By publishing my books through Smashwords, I’ve had the opportunity to distribute my novels in a variety of places that I never would have thought imaginable. As I’ve expected, I haven’t seen any sales action anywhere but Smashwords itself, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. But realistically, that’s not surprising. Look at the ebook retailer landscape, and those places (in addition to the behemoth Amazon – to which I publish directly) are where the majority of sales take place.
But the fact is that my series is out there in other places, just waiting to be discovered. Maybe someday a reader will stumble upon my books at Sony or Diesel and pick them up, glad that they can find them on their chosen website. Since it doesn’t cost me anything to have them listed at other venues, what does it hurt if they sit there unnoticed? To me, it’s far more of a potential loss to exclude myself from an outlet simply because it hasn’t been performing well for me.
So I am cautiously optimistic about the newest channel that Smashwords has teamed up with, Oyster. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Oyster is sort of like a Netflix for books. Users pay a monthly subscription fee and they get to “borrow” unlimited ebooks. Right now, the subscription service only works for iOS products, but they anticipate broadening their reach in the future.
Some people are totally up in arms about this. A cross section of authors are concerned about this borrowing system cheapening the value of their work. Seems like these dissenters have never heard of a little thing called the public library. Because libraries have never, ever, helped authors get discovered by readers, right? I suppose they are also neglecting to consider that Amazon does kind of the same thing with their Prime membership. With Prime, you can borrow one book per month for free and the author still gets royalties from that borrow.
And like the Prime model, authors who choose to distribute to Oyster will see royalties if their book is borrowed and a certain percentage of it is read. So the argument about losing sales is really a moot point