Launching your book. Is there anything you can do to have a great launch?

your book launch

I have to get this disclaimer out there: I suck at launches. I hit PUBLISH and kind of move on. In fact, this goes in line with what Andrea Pearson says on the new 6 Figure Authors Podcast with Lindsay Buroker and Joseph R. Lallo. She recommends not bothering to market until you have at least ten books out.

As I found out being $70 bucks in the hole doing Amazon ads for The Years Between Us (I still haven’t updated that blurb, dammit!) sometimes spending money on marketing and advertising is just a waste of money that you may not ever get back.

But sometimes you wanna throw a little money at a new book, and maybe if you can hit the right notes it can take off and Amazon might show your book some love. That chance is getting smaller and smaller because of the competition, but it never hurts to try. You might get lucky.

Launching can take some planning, so I’ve been mulling over ideas. Because only half the books are edited, I don’t have blurbs or titles yet, and I only have basic concepts for the covers, my launch is going to go into next year. I’m a little embarrassed since I’m 18k into book 2 of my SUPER SECRET PROJECT trilogy, and I’ve been spending more time writing that than I have working on my series. That’s what you get when you chase after the shiny objects. 

When we talk about launches, probably the top two things seasoned authors will tell you is to announce it to your email list and reach out for newsletters swaps.

I can’t do this because 1. I don’t have a email list, and 2. because I don’t have a newsletter (email list) I can’t ask around. I mean, I could ask, but I would have to be clear that I cannot reciprocate. So I’m reluctant to ask because swapping implies doing it in return at some point, and I can’t. To me it would feel like asking for favors, and I don’t like owing people.

If you don’t have a street team, email list, or friends to help you out, what can you do? The only options are then to fling some money at your book.

But first, before you shove money at it, try to get some reviews.

This is my tentative plan when I have my series ready to go:

  1. Put my book on BookSprout before I put the ebook in KU. You can publish your paperback ahead of your Kindle book. Reviewers can’t put up a review on a preorder so the way authors are getting around this is publishing the paperback before the Kindle book. That way, when you do publish your Kindle book, it will have reviews. (You may have to contact Amazon to have them linked up to make the reviews show up for both versions.)
    In a previous blogpost, I questioned the quality of the reviews from BookSprout, but you have to weigh what you need versus what you want. If you can grab four or five reviews from them at least you have something to get your book off the ground. Some readers won’t read anything that doesn’t have a review. And if you have only one book out and no one knows your name, your chances of a reader picking up your book without reviews is even lower. BookSprout will offer your book to 20 ARC readers for free. If 25% of them leave a review, you can publish your Kindle book with a few stars, at least.your book launch (2)
  2. Buy some promos. I want to have my whole series published when I do this. That way the promo for book one is actually going to be for all the books in the series, and I’m hoping for some serious read-through.
    The two places I’m going to try are: Red Feather Romance. This is a promo site run by Written Word Media who also offers Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy. I’ve tried both of those before, and I’ve had better luck with Freebooksy. But I tried Bargainbooksy on a standalone, and I’ve come to realize marketing a standalone is not cost-effective. Ereader News Today. I haven’t tried this service, but other authors swear by it. I like trying something new every time I release a book, if anything, just so I can blog about it.When you look at promo sites, make sure before you apply that they don’t have a minimum review policy. Some don’t, some do, so it’s best to be sure you don’t need 10+ reviews before you apply for a promo. It saves time.

    Also keep in mind your publication date. Popular promo sites book out a couple weeks in advance. If you’re launching  your Kindle version on January 10th, you may need to rethink it if you can’t get a promo date until February.

    This brings up the subject of release pricing. I think I’ll release the first book in the series at .99 and release the other books at 2.99.  I’ve tried 3.99 and that seems to be too high. When you’re releasing into KU, price doesn’t seem to matter as much because you’re going more for the page reads than you are sales. If you’re wide, price matters a little more, and then you have to research in your genre what other books are going for.

  3. Ads. I may still do some Amazon ads a few weeks after the release of book 4. That might keep my sales and page reads up after the 30 day drop off when I run out of books to release. I’ll have my SUPER SECRET PROJECT close to being done, probably, but that will be under a different name so I won’t have the power of this release behind it. What little power there might be.

your book launch (1)

I’m being realistic with this launch. My kind of books are not what’s selling right now. You might wonder how that’s possible, because romance is romance. But if you take a look at the top ten, only three of them are written in third person past, and one of them is from Nora Roberts. I don’t count her.

