Upcoming Interview with Jessica Knauss, Author of “Awash in Talent.”

I’m excited to have a virtual sit down with fellow Kindle Press author Jessica Knauss to discuss her work, including her Scout selected novel “Awash in Talent” as part of the 2nd Anniversary Kindle Scout event on Facebook on Monday, March 27th at 10 am PDT. Here’s the novel’s description:

So much Talent can kill you.
Welcome to Providence, Rhode Island, home of telekinetics, firestarters, and psychics!
Emily can’t escape her annoyingly Talented telekinetic healer sister without committing a crime.
Kelly must escape her pyrokinesis school and bring Emily’s sister to Boston–her mother’s life depends on it.
Appointments with Emily might drive her psychic therapist insane.
With so much Talent, sometimes it’s all you can do to function in an un-Talented society.
Three narrators. Three interrelated novellas. One unique novel. 

I’ll be talking to her about her writing process, future work, and her fascination with Spain (right up my alley!)

If you want a chance to ask any questions you may have, you can join us live on Facebook Monday, March 27th at 10am PDT. 

If you can’t make the live interview, I’ll post the full thing here afterward. Remember, “Awash in Talent” is one of the many fine books available now on Kindle Scout for a limited time for just 99¢ — don’t wait!

Happy Reading!

Video Post: Kindle Scout 2nd Anniversary Celebration

 

The details: To celebrate the second year of Kindle Scout, Amazon is discounting all Scout-selected books to 99¢ from March 20th-April 3rd. You can find the complete list of Kindle Scout titles here. It’s a great opportunity to try a new book or buy a book you enjoyed for a friend.

A group of Kindle Press authors will also be holding a Facebook online event from March 20th – 31st. Drop in and say hi, tell as about the books you’ve enjoyed, ask questions, and discover new books.

Happy Reading!

Author Interview: Black and a Half Podcast

Last week I sat down with the guys at the Black and a Half podcast to talk about Death’s Dancer. Hosted by comedians Manny Martin and Silas Lidenstein, we meandered through current events and pop-culture, including our favorite shows to binge watch,  the perils of professional wrestling and how I fell in love with Prague. Check out the link below or click here for the full interview.

A photo posted by Jasmine Silvera (@jassilvera) on

A photo posted by Jasmine Silvera (@jassilvera) on

How to make book quote posts for social media

Mission: I’ve always loved those social media posts that are a quote taken from the book over an awesome image. So I decided to put my designer hat on and see if I could make a few for my adult paranormal romantic suspense novel, Death’s Dancer.

Time: 1+hour. Ok, let’s be real, 2+

Cost: Free

Step one. Get a Canva account. Finished!

It’s about that easy. Ok, so there are a few more things that will come in handy.

  1. For one, having a good source for free stock photos is way better karmically than stealing them off the internet. Seriously people. There are so many awesome sites that feature gorgeous photos you can use with (or without) attribution. There is no need to use something that may belong to someone else who doesn’t want it used without permission. Just because someone else already tagged it on Pinterest, doesn’t mean it’s a proper use. Try Unsplash, Pixabay (which also has great free stock video for use in book trailers, but that’s another post) or Pexels for starters.

    DO READ THE FINE PRINT. Some require you to attribute the artist somewhere, which as an amateur shutterbug myself, I think is just right thing to do in any case. Some have restrictions on use (like you can’t sell it) I’m not responsible if you get busted for snatching a picture and printing it up on pillows for sale at society9 or wherever.

