Kevin J. Anderson visits Kobo HQ!

Kevin J. Anderson sat down for a chat with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre at the Kobo officeAward-winning and #1 international bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson was in Toronto last week and stopped by to visit the Kobo head office. Kevin is the author of more than 125 books, more than fifty of which have been national or international bestsellers. In addition to this, as the publishers of WordFire Press, Kevin and his wife Rebecca Moesta have released more than a hundred eBooks from over 25 authors. He also hosts the annual Superstars Writing Seminars, which teaches writers the business of being successful in the publishing industry.

Kevin sat down with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre to be our Writer in Residence for the evening. In the audience were local KWL authors and Anderson fans. Over drinks and snacks Kevin shared with us the story of his success and how he got to where he is today. Here are some of the main points:

  • Always write – Kevin discovered a love for creating stories at a very young age, writing his first ‘novel’ at 8 years old. Growing up he was always stealing moments to write before dedicating himself to it full time.
  • Be persistent – rejections go hand in hand with writing and shouldn’t discourage you. Kevin received over 80 rejection letters before his first story was published, proving that persistence pays off.
  • Write about what you love – being passionate about what you write is very important. Kevin found success in the genre he loved, sci-fi. The success of his original works led to him writing several novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes. As a huge Rush fan, their music influenced his writing which later paved the way for collaborations with Neil Peart himself.
  • Be open to change – the publishing industry is changing more than ever before. Rather than shying away, Kevin embraced the change and found success self publishing his back catalogue and becoming a publisher himself with WordFire Press.

We’re very grateful to Kevin for stopping by and sharing his story with us.

You can find Kevin’s books on Kobo here and if you’d like to explore more WordFire Press titles, you can find them here.

Indie Insider’s Next Picks – July and August

insiders-logoCheck out the this summer’s installments of INDIE INSIDER’S NEXT PICKS, a list of recommended indie titles and authors, by IndieReader in collaboration with industry experts (including Kobo!).

Indie Insider’s Next Picks is a great place to discover great books and new authors. Check it out today to find the books everyone will be talking about tomorrow!

New picks will be available every month.

Find Indie Insider’s Next Picks for July here.

Find Indie Insider’s Next Picks for August here.

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 021 with Diane Capri

In the latest episode of the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, we welcome NYT and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri. KWL Content Manager Christina Potter and US Manager Christine Munroe speak with Diane – who offered jokingly to change her name to Christine for the purposes of this episode – about her daily writing life, the benefits of collaboration and mentorship, strategies for selling well on Kobo, and more.

Diane and Lee Child.

Diane and Lee Child, her friend and frequent collaborator, who says her work is “Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too.”

Tune in to hear about:

  • The value of being part of writing organizations. Diane has been a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and others, for many years. Diane talks about how she joined many groups when she began writing and how these groups of allowed her to receive feedback on writing and  upcoming projects. They are also a great place to connect with new writers and share information.
  • How to find a writing schedule that works for you. Diane’s advice? Try everything – it is the best way to refine your process.
  • The importance of working closely with retailers and taking advantage of different programs that they offer. She specifically discusses Kobo’s First Free in Series page as a strategy to find new readers. She also highlights that making her titles available through all retailers has been key to her success, and that exclusive programs have not worked for her. By their nature they exclude potential readers who find eBooks through other platforms.Hit+the+Road+Jack
  • Diane talks about collaboration and her author collective, The Twelve. This group worked together and released the incredibly successful DEADLY DOZEN boxed set. She discusses the process of putting the boxed set together, highlighting  pricing strategy and PR efforts to ensure the book was accessible to as many readers as possible. The ultimate goal of the group: do things that haven’t been done before. Read Joanna Penn’s blog post about DEADLY DOZEN’s success here!
  • There has never been a better time to be a reader and writer. One of things Diane enjoys the most is that readers who may not have been able to find her books in print can easily purchase them around the world as an eBook.
  • Diane’s relationship with her fans. Connecting with them is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of being an author.
  • A sneak peek of what Diane is working on next!

