[Marketing] Equal Linking

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Today's post applies to authors with published works, but hopefully it will be useful to all of you in your futures.

Take a quick look at your blog or website. Are all places where you might digitally purchase your book prominently placed where readers can easily and quickly click through to the retailer of their choice? If so, good; we're done here. Go enjoy your day or this adorable youtube video.

I am always surprised by how often this information is either missing or banished to the bottom of the page where it does the author no good. Guys, you must provide a way for the consumer to buy your books, and unless you're publishing your work as an exclusive on a single platform then you really ought to be linking to more than just your Amazon page.

Think of your blog and website as your digital "home". Visitors to your blog are your guests in a sense. So in addition to creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere through the editorial voice of your content, it's important to build a page that serves their needs and interests. When they arrive at your blog and hopefully become interested in your work, give them the option to buy your book without struggle. People have difference purchasing preferences which you should be mindful and accommodating of. There is a greater probability of making a sale if they are able to click directly through to the title page of their favorite e-retailer as opposed to having to seek the book out.  These links should be positioned near the top of your sidebar where it can be found easily - never in the middle, below the blogroll, or at the bottom.

Diversity among book retailers is also a thing to be celebrated and supported. A retail environment without competition will not be a healthy environment for books and literacy. A lot of blogging authors who link-out to retailers, often link to the big ones such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but often missing is any reference to the Indiebound title pages where consumers can look for a book stocked at their nearest independent.

If you are self-publishing digital editions then logically it would follow that you'd link to all the e-retailers where your product is available. Honestly, I have never seen a self-published author who hasn't covered all their bases on their blog already. This tends to be more of a problem among authors who are published by traditional houses or small presses.  It's sounds like such a simple thing, but it is easily forgotten when you're one step removed from the sell-in aspect of publishing. So when you've got the time, glance over your website and make sure your representing every sales channel. Compare it to your publisher's title page.  Routine check-ups are important for humans, and they're also important for websites too.


Need a few good books for your summer vacation?  Enter my YA Summer Stack contest open until 7/1.

Of Contests and TBR piles

Monday, June 20, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

First off: I've reached 500 followers on Twitter over the weekend!  Holy cow!  Thanks for all the support.  It's been great chatting with a lot of you.  I look forward to meeting more of you.  So as I promised on Twitter last week, if I got to 500 followers then I would do a contest.

Over at Scholastic's blog the staff showed-off their Summer Stacks and To-Be-Read piles. "Books we’ve been meaning to read, books we can’t wait to read, or books we’ve been saving for a long plane ride or a day at the beach." Since graduating college and entering the workforce, I don't find that summer affords me any extra time to read. In fact, I usually have less time to read as my focus is more on enjoying the weather while it lasts; however, the post did get me thinking about what I -want- to accomplish this summer. I began looking over my shelves with the aim of building my own summer stack. These are the books I must have read by summer's end.

Not pictured here because I'm still trying to round-up the missing volumes that I need are the 15 volumes of Mars by Fuyumi Soryo.  I've been wanting to reread the series for a long time, but only recently came across a large collection of this out-of-print series at a used bookstore.  Still need about six more volumes.

So in addition to the usual ways of entering these contests, I thought that it might be both fun and useful to define our summer reading goals.  

Point System
+1 Blog follower
+1 Twitter follower
+ 1 Blog about your summer reading goals (you must provide a link to your post)

Every point gains you one entry. Tally up your points and provide any links as a comment to this post on Ink In All Forms.  You must comment to be officially entered. The winner will be announced on Friday 7/1.

The Grand Prize - a YA mini-stack

Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer ARC
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson ARC
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
The Hollow by Jessica Verday

Good luck to you!

(Open to US only)

[RK Rewatch] Episode 6 - The Appearance of Kurogasa: Visitor from the Shadows

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Summary:  A rogue Manslayer from the Revolution is on the loose systematically killing officials of the new Meiji government.  The police come to Kenshin and ask for his help as all efforts to apprehend and/or slay this criminal have ended in failure.  Although the residents and friends of the Kamiya Dojo: Kaoru, Yahiko, and Sanousuke, are thoroughly against it Kenshin agrees to help the government once more.

My Thoughts: So the Meiji government can’t handle or escape their past can they? That sounds familiar.  Luckily for them, they’ve undercovered the whereabouts of their former ally - Battousai the Manslayer.  I really feel for Kenshin in this episode and empathize with Sanousuke’s anger towards the government.  The former Imperialists are using Kenshin to clean up their dirty work as they've always done; nothing has changed.  It’s no wonder that Kenshin kept wandering for over ten years. Since he started setting down roots in Tokyo it’s been a constant life of battle for him.  I wonder if this sort of thing happened often during his rurouni period; somehow I imagine not.  Otherwise the Meiji government would have found him sooner if Kenshin Himura - an unusually gifted and helpful swordsman with a cross-shaped scar on his cheek had begun to make a name for himself among the poor and distressed. But being too noble for his own good our Meiji-Era Ned Stark agrees to assist the police.

