Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Elisa appears on Kindle Nation Daily!

Stephen Windwalker's Kindle Nation Daily is the place to go for all things Kindle. Readers (some 10,000 KND followers) get the inside scoop on new and upcoming authors, new Kindle features, how-tos, and any other Kindle-related news. Authors who have been featured on this mega-blog site have seen significant increases in their sales and Kindle rankings.

And so, I, humble wordsmith, have the good fortune to be one of those authors. Check out this feature which includes a lengthy sample (FREE!) of Faking It, plus a rather nice little write-up and profile (and yes, I pilfered the NC State homepage photo).

Meanwhile, work on WILS continues. We've enlisted the help of a reader with the first couple of chapters, which I believe to be the weakest right now. Not good when you want to hook an audience. He's been very helpful so far, giving ideas that I wouldn't have considered on my own and driving home the suckage point (I don't mean to say that he's been harsh in his criticism--quite the contrary. Rather, that there's so much of it is telling.)

And speaking of suckage, I don't think my writing partner will mind if I share a little chat we had this morning:
Her: Eiuch! I just typed out some of the dialogue I wrote yesterday -- it SUCKS. (caps hers)
Me: Don'tcha hate when that happens? You think it's all brilliant as you write it, until you read it the next day and go, "Oh, this is all shit."
Her: Only it didn't seem brilliant to begin with. It's THAT bad.
Me: Oh, you mean cover-it-with-a-sheet bad...
I don't know why writers are so hard on themselves. But if we can't laugh at our own suckage, then how will we ever work through it to turn it into something good?

Finally, I got another little nod earlier in the week from Aaron Sorkin, who happened to find out that I was showing The West Wing episode "Isaac and Ishmael" to my classes. According to Aaron,
Elisa should give her class a pop-quiz on the episode but throw them curveballs like "Who was the Second Assistant Wardrobe Mistress? (This counts for 75% of your grade this semester)".
My response: What do you think the extra credit question was?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

the face of the university?

Last month, I was interviewed for the Bulletin, an online news outlet that describes itself as "the people, news and ideas that shape NC State University". I knew that the article about my recent Kindle Best seller success was going to be accessible through the university website, but imagine my surprise when my good friend and colleague posted on my Facebook page, "OMG, you're on the NC State homepage!!!"

Sure enough, I opened the homepage, and there was my mug, beaming out to the masses as I held my books up in corny fashion.

My first response was something of a gasp, followed by incessant laughter. When I sent the link to another good friend, he replied, "You're the face of the university!"

This is a scary thought, considering I have a Wonder Woman doll in my office (and yes, I play with it), and think pop tarts are a food group. He also asked me if they know I was a relocated Yankee.

More surprising, however, is how many people actually read the article. Two of my former students, as well as my colleagues, contacted me to offer congratulations, which I appreciated. Half a dozen people sent Facebook Friend Requests and Twitter follows. Others contacted me asking for publishing advice.

Is this what fame is like?

I don't mean to ask that in a conceited way. I'm simply thrown off by the attention. Sometimes it still doesn't register to me that a big thing has happened, that I've achieved something that is so difficult to achieve. I overcame the X-factor without knowing what it is, or when or why I did. And I can't say I wasn't trying, but I also can't take all the credit for it. And I wonder how far the ripple effects go.

As for "the face of the university", well, I'm a long way off from where I started. Truth be told, I'd rather be teaching writing the way Andi does. These days, Peter Elbow's words "College is short, and life is long" echo in my mind louder than ever. If I am indeed to make a mark on the university, it is to return to the idea that we write because we have something to say; to make sense of the world and our place in it; to think way beyond the bounds of the classroom and the damn grade.

