My Writing Plans & Goals for 2019

hello 2019

Lots of people feel like 2018 sucker punched them right in the gut. But to be honest, I think a lot of people felt like that about 2017, too. Each year may be better in some ways, worse in others, but it’s fair to say that each year brings about new challenges. Sometimes we can rise to the occasion and kick ass, and sometimes we can’t.

I got a lot done in 2018. I released two books I’m proud of–Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing. Each book brings me closer to improving my craft and realizing my goals of being a career writer.

I went through a divorce and came out, for the post part, unscathed, due to my kids, the support of my sister, and the love and a support of a special man in my life. We’ve had our ups and downs, too, and I hope in 2019 we have more ups than we do downs, but time will tell.

As far as my writing goals for 2019, it’s something that I talk a lot about on this blog. Write what you want, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t sell. So I’m going to follow my own advice. While my stand alones are doing okay (for the lack of marketing I do for them) there’s lots of evidence out there that series sell. I’ve seen this myself in read-through for my trilogy (at least when I boost up the first book with a promo).

That being said, it’s time to write another series. I’m going to set aside 2019 and write four books in my Bridesmaid Quartet. That subtitle may change–I may change it to The Wedding Party, or something else entirely as the wedding that brings this group of friends together will remain in the background and is only a catalyst for the things that happen. I’m even tinkering with making the Bride a matchmaker of sorts. These four books are in the planning stages, as you can tell, while I edit The Years Between Us. I’m going to edit my May/December romance, send it out to betas (if you want to read it, send me an email or DM on Twitter!) and more than likely put it on an extended preorder. I released All of Nothing on October 16, and I need to sit on The Years Between Us while I write my series. I won’t wait for a long time–I’m thinking maybe an April release–but I don’t want to publish it as soon as it’s done because then I won’t have anything for quite a while.

To make up for that time where I’m not publishing anything, I’m going to be doing a lot more blogging and maybe some Instagram posts in regards to my series’ progress.  I’ll be doing aesthetics, sharing more snippets than I have in the past. I’ll be releasing my character sheets for my characters. In short, I’ll be blogging about what goes into writing a four book series, and all the headaches that go into tackling 200,000-280,000 words.

Right from the start this presented a challenge because I already wrote about a group of friends with my novellas, Summer Secrets. Those were erotica, but still. It’s easy for a writer to write the same thing over and over again, so I need to be careful to make these different. Comparing my sexy novellas to this series will always be in the back of my mind.

plans and goals for the new year

Other things that will be happening in 2019:

I’ll be getting carpal and cubital tunnel surgery done on my left arm in January. The 10th to be exact. Progress on my series will only go as quickly as I can recuperate. I’ve heard from several people that it’s a piece of cake, and even my doctor said I’ll be back to everyday activities after two weeks. I’ll then be scheduling my surgery for my right arm.

If surgeries and recovery go according to plan, I’ll be attending the Sell More Books Show Summit in Chicago in May. I cannot wait to take a short vacation, meet some other authors, and learn how to sell more books!

I’ll be moving my list wide and paperbacks to Ingram Spark extended distribution. I blogged about that already, but since my books don’t drop entirely from Select until February, dispersing them wide and doing the covers to meet IS guidelines will be a project that will take a few months. I think I’ll be doing a lot of that during recovery as I’m hoping that tweaking my covers to fit the IngramSpark cover templates won’t be too complicated.

Learning a screen-recording software so I can record some barebones tutorials on how to make book covers in Canva. I scouted around YouTube a few months ago to see if making a full cover (back, spine, and front) for a paperback was even possible using that particular software. I didn’t find anything that had all the steps a newbie writer would need to successfully make a cover, and for it to actually come out looking nice.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be one of those things that is on the top of my list. First off, because I’m not sure how deep I really want to go into the non-fiction sector. There are some full-time writers who split their time between fiction and non-fiction, like Joanna Penn. I still have a day job, and if I have a few hours, I’d rather write my fiction books. But because I didn’t find anything about this topic, I think it would be a real help to the indie community if I could record a couple how-to videos. Especially since I’ve done it twice now and have the paperbacks to prove it can work. But I would need to find/buy software and learn how to use it. Then I would need to take the time to map out the videos and record them. I don’t know how to edit anything, either. So. Plus I’ve been tinkering around with writing an self-publishing self-editing book, and I don’t want to put my fingers into too many pies.

Mostly though,  I abide by the old, “Should you be writing, instead of . . . ?” question when thinking about doing other things, and the answer is almost usually “Yes.” It’s what I enjoy the most and what I hope to build my career on–my fiction books.

