YA Author Cheri Lasota and I met through social media. I had networked with a lot of authors in the Pacific Northwest because my husband renovates hotels and Portland will be, off-and-on, our latest address and I wanted to get to know local authors. This helped to lead to the formation of The Pacific Northwest YA Authors Association and also lead to the discovery of Voodoo doughnuts [but that's another story ]. Cheri lives in the Portland area and had published her debut novel, Artemis Rising, similar in style to my debut novel, Winnemucca, a small-town fairy tale.
Cheri contacted me about excerpt swapping. It was a great collaboration that turned out to be an amazing experience and we want to share what we learned with you today in our cross-posts. Below, you’ll find my Q & A with Cheri about our excerpt swap process. Cheri’s Q & A with me is on her blog, just click here! Join the conversation by leaving a comment here and let us know what e-book marketing has been successful for you and if you’ve collaborated in this way.
Laura: What gave you the idea to excerpt swap? What was your biggest challenge in the process?
Cheri: I heard about excerpt swapping from my awesome author friend Nancy Kelley , and she heard about it from her friend, Jennifer Becton. The moment she explained how it worked, I knew the idea was a perfect fit for my marketing plan. It’s a brilliantly simple concept: pair up with another indie author and insert each others’ book excerpts into the back of the ebooks for cross-promotional purposes. Two potential audiences is always better than one. Originally, I had thought to switch out authors every three to six months or so, to increase exposure to new audiences, but since then, I read Carolyn McCray’s awesome article about Sales Nodes. These are groups of indie authors creating a kind of cross-promotional collective by inserting excerpts from all the authors in the group. The books rotate over time so that one becomes a loss leader at a cost of 99 cents. But no one book stays at that price point for long. I loved this idea, too, and I’m exploring the possibilities now.
Laura: What’s the newest hot feature in enhanced books?
Cheri: I’ve been reading up on the new Epub 3 specification set down by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), and for me, the most exciting thing is the addition of JQuery scripting to epub files. Honestly, I’m still in the middle of a crash course on JQuery, Epub 3, HTML5, and Flash, but the fact that I used all of those in a sentence pertaining to ebooks is really the most thrilling news of all. Across the board, almost everything was “upgraded” in Epub 3. This new specification is going to blow the lid on what ebooks can handle in the near future. You’ll soon see more interactive children’s books, amazing bonus content for novels, and complex audio/video options for nonfiction and textbooks than ever before. Yowza! I can’t wait to get started. In fact, if I wasn’t writing this answer, I’d be studying the Epub 3 specification right now.
Laura: Where do you think enhanced books are headed next? [Music? Videos? Scratch n’ Sniff? Hee-hee!]
Cheri: Ebooks will eventually be fully immersive. Even the writers will be writing TO the medium and planning the interactivity into the writing itself. Remember those old choose-your-own-adventure books when you were a kid? Well, interactive ebooks will be those books on steroids. Just imagine reading a choose-your-own-adventure book on an e-reader? That’d be a double whammy! I’d buy one. =) I think we have a lot of what we need already to make immersive books actually, but over time and especially with this latest version of epub, adding interactive elements to our ebooks will become easier and easier (with less glitches and less complicated coding). I’m looking forward to diving in and trying everything.
Laura: What one thing would you recommend Indie Authors do to make their ebooks more reader friendly/set them apart?
Cheri: Don’t be too scared or lazy to do your own ebook design. Not everyone can make sense of HTML. I understand that. But for years I was too afraid to learn it. It was a completely different language and I didn’t have a lot of time. But oh! I’m so glad I got over that. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It takes me a long time to understand such things. But I kept at it, because I wanted to learn for my own gratification. Key to success? Practice in a dummy file until you get it right. And check out the tutorials at www.Lynda.com to really learn a program or language well.
Laura: What book would you recommend reading for people interested in learning more about coding ebooks/enhanced books?
Cheri: I can tell you what I used to earn my ebook design spurs:
- InDesign CS5.5 (It’s like CS5 but blinged out for epub creation. Very cool features.)
- Anne-Marie Concepcion’s Lynda.com Tutorial “InDesign CS5.5 to EPUB Kindle and iPad” <http://www.lynda.com/InDesign-CS5-5-tutorials/to-EPUB-Kindle-and-iPad/82258-2.html>
- Elizabeth Castro’s Epub: Straight to the Point <http://www.elizabethcastro.com/epub/> (I learned a great deal of coding/design bling from this book.)
- TextWrangler <http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/> , Dreamweaver, Notepad++ <http://www.notepad-plus-plus.org/> (All excellent text editors. FYI: You canNOT create an enhanced ebook without knowing basic HTML).
- Sigil <http://www.code.google.com/p/sigil/> (This is a specialized text editor created for easily opening epub files and making changes without screwing anything up. Anne-Marie’s tutorial explains its fantastic features.)
Laura: If you had a crystal ball, what do you think publishing will look like five years from now?
