Novel Rocket

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Permafree as an Indie Marketing Strategy~Interview with Traci Tyne Hilton

Today I'm thrilled to introduce Traci Tyne Hilton, a Christian indie author who has been so helpful to me personally, and an inspiration to so many other authors. She is a busy gal (as you will see!), but I wanted to tap into her wisdom on the effectiveness of using permafree as a marketing strategy, which is the latest buzz in indie circles. Permafree books are books that STAY free on Amazon and/or various other outlets, thus pulling readers in to read more books by that author (usually in a series). 

One of the things I love about being an indie author is that we share sales figures and marketing strategies. Please take time to thank Traci for sharing her experience with us. I'm pinning this post for easy reference! ~Heather Day Gilbert

Permafree as an Indie Marketing Strategy

Interview with Traci Tyne Hilton

Author Traci Tyne Hilton
HG: First off, how long have you been self-published, Traci? I know you were one of the earlier writers to take this route (and I know it has paid off for you!).

TH: It’s funny to think of myself as an early adopter, because it feels like just yesterday, but my first indie title came out in paperback around February of 2010, and then as an ebook that fall.

HG: On the issue of permafree e-books (I believe the definition of that is "permanently free" e-books), how did you decide you were ready to make one of yours permafree? And was it the first in series?

TH: I decided to go permafree with the first book in my series because I was basically desperate. I was terrified to do it, but I knew I had to make a change.

So, I had been doing pretty well, considering I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t have a background in publishing, didn’t have a budget, didn’t have much of a plan, and wanted something I could do from home while raising my kids. I was making about a thousand dollars a month, and felt great. Then, November 2012 rolled around and I made…almost nothing. Or it felt that way. I was down to about $200 a month with no idea of how to make more.

I had already tried becoming a twitter-master (fifty tweets a day, links to helpful posts, fun quotes—a link to my books here and there.) I had tried writing fast and publishing fast (as fast as I could, anyway) and I had tried being a part of Kindle Select and running short promos. I had run Ereader News Today ads, Pixel of Ink ads, I had posted all over facebook. I don’t know, if someone had suggested it, I had tried it, and not just one little try, I had gone all out. And…I had short term success. Moments of good sales, but absolutely nothing lasting.

I had to find the secret magic trick that would make my books sell (Click to Tweet!), or give up and go back to paying attention to my kids!

I said to a friend of mine who was known for never compromising on his advice, “You are bossy and successful. Tell me what to do and I will do it. Whatever you say.” He said make my first book free and write more books. So I did, and it worked.

HG: Did you notice an immediate sales bump for other books in the series when you made the first permafree?

TH: Yes, definitely. You remember I was desperate because after two years of publishing and growing an audience my royalties had dropped to about $200 a month, right? Well, the first month the first Mitzy book was free—and I only had three books in the series at the time—I made $2800. I was immediately sold. I mean, think about that…three books made me $200. I made first book free, and two books made me $2800. I’d say that was an immediate result!

HG: What long-term effects have you seen from your permafree decision?

TH: The biggest change, besides making heckuva lot more money, is that I now have an active fan base! It’s a blast to get fan mail, and to hang out with people on facebook who are there because they like my books!

HG: When would you NOT recommend an author go permafree with his/her book?

TH: I would not recommend permafree if:

-The author only has one book

-The author’s titles are not in the same genre

-or, if in the same genre the books are too different to be grouped into some kind of series

-The author is philosophically against free. (There are plenty of authors who consider free promotions damaging to literature. I would never try and talk them out of their convictions.)

-If they are my direct competition. JUST KIDDING! I have happily talked lots of other Christian Cozy authors into trying it out, and I think they are all pretty happy with their results. (Check out the authors of to see what I mean!

     HG: I know that of all my marketing strategies to date, going free a few days with my books has brought the most results in terms of temporary sales boost. Would you say going permafree has been the best marketing strategy you have tried? If not, what is?

TH: Writing a series that follows one lead character and making the first book of that series free is the only marketing technique I have tried that has produced an increase in sales that lasted longer than about three days. (Click to Tweet!) Every other technique—and I have tried them all—was less effective in producing both short and long term sales (for me.)

HG: Finally, on a non-permafree note, how many books do you think an author needs to have out before making a full-time income on self-publishing, if you could give us an estimate? I've heard five books.

