Is the series king?
Common wisdom in the fiction world tends to back this up. And it’s certainly understandable. If your readers grow to love your characters, what better way to keep them excited about your next book than to continue telling tales with the people they are comfortable with? Provided that the stories are still fresh and that you aren’t dishing out too much of a good thing, this can be a useful tactic to keep your fans where you want them – poised over the one click button.
Series also provide for some unique marketing opportunities. You’ve probably heard the oft-repeated gem that some authors swear by: offer the first book for free. Obviously, this works much more effectively if you’re already a few books in and can hook your readers into continuing on right away. Even if your first book isn’t perma-free, you might still enjoy this “I’ve got to know what happens now!” phenomenon. Chances are, if someone raves about the first book, they’ll eventually pick up at least the second one. Maybe they’ll even get around to reading it one day.
Something that isn’t talked about quite as much? The difficulty that comes with gaining exposure for subsequent books – especially when you’re relatively obscure. When you’re trying to gather reviews prior to release, it can be a daunting task to try to convince someone that: a.) It’s worth their time to read Books 1-3 in order to catch up and be in the loop, or b.) You don’t have to read the other books to enjoy this one.
In my series, I took a hybrid approach to this. My books do go in order, building one upon the other. I think it’s because of their genre. Since I categorize them as a mix between contemporary romance and chick lit, they deal with relationships – both romantic and platonic. Things that occur in Book One still get mentioned in Book Four. Characters grow and react to things that have happened in the past. It’s not like a mystery – for instance – where the character development isn’t the point, it’s the plot. That being said, while Books One and Two are joined at the hip, Books Three and Four could be read as standalones.
I’ve had readers successfully pick up the series at both Book Three and Four (and a couple even at Book Two) and be perfectly happy with the experience. Most of the time, they indicate that they are so intrigued by the hint of what came before that they need to go back and read the others. Which is a win in my book for sure.
Occasionally, I do hear from someone that wishes I would have held their hand a little bit more and led them through the forest. These are the people who I haven’t won over, who won’t continue on (or go back) for whatever reason and that’s fine, too.
In a perfect world, readers would start at Book One and go forward in order. That’s the ultimate experience, no matter what book I’m marketing that day. And if you listen to the fans that have read from the beginning, they’ll tell you the same thing.
I’m not the type of writer who wants to bore people with 100 pages of backstory in every book. And considering that there are now four of them, that’s over 1,200 pages and 400,000 words to recap.
For that reason, my marketing plan for Book Five will be drastically different. It can’t be a standalone by design, since it’s the end of the series. For it to make any sense, you’ll have to read all the others before it. Which renders a blog tour relatively useless, because there have only been two blogs that have featured reviews on every single book. I’ll likely open up ARCs to those readers that have read and reviewed all the others and call it good.
Me being me, I’m already planning out what happens next. After this series is said and done (with a companion book very likely), I’m moving forward with a few true standalones, which I plan on marketing the hell out of.
My hope is that the standalones will impress new readers enough that they’ll check out the series. And read it from the beginning.
Several months ago, in the infancy of the launch for my upcoming release, I joked that this book may just be the death of me. Honestly, I didn’t know how prophetic those words would be.
This time out, I had some new ideas – things I wanted to try. I’ve been around the book releasing block a few times now and have established some opinions as to what I think works and what doesn’t. And, with Amazon finally allowing self-publishers the opportunity to list preorders, I had yet another tool in my arsenal.
Excitement reigned in the early part of this year as I sat with a newly finished book on my laptop and visions of a marketing plan dancing in my head. Like the previous installment of my series, this novel can be read as a standalone. It also builds quite nicely upon the rest of the action, so those who are reading in order will be pleased as well. Unlike Book Three, this one is not dark and twisty and profound. This one is light, naughtier than I’ve ever gone before, and snarky with a fair amount of angst for good measure.
It’s also my favorite of the series. Then again, I say that about all of them when they first come out. Quite honestly, though, it was the easiest one yet for me to write and format in all of its versions, and that in itself is endearing.
I’ve already covered here the Facebook strategy that I used to try to drum up early reviews. This was marginally successful, though I didn’t give out anywhere near the 75 copies that I had limited myself to.