  1. Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward: 1st person past
  2. The Family Journal by Carolyn Brown: 3rd person past
  3. Crazy for Loving You: A Bluewater Billionaires Romantic Comedy by Pippa Grant: 1st person present
  4. Havoc at Prescott High (The Havoc Boys Book 1) by C.M. Stunich: 1st person present
  5. A Nora Roberts reprint from 2009: 3rd person past
  6. No Broken Beast by Nicole Snow: 1st person present
  7. Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor: 3rd person past
  8. My Big Fat Fake Wedding by Lauren Landish: 1st person present
  9. Insatiable: A Cloverleigh Farms Standalone by Melanie Harlow: 1st person past
  10. Stealing the Bride by Nadia Lee: 1st person present

You can dig deeper down the list and keep counting, but that small sample is enough for me. I’ve blogged about this before, too, how I think that 3rd person past is going out of style, and after my wedding quartet, I’ll have to decide if it’s even worth writing anymore. I mean, there’s no telling when 3rd person past might come back around. Everything circles around if you give it time. But you also have to resist banging your head into a brick wall trying to sell books readers don’t want.


Anyway, I’ve talked enough about my launch plans. It seems the best plans will incorporate a little teamwork by way of newsletter swaps, but it puts you in a hard place if you don’t have one of your own.

If you find this is the case, you can be stubborn like me and keep doing what you’re doing, or you can start a newsletter, and realize that it’s going to take you a couple years to build a list of readers where you can tell them about your releases and other books you enjoy. Also, there’s no time like the present to reach out and make some friends in your genre. If they’re your friends and want to help, maybe they won’t ask you for anything in return. Some people out there are still nice. Just be careful not to take advantage.

Got any other launch ideas? Let me know!


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Booksprout Review Service

 

book sprout logo

We all need reviews, and finding a platform that can deliver for a low cost or free is like a goldmine to an author. Reviews are social proof our books are good. They show potential readers that others have enjoyed it. They help us create ads either by being able to pull out the review itself for a graphic, or using keywords in all the reviews for our ad keywords.

For an example, here’s the graphic I made in Canva for Bookbub:

bookbub don't run away ad fourth try

There’s a lot of controversy around reviews. Some indie writers/readers insist on leaving poor reviews when reading books to “warn” other readers what a piece of crap it is.

I’d written blog posts about that before, and it’s one reason why I don’t promo my books on Twitter. Writer Twitter is full of people who think they write better than you and they are not shy letting you know about it.

There is even a review of Don’t Run Away by someone I gave a free copy to with a Starbucks gift card. I was getting rid of author copies that had a significant typo in it. Two years later her review pops up on Goodreads. Three stars, and her review starts “This normally isn’t my genre…”

I know they say that a mix of reviews is actually better for your book, but those kinds of reviews I can do without.

You’re probably in the same situation I am. You need reviews beyond family and friends, and the odd Twitter person who wants more than anything to say something bad about your book.

Real, helpful reviews are hard to come by. A reader’s first thought usually isn’t to leave a review of a book unless they were blown away. All they care about is what they’re going to read next.

I’m a member of quite a few groups on Facebook, and one group was talking about Booksprout. I always thought Booksprout was a tool to deliver books and arcs to readers from a list you provided, but Booksprout actually provides their own reader list. You can give away up to twenty arcs with the free option, fifty with one tier option, or unlimited with the second tier option.

booksprout pricing plans

Anyway, 20 out of 20 arcs were claimed for Don’t Run Away in 13 of 20 arcs were claimed for The Years Between Us.

You can choose how long to give your readers to read the book before a review is due, and I gave my readers a couple of months, just to be realistic. Then the reviews near that date started rolling in. Around this time, I was having huge doubts about being wide, and I gave my readers a few extra days to leave a review before deleting the arcs. I put my books back into KU because the quality of the reviews wasn’t worth waiting for. Meaning, I didn’t get all twenty for Don’t Run Away, and I didn’t get all thirteen for The Years Between Us.

The reviewers who did review my books gave them favorable stars, and maybe that’s all that matters to you. But the actual review was just a quick summary of the book. And I don’t mean one or two reviewers did that—most of them did it. At the end of each review was the sentence, “I was given a free copy of this book through books proud in exchange for an honest review.”

Here’s a sample:

booksprout review one

I mean, that’s not a bad thing. Honest transparency. But too many of those on all your books make you look like you’re buying reviews—which is exactly what you’re doing, free service or not.

I didn’t keep an eye on my reviews, and this one popped at me while taking screenshots:

booksprout review two

There are people on there who read the books, it seems, not just skim them. And I thank this reviewer from the bottom of my heart to see she got what I was trying to do with The Years Between Us. 

But overall, the quality of the reviews may not matter to you. If your book has zero you’re trying to gain some traction, you might think a review is a review, even a cardboard-sounding one. And that would be your choice.

I’m not against using Booksprout in the future. Put your arc out there ahead of time, have reviewers leave the review on the day the paperback comes out, wait a week for the reviews to populate, delete your arcs from Booksprout, and then announce your Kindle version is live. You’ll already have reviews for your book. (Thank you to Jami Albright for this release tip. One I’m going to try for the first book in my new series coming this winter.)

I don’t know if you really need to pull your arcs, but I prefer not to give Amazon a reason to give me the stinkeye.