DianeCapri_redjacket_lrgNYT and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri writes mystery, thriller and suspense for the same reason she reads: for fun, excitement, to find out what happens, why people do what they do, and how to bring justice to an unjust world. Her books are translated in twenty territories. She comes to writing after a successful legal career and is married to her college sweetheart. She loves her snowbird existence preferring perpetual summer migrating from Florida to Michigan each year.

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Diane’s website, and her blog

Pre-order HIT THE ROAD JACK, coming out September 4, on Kobo!

Get LICENSED TO THRILL for free.

Twitter: @DianeCapri

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianeCapriBooks

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically capture episodes as they go live -even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog – subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform (such as iTunes) using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast

Utilizing Self-Publishing to Thank Readers and Booksellers

By Beth Revis

I never thought I’d self-publish…but I’ve never been happier with the idea of doing it now. And the biggest reason for that is because I have been able to turn my words into a full novel of thanks to my readers.

"Because I am in control of THE BODY ELECTRIC, I’m able to make sure the book is special for the people I most want to thank—the readers and the bookstores that got me where I am today." -Beth Revis

“Because I am in control of THE BODY ELECTRIC, I’m able to make sure the book is special for the people I most want to thank—the readers and the bookstores that got me where I am today.” -Beth Revis

After years of going the traditional route, I had my dream come true: A great agent that got me a great book deal that landed me on bookshelves, the NYT Bestseller List, and more than twenty foreign language translations. But the next book I wrote didn’t quite fit my publisher’s list, and it was something that I feel needs to be on the market sooner rather than later, so after some careful thought, I decided to go hybrid.

It was an easy decision, honestly, and in the end the only logical one for me. This new book, THE BODY ELECTRIC, is loosely linked to my original series, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, so time was a big factor in my decision. Also, curiosity—I’ve wanted to play in the indie waters for awhile now, and no time like the present to try. But my biggest motivating factor was a desire to show appreciation for my readers.

I decided to use THE BODY ELECTRIC in two specific ways to thank my biggest supporters. For my readers, I developed a special, limited edition of the book. For the local bookstore owners who championed my books, I made sure that the special features were easily available to readers through them—not the big box counterparts.

Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC.

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC.

I’m working closely with my local independent bookstore, Malaprop’s, to make a limited edition available. Each copy of the book will be signed and numbered in a limited print run and include special content inside and full-color art—and will only be available through Malaprop’s, which will be shipping the book internationally.

Of course, I wanted to make sure my eBook readers had access to the book, too, and not just through the elephant-in-the-room-online-bookseller. So in order to continue to help out local indie bookstores, who often use Kobo to sell eBooks directly, I’m selling the eBook version of the special edition of the book only through Kobo and iBooks. There are more than 30 pages of extra content, including a short story, a history of the world, an author interview, and more.

Because I am in control of THE BODY ELECTRIC, I’m able to make sure the book is special for the people I most want to thank—the readers and the bookstores that got me where I am today.

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Formal-LandscapeBeth Revis is the NYT bestselling author of the ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series. The complete trilogy is now available in more than 20 languages. A native of North Carolina, Beth is currently working on a new science fiction novel for teens, THE BODY ELECTRIC, which is coming out October 6. Connect with Beth on her WebsiteFacebookTumblr, and Twitter.

 

Taking The Leap: Zoe York on Series Plotting, Marketing Plans and Writing Full-Time

By Zoe York

In May, I made the exciting and scary decision to transition to writing full-time. I’ve always thought of myself as a professional writer, but for the first time I actually started to look at writing as my business. The first thing I did was a quick analysis of my book list and compare it to the book lists of authors with similar reader bases. One common element is that most authors I’d like to sit next to on the digital shelves have multiple series on the go. (And if you aren’t convinced that you should be writing series, we need to chat.)

That so many were writing two or more separate worlds surprised me, because I’ve often heard the advice, focus on one series. And I get it: sales really take off with the fifth title. But when I thought about it, multiple series written in the same or similar worlds allow readers multiple entry points to that author’s book list.

So that changed my plan in a big way.

