The Effective Author: Great Gifts for Authors 2018

The Effective Author: Great Gifts for Authors 2018

© 2018 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.

gift from a friend

As we hurtle into the holiday season, wouldn’t you just love to have a handle on gifts for authors? Wouldn’t you love to know what to get or make for any of your author friends? Conversely, wouldn’t you adore having a ready answer when your husband/partner/cohort asks you what you would like for Christmas? I started making lists of author gifts in 2015. (Find my previous posts on this by searching this blog for “gift.”) Here are some fresh ideas for this year, to help your (other) author friends throughout the year. And I’ve given you enough time to both ponder and shop! Consider these:

  1. A tablet cushion. Also known as a “tablet sofa,” it saves wear on your wrists. author gift ideas 2018For those times when you/they want to read Kindle books or travel light with the “junior computer,” such as an iPad. These come in black and in red, and perhaps other colors from other sources. Last seen: Harriet Carter catalog. Last price observed: $9.98.
  2. A new mouse. Especially if your author friend has small hands and composes on her/his computer incessantly, a new right-sized mouse may be just the thing to reduce hand fatigue. Yes, there are also mice for large hands. Last seen: Office Depot. Last price observed: $19.98 .
  3. Gift card from an independent bookstore. Why? Because, if you’re thinking of getting your author friend a book, s/he already has all her/his friends’ books and every other book of interest. So get a gift card, and tempt your author friend to get away from the computer and actually go to a bookstore! Or at least to its website. Plus, gift cards can be used for ornaments, mugs, journals, booklights, and many other enhancements to a reader’s life. Last seen: Changing Hands Bookstore and The Poison Pen Bookstore. Name your own price.
  4. A tiny grabber/nabber. This one is a “claw magnetic pickup tool.” Because authors would love to be able to get at that pen or note that fluttered down to the back-of-the-desk zone. The most author-specific grabber, this one is flexible, 24” long, and magnetic. Also, it has a claw end and a bright light. So you can reach for that favorite pen that rolled away. Or use the light to look for a black thumb drive inside the back of a supply drawer. Last seen on Amazon under Tools – Nabber. Last price observed: $11.99.

Of course, you could always give your beloved author a pen that they can add to their drawer full of gift pens. So try these new ideas, and let me know what else you think of. Now you are even more wonderful, as a friend and as The Effective Authorsm!

_____________________
Kebba Buckley Button
is a stress management expert with a natural healing practice. SheKebba books 2017 also is an ordained minister whose passion is helping people find their Peace Within. She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, and also Inspirations for Peace Within: Quotes and Images to Uplift and InspireIPW is available on Amazon in full-color glossy format. Her newest book is Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, also in full-color. For full-color PDF versions, contact her office. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: calendar@kebba.com.

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Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula

Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula

by Rita Goldner

This month’s interesting animal is a Mexican red-kneed tarantula. A particularly Hairy mexican spiderbeautiful creature, this one has red-orange leg joints. The wild ones live in the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre del Sur mountain ranges in Mexico. There are also lots of captive ones in pet terrariums – but, as you know, my passion is always wildlife, not pets. These spiders have eight eyes, but poor eyesight, so they have to find prey with their hairy legs, which can smell, taste, and feel vibrations. Their prey is mostly bugs, but they can and sometimes do eat reptiles, small birds, and mice.

The most interesting characteristic (at least to me, since I’m always looking for life hacks from my blog subjects) is their ability to molt. Their outer shell (exoskeleton) doesn’t grow, so as their inner body size increases, they have to shed it. It’s quite a dramatic process, splitting and bursting through from the inside. Young spiders do it once a month or so, and older ones every year or two. If you don’t already have a case of the screamin’ meemies, you can see a video of the molting process here.

My recent interest precipitated from a trip to the Phoenix Zoo last Friday, opening day of the Bugs. BIG Bugs! exhibit. I’m taking a class on how to create a YouTube channel, and our teacher challenged us to make a video for Hallowe’en. We’re instructed to customize it with our own unique agenda, and since mine is illustrating, I figured the giant tarantula would be a perfect Hallowe’en subject.  I ventured off with my intrepid sister, who never says no (thanks, Meg.) She was behind the camera, a real perfectionist, in contrast to me, who hates retakes. She took umbrage at the fact that I can never pronounce “animatronics display” but I left the mispronunciation in, for added homespun charm, (i.e. I hate retakes).

