Authors, How to Promote on Pinterest

by Guest Author, Sherri Browning Erwin

By now, most authors recognize the importance of establishing a presence on Facebook and Twitter to help drive promotions that can lead to sales. But what about Pinterest?

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, a way to organize and share things that you find on the web.

My initial reaction to Pinterest was that I didn’t need another way to waste time. But finding ways to waste time is what I live for when I’m between words, and I joined. At first, I thought it might be a way to gather ideas for current projects. I signed on with my picture and author profile and arranged a few boards, representing various categories or interests, one for recipes, one for fashion, one for recommended books. At best, I thought I could recommend some of my books and books by friends.

Good Thing about Pinterest Number One:

Recommending books by simply posting a picture and short description of book from any bookseller site, no need for hashtags or blatant shout-outs.

Then, I started pinning pictures of pretty historical gowns, gardens, teapots, actors who reminded me of my characters, settings I might use in a novel, on the board I called The Muse. Pinning doesn’t actually take a lot of time because all you need to do is click to link a picture you find on the web with your Pinterest site, select a Board to pin it on, and add a brief (one line) description of the picture. Before long, I noticed that my pictures were being repinned (noticed and pinned by other users to their own boards) and drawing new followers to my Pinterest page.

Good Thing about Pinterest Number Two:

New followers to my Pinterest page means new people looking at my profile, which mentions my website and my books, a good thing. But even better…

After a few days, I noticed that when I pinned something from a website, Pinterest provided a link to the site that I pinned from. AHA. So, if I pinned something interesting from my personal website, it might be repinned by other users with a link to my site attached, encouraging other pinners to perhaps come back to check out my website? Yes indeed. I started a board dedicated to my blog, The Whine Sisters. The Whine Sisters is the blog I share with six bestselling author friends. We take turns blogging on various topics like favorite TV shows, movies, restaurants, writing tips, fashion, life events. I pin a picture from each author blog to the Whine Sisters board and try to keep track of repins, to see how a pin can spread.

Recipes and fashion are most often repinned. Each repin carries that Whine Sisters link with it to the boards of tens and sometimes hundreds (thousands?) of Pinners, Pinners who might just click the link and come over to see what The Whine Sisters are talking about next, and catch a glimpse of the books we’re each currently promoting.

Good Thing about Pinterest Number Three:

I can spread links to my websites and blogs with every picture that originates from my own sites and gets repinned.

After I saw lots of repins from the Whine Sisters board, I added new boards for new promotions of my own, like a Proper Victorian Vampyre Slaying board which features things that relate to my most recent releases, Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations. When possible, I try to post to my personal websites or blogs first and pin from there, so that all repins lead back to me, and to my books. It’s not blatant self-promotion. No need to mention me or my books by name or at all. And yet, I’m posting things that intrigue and lead to repins, and have the potential to bring people back to my own websites, or the book directly at a retail site.

According to website Shareaholic, Pinterest was getting nearly 12 million monthly unique visitors in early 2012, and driving more referral traffic to websites than Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined. Pinning items of interest on Pinterest can drive traffic right back to you or your books, which makes it effective, fast, and easy promotion.

Happy pinning!

About Sherri Browning Erwin

Sherri Browning Erwin is an author of contemporary and historical fiction, often with a paranormal twist, most recently known for critically acclaimed “monster classics” Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations.

Find Sherri at her Author Website or

Sherri Browning Erwin on Pinterest
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Sherri Browning Erwin on Facebook
Sherri Browning Erwin on Twitter: @SherriErwin

How SEO Can Help Promote Ebooks

I know many authors who recoil at the very thought of promoting ebooks. I suspect the reason is that many authors think promotion equals endlessly tweeting “Buy my ebook!” The good new is: that is not what I mean when I talk about effective ebook promotion. The bad news is: effective promotion is more complex and takes a lot more work. Fortunately, it can also be a lot of fun. It’s kind of like throwing a really great party. It takes planning and attention to detail, but once the party begins, it should be as fun for the host as it is the guests.

Promoting Ebooks with Social Media

Or: Why Tweeting “Buy My Ebook” Doesn’t Work

Many people think BS (Blatant Self-promotion) doesn’t work because it’s obnoxious.  Well, it is. It’s also boring. But the main reason it doesn’t work is because it’s marketing directed at human beings. This approach is the modern day equivalent of snail-mailing postcards and doing book signings.  Authors did this in the past because it was about the only thing we could do. It was also a fairly futile waste of time and money. We did it, though, because we were powerless to do the one thing we knew would have a significant impact on our sales nationwide: Co-op dollars, baby.

