heyjamie

Jamie Jo Hoang - Author & World Traveler

Category: Writing (page 1 of 2)

Travel Iceland


Iceland is a paradise unlike anywhere else. An island in the Arctic Circle, it’s a haven of colorful architecture, kind-hearted locals, and otherworldly landscapes.

Make your way to Reykjavik and get your walking shoes on. Your first stop for the afternoon must be Baejarins Beztu Pylsur: The famous hot dog stand.

A simple hot dog, it’s covered with mustard and a gravy sauce. The best part though is the crispy onion beneath the hot dog. Come hungry and order two with all the fixings. 

Continue on your walk and you’ll discover colorful buildings, ornate churches, snow-white swans, souvenir shops, wool clothing stores and cafes galore.

Now that you’ve worked off the hot dog, hop in your car and make your way down to the Blue Lagoon. A place synonymous with Iceland it is not to be missed. Stop by on your first day or make it your last stop on your way out. A large pool with cloud blue water, a swim-up bar, facial station, bridges to cross under and a waterfall to stand under it’s an oasis like no other.

 

When you’re done relaxing, hop in your car and head for the Golden Circle. Strokkur, Geysir Hot Springs, and Thingvellir National Park are must-see attractions. Personally, Gullfoss Waterfall was a bit of a letdown. Yes, it’s massive in size, but its water is a murky brown and it’s so touristy that its grandness gets lost among the crowd. I’d skip it.

After the Golden Circle, you MUST dive Silfra. Silfra is in Thingvellir National Park and was formed by the divergent tectonic drift of the Eurasian and North American plates. It’s the only place in the world where you can dive between the fissures. At 2 degrees Celcius it’s a bit chilly, but that’s what your dry suit is for! With visibility up to 100 feet, it’s one of the most incredible experiences you’ll ever have. 

After a peek into the deep, make your way south to the Ring Road (Route 1) which goes all the way around Iceland. You can start north or south but I recommend starting in the south so that you’re prepared to drive in the north. Just like in Game of Thrones, winter hits the north first. We’ll come back to that later.

If you loved the Blue Lagoon, but didn’t like the smell and want a smaller more intimate hot spring to sit in, make your way to The Secret Lagoon. The water is crystal clear and fresh (no need to lather yourself in conditioner). The sand beneath your feet is a sparkling black and all around you are bubbling geothermal hotspots in case you didn’t get enough of those at Strokkur.


 

Driving along the Southern Region, you’ll see why I said to skip Gulfoss. There are waterfalls everywhere. Anytime you see a sign with “foss” as the end make you take the detour if you love waterfalls. Here’s a few of our favorites. 

Thingvellir National Park

 

I am convinced that the only way to see Iceland is to rent a car and drive. The roads are well paved, but I’d recommend getting windshield insurance because it’s inexpensive and flying gravel is common. 

We traveled to Iceland in late September so it was raining at times. Because of this we skipped Vik and went onward toward Jökulsárlón. This natural phenomenon is where black sand meets giant furniture sized glaciers.

 

 

Frolic around on the beach, take your photos and then continue on up toward Myvatn. The Myvatn Nature Baths are the Blue Lagoon of the North. It’s smaller in size but filled with the same famous sulfuric blue water. The temperature here is less regulated so you’ll find hot spots and cool spots within feet of one another. Visit during the day to see the blue water, but come at night and you may catch a glimpse of the Nothern Lights. 


If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones then your next stop must be the Grjótagjá CaveIt’s unfortunately no longer open for public bathing because the geothermal hot spring has risen in temperature and can get up to 45 degress Celsius. Hot to the touch, it won’t burn you if you fall in, but it’s far too hot to be comfortable. Still, it’s worth a visit.

A trip to Iceland is always going to be uniquely yours. Where you stop, how long you stay and what you see are all up to you. You don’t need an itinerary, in fact, I’d recommend going without one. Pick one or two places a day that you definitely want to see and then give yourself the freedom to stop or keep driving as you please. Don’t rush through the trip or you’ll miss out on some amazing rainbows! 

And last but not least, download the My Aurora Forecast App and make sure you look up at the sky! You can pay $150/pp to take a Northern Lights tour with no guarantee that you’ll see them, or you can be diligent and catch them on your own. They can last anywhere from five minutes to two hours, so check often.