Because, after all, who doesn’t love a happy ending?

Happy New Year, everyone, and I hope 2019 goes very well for you!

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Writing a May/December romance and what it means to me in the #metoo era.

I have to admit, that even though this book is my 6th, it was still bittersweet to write the last scene, save it, email it to myself, and close the file. Besides editing, I can say goodbye to Matthew and Zia and start to plot a massive project I have decided to take on in 2019.

blog post maydecember romanceThe Years Between Us is a May/December romance. Writing it involved some tricky scenes, as she’s twenty-five and he’s fifty, and while I tried, tried so hard, to make that the most romantic thing in the whole world, the fact is, it can be a bit creepy, too. Especially since at the beginning of the novel, she’s eighteen and he’s forty-three, and in an intimate scene I’m going to try very hard to edit just right, he takes her virginity. Don’t get me wrong, their ages get them into trouble, but fast-forward seven years, it still ends happily-ever after.

May/December romances used to be sweet. The innocent ingenue taken under the wing of a mature, wise gentleman willing to take care of her, guide her into womanhood. My mother read them, and I grew up reading the books she finished and set aside for the next trip to the library. These were more of the gothic romance variety: a young woman, for whatever reason, finding herself in a dark castle, falling in love with the older-than-her-by-a-lot gentleman who has been turned bitter by the ways of the world. She turns his heart with her purity. Their ages are rarely mentioned, but the covers of these books told it all. Silver fox, strawberry-haired girl.

Matthew and Zia are my take on these favorites.

But my mom read those books a long time ago. Before Harvey Weinstein, before a hashtag was created specifically for women to band together against men who use their power and position as a way to force women into sexual activities they don’t want or ask for. We live in time now where the fairy tales are looked down upon because a prince kissed a sleeping princess without her consent. We live in an era where cheeky christmas carols are called upon as sexual harassment, and not seen for the fun and flirtation that they were intended to be.

dark romance

So, what is it like to write a May/December romance now? How will it be received? I don’t know. I don’t make their ages an in-your-face issue. Sure it causes problems, but despite their ages, they are only people who love each other. How wrong can that be? I guess it depends on how they feel while they’re in their relationship, and after it’s over.

Joyce Maynard. You may not know who she is. I didn’t. Not until I recently read an article about her in Vanity Fair.  She evokes both sympathy and scorn. People sympathize with her because at 18, she had an affair with JD Salinger, who at the time, was 53. She dropped out of college to live with him, put up with his abuse, and ultimately, he kicked her out. Scorned because, well, forty-six years later, she’s still talking about. She’s accused of stretching her fifteen minutes just a little too long. Does she have a right to do so? People accuse her of using his fame to catapult hers. She says she keeps talking about it because he used and abused her and she wants the world to know. They say he has a right to privacy. She says because of what he did, he doesn’t deserve any.

Would their story had turned out differently had true love been involved? If they had gotten married? I don’t know the details, but maybe, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, he used his reputation to get her into bed, she, as a wannabe writer was dazzled, and that’s that. Only, she can’t let it go. She places full blame on him. He used her. He made her drop out of school to live with him.

Can’t 18 year old girls think for themselves?

Are we giving teenage girls any credit if we say no?

It’s something I touch on in my novel.  Matthew sends Zia away, and she goes to college where she nurtures her talent to become a famous artist. At one point, he’s asked if he regretted doing that to her, for her. And he says,

“. . . She was fresh out of high school; she needed to explore, find her talent. She never would have become what she had without me sending her away. There were nicer ways to make her go, but it still would have broken her heart.”

He took it upon himself to make sure she had a full life, and that meant without him (for a while). Do we give men any credit if we say they aren’t capable of that in real life?

wedding rings with leaves

I have a couple men friends who are “older” (age is subjective, isn’t it?) and I asked them about this. One, a gentlemen I work with at my job, said there’s a rule men follow: “half your age plus seven.”  I didn’t understand it, so I asked him to explain. He said, men have a rule when deciding how young is too young. You take your age, halve it, then add seven. He said it keeps men from dating anyone who could be young enough to be their daughter.

Applying this logic to my book, Matthew’s age for most of the book is 50. Half that, you get 25, then add 7, making the youngest he could go 32. Zia is 25 for most of the book, so my main male character fails miserably at this. I hadn’t heard of this rule before, but it intrigued me and in a weird way, kind of made sense. I don’t know of any women who follow a rule like this. My sister is 27, and she said the oldest she’d date is 60. I wonder how people would look at them in public if she were to be involved with a man that much older than she.