What Once Was PerfectStarting with my first book, What Once Was Perfect, I’d crafted my Wardham books to be exactly the type of romance series I wanted to read: sexy, Canadian, and with characters that are a bit unexpected. They’re quiet books, tightly focused on the developing relationship, and I love reading them. Mission accomplished!

But after the success of our bestselling military romance superbundle, SEALs of Summer, I was reminded of the broad appeal of a high-concept hook. And I like to read those books too! Give me a billionaire who stumbles when he falls in love and I’m a goner.

It’s hard to look at books you love, books you are proud of writing, and realizing that they lack a certain accessibility. That’s what high-concept means: that readers will get what the book is about in the two seconds they give your book page. It starts with a succinct description: some call this an elevator pitch, a tagline, a log line. And many try to figure it out after the book is written.

That’s what I did with my Wardham books. I wrote them, then I tried to figure out how to market them.

Crafting a book from the beginning to be high-concept means starting with that tag line. “Six years. Two break-ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.” That in a nutshell is Love in a Small Town, and it was one of the first lines I wrote down when brainstorming my new series.

A successful high-concept book is going to deliver on that promise to the reader from the inside out. A well-branded cover can tell the reader everything they need to know about the story, hook them in an instant. My friend Cora Seton does this so well with her Cowboys of Chance Creek series.

Two self-publishing rules butt up against each other here: how can I stay committed to the Wardham series if I’ve taken a hard, business-minded look at it and found it lacking? (Hint: I haven’t … not all readers want high-concept books, and I’m happy to write different series for different audiences.)

While writing Beyond Love and Hate in May, I fell in love with the brother of the hero. Unlike Finn, Ryan Howard doesn’t live in Wardham.Beyond Love and Hate I sat in Starbucks for days, writing Finn’s story, the whole time growing more and more interested in Ryan’s story. So I pulled out my idea notebook and sketched out a bit of his story, and a new series was born.

Connected, but different. Higher-concept hooks. Wardham, but with choppier waves and craggier bluffs, I told a fan, and the description has stuck in my head ever since.

Pine Harbour is a fictitious town halfway up the Bruce Peninsula. It was named by my Facebook reader group, the Wardham Ambassadors.

It turned out that Ryan’s story wasn’t the first romance that needed to be told in Pine Harbour. As I plotted and wrote, two books popped up before Love on a Spring Morning, which will be Ryan’s story, coming next March. The first book, which I wrote in five weeks and I absolutely love, is called Love in a Small Town.

I love this book so much that I’ve done nothing but talk my writer friends’ ears off about it all summer. Rafe and Olivia Minelli are divorced, but they never fell out of love with each other. Now Olivia’s thinking hard about leaving her adopted town, and Rafe’s finally realizing that something—many things—will need to change if he’s going to convince his wife to give him another shot.

One writer I spoke to, Lexi Ryan, is a self-published author I greatly admire. She started in contemporary romance, and now writes very popular crossover New Adult/contemporary romances. With her latest series, Here and Now, Lexi used a marketing plan to show online book retailers how serious she was about launching her books with a bang. The term marketing plan sounds dense and daunting, but Lexi really helped me see that it’s not much more than we already know. “Writing a marketing plan isn’t as scary as it sounds. It shows vendors that you approach your book releases and promotion strategically,” Ryan explained. “That little bit of effort can go a long way, and most of us already have our strategy in mind. The official plan simply puts it in a form that can be shared with others.”

I was sold.

I put together a Love in a Small Town Marketing Plan and shared it with a few friends who pointed out obvious things that I had missed (see my complete list MarketingPlanKobo (2)below). Looking at the final document, I understood Lexi’s point: it was everything that I hoped for my series, objectively laid out. And it gave me confidence that I was approaching the launch of this new series in a logical and strategic manner.

Even for a brand new author, documenting a release plan like this can be a useful way to milestone your career. Compare marketing plans release to release to see growth in your social media platform and advertising reach—and if you’re not seeing any growth, figure out why.