Before I can explain how social media has helped to level the playing field, I need to dip into how things work in the traditional publishing world.

Placement in the Brick and Mortar Bookstores

If a publisher is behind a print book enough to pay co-op dollars for special placement on an end cap or special display in a major bookstore chain, that title is going to sell many times more copies than a title that is simply shelved on an aisle.

Search Engine Optimization Gives Co-op Dollars a Run for the Money

The reason indie authors are storming the bestseller charts at Amazon is because the Amazon search engine has leveled the playing field. Yes, publishers can still pay to have their titles displayed prominently on all the ebookstore Websites, but indie authors who understand SEO can use certain strategies to push their titles up the charts—which gives a title the same exposure in the e-world as special placement does in the print-world. Some authors do this instinctively without really understanding how or why their ebooks are taking off. Well, here’s the key:

The #1 Rule to Effective Ebook Promotion is to Market to the Search Engines First, Human Beings Second.

Notice I said engines, plural. That’s because there are many and they each work differently, because each one was programmed with different algorithms. An algorithm is a mathematical equation that controls how the search engine will organize whatever it controls. I’m going to cover three groups of search engines that authors need to understand to promote their ebooks effectively.

Bookstore Search Engines

The Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Sony search engines control the order ebooks are displayed to potential buyers. They display ebooks in two main ways: the charts, and the also boughts. While algorithms are closely guarded secrets, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that B&N’s search engine skews things in favor of the traditional publishers while Amazon does not. That is one of the many reasons indie authors have an easier time climbing the charts at Amazon than they do at any of the other ebookstores.

Internet Search Engines

Google is by far the big daddy in this world. I could go on for pages and pages about Google SEO, but the Internet abounds with information. All I’m going to say for now is if you want to succeed as an author (whether you’re going indie or you’re with a traditional publisher), you need to educate yourself on how to improve your Website (or blog) SEO. If your Website SEO is low, you are missing an important element in your promotion platform. It’s like having a three-legged table and snapping off one of the legs. It’s not going to stand.

Here are some of my older posts that might help. Keep in mind these posts were written years ago about my old Website. They are not about my current site. My current Website is an excellent example of effective structure. Pay particular attention to where I have my newsletter subscription box and my social-networking links. Again — on my Website — not on this blog.

Social Networking Search Engines

The main one at present is Facebook. Twitter is so straightforward, there’s no need to go into it with this post. As for Pintrest, I haven’t delved into that world yet, so I’ll save it for later. With Facebook, though, authors need to have a page, not just a profile, and they need to learn how to read and use the insights that Facebook provides. Your goal with Facebook isn’t just to increase your number of likes. It’s to improve the percentage of people you engage which will improve your overall reach. Study your insights to understand what type of posts engage the people in your network.

In the coming weeks, I will delve into each of these components more deeply, but here’s my main point with this post:

Using SEO Increases Your Ebook Discoverability

The things you do outside of the bookstore search engine that increase your SEO on the Internet and in the world of social networking will drive traffic to your ebooks within the bookstore, which will improve your ebook discoverability. So, if you’re wondering, “Is it really important for me to be active on Facebook and Twitter?” Yes! You don’t have to be a master at both, and most authors tend to prefer one over the other, but yes, you do need to have a presence in some form of social networking.

As for the question, “Do I really need to spend the money—or time—to make my Website more effective?” Again, yes! Notice I said make it more effective, not make it prettier. Making it pretty is about branding. That’s the human element. Search engines don’t care what your site looks like. So, for the purposes of this conversation, your Website needs to be attractive to search engines, not human beings. And it needs to drive traffic to your social networking sites as well as have buy links.

Think of your overall Web presence as portals into the bookstore.

By overall Web presence I mean your Facebook page, Twitter account, Website, blog (if you have one), guest blog appearances, newsletter, and any advertizing you do. But these don’t just drive traffic to the point of purchase. They need to drive traffic to each other, so they all grow together.

How SEO and social networking improve your ebook placement in a bookstore.

When promoting ebooks, your goal shouldn’t be “sell more ebooks.” That mindset leads to authors sending out those obnoxious “Buy my ebook” tweets. Which is basically like handing out bookmarks to strangers on the street and asking them to go search down the loooooong aisle where your ebook is shelved spine-out and please buy a copy.