My YouTube channel (a work in progress) is called Rita Goldner Books, and the title of this video is Tasty Tarantula, if you want to check it out. The class I’m taking, explaining the logistics of setting up the channel, plus making and editing videos, is a steep learning curve for me. I hope to use my channel as a vehicle for promoting my children’s books by igniting parents’ interest in literature for kids, especially in the science field. The rest of the students are about half my age, but I’m determined.

I’ll wrap this up with my author’s life hack: I’m molting from a technically challenged septuagenarian into a hip, savvy, techie reincarnation. Imagine me on the floor of my writing/illustrating office wriggling out of my old exoskeleton made of self-doubts, procrastination, waning motivation, and inertia. The new me is crawling with resolve, creative zeal, commitment, and focus.

Rita signature

Comments welcome.

_______________________

Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water CycleThe Flying Artist, and Rose ColoredTo view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.

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Self-publishing: The Good, the Bad, and the Fraudulent

Self-publishing: The Good, the Bad, and the Fraudulent

by Marcus A. Nannini

I began this post with the intention of delving into some of the statistics and facts underlying the production of one million self-published books in 2017. The first keyword links to pop up had nothing to do with self-publishing success, but instead focused on the multiple ways self-published authors are being ripped off. Consequently, I am sharing this link from The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website, which publishes Alerts for Writers. I suggest you refer to it, often: Writer Be Aware Alerts.

Scary Skeleton Skull

By the time I waded through multiple stories depicting all manner of frauds being perpetrated upon the 81 percent of Americans who either aspire to write their first books, are writing books, or have written books, I began to experience depression. Not everyone has the chance to belong to a group like Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion or the Southern California Writers Association. Belonging to a group such as I just mentioned is a big boost to side-stepping fraudulent book publishing and marketing potholes. I belong to both groups and have never left a meeting without learning something important.

During my research, I uncovered enough fraudulently placed articles extolling the virtues of various self-publishing or marketing companies to know nothing is better than first-hand information. If you are among the millions of writers seeking to publish your own book, I urge you to find a group of like-minded persons anywhere near you and join it. Of course, just joining the group is not enough. In my experience, people must force themselves to get out of their abodes, attend the meetings, establish relationships, and grow their knowledge.

When it comes to self-publishing (and I include vanity/hybrid presses in the definition), a person needs more than their own research to discover the best route to publishing. I truly believe a writer needs input from those who have tread before them. The best way, in my opinion, to obtain the requisite input is with one-on-one personal contact through group participation. So get out and join, or if you already belong to a group, make an effort to attend most of the meetings. Simply joining without attending is unlikely to yield your desired results.

One million self-published books in 2017! That likely means a whole lot of poorly drafted ramblings making it into book format, ISBN and all! At least a writer has a chance to break even in the bargain, assuming said writer publishes in one of the top three book-Writing note showing Self Publish Write Promote Sell. Business photo showcasing Auto promotion writing Marketing Publicity Megaphone loudspeaker speaking loud screaming frame pink speech bubble.buying countries in the world: the United States, China, or Germany. Breaking even, meaning recouping your actual out-of-pocket costs, is a reasonable goal.

If you have a rough idea of how much time you have invested in your book, you can calculate an hourly rate of return in the event you realize income above the actual out-of-pocket break-even point.

I have invested from a high of 2,000 hours to a low of 800 hours, so far, in the three books I seek to see published in 2019. Thanks to my publisher’s advances, I know I will make at least a whopping $1 an hour on the first book and $2.50 an hour on the second book. But these books are being published by a publisher that is in the business of generating income from book sales, as opposed to selling publishing services. They have more than 100 people on three continents to pay, so they are going to sell those books or die trying. They don’t even recoup their extensive costs until they have achieved significant sales. They are motivated to sell books.

A vanity or hybrid publisher generally has already covered its costs, and even earned some profits, with the fees they charge their authors. Beyond that, they have little motivation, as their focus is generally on soliciting more authors. As a self-published author, you will need a very well-defined and funded marketing plan. Every hour you spend writing the book can be spent again on marketing – likely more. As a self-published author, you are the person who must be motivated. The publisher has already made its profit, from you!

