Tower City Romance Trilogy Cover Remake

I’ve always said never to look back, always move forward, but in this business, sometimes it’s not always feasible to keep your eyes straight ahead. As authors, we have a back list (or hope to write one) and as much as I hate to admit it, or put time into it, we do have to do a little maintenance from time to time.

My maintenance included redoing the covers for my trilogy. I needed to redo them for a couple of reasons.

  1. People were mis-categorizing them. Because the couples had all their clothes on, people were thinking the books were sweet romance. When I did my Freebooksy for Don’t Run Away, they even went so far as to email me and ask if I had selected the wrong category when I paid for my promo. Don’t Run Away‘s one star review on Amazon made it clear the woman was appalled at the swearing and the sexiness on the first page. At first I blamed her, but she judged my book by its cover and thought it would be a sweet romance. So, okay. I finally took responsibility for it and now my covers (hopefully) reflect a little more of what is inside the book covers . . . and bed covers!
  2. Kobo turned down a promo ask. I know this might not have anything to do with the cover of Don’t Run Away. I mean, it was my first ask, and Mark, in Killing It on Kobo, stresses the need to ask and ask and ask. And only when you get tired of asking maybe then reach out to the Kobo Writing Life team and say, hey, what’s up? Why am I never approved for a promotion? As I’ve said before, real people are behind Kobo Writing Life. A real person looks at the books submitted for promo, and a real person chooses what she thinks will fit inside the promo. I asked to be in a Free Contemporary Romance promo, and maybe my cover didn’t fit what she was looking for.
  3. But this will help with other areas of marketing, too. It’s not just at Kobo that I will see some benefit from changing my covers. I may snag more eyes on Amazon and the other marketplaces as well. I’ve killed all my Amazon ads right now, but it will be an interesting experiment to start them up again (if I do) with the new covers.
  4. My skills are better. I’ve said a million times it’s easy to slap text onto a cover using Canva.com and publish your book. That’s what I did with the trilogy. Found photos that kind of worked and found some font, and did the best I could. But since I made the covers two and a half years ago, I’ve learned GIMP better. I hadn’t heard about Canva. I did my original covers in Word, if you can believe it. So even just¬† learning about Canva’s existence helped tremendously. I pay for the Pro access, just because I love using it so much, and I figured it’s the least I can do for their team.
  5. I found other places to buy pictures. Lurking on Facebook groups aimed at helping indie authors helped me find other places for book cover photos. Using depositphotos.com helped me find the couples I ended up using for the trilogy, where before the only site I knew was safe was canstockphoto.com. Only the one for Don’t Run Away sticks out a little as it has a darker background and not a white one. While I could have snipped the couple out and pasted them onto a white background (because, yay, I have the skills to do that now), I didn’t think about it that much, and I don’t regret not doing it. The new covers are still 100 times better than what they were. So you lose a couple battles to win the war, and just be happy you won at all.
  6. I learned to experiment with font. Back then, Word didn’t have much choice, and font is like the photos–not everything is safe to use.
  7. I learned to really take a look at what is popular in my genre. Before I was publishing on a regular basis, and before I understood what indie publishing romance meant, I thought a cover was a cover, and that was it. But now I know that publishing romance is a whole different ballgame. Speaking of ballgame, want a series about baseball romance? Got it. Motorcycle club romance? Check. Billionaires? Check. Firefighters. Navy SEALS. And those are just the mainstream subgenres. Then we get into, um, dinosaur romance, Bigfoot romance, I’m-Going-To-Chain-You-Up-And-Make-You-My-Sex-Slave romance, reverse harem romance, and everything in between. So you better believe that your cover should at least *hint* at the sub-genre your book is in. And my fully-clothed happy couples didn’t depict any sexy-times. I don’t write sub-genre, though, so choosing couples that didn’t skew toward a certain sub-genre was tough. Too sexy and they’d look like erotica. If the men were too rough, the books would look like bad-boy romance, or alpha-romance. Study your book’s genre and make sure that your cover fits what is popular in your genre. Wolves on the cover equals shifter romance, and don’t forget it! ūüėõ

    A friend pointed out that my trilogy was about running, and it is. But running isn’t sexy, and the photos of couples I found running were even less sexy, and not cover-worthy by a long shot.

    Here are a few covers from the top 50 contemporary romance right now. Guess what sub-genre they’re in.

    Lots of skin, some tats. A couple menages, if you look at the top 100 full list. Tell Me to Stay by Willow Winters seems to be the couple with the most fully-clothed. And even they are in a provocative pose. I did some homework for my covers and I’m happy with what I came up with.


I’m hoping I don’t have to go back and redo those for a long time. If ever. I redid the paperbacks for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. And in turn, I needed to update the insides. Replacing all those files is a lot of fun, said no one ever.

On the bright side, I’m getting better at handling IngramSpark, and yes, I did the full covers in Canva for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. Thanks, Canva!

Here are my old covers:

One thing you can probably notice is Nikki and Dane are a bit back. Then Alyssa and Brett are a little closer, and then Marta and Ian are in your face. LOL¬† When you’re doing a series and you don’t have much skill, it’s extremely difficult to make your covers look like they belong together. It’s why I wanted to hire out this time around. It would have made things so much easier if I could have just shoved this onto someone else.

While I was looking at the top 100 in contemporary romance, I began to notice a trend and I started playing with photos and text. Keeping in mind that every second I was “playing around” I wasn’t writing my current series. Blah! But I came up with some mock-ups of how I wanted the trilogy to kind of look:

These were just concept, and I didn’t notice right away that it looked like the same guy. Not a terrible thing if the trilogy was about so gigolo or something. Also, the backgrounds are a little cluttered with items like the faucet and sink, and items like that don’t make the covers look clean. I really like the couple I found for Chasing You, but in the end I didn’t use them either. You can see what I was trying to get at, anyway, and this first attempt brought me a little closer to what I was looking for. And they are far from what I had originally.