Your goals should be:

  • Increase traffic at your portals by improving your Internet SEO (and engaging readers once they’re there!), which will…
  • Increase traffic to your product page inside the ebookstore, which will…
  • Lead to sales, which will…
  • Improve your ebook placement (i.e. discoverability) inside the ebookstores, which will…
  • Lead to more sales, which will…
  • Improve your ebook discoverability even more…

When you improve your discoverability, you’re basically moving your ebook from being buried halfway down that long aisle to an endcap. Do a good enough job at this process, and the search engines will place your ebook smack-dab in a display at the front of the store. In other words, through savvy social networking and effective SEO, you’ve just done what authors could never do in the physical world of print books and brick-and-mortar stores: You bought special placement.

Grant it, the hardest part of the process is to simply get it started, but once it starts, it can build on itself and takes on a life of its own. So, focus on the process (increasing traffic) and the end result (selling more ebooks) will take care of itself. Yes, you will still post updates about your writing, new releases, and any special promotions you’re doing, but the bulk of your interaction with readers will be as a cordial host chatting with guests at your party.

So when you think about ebook promotion, don’t think about a megaphone. Think about a party horn. Make promotion a good time, not a sales pitch.

My Journey as an Indie Author

It was a year ago this month that my world changed forever thanks to the ebook revolution. April 2011 was when my sales exploded. I have been reeling – in a good way – ever since.

This journey, however, started long before that. It started in the fall of 2009. Back then, I had one goal: to somehow get back some semblance of a writing career. To me, at the time, that meant land another contract with a traditional print publisher.

Boy has that goal changed! But let’s look at how I got from there to here.

The First Step Down a New Path

In the summer of 2009, I was basically unpublishable in the eyes of New York. I hadn’t had a book out since Unforgettable came out in 2007. I’d gone from rocketing onto the publishing scene by hitting the USA Today list with my first title to sales numbers that were so bad (thanks to the implosion of the publishing industry) it was heartbreaking. I was also so emotional beat up after eight years of the publishing process, I needed a break. I stepped back for two years by going to the mountains of New Mexico to paint aspen trees and contemplate clouds.

That was fabulous for awhile, but after two years my muse started to stir. I wanted back in the game. So, I landed a new agent with a proposal for a new series. One of the first things I realized, though, was that a lot had changed in the two years I’d been away. Suddenly, it wasn’t just the proposal and an author’s sales numbers that publishers looked at before offering a contract, it was the author’s Website and overall Web presence, i.e. their number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Yikes! My Website was two years out of date, and I didn’t know a tweet from a twerp.

Fate Intervenes

As karma, chance, the universe would have it, I bumped into an Internet marketing coach at a wine bar one afternoon and I hired her to overhaul my Website. Instead, she overhauled my entire life by opening my eyes. I already knew the publishing industry doesn’t make sense to any rational business person. Yet, in talking to this very savvy businesswoman, trying to explain why I couldn’t implement her marketing strategies because “that’s not how things work in publishing” I started to see just how ridiculous the publishing industry is. Even so, the first time she suggested I ditch New York and self publish, I drew up with indignation and said, “I would never self-publish!”

Long story short, part of the strategy this marketing guru proposed to help me land another print contract was for me to start this blog. Julie’s Journal Online was meant to accomplish two things: 1) help me learn social networking by teaching others; and 2) seriously up my overall Web presence. In order to write my blog posts, I had to do a lot of research. That led to me reading things like Konrath’s blog the Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. Which led to me reconsidering epubbing my out-of-print backlist. Lord, what a hair-pulling experience epubbing was back in the early days before we had a sufficient number of cover designers and formatters to hire.

Blazing a New Trail

Out of desperation, I formed email friendships with other authors traveling the same path. We were intrepid travelers into the dark unknown with nothing but each other to turn to as we hacked our way through uncharted territory. Julie’s Journal Online became my way of sending posts back to others just beginning their own journey.

The first two years were a lot of struggle, frustration, and hard work with very little payoff in terms of money. I was limping by financially designing ebook covers for other authors, but getting my own backlist converted to ebooks took a long time. Cover design was a natural for me, because I was a professional graphic designer before I sold my first novel, but I was a dismal failure at formatting. I finally hired a former indie bookseller, Pam Headrick, to format my files properly. Pam has since become a full-time professional ebook formatter, and I highly recommend her. (Learn more here.)