  2. You will also need quotes. This was the hardest part for me. I asked my editor and a few readers if there were any lines that stood out, because I’m terrible at this part. I looked for lines that I thought defined my characters, or took an ordinary situation and gave them a twist. You could also do inspirational quotes from authors or, stuff your dad says (but that’s already taken) or whatever..
  3. Take all of that to Canva and create a free account. Fair warning, the free stuff on Canva is a gateway drug to paying them for cooler stuff. But at a buck or two extra for stock photos, layouts and additional fonts, it’s not the worst investment you could make, especially if you really like this stuff and get serious about it. Just don’t get carried away. I’m serious.
  4. Pick the social media template (I used the square for IG and Pinterest) scroll through the free offerings until you find one you like (or pay for one, big spender) and tweak away. I find Canva has just the right amount of options (fonts, colors, and elements) to be creative without getting lost.
  5. Once you get into this, you’ll find can design a lot of stuff on Canva: FB/Twitter headers, newsletters, postcards, etc..

Here’s a few tips:

  • Go for pretty good, not perfect. But beware, design can be total rabbit hole. I suggest setting a time limit, or locking up your inner perfectionist. Just throw up a few quotes over a few pretty pictures and see what sticks. Keep the ones you like and move on.
  • Simple is always better. Pick clean images without a lot of noise or contrast (though you can do some image tweaking Canva easily)
  • Don’t get all matchy-matchy. You can get lost in the rabbit hole of stock photos looking for the perfect representation of your heroine. THERE BE DRAGONS… I found it was a lot easier when I avoided looking at people, and found images that matched the mood, or an inanimate object in the book. Peonies appear a few times in Death’s Dancer, for example, which led me to sexy photos of flowers in general. Spend a little time brainstorming after you have your quotes. Think of it like the game Taboo. Can you find images that indirectly clue the viewer in to the scene without using the obvious choices?
  • Tweak away. The canva designs are pretty basic. What makes them great is you could plug in your image and quote and get a pretty decent image without changing a thing. BUT, you can personalize them a lot just by changing the fonts, sizes, colors and adding filters. I often play with the orientation of my stock images as well: by flipping them horizontally or vertically, you can really get a lot of milage out of the same image. (Another reason to limit use of “people” pictures)

Note: Of course could also do all of this yourself in Photoshop or GIMP, but I’m NOT a graphic designer. I work much better (and faster) taking an existing design I like and tweaking to personalize it. Plus, I figure if you’ve got those kind of design chops you probably don’t really need this tutorial do you?

So now time to put my money where my mouth is. Here’s what I came up with during naptime (approx 1.5 hours)

Note: I already had a Canva account and had asked for quote suggestions, so that helped speed things up.

Isela

photo by @anniespratt on Unsplash
photo by @anniespratt on Unsplash
photo by @css on Unsplash
photo by @css on Unsplash
photo by @oumi on Unsplash
photo by @oumi on Unsplash

Characters

photo by @anniespratt at Unsplash
photo by @anniespratt at Unsplash
photo by @toddquackenbush at Unsplash
photo by @toddquackenbush at Unsplash
photo @zeak at Unsplash
photo @zeak at Unsplash
photo by @oumi on Unsplash
photo by @oumi on Unsplash

 

Is this a kissing book?

I tried to stay away from swearing and sexy-times for these because both taken out of context rapidly loose their draw, but the first quote is one of my favorites. The second might be a bit busy with the font choice, but meh, I liked it. You decide. The second two are quintessentially Azrael.

photo by @joaosilas on Unsplash
photo by @joaosilas on Unsplash
photo by @simone_dalmeri at Unsplash
photo by @simone_dalmeri at Unsplash
photo @anniespratt on unsplash
photo @anniespratt on unsplash
photo @tidesinourveins on Unsplash
photo @tidesinourveins on Unsplash

That’s it! I can already see a few things I’d tweak at the first opportunity, especially once you look at them in thumbnail size (and down the rabbit hole she goes!) Overall, not too shabby for a first run at it. Give it a try and tell me what you think in the comments.

I’d love to hear any special tweaks you discover, or tips you might have, or your efforts: drop them below!

 

 

“5 Photos” interview up at Jill Archer blog

I’m wild about my IG account, because it gives my inner shutterbug an outlet.  So I was even more delighted to participate in the “5 Photos” author interview series on Jill Archer’s blog. Jill is the author of the Noon Onyx series.