If you have a book that doesn’t have many, if any reviews, give Booksprout a try. You never know if it will work for you.


What are some other ways to get reviews?

  1. Write a good book first. Most readers prefer to review good books. Give them thought-provoking material, or give them a good laugh, or information that will change their lives. The product always comes first.
  2. Ask. Authors are terrible at asking. Put a request in your back matter. If you enjoyed this book, please leave a review. That’s it. Don’t squish it in there with other calls to action. If you want reviews, ask, and leave it at that.
  3. If you have the cash, use a service like NetGalley. Make sure the services reputable otherwise you’re wasting money. You can take a look at my review of the Happy Book Reviews service here.
  4. Create an arc team. This can take some time, but it might be worth it in the long run. Start a Facebook group of readers in your genre and ask them to review your book when it comes out. Building a team can take a long time and lot of work.
  5. Start a newsletter. Build a newsletter following. Your fans will be the first in line to buy and review your book.

Not all reviews are created equal. I have more reviews on Goodreads than I do on Amazon. Maybe readers are more comfortable leaving reviews there, or maybe that’s their preferred platform because they feel they can be more honest. (Or just leaving a star review, something Amazon won’t let reviewers do.) Whatever the reason, a review is a review, so we should celebrate when our readers take the time to tell us what they think.

Let me know your experience with Booksprout, or if you think you’ll give it a try!


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My Midlife Crisis. I Mean, my Mid-Year Check In.

 

It seems completely crazy to me that half the year has gone by. After a crappy winter, my first as a divorced lady, plus a surgery (old news) and dealing with a POS car on top of all that, my spring smoothed out, THANK GOD.

surgery photo

How I started 2019. This smile was before I started puking from anesthesia.

Blaze got better and is fitting into our new family dynamics. I post a lot of pictures of her and my other cats over on Instagram. If you want to follow me there, click here for my profile link.

My car, after $600.00 in repairs, is running all right, but the countdown is on to buy something better.

I published The Years Between Us in May, but that too, is old news. Though, really, it doesn’t feel like old news. It still feels like a brand new book. Not many people have read it, and it has 0 reviews on Amazon. I have it on BookSprout, and if you want to nab a copy for review through that service, click here.

I had a nice vacation last month to Georgia with my sister, and I met up with David Willis, a fellow writer I met on Twitter a couple years ago. I can’t even tell you how much I adore the ocean.

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Spring is about new beginnings. Summer about shaking off the winter, sleeping in, and picking up more hours at work. Things are going as well as anyone can say their life is going.

Planning my next six months won’t be much of an undertaking. Like Adam Croft said in a New Year’s interview with Joanna Penn, he doesn’t treat the new year any differently. He does what he needs to do to get the things he needs done to write and publish books. And I feel that way about the rest of 2019.

When you are running your own business, being a self-starter and a self-motivator is a must. No one can force you to do the work. All you can do is look in the mirror and ask yourself if you want to sell your books or not. If the answer is yes, well, you can’t sell what you don’t have.

I’ll be finishing my Wedding Party series in the next few months. I’m 18,000 words into book three. As I write, I’ve been exploring covers. Formatting will be a snap with Vellum, but to put links in the back of the books, I’ll have to publish all of them at once so the links will be available, then I’ll need to add the links to the back matter and swap out those files. It’s nothing less than what other successful indies do, but it still sounds like a pain in the ass.

Anyway, anyone keeping track of my progress knows I’m getting a little fed up with this lack-of-sales thing I’ve got going on. It’s not my way to whine–in fact I tend to avoid those who do on a consistent basis. I can’t handle how energy-sucking it can be. I need all the energy I have for myself.

In the next 12 months, you’ll be seeing a lot more progress reports from me. I’ll do this because:

  1. not all of us are making money at this writing thing, and it’s okay to talk about it.
  2. if I find something that works for me, I want to share it because it might work for you, too.
  3. I’m at a point where my backlist should be making me a little money. Focusing on writing and not marketing has been at fault, but this is why I’m experimenting now. I thought All of Nothing would be a game-changer for me, and it has been in some ways. It’s the most-read book I have. But that was luck or better timing as when I used a free day and ran a Freebooksy, All of Nothing was in KU.

Why in this business does it feel like all roads lead to Amazon_ HMMMM.

My personal life probably has a lot to do with how I look at sales. But I’m not different than any other writer using their royalties to buy a better place to live, buy a newer vehicle, or pay down credit card debt.

Anyway, I’m doing what I can and what I can afford to do.

In September, I will be a part of an author panel and luncheon at the Fargo Public Library. I’ll be able to sell my books there too. A lovely woman who connected with me via LinkedIn emailed me the opportunity, and I said yes. While it may not yield any results, it made me remember that local networking can be just as important as networking online.

Something like this makes me excited I’m wide–if, after the luncheon, the library wants to carry my ebooks in their lending catalog, my books are available in the library program through Draft2Digital.