Finally, in February 2011, I had three of my out-of-print backlist titles up as ebooks, the Pearl Island trilogy. That had taken months, and sales were very slow but starting to show a bit of promise. With my next titles, the Perfect trilogy, I decided to upload them all at once. What we trailblazers had discovered about ebooks is that the more titles you have, the more it improves your discoverability in an exponential way. I correctly reasoned that uploading the whole Perfect trilogy in one day could have a positive impact on my algorithms. I was also planning to use some marketing strategies early indie authors had developed.

The Day My World Changed

And so it was on a morning last April, shortly after I’d uploaded the Perfect trilogy, that I woke up, checked my KDP dashboard, and spewed coffee all over my computer when I saw how my sales had taken off. Nothing has been the same for me since. I have gone from saying “I would never self publish” to saying “I’ll never go back to traditional publishing,” (at least not unless significant changes occur).

I realize this path isn’t for everyone. Some of my friends are still working with publishers and are happy to have those contracts. More and more, though, I’m seeing authors juggle indie publishing with their print contracts. I know that’s going to be the focus of the Ninc Conference 2012, Profitable Partnering, Publishing a la Carte. For me, though, indie publishing has been fabulous. I love the control – probably as much, well almost as much, as the money. The main thing indie publishing has given me is it restored my passion for writing.

Where I am Today

My seven indie titles are earning more money per month than I used to make per year as a print-published author. In spite of that, last fall, I agreed to an offer from Montlake for them to republish my one remaining backlist title, At Last, formerly titled Unforgettable. Yes, that’s right, the title that bombed so badly as a print release. As an ebook properly packaged and promoted by Amazon, a company that knows a tiny bit more about marketing in the Internet age than publishers in New York, that story has sold many times its original print run and is continuing to sell strong.

The Future

I’m currently working fast and furious to finish the proposed story my agent was shopping (before my ebooks took off and I told her to pull it), and hope to have it finished by the end of summer.

What I’ve Gained from Epublishing

Other than the money, the main thing epublishing did is it gave me back my passion for writing. Traditional publishers had me convinced readers no longer wanted the kind of fun, feel-good stories I enjoy writing. From my sales figures and reader feedback, I know readers do still want them. There’s no spread sheet for measuring that.

How has the ebook revolution affected you, either as a writer or a reader?

How to Pimp Your Facebook Page

Authors, are you struggling with the appearance of your Facebook page in the new layout? Here are some quick tips to help you get a great look.

Cover Photo

As you’ve noticed, this has to be a horizontal rectangle. For my personal profile, this was easy. I just grabbed a snapshot from my iPhoto library of a flowerbed in my backyard. A landscape or sunset would also work well. Anything that has a horizontal section that looks good. You don’t even have to resize it if you don’t want to take the time. Once you upload it, you can adjust the photo up and down, but NOT side to side.

Custom Graphic

For my author page, I wanted a graphic in keeping with the appearance of my Website, Blog, etc. Here are the specs.

Start with 11.806 inches wide x 4.375 tall, 300 dpi. Get your image how you like it, then reduce to 72 dpi.

Final size: 850 pixels wide x 315 pixels tall

NOTE: When a visitor (including you) lands on your page, you frequently see only the bottom portion. Keep this in mind when designing your graphic. You want the image to make sense when full and when only the bottom portion is visible. Also, leave room for your avatar.

Here’s how my banner looked before I uploaded it.

Here’s how it looks when you land on my page and only the bottom of the graphic shows. The full image is there, but you have to scroll up to see it.

Custom Tabs

If you have tabs (multiple pages within your FB Page) you may want to create custom tab graphics. My tabs are:

To create tab graphics, start with 1.53 inches wide x 1.027 inches tall, 300 dpi. Get your image how you like it, then reduce to 72 dpi.

Final size: 111 pixels side x 74 pixels tall, 72 dpi

Uploading the Custom Tabs

I created my graphics, but had virtual assistant Jessica Lewis at authorslifesaver.com upload them. Here’s what she said: “How to upload the tab depends on which app you are using. Some of them you just click on the app from your admin panel. Others you have to go to the edit page tab, click on apps in the sidebar, select the app and click go to app. The app I used for the My Books tab is Static iframe tab by Woodbox.”

Let me know if this helps, or you have any questions!

Julie

A Personal Note on Etta James’s Passing

Last Friday started out on a high note for me. After days of jumping through hoops to get the soundtrack to my novel, At Last, to go through, I discovered it was live at Amazon. Cause for celebration. I posted the news to Facebook and was about to post on Twitter when I heard the news that Etta James had just died.