Cheri: Ebooks, e-readers <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005890G8O/ref=famstripe_kt3g> , tablets <http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Fire-Amazon-Tablet/dp/B0051VVOB2> . Paper will be niche. And frankly, rather boring. If you leave ebooks out of your marketing plans, you might as well kiss your writing career goodbye. Learn as much as you can about these new technologies now, before it grows too late. This is the dawn of the era of the Author. Embracing the possibilities of the indie life and not giving in to fear of failure is a surefire way to making your own dreams come true for the first time in literary history. There has been no better time to be an author than right now, in this moment. Go for it!
An excerpt of Cheri’s novel, Artemis Rising
On cue, the sad call of the trumpeter sounded, announcing the start of the bullfight. The first cavaleiro marched his white Lusitano stallion out onto the pristine field of sand. He wore white pants with shiny black knee boots and a scarlet coat filigreed with gold embroidery.
As the cavaleiro displayed dressage techniques with his plumed and ribboned horse, Pai made his way through the stands to his seat. The condessa glared at him, but she dared not say a word with the Brancos so near.
Pai nodded to Conde Branco and his wife and then turned to Arethusa.
“Have faith.” With an imperceptible smile, he whispered.
She ached to question him, but the first bull was set loose at that moment. His great muscles writhed under his hide as he strutted in the dust and his loud snorts resounded through the whole arena. His thick horns looked like great antennae seeking out the perpetrator of his anger. He soon found his prey as he eyed the prancing Lusitano and rider at the opposite side of the ring. He charged and charged, yet failed to catch the skilled cavaleiro every time.
Arethusa was on edge, as much for the fight before her as for the fight to come when Tristan would be pitted against a bull like this one, except face-to-face and on foot. It was said the forcados faced death every time they stepped into the Praça de Touros. But today wasn’t about nameless men from legends and small talk in village shops. It would be Tristan Vazante walking into this arena. He had great skill, but this was his first official bullfight. Success was never guaranteed, even for the most experienced fighter.
The cavaleiro faced the bull without fear. He raised the banderilla, a slender spear wrapped in bright tinsel. A moment of silence and expectation followed. Then the bull charged. The Lusitano leapt toward the bull, sand flying behind his hooves. Closer and closer—it was impossible for them not to collide—the cavaleiro and his horse twisted away. He plunged the banderilla into the bull’s shoulder, and the crowd erupted in applause.
Again and again, the cavaleiro and bull charged at one another. Each time the rider was victorious. The cavaleiro bowed to the crowd and the bull was ushered from the arena by a herd of cows, their bell-collars jangling from their thick necks.
The next competitor, a handsome matador dressed in a mint green coat with fuchsia stockings, strutted out onto the field. He would be the first to fight Pai’s enormous prize bull. The matador held the banderillas and cape at his side, bowed to the crowd, and the battle commenced. Pai’s bull charged the moment he burst from the pen, but the matador stood his ground. He spread the fuchsia and saffron cape before him and arched his hips in time to distract the bull from his aim. Out from behind the brilliant cape, a banderilla shot backward and struck the bull. The crowd erupted in approval. The young matador’s dignified air and graceful footwork won the crowd’s heart. When he strode from the field, many of the society girls threw their bouquets at his feet.
Pai’s bull remained in the ring, the banderillas draping from his bleeding back, his breathing heavy, his anger intense.
Arethusa leaned forward. Eight men stood behind the arena wall. The music died away and the trumpet heralded the entrance of the forcados. At the same instant, the eight men vaulted over the wall and lined up inside the ring opposite the bull. The beast stood eyeing them, his breath heavy with exertion.
She spotted Tristan at the front of the line of men. He stood rigid, his feet planted firm. The only movement was the shifting of the green cap in his hands. He gazed up into the stands, and it seemed to Arethusa that he looked right at her. She stood, feeling embarrassed, but knowing he would see her. The green cap went still. He bowed low to her. Or does he bow to Isabel? He put the cap on and marched in the direction of the bull, his lithe body made graceful by the gait of his long stride.
Arethusa couldn’t sit. She watched Tristan’s slow, measured paces down the center of the arena, the line of forcados following. Does he march to his death?
The bull stared down their approach, as if daring the forcados to try him. Tristan did not falter but moved ever forward. The bull snorted and stomped his hoof against the sand. Tristan led the men closer. The bull charged. Tristan rushed forward. But at the last second, Tristan stepped too far to the left. His body slammed against the bull’s head, one of the horns goring his belly.
The arena fell silent. Then Tristan cried out. Arethusa clutched her throat as everyone in the crowd stood.
“No,” Pai whispered.
She heard Isabel scream as the crowd erupted into a cacophony of noise. The shouts of the other forcados struggling with the bull drowned out Tristan’s agonies as he clutched the bull’s horns. One of them grabbed the beast’s tail, distracting the bull long enough for two other forcados to lift Tristan off the bull’s head. The crowd erupted into cries and shouts as one of the men carried Tristan off the field.
Pai touched her arm. “He failed for you, Arethusa. But I didn’t ask him to do this.”
For a moment, she stared up at him, feeling emotions she could not name. Then he let her go. She pushed past the people in her row: a wealthy family with five children, an old man with a pipe, two businessmen—all staring down at the bull, all motionless with shock.
Buy Artemis Rising