I wanted to write a novel about love, and that’s what I did. Of course I’m going to offend someone. Probably lots of someones. But I get offended too, reading books about rape, about violence against women at the hands of men. I just move on because these books should still be written. Real life is full of harsh realities, and books reflect that.

You can call Zia stupid for falling in love with an older man. You can call Matthew a pervert for wanting an eighteen year old girl. But the fact is, they loved each other. Call them right or wrong, but they both made sacrifices for each other, and no one can say that her sacrifices meant any less because she’s younger that he is.

It will be interesting to see how people like this book. I’m excited for the feedback that will surely come my way.

Tell me what you think. Do you like May/December romances?

Let me know!

What to read about other May/December real-life romances? Check out this link.

More articles about Joyce Maynard:

Revisiting the legacy of Joyce Maynard, the teenager Salinger had an affair with

The Queen of Oversharing
The personal essay may be over—but Joyce Maynard isn’t.

You can find Joyce’s memoir here.

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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!

Author Interview with CJ Douglass–plus an awesome giveaway for the holidays!

cj douglass author pictureI met CJ Douglass, erotica writer extraordinaire, on Twitter, and I was lucky enough for her to agree to an interview. We chat about writing erotica, the bad rep indie erotica has in the publishing community, and her real thoughts on Faleena Hopkins!

Make a cup of coffee, grab a seat, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! In light of the holidays,  I’m giving away this super-cute mug and an Amazon gift card worth $25.00. Treat yourself to a couple of books for the holidays! Why not?

 

 

Let’s start!

 

pink panties1. For the most part, you write short fiction (novelettes, novellas). Do you think short work is easier or harder to sell? 

In my line of work (Erotica) the shorter the better! Which is what makes my recent fondness for only novellas somewhat unfortunate…

For pure smut, people seem to want to read something hot and short. Get a quick hit of the sexy and get out. I myself, though, like a little more story in there most of the time, and so my word counts have slowly been increasing. As my sales resultantly decrease. For less NSFW tales, however, longer works definitely sell better.

pink panties2. Your genre of choice is erotica. Do you find it hard to market? For example, Amazon loves to bury my erotica novellas in search results. How do you combat that? 

Amazon doesn’t let you advertise Erotica on their platform, so there the best you can hope for is to optimize your search results and pray.

There are tools for aiding in this (which I have not yet availed myself of, but plan to) but otherwise my main outreach is on Twitter. Not for advertising, exactly. I post promos, sure, but not that often. I like to put myself out there, let people get to know me – and one day perhaps those folks will check out one of my stories because of this relationship. Then another. Maybe even tell a friend!

Blogging is a tool many use – and I’m sure it’s helpful, but I just don’t have any writing energy left over for it! I do have a few free stories on my website that people can read to get a taste of what I have to offer in my paid-for work. Mostly though, yeah. Get my keywords right, and have as good a cover as I can create.

pink panties3. Indies have to push against the idea our work in inferior. Writers who publish poorly written erotica enforces this idea (and OMG, you know there’s some out there). How do you push back against this misconception? (For example, do you read craft books, have an English degree, hire an editor.) 

I don’t have money for an editor (my stories sometimes don’t make back the handful of dollars I spend on a cover image) but for anything novella-length or above I use beta readers, for sure.

I’ve spent my whole life reading and writing (I literally started reading novels at the age of four) so I have a sense of what the language should sound like. I took creative writing in high school (though my college classes were more science-based) and yes, I’ve read my share of craft books (and internet articles).

Odd as it may sound, screenplay craft really has helped me hone my skills. It doesn’t help with the prose, (that is down to my own dedication and extensive rereading and revision) but it does aid in the creation of the story itself. Indie books (not just Erotica, but all genres) tend to suffer from a lack of editing of the concepts and basic storycraft – even if it has been line-edited by a professional.

Making sure your plot and story (two different concepts, incidentally) build and flow well is of vital importance – and getting it right immediately lifts your work above the crowd (in my opinion).

Screenplays, being condensed stories, are good training in this particular art.

pink panties4. Will you ever write longer work? Perhaps a full-length novel? 

Funny you should bring that up! I’m getting a draft of my novel ready for beta readers as we speak. It’s an epic, post-apocalyptic tale – but a very heightened one, that should be fun and empowering as well as dark and depressing. I’m really excited about this book, as it’s a concept I actually came up with when I was thirteen or fourteen, and have only recently dug back out and developed properly.

pink panties5. How did you become a part of Writer Twitter? Do you find it beneficial in sales? How do you like the writing community in terms of support?