I’ll continue to blog in lieu of a newsletter. I prefer to blog, and every time I publish a new post, I gain new followers, so thank you for reading!

This post needn’t be too long. I’m struggling to write my books and stay afloat like many others out there. Some may have it better than me, some may have it worse. But as I have said many times in the past, we can only work with what we’ve got. Keep your chin up and a smile on your face.

Why in this business does it feel like all roads lead to Amazon_ HMMMM. (1)


Care to share how your 2019 is going? Drop me a comment.

Share a little triumph that will carry you for the rest of the year. ❤


My books are wide! Find them at your favorite ebook retailer.

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

all graphics made with Canva.com

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

Where I’m at with my Wedding Party Series

jaredandleah

My first try at creating an aesthetic. All pictures taken from Pexels/Pixabay/Unsplash


 

I said since there is going to be such a long time between releases, I would try to update my fabulous readers better on my writing process while I write my Wedding Party Series. It used to be called my Bridesmaid Quartet, but as I was planning out my characters, I realized I was writing about only three bridesmaids and a groomsman. The Wedding Party series is a little more accurate, and more than likely that’s what I’ll call it when I publish it.

So where am I at?

Okay, well, first of all, I had carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on January tenth. I was able to write 35,000 words (about half of my book) before that, and I was pleased the book sounded as well as it did as a first draft. Had I not had to take time to recuperate, I more than likely could have had the first book done by now.

But I did something I don’t like doing.

I left a previous book undone. The Years Between Us was technically done when I opened the file for Jared and Leah (I always name the file by my characters’ names because it takes a while for me to think up a title), but it wasn’t edited. That’s what I had planned to do while I was in recovery.

Recovery took a little longer than I had expected, and I slept a lot. I watched a lot of Netflix. Luckily, I had thought ahead and planned out a few blog posts, so my website didn’t go neglected. I tried to tweet when I could. But mostly I gave myself a pass and took two weeks of a needed break from a very hectic publishing schedule so far.

The Years Between Us

The unofficial cover for The Years Between Us. Made with Canva.com and photo from canstockphoto.com

I have been able to give The Years Between Us two on screen editing sweeps. I usually print it out and edit it on paper, but I’m thinking this time I’ll skip that step and go straight to the listening part of it. Thinking about this after writing this section of my post, I realized I can’t skip this step. When I edit on paper, that is when I break up my book into chapters. I don’t write my book with chapters in mind, only breaking up my POV changes with scene breaks, and when I print out my book, it’s easier to “chunk it up” while in paper form.  

I’ll be working on two books simultaneously, and I don’t particularly care for it, but I like writing Jared and Leah and there’s no rush to put out The Years Between Us. When I DO get it done, it will be going on a long preorder, just so I don’t have so long between books, though by romance indie publishing standards, since I published All of Nothing in October, I should have another book out now.

Anyway, I did realize not long ago while I was reading my friend Aila’s blog, I’ll need to change a few things, and the sooner the better. Most of the time I don’t care what I name my characters as long as I haven’t used the name before, and it matches what I think the character looks like. Towns are the same. Sometimes I look up names, sometimes I steal them from work. (I work in a call center and see names of cities and towns all day long.) Sometimes I use a name generator. I didn’t think anything of using Blue Ridge, Minnesota for my small town’s name. Until I was reading a blog post of Aila’s. Color me surprised when I saw this:

Harlot of Blue Ridge

Beautiful! (And used with permission. Thanks, Aila!)

All I can think is that the name of her book kind of got stuck in my mind. I mentioned it to her, and she was very gracious, saying I didn’t need to change it. But she thought of it first, she’s further into her WIP than I am, and seriously, there are so many other names to choose from, I don’t need to steal borrow anyone else’s. I can’t tell you how excited I am to read her book though, and if you want to follow along with her writing journey, you should follow her blog and give her a follow on Twitter. I can’t tell you enough how impressed I am with what she gives to the indie writing community.

I am not going to lie: it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things. I’m not 100% healed, meaning, I’m not 100% pain free. My doctor said it could take my body up to 12 months to repair itself. On the bright side, I don’t feel any worse than when I did before my surgery, and if I could type through the pain then, I can type through it now.

I went back to work last week, so I’m hoping that returning to a schedule will help me make better use of my time.

In my next blog post, I’ll break down what I’m doing with Jared and Leah, and maybe share an excerpt or two of what’s been going on!

Until next time!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

EL James has written another book! (And why does anyone care?)

e.l.-james-the-mister-livre

Photo taken from iD Boox. Click here for the article.

There was some big news in the book world last week: EL James has written another book!

50 shades

I heard about it in a few Facebook writing groups I’m in, and Publisher’s Weekly had to mention it in one of the newsletters I subscribe to.

The thing is, I don’t understand why anyone cares, and so passionately, it seems.