Twitter for Authors


As a self-published author I turned to Twitter as a way of promoting my book BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY, but over the past year, it sort of shifted into something more.

Twitter is a great tool for authors. Not only do we get to practice marketing 140 characters at a time, it’s a great way for us to send out 140 character snippets throughout the day. I look at it as short bursts of creativity.

However, if you’re expecting Twitter to sell your book, I hate to break it to you, but it’s probably not going to work. A year and a half, and 48,000 followers later here’s what I learned about using Twitter as an author.

Treat Twitter like a giant networking tool. I began by following as many writer’s as I could find every day. At first only a few of them followed me back, but then I made a dramatic shift in the way I used Twitter. Instead of pumping out blurbs or advertisements for my book every day, I began posting content with “added value.” This means I began posting content for the benefit of others.

As a writer, the things that really interest me have to do with writing. So I started looking up great writing quotes and posting those along with a short comment about the quote. Low and behold, now not only did writers start following me back, they started finding me through the retweets of my followers.

And then, a great thing started happening, people actually came to my Twitter page to look at all my Tweets and there they were met with my banner which advertises my book. Because they had an interest in my Tweets, I now had a greater chance of getting them to purchase my book. Yay! A handful of my reviews on Amazon, are from people who found my book through Twitter.

But I should remind you here, that I don’t sell a ton of books this way. However; that’s not the value of Twitter for me. Again, it’s more of a networking tool between myself and the hundreds of thousands of other writer’s out there.

Recently, having gained over 45k followers, I decided to see if I could help create a shift in the indie market. So every Sunday I host an event called ReTweet Sunday, where I tweet indie and small press books to my followers.

I love this event, because I get to see so many books pass through my Twitter feed and I occasionally buy one that interests me. Every one of us indie authors is fighting for FaceTime with readers surfing the internet, but sometimes we forget that writer’s are readers too. Very veracious ones at that!

Also, we indie authors are in this together so I think it’s important that we support each other by reading indie books. Actually, if I’m being honest I was severely disappointed in the books I’d randomly chosen to read by indie authors who’s path I crossed on Twitter. That was, however, until I learned how vet the indie books by looking for seals from book award contests and by reading the negative reviews left by other readers.

Why the negative reviews? I find they tend to be more helpful. Glowing 5-star reviews are great, but a 3-star review that highlight’s something I might actually like, has way more sway in getting me to read a book.

Another added benefit of using Twitter is that my feed, which is full of motivational tweets for writers, often times inspires my to write too! And anything that pushes me to get my fingers to the keyboard and working is a good thing in my opinion.

High Marks from the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards


Writer's Digest Award Logo

I just received my scores from the judges and BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY received a honorable mention with 5/5 in all 5 categories of the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Honestly, I am so blown away and humbled by the support of my fellow writer’s and writing community. This entire journey with my little book has been enlightening as well as educational. I spent the last decade reading articles on Writer’s Digest and admiring other writer’s who had the courage to write a book and then release it to the world and I’m so happy to be able to call them my colleagues now!

I wrote my first article for Writer’s Digest this past year thanks to the wonderful Chuck Sambuchino who contacted me after reading a review of BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY in Kirkus Magazine, and I hope to ingratiate myself into the Writer’s Digest community even more in the coming years.

For all new and emerging writer’s you probably know this already, but there is a wealth of FREE information on Writer’s Digest and if you take the time to read the articles, it’ll save you a lot of time, headache and money, down the line when you’re ready to publish.

Anyway I’m blabbing because I’m just so excited about the judge’s commentary, so without further ado here it is:

Entry Title Blue Sun, Yellow Sky

Author: Jamie Jo Hoang

Judge Number: 63

Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction

 

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

 

Judge’s Commentary*:

In Blue Sun, Yellow Sky by Jamie Jo Hoang, we are presented with an interesting premise that builds emotional tension as the pages turn and we fall more in love with a character, and a situation, that is fated to change as the novel progresses.

The title seems brilliant, a great way to hook the reader in and get them asking questions. The book is structured well with chapters that are nicely paced, with enough meat to make them satisfying but not so ponderous as to make it difficult to keep track of the narrative as it develops. The overall design of the book is professional and first rate, while the cover image for the book is evocative and interesting. I particularly like the title font as a way of conveying theme and tone.