I also offered ARCs to the Facebook group that my tour company runs. The usual suspects read and reviewed, for which I am grateful, but no new interest.
In addition to the Release Day Event that has become a tradition since Book Two, I also scheduled a Preorder Blitz that happened at the end of February. And this is when the headaches started happening.
I’ve had the beginnings of a Goodreads comment war on an early review that literally had me in tears. No, I really wasn’t personally involved, but still. I’ve had winners of my preorder giveaway that did not claim the ebooks that I gifted to them on Amazon, though the money has clearly been debited from my account for the purchase price weeks ago. I’ve had a winner who wouldn’t respond to me at all, but accepted the prize without as much as a “thank you”.
To which end I threw up my hands in the air and asked myself why I bother with any of this anyway. Not the writing, but the marketing part.
I have always written my books first and foremost for myself. I don’t write to make sales. I don’t even publish for the tax write-off that I’ve been able to get from two straight years of business losses. I write because I love to do it. I love creating and the entire frustrating process of seeing a story through to the time it goes live and gets printed in a paperback version.
And if some readers want to join me along the way, then that is great, too.
I’m seriously considering not doing any presale marketing for my next book. Just quietly put it out there for sale and see if anyone notices.
It will help save my sanity.
And, after all, it worked for Beyonce.
Out of all of the bonus content type posts that I write, the top ten list I do for each book is my favorite. It’s an opportunity for me to share some insight into why things ended up the way they did in the finished product. I also try to limit the spoilers, but add to the anticipation of what’s to come. Whether I accomplish any of that is up to you to decide.
So without further ado, here’s my top ten list for Changed:
1. The very first sentence in Chapter One does poke fun at Book Three. “Flashbacks suck.” If you’re reading along in the series sequentially, you already know that Blake’s book was full of flashbacks. If you read the top ten list for Designed, you’ll know that I was hesitant to include as many of them as I did, but couldn’t really see any other way around it. So leave it to Gracie to say what many people were probably thinking – right before she flashes back, though to just a few hours prior.
2. After I committed to the name for Book Four, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it sounded more fitting for a paranormal romance rather than a contemporary one. I named the installments fairly early on and have regretted some of them ever since. Shattered because everybody and their brother seems to have a book with a similar title, and Changed, because it evokes a picture of someone falling in love with a werewolf or something. I promise Will does not shape shift in any way. Changed, as the cover art suggests, is a nod to Gracie’s job as a bank teller.
3. Gracie and Will are the first characters whose appearances I’ve actually based off of real people. It’s a big thing nowadays to have a dream cast, and I haven’t been able to do that with Matthew, Lauren or Chris. Blake is so unique, I have a picture of her that I don’t think could be compared to anyone else. For Gracie, I’ve always imagined a cross between Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel, except with brown eyes. Will’s doppelganger is way more obscure, but when I saw him on a YouTube video, I knew I’d found him. The goatee was inspired by him, because I never really mentioned facial hair in any of Will’s previous appearances.
4. Gracie’s obviously read 50 Shades. There’s a lovingly snide remark that I threw in there. Can you find it?
5. I usually listen to music when I write, but during this book I kept turning to two songs in particular. Which are? “Twinge” by Chevelle and “True” by Amaranthe. I guess I like songs that begin with T. But really, take a listen to both of them because they’re pretty awesome in their own right.
6. Gracie is the only main character that hasn’t cried yet. Definitely of the girls and likely of the guys, too. We all know that Lauren and Blake have turned on the waterworks. It’s also been hinted at that Matthew, Chris and even Eric (!) have gotten misty-eyed once or twice. Will doesn’t count, since he hasn’t been a main until now. So will Gracie’s dry spell end?
7. Gracie intimidated me to write as a main. In her supporting role, you could always count on her for the best line in each book. This was intentional, because I always had her be the voice of reason, saying the things you as the reader wanted to say. And she always had an off-color, unfiltered way of saying it. The pressure was on to make her that witty throughout this book, balancing humor and seriousness, because not everything she’s up against has been or will be a joke.