It stopped me cold. I didn’t even know how to respond. I’m a huge fan of Etta James, so the news would have saddened me any time, but to learn that she was dying right as the companion soundtrack to At Last was going live added a layer of discomfort to my sorrow. I immediately slammed the breaks on all my personal promotion effort for the day. Unfortunately, there was no way to stop the big push Amazon had scheduled—yes, for that very day. That campaign has been in the works for months. The timing is just . . .  ironic and unfortunate.

I naturally spoke with Barbara Calderaro, the singer who recorded and produced At Last, the Soundtrack. She had the same mixed feeling about the timing. We also shared our memories of Etta James and the impact her music has had on us.

Here’s what Barbara had to say: “I always loved Etta James’ music and her earthy delivery of some great songs. As a vocalist who sings jazz standards (among other genres) I always enjoyed singing ‘At Last’ which was one of Etta James’s biggest hits. It has been sung by other vocalists…even men, but none were quite like Etta’s version. So, when I decided to record ‘At Last’ on my first CD five years ago, I discussed it with my guitarist and arranger, Howard T. Levine,  who  suggested  that we change the style and rhythm of it to make it my own. Howard’s arrangement has kind of a Latin flavor to it.”

When Barbara first told me about the new arrangement, I thought it sounded nuts. Then I heard it, and loved it. I also agree that giving it a different spin was the right thing to do out of respect. No one has ever or will ever sing the original arrangement like the great Etta James. (To hear Barbara’s version of this great romantic standard, click here.)

Once Barbara and I had both recovered from our shock, we realized that perhaps the timing of the soundtrack release wasn’t unfortunate after all. To have a fresh recording of Etta James’s signature song go live on the day of her death is actually a testament to the fact that she will live on as an icon to our musical culture.

Farewell, you will be greatly missed, and fondly remembered.

Do you have any special memories of Etta James, her music, or the song “At Last”? Feel free to share as a tribute to one of the greatest female vocalist of all time.

Rocky Road to Launching At Last, the Soundtrack

If you read my last post, Making a Music Soundtrack for a Novel, you know At Last, my new ebook release from Amazon/Montlake, has a companion soundtrack. It includes eight romantic American standards that were recorded by the amazingly talented Barbara Calderaro specifically to go with the story (since my heroine is a singer). The goal was to release both the novel and soundtrack at the same time.  I, Amazon, and Barbara worked together to coordinate this. The music was already “in the can,” since the eight tracks are part of a previously released CD. The soundtrack is digital only, so all we needed was a new cover that would coordinate with the ebook cover.

Creating Covers

Amazon created a beautiful cover for the ebook with plenty of time for us to create the coordinating cover for the soundtrack. Once we got that to the singer, all she had to do was re-upload the eight tracks we’d selected with the new cover. (The full version of the CD is still available with the original cover.) Everything was running like clockwork. Until…

The Best Laid Plans

The first hiccup came right before Christmas when we realized the images used to create the ebook cover had a time limit on the copyright license.  Which meant throwing out that beautiful cover that I loved and looking for new images. Did I mention this was right before Christmas? Everyone was traveling. I was heading for NYC to see family, so there I was, emailing my editor at Amazon and my agent with my iPhone in the airport. Have you ever tried to type a message on a phone while standing in a moving tram? With one elbow hooked around the pole so you don’t fall over? Not easy!

We finally got a new cover, and it’s gorgeous, but we were down to the wire. We had one week to create a cover for the soundtrack. The only way to meet that tight of a turn around was for me to do the soundtrack cover. I’m a graphic designer, so this was not a problem. Except the singer was in the hospital for knee surgery. She didn’t have access to her computer until Friday night, which gave us three days to upload the files to CD Baby and have them distribute it to Amazon. And two of those three days are Saturday and Sunday. Ugh!

Roadblock

Sadly, despite the singer jumping through every hoop she could working with a live person at CD Baby, we couldn’t push it through the process fast enough. The ebook, At Last, went live on Tuesday – and I’m thrilled to say it’s selling very well. But this is Thursday morning and we’re still waiting for the soundtrack to go live at Amazon. Late yesterday, however, CD Baby did finish their end, so now we’re just waiting for it to arrive at Amazon, so they can create the product page for the music and provide a link to that on the page for the ebook.

Temporary Fix

Amazon has posted the cover to the soundtrack on the page for the ebook along with a list of links to the individual songs. But that takes you to the tracks with the original cover to the full CD. As soon as this goes live, there will be a link to a page with the new cover where you can download the full soundtrack or individual songs.