So head over and learn what avocado trees, sheet music and Seattle Center have in common.

 

Goodreads Giveaway

I’ve got this big stack of proofs (beauty marks and all) taking up space on my desk. Enter now to win a signed copy! (sorry, this one’s for US readers only)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Death's Dancer by Jasmine Silvera

Death’s Dancer

by Jasmine Silvera

Giveaway ends February 17, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Can’t wait? Death’s Dancer is now available in ebook and paperbackClick here to order now on Amazon.com

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Launch day and soundtracks

In honor of the official launch date for Death’s Dancer, I’d thought I’d dust off the old blog and share a bit about my writing process and inspiration.

***

I’m going to date myself, but I used to make mix tapes (and later cds) for everything. I tend to hum and sing along with just about everything I do.

So when it comes to music, I can’t write without it. Music with lyrics doesn’t bother me while I’m drafting, though by the time I get down to the nitty gritty of editing, I’ve usually switched to instrumental music. Sometimes a particular band or artist feels like the voice of a character’s mental or emotional state. Once in a while, I have an idea in mind before I start writing, but sometimes it’s just kismet.

I knew from the beginning, Death’s Dancer wasn’t going to be a traditional romance (little known fact: it wasn’t going to be a romance at all but Azrael and Isela kept boinking each other and that was that).  Lana Del Ray’s Born to Die album had the feeling I was trying to evoke. There is an old-school quality to her voice, and combined with the stories of dysfunctional relationships and questionable lifestyle choices the album became a favorite.  After all, Isela dances for gods and Azrael commands the dead. The darkness and weird seemed to be ingrained in the story in a way that it was embodied by songs like “Off to the Races,” “Burning Desire,” and “Without You.”

Starting off with an artist or song, I hit up Pandora for things that sound similar. That will get me most of the way through a first draft. After a while, certain songs start popping up as having particular resonance to a scene or a character. The right song can also help me pace a scene, keeping the tempo frantic or slowing it down appropriately.

Florence and the Machine’s “Seven Devils” perfectly summed up the feeling of Isela stepping into the room of Necromancers.  “Going Under” by Evanescence came to me as I was writing Isela fighting for her life. Sia’s “Fire meet Gasoline” and PJ Harvey’s “This Mess We’re In,” defined the moment Isela and Azrael surrendered to the attraction between them. The final showdown Eminem’s “Loose Yourself” and “Hope” by Apocalyptica both lyrically and sonically defined the pace and emotional arc of the final showdown.

When it comes to happily ever afters, I think of Sara Bareillis. I think she’s one of the best songwriters in recent memory,  capable of capturing emotional nuance without veering into the saccharine. Both “Chasing the Sun” and “I Choose You” gave me the right balance of sentiment and strength.

At that point, I start creating a playlist on Spotify or Amazon Music.  When I need to work on a scene, I might replay a few songs over and over until I get it right. That’s also the point more instrumental music comes into play. Zoe Keating’s evocative cello compositions are a favorite. “Escape Artist,” “Coda,” and “Flying and Flocking,” were frequently on repeat. I also listen to a lot of Vitamin String Quartet. Their instrumental compositions of popular music are great for the balance between lyrics music that keeps the right tempo and vibe. Their cover of Moby’s “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” is even better than the original, IMO.

By the time I reach the end of the second draft, I have a pretty big playlist of music that helps me get through revisions and edits. If your curious about the complete Death’s Dancer “mixtape” you can listen along on Spotify. Speaking of curiosity, I’d love to know if there were any songs that you thought reflected characters or scenes in the book. Share them in the comments!

 

 

That’s all for now!

Jas

 

****

Death’s Dancer was a Kindle Scout pick, and was published by Kindle Press on December 27, 2016. It’s available on Amazon.

Kindle Scout Campaign Wrap up (and news!)

