Archive for the ‘Guest Posts’ Category

Guest post: Kris Calvin, author of One Murder More

June 4, 2015

Guest post: Kris Calvin, author of One Murder More

Kris Calvin is my sibling, who has recently published a first novel. I wasn’t involved in the production of the book, except as a beta reader (and any comments I made there were anonymous), and contributing to the crowdfunding. We’ve had some interesting discussions about the process, and I have given some advice about e-book publishing in particular. It’s been fascinating for me to watch! Right now, with only a few days of publication, the book has 4.7 stars out of 5 on Amazon, with twenty reviews. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to write a review, but I am impressed with that. Kris has also gotten some amazing blurbs! One of the ones that really stood out was from John Lescroart (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), the New York Times bestselling author of the Dismas Hardy series, among others:

“Crisp and entertaining, One Murder More marks a solid debut for Kris Calvin, who sets herself apart as a writer to watch.”

You can read other blurbs and more at Kris’ website:

I also really liked this five star review (one of many) on the book’s Amazon product page (I’m only doing a short excerpt):

“I have a new hero in Maren Kane and a new author in Kris Calvin.”
–Gary Pia

You can read the rest of that review (and the others) here:

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

What follows is Kris’ reaction to the June 1st “launch day” for One Murder More: I asked Kris to write something about that for you, my readers.

One Murder More, my debut work as a fiction writer, is a political mystery novel. It features lobbyist Maren Kane, who finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation in California’s capital city of Sacramento. Populated with a diverse cast of suspects and sidekicks, I intended the story to weave a challenging puzzle of suspense, sprinkled with humor.

Three days ago, June 1, 2015, was the release and public publication date for One Murder More, via Amazon and brick-and-mortar bookstores. The weeks prior felt like the lead-up to a major holiday. Christmas works as a good example.

There was lots of fiddling with website design and content for my author site (buying and trimming the tree), ample tweeting and posting the milestones that led up to publication (writing and mailing holiday cards), and even reviewing wine and dessert options for a local bookstore signing event (catering the annual holiday party).   All of which generated a sensation similar to what I experienced as a child pre-holiday, when the focus was largely the anticipation of gifts—which, in the end, might be what I wanted or not (positive or negative reviews and high or low sales numbers).

Yet, despite emotional similarities one important difference between “Pub-date Eve” and Christmas Eve is that Santa has a scheduled appearance. He may mess with that a bit if the latest Xbox isn’t available in his workshop, and he has to promise delivery several weeks later.  But for the most part the man in red and his reindeer punch a clock.

In contrast, when a new novel is put out into the world it’s unclear not only when, but also whether the anticipated payoff will arrive.

So when June 1st, “the great day”, finally came, I was up at 12:01 AM at my computer, trying to catch up on some work. I noticed the time, and took a moment to honor that moment, to reflect that this would be the only “first minute of the first day of my first novel publication” ever in my life.

Then I checked the clock at 12:02 AM June 1st and realized nothing felt different, that nothing had actually changed. Even later that day, amidst the furor of much appreciated well wishes, of reviews and tweets, the most notable sensation for me was that nothing had changed.

I think it’s because while a book has two birthdates, neither of them are the launch day.

The first is when the idea for a book becomes clear enough that the writer sits down and begins to type, dictate or put pen to paper—in some way to begin to transform vapor to solid; internal to external; and the “fuzzy daydreams” of unedited plot and characters emerge to see the light.  (Thanks to author Catriona McPherson for that phrase to characterize the first draft process).

That merits the first candle on the cake.

The second birthdate is when the book becomes “final” for publication. For hardback, this means it’s gone to the printer and no changes can be made. For an e-book there’s more flexibility, but there still comes a point at which the novel has been formatted for Kindle and change must be conscious and assertive and great enough to cause a writer to reopen his or her work.

So while the day the book goes on sale to the public is certainly one for celebration, it seems to me to be more a graduation than a birth. It’s a marker in a path that has already been cleared and civilized with wood chips or gravel, if not stone.

I’ve been an avid reader all my life, and as an adult I get through 2 to 3 novels a week. But I’d never considered becoming a writer until three years ago when I picked up a copy of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, a challenging, complex mystery with distinct storylines that come together seamlessly in the end. Having worked in politics and advocacy for many years, where no plot line is clean and motives for murder and mayhem seem endless, I realized Atkinson’s structure might work to enable me to write a book based on what I lived and knew.

That was August 2012. I wish I noted the exact date, but I sat down to write one day of that month and continued to do so every morning through October. I now realize that was the first birth of one Murder More.

I spent several months rewriting, took time off for single parenting and working a day job and then went back to it. There were several drafts, multiple editors and finally a willing and supportive publisher, Inkshares, Inc.

The book was out of my hands and on the way to the printer January 25, 2015. Birthdate number two.

Six months later, it still doesn’t feel quite real to me. It’s as though one day I was baking banana bread in my kitchen, and decided it might be nice to add lime to the batter.  A friend came over and said it was wonderful banana bread, so unique, and that it should be sold in the local markets. Soon loaves of my bread were out where lots of people could try it, some who like lime and some who do not.

There’s a joy in that process, in learning and sharing something that was internal for so long. But before long there’s also a strong drive to get back in the kitchen and start baking again. And that’s where I am now. I miss lobbyist Maren Kane and company, my characters, the friends I made in those three years of development.

And since One Murder More is the first of a series, the second book has formed in my head. This time I’m prepared to write down the date and to have the cake and first candle ready.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Guest post: Author Stacey Cochran

July 7, 2010

Guest post: Author Stacey Cochran

Stacey Cochran is an independently-published author of several books in the Kindle store, including his most recent, Claws 2.