Well, I understand. Her 50 Shades of Grey took the romance community by storm and sold a record number of books. The trilogy was turned into movies, which, in turn, made E L James a household name and millionaire. It’s what any indie writer, or any writer, for that matter, dreams of.

el james books

She was a so-called “overnight success” (though her fanfiction of Twilight had been online for free for years prior) and the inventor of what is now called “Mommy porn.”

But why is it such big news that she’s writing again?

Even if you didn’t like 50 Shades of Grey, you have admire a woman who could write a few books that captivated so many people. Regardless of how well, or not well, they were written, James told a great story. If you want to read about what made her trilogy so intriguing, read The Bestseller Code. The authors of that book break down what James did (either purposely or by mistake) that made her books so un-put-down-able.

I didn’t read her books. I bought the trilogy a long time ago from a thrift store, and I flipped through the other two in a Target while my kids looked at toys. But I didn’t buy them.

I did, however LOVE the movies. I own them and rewatch them all the time. And yep, I paid to see them in the theatre. If the movies followed the storylines of the books at all, I can see where people would be intrigued.

But in terms of the indie community, I don’t understand the derision aimed at poor Mrs. James. I mean, if you’re going to roast her over an open flame for the bad writing, what are YOU doing to improve yours?

christian grey had his tools. do you have yours_

I’m glad that EL James has written another book. I’m glad she had the courage after being treated how she was by the writing community (proving once again that writers are not readers. READERS purchased her book, and it was the READERS who lined her bank account.) I’m glad she wasn’t intimidated by her own success.

I think this is an opportunity for writers to support other writers. What can we do to support other writers?

  1. Stop tearing each other down.
    EL James wasn’t fully responsible for her book being what it was. She was a first time author, and her publishing house could have supported the editing process more than it did. Instead they pushed out her book to make use of her popularity online. It paid off, but I’m not denying her book could have been edited better.
  2. Leave positive feedback. 
    Even the most horribly of written books can have positive things you can say about them. And if you feel you can’t be nice about anything, just don’t say anything at all. Sometimes silence really does speak louder than words.
  3. Don’t read outside the genre of your preference.
    The thing that made the most angry were the people who were dissing 50 Shades of Grey weren’t James’s target audience. 50 Shades was a New Adult, possibly Young Adult novel, and if you couldn’t appreciate the book for what it was–Anastasia Steele trying to find her place in the world while falling in love–then the book wasn’t for you to begin with.
  4. Learn from James’s mistakes.
    Instead of laughing at the kind of book 50 Shades is, take a look at what you didn’t like about it, and learn how to avoid those things in your own writing. Did she not pull off 1st person? Too many adverbs? Was her book too wordy? Were there plot holes? (The movies indicate there were.)
  5. But also realize she did SOMETHING right.
    She had to have, otherwise no matter how much marketing she had behind her, her books never would have taken off to the extent they did. What did she do right? She’s a good storyteller. Christian Grey was notably, romantically flawed. He was everything a reader wants in a romance novel hero.
  6. Be careful what you wish for.
    Success comes with people who will be jealous of you, and who will want to cut you down just for the fact you made it and they didn’t. To be ostracized for success isn’t something anyone wishes for. And while James seems to have had all the luck and success in this world, you want people to keep your books on their shelves–not donate them to a thrift store.
    This isn’t the kind of reading nook you want people to build with discarded copies of your books.

    50 shades fort

 

Congratulations to EL James on her release! Let me know if you plan to read it. 🙂

The Mister is on pre-order until April 16, 2019. If you want to preorder it, click here.

Thanks for reading!

 

My Promotion for All of Nothing with Freebooksy

It’s rather counterproductive to pay to give your book away. But Freebooksy isn’t the only place you can do it. There are numerous places to promote a free book, but I like Freebooksy because they seem to have the most reach. 

What can you hope for when you do a promo for a free book?

  1. It will drive traffic to your other books. This makes a backlist key.
  2. That someone will actually read it and post a review.
  3. It will boost your KU reads if you’re in Kindle Unlimited.

I guess that’s it. Mainly, you’re hoping for reviews and that people will like you enough to pay for your other books. Sometimes you get a bump in KU reads, but you definitely don’t have to spend what Freebooksy charges you for that. 

I ran a different Freebooksy ad a few months ago for Don’t Run Away, and you can read about here. Anyway, this ad did better in downloads, but we’ll see how it does over all, since Don’t Run Away is the first in a trilogy, and I got some decent read-through for that book with the ad. It came later, as some people take a bit to read a book or two or three, but after a few months, I was pleased with the results.

Anyway, so I also put my book free for the next day, in case there was anyone who maybe opened their email late and went to see if maybe the book was still free. I gave away 5,351 books on the real free day, the day the promo ran, and 867 books the next day, for a total of 6,218. (Too bad those weren’t sales.) I’m hoping that some of those will turn into reviews, but I may not know that for several months. Here is the graph of the downloads and what I got in KU reads from the date of the promo, until today, 11/17:

As you can see, there was a pretty big bump in KU reads for All of Nothing, but the promo did nothing to help with sales after the promo was over. That’s just for the one title though. Do we see a bump in sales for all my titles? Did the promo increase my visibility at all?  Let’s look:

Nope. But that’s okay. You have to start small, and for an indie, I don’t have many books out, anyway.

