This month, I’ll be participating in a Cover Wars/Scavenger Hunt promotion for my first book, Intoxicated. Let’s face it; I’d much prefer that a new reader find me by stumbling across Book One and get hooked into purchasing Book Two as well. Though you could probably read them out of order and get the gist of things, you’d be missing a fair amount of backstory by reading Book Two first. FYI: Book Three will be far more stand-alone.
But I digress.
I’ve always been proud of my cover for Book One and I’ve gotten some excellent feedback on it from others. Sure, I’m biased, but it makes sense to me. The wine glasses have become a theme for my entire series, and if you read the storyline, their being there makes sense. It’s symbolic and literal all at the same time. I’ve even taken the whole wine thing one step further and inadvertently set my ringtone for texts to the sound of wine glasses toasting. I know, I’m sick. And it’s surprisingly easy to find photos of wine glasses with things in them. Just ask me – I’ve got the cover art for Books Three, Four and Five already on my computer. Still, Book One’s cover is my personal favorite. Some really crafty folks could even scout out what the cover images for Three and Four will look like; I’ve leaked the pictures out somewhere without telling anyone what they were.
My covers are different. A quick scan of romance covers on Amazon.com will tell you that. I’ve also chosen to buck some common wisdom by having a white background. “It will look awful on websites!” some pronounce. I don’t see a problem with it. Maybe my computer is just super awesome (it does glow purple from the keyboard), but my thumbnail image looks just fine on all the sites I’ve stalked. I chose early on to only use white, black and red on my covers. I cringe at the thought of trying to put a glass of red wine on a black background. It just wouldn’t work.
But what is most glaringly unique about my covers? They don’t include people. Show me a page of thirty romance covers and you’d be hard pressed not to find the majority of them featuring people. Usually, these people are almost, nearly, kissing. That’s kind of an awkward pose if you think long and hard about it. Sometimes it’s just a guy or just a girl, but overwhelmingly there is a person on the cover.
And then there’s my book(s). They don’t blend in, which may or may not be a good marketing tactic. I’m nowhere near established enough to tell if standing out from the crowd makes more people click on my book to take a look. To be honest with you, I don’t personally view the cover of a book as being one of the reasons to download something.
No, the reason I’m anti-people on my book covers is because I don’t like when the author (or the publisher) forces me to imagine a character in a certain way. When I read someone else’s work of fiction, I try to visualize what the characters look like. It’s off-putting to see Fabio’s face on every romantic love interest, if you catch my drift. And I try to leave the characters that I’ve created open for others’ interpretation as well. Hell, I don’t even know exactly what they look like. I got to Book Three before I gave Lauren (the main character of One and Two) an eye color. It’s hazel, by the way.
Sure, I give descriptions here and there. Lauren’s short, brunette, into hair and makeup. Blake’s tall, athletic, a porcelain doll type with platinum blond hair that includes a blue streak. She’s got a nose piercing, a navel ring and at least one tattoo. But I’m not putting them up on the cover and saying “Look here! This is Lauren! That one’s Blake!”
I’ve gotten asked by well meaning individuals if I ever have a movie made out of my series, who I have in mind to play the roles. I. Don’t. Know. I don’t see my characters in that way. It’s hard to explain, but when I plot and visualize scenes, the characters are in the shadows. I’ve daydreamed scenes from Lauren’s perspective plenty of times – like I’m seeing what she would see – and I’ve begun to do that with Blake as well. But give me an inanimate object like a car (my beloved Mustang) or any of the character’s homes and I can describe them down to the tiniest detail.
Maybe I’m just weird that way.
So take a gander at my cover and consider voting for me if you agree that expected is not always the way to go. The promotion hasn’t started quite yet, but once I have the link to it, I’ll be posting it and instructions on how to vote here and via Twitter.
As always, I’d also like your feedback. What makes an attractive cover to you as an author or a reader? Authors: have you decided to change a cover of an already published title and did that make a difference in sales? Readers: have you ever passed a book by simply because its cover wasn’t up to your standards? Both: does the cover art make as big of a difference as some people would like us to believe?
This past Friday, my husband and I got to cross something off of our bucket list. He has been a huge Detroit Red Wings fan for many years and fondly remembers their latest four Stanley Cup wins. When we met in 1999, I was quickly initiated into fandom. I’d watch games with him and on occasion, without him.
We even went to an NHL game during our honeymoon in Florida. It was sort of my idea; one of those things that we brainstormed and I was game for doing. Our team wasn’t playing, but it was hockey nonetheless and we had a great time.
