aliciareneekline.com

Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Happy Place

A while back, I came across a Facebook post that someone had shared on my newsfeed.  What caught my attention at first was not the headline, but rather the thumbnail image that was displayed above it.  It was a picture of a freshly vacuumed carpet.

Everyone has little quirks, things that make them happy that other people might find strange.  One of mine is that I love those little lines that your vacuum makes on your carpet.  No, seriously.  It’s like a nirvana moment for me, akin to the people that have the little zen gardens on their desks.  They pick up their tiny rakes, and I run to the laundry room and grab my Shark.

I mean, this is how I spend most Friday nights.

 

 

And when the cleaning is over, and the vacuum marks are on full display, there’s a sense of peace and calm in the house.

So of course, I ended up clicking on the link and reading the article.  It wasn’t really about cleaning, but rather about prioritizing what is worth your time as a parent.  How in hindsight, things like having an immaculate house aren’t really as important as you thought when you weigh the amount of time it takes to achieve perfection with the things you miss out on in your children’s lives while obtaining it.

For the most part, I agree.  My kids are long past the days of wanting me to play dolls with them.  But I remember those nights when it was far easier to admit defeat and corral the mess to a corner of the living room if it meant being able to read a story before they fell asleep.  Besides, the toys would invariably be strewn all over the floor again the next day.

Even now, I wouldn’t call my home open house ready on a typical day.  Instead of toys in my kids’ rooms, you’re more likely to find dirty socks on the floor, used glasses or bowls, and overflowing trash cans that they can’t manage to take care of themselves.

Admittedly, my house is lived in.  Even with those vacuum marks I so dearly covet. But someone could ring my doorbell right now and I’d be able to invite them in without embarrassment.  Well, maybe after shutting the doors to my girls’ bedrooms.

Vacuum lines are pretty, and so are moments with your children.

But having a clean house can also be a way of saying “I love you”.

So that’s why after the girls go to school, I open up those bedroom doors and shove dirty jeans into hampers.   I rescue spoons and glasses from the depths of hell and march them out to the dishwasher.  My daughters might not notice that I do this now, because it’s just a bit of help.  But eventually, if I didn’t do it, they would be able to tell.

I should know.

Growing up, way back before there were reality shows that put a name to it, I lived with a hoarder.  My childhood home should have been a place of comfort, somewhere that I should have been proud to invite people to.  I learned at a young age not to, after being ridiculed at school because a friend ended up commenting to someone else about how many dishes were piled up in my mother’s sink.  So I was the one who accepted invitations from others, while never handing them out.  I became a master at waiting at my front door for my friends’ parents (and later my friends themselves) to pull up in the driveway, so I could run out and jump into their cars, successfully slamming the door on the secret that I was hiding.

From the outside, my childhood home probably seemed idyllic.  A large two story with a welcoming porch.  Six bedrooms, two and a half baths.  On paper, plenty large and perfect for sleepovers.

In reality, a place that I couldn’t wait to leave.  And when I did, a place I hated coming back to.

No one really questioned why I never reciprocated on the invites.  I supposed it helped that I only had a few close friends.  And those friends were the ones that always had everyone else over anyway.  It just always worked out so that the topic never came up.

At home, things continued to get worse instead of better.  Though I don’t ever remember it being clean there, it might have been when I was too little to care.  Maybe it started out as lived in, then turned the corner to cluttered, before snowballing into downright disgusting.  It wasn’t just one closet, or one room, it was the whole damn house.

I learned to deal with it.  When I was allowed to bathe (another story completely, as my mother insisted that people didn’t need to wash daily), I took my showers in the one bathroom that was halfway functional, getting clean inside moldy shower walls that were caving into the tub.  Like even they were too depressed to be there any more.  Sure, I knew my living conditions weren’t normal, but I was too ashamed to tell anyone.  Besides, where would I go if I did?

I vowed that when I was old enough and prepared enough to leave that I would.  That I was only biding my time in a temporary situation.  That once I left, I would never look back.  And more importantly, that I would never, ever, live like that again.

Not exactly fond childhood memories.  Or goals that you should strive for when you’re that age.

With most everything in life, there’s a happy medium.  A balance that exists between normal and neurotic.  And that was the takeaway that I got from reading that post.

As a parent, I try my best to temper my past with my family’s collective future.

But I refuse to feel guilty about loving my vacuum lines.

A Year Goes By

It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up on the one year anniversary of the release of Silenced.  I joked that after writing The Intoxicated Books, I didn’t plan on writing another series for quite some time, claiming a serious series hangover.

In all honesty, it was more of an author hangover.

I’ve never been a mainstream author, shirking most of the popular conventions of the self-publishing industry and more or less doing whatever the hell I want.  I’m good with the fact that I’ll never win any popularity contests, and I’ve embraced that.  You may have noticed that by taking a quick peek at my cover art, which lacks the usual hallmarks of almost kissing lovers or bare chested specimens of hotness.  Or you flipped to the first page and realized that each book in the series began with a poem – never again on that one, because my poetry days are over.

With that in mind, I didn’t pay for advertising for the release of my fifth book.  I quietly distributed it to some trusted friends and blogger types, and sat back and sort of disappeared.  My work was done, and I had lots of other things to attend to.

The past year of my life has been largely spent living in a sort of dream world.  Sure, there were some difficulties along the way, but by and large everything has changed for the better.  Since I’ve been away, I’ve relocated to beautiful North Carolina, where we had the windows open in January.  My husband and I built the house I had admired online from six hundred miles away, and now I get to live in it.  And I also scored on the working from home front simply by becoming a trailing spouse.  Life is good.

I’ve largely been an observer in the writing community for the past twelve months, and what I’ve seen doesn’t exactly fill my heart with joy.  There’s a lot of negativity and anger on both sides of the equation.  Readers are complaining about pricing, cliffhangers, series being too long or too short, you name it.  Authors are upset about exposure, sales, reviews, whatever.  The foul smell that has risen from the depths of social media in general has permeated what used to be my happy place, and I don’t like it.

While both sides have some valid points, every time I open up Facebook or Twitter, it seems like all the content I see is depressing instead of uplifting.  True, life isn’t ever going to be perfect, but it seems like by and large we are forgetting what brought us to this party to begin with.  Books.  Characters.  Stories that keep you reading way past your bedtime.  Plots that stick with you long after the last page has been read.

Readers love to consume them.  Authors love to create them.  Right?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I am extremely blessed that I don’t have to do this for a living.  I have a fabulous job that pays the bills.  Writing is fun for me.  While I take it way too seriously to consider it my hobby, it’s not responsible for paying my mortgage, or my electric bill, or for my groceries.  If I don’t feel like writing for a weekend, or a month, or a year, I just don’t.

Case in point:  Chasing Echo was started over a year ago, so a preview could be included at the end of Silenced.  I’d originally planned to release it in December of last year, but that didn’t happen.  I’ve tinkered with it off and on over the past few months, but it’s really only about halfway done.  So I pushed the release date back to September 2017, because I can.  No big deal.  No pressure.

I realize that I’m lucky to be able to do that.  I know there’s plenty of other authors out there who have a strict release schedule, and a decision like that just wouldn’t fly.  I’ve seen apologies posted on Facebook for books being delayed a couple of weeks – like writers are afraid that they’ll lose their fan bases if they don’t deliver on what was probably an unrealistic goal in the first place.

Nobody said a damn word when I changed the release date for Chasing Echo, even though it was already up for preorder at most retailers.  Of course, since I didn’t publicize that purchase links were live, no one probably knew.  I didn’t receive any hate mail, or lose any followers, or have anyone give me any grief.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like for me if my income depended on my writing.  If by not making my original release date, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for Christmas presents, or put gas in my car, or so many other things.  I’m so glad I never have to find that out.

Realistically, even though by some people’s accounts, I’m successful at this writing gig, I know for me it’s never going to be something that I can do full time.  I’ve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle that is in part supported by my 9-6.  I would have to consistently sell tens of thousands of books annually in order to replace that income, and that’s never, ever, going to happen.  I don’t see myself selling tens of thousands of books total before I die, and I’m only thirty-eight.  I hope I have a lot of time left to keep writing and keep selling.

So my take away from all this as I re-enter the fold is to keep doing this thing that I love.  To keep creating on whatever timeline feels right, and not worry about what impact it has on the bottom line.  For me, there is no bottom line, and there won’t ever be.

I began writing when I was young, much like the cliched story that most of us author types tell.  It took me until 2012 to have the guts to actually do it for others to potentially read.  But ultimately, I do this for myself.  Somehow, I’m fortunate enough to have amassed a readership, however small, because of it.

So my promise to you is that I’ll keep doing it my way.  The positive way.  The way that my stories and my characters deserve.  And I can assure you, what you’ll get will be something worth waiting for.

Vacant

Yes, I know I haven’t posted here in over three months.  Yes, I know that I just now went into my settings and changed the book links for Silenced to state that it was live and not on preorder, took down the giveaway that ended in February, and removed the progress bar for the book that’s been released for nearly two months.  Seriously, I bet people figured out that it was done already.

No, Chasing Echo hasn’t sat completely untouched, even though that progress bar is clocking in at a big fat goose egg.  I just can’t be bothered to change it right now.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve sort of had an “I don’t give a fuck” approach to writing lately.  And it seems to work for me.  Because not giving a fuck, and barely making a peep about my new release has rewarded me with quite a few sales.  In fact, having a silent (pun intended) launch has yielded the most results ever.  I’m not even trying, and people are buying.  I attribute this to the fact that I’ve finally used the loss leader approach for the first book, and the few people that have actually downloaded and read it keep coming back for more.

But this post isn’t about sales, or really writing for that matter.  Because it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t my focus right now.

I’ve touched on what’s going on in my personal life briefly if you stalk me on Facebook or Twitter.  Don’t worry, it’s all good.  For nearly the past year, my husband has been interviewing for various manager positions within his company.  All of which would require an out of state move, because that is what the end goal was.  We didn’t care where, we just wanted out of Indiana.

Before people get all riled up, there’s nothing wrong with Indiana.  It’s just that I have lived here all my life, and even though my man has lived overseas, it was before he was old enough to really remember it.  So for all intents and purposes, he’s been here his whole life too.  And we wanted to experience somewhere different; not just on vacation.

That place turned out to be North Carolina.  Sure, there were a few close calls – times when we thought we’d be packing up and heading to Wisconsin or Oklahoma.  We actually figured we didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at NC.  But that wonderful phone call came, and everything became real.  Right now.

Within weeks, we were flying out to choose a place to live (we decided to build), and shortly after that, my husband had to be out there for good.  Which leaves me back in Indiana to wrap up things like selling the house and getting the kids through the end of the school year.  It’s like being a single parent, only I have a husband available via Skype.

This past weekend, I took the girls out for their first visit to their new home.  Technically, their new hometown, since the house itself has just started to be framed.  So we visited our slab, okay?  That’s how memories are made.  Really, the majority of the time in NC was spent just being a complete family unit again.

So I survived twenty hours in the car in the span of three days, and a trek through the mountains all while being the sole driver.  And the girls and I didn’t kill ourselves, or each other.  No one yelled or screamed, but there were a few tears.  Trust me, it was hard to leave that home and come back to the old one.

This trip was planned at the very beginning of my girls’ spring break, so I wouldn’t have to pull them out of school for the drive down.  So I was gone Friday and Saturday, returning on Sunday.  After unloading the car and taking our stuff inside, I went down to the mailbox and emptied out the two days’ worth of junk mail that had accumulated, thinking very little of it.

Monday after work, I did my usual run down to the mailbox, noting nothing inside.  That’s not all that peculiar.  Every once in a while, we go without getting anything.

Tuesday?  Nothing in the mailbox again.

Wednesday, I walked down to the mailbox in the pouring rain, only to open it up to pull out an ugly green slip of flimsy cardboard.  Emblazoned on this paper was the word “VACANT”.  Upon further inspection, I learned that my idiotic mail carrier had deemed my house as vacant.

Because, as you may expect, I have a “for sale” sign hammered down into my lawn.  Because I was gone for TWO WHOLE DAYS without asking his permission.

Never mind that the lawn care guy had clearly just been by.  Never mind that my trash and recycling bins had been rolled down to the curb, just like at all of my neighbors’ houses.

I apparently didn’t live there anymore, so the post office was refusing to deliver my mail to my home.

So I followed the instructions on the form, declaring that I did in fact still live there, scrawling even my minor children’s names down on the off chance they may receive some mail at some point.  I added a couple choice comments, too.  Then I marched back out to the mailbox, raising the flag as told, and slammed the damn thing shut.

The more I thought about it, the more pissed off I became.  As there was no contact phone number on the form, I searched Google for who I could call to bitch out.  The 800 number for the USPS is useless, unless you want to track a package or buy stamps, especially at 7 at night.  And the phone number I found for the Indianapolis office that services address in my zip code?  Just rang and rang, with not even a voice mail picking up.

I was seeing red, imagining the envelopes that my mailman was keeping from me piling up.  What gave him the right to determine that my home was vacant?  That’s right.  He had none.  Maybe if my mailbox hadn’t been emptied for weeks, and it was overflowing, okay.  BUT TWO FUCKING DAYS?

Nobody holds their mail for a two day vacation.  The post office would probably laugh their asses off at me if I tried that.  I’ve been gone that long before with absolutely no mail delivery problems.  But stick a damn “for sale” sign in your yard, and suddenly you’ve abandoned your property, gone without a fucking trace.

So I put pen to paper and gave Mr. Neighborhood Watch a piece of my mind.  I restrained myself, not dropping any F-bombs, but the snark came out full force.  I pointed out that I had lived in my home for 13 years, and that I continued to live there despite the fact my house was on the market.  Because normal people do that, you know.  I told him I wasn’t aware I needed to inform him when I decided to take off for the weekend.  I let him know that I had moved before, and realized that when my address changed I needed to tell him.  And that I would gladly do so when that time came, because I wasn’t stupid.  I played the “I came home from a 10 hour workday to deal with this shit” card and advised him that since he had created this mess, he needed to handle it YESTERDAY.

Then back out into the rain to pop that bad boy in the mailbox too.

I slept a little easier last night, even though my author’s brain conjured up images of the cops being called to find me squatting in my own house.  You know, the place where all my stuff is because I STILL LIVE HERE.

In the morning, I woke up just as pissed off about it.

Part of me expected me to chicken out and grab that letter from my mailbox before I went to work this morning, before anyone else saw it.  But no dice.  It remained in the mailbox, the red flag proudly declaring that my mailman had mail.

Tonight, when I came home from work, the mailbox was empty.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

I’ll probably end up with a flaming bag of poo on my doorstep, and will never see mail in my mailbox again for the 7-8 weeks I have left here in Indiana.

I’ll probably have to physically go to the post office and complain at them to get what’s rightfully mine, to take it back to the vacant house in which I still live.

But my kids will always remember the time that their mother roasted the mailman.

Looking for Reviewers

It’s that time again.  With slightly less than two months left before the release of Silenced,   I’m gathering up a list of people who are willing to read and review.

It’s always been a bit difficult to find people who will commit to jumping into the current book of a series when it’s already well on its way to completion.  Though the last two books that were released were technically able to be read as stand alones, it’s always been my opinion that the best experience comes from reading the series in order, from start to finish.  With this release, I’m requiring that those that receive an ARC do just that.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that the first book was released with a whimper.  No build up, no marketing whatsoever until it had already gone live.  And the promotion that I got once it was already for sale was minimal at best, though I did pay for advertising.  Books two through four were handled by another promotional company, and the results were slightly better.  But after a harrowing roll out for Changed  which cost me hundreds of dollars and left me in tears, seriously considering deleting a manuscript that most of my readers ended up loving, I knew I could do better.

My answer?  Like it is with most everything on this crazy self-publishing journey, I’m doing it all my own damn self.  I’m not paying a tour company this time.  I have done some advertising, shelling out a minimal amount to promote the special preorder price for Silenced  during a group Facebook event.  I’ve done my own giveaway.  I’ve guest hosted a few takeover slots.  And yes, I have directly contacted bloggers – some old standbys who it was really a formality to ask them – as well as some new faces that I’m excited about teaming up with.  Once I have the paperback version ready, I’ll also do a Goodreads giveaway too.

The fact of the matter is that by driving my own train, I’m in total control.  And as such, I’ve seen marked improvement over the results that I got when I let someone else take the wheel.  Right now, I’m sitting on over twice as many Amazon preorders of Silenced (with nearly two months to go before release) than I had of Changed  total.  And the numbers at the other retailers are just as strong.

No, I’m nowhere near the point of ever reaching a bestseller list, but it’s convincing enough data to wonder why I didn’t decide to do this my own way ages ago.

Which leads to this.  I want you – yes, you – to read and review Silenced.  Haven’t started the series yet?  No problem.  There’s plenty of time to catch up and read the new book before February.  I’ll even send them direct to your Kindle email address one at a time.  All you have to do is promise to read the first four books in order from beginning to end, answer one trivia question per novel to confirm that you did, and you’re golden.  All ready to get your ARC and post an honest review to Amazon and Goodreads.

Ready to sign up?  Click the link below for more details and to get started.

http://goo.gl/forms/Duji0JBvAz

Happy reading!

 

The End

Tonight I finished writing  Silenced .

As with any of my previous four books, coming to the end of a novel is always a double-edged sword.  A feeling of accomplishment mixed with a bit of sadness that this story is over and these characters that have grown throughout the course of the book are sailing off into the sunset one last time.

As most of you know, this is the fifth and final installment of The Intoxicated Books, so for me this is a big deal.  Most of these characters have been a figment of my imagination for about twenty years, and however silly it sounds, I’ll kind of miss writing for them.

My goal was to finish writing the book sometime in November.  I’d say that wrapping things up on the first of the month pretty much shattered that goal.   I wanted to have a finished – but not perfect – manuscript when I uploaded the preorder to Amazon.  And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t be embarrassed if this version I just finished went live.  I’m a pretty clean writer, and my final copy never looks that different from the rough draft.

Admittedly, I have an unorthodox approach to publishing.  I’m of the rare breed that likes to finish very early, read it once, then set it aside for a while and start writing on the next book.  About a month after the first read through, I go back and read again to make any other changes.  My sideloaded mobi copy gets highlighted and notated, then I go back to the Word doc and change the real thing.

I usually have ARCs ready well in advance.  Not that many people care about them, but I do have four or so people in my back pocket who will read and review for me.  Once that’s done, I focus my attention on formatting the print copy and of course, writing the next book.

This time will be different.  I’ve already decided that I won’t be doing a massive release day rollout, or a preorder event, or a blog tour, because I don’t really feel like I’ve benefited from them in the past.  In fact, my paid marketing tactics for book four left me so upset that I seriously thought about erasing the entire novel (which I loved), cancelling the preorder and never releasing it to the public.  With that horrible aftertaste in my mouth, I can’t treat any future books in that same manner.  I have a couple marketing ideas that I’m tossing around, but nothing set in stone.  Whatever I do end up doing will be controlled entirely by me and distributed by me, because I’ve learned it’s a good idea to trust only myself.

And in addition to me embarking on writing completely different characters, I’m doing something else unprecedented shortly.

I’m taking a break from writing romance.

Chasing Echo  is by no means a romance book, but it’s definitely a love story of sorts.  However, I’m categorizing it as Contemporary Literary Fiction.  I can’t even realistically call it Women’s Fiction, because it will be told entirely from the viewpoint of the male character.

Because I think ahead, the next two books on my plate after that will more than likely be Women’s Fiction, and that will mean that I won’t be writing anything of the Romance genre for at least a good two years.  Maybe longer, because I have some pretty decent concepts for Chick Lit tales as well.

Why?  I’m tired of sex.

I’ve always been an outsider in the Romance genre, because my series has been notoriously difficult to categorize.  People looking for an alpha male, mommy porn novel are bored to death.  People looking for a clean romance are turned off by my foul language.  And The Intoxicated Books are probably the closest things to romance that I’ll ever write.   I do have a very loose concept for a new romance series, but that will be very, very far off, if in fact it develops into something more.

I’m having so much fun coming up with ideas for standalones that the thought of being bogged down in another series doesn’t appeal to me at this point.  I’ve blown my series wad with these characters, and I can’t imagine anyone else taking their place.

Like I’ve said many times before, I write for selfish reasons.  I don’t write what sells, but some people end up buying it anyway.  I write stories that I want to read, tales that I don’t feel have been done before in the way that I can do them.  And true to life, most of what I write does have romantic elements.  Relationships permeate your entire life – for good or bad.  And I think that comes across in what I create.

But the idea of writing full on romance, or even masquerading like I do, feels like a lie.  And the only thing I’ve wanted to do during this journey is be true to myself.

Reality Check

Sometimes when I sift through social media and the blogging world, I feel as though I am the only author who doesn’t want to make this my full time career.  Does that make me any less serious about the craft?  Does that make my novels any less enjoyable than someone who does only this?  I don’t think so.

In many instances, full time authors are praised for “doing what they love”.  I agree that’s a wonderful thing to be able to do.  Some days, what I would love to do has very little to do with writing or even my actual 9-6.  Some days, I would love to curl up in bed and sleep all day while getting paid.  Wouldn’t you?

Most of the time, however, I’m very much content to work an actual job Monday through Friday and then write on the weekends.  I don’t subscribe to the starving artist theory that one has to suffer for their talent.  Me, I can do both!

I’ve grown accustomed to my lifestyle working outside the home.  I like driving my brand new car, living in a nice home in a good school district, not penny pinching at the grocery store and being able to splurge on little extras without giving it a second thought.  Realistically, if I were to write full time, I’d have to give all of that up.

Never mind the fact that I work for a company where I feel that I’m valued.  They want me to accept more responsibilities and are ready to help me grow.  They’ve shown this time and again, and I don’t doubt that this will continue.  They are also incredibly supportive of my writing career, from the very top executive all the way down.

I understand that some self-publishers have done so out of necessity.  Either due to a disability, a job loss, or because they want to spend time at home with their young children, it’s their choice.  And it’s a difficult path to walk down.  Trust me, I’ve experienced job loss in my family before and it is tough.  Even if my own experiences would have occurred after the self-publishing revolution, I wouldn’t have immediately thought of writing as the answer to all of my prayers.  Yes, it works for some.  You’ll hear their stories and become inspired.  But what you won’t hear are the stories of the thousands just like them who didn’t get discovered.

Here’s a reality check for you.  Granted, my numbers are a little skewed because I don’t self-promote like I should.  I don’t need to, because I do this for the love of writing.  But I do sell on a consistent basis.  Even without talking myself up, readers still find me (maybe because of the permafree series starter) and keep buying.  I have preorders on record for a book coming out in 5 months that I’ve barely even mentioned.

Even so, this year (my best year so far since my first book was published in 2013) I will make less in book sales than I do during a single week at my 9-6.  And that’s total royalties, not taking into account the expenses that I shell out for book covers, giveaways and the occasional paid promotion.  At this level, I make sure I promote enough to wipe out all of my royalties so I can claim a business loss.

If I truly, honestly, wanted to work full time as a writer, I wouldn’t do it until I was making at least as much as I do outside the home.  In other words, I would have to sell more books every single month than I have ever sold combined the entire time I’ve been published.  I’m not naive.  I know it will be a cold day in hell before that ever happens.

But still I keep writing.  Because it is what I love to do.  I’m telling the stories that I want to tell, which aren’t in the genres that are getting big sales.  And there is a terrific freedom in being true to myself and writing the books I want to.  Yes, my books dabble quite heavily in the romantic realm, but they aren’t the flavor of the month variety, capitalizing on the stepbrother/millionaire/rockstar/whatever craze.

It doesn’t make me any less ambitious than the next author out there who pours his or her heart and soul into their work.  It just makes me less worried about the end result, because in the scheme of things, reception to my books doesn’t matter.  I write for myself, and for the select few who have discovered me and found something they like there.  I don’t need to appeal to the masses, and that’s exactly how I like it.

In the end, we all have to decide what our goals are and use those as a means of determining our own success.  Am I successful at what I do?  The answer is a resounding yes.

End of Summer Blow-Out Sale

SUmmer Blowout Sale1Who doesn’t like a free or sale priced book?  Anyone?

As most of you know, I set Intoxicated to permafree at all retailers back in May.  I’m always looking to get the word out to new readers, so when my author friend Zoey Derrick came up with the idea for a group of us to help promote our freebies and rock-bottom sale priced books, I was totally on board.  I am so excited for my book to be included in this list of fabulous reads.

This event will take place between September 1 – 7, just in time for you to start reading over the Labor Day Weekend.  Because, face it, not all of us are party animals.

But wait, there’s more!  We’ll also be having giveaways and other fun stuff all week long.

There’s a Rafflecopter going up with some great prizes, plus some flash giveaways over on Facebook.

Rafflecopter Link

Facebook Event Link

For the complete list of authors and books participating, please check out http://zoeyderrick.net/summer-blow-out.

Join us and get to filling up your Kindle for those cold months ahead.  I know I will be! 🙂

summer blow-out! (3)

Falling Out of Love

I’ve been away for awhile.

During my respite from blogging, I’ve actually been living out my author dream pretty well.  Just like the words of wisdom that I read from some other blogger sometime quite long ago, many authors start to hit their stride somewhere around the fourth or fifth book.  I’ve found mine and it’s a beautiful feeling.  For some reason, it’s the sweet spot and if you’re doing things right, by that point you should be pleased with your sales figures.  If you’re not, it’s time to re-evaluate what it is you’re writing and how you’re promoting yourself.

I’ve always been a genre bender.  I’ve always had difficulty categorizing what exactly the hell it is that I write.  It’s easier to list off what I don’t:  paranormal, historical, fantasy, sci-fi.  For The Intoxicated Books, I settled on classifying them as contemporary romance.

But I’ve always known they were different.  They don’t fall into the typical romance book mold, even though there’s plenty of falling in and out of love.  But there’s humor and heartache and family drama too.  And there are definitely some romance buzzwords that don’t show up in my writing, though I certainly am not afraid of the F-bomb.  As such, readers looking for a cookie cutter alpha male story with hot, hot sex aren’t going to be impressed.  That’s perfectly fine.

That’s part of the reason that I decided to market Book 5 in the series in a completely different way, if at all.  It’s something that has been brewing in the back of my head since the debacle that was the release of Book 4.  The moment that I realized without question that I didn’t fit in where I had placed myself.  The moment that I realized that I didn’t want to play the competition game.  The moment that I decided it wasn’t fair to myself to pay someone else for a marketing campaign that left me in tears and wanting to cancel the entire damn thing.  Though Book 4 is quite arguably my favorite in the series (but I say that about all of them when I write them), for a few weeks I absolutely hated it and regretted ever writing anything.

Marketing your books shouldn’t make you feel like total hell.

So I stopped, and then the magic happened.

Of course, there is always room for improvement, and no one ever sells as many copies as they ultimately dream of.  But my expectations are reasonable, and I’ve always been very clear that I do this on an extremely part time basis.  I don’t spam book links to various social media accounts, nor do I even post everywhere frequently.  Yet most days, I get paid sales on at least one platform.  Sometimes I get more paid sales than free downloads.  And I realize that by accomplishing this, I’m doing better than a large percentage of self-publishers.  I’m not greedy; I’m humbled that I have found repeat readers.  Readers who get hooked on the first book, who maybe did pick it up as a perma-free, and who dutifully come back and purchase the remaining books in the series.  I’ve even gotten preorders for Book 5, which doesn’t come out until February, simply by having it available at most retailers already.

And you know me.  I am always thinking ahead.  Book 5 is over halfway done on the laptop, but complete in my head and I’ve moved on from those characters.  They write themselves for me, after having been with them for the better part of twenty years.

I was sitting on ideas for about 7 standalone books, along with a very basic concept for another series.  They range in flavor from chick lit to steamy romance, but never to the point of erotica.  I might read it, but I don’t see myself writing it.  And considering that I will have to start writing one of them to put a teaser chapter at the end of Book 5 before it goes live, I knew I needed to make a decision on which figment of my imagination was going to come next.  I had almost decided on one of them; the one most fully formed with a title, tagline, entire plot and a cover vision.

Then Tuesday happened and another brand new idea took precedence.  In the span of twenty-four hours, I had all of the above plus character names and a half-assed blurb jangling around in my brain.  I was writing scenes and dialogue, envisioning the beginning of the book in my screenplay-esque way.  And I knew without a doubt that it would be the next book going up for sale.

Guess what?  It’s not a romance.  Sure, there will be romantic elements.  But this will be dark and depressing, a haunting novel that will hopefully stick with readers much the same as it’s consumed my thoughts lately.  It’s the story that I feel I need to tell next, genre be damned.

Call it women’s fiction, or literary fiction, or whatever you’d like.  And take the plunge with me if you want to.  For I don’t write for sales, I write for myself.  And maybe I’ve found that being a little off and unpopular is exactly where I want to be.

If you’re really observant, you’ll catch the title here, hiding somewhere on this blog.  But that’s all I’m ready to say at this point.

Stay tuned.

Snowball

2015nominee

 

So I was messing around on Google, which I don’t do nearly as much as my husband thinks, and I came across a hit several pages into the search results for myself that piqued my interest.  It involved the eFestival of Words and my very own novel, Shattered.

Having working knowledge of eFestival of Words and respecting some of the authors who have been nominated/won their categories in previous years, I was more than intrigued.  So I clicked on the link, learning that the nominees for 2015 had recently been named.  In order to access the complete list, I had to register for an account, which I did.

Lo and behold, somehow Shattered has been nominated for Best Chick Lit / Best Women’s Lit.

Okay, so I understand how the nominating process works.  People with ties to the publishing industry (authors, editors, bloggers, etc.) nominate their peers in order to celebrate the best in indie publishing.  All nominations are made anonymously, and authors cannot nominate a work that they are intimately connected to.  So no, I didn’t toot my own horn.

Which means that someone out there somewhere respects my work and that’s extremely flattering.  Or they had absolutely no idea who to vote for in that category, so they just named me instead.

In any case, of the three books that were eligible for the nomination (Changed was released too late for consideration), Shattered is the one that I would never have guessed would be chosen.  While I’m proud of all of my books, I realize that Shattered is the red-headed stepchild of the series.  It’s forever lurking in the shadows of the first book, which it’s a companion to.  Though some have read and enjoyed it as a standalone, it really isn’t.  And it doesn’t pack the emotional punch of the third novel, which can be read on its own.

What comes next in the grand scheme of things is that a committee selects the finalists in each category, then those finalists are voted on by the general public beginning July 1st.

A number of factors are considered in choosing finalists:  book cover, book blurb, quality of reviews and social media presence among them.

I realize that Shattered doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.  Why?  Because what works for me as an author bucks tradition.  I am the epitome of someone who does everything wrong according to conventional wisdom.

For example:

1.  Book cover – I love my covers personally, but they don’t look like other people’s covers.  No half dressed man candy, or couples almost nearly kissing.  Granted, in the Chick Lit / Women’s Lit category, there’s a bit more leeway on this than in the broader romance genre.  My covers are artsy and definitely recognizable as being tied to the series, but some people hate them.

2.  Book blurb – Okay, Shattered probably has the best blurb (in my opinion) of any of the books in the series.  But blurbs are harder for me to write than the actual book, so what do I know?

3.  Quality of reviews – Out of all four books I have released, Shattered has the fewest reviews on Amazon.  On Goodreads, it has a few more than Designed.  They are all honest and genuine though, so that’s a plus.

4.  Social media presence – Yes, I have a Twitter, Facebook, Tsu, Google Plus and Goodreads account.  I have a blog (duh).  Google me and tons of stuff pops up.  But my experience with all of this is that the less I  post, the more I sell.  No kidding.  This past month, I’ve been virtually silent and it’s been my best month yet.  And forget about a street team or a PA.

So, I’ll take my nomination and run with it, being happy that I can forever associate a fleeting token of recognition with something that I wrote.  It’s really more than I ever expected, or than most authors like me ever get.

 

 

Success

This past week, Amazon price matched Intoxicated, making it free across all platforms.  All in all, it wasn’t as lengthy of a process as I expected it to be.  I believe that I started on 5/7/15 by changing the price at Smashwords, then waiting for the trickle down effect to take place.

Every day since the book went free at some of the bigger sites (iBooks, B&N, Kobo), I clicked over to Amazon to see if they noticed.  I reported my own lower prices quite a few times, even though I’ve heard that it’s not effective if the author does it.  I did enlist a few friends to help, but I’m not positive that more than two other people reported the lower price.

The tipping point in my eyes is when I uploaded Intoxicated to Google Play as a free download.  Not because I plan on selling tons of books there, or even uploading the rest of the series there, but solely because I stumbled across advice that suggested this was a surefire way to get Amazon to make your book free.  And the logic makes sense.  After all, Google is, well, Google.  Imagine when the search engine results pulled up for your book, showing free at Google, and paid at Amazon.  With the way Amazon dominates the ebook market, it’s not good for them to be publicly undercut.

Sure enough, within two days of my book going live on Google Play, it was also free at Amazon.  I had achieved success, and didn’t even know it until I saw the first three free downloads hit on my dashboard, a lovely green color among the (very) sporadic red line of paid sales.

As I expected, perma-free works better on Amazon than it does on other outlets.  Though making it free at other retailers has guaranteed at least a few downloads per day, the response elsewhere has been nothing like over at Amazon.  It was fun the first day to periodically check my dashboard to see the downloads climbing by what I considered to be leaps and bounds.  Mind you, I did nearly no promotion of this – just a simple tweet, a Facebook post, and a mention over on Tsu, so most of the downloads came from people stumbling across it themselves.

For the first two days of free at Amazon, I did so much better than I expected.  Intoxicated hit right around sales rank 1,200 of all free books at its peak (at least what I witnessed) and was also (just barely) in the top 100 of both the Romance and the Women’s Fiction categories.  Pretty good for an experiment.

The interest has subsided since, which I fully expected.  I’ve submitted it to a couple of free book websites for editorial consideration, as I’m hoping I can get some promotion at no charge.  I’ve just started a targeted Facebook ad for the next week, but am not throwing a whole  lot of money at  it.  So far, I am the only click, because I couldn’t stop myself from trying it out to make sure the damn thing worked.

What’s my goal here?  Ultimately to get people to take a chance on my series by reading the first one for free.  And the early results are promising.  Prior to Amazon setting it to free, I’ve had a few paid sales of Book Two at the other retailers.  And a purchase of the rest of the series at Smashwords, each subsequent book selling two days after the last.  And since going free at Amazon, I’ve gotten one new review of Intoxicated, and paid sales of Book Two each day.

Still not setting the world on fire, but it’s a start.  I’ll take it.