As long as that face is smiling, then I suppose all is well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

spring fever

Friends and readers, I apologize for my unannounced absence from my blog. Last week I was on spring break, most of it spent working on the Why I Love Singlehood manuscript. This included enacting all the edits my writing partner-in-crime and I made during Christmas break (which may seem counterproductive, editing before revising; however, this has been anything but a conventional writing process, and it worked for us), a 2 1/2 hour phone call between the P.I.C. and me (the conversation went something like this: Me: So I have this note on page 213 that I assume made perfect sense to us in December, but is confusing the hell out of me now. Any ideas? Her: I think so, only if you can explain the notes I made on page 145...)

I can't even begin to tell you how great it was to flip through the pages of the manuscript, re-aquaint myself with the words and faces, and laugh out loud in the coffeeshop as I typed out new scenes that we wrote in the margins. We still have a lot of work to do, but our phone call also included giving ourselves a timeline to finish and even publish our book. So exciting!

The other big news: I finally bought a Kindle! After such a great conversation on Book Chatter with some really cool people (see it here if you missed it live), I couldn't wait another minute! So far, I'm really enjoying it, and trying not to blow my entire paycheck on e-books. And while there are definitely some aspects of print books that I would miss (I like to see how far I've read, or how many more pages I want to read, and call me crazy, but I like to smell books, and yes, I smelled the Kindle when I took it out of the box), the Kindle is a different, albeit pleasurable, reading experience. Now, if I can keep away from the Kindle accessories...

At any rate, spring fever is in full gear. I'm spending more time at the coffeeshop, near open windows, taking walks and composing in my head. Spring break gave me a glimpse of my ultimate goal -- to make a living as a full-time author. With every Kindle and print sale, with every positive review, I am one step closer to that goal. So close I can see it. It's lookin' good.

That said, we're at the point of the semester where everything is on fast-forward. I'll try to post here at least twice a week, so bear with me. And thanks for sticking with me so far.

Happy spring, everyone!

Friday, March 12, 2010

join me tonight!

I'm going to be on Stacey Cochran's "Book Chatter" LIVE tonight at 9:00 pm, EST-- I'm going to talk about my recent sales successes and failures. Hope you'll join us!

I can now assess my mistakes. For one, I raised the price too high. Fifty cents doesn't seem like much, but think about what it would be like if a zero was added to that. Imagine raising a price from 99 dollars to 149 dollars. Would you be willing to pay that much more? I still want to try $1.19 and see how I do. If I don't fare much better, then I'll go back to 99 cents.

Second, the problem may have been that I raised the price on an existing product. I think I'd do better releasing a new book at $1.49 (or higher, once the new Amazon royalty rates change). Clearly the appeal of Faking It wasn't only the book itself, but a "great book at a great price". I thought perhaps it was time to let the value of the writing speak for itself, but I underestimated that readers loved that just as much (even though some said they'd have been willing to pay more).

Good lessons all around. It'll kill me to have to take the book offline even for 24 hours while the new price reduction goes into effect, but hopefully sales and rankings will rebound as a result.

Finally, I got two happy surprises today. Came across this glowing review of Faking It and Ordinary World, and the WickedWriters website re-posted the guest blogpost I did for Anthony Policastro and The Writer's Edge. So, if you missed it the first time, check out WickedWriters!

Have a fab weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

the pricing experiment: day 4

It's not going well.

That is to say, I'm not getting the results I'd hoped for. My rankings are tanking big time (I apologize for the unfortunate rhyme). Sales have dropped by about half. Interestingly, Ordinary World still seems to be holding its own. Faking It, however, is not.

Indeed, this was a huge risk, raising what is, relatively speaking, quite a price hike even though it's only 50 cents. Percentage-wise, it's a high markup. Add that to the fact that most people slashed their e-book prices, some down to free, for Read an Ebook Week, while I actually raised 'em. Points for me being gutsy, yes?


Have decided to wait until the end of the week, then I will lower the price to $1.19 and see if I fare any better. The downside is that for some reason, when you lower your price, Amazon takes the book offline for 24 hours. (Why don't they do that when you raise the price?) So I'll have to lose a whole day of activity, and lord knows how that will affect my rankings.