Marketing Plan Must Haves:

  • book and series information; I broke this into two sections
  • promotional plan for pre-order and release week (blog tours, ad buys, social media plan)
  • author platform numbers, including newsletter and social media reach
  • author bio
  • upcoming release schedule for future books in the same series, and all upcoming author titles, including collaborative projects

Zoe YorkZoe York is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

 

 

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 020 with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

In our latest podcast, KWL US Manager Christine Munroe interviews bestselling author and self-publishing expert Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Pamela has written the book on self-publishing, WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO? In the summer of 2013, she embarked on a 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, which she organized herself (with the help of her supportive family), so she has plenty of insights and advice for working successfully with bookstores.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Listen in to Episode 20 as Pamela shares her thoughts on:

  • Her mission to serve as an exemplary self-published author, in particular when working with bookstores, so they will open the door to fellow writers.
  • Stories from the road during her 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, including the day when a book club showed up to her Boston reading… despite tornado warnings!
  • Keeping it in the family – her husband, the five children between them, and her mom all joined her on the road to help support her work.
  • Looking at self-promotion with a long-term perspective. “I’m hoping for a 10-year return,” she says. Pamela recommends focusing on how to build your email list of people who welcome hearing what is next. Also, don’t abuse that list – send a maximum of 2-3 updates per year.
  • Promotion is 1/3 of the game in terms of your success. The other elements? Writing, of course, and giving back to the author community.What+Kind+of+Loser+Indie+Publishes,+and+How+Can+I+Be+One,+Too?
  • Pamela’s free strategy: giving away books is an amazing way to get those crucial reviews. Pricing the first book in your series for free is a great way to get started. Read her blog post on this topic here.
  • What she wishes she would have known when she started, including thoughts on exclusive programs, and why moving books in and out of various platforms hurt her more than the benefits of exclusive helped her.
  • Pseudonyms. Pamela believes, “I don’t want to make it hard for someone who discovers me, to discover other things about my writing that they might like.” However, that might not apply for writers who work in vastly different and contradictory genres, like erotica vs children’s picture books.
  • Hints about what’s to come in Pamela’s forthcoming novels.

PamelaPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, and moonlights as a workplace investigator and employment attorney. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. 

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Pamela’s website, and her blog

Grab the first book in the KATIE & ANNELISE series for free on KOBO!

Don’t miss Pamela’s guide to indie publishing: WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO?

Twitter: @PamelotH

Facebook: http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author

 

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically capture episodes as they go live (and even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog), feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform such as iTunes, etc using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast

So, About That Cover: An Interview With an Author and His Cover Artist

We sat down with author Kyle West and cover artist Luke Atkinson to learn more about the adventure of getting a book cover designed. Here’s how it went:

Why do you think having a great book cover is so important when it comes to eBooks?

KW – After your story, your cover is probably the most important part of your book. It’s the first thing readers see, so it has to be downright amazing.

LA –You know the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Unfortunately we live in a digital age that doesn’t allow that luxury. A great cover can give the visual edge your book needs to stand out in a sea of thumbnails.

How can I find a book cover artist? How can I tell if the artist is right for my books?

KW – Finding a decent cover artist is fairly easy with the Internet. Most (if not all) have sitesApocalypse (The Wasteland Chronicles, #1) displaying their portfolios that you can peruse, which you should definitely check out. If you browse the cover artist’s catalogue, you’ll know what kind of work to expect. Quite a few hang out in places like Kboards Writer’s Café. Usually, they’ll have lots of excellent pre-made covers to choose from, some of which can cost as little as $50 (or even less).

LA – Make sure you pick a graphic designer who can work with what you want. Designers have strengths and weaknesses, too. Try to pick one with a taste for art you are comfortable with displaying on your cover.

How did you find your cover artist?

KW – I was incredibly lucky to already know a cover artist. I met Luke Atkinson my freshman year of college, and we’ve kept in touch. When I was writing Apocalypse, the first book in my series, I remembered that Luke was pretty good at the whole graphic design thing. I asked if he was interesting in doing a cover for Apocalypse. We settled on a price and he got to work.

LA – Kyle and I had a unique situation since we’d known each other for so long which helped us be more open with our design direction.