Please do not rush to publish and, even more importantly, do not rush into a marketing plan. One of the reasons groups such as the two I mentioned above feature different topics and speakers throughout the year is because publishing and marketing can’t be done in one swoop. There is too much information to digest, and the parameters of book publishing and marketing are in a constant state of flux. Again, I suggest you regularly attend the meetings as they can establish an effective marketing knowledge foundation for you.

I recently spent a week visiting the websites of more than 800 bookstores in the USA and Canada. I can count on two hands the number of them featuring a section for self-published books on their home page. Roughly a third of them state they focus, at least to some extent, on the offerings of INDIE publishers. However they offer a caveat: The indie publishers must use Ingram as their book distributor. As for the stores with a self-publishing section, they appear to be reserved for local authors only.

A book, once published, needs a physical distribution system to reach the buying public. A self-published author cannot expect a bookstore to buy directly from them, though there are a few who will take books on consignment with the absolute right to return any books they do not sell without regard to their condition. The potential potholes to navigate when it comes to distribution and bookstore sales are mind-boggling, but with knowledge you can dodge most of them.

Join one of the groups I mentioned above, or a similar group, attend the meetings, and learn. I urge you to be proactive and get involved. You can succeed in realizing your dreams. After all, it is still the United States of America!

_______________________
Marcus Nannini
began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the Marcus Nanninisixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel.

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The Gift of Wings and Song

The Gift of Wings and Song

by C. K. Thomas

Seeing birds in flight gave the Wright Brothers a desire to build a machine that would make flight possible for people.

Wright Bros - B

A mythical bird arose from its own ashes and became known as the Phoenix. I live in a place called Phoenix, and birds frolic in my backyard fountain, just as they did in my mother’s birdbath when I was a child.

Robins stood in line on flagstone steps next to our backyard birdbath in Indiana.  A Jenny red breasted robinWren woke me on summer mornings, singing from its perch on my mother’s clothesline. When I lived in Virginia, I kept track of the birds I spotted in my backyard in the back of an Audubon bird encyclopedia. There were nuthatches, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, cardinals, robins, titmice, and many others. Their songs at first light were magnificent. When I moved to the desert, I no longer heard birdsong in the mornings and I missed their music terribly.

I owned a bird book from National Geographic that came with 45 rpm records of birdsong. One very early morning, after completing his newspaper route, my son put one of those records on our turntable, and I awoke to birdsong filling my bedroom through the stereo speakers. Try as I might, I couldn’t put that bird music into those speakers, as my mind was positive those birds were right outside my window. It was a funny trick my son pulled, and eventually I did lure birds to my backyard with seed and water features.

I discovered a whole new roster of birds like grackles, Inca doves, curved-billed thrashers, verdins, and a wide variety of hummingbirds, among others. I still miss the colorful Eastern birds, but I’ve come to appreciate the Gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens of the desert.

Birds have been written about in poems: “quoth the Raven, nevermore.”

In fairy tales: “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”

And in songs like “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”:

Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It’s the truth, it’s “actch’ll”
Everything is “satisfactch’ll”

And everything did become “satisfactch’ll” for me in Phoenix once I felt the presence of birds around me again. I was desolate without them. To me, they’re a precious gift from the power of the universe.

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C.K. Thomas
lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.

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BookBub Promo: A First Time for Everything

BookBub Promo: A First Time for Everything

by A.L. Wright

As an indie author, my biggest expense is advertising. That includes pulling money out Agent Coltof thin air for paid promos to get my books in front of potential readers. I’ve been using quite a few services, with medium to decent results, but they have been generally short-lived.

How does an indie, who often puts out more money than she earns, get ahead in this digital age, competing against thousands of other authors?

I turn to an author mentor every now and then with these questions, and his most recent advice (among other gems) was to get into a BookBub promo and run them regularly.

Of course, we all want to do that, right? But every time I submitted, I was denied. Not to mention it’s a bit more expensive than other promos sites. Especially for fantasy genre writers like myself. But I decided to try it with one of my romance novels. The results were beyond what I expected.