This is what I ended up with:

They look like they belong together. The men are shirtless, and the women all have long-sleeved white shirts on. That was very lucky for me. They give off a sexier vibe, and the font fits in. Do they look 100% like what is on the Amazon top 100? No. But they don’t look as if they belong on the Amazon Top 100 of Sweet and Clean Contemporary, either. I paid for the photos from depositphotos.com and I was lucky enough to find the sexy font free for commercial use. I never realized before how brunet men with scruff could look the same, but I’m hoping people can tell they are a different guy (at least, I hope he is!). Doing these has really made me wonder what I’m going to do with the four-book series I’m writing right now. It’s enough to give me hives, that’s for sure!


I guess what you really want to know is if I’m making any sales off the new covers. The answer to that would be no. Not any measurable improvement. Don’t Run Away is permafree on all platforms, and I consistently give away 1-4 copies every day on Amazon, and a handful here and there on ibooks, Nook, and Kobo. So far that hasn’t led to actual sales for the other two books in the trilogy on Amazon, or for the others in my backlist for that matter, but the first book isn’t as strongly written as the other two, so that’s to be expected, I guess.

I’ll throw some money at them and see what happens.

At some point, I’ll be redoing the cover for All of Nothing, too. Though I have gotten GREAT feedback, it doesn’t fit in with what’s hot right now, and that’s the name of the game. Fitting in while standing out!

Tell me what you think!

If you want to try Don’t Run Away, it’s free on all platforms, and you can find it by clicking this link. It will redirect you to any platform where you buy ebooks.

Thanks for reading!

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

 

 

The Sell More Books Show Summit 2019

sell more books show 2019

Two weekends ago I attended the Sell More Books Summit in Chicago. I’m still trying to catch up from being gone, writing-wise, but it was a wonderful experience.

It was hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral, hosts of the Sell More Books Show Podcast. I recommend listening to this as they go through the top indie publishing news of the week. While I was too shy to introduce myself, it was fun to see them in person.

There were a lot of speakers, and even though I stay in tune with the self-publishing industry, I picked up a few things I’ll pass on to you!

  1. Amazon Ads are only good if you’re in Kindle Unlimited.
    This actually might be a no-brainer to some of you, but I just pulled my books out of Select and all my thoughts had been focused on Amazon.
    When you¬† run ads on Amazon, you are going for the double-whammy: sales and page reads. If you are wide, you’re leaving out a big chunk of potential readers if your marketing strategy is centered on Amazon Advertising.
    It’s a mind shift, for sure, but something I didn’t realize until the summit. Now that I’m wide, I’ll forget Amazon Advertising ads and focus on other methods with a wider reach.

  2. You need to write a series.
    I always knew that, but it’s different when people who are actually making money off their books tell you that.
    A series is good for marketing (pricing a first in series permafree for instance) and a rapid release can keep your momentum going. I don’t like writing a series, but being I’m about 1/2 done with a four book series, I’m taking my own advice when I preach writing to market. I prefer writing standalones, but I understand where a series is beneficial, and after a couple standalones to cleanse my palate I’ll get back on the series horse.
  3. You  can make it wide, it will just take a mindset shift and a lot of patience.
    There was a wide panel that consisted of representatives from Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, and Kobo. During this panel, they did say you could make it wide, and that’s what I needed to hear at this point in my writing journey. I’m not making sales on the other platforms yet, and my KU pages reads have dried up, what few of them there were. It’s a scary place to be. So it was nice to hear that with patience, going wide won’t screw me over. Just the opposite in fact–going wide can double your income.
    (For a good read on being exclusive and going wide, read this article by PublishDrive. :))
  4. But you won’t make it with one book if you’re wide.
    If you’re all in with Amazon and you have one book, you may be able to make some money. Jami Albright spoke about her publishing journey. She writes romantic comedy, and she’s published a series. She didn’t do a rapid release though, and she bought ads for a single book and did very well. When asked what she would do differently, she said she would have had book two done and ready to go. She might have made more with momentum, but she was still able to sell book one when it was her only one. If you want to check out her books, click here for her Amazon page. She’s in KU and said she has made 65%+ of her income with KU page reads. (And yes, she is one of those 6-figure authors we all hear about but never meet!)
    Wide is a different story. You need to think of your book as a storefront. If you went into a store and saw only one item on a shelf, you’d think that store was going out of business and you would high-tail it out of there. It would be even worse if that item is old and covered in dust. Which is what your book looks like if it’s the only one you¬† have and it was published some time ago. You need to keep filling your store with stock or you won’t lure customers to shop there.
    This is also difficult if your book isn’t up to standards. Then not only are you trying to sell a single time, that item is broken. Thinking like a customer, do you want the choice of only one damaged item? No. You’ll go to another store–and to a reader, that other store is a different author.
  5. Readers are different.
    Readers in KU plow through books. These readers aren’t developing a relationship with you. They gobble up content and move on to the next book, and you don’t care because you were paid for the page reads and nothing else matters.
    The team on the wide panel said you are more apt to develop relationships with your readers because they shop for books and read in a different way than readers who borrow books in KU.
    I don’t know if that is true or not. Perhaps that is why the newsletter concept is so heavily pushed. I know plenty of KU authors with huge mailing lists, and maybe that is their way of connecting with readers when they are all in with KU.
    I know when they say readers are “voracious” they mean they are plowing through books, maybe even one a day. I used to read like that when I had the time. I used to read Harlequin Temptations and Desires by the armful when I could get my hands on them at the second-hand shop for twenty-five cents a piece. It didn’t matter who wrote it, I just consumed the story and went on to the next. I can tell you what I¬†did do, though. I eventually learned who I¬†didn’t like.
    Anyway, whether you believe this idea or not, you need more than one book if you’re wide. Giving readers more to gobble up will always be a smart idea, whether they remember your name or not.
  6. You need to offer more than a book. Coincidentally, I wrote just wrote a blog post about this very thing, and you can read it here.¬†Chris Fox, during his talk, took it one step further. You need MORE. When you write in a series, you can offer a map and pinpoint where things take place in the story. You can offer pictures of what you envision their houses to look like, or the city they live in. Already authors add extra content to their back matter. Chris had special coins made in the currency of the world he writes in, and he is going to hide them around the city where he lives. Then he is going to create a geo-caching game that will allow readers to find them and keep them as a keepsake for his series. Not everyone has the funds or knowledge to do something like that, but his point was, going forward into 2020, you’re going to need more.