From that point forward, we’d always wanted to see Detroit live in action. Considering that it’s only about a three hour drive for us, it wasn’t too tall of an order, but just something that got put on the backburner. For thirteen years.
So this year, my husband took the initiative and began looking for tickets to games that were halfway reasonably priced. Some games were already almost sold out and others were quite salty just to get in the door. We settled for seeing them play the Washington Capitals. Cue Ticketmaster and the credit card and we were making the dream a reality.
For a couple of months, the anticipation built as those tickets sat on my desk. They stared at me as I worked at my laptop. When I wrote my bonus content about the hockey game, I laughed internally, knowing that in a few short weeks, I would actually be doing what my characters had talked about. I researched parking, things to do once we got to Michigan and booked a hotel room. This was actually happening.
The trip up to Detroit was largely uneventful. I had been a little bit concerned that we’d get caught in an early snowstorm, but the cold snap that we’d experienced earlier in the week broke and things were good to go. After countless Eminem references (because signs for Eight Mile Road were ubiquitous), we made our way to the casino which I’d read was a good place to park.
I got carded at the casino on my way in and again on my way back after the game. It was a sobering thought that logistically I’m old enough to be a parent to a twenty-one year old, but that’s beside the point. I guess I’ll just take that as a compliment.
Once inside the casino, my husband struck up a conversation with a couple decked out in Red Wings gear and asked them if they knew the way to the People Mover, which takes you from the casino to right outside Joe Louis Arena. They not only gave us directions, they walked us there. It beat my plan of just following people that looked like they knew what they were doing.
Safely at the arena, we easily found our seats. My husband knows me well and scored us aisle seats. I kind of have a thing about sitting in tight confined spaces next to people I don’t know. The photo above was taken from my seat. I’m definitely not a photographer. I also took some shots of downtown Detroit that are absolutely awful.
The game itself was almost everything I wanted it to be. Obviously, it could have been improved upon by our team actually winning, which didn’t happen as we lost in a shootout. For whatever reason, every sporting event I have attended in the past year except for the Notre Dame game has ended in overtime, a shootout, or extra innings. Maybe it’s just me.
I love hockey because it is nonstop action. Fort Wayne has their own hockey team and I’ve been to several of their games over the years, but the difference between that level of play and the NHL is apparent. Both are fun, but the NHL is faster and the experience is just that much more impressive.
For the people who think that hockey is just a string of fights with a few minutes of athletics interspersed, that wasn’t the case here. On the ice, there were zero fights. In the stands, well that was a different story. Security was called a few times for a group in my section that was getting a little too rowdy. A pair of Capitals fans were getting into it with some Red Wings fans, and I seriously thought a couple of times that it would come to blows. That sort of thing makes a strong case for why alcohol shouldn’t be served so freely at sporting events.
Would we go again? Of course we would. I think that now that we have one trip under our belt, we have a better idea of how to improve upon it for next time. We won’t be intimidated by the casino. We’ll actually stop there to get something to eat first instead of rushing off to go to the arena. We might just drive straight home and not stay at a hotel.
And maybe next time, the right team will win.
I’ll admit it. At this time last year I had never heard of NaNoWriMo. I stumbled upon it being mentioned quite a bit when I revisited my Twitter account as an author and turned to my trusty research tool of Google to explain. Though the concept intrigued me, I thought it was impossible to write a 50,000 word novel in the span of one month.
This year, I actually thought about doing it.
The timing was right. Or at least as good as it will ever be. After all, I’ve just released a new book and the third is not very far along in its progression. I have a couple of ideas for things I want to write about after the series is over; I could easily pick one of those concepts and go to town. Even Smashwords is joining in on the fun this year by allowing authors to publish their works in progress so readers can follow along.
But in the end, I decided against it. Why? Because I don’t fit the stereotypical NaNoWriMo author that I’ve read about in countless articles. Time and again, the serious participant is portrayed as someone who basically takes the entire month of November off from life and forces themselves to write. The kind of person who can spend all day in their pajamas. Whose only outings are to the coffee shop – and only if they’re armed with their laptop and a plot outline.
If you haven’t noticed, that’s not me.
I don’t force myself to write. Maybe that puts me on a lower rung than those “serious” author types, but I’ve never believed in making writing feel like work. Truth be told, I have a full time job already - one that I’ve been known to spend upwords of 50 hours at per week. If writing were to somehow feel like an extension of that, with deadlines and word counts and hand-wringing, I’d end up resenting it.