I resisted Twitter for a long time, actually. It seemed pointless to me. How wrong could I have been? I have met some of my best friends there, and the support from my peers has been priceless.

You also get a chance to connect with readers (both your own and others’) to share in the joy and to see what people like.

As for sales? It has a certain impact, for sure. I’d venture to say that a good chunk of my meager sales came from letting people know about the stories on that platform. I doubt Twitter is useful as a large-scale marketing tool for books, however. It’s more for generally making people aware of your presence than specifically selling your work.

pink panties6. You told me in a couple of Tweets you design your own covers. Can you take us through the process? Where do you find your inspiration, photos, etc. 

The process, generally, is me hopelessly moving images around in my template until something looks half-way decent! Usually, I’ll have an idea in my head – and then can’t find any images to fit that general concept. I then settle for something which is not at all like that first notion, but which suits the story anyway.

When I am planning ahead, I browse for photos (either free ones on places like Pixabay, or cheap ones at 123rf.com) first and allow them to inspire me for a good cover idea. This way, I’m not fighting a preconception, but can evolve a cover idea based on the available
images.

If I had any design training, I could tell you why something looks right in a certain place, and more easily find that balance. As it is, I haphazardly arrange elements until they “feel” right to me. I also involve my Twitter followers in the process sometimes, too!

pink panties7. You have a book titled The Cocky Author. Is this a hat tip (or perhaps a sneer) to Faleena Hopkins? Can you share your thoughts on how all that went down? 

Cocky Romance Author was the quickest I’ve ever written a story.

When Faleena Hopkins’ now-notorious copyright scandal came to light, I immediately wanted to thumb my nose at her for it – despite not generally being a Romance author. (I have since written some stories that might be classifiable under that banner, however.)
I knew if I was going to do it, I’d have to do it quickly. This wasn’t about creating a work of art; I was making a statement.

So the next day, I typed up the 9,000 word story (it was supposed to be shorter, but I found myself unable to write something without a good underlying character arc) and cleaned it up a little to post that evening. I wasn’t the first to get out a protest “cocky” story, I don’t think, but I was right up there. I made the story as cheap as Amazon would allow me to (99c) because it was not about profit, but about activism and generally making noise about this divisive issue.

It should be obvious to anyone that a common descriptive word cannot be copyrighted in this way – but it did not stop Miss Hopkins or those following in her footsteps from doing precisely that.

Thank goodness these spurious claims keep getting shut down – eventually.

pink panties8. You run your website through Wix. How has your experience been? 

Wix is a generally decent site builder, I think. Better than some I have used. I only have a free one for the moment, though I think paying for it would allow the site to be found in search engines. Hard to justify the expense for now, though. What it needs right now is an overhaul! I’m still using the very first template I threw together, and really have to get it redone. Whenever I can find the time…

I love being able to host a place that gathers together not only links to my books (Amazon does that already!) but lets me include free stories that give potential readers a place to sample my work in tales that are complete – not mere snippets of a longer story.
Whether it helps my sales or not I can’t say, but theoretically it ought to be useful for curious readers!

Thank you CJ! It sounds like you have a lot going on right now! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and explain a little bit about your writer’s life. 🙂

You can find CJ on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads! Check out her author website for the free goodies, and as always, don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway! It will run for a little bit, so don’t forget to tell your friends.

Thanks for joining us, and check back when I talk about shopping in your local indie bookstore, and how my Freebooksy promo did for All of Nothing!

Until next time!

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Laying the Groundwork for a (Romantic) Series

Series sell. Us indies are told this all the time. Write a strong first book in a series, hook the reader, and have natural read-through to the next three or four or five plus books. While my trilogy hasn’t taken off, (i.e. I can’t pay the rent with royalties yet) I do have some read through–people I have reading book three who wouldn’t be around had the first book been a standalone.

But there are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about a series:

  • Where is it going to take place?
    You need a setting that is interesting enough that the place of your books will hold

    interesting setting

    An interesting setting becomes a character in and of itself.

    the reader’s attention for that amount of time, lends plot potential, and is a place that you won’t get sick of as an author. A detective series could take place in a large city. There’s enough fodder for lots of crime, and the possibility of cops sitting around playing poker in a city full of millions of people is low. Lots of romances take place in small towns, but if you’re working with a small town, you need to make sure your characters have something to do. A town with one stoplight, where the only gas station closes at 8pm, doesn’t leave much opportunity to use setting as a character, unless something happens like a natural disaster such as a tornado. So when you’re planning your series, you have to keep the setting in mind. Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series is based in a town called Fool’s Gold and its Mayor proves to be quite the matchmaker.

