Teen Reads Looking for YA Readers

Teenreads.com is conducting a survey and they’re looking for teens, young adults, new adults and the older generation!

The aim of the survey is to “hear from YA readers of all ages with their thoughts on what is happening in this genre. We know that YA readers are not just teens any more, but we want to drill down to some specifics. Survey topics include questions about book buying habits, social media, as well as other forms of entertainment enjoyed by YA Readers.”

So help them out by participating in the Teenreads.com survey!

Please spread the word! They want a diversity of opinion across genders, race and age. Plus this is the first survey since 2009!  The survey is open until November 30, 2012 and oh, did I mention there’s a huge book pile giveaway as well?

YA Author Club: Spooky, Scary, Eerie

It’s the time of year when the YA Author Club sponsors pull out and share some hair-raising and spine-tingling excerpts. Take a few minutes to visit their sites, read our posts, and tell us about your own scary stories. It should make for some good Halloween fun!

Casbah Guardian

He knelt in a filthy dungeon. Water leaked down the walls – the drip, drip of stalactites filled his ears. On his wrists, handcuffs that were too small for his hands dug cruelly into his skin. Cold stone dug into his back. He knelt on his knees in the darkness. His neck was chained to a wall.

His thin tunic rattled in the underground breeze and a chill came over him. He was filthy – dirt and dung smeared his pants. His teeth were grimy with weeks of debris. The smell of his body near overwhelmed him. He hadn’t bathed in weeks. Silent tears tracked down his dirty face and accumulated at the collar of his neck. With ragged voice he called out once more, proclaiming his innocence and hoping someone…anyone…would hear his call.

After a prolonged silence he knew that only his death was coming. He was starved. He had not had food for the seven days since the sentence was passed. Water for longer. He was weak and that weakness would be his undoing. He couldn’t access his magic – any magic. He heard the slow slither of the creature coming towards him. He could not see it but he felt the vibrations in the ground and knew what it foretold. A ground snake was coming. The color of stone and the length of three horses it would devour him whole.

He shivered. The sound had stopped. Out of the darkness a light flared. It was the head light that hovered from the snake’s appendage. His vision was filled with cold evil eyes, large fangs and a flaring mouth. He opened his mouth and screamed –


Check out the excerpts from my Indie partners!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy

Submit your link:

Amazon Fantasy: Top FREE vs Top PAID

Via a great post from the trusty YA Indie blog, I thought to look at what motivates Amazon Fantasy buyers in the Top FREE vs Top PAID sections.

Amazon Fantasy Bestsellers found here.

Nine out of the Top 20 PAID fantasy bestsellers were INDIE.

Three out of the Top 20 PAID fantasy bestsellers were by George R.R. Martin (you know, the creator of the A Song of Fire and Ice book series / A Game of Thrones TV series)

Even more interesting that besides GRRM, one other author claimed more than one title in the top 20 PAID list – Elizabeth Hunter. An Indie author who published her first  three novels within eight months of each other. Her leading novel is currently dominating the Top FREE list and she has THREE novels in the Top 20 PAID list.

Do you know what this means? 9 out of the Top 20 Bestselling Fantasy Books on Amazon did not go through an Agent or a Publisher. 

Regarding the Top FREE list only one of the novels isn’t Indie. This isn’t surprising since Traditional Publishers never give away books for free unless it’s an ARC for reviews or limited-use promotional material. I do find it hilarious that the only non-Indie free novel is by the well-known and long-dead author Lewis Caroll.

Out of the Top 20 PAID list the majority are either HIGH FANTASY or CONTEMPORARY/URBAN FANTASY. 

What does that leave out? Dystopian, Steampunk, Children’s (this does NOT include Young Adult), Historical, Dark Urban (think Laurell K. Hamilton)

Out of the Top 20 FREE list there is much more variety, but the majority are URBAN FANTASY or CONTEMPORARY THRILLER FANTASY.

Why did you separate contemporary and urban for the FREE section but not PAID? Because there was a clear distinction in the works of Cont/Urban in Free section and enough contemporary/urban works to justify the difference.

What’s Contemporary Thriller Fantasy? Girl lives in small town USA, girl discovers magical powers, girl discovers a syndicate is after her in New York / girl discovers a serial killer is on the loose in her small town, girl must save the world/her small town with new powers.

Amazon updates it’s sales numbers hourly so the outlook will change but this is pretty interesting data.

My Crazy Week with 99Designs

Sometimes I felt like laughing or crying…or both.

Quite a few of the initial covers I received were atrocious.

But let me start at the beginning. I went to 99Designs to receive a new cover for Red Madrassa, see explanation post here.

99Designs is a crowd-sourcing graphic design venture where multiple artists compete to win a contest based on a submitted design brief. I figured it was a win-win situation. The artist gets $300 bucks from me and I get multiple designs to choose from. I was wary of going with just one designer as I did before.

The contest is 7 days of madness.