My Kindle Scout Campaign for Death’s Dancer wrapped on July 22, 2016. Seven of the longest days of my life later, I got an email from the Kindle Press team. Death’s Dancer has been selected for publication.

WOOOOHOOOOOO!

If you follow me on IG, you know there was a little celebrating. You may have heard it, from your doorstep, wherever you are. Sorry about that. I am told I have no inside voice.

Although I spent most of Friday afternoon calling and texting my peeps the news, It was all a bit surreal. To keep my mind off things I’d been focusing on a new series I’m working on. I’d completed the first book moments before checking my email and finding out the news. I am also avoiding making eye-contact with the sequel to Dancer (ugh, rewrites!) Suddenly everything got thrown into the background because my “crazy little Prague love story (with necromancers)” was in the spotlight.

Holy Moly. I admit it didn’t fully sink in until Saturday about 5am (when I woke my husband up by doing the happy dance💃🏽)  And celebrating good news with family is always sweeter when you can do it in person.

 

Then real life (forgive the vague-blogging) came crashing in on Monday, and our little family faced a pretty big, sudden life change that left us all clinging to the remnants of that good news feeling.

All that is to say, this is why it’s taken me so long to update the blog with the news!

I wanted to, quickly, share my Kindle Scout experience while it’s still fresh; including details about my campaign stats, and final reflections. In spite of my confidence in my book going in (I promised I would publish whether or not I was chosen), there’s nothing like getting daily updates on how many people are looking at your campaign page (or not), and how many hours you’ve spent (or not) in the Hot and Trending list to turn the whole experience into a rollercoaster.

I’m a data girl, so I love looking at numbers. Having Googled other experiences, and joined the Kboards forum, I’ve seen final stats well higher than mine, and well lower. Neither predicted the decision outcome absolutely.

And though everyone is trying to figure out what the magical algorithm is for selection (pageviews/hot&trending hours +/- sample reads/time spent on page/and? = 🦄 🎉🎉) at the end of the day it’s all just reading tea leaves (or the fortune telling device of your choice)

At least this is what I told myself. Anyway, here are my final stats for the curious.

After a brief trending session, I had a major dip and overall spent less than half of the campaign in Hot & Trending (which is often seen as one of the predictors of who will be published)

Final Campaign Stats Kindle Scout Death's Dancer

I anticipated a slump around the 4th of July, so I ran some extra FB ads during the weekend.

But I have to tell you, I started dreading checking stats. It was a pretty miserable way to start the day for awhile.

Campaign page views per day:
Kindle Scout Campaign page views per day

And then one day I happened to look at the Kindle Scout homepage and BAM. I was back on the screaming train of delight. Which I rode all the way to the end of the campaign. Ta-da.

Deaths Dancer Hot and Trending Kindle Scout Homepage

 

I should note here that in the last few days of your campaign, KS puts you on the homepage in the “ending soon” category, so that probably helps with the finish line boost.

But wait, hold up you say: did I say Facebook ads?

I did. I had a small budget to throw at advertising so I did some on FB, as a way to do some A/B testing of my marketing strategy.

I tried boosted posts:

Website clicks (to the KS campaign page):

His/Her Website Click promos:

And a finally, the underdog success story of my ad adventure, a short teaser video I made with the help of a couple of glasses of wine, iMovie, and a free stock video website. (If you missed it you can catch the whole thing on my Facebook page or youtube)

Deaths Dancer Facebook Video Post teaser trailer

What did I learn? (Keep in mind, all this means is that people went to the campaign page as a result of one of the above links, and gives no indication of what they did when they got there. Kindle Scout doesn’t give authors numbers on actual nominations)

