Kids Not Feeling Well: Stay home or go to school?

School began three weeks ago. Three days in, Lexie complained her throat hurt. No fever but it was clear she had some congestion. The next morning came the familiar debate – do we send her to school because it is only a cold (or perhaps allergies) or do we keep her home?

No one likes to have to be at school or work when they don’t feel well. But the reality is that sometimes you do just need to muddle through it. And though colds can hit you hard, I don’t want Lexie to think she needs to stay home whenever she feels bad. And Lexie is the kind that would use any excuse to stay home (or up late at night).

So, the next morning, her lymph nodes are swollen. Her throat and stomach hurt. She wasn’t running a fever or throwing up – the keys to an automatic stay at home decision.

My initial reaction was to give her some cold medicine and send her to school. Yes, I may be receiving a call from the nurse later that Lexie is in her office feeling ill. But once up she might feel better and be able to make it through the school day.

But it always pulls at me that she looks and sounds so bad. She was pale and clearly feeling poorly However, I have made the decision before to keep one of the kids home only to have them running around like nothing is wrong a few hours later.

After a discussion with both my husband and then Lexie, it was decided she could stay home. I stressed to her that she couldn’t play Xbox all day, and if she began running around like nothing was wrong that I would immediately take her to school.

I did leave her home alone while I went to the dentist. When I came home, she was asleep. After lunch and some more rest, she began to perk up. By 2 p.m., she was feeling better. And she did go to school on Friday with no symptoms, which made me wonder if it was allergies verse a cold. Or perhaps the rest did its job and let her body fight off the cold.

In this case, it was a good decision to stay home. She is better and didn’t miss too much at school since it was only the fourth day of classes. But next time who knows if it will be the right decision. It would be much easier if I could stick to the fever or vomiting equals staying home and all else means going to school, but obviously it is not as easy as that.

Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

This post is the fifty-third post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

You have published your book and want readers and reviews. Many authors choose to offer their book for free. (It is one way to get reviews.) But should you offer your novel that you worked so hard to produce for nothing?

Well, that depends…

I have heard many authors claim that it is a bad idea to offer our books for free. We are diminishing what we do, they say. We worked hard on our novel so shouldn’t we expect to get paid? Are we setting a precedent for readers who will now expect free books all the time? Are free books deterring them from actually buying books?

These are all valid concerns but from a marketing stand point offering a novel at no charge has its benefits. It allows readers to get a taste for your writing without them having to risk any of their money. Your hope is that if they like your free book and purchase your other novels.

The keywords here are “other novels.” To make this an effective marketing strategy you need other novels for them to purchase. So offering the first novel in a trilogy for free would hopefully entice readers to fall in love with your series and buy the next two books.

Basically, this is a sound economic principle. You offer one book as a “loss leader” because you will be making your money by selling your other novels. Many authors have successfully increased their readership with this “loss leader” strategy though some authors have noted that they don’t make enough money to make up for the books they’ve given away. And others have said that offering a book for free only boosts sales for a short period.

Be warned that if you are offering a book for free, you may not see immediate results in your sales of other books or reviews of your current free offer. If the person has downloaded a lot of free books, it may take them months to get around to reading yours – if they ever do.

Quite simply you will never know if the thousands of downloads of your free books are actually being read. People simply cannot turn down something that is free and sometimes download more books than they can read. I have seen numerous comments by readers supporting this.

Of course, you still may reap some benefit, even if they don’t read your book. Every time they open their e-reader and scroll through their books, they will see your name and title. Maybe later while searching on the Internet they come across one of your books and recognize your name. They may not remember where they saw it before but perhaps that recognition will get them to buy your book.

But the readers you hope are downloading your free book are the kind that finds a new author and buys all of their books. These readers are hungry for new books and will keep coming back. By offering them that first book for free, you are building your readership with them. Many readers will pay for books when they find an author they love.

Still, it is hard to put your 80,000+ word novel out there and not get paid for your work. In this case, you might consider putting a short story or novella out there for free instead.

I did this with my short story The Search. I used one of the characters from my The Elemental trilogy and wrote a short tale of what happens before the trilogy – a prequel of sorts. I included the first chapter of Summoned (Book 1) and hope that readers who like my writing will buy the trilogy and then my other books.

So remember that offering a book for free can be good advertising and a way to gain readers. But, and this is very important, you MUST have other books available for readers to buy. Otherwise, you won’t see any benefit from offering your work for nothing.

Now I have offered several of my books for free on different times – some through KDP Select and some just as a promotion through Smashwords. Next week, I will go over my results from these free book promos.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

Finding my favorite sandals again…and again

Everyone has a favorite article of clothing – a shirt, a pair of jeans, or even a pair of sandals. Maybe the shirt flatters your eyes, the jeans show off your curves or the sandals are just oh so comfortable. You wear this perfect piece of apparel until it gets a hole or falls apart.

Many, many years ago, I bought a pair of black Sketcher sandals. They were cute and comfortable with a 2 ½ inch heel. I pretty much never wear flats, and these sandals were the perfect little heels – not too high or steep to feel uncomfortable when walking long distances.

I loved these sandals. I wore them to walk the kids to and from the elementary school. I slipped them on to run to the store or for even longer trips to the zoo or the museum. They were great.