Qualifying Round -> 4 Days

I twiddled my thumbs on Saturday and Sunday wondering ‘Why oh why haven’t designers rushed to send me my glorious designs’. First of all…it takes time to make a quality book cover. Something I should have known because it took 4-6 weeks to get my initial cover art.

I received emails right off the bat from designers who wanted more time…because they needed to draw the work or were participating in a different contest. I thought – fair enough. So I extended my qualifying round for a further 2 days. But I couldn’t see myself waiting much longer than that.

The only initial design that came close to matching a traditional publishing house cover came in at the 15 hour mark. I had an hour left in the Qualifying Round and there was nothing else that was even remotely close to realizing my vision.

In the opening round I had the interest of 12 designers and only 4-5 initial designs which I thought had any potential. It’s crazy but I wasn’t looking at the big picture at the time.

I realized days later that it’s not QUANTITY that counts but QUALITY and lots of patience. 😉

Select Finalists -> Up to 3 Days – Took me 15 minutes

I moved four qualifying designers to the final round with my eye on 1-2 that had what I was looking for.

Final Round -> 3 Days

Then my designers pulled out all the stops! I had only three designers which I considered serious contenders but wow oh wow I loved what they submitted. They each worked with me through numerous messages trying to fine-tune their designs from hair texture, to the color of the model’s shirt, to adding red leaves in the background.

The final cover is amazing and I plan on working with my chosen designer for the next cover in the coming months!

My Advice to succeed on 99Designs:

– Don’t be afraid to be flexible with your vision.

– Interact with the designers.

– Give plenty of feedback.

– Check out the other in-progress and finished contests in your category.

-Invite great designers to your contest.

Diversity in Young Adult Indie Fiction

If you’re an author or reader of Young Adult fiction chances are you’ve noticed a distinct lack of covers with non-white faces on them.  Jessica Sager explores this issue in her piece Have Young Adult Novels Been Whitewashed? But it takes more than just exploration to get past this issue – it takes action.

Kate Hart’s thrilling expose into young adult covers shows the need for change. Now I’d like to go further. It’s great to read about it and to write about it, but it’s even better to put words into action. Indie Authors are at the forefront of that change by actively calling for a new publishing landscape and creating a more diverse author dialogue.

Young Adults and Young Adult fiction readers come in all colors, sizes, hair textures and backgrounds. To box descriptions and cover models into stereotypical boxes is uncool, and quite frankly, actively excludes a large portion of the population who might enjoy a different read.

Take a look at these brilliant Indie Authors:



It’s been said people of color on the front of books is not what the market ‘wants’ and that those covers won’t sell.  Can’t an Asian woman with straight black hair be just as much a hipster, fairy Queen as a Caucasian woman with long blonde hair?

I had a multitude of reasons to decide to self-publish, not the least of which was the ability to make decisions on the design of my book cover.

As an Indie Author I wanted my cover to depict the actual characters that I write in a way that’s suitable for my audience, emulative of my character descriptions and eye-catching.   I couldn’t imagine being given a cover that didn’t represent the character I wanted it to emphasize or worse yet – a cover with a random, ‘symbolic’ woman on the front meant to fool the masses.

I’ve read numerous articles where the conclusive suggestion to a lack of people of color on young adult book covers is ‘So what? At least they are in the books!’ That’s not enough. Yes, covers of lovely, young Caucasian women sell in bookstores and online. But that’s not to say that a cover of an equally beautiful Latina, Asian, Black or Biracial woman couldn’t do the same.

The YA Indie market is giving these cover models a chance.

Terah Edun’s debut novel, Red Madrassa, will be published in November 2012.

Editing Red Madrassa

A month and a half ago I hit send in my email and Red Madrassa landed in it’s developmental editor’s inbox.

Sending off your manuscript is terrifying and exciting. You wonder every day if the manuscript is behaving, if the editor likes it and what it will come back looking like.

I’m on pins and needles and hope to get it back within the next week. Then after reading, reviewing and rushing it off to my beta reader I need to make a further decision of whether or not to send it off to a copyeditor for one final review.

Earning Out as an Indie

If I had gone through a traditional publishing house to release Red Madrassa I would have been given an advance. An advance is monetary compensation for the book in exchange for book rights owned by the publishing house.

The work done by the publisher would have included:

A) Sending book to an editing team (including a copyeditor, editor & proofreader)

B) Preparing the book for publication (cover art and layout)

C) Printing several thousand hard copies

D) Storing the hard copies

It’s not guaranteed that a publisher will market your book – particularly for a debut author. A lot of that work is on you. I can get into why I think C and D are ridiculous in a later post.

In exchange for their pre-sales work the publishers earn 90% of the revenue associated with the book and would have given me, the writer, 10% of earnings. The 10% of book earnings is known as the royalty rate. But I wouldn’t have earned a full 10%! Don’t forget that the literary agent, who initially sold the book to the publishing house, gets a 15% cut of the writers take.

