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.
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.
So perhaps the single most awesome thing in my writing career happened for me recently. Nope, I didn’t hit the bestseller list for thirty seconds, or get closer to achieving my goal of luxury car ownership via royalty checks. In fact, my monumental feat has absolutely nothing to do with sales.
My books are now in my local library.
My husband told me that it would be unseemly to go visit them, so I just have to take the online card catalog’s word for it. I believe it; here’s the link.
For some reason, this is more validation for me as an author than having an Amazon page, a Goodreads profile, or a Facebook fan page. Maybe it’s because growing up, I never dreamed in a million years that something I wrote would be placed on those shelves. Shelves upon which I discovered my love of reading. And in the library setting, it’s somewhat of a more level playing field, in as far as my fiction books are alphabetized right in with traditionally published works by big named authors.
As you might recall, in November I was one of approximately 70 authors who took part in an Author Fair held at our Main Library. As such, we were encouraged to bring copies of our books for sale. This event pushed me to create paperback copies of my already published ebooks so that I actually had something to show off while I was there. Though I sold a few books there, I did come away with some inventory. Which got me thinking – what if I donated a couple copies of each book to the library so that readers in my community could enjoy them?
So I asked. And I got a quick response back. One that shocked me. It went something like this: “Of course we would be happy to accept your contribution. But we’d like you to know that we’ve already got the first book in your series on order and it should be stocked shortly.”
Yes, they had already purchased my book. Without me asking them to, or me getting down on my hands and knees and begging them to. And I had no clue. Which I found to be even sweeter than them agreeing to take some free ones off my hands.
I’ll likely never see the proceeds from that book, because my net royalty on that particular sale is only 50 cents. And I seriously doubt I’ll see an influx of paperback purchases that will help me cross the payment threshold. But I don’t care one iota. Because they showed me with that order that they believed in me, at least a little bit.
I promptly dropped off copies of Books Two and Three, as well as two additional copies of the one that they already bought. Now all three novels are in circulation, and as of this posting, over half of the copies available have been checked out. I’m really curious on how they are being displayed, or if library staff is recommending them or what. Other than a quick post to Facebook and Google Plus and a mention to some coworkers – who I seriously doubt are responsible for borrowing them – I’ve told no one that they are there.
I’m excited to see what the future holds, and I’m cautiously optimistic that this will have a snowball effect. A common take away from people that I met at the Author Fair was that it was cool that I based my books in Fort Wayne. And now, the community that serves as my setting has the chance to check them out, very literally.
Though I know not everyone in our city of a quarter million people has a library card, our library system is county wide. Even though the copies all originated at the main library, since readers can return them at any branch in the county, they may find their way to other locations in the area. Or if there is enough demand for the copies that they already have, the library may purchase additional copies to shelve at some of the more frequented branches.
Any way I look at this, the potential to reach a new set of readers is nothing to sneeze at.
As some of you may already know, I’ve signed up for an Author Fair this fall at my public library. Although they do allow entrance to authors who only have ebook copies of their work available, the draw is obviously there to bring along paperback versions of your novels, as you’re encouraged to sell them there. Add this to the fact that I’ve read time and again that while ebooks are taking over the market, you’re still wise to have hard copies available. Plus, someone who read my last book contacted me on Facebook and asked me if I had any book signings planned.
Mind you, I can already autograph ebook copies. But the thought of actually sitting at a table with a pen and signing a real book for a fan just seems way more impressive than sitting at my laptop and trying to do an impersonation of my signature with my mouse.
So I decided if I was going to do this thing, I would do it right and have some real life hard copies of my series available. If I’m being honest with you, I don’t expect to sell a single one of them. But I’ll have a copy of each for posterity, I’ll probably sneak a set onto my employer’s book cart in the break room to see if anyone notices, and the rest will make awesome doorstops.
Like many self-pubbers, I opted to use CreateSpace for my paperbacks. I’ve heard horror stories about formatting, page numbering and the like, so I did a bit of research before diving in. I bookmarked some helpful blogs, scoured the CreateSpace website itself and also went to the ultimate source – a book on my bookshelf.
Then I set to work. Obviously, the hardest part was already over. I have three books that are currently published in ebook format. So there’s over three hundred thousand words already plotted out. Already read and reread, over and over until I can recite them in my sleep. All I had to do was make them pretty on paper.
I started in chronological order, choosing to format my first book first. I made only a couple minor changes to the file. I shortened a “you are” to a “you’re” in the prologue, because it really, really grated on my nerves when I had to read it over and over in excerpts on the blog tour I did. I added a missing (in some versions) word back to the last chapter. I updated the page with my other books in the series to reflect Books 4 and 5, which haven’t come out yet but are already titled.