  1. Boosted Posts: Take a guess which of my boosted posts performed better? If you guessed #2 you’d be right. Readers responded to the image of the dancer (Isela) and likely, the shorter text block. With hashtags. Cause who rules the world? Hashtags. And girls. But mostly…hastags.
  2. Website Clicks: Any guesses about how the four performed? This was a bit less clear. While I will say the two “general” ads (#1/4) did best overall, I was quite surprised that #3 had the best returns overall (cost/click). What I liked is that my theory that promoting the KS program was a good way to boost my own stats seemed to pan out. I think it is a pretty neat program, and hopefully, others benefited from the boost as well. Also, that’s a photo I took of the Astronomical Clock. I was kind of stoked that people responded to it so well (I know, vain!)
  3. Website Clicks His/Hers: I was surprised that they did equally as well. Though I had to do a lot of tweaking to the “His” version text to get it to resonate.
  4. VIDEOS are the way to go. They’re cheap on FB and they get a lotta views. This may change (because FB is seems to be trying to promote the video service capabilities at the moment), but I got a lot of page traffic from that tiny little teaser video. And look, I have a 1.5 year old, a husband, and other books to write. Ain’t nobody got time for hunting down free stock photos that match my character descriptions, and I refuse to use copyrighted images of celebs that I may or may not have stockpiled on Pinterest as inspiration. (As a photographer myself, that is just NOT COOL)  So I fired up iMovie, tweaked a tagline, threw in a snippet of the AWESOME blurb author Camille Greip was kind enough to write for me, and put it all over a (creative commons licensed) stock video background that reminded me of my cover. It was by FAR the best 2 hours of effort (and wine drinking) to promote the book so far.
  5. I was by no means doing true A/B testing. For one, most of my ads have too many variables to concretely say one thing was more successful than others. But hey, I had a budget and a bunch of things I wanted to try. I’ll take what I can get.

This is getting long, and it’s getting late.

Promotion is important: I have a lot of friends (published and unpublished) who I consider strong, proficient writers. Many better than I will ever be. And I have seen that even with the amazing books, getting a signal boost everywhere* you can is necessary to rise above the hum and get some attention.

But at the end of the day, did running FB ads help my campaign? Who knows. I doubt running an awesome ad campaign for a shitty book would have resulted in a selection. After all, part of the decision is made by an actual editorial team who factors in the stats and the nominations (which

After all, part of the decision is made by an actual editorial team who factors in the stats and the nominations (authors are given neither a total number nor a list of who nominated their book) with the book itself. It’s a bit comforting, knowing that.

So look at the stats, if you’re curious. Look at all the stats you can. Fellow Kindle Scout selected author (ha! woohoo!) Jaxon Reed has compiled a thorough rundown of perspectives on the program. It’s a great place to start.

Plan your campaign (I didn’t even touch Thunderclap, and barely tapped Twitter and IG) based on what you can do well.

But most importantly, what many others have said before me: write and polish the best book you can, and get the best cover you can afford (or design if you’re quite handy in that way), then submit your book, cross your fingers, and hang on for the ride.

Good luck.

 

 

P.S. Dear readers. I apologize profusely that my celebratory post became all about the business end of the stick. Confession: I don’t have a lot to give you guys yet, because I have my call with the KP team in the morning, where all questions will be answered and more things known. After that, it will be a lot more squeeing and publication announcements from here on out. Pinkie Swear. Thanks for hanging in there. Here’s the photo of a very good looking man unrelated to absolutely everything above for your troubles.

To begin at the beginning: what the hell is a Kindle Scout and why was it for me?

 

We were living in Prague for the first time when I wrote the draft that would be Death’s Dancer during NaNoWriMo.

I described it to my writing buddy as the romance novel that’s been fighting it’s way through all the urban fantasy and comic books in my head for the last 10 years.

It’s not the first book I’ve written, or the first I’ve finished. But it was the one I had the most fun writing; the first I plotted end to end; and the one that felt, when it was complete, like I had something. I wasn’t sure what, but after year of editing and beta reading, I was pretty sure that something was something other people would be interested in.

I entered it in what was to be the final Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and made it to the second round. I got some feedback in another contest about the slow pace of the opening chapters, revised, and polished again.

