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Topics - Russ Munson

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Writers' Cafe / Whispersync for audiobooks--exact match?
« on: May 06, 2017, 07:35:19 AM »
I'm in the process of proofing an audiobook against the actual text and noticed that the narrator has made a number of unconscious changes to the text (small things like saying this instead of those). I'd estimate there are between 5-10 such small discrepancies per chapter. The audio itself sounds good and you can follow the story just fine when you listen to it--it just doesn't match the book 100%.

My question is, how exact must the audio be? Does anybody know at what point the audio might be too far from the text to get Whispersync enabled?

Thanks in advance!

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Writers' Cafe / New Cover Reveal
« on: September 25, 2016, 12:40:45 PM »
Back in this thread, http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,239487.msg3335581.html#msg3335581 I talked about my long journey to become a somewhat competent cover designer (I still have a loooong way to go!).

Happily, the cover for my second book didn't take anywhere near as long :)



This was a combination of 3D and about 6 different texture layers. As my own designer, I'm constantly tweaking things when I get new ideas. It's almost tempting to hire a pro just so I leave the darn things alone :)

Thanks for looking!


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Writers' Cafe / Adventures in Cover Design
« on: July 27, 2016, 12:00:54 PM »
A common bit of advice floating around these parts is, “DON’T DESIGN YOUR OWN COVER!”

This is sound advice if you:

a) have no interest in art
b) want to maximize writing time
c) follow the advice of MBAs (jack of all trades=master of none)

However, it is not the gospel truth. If you

a) Love art
b) have no money
c) desire complete control

Go for it! Seriously, there is nothing stopping you.

In 2014, I embarked on my self-publishing adventure. I always wanted to do my own cover art, but my artistic skills were somewhat lacking. I have no formal background in art or design. But I plowed ahead anyway, first because I had no funds, and then later, out of complete stubbornness.

Armed with an Adobe CC subscription and lots of YouTube tutorials, I dove in headfirst. The water was much deeper than I thought—a good thing because I didn’t break my neck.

The numbers here correspond with the numbers on the graphic below:

1) Getting my feet wet. I figured, hmmm, the book is about water. Let’s use pipes. Distressed font, etc. Hideous.

2) Thought it needed to be darker. Story has a prison. Let’s put a fence on it!

3) A main theme is a water crisis. Let’s try that. Did photography in my back “yard.”

4) A little better. Still awful. Losing hope.

5) A different approach. What if I trace a hand? Disastrous.

6) Back to the fence. Shot a picture of trees. Experimented with painting clouds.

7) Put a fence on top of a vacation photo. So embarrassed by my lack of cover skills, I decided to go with pen name. Released. Thought it captured the theme. (a Kboard member called it a “cheap” photoshop job).

8. Sales non-existent. But refused to give up. Discovered stock photography. Dabbled with 3D design in modo. Watched tons of tutorials. Tried making it darker. Closer to genre.

9) Rereleased a couple of weeks later. Decent sales with a promo stack. Cover okay, but not lighting world on fire.

10) Refused to give up. Getting better at photo manipulation, but still not great. Considered hiring Damonza, but have come this far. Want to keep pushing.

11) Trying to get closer to the genre. Add a silhouette. Like the new direction. Typography is still a weak point.

12) Better, but not quite there.

13) Finally happy (at least for the moment :) Ready to release under my real name. Note that the step from number 12 to number 13 was a FULL YEAR. This is the 90-10 rule. It applies to writing too. The last 10 percent always takes 90 percent of your time.

Anyway, it has been one heck of a journey, especially with a full time job and a baby.

I have no idea whether the new cover will hit the genre, lead to sales, etc., but I wanted to say that if you really want to do your own art, it is possible, even with limited skills/funds. You just have to be stubborn. You can get an entire art school education just by Googling. When I looked back at my early covers, I was shocked at how cringe-worthy they were.

Could I have written more during this time?—unlikely. I always write until burnout before I start playing with Photoshop. Has spending so much time on cover design slowed my writing career?—maybe. But I consider the time spent an investment in my future. Now I can design whatever I want whenever I want, and don’t have to worry about changes/booking/funds/banners/ads/etc.

But most importantly, I loved the process :)

Keep pushing!


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Writers' Cafe / Mailing List Freebies
« on: October 15, 2015, 03:32:57 AM »
In anticipation of my next release, I'm in the early stages of devising a strategy for my mailing list. Ultimately, I'd like to be able to offer valuable content to my subscribers, things like free books, exclusive content, etc.