Everyone wants to know how much cash that equals out to, and let’s just say, I spent $100 on that promo, and I’ve only made a little over half back. I might, in the long run, but for right now, 8 days after my promo, that’s a no. 

Here’s what my promo looked like in the newsletter.  I was pleased I was at the top:

I love my cover; I loved the blurb I had to abbreviate from the longer one I have on Amazon. I’m really proud of this book, and I think it showcases how far my writing has come since I released 1700. 

If you downloaded All of Nothing, thank you! If you downloaded it but haven’t read it yet, I would love to know your thoughts when you do! And if you’ve read it, I would really appreciate the review, like this lovely one I got on Amazon:

We’re not supposed to respond to reviews, so reader, if you happen across this blog post, thanks for taking the time to review! I appreciate it. 

Would I consider the promo a success? That depends on what your version of success is. Giving away 6,000 books made good for my ranking:

But as we all know, free doesn’t mean too much. But all in all, I’m happy with the promo. I do want to try a Goodreads giveaway at some point, and they cost as much (or as little) as the Freebooksy ad. Maybe I’ll try it with my next book. But I have to pace myself since I won’t be publishing anything for a while as I write my Bridesmaid Quartet. I’m going to rapid release those, and I won’t be publishing them until all four books are done.

I would recommend doing a Freebooksy ad. So far I’ve liked the results of mine.

Until next time!

Where’d ya go, Chance Carter? (And other thoughts on author/reader loyalty.)

Actually, that question is pretty rhetorical. We all know what happened to Chance Carter. The self-proclaimed bad boy was very naughty, and not in a fun way, and Amazon punished him, and also again, not in a fun way.

But for those of you who don’t know what he did, I’ll just give you a quick recap:

Mainly Chance Carter got caught book stuffing. Meaning, he put more than one book into an e-book, made the reader “flip” to the end of the “book” to read the new content, and cashed in on page reads through Kindle Unlimited. Some books to the tune of over 2,000 pages. I hate math, so I won’t do it, but that’s a lot of page reads in KU when you think that a normal book might only be about 200+ pages depending on genre.

I wasn’t even aware of this term until whistleblowers David Gaughran and Nate Hoffelder blogged loud and long about people who violated Amazon’s terms of service. 

He did other things too, like offering raffles to readers who would review, and the biggest giveaway he did before his books were pulled was offer a chance to win Tiffany diamonds to anyone who would review.

This isn’t a blog post for trying to figure out if he was wrong or right, or dissecting his ethics when it comes to scamming.

What I want to talk about is our obligation to readers.

Chance had it going on. He had thousands of followers.  Thousands.

chance carter blog post 7_LI

Having that kind of following would be a dream for any author.

Even his fan groups were crazy with members.

chance carter blog post 8

When you have that kind of following, you owe it to your readers to be real. To be honest. I mean, that’s neither here nor there now, but once he was ousted,

he didn’t even say goodbye.

 

No press release, no private message to one person who could spread the word. Nothing.

chance carter blog post 2_LI

 

chance carter blog post 3_LI

chance carter blog post 4_LI

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Not an apology. Not an, I’ll fix this and I’ll be back.

He completely disappeared.

I see a lot of indie authors maintain a cavalier attitude toward their readers. Mainly because they don’t think they have readers.

But do you have a responsibility? Even if you just have one or two readers? Do you care what they think? Do you care if a friend is waiting for your next book? Your neighbor? Your followers on Twitter? The forty-five people who like your Facebook Author Page?

Maybe you don’t think your readers matter until your followers and readers are up into the thousands like Chance’s.

When your readers write you open letters asking you where you are and if you’re coming back. 

First, I guess you have to ask yourself, why are you publishing? What is your goal? I can think of two off the top of my head: Readers and Money. Maybe you don’t care so much about money and you publish on Wattpad, or you write fanfic and publish it to fanfic.net. But if you’re publishing on Amazon, or Smashwords, and/or everything in between, you’re probably hoping to make a little money. With hoping for sales you would like to become well-known for your books.

But not only books. Authors like Chance know their brand. They build their reputations from the ground up, by showing up, being present. By engaging with the people who read their books.

Readers who read books by consistent authors like Chance know what they are getting. Even his covers look similar.

chance carter blog post 9

That’s a series, but his other books, look similar too:

 

Pecs and abs. It’s not too hard to figure out why these were popular with the ladies.

 

But what does that mean about loyalty for you?

