Friday, February 24, 2012

Supporting Indie Authors, Part 3: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

In part 3 of this blog series, Supporting Indie Authors, I'm going to address a big but touchy issue. If you want to truly help indie authors, you will at some point need to vote with your pocketbook, and give them some money. Yes, that's right. I said the magic word. Money.

Courtesy of Google Images
I'm going to confess here. I am just as guilty as anyone of looking for free books. It's not surprising... We're all on a budget to some degree. We're picking and choosing where we're going to invest our money. And we give our money to the things we believe in and value.

Now, authors... They publish their work in part to make money, and in part to earn recognition. (If they want neither, they get a nice little journal that they write in and then lock up somewhere.) For those who put their writing out there where you can see it, they're doing it to connect with you, the reader.

This is why I say: If you're going to support that author, you have to put your money where your mouth is. If they've entertained you, then they've earned it.

In some ways, I wonder if the model for paying writers could be broadened. Maybe we need virtual tip jars, so that if you get a free book or buy a 99 cent ebook and are pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoyed the read, you could go back and give the writer something extra. The same way you tip the house band at the bar. You know what I mean?

In the current system, that doesn't happen. We just pay our 99 cents (or get the free book), and mosey along our way. Still, there are a couple of simple things you can do to make it worthwhile for authors to offer their books for low prices or even for free sometimes online. It just takes mindfulness...thinking about make it happen.

Personally, when I get a free ebook, I usually review it on this blog or do an author interview. It may take me a while to get to it, but I do it, because at least it gives the author a little free advertising in return for the opportunity to read their book for no charge. A little quid pro quo is only fair.

My blog is a high priority for me. A review for another author on Amazon or Goodreads is less so. But I am trying to make time once every month or two to give a quick two-sentence review on those websites with a link back to my blog review, because reviews can help browsing readers make a decision to buy. And if someone else buys the book, then it helps the author, doesn't it? Easy enough.

Another way to help authors is to give their books as gifts at holidays and birthday time. Especially if you particularly like a book you've read. I may not need a copy of a book I've already read for free, but my mother might like a copy for her Kindle, and at 99 cents or 1.99 or 2.99, I can buy her several items, much cheaper than a trip to the bookstore. Gift-giving is a good way to justify spending money on  book you've already read.

I'd even bet that there are ways to support authors financially in ways that I haven't even thought of. I'll talk about one of those out-of-the-box approaches next week. But I'd love to hear from you about ways you think we can get money into the hands of the people who have entertained us with their written words.

(We'll leave supporting hard copy, paper books for another time and another series. I'm not sure how to make that happen in this brave new world of ebooks, but it's not a discussion for this blog post today.)

For part 1 of the series, go here.
For part 2 of the series, go here.

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Supporting Indie Authors, Part 2: Smaller Equals More Effort, Not Less

If you're an indie author, you know you need the support of others to build your online presence. And if you love indie authors, you want to help. This series is about practical ways to do that. Let's spread the love!

You know you love Marc Anthony and the kitten!
Love your indie authors the same way.
Courtesy of Google Images/
Last week, I kicked off by talking about reviewing other authors on your blog, Amazon, Goodreads, and anywhere else the author may have a presence. Today, I want to talk a little more about this, and make a bold statement:

We should dedicate the bulk of our efforts to smaller authors.

Yes, I am suggesting that if we're going to promote other authors, we should focus most (notice, I said most) of our efforts on the little guys. Here's why. It's great to talk about the big guys, the George R.R. Martins and the Charlaine Harrises. I've done it myself. There's nothing wrong with that.

But writers who operate at that level of business and fame don't especially need our personal reviews. Martin's A Dance with Dragons, for example, has a current total of 25,025 ratings on Goodreads. In other words, he doesn't need my review. He's more than covered.

