The Year We Made a Difference for Water.org

The Year We Made a Difference for Water.org

In 2014, I donated $1 from the sale of Kindle books to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean and safe water to communities worldwide. The goal was to provide clean water for life to 25 persons. The year-long campaign was called Writing for Water.

How The Fundraiser Worked

Every month in 2014 I tracked sales using Amazon’s KDP author dashboard and calculated how many Kindle ebooks I sold. I did not count giveaways, freebies, or print sales. In some months, when I ran a sale on a Kindle edition, the net profit on a Kindle edition could be less than $1. Didn’t matter. A sale was a sale and equated to $1 in donations.

I created fundraiser pages at Water.org’s website to explain what I was doing, showcase other authors who were participating, and submit my donations via credit card. At first I’d hoped to create a 12 month fundraiser on the site, which would have been a handy link to promote, but Water.org only lets you do it for 90 days at a time.

I also created a Writing for Water page on my website to explain what I was doing, plus a monthly blog post to track progress and hold myself accountable.

The Results

Writing for Water graphicEnough money was donated to Water.org to provide 25 people with clean water for life by August 2014. Sales slowed after that, due to changes in Amazon’s distribution streams. Overall, the year ended with 31 people able to gain access to clean water for life.

Lessons Learned

  1. It Took a LOT of Effort to Track and Promote

I didn’t realize how much time and effort it was going to take to promote other authors, promote the effort, promote our progress, and try to grow participation. I should have done some research about how the best fundraisers are promoted and planned out the effort before January 2014.

Beyond social media, the most useful thing I did was to send out a free press release which garnered a nice exchange with the folks at Water.org. I also mentioned the effort in a couple of different author interviews. But I should have had a list of things to do and been more consistent and focused.

  1. Run a Tighter Calendar

An unexpected complicating factor was that Water.org only creates 90-day fundraisers when I wanted the fundraiser to last 365 days. This meant that I had to track when a fundraiser ended, change all the links on my pages, and create new ones. Then I ran into problems when I unwittingly created one fundraiser using my Facebook profile and another using my Twitter profile. In short, it was a structural problem that added to the workload. It could have been partially mitigated by using a dedicated campaign calendar, much like a blog calendar.

  1. Expect an Opt Out Rate

When I asked other authors to join me, six pledged to help. Three followed through and we cross-promoted each other in a mutual effort to boost sales. The other three were never heard from again.

A 50% opt-out rate is disappointing but probably not surprising given today’s overcommitted world. But it would have been nice to at least get a note saying they weren’t going to participate after all.

The non-participating authors had responded to a call I posted in a Facebook or Goodreads author group. We didn’t have a personal connection beforehand. Maybe that is the point.

The three authors who responded were terrific: Norm Hamilton, author of BY THINE OWN WELL; Jerry Last, author of the Roger and Suzanne mysteries; and Sharon Lee Johnson, author of a string of ebooks including the ME VS ZOMBIES stories.

  1. Charity Doesn’t Equal Marketing

Subaru uses charitable donations as a means of building its brand and making purchasers feel good about the car they buy. I wasn’t sure if the same should/would apply to books and why readers purchase them.

Bottom line, I don’t think my donations to Water.org made a difference to book buyers. Nor did readers flock to this blog to hear how the campaign was going. I met the goal, with a little help from friends, but didn’t sell in numbers big enough to warrant a Big Event or even a new Water.org YouTube video.

Was the campaign too low key? Maybe. But it felt strange to be all promotion-y.

What’s Ahead in 2015

I’ll continue to support Water.org, because it’s a critical mission. But I know that if I want to finish the next Emilia Cruz novel, as well as a couple of other writerly projects, I can’t do a big campaign again.

Instead, I’ll contribute on my own schedule, without using Water.org fundraiser pages. I also won’t use Kindle sales as the yardstick. I’ll be expanding distribution beyond Amazon in 2015 so my income and accounting are in for some changes.

But no matter how much I’m able to donate, it will make a difference. Whether they know it or not, so will my readers.

It Goes Without Saying

It wasn’t a high school for the performing arts, but it came darn close.