The characters here are fully realized, vivid and alive, and often do surprising things—or do/say things that are very human, which can be rare. I especially like Aubrey, who seems able to keep her head and her emotions in tact, all while dealing with a situation that might cripple other people. Instead, she reminds us of the lively nature of living a life well.

Amazon

Note from Writer’s Digest: *If you wish to reference this review on your website, we ask that you cite it as such: “Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.” You may cite portions of the review, if you wish, but please make sure that the passage you select is appropriate, and reflective of the review as a whole.

Note from me: Please, please, please, share with anyone you know who might be interested in reading the book! Sharing is caring =)

 

Why KDP is Really the Only Platform for Indie Authors


kdp-logo-stacked-color

I have been promoting my book BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY for a little over a year now and I’ve tried everything under the moon to boost sales and get the word out about my book. The thing is, it’s really hard to compete with the hundreds of traditionally published books with millions of advertising dollars behind them. I’m not complaining, this is the just the nature of the game at the moment.

Yes, there are anomalies that have emerged and multi-million dollar books have come out of kindle sales, but you see it’s just that. 100% of successful self-published books rose out of the indie slush pile through the kindle.

As an indie author, I really wanted to try and spread my book as far and wide as possible. I put my book up on Kindle for the first 90 days and sold about 80 books through the free promotion, and then I made the mistake of pulling my book from the KDP program so that I could have my book listed on the Nook, iBooks, Kobo, etc. I shouldn’t have done that.

The thing that kills me is there were signs/red flags everywhere telling me as much. Every statistic and indie book blog reiterated the same thing: 99% of sales happen through the kindle and about 1% is sold everywhere else. After reading that for the hundredth time, a light should’ve gone off in my head telling me “Focus your sales on Amazon,” but of course my desire to appear everywhere (as most prolific writer’s do) took over and I spent the past year advertising my book through every imaginable outlet that ultimately the campaign reached only a select few.

I had placed ads on Facebook, Twitter, Google Ads, and Goodreads and no to avail. Sure, I sold some books but it was at a very heavily discounted price AND they resulted in NO REVIEWS, which in all likelihood means that the vast majority of people who download “free or discounted” books don’t necessarily read them. It was only when I learned that I could advertise on the Kindle that I went to check it out and found that, low and behold, the Kindle does have a natural selection process (KDP Select), which my book was not eligible for.

Why wasn’t it eligible? Well, Amazon is smart. As a business, they want to monopolize the e-book world, and if the stats above are any indication, they’re doing a pretty good job. So they will help move your book, IF AND ONLY IF, you sign with them exclusively. Now, if Nook, iBbooks, Kobo, and Google Play were smart they’d offer up something similar and entice indie authors away from Kindle’s exclusive deal. But they don’t. I’m guessing because they don’t care, or they’ve thrown in the towel and admitted defeat to the almighty Kindle.

Now, being able to advertise on the Kindle doesn’t mean that I’m going to be an overnight success, but at least Kindle algorithms allow for direct marketing and if readers seem to like your book, Kindle also hand selects titles like “The Martian” to promote for free. It’s still a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, because of the sheer amount of e-books being published now, but there is hope.

I’m also pretty sure that there are benefits to having Createspace do your paperback books, but the quality of the print is so much worse than IngramSpark that I’m having a hard time justifying that switch.

South Park, James Cameron, and Writing


Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 5 years you’ve probably seen this video South Park made of James Cameron. They’re clearly making fun of the fact that he has to actually “do” the things he makes movies about and that he, in fact, does everything. Cameron has a thirst for adventure like no one else and the end result of that curiosity are his incredible movies.

My dad rarely ever goes to see a movie. Mostly because his grasp of the English language isn’t good enough for him to understand or catch all of the subtext or innuendo’s. But when I took him to see Avatar, he totally got it. Moreover, he really enjoyed the visuals. I think for someone who has known poverty, and lived through a war, he was blown away by the magic on screen. Afterwards, he kept asking me, “How do people get ideas to come up with things like that?” My snarky response was, “I don’t know Dad, if I did do you think I’d still be living here? Nope I’d be a millionaire exploring the seven seas on my yacht.” “What’s a yat?” he asked. I sighed, “A boat. I’d be on my own boat.” “Oh,” he says, “Well hurry up and figure it out.” Thanks Dad.

