Tuesday, August 31, 2010

That Marketing Thing

I kind of wish I knew more about marketing than just what I glean from blogposts, the odd book here and there, and personal experience. Of course, knowing how to sell what people need might not help when I'm offering books that I want them to want. But perhaps if I write what I've found out so far, it might at least help me determine how to move on.

First: Have something worth selling. I think my books are worth selling. People who read them, even strangers, tell me they're good. Of course, I'm sure they could be better, and I'll keep working on that 'cause it's what I enjoy.

Second: Have a venue to sell from. The internet's a start--I've got a virtual store with lulu, but so have lots of other people. Meanwhile, the only real bookstore selling my books is at Kanuga, an Episcopalian conference center in North Carolina. My local stores tell me too many people self-publish so it's simplest just to say no; maybe I should learn not to take no for an answer. Then there's local bazaars, like last Saturday...

Third: The price should be right. Online I price my books based on what I'd be willing to pay; it means the profit is mostly measured in pennies. At bazaars I take advantage of buying in bulk to sell cheaper, but customers ask "Can you give me a deal?" then say it's still too expensive. I sell home-made books, bookmarks, and greetings cards, in hopes of attracting people to stop and look with lower prices, but looking and buying, of course, are two different things.

I sold four greetings cards on Saturday. Customer number one asked "How much?" and I answered $1.25 each. Too expensive, they walked on. Customer number two said $1.25 was ridiculously cheap; he explained how much cards cost in stores but didn't buy anything. Customer number three wanted to know how much the materials cost. And customer number four bought cards. So, should I increase or decrease the price? And how important is the cost of materials? What about time and effort and imagination?

A friend suggests I price high then cover my stall with "special offers" to sell low. Another says price low so people will look. A third says if things are priced too cheaply the customers think you're asking for money for nothing. And a fourth says, of course, people don't really buy books these days.

Ah well, that's what I've learned so far. I'll keep trying, keep writing, keep drawing, keep hoping, keep dreaming... and maybe one day... Meanwhile I'll keep reading other people's blogposts in hopes of learning more.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What did I do this weekend?


What did I do this weekend? Well, we finally had the Summer Bazaar at our community center, so before the weekend I finished printing bookmarks, greetings cards, business cards, 2011 calendars, mini-books of drabbles and a rainbow of poetry books... Then on Saturday morning, bright and early (but not necessarily awake) I fell over in the parking lot. I spent the day manning my stall while trying to make sure my chin didn't start bleeding again, and reading the last Twilight book, Breaking Dawn, which I'd found while shopping for paper that wouldn't bleed printer ink on the calendars. I paid $20 for the stall and made $15. But I did finish the book.

On Sunday, feeling bruised and sore, I went to church in the morning, shopping in the afternoon, and in the evening read my brand new copy of Mockingjay, the last in the Hunger Games series.

Now it's Monday. I still feel bruised and sore, and I'm probably due to write at least two more book reviews. So, how was your weekend?

By the way, Breaking Dawn was good and Mockingjay was great.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Very First Review!


My first review of Refracted, my first real book--it's real because it's "really" published, as opposed to all those self-published ones; but it's virtual because it's an eBook and hasn't been printed on paper. Still, computer screens are real.

So, yeah, like I said, my first real review of my first real book, and it's published here at http://aubcherlis.blogspot.com/2010/08/winner-announcement-and-new-ebook.html, so please go over there and look! Aubrie Dionne is one of my favorite writers, and her Seasons of Fantasy eBooks were my first introduction to Gypsy Shadow--I really enjoyed them.

Meanwhile I'm racing to beat that next Gypsy Shadow contest deadline. They have such great book cover pictures for prompts. And there's the local summer bazaar on Saturday, so I'm trying to print off lots of home-made books to put on my stall. If you happen to be roaming near Portland Oregon this weekend, contact me. I'd love to see you there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The empty plains of Idaho

It's the longest drive I've ever done entirely on my own--Salt Lake City, Utah to Portland, Oregon.
I decided to make sure I stayed awake by stopping at every rest area and view point.
All those stops, lots of coffee, bottles of Coke in Utah and Idaho and Pepsi in Oregon (I'm not sure what the logic was to that)
... and gluten free granola bars definitely helped.
Utah's hills and mountains are always beautiful.
Oregon's eastern valleys are separated by picturesque passes.
But Idaho... One thing I learned is that Idaho is wider than it looks, and emptier, and its plains go on forever, and the gaps between its rest areas are big.
Still, perhaps it just suffered from lying between destinations.
And perhaps, now I'm getting back to writing, I'll have to be careful that the middles of my books don't get too long and boring either,
but provide suitable entertainment and refreshment to the reader.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

May to September

I think September must be coming soon. The stores all carry signs saying "back to school." The house empties out. The leaves start to turn... But I'm sure it was still May last time I looked.