TH: I think an author needs to publish a minimum of three books a year to make a living. The point at which they start making a living is different for everyone. But it is the steady stream of quality new releases that makes a person able to live off their writing rather than a set number of books already published. Three is really the minimum for most people, and since it’s August, and I’ve only published one so far this year, I had better say goodbye, and get back to work! Thanks so much for the chat!

***Thank you, Traci! Readers, what about you--has a free book ever hooked you into buying a series or reading more from an author? Indie authors, if you have tried this strategy, how has it worked for you?***

Click to Find on Amazon
Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of the new Tillgiven Mystery Series, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and The Plain Jane Mystery Series. She was the Mystery/Suspense Category winner for the 2012 Christian Writers of the West Phoenix Rattler Contest, and has a Drammy from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. Traci serves as the Vice President of the Portland chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association.

Traci earned a degree in History from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, their two daughters, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie.

More of Traci's work can be found at

Click to Find on Amazon

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Story Is In the Details

The story gems are in the details.
By Rachel Hauck

I started a new novel last week, The Wedding Chapel.

I don't have a lot of time on this particular deadline, so after a few weeks of dreaming and planning, I jumped in with chapter one, scene one.

My protagonists in one story line are married, but thing aren't going well. But for their anniversary, the hero buys the heroine the engagement ring she never had and a brand new wedding band.

Remember, their marriage is strained, so he's not entirely clued in... ;)

As I ended the scene, the heroine swaps her plain ole gold wedding band for the new set from Tiffany's.

I had all this great symbolism in mind for taking off her old, beat up wedding band and starting fresh... the turmoil she felt in her marriage "a thing of the past." She was starting new. That night.

I thought it worked great.

Then I took a step back. Did it work for the whole story? How would putting on those rings now impact the ending? What will she be able to do in regards to her marriage in the end that she couldn't do in the beginning?

I considered all the angles. All of my options. Because this ring scenario—taking up no more than a few lines—was actually a huge factor to the rest of the story.

I had to choose the right scenario.

So I mused over it. Talked my options out with my writing partner, Susan May Warren, and in the end decided the heroine would NOT put on the new ring set.

And it would impact the whole story with different symbolism than I thought of in the beginning.

Why does she not wear the rings? Because she doesn't feel worthy. She thinks she might love someone else. Because while the rings are new and exciting, her marriage is already old and boring.

Not wearing the rings will cause conflict. The hero will wonder why she's not wearing the rings he so carefully picked out. Not to mention the money spent.

Now, the protagonist WILL NOT argue or lament for 300 pages on why she didn't put on the rings.

It's not so much the rings you see as what they stand for, and the issues they bring up—a failing marriage.

As writers we have to learn to recognize how the small things can be huge plot points or symbolism in our stories.

Don't brush aside a line of dialog, situation or gift that could symbolize the whole dilemma of your characters.

We have to stop and contemplate the importance of the smallest thing.

It's how we deepen our writing, and layer texture into our stories that tug at the soul.

But how can we know we've hit on a giant "small" detail?

Well, for me, it's a ping. That's what I call the feeling I get when I type a line that speaks back to me.

Sometimes I feel it in my gut. Sometimes the line gives me pause to go "Hmmm."

Sometimes I get a new idea from the line, and I have to rethink where I've been with the story and where I was planning to take it.

Because I'm a planter—plotter combined with pantser—I usually have an idea of the beginning, middle and end. I have a goal in mind. An idea of what I want to accomplish.

So when the story pings me, I have to pause and listen.

Maybe you don't have the ping, but you have that something that tells you there's more to the story than you imagined. It's calling you to find the deeper meaning.

The heart and soul of a story is often in the most minute details.

I recently read a book set in the 1930s and dealt with the Great Hurricane of 1938. It took the whole eastern seaboard by surprise.

The author, Beatriz Williams, so caught me by surprise because she only mentioned the hurricane twice, rather casually, through the dialog of the protagonist's aunt. It was almost throw away dialog.

But dialog is never throw away. Or it shouldn't be.

When the storm crashed ashore at the end of the book, wiping out the heroine's family beach home, taking away her mother in the storm surge, about four story points converged in that one moment.

All the little details finally painted the picture.