My question is this: Does it violate Amazon's terms of service to occasionally send my subscribers a free book from my backlist or to offer a free book as an incentive to sign up, yet also have the same book(s) available for sale on Amazon?

I would think that offering a free book that is currently for sale makes the mailing list option even more valuable.

And if this violates Amazon's terms, then why? How would this be any different than sending out a free book to get reviews?

I would love to hear any and all thoughts on the subject. Is anyone having success by doing this or by doing something similar?

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Writers' Cafe / Go Big or Go Home (Promo)
« on: September 16, 2015, 02:55:26 PM »
I'm trying to figure out the strength of the tremors needed to trigger the Amazon seismograph thingies, so for my first Kindle Countdown Deal, I decided to do an experiment. Instead of doing one promo at a time, I thought I'd stack as many promos as possible to see if I could trigger some kind of love from big daddy 'Zon. The downside to this approach is that it's hard to track the performance of the individual promos. For this particular experiment, however, I was willing to sacrifice hard data for higher rankings.

I have no idea if this approach will work or not. My current thinking is that if this week-long experiment does not lead to any lasting effect, then there is little point in attempting any more promotion before my next book is out.

I tried to line up as many sites as I could that would take a newbie with only one book and less than ten reviews.

The Countdown Deal started yesterday (Tuesday) and will go until next Monday.

So far:

Tuesday September 15
Genre Pulse and Bargain Booksy: 40 sales

Best rank achieved: #16 in Crime/Noir!   :D

So far so good. Today's (Wednesday's) sales are already better than yesterday's, but I haven't yet seen any rank improvement. What does this mean? I have no idea. Is it better to have eight million sales all in one day? Or eight million sales spread out over the course of a week? I haven't figured it out yet.

Will update when today's final numbers are in.

Update: Just hit #13 in Crime/Noir!  ;D

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Writers' Cafe / Blurb Tweaking
« on: August 23, 2015, 12:45:03 PM »
No, this is not a new Miley Cyrus craze, but an attempt to improve and refine. I had gotten so much good feedback on my cover when I posted it here, that I thought I'd run a new blurb past your eyes as well. The old blurb was decent, but I'm never satisfied.

Old Blurb:

There's something in the water...

After a typical night of excessive drinking, Owen Fisher, a muck-raking journalist turned adjunct professor, is delivering a lecture to a hall of students on academic probation when two cops appear. At first he isn't sure if they've come for him or for a student, but when they haul him off to jail, he assumes that his latest publication went viral, one in which he recklessly accused the world's largest water company of poisoning its customers.

With no money for bail and no support, Fisher's vow to abstain from drinking the company's products has never been harder.

But worse, if his suspicions about the company are correct, the world as we know it is on the brink of collapse. Locked away in a remote island prison, Fisher must discover the real culprit before a deadly poison arrives in every restaurant, store, and faucet in the country.

New blurb:

There's something in the water.

All of it.

The tap water, the bottled water, even the lousy soda.

Or so believes muck-raking journalist Owen Fisher.

The problem is, he's not very good at his job--at least not in the traditional sense. He digs a little too deep. He pushes a few too many buttons.

And he drinks way too much moonshine.

But he does have a knack for exposing evil. And he's not afraid to go after the most powerful people in business.

So when two cops show up with an arrest warrant, he can only assume that his latest publication went viral, the one in which he recklessly accused the world's largest water company of poisoning the water.

If he's wrong, it's business as usual.

But if he's right, the world as we know it is on the brink of collapse...


Before I make the change, I thought I'd get some feedback. Worth changing?

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Writers' Cafe / Baby Promo
« on: August 19, 2015, 05:59:47 AM »
Well...baby and promo.

First, I'm excited to report that baby Turk arrived last week and that he and mom are doing well. One of my professional worries was that having a newborn would seriously affect my writing output, but so far, I'm happy to report that this has not been the case. The rumors that "my life would be over" have been greatly exaggerated  :D

In fact, if anything, my productivity has actually increased. While sitting around and watching him, there is little to do but open the laptop and type away. Late nights have also helped to increase productivity.

The experience reminded me of something my cousin in the Air Force said as the due date approached: "There's no need to worry about missing out on adventure. You simply need to include him in the adventure."

So for any writers out there concerned that having a child will destroy all of your writing time, it's not a foregone conclusion (in fact, I was quite spooked after reading an interview with some literary writer who said that one of the keys to her success was not having children. Bleh. Total nonsense). Now I'm sure things will change as he gets older, but that will have to be the subject for a post down the road.

