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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wicked Day Contest!

In honor of Wicked Day (October 30) the UNNATURALLY GREEN fan page is holding a contest!

Here's how to participate:

All day today (until 12 A.M. PST), if you recommend UNNATURALLY GREEN on Facebook or tweet about it on Twitter, you'll be entered automatically! (Be sure to included @FeliciaRicci at the end (not beginning) of your tweet and/or tag Unnaturally Green in your Facebook post.)

*The more you talk about UNNATURALLY GREEN, the better your chances! Yep: every time you post, your name will be re-entered!*

Prizes: 1) a signed and personalized Felicia Ricci headshot; 2) a signed GREEN BABY bookmark (check out the designs here); 3) $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com

Now, go forth and (unnaturally) GREENIFY!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pub Day: the morning after

When we last left off, I confessed to living a double life: in self-publishing my book Unnaturally Green, I tried to appear (without lying outright) as if I had a publishing house backing me.

This past Friday, October 14 marked my book's official release day -- the day of consummation -- when all I'd been planning came to fruition in one, long, passion-filled night. Sales boomed. Nuns wept. I think I even saw a rainbow, even though it was night. I went to bed clutching my freshly bound paperback copy of Unnaturally Green.

The next morning, we rose together from the tangled sheets, to peer at each other. "Who ARE you?" I thought as I stared at my book, "and what have we done?"

One week later, here are my reflections -- on how one glorious evening turned into a full-on, committed relationship. And what I would have done differently.

1. Pre-ordering has its merits, but presents challenges. Because my print distribution channel (CreateSpace) does not offer pre-ordering, I managed the process myself through PayPal. On October 6, I shipped signed copies of Unnaturally Green to around 150 readers -- and several have still not received them. To save on shipping costs, I opted for the media mail rate from the USPS. In hindsight, I should have charged more for shipping and gotten tracking numbers. In the end, I'll have to send out 6-10 more copies to the people who didn't get theirs -- thus losing the money I saved originally on shipping.

2. BookBaby (my e-book distributor) kind of sucks. Quick E-book 101: If you're self-publishing your book as an e-book, you have to convert it. You can opt to crunch your manuscript word doc into one of the e-readable formats yourself, or you can hire somebody to do it. For around $100 bucks, BookBaby will do it for you and submit your e-book to Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Sony Reader. Then, as they assure you, they won't take any royalties from your sales.

For me, a newbie author, this deal sounded like a win-win. But here's the fine print.

First off, BookBaby not taking any royalties from your sales isn't really that big a deal -- since the companies to which they farm out your book compensate by taking a bigger cut (Kindle, Nook, etc.). So you end up netting the same amount that you would have if you'd gone to those companies directly.

Secondly, after the conversion, it's a pain in the ass to make changes. Once I submitted my manuscript, I found seven typos. In order to change those typos, I had to pay BookBaby $50. Granted, I probably should have proofread more closely to begin with. But this fee wouldn't have applied had I used a site that let me do the conversion myself.

Thirdly, BookBaby effed up my release day. On each BookBaby member dashboard, you can specify the earliest date on which to make your e-book available -- which, long ago, I set to October 14, 2011. BookBaby assured me that this was, indeed, the *earliest* date my book would be available (I even sent an email to customer service to confirm). Imagine my surprise when I got emails from fans telling me my book was already available on Kindle -- nearly three weeks early! When I called BookBaby's customer service about this, I was told, "Oh yeah, the date applies to all distributors except Amazon Kindle." Hm. Wish I'd been told that. If I'd known, I would not have enabled my Kindle sales channel so early.

Fourthly, BookBaby doesn't report your sales as they happen (there is a 60-day delay), so it's impossible to know how my e-book is doing. I can see its Kindle rankings (it topped the Amazon Broadway & Musicals and Theater charts this past weekend, and was #57 in all memoirs), but I'll have to twiddle my thumbs to get sales reports.

In contrast, CreateSpace (my print-on-demand distributor, Amazon's company) reports sales as they happen. So it kind of feels like BookBaby is withholding information, or something...even though I know better?

In short, BookBaby very much feels like an unhelpful middleman -- very opaque, creating hurdles where there should be none.