 

  • How many people are you going to start with at first?
    A series will evolve and change as you write (new characters will be introduced, for

    group of people

    Plan your characters.

    instance), but when you sit down to write the first book you’ll need to keep in mind where you want the first few books to go so you can lay the groundwork. Weaving future plots and characters into current narrative will clue your reader into the fact that yes, there will be more books about the characters they will come to care about, and yes, they will want to read the next and the next and the next. But you can only do that when you know what’s going to happen in the first handful of books. It can be a woman and her three best friends, or a guy and his two sisters. Nora Roberts does this well, and my Four Bridesmaids Quartet I’m planning is modeled after her Bride Quartet. (I’m not copying her–I’ve read Nora since I was a teenager, and I admire her plotting skills and the construction of her books. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today had I not read so much Nora Roberts growing up. She’s definitely influenced my writing for the better. :))

 

  • What are the characters’ backstories?
    Your characters’ backstories need to be related to the plot somehow. Say your three sisters had an abusive mother and their relationship with her bleeds into their relationships with their boyfriends. If you go bigger (a longer series) and it’s your town that has the problems, like a tornado, or hurricane, or a flood, your characters need to have personal problems associated with the town to create conflict. A popular romance trope is a stranger comes to town, and he’s got a ton of secrets. Only the widow in the falling down ranch house can breech his rough exterior to his secrets beneath. But he’s he’s also an electrician and can help rewire the school after the fire! That helps the town accept him and he feels like he belongs and he stays after he falls in love with your FMC (female main character).

 

  • What is your plot?
    Is your main plot going to be wrapped up in each book (like the detective solves the crime, and the next book would be the detective solving a new crime?) or is your main plot going to arc over a few books? If you’re hoping to write so a reader can pop in at book eight and not feel like they’ve missed anything, you’ll need to wrap up the plot at the end of each book while foreshadowing your next story. This is why it’s always best to know what your next book is going to be about so you can weave in those clues.

 


Publishing Your Series

The bullet points above are the writing part of it, but before you begin a series, it’s best to have some kind of idea about publishing.

  • Your publishing schedule.
    As an indie, you have complete control of your publishing schedule. Are you goingwaiting for a series to publish them as you write them, or are you going to save up a couple and publish them together? A week apart? Two weeks apart?In this case, being an indie author is definitely a perk. You don’t have to make your readers wait a year between books like the traditionally published authors do. But because of impatience, many indies publish as they write, without a thought as to making a reader wait for the next book. I haven’t met one author who likes to sit on books. (But I have heard of plenty of stories about the benefits to the authors who do.) The minute the book is ready, they hit publish. But what does this mean if you’re writing a series? How fast can you write the next book? Do you do this full-time and can publish the next one in two months, one month? Do you have a team that will edit and format and do your covers for you? What is the point of publishing a book one if it’s going to take you two years to publish the next?

 

  • Consistency.It’s really hard to go back and make changes to a book that’s already been

    changes

    This is a pretty kind of change. The kind made to your book after already publishing isn’t this pretty, and it’s time-consuming.

    published. Not that it’s hard from a technical standpoint–just make the fixes and upload the new file. But what about those readers who have read it already? Your plot and characters are already in their heads, and you want to ask them reread your book for the new information so the next book will make more sense? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. If you write a book one, and something happens in book two to make your consistency fade away like fog in the sun, you’ve got a problem, if you’ve already published. But if you haven’t–good news! Just make the changes. As you add to the series, this isn’t realistic, I know that. You’re not going to sit on seven books. No one would. But in all practicality, sitting on two or three books to make sure your plot is going smoothly and you don’t have any big plot holes or changes that need to be addressed is pretty darn smart.

 

  • Covers 
    If you’re doing your own covers, or if you’re going to be buying premades, orbride_quartet nora roberts working with a designer, it’s very very very important that your covers not only fit the genre, but that your series will look like a series. That means your author name looks the same, that your pictures you choose are cohesive. It means that the series name is on all the books.Here’s Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet I was telling you about earlier. It’s a lot easier to plan how your covers will look–at least the first few, if you wait to publish.
    It’s also helpful with titles. If you’re doing a trilogy, or a quartet, or even a quintet, it will give you a chance to think of titles that match the theme of your plots.

 

After my May/December romance, I am going to write a quartet. Yes, I will wait to publish until they are all done. I will do my own covers, and I’ve already thought of titles that will match the theme of the books. I have my town chosen, I’m mulling over characters now. It will take a lot of patience to write this series, but as I stated at the beginning of the post, series sell. I’ll have a trilogy and three standalones in my backlist, and it’s time for another series.

Are you writing a series right now? Are you publishing as you go? How much time is between them? Let me know!

 

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Weak writers, strong characters?

I am a part of a DM group on Twitter. We were talking about the weather where we live, and I live in Minnesota. I mentioned blizzards and the potential hazards. I said now that my husband has moved out, this winter may be a little nerve-racking as I’ll need to shovel and get my daughter to school by myself. I have to deal with maybe my car not starting or getting into an accident because some moron doesn’t know how to drive on the snow and ice.

I said, “I’m sorry. I know I sound weak. It’s just nice to have a man around sometimes.”

What exactly was I apologizing for? All the women in my group are married to men. They know it’s nice to have a partner, someone around to help.

In our society today, we encourage strong women. We have #GirlPower. Women are encouraged to raise their daughters to be strong and independent. We fight for equal pay. We fight the glass ceiling. We fight for our reproductive rights. We pay our own bills we make our own way.

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Women don’t need men.

I write romance. I make sure my heroines can take care of themselves. They have jobs; they pay their bills. Sometimes they’re searching for love, sometimes love finds them. My heroines don’t need a man.

But they want one.

Does that make them weak?

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Even in the comics, Diana Prince was paired with various men over the years. The epitome of a kick-ass woman, she still likes to snuggle at night.

I’ve been told, “Don’t make the man rescue the woman.” But isn’t that what a romance is? I mean, rescuing a woman because he has to. It’s part of a mission. She’s been kidnapped because her father is a billionaire. She needs a bodyguard. She’s cured cancer, and people want to kill her. She’s a rock star, and someone is out to get her. There are a million plots to go with that trope. The hero rescues the heroine, they fall in love. The end.

There’s a reason why that trope is popular.

Women take care of themselves (and their children) alone all the freaking time. Reading is an escape. We want our man to step in and say, “Let me take care of this because I’m falling in love with you.” My favorites, and hopefully the kind of books I write, is when they rescue each other. Maybe he can get her to the hospital for her life-saving surgery, but when she opens her eyes, he knows she really saved him, by repairing his broken heart and giving him his life back.

Most times after the “big fight” I have my man go to his woman first. Not because I want to put my woman in a position of power. Not because my heroine wants a man groveling at her feet. But because it’s romantic. It feeds into what women fantasize about. Men saying, “I was wrong. I can’t live without you. I’m sorry. Marry me.”

What I didn’t realize though, is that it takes a strong woman to give a man the space he needs to figure it out and admit that. For him to have time to see his mistakes and go to her.

It takes a lot of bravery for a woman to face heartbreak if the man she loves doesn’t come for her. For her to say, “If he can’t admit he was wrong and apologize and admit that he loves me, I can’t have the kind of relationship I need with him to be happy.”

Women in romance can be kick-ass and still want a man. I’ll never write a sniveling idiot as a female main character.  Men, characters or otherwise, don’t want a woman who acts like that. Women who act like that in real life never find true happiness or true love. 

So in my DM, what was I apologizing for? Because in my group, we are all writers and we all pride ourselves on writing kick-ass women characters. How can I write a strong woman character when I, myself, I am not a strong woman in real life?

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Maybe not this kind of kick-ass. 

I’ve been on my own now for two months, since my husband moved out. I pay my bills with my own money (and a little help from alimony and child support). I work full-time. I’ve always paid our bills so balancing a checkbook was nothing new, I just don’t have as much money to work with. I drive a dumpy car, and it’s not lost on me I’ll have to work a car payment into my budget at some point.

But guess what? I have written characters who have also live paycheck to paycheck. That’s real life.

I have good friends. My sister lives in the same town as me. Even my soon to be ex-husband would help me out if I ever find myself in serious trouble. I’m not alone, and I don’t feel like I am. Our split was amicable, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time.

I am a strong woman even if at times I don’t feel like it. We all need love, security. We all want love, someone to protect us, have our backs. That doesn’t make us weak.

I write romance.

My characters fall in love.

They aren’t weak, either.

They’re human.

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.

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

Even his fan groups were crazy with members.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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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