Every year, my Catholic high school raised the majority of its operating funds by putting on two plays and a musical. With about 360 kids in four grades, that meant that at some point, you were in a show.

By the time I arrived for freshman year, resplendent in my sister’s hand-me-down red blazer and plaid skirt, the school knew how to wow its stolid upstate New York audience and the musical was firmly established as the social event of the year. Costumes were rented from Broadway, set construction overseen by local home builders, and the Capital Theater booked for 8 shows. Opened in 1928 as the first theater in the area for “talkie” movies, the theater was still an opulent, albeit faded, reminder of the Roaring Twenties by the time I walked its boards.

capital theater

Interior of the Capital Theater. Picture courtesy romecapital.com

Treading the Boards

I auditioned and won a role in every production the school put on. Freshman year I was cast as a plucky maid in George M!, the lively musical show about the life of Broadway actor and producer George M. Cohan. He wrote classics like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and “Over There.” I still remember the words to half a dozen Cohan songs and will sing on request.

The show had a cast of 100, all of whom took tap lessons for months before. The guy who played George went on to become a professional dancer. The rousing final number included a Rockettes-style kick line holding sparklers.

As the music faded, a scratchy recording of a male voice started. “My father thanks you. My mother thanks you. My sister thanks you. And as for myself, it goes without saying.”

The voice was George M. Cohan himself, from a recording made when he was playing vaudeville with his parents and sister as The Four Cohans.

Statue of George M. Cohan in New York City.

Statue of George M. Cohan in New York City. Picture courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Channeling George

I’m channeling George today. As an author, I have many people to thank for their support, friendship, and inspiration.

First, thanks to readers who bought, read, and reviewed THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and the Emilia Cruz books. In response to the number one question I receive, “When is the next Emilia Cruz coming out?” I can say KING PESO just came out.

Sign up for the Mystery Ahead webzine and you’ll never miss #booknews again.

Next, thanks is due to the generous fellow authors who helped me raise funds for water.org: Sharon Lee Johnson, Norm Hamilton, and Jerold Last. Bless you all.

To the many authors, bloggers, store owners, publishers, and pundits who contributed to the Bookstore of the Future project, especially thriller author Dale Brown, who was the first to respond. I was thrilled to get responses as well from marketing “evangelist” Guy Kawasaki, and historical novelist Bernard Cornwell. It was a fascinating project and the conclusions were surprising to many.

To the virtual friends from three special Facebook groups: Mystery Readers Corner, which does not allow any promotion but is the best place to talk about mysteries; Instant Bestseller, a group of authors connected by Tim Grahl’s online marketing course based on his book YOUR FIRST 1000 COPIES; and Mexico Writers, a vibrant community of authors whose passion for Mexico is evident every day.

To those who helped me reach new audiences by hosting me on their websites, including mamiverse.com, mexicoretold.com, omnimystery.com, bookmarketingtools.com, and mysteristas.com.

Being an author isn’t musical theater, but a journey of a thousand steps. I’ve said thanks, but know that every day, it goes without saying.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Writing for Water.org: Glass Half Full in November

Writing for Water.org: Glass Half Full in November

Throughout 2014 I am donating $1 for every Kindle book sold to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean water and decent sanitation to communities worldwide. A number of other emerging authors have helped me out, including Norma Hamilton, Jerry Last and Sharon Lee Johnson. Together we are Writing for Water.

Glass Half Full

As I noted in the October Writing for Water update, the advent of Kindle Unlimited brought Kindle sales to a screeching halt. It’s a good thing we’d met our goal of bringing clean water for life to 25 people in 2014 already because even that low bar would have been impossible in this brave new world of borrows vs sales.

Related post: Writing for Water: October’s Surprising Stall

November saw us move the bar only half a notch. But when added to the year’s progress, this means that 30 persons have gained access to clean water for life from our efforts. writing for water Nov 2014

Looking ahead

To try and end the year on a high note, all of the Emilia Cruz novels, CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, and DIABLO NIGHTS, featuring the first and only female detective on the Acapulco police force, will be reduced to $1.99. The $1.99 sale will run until Christmas.