His question did pique my curiosity though and when I googled James Cameron I found that it wasn’t just that he had a more vivid imagination that I did, it was that he had explored so much more of the world than I had. In my quick google search of “James Cameron” I found the TED Talk he gave below. In his 17-minute talk I learned that he convinced the studios to make Titanic because he wanted to go deep sea diving. The love story and box office millions were an aside. As a diver myself, his exploration of the deep sea hit a nerve with me.

As writers, we create worlds that other’s get to live in, but our creative minds need fuel. A car doesn’t run without gasoline and we can’t write without inspiration. This is the fun part of our jobs! Yet, we’re made to feel like we’re undeserving of the “fun research” because what we do for research is what other people call “entertainment” or “vacation.” But here’s the thing. James Cameron could never have made Titanic the way he did without that deep sea dive. Nor do I think Avatar would have existed without his incessant need to explore the world.

Exploring the things that draw on our senses is what opens our imagination to creating worlds beyond what anyone thought possible. I think there’s a reason writers are usually slightly ahead of our technological time. We not only see things, we want to experience them for ourselves. I personally am fascinated with the passage of time. The lifespan of a seed becoming a flower is immensely interesting to me, and the details people seem to love so much in my writing comes from caring–albeit, a ridiculous amount–about the process.

So, I hereby give all writers–ok, you don’t have to be a writer–permission to: eat at that expensive restaurant, travel to an exotic location, zip-line through the Amazon, climb to the highest peak, dive to the deepest part of the ocean, and just do whatever. Say yes to everything and see where it takes you!

Why Book Trailers Matter


Making a book trailer is no easy feat, but to stay competitive in a highly saturated book market it needs to be done. Recently, Tara Lynne Groth of Write Naked found my book trailer on Google+ and contacted me about doing a interview. And afterwards, guess what? SHE BOUGHT THE BOOK!

Check out the full interview on Write Naked! 

Book marketing is a beast of a job and after 4 months of just trying everything–though I still couldn’t tell you the best way to go about it–I did learn a few things:

When you don’t have money for advertising it’s very hard to compete on the internet for face time with readers, but if you take on a mass approach and understand that you may only reach one person a day, that’s 365 people in a year, plus everyone they’ll tell if they think your book is great. Which they will.

In the fast paced world we live in, Tweets come and go in the blink of an eye, and most people just scroll through the vast majority of them. But readers are a great bunch of people, and if you can get your work in front of them they’ll market it for you. Word-of-mouth is still the best way to promote your books.

So where does the book trailer come in? Well, having a 1 minute visual reel to show people make it easier for your readers to quickly show their friends how awesome your book is.

A quick google search for “The Best Book Trailer” turned up this page. 

The site has A LOT of great book trailers, BUT the vast majority of them are national bestseller books, which means someone paid quite a bit of money to create it.

If you’re like me and don’t have the cash, you’re job is a little harder. You need to think outside the box and come up with a creative way to showcase what you’re book is about using the tools at your disposal. If you have technical friends or creative friends ask them to help you. Just pulling images off of google searches and adding title cards is a bad idea. First of all, you don’t own the rights to those photos, so it could come back and bite you in the ass.

I’m not an expert on how to create an amazing book trailer so I won’t go into that here but what I will say is this: know your audience. Think about the kinds of movies they go to see and look up the movie trailers to get ideas.

Imagine yourself as a customer and think about how much more effective it is to meet the author when considering the purchase of a book! Then buckle down and do a short interview/intro for your book trailer. Don’t make it too long 10-15 seconds tops and then move on to what you’re book is about.

Don’t forget to add purchase links at the end so people know where to buy your amazing book!

My book trailer was based off the trailer for WILD, starring Reese Witherspoon. Since I of course didn’t have a budget with which to hire a multi-million dollar actress and fly all around the world, I decided to make it an homage to pop-up books which I loved reading as a kid.

 

5 Things You Need to Know Before Self-Publishing


There’s nothing like receiving your first proof, but unless you want it collecting dust on your bookshelf you need to get moving on marketing.