I went to a workshop on querying and the submission package, and had mine evaluated and tweaked by an agent, who said if this was the kind of thing she represented, she’d be all over it.

Then I started submitting it to agents who did “this kind of thing.” I got requests for fulls, feedback, and lots of notes about how saturated the market was and that it was hard to place books by new authors in PR and UF “at the moment.”

At that point I had an options:

  1. Put it in a drawer, start something new, and hope beyond all hope that someday the market would be “ready”  and/or,
  2. Enter the wild wild west of indie authorship and publish it myself.

I’ll be honest: I want to be chosen. Don’t we all? We want someone to pick us: from grade school kickball to the job of our dreams. Who am I to decide NOW is the time if someone with more experience, know how, and leverage says ‘No.’

But ultimately, I don’t write to be chosen. I write to connect. I write to tell stories that I, selfishly, want to read, and, less-selfishly, want other readers to lose themselves in.

Sometime around New Years 2016 publishing the damn thing myself started look more and more like the personal challenge I needed. I could hire an editor, and a cover designer, and, by the third glass of wine, I was rarin’ to go…

After all, I’m not a major publishing house. I don’t need to make the kind of money a big house makes on an established author, or even a small press on a new author.  If I could cover my expenses, get a few tanks of gas, and pay for all the coffee it took to write the next book, wouldn’t that be worth it? And the chance to connect to one person. Just one, who read it for pleasure, and liked it. What a priceless moment that would be!

As my partner in life says, “Even if 10 people read it, isn’t that better than no one reading it in a file somewhere on your hard drive?”

So dredging up my project management and PR expertise, I spreadsheeted the hell out of a production schedule and got to work. As luck would have it, I was a single degree of separation away from indie romance author Celia Kennedy, who was gracious enough to spend time sharing her experience and advice. One of her tips lead to an awesome editor. A bit of internet rabbit holing uncovered (pun intended) a cover designer who’s work I’d admired without knowing for some time.

And along came a Kindle Scout. Scratch, that: Along came Kindle Scout. The program.

Hello, prospective indie author, I heard you had an über-sexy, smart, urban fantasy novel you are considering publishing…

Actually, it was nothing like that. One of my brilliant friends said: “So did you hear about that Kindle Scouting thing?”

Kindle Scout is a newish program from Amazon touted as “reader powered publishing.” It replaced the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (which apparently a lot of people haven’t forgiven it for) with the big difference being that instead of having a small group of editors judging submissions, Amazon crowdsources the submissions, allowing readers to do what they do best – read voraciously. Readers then vote on samples and “nominate” the book for publication.

From most angles, it’s pretty cool. Though reader “nominations” don’t make the decision entirely, their inclusion democratizes the process. It brings the writers to the readers, and vice versa. And both win: contracts are awarded based on a combination of reader nominations and editorial decision. If you wrote it, you get a publishing contract, advance and some* Amazon marketing. If you voted for it, you get a free Kindle copy once it’s published.

I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of the contract or the pros and cons of the program. Everyone does their own personal math to determine if it’s worth it for their career. Others have made cogent analysis (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA); presented the how-to’s and the nitty gritty (Jane Friedman and Lincoln Cole); and a had a bit of snarky fun over the whole thing (Slate), for starters.

In my mind, it’s a bit of a hybrid model. And with no publishing experience or ‘name’  to speak of, the personal math makes sense to me. I have a polished manuscript, a banging cover, and all the bits and bobs required. Compared to the agent submission merry-go-round, the time commitment —  45 days — is almost minimal. Best of all, if the book is chosen, I’ll have some Amazon marketing assistance. And if it isn’t, I’ve had a lovely test run to tweak my own marketing strategy in time for a self launch.

Tl;dr – For me, Kindle Scout is about shortcutting the gatekeepers (somewhat) and marketing.

 

Next time…An update on how the rollercoaster, er…campaign, is treating me.

 

 

*Some = more than you would have for free if you were self publishing.