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.

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.

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.

 

Friday Fiesta: Of Water, Web Design, and Writing

The Friday Fiesta is stuff worth celebrating from the past week. This week it’s water and web design. Plus a bonus courtesy of omnimystery.com.

Water

In March, the Writing for Water Team was comprised of Jerry Last, Norm Hamilton, and Sharon Lee Johnson, plus, yours truly. What a great team! Norm really got the word out on Twitter, Sharon cornered Facebook, and Jerry found a new audience with dog lovers who have really embraced his latest mystery THE DEADLY DOG SHOW as well as his commitment to Water.org. Jerry is rocking on into April, as is Sharon, and he’s setting some pretty high goals.

If you haven’t already, check out Norm Hamilton’s novel of a dystopian Canada created by fracking, Sharon’s addictive zombie tales, and THE DEADLY DOG SHOW—murder goes to the dogs!

I’ll be doing the full Writing for Water Monthly Report next week but it’s looking like March brought another 5 people clean water for life.

If you are an author, please consider joining us with either a fixed pledge or a portion of sales. There is more information on joining the Writing for Water team here.

Oh, and here’s a great video from Water.org. When you see stories like this, you know your money is well spent.

Emilia dives in, too

I’m submitting a story to be included in OF WORDS AND WATER, an annual anthology of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. The purpose of the anthology is to raise awareness of the work done by the international charity WaterAid. It won’t be out until the end of 2014, but I’m excited to be part of the effort.

The story for the anthology is an Emilia Cruz story, but it is unlike anything I’ve done before. Subscribers to my monthly updates will get a free copy of it before the anthology goes to press. Working title: BROKEN MAIN.

Web Design

I spent three precious writing days reworking and updating this website. Over the 2.5 years I’ve had the site, it has experienced about 3 major upgrades. This week, I’ve come to some conclusions:

  1. Catchthemes.com has hands down the best and fastest customer service forum, plus tons of easy to follow instructions for their themes. No, I am not an affiliate, just a happy customer. I only wish they had more themes to choose from.
  2. Sliders take too long to load. I loved the look, but am just going with a large image on the home page for now. Until the next redesign.
  3. The site is like my living room. I’m inviting you in and want you to enjoy the time you spend here. Sure, I hope you sign up for my mailing list and get a free copy of THE BEAST, but I’m not going to put up acid green or sparkly orange forms. Mystery lovers pick apart clues all the time; they can find a tasteful form.

 The Next Great Thing

Together with fellow authors John Scherber, Christopher Irvin, Guillermo Paxton, and Jane Rosenthal, I am part of The Mexico Mystery Writers Cartel. We are all authors who write mysteries set in Mexico. From crime fiction to romantic suspense, we cover the genre and make Mexico the ultimate mystery destination.

Our new blog will have posts from all authors and should be live next month. Get ready for mystery with a touch of salsa fresca!

Writing the Ultimate Mystery Setting

I was hosted on Omnimystery.com last week and wrote about how authors can set a mood by describing a mystery setting in a mere 3 sentences. The post used examples to take the reader to Havana, Venice, Riga, Cairo, and of course, Mexico City. Read the post here.

Free Story

If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, THE BEAST, the first story in the MADE IN ACAPULCO collection is available as a free download. If you haven’t met Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz yet, you should. As Jane Rosenthal claims, “Emilia says all the things you wish you could–she calls BS on everything.”

That’s it for this week! Have a great weekend, hopefully with a margarita and a mystery.

All the best, Carmen

Celebrate Water Day 2014 with 5 Great Reads

Celebrate Water Day 2014 with 5 Great Reads

It’s the holiday you and I have probably never experienced. Tomorrow is Water Day.

Celebrating a Life Event

Brought to us by Water.org, Water Day celebrates the day someone gets access to safe water. It’s the day the well or water pump starts working close enough to home that no one risks life and limb to get to it. Getting access to safe water is an event people never forget. Water.org honors those life-changing events by celebrating Water Day 2014.

Writing for Water

In 2014, I’m donating a dollar from every Kindle book sold to water.org, because in this day and age, no one should have to live without access to clean water and decent sanitation. This month, authors Sharon Lee Johnson, Norm Hamilton, and Jerold last have joined the Writing for Water team with pledges to water.org. With their help, and other authors throughout the year, I hope to be able to provide 25 people with clean water for life this year.