Alas, this is what business is all about. If you want to make an omlet, you've got to break some eggs. There are important lessons to be learned here. I just hope I can reclaim my former rankings.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

pricing experiment: the first 24 hours

Well, it happened. After 44 consecutive days on the Kindle Top 100 Bestseller list, Faking It fell to #107. Ordinary World, on the other hand, jumped from #337 to 292. Go figure. There's nothing worse than a broken streak. I have no idea whether this is the result of the price change, or if it was on its way down already (it kept threatening to, fluctuating between the upper 80s and lower 90s), but I sure hope it wasn't the former. And it's not like sales have tanked so horribly that they're down to nothing (#107 ain't bad, and it's still #1 in special categories!), but still...

Of course, I'm tempted to restore the original price. Another option I'm considering is to keep OW at $1.49 and reduce FI to $1.19. I may just have to give it a few more days.

I remember a musician saying this about becoming famous (namely, topping the charts): The work you do (mental and physical) trying to get there is nothing compared to the work you do trying to stay there. I get it.

The activity at Smashwords, however, is exciting and encouraging. In fact, Smashwords has been so overloaded with traffic that people are having trouble getting in. Keep trying, though! I'll keep you posted throughout the week.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Read an Ebook Week

So, this is officially Read an Ebook Week. I'm not sure how the brick-&-mortars feel about it, but I think it's pretty neat. Many indie authors are offering their books for free at Smashwords, or slashing their prices by 50%.

I, on the other hand, just raised my Kindle price to $1.49.

I either just shot myself in the foot or practiced smart pricing. Time will tell.

So why would I do such a thing?
For one thing, it was time. Faking It and Ordinary World have been selling at 99 cents for at least six months now. They sold over 37,000 units for January and February combined. Sales have been slumping for the last few weeks (I thought perhaps this was due to the Olmypics, but I've seen no improvement). As far as I can tell, the sales have plateaued. It's time to raise the price, even if only by 50 cents.

For another thing, the book's value added has increased significantly thanks to the success of the last two months. I still have to wrap my brain around the magificent thing that happened. I may still be an indie author, but I'm no longer an unknown author (at least not to 37,000 readers!). Besides, several reviewers admitted that they would have paid more for my books. When I hear that, I know I've got something of value. Those in business will tell you to give customers what they want. If they're willing to pay more, then charge more. Besides, I always thought they were worth more. I think they're worth more than a buck-forty-nine, but it's a reasonable raise w/out price-gouging.

Third, with Amazon doubling royalty rates in June (provided authors set base prices at 2.99), I'm gradually preparing for that. With my writing partner's approval, I'm planning to charge Why I Love Singlehood 2.99 right out of the gate once it's ready (and can now do so thanks to FI and OW's success). I'm curious to see what other indie authors do come June, and how Kindle readers respond. Will 99-cent books disappear? Will this be a factor as e-reader prices come down? Time will tell.
But Elisa, why not give your book away for free? It's Read an Ebook Week, after all...
I respect authors for being so generous, and if I was going to do such a giveaway, I would do it for one day only, perhaps (I gave away lots of print and e-book copies of FI and OW to lucky winners throughout the blog tour last month). Call me a greedy capitalist (and I know several who will), but I believe in charging money for my books. Yes, I have always maintained that I wanted a readership more than I wanted royalties. But I believe as self-publishers we should also be entreprenuers. That is, we should sell our product for a price. That's just me. Feel free to disagree, and give a boatload of books away this week. I'll still support you.

The hardest part about being a self-publisher is just that: you are no longer just an author engaged in the process for the love of writing. The moment you decide you want to sell your book, your creation becomes "product", and you are the "publisher" (not to mention marketer, distributer, and seller). You have to take the risks that any businessperson will take. You will undoubtedly make mistakes. The smartest businesspeople see mistakes as stepping stones to future successes. The rest see mistakes as failures.