That's what you're looking for—the details—the simple threads that when we step back and observe the whole story in the end, we go, "Ah, now I see."

Don't ignore those layers. If you don't know how to recognize them, learn. Think about symbolism and metaphor. Purposefully find a way to add it to your story. It might be awkward at first, but you'll get the hang of it.

The story is in the details.


Rachel lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

She’s the author of EPCA and CBA best sellers, RITA and Christy nominated books. She also co-authored the critically acclaimed Songbird Novels with platinum selling country music artist Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.

Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Her novel, Once Upon A Prince, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist.

Here latest novel, Princess Ever After and novella A March Bride, released in February 2014.

Visit her web site:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What's Your Big Kahuna Fear?

by James L. Rubart

What's your Big Kahuna fear? The one that sends shivers down your spine when you imagine it happening?

Mine is heights. I start getting squeamish at about 30 feet up.

So in June, when Taylor (my oldest son) asked me if I wanted to go jump out of a plane at 13,500 feet with him, his fiance, his finance's mom, and a few others, I wanted to say no.

But I didn't.

I knew God was saying, "Jump." So I did.

The jump was an unbelievable physical rush--wow, was it ever!--but more important is what it has done inside me. I see what God was up to. The jump freed me up to believe I can do that thing in my writing career I never thought possible. And yeah, maybe I can't do it, but at least now I'm willing to try.

Do You Need to Jump?

You know I'm not (necessarily) talking about skydiving.

  • Maybe it's writing that novel you've never believed you could write. 
  • Maybe it's asking for an endorsement from someone you're convinced would turn you down flat. 
  • Maybe it's going to that conference you've always wanted to--but been too intimidated.
  • Maybe it's pitching an editor and/or agent with more confidence than you've ever had.
  • Maybe it's asking that author to co-write with you even though that's a dream you don't believe could ever come true.
  • Maybe it's doing Nanowrimo this November.

I don't know what plane you need to leap out of but I do know the faith it takes to jump will bring you freedom. Do it. I know you can.

I'll see you in the air.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and Christy award winning author of six novels. During the day he helps authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis, golfs, does sleight of hand, and takes photos.  No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at

Monday, September 15, 2014

An Interview with J. Alden Hall -- Author of Connected: From Godfather to God-the-Father

This month, I'm very happy to present J. Alden Hall, a debut author who has an amazing story you won't want to miss!

This is your debut book. Tell us about it?
Connected: From Godfather to God-the-Father begins with Jim “Bobo” Hall facing a federal judge. It ends with his salvation and the miracles he experienced while in prison. I am this Bobo, and the book is my memoir.

My book never would have been interesting, or my life so strange, if it had continued down the ordinary path of the first six years of my childhood–but it didn’t. At the age of seven, the FBI’s search for an escaped convict, and former member of John Dillinger’s gang, brings them to my house looking for my father. When my dad eludes capture, my family and I join him in a lifestyle some describe as outlaw.

From the Italian gangs of Chicago, to my boarding school experiences at a Catholic Seminary, my pre-adult life is marked by so many unusual adventures that it might have been a remarkable read if I had ended it before I started my adult journey. However, as some say, “That’s just the beginning of my story.”

After college I found I had a knack for business, especially dirty business. My chronical follows my days as a wealthy businessman, and how I became involved with the Mafia leadership in Chicago. My story tries to highlight the drama, adventure, and sadness of my life. I include vignettes about various mafia chiefs, Frank Sinatra, skimming Las Vegas casinos, murder,  the mob’s possible role in John F. Kennedy’s death, and my time in Federal Prison.
 Ultimately, what’s most important, it’s a remarkable story of how only God can bring peace to a life of chaos.

What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

First, I would have started sooner. Once started, I would have been more disciplined in setting time aside to write.

Share a bit of your journey to publication.

In 1993 I left the business world to join Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. I had shared my testimony many times before then, but this opened up an entirely new set of audiences. Most everywhere I shared my story someone would say, “You’ve got to write a book.” I’d smile and shrug it off. It was many years before I seriously took on the project. Two events set my writing into motion.
First, as many others experienced during the recent great recession, I found myself without a job.  With plenty of time available, I began writing. Once started, memories returned and words flowed. As the page numbers grew, the excitement intensified.

