Where do you find readers? Part 2

finding readers for your books blog posts part 2

 

In part one, I wasted your time went over a few things you can do to draw in readers. Starting with a quality product. That’s mandatory, but not everyone does. You’ve seen the poor covers, bad blurbs, and horribly written look insides. But no one is immune, and if you’re not selling books, or not selling as many books as you think you should be, try to find an unbiased opinion and see if you can find where the problem is.

Now, with that being said, readers are out there. But how do you find them?

Start Small

There are promo sites that don’t cost an arm and a leg. How well they work, I have no idea. But if you listen to lots of podcasts of author interviews like I do, you’ll slowly build a list of promo sites that are used by other authors. Some of these require a certain number of reviews. Almost all of them vet books so if your cover doesn’t look nice, or the person who runs the promo site thinks your writing is terrible, they won’t promote your book, no matter how much you pay them.

eBookSoda. Their prices have gone up since I’ve checked into them last. They review your book before they promote, and they do have a few guidelines you have to meet for them to accept your book.

ebook soda promo site

ebook soda promo site2

At twenty dollars to give it a try, that doesn’t seem like a huge investment. I’ve spent more and have gotten nothing in return.

eReader News Today.

They are a little spendier, but I’ve heard good things about them. They also vet, so be prepared for an actual person to look at your book.

ereader-pricing-table-heading

ereader news today requirements

I’m not going to go through every single promo site out there. I’ve only used Freebooksy and BargainBooksy for my promos, but when I release my next book, I may spread my wings a bit. There are promo sites out there that cost less than what they charge, and they may expose me to new readers.

Dave Chesson has a very large list of promo sites if you want to browse. But the main idea is that putting money into the marking of your book doesn’t have to break the bank.

Paying to Play

Indie readers don’t want to accept that to find readers (especially if they are on Twitter and tweet about their book for free all the time) that at some point you are going to have to invest in your books. There is no other way for anyone to know your books are out there. There’s billions of people in the world. How are you going to reach them if you can’t break out of Writer Twitter? It’s next to impossible.

Richard Blake had this to say about the current state of advertising:

2018 ushered in a time when visibility we used to take for granted on Amazon basically disappeared. The long tail on new releases has been compressed to only weeks, and with the elimination of free books from the also boughts and from the search functions, it’s almost impossible to get any free visibility now on the largest seller of books in the world.

So what’s left?

Paying to play, also known as advertising. The rest of this blog will be devoted to my experience with Zon advertising, and the conclusions I’ve drawn after reluctantly beginning a concentrated effort about mid-year.

If you’re interested in what else he has to say, you can check out and subscribe to his blog here.

I’ve written about my success, or lack thereof, about Amazon before, and you can check out my blog post here. So I’m not going to bother rehashing old ground. If you want to learn how to do them, there are a lot of authors who provide courses and books. My favorite is Brian Meeks. He has a book about Amazon Ads, and I used to recommend it a lot. I’ve heard that Amazon has changed the way they do ads, so his step-by-step instructions are no longer applicable. Concepts of patience, testing, and slowly building your ad, however, are still great advice. Despite not being able to point you in the direction of his book, he’s done several interviews for podcasts as well, and he spoke at the 20 Books to 50K Conference in Vegas this past November. Check out his talk!

 

If you want more details, check out Chris McMullen’s blog post about the recent changes and how to work with them.

I’ve had a little success–meaning my bids are getting clicks, I’m seeing some buys, and I’m not spending a huge amount of money (not in enough to put me in the black with ROI, but you have to start somewhere). Figuring out ads is like learning to swim. You’re going to get a lot of water up your nose before you can float without drowning. This is a bad metaphor for me, as I still only know how to doggy paddle, but such is life.

I haven’t tried Facebook ads, mainly because I’ve heard they will take your money and run, unlike Amazon. Plus, I don’t have that many books out yet. I’ve read Michael Cooper’s book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! and that was extremely helpful. He, too, was at the 20 Books to 50K conference and you can watch his talk. 🙂

I’ll do a Part 3 later. I’ve given you lots to consider right now. Please go through those promo sites. If you can save five dollars a week and buy a $20 dollar promo for a reader newsletter once a month, that’s a great start when you thought you couldn’t afford to run ads at all.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any thoughts, ideas, or things you’re going to try going in to 2019 and selling your books!

 

Good luck!

Where do you find readers for your books? Part 1

finding readers for your books blog posts part 1

This question sucks because 1) no one knows the answer, and 2) even if they do, their answer might not work for you.

What are the variables that make one person’s amazing results different from someone else’s?
* Genre. Thrillers. Contemporary Romance. Urban Fantasy. Epic Fantasy. Someone might have just had a great launch of their Suspense novel and you want to duplicate that for your Bigfoot Romance. Their methods probably won’t work for you.
* Quality. Your friend may have paid out $400 for a quality cover, had two editors edit it, and used a professional formatter to make their insides look as professional as they can look. You don’t have a budget like that. If you don’t, you’re already a million miles behind your friend–even if you write in the same genre.
* Your friend has a backlist and you don’t.

If you take into consideration these three things, answers to the question, where do you find readers, are going to be incredibly different.

A quick note about GENRE before we move on: you’re writing what you want, but you do have to keep in mind that the more niche you write the more you shrink your audience. On the other hand, you have a better chance at standing out in a smaller niche. At any rate, here’s a nice chart. If your goal is finding readers in a bookstore (you’re probably querying then), you need to know where the little high school girl who stocks books after classes is going to put yours. Knowing your genre also makes marketing a bit easier because, hey, no one reads all the books, and you only want people who read your genre to read your book.

Literary_Genres

click the picture to read about the 17 literary genres

Quality

You know how in the grocery store you have to choose between a dented can and a can that’s not dented? Which do you choose? The undented one, right? Because we’re trained to look for things that are perfect. We don’t buy apples with bruises, we buy the milk behind the first one. When you are asking your potential reader to choose between your poor-quality cover, bad blurb, and insides with typos against a book with a nice cover, an intriguing blurb, and insides without typos, who do you think they are going to choose?

This seems like a no-brainer, but authors are too close to their own books to see if something is working, or, more specifically, not working. I’ll show you what I mean:

amazon sell page of a book

This is the sell page of my book, Don’t Run Away. It’s the first in a trilogy. People look at these things when they bring up your book be from an ad, from a friend’s recommendation, whatever.

  1. A good cover. You need one. YOU NEED ONE. I’m not saying mine is the best, but hoo-boy, it’s better than some out there.
  2. A nice author photo. No one talks about these, but with social media, readers want to interact with their favorite authors. They want to see you are a real person. If they tweet to you that they enjoyed your book, or if they say Hello on your FB author page, they think it’s really cool when you say thank you, or Hi! back.
  3. Well-written blurb. You need a good blurb to draw them in.
  4. The reviews help. The more the better, obviously, because. . .
  5. Amazon is more than happy to show your potential reader something else they can buy instead of your book. If your cover and blurb miss the mark, they offer another choice in the same genre your potential reader can click on.

If you take a look at the screenshot above, you can see the book they are advertising at the bottom has a nice cover and more reviews than mine. At that point, I’m hoping my blurb brings them in, or the first couple sentences of the look inside if they make it that far.

If you’ve written a strong blurb and you make your potential reader click READ MORE look what happens:

screen for blog 2

The ad disappears. We don’t have very long attention spans. A good blurb could mean the difference been a sale and a pass.

I watched Bryan Cohen and Chris Fox tear part a couple of covers and blurbs on a recording from a 20 books to 50K conference this year in Vegas. Take a look and see if you can make your selling page better:

Backlist

No one thinks about backlist when we look for readers. But the fact is, self-publishing is a vicious and competitive environment. These days to find any traction, you need to have about 15-20 books written already. When I first started publishing, that number was six. Self-publishing has exploded to the point where 50,000 books are self-published every month. (That stat was pulled, I think, from Michael Anderle during this same conference.)

The most important thing that self-published authors have is a backlist of 15-20 books. This is because most self-published authors make the bulk of their money on their backlist.  — The Complete Creative

The idea is that if you manage to pull one person into your readership, you can offer them more than just one or two books. You want them to read them all.

You can liken finding readers to any cliche you want. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. Start at the base of the mountain and work your way up. It all amounts to the same thing–finding readers takes a lot of time.

book-publishing-quotes-by-jo-linsdell-315693

No one disagrees it starts with the best book you can produce. And then write another.

the best advertising you can do

Stay tuned for part two of where to find readers!

Until next time!