3. After release day (the one-night stand), there's a whole lot of work to be done (the relationship). In the past week, I've realized that October 14 was only the beginning; now the real work begins! Since then, I've been fielding emails from readers, corresponding with book bloggers, sending out press releases, updating my various websites to reflect ongoing internet buzz...My sense is that returns will be directly proportional to work input. But at what cost?

Since I'm recording an audio book and writing a companion booklet to Unnaturally Green, I want to be sure to keep going with my project(s). In the past seven days, this has proved nearly impossible. From now on, I will have to make even more of an effort to juggle past and future projects.

In conclusion, self-publishing is a ton of work, and the work is ongoing. Just as the countdown to publication was a learning curve, so shall the learning continue, for the many months ahead. I'll keep you posted! Hopefully I will emerge only partly, as opposed to wholly, insane.

Peace out!
--FLR

What I subject my mailing list subscribers to

If you were at all ambivalent about joining my mailing list, perhaps this will change your mind. I don't know in which direction. 

[SENT FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2011]

Dear Sisterhood of the Unnatural Pants,

Hark! Our fat little newborn UNNATURALLY GREEN lies on my kitchen counter, kicking and squirming and demanding to be read. Already it has reached its 1-week birthday (today), and is preternaturally verbal, speaking in full sentences, insisting that I blend its food until completely chunk-less. But the demands don't end there. Just today, it spake these very words:


I feel as if, somehow, UNNATURALLY was conceived with the help of all of you (too weird an image?). As our shared book-love-child grows into a spoiled brat, I am plagued with questions: 

Who am I? What is this imperious death march we call time? Have you read UNNATURALLY GREEN yet? (Because people seem to like it.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing contest proves "greenness" exists at every age

On Saturday I was thrilled to announce Bettie L. from New York, NY as the Grand Prize winner of the Unnaturally Green writing contest. (Read her winning entry here if you haven't already!) Also due for major congratulations are our incredible runners-up Lesley R. from Brooklyn, NY and Tyler H. from Ogden, Utah -- from whose entries I've pasted below.

Worthy of incessant and unyielding back-pattage are the remaining contest participants -- fifty-odd strong! -- whose inspiring, heartfelt and hilarious accounts of the times when they were "green" (overcoming obstacles to learn something new about themselves) were too darn good not to feature on this blog.

Our writers are of all ages and come from many walks of life; their experiences are as diverse as they are moving, and I hope you enjoy the select excerpts they've given me permission to share.

(If you participated in the contest, be sure to respond to an upcoming email that lets you choose which souvenir Green Baby Bookmark you'd like -- a prize distributed to all writing contest entrants, just for participating.)

Hope you have fun reading what everybody had to say. For once, I can shut my mouth and take in all of your great ideas and experiences. Happy reading!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Writing Contest: Winners and Runners-Up Announced!


Thank you to all who participated in the Unnaturally Green Writing Contest! Everybody who submitted* gets to take home a super snazzy green-baby bookmark (stacked at left -- your choice of design -- more details soon!), while our two runner-ups get signed and personalized copies of Unnaturally Green, and the Grand Prize winner gets a signed, personalized copy, $25 to Amazon.com, and their entry posted here!

Congratulations to Bettie L. in New York, NY -- Grand Prize winner of the Unnaturally Green Writing Contest! 

We loved her sassy prose, unique perspective, and fun-loving take on an "unnaturally green" experience.

And major kudos to our two runners-up, Lesley R. from Brooklyn, NY and Tyler H. from Ogden, Utah, who, respectively, wrote about their unnatural turns playing ice hockey and dressing up as a scary clown for a Halloween parade.

Check out Bettie's awesome entry below (or click on "Read More")-- and stay tuned for more, posted right here on this blog! -- including: writing by our runner-ups, and excerpts from the remaining 50 entrants (all of which were so fantastic!).

(*Note: If you entered the contest, please check your email; there will be one from "UNNATURALLY GREEN" with the section we'd like to excerpt. Please let us know if it's okay by Sunday evening, 10/16!)

Announcing, two new projects! (Coming this winter!)

Today is Unnaturally Green's official release day! (Can I get a wut, wut.) Our little memoir-that-could has been building steam over the past week -- but today it breaches forth like a green-baby-whale -- arcing over the water's surface against a golden sun of destiny. You heard me.