May... That's when two sons graduated on the same day. We went our separate ways to celebrate then came home again. My weekend's absence from virtual interactions would surely be okay; I'd soon catch up. Then our oldest son moved to Texas and we joined him for the drive (real-life social interactions replacing the virtual for a while). The road trip was great and I'd surely catch up on my networking in June, till July came too soon. A few days vacation; my eBook accepted; edits... excitement reigned.

So now it's August and the eBook's officially published and really on sale (http://ww.gypsyshadow.com/SheilaDeeth.html). I pack the car and clean out all the "stuff" from corners and pockets as my youngest leaves home. There's a graduation invitation takes me back to May, and the summer's gone away... Still playing catchup with the internet, and now I'm missing my social interactions with youngest child. I think I feel old.

Ah well, maybe I'd better start writing again. Type all those dreams into Word then eat cookies, drink coffee, and watch where the story goes...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jigsaw Packing Skills

Our youngest son, recently graduated English major, has a job starting next week. So now we're packing up his life into the back of a car, and some obscure impulse led me to see if all his boxes would fit into the trunk. It's a two-day drive to his new "home" and I wanted to minimize how much stuff would be visible in the car.

There's a computer, of course, monitor, speakers, printer, boxes of books (English major), guitar amp (musician too), numerous guitar pedals, new comforter and sheets (mother's son, I couldn't let him leave home without them), more books, etc... And the amazing thing is, everything fit, perfectly, just like a jigsaw with its pieces falling into place.

All these years we've packed him and his brothers up for college. All these years we've struggled with those odd-shaped inaccessible empty spaces. And this year, the last time we ever have to do it, we finally get it right. Kind of ironic really, just as my life starts feeling like a jigsaw with a piece that's suddenly gone missing...

Still, there's the eBook to cheer me up. That was certainly a surprise and very welcome extra piece to my jigsaw life. And the departing son, being an English major, actually sounds a little bit proud of me. So here, in honor of jigsaw boxes fitted tidily in the trunk, is a somewhat more boxlike version of my jigsaw book cover. (Can you tell I like jigsaws...?) And there, somewhere far far from here, will be my son soon setting up his own new jigsaw life.

Click to Mix and Solve

Refracted: the story of a man who gets lost in time and can't remember what he's looking for. Preview Refracted here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Refracted

There's something about rainbows - something magical that makes me view them always through the eyes of a child - something that fills my mind with symbols of unity in diversity, faith in science, beauty in logic, hope in despair... all those falling droplets, all those splitting rays... and soon my youngest son will be going away. He's leaving home for his first grown-up job, first apartment, first time filling in forms on his own. My thoughts wander refracted into a rainbow all their own. Hold him tight enough to let him go. Love him well enough to set him free. Care deeply enough to trust. Then trust enough to pray.

It seems almost fitting now that my first eBook's called Refracted - perfect timing that its release should coincide with my need to let go. My youngest son flies the nest just as my scripted baby goes live...

Refracted, by Sheila Deeth
http://gypsyshadow.com/SheilaDeeth.html
The story of a man who gets lost in time and can't remember what he's looking for.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A gold star for HP


One long phone-call, much cutting and pasting and editing of firewall permissions, a bit of uninstalling and reinstalling, a few crossed fingers, time for a quick cup of coffee while the machines restart again... and the very kind lady at HP tech support has got it all fixed up and running beautifully. I can print and scan successfully from my nice new Windows 7 machine. My son can print and scan from his slightly less new Vista machine. And the printing comes out formatted right, margins where we want them to be, book-pages ready to be folded in half and stapled. I'm feeling very happy. And the lady at HP deserves several gold stars. Thank you HP.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's a Puzzle...

It's a puzzle working out why buying a new computer means my printer won't work anymore. But the printer's a wireless HP and the computer has Windows 7. Apparently HP drivers don't work properly beyond Windows XP - at least, not if you want to go wireless, and not if you want to use double-sided printing. Suddenly my printer becomes inaccessible whenever I switch it on (because the IP address might change). My scanner won't work (because the software "fails to install"). And my nicely formatted books now have be hand-fed page by page into the printer because the new (not XP) drivers scale the image and add extra margins at inconsistent sides of a landscape page (making the middle shift in opposite directions so you can't fold the page). Aghghghg!