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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KDP Select/KU vs. going wide, IngramSpark and other musings

GOING WIDE VS KDP SELECT

The other day I pulled my books out of KU. For those of you who may not know what that is, Kindle Unlimited is a program through Kindle Direct Publishing that is offered to authors who don’t publish their ebooks anywhere else. They get paid from a giant slush fund for “pages” read.  Some authors think that Amazon is the best, and there isn’t anywhere else to publish. But where is there to go if you decide you don’t want to give Amazon exclusivity? Kobo, Books (aka iBooks), Nook, Google Play, and a few others that can be reached through an aggregator like Draft2Digital or PublishDrive are available for indie authors. Thank goodness indie authors have a choice.

choice street signs

It’s a little scary, since I have been getting a few page reads here and there, mostly since I paid for a FreeBooksy promo not long ago. Usually that will put my book on the radar for a while, but tends to taper off. Like today, I’ve only made $4.81 in page reads, compared to my highest day ten days after my promo, which made me $56.80. That’s just for All of Nothing, when I ran a free promo for it on November 9th. It’s been a pretty long tail, still getting page reads more than a month after my promo, but I’m thinking I can do better.

It is scary, thinking about losing even those meagre page reads, but there is one thing I have to remember: even if my books aren’t in KU anymore, anyone shopping on Amazon who wants to read my books, can still buy them. What I’ve made today in page reads would calculate into 2.5 people buying my book at $2.99. Sometimes I think authors forget about that part of it. Just because you’re not in KU anymore doesn’t mean authors can’t buy your book. That is really a powerful thing for me to remember, and it makes it easier to feel better about the decision I made to go wide.

I’m really excited about the opportunity publish my books on Kobo. Kobo is growing and right now, according to an old 2016 stat, they have 26 million users worldwide. That’s a lot of readers. And with Kobo Writing Life, I’ve heard they are very friendly and want to work with indie authors.

Some indies go wide from the start, but lots more, not knowing how or where to publish, stick with only Amazon. Neither of these paths is wrong. When I first moved into publishing, I was happy to deal with one vendor. I only had to deal with one file to format, and one upload. One price. I stuck my books in KU and mainly forgot about them as I wrote the next.

But as you publish more books, and you start to learn what other successful indies are doing, you have to think about where your want your business to go. You hear about the risks of putting all your eggs into one basket. But then you hear about authors making hundreds of thousands of dollars in KU reads. (And you also hear about how Amazon can, at random, target one of those authors and essentially take all their income away with a single push of a button.)

Joanna Penn continually says you need to think about more than one stream of income. For her that means speaking gigs, writing non-fiction, her podcast, and other things she has going on in her career, but for indies who don’t do as much as she does, it could simply mean not counting on one company for all your income.

I’ll be going direct with Kobo, since that is how you access their promotions tab. But I’ll likely use Draft2Digital to publish my books everywhere else.

If you’re interested in going wide, and you want to learn what Kobo can do you for you, Joanna Penn recently had a guest on her podcast who works at Kobo, Camille Mofidi. You can click here to listen to it. Mark Lefebvre used to work at Kobo, but now has moved to Draft2Digital. I love Mark and used to listen to the Kobo Writing Life podcast where he would frequently talk about what works on Kobo to sell books. He also wrote a book, Killing It On Kobo: Leverage Insights to Optimize Publishing and Marketing Strategies, Grow Your Global Sales and Increase Revenue on Kobo (Stark Publishing Solutions) on how to use Kobo to sell your books. Mark also did a recent interview on The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Jeff Poole, and Jo Lallo. You can check it out here

My books won’t completely drop out of KDP Select until February, so I have to wait. You don’t want to make Amazon mad at you, so if you decide to go wide, please make sure that your books have completed their three months within the program. If you have several books like I do, you’ll need to wait until they have all dropped out before going wide, as their months could overlap. Plus, they don’t do that automatically–you have remember to uncheck the box in your KDP dashboard.

As for my paperbacks, I am changing that up, too. I’ve seen first hand that if you don’t use KDP Print to distribute to Amazon (or CreateSpace before) Amazon can play hardball and sometimes make your book unavailable or out of stock. To me, this would be a pain in the butt because who has time to police their books all day? I’ve published all my books through CreateSpace/KDP print, and I have found no issues with quality as I’ve heard some complain about. But I have moved my books out of Expanded Distribution on KDP Print and only use them to supply to Amazon. Then, after they drop out of their system, I’m going to publish my paperbacks with IngramSpark and use them for Expanded Distribution. The reason I’m doing this is because I want to approach my local bookstores about carrying my books.