In that same week, we've gotten some great publicity, including blurbs on Playbill.com, BroadwayWorld.com, and awesome reviews on Amazon.comFlying High: A Wicked Fan Site and F*ckYeahWicked.

But what would release day be without further expression of my ADHD-like tendencies? Answer: boring.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Slinging it to #1 on Amazon Kindle!

Since Amazon's Kindle Store ranks books based on genre, today I learned that Unnaturally Green has reached #1 in the Broadway and Musicals category! (...and #25 in the general Theater category!)


Thank you to all who have left reviews on Amazon and helped spread the word so far! The book's overall ranking hovers around 14,500 (out of nearly a million books on Kindle) -- but since I'm a dreamer, I think we can keep climbing, no? 

Also: did I mention I'm *so* excited for tomorrow's online release party? So much fun stuff to share! Be sure to join me on Twitter for all the announcements as they happen. Have a happy Thursday!

Love,
Felicia

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Countdown to release day!

THREE! Yes, three more days until Unnaturally Green's official release day (October 14)! As we all know, the book is already being distributed several days early -- but this Friday is nevertheless a special and important date! Why? Because I'll be announcing a bunch o' fun info, including:

1) The winner(s) of the Unnaturally Green writing contest! A day or two after which I will post the winning entry(ies), as well as excerpts from every single submission (pending each writers' permission). I'm so excited to share these stories with you guys, and hope you'll read and comment on them.

2) Exciting news about not one, but TWO upcoming projects! Aw yeah, you heard me.

3) Behind-the-scenes video footage of my days as a standby! It's quite zany, and features the ever-charming Libby Servais, lifelong friend and character in my book.

What's more, I'll be posting and tweeting and having a veritable electronic rave all day, which I invite you to attend! If you're on my mailing list, you'll get a fresh new email in the afternoon, but be sure also to check my Twitter feed as the super fun happy-time announcements unfold!

All in all, it's going to be one, long unnatural celebration!

In the meantime, you can sneak peek it by downloading my book on Kindle, Nook, or the iBookstore. (Oh! And if you're the speediest reader ever and have finished the book, be sure to drop it a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble!)

Much love, unnatural and otherwise!
Felicia

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's here (a premature birth, but healthy and kicking!)

Friends! EXCITING NEWS!!! Because October 14 is more a feeling than an actual date, Unnaturally Green has apparently become available for purchase WORLDWIDE!

Click here to get your copy and have it shipped in a matter of days!

You can also read it on your Kindle, Apple device (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch), Nook (coming soon), or Sony Reader! (Longer preview excerpt is now available on e-readers.)

These are exciting times! Exciting times indeed!

Love,
Felicia

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How to self-publish (and seem like you're not)

[as featured on The Huffington Post]

Writing is a lot like lying. You weave stories that aren’t true and ask people to believe them. So I thought it apropos to market my self-published book around one giant fallacy: that it wasn’t self-published.

Let me absolve explain myself.

It all started with a question: Could a self-published author (I wondered) have the best of both worlds? The freedom to evolve a book “brand,” interact with readers directly, and control every aspect of the creative process—while still endowing that brand with a sense that it was a huge, group effort, with lots of (monetary) support from its editors, PR-people, and other mysterious higher-ups who make the literary world go round?

Given my book’s topic, straddling both worlds made sense. On the one hand, Unnaturally Green is intensely personal. It’s about my time understudying the lead role in Wicked as my first-ever professional theater gig, while trying to overcome various coming-of-age challenges (love, career, family). I explore this idea of “greenness”—of being unseasoned, incredulous, and generally floundering all over the place. Which very closely describes my inaugural self-publishing experience.

On the other hand, the book has that stamp of my being part of a huge global phenomenon. To me, Unnaturally Green needed to seem of the same world—not endorsed by Wicked, but just as worthy of attention.

Despite my budget ($0) and lack of manpower (just me), the challenge was to create an engaging, immersive experience for potential readers—that was still lovingly homemade.

Quixotic? Yes. Impossible? Nah.

Here is what I did:

1) I set a release date.

Any savvy marketer knows the importance of having everybody mark their calendars. It builds anticipation and gets readers excited.

