Audio book won 3rd prize!

“Tell My Dad” audio book won 3rd prize in San Mateo County Fair Literary Contest!

It’s nice to hear my characters come to life through the audio book. Getting an award for it is an icing on the cake! I am very proud of this accomplishment. To celebrate this milestone, I am giving away 3 free copies of my audio book. If you are interested, please send me a message through Facebook fan page.

Please click the play button above to listen to the first chapter of the book. More soundtracks are available on SoundCloud. If you like what you hear, please support my work at Audible.

Related Link: Audio book is released today!

Facebook Ad Fraud

As a new author, I tried various marketing avenues to promote my book “Tell My Dad“. I have used Facebook advertising for many years to promote a couple of websites I manage. I used Facebook ads to promote the book’s fan page. For every ad I ran, I received thousands of likes, but very few people clicked on the link to go to Amazon page. Who would “like” the page without even checking out the article/post in the ad? This was a big mystery. I had long suspected that either Facebook was committing fraud or indirectly encouraged folks who inflated the likes just for the sake of it. I am not alone. Check out the video by Veritasium.

The data presented by Derek confirmed my suspicion. After losing $100+ in Facebook ads, I cut my losses and stopped my ads in Facebook. I will write a separate post on my marketing efforts on other platforms.

In a related news, Facebook confirmed (and apologized) that it overestimated key video metric for two years. Many authors, including myself, are clueless when it comes to marketing. This kind of incidents and frauds make us lose the confidence in the system.

Audio book is released today!

I am excited to announce the release of “Tell My Dad” audio book in Audible, Amazon and iTunes! It’s narrated by very talented Brian Troxell. Creating an audio book is an expensive proposition for authors, but I wanted to do it because it’s the best way to bring the characters to life. It’s also the best way to connect with the readers.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00029]

I used ACX to hire the narrator and to produce the audio book. The process goes like this: You sign up for ACX, post a sample chapter to get audition from interested narrators, short list the auditions and select one narrator. The narrator records your books, then ACX does quality check, then the book is released to the world. In few weeks, everyone will rush to buy your book and… you will become a millionaire.

Well, the process is not that simple. Every step of the way takes a lot of time, effort and hard work. “How it works” page in ACX explain a lot better than I can explain. I will stick to my lessons learned in the process.

When you post a sample chapter, make sure the chapter covers all the main characters. If you post more than few pages, it would discourage narrators to audition for it. Keep the sample script within 3 pages.

Be prepared to be overwhelmed by many fabulous narrators. Expect to spend at least few hours a day for two weeks to listen and short-list the narrators.

Short list the narrators based on the voice, audio quality, hourly fee, and how well the narrator brings your characters to life. When I short-listed the narrators, I was specifically listening for how well the narrator changes the voice to give the life to the characters of Protagonist, FBI agent character, Cops, FBI intern, and Children. It’s not easy for someone to talk like a 40 year old guy, then switch to a 5 year old girl, then switch to a 50 year old FBI agent, then switch to a 70 year old villain. Few people have the gift to narrate like that. Brian is one of them.

After short-listing few narrators, listen to each one of them again, ask for feedback from friends and family, then choose one narrator that is best-suited to your book. Once the selection is made, the narrator has about one week to prepare the first 15 minutes for your approval. If you are happy with first 15 minutes, the narrator goes on to record the entire book. When the entire book is released, the narrator sends that to you, the author. If you approve the audio book and make the payment to the narrator, ACX will take the audio files and run thru its quality process. That could take anywhere from 4 to 5 days. Once the quality is verified, ACX will prepare your title. This is where things get tricky. At this stage, ACX page shows “headed to retail” as the status for your book project. This status will stare at you for the next 4+ days. During this time frame, ACX folks prepare the meta data for each retailer (Audible, Amazon and iTunes) and send the book to retail stores. Once the book is out of ACX’s hand, it has no idea about the status. This is why you would continue to see “headed to retail” until the book is actually released. ACX claims that it has no insights into the internal process of retail stores.