Those were the main takeaways for me from the summit. Admittedly, I knew a lot of what they were talking about since I listen to their podcast, and if anyone follows self-publishing news, then you know releasing quality content on a regular basis is a must for any author, in wide or KU, and that is going to be the backbone of your author business. kindle unlimted1

There was an interesting juxtaposition that occurred to me while I attended the summit.¬† The summit was sponsored by Vellum, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, BookFunnel, and Kobo. It’s interesting to me that some of the bigger names of the summit who have made it with their books are in Kindle Unlimited.¬† Chris Fox, Jami Albright, Bryan Cohen. The writing duo J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon. Cecilia Mecca. Elise Kova. I wonder if anyone thought about the fact that the summit was sponsored by companies that help indies go wide, while the big-named authors who spoke at the summit are in KU.
I’m not suggesting anything, of course. There’s nothing to suggest. I find it unlikely that Amazon would sponsor a writing summit, and there were a few writers there who are wide. It just makes me think a little, that’s all. Like, if there is such good money to be had going wide, why aren’t they doing it? Sure, there are authors making lots of money being wide like Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Adam Croft–who is a big advocate of going wide. There are some that do a mix–have some books in KU and some wide. I would just keep my eye out and see if the top authors in your genre are wide or if they are in KU. If they are, and you want to try to copy their success, are you comfortable with allowing Amazon full control over your royalties? It’s food for thought. It makes me think about going wide, and if that was a good move. It’s tempting to want to exploit KU since it seems like good fast money if you have a decent backlist and a little money to play with for Amazon Advertising. We’ll see.


If you are interested in going to the summit next year, Bryan announced he would not be part of it (though he is speaking) and the summit is now going to be part of the Career Author with J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon.  It will be taking place in Nashville in 2020, and it looks like tickets are already on sale. You can click here to find out more information about the summit of 2020. I heard that Joanna Penn will be there, so if wanting to meet her is any incentive, sign up now!

Would I go to another summit? Maybe. I feel like it was more of a networking opportunity than anything else, and since I’m shy and very much an introvert, I didn’t meet as many people as I wanted to. That’s my own fault of course, but paying $399-499 to sit in a corner isn’t the best idea. I’d like to try to go to the 20booksto50k convention that’s held in Las Vegas hosted by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle. (But again, they are big supporters of KU.) But because of personal issues, a summit next year may be out of my reach anyway. It takes money and time to attend, and I’m still kicking myself for not making the most of my time at this event. Especially with the open bar.

You never know. But if YOU have an opportunity to attend, you should go! And say hi to Joanna for me!

Until next time!

 

How Do You Make Your Book Stand Out?

We all want our books to stand out, and we all go about it in a different way.

Some spend hundreds of dollars on a cover. Some spend hundreds of dollars on a developmental edit to make their story and characters the best they can be. Some authors do fancy formatting.

vellum formatting ad

This is a picture of a formatting sample using Vellum. For more information on the software visit www.vellum.pub

Some authors do all of that.

Some authors do all of that and invest hundreds, even thousands, in ads.

Experts in book marketing would say you need to do it all to help with discoverability.

Readers may say to make them happy, all that would be a given.

And I’m not disputing any of that.

What I’m talking about are the extras.

Some traditionally published books have them already.

Say you have a baker for a main character. Some authors will add their own baking recipes to the back matter of the book along with a short explanation of the family history behind it, or a funny story.

Maps are always popular–especially if you’re world-building like in Game of Thrones. I know that I looked over the family trees a lot when I was reading them to remember who everyone was, and who the members of the families were.

In some contemporary romances, I’ve seen maps of towns where a series takes place.

I’ve never tried a recipe I’ve found in the back of a book, but I could see the appeal of adding a few. You could encourage book clubs to have a baking/cooking night along with their book discussion. Hey, even suggest what kind of wine would make a good accompaniment.

Some writers will add discussion questions. I’ve seen this a lot in traditionally published books, even in “lighter” books where I didn’t think a discussion was necessary. I wanted to add discussion questions to¬†All of Nothing, but I forgot. They may have been a nice addition to¬†The Years Between Us, too, but again, being excited I was finished with the book, I forgot to write them and add them into the back matter.

Something I have seen added to books are playlists consisting of the songs authors listened to while writing the book. I found in one “look inside” of a Kindle book, the author included the actual YouTube links to songs she wanted you to listen to get you in the mood to read the following scenes.

I caution against this for one, you need to make sure the music is free of copyright, and two, you never know how long those links will remain active. If the links are ever broken, will the author know? Or care? Will she edit the book to take them out or replace them? I don’t like to go back and go back fixing things. It’s always the next book for me. I wouldn’t want to keep an eye on my backlist like that. It’s bad enough keeping my own front and back matter up to date.

I’ve also seen back matter that included an interview or question and answer session between an unknown interviewer and the author. I think it was in the last Twilight book Stephenie Meyer answered questions. This could be an interesting addition to back matter as well.

In The Years Between Us, Zia held a showing at a gallery. I created an invitation for the showing in Canva and included it in the front matter of the book. It shows up black and white in the paperback and simple e-readers, but it will show in color on a tablet.

 

 

In this vein, I think I’ll make Marnie and James’s wedding invitation and include that like I did Zia’s gallery showing invitation.