The advance is dependent on the contract signed by the author. It could have been anywhere from 10,000 USD to 50,000 USD (if your book isn’t the next Twilight). It depends on how many sales the publishers project your book as earning. As an untested author and someone without celebrity status my offer would have been on the low end.

For simplicity’s sake let’s say the traditional publishing house decided to offer me $15,000 for my book. That 15K would be taken out of the royalties before I received any pay. In order to even receive royalties I would need to first sale enough books to EARN OUT the publisher’s advance. Sometimes authors NEVER earn out the royalties. With a 10% royalty rate on all sales it’s easy to understand why.

As an Indie I don’t have an advance. I invested $2,000 into my book for production. I’m hoping to earn out that amount plus a further $700 in associated costs to produce the next novel – An Amalah’s Diary – BEFORE February 2013.

Can I sell a total of books worth $2,700 by February 2013? That’s 903 books at a rate of $2.99. I doubt it. Why?

See this article which details how half of self-publishers earn less than $500 a year. Although I’m hopeful the quality of my books and some strategic marketing will push me into the other half. 😉

Read my upcoming post on what it takes to make it big.

Update on 10/20/2012: Check out this Yasmine Galenorn post on Author Advances.

Update on 05/23/2014: Turns out I didn’t sell 2,700 by February 2013 but because I planned ahead, I’m easily selling that and more now. It’s about perseverance.

The Popularity of 99Designs Among Indie Authors

99Designs is a crowd-sourcing venture for graphic designers to submit their work on spec to contests. It not only does book covers but also logo designs and website designs.

It’ s become a phenomenon in the indie book cover circuit. I’m astonished at the amount of cover art I’ve found that was created through a 99Design contests. And what’s even better…all of this cover art is AMAZING.

I’ve been wondering how so many indie artists get such great work. Now I know.

The Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway

Echo by Alicia Wright Brewster*

Elly in Bloom by Colleen Oakes

Finding My Brother’s Princess by Rachel Jeffries

Serenade by Emily Kiebel

Chameleon by Kenya Wright

Hera Queen of Gods by T.D. Thomas

Ode to Atlantis by AJLewis 

*Note that Alicia Wright Brewster is published by a Small Press Publisher.

Goodreads Self-Serve Ad

I ran a 3-Day Goodreads Self-Serve Ad on Oct. 1st.

The way Goodreads works is you pre-pay for the amount of clicks they estimate you will have over a certain number of days. They estimated that I would have 60 clicks a day. I offered to pay .25c a click. The price you pay for clicks can run up into the hundreds of dollars. The more you pay, the better your visibility.

It’s not just clicks you’re looking for when you buy the ad but also a boost in people who outright buy your book or in my case people who add the book to their to-read list. After 3 days I only had 6 clicks total and an additional 10 people adding the book to their to-read list. I thought about keeping my $45 campaign going for a month but decided it wasn’t worth it.

The placement of the Goodreads Self-Serve Ads are abysmal. They’re either in the bottom corner of the Goodreads home page or the left side of your Goodreads author/personal page. Either way nothing sticks out about them and they flicker through the ads at a rate that doesn’t make you latch on. I honestly never paid attention to them before I was looking for a way to advertise on Goodreads. And I don’t think many other people do either.

 I asked Goodreads for a refund of my remaining $43 and they complied with no fuss. Good customer service. Now if only they’d give a tier system for their actual ads. Having a $5,000/mo budget requirement is ridiculous.

Why Serial Novelettes Are Not For Me

There’s a new author-trend in town: back-to-back releases of novelettes.

By definition a novelette (for YOUNG ADULT fiction in which book lengths are usually 45,000 to 85,000 words) is a short story which is anywhere between 5,000 and 11,000 words (for fiction it’s 7,500 – 15,000 words).

The new serial novelette trend is usually chapters from one novel broken across a group of novelettes. A good example of this is Isobel Lucas’ Hell Bent, Heaven series.

The issue for me is not the length of the book. I’ve read some damn good short stories that were less than 10,000 words. It’s the fact that these new serial novelettes are not intended to be stand-alone works for the characters or the plot line.

Many times, authors won’t advertise the fact that their novelette/novella/book is in fact just the first 4 chapters of a full-length novel before you buy it. It feels a little petty to have go into Amazon and have to buy novelette’s 1-5 to get the same reading material and characterization of an actual book.

I remember seeing an indie author who published 8 books at once. Each book was ONE chapter in her novel. She charged .99c for each. I think that’s unfair and a clear way for indie authors looking to a make quick buck to pull one over on an unsuspecting reader.

I DO, however, support the trend towards Novelettes/Novellas in between full-length works. Some of my favorite authors have picked up on this trend and started releasing 15,000 – 20,000 word short stories. In this sense it’s a brilliant bridge between books.

Note (10/20/12): Indie Author Jennifer Snyder has a great post on YA Word Count: A Word On Word Count