Instead, writing is a labor of love for me. Yes, I spend countless hours doing it per week; on the surface, it truly is another full time job. But it doesn’t feel like one. The whole process for me is enjoyable – from the plotting to the formatting to the marketing to the website reporting. Sure, I have goals for writing, deadlines that I want to meet, but the only one that I’m in competition with is myself. That’s the cool thing about being self-pubbed; I control it all and don’t have to listen to anyone else.
I admire those who can put everything aside for the month of November and just write. I don’t judge those who get on Twitter and announce they are doing a 1k in 1 hour at the top of the hour. Different things work for different people. Those tactics would make me freeze up; not inspire me.
My writing is best when it comes organically. If I don’t feel the creative juices flowing, I will put it away until I do. I’m not the type who will sit at the computer and fight with ever word. If I’m not inspired, I’m just not. I don’t find it productive to write solely for the sake of writing, only to delete all of it later and start over again. Hence the title of this post, which is stolen from a comment one of my characters makes in my latest release. Since I wrote that line, I suppose it’s not really stealing, right?
Yes, I’ve had my moments where I’ve been in the zone and the words have seemed to come faster than I could type them. I’ve had my share of 10,000 word count weekends – typically after I’ve gotten past the halfway point of my work in progress. (Ironically enough, that’s after I’ve already gotten 50,000 words under my belt.) To counter that, I’ve had just as many nights where I realize I’ve only written a couple hundred words in the span of an hour.
If I had to share those successes and failures with others in a public forum, I doubt it would do anything but scare me away.
My creativity ebbs and flows; it doesn’t matter what month the calendar says that it is.
Besides, there’s always next year.
Well, that was fun.
Tuesday was release day for the second book in my series and I’m happy to report that it felt like a success. Since I use a distributor for all retailers other than Smashwords (books sold/viewed on their own site) and Amazon, I’ve yet to see how the preorder angle came through for me. Those results will be delayed, so it may be a month or two before I can render a final verdict.
Success is a subjective word; what makes me happy is my opinion alone. I certainly didn’t break into any best seller lists. I didn’t even come close. At one point on Amazon, Book 2 was something like 39,000 out of all paid books in the Kindle store. Since that’s the highest sales rank I’ve ever had there, I’m beyond overjoyed.
The point is not to brag, but to share my experiences with those who have asked because they are interested. And yes, some people have asked. So here it is.
As you may be aware, I did a blog tour for Book One with marginal results. I’ve posted about the highs and lows of that experience here already. So it’s understandable that I would be loathe to sign up for a blog tour for Book Two. In fact, I considered doing no paid marketing at all, leaving everything up to myself and the preorder gods. In the end, I compromised and set up a release day event (through another outlet than my original blog tour company).
I chose a release day event with a giveaway. Yes, I debated long and hard about that. It all goes back to my reluctance to be like that kid in school who paid people a dollar to be their friend. But I realized that a lot of people like giveaways and a lot of authors do them. I settled on an Amazon gift card and free sets of both Book One and Two. A reader commented on one of the sites that it was an awesome giveaway. Thanks – I came up with it all on my own; I must not be too bad at this whole marketing thing!
Here’s what I can report after the dust settled:
- I sold more books just on Amazon alone in that one day than I did during my entire blog tour for Book One.
- I even sold copies of Book One, though it technically wasn’t included in the release day event.
- I got a lot of word of mouth. Seriously, my phone was blowing up with the amount of mentions I received on Twitter from bloggers and plain old readers alike. It kind of made me feel like I really am an author
- I increased both my Twitter followers and my blog subscribers substantially. Yes, I’m aware that this is a ploy to obtain more entries for my giveaway, but I’m going to do my best to keep as many of these new folks around as possible. Hi, new people! I’m glad that you are here. Really.
- Several people also added both books in the series to their Goodreads shelves. I now have – wait for it – fans. I am humbled and squealing all at the same time.
Keep in mind that I have a few advantages over where I was back in February/March. Namely, I have a book that’s already been published. I have a blog that now has more than two posts in its archives. I’ve grown more comfortable with interacting on Twitter. I had the preorder option this time. So maybe not all of the above results are solely from the event or the giveaway, but my gut instinct is that they helped considerably.
So what now? That celebrity for a day feeling has passed, but everybody knows that the marketing never truly stops. So it’s back to reality for me. Back to creating content here that people want to read, share and comment on. This means posts that appeal not only to my self-pubbed friends, but also to those readers who want extra insight into my books. Back to trying to be interesting and witty in 140 characters or less. As my husband so succinctly puts it : “Twitter’s calling”.