8. I so wanted Gracie to buy a coppery orange luxury car. I could have sworn up and down that there was either a Lexus or Volvo out there that fit the bill, but when I did my research, I learned that they were apparently no more. I did have fun car shopping though, and for several months I got ads in my Facebook feed for overseas Volvo delivery.
9. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a reason for Matthew to get naked in this one. It’s been a tradition in all the other books to have the original Intoxicated book boyfriend in some state of undress somewhere within the story. I tried to think of a reason for him to lose clothing here, but it just didn’t make sense. He is still, however, quite hot.
10. The Grace/Christopher friendship just kind of wrote itself. I had so much fun writing the two of them together. They establish a brother/sister kind of relationship during this book, and they engage in a bit of oneupsmanship as far as giving each other a hard time. But when things go awry, Gracie can count on her Chris.
In the past two years that I’ve been blogging, I slowly developed a theory that I was hesitant to vocalize. We hear good-intentioned advice from those in the know that all self-published authors should have a blog. And obviously, since you’re reading this on my blog , I halfway agree with that sentiment.
Blogs are great tools for getting your name out there on search engines. Let me tell you, I felt like I had arrived the second I Googled myself and actually came up with something that pointed back to me. Now, there are pages and pages of results, but I’ve also written hundreds of blog posts, been relatively active on various social media outlets, and of course published four books.
Blogging is also a great exercise for making a commitment to writing on a regular basis. Common convention suggests that a successful blogger should be posting new content at least once a week with few exceptions. No one’s going to come after you with a wet noodle if you take a week off for vacation or over the holidays, but you don’t want tumbleweeds to roll across your page either. Sticking to a consistent schedule forces you to devote a certain responsibility to creating posts, even if they aren’t all going viral. At least you’re in the habit of writing and publishing for the entire world to see (if they so choose).
So what then is the epiphany that I’ve been loathe to announce?
Blogging hasn’t helped me sell books.
You see, the target audience for my blog is authors. I talk about publishing, advertising, social media and the like. Things that would bore laypeople to death.
The target audience for my books is not authors, but readers. And the readers are way too busy reading to look me up on the internet and see what I’m ranting about this week. A lady who is quite possibly my biggest fan (and no, we aren’t related) – as in I chat with her online at least once a day – told me this very thing. She has never been to my website. She doesn’t have time.
Maybe this would be different if I was writing non-fiction. If I was the go-to person for insurance questions or home mortgages or something and my blog content was directly related to the books that I wrote. But I’m not and it isn’t.
True, I do post promotional things from time to time here because I can, but my readers don’t see my bonus content, or my top ten lists or my character studies because they aren’t looking for them. And I can’t blame them one bit. I know I don’t stalk my favorite authors online. I read their books and move on, because I’m too busy reading myself.
This further cements my idea to curate all of this promotional content into ebook format and offer it at retailers. Then it would actually be getting to the correct audience.
So does this mean that I’m going to stop blogging? No way. But I won’t fret as much about page views or post shares or retweets because it’s a very small facet of my writing life. If I had to choose where I wanted to be ultra popular – in the blogging community or in the author/reader one – I know hands down what my answer would be.
Fiction authors: do you notice the same thing?
It’s official. In 2014, I joined the club of authors who made more money on outlets other than Amazon than at the ebook behemoth itself.
This was something that I predicted way back in July, when the rollout of Kindle Unlimited happened on the same exact day as the launch of my third title. Though my release day event quite heavily featured links to Amazon, my sales there were absolutely nothing. Instead, I watched as readers flocked to iBooks – and B&N, to a lesser extent – to purchase their copies.
It was several months before my third book even had a sales rank at Amazon, because no one pulled the trigger there. And the first person that did promptly returned it. Since then, I’ve gotten a sale here or there but nothing to write home about.
Actually, my sales anywhere are nothing to write home about, but since I’m not in this for the money, that’s beside the point.
What is the point is that I moved more copies at other outlets than at Amazon, which further backs up my decision not to limit myself to distributing to only one retailer. Granted, if that one retailer was Amazon, I’d be able to take advantage of their free days, countdown deals, Kindle Unlimited and their new pay per click advertising.