  • Publishing consistently. Self-publishing is a fast-moving wheel that waits for no one. There are a million books out there to read. If you want a following, you need to give your readers something to follow.
  • Do you genre hop? Do you write contemporary romance, then throw in a bit of horror? Do you write historical fiction then jump into sci-fi when the fancy strikes? It’s okay to write what you like, but not all readers will follow you to every new path you want to take when that shiny new idea takes over.
  • Are you accessible? Do you have an email address that you check and respond to? Do you engage on social media? Do you post to an author page? When someone shoots you a tweet, or mentions you in a blog post, do you respond? Do you use a real photo? I’m not saying all those are musts, but if you take a look at Chance’s social media history, you’ll see consistent posting, videos. He shared bits and pieces of his life.  Chance Carter probably wasn’t his real name, but he was real–to 122,000 people.
  • Do you have follow-through? If you say you’re going to do it, do it. Changing up plans in mid-stream because you don’t feel like you have enough of a positive response will teach your fans you can’t be trusted to do what you say you’re going to do.

It’s tough starting out. You feel like you’re writing for no one. But it takes time and patience to build your audience. Chance didn’t wake up one day and decide to have 122,000 followers on his FB page.

It’s too bad that he didn’t treat his followers with more respect. His readers liked his books and kept buying them. They didn’t need to be scammed into reading his books or leaving reviews. They would have done that on their own. Simply because they liked him and his work.

Now they feel betrayed, cheated, abandoned. Leaving messages on his FB Page:

chance carter blog post 5

 

Uncle Ben said, With great power comes great responsibility. Actually, I looked it up, and he stole it, but the idea is still the same.

If you’re looking for a large number of readers, treat the ones you have with respect and loyalty.

Begin as you wish to continue.

And all you Chance Carter fans out there–I’m building my Contemporary Romance audience. I may not be a bad boy like Chance, but I can write a sexy and kind hero too–and I can guarantee, he will always get his girl.


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Whine a Little . . . Over There

There’s been lots of whining on Twitter lately. More specifically, authors whining about not seeing books sales. Even more specifically, authors not seeing their books sell.

Maybe it’s because we’re in the dog days of summer, or people aren’t looking forward to school starting, or the crap we’re all going to have to deal with when THE HOLIDAYS start in full-swing October first.Dog Days of Summer

But whatever it is, it needs to stop. Because YOU, and nobody else but you, can make sales happen for your book.

Mostly, this is on Twitter. I can say it louder for the people in the back. TWITTER ISN’T FOR SELLING BOOKS. If you’re a member of Writer Twitter, you’re a member of WRITER Twitter. There’s a reason why it’s called that. Because we’re writers. Join READER Twitter. It’s gotta be there somewhere. Maybe #amreading is wedged between #IhateTrump and #turtlesareweird. If you’re convinced Twitter is the only way to sell books, or it’s the only way you want to try, break into the #amreading crowd. Or try. I’ll leave a light on for ya.

But if you want to take stab at moving books instead of whining about it, explore these ideas. First though, you need to take a look at your book.

  • Cover needs to be decent. Needs to depict the genre, needs to fit in, but stand out (in a good way.) Join an FB cover group and get some critiques. Taking a second look at your cover and if it’s not up to snuff, fix it. It’s killing your sales before they start.
    Books to consider:

    Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices
    Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft)

  • Make your blurb awesome! This is easier said than done. Bryan Cohen is great at this. He teaches webinars and he runs a business doing this. And he makes very good money doing it. But he shares his knowledge, so don’t just moan you don’t know how to do it. Read about it. You’re a writer. Research. Here’s his book. He breaks it down so you can do it, too. With his guidance, I write my blurbs in half an hour. Here’s a Book Description Critique with Bryan Cohen hosted by Reedsy. Watch it.
  • Make sure you have a decent title. No one told me this before I published, and now my very first book has a stupid title I can’t change because I don’t want to waste the money I spent on my ISBN number. If you don’t have any reviews and didn’t purchase your ISBN number, you can change your title. Changing your title and ISBN number will lose you reviews so if you only have one from your best friend Angie, she’ll probably post it again if you republish with a better title.
    Grab some ideas from Dave Chesson; he’s got some good ones.
  • Make sure your “look insides” (first sample pages) are decent. This can make or break you if all the other parts about your book are spot on. If you don’t have a solid POV, if you have typos, if your formatting is messed up, the best cover in the world won’t save you. Try to get your hook within the first few pages of your book so it’s included in the look inside. Turn that browser into a buyer!

Now that we covered that and your book is up to par, you’ll need to ask yourself what you’re doing to help your book sell. Tweeting every day isn’t going to help. So what can you do to spike sales?

  • Are you spending any money?  You have to spend money to make money. I’m not kidding. Lots of people are like, “I don’t have any money to put toward selling my book.” Then you’re not going to sell your books. No business has ever opened that didn’t need seed money. Investors. Start-up money. You buy stock for your shelves, you fork over for rental space. You pay for wages for your employees before you’ve even sold one thing. Your book isn’t any different. Nobody ever went into business for themselves because they needed money yesterday. Starting a business is a lifelong endeavor. What can you put your money toward?