AC on BB

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Don’t just submit your promo request – sell yourself! Fill out the submission form. Then, after you submit, take note of the box that asks if you have any additional info to provide. Most authors just skip this part. Mistake! That is why many books never get chosen for a promo spot. Provide info, juicy info, like your 5-star critic reviews, any awards the book has won, and the number and average of your Amazon reviews. Yes, they may already have planned to look up your Amazon reviews, but providing this info altogether and up front truly helps. I submitted a dozen times and was denied – until I actually wrote this info in that box!
  2. Free is not bad! The promo I ran recently was for free downloads of a book that is in the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program. I ended up with 5,480 downloads! It potentially could have been more, but many of those readers who were KU members clicked on the KU Read It Free button, and then I earned pages read. Up until this promo, the most KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) pages read I’d had for this book in one month was 18,000. I ended the month with just shy of 50,000 KENP pages read!Remember, KENP helps your overall paid rankings, too. My book was #1 in several categories during the free promo period and continued for almost two weeks in all the same categories for paid rankings.
  3. Residual sales matter. After my promo free period ran out, I changed the price to 99 cents for a week. Then back up to the normal price of $2.99. I had an additional 84 sales in the two weeks after the promo period ended.
  4. Remember Audio Book formats. My book has an audio version that I rarely remember to advertise, which therefore results in dismal sales. I happened to look at my sales records a couple of weeks after this promo, and realized I had scored 24 audio sales I would not have made otherwise.
  5. Reviews are a bonus! I’ve received four additional reviews on Amazon, and 43 ratings and 5 reviews on Goodreads.
  6. Grow your follower base on BookBub. Not only will you gain a follower or two on Amazon and Goodreads, but BookBub offers its own excellent system of followers and reviews. I had zero followers on BB at the start of this promo, and now I have 27. And 11 of those followers gave recommendations for my book on their own page!

So, to summarize, I paid $104 for the BB promo because I chose a book in a less expensive category.

I earned $260 via KU; $94 in eBook residual sales; and $150 (estimated) in audio book sales for a total of $504. To break that down, I spent $104 and earned $400 from one promo.

ALW BB Followers

The genre for which I ran my promo was lesbian romance fiction, which is admittedly pretty niche. That is also why the fee was less, and the potential downloads and residual sales may be less. I’m convinced that running the promo for a high-quality fantasy or Sci-Fi novel will have just as good, if not better results, even with the higher initial cost.

As a result of this experience, BookBub will now be my go-to for promo advertising, with the other services I’ve used coming in just for a boost. Between BB and KU, I can see myself continuing to grow sales, and perhaps coming out ahead at the end of the year.

Now, just to get more writing done!

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Alicia Wright

Writing under pen names A.L. Wright and A. Lynn Wright, the author is a mother of two living in the Arizona desert. She enjoys driving fast, riding motorcycles, hiking and chilling with her Corgi. Her book referenced in this blog, Agent Colt, and all other books, can be found on Amazon.

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Vacation Time in Texas

Vacation Time in Texas

by Beth Kozan

The summer I was 12, my family took a vacation to “See Texas.” If you’ve never traveled north to south in Texas, it might be hard to realize how long it took to drive 600 miles to our destination: Corpus Christi, and the Gulf of Mexico! From the Gulf, we drove west to the Mexico border to see the marvels of the new Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande, and from there back home, adding another 700 or so miles. This was a time prior to super highways, a time when every small town the highway passed through had at least one traffic light – and a cop waiting to catch a speeder! It was slow going, and very few cars were air conditioned. We kept cool by rolling down the windows, at least part way.

texas road trip

In the next 10 days, we would travel to Abilene, San Angelo, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Falfurrias, Falcon Dam, Laredo/Nuevo Laredo (where we crossed the border into Mexico – no passports needed!. Then to Uvalde, Sweetwater, Snyder, and Post – then back onto the Plains: and finally: our farm in the community of Harmony.

On our trip, we left said farm on the South Plains of Texas (near Petersburg) and drove to Abilene for the first night with Daddy’s cousins Bob and Averil. We kids slept on a pallet on the floor in the spare bedroom where Mother and Daddy slept. The next day we drove through Austin, where I took snapshots of the pink granite Texas Capitol building with my Brownie Hawkeye camera.

I did not like being stuck in the backseat of the 1953 Chevy with 6-year-old Nita Karen and 3-year-old Larry, so – unencumbered by seat belts — I spent a lot of time hanging over the back of the front seat, listening to conversations between my mom and dad, and watching the road.

The day before we left home, I’d started my first period! I was curious and wanted to check my menstrual flow, but I couldn’t; I had to protect the children. Sometimes I had mild cramps; I was learning about that, too. What a disappointment: to become a woman at 12. It certainly wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Along the way, we spent a few nights in a motel. Routine became ritual: Mother and the kids would stay in the car while Daddy walked to the office to ask the price of a one-night stay. He might return with a sigh: “They want too much!” But before long, he developed the skill of identifying a motel with a price that worked for our budget: a small unit (each, a separate cottage from the office) where we’d have one bed for three kids, and Mama and Daddy would have their own bed in our one-room stay.

After a good night’s sleep, it was on to San Antonio. Daddy got lost looking for the Alamo, which he had visited as a single young man. He got turned around in the city on narrow streets built for horses and buggies, not shiny new cars. He took a wrong-way turn onto a one-way street. “It wasn’t a one-way street the last time I was here!” he explained to the nice policeman who stopped us. Eventually we found a parking place and toured the sacred grounds of Texas’s most intense memorial battleground, impressed by the hallowed ground we walked.

After another night in a motel, we finally arrived in Corpus Christi to visit Mama’s older sister, Elsie. The next day we drove over a bridge to Padre Island on the Gulf of Mexico, following Uncle Champ with Aunt Elsie as his only passenger and carrying the picnic supplies.

I had never seen a body of water big enough to have waves! Everybody got to swim in the warm ocean – except for me. Mama said I couldn’t go in the water because I was on my period. Instead, I waded in the shallow water while everyone else played in the waves.

The waves were uneven – most were small and flat, but I learned not to trust them; some were bigger. I was bent over looking for seashells when a wave hit my chest, drenching my white blouse and white shorts, instantly turning them transparent. Horrors! Not only was my AA junior bra visible, but so was the secret belt that held my Kotex in place. I was mortified!

Aunt Elsie’s daughter, my cousin Barbara Jean, had driven out to the beach, arriving after we got there. Barbara Jean was grown, with a family of her own; she’d “made a nurse” and worked in a hospital. She called me over to the sand dune where she sat apart from the others. “I noticed you’re not swimming. Did your mom tell you not to swim while on your period? My mama told me that, too. She might have also told you that you can’t wash your hair when you’re on your period. My mother told me that. It’s not true. It’s an old wive’s tale.”

This would be the only time in my life I would see Cousin Barbara Jean in person, but her words liberated me. She schooled me to Real Life and let me in on female secrets: My mama was wrong! Barbara Jean opened up a new world for me, independent of what my mother’s generation believed.

Woman and little girl sitting on the wooden pier near the sea.

_________________________
Beth Kozan
is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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Sometimes You Need a Break

Sometimes You Need a Break

by Patricia Grady Cox

Having finished THE CABIN DOOR (my third novel), I have begun my search for an agent. At the same time I am diligently promoting my two published novels, CHASM CREEK and HELLGATE. I am now posting on more than 66 Facebook group pages. I finished compiling my MailChimp list and am about to send out a newsletter. I’m also ramping up to start promoting the large-print edition of CHASM CREEK, which is due out November 21. On top of that, I started research and outlining for my fourth novel, a sequel to HELLGATE, and plan to churn out the first draft in November during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

I’m tired just reading that paragraph!

Which is why, when my sister recently invited me to spend a week at a beach house she’d rented at East Matunuck Beach in Rhode Island, I said yes!!!

RI Beach pics 1

RI Beach pics 2

One whole week of lounging, watching the sun rise and set over the salt pond, walking a half-mile to the ocean with big breakers, eating seafood, drinking adult beverages, visiting friends and relatives, playing Scrabble, and binge-watching Poldark. Heavenly. And I have photos to look at whenever I want to return to that vacation frame of mind.

Now . . . back to work!

_________________________
Patricia Grady Cox
is a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing Trish Coxthe West. Her nonfiction work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and ghost-written memoirs. Patricia has volunteered at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum where she experienced, first-hand, the realities of life in the 1800s. Her love of the Southwest – the landscape, the history, the culture – infuses her work with authenticity. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Arizona 24 years ago and currently lives in Phoenix. Her novel, Chasm Creek, is available on Amazon or through her website. Patricia blogs weekly at Patricia Grady Cox, WriterHer second novel, HELLGATE, is now on sale.

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