In the Meantime

At Last, the Soundtrack IS AVAILABLE AT CD BABY. You can listen to sample and/or purchase it there. It really is fabulous. I love Barbara’s voice, and how she sings all the songs. I’ll let you know as soon as this special soundtrack goes live at Amazon!

And, of course, the ebook, At Last is available for sale at Amazon. It was awarded Best Single Title Contemporary by Bookbuyers Best the year it came out in print under the title Unforgettable. I hope you’ll give it a try.

Making a Music Soundtrack for a Novel

Since I announced that my new ebook release, At Last, will have its own music soundtrack, I’ve had so many authors tell me they’ve longed to do the same thing. I’ve also had a lot of questions about how I managed to pull it off. Answer? Serendipity!

The Challenge

Many authors mention songs in their stories and would love to offer those songs in a collection for readers to enrich the story experience. The obstacle that stands in the way is that little thing called a copyright. Creating a collection of already recorded songs would be cost prohibitive for most authors because of all the royalties. So, how did I solve that?

My Stroke of Luck

While writing At Last, I became friends with a local singer, Barbara Calderaro, who happens to sing the kind of music I wanted my heroine to sing: American standards like Unforgettable, Them There Eyes, Sunday Kind of Love. Going to hear her sing inspired many of my song choices for several scenes. Since Barb and I became friends, and mutual fans of each other’s work, she agreed to go into the studio and cut a CD featuring the songs I mention in my novel.

That’s the key. I had a singer willing to take on the task of copyright payment, plus the expense of studio time, and having physical CDs created. This was an enormous investment on her part, but it worked for her because she needed a CD to sell at gigs, so my novel provided the incentive. Howard T. Levine, who plays guitar on the CD, wrote some brilliant arrangements to give the old standards a fresh new sound. That, combined with Barbara’s amazing voice makes for a wonderful collection of romantic songs.

It did not, however, fulfill our dream of bundling the paperback and the CD.

Obstacles in the Physical World

The problem with a romance novel about a singer, and a real life singer willing to cut a CD as a companion to that novel back in 2007 (the original release date for both) is that they were physical entities. Romance novels and music CDs are distributed and shelved by completely different departments in brick and mortar stores. Bundling them was impossible.

The Magic of the Digital Age

The explosive popularity of ereaders that play music and smart phones has obliterated those obstacles. Now readers can easily buy an ebook with a digital soundtrack on their multi-media device such as the new Kindle Fire or iPad. When I signed with Montlake (an Amazon imprint) for the re-release of  At Last as an ebook, they were very exited about the idea of bundling the ebook with a digital soundtrack.

Repackaging the CD

Here’s another difference in the physical world and the digital world. When Barbara recorded the CD, it had to be packaged as a “CD by Barbara Calderaro,” not as a soundtrack to my novel, because she planned to sell copies at gigs. It also needed to have more songs than just the ones my character sings in the story. The full CD is still available in its entirety with it’s original cover.

But when Amazon decided to release my novel as an ebook and bundle it with the music, that gave us the chance to truly make it a digital soundtrack to the novel. The new version has a cover that coordinates with the ebook cover and includes the eight songs from the original CD that are specific to my story. Rather than a photo of Barbara, we opted for an image that looks like my heroine, Riley Stone, the sexy singer who goes toe-to-toe with a straight-laced lawyer to save a historic dance hall in Texas.

Bundling the Ebook and Soundtrack

Right now, as I’m writing this, the soundtrack has not gone live yet at Amazon. This is Saturday (January 14), and my ebook goes live next Tuesday, so we’re scrambling to get everything in order so the soundtrack will also go live on Tuesday. Barbara is uploading the new cover at CD Baby. They will then distribute it to Amazon. Amazon is standing by to add the soundtrack to my detail page for the ebook as soon as they receive it.

It’s going to be a race to the finish line, but if all goes well, we’ll make it. In the meantime, you can Click Here to read my interview with Amazon and preorder the ebook so you get it as soon as it goes on sale. Or Click Here if you want to learn more about the story and read Chapter One free.

Working with Amazon as a Publisher

Since I accepted an offer from Montlake Publishing in October, many of my published author friends have been asking me what it’s like working with Amazon as a publisher. Like me, many of them have jumped into the indie-publishing pond, releasing backlist and frontlist as ebooks. Some of us have had amazing success. I know I have. My Perfect trilogy soared up the charts when I released it last April, and spent more than a month in the Top 100 for Romance at both Amazon and Apple.