One of my characters, Autumn Bennett, who will be my female MC in book four of my series, is a writer for the town’s newspaper. She writes for the Lifestyles section, but also blogs for their website. During the course of four books, she’ll blog about the wedding, and interview the bride, groom, and guests as human interest pieces. I’m thinking about creating those blog posts and offering them as bonus content in some way. That would be no-brainer newsletter content, but I don’t have one and I don’t want to start one right now. So I’ll be thinking how I want to share that content.

The real question that comes from all this, is . . . is it worth it? Playlists, poems written by your characters, invitations, motivational quotes, even pretty chapter headings–are they all worth it?

They may not be, money-wise. The more photos a Kindle file has, the more Amazon charges you to deliver the file to someone’s Kindle. Those pennies add up. (Hat tip to Mark Leslie Lefebvre for doing some quick math in Killing it on Kobo, as Kobo does not charge that delivery fee.)

Also, if the photo is a spectacular array of color, only a fraction of your readers will be able to see it in color.

Indies are constantly fighting for discoverability and adding bonus content like that hasn’t taken off quite yet. I think mainly because formatting extra content is so time-consuming–especially for a newbie author. And adding extra content would make it more expensive if you hire out formatting services.

I was lucky, and I formatted¬†The Years Between Us with Vellum. The software inserted the invitation with no problem, especially in the paperback. I didn’t have to worry about gutters or margins. All I had to do was make sure the invitation was 300 dpi for printing, and I did that in GIMP.

Vellum even allowed me to add the pretty chapter starts to Summer Secrets that I tried to do the first time around. I was too new and lacked the experience to insert them using Word and CreateSpace.summer secrets chapter starts

I also carry that image onto the back of my paperback books, and I’m really proud of that, too.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

But when it comes down to it, should you take the time to offer more content? Could that time be used to make another editing sweep, or start a new book?

Readers may appreciate the extras, but only if they enjoy the story.

The book’s recipes won’t matter if your baker’s story falls flat (pun intended) and your reader doesn’t make to the end to see them.

What readers want is a good story that pulls them in, and characters they’ll grow to care about.


 

As a side note, while I was typing out this blog post, I came up with another reason why indies don’t want to offer bonus content to the backs of their books.

Indies focus on a CTA, Call To Action. Indies want their readers to leave a review, or sign up for a newsletter, or buy the next book. Back matter is valuable real estate, and I don’t think most indies format their books with a lot of gunky back matter to get in the way of their important call to action.

And for what it’s worth, you need to be careful how much extra “stuff” you put backBe careful when considering adding bonus content to your book. there. We don’t hear much about the bookstuffers anymore, those pesky indies who would load up a Kindle file with 5-10 books to make a crap-ton of money with the KU page reads. But even if we’re not hearing about it much right now, it’s still happening. They know it takes a while for people to catch on to their new pen names.

Anyway, I wouldn’t want you think that offering bonus content was a fabulous idea and to get in trouble in any way for it. Offering a bonus novella in the back of your book, or offering the first half of a second book in a series, is too much. Put the novella for sale separately. Only add the first scene of the new book. It’s just a word of caution. Bonus content can be taken too far.

Please read KDP’s guidelines for adding bonus content.

While adding character profiles and outlines of the book before it came to fruition can sound like a great idea, keep in mind that as the guidelines states, it should enrich the reader experience.

I think that’s sound advice, especially since the reader experience begins with the story.

If you can hook them with a fantastic story, then all that extra content will be exactly that . . .

A bonus.

And maybe they’ll leave a five star review, too. Who knows?

The Years Between Us is Available!

It’s May 1st, and The Years Between Us dropped out of pre-order and it’s available! I just approved the paperback so that should pop up on Amazon shortly.

The book has been in pre-order for so long that I forgot it was out there. Since I finished it up and listed it, I’ve written the first book in my Wedding Party series and close to finishing the second book with about 15,000 more words to go.

I’ll chat with you about a couple things, and then I am off for the Sell More Books Show Summit in Chicago for the weekend, hopefully to learn how to market my books and put them in the hands of eager readers. I’ll recap that when I get back.

For now, I’ll let you know I only did pre-order to give myself some time to write. I released All of Nothing in October, and everyone says that six months between books is way too long. I agree. For most indie romance writers, three months is probably the maximum they leave between books, some even publishing 50,000 words every month. I still think I write pretty fast considering I have two children, three cats, and I work a day job to pay bills. I also see my sister once a week, I try to walk and catch up on podcasts, and I write this blog. So it’s not like when I’m not writing I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs. But even if I could sweep all that aside, I don’t think I could produce more than three books a year, and that’s okay. I don’t want to write less than 70,000 word books (now that my novella streak is over) and sometimes that means plotting a little more and taking time with character development.

At any rate, the pre-order I did wasn’t to gain sales during the pre-order period, and that’s a good thing since I only had ONE pre-order on Amazon. I actually clicked the wrong button on Draft2Digital, so I didn’t know until a couple days ago my book was already available through them since April 17th. I would have been upset had I been trying to do a proper launch, but in my way of doing quiet, (AKA not telling anyone) launches, no one probably knew about my mistake.

As my 13 year old daughter likes to say, Whatevs.


May Goals

I have a few May goals.