So to indie authors and self-publishers, don't be afraid to take a risk or make mistakes. But, learn as much as you can about the business to minimize your mistakes (or, at the very least, the consequences).

To the rest of you, try an e-book this week! You can go to Smashwords to check out all the free or reduced books this week (including mine), or download Barnes & Noble's e-reader software to your computer for free (you don't need a Nook), and check out their catalog of free ebooks. Finally, don't forget that you can download the Kindle app to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or Black Berry if you don't own a Kindle.

And, as always, a heartfelt thanks to every single reader who purchased and read my books, regardless of what you paid (or didn't pay) for it.

Happy reading!

Friday, March 5, 2010

not part of the tour, but one more guest post

I get to plug one more appearance. My friend Anthony S. Policastro (you may remember his guest post back in September of last year) invited me to write a post about being a Kindle bestseller. His blog, The Writer's Edge, attracts many self-published and aspiring authors. So, here's my post in which I try to re-trace my steps using the 4 "P"s of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion.

In the meantime, I have a question (or two) for you: Is there anything you'd like me to cover on my own blog? Any questions, any subject matter? If there is, let me know. I recently read something about blog overload, not to mention blog burnout. In other words, so many blogs to read and follow, so little time. I can vouch for this both on the reader and writer side of blogging. This piece (and I'm sorry I didn't bookmark it, otherwise I'd give you the link) suggested that it's more important to blog about things of substance than blogging every day. Most of what I post here seems to be pretty mindless, and I want to keep my followers, so I'd like to know what keeps you coming to "I'll Have What She's Having", or what would keep you coming.

And I haven't forgotten about the titles-&-characters challenge. As you read yesterday, I'm pretty swamped right now. Might not happen until the summer.

Anyhoo, enjoy the guest post, and have a good weekend. See you on the B side.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

and now back to our regularly scheduled blog... sort of

With the blog tour over, I can get back to my regular posts on my blog. However, this is the time when things get tough. The semester is well underway, and no sooner do I finish grading one set of papers does another come in (66 in all, an average of 6-7 pages apiece), plus homeworks and conferences and keeping up with the course schedule, etc. Oy, I'm getting dizzy just writing about it.

In other words, my streak of posting every day has come to an end. I'm gonna try to keep up two to three per week, however.

The hardest part is not writing. Of course, the composing continues in my head, but I'm itching to get it down on the page. The problem with me is that I'm not a multi-tasker, never have been. I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Unfortunately, teaching sucks a lot of energy out of me by the end of the day -- mental and physical -- so that I often wind up on my couch at dinnertime, in pajamas, planted in front of the TV where I watch Law & Order re-runs so that I don't have to think too hard. After that I just change screens and catch up on Facebook and Twitter.

I'm looking forward to Spring Break (a week from tomorrow, Hurrah!) so that I may turn my attention to my poor manuscript, neglected since Christmas. I'm hoping the same spark of energy that my writing partner in crime and I had three months ago will return with a vengeance, and I'll be productive as ever, enough so to start querying agents. After all, I want to capitalize on my Kindle success of the last two months.

And speaking of...
Faking It and Ordinary World sold a combined 21,000 Kindle downloads for the month of February, approximately 38,000 for the last two months combined. I still can't wrap my brain around the enormity of this accomplishment, and I can't seem to re-trace the steps to success in order to repeat it or pass it on to others. At any rate, I'm beyond thrilled; and even though both books are sliding in the rankings (although Faking It is still in the Top 100, been there for 40 days now), I can't complain. I somehow managed to achieve the thing I could only dream about eight months ago.

For now, I'll close with a heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported me on this blog tour. I loved reading and responding to your comments. Thank you to all of my hosts, readers, new followers, contest winners, and especially those who bought my books as a result. Most of all, a very special thank you to Jodi Webb and WOW (Women on Writing) for putting it all together, keeping in touch, and just being plain ol' fabulous. Can't wait for the next one.