In celebration of that release, Stacey has embarked on what he is calling a “blog tour”.  There’s nothing to sign, so an e-book author can’t really do a book signing in brick-and-mortar stores.  This is an equivalent…guest-posting on well-known blogs.

I thought my readers might find Stacey’s insight on publishing interesting.  I am posting it here…any formatting issues are probably mine.  I did read the post, so I was clear that I thought it was appropriate for my readers:


Stacey Cochran Guest Post for Bufo Calvin’s ILMK Blog

Pub Date: July 7 


Thanks so much, Bufo, for giving me the opportunity to visit your ILMK blog while on tour to help promote my Kindle-exclusive thriller CLAWS 2.



Amazon Link:


Today I’d like to talk about the process and decision to self-publish and will break this down into the following categories: 1) Proof-reading and editing, 2) Cover Design, 3) Pricing, and 4) Selling to a traditional publisher


To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish

The decision to self-publish my books was not an easy one. I self-published my first novel in 2004 after querying traditional publishers and literary agents. Subsequently I have self-published five more books over the past five years, and during that time I have sent out roughly 3,000 query letters (via postal and e-mail). In the past half decade, I have signed on with two different literary agents who both worked extremely hard to sell my novels to traditional publishers. As yet, no publisher has made an offer.


I only self-publish a book after it has been pitched for many months to traditional publishers and everyone says “Not interested.” For most first-time authors, I recommend the same. Try to get a literary agent first. If that doesn’t work, pitch as many editors as you can on your own. If the net result after a year or two is that no one is interested, then you should self-publish your book.


Proof-Reading and Editing

For both CLAWS and CLAWS 2, I worked with a writing group to critique the manuscripts. My standard writing process is to revise as I go along. That is, I don’t usually move to Chapter 2 until I have edited Chapter 1 for quite a while.


Once I have the whole first draft of a manuscript done, I normally do a full-scale edit on my own that can take from one to six months. It is that revised version that typically goes in front of my writing group. The group reads the manuscript closely and makes both surface and content edits.


I then apply their feedback, a process that takes about a month. Then, I give the manuscript to my wife. She reads and critiques, and I apply her feedback. Another month or two.


With CLAWS and CLAWS 2, I had two different literary agents over five years, and both agents gave me thorough editorial feedback that went into yet another two rounds of revision. Additionally, nearly every major thriller editor in the business gave us feedback on the novels, and I applied all of their comments into the novels as well.


Finally, the novels went through two years of editing in the booking and formatting phase, once the decision was reached to self-publish the books.


Editing a novel this much is painstaking work, but it is essential if you’re going to put your work out to a paying public.


Cover Design

Cover design differs from book to book. I worked with a graphic designer friend on the first CLAWS cover, but I did CLAWS 2 on my own. For CLAWS 2, I first searched for the perfect photo. I knew I wanted to have snow in the image, but I wasn’t sure about how much to suggest. I first tried doing a trickle of blood in a snowy field, etc., but none of that worked well and I wanted to go for a “cleaner” noirish feel, since CLAWS 2 is more of a story about the character Angie Rippard.


I was totally inspired by the original Into the Wild cover for the runaway bestseller by Jon Krakauer. His book cover gave me the confidence to go black-and-white, and from there I did everything in PhotoShop.


Unless you have experience working in PhotoShop, I suggest working with a graphic designer. A fair price for a great cover should come in under $300, but depending on your network of friends, you may be able to find someone who will do it for less. Shop around. Ask questions. Get estimates.



How to price a book is one of the most hotly debated topics in the eBook world today. Most of you guys know what happened back in March when Macmillan and Amazon disagreed on the agency model. For the indie author, pricing a book the right way is paramount to success.


The best indie author I’ve seen who knew how to move prices around to the drum up business was Sam Landstrom. Using the now-defunct “Mobipocket Method” Sam would drop his price to free, blast up into the rankings, and then raise the price and sell like mad for several weeks. He did this effectively enough over the course of nine months to earn tons of positive reviews, visibility, and word of mouth, and he now has a contract with AmazonEncore.


Because I have four books available on Kindle, I can experiment with pricing. The new thriller CLAWS 2 is set at $2.99 to take advantage of the new 70% royalty rate. My other titles are all listed at 99 cents.


There is no iron rule that will work for everybody. That said, if you price your book reasonably you’re much more likely to increase sales.


At some point in your marketing process, you’ll need to assess whether your goal is to build a readership or to make money. It may be that you have to do the former before you can do the latter.


Mainstream Publisher Interest

So, if a mainstream publisher approached me and wanted to publish my novel(s), how would I respond?


I would be happy. One part of my own personal equation in building a writing career is establishing credibility. Credibility factors into success. That is, if readers trust you, they are much more likely to buy your book, and if you can get a mainstream publisher to publish your work, it is a sign to many potential readers that you’re a pretty good writer.


There are a number of mid-list authors on the web who are now weighing whether to accept offers from traditional publishers or to self-publish. They’re in a good position to be able to make that decision because they’ve already been established by the mainstream houses, and thus have the credibility that contributes to high reader trust.


For writers without that credibility, I would recommend going with a traditional publisher, even if you have to settle on a lower royalty rate. Consider a hardcover or paperback deal as a stamp of credibility that will be on your resume forever, particularly if it’s with a well-known and well-respected publisher.






Stacey Cochran


Stacey Cochran was born in the Carolinas, where his family traces its roots to the mid 1800s. In 1998 he was selected as a finalist in the Dell Magazines undergraduate fiction competition, and he made his first professional short story sale to CutBank in 2001. In 2004, he was selected as a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Dr. Susan K. Miller-Cochran and their son Sam, and he teaches writing at North Carolina State University. His books include CLAWS, CLAWS 2, The Colorado Sequence, Amber Page, and The Kiribati Test.


 This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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