Anyway, here's a much more interesting puzzle. Just click on it, and a nice little jigsaw puzzle site will let you waste precious minutes trying to solve it. Drink coffee. Eat chocolate... And if you want to find out about the book behind the puzzle, go to http://gypsyshadow.com/SheilaDeeth.html

Click to Mix and Solve

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interview with Cheryl Snell, author of Shiva's Arms

Shiva's Arms is introduced on the back cover with the following quote:

"Shame! This is your fault only," Amma yelled, shaking her fists. "You godless girl, you have weakened my family, my son's caste lost because of you!"

"You're the one! You won't be satisfied until you've destroyed everything, smashed it to bits with your tiny bare feet!" Alice pointed to Amma's brown toes. Amma looked down and flexed them, the war suspended for a second until she ran to the kitchen. Pulse throbbing at her temples, Amma snatched a pair of pliers to her heaving chest, hiked up the hem of her sari, and scurried upstairs.


I'm delighted to welcome Cheryl Snell to my blog today. She's answered a number of questions that I posed for her, and I'm sure she'll be happy to answer any other questions you'd care to ask in the comments: (My questions are in italics)

1. I've asked several authors this, and I always learn something new and relevant. Can you tell me a bit about how you got from there (wherever "there" was) to being a published author? (I guess that includes how you got your poetry collections published too.)

Cheryl: I had always written for pleasure, and read widely. At some point, I began to read deeply as well. I bought a few books on craft, and my delight in the act of writing dragged me along until I was producing publishable poems. I began to submit to journals I liked.

A poem is not a private diary with its own little lock, and I liked the idea of bringing the process full circle -- within a few years I had 65 publications in print magazines. It was time to compile a collection. Organizing one was no small matter. I had to choose and choose --narrative arc, linking by theme, repetition, form, variation, texture, or tone?

Poetry is a medium of unsaids, I read somewhere, so the spaces between poems are important, too. They direct the reader’s attention, help him find the fugal inner voices. My first book, Flower Half Blown (Finishing Line Press) was a sampler. I sequenced the sixty-four poems in my second book, Epithalamion addressing my central question (how can we live in a random world?) according to possible answers. A ribbon of poems about religion, science, nature, and love unspooled, an element in one poem weaving into an element in the next. Then Shiva’s Arms was accepted for publication. Etcetera.

2. Did you always plan to be an author and a poet one day, or did wanting to write come as a surprise? Was writing a novel a natural outcome of writing poetry for you (the language is beautifully poetic)?

Cheryl: Before writing took me under, I enjoyed a career as a classical pianist. During that time, writing wasn’t a hobby exactly -- more of an avocation. But I had no grand ambition for it.

As far a the language of the novel goes, I brought the poetry right into the prose, I think. The subject matter lent itself to that kind of utterance. (My short story collection WORDS IN EDGEWISE uses a much hipper, edgier voice, by contrast).

The novel grew out of a short story, which in turn came from the unfamiliar culture that arrived with my Indian husband, his friends and family.

3. Is Shiva's Arms your first novel or do you have an earlier story lurking in a drawer somewhere amongst your poems?

Cheryl: I’m not holding out on you, I swear! Shiva’s Arms is my debut novel, and I have nine other published works of fiction and poetry. They are all, with the exception of SAMSARA (Pudding House Publications), listed on my Amazon Author’s Page and on my blog.

4. There's clearly some of your own experiences informing Shiva's Arms. Did you find it hard separating the fictional characters from real-life ones?

Cheryl: While the frame of the story, the mixed marriage, was drawn from my life, the characters, and the trouble I get them into, are all fictional. While I was composing, I'd assign tics of people I knew to my characters, mostly for my own amusement, but also to help me find a reaction to a made-up situation that would ring true. “I like to put real toads in my imaginary garden,” as the great poet Emily D. once said.

I liken shaping a narrative to sculpting. (I know, I know –more metaphor!) With each revision, I chip away at what is NOT the statue, until each character emerges as itself, with its own reality and fictional truth. Each detail of a character has to earn its place, so in the end, there’s little overlap with actual people. The types sure are familiar, though! Don’t we all know an Amma, sari or no sari?

5. I've read that it's a good idea to know who your readers are. Do you have a particular audience in mind as you write, or are you hoping to attract a particular audience?

Cheryl: I never think of the potential audience as I write; it would compromise the authenticity of my voice. I write for myself, but after I’m done with a piece, I’m always willing to share!