Then I got down to the hard part. I was timid, expecting to experience the nightmares that I’d already read about. I formatted according to what guides told me, doing things I didn’t understand because it was the next step on the list. I opened up the actual paperback on my desk and confirmed little, silly things that I’d never considered before. Things like how chapters start on odd pages in traditionally published books. Things like how the front matter isn’t page numbered, nor are the first pages of each chapter. So while page two is the second page of Chapter One, it’s not the true second page of the book. And there’s no (marked) page one.
Much like the first time I formatted my first book for ereaders, the exercise made me want to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth. But I got through it, and still came out alive on the other side.
The second book didn’t go as well for me, though the total formatting time was less than the first. This is because I went without the assistance of webpages and blogs. Instead, I referred back to what I’d already done with my first book and attempted to recreate it. Just when I thought that I’d gotten it right, a quick check through the interior viewer would confirm that Chapter Such and Such still began on page 204, and I really didn’t have a good concept of what I was doing. I tried to be all ninja like with Odd Numbered Section Breaks, but for whatever reason they didn’t seem to stick. Ever. But after much yelling at my computer and much uploading to CreateSpace, I got it done all in one night.
The next night, I came back for Book Three. And to potentially get my ass handed to me yet again. That’s when the magic happened. I didn’t refer to anything. No blogs, no websites, no Book One or Two. I put in my earbuds and just went to town on the thing. I didn’t think about formatting. It all came naturally. I did sing (loudly) through three complete Parabelle albums, which usually drives my girls nuts, but since this was infinitely better than me screaming at my computer, they didn’t say one word.
Which led me to believe that I do my best formatting when I’m not thinking about formatting at all. It also led me to question whether I could make any money doing it for other people. After all, CreateSpace’s packages start at $199. I think that price includes a bit more expertise than I could provide (and undoubtedly less cursing), but still. They’ll also happily do your Kindle version for something like $80. That’s a lot of money that some people are willing to shell out for a couple nights’ worth of work. Even if I charged half that, it’s still a nice little chunk of change.
Then I remembered that I am super anal retentive. No joke, my rough drafts – ever since the first book – are all fully formatted for ebook consumption. I write them that way so once I’m happy with the edited version I can just slap on the copyright, front matter, back stuff and be done with it. I couldn’t deal with someone else’s files handed to me every which way. So there goes that career path.
But at least I know when I’m ready to print Book Four that it’s not a daunting task ahead of me. And I can be glad that I will never, ever, have to do three paperbacks at once again.
I’ve written about piracy before. I even came up with a catchy title for my first post on the subject, written shortly after I discovered that my first book was available for illegal download on a handful of websites. And those are the ones I know about. I won’t repeat myself, but if you’re curious, you can read my original thoughts here:
The fact that my book appears on these sites doesn’t keep me up at night. I view it as free publicity and move on. In retrospect, it’s not really any different than me offering my first book for free via coupon code to anyone who cares enough to download it, which I’ve already done on several occasions. It’s just a really extended promotion.
Even so, I’ve attempted to prevent the rest of my books from ending up on those same sites. As far as I can tell, I’ve been successful. How so? I’ve not offered them for free publicly. Those who have gotten free copies from me haven’t posted them on torrent sites. For what it’s worth, those that have paid for them haven’t posted them, either.
But if you search for my second and third book on Google and page far enough down in the results, you will find that they have been requested on torrent sites. By name. Sometimes with links to their Goodreads pages.
That’s kind of flattering.
And it got me thinking. If someone wants to read my books so badly that they specifically request them by name on a torrent site, isn’t that exactly the kind of person that I want reading them? Aren’t those the type of readers that could potentially be some of my biggest fans? The people that are searching out my book and posting about wanting a pirated copy would probably actually read it if they got a hold of one.
Now, my books aren’t expensive. I price them at $2.99. And though a voice in the back of my head tells me that if someone wanted to read them that much, they’d just plunk down three bucks to do it, I also realize that not everyone comes from the same background or lifestyle that I do. I’m lucky enough that I can pick up a new book without giving a second thought to the purchase. Not everyone is. Trust me, I’ve dealt with job loss before and know that it can be a struggle to come up with money for necessities, let alone funds for frivolous purchases like romance novels.
So that led me to this thought…
What if those people that posted on the torrent sites about wanting to read my second and third books had instead searched me out and contacted me?
I would have given them a coupon code and told them to have at it for free. Then asked nicely for an honest review when they were done. Then continued asking very nicely for them to tell everyone they knew about it, especially if they thought it was good. But even if they hated it (because any word of mouth is free publicity, and some people search out things that get bad reviews).
In this world of giveaways and contests, some people are so desensitized to getting things for free that they sometimes forget that they’ve won anything. Maybe they win so much that they can’t keep track of it all. Case in point: the last three book giveaways I’ve done, each time I’ve had at least one person not redeem their codes. I know this because I track them.
I’d much rather give something away to someone who genuinely wanted and appreciated it.
So here’s my open letter for those who, for whatever reason, feel that the only way they will ever read one of my books is if it’s available on a torrent site. Instead of asking strangers for an illegal copy, send me a quick message on Twitter, Facebook, or here. If you’re sincere (and as a mom, I have a pretty keen BS meter), you’ll likely get what you ask for.
I write fiction, but it’s fairly realistic. I tackle some pretty serious subject matters in between the snarkiness. My characters have gone through some deep stuff: death, disownment, financial crises, drug and alcohol abuse, legal issues, you get the idea. I can’t even openly discuss one of the major plot points in my new release without giving away a huge secret – or potentially crying – so we’ll just focus on something innocent and non-controversial.
Let’s talk about sex.
Specifically, the double standard that exists in regards to men and women even in a fictional setting. It’s perfectly okay for a guy to be a player, but when a lady does the same, she’s labeled something not so nice.
I’m a contemporary romance author. Sex plays a part in my books – I won’t lie. And while it’s not uncommon to have a heartbreaker type alpha male as the lead, a woman filling that role is a bit harder to find. So I wrote one.
Two of my main characters are brother and sister. Same upbringing, same swoon-worthy attractiveness. Same predilection for one-night stands or at least back-to-back revolving door relationships.
Not surprisingly, the readers have spoken and have deemed him “adorable” and “almost too perfect”. I agree with them on the adorable part, but I’m biased. And he’s nowhere close to perfect (on purpose). Mind you, this same guy went to jail for six months, had massive issues with drugs and alcohol and slept with 36 women before finding his true love.
Conversely, his sister single-handedly dealt with his incarceration, taking care of his house and personal affairs in his absence, driving him everywhere for years when his license was suspended (twice), all while earning a college degree and starting her own business. She has a one-night stand vice, however. Though her number isn’t revealed, she does state that 37 is “child’s play”, so it’s more. By quite a few. What have I heard about her? She’s “selfish”. Never mind that she’s still in love with the person to whom she gave her virginity (and he with her).
And this is from an audience who is largely female. My male readers haven’t chimed into the discussion yet. Maybe they’ll think she’s cool as hell.
By the end of the story, most everyone warms up to her. But by then, she’s turned her back on picking up people at bars and giving out fake names. It is a love story, after all.
I’m not surprised by the general consensus. Society has raised us to believe that men are attractive when they have notches on their bedpost. We like the bad boy, all while pretending we’re the good girls. Guys openly brag about their conquests, while some women feel ashamed if they’ve had previous relations before finding “the one”. But let’s think about it. If guys are running around conquesting all over the place, there has to be a female population participating.
I guess they’re just quiet about it.
So what are your thoughts? Are alpha females attractive, too? Or is there a stigma attached that can’t be overcome?
There’s a disadvantage to working as far ahead as I do. It’s no big secret that I’ve pretty much got Book Four in my series mapped out and I’m starting to create scenes for Book Five. This of course, doesn’t factor in the stand alone novels I’ve already got concepts for, as well as working titles.
One might think that it’s a gift to have a wellspring of creativity to draw upon. In most cases it is, and the majority of my brain is not complaining. But in my usual fashion, I always get more excited for what’s way around the corner than I do for what’s right in front of my face.
This leaves me at a loss when it comes to marketing. I’m supposed to be getting people super excited for my new release when it already feels like old news to me. Trust me; I am excited and all tingly for the middle of this month, but I’d rather talk about my work in progress which likely won’t come out until next year. I’d have to write really fast to squeak out another book by December and I just don’t think I have it in me.
When I do put on my marketing hat, I speak about the release date, preorders and teasers for Book Three. I’m also still trying to drum up readers for Book One, since in a perfect world, people would start there and read them in order. So all of my efforts are focused on those two books, leaving Book Two in the corner, playing the role of middle child.
Let’s get it straight: Book Two is a fully functioning, quality read. I spent long, hard hours working on it and it’s just as good as the others. But it’s a companion to Book One. You’d miss a lot if you came in there, unlike starting at Book Three and going backwards. So it’s forever destined to sit in the shadows. The novelty has worn off now – it’s not the new release anymore, so marketing it in and of itself is not the option it used to be. The best marketing tactic for Book Two will always be hooking people with Number One.
I didn’t mean for it to happen, just like I’m assuming parents with three children don’t mean to make the middle child feel left out. I wouldn’t know; I stopped at two kids myself. My husband and I both only have one sibling, so I’ve no real world experience to draw upon. Only this and how I feel kind of bad, like Book Two is somehow a living, breathing thing.
I’ve often read that readers like series, but they also want to have the installments feel like stand alone novels. That’s understandable, and much easier to adhere to if you’re writing a mystery series as opposed to a romance where the heroine of the books is the same. Relationships are tricky and they build upon prior experiences, as they do in reality. So I’ve compromised and met people in the middle. My series has three heroines; you’ll be able to start at Book One, Three or Four.
I’ve also met a number of people who will wait until the entire series is released, then they’ll binge read all of the books. I’ve done that myself, finishing thousands of pages in a matter of days because I have to know how things end. Right now. This totally backs up the phenomenon that many authors say happens: once you have between three to five books published, your sales seem to increase dramatically. Provided, of course, that the novels themselves are good. But that’s a given, right?
So I keep plugging away, promising Book Two that it will eventually reclaim its popularity like in the good old days when the spotlight was focused upon it. I covered its ears when my beta reader told me that she really liked Book One, but might have enjoyed Book Three a little more.
After all, there are some things that middle children just don’t need to hear.
You know it’s a cold day in hell when I reactivate my Facebook account. But reactivate it I did, just so I could take part in this event put on by my friends at The Book Enthusiast. If you’re not aware, they have done an awesome job promoting all three of my books so I jumped at the chance to join in the fun here.
All week, indie authors are going to be taking turns hosting the party. Think of it as a chance to interact with some of your favorite authors and find new writers to fawn over as well. Anything goes while we’re hosting, so expect plenty of conversation, teasers, excerpts, trivia and maybe a flash giveaway or two. There will also be an official, week long Rafflecopter giveaway with several of the authors (myself included) participating.
My hosting gig is on June 18th from 7 – 8 am EST. Hence the “Waking Up Intoxicated” pun. I can’t help myself. I’ll be yawning at the keyboard before I go into work, so stop by and join me for some conversation.
What am I planning? Well, depending on if people set their alarms or not, a whole lot of gossip on our favorite characters. If I get a good response from local fans, I may play a little game to see if readers can guess where in Fort Wayne certain things take place. I’m also going to post the “Rot in Hell” bonus scene and possibly my Designed Top Ten list. And who knows – maybe I’ll have some copies of Designed ready to give away.
I’d love it if you’d join me – here’s the link to where the party takes place:
Hope to see you there!
For those of you who’ve read the portion of The Intoxicated Books that is currently available, you know that although I ended Book One in a cliffhanger, I picked up Book Two exactly where I left off. To be specific, Book Two began in the middle of the phone conversation that ended Book One.
Transitioning between Book Two and Three wasn’t as seamless because I’m switching focus between Lauren and Blake. Lauren’s got her happy ending for the moment, and it’s time to move on to Blake and Chris. So after Matthew gets his answer, I cut away to Chris beginning his search for his own.
Some feedback suggests that maybe this was too abrupt. And trust me, these people will be rewarded in Book Three with more of Matthew and Lauren’s story, though told through Blake’s eyes. But it did leave me with an idea for some bonus content. After all, there are a few hours of celebration over at Matthew’s house that occur before Chris camps out at Blake’s door.
So here’s what happened between the ending of Shattered proper and the epilogue…
Hope you enjoy, and hope that you’re as excited for July 18th as I am! 🙂
It’s Christmas time and with that in mind, I wanted to give you readers a little present. It’s a bonus scene that I’ve plotted for a while now, but have held off on since it contains a bit of a spoiler.
I suppose this really could be considered bonus content for Intoxicated as well, since the pictures in question were given to Eric during the first book. If you remember correctly, Lauren gave him some rather – ahem – intimate pictures as a Christmas gift. Apparently, he’d been asking for her to do this for quite some time and she’d finally given in, one last attempt to save their relationship.
However, this scene doesn’t occur until later in Shattered. Specifically, it comes after the infamous Chapter Twenty-Two, which makes me cry just a little bit every time I read it. By this time in the action, both parties have picked up the pieces from their failed relationship and moved on. Yet Eric can’t resist seeing her one final time to sort of make amends. As much as Eric had come across as a douche during the course of Book One and the start of Book Two, in reality he was never that bad. This arc provides him with some much needed atonement and may even garner him a few fans. I know I like him better now.
So click on the link below and enjoy! And above all, have a wonderful holiday with whoever it is that you love.