Falling apart sandals

When they started to fall apart, I happen to see another almost identical pair of Sketchers in the store…and they were on sale! I bought two pairs. So, happily, I wore that pair and the next until they fell apart.

I returned to the shoe store but this time I had no luck finding another pair. I searched online, but it seemed Sketchers didn’t make this sandal anymore. But when in doubt, you can find almost anything on Ebay – even my sandals. And they were in my size!

So, I bought another pair of the same sandals from a lady in Arizona. She had bought them and only wore them once before deciding they weren’t for her. That’s because they were meant for me. They arrived and were perfect.

I wore these up until a few weeks ago when I am sad to say they too showed signs of falling apart. Again, no replacement in the stores. And I tried on lots of sandals trying to find a suitable replacement. Nothing. Nothing offered the same comfort.

New sandals

That led me back to the Internet and eBay. I was in luck. Again, I found my size. Woo-hoo! A week later, I had another pair of my favorite sandals. They feel a little snug but soon will be broken in. Even snug they are oh so comfortable.  And while I am glad to have my favorite sandals back, I don’t want to think about what I will do when one day in the future this pair falls apart. I can’t always expect to find them on Ebay. Maybe Sketchers will just bring them back to their line of shoes. I can at least dream of that day. Until then, I am happy with my comfy sandals.

 

The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

This post is the fifty-second post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

One of the best and most inexpensive marketing tools for your novel is a book review. Before shelling out money for a book, many readers like to know ahead of time if it is good. Reviews give those readers an ideal of what others liked or didn’t like about the book. Reviews add a level of credibility to your book.

Importance of Book Reviews

Years ago before the Internet, many readers bought their books from brick-and-mortar book stores. They would find a book with an interesting cover, read the back blurb, and if it sounded intriguing, they would buy it. Unless the story was already a best-seller, reviews were probably not even considered but a friend’s recommendation might have been. When deciding between two books, readers are probably far more likely to pick the one recommended by a friend.

But nowadays we have the Internet and a mass of independently published books. Whether right or wrong, some readers have a poor perception of those books. Perhaps they think because they were not traditionally published, they are not as good. Of course, that is not true. There are many reasons people decide to self-publish.

This is where reviews can come in handy. A good, well-written review can do wonders for your sales. But so can word of mouth recommendations. In 2011, Smashwords creator Mark Coker did a survey asking readers to select the biggest deciding factor in choosing a book to read.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they selected books based on recommendations from readers on forums, message boards and blogs. This implies that it isn’t so much reviews on a book-buying website but the reviews of peers elsewhere that influence the purchase of a book.

This makes sense as the trustworthiness of online book reviews have been called into question. Some authors pay for top reviews (though paying for a review is not always bad) or the reviews obviously sound like a friend or family member posted them. Sometimes online reviews on places like Amazon are thoroughly unhelpful to other readers as all you get is an “I liked it.” quote.

That is the problem with reviews found at online book retailers. They can be written by anyone, including someone who doesn’t read or like your genre or someone who has a beef about something totally unrelated to your book. But when these point-of-sale reviews are detailed and positive, they can reap rewards in the additional sales.

How to Get Book Reviews

A good, well-written book review can benefit your sales. When choosing between a book with numerous reviews and one with only a few or no reviews, many readers will pick the more “popular” choice.

So how do you go about getting those reviews?

1.) Ask for a review as part of the back matter of your book. It is simple to include “If you enjoyed this, please leave a review. Thanks!” to the end of your book. Amazon does a good job of asking readers to write a review before they exit the book on their Kindle or Kindle App.

2.) Join book reviewer groups on places such as Goodreads or Google+. Here you can find people who like to review books. Just make sure you follow any of the posted guidelines before you post looking for reviews.

3.) Contact book bloggers for reviews. When doing this, make sure they read your genre and be sure to follow any guidelines they provide. Beware that often the reviewer’s to-be-read list is long. You will also want to find out if they post only on their site or if they post on Amazon and other e-book retailers’ sites.

It sometimes helps to cultivate your relationship with reviewers before you ask for a review. This means get involved on their blog by asking and answering questions related to their posts. Think of these book bloggers as potential business partners.

4.) Approach top reviews on sites like Amazon. Often in their profile, it says if they review books and many provide an email address for authors to contact them. Remember to be polite in your inquiry. You can also look for people who reviewed books similar to yours and contact them to see if they would like a free copy in exchange for a review.

5.) You can of course pay a company to find reviewers for you or to even review your book. It is one thing to pay a reviewer and quite another to pay for a positive or five-star review. And I think reviewers will not put as much credibility of a “bought” review. So this option should be used only if you have considered all the pros and cons.

6.) One of the best ways to get a lot of reviews is to giveaway many copies of your book. The more hands you get your book into, the more likely it will be read. An increase in the number of readers will hopefully increase your chance of reader reviews.

Reviews are obviously a benefit no matter when you received them, but if you can get reviews out BEFORE your book is released, it can only help the momentum of any book release promotions you do. This means you will need to start early to make sure the reviews coincide with your book release date.

But no matter when you get a review, the important thing is to get reviews. It will definitely increase your sells.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market