Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story


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Permafree in the Children’s Book Market

Permafree is a common term in the indie author world. Many authors will vouch for the strategy. The strategy is to set the first book in a series free (ebook formats only of course) to encourage new readers to try the book. The theory is the reader will like the book and be willing to pay for the rest of the series. Many independent authors have had tremendous success with this strategy. However, most of these authors are also writing adult or young adult fiction, not kids’ books.

The children’s book market is a bit different and its transition to ebooks has been much slower. But there is evidence that more and more kids are reading on iPads and Kindles. With all this is mind, I decided to try permafree for my children’s chapter book series. I had three books out, and I wanted to try something to spur some sales.

In the beginning of November, I set the first book in The Adventures of Zelda series free in ebook format on all platforms. I spread the word via social media, and I also had my friend Chubbs the Wampug tell her followers. (Chubbs is a pug celebrity) Since then, I haven’t done any other advertising.

After almost three months of permafree, The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale hovers around number 5,000 in the Kindle Free Charts with some spikes. Those spikes are usually around 150 free downloads in one day. Otherwise, my downloads range from 10-50 on a typical day in the Amazon Kindle Store.

In December, I saw record number of paperback sales for the Zelda series as a whole, selling over 100 books. November was strong for paperback sales as well. To date in January, ebook sales for the second and third book of the Zelda sales have risen to their best month with a week left still in the month. I’m selling a few copies of the second and third book each day in the Kindle store.

The other platforms are not doing much for me. Apple’s iBooks is the only store that moves copies. Usually, I have about 5 free downloads a day of the first Zelda book with a few sales here and there for the second and third Zelda books. Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc aren’t moving any books most days.

It’s hard to know exactly what spurned my jump in sales, but I’m sure permafree was a big component. Going permafree made Zelda start appearing in also boughts on Amazon all over the place. It kept me at the top of the free kids’ pet books charts. I’m happy with the results so far.

I realize my numbers aren’t huge. I realize I’m not making thousands of dollars, but in a very tough children’s ebook market, I’m happy with the growth. I’m happy that kids and parents are enjoying the series and continuing with it past book one. I’m also happy with the results because I haven’t paid a dime for any advertising yet. That’s the next step. And writing book four!

Are there any other children’s book or middle grade authors out there? Any success with permafree?

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The Annual Review: Looking Back on 2014 and Ahead to 2015

Happy New Year from Zelda Pug!

Happy New Year from Zelda Pug!

Looking Back

2014 was a big year. My husband and I moved to Cincinnati. We both started new jobs and adjusted to a new life and a fresh start. I dedicated more time and effort to writing fiction and good things started happening for my writing career. Here’s a few highlights:

1. The Photograph

In June, I released my first full-length young adult novel. This first novel took several years to write, edit, and publish, but I’m proud of the result.

2. Zelda Book Sales

I released the second and third Zelda books in 2014. With the release of the third book, the series began to gain some momentum. In November, I set the first Zelda book to free in ebook format. Since then, I’ve seen increased ebook sales of the second and third books in. Also, paperback sales skyrocketed over the holidays for all the Zelda books. Before you know it, Zelda pug will take over the children’s book market! 🙂

3. Author Days & Events

In 2014, I visited three elementary schools for Author Day events. During these events, I spoke with students about writing, publishing, pugs, and sold lots of Zelda books. I loved Author Visits and have more planned for 2015. I also set up a table to sell books at many community events and enjoyed those outings as well.

Looking Ahead

Overall, I’m very pleased with my writing output and sales in 2014. 2014 was the first full year of writing seriously, and I’m happy with the results. With the successes of 2014 in mind, I’ve started planning for 2015. I have a few goals in mind, and I’m working out the others. Here’s a few I can share.

1. Publish my second novel:

I’m currently working through edits on The Evolution of Lillie Gable, my second contemporary young adult novel. I’m happy with the story, but I have a few details to work out. Either way, the book should come out this spring!

2. Publish the fourth Zelda book:

The fourth schedule is next on the project list. I expect an early summer 2015 release. It should be another fun book!

3. More Batpeach

I wrote the first story of a new spinoff series from the Zelda books for my newsletter subscribers and Wattpad fans. Batpeach will return in 2015 with more fun crimefighting stories!

4. More Fiction on the Blog

With my increased writing output and stories available, I will be posting more sneak peek snippets of my novels and stories. I also am stopping my monthly book reviews posts. I’m not reading as much at the moment, so it seems silly to have a monthly post with one or two books. Instead, I will post a review or highlight a book I loved.

That’s a portion of the plan for 2015. I’m excited for this year and my writing career!

What were your successes in 2014? How can you build on those for 2015?


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The Never-Ending Revision Process

My part time day job is tutoring children in reading. I teach the mechanics and phonics of reading, along with comprehension. We encourage our students to bring in books to read for fun for the last ten minutes of each session. A few of my students requested to read the first Zelda book, and we read a chapter every couple of days.

As an author, I love that kids read and enjoy my books. With the Zelda books, I’m thrilled to receive an email that their son or daughter begged to keep reading Zelda each night before bed. But, when I read my own books again, I want to throw them out the window and start over.

Let me explain. Even when a book is “finished” or published, I find more sentences to change or chapters to revise. It’s a never-ending process for me. I haven’t read The Photograph since publication for that reason.

One of the benefits of being an independent author is the freedom to revise after publication. That’s what I am doing right now. I am revising the first Zelda book. I’m not changing content, but sentence structure and word choice. I wrote the first Zelda book a few years ago now, and since then, my writing has improved.