It becomes even harder to muster any sympathy for the government once we meet the official whom the police are protecting.  He is your typical short, fat slime-ball willing to throw down any amount of money in order to save his sorry skin regardless of the cost of human life.  It’s pretty obvious that he’s a corrupt official.  I assume that is government money that he’s using to hire the roomful of muscle that he’s gathered to protect him.  It makes you wonder if all of the other officials killed by the rogue Manslayer were equally as loathsome.  Maybe we ought to be cheering for the assasin?

Oh second thought…maybe not.  He seems pretty evil. And scary. Yeah that smile is the thing of nightmares.

When the mysterious assassin arrives on the scene he makes short work of the police and paralyzes the room of armed guards through a hypnotic attack emanating from his eyes.Sanousuke is caught in the assasin’s spell, but Kenshin’s will is too strong to be overcome by such simple mind tricks. (He would have made such a bad-ass Jedi. Just sayin') The two fighters of the Revolution face-off and of course...Kenshin is recognized instantly as Battousai the Manslayer.

The assassin is a former member of the Shinsengumi called Jin-e Udo or Kurogasa " the Black Hat". The Shinsengumi were a unit of the Shogun’s forces that opposed the Ishin-shishi and Choshu factions in Kyoto and they were Kenshin’s greatest rivals. However, Jin-e was cast out of the Shinsengumi for his brutality and honorless love for blood and murder.  Kenshin and Jin-e never fought each other during the Revolution, but Jin-e is thrilled to finally be able to cross blades with the Battousai and prove himself to be the strongest. Only it’s quite clear to Jin-e after exchanging blows with the Sakabatou that Kenshin has grown soft.  Jin-e calls a time-out to the battle and announces that he’s sparing the official only because his new target is the Battousai.  He makes it pretty clear, however, that he wants to fight the Battousai and not Kenshin Himura before withdrawing, leaving Kenshin with a heavy decision to make. It's a lose-lose situation. Kenshin is not sure that he can win against Jin-e as Kenshin Himura.   He could renounce his vows and let go of his restraint - in a sense killing the man that he has become or die honorably in the duel thus leaving Jin-e free to poison the new era. However, no matter the outcome it's a safe bet that Kenshin is likely to start wandering again as settling down is proving to be far too dangerous.

That dummkopf*, Kenshin, sends a message back to the Kamiya Dojo stating that he will not be returning home right away. This way he can focus on the fight so they should all just wait for him.  I think he's known Kaoru and Yahiko long enough to know what's likely to happen, but sometimes Kenshin can be far too trusting.

Knowing that if Kenshin is forced to kill again he'll run away, Kaoru chases after him. Dear, sweet, oblivious Kenshin takes way too long figuring out what she' trying to say by lending him her favorite ribbon, but Kaoru is desperate to get some kind of commitment from him to return to her. Given how often Kaoru is overcome by her own emotions, I find it interesting and adorable that she's not very good at expressing them. It's a darn cute moment; however, before it can get any cuter the samurai storyline interrupts and Kaoru is captured by Jin-e. Curses!  I know this is what irks so many people about Kaoru.  She is constantly getting into trouble and needing rescue or help, but she thinks with her heart first and not always her head.  I actually love that about Kaoru.  I think it's sweet, and it wasn't like she was unwilling to listen to reason this time.  She was ready to return to the Dojo and wait for Kenshin to come home when Jin-e snuck up on them.

The episode ends with Kenshin alone at the riverside screaming with unrestrained anger at Jin-e. Oh boy! Shit's about to get real!  Will we finally get to see Battousai the Manslayer?

Best Line:  "She's scarier than Jin-e, she is!" ~ Kenshin

*Apologies for the german. I have been reading Scott Westerfeld's Behemoth of late and this is my new favorite word.  Translation: dolt

[RK Rewatch] Episode 5: The Reversed Blade Sword vs The Zanbatou

Thursday, June 9, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Summary: Kenshin and Zanza/Sanousuke meet again to finish their duel and the story behind Sanousuke's past is revealed.

My Thoughts: In this episode we find why Sanousuke holds such a grudge against the Imperialists. As a child, Sanousuke was an orphan who was taken in by the Sekihoutai,an army under the command of the Ishin Shishi (the Imperialists for whom Kenshin fought). The Sekihoutai were sent into the countryside to spread news of the coming regime change and act as a propaganda machine to bring the peasants to the side of the Imperialists. They did so with promises of lower taxes, promises that the new government was unable to uphold after the Revolution ended. The Sekihoutai was condemned as a rogue army who had acted without orders from the Imperialist government. In Rurouni Kenshin, Sanousuke alone managed to escape when the Imperial army arrived and executed the Sekihoutai. Sanousuke, took his last name from the leader of the real life Captain of the first unit of the Sekihoutai, Sozo Sagara. He chose the life as a fighter-for-hire to become stronger, but I think he also chose the life of a criminal because he couldn't accept living peacefully in the world won and created by the Imperialists who had betrayed him and the only family he had ever known.