Given the success I’ve achieved on my own, some authors have wondered why I’d give up the control and freedom of indie publishing along with some of my royalty, and if I think it was worth it.

Why I chose to partner with Amazon

Notice I said “partner with,” not “sign with,” the more common term authors use when discussing a new publishing contract. When Amazon first approached me about publishing my final backlist title as an ebook, I hesitated. (Actually, they approached me about the new material I’m working on, but then they realized I still had one backlist title available.) Even just giving them a backlist title worried me, despite the marketing power I know they wield. Working with any publisher had come to equal giving up control. My print career basically died because of bad choices made by my previous publishers. Did I really want to open myself up to the potential for that kind of mismanagement again?

But reading posts online by authors like Lee Goldberg, Barry Eisler, and Joe Konrath about their experience with Amazon as a publisher, and talking to my good friend Connie Brockway, gave me the courage to take a deep breath and take the plunge. I’m so glad I did!

Working with Amazon has been nothing like my experience with traditional publishers. Rather than giving up control, I’ve been treated like a partner working with them on a project. I’ve had input on everything, including the cover and marketing strategies. I feel respected, not just for my talent as a writer, but as a business person with ideas that have value.

Is it worth what I gave up?

Financially, I won’t know for sure until after my Montlake release comes out, but from what I’ve witnessed so far, I think the answer is going to be a resounding yes! I predict my sales will more than make up for the lesser royalty. As for giving Amazon exclusivity, I researched what percentage of ebook readers use various devices, and discovered a huge percentage of non-Kindle owners read on their phone. So, anyone with a smart phone, iPad, or computer can download the Kindle app free. As for the Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo, readers can convert a Kindle ebook into a file that’s compatible with their device with a free software download called Calibre.

My First Montlake Release, Coming January 17

At Last, my first release with Montlake, was originally published in print by Signet with the title Unforgettable, but we’re going for a complete new package. I think both the new cover and new title fit the story much better.

I was holding on to this final title because it has a music soundtrack that goes with it. I was hoping that with the digital revolution, I could figure out a way to bundle them together. Partnering with Montlake has given me that opportunity. We are in the final days of preparing At Last, both the ebook and the soundtrack, for their digital debut. In the coming days, I will blog about the process, and hope you’ll follow along. So, more to come. But so far, working with Amazon has been a breath of fresh air.

To learn more about At Last and read an excerpt on my Website, Click Here. You can also Click Here to read my Q&A with Amazon, and preorder a copy.

Reader Poll: Excerpts at the End of Ebooks–Do You Love ’em or Hate ’em?

I recently learned–much to my surprise–that a lot of readers get quite angry when an author includes bonus material at the end of an ebook. I always thought it was a good idea, so I put full chapter-one excerpts to two or three of my other ebooks at the end of all my ebooks. I’ve never received a single complaint. Apparently, other authors have. Some readers feel cheated when they’re reading along, thinking they have a lot more story to go, only to turn a page and realize the last percentage of the ebook is excerpts or other material.

Available FREE at Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Smashwords.

The only time I received complaints was when I released my Pearl Island trilogy with an extra chapter that wasn’t in the original print books at the end of each story. Existing fans of the trilogy wanted the bonus chapters without having to re-buy books they already owned. I didn’t blame them, so I put all three bonus chapters into one free ebook as a gift to fans of the trilogy.

I want to hear from readers and authors, though, about how you feel on the issue.

Here are my questions:

1) If you read ebooks a lot, have you come to expect excerpts or other material at the end, so it doesn’t surprise or bother you? Or do you get annoyed when you turn a page and realize the story is over when you thought you had 5% to 10% more story left?

2) What type of bonus material do you enjoy?

• Full, first-chapter excerpts? Or do you prefer short snippets? Or just a blurb?

• A bio or maybe a letter from the author?

• How about a short “story behind the story” piece? Similar to a DVD that has “The making of this movie.” (Note: I wrote one of these for my Pearl Island trilogy, but I have it on the Website specifically dedicated to fans of the trilogy: PearlIslandBooks.com)

• How much is too much? Or do you not care, since space doesn’t matter with an ebook?

• Have you run across any particular bonus material you especially enjoyed? If so, what was it and why did you enjoy it?

3) Would you rather have the excerpts and bonus material on the author’s Website with a link in the back of the ebook? Would you actually go to the site to read the bonus material? Or would you be irritated that you couldn’t read it on your ereader?

Thank you so much for your input on this! Please use the share buttons below to invite other readers to offer their input. The information will be shared with many authors, so your voice matters.

