanes walk out with a brand new child.
They also walk out owning Helper12—the Director sells her to them, and there’s nothing she can do but go.  At the Sloanes, Helper12 enters a world where people should be able to enjoy life—with high position and riches come the opportunity for individual freedom, even the chance to love—but that’s not what she finds.

The Sloanes are keeping secrets. So is their biological son, Thomas.

Helper12 has some secrets of her own; she’s drawing, which is a violation, since Baby Helpers aren’t tracked for Art.  And she’s growing to love the child she was bought to care for—at the same time that Ms. Sloane is becoming disenchanted with her impulse baby buy.

When all your choices are made for you, how do you make some for yourself?

Helper12 is about to find out.

Jack Blaine loves to write about how wonderful and terrible and wrong and incredibly right people can be, and what happens when they act that way.

"The society in Helper12 seems frighteningly imaginable."

"Jack Blaine has managed a coup of characterization: he successfully mines the mind of a late adolescent girl living in a totalitarian state."

"Great, fast-paced, engaging dystopian. I didn't put it down until I finished!"

"A great, fast-paced adventure full of vivid imagery, interesting characters and clever twists. This one was hard to put down!"

Helper12 is available for Kindle and Nook, and is priced at $3.99

There's a great interview with Jack here, and you can visit him on the web or follow him on twitter (@jackblainebooks). 

I *really* hope you'll check him out!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sales Reporting, Indie Stores, and Cloud Readers (Oh My!)

I wasn't going to post a blog today (the day job is seriously kicking tail this week), but there are a few developments in the indie world that should be mentioned.

First, the KDP Reports (what indies use to track their Kindle sales) are down, and have been since 7 or 8pm Eastern on Wednesday. No, the bubble hasn't "burst." My rankings are still consistent, meaning that ebooks are selling, they're just not showing up on the reports yet. Fingers crossed that whatever the glitch, it's fixed soon. 

Another development: Mr. Klein pointed out to me this morning that indies now have their own store on Amazon. It can be accessed by going to the Amazon "ebooks" page and clicking on the "Kindle Indie Books" link in the left-side toolbar under "Popular Features." You can check it out here.

This can be good, or it can be really, really bad. It's good if it gives indie writers more exposure. Right now it's focusing on books with 4-star rankings or higher (and probably a certain number of reviews). Cross My Heart is featured on the Teen page right now. (I'd imagine the pages will rotate titles, and there are murmurings on the KindleBoards that if you already own the title, it won't appear on the page.) HOWEVER: this can be really really REALLY bad if Amazon decides to segregate indie titles from mainstream titles (i.e. taking them off the "traditional" bestseller lists, taking them off traditional "customers who also bought" lists, etc.). Part of the reason I had such an incredible June is because I ranked between numbers 1-3 on Sarah Dessen's "Also Bought" list when she was promoting What Happened to Goodbye.

I don't *think* Amazon would segregate us, because, quite frankly, it's making a LOT of money off indie authors. You don't really want to piss them off, but that's just my opinion. Also, this is the main reason Barnes and Noble's PubIt is so inferior to Kindle Direct Publishing.  Indies are in their own store, and even with an "Also Bought" list, indies don't get the same recognition on that they do on Amazon. Think about it. Last month I sold 2,936 Amazon US copies of Cross My Heart vs. 142 on BN. Who has the better business model? Yeah.
So . . . for now I'm going to keep the positive attitude. Amazon is on our side, and sales will be reporting again soon.

Finally, Amazon introduced its new Kindle Cloud Reader. Cool right? Do you know why? A few weeks ago indies were concerned because readers wouldn't be able to access their books via Kindle apps for their Apple products (iPads, iPhones, etc.). Amazon just pushed Apple out of the way with this new download. You can read more about it here and here. A special thanks to David Gaughran and Jim Bronyaur for doing the dirty work for me.

So . . . that's what's going on. I'm doing my best to stay on top of things, so if I hear of any "Breaking News" I'll try to post an update. :)


Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm Back, and Vendetta is Live!

Hi Everyone!

Yes, I went AWOL last week for my final two rounds of proofreading and formatting, but I am pleased to announce that the sequel to The Guardian, Vendetta, is now live. You can buy it for Kindle and Nook. I'm also playing with the "Amanda Hocking method" and making The Guardian my series "loss leader." It's currently priced at $.99. So . . . if you were on the fence before, $.99 isn't *too much* of a risk. ;)

I unplugged most of the weekend to catch up on some reading. I'm trying not to be angsty about the Vendetta release. Up until this weekend, though, it's been all mine. It's scary sending something out into the world not knowing how people are going to react. Will they love me? Will they hate me? Will anyone be interested at all? I swear, with writers, if it's not one thing it's another. The good news is, it's part of the process. Write a book, release it, freak out. Rinse. Repeat.

