We had a launch party. People came!

Every host or hostess has a few minutes of pre-party paranoia. You’ve hustled to lay out a great spread; what if no one shows up? Well, I’m happy to say our self doubts quickly faded thanks to all the great folks who “popped over” to visit with us.

Google Hang-out hosts a maximum of ten participates and at one time we had six on screen. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the sound and video, especially after the initial software snafoos. It took me three computers before I found the one that enabled a hangout without freezing up or crashing. All three were fairly late models too – not more than a year and half – not so old you’d expect problems.

Here’s a shot of my desk top, showing the hang-out set up on my end.

Afterwards, during our post-party debriefing, my sister and I agreed; we’re thoroughly enamoured with Google+ Hangout and can think of all sorts of ways to use it.  Think book club meetings, school visits, writing classes, auction give-aways, and even better, just chatting with your friends or kin (and in some cases your friends who are kin) on the weekend.

We haven’t tested it toe to toe with Skype yet, but that’s definitely going to be up and coming.  Look for more about that later.

Now, about getting 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE! into the Kindle Store, we have to sing some praises and throw out some cautionary words. Following the critique group mode for giving criticsm, I’ll start with the good stuff first.  I uploaded the book to KDP at approximately 3:15 am November 18, 2012 and during the Hang-out it went “live” at approximately 3:30 pm.  So, yes, KDP promised 12 hours from click to shelf, and at least from what I can see on the author’s bookshelf, they basically kept that promise.

Cautionary note? There are a couple. First, maybe you are wondering why I chose to publish it at 3:15 am? Maybe  you’re thinking that as a deliberate part of our publicity, I was trying to make the book go live during our party launch. Please be assured that I value my sleep way too much suffer deprivation for a blip on the computer screen.  I started formatting the book for Kindle at 5pm, November 17, 2012 and was still working on it the next day.

With naive optimism, I thought the process might take an hour or two, tops. After all, I’d down loaded Building Your Book for Kindle, the gospel by Amazon on proper formatting. With my Kindle next to my computer, I carefully followed every tenant as though it transversed from a saint’s text to my clacking finger tips. After convering to “web filtered HTM,” I reviewed the work in the web browser and made sure it read correctly before up-loading. It looked fine.  It continued to look just dandy even though it up-loaded wrong.

I revised, up-loaded, found errors, revised… over and over again until my eyes became so strained from looking for problems that did not exist at the Word level, but kept showing up on the test Kindle document, that I literally started seeing double.  That’s when I quit, hit “enter” and let that snaggle-toothed puppy escape to romp through Amazon’s shelves as is.

We had a deadline to meet after all. A pre-planned launch party – people waiting to get the book for reviews, lives to get back to after this crazy week of final edits, additions and revisions. That only barely topped the fact that I was frankly sick of the whole thing by 3:00 am.

Now, the good and bad. Yes, we can make post-publication edits to fix whatever problems still exist after my marathon session last night.  We’re also doubley thankful that although the book went “live” at 3:15 am yesterday, today it’s ranked so low that it’s really hard to find. For those of you who hire professionals for your formatting I’m sure this gap between publication and building rank so you surface in searches and swim to the top of categories is really frustrating. For those of us working on a budget who have to do our own coding, its a small blessing in an over-all frustrating process.

Verdict for us? We’ll hire the pros next time.

Now, back to the party! Since 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE! has two authors, we had two party-central locations. One in Atlanta, Georgia and one in Louisville, Kentucky. Here are pictures from both gatherings.

FROM LOUISVILLE’S PARTY WITH KATHLEEN VRONA:

PICS FROM THE ATLANTA LAUNCH PARTY FOR THE BOOK:

Our Book’s Birthday Is Sunday; Help Us Celebrate Our Launch By Entering Below For Our Free Give-aways!

Time has flown since we started working on 100 Small Fires, and it’s almost impossible to believe, but our book’s birthday is this Sunday! In celebration we’ll be giving away books, book swag and a Kindle Fire!  Sunday at 3pm EST at our launch party, we’ll draw two names every ten minutes for an hour, giving away 12 free copies of the book. Finally on  Saturday, March 2, 2013 we’ll have drawings for more free books, bookmarks, posters, and a Kindle Fire! To be eligible to win, you can register by leaving a comment here between now and March 1, 2013.