On the other hand, when it came time to submit my literary fiction or free verse lyrical narrative poetry, I chose journals compatible with my sensibility. If I’d sent my poems to a magazine of formal poetry, for instance, I would have just been wasting everyone’s time. Believe those guidelines in The Writer’s Market –they mean what they say.

6. Did you choose the quote used on the back of the novel, and if so, how did you choose it? Is there another quote you'd particularly like readers to see?

Cheryl: The publisher chose that excerpt, perhaps because it marks the climax. I have many other favorite passages, like when Ram and Alice are “suddenly alone in the center of the room. It was an odd kind of privacy, a sheltering umbrella, imaginary but almost tactile. Their union was their real home. Alice led Ram to the quiet place they always returned to whenever they touched.”

7. Would you like readers of your novel to also read your poetry, or vice versa?

Cheryl: Since the poetry feeds the prose, my ideal reader would appreciate both genres. One of my collections, SAMSARA, was designed to accompany Shiva's Arms. The poems depict South Indian life, and focus on some of the customs, celebrations, and food mentioned in the novel.

8. What made you decide to include recipes at the back of the book? (They look delicious; I'm just not sure my culinary skills, and patience, are up to trying them out.)

Cheryl: Book marketing plans include tie-ins these days, and I thought recipes for dishes described in the book would fit that particular bill. The recipes also add another layer of meaning to the narrative, since I use food as a way to reveal national character. There was also a sentimental reason to include them –these are the same recipes my husband’s mother sent with him when he came to America for grad school.

9. The glossary at the back of the book was a big attraction to me. Just rereading the words brings the whole story back. I love the sound of "samsara sagara" (though I probably don't say it right). How much did you feel that phrases like that encompassed and enriched the story you were telling?

Cheryl: The music of the language is a very important element to me.
I loved that a phrase with such sibilance as samsara sagara could connote drowning, and the phrase vidama pidungaratha really does get the exasperation of the pull of family neediness across, with its spit and growl.

10. Is there a question I've not asked that you'd really like to answer for your readers?

Cheryl: I think we’ve hit all the high notes, Sheila. Thank you for hosting me, and for your perceptive review. It's a pleasure to have such a reader.

Thank you so much Cheryl. I've really enjoyed your book and your answers, and I wish you the best of luck with Shiva's Arms.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Going to interview author Cheryl Snell tomorrow!

That reading journey's not been going so well. I thought perhaps old age was slowing me down, or the hot summer. But a friend suggested it was just gravity pulling the blood from my head, so maybe I'll lie down... with a good book of course. Anyway, I'll post a list of my latest reads and reviews in a moment. In the meantime, I just want to announce that, after enjoying my interview with author Mary Russel so much, I'm hosting another author interview, this time with Cheryl Snell, author of Shiva's Arms.

I read Shiva's Arms a few weeks ago, so it doesn't really count towards my latest reading journeys. It's a great book though, a beautiful cross-cultural story of an American woman married to an Indian man, of the way cultural mistakes complicate emotions, and accident hurts tear people apart. It's a hopeful tale too, of torn threads woven together. And it's a musical tale where the words carry the scents and sights and sounds bringing them to glorious life. You'll have to read my review of Shiva's Arms on gather to find out more, or better still, buy the book.

More recent reads include:
Words for the Taking, by Neal Bowers, a surprisingly fascinating account of how one poet was plagiarized and set off in search of this invader of treasured memories.

Sing them Home, by Stephanie Kallos, is a beautiful literary novel, set in a small Nebraska with delightfully musical Welsh roots, telling of a family torn apart by tornados--those of life and those of nature--and how songs sung for the dead bring them back together.

Out of the Transylvania Night, by Aura Imbarus, is the most amazing book--a memoir that starts in Romania and travels to Los Angeles, of a life that starts in being different and wanders through being the same to being whole. I love it, and I just heard that it's been nominated for a Pulitzer!

A Boy and His Wizard
, by M. A. Smith, is a fun little tale told in well-seasoned rhyme with delightful illustrations and a lovely lesson for young readers to glean, first in a series with the second one (Boy and his Lizard) coming soon.

And Deception, by Lee Nichols, is aimed at someone older readers, giving an interesting twist to the paranormal teenager stories with a protagonist who's not sure why she sees people that aren't there. It promises to be another fun series to follow.

I've just finished Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry, so I'll plan to post a review of that soon. And I'm currently reading Hungry Spirits, by Alice Duncan, and The Last Estate, by Conor Bowman.

Don't forget to drop by tomorrow for Cheryl's interview. Her book is fascinating and a delight to read. I'm sure her interview will be too.