Indie Anthologies, the Wave of the Future?

Those of you who follow this blog won’t be at all surprised to hear I’m blazing yet another new trail in the ever-evolving ebook revolution. This time, however, I’m not going it alone. I’m traveling into uncharted territory with five of my closest author buddies by doing a multi-author, ebook anthology.

For those of you who are fans of my Pearl Island trilogy, and who chat me on Facebook, I finally get to stop being vague and say: Woo-hoo! The official title for “Chloe’s story” is Happily Ever After, and it will appear in…

Masters of Seduction

This anthology, to be released Dec. 1, includes six completely new, never-before-released short stories by Marsha Canham, Virginia Henley, Jacquie D’Alessandro, Jill Gregory, Sherri Browning Erwin, and myself. Just seeing my name on a cover with these authors is beyond thrilling for me. Not just because they are all such established, talented authors, but because these women are a huge part of my life. I can’t imagine where I’d be and what my life would be like without them.

A Little History Behind the Scenes

The six of us in the anthology and two others, Connie Brockway and Julia London, have been on a private email loop together since 1999, along with Kathleen Givens, whom we lost tragically on New Year’s Day, 2010. The loop started out as a much larger group for all romance authors who wrote for Dell Publishing. That was before Random House merged Bantam and Dell and, well, “things happened.” All of us landed on our feet, but the journey has not been without some interesting twists and turns.

Adversity breeds solidarity. Or at least it did with the nine of us who decided we would stick together no matter what the publishing world threw at us. That has grown into us sticking together no matter what life throws at us. Through the years, we have shared laughter, tears, triumphs, and tragedies. That history is why this anthology means so much to us.

What Makes an Indie Anthology Groundbreaking?

Anthologies come out all the time, so you might be wondering: What’s the big deal? Well, an anthology is usually put together by a publisher. They pick a small group of authors who have a similar target audience, oversee the editorial, the packaging, and handle all those pesky little details, like say… the money! For eight separate authors who all have drastically different voices and distinctly different audiences to say, “Hey, let’s do an anthology!” is akin to transporting cats in wheelbarrow. Two of the authors in our little band, Connie Brockway and Julia London, had to pull out due to contract obligations, but frankly, I’m amazed we pulled this off with six of us.

Which is why I’m going to say no to the question: Will this be the next big wave? I’m sure we’ll see more anthologies, but the challenges are too numerous for us to see a lot of them.

Challenge One: Different Audiences – Different Voices

A saner approach to an anthology would be for authors with a common target audience to ban together for a project. But ebooks are the Wild West of publishing where anything goes. When this idea came up, and emails started flying, we decided to address the issue of “different voices” by having an object connect all our stories. We chose a mirror pendant and decided to follow it from the past to the present, then we each called dibs on which time period we wanted. We had a few email equivalents of arm wrestling, but finally worked it out. (Our names appear on the cover in the chronological order of the stories.)

So, we have one element tying the stories together, but the writing varies from gritty to heart-warming, from steamy to sweet. For heroes we have medieval lords, a Regency shopkeeper, a cowboy, a vampire, and a computer geek. (The computer geek, that’s me and my Pearl Island story.) At this point we have no idea how readers will react, but at least we can say, “This anthology has something for everyone who likes romance!”

Stepback to the front cover.

Here again, we had an arm wrestling match. Both Marsha and I design covers and we both wanted to do this one. Surprisingly, even though Marsha and I have extremely different taste, we both had a shockingly similar vision for the cover. With one huge difference. Marsha wanted the hot guy and the mirror pendant on the cover. I wanted just the hot guy. We put it to a vote – and it split evenly.

Solution? Create the first-ever (that we know of) ebook with a cover with a stepback. Which is a second reason this project is blazing a new trail.

Challenge Three: Money

This is the main reason I don’t foresee indie anthologies coming out in droves. You have to have all the money go to one author, and that author has to divide the earnings. There’s also the issue of 1099 forms. I just don’t see a lot of authors wanting to hassle with this. Which is why, at present, we’re planning for this to be a limited-time release.

The Adventure

I love being out here in the Wild West blazing new trails. It’s even more fun to share the adventure with friends. You can learn more about the history of our friendships at Marsha Canham’s blog. Or follow all of us on Facebook this adventure continues to unfold: Me, Sherri, Jill, Jacquie, Virginia, Marsha.

UPDATE: This release is now ON SALE at Amazon and Smashwords. Coming soon to B&N, Apple, Sony, and Kobo.