Secondly, I ran a small promo to test the waters while we were in the hospital. The first was with Bargain Booksy ($50). This promo ran in mid August, mid-week. It did not run with any other promos. The goal was simply to get some more reviews on the board. Despite having many things working against me (no platform yet, 1 review, 1 book, mid-August, full-price listing), The Watershed sold in the double digits and even briefly enjoyed a #25 spot in Crime/Noir. I am quite pleased with the Bargain Booksy results.

The second promo I ran was yesterday. AwesomeGang ($10). Like Bargain Booksy, I kept the book at full price and had very modest expectations. Unfortunately, it did not produce. I probably will not use AwesomeGang again.

In all, calling this past week exciting is an understatement. I hope my promo experiences are helpful and I'll be eager to post more as I wade deeper into "post publication."

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Writers' Cafe / My First Month…Lessons Learned
« on: August 08, 2015, 11:43:38 AM »
…well, technically, I’m a workweek short of finishing my first month, but I wanted to make this post before my first child finally vacates hotel mommy—which should be any day now—and I disappear into the land of diapers and midnight lullabies.

This post is for the writer who was like me two years ago, the version of me who read Kboards religiously while dreaming of finally forcing his or her first novel into the world.

Before finishing The Watershed, I wrote 4 screenplays, scrapped three novels, and had countless other false starts. I easily put in my 10,000 hours and was lucky enough to workshop my fiction with writers published in the New Yorker and other prestigious traditional mags. My colleagues warned me against indie publishing, but I came to it like a rebel, refusing to give traditional publishing a fair shake; I was convinced that I could put out a product as good as or better than the “system” while having a lot more fun and less headaches.

So far, I have done no promotion. I have no Facebook, no blog, and no Twitter. My first book was the very definition of a “cold launch” and I was interested to see what would happen by simply having a book available on Amazon.

I’ve been lucky enough to see a handful of sales outside of my inner circle, not a Paul Bunyan handful, more like a mini-me handful squeezed tightly enough to keep a tadpole from escaping, but a handful nonetheless.

Additionally, I have gotten a decent number of pages read in KU, and have gotten some really nice comments from readers. I have a long way to go, but I am pretty happy with the initial results.

Along the way, I’ve made some observations. Hopefully, these will be helpful to those writers, who, like me, may be getting ready to hit “publish” after a long gestation.

1) I changed my cover about two weeks after publishing. This was mostly in response to seeing what the print cover looked like (way darker than I had expected). It also delayed a print version. I heard from a few readers that they wanted the print version, and had I been ready to go with both versions at the beginning, I might have seen a few additional sales. Every time a reader asks you about your book, but you don’t have their preferred version ready to go, you have lost an opportunity.

2) I changed my keywords right after publishing. This made my book invisible to browsing customers for about a week. Try as I might, I could not find my book by navigating through Amazon’s lists. I wasn’t able to find it again until I changed the keywords back to what they were in the first place. For the next book, I will research the optimal keywords before publishing and leave them alone, at least for a while.

3) Launching in late July/August might have cost some visibility. In the future, I will avoid publishing this late in the summer. Heck, even the banks are slow this time of year.

4) Simply having a book on Amazon does not equate to sales. The idea that browsing customers would somehow come across my book in the darkly coded recesses of Amazon’s less-than-best-seller list was completely naive. Sales beget sales and it’s not realistic to think that a book will sell any copies without any sort of promotion.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’ve been so thankful for all the advice on these boards over the years that I wanted to give something back, even if I didn’t have a whole lot of data to share. I know it’s not much, especially for those who have been doing this for a long time, but hopefully, in the future, I’ll be able to make a more significant contribution.

As for now, at least until the baby’s here, it’s head down, nose to the keyboard. The nice thing about a second book is that it goes WAY faster than the first  :)

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Writers' Cafe / Pulled the Trigger on a New Cover...Thoughts?
« on: July 30, 2015, 03:56:51 PM »
Hey all,

So after finally getting my print proof in the mail, I realized there is a big difference between designing covers for eBooks and designing covers for dead trees. At this point, I feel like the print cover, at least through Createspace, would look best if I simply pressed a giant branding iron to a tree trunk stripped of its bark.

Trying to get a cover that looked decent in print led me to pursue a new cover altogether.