When self-publishing, however, this kind of temporal exactitude is tricky. If you’re converting your manuscript to an e-book, or printing it through a service like Create Space (I did both), the vagaries of just how long that process will take make it difficult to stipulate a date on which you can say, “It’s ready.” So what did I do?

I guessed. Way early in the game.

For this reason, my timeline became much more frenetic accelerated than a conventional publishing house’s. While a typical book deal might go something like: sell the book to a publisher, take a year to work with your editor, release the book; mine looked like: write half the book, declare the release date, have four months to finish and edit. That’s right: on July 19, 2011, I announced that I would publish my book on October 14, 2011. All I had to do was write it.

I completed final edits five weeks prior to go-time, then raced to the finish line like a madwoman—approving proof copies and submitting corrections to my distributors until the last possible moment.

It remains to be seen how well I’ll be able to honor this release date. The book won’t be appearing on bookstore shelves, so October 14 is more symbolic than anything else. Those who pre-order by a certain date (see #2) will receive their copies by the 14th—shipping and handling permitting. Some may get them earlier, some a day or two late. I’ll try to enable my various sales channels (online retailers, e-books through Kindle, Apple, etc.) so that, with their availability lag times of days or weeks, I’ll time it out as best I can.

All in all, my release date is really “(on or around) October 14.” It’s an estimate—but it’s the best I can do, given the constraints.

2) I offered pre-ordering.

I elected Create Space as my print-on-demand service, which means they’ll print and deliver physical copies of Unnaturally Green every time somebody orders one online. However, I was bummed to find that it couldn’t accommodate one very important aspect of the sales timeline: pre-ordering.

But, no matter! I decided to oversee the process myself—offering signed copies to anyone who ordered theirs before October 4.

To do this, I gauged initial interest through my mailing list (see #4), estimated how many copies to buy in bulk, and had them shipped to my house. I set up a checkout process through PayPal, and took care of shipping and handling myself.




Admittedly, this was a bit of a headache, and, due to high shipping costs, I could only allow pre-ordering in the U.S. But, on the plus side, I was able to recoup all of my up-front publishing costs in one week, while guaranteeing proactive readers that they’d get their copies as soon as possible.

3) I formed my own industry (and spoke in the plural first person).

Without a support system, I built my own. Several of my closest friends happened to be accomplished writers with editing experience. Two of them assisted me in three rounds of editing, while a third friend performed meticulous copyedits. (It ended up costing me a couple of hundred bucks—but was worth it.)

Meanwhile, with my small but dedicated team assembled, I took the liberty to start using “we” instead of “I” when corresponding with potential readers. Example (email exchange):

Potential Reader: “Do you know if the book will be available in Australia?”

Me: “Hey there! Not entirely sure, but we’re working hard to enable all possible international sales channels!”

No need to shatter my Australian friend’s expectations and reveal that it was just me in sweatpants at my computer, typing away at 3 AM, frantically scouring Amazon.com for their international shipping policy.

As the weeks pressed on, I (we) took this and ran with it, (“We’re working hard to…” “We’re excited to announce…” “We hope you like this latest excerpt…”), and nobody was any the wiser.

4) I generated buzz.

As soon as I announced Unnaturally Green online, I created a series of interconnected online resources, interfaces, and opportunities for fans to get involved. 

These included, (1) a mailing list, (2) a book website, (3) an author blog, (4) an integrated Facebook fan page, (5) an Unnaturally Green writing contest (“Share your story of a time you felt green; winner(s) get signed copies!”), (6) a book cover poll (“Vote for your favorite cover design!”), (7) an active Twitter account, (8) controlled release of various excerpts, in which fans had to recommend my book to a friend in order to read them, (9) related YouTube videos, including singing tips on how to belt Wicked songs.



5) I filmed a book trailer.

Apparently, books these days have trailers, even though most of the time said trailers make no sense. Luckily, my brother is a cinematographer. Together we came up with this (totally random, quasi-professional-looking) book trailer:




At the end of the day, I would recommend my self-publish-and-seem-not-self-published approach to any author who has lots of creative interests, likes to have control over his or her brand, and feels masochistic excitement at the thought of being completely overwhelmed all the time.

Sally forth!

--FLR