Related link: Carmen’s books on Amazon

Stock your Kindle now for wintry weather reading in January! It’s a trip to Acapulco, where the weather is hot but the crime will burn you.

Related post: Locating the Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

In other news

I have contracted with the design firm MondoVox to redesign the Emilia Cruz book covers. As much as I have loved the ocean motif, none of the book covers say “police procedural” or even “mystery.” MondoVox not only came highly recommended by Sherry, the font of all things marketing, but is the creative force behind the branding for Chicago company, The Spice Outfit. Check out the mobster-inspired packaging here: http://mondovox.com/our-portfolio/18-portfolio/packaging/65-the-spice-outfit

Look for the new book covers in March 2015, along with a blog redesign to match!

Writing for Water: October’s Surprising Stall

Writing for Water: October’s Surprising Stall

Throughout 2014, I’m donating $1 for every Kindle book I sell. Other authors are joining the Writing for Water effort and togethe we have raised enough to provide 29.5 people with clean water for life through Water.org. Our goal for the year was 25.

Related: Meet the Authors Writing for Water

October stats

In late September, Amazon rolled out the Kindle Unlimited program, which enables people to borrow Kindle books similar to the way the Netflix or Oyster entertainment subscription plans work. While all of my books are enrolled in the program at present, the borrowing calculation means an author doesn’t get paid until at least 10% of the book is read. Check it out here.

Great for readers but it meant that my Kindle sales dropped. As in dead. In. The. Water. 10 books sold all month.

This means that, even by stretching my numbers, we only added a bit to the chart for October. Really, really glad we hit our goal back in August.

WritingforWater_Oct2014

Looking ahead

Hopefully November will be a little better. There are just two months left in 2014 and deep down, I was hoping we’d hit 50. I know that won’t happen but we should at least be able to say that in 2014, 30 people gained access to clean water because of a handful of indie writers who decided that their books could make a difference.

Even while slaving over my NaNoWriMo effort, I’m going to try and jumpstart sales in November with some advertising and a Goodreads giveaway of the new paperback version of DIABLO NIGHTS.

If you’d like to make a contribution to our fundraiser, wthout benefit of buying a book, here is the link: http://give.water.org/fundraiser/2154/

Thank you!

A big shoutout to Sharon Lee Johnson, author of those addictive zombie tales, who continues to send me encouraging messages and checks to Water.org. Sharon has an amazing work ethic and I truly appreciate how committed she has been to the cause of clean water. Read her stories like Zombies Invaded My World.

How to Make an Informed Reading Choice

How to Make an Informed Reading Choice

With so many books out there, how do you make an informed reading choice? From the author’s point of view, it’s all about “book discoverability.’ But I read more than I write and from the reader’s perspective, it’s all about knowing the book won’t disappoint.

How to choose

There are alot of Goodreads discussons about how readers choose a book. Cover? Synopsis? Word-of-mouth? Book of the month chosen by others?

Here’s a different answer: the book itself.

Sample Size

When the Emilia Cruz short story, The Beast, was featured on The Huffington Post’s Fiction 50 showcase, sales of the first two Emilia Cruz books, CLIFF DIVER and HAT DANCE, went through the roof. Readers got to meet Emilia, the first female detective on the Acapulco police force, and see what a fighter she is.

The lesson was the best way to help a reader make an informed choice with an excerpt that sets up a conflict, introduces characters to love, or otherwise intrigues. We want to make sure it won’t disappoint.

Reader Zone

That’s why I’ve created the free Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library for readers. It introduces Emilia to readers who might have seen the books on Amazon or on a book review site, but wonder about the tone and quality of the books.

The Starter Library includes a copy of The Beast, just in case you missed it on The Huffington Post last year. Free of charge.

Character Bios

In addition to the Reader Zone, in response to a reader suggestion, I’ve also added bios of the main characters in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. The bios were previously only available on Shelfari.

It is a real look behind the scenes. For example, you can find out what real life union jefe inspired the character of Victor Obregon or what Emilia Cruz and an Olumpic boxer have in common.

Writing for Water

Choose a book that gives back. During 2014 I’m donating $1 to Water.org for every Kindle book sold. Several other authors are joining me and together we’re the Writing for Water team. Each month I tally up how many peope we have been able to give clean water for life through our donations to Water.org.