Now, for the fine print:

–  Only one entry per person;

–  Only one book win per person, but the same person can win both the book and the Kindle Fire!;

–  No purchase necessary to enter;

– Winners will be selected randomly from all entries at the time of selection.

That’s it! Cheers to us and cheers to you!

Now go light some fires under your book sales!

Making a YouTube Video on the Cheap.

As part of the marketing for our new Ebook, 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE (for sale November 18th on Amazon), I made a YouTube/Indiegogo video. In keeping with our promise to share the good, the bad and the ugly, below you’ll find exactly what I went through to create Arthur Author’s adventure with 100 Small Fires. Of course, what I’ve written will make a lot more sense if you watch the video first, which you can do here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOBX3HAIfYM&feature=player_detailpage

A couple of things you should know. The marketing for 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE, and thus the budget I had to work with on the video, was constrained by my agreement with my sister, Kathleen Vrona, my co-author, to spend as little as possible without embarrasing ourselves.

I think the video achieves this. It is if nothing else, clever and perhaps unintentionally funny in places where it isn’t supposed to be and at a whopping cost of $3.00 undeniably cheap. In short, it’s good, bad and ugly!

Here are the materials (I’ve starred those purchased specifically for the video – the rest were pre-owned):

Lenovo Ideapad Z585 15.6 inch is my laptop. At $500.00 it is a deal and runs memory eating programs like Photoshop with ease;

Nikon D5100 camera with 18-55mm lens (about $600.00);

A black coat of smooth but non reflective material which I draped over a black leather chair to provide a makeship studio setting for taking pictures of Arthur and Reluctant Readers. I took the photos in a dark room at night with one spot light (of the clip on variety) and using the camera flash on portrait mode;

Photoshop for crisping and cropping the photos and changing Arthur’s face when I needed another emotion;

Microsoft Word 10 for writing the script;

Microsoft Power Point 10 for creating the video, using the file “save as video” feature;

*Voice Changer phone app which was downloaded for free and used on my Iphone for recording the script in the different voices;

*Skull Sugar Cookie from Dollar Store for The Ghost of Authors’ Past. Cost – $1.00;

*Skull tombstone to be tomb of authors’ past. Also from Dollar Store;

*Packet of spiderwebs with plastic spiders for ambience. See above for procurement details;

Stack of old books

That’s it. I purchased three things and spent less than $5.00 to make the video. Even if you apportion part of my Photoshop license, which I got on Ebay for $129.00 for the year, that only increases the cost by maybe another $5.00. Maybe.

That’s the good.

Now for the bad.  Since I had a steep learning curve, the entire production took me about 20 hours, including subbing out the turtle voice which I’d orginally used for Arthur’s because it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow, and dragged the whole thing into the death by boredom territory. So, #1 tip on using voice changers for video? Never be tempted by the turtle. Never.

Also, Connie Fleming, my wonderful friend and fellow www.writerandwannabe.com  author, donated the clothespin dolls. This saved me at least a few dollars in supplies and probably another couple of days in time. It also saved us from having a really horrible video, because my concept puppets were hand-drawn faces on popsickle sticks. Not the most appealing little guys.

But, I digress.  Here’s the order of what I did:

1)      Wrote script with help of my partner, my sister

2)      Obtained dolls from the fabulous Connie (did I mention I’m eternally grateful?)

3)      Set up corner of house as studio with coat, chair and light

4)      Took pictures of dolls

5)      Loaded them into computer

6)      Photoshopped

7)      Copied and pasted script into Power Point

8)      Uploaded photos into Power Point

9)      Recorded voices with phone and emailed to self

10)  Uploaded voices into Power Point

11)   Went through production and decided that with turtle voice dragging it down, most people would put it out of its misery rather than watch the whole thing

12)  Re-recorded, emailed and uploaded voices

13)  Re-watched and changed seconds per slide from 5 to 4 to speed it up even more

14)  Recorded as video and emailed to Kathleen

That’s it! Not as bad as it seems. If you’d like to see some of the stills from the video, take a look at page on the blog titled, “Stills From 100SmallFires and Arthur Author And His Book, My Masterpiece.”