The second important moment came when I joined up with a group of writers that gave me the guidance needed to move from being a speaker to being a writer. The group called themselves the Seedwriters because they believed they were formed to “write seeds of God's word into their books,” and to support each other. Maybe they just felt sorry for the lone male in their consortium, but soon they enveloped me with their collective wings. They prodded and encouraged me when I needed it most.

Most importantly, they lovingly explained the difference in being a public speaker with a story, and a writer hoping to bring the tale to life. Without their mentoring, I’m not sure I’d ever be published.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

None of the above.

I have a home office that’s sufficient, but far from nook-like (let alone all that cozy). I’ve had thoughts of aping the authors featured in many movies that go to some mountain cabin in a search for seclusion. However, I’d probably be out
hiking and enjoying the surroundings too much. If money allowed, I’d like a month away with my wife in Rome or Florence, Italy. She’d be able to go wandering around during the day, while I wrote. We’d have the nights together. It’s probably more a dream than a possibility. But, nothing wrong with dreaming.

What would you do if you didn't write?

When I began my second book, a suspense story titled Belladonna, I felt a strong calling to write it. My wife, and toughest critic, loved the early writings. I really want to get on with it, but there’s much to be done with the release of my memoir.

The work on a book is far from over when the writing stops. There’s promotional and social marketing, speaking engagements, various articles (promotional) to be written, and so on. Add a full time job to all that, and I find it difficult to continue on my new book.

So, the answer to the question is that I would have more free time, but less purpose in my life.

What issue makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?


Get the pattern? It takes time to be a writer. I’m hoping once the current book becomes established, I will be able to set a writing schedule I can manage and obey. For me, I write best when I have dedicated time and no interference.

What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?

1. Join a writer’s group. If one isn’t locally available, find one through the internet.
2. Search for honest reviewers for your first three chapters. The emphasis is on honest. You only get one chance at a first impression.
3. Treat the story like it’s alive. Let it grow organically. You might have an outline and a mental picture of your projected story, but don’t be afraid to let the action in it move in an unforeseen direction.

Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?

1. Don’t write too much before you’ve obeyed the first two suggestions above.
2. Don’t decide to become a writer without your family’s support. Time committed to writing will equal time away from those you love.
3. Don’t flash your “I’m an author” badge everywhere you go.

Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What do you think?

I believe you can be a born storyteller, but being a writer takes more than a good tale. I think anyone can learn to be proficient as a writer. In all art, masterpieces are born from those with great instincts combined with an amazing knowledge of their craft.

What's the strangest or funniest experience you've had in writing?

The strangest experience may have been my mentor’s first book being published the same timeframe as mine. In second place (maybe the funniest), was an agent (unnamed) who aggressively reached out to publishers with my book. The problem was, I had repeatedly told him I wasn’t signing with him.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?

The book I am writing now forces me to do much research. I enjoy the process, and have been surprised how much it has helped expand the story. Creativity is the heart of a good story. Smart editing is the brain. You might call me brain dead–I hate editing.

Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?

If that’s defined as giving a language to the written words, it’s a solid yes. If it means using pictures of how I visualize the characters looked, not so much.

What are your writing rituals?

The closest I get to a ritual is to not read what I’ve written on the day I wrote it. It hurts to see how bad it is after so much work. I save that agony for my next writing session.

Do you work best under pressure or do you write at a leisurely pace?

Pressure. Procrastination and I are soul mates. I think the most intense pressure I get is a deadline, and the second, my wife’s urging to get back writing.

What are your thoughts on critique partners?

From what I’ve already shared, it’s clear I think they’re vital. I know they are for me.

Any final thoughts?

If you want to write, do it. Don’t get discouraged by the lack of an agent or publisher. If it’s good, it’ll find an audience.

Connected: From Godfather to God-the-Father
All rise!” the bailiff commanded.

Frank A. Kaufman, the federal district chief judge, entered the courtroom.

I placed my hands on the desk and forced my quaking legs to stand. Sweat, like a block of ice in a sauna, rained down my pants. Could that grandfatherly man in the flowing black robe really be the man the Chicago mafia and I had plotted mur- dering? Did he know how close we came to being successful?