We met our annual goal in August but we are still working hard. How much more can we do in the last 3 months of the year?  Help us out by buying books from Writing for Water authors.

 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Writing for Water: How to Cure Ebola by Reading

Writing for Water: How to Cure Ebola by Reading

Throughout 2014, for every Kindle book I sell, $1 is donated to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean and safe water to communities worldwide. Other independent authors have joined in and every month I tally up how many people have been given access to clean water because readers like you bought our books.

September’s Statistics

September sales flagged for me, after some fairly good Kindle sales months during the summer. But the mistress of zombie tales, Sharon Lee Johnson has promised a check so we managed to bump the ticker upwards by two.

This brings to 29 the total number of persons who will gain access to clean water from the Writing for Water team’s efforts so far in 2014. Given that we started with a goal of 25 for the year, this is pretty good.

chart of Writing for Water stats

The Great Balancing Act

But if we put all the people who read on one side of the equation and all the people who need access to clean water on the other side, we could be doing alot better.

Writing for water balance

According to the UN’s world population calculator, by 2015 there will be 1,132.5 million people living in high-literacy areas of North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. But there are 345 million without access to clean water, according to Water.org. And that has serious consequences.

This means that in very rough terms, for every 3 people who live in a fairly nice place and can read, there is 1 person who doesn’t have access to clean water. (Thanks to water.org for the graphic)

Would the Ebola epidemic be happening if more people had access to clean water in west Africa? Most reports point to lack of basic sanitation as the reason why it has spread so quickly.

water.org provided dataCure Ebola by Reading

As we head into the last 3 months of 2014, the Writing for Water campaign is going to get aggressive. I’m going to talk about this until I’m blue in the face. Tweet about it, sing it on Facebook, pin every water-related image I can find on Pinterest. And ask readers to do the same. Alot.

If you are an author, please make a contribution to the fundraiser and then email me at carmen@caremenamato.net. In return I’ll tweet, sing, and post about your books to my 2000+ Facebook fans and 4000+ Twitter peeps.

Here is the link: http://give.water.org/fundraiser/2154/

Remember, it’s a simple equation: Cure ebolaYou can check out all the Writing for Water books here. Buy one, read it (leave a review, please) and know that you helped bring clean water to communities that need it most. Maybe you aren’t ready to put on a Hazmat suit and head to Africa, but you can make a difference!

Not ready to buy?

Check out this free story first. Emilia Cruz wants to be the first female police detective in Acapulco. But will they break her before she gets to the squadroom? Read THE BEAST first. Then check out CLIFF DIVER, the first novel in the Emilia Cruz series and the one that Kirkus Reviews called “consistently exciting.”

Writing for Water: August’s Big Wave

Writing for Water: August’s Big Wave

It’s almost a tidal wave.

As of 30 August, the Writing for Water team of authors exceeded the 2014 goal of providing 25 people with clean water for life, via donations to Water.org. Author donations are based on book sales.

In August, led by strong sales of the third Emilia Cruz mystery, DIABLO NIGHTS, and Sharon Lee Johnson’s zombie tales, we donated enough to give 3 more people access to clean water for a year-to-date total of 27. That’s two more than the goal for the entire year!

writing for water monthly

But it doesn’t mean the end of the campaign. There are alot more than 25 people in undeveloped parts of the world who need access to clean and safe water.

I’m really curious to see how high we can go. Thirty? Looks like that will be easy. Forty? Maybe. I’m not going to jinx things by setting a new goal, but I hope you’ll watch the numbers with me through the end of the year.

For a little encouragement, here’s a short video by John and Hank Green, aka the Vlog Brothers, talking about Water.org and the worldwide water crisis, complete with child mortality statistics due to lack of clean water. You may recognize John Green as the author of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

Thanks again for helping authors contribute to Water.org’s mission. Readers like you are the heart and soul of this effort. When you read, someone gets access to clean water.

You are the ones turning books into water and for that I truly thank you.

