Exploring fiverr.com

Ah, the glamorous life of an independent author.

Unlike traditional authors – who have publishers and publicists and proofreaders, oh my! – indie authors do all of it themselves. Or they find someone who can.

Last summer, I attended a Romance Writers of America meeting and having just moved my website from wordpress.com to wordpress.org, I was hungry, some might say desperate, for IT advice from these experienced authors. One of them crinkled her little button nose up at me, narrowed her eyes and said, “I have no idea if my website is on wordpress.org or wordpress.com. I wouldn’t know the difference.” Oh, to be so naive.

Because as an indie author, I do know the difference. Oh, yes. Earlier this year, I chose to join the ranks of writers who publish their work themselves. I’ll never write another query letter again. The days of going to conferences in hopes of meeting an agent or an editor who sees a glimmer of value in my work are over. Done. Kaput.

Oh, sure. Some days I fantasize about getting “the call.” The phone rings. It’s an editor from HighBrow Publishing. She’s calling to offer me oodles of cash if only I’ll sign a contract and allow them the divine privilege of publishing my novel. Thousands of dollars can be mine with the swipe of a pen. I can kiss the lean days goodbye. Quit my day job. Buy a box of bon-bons. I’ve moving into a house on Easy Street.

And with that phone call, I no longer need worry about typos in my books or cover art that doesn’t look quite right. Nope. All of those mundane tasks will be done for me by people way smarter than me who live in New York City.

You can tell I’ve spent time thinking about this, can’t you?

But the problem is, I don’t write books that HighBrow editors want to publish. When I queried my debut novel, Celebration House, to Kensington Publishing, the editor wrote back and said the idea had promise but I needed to get rid of the ghosts. Okay. I queried a publisher with my picture-book, The Carwash Dragon. Again, I was told the idea had merit if only I would rinse out the carwash element.

And I’m okay with my slightly off-kilter storylines. For example, I want to write a Civil War romance with a hero who is an amputee. Think HighBrow Publishing would touch that one? Yeah. Me neither.

Okay. So if my choice to be an indie author requires me to learn how to navigate social-media sites like Pinterest and MailChimp and use software I can’t even pronounce, I’m going to need help. Enter fiverr.com.

This website, as the name implies, lists artists and folks of all backgrounds from all over the world who complete tasks for $5. When I needed a logo for my small press, Baskethound Books, I hired an artist from this website.

Recently, I wanted to add a Christmas touch to my logo, so I went back to fiverr.com and asked the artist for a Christmas version. While I was there, I perused the different skills offered. I saw an artist, Jolie from Hawaii, who would illustrate children’s books. I reached out to her and asked if she would work with me on bringing The Carwash Dragon to fruition. She said yes. Here are two of her first sketches:

Olive_the_Dragon

When I mentioned that I was using fiverr.com, I received a warning from a fellow writer. He said some authors use fiverr.com to pay for book reviews or to add fake Facebook followers. I’ll steer clear of that. But if I need help with WordPress.org again, I have my fiverr connection – Jacob from the UK. Likewise, when I launch my first MailChimp newsletter on Monday, Nov. 24th, you’ll see the work of Paul from Canada. All hired via fiverr.com.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: why I love Thanksgiving Day.

Have I gone too commerical?

Last summer, overcome with more ambition than is healthy, I set up a page on my website where readers could buy books directly from me. My current platform, wordpress.com, didn’t allow this feature. So, because I am hard-wired with an abundance of optimism and scarcity of caution, I leaped onto wordpress.org. That’s a whole different and ugly blog post.

After moving my website, I spent at least three minutes researching what different e-commerce companies offered and chose Ecwid. They allowed me to build a store of sorts where I can sell my books. But after perusing other independent authors’ websites, I decided to offer more. To that end, I had a logo designed for Baskethound Books, the small press I founded. It looks something like this:

Logo version 3

Taking the next step on the path to my own destruction, I decided to offer small items – I call it swag – with my logo or the cover for my books. For instance, I think the cover for Bone Girl is a piece of artwork unto itself, so I offer a journal with the cover replicated on it. I also sell mugs and simple things like phone covers and tote bags with the Baskethound Books logo emblazoned on them, with help from Vistaprint. You are invited to peruse the shelves of Baskethound Boutique for yourself.

Speaking of, how are sales? …Uh, you know, a little slow. Okay. I’ve sold a total of two books and those to my biggest fan in Alaska. Thank you, Dianne. On the Saturday she bought the books, I was working an extra shift in the urgent care clinic. Ecwid sent me an email informing me I had sold two books, and I was so overcome with joy and entrepreneurial glee that I forgot to give a patient his tetanus shot before he left. Oops. Also, I spent all of my profits on business cards and labels for Baskethound Books that very night. No sense in letting that money grow cold in my Paypal account. Who knows? It might spoil or something.

Okay, so if I’m not making tens of dollars, what does this little side business give me? A sense of accomplishment? Yep. And such hope. I look at the two books I have for sale now – Bone Girl and A Year with Geno – and I wonder, hmm…how many books will I publish in 2015? How about in two years? Will all three books in the Celebration House trilogy be on this shelf and ready for me to endorse and ship directly to readers?