But Farsighted, the book by Emlyn Chand that I reviewed recently and mentioned in part one of this series, only has 251 ratings on Goodreads. For the mathematically inclined, this is one percent of the reviews Martin has. Likewise, Treasure from the Storm, a solidly written and charming Christian romance by my friend Ellen Sherrill, has only one review right now. (Mine.) That's 0.004% of the reviews that Martin has. Who needs the bulk of the advertising help here? Not the famous guy.

Let me clarify here and say that I have nothing against famous writers, like Martin and Harris. I love them, actually, and I think it's great to support them. I don't mind if you want to give them a shout-out; I do it myself sometimes. I'm glad if you buy their books too, because I like to know that authors everywhere are making a living. Buying their books keeps them on the bookshelves, which is great. It may even keep Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores alive, which would be great, because I like bookstores. I've got no problem with loving the big names.

But the specific issue at hand here in this series is how to help the indie writers, the people who don't have the advantage of a big marketing budget or the opportunity to write their own books full-time... the people working on building their online presence, rather than the ones who are huge in their online and offline presence already.

With that in mind, I think it's clear that you and I have the best chances of making significant impact for the writers who are not going automatically onto the New York Times Best Sellers list on publication day. We actually have the opportunity to propel the indies to greater success when we make time for them.

That's why I'm arguing that if you have limited time to promote other authors (and you do), then it might be good to focus as much of that time as possible on smaller-level authors, who really need and will be thankful for your review and rating on Amazon, Goodreads, and other book-selling and review sites.

This belief is one reason why I'm focusing more of my review time on this blog for newer, less well-known authors. Sure, I may take a break and write a review of Brent Weeks or Jim Butcher. I've done it; see the links. But going forward, if I review a bestselling writer, I'll be more likely to talk about things we can learn from them as writers, rather than just giving them a shout-out. That way, the review will do double-duty and serve as a way to talk about how we can improve our writing skills. I'll be saving the straight reviews for the indies and linking them to the book sites of their choice.

So, let's hear what you have to say. And where else besides Amazon and Goodreads are you promoting yourself or other authors? Share, share, share!

For part 1 of this series, go here.

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Supporting Indie Authors, Part 1

Let's help each other!
(Courtesy of Google Images/
So, it turns out that giving myself a little break from my 3-days-a-week blog schedule has revitalized my creativity and passion. I just flashed on a great topic for a blog series on ways to help indie authors, and today's the start of it. This series will be going on for at least the next four weeks, so I invite you to check back in weekly on Fridays. I'm really excited about this. It's going to be good!

(If you like these tips, you can pass them along to your readers and give them specific ways to help you, even as you help others. This is what I call paying it forward, big time.)

The main reason I'm doing this is to identify the ways that we can support the authors we know who are independent, self-published, working with smaller presses, or are not yet as well-known as the really big names (you know, like Michael Crichton).

Most of the friends I have on Twitter fall into one of those categories. And recently, one of them (Emlyn Chand) asked me for a favor. I reviewed her book Farsighted, which I loved, on the blog last week. She asked if I'd link the review to Amazon and Goodreads for her, if I didn't mind.

I didn't mind.

You see, I like helping other authors build their online presence. It's what we all need to do these days, and why not help? I already share my reviews on my blog anyway, and it takes only a few minutes to write a two-sentence blurb on the places where the book is selling. I can link back to my blog review too, and maybe pick up a few readers. It's a small but easy way to support authors who are not as well-known as Stephen King or JK Rowling.

Which is most of us.

By giving reviews, I'm helping other authors who could use a hand, and I'm building good karma. After all, I'll be publishing my own novels soon, and I'll be thankful for everyone who returns the favor by supporting me. It's a good thing all around to be generous.

Author Michael R. Hicks did a great tutorial on his blog a while back to help you review and promote your favorite authors. Believe me, he makes the process look easy, which it is. He's on my list of books to read and review, so you can expect to see more about him on my blog in the next few months. But I can tell you, he's got a great blog for authors, with lots of good tips, so if you haven't checked him out yet, do it today. You will be glad you did.

Holy ebooks, Batman!
(Courtesy of Google Images)
Now, it's pretty obvious we can support other authors by interviewing them on our blogs, reviewing them on Amazon and Goodreads, tweeting about them, and posting about them on Facebook. (Though we sometimes need the reminder to do it.) But there are other ways to help too. More on that next Friday, so tune in next week, same ChipperMuse time, same ChipperMuse channel.

(Holy ebooks! She worked in a Batman reference on her author's blog.)

Yes. Yes, I did. See you next Friday!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Get Me a Scale: It's the Year of Writing Balance

Image courtesy of Images
If this picture doesn't say it all, what will?

In my continuing effort to get my writing life better organized, prioritized, and streamlined, I just made a list of the writing endeavors I am involved in or potentially going to be involved in. The list is up to 21 items so far, and it includes:

Personal writing projects: 3

Freelance writing projects: 3 definite, 2 possible

Writing communities: 6 (Say what? That's crazy!)

Social media and online networking outlets: 5

Learning opportunities: 2

And this list doesn't include the full-time job doing fundraising and PR writing.

So, you can see now why I'm trying to publish long posts only once a week here. Maybe I'll post little updates throughout the week if I can. I'd still like this blog to be active because it's an important way to connect to all my writer friends, as well as readers who love me for being me. (You guys are special.)

Have you ever taken inventory like this? How did you narrow down your opportunities and focus? Because seriously, you can see I'm having a focus problem, can't you? This is something to work on all year long. Congrats, 2012, you are now the Year of Balance for me.

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Muse Reviews: Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

A great YA read with a touch of the paranormal and a not-so-typical protagonist

I always enjoying winning a contest. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it feels fantastic. And all the more so when the prize turns out to be something I really enjoy. I'm pleased to say Farsighted, the debut novel of Emlyn Chand, makes a great prize.

The story revolves around teenager Alex Kosmitoras, who just so happens to be blind. He's managing his world as well as a blind teenager might—which is to say, he doesn't get along so well with his dad, and he has to deal with bullying jerks at school, but he happens to do it with a cane in his hand. Then suddenly, Alex starts having dreams and visions that allow him to "see" in a way he's never seen before. As he struggles to deal with that and figure out what it all means, he also tries to juggle his growing attraction to a new girl in town, as well as deal with his difficult relationship with his father.

Oh... And did I mention, his visions have to do with what appears to be an imminent murder? And the perpetrator has psychic abilities, just as Alex does?

This makes for a great, tense plot that balances the Sturm und Drang of adolescence. There's drama, all right, but it's adult enough that older teens and even adults will enjoy the story as much as the mid-teens who make up the books primary target audience.

By using a blind protagonist, Chand gives us the type of character we don't often encounter. She does a wonderful job of presenting Alex's world—a place without visuals, but alive with sounds and smells. As a writer myself, I know how easy it is to rely on the sense of sight to describe a room or a character or a scene. Chand can't do that with a character who is blind. But she does so well with tapping the other senses and helping us envision what life is like for Alex that it is a delight to walk around in his shoes, even though he is a moody teen at times. (But who isn't?)

The supporting characters are drawn well, and eventually we get to understand why Alex's father acts the way he acts. I will admit I was puzzled at one point by Alex's mother, who has a reaction to her husband leaving and returning that essentially made no sense to me. But given that the rest of the book is so enjoyable, and given that the mother's reaction isn't vital to the resolution of the plot, I could live with it.

There are some unexpected twists to the plot, and by the end of the book, I was ready for more. Chand is working on the sequel, which I'm truly looking forward to reading. (Hurry up, please! Hahaha!)

Overall, Farsighted is a satisfying read for teens on up. If you like a good thriller with a good dash of the paranormal, you'll like this book.

For more information about Emlyn Chand or Farsighted, visit her website. And if you buy the book, tell her the Chipper Muse sent you. (It always helps writers to know how their readers found their book.)

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.