And perhaps the most important part – on to Book Three!
I asked and you delivered! On the eve of Shattered going live, my lovely Twitter followers got me over the 2,500 mark. As promised, here’s your bonus content.
This scene takes place during events fairly near the beginning of the book. If you’ve read as far as the free preview will allow, there won’t be any spoilers here. If you have the full book and have gotten to this point in Lauren’s version of events, there’s a little more meaning to it. (Wink, wink.)
To set things up, this scene takes place on the night of the Red Wings game. In the first book, Lauren bought Matthew two tickets to the hockey game in Detroit for his birthday. Matthew originally assumed the second ticket was for Lauren, but that had never been her intention. She’d planned on him taking Chris. Considering how things ended between them in Book One, it’s probably fairly obvious that Lauren won’t be going now.
Blake gets the narrator duties in this one, and she may or may not give us a little taste of what Book Three will cover. You know me; I won’t show my hand too early in the process…
If you haven’t yet checked out Shattered at your favorite e-book retailer, there’s no time like the present. The buy links will always be available for you on the right hand side of the page. Just click the book cover and then the symbol for your preferred retailer. Here are the ones that are available now; it will also distribute to a few other sites shortly (including Oyster). For your convenience, I’ve listed where you can buy it now below:
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/
product/B00G1XYA6K?ie=UTF8& force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_ bottom_links
- Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/
w/shattered-alicia-renee- kline/1116875171?ean= 2940045252683
- iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/
- Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/
- Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-
So, click on the link below to access a little bit of sibling banter Blake and Matthew style. Hope you enjoy!
Technically, I’ve already started writing Book Three in my series. I wanted to include a sneak preview at the end of Book Two, just as I’d done with the first. So that’s the nature of the beast – I had to jump right in and work on the new one before I’d truly finished with the upcoming release. Granted, I’d completed the first draft of Number Two and gone through editing so that I had a “finished” version to upload for preorder purposes. But knowing my anal-retentive self, I wasn’t done.
So I wrote Chapter One quickly; something that was easy to do since I’d envisioned it in my head for quite some time. Then I copied and pasted the file into my manuscript, hit upload, and put it aside. That was weeks ago. I’ve gone back to it only once, adding in the Prologue. Otherwise, it’s been hands off and poor Blake is still sitting on her shower floor, sobbing. The water heater in her house must be absolutely amazing.
A case of writer’s block? No, not really. It’s famously hard for me to start a new novel, to get the feel for where I am and how things will turn out. I could have the whole thing plotted out, with scenes prewritten in my head and the ending already established and still not really feel like I’ve hit my stride until midway through. It’s happened twice before – the first thirty thousand words or so come slowly, then I find I can’t type fast enough when I get to the middle. At the end, I slow down again, though it’s more out of a reluctance to let things go, to have it be over and done with.
No, this time I got to the point where I ended one story arc and I’m picking up another. As you may be aware, Books One and Two focus on one main character and I’m switching things up with Book Three. This means an entirely different narrator – a new focus, a new set of problems, a new voice. And I need to do her story justice.
To accomplish this, I realized that a break was likely in order. For over a year, I’ve been thinking like Lauren and writing as her as well. She’s comfortable for me; I know if I’m not careful that I’ll fall back into her voice and that’s not what I want. Even though she’s definitely a big part of the remainder of the series, she will no longer be telling the story. I want that to be apparent; I want readers to instantly be able to tell that we’re seeing things from another perspective.
Another reason for the sabbatical is that Book Two hasn’t even been released yet. With the preorder angle this time, it’s been finished for a while and I’ve promised myself to stop touching it and making changes. It’s done. It’s been uploaded to every retailer except Amazon (and their version is ready to go on my computer). It’s a different feeling this time – the excitement of going live instantly isn’t there. It’s more like a constant anticipation in the bottom of my stomach. Something that I know will be there until release day at the end of this month.
I can’t let Book Two go just yet. I have to promote it; I have to tweet about it and write about it here. I have to remain in that frame of mind just a little bit longer. I know that if I make the leap to Number Three that I will never go back to Two. It’s what happened with Number One. Sure, I did a bonus scene or two afterwards, but once I was knee deep into Two, it’s what I talked about. It’s difficult that way, being nine months or so ahead of your audience.
