This will be a different Thanksgiving than most. Due to my recent hip replacement surgery, Lowell and I will be staying home and having our dinner in comfortable chairs near the fireplace. Lowell's daughters may stop in later with leftovers, but in the meantime, we'll cook something tasty, if not traditional.
Beyond the Forest was published on October 28th and a lot has happened in two weeks. The paperback cover turned out darker than expected, so I lightened it, and while I was at it I changed the typography. The original font was intentionally understated so it wouldn't steal the show from Howard David Johnson's wonderful artwork, but I like the new typography better.
As of this afternoon I have nine 5-star reviews. Reviews are important to gain credibility and more readers, so I'm hoping to get more during this crucial 30-day launch period.
The Daily News (Batavia, NY) interviewed me this week, and an article and photo will appear in print and online on Saturday. The photo shows me holding a Kindle Fire tablet displaying the cover of Beyond the Forest. I'm wearing a large malachite bracelet like the one Lana is wearing during her adventure in the forest.
The book is also getting attention from the Buffalo News. The arts and book editor requested a copy, and when he finishes reading, I expect he will write a review.
I know some of you don't typically read fantasy novels, but if you'd like to sample Beyond the Forest, go to Amazon (here) and click "Look Inside" on the eBook version. The sample is a little more than four chapters. I hope you enjoy it!
On October 5th I received the dreaded "Not Selected" email from Kindle Scout. It's common knowledge that Kindle Scout accepts less than 5% of submissions, but we all hope to beat the odds and it's painful to be declined. The editors held my manuscript for twelve days after the close of my campaign, rejecting many other books during that time, so I was hoping for a positive response. After my initial disappointment, I set to work to self-publish. Most authors whose books are declined self-publish, which means they must edit, format, publish and promote their own books, instead of leaving those tasks to Amazon. Publication can be a daunting process for a new author.
By the end of my campaign, I had become reasonably adept at self-promotion and had formed friendships with several fellow Kindle Scout participants. We shared insights, tips, and encouragement on a KBoards thread, which was a highlight of my Kindle Scout campaign, and I realized it would be helpful to maintain those contacts.
Many of us continued to visit the thread after being declined, lending our support to ongoing campaigns. It occurred to me that it would be great to have a separate thread for Kindle Scout alumni whose books hadn't been accepted. Many Kindle Scout participants are self-published authors with valuable advice for newbies. And even the newbies like myself have valuable insights to share. So, I started the thread, and by the end of the day it was apparent that it served a need. Recent and past participants stopped in and joined the conversation, and the information already posted about publishing and marketing is amazing. It's nice to know you don't have to go it alone. Someone usually has the answer to your question and is happy to share.
In the past month, the graphic designer finalized the print version full cover, the formatter produced files for the eBook and paperback, and as of October 28th I published both versions. The paperback proof arrived in today's mail. Now the never-ending marketing efforts begin, but sharing characters that feel like personal friends with readers will make it all worthwhile.
I will always look back on my Kindle Scout campaign as a valuable learning experience, and I suspect I have made some lifelong friends in the process.
Now that my Kindle Scout campaign is over, many people are asking what I thought about the program that Amazon calls "Reader-Powered Publishing." The short answer is, Kindle Scout was both stressful and rewarding, and it's not for everyone.
Before beginning this endeavor, I read the rules on Amazon's Kindle Scout website, including the terms of the publishing contract offered to authors of "winning" books. Next, I scoured the internet for firsthand accounts from authors who had participated in the program, and their feedback was almost universally positive. I learned that there was a forum at the "KBoards" for Kindle Scout participants, and introduced myself before launching my campaign. This group proved invaluable for information, support, and commiseration.
Over the 30-day campaign, my fellow participants and I gathered nominations for our novels by every conceivable means including personal contacts, emailed requests, and posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Daily Amazon data gave us useful information about the number of people visiting our Kindle Scout webpages, but didn’t show how many votes we received. An active campaign with lots of page views and hours on the "Hot & Trending" list indicates that readers are interested in the book, and that the author is capable of self-promotion. In the end, however, quality and marketability weigh more heavily in the editors' decision than the number of nominations.
Most participants feel they learned valuable lessons about marketing their books, and it’s common to form new friendships among fellow participants. Additionally, their books receive fantastic exposure from this program. At the end of each campaign, Amazon sends a notice to all who nominated the book, stating whether the book was accepted. Most authors whose books are not accepted choose to self-publish with Amazon, and when their book is ready, Amazon sends a second message, notifying those who nominated it that the book is now available. So even authors who didn’t "win" are winners, as are the readers who discovered their books.
I have nothing but positive things to say about Kindle Scout. The 30-day period feels very long when you’re going through it, but I would happily do it again, whether my book is selected or not.