I understand what Amazon is doing with their exclusivity deal, but I really wish they would extend those marketing options to every self-publisher. After all, Amazon benefits from all ebook sales, not just those from their Kindle Select program. Instead, they pretend that they’re the only player in the game, which isn’t true.
And I could pretend right along with them.
But it would exclude those readers – who are obviously there – who want to read on their Nooks or iPads and iPhones. And yes, I know all about the Kindle app and they likely do, too. But the whole point of having another ereading device is to not purchase your content from Amazon, but rather from B&N or iBooks. And clearly, this is what is happening.
When I entered my journey into self-publishing, I fully intended the bulk of any sales to come from Amazon. In fact, I published to Smashwords as sort of a trial run – to get a feel for things before I unveiled my book to the big dog. By doing so, I learned that overall, I liked dealing with Smashwords better. After all, they allowed me to do many of the things Amazon is just starting (preorders, tying books to a series, subscription models) long ago. And I always publish there first, because I find that formatting my book to Smashwords specifications eliminates a lot of work later. Quite honestly, once my book is vetted for Smashwords’s Premium Catalog, it’s a quick five minute process to upload my book to Amazon.
I’m well aware that the tides may change as readers get complacent with the Kindle Unlimited model and cancel their subscriptions. Let’s face it: Amazon readers are used to getting books for free anyway; is it really worth most shoppers’ $10 per month to read unlimited books? For most, I’m thinking it would be cheaper to supplement the free downloads with paid sales of the books that they can’t live without.
So I’m eager to see what happens with my upcoming release. Now that Amazon has – finally – allowed me to list a preorder there, we’re again on a more level playing field. And I’ve ramped up my marketing efforts as well. Of course, my marketing efforts plainly include all retailers.
Could 2015 be the year that Amazon reclaims its dominance in my Schedule C?
One thing that I started doing on my blog way back in the day before I had any kind of a following was character studies of my mains in each book. There were a whole bunch with the first one. Because most of the characters are the same throughout, with each successive book, there’s been a little less to do on that front, because I didn’t update them from the first time we really met everyone. So you can dig through the archives here and find out what I had to say about all of them: Lauren, Blake, Gracie, Matthew, Chris and even Eric.
Which leads us to Will. And I’m not giving away much here, either. Sorry – but I promise he is worth the wait!
Will has been pretty much an enigma ever since we first met him back in Book Two, when he pulled over Lauren. He’s been sort of a side dish to the main event, flowing in and out of the scenery quietly and almost undetected.
So what do we know about him? Well, obviously, he’s a cop. He’s divorced, and from outward appearances the ending of his marriage affected him deeply. He’s not really close to any of the Intoxicated crew, though one could probably argue that out of all of them, he’s most friendly with Chris. After all, they share the whole public service bond.
I’ve always written Will as a nice guy. The kind of person that will do anything for you: rat out the whereabouts of the one that got away, accompany you to a hockey game so the tickets don’t go to waste, observe as you assault a creepy stalker, stand up for you at a wedding, listen as you mull over the secret that’s been kept from you for ten years.
I also knew when I introduced him that he wasn’t going to be a bit character forever. In the back of my mind, I was busy fleshing out his past. And just like I created Gracie for Lauren, I created Will for Gracie – always intending for the two of them to hit it off. It just took a while to get there.
So what am I willing (pun intended) to reveal about the hero of Changed? First off, I purposefully didn’t make him as attractive as either Matthew or Chris. Will’s no slouch, but he’s definitely more of the cute, adorable type rather than the smoking hot alpha male. I wanted to explore that dynamic – here, it’s Will that assumes he’s out of Gracie’s league. So often in romance books, it’s the other way around. I’ve even kind of done it myself with the Lauren/Matthew pairing.
And yes, Will has been a man of few words to date. We’ll really get to see him open up with Gracie, and he may just surprise you in the same way that he does her. Sometimes, their conversations are a battle of wits, and Will’s the only person so far who can render Gracie speechless.
Of course, being aloof leads to being under the radar. And though Will hasn’t exactly hidden relevant information from everyone, Gracie still needs to get over the shock that comes with learning some things about him. Can the fact that they have absolutely nothing in common on paper prevent them from finding their own happy ending?