    *Pay for promos. I spent 80 dollars to give away 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away in a free book promo for FreeBooksy. It got me some reviews, and lots of KU reads for the whole trilogy. I made my money back and then some.

    *Pay for giveaways. Goodreads did away with their free giveaways but because you have to pay, the market for giveaways isn’t so saturated. People have debated as to whether or not it’s a good thing, but I think it is. I haven’t tried them yet, but in the spirit of trying one new thing with each new release, I’ll be trying it when I publish All of Nothing this fall. Read about them here.

    *Pay for ads on Amazon. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. I’ve been blogging about my experience. It won’t break the bank to give it a try, but it’s important to do it correctly. Brian Meeks has a wonderful book about it. Amazon changed the platform a bit, so his instructions are already outdated even though his book is only a year old. But his advice is still as good as gold, and just as valuable.

    *Pay for ads on Facebook. These are trickier than Amazon ads. At least, I’ve read that they are. I haven’t tried Facebook ads, and if you don’t have the money to spare, I would suggest going with Amazon ads first. I’ve spent under five dollars experimenting with Amazon Ads. But if you want to try FB ads, again, do it correctly. Michael Cooper has a super great book about it. It’s important to try ads correctly, otherwise you’ll blow through money, claim they don’t work, and you may write off a great way to let people know about your books!

    *Pay for a blog tour. I used to hear a lot about these two years ago when I joined Twitter, but not so much anymore. You don’t have to pay someone to set up a blog tour, but if you pay a legit person they’ll know the best blogs to submit your book to. I’ve never tried one of these. They’re time-consuming. Either you have to fill out an interview sheet or compose a guest post for that blog. If you’re doing a full tour, that could consist of anywhere between 5 to 20 or even more blog sites. That’s a lot of guest blogging and interviews when maybe you should be writing your next book.

    *Reviews. If you do this in a legitimate fashion, this can be a coup for you. I have not tried it because the service I wanted to try distributes the books to readers through BookFunnel and that goes against KDP Select’s terms of service. I pulled Wherever He Goes out of Select to try this review service, and it comes out September 3rd. It wasn’t doing well in KU anyway, so I didn’t see the harm in trying. I’m going to try Happy Book Reviews. I’ve heard good things and so-so things about results. But if you have a good book with a good blurb and good cover, and the plot/genre isn’t too weird, you may get good results. Give it a shot.

  • Are you writing more books? The best marketing you can do is release new books. Lots of debate on quality versus quantity, but if you just can’t scrape up the cash to put toward your book’s promo, at least writing and releasing is free. *As free as you can get without spending money on cover, editing, etc. I’ve heard you drop off the Amazon algorithms after three months, so you want to release something every three months. Try releasing tie-in novellas. Or just dig in your heels and write the next book. I see lots of people trying to build careers on one book, and that only works if you write a non-fiction book and your career is already based on that book. Readers expect more from you. Keep them happy.
  • Offer to guest blog on other people’s websites in your genre. Ask “up.” Someone in your genre who has more followers than you. Someone whose website gets a bit more traction than yours. This is where your tweeting should come in handy–you’ve made connections, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people would love to host a guest blogger. It frees up their schedule for the week. But make sure your book is up to snuff or they’ll turn you down. And be prepared to giveaway a book. That seems counterproductive to sales, but lots of bloggers want to reward their readers for showing up.
  • Think local. Ask your town’s newspaper’s lifestyle section to do an article on you. If you have local small magazines, ask them to do a profile. Ask your indie bookstore if you can do a signing, or if they’ll sell your book. Heck, maybe get together with a couple of indies in your area and ask Barnes and Noble if they’re willing to do an Indie Night. Asking is hard. We’re introverts at heart, but even if the answer is no, at least you can say you tried.
  • Take a hard look at your book. Besides the cover, the editing, the blurb, the title, ask yourself, is this something someone would want to read? Especially if this is your first book. Indies like to experiment when they’re starting out. We’re finding our niche; we’re finding our passion. Experimenting with your hamster detective series is cool, but can you get sales? Maybe not. So take a hard look at your book before you throw money at it. It may not do any good. And that’s the sad truth. If you can be honest with yourself and say yes, my book has readers, all I have to do is fine them, then good luck!

Whining about lack of sales isn’t going to help you sell books. After a while it becomes annoying, and you end up tarnishing your reputation. If your first book isn’t working, then move on. Write something else. Write something better. We get better at our craft with every book we write.

book marketing challengeRachel Thompson says we don’t get traction with our careers until we have at least 6-10 books under our belts. As the self-publishing industry gets more competitive, that number may get higher. If you’d like to read her awesome book about marketing, you can look for it here.

Book sales are subjective. What works for you may not work for someone else.

The best advice I can give you is write well, and publish often. Stay consistent. Build your brand on a genre you love to write.

Sales take time.

Have patience, and good luck!

 

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When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

indie books

I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

lori foster brenda novak

Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts