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Cooking Up a Surprise

The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood — publishing quality non-fiction since 2012.

Well, actually that’s not quite true.  If you count our blogs posts — most of which are on craft of writing and business of writing — then I guess we’ve been publishing quality non-fiction since 2009. But I don’t mean blogging. I mean actual publishing . . . of ebooks!

Yes, that’s right, Ruby Readers. The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood has just released our very first ebook — a cookbook! Introducing Eat, Read, Love: Romance and Recipes from the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood!

Cute cover, huh? Special thanks to Laurie Kellogg for designing it. Editing and layout done by Amanda Brice and Kim Law.

So what is Eat, Read, Love? Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s a literary cookbook. We’ve compiled 59 recipes inspired by the pages of our books. Whereas some cookbooks pair their recipes with wine, ours are paired with excerpts. In some cases, the characters actually do eat the meal in the excerpt!

And the best part is that it’s 100% FREE. Yes, you read that right. It’s our gift to our readers, old and new.

So what dishes can you expect to see? It’s a very eclectic — and delicious — list!

Main Dishes

Allergen-Free Pad Thai (from Codename: Dancer by Amanda Brice)

Chinese Sausage and Sticky Rice in Banana Leaves (from My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin)

Pernil Al Horno (Puerto Rican Roasted Pork Shoulder) (from Avenging Angel by Anne Marie Becker)

 Jalapeño Chicken (from Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell)

Grandma Rose’s Varenyky (Ukrainian Pierogies) (from Pas De Death by Amanda Brice)

Angelo the Mobster’s Pasta Primavera (from The Good Daughter by Diana Layne)

Olivia’s Seafood Salad (from Under Fire by Rita Henuber)

Alaskan Crab Cakes (from The Doctor’s Mile High Fling by Tina Beckett)

Easy-Peasy Meatloaf (from Chase Me by Tamara Hogan)

“Hide the Peas, Please” Chicken Pot Pie (from Intrusion by Cynthia Justlin)

Soups/Stews

Cole’s Poorman Stew (from In the Presence of Evil by Autumn Jordon)

New Mexican Green Chile Stew (from First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones)

Cock-A-Leekie Stew (from Prophecy by Heather McCollum)

Almost Medieval Leek Soup (from Lady Unbound by Elise Hayes)

Henri’s Turtle Soup (from A Kiss in the Wind by Jennifer Bray-Weber)

Caruru do Pará (Brazilian Shrimp Gumbo) (from Doctor’s Guide to Dating in the Jungle by Tina Beckett)

Abram’s Game Day Chicken and Sausage Gumbo (from Under the Autumn Sky by Liz Talley)

Sides

 Abby’s Fatten-up-Mac Green Bean Casserole (from The Memory of You by Laurie Kellogg)

Millie Polk’s Squash Casserole (from Home at Last Chance by Hope Ramsay)

Bacon and Egg Fried Rice (from Taste Me by Tamara Hogan)

Sultana’s Rice (from Kismet’s Kiss by Cate Rowan)

Stasia’s Vinegret (Russian Potato, Beet, & Carrot Salad) (from Underhanded by Shoshana Brown)

Violet Easley’s Okra and Stewed Tomatoes (from Last Chance Christmas by Hope Ramsay)

Eat These Fries (from Kiss that Frog by Cate Rowan)

Condiments

Dare To Be Different Barbeque Sauce (from Snow Bound by Dani Wade)

Alex’s Killer Pasta Sauce (from His Witness to Evil by Autumn Jordon)

Annie’s Favorite Hot Sauce (from Waters Run Deep by Liz Talley)

Devil’s Dust (from Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones)

Desserts

Triple Chocolate Cake (from Caught on Camera by Kim Law)

Summer’s Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (from Perfect Summer by Katie Graykowski)

Ryker’s Favorite Mint Brownies (from Her Own Best Enemy by Cynthia Justlin)

Tiramisu (from Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash by Bev Pettersen)

Profiteroles (from Party Like It’s 1899 by Amanda Brice)

Hannah’s Heavenly Cinnamon-Almond Squares (from Hypnotic Seduction by L.L. Kellogg)

Picou Dufrene’s Infamous Pecan Pralines (from The Road to Bayou Bridge by Liz Talley)

Tara’s Mother’s Southern Pecan Pralines (from Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure by Diane Kelly)

Maggie’s Amazing Pecan Pie (from A Little Bit of Deja Vu by Laurie Kellogg)

Jenny Carpenter’s Secret Pie Crust (from Last Chance Beauty Queen by Hope Ramsay)

Cream Cheese Pie (from Only Fear by Ane Marie Becker)

Nicole’s To-Die-For Apple Pie (from Seized by Darkness by Autumn Jordon)

Susanna’s Sonker (from Whisper Falls by Elizabeth Langston)

Fried Banana Nuggets (from Edge of Light by Cynthia Justlin)

Betts’ Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Place Your Betts by Katie Graykowski)

Jilian’s “Best of Earth” Cookies (from The Source of Magic by Cate Rowan)

Breakfast

T-Bone Carter’s Biscuits (from Welcome to Last Chance by Hope Ramsay)

Cinnamon Rolls (from Sugar Springs by Kim Law)

Sausage Gravy & Biscuits (from Jimmie Joe Johnson: Manwhore by Lindsey Brookes)

Lucy’s Rum Cake “Stud Muffins” (from The Ghost Shrink, The Accidental Gigolo, & The Poltergeist Accountant by Vivi Andrews)

Sam’s Keep-Dani-Healthy Greek Omelet (from The Great Bedroom War by Laurie Kellogg)        

Huevos Rancheros (from Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones) 

Lucky’s Lucky Charms (from Getting Lucky by Katie Graykowski)

Beverages

Dani’s Mango Madness Smoothie with Raspberry Swirl (from Pointe of No Return by Amanda Brice)

Homemade Skinny Latte (from Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte by Diane Kelly)

Parish Cocoa (from Ghosts of Boyfriends Past by Vivi Andrews)

Captain Drake’s Rum Drinks (from The Siren’s Song by Jennifer Bray-Weber)

Cookie’s Mucho Magnifico Margaritas (from Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones)

Bonnie Pratt’s Easy-Peasy Peach Sangria (from Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria by Diane Kelly)

Historical

Sample Menu from 1890s Dinner Party (from The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker)

16th Century Herbal Remedies (from Captured Heart by Heather McCollum)

 Hungry yet? I know I’m starved just reading the list!

You can grab your own copy from Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, or download a PDF copy right here from this website! (It isn’t at Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony, or Diesel yet, but we expect it to be soon.)

Be sure to spread the word, and happy cooking!

(By the way, by downloading a copy, you’re actually doing us a big favor, by helping get our numbers up, which increases our exposure. So if you’ve ever been entertained or informed by our blog, this is a great way to thank us!)

Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Recap

I attended the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing conference in NYC two weeks ago, and I wanted to share my key takeaways with all of you. The conference was geared toward publishing professionals – marketers, publicists, and all the people responsible for launching ebooks and getting them discovered by readers. There were very, very few authors in the audience; I know Bob Mayer was there, and a few authors gave programs during the session, but this was truly a marketing conference. I’m kind of a geek for marketing (even though I also secretly despise it), so I found myself loving/hating all of it – but your mileage my vary, of course!

These are the most interesting insights/tidbits I heard during the conference…if you want more detail on anything, leave a comment and I’ll see whether my notes are helpful:

1) If you take nothing else away from this post, know this: the importance of mobile (smartphone/tablet) browsing is increasing dramatically. The head of industry for publishing at Google shared some Google search stats, and the eyepopping one was that in 2010, 93% of Google queries came from computers; now, it’s 72% and still dropping fast, with those other 28% of searches coming from mobile. Mobile search is only going to continue to grow.

What this means for authors: you must make sure that your website looks great on smartphones. For me, my website traffic in the last month (1943 unique visitors / 2571 total visits) was 41.9% on mobile devices – the iPad was 50% of my mobile traffic, iPhone was ~25%, and a variety of Android phones and Kindle/ereader tablets made up the rest. If someone is reading your book on a mobile device and searches your website to learn more, you want them to see a great website optimized for smartphones. This means *no Flash* (flash doesn’t work on iPads), quick loading, etc. Test your site on mobile devices, and if you don’t like how it looks, work with your web designer to fix it.

2) Your Amazon book page is like your book’s homepage on the web. We heard from Jon Fine, the Director of Author/Publisher Relations at Amazon, and his main point was that when someone searches for your book on Google or other search engines, they’re almost certain to see the Amazon page for your book at the top of the search results. You want that page to be as good as possible, with reviews, product descriptions, etc., and a robust author page that gives as much information as possible about your works.

What this means for authors: do as much as you can with Author Central. You may not be able to control your product descriptions (often the publisher is responsible for this), but you can do a lot on Author Central – regularly update your bio, add videos, add your Twitter feed, add your blog feed, etc. You can also add extras about the book through Shelfari (Amazon’s Goodreads competitor), which show up on the product page for your book. Just a little bit of effort on Author Central can make your presence more robust, which helps you show up higher in search results.