  1. One is that I need to redo my trilogy covers.
    They are okay as far as being homemade, but I’ve gotten better at my skills, and well, trends have changed since the two and a half years since I published them.¬† Last night I took a look at the top 100 in contemporary romance on Amazon to get a feel of what’s out there. I’ve been looking at www.depositphotos.com to find new couples. For the amount of open door sex scenes in my books, my couples have too many clothes on. I’ve come to realize this through reader feedback and the fact that Freebooksy, when I did a promo for Don’t Run Away, wanted to put it in the sweet romance category. So I’ll be looking for couples who have a playful, sexy, fun vibe about them. As always, this took some doing because I needed to find couples that looked like they belonged together since’s it’s a trilogy. I’ve also been studying font and the color of the titles. A hot pink/fuchsia is in, along with a hot aquamarine in a handwritten font. I think I got it, but now I have to go through the trouble of creating them, and swapping them out with all the other vendors. Including Ingram Spark if I decide to keep my books listed there. Is it time for a drink yet?
  2. Finish book two of my Wedding Party Series.
    I have book two almost done, and I probably could have finished it if I wasn’t going out of town this weekend. I also realized that book two is stronger than book one, and since the stories parallel the same timeline, I can move book two to into book one position without too much rewriting. Jared and Leah are going to need a bit of rewriting anyway. I wrote on half before my surgery, the second half after, and I feel the ending isn’t as strong as it could be. I’m being very careful how all these are written and published because I want good read-through. To read more of my thoughts about writing a series click here.¬†
  3. Start book three. 
    I should¬† be able to start book three. I have the characters and their backstories mapped out. I have an inkling of some things that will happen, but I still need to sit down plot out the BIG BAD and of course, make sure I add some wedding stuff in there. Like, I don’t know, Marnie and James’s actual wedding. They aren’t going to be a premiere couple, but they are the reason this series is in creation, so I better get them married off.
  4. Start and finish an editing project.
    I’m helping a friend of mine edit the sequel to one of her books. I’ve already done one sweep, and she sent it to me again. It shouldn’t take me long to get through it, so I can’t even count this as a goal, just something that I’ll be working on the first week in May. I’m excited for her, and I love helping her. I’m proud of the work she’s done on her books because like you and me, we have a lot going on but she doesn’t let that stop her.

May looks to be shaping up into a busy month, but now that the weather has finally cleared up, my cat isn’t sick anymore, I’m healing from surgery just fine, and whatever else little things I was going through seems to have tapered off for now (knock on wood for me) I should be able to to cruise through writing this series and being able to publish them toward the end of fall/beginning winter of this year, into the rest of winter of 2020. All the while, of course, writing another book, which will be a new standalone that I’m already quietly plotting out.

A writer's work is never done. There is always a new story to tell.


It’s also not lost on me that I’ll be needing to look at promos here soon, and what exactly I can do to bump up sales. The new covers to my trilogy will be a start. To be honest, I’ll probably need to redo the cover to All of Nothing, too. I’ve gotten some reader feedback that Jax is so much of an ass that readers didn’t care for him all that much. Rewriting the blurb and redoing the cover to better prepare readers for his unlikable personality may head off more negative reviews. While I try not read reviews, when opinions make it to me, I try to listen. All of Nothing is very love it or hate it, and if I can prepare my readers by changing the cover to more of a bad-boy type, and rewriting the blurb to focus on how damaged he is, that would be a win for me.

By the beginning of 2020 I’ll have ten contemporary romance books out in my genre. They will be good, solid books, and there’s no reason why I can’t start making some money. I’ve been waiting to build a backlist, which I am doing, quite well, if I do say so myself. Now I just have to put my books to use because there’s no point in writing them if no one is going to be reading them. AmIright?¬†


If you want to take a look at¬†The Years Between Us, it is live on all platforms. Zia Bishop is in love with an older man, and you’ll have to read to see how that turns out! Click the photo to be directed to your favorite retailer! If you’re waiting for the paperback, that should be available soon. There’s no reason why KDP Print should find anything wrong with it.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend!

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

Sad Endings versus Happily Ever Afters

And they lived happily ever after!

My friend Sarah wrote a blog post about Happily Ever Afters or HEAs. I wrote a response to that, but she said it was lost in the ether and it never posted. Anyway, I figured my response would be a good blog post so here are my thoughts about endings and happily ever afters.

Do all books need one? While I write romance, and I’m required to give one in my books, maybe you’d be surprised when I tell you that not all books need a happily ever after.

But.

But there needs to be some kind of ending that offers a sense of satisfaction to your reader. Something that offers closure.

We do this for a couple of reasons:

  1. Because readers have spent quite a few hours with you by the time they reached the end of your book.
    Look, reading a book takes a few hours, if not a few days. Maybe a couple of weeks. Anytime a person gives you that time, and pays you for the privilege on top of it, they deserve a little respect, don’t you think? Life is busy. We have jobs, kids, pets, spouses, and other responsibilities. When a reader sits down with your book, that’s an honor. And one you as a writer shouldn’t take lightly.And they lived happily ever after! 2
    Authors do, though.
    We see it in the way they offer books that haven’t been edited, or are formatted incorrectly. We see it in the way they offer stories with flat characters, plot holes, and endings that don’t make sense. And I have to ask, why would a writer disrespect their readers that way? It happens way too often, and readers don’t have time for it. With so much content out there now, and free, too, readers don’t have to waste time with you. Yet writers get offended when a reader points out a book’s flaws. This includes an unsatisfactory ending.
  2. A reader has just spent 10 plus hours going through hell with your characters, and readers want to know that through all that, at least they are on the right track to a better life.
    When readers go through hell and back, it’s nice to know that meant something. Otherwise, what is all the pain for? Your characters can’t go through 250+ pages of fire and brimstone without getting something out of it, right?
    What’s the point of the pain and the suffering without the offer of hope?
    That was something I heard when I listen to a couple people talk about The Walking Dead. I’ve never watched it; zombies aren’t my thing. But the woman said she stopped watching it because there wasn’t any hope, and the despair week after week brought her down.
    Humans need hope.
    Prisoners of war survive for years with the hope that one day they will be rescued. I just finished watching the documentary series about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Her parents have to have hope that one day their daughter will be found or they would just shrivel into a ball and die. Is the offer of hope enough for your book? That depends on your plot and the journey your characters have gone through. But your readers need the promise that there is a very good chance your characters will be okay because they learned enough on their journey to make better choices.
  3. Life is hard enough as it is.
    Readers read to escape. That doesn’t mean you have to give them rainbows and sunshine, but our lives don’t end on page 305. Real life consists of good days, bad days, super great days, an horrific days. But we keep on. When a reader reads a book, they expect, I’d venture to say,¬† a happily ever after, even if there isn’t much happy. In a kidnapping case, maybe the child is never found–but the kidnapper is. The parents will never find closure, but the detective working the case had, technically, done his job. Would you be happy with such a book? Or would you be happier if the child is found as well? In real life, missing children stay missing. Sometimes their abductors are found and punished. A plot like that is realistic. My friend says she writes realistic fiction, so a plot like that would be acceptable to her, more than likely.
    But does it belong in a book? Do the parents deserve closure? What about the detective? He’ll carry that burden for the rest of his life. What feels right for the story? What feels right for the characters? What feels right to the reader? As the author, you are in control. What feels right to you?