Writing Changed was quite possibly the most fun that I’ve had creating an installment in this series. This one definitely has more of a romantic comedy feel to it, but what else would you expect from our favorite raven haired beauty?
Some of you have noticed that I took a short break from blogging, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve been slacking off on this side of the keyboard. I’ve been busy working on preparing my upcoming release for preorder and early review. Now that the sales links are up and the ARCs have been emailed, it’s back to normal for me.
One of the last posts that I published before my mini-absence was entitled “Help Wanted”. Unlike most of my contributions to this site, I opted not to share this particular post with my author/blogger friends during Monday Blogs. Reason being: it felt a bit too self-promotional, even though I’m really being quietly promotional every time I share because all of my books are prominently displayed on my website.
Anyway, the point of this post was drumming up interest for people to review my new book prior to its release. I already had a couple of bloggers and readers in my back pocket, as well as my traditional marketing plan mapped out. But for this novel, I also wanted to offer the option to review to those who had never heard of me before. In essence, Monday Blogs wasn’t exactly the best platform for this to happen, so I wasn’t shooting myself in the foot by not sharing there.
Instead, I turned to my Facebook author page. I posted the blog link (which I hardly ever do because most of my readers never read and/or care about my blog) and boosted the post.
This was my first experience with boosting posts, and it was a worthy experiment to throw $5 at. I certainly wouldn’t do it on a regular basis, but I’d probably do it again under similar circumstances. It’s worthwhile if you’ve got something important going on; not so much if you’re ranting about your kids forgetting their lunch money.
Keep in mind that my following on Facebook is anemic compared to that on Twitter, but there’s not much overlap. Twitter is where I connect mostly with bloggers and authors, and Facebook is more for readers.
Here’s what happened:
I boosted my post for one day only, to fans and friends of fans. At that time, my likes totaled 259 or so, if I’m remembering correctly.
A total of 1,357 people were reached. 55 of those were organic and 1,302 were paid. I received a few new likes. One person out there hid all of my posts.
But more importantly, I connected with 5 people that likely never would have been introduced to my work had I not boosted this post. These are new-to-me readers. At $1 per pop, that’s not a horrible return on investment in my opinion.
Of course, I also had takers who had already connected with me, sometimes across multiple platforms. Boosting my Facebook post helped me reach them, too, because we all know that only a very small percentage of your existing fans usually see your content there (sigh).
By far, Facebook was the most successful outlet for me getting my message across. I also posted this offer on Twitter and Tsu. I got one hit from Tsu, where I have a supremely tiny following – but they see everything; none on Twitter, where I have the most presence. But Twitter was not all for naught – one of my blogger friends retweeted one of my teasers and within seconds, I had a message from someone else that they wanted to read my stuff. So they ended up with an ARC.
As much as I despise Facebook in general, even I have to admit that it does serve its purpose once in a while.
It’s a new year, and with that comes a myriad of goal setting. I’m not too big on the whole resolution making bandwagon, but this year I did decide to set a goal on Goodreads for their annual Reading Challenge.
I wasn’t as involved with Goodreads at the beginning of 2014, pretty much being there in name only. As last year progressed, I forced myself into a new habit of reviewing every fiction book that I read. By the time I phased into that mode, it was really too late to set a reading goal for the year. So I didn’t.
But this year is different. One of the first things that I did when I logged into Goodreads come January was to set my goal. Which is? A measly 50 books. In comparison with some of my friends on the site, this goal makes me look almost illiterate. I have a friend who – no joke – has set her goal this year for 175 books. Knowing her, I trust that she can do it.
In all honesty, 50 books is a lowball number for me. I was thinking about going with 52, just to make it one book a week. That is very easily doable for me, but I cringed at having a silly random number up there for public view. And I certainly didn’t want to set some pie in the sky number and have others watch my epic fail. So 50 it is. We’ll see how quickly I reach that, and how much further I go past it this calendar year.
As it stands right now (January 4th), I’ve already read 2 books towards this goal and have ceremoniously started the third. What this entails is scrolling through my massive collection of unread books and deciding what is up next, then committing to it. This means that I’m already 4% of the way there.