Switching gears from writing to marketing was quite possibly the most excruciating brain shift I’ve had to endure. That being said, I’ve learned a lot! So I thought I’d share my experiences to help anyone who is considering self-publishing. I also plan to revisit this page if I ever do this again for another novel.

Number 1 — Begin PR Planning at Least SIX Months in Advance

Six months seems like a long time to wait after the novel is done but trust me when I say it will fly by before you know it, and there is a lot of prep work. I’ll get into the nitty gritty later in this post, but allocating enough time to send out massive amounts of e-mails and get responses takes a long time. Had I known what I know now I would’ve started this process at the same time I began querying agents.

First things first, and I cannot stress this enough: GET A BOOK COVER. “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” be damned. EVERYONE is going to judge your book by its cover first. And you’ll need the cover to jumpstart everything else.

Then, get your ISBN numbers. You will need two–one for your Paperback and a different one for your e-book.

Also, there are 3 basic e-mails you will need to prepare, as you will be sending out thousands of e-mails.

a) Query Letter — If you haven’t queried before you should. Rejection sucks, but having an agent will help you avoid many of the mistakes I’ve made going it alone.

b) Book Review Query — The concept is very much the same as your Query Letter but you have to include book information. Here is a sample if you need help.

c) Newspaper Book Review Query — This one I found to be the least useful, since I got a 0% response rate, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for someone else. Here’s a list of Newspaper contact info– if you have any luck with this please comment below. I’d love some tips.

Create a Press Release — I used PRweb (a paid service) because I had no idea how to even begin writing one.  You don’t need to send out a Press Release right away, but having the PDF file ready will you save you lots of time and a headache later. This is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but when you’re ready to release it (and please do check with someone who knows PR) here is a list of sites compiled by Mashable, where you can do so for free.

Number 2 — Get all of your Social Media Lined Up and Ready to Go

Setup/Update your: Personal Website, Facebook Author Page, Twitter, Goodreads Author Account, Amazon Author Account, Google+, etc.

Make sure you have a full page dedicated to your book: What’s it about? Where can I buy it? What are others saying about it?

Start building a Twitter following. There are useful apps out there for this. Hootsuite is great for planning out tweets in advance and Justunfollow helps you find people to follow via keywords (ie. #author, #books, #amwriting, etc.) This will ensure that you’re building a reader network and not just a bunch of random Twitter followers who just want a followback. Also, you’re building a network, so for the love of God, just follow people back. Unless you’re Stephen King and get 100,000 followers the day you sign up for Twitter, you need to look at social media as a reciprocal networking medium. I can’t vouch for other networking communities, but writers genuinely want to help each other out and you’d be surprised at how many people will retweet your book tweets.

Facebook: This will feel like you’re pimping yourself out a little bit, but GET OVER IT. Invite ALL of your friends and family to “Like” your author page. You’re going to need all of the support your can get and it begins with them.

At first, it’ll feel kind of lame to have these pages up with no news to post, but be patient we’re getting to that next.

Number 3 — Submit Your Book for “Reputable” Industry Book Reviews

Yes. You have to pay for some of these. And No, this does not guarantee you a good review. They’re pricey (~$250-$500 each) but a good review from just one of them is HUGE. This is where strangers begin taking a chance on your “Indie” book.

These are the 5 I’d hit up first:

BookList — Booklist is part of the American Library Association so getting reviewed here is a big deal. It’s free to request having your material reviewed. However, you MUST to submit to Booklist no later than you submit to any other pre-publication media AND they do not review an e-book unless it’s available in libraries already (one of those industry Catch-22’s).

Kirkus Reviews — If your browser is as keen to your searches as mine is, you will see ads for Kirkus Reviews EVERYWHERE. This made me wary of course, but make no mistake they are the Creme de la creme of indie book reviewers. Kirkus has been around since 1933 and for indie authors, getting a good review by them is like getting a good review from the New York Times (I have yet to figure out how to get The NY Times to review a book). It costs $425, but your review is automatically considered for their “Indie Book of the Month” promotion, which means A LOT of free exposure to book buyers via their website and bi-monthly magazine.