And they lived happily ever after! 3

There is a saying out there that a story is never-ending, the author just chooses to stop writing. I suppose this is true, and it amuses me to think about my characters living life without me, maybe breaking up when I fought with my laptop so hard to push them together. Maybe this is why series are so popular. We get attached to characters and want to keep reading. Does that happily engaged couple really get married, or do they break up after all? Does that detective finally find love despite his long hours and alcoholism? Does that one serial killer who got away finally get caught? Or in the case of that missing child, is she finally found and reunited with her parents?

Humans are hardwired to find the happy. There are a lot of trite sayings about happiness. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. Learn to be happy with what you have. Happiness is a state of mind. The list goes on, but with books, I think we can say that yes, happiness is a journey and it starts on page one, but it is also a destination and it’s found on the last page of your book.

And they lived happily ever after! 5

Here’s the thing. If your reader comes away mad at you, not only do you risk losing them as a future reader, you risk losing the next sale. Writers don’t write for money, but authors publish books for the sale. Why would you leave money on the table offering or reader a mediocre ending at best?

Think of any TV show that wasn’t ended properly. Castle, Lost, Seinfeld. Think of how you felt when you invested years of your life to be rewarded with a lukewarm ending. Now think of shows that weren’t ended at all, just cut off because they didn’t bring in the ratings.

You feel cheated.

And then you wonder, as an author, why people would be angry at you if you didn’t deliver a satisfactory ending.

quote-the-first-page-sells-this-book-the-last-page-sells-your-next-book-mickey-spillane-131-21-05

Writers, readers, and TV watchers aren’t different. We want the hope, we want the idea these characters can make something of their lives despite the hell they just went through. Is why Scarlett O’Hara makes such an imposing figure on that hill, her family soil clutched in her fist. She’d lost Rhett. But she wanted him back. She fought for Tara and won.

“Tomorrow is another day,” she said.

Your characters won’t have another day.

Unless you write the sequel.

Scarlett did have a sequel. Alexandra Ripley wrote her one. Scarlett’s happily ever after was hard-won.

But she did it.

How will your characters find theirs?

There are a lot of resources about endings. James Scott Bell just came out with The 50 Last Pages. Check it out here. 

Happy for Now? You Decide:
https://bookriot.com/2016/03/14/should-romance-novels-always-have-happy-endings/

https://writingcooperative.com/hea-vs-hfn-aea4ad42f7c5


Still writing my Wedding Party series! Check back often for an update!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

all pictures except Mickey Spillane were found on pixabay.com and made with canva.com. Mickey was found in a Google search and taken from https://www.azquotes.com/author/13953-Mickey_Spillane

My Going Wide Adventures–ebooks (and last post)

I started the process of going wide some time ago, and I can say that for now my ebooks have been successfully published wide.

I got tired of waiting for my trilogy to drop out of KDP Select, so I took some advice and emailed Amazon and asked them to be taken out. I made it easy by giving them the ASIN numbers for the books. They were very prompt and my trilogy was taken out of Select the next day.

canceling select blog post picture

I didn’t waste any time publishing my trilogy on Draft2Digital and Kobo. When I uploaded them onto those platforms, I priced Don’t Run Away for free. Amazon won’t let you do that; they prefer you enroll in Select and use their free days in your marketing plans. Kobo and Draft2Digital had no problem with pricing my book for free, and after Don’t Run Away was published, I emailed Amazon with the buy links to Kobo and Barnes and Noble proving Don’t Run Away was free, and they price matched. blog picture kdp free book

don't run away free amazon buy page

This will be my permafree book to hopefully draw readers in to my other books that they’ll want to buy. I hate that Don’t Run Away has so few reviews, and I still have that one stinker of a review saying she hated it because of the swearing. So I think I’ll be concentrating a little bit on some cheaper promos to see if I can’t bump up those reviews a bit. While this blog post is about my process of going wide, not marketing strategy, I have to remember that Amazon isn’t the be all end all of my sales any longer. Any promo is good though, so I’ll still throw a little money at it anyway. The trilogy is strong, I think, and when it was in KU I got decent read-through. So we’ll see.

books on draft to digitalbooks on draft to digital2

You can see I haven’t made any money, but going wide is a process, and I haven’t done any marketing yet.

Kobo is the same.

books on kobobooks on kobo2

Besides emailing KDP to pull¬† my books out of Select, things went fine, and emailing KDP wasn’t even a big deal–I just felt bad doing it. But as I tell my friends, this is a business, don’t take things personally. I’m sure the KDP rep who pulled my books out of Select didn’t give a crap what I was doing, he was just waiting to go to lunch. So, no harm done.

The Years Between Us will be released soon. The pre-order ends May 1st. I needed a bit of time to get ahead with my series, and I hope by the time The Years Between Us is released, I’ll have book two almost done.

I don’t have the paperback loaded into Ingram Spark yet, only KDP Print. I’ve already gone over the proof, so all I need to do is hit publish when the ebook is released. The Years Between¬†Us is on pre-order through Draft to Digital as well as Kobo, and you can pre-order it at any retailer here.