Seeing the benefits of going wide may take a while. But I’m in this for the long haul, and I don’t mind waiting. I need to start thinking about what I want for my business as I grow my backlist, and going wide and using IngramSpark for paperback expanded distribution feels like the right way to go. But only time will tell.

Wish me luck!

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for a little while longer. 🙂 

 

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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Happy November!

Happy November

 

November is finally upon us, and that means we only have 61 days until the New Year!

I’ve been moving steadily along with my goals. In fact, I disappeared from social media for a bit while I released my new book, All of Nothing.

Here’s the lovely cover:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

I did the entire cover in Canva, and I bought the photo on Canstockphoto for seven dollars. It’s not very fancy, but I do take pride in the fact that I did it myself. and it printed just as nicely as it looks online. It’s in KU, and I’m running a free promotion on it November 9th. It will be included in the Freebooksy newsletter that day. Because  I tried a Bargain Booksy on Wherever He Goes that didn’t do too well, I’m also putting that book for free that day to see if I can’t piggyback some downloads from All of Nothing‘s promotion.

As an early birthday present, a dear friend of mine gifted me a Mac and the formatting software Vellum. I was very excited in that since I had been doing all my own formatting, I could replace the interiors of all my books, and that’s what I’ve spent the last three days doing for Summer Secrets, my erotica novella series, and my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Because formatting is so easy with it, I put together a box set of my trilogy, so that is finally being offered on Amazon as well.

Nothing is ever easy though, and since I was doing the covers and insides, I went ahead and moved my trilogy over from CS to KDP Print. I hadn’t done that yet, so I wanted to get it all out of the way.

The second book in my series got lost in the conversion, and it took KDP four days to find it. It was over the weekend, and they did eventually restore it, so I was grateful for that. 🙂 If you haven’t moved your books over yet, I recommend you do so. My book was still for sale on Amazon, so it didn’t completely disappear, but it’s better to get all that taken care of sooner rather than later.

But I did redo the covers for Summer Secrets, being that I’m a bit better at covers now, and I redid the box set I created, inside and out. Though someone pointed out a typo on the first line of the first paragraph, {rolling eyes hard here} I’m still very happy with they turned out:

 

 

It wasn’t a big change, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, nonetheless. I didn’t get so different with my trilogy, so I won’t post them here. But I did redo them in Canva, which gives them a higher quality than when I used to do my covers in Word. A very warm shoutout to my friend Aila Stephens who told me about Canva so long ago. She’s just starting up a blog series about covers herself, so make sure you follow her blog for indie tips and publishing tips!

Anyway, so next up for me is my May/December romance that I’m already 8,000 words into. I’m so excited for this book! I’ve been thinking about a May/December romance for a long time now, and I was delighted when a plot popped into my head. All of Nothing is over 80,000 words long, and I don’t think Matthew and Zia (my book doesn’t have a title yet) will end up being quite so long. But I’m still excited to be mulling subplots and backstory as I get into writing.

 

This kind of sums up the whole story, and as a contemporary romance author, you know I’ll always dish up a nice happily ever after. I just make my characters go through hell to get there first.

In other news, I’m going to submit All of Nothing into the RITAs, a contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. The contest is open to both trad-pubbed and indie-pubbed authors, so in reality, I know I don’t stand a chance. But if my book could move on to a second round, or if the judges have some good feedback for me, I’d consider it a success. At any rate, it something I’m going to try, and I think All of Nothing is a solid book. It’s getting good feedback already, and my betas didn’t have anything bad to say about it. So, wish me luck!

Along with entering the contest, you also have to judge books in the first round, so I’ll be needing to dig out my Kindle and settle in for some serious reading coming up. Which suits, because I’m going to have carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on my left hand/elbow in the middle of January. I’m going to try to get Matthew and Zia at least written by then, so while I recover I can do some small edits. It will do me good to rest my hands while I help in the judging of the first round. I’m very much enjoying being part of the romance writing community!

What else is going on? NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! I won’t play, I haven’t played for a couple years now, but I may meet up with my group. Sometimes it’s nice to see people in person, talk shop. Catch up. I used to work with a couple of the members, so it will be fun to see them, too. But after the colder weather hits (I’m in MN) it gets harder to get out of the house. Even for pie and coffee at the local coffee shop.

I guess that’s all I have to report! I hope you all are doing well, and tell me what your end of the year goals are! Remember, you have 61 days! Do your best!

2019 is right around the corner! What do you have left to do in 2018_

 

Drop me a comment, and have a great weekend!