If you’d like to celebrate Water Day and help us out at the same time, please buy one of the books listed here. You’ll be helping an author, plus helping support Water.org at the same time.

As an added incentive, many of our books are discounted this month. HAT DANCE, the second Emilia Cruz mystery is on sale this weekend. It’s a dance with the devil and Acapulco Detective Emilia Cruz can’t afford the music . . .

Reading about Water

Water is something most of us take for granted. Turn on the faucet, there it is. Go to the store and find shelves of bottles of designer water. But some folks are doing serious thinking about water and the future. Here are 5 books to put on your reading list:

1. SILENT SPRING by Rachel Carson

Originally published as a 3 part series in the New Yorker in 1962, the book was the first call to action for the environmental movement. A classic.

2. FROM THINE OWN WELL by Norm Hamilton

In this novel of a futuristic Canada, the country’s water supply has been destroyed by fracking–and greed. Scarily plausible.

3. MEET THE FRACKERS: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Energy Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman

An award-winning Wall Street Journal reporter tells the story of the tycoons who have made a fortune through fracking–hydraulic drilling through extremely dense shale made controversial because of the link to contaminated water.

4. WINE TO WATER: How One Man Saved Himself While Trying to Save the World by Doc Hendley

The true story of how Hendley, a twentysomething bartender, found himself in Darfur, Sudan, countering the tribal warfare that used contaminated water as a weapon of mass destruction by drilling wells.

5. THE BIG THIRST: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman

Fishman explains that we have more than enough water to avoid a water crisis but we have to change our approach to how we use–or save–our water. Inconvenient truths, but solutions, too.

Thanks for reading and taking a minute to think about the importance of access to safe and clean water. Happy Water Day.

All the best, Carmen

P.S. Come along on this writing journey with me and get a free short story. THE BEAST, the first Emilia Cruz story is free when you sign up for monthly updates including exclusive excerpts, book release news, and progress toward giving 25 people access to clean water for life. Your email will never be shared.

How to Turn Books Into Water

How to Turn Books Into Water

As a mystery author, I’ve drawn inspiration from years living in Mexico and Central America, as well as my travels in East Africa and the South Pacific. I’ve met amazing people, learned about different cultures . . . and seen too many communities without running water or decent sanitation. And let me tell you, I hope to never use an open pit latrine again.

Size Matters

Lack of running water forces someone’s life to shrink in ways you don’t think about when water is freely available. You can’t cook something that requires much water, for example, and the size and type of container used to transport water becomes very important. It can’t be too big, because then you can’t carry it, and the mouth can’t be too narrow because then it’s too hard to fill. And what if it originally held gasoline? How big of risk do you take to get water to your family?

Throughout 2014, I’m teaming with other authors to contribute part of our earnings to water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean water and decent sanitation to communities around the world. I’ll be tracking our progress in The Water Diaries, a monthly blog series beginning the end of January.

Help Us Turn Books Into Water

We’ve all experienced some literary success and want to use it to make a difference in a fundamental way. That’s why we’re asking you to buy a book, not only because you’ll be entertained, but because it will help us help others.

Please support the effort to bring clean water and decent sanitation to those who need it by buying one of these books this month. All titles available at Amazon.com:

Carmen Amato

THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, a political thriller

the Emilia Cruz mystery series featuring the first and only female detective in Acapulco: CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, MADE IN ACAPULCO

Sharon Lee Johnson

WELCOME TO ZOMBIE ZOO, a collection of fun and addictive zombie tales by the mistress of all things zombie

Melissa Mayberry

The gripping YA coming-of-age saga, MELLIFICA: DEVASTATING FIRST LOVE and MELLIFICA: WAIT FOR ME

No time to read? Support us in reaching our monthly goals by making a donation by clicking HERE. Thank you very much.

 P.S. If you are a fellow author and would like to join the effort to turn books into water, we’ll cross-promote your books on Facebook and Twitter for the duration of your participation. Please contact me Carmen@carmenamato.net.

Carmen Amato short story coverWould you like a FREE sample before you buy? Download THE ANGLER: An Emilia Cruz Story by completing the form in the sidebar. It’s based on the 2007 unsolved murder of Fr. Richard Junius, my former pastor and the role model for a character in one of my books. But this time no murder will go unpunished . . . 

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