In other news

Meet Emilia Cruz in THE BEAST, the short story previously featured on The Huffington Post’s Fiction 50 showcase. You can get it free at

Or check out the newest Emilia Cruz novel, DIABLO NIGHTS. A religious relic leads Emilia into a maze of drug smuggling and revenge killings, even as she trains a rookie who is little too interested in his new mentor. Acapulco has never been hotter . . . and Emilia’s never been in more danger. [amazon asin=B00LCPG8PI&template=add to cart]

Writing for Water: The Summer of Love

Writing for Water: The Summer of Love

Throughout 2014, I’m donating $1 for every Kindle book I sell to Water.org. Every time someone buys one of my books, they help bring clean water to communities worldwide. Some terrific author friends have helped along the way. Every month I tally up how many more people have been given clean water for life by this effort.

This post combines June and July. In June, I was busy getting ready for the release of DIABLO NIGHTS, the third book in the Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. Sales were strong for zombie storyteller Sharon Lee Johnson who made a generous donation to water.org that month.

Just before June closed, DIABLO NIGHTS was released and boosted sales during the last 2 days of the month.

In July, DIABLO NIGHTS kept sales going and the Emilia Cruz series on the Top Rated list for Amazon’s International Mystery and Crime category. The book is currently rated 4.9 out of 5 on Amazon.

[amazon asin=B00LCPG8PI&template=add to cart]

June + July = the summer of love

In 2 months, we provided 4 more people with access to clean water through donations to Water.org!

summer of love writing for water June July metrics

This means that the total tally for 2014 stands at 24, just 1 away from the overall goal for the year! I’m thrilled to think that our book sales are having this sort of impact. Yes, it is small compared to the big supporters of Water.org like Hollywood heavyweights and IKEA, but no contribution is insignificant when it comes to something as critical and basic as clean water.

Readers make it happen

I have said it before but will say it again: It is readers like you who are making this happen.

Maybe you enjoyed Norm Hamilton’s fracking thriller FROM THINE OWN WELL, Jerry Last’s Roger and Suzanne mysteries, Sharon Lee Johnson’s addictive zombie tales, or one of the Emilia Cruz mysteries including CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, or DIABLO NIGHTS.

By purchasing one of those books, you teamed with the author to make a donation to help bring clean and safe water to communities worldwide via Water.org.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being part of the Writing for Water team!

Check out these books from Writing for Water authors:

From Thine Own Well: Canada After The Fracking
The Deadly Dog Show (Roger and Suzanne South American Mystery Series Book 6)
Me VS Zombies Surviving Among Zombies
Diablo Nights (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 3)

Writing for Water Update: Hooked a Minnow in May

Writing for Water Update: Hooked a Minnow in May

Throughout 2014, I’m donating $1 for every Kindle book I sell to Water.org. Every time someone buys one of my books, they help bring clean water to communities worldwide. Some terrific author friends have helped along the way. Every month I tally up how many more people have been given clean water for life by this effort.

April was a fantastic month for donations to Water.org, based on book sales. Jerry Last, author of the Roger and Suzanne mystery series helped and we really put a dent in the goal of helping 25 people get clean water in 2014.

The minnow

But in May I was on my own, too busy trying to wrap up DIABLO NIGHTS, the next Emilia Cruz mystery and the Bookstores of the Future project, to promote existing books.

As a result, monthly Kindle sales weren’t extravagant, which translated into a less extravagant monthly donation to Water.org. Although I know I’ll meet the goal of 25 long before December, in all honesty, May was a big letdown.

Writing for water May update chartSend help

So I’ll say it up front–if you’re an author who thinks that clean water is critical and you want your books to have a global impact, come help. I’ll help promote your books in exchange for your contribution to Water.org. Read more here.

On the bright side, when the last joint fundraiser ended, the nice folks at Water.org sent me an email asking if I wanted the gift of a cool Water.org bottle. Of course I said yes.

In other news

Carmen Amato short story PDF version downloadThere are two Emilia Cruz stories currently available free at free-ebooks.net.

  • THE ANGLER is based on the 2007 unsolved murder of Fr. Richard Junius, my former pastor at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church in Mexico City.
  • THE CLIFF is the original Emilia Cruz story, written for a critique group. CLIFF DIVER grew out of that short story.