3) Email marketing is a bigger sales driver than any social media platform. Jessica Best from Emfluence Marketing said that for every $1 she spends on email marketing, they drive $28 in revenue. I don’t think that these stats are perfectly accurate for authors maintaining their own email lists – but purely from a time/money spent perspective, my (very infrequent) newsletter is more valuable than anything I’ve done on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It costs some amount of money every month to maintain a mailing list through a mailing list manager like Mailchimp or Constant Comment – but the people who sign up for your mailing list are interested in what you have to say, and you can use Mailchimp to track how many people open it, make sure that it looks good on smartphone mail clients before sending it out, and see how many people subscribe/unsubscribe every month.

What this means for authors: build your email list. Facebook or Twitter could go away tomorrow, but if you own your mailing list, you can always reach your biggest fans. Key caveat: do it ethically! Don’t violate CAN-SPAM law (or public opinion) by adding people without their permission. But I make joining my email list a key way to enter my contests, and I can track to see how many of those people stick around when I send out my next newsletter. I also have a link to sign up to my mailing list in my ebooks – this is easier to do if you’re self published, but it should be obvious how to sign up for your newsletter as soon as someone hits your site. Use something like Mailchimp or Constant Comment, which will help to make sure you don’t break CAN-SPAM law and also help you track stats.

4) Get a few metrics you can measure consistently and act upon – and then track them. Angela Tribelli from HarperCollins spoke about the importance of metrics, which I totally agree with. But it seems that most authors (and I’m guilty of this myself) obsess over their Amazon sales rank but don’t track anything else. Instead, you can track things that you can actually impact – visits to your website, newsletter signups, Twitter follows, Facebook likes, contest entries, etc. Then, if you do a blog tour, for example, you can see whether there’s any increase in averages for those stats in the days/weeks after the tour – if you don’t see any lift beyond your average, it might tell you not to do a blog tour again.

What this means for authors: pick your stats, track them, but don’t obsess. Daily tracking of things like Twitter or Facebook likely isn’t helpful. Instead, you can pick a day of the week or a day of the month, write down all your stats, and ignore them until the next time you need to track them. For me, this helps to decide whether to invest money in a giveaway, whether to spend more time on Twitter, whether to spend money promoting a post on Facebook, etc. This can also be helpful for showing publishers that you’ve built a platform – if you’re able to show steady growth and things you’ve done to grow your platform, this could theoretically help to get a deal.

5) Final thoughts: the jury is still out for me, but I’m starting to believe that it’s less important to do blog tours before a release and more important to spend that time making sure that your profiles and information on all the major platforms are thoroughly updated and have as much info as possible about your latest books. Obviously your website is key to this – your website should always be updated, even if you don’t treat it like a blog. But your Author Central page, Goodreads and Shelfari profiles, Facebook, Twitter, and any other outreach methods you use should be updated regularly so that search results are accurate. The primary goal is to make sure that anyone searching for you or your books finds out how to buy them! The secondary goal, with the help of a good web designer, is to figure out how to get your own site or book higher into the general search results for terms like ‘regency romance’ or ‘best contemporary romance’ – that’s a much harder nut to crack, but it’s worth thinking about.

But I’m not an expert, and I would love to hear what you think – what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, and where you’re focusing your efforts. I’m looking forward to your comments!

This post will either scare the bubbles out of you or give you hope…

As you may know, Medallion announced in April that it would stop printing mass-market paperbacks and instead focus on ebooks. Dorchester, which has been on rocky financial ground, recently did the same and now bookstores may be in the process of returning all their unsold Dorchester stock. Five Star has closed its doors to romance. Barnes and Noble is for sale, Borders has seemed to be in financial trouble for some time now, and many independent bookstores are gone or going, squeezed by the economy. The number of traditional publishers and traditional outlets for our novels is shrinking. (David Morrell has a short historical summary here.)

The publishing industry as we know it is changing, and print is in a bit of trouble. Newspapers are closing up shop, as well. Lately even agents such as Rachelle Gardner and Lori Perkins are telling us that non-traditional routes may work best for some authors. As always, and especially in this changing marketplace, authors need to keep our eyes out for our own best interests.

Despite the above seeming like gloom and doom, there’s hope for us. The segment of the publishing that is doing well right now is ebooks.

A research study cited in the Wall Street Journal found that owners of e-readers buy more books, and PC World noted this: “Forrester Research estimates around 11 million Americans will own at least one digital reading device by the end of September… Amazon says people buy three times more books on their e-readers than they would with printed products.”

Three times more books. HOORAY!

E-readers are flying off the shelves at Amazon and box stores across the country (including soon at your local Staples), and the Association of American Publishers reported a 200% increase in ebook sales in the first six months of 2010 compared with the same dates in 2009.

So that’s what’s going on in publishing, but what about ebooks in your life? I’ve created a simple poll so we can discover the preferences of our blog readers. Go check it out, then come back and let us know your thoughts on where the industry is headed. (And whether you’ve asked Santa for some e-reader love, or would rather stand naked on a fire ant hill.)

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