BookLife  — BookLife is the Indie arm of Publishers Weekly. They’re still in Beta as of now, but they are accepting Indie books for review and it’s FREE. However, if you want to advertise your review with them it does cost $149.

Readers Favorite — It takes 3 months to get the free one and they review over 50% of their submissions. But if you’re in a hurry you can pay $59 for a rushed review and get it within 2 weeks.

Foreward Reviews (If you do this 3 months prior to your publication date, it is possible to get a review for free.) If they choose to review your book, you will get a spotlight in the Magazine as well.

Clarion Reviews — Clarion is a division of Foreword (and the more recognizable industry name). If you miss the Foreward deadline (as I did) you can pay $499 for Clarion to review your book. Both reviews are conducted by the same group of people.

Number 4 — Submit Your Book to Bloggers for Book Reviews

This is what grassroots campaigning all about. Book bloggers have your target audience hooked into their reviews so it’s the best way to promote your book and it’s FREE. It does take a long time to e-mail everyone, but if you’ve done the first 3 steps you will a pro by the time you get to this part. Book bloggers get a lot of e-mails so they need at least 2 months to schedule in your book.

Depending on your genre, you’ll need to do research on the blogs that best fit your book, but for anyone writing women’s fiction here are the sites I used:

Book Blogger List

The Indie View

Additionally, Digital Pubbing wrote an amazingly comprehensive article on how to find reviewers and readers, among other things.

Update: Once you get 25 or so positive blog reviews, watch the pages and request book reviews from other bloggers who comment. You’re response rate will be higher and it’s direct targeting.

Number 5 — Figure out Printing/Pricing

I made the mistake of doing this part first. But could you really blame me? I really wanted to see it in print! It does take a lot of time and research to find the printing press that is best for your needs. I went with IngramSpark and you can read why here. But there are definite drawbacks–the major one being the $25 fee to upload new versions of your book. If you’re tight on money, make sure you have everything proofed several times before uploading. This is not a problem if you go with CreateSpace. The other perk to CreateSpace is being able to set up pre-orders. That being said, with IngramSpark the book fits in easily with any book you’ll find in a bookstore and you better believe book buyers take that into account when considering your book!

As far as pricing, if you’re like me and all you want is to have it out there for people to buy, you’ll want to set the price as low as possible. However, there are several things to consider still.

a) Just because your e-book is $.99 cents it doesn’t mean people will buy it. Sometimes pricing it that low makes people think it’s of poor quality. Look up books in your similar genre and price-match to stay competitive. OR just price it at $2.99. It’s a respectable price for an e-book and even popular New York Times Best Sellers go for that low. I mean it’s the price of a cup of coffee.

b) Paperbacks are a little more nuanced. There are hard costs to Print On Demand, but then you also need to consider that retail book buyers will want a wholesale discount and to avoid paying them to buy your book, you’ll need to raise the price. A 50% markup is where I’d start because wholesale buyers typically want a 35%-55% discount. Besides, you presumably spent a long time writing this thing– don’t sell yourself short. I’d say for a first book $8.99-$12.99 is a good range.

Once you’ve completed all of these steps an agent you queried way back in step 1 will probably call you and you’ll think you did it all for nothing. But you would be wrong! What will likely happen is the next e-mail they send you will be a link back to my site with the subject line: Let’s Get This Baby Out There! And the both of you will be simultaneously relieved. You, because Ta Da! You’re done! And she (or he), because they were mentally geared up for the long haul and you took the express train to meet them halfway. They will be so impressed with you for being at the top of your game.*

*Note: If you could kindly remind them that I am still looking for an agent that would be great! Thanks! =)

Why I’m Publishing with IngramSpark


Paper quality–Look at the difference in ink quality between the two.

 

When I started thinking about writing this article I googled CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark and found an awesome blog post about the pros and cons of each. So rather than duplicate what’s already been done (and done well), I thought I’d explain why I chose to go with IngramSpark over CreateSpace.

My number one concern with the book was quality. Since I’m publishing my first book, this might seem like an unnecessarily thing to be overly concerned with. But I am. I spent the last 3 years of my life working and reworking this novel and I want it presented in the best possible way. So I started at the top. I e-mailed 20 of the top book printing houses and asked for samples (some of which I had to pay for). Then, I looked at pricing. Almost immediately, 5 of my top choices went away. I love my book, but $45/each is crazy talk.