BaskethoundBooks warehouse

I kind of think they will. This is hope. Its value? Priceless.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, exploring the possibilities on Fiverr.com

Sprechen sie Deutsch? No. I’m afraid I don’t.

Last month, feeling far bolder than I perhaps should have, I reached out to a German editor and we talked about the possibility of Bone Girl being translated into German or perhaps made into a German audiobook. I was beside myself with excitement! I couldn’t believe it. My humble book would be available to readers in Germany. My mother, Louise OBERMEIER Drake, would have probably been just as excited as I was, God rest her soul.
So, I sent the manuscript to the would-be translator, and I waited. And waited.
Meanwhile, riding the excitement of this possible translation, I put together a Kickstarter campaign to reclaim the rights to my debut novel, Celebration House, and bring to fruition what many readers have been clamoring for: a print version of my debut novel. With the $2,500 I hoped to raise, I would pay off the Irish publisher, hire a professional proofreader and cover designer, and before the end of the year, Celebration House would be rebuilt.
But the writing journey is a long one, and this time, I encountered a few obstacles I could not go around.
My Kickstarter campaign ended last week, and I’m sorry to report that I did not meet my goal of $2,500. I didn’t even come close. I raised $135.
And today, I learned that to have Bone Girl translated into German would cost far more than I can afford. It’s not likely to happen soon.
Okay. So these are ideas that did not bear fruit. Got it.
But there’s always a silver lining, right? Always a lesson to be learned? I kind of think so.
Let’s start with the Kickstarter campaign. It’s the first time I put together a public project like this. I borrowed a video camera from my local library and turned a spare bedroom into a studio. Because my basset hound is my mascot, Eeyore was in the video with me. Note: hounds love hot dogs and rabbits. Both were used to entice him to focus on the camera. It was fun! Also, because we made a video, actually several, I put together a YouTube channel, where I posted a few of our out takes. Dare I say mistakes?
[embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ybr6Sqk5ewk[/embedyt]
Part of the project was to offer prizes for those who backed my project. I dreamt up the idea of a cell phone ringtone of my hound’s magnificent bay. In fact, I found a local studio which will record it and convert it into a downloadable file. That may yet happen.
I also put together what I am calling Baskethound Boutique. It’s an online store on my website where I sell my books and merchandise, like T-shirts and coffee mugs, for those who might choose to support my small business. Yesterday, a girlfriend in Alaska reached out to me and said she wanted to buy three copies of Bone Girl. Which distributor would pay me the most? I sent her to Baskethound Boutique.
As for my German translation, I’m not giving up. I’m convinced that when Bone Girl finds an advocate in Hollywood and takes to the big screen, the German translation will happen. That’s called hope. For now, it’s enough.
Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, remembering why I write.

I go kickstarting…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were listening to the radio and heard a story about two young men who had checked into a for-rent-by-owner condominium and after 30 days, refused to move out. The owner had to navigate the legal process of evicting them. And, the story went on, they had also been given funds from Kickstarter to develop a new computer game, which they had not delivered.

Kickstarter, huh? I first learned of this group in 2013 when I was trying to promote my debut novel, Celebration House. I had the crazy idea of traveling from library to library to give lectures about the wonders of e-readers. I hoped to apply for Kickstarter funds to cover my travel expenses and offer attendees a chance to win a free device. When I reached out to the staff at Kickstarter, I was told this project wasn’t quite what they were looking for. Okay. Fair enough.

Now, as I listened to the story, a thought occurred to me: maybe I should rethink my Kickstarter campaign. What if I could raise, say, a couple thousand dollars? I could buy back my rights to Celebration House, have the manuscript professionally edited and proofread, and then publish it via my small press, Baskethound Books.

I wondered, how much money would I need? I made a spreadsheet, then I queried Wendy Janes, the editor who works with Joanna Penn, one of my indie-author heroines. I also asked the cover artist who designed A Year with Geno if she would make a new cover for Celebration House. Both women said yes. They would be part of the team to relaunch my debut novel. Publishing it myself, I could produce an e-book, an audiobook, and what most people have asked for time and time again, a print book.

My next step was to peruse different projects on Kickstarter, taking a look at those which had successfully raised the funds they asked for and those that did not. One thing I noticed: the importance of a video, explaining to backers why they should support the project.

Harvey the rabbit was used to keep Eeyore's attention on the camera. No creatures were harmed in the making of this video.

Harvey the rabbit was used to keep Eeyore’s attention on the camera. No creatures were harmed in the making of this video.

So, using the video camera I borrowed from the local library, my four-legged business partner, Eeyore, and I made a short trailer. I completed the application, editing it probably one too many times, and submitted it. The campaign launched today!

Here’s the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/97206383/baskethound-books.

Please take a look and consider supporting Baskethound Books. Every bit as important, share the link with your friends and family. Get the word out! That helps me every bit as much as your financial support. Now, if I can just figure out how to record a ring tone…

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: Sprechen sie Deutsch?