Prior to this week the only experience I had in Photoshop was making our book cover. See our archives for more on that. However, that was easy peasy compared to changing Arthur’s face.  I actually had to watch some “how to” Photoshop videos to figure it out. So I Googled, and then picked my candidates based on the least amount of time each professed to take to teach me what I needed to know.

My experience in Power Point was ancient history, but I found that much easier to pick up as I went along.  No instructional videos required.

Now, about the sound quality. Yeah, it basically sucks. However, I did not previously own any recording equipment (not even a cheap computer microphone or an old recorder) and could not justify the expenditure when it would exceed everything spent to this point.  Instead of  buying recording equipment we added words to each screen and went with what I had. Was that a good call?

Maybe, maybe not.

I recorded each character’s lines to my Iphone on the Voice Changer app, then emailed the recordings to myself.  I then manually pieced together conversations by replaying, re-recording and re-emailing. Definitely not the best process.

The first thing I’ll buy for my next YouTube or Kickstarter venture? A Blue Snowball or Yeti microphone.

All in all, I think the video is cute, and maybe even a little clever; but no-one’s saying our “monstrously good tale about Arthur Author and his book, My Masterpiece” will win any production awards. Without a doubt, with a bigger budget, and maybe even without, you can make a better one.

So, skip Starbucks this week,roll up your sleeves, and get to work!

We Have A Cover!

Yes, We Have A Cover!

Need I say it? Covers are important, all caps important, but I’ll spare your eyes that blaring sight. So, what makes a good cover? Major bucks? A panel of top rated designers, publicists and artists? A good photographer?

For the cover of our new Ebook, 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE (for sale November 18th on Amazon) we had none of those things. The book is a marketing “how-to” guide for authors I co-wrote with my marketing whiz sister, Kathleen Vrona. In it, we include small, medium and large marketing budgets with timelines, explanation and tips. We are using the small budget to market this book so for the cover I spent less than $20.00. *Warning* The smaller the budget, the more time required. This is because a lot of marketing dollars can be spent out-sourcing even the littlest tasks. For 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE, we are deliberately using the smallest budget and out-sourcing exactly nothing.

Our goal is to spend as little as possible without embarrasing ourselves, and hopefully the cover achieves this.  I had a couple of other requirements for constructing the cover; I wanted to create material that could be used on the website, and would be easily modified into supporting marketing materials like posters, mugs, bookmarks, and so forth.  Take a look at our “Kickstarter Prize  Incentives” page and make your own determination on whether I achieved this.

Here are the materials used (I’ve starred those purchased specifically for the cover – the rest were pre-owned):

Lenovo Ideapad Z585 15.6 inch is my laptop. At $500.00 it is a deal and runs memory eating programs like Photoshop with ease;

Nikon D5100 camera with 18-55mm lens (about $600.00);

A black back drop of non reflective material which I pinned to a screen;

A black desk that the material drapped onto;

Three spot light sources of the clip on variety;

Photoshop for crisping and cropping the photos and adding text;

*A cake from the local bakery that cost $7.00;

*Three numbered candles to make 100 that cost a dollar a piece;

*A cover template for a Kindle book that cost $9.00;

Stack of old books

There you have it. I purchased three things and spent about $19.00 to make our cover. While you could include a portion part of my Photoshop license, that only increases the cost by approximately $5.00.

Here’s what I did to make the cover:

1)      Purchased template and consulted with Kathleen to determine concept

2)      Obtained props (cake, books, candles)

3)      Set up windowless room at office as studio with backdrop and lights

4)      Took pictures

5)      Loaded them into computer

6)      Photoshopped pictures

7)      Placed them into cover template and Photoshopped some more

That’s it! Sounds simple enough, but it did take me some rather steep man hours. About 15 to be exact. Prior to this I had exactly zero experience in Photoshop. Zero, zip, and nada, as in, I’d never even opened the program and barely knew what it was.  I used the template to make sure the cover would meet the Kindle book cover requirements when we upload it on launch day.

Can you hear the loud “tick, tick, tick” booming out from the speaker behind this blog?

Well, I do and it’s counting down to launch day when we’ll find out if the template was worth ten bucks. If the cover uploads without a hitch that tick will change to an audible “sigh.”  To read more about it, come back later  and we’ll tell all; whether it’s good, bad, ugly, smooth or bumpy.

That’s a promise.