I don’t envision doing this for my other books, but it makes sense for the Zelda series. The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale is my best selling book. I travel to schools and events with this book, and with plans for a fourth and fifth book, the first needs to be strong so readers come back.

The revised version of The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale will be available in a week or two. I’ll post when it is available, so pick up a copy (it’s free in ebook form right now) and let me know what you think!

Authors – Do you want to revise after your novels are published? Why or why not?


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Writing in the Silence (or how I am becoming a more productive writer)

It’s almost November, so writers of all sorts are scrambling to get ready for NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month). If you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write a 50,000 word (or more) novel in the month of November. That averages to about 1,667 words a day. It’s a fun challenge, and The Photograph was born out of NaNoWriMo.

But I am not participating this year. I’m in the middle of revisions for two novels, so it doesn’t make sense for me to put those down right now to start something new. But for those who may be trying NaNoWriMo for the first time, I thought I could send some tips your way to help with your productivity.

Three years ago, when I wrote the Photograph during NaNoWriMo, 1,667 words a day sounded terrifying. These days I set a goal of 3,000 words a day (usually in 2-3 hours time) when I’m in first draft stage. I know some of the productivity increase is because I have more words under my belt. The more you do something, the easier it gets. However, I know the biggest boost in productivity comes from writing in silence.

What is writing in silence?

It’s exactly how it sounds. I remove all possible distractions and write. Here’s the steps I take.

  1. I get a drink (usually caffeinated) and sometimes a snack and sit down at my computer in the office.
  2. I turn off the wifi on my computer. (If you may be tempted to turn it on, I suggest just flipping off your router)
  3. I put my iPhone on silent mode and flip it over so I cannot see the screen. (I’ll be honest, nobody calls me, but if they did, and it was an emergency, I could still answer it).
  4. I get to work.

 

It’s pretty simple, but it’s been super effective for me.  Without distractions, I get in the writing zone quicker. Usually after writing around 1,000 words, I’ll get up and take a break for five minutes. Then it’s back to it.

Like I said, writing in silence has helped me write faster. If you are trying NaNoWriMo, I suggest you find a distraction free area to write. It will help tremendously.

I do acknowledge that distractions can come up despite your best intentions. This happened to me the other day.

Photo on 10-27-14 at 9.29 AM

I was on my computer hard at work when Peach jumped into my lap. I don’t even know how she managed to land on my lap and not hit the desk. She’s crafty. Anyways, momentary distraction. I carefully removed her from my lap (much to her disapproval) and went back to work. Sometimes removing the distraction can be difficult if it’s a spouse or a child, but I think you can manage. 🙂

That’s my tip for the NaNoWriMo folks. Enjoy November and good luck! 

What are your productivity hacks? 

 

 

 


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Creating a Fantasy World – Learning on the Fly

In case you missed my last blog post, I mentioned one of my future projects is a fantasy series called the Ozais series. I have a first draft written for the first book, and I am really excited about the book. The series originated from a recurring dream I had as a kid. In the dream, my house and neighborhood was under water so we had to canoe from house to house. (Somehow the houses weren’t flooded). Anyways, I used this water idea to develop a unique setting for the series.

As I wrote the first book, I found myself having to stop to straighten out details and settings unique to the fantasy setting. If I had more foresight, I would have outlined and planned beforehand. (But where’s the fun in that?)

For anyone who may be writing a fantasy novel or want to write a fantasy novel, here are a few tools I used to create a fantasy world on the fly.

Maps & Diagrams

My setting is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of the Ozais setting. Although I’m not artistic (see below), I cracked open my notebook and started drawing. They are not works of art, but they help me greatly. If I can picture where a place is and how to get from place A to place B, writing the story becomes easier. I plan on redoing many of these maps and diagrams before I revise the first draft.

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One of my many original maps for my Ozais series

Setting Descriptions

Along with the maps and diagrams, I also wrote out detailed descriptions of the various places in my world. Besides writing a physical description of the terrain and weather, I listed the people who lived there and why.

Character List

I usually create a character list for my projects. However, it’s usually a one page document with the important names listed and a few defining characteristics. For my contemporary YA, I can keep the characters appearance and personality straight in my head, so I don’t need to reference it often.

For the Ozais, I created a document for each major character in the story. Since we meet some characters early in the first book, but we won’t see them again until book 2, I needed more details. Plus, there are more characters and it’s much more complex. The character sheets make sure my brain doesn’t implode with too much information.

Magic System

The magic system in fantasy novels can make or break it. It needs to be clear and make sense in the context of the world you created. This is tricky. I found thinking and planning in terms of cause and effect is beneficial. If my character can do this, what effect does her power have on others? What effect does it have on the world? Why can she do this special thing?

I don’t have a specific plan to help you create a magic system, but in my opinion, ask lots of questions and answer them.

Timeline

Finally, I created a timeline for my world. In the timeline, I listed everything that happened day by day during the novel. I also wrote notes on what happened before and after the first book took place. I will continue to add to the timeline. Eventually, it might hang on my wall above my office for reference. Timelines are awesome.

By the way, my timeline is different than an outline. My outline was written before the book was written. For me, the outline tells the general steps the characters take to advance the plot. It allows for flexibility and some improvisation. I put together the timeline as I write the book so I can refer back to it. For a timeline example, this character punched that guy on this day, then he took a nap. Two characters get into an argument would be the outline example.

Those are the tools I used to create a fantasy world. For any fantasy authors out there, what do you do?