Alyce Wilson's Blog: Dispatches from Wonderland

March 23, 2014

Balancing Life and Promotion

Lately, I've felt so far behind it's ridiculous. In addition to personal projects, a large editing/design gig, and competing in the online contest, LJ Idol, along with, of course, all of my mothering duties, I can barely function. No matter what I am doing, I'm thinking of the million other things I should be doing.

Add to that the pressure of writing three articles a week for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, which has begun offering me open assignments, presumably because of my excellent track record and above-average monthly hit count. And, of course, there's my two "American Idol" recaps I also write for YCN each week.

All of this means that I haven't put in nearly enough time promoting something that really matters. That is the Baby Steps video competition, where I'm competing for an audience cash prize that would pay for my son's tuition for the rest of the year. We've been living paycheck to paycheck, so that's an enormous thing. It deserves attention, much more than I've given it.

Please take a moment to go to the voting page and cast your vote for me. My video is the first one on the first page, showing my 3-year-old son with two puppets. You can vote every two days, so please bookmark the page and vote as many times as you can until March 28.

In return, I will gladly help you promote any personal project!
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Published on March 23, 2014 11:10 Tags: contests

February 21, 2014

Creative Parenting Leads to Creativity

Thanks to a friend, I learned early this week about a video contest about early childhood education held by an organization called Baby Steps. Thanks to my broadcast/cable undergraduate degree, I was able to work from existing video and shoot a little extra B-roll to put together an entry for the parenting/caregivers category. It helps that I have been engaging in creative learning activities with my son on a regular basis and have also compulsively photographed them and captured them on video.

According to the contest rules, a panel of judges will award the top three winners in each category based on specific criteria. As a special perk, they will also present a cash award to the video that receives the most votes.

I can use your help. Please follow this link, scroll to the bottom, and view my video (you'll see my son with two puppets). Then, to vote, first close the video window and then click the box at the upper right-hand corner of the preview box for my video. Please note: Clicking LIKE on the page does NOT count as a vote.

I've also uploaded an image that shows you exactly where to click, to make it clearer:

Winning this prize would help us greatly with my son's preschool tuition for the rest of the year. I would appreciate any help!
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Published on February 21, 2014 10:00 Tags: contests

January 1, 2014

Goal Setting & Resolutions

This is the time of year for people to evaluate how they did the previous year and to set new resolutions. The question is: How useful is this practice, really?

As a writer, it's tempting to set goals that are too ambitious, too far-reaching. Then, by the end of the year, I tend to focus on only those things I haven't yet achieved.

This year, I've set two main goals: to complete my two works in progress. On my master "To Do" list, I've moved all my other writing projects to the bottom of a list, in a new category called "Shelved Projects." That way I'm not weighed down with guilt about them whenever I consult my list, but I also won't forget about those ideas.

As a reader, I have seldom set goals about how many books I would read. This year, however, I'm going to set a modest goal of 10 books, just because I know how hard it is to find time to read. And yet, I think that if I use my time effectively, I can finally get through some of the books on my "to read" shelf.

I'm also resolving to complete reviews (even if they're only one paragraph) for the books I did finish reading in 2013.

What about you? Are you setting writing and reading goals for 2014?
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Published on January 01, 2014 23:41 Tags: goal-setting, resolutions

December 6, 2013

Update: Countdown Versus Free Giveaway Promotions

In the month of December, I tried out Kindle promotions for my two most recent books. Now I have some data and can reflect on the results.

First, I did a free promotion of The Art of Life, my essays and columns book, over Philcon weekend. This involved distributing rack cards at Philcon, sharing the link across various social networks, and engaging in an intense Twitter campaign, with tweets scheduled periodically across all five days.

The end result: I gave away 136 free Kindle versions of the book and, the following week, sold 1 copy at regular price. I also rose to #2 in one of the categories my book is listed in, during the duration of the last few days of the promotion.

Then, over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday/Tuesday weekend, I held a Countdown Promotion of my Kindle-only book, Dedicated Idiocy, a non-fiction/humor book about my time in the Penn State Monty Python Society. A Countdown Promotion offers the book at a reduced price, starting with the lowest price and stepping up incrementally to the standard price. Except for the rack cards, I engaged in exactly the same promotional tactics.

The end result: I sold 1 copy of the book, at a reduced price. Thanks to the way the Countdown Promotions are set up, I still earned 70% royalties on the sale.

This experiment doesn't answer all my questions, of course. After all, it is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The two books are very different, with the essays book potentially having a much broader appeal. (I'm thinking of changing the subtitle of Dedicated Idiocy to "How Monty Python Fandom Changed My Life" since the current title is a bit too esoteric.)

I'll have to wait 90 days before swapping the promotions and doing a free giveaway of "Dedicated Idiocy" and a Countdown Promotion of "Art of Life." When I do that, I'll be able to say which is more effective as a promotional tool.

I'm hopeful that all the free copies of "The Art of Life" will generate my first reviews of the book, since that could drive further sales. Hopefully, getting these two books into the hands of readers will make them more interested in my current work in progress, "Now with Kung Fu Action Grip," a collection of essays, writings and poetry about my son.