In the meantime, I read the most *FABULOUS* series ever this weekend. I actually read the first book a few weeks ago, and just picked up books two and three. It's the "Summer" series by Jenny Han. Seriously. I read the last two books in like, two days. AWESOME. Jenny is one of those story tellers that makes me want to go back and delete every word I've ever written. I hesitate to call it "light" reading, just because I hate that terminology. (To me, it implies that it's somehow not worthy of a critical reading/analysis.) They're books, and they're dang good books, and just what I needed this weekend to unwind. They all get five stars from me, so be sure to check them out.

A few other top reads this summer: I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler, and The Boyfriend Thief by Shana Norris.

Shana just blogged about her first month of ebook sales, and offers some great advice for anyone interested in taking the plunge.

As for me? I'm going to spend the next month brainstorming book three, of course :) I'm also going to catch up on my reading and movies. And, you know, focus on the day job and getting the kiddo back to school. If you're waiting for an email from me, I'm working through those this week, too, and will have some new YA Indie Spotlights for you very soon. :)

Have a great week!


Monday, August 1, 2011

July Sales Numbers

It's that time again! I have my monthly numbers! And the grand total is:


I actually thought I was going to post a serious loss this month, but thanks to an increase in Cross My Heart UK sales (and an extra day in the month of July), I'm only 77 sales off from last month's total. 

Let's break it down, shall we?

The Guardian sold 134 Amazon US, 11 Amazon UK, and 16 Barnes and Noble copies for a total of 161 sales, or 5.1 sales per day. This is a loss of 1.3 sales a day from June.

Cross My Heart sold 2,936 Amazon US, 103 Amazon UK, 4 Amazon DE, and 142 Barnes and Noble copies for a total of 3,185 sales, or 102.7 sales per day. This is a loss of 4.9 sales a day from June.

Still, these are Amazing numbers.

The big news of July revolved around Amazon's "The Big Deal" Sale, where the prices for more than 900 traditionally published titles were dropped from $.99-$3.99. This is the third or fourth month in a row Amazon has had a sale like this, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is going to be a pattern from now on, and that we can expect a sale like this every month or so.

It's a scary time, though, for those (like me) who micromanage sales. Before the sale hit, I was averaging 108 Amazon sales a day. Once the sale hit, I lost momentum and had trouble catching back up to where I was pre-sale. From that point on, I averaged 96 sales a day, and this included two price drops for Cross My Heart. The first was $3.77, and the second to $2.99.

(I didn't see a *huge* increase in sales when I dropped the prices, by the way. The lower price kept me relevant, and probably helped since so many titles were on sale, but I didn't see a surge or anything).

My sales numbers for the last week of July picked up slightly from the previous week, but it's obvious that both the summer and the sale are having an effect on Indies across the board. Not only are people still vacationing and engaging in other familial, outdoor activities, but because of the sale, they're probably Kindle'd out right now (enough new titles to keep them busy for the present, and, as a result, not purchasing anything new).

I hit another milestone this month, though: over 10k ebooks sold since December. In fact, after some additional number crunching I realized that, over the weekend, I hit the 10k mark for Cross My Heart alone.

Over 10,000 copies of Cross My Heart have sold for Kindle and Nook since March.

That's incredible, you guys, and so much more than I ever expected, so THANK YOU!!

Coming up: our last official month of summer. We’ll see if the doldrums continue, or if the "back to school" craze has any effect on sales. As much as I adore Amazon, I'm hoping they forego a sale this month, as Indies really need some time to build momentum.

I'm also playing with a Facebook ad campaign right now. I'll let you know how that goes, too. From what I've read, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google ads are fairly worthless (a lot of impressions, fewer clicks, even fewer sales). In fact, YA writer Arthur Slade did an experiment earlier in the year with Facebook Ads, so check out his post if this is something you're considering. So far I'm expecting to have similar results. I'm willing to try anything once, though. 

I'm officially on Facebook now! It should be linked to my Twitter account, too. If you don't follow me on Twitter yet, I'm @katiekleinbooks. My Facebook link can be found in the blog sidebar.
In other news, I'm putting the finishing touches on Vendetta. The first week of August was my self-imposed deadline, so keep your eyes peeled.

And thanks again for purchasing, rating, reviewing, (enjoying!!) my books, and stopping by the blog. For someone who thrives on control, this is kind of a scary journey, but it helps to know others are out there benefitting from what I post here.

Have an awesome week, you guys!