Once the retail stores accept the audio book, it goes live! I submitted my audio book on June 18th. It passed quality check by June 23rd. At this point, the book’s status was changed to “headed to retail”. The book is available today, June 28th, in Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Turnaround is not so bad, but it would have been nice if retail stores and ACX work together to provide frequent updates to the authors rather than keeping them in the dark when the book is “headed to retail”.

Stopping Human Trafficking Using Technology

There are few times I go like “Why didn’t I think of that?”, when I see a new mobile app. I got one of those moments when I saw “TraffickCam” mobile app which is available for both iOS and Android. The app uses crowdsourcing to stop the human trafficking.

What is human trafficking? It’s a modern day slavery.

Source: Unicef
Source: UNICEF

There it is, from UNICEF.

I wrote a non-fiction for the parents who are not technically-savvy to deal with many issues seriously worsened by the Internet. Human trafficking is one of those issues. The criminals use the Internet to kidnap and sell the children who have to go through unimaginable torture. More than 300,000 American children and about 1.2 million children worldwide are trafficked each year. Most of these children are aged between 12 and 14. “TraffickCam” app will help to catch the criminals if all of us work together.

Traffickers regularly post the pictures of their victims posed in hotel rooms for online advertisements. Yes, that’s happening more often than you think. There are websites right here in the United States that do it. “TraffickCam” app asks all the users to take the pictures of hotel rooms they stay in when they travel. When many travelers do this, that essentially creates a huge database of the images of various hotel rooms across U.S. and also the globe. This database can be used by law enforcement investigators to track the hotel room in which the children are locked up by the perpetrators. The app helps the investigators by analyzing the patterns of the carpet, furniture, lighting, windows, walls, etc., in the hotel rooms’ images and compare it with the images posted by the traffickers in the underground websites.

The app is free. Please download it and take the picture of hotel rooms when you travel next time.

Where to find the good cover designers for your book?

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” — We heard this over and over. But, if the cover is not attractive or does not convey the message, the book does not have appeal to the readers.

For my debut fiction novel “Tell My Dad“, I spent a good amount of time searching for the cover designers. I wanted the best possible design. After doing research for weeks, I decided to launch a contest in 99designs. Why a contest? First of all, I did not want to hire a designer just by looking at online reviews and ratings. Second, I wanted to see the designer’s creativity for my specific requirements. Third, I wanted to crowdsource the design selection process. All of these are possible in the contest.

99 designs will ask you to prepare the list of requirements and the design concept. Mine looked like one below.

I want a book cover design for a book I’m writing called “Tell My Dad”.

It’s a mystery/thriller book. It’s a story revolving around child abductions and affected families. I want the element of suspense on the cover. I want to picture the crucial scene of the book, described below, in the cover.A bad guy kidnaps five year old girl and lock her up in the backseat of the car and drives away. The girl, with fear and confusion in her face, looks thru the window while the car is speeding up.

For the above scene, I want the girl to look thru the fogged window. Title is written on the fog as if the girl wrote it.

My main goals are:

1. To show the title in child’s handwriting style
2. To let the reader instinctively feel the thriller element

There it is. I posted the requirements and announced $300 bounty for the best design. I received about 89 designs over 4 weeks period. I short-listed 10 designs, created a poll and invited friends and family to vote for the best design. 99designs have the feature to create a poll which was useful. The poll gave me a pretty good idea about how others feel about the design. An overwhelming majority voted for the below design.

"Tell My Dad" book cover

It’s designed by Denis Lenzi. I am very satisfied with the final design and revision process that went with it.

If you are on a budget, you may want to check out the designers in fiverr. I wrote a non-fiction ebook “How to protect children from online predators and cyber bullies” which I am giving away for free. I could not afford $300 for the perma-free book. I looked through the profiles of various designers in fiverr and had chosen one. My experience in fiverr is hit and miss. Fortunately, the cover design came out well. I wanted a simple design with attractive colors and fonts. I provided some sample pictures and ideas to the designer who came up with the following design.

How-To-Protect-Children-From-Online-Predators-And-Cyber-Bullies-Kindle

I think it’s a pretty good design for $5.

In summary, I believe that the contest in 99designs offers the best possibility to create the wonderful cover design. Please share your experiences in finding a good cover designer.