Have any other authors tried these promotions via Kindle? If so, what have your results been?
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Published on December 06, 2013 11:57 Tags: marketing, promotion, self-publishing

November 29, 2013

Countdown Deal for "Dedicated Idiocy"

This weekend I'm trying out the countdown deal option at Kindle Direct Publishing through Amazon.

So today and tomorrow until 6 PM (EST)/3 PM (PST) you can get my book Dedicated Idiocy for just 99 cents. Following that, it will be available for $1.99 and then $2.99 before stepping back up to the usual cover price of $3.99 on December 3. Just head to the book's page.

The earlier you click, the better deal you'll get!

Don't have a Kindle device? Don't worry. Just type "Free Kindle Reading Apps" into Google and select one of Amazon's free apps for smartphones and PCs.

I've never tried one of these promotions before, so I don't know what to expect, but I figured it was worth a shot. Please stop by and get your copy of this fun, colorful look at fandom, friendship and spam.
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Published on November 29, 2013 09:42 Tags: marketing, promotion, self-publishing

November 8, 2013

Special Philcon Book Promotion

Before I get caught up in the face-to-face networking with SF readers and writers known as Philcon, I'd like to take a moment to let you know about my special weekend promotion for my essays book, The Art of Life. A compilation of more than 10 years of newspaper columns and online writings, the book draws from pop culture, personal experience and observation to delve into the beauty and humor of everyday life.

I published this book the year my son was born, which meant I was too distracted by Baby Boot Camp to spend much time promoting it. But I've heard many positive comments about it and just know that if I can get people to read it, they'll pass the word about how much they like it.

Snag your free copy of the Kindle version of The Art of Life. And if you don't have a Kindle device, download one of Amazon's free Kindle apps for PC and smart phones. I use their Droid app and have found it to be a great way to pass the time while waiting in line at the post office or the hair salon.

If you do grab a copy, please write a review at Goodreads, Amazon, and other book review sites. I need the word of mouth!

Share this info with friends, family, and connections. I'd like to give away thousands of copies of The Art of Life. So far, in just the first half day of the campaign, I've reached #6 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Humor & Entertainment > Humor > Parenting & Families. Not bad! Let's see what sort of heights we can reach together.
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Published on November 08, 2013 09:04 Tags: ebooks, promotions, self-publishing

November 7, 2013

Philcon Schedule

I've received my official Philcon schedule and am on two panels this year and am officially the moderator of one of them (huzzah!). Check it out:

Sat 6:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)

[Panelists: Alyce Wilson (mod), Alex Shvartsman, David Sklar, D.L. Carter, Thomas Willeford]

How do you become a full time writer? Is that a good idea for you?

Sun 10:00 AM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: KT Pinto (mod), Christine Norris, Alyce Wilson, D.H. Aire]

Whenever a writer is on Facebook, he or she is not working on their writing. What are the potential advantages and distractions of social media?

So my questions to you: What information would you like to hear on these two panels if you were attending? And do you have any insights that might be useful (such as specific books or online resources) to share?

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Published on November 07, 2013 08:48 Tags: conferences, public-appearances

October 29, 2013

The First One is Free

A little more than a year and a half ago (I think), I did a promotional giveaway of my book, The Art of Life, on Goodreads. Sadly, the two people who won the book never wrote reviews. Perhaps they have as extensive a shelf of "books to read" as I do -- gathering dust in the combined office/toddler bedroom.

But recently, I've been reading information about marketing self-published books and, again and again, I've seen people testifying to the power of the freebie. Not only can free copies help introduce readers to your work (possibly convincing them to buy other books), but they can also lead to sales. Some authors talk about how free promotions led to sales, but that the most important part of that equation is to do a lot of footwork prior to the event in order to get the word out about the freebie. So this time, I'm going to try to do that.

I created a Goodreads event so that I could invite my friends and created a similar event on Facebook. Other friends of mine who are authors have created similar events, which was how I got the idea.

I've also been following through on some excellent advice from writer Karina Gioertz, who said she saw a spike in sales after doing her all to promote a free promotion. I've submitted my promotion to the freebie sites she suggested (although some of them no longer exist), and I've scheduled tweets to the Twitter handles she recommends notifying about the giveaway.

In addition, I made up rack cards via Vistaprint, which I will be distributing at Philcon. I also timed the giveaway to coincide with that weekend (Friday through Tuesday, to give people time to get home from the convention and follow through).

Before November 8, I'll be scheduling a number of other tweets promoting the book, including quotes, subject matter and other interesting tidbits that could attract readers.

I'm going to continue to brainstorm for other ways to get the promotion out there as widely as possible. My goal is to give away thousands of books, in hopes that it will lead to both sales and a higher profile for me as an author.

What about you? As an author, have you held a free promotion? If so, how did it go? As a reader, what makes you want to grab a free book?
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Published on October 29, 2013 13:52 Tags: marketing, promotion, self-publishing

October 23, 2013

Outdated Advice, Still Worthwhile?