Both have been downloaded over 120 times in less than 2 weeks. Find them both here: http://www.free-ebooks.net/search/Carmen+Amato

Many readers voted on a poll for their favorite cover for DIABLO NIGHTS. The big review of the Reader’s Choice cover will be on 26 June to email subscribers. If you aren’t on The List, you won’t be the first to know.

Fix that appalling situation by signing up below, getting your free copy of THE BEAST, and instantly being smarter and more entertaining. LOL. No, really.

 

Writing for Water: We Shot for the Moon in April

Writing for Water: We Shot for the Moon in April

We made a big leap for mankind in April toward the goal of giving 25 people access to safe and clean water for life through donations to Water.org. Led by a surge in sales of CLIFF DIVER, the first novel in my Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco, in April we donated nearly enough from our book sales sales to give 8 more people clean water!

This means that after only 4 months, the Writing for Water campaign has given 18 people clean water for life! 

April water graph

I’m amazed, in all honesty. I though that 25 would be a stretch and I’d be thrilled to even get close. But if things keep going as they are–and another few authors join me–maybe we can zoom right past 25 and break the sound barrier.

There is a sound barrier of sorts:

  • Noise surrounding books and authors: it’s hard to capture readers’ attention. Lots of books and lots of marketing going on. Just because $1 from the Kindle sale of my books goes to Water.org doesn’t make them any more discoverable or enticing to read if you don’t like mysteries. But having Writing for Water buddies promote each other helps.
  • Noise surrounding charitable organizations: I read somewhere that many of us have become inured to tragedy. We see too much on television and online. So we forget that our contributions, when spent wisely, really help individuals. I believe that Water.org spends my contributions wisely with the Water Credit program and working with local communities. Help enough individuals and it’s called global impact. 

Long before I even published my first book, I knew I wanted to use my books to make a difference. Now it is actually happening!

If you are an author and would like to help out any month in 2014, drop me a line at carmen@carmenamato.net.

Thanks to all our readers. You are the ones who are truly turning books into water. All the best, Carmen

P.S.  My partner in the Writing for Water team in April was Jerry Last, who has just come out with his latest Roger and Suzanne Bowman mystery, THE ORIGIN OF MURDER. The book takes place in Quito, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Mexico, and uses quotes from Charles Darwin’s the ORIGIN OF SPECIES to foreshadow the action in a very clever way. Think two parts travelogue to one part murder mystery, with a cast that includes a California private detective, a former Seal-turned-nanny, a Mossad spy, and an endangered animal species. Jerry is willing to offer a free review copies to Writing for Water fans in exchange for an Amazon review. If you’d like a copy, please fill out the form below:

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Indicate PDF or Kindle format’ type=’textarea’/][/contact-form]

On the Occasion of My Second Anniversary as a Published Author

On the Occasion of My Second Anniversary as a Published Author

In addition to being a famous Mexican holiday, now celebrated around the world for reasons unrelated to the Mexican victory of Puebla over the French in 1962, Cinco de Mayo is also my anniversary of being a published author. My first book, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, officially came out on 5 May 2012.

Second Year Goals

Last year, when I reflected on the momentous occasion of my first anniversary, I was really amazed at how far I’d come in terms of books sales and skills acquired. I also set out some goals for my second year:

  • 5 books listed on amazon
  • Redesigned website with free download of Emilia Cruz mini-anthology
  • Re-release of HIDDEN LIGHT with new cover, lower price, and at least 1 promotion

It was a short list but all the goals were measurable and had a timeline attached to them. But the year ended up being much more than just those three goals.

Learning as I Go

As I headed into Year 2, I was uncertain about book marketing, this blog, the whole face-to-the-world thing. So I took time out from writing to take two online classes: Blog that Converts with Derek Halpern and Instant Bestseller with Tim Grahl.

Blog That Converts was supposed to help me redesign the website. It did that but also opened my eyes to the whole issue of how people respond to online messaging and what makes them connect to a blog/product. Blog That Converts is primarily directed at those who run an online business but I really got a lot out of it.  Derek Halpern’s socialtriggers.com website is full of ideas, not just in regard to the content, but also in regard to how Derek presents information and how the site is designed.