So what have I been doing with my time? I’ve been writing a backlist of blog posts, working on finding ways to promote my new release and stalking my website, the search engines and Smashwords for an idea of how the preorder option is working. Everything that I’ve seen is very encouraging, and every single one of my books in the future will be released this way as well. I haven’t really seen any drawbacks to having a preorder, besides of course the instant gratification of having your book available for sale and seeing those immediate results. Until release day, there’s no way to tell how many people have taken advantage of the preorder links.
I’ve also picked two bonus scenes for Book Two that will be coming later on. Since they deal with things that aren’t discussed in the preview portion of the book, I’m not ready to release them yet since there would be huge spoilers involved. In fact, one of the scenes doesn’t take place until much later in the plotline, so it will probably be quite a while before that one sees the light of day.
And of course, I’m mapping out Book Three. I have some great material planned and a huge backstory that hasn’t ever been touched on before. Sure, I’ve given hints because I always knew it was there, but there’s some things that people probably won’t see coming. Because I’m constantly thinking ahead, I’ve also come up with a couple of scenes that won’t show up until Book Four.
So don’t fret that my progress meter hasn’t been touched in ages; that’s how I roll. I promise, the end result will be worth it. When I get around to writing it.
Twitter has been called the great equalizer. Where else can you reach out to some of the most famous names in entertainment and actually have a shot at getting a response back? I’ve read many accounts of regular people (read you and me) having Twitter conversations with actors, actresses, recording artists or bestselling authors. I’ve had my own discussion with a well-respected romance novelist via Twitter. Let me tell you, it was really awesome.
But at the same time, you’ve probably come across advice that if you are branding yourself and not just on Twitter for fun, you shouldn’t follow celebrities. After all, very few celebrities ever follow back. We’re talking about the household names here, the Katy Perry types who have millions of followers but are following something like 19 people. After all, if you’re approaching the 2,000 mark, you want to take your following seriously. Why waste an all important follow on someone who won’t do a darn to improve your followers to following ratio? Or is it the other way around – a following to followers ratio? Whatever; you get the point.
I see where the advice givers are coming from. If you’re following 2,000 people and only 180 are following you back, you’re probably not doing anything to help your brand. But if you’ve got a little wiggle room in your ratios, why not have some fun?
Case in point: I follow Korn. Not just the band’s official account, but all of the members’ individual accounts as well. I realize that I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a follow back from any of them, but I don’t care. Why? Because they are my favorite band ever and I enjoy getting their updates. And maybe I am holding out hope that one day I’ll get a mention from them, because that would totally make my year.
Don’t believe that? Read my archived post “Soundtrack to the Triangle” where I wax poetically about my Facebook smiley face from Parabelle, another of my favorite bands.
But what exactly are the parameters for determining who is a Twitter celebrity and who isn’t? There are obviously some accounts that have that designation, but a lot more that fall into that gray area. Does having a verified account mean that you’re automatically in that category? Some people that I’ve never heard of have verified accounts. Others that I’d think would have verified accounts don’t. Does having a hundred thousand followers raise you into that status? Not really.
Celebrity is a subjective thing. If you admire someone and you want to follow them, do it. They may surprise you by following you back. I’ve gotten what I consider to be a few high-profile follows this way. Granted, the bloggers that I respect or the indie authors that I idolize may not be celebrities in the eyes of the person sitting at the computer beside me. But to me, it’s a definite rush when they acknowledge me back.
And what about when a random celebrity follows you first? Now that’s a true WTF moment, one that’s actually happened to me. Like most people do, I check Twitter periodically during the day to see what’s going on, who’s followed me, etc. In my notifications one day was a name that I instantly recognized. Even though I knew who this person was right away, I’d never interacted with them before, so it was totally out of the blue. Thinking it had to be one of those fake accounts that looks like a celebrity account, I investigated further. The Twitter account led to this person’s official website. I checked and Googled and checked again until I convinced myself that it was legitimate, then I promptly followed this person back. How in the world they ever heard about me, I’ll never know, but I’ll take it. And yes, I check sometimes to make sure I’m still being followed – which I am two months later – so it probably wasn’t a mistake.
Social media is supposed to be fun. If done right, it should be. Following celebrities can also clue people in to who you are as a person, further building your brand. If somebody’s thinking about following you, they just might take a look at who you think is worth listening to. Just because you happen to be an author (or a blogger or an artist or a dental hygienist) doesn’t mean you’re not also human and someone else’s superfangirl.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll make someone’s day by following them back.