What’s it like to work with a cover artist? What if I don’t like what the artist comes up with?

Evolution (The Wasteland Chronicles, #3)KW – The first cover he made completely blew me away. It was hard to imagine that he’d made that cover from the stock images he’d shown me. The cover captured the dark mood of the series perfectly, and we continued to incorporate quite a few of the ideas from that cover to establish a brand. For all the following books, we used a similar typeface, silhouettes, along with images that convey the genre in an eerily beautiful way (the desert in Apocalypse, the contaminated tower in Origins, or the dragons and the sunset in Evolution).

LA – Kyle was willing to let me show my strengths while depicting a world he created. We branded the series to look alike, yet be different and interesting on their own.

KW – As we’ve worked from book to book, our process has evolved. It starts off with me hunting down a lot of cool stock images, always keeping in mind the plot of my story. Then, I paste the links of whatever grabs my attention in an email, shooting off a few potential ideas to get him running. Depending on the book, I’ll send anywhere from 10-20 stock images. I’m not sure whether other cover artists work in a similar fashion, but I think that’s helpful, in that it gives Luke an idea of what I’m looking for right off the bat – and of course, he’s free to do his own hunt for stock photos.

Luke then looks at the images, telling me what can and can’t work while adding his own ideas. Depending on the book, the cover gets sent back and forth a few times Origins (The Wasteland Chronicles, #2)– sometimes I have exactly what I’m looking for on the first go, but usually it takes three or four amendments, mostly minor details. I can be very picky, and a good cover artist will patiently make the changes you request.

Good covers have to strike the balance of being simple, yet conveying exactly what the story is about. If you try to do too much, the cover will appear busy and unprofessional. Luke had to remind me of that a few times when my ideas became too grandiose. Of course, the title should always be big and it must be clear what the genre is from the images used. And, as I said before, it’s important that the cover is beautiful.

LA – Don’t be afraid to tell a designer they are way off. Just remember: Be willing to accept a designer’s direction, too. They are the professional at this, after all.

Isn’t hiring a cover artist really expensive? Should I go with a pre-made cover, since they’re cheaper?

KW – The best artists are often quite expensive, but you should never skimp on a good cover. It’s the most visible part of your book, and without a good cover, your chances of selling well are extremely low. I feel like all too often indie authors try to cut corners on costs, which is one of the biggest mistakes that they can make when you’re talking about building a career.

Pre-made covers are excellent, and some can be as cheap as $25 or $35. Don’t limit yourself to that price tag, though. If you’re working on a series, pre-mades are not the way to go, since pre-mades mostly cater to standalone titles.

I don’t know anything about designing book covers. How can I give the artist the feedback he/she needs when I don’t even know what I want?

KW – Go look at the top twenty books in your main genre and subgenre onRevelation (The Wasteland Chronicles, #4) Amazon, and that should give you a benchmark. Most cover artists, assuming you hire an experienced one, already know the ins and outs. But even with a professional cover artist, sometimes you might not get what you’re looking for. In that case, don’t be shy about graciously asking them to fix the aspects you don’t like.

LA – There is always a sort of “meta-game” associated with graphic design. Sometimes simplicity says it all. Other times big and flashy wins. Find a style that works for you and your designer. Together you’ll create something great.

Can’t I just design my own book cover?

KWDon’t design your own covers unless your work is indistinguishable from a professional’s.

Any last tips?

KW – The key to a great partnership with a cover artist is lots of communication, professionalism, and knowing ahead of time what kind of covers the artist specializes in. And if the process goes well and you get a rocking cover, you’ll have an artist to turn to whenever you write your next book.

LA – Word.

kyle westKyle West is the author of The Wasteland Chronicles. From a young age he has always been a voracious reader of sci-fi and fantasy. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Professional Writing. He writes full-time and resides in the bustling metropolis of Oklahoma City. He blogs at kylewestwriter.wordpress.com

photoLuke Atkinson is a graphic designer from Oklahoma City. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2010. He has been designing in print and web media for 7 years. His work can be found at lukeatkinson.me

 

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