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

I use Universal Book Links¬†to create buy links for my books. They’ll pull from everywhere your book is sold and when a reader clinks on the link, they will be directed to a retailer page so they can choose which vendor to purchase your book from. When I clicked on the buy link for The Years Between Us above, this came up:

universal book link result

Then all your reader has to do is click on the logo of the store where they want to buy your book. That way you don’t have to have a million different buy-links when you do an ad or something. You can thank the team at Draft2Digital for putting that together for us indies.

The other thing I did was email Kobo and ask for access to the promotions tab. The promotions tab is for Kobo readers only, and allows you to ask the Kobo Writing Life team for consideration for certain promotions the website hosts. You need to email them for access though, as it doesn’t automatically pop up when you list your books for sale there. I’m excited to start making use of those promotions, and now that I’m done with some administrative work going wide created, I can spend more time marketing.

I only put my six contemporary romances wide. I did that because 1) The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book and could use a good editing sweep, which I’m not willing to take the time to do right now, and 2) Summer Secrets is erotica and not the genre I’m going to write ever again. They aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, either, because I didn’t want to get anyone grumpy at me for only have part of my library in KU. I could always put them wide and make them permafree, but I don’t think that would do much for me as I don’t intend to write those genres again, and while Don’t Run Away will always be free, the main point of going wide and writing in one genre is to find a readership and sell books. Selling books usually, if you do it right, means making a bit of money, and who doesn’t want that?

If you have any questions for me about going wide, please let me know! I’ll cover paperbacks in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

 

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Writing is a Bitter Business

I was talking to a friend the other day about blogging. I enjoy her blog posts and I asked her why she doesn’t blog more. She said, “I think I sound bitter.” I thought about that, and while I didn’t think that was true, I realized she had a point.

Writing is a bitter business.

When I say writing, I mean all aspects of it. Finding the time to write, the building of your writer’s platform, publishing, and finding readers.

Why is writing a bitter business?

Let’s explore:

  1. Writing is hard.
    No one appreciates what you go through on a daily basis. Writing words is hard, and lonely. And no one can make you do the work. It’s not like going to a real job where you get paid every two weeks, and you can get fired for not showing up. Sometimes it takes months to earn royalties; sometimes it takes years. Sometimes the only payment you receive for your writing is your own sense of of accomplishment. If that isn’t enough for you, how do you keep going? What makes you turn on your laptop or open that notebook or open that Google Docs app on your phone day after day after day? Besides raising children and being a faceless trash collector, I can’t think of a more thankless job.
  2. There’s no pay.
    I touched on this a bit in number one. Not only is writing hard, you’re not getting paid. I’m not getting paid for writing this blog post. I’m not getting paid for the books that are on sale on Amazon right now. I don’t get paid to tweet, update my Facebook author page, or write a long description to go with a photo on Instagram. If you feel bitter because money isn’t flowing to you, you need to think about what you can do about that.
    Do you not have books for sale? That should be your main priority. Do you offer helpful, evergreen content on your blog? Maybe sign up for Ko-fi and ask for consumers of your work to tip you for it, or start a Patreon account. The problem is, when you’re new and just starting out, getting paid is hard. No one knows who you are. But to be fair–this happens in every profession. They are called interns.

    intern joke

    taken from pinterest

    And they work for free. Sometimes if the internship is a part of their university curriculum, they PAY to intern for credit toward their diploma. I pay to blog. I pay for my domain name, and I’ve upgraded my WordPress plan.
    I’m doing the opposite of getting paid, and probably so are you.

  3. No one cares.
    This is a big one, and the one that trips up my friend. In a sea of writers and free content, no one cares what you’re doing. I feel this myself when I release a new book. I press Publish and get on with my day. There is no big cover reveal, there’s no blog tour, there’s no FB author page takeover or FB party. There are a couple reasons why I do this. One, I’m building a back list; I’m always writing the next book. And two, I know on certain platforms like Twitter, that’s not where my readers are, and announcing it won’t do anything for me. Sure, there might be a couple of people who will congratulate me, and that’s nice. But anyone cultivating their social media accounts hoping for sales will come away bitter. So I publish and keep writing.
  4. You feel like you’re screaming into the void.
    Let’s be real–that’s what blogging is at first. You blog to no one. You have zero followers, and when you check your analytics, you have zero visits.
    But that happens to absolutely everyone who starts a new blog. Everyone. It’s made even worse when you don’t have a solid social media presence to announce your blog on. Blogging is hard for writers. Do we blog for other writers? Do we blog for our readers? How do we do that if we don’t have a book out yet? What do we blog about that hasn’t been said a million times? You put in a couple of hours writing, making graphics in Canva, push Publish . . . all for nothing. It’s very easy to become bitter. To read my thoughts on starting a blog, look here.
  5. You don’t have support at home.
    Your significant other says you’re not making money, so you’re better off investing your time somewhere else. Like at a real job. Your kids want you to play. Your husband won’t help with chores. No one wants to walk the dog or scoop litter. You get accused of wasting time online when you’re trying to build a social media platform and/or write through a sticky scene in your story. Laundry needs to be done. You feel like a trout swimming upstream and some days you feel like there’s no point in fighting all this resistance.
    The problem with this is everyone needs their own life outside of who other people perceive them to be. You’re more than just a partner, a mom, a dad, a daughter or a son. People can’t see you writing, or rather, they can’t see the results. When you relax in the bath, you’re taking an hour to yourself. When you go for a run, you are doing something for your health. When you spend an hour doing almost anything else, people can see that. Appreciate it. Why is writing different? You spend an hour in front of the computer for months, sometimes years, and you walk away with your hands empty. Never mind that during that time you might have published two books digitally on Amazon. It still looks like you’ve wasted all that time. And if you don’t have sales, it’s easy to agree with the crabby husband who wants you to get a job, already. Yeah, it feels like all that work was for nothing, and bitterness takes hold.
  6. There are too many of us.
    Holy cow–the writing community has exploded on Twitter in the past couple of months. There are more writers online than lice on a kid’s head during an outbreak at school. It’s easy to feel invisible. What’s worse is we all want the same thing. We want agents and book deals and readers. And it hurts when we see other writers

    candle quote

    picturequotes.com

    earn those things. (I do say earn, because querying is hard work!) We’re told over and over again there’s only so much shelf space at the bookstore, there are only so many agents, so many publishers. While Writer Twitter is supportive, no one can deny there’s a current of competitiveness underneath the goodwill. We’re competing against each other. The saying is true–lighting someone else’s candle won’t put out your own flame–but it’s hard to watch someone get what you want. Especially if you are really trying your best.