So I found myself looking at CreateSpace and IngramSpark as the two top choices. Here’s why:

1. Print on Demand just makes sense.

2. I wanted to sell paperbacks for no more than $8.99

3. I needed a platform that easily connected to Amazon and simultaneously allowed me to sell to bookstores.

4. Worldwide distribution.

photo 2 (1)

For me personally, I feel like the createspace book looks more like a manual.

CreateSpace is an offshoot of Amazon so it makes a lot of sense to go with them. They are likely streamlined and I’m sure the process has less roadbumps. BUT when I received my sample copies, the decision was an easy one. IngramSpark, had a better matte finish bookcover, the binding was nicer, and the paper was leaps and bounds ahead of the stuff Createspace uses. A quick comparison of the paper quality of any book published with any of the top five publishing houses, makes CreateSpace’s book look like a cheap manual you’d pay $1.99 for. For me, quality matters more than the profit–if no other reason, than I want to feel proud of the product I’m selling/giving to reviewers. I also didn’t spend years, perfecting the art of crafting beautiful sentences so then release my work on a crappy platform. That being said, if my goal was to publishing a lot and very quickly, CreateSpace would definitely be the way to go, because it’ll generate revenue more quickly.

photo 1 (1)

The ultimate goal is to have your book match up with the high quality books sold in bookstores. Which one looks better to you?

Now, for the ebook part.

For the e-book, I’m releasing it on the Kindle directly through Amazon. There are 2 reasons for this.

1. The % of profit you make back is greater if you do Kindle Direct.

2. You can chose/change your set prices.

3. There are really great promoting tools. Ex. Match your paperback and sell the ebook for $2.99 when purchased together.

Note: if you’re publishing your first book (as is the case with me) doing the 90-day KDP Select program is maybe not the best idea. Jane Friedman, wrote a great article on the pros and cons of KDP Select here.

Looking over all of the different options for self-publishing is overwhelming so I hope that this article helps shed some light on the benefits of publishing with IngramSpark. Of course, this is my first book so it’s all just one large experiment for me too! If you’ve had a different experience or have an opinion of better services I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

After You Finish the Book–Get A Book Cover


A simple Google search for Best Book Cover.

A simple Google search for Best Book Cover. My favorite is A Clockwork Orange.

A couple of weeks ago, after sending out over a hundred queries and getting a few very kind rejections I decided to begin the journey into self-publishing. I had heard a lot of good things about it and what it really boiled down to was pushing aside my pride and taking the plunge.

To be honest, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I’d throw the book up on Amazon, send a blast out to all of my friends telling them it’s available and then wait with nail-biting fear as the reviews came in. As you can imagine, things were not that easy.

I started out looking at different self-publishing platforms, which led me to looking at Print-on-Demand. There are a ton of factors that go into what your print-on-demand books will look like and as far as I can tell there are only two major players in the game right now: Createspace and Lightning Source (Ingram Spark for indie authors).

So after a couple of weeks of research and getting test copies and samples sent to me (not to mention signing up for every service there is out there just to compare them all) I decided to go with Ingram Spark. Great. I had someone to print my books now I need to get it up on Amazon.

NOPE. Now I need a book cover. Since I’m self-publishing the caliber for cover art isn’t really that high. My friend Shawn pointed me to 99 Designs where I could pay $250 for 35 graphic designers to compete for my cover. But I looked at the designs and honestly they all looked really generic. For the price it makes sense, but I’m not into stock image books and though I love rom-coms and romance books, mine wasn’t one of them.

Where I ultimately ended up was Deviant Art, a site full of artists from beginner to professional, and there I found Leonid Afremov. After a couple e-mails back and forth he agreed to custom make a painting for my book cover for just $200. This is a great deal, except that I now had to graphically design my cover myself. This took a couple days and few different tries mainly because I haven’t used Photoshop in years and coming back to it was not like riding a bicycle.