One of the things that I love most about Rurouni Kenshin is the history involved. Granted, this "history" ought to be taken with a grain of salt as it is taken and overly romanticized to suite the story; however, there remains a lot of truth in the show. The Sekihoutai did exist and were set up by the Ishin Shishi once the revolutionaries had no more need of them. Sanousuke Sagara did not exist, but Sozo Sagara - the Captain of the first unit did.

Kenshin himself is unaware of Sanousuke's connection to the Sekihoutai until the end of their duel, but allows himself to be baited into the fight anyway. I mean, I know Kenshin had to fight Sanousuke for the sake of acquiring this character among the good guys and that Sanousuke was not likely to ever stop coming for him until they had their duel, but come on! Kenshin usually has to be dragged into a fight (even when the enemy is a two-bit thug like Gohei that could in no way cause Kenshin much trouble or angst) yet this time his curiosity seems to overwhelm his pacifism.

The fight itself felt slow to me as I watched it probably due to all the flashbacks and the play-by-play narration by Kaoru which broke up the action; however, there were a couple of really interesting things happening during the bout.

1. This was the first time that Kenshin did not fell his opponent in a single stroke, foreshadowing that the enemies are about to get MUCH tougher.
2. It's also the first time Kenshin uses a named attack in a fight which is again - significant foreshadowing. Similar to how in Fantasy all special weapons tend to have names, advanced techniques will usually also have unique names, special effects, unique costs etc. Now we'll start to see what Kenshin's Hiten Mitsurugi style is really all about.
3. Firearms show up in this episode and it's implied that they are the tool of the corrupt. We're shown that the Sekihoutai were mercilessly gunned down by the Imperialists, and later Gohei (who can no longer wield a sword) fires a handgun at Kenshin after Sanousuke fails to defeat the Battousai. I should mention that Sozo Sagara, Sanousuke's mentor, was not shot in either the manga nor in real life but decapitated instead as punishment; however, this minor change does help to further illustrate the conflict between modernity and the way of the samurai in the show.

I believe I promised you a rant about the Zanbatou in my last episode summary, but as this write-up gets longer and longer I find myself asking - do I even need to? I mean...LOOK AT IT!?  As Kenshin points out, because of its size and weight it can only be swung at a diagonal or straight down making it very easy to predict. How did Sanousuke as Zanza become the most feared gangster in the Tokyo underworld with a weapon like that? I wish I could say that this is the most ridiculous weapon we'll see in Rurouni Kenshin, but alas I remember quite clearly that it is not.  I am so happy that the Zanbatou gets destroyed in this battle.  Sanousuke is a great character and a much better street brawler.  He doesn't need to be burdened by a ridiculous weapon with a fancy name. 

I loved the resolution of this fight. Sanousuke get's the snot beat out of him, but stands up time after time because his rage towards the Imperialists won't let him stand-down although he is clearly outmatched. What Kenshin finally tells him to diffuse the situation was brilliant. "Did the Sekihoutai teach revenge against those who wronged you or did they teach you to complete the Revolution." As we've already seen, the Meiji Era is no utopian. With so much corruption in the world there is still a reason for warriors to exist and fight to protect the innocent. In that moment Sanousuke realizes that what Kenshin stands for is the same principle of his former mentor. I think he also realizes that he wasn't serving anyone but himself in his pursuit to become strong and that's not true strength. As a fighter-for-hire, he never achieve his ideal to be strong like his Captain and stronger than any Imperialist.

[YA & Books] A Reading Funk

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 Laura Fitzgerald

Guys, so I finished Divergent by Veronica Roth not too long ago and OMG.  It was SO good!  It was SO good that it blew my mind.  It was SO good that I couldn't sleep at night.  Over three weeks later, I am still trying to decide what faction I would have chosen.  This is some serious business, folks.  I've got it bad. 

Now I can't seem to get into any other book that I start reading.  Memorial Day weekend was supposed to have been spent at the end of the dock with a book in my hand and a box of Pop Tarts at my side. But nothing is hitting that sweet spot quite like Divergent did.  It's like everything else is a plain Pop Tart but all I want is the Strawberry Frosted ones.  I am drooling in eager anticipation for more, and it feels like nothing else will do.

So you might say that I'm in a funk, a reading funk. Usually when this happens I take a quick break and turn to some craft projects to get me through it. There is a certain sense of achievement that comes of making something with your own hands whether it's art, pottery, writing, or sewing.  It is usually grounding enough to distract me from the euphoria of having found something marvelous and new. When I get into these manic moods, I'll start and finish a new project. But since finishing Divergent, I've crocheted three scarves and will be starting on a Hunger Games themed project next that may very well take me all summer to complete.

So my questions for you this week are: does this ever happen to you (obviously I don't mean fiber-art based anxiety attacks). What do you do to get out of these reading funks?   Do you turn to a hobby?  Do you read out of your normal genre?  Do you reread beloved favorites?

And since it's Wednesday, let's hear some of those #WaitingOnWednesday picks.  Maybe something will inspire me to pick up a book again.

P.S. Read Divergent. Do it. You must. Do it now!