What can we do to shake the bitterness?

  1. Define your success.
    What does success mean to you? For some people that simply means finishing a book. For others, it’s pushing the Publish button. Still for others, it’s their first five-star review. The thing with success is you need to be realistic. We all know EL James didn’t become famous over night, nor did Hugh Howey. We all start somewhere, so you need to start small and celebrate the small successes, no matter how tiny they are. That might mean buying a bottle of Prosecco for your first ten blog followers, or going out for a night of dinner and dancing with friends when you finish the first draft of your book.
  2. What do you want from social media?
    I know a few people with a love/hate relationship with Twitter, and I understand the struggle. I do. You put all this time in engaging with other people, tweeting, connecting, networking–and for what? That depends on why you’re on there. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. It will show in your lack of engagement and lackluster content. If you don’t like Twitter, focus on a Facebook Author page or cultivate a following on Instagram. Because the fact is, you may hate social media, but even if you do the bare minimum and only have a website for an author landing page, you still need somewhere to announce you have one. This is especially true if you’re not publishing and you don’t have back matter in a book to use to direct your readers to your website or newsletter sign up.
    So what do you want from your social media platform? Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers. A Facebook Author page can give your readers a place to find you. Start a Facebook reader’s GROUP and form a book club or place to talk about books. If you live in a cool place like my friend who lives in Hawaii, or you have lots of pets–whatever you think will interest an audience–if you’re more visual, maybe post pictures on Instagram. But the sooner you realize that social media is more for being social and networking than selling whatever you’re peddling, you may form a truce with start to enjoy yourself. I like Twitter. I keep up care about other peoplewith industry news that way. A ton of agents and book bloggers hang out on Twitter. If you ever plan to query, befriending agents and creating a professional connection can’t steer you wrong. Social media is about caring about other people. Think of the 80/20 rule. 80% of your content needs to be about other people. If you care about other people, other people will care about you.
  3. Realize that writing is a long game.
    No one got famous overnight for writing. It just feels like they did. That debut that turns into a blockbuster is few and far between and usually has a team of people behind the launch. This year will be my third year in indie publishing. I don’t make much in sales. I only have 226 people subscribed to my blog. I have barely 100 likes on my FB author page. I have 14.7 followers on Twitter, but when I tweet something I’m lucky if I can get five likes. I could get bitter about it, but why?

    In fact, in a delicious piece of irony, on Twitter I asked writers what made them bitter about the writing/publishing industry. No one answered.

    I love to write and all of the stuff I mentioned would just be a bonus. But I’ll get there. Three years might seem like a long time for someone who wants instant gratification, but guess what? Publishing doesn’t work that way. I’m still a baby in this industry and I’m smart enough to realize it. If you’ve been writing for a year with nothing to show for it, realize this is common. People have wildly exaggerated expectations when it comes to self-publishing and while 12 years ago it could have made you rich like Amanda Hocking, it’s not true anymore. There are too many of us and times have changed. It doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel, but it does mean you have to change your way of thinking.
    If it helps, think of the intern. She might be an intern now, but in ten years she could be CEO of the company. But she’ll never make it that far if she quits.
    Or lets all those coffee runs make her bitter.

  4. Remember this is about craft.
    Sure, those people who are selling crappy books might have a sales bump every once in a while, but are they are selling to new people all the time, or are they cultivating a loyal readership with well-written stories and lovable characters? It’s easy to get caught up in the other stuff–Facebook, blogging, Twitter likes, but the fact is, none of that matters if you aren’t working on your craft. Build a foundation on good stories.
  5. People may be cheering for you without telling you.
    You could have fans without knowing it! People who want to see you succeed. They follow your blog, look for your tweets. They’re disappointed when you don’t update your author page on Facebook. You can’t assume you’re in this alone, because that probably isn’t true. Snowstorms begin with a single snowflake. Your core readership will begin with one reader. Don’t disappoint her by being bitter.

In closing, I know it’s hard. I’m right there with you. I entered All of Nothing into the RITAs, and it didn’t advance. I tried not to be bitter. Especially since I think All of Nothing is my strongest book so far. And especially since I compared it to the books I had to judge as part of my entry, and¬†especially¬†when I read the list of finalists.

This isn’t anything a writer wants to admit. We should all be supporting each other and be happy for one another. And I’m delighted for the finalists. But I wish I had been one.

women helping women

It doesn’t mean I’ll never have the chance to enter again, and that doesn’t mean I won’t advance in a different contest some day.

But if I let my bitterness win out, then no, there will never be other contests in my future, or other books, either. So I need to keep my focus on why I write.

Because I love it. Simple as that.

And that may not be the case for you. There’s no judgment here. If you can’t write without the support of a loved one, if you can’t blog because no one has subscribed to it, if you don’t want to finish your book because when you tweet about it no one encourages you, then don’t.

Writing isn’t for everyone. Circle back around in a couple of years when circumstances in your life change. Circle back around when your priorities have shifted. Circle back around when you’re ready to put in the time and the work.

Writing is between you and your readers. That’s it.

And there’s nothing bitter about that.

bitterness