I was one of the beta testers for the Instant Bestseller course, which is based on Tim Grahl’s book, YOUR FIRST 1000 COPIES. The book is hands down the most intelligent discussion of how authors must connect with readers in the new publishing age in order to be successful. Tim has a lite course that is free on his website. I hope Tim expands both the course and his website with more resources and case studies; I plan to regard him as the oracle for the foreseeable future.

Website Redesign

Both the classes helped me give this website a major upgrade with catchthemes.com’s Catch Everest pro theme and a monthly author newsletter via the aWeber email service.

Subscribers get a copy of THE BEAST, the first Emilia Cruz story which was previously featured on The Huffington Post’s Fiction 50 showcase, plus a guide to writing book reviews, my list of top 10 international mystery series, and monthly updates with exclusive excerpts and book release news. Making a newsletter has been another learning curve and I’ve been helped by fellow Instant Bestseller students.

I’ve probably spent too much time this year on web design, Twitter profile design, and Facebook covers. But as a book may be judged by its cover, so is an author judged by the professionalism and quality first impressions. I get a lot of positive feedback on the look of this website, my Twitter background, etc. Presentation makes a difference.

Book List

This anniversary I have 4 books listed on Amazon, not the 5 I’d planned. The 5th book was to be a short memoir based on letters I’d written while a student in France many years ago. I put it on the back burner while taking the courses above and the manuscript stares at me balefully as I type.

HAT DANCE and MADE IN ACAPULCO were released, however. HAT DANCE, the second Emilia Cruz mystery, was on the Top Rated Top 10 for Amazon’s International Mystery category for several months, and might still be in the Top 100. I think CLIFF DIVER still is. (I’ve stopped obsessively checking things like that, which is a major accomplishment on its own.) MADE IN ACAPULCO is a collection of short stories and includes the first two chapters of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY.

The black matches-and-smoke anniversary cover of HIDDEN LIGHT turned out great. Bold, eye-catching, yet clean. It might be my favorite cover yet. HIDDEN LIGHT sells more in paperback than any of the other books. Maybe it’s the cover or maybe political thriller readers buy more paperbacks than mystery readers who prefer Kindle?

glasses of waterWriting for Water

Long before the Emilia Cruz series hit Amazon’s algorithm I knew that if I made enough I would donate a portion of my proceeds to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean water to communities worldwide. So despite the fact that Emilia hasn’t knocked Jo Nesbo off the top of the mystery charts, I decided there was no time like the present.

I started in January 2014, donating $1 from every Kindle book I sold to Water.org. After a bit I wondered if some fellow authors might like to help and Sharon Lee Johnson, Norm Hamilton and Jerry Last all stepped up with donations and promotional support. As I felt the effort gaining traction, I put up the Writing for Water page and set a goal of giving 25 people clean water for life. And it is happening! @Water is retweeting our updates, I got a nice email from the home office, and our numbers are climbing!

Have you ever done something that turns out to be bigger than the sum of its parts? Seen real change because of just a small thing? That is what is happening because of all the wonderful readers and fellow authors who are sharing this journey with me. We are giving clean water and changing lives. It feels amazing.

Golden Friendships

More than anything else, be it steadily rising book sales, the growth of the Emilia Cruz series, or an improved website, this second year has been made memorable by some wonderful virtual friendships with fellow writers. Norm Hamilton, Sandra Nikolai, Khaled Talib, Andrew Chesnutt, and especially Jane Rosenthal and Jerry Last have shared time, attention, advice, and good cheer. David Bruns from the Instant Bestseller course has helped with website ideas and tips, while Sharon Lee Johnson has been an infectious cheerleader and work ethic champ. Every day, on Twitter and Goodreads, I meet a fellow author with whom it is a pleasure to trade war stories and cheer success.

I’m thrilled to be participating in a group blog with 4 talented writers: Jane Rosenthal, Christopher Irvin, Guillermo Paxton, and John Scherber. The Mexico Mystery Writers Cartel is just getting off the ground but will be a locus for mystery and Mexico fans alike.

The team at Latinas4LatinoLit.com really gave my visibility a boost last summer with a series of 10 blog posts. Likewise, the editor of Mamiverse.com, Lorraine C. Ladish was a guest on my blog and hosted my article on bilingual humor. More opportunities came my way for guest posts, reviews, syndicated posts, etc. 

Time Management

Done properly, social media is not so much of a distraction as great tools for connecting and researching. I use Twitter and Pinterest to find great web design resources, news about Mexico, etc. Facebook is for advice from fellow authors and some great free promotion. I had been using the free version of Buffer, which seems to have gotten the vapors, so HootSuite is likely in my future.

Keeping a blog updated is hard work and it is tempting to turn each post into a nonfiction article about something I find interesting.  My “Future of Bookstores” series has been a huge time investment but I’m not sure it has had any impact on book sales. DIABLO NIGHTS might have been out 2 months earlier, too.

Yet I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing folks I would have  never have encountered otherwise: thriller author Dale Brown, with whom I had a memorable online exchange; Bernard Cornwell, author of the legendary Richard Sharpe series: Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author Publisher, Entrepreneur, and C.M. Mayo, author of a number of literary gems set in Mexico.

Now that I have some experience behind me, however, in the coming year I will keep unrelated blog posts from stealing too much writing time. Maybe I’ll cleverly combine things with a series on time management for authors!

For Next Year

For my third year of being a published author, here are my goals:

  • Meet or surpass goal of providing 25 people with clean water for life via donations to Water.org based on book sales in 2014
  • 2 more books listed on Amazon (DIABLO NIGHTS, the third Emilia Cruz novel is slated for late June release)
  • Publication of at least 1 Emilia Cruz short story in an anthology or ezine
  • Book trailers for all the Emilia Cruz books
  • A core group of 500 readers I connect with monthly via the newsletter
  • 100 subscribers to the Mexico Mystery Writers Cartel

Watch this space to see how it all turns out. While you’re at it, let me know your goals for the coming 12 months!

All the best, Carmen

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Writing for Water: March Update and Our Global Impact

Can a couple of indie authors make a global impact?

Yes,  and we are doing it.  In March 4 authors were part of the Writing for Water team: Jerry Last, Norm Hamilton and Sharon Lee Johnson joined me in pledging a portion of our book sales to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean and safe water and decent sanitation to communities worldwide.  The composition of the team changes monthly. If you are an author and want to pledge a month, please let me know: carmen@carmenamato.net.

This month’s progress

In 2014 the goal is to provide 25 people with clean and safe water for life. In March we added 5 for a total of 10 so far this year.

This means dozens of micro-loans through Water.org’s Water Credit program, rolling containers to transport large amounts of water, and toilet facilities instead of open sewers.  Here is the sort of change this means:


Global Impact

Our books and our readers are having a global impact! Still small, but as the March stats show, it is growing and I truly feel that our goal of 25 people is going to happen.

Writing for Water chart

Thanks to our readers

A big salute goes out to our readers, especially to those who bought Jerry Last’s THE DEADLY DOG SHOW, the best selling title for the team in March. Those who love dog shows and/or German Shorthaired Pointers, will find its behind-the-scenes peek into dog shows and dog training fascinating. Of course, it is a detective mystery so be prepared! Jerry will be part of the Writing for Water Team in April as well. Here’s the link to all the books for the March authors.

We need your help

If you are an author and would like to help, please consider joining the Writing for Water team. In exchange for your TAX FREE donation of at least $25, we’ll leverage our social media platforms (3k on Twitter, 2k on Facebook and that’s just me) to promote the heck out of your books for the entire pledge month. When was the last time you got a month’s worth of advertising for $25?? Check out more information here.

In other news

My next newsletter will have the complete first chapter of DIABLO NIGHTS, the next Emilia Cruz mystery. If you have not yet subscribed, you can do so here, and be the first to read a chapter with a VERY twisted end. I guarantee you will not see it coming.

Subscribers also get THE BEAST, the first Emilia Cruz story, plus THE 3 Minute Guide to Great Book Reviews, and my Top 10 Most Riveting International Mystery Series.

Happy reading! All the best, Carmen

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