Something I wish someone had told me at the beginning was to GET A BOOK COVER. It takes about a month to find, procure, and have sent to you. But you will need it for every step you take forward in promoting your book. In hindsight it seems like a no brainer, but when you’re in the thick of it and reading the million and a half articles on the web about self-publishing, it’s easy to push it aside. Since I made the mistake of waiting til a week ago to finalize my artwork I’ve still got a couple of weeks of anticipation before I even know what my cover is going to look like. In the meantime all I can do is prep the next steps. In my coming posts I’ll get into all the other marketing and PR stuff that I’ve been fumbling around with, but getting the book cover made early, was a crucial step that caused a lot of setbacks so I thought I’d write a post about it now and hopefully save others some time.

There is so much to do that at times it feels incredibly overwhelming but as the puzzle pieces come together I’m finally starting to feel like an author!

101 Queries and a Marketing Plan


Getting a book published is 50% writing and 50% self-promotion.

Getting a book published is 50% writing and 50% self-promotion.

When I hit a 101 sent queries I stopped. The past two months have been an emotional roller coaster with high highs, low lows, and whole a lot of talking myself off a ledge. Over the course of weeks, a request of the full comes in, followed by a rejection, and the e-mails tag-team each other like this for a while. Talk about never letting a celebration last too long. To my surprise, I’m told this is a great ratio. So taking some advice from a writer friend of mine, Gina, I celebrate the small victories. At the very least it’s an interesting concept. I reward myself with a delicious iced coffee with coffee cubes, that’s right, coffee cubes–brilliant.

The high lasts about 15 minutes, before a new reality sets in: none of it matters if at the end of the day I still don’t have an agent.

I stare hard at my 101st query letter and the fifth page of my Google search for upmarket women’s fiction agents, and decide I need something else to focus on. If an agent is a no-go, what’s the game plan? Another way of phrasing this is: If an agent is a no-go, how do I keep from spiraling into a comatose state of complete and utter depression? But that’s obviously overly dramatic. Right? Right.

Positive thoughts, I tell myself, as I research marketing strategies and discover a ton of useful and helpful information from the Canada Business Network of Info Entrepreneurs.

For starters, I learn that I need to “know my audience.” Who am I targeting? That seems easy enough: Women. I write women’s fiction so I’m looking for women readers. More specifically I’m looking for readers interested in “upmarket women’s fiction,” which is fiction that straddles the line between commercial and literary.

The next part is harder. How do I get my book in front of them? I do a Google search for book publicists and, instead of finding an actual publicist, I find an article about how I could be my own publicist–even better. This is great because banks don’t give out loans for marketing unpublished books (at least I don’t think they do), so the more work I can do on my own the better chance my book is going to have of surviving in a clearly saturated market.

Kelly Ferguson wrote a great article titled, “Being My Own Book Publicist,” which I think every emerging writer should read. There is a ton of helpful information like: what to do before the book release, using your friends, brainstorming your market, and social networking. Note: this was her particular story and though I can’t say this with any kind of authority, I am certain that every book has it’s own journey therefore this article is a not complete guide by any means.

After I read a ton of exhausting articles about the million and one things I need to do, my brain goes into shock and I stare blankly at a Wega coffee machine at Romancing the Bean for 10 minutes. I let my mind wander into the world of being a barista. Ahh…coffee, how I do love thee. Writing is a pain the in the ass, maybe I’d be happier making coffee. Gourmet, whole earth, fair trade, organic delicious coffee. I think I’m on to something here. A cute little Cafe Jamie apron, biscotti’s, tea cakes…

“Get to work Hoang!!” my alarm shouts. Yes, I set random alarms throughout the day to remind myself not to procrastinate. And back into the world of publishing I go.

To keep things from getting overwhelming I pick the five things I think need to happen now:

1. My book needs a website. I buy the domain: Blue Sun, Yellow sky. The creation of the website will have to happen later.

2. Research — Start researching book clubs, Goodreads groups, book reviewers, and blogs with an audience fit for my novel.

3. Social Media — Prep blog posts, make use of Twitter, consider an author FB page, etc.

4. Layout a Marketing Plan–It isn’t enough to just research great marketing tactics. I need to put an actionable plan in place with a yearlong calendar of goals and ideas.

5. Query and forget — This is still a vital component to the publishing process. I’ve only been querying for two months, there are many more agents out there and I shouldn’t give up prematurely.

And, now that I have a plan, I need to quit procrastinating by writing this blog entry.

Signing out! *she salutes*

Older posts

© 2017 heyjamie

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