As I mentioned last week, the world of publishing has changed greatly in the last decade. One of the best examples of this comes by way of an article I'd printed out in 2002 and tucked into a folder labeled "Writing Opportunities." Lately, I've been culling those old papers in order to make more room in my filing cabinet.

The author, Anna Kathryn Bir, had written the piece for the newsletter of a now-defunct web site, The piece was titled "A New Way to Self Publish." The article found new life on a personal blog in 2007, published in its entirety. In it, she suggests a completely DIY method of publishing an e-book.

Basically, she advises writers to "create a credit card account," which will then be used to accept payments from readers interested in the book. Of course, she doesn't provide complete details on how to set up the payment process, so perhaps it was an untested idea on her behalf.

She then suggests that you "Write an intro page for your novel and create a separate page for it. Here is where you’ll put any illustrations you may have. So people will have an example of your writing, copy and paste the first chapter of your novel and put it here, too." Basically, she's talking about putting up a preview page in order to sell the full book, which you would then e-mail to the reader as a "Word or Works" document. She's talking about Microsoft Works, a discontinued office suite that was once packaged with cheaper PCs about a decade or so ago (I had an eMachine, bought through Fingerhut, that came with it).

I can recall seeing many books sold this way back in the day, especially books advertising get-rich-quick schemes or offering lucrative advice for writers. Many were the pages I clicked on -- drawn by an ad or link -- only to be turned off by the garish fonts, excessive exclamation points and unrealistic promises. But in the early days of this millennium, such DIY book sites offered authors complete control over both the product and the delivery, without any of the additional formatting time or fees associated with, say, putting a book for sale at places like, one of the few completely independent e-book retailers that still exists. And don't forget, there were few other options in those days: the first Kindle wouldn't debut until 2007.

The drawback, of course, is the lack of traffic. Unless you're a really good marketer with proven success in driving thousands of hits to your site, you're unlikely to sell many books this way. Nowadays, in most cases, it would seem to make more sense to go through the trouble of formatting a book for Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords or other retail sites that readers are far more likely to find.

But what if you're selling a book that doesn't convert easily into the standard formats required by online retailers? Well, the good news is, it's still possible to sell it yourself on your own site, using a similar method to that described in the article. In fact, I offer a PDF version of Dedicated Idiocy on my author's site, available through my Books page. I've used Paypal to create a button that people can click on to send me the payment. During the payment process, they are prompted to provide an e-mail address where the book can be sent, and then I can e-mail them the work.

While it may be almost ludicrously antiquated to sell a book this way, I'm offering the PDF version because I know many people who have not yet moved to Kindle. Even though you can use the Kindle app on a mobile phone or PC in order to read Kindle books, they'll state that "I don't have a Kindle," and consider it the end of the conversation. In part because the primary audience of my book would be my peers, looking to relive their college days in the 1980s and 1990s, I wanted to be sure it was accessible to them.

I don't expect to make a lot of sales from my web site, but who knows? Perhaps word of mouth will spread and my friends will tell their friends, driving them to make a purchase. I am trying to do some marketing for the book and intend to promote it when I appear as a panelist at Philcon 2013. Maybe those who are interested in fandom will check it out at that time.

What about you? Would you be willing to market an e-book completely independently? Why or why not?
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Published on October 23, 2013 09:25 Tags: ebooks, self-publishing

October 14, 2013

New Publishing Options

Recently, while going through old papers from my filing cabinet, I've been struck by the advances in self-publishing in just the past five or six years. I dumped into the recycling bin all the flyers and price quotes gathered from offset printers while I was putting together my first poetry chapbook. Even then, I opted for print-on-demand as the best investment of my money, publishing Picturebook of the Martyrs first on Cafe Press and later on's CreateSpace.

Ten years ago, ebooks were primarily sold from individual author's sites as PDFs and MS Word documents. Contrast that to the many formats available via Smashwords, which converts author's manuscripts into the proper formats to be sold at a variety of online retailers.

I've begun checking out Smashwords as a potential publisher for my next book, a collection of poems and writings about my son, nicknamed Kung Fu Panda. The book, which will be called "Now with Kung Fu Action Grip," I believe has the potential to appeal to a variety of readers, especially (but not limited to) parents. Therefore, I'm beginning to think it would be best to make it available in as many places as possible.

From what I've read so far, the only possible drawback would be that Smashwords does best with very simply formatted books. However, the style guide did include instructions for inserting photos, so that could still be an option, should I choose to use any. It wouldn't, however, be worth the time and effort to do a reformat of Dedicated Idiocy, since that book is chock full of graphics.

If I chose to go with Smashwords, in addition to Kindle and a print version, I'd have to format the manuscript three different ways. However, if I use MS Word styles as I put the collection together, that should help a great deal.

I also like the fact that short fiction is published widely on the site, allowing me the option of publishing stand-alone pieces, should I choose. Perhaps I could upload one or two of my essays as a free sample of the book?

I'd be interested in hearing any feedback from authors who have published on Smashwords. What are the advantages and disadvantages?
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Published on October 14, 2013 14:30 Tags: publishing, self-publishing

Dispatches from Wonderland

Alyce Wilson
Author Alyce Wilson's blog, providing both writer's thoughts and reader's comments.
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