Here's the new version:



The old version is still in my sig (at least until Amazon updates it).

Any feedback is welcome!

And if anyone has any tips on output for print, I would love to hear 'em!

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Writers' Cafe / Keyword Changes?
« on: July 24, 2015, 08:12:26 AM »
I noticed in the "customers also viewed" section for my book, a lot of dystopian titles were appearing. While my book does have some dystopian elements, I thought it was better placed firmly in the thriller category, so I changed some keywords yesterday and added "psychological."

Now when I look at my rankings I no longer show up in the Thriller - Conspiracy category at all (its proper home), even though I left that keyword unchanged. Same with "island" and some of the other keywords I used initially. In fact, the book isn't showing up in any of the smaller categories at all.

Any ideas for why this might be?

Thanks!

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Writers' Cafe / Registering Your Copyrights?
« on: July 21, 2015, 08:29:34 AM »
The United States government automatically grants copyright to an artist upon completion of his or her work, except when it is a work for hire. However, as I understand it, if someone were to steal your work and you were to go after him or her, you'd have a much better chance of having your claim hold up in court if your copyright is registered at copyright.gov.

Do you guys bother registering your copyrights? It costs $35 to eFile and 8 months to process. I can imagine this would get expensive if you're releasing regularly, especially if you put out a lot of shorts (not the kind you wear). Is it worth it?

Has anyone had any problems egregious enough to seek resolution?

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Writers' Cafe / Newbie Question about KDP Select
« on: July 18, 2015, 08:44:59 AM »
If I go to my bookshelf and go under "promote" I see this:

The Start Reading Location for your book has not been set yet. It is typically set within 72 hours from the time you publish your book, or enroll in KDP Select.

Does this mean that any borrows in KU are not being tallied yet?

Thanks!


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Writers' Cafe / Coming out of the shadows...
« on: July 18, 2015, 07:21:42 AM »
I’ve been dreaming of making this post for almost five years now.

A little background: I’ve wanted to be a writer since the fifth grade. I remember it vividly. For Halloween, my teacher made us all “write a book.” We drew the covers on oaktag and bound them with plastic and gave them to family members. Mine was called “The Haunted Mansion.” It was a Sherlock Holmes story about a haunted mansion (clever title!) There were ghosts and trapdoors and blood that was actually ketchup. Obviously, being only ten, I was in my imitative stage (little did I know that the Holmes character was in the public domain—mostly—and actually fair game!).

Fast forward a few years. I majored in English and tried to write a book. I never finished. I kept telling myself, “Someday, I will write a book.”

Fast forward 2 more years. I finished a Master’s degree in English and sort of finished my first novel. It was crap and I put in the drawer.

Fast forward another year. I got my first job teaching English. I took the job for two reasons: One, I love English. Two, I wanted summers off so I could finally write that damn book.

Soon, I discovered this forum and the Kindle. This was back in 2011, back around the time when Amanda Hocking was still posting and a little short story called “Wool,” was starting to make the rounds. I was immediately drawn to self-publishing because I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian and didn’t like the idea of someone else’s corporate hands in my cookie jar (not meant to be dirty).

Since then, I’ve been lurking nearly every day and soaking up as much information as possible. I’ve seen lots of writers come and go, seen lots of successes and lots of heartfelt support. The whole time, I was savagely jealous of anyone who actually finished a book worth publishing. I kept thinking, “Gotta get my book out, gotta get my book out…”

Fast forward a few more years. I finished another book, but scrapped it. It was crap too. I finished another book, but scrapped that as well. Finally, I pushed through and finished The Watershed. It took me two years, forever in indie time, but it is the book that I’ve always wanted to read.

As a generally shy and anxious person, I am literally trembling as I write this first post. I wanted to thank everyone on this board, past and present, for all of the wonderful advice you’ve given. It’s strange to think that everyone here is so familiar to me, yet no one knows who I am. There were so many days when I would feel down and depressed, like I would never finish the damn book or that I was totally wasting my time, and whenever I would feel that way, I’d come to this forum and find the comfort and inspiration to keep going.

To everyone here, thank you so much. Every now and then a student of mine will thank me for something I’ve said in class and my response is usually a bland, “You’re welcome, I guess,” because I can’t remember ever saying whatever it was I apparently said; after all, as a teacher, I’m paid to say a lot of things.

The same is true of these boards. You never know when someone is watching and reading and listening. I’ve been that someone, hiding in the shadows, soaking it all up, and I can’t say thank you enough.

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