It’s not uncommon for me to read three books a week when I’m on a roll. Sometimes the book gods smile down on me and grace me with a streak of pageturners and I’m in the zone.
In the same vein, it’s also not unusual for me to fall into a book slump. Since I hate leaving things unfinished, I’ll muddle through to the bitter end of something that’s not a good fit for me. Undoubtedly, these books take me longer to complete and sometimes require a cooling off period before starting something else.
And let’s not forget that I’m still going to be creating some masterpieces of my own. The release date has been set for Book 4, so I’ll be working on perfecting and marketing that, as well as writing the final installment of the series (sniff!). Couple that with life in general: family time, our annual summer vacation, my 9-6, and it’s frankly mind-blowing that I have enough hours in the day to sleep, let alone read for enjoyment.
But somehow I do manage. And while I’m sure my tally come December will surpass the 50 book mark, I’m just as certain that I won’t reach 175.
Have you set a goal on Goodreads for your Reading Challenge? Is it conservative, optimistic, or just plain crazy? I’d love to hear how others decide what number they post for all to see…
I need your help.
As some of you already know, the fourth installment in my series is releasing on April 7, 2015. I’ve got that familiar nervous excitement that’s building in my stomach, tempered by the knowledge that I’ve been here, done this before.
This time around, Amazon has their preorder option available. Obviously, I’ve done the whole preorder thing at B&N, iBooks and Kobo, but since there’s a vast majority of readers who are still loyal to Amazon, there’s a whole new world of opportunity there for me to explore.
The bottom line is that I want buzz on my book during the preorder period. And on release day at Amazon, I’d like to have a minimum of 25 reviews.
In order to make this happen, I’ve already enlisted the help of my favorite promotional company to coordinate my release day event. I’m also planning to do a preorder event of some sort with them, the details of which are being worked out as we speak. I’ll no doubt be contacting my blogger/reviewer friends personally and letting them in on the action. But I know that’s not enough.
That’s where you come in.
See, I’m going to be giving away up to 75 ARCs of Changed to readers like you who agree to the following rules. Trust me, I’m not going to make you jump through hoops.
1. You must be on Goodreads.
2. You must add Changed to your bookshelf. Here’s the link:
3. You have to track me down (here, on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or Tsu and let me know you’ve done this. I will check, so please make sure that I can see your shelf! Also, when you contact me, let me know what format you want this in: mobi, epub, PDF and where to send it.
4. It goes without saying that the ARC is for your eyes only. No sharing of the ARC, but you can certainly share this post if you know someone else who would be interested.
5. Please post your honest review to Goodreads as soon as you finish the book. I’m talking 1-5 stars here people; no need to worry about feeding my ego. And I want reviews to go up during the preorder period, so don’t be concerned about posting too soon. I will ask that you copy and paste to Amazon once it goes live there.
6. If you love the book – or hate it, but think it’s a great fit for someone else – please don’t hesitate to talk about it.
7. I will email all who participate periodically. What I’m thinking is a total of four times: the initial sending of the ARC, a reminder email halfway through the time period between the ARC being sent and release day, a reminder email a day or two before release day to copy and paste to Amazon, and a wrap up email after release. I promise not to be too annoying or pushy.
Yes, I know that this is a Book 4 and that scares people a little bit. However, out of all of the books in the series, this is the one that I would consider being most standalone in nature. The main characters in this one have been secondary characters in the others, so there’s not a lot of backstory that you need to know to get into their lives. In fact, the hero is little more than a bit character in books 2 and 3. The heroine has sort of a cult following from the other books, but that’s because of her tendency to have the best one-liners in all of them.
That being said, I want a wide variety of readers’ opinions. From those who are die-hard fans of the series (and there are a few) to those who have never heard of me before.
I will not send ARCs to anyone until my book has been uploaded to Smashwords, at a minimum. Likely not until preorder links start to roll in, which will be approximately the first week of February. This is simply a security precaution on my part. I seriously doubt anyone will leak my book, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Realistically, you’ll have about 8 weeks to read and post a review.
Enticed, but not sure what you’re in for? No problem; here’s the first chapter:
Sound good? Have any questions? Give me a shout and let’s make this happen!