The FBI’s search for an escaped convict, a former member of John Dil- linger’s gang, brought them to little Bobo’s house as they attempted to unearth his father. Bobo’s dad eluded capture, and the seven-year old joined his father, embarking on life as a fugitive. Searching for happiness through his Catholic boarding school years and success as a businessman, Jim Hall became entrenched in the mafia. With riveting tales of Frank Sinatra, Las Vegas casinos, and a possible connection to JFK’s death, this is the miraculous true story of a boy connected to the godfather who finds his way to peace with God the Father.

J. Alden (Jim) Hall was a successful businessman for many years before committing to full-time Christian Ministry in 1992. Jim’s businesses were diverse and included the popular Carlos McGee’s restaurant chain. His involvement and close connections with members of the Chicago Mafia brought his name and businesses up before a special “Organized Crime Task Force” (OCTF). He became a target of the OCTF, and in 1982 was sentenced to 3 1⁄2 years in federal prison. It was there that his life changed.

After his release, Jim owned a marketing and sales consulting business when Bruce Wilkinson, the founder of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, persuaded him to work with his organization. For fifteen years Jim served in their Seminar Division and when he left was Vice President of Seminars and Training, as well as Interim Vice President of Publishing. He currently is a marketing and business consultant and a popular speaker in both Christian and non-Christian settings. Jim is active with his church and leads two large monthly Bible studies in Atlanta. He lives in the Atlanta suburbs with his wife Judy and is within driving distance of their three daughters and eight grandchildren.

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives with her two rescue cats in suburban Chicago, an hour's drive away from her Wisconsin hometown where she visits often to dig into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas. She's currently working on a contemporary romance that involves rodeo, bulls, and cowboys. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway of Chapel Springs Revival

I'm doing a giveaway  of my debut novel Chapel Springs Revival (#2 in Amazon's Hot New bestsellers) on Goodreads, from midnight tonight to midnight tomorrow night. Don't register before midnight. 


by Cynthia Ruchti

Tucked in among the folds of wisdom and encouragement in Paul's letter to the church at Philippi is a three-sentence zinger. It's the kind of insight that zings straight to the core of who we are as novelists.

Speaking of his protege Timothy, Paul said, "I have no one like him. He is a person who genuinely cares about your well-being. All the others put their own business ahead of Jesus Christ's business," Philippians 2:20-21 CEB.

A defining moment for me as a writer came the day I sensed that I would never reach the people God wanted me to reach with my books until I loved the people God loved. The broken, the weary, the misguided. The people bent on posting negative reviews. The readers who complain that the book ended too soon and those who wish it had ended sooner. Those who misunderstand why I do what I do. Those who appreciate what I do. People who disagree with the premise or find typos missed despite the many layers of editing. Those who recommend the book to friends as well as those who waiting to "purchase" a copy until it's free.

Love served as my primary calling. Above storytelling. Above proposal-writing. Above marketing. Above contests and honors and research and networking.


Timothy genuinely cared about the well-being of the people he and Paul sought to reach. Paul remarked about it publicly because it was a quality lacking in too many other message-carriers. Timothy's approach refreshed his coworker and endeared him to his teacher.

But those on whom the greatest impact fell were the audiences for their messages. In the case of a novelist, the readers.

It can be argued that a novelist who writes without a conscious appreciation and interest in the reader on the other side of the story writes a pale novel compared to the writer who envisions and empathizes with the person who makes the story cycle complete--the reader.

Tongue in cheek, the question is asked if a novel lands in the woods, is it still a novel, since no one will read it. Even though many of us legitimately say that if we told the story just for the impact it had on our own lives, the effort would have been worth it, the full-formed novel has a destination--the hands of a reader. Or many readers.

Those of us who write stories that offer hope, inspire, inform, and entertain from a Christian worldview feel the importance of that connection at a deeper level than other artists. Souls are at stake. Joy is at stake. We write in partnership with the One who offers Hope.

Taking a cue from Timothy's attitude as a message-bearer, our most important novel-writing task may have nothing to do with writing, but rather with loving. Caring. Putting Jesus Christ's business above our own.

YOUR TURN: How do you make it obvious that you "genuinely care about the well-being" of your readers? Or have you seen it clearly in the life of another author you know? What reveals that it's genuine?

Cynthia Ruchti is an award-winning author of ten books, and a frequent speaker for women's events. She serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers. Her most recent release is All My Belongings, a story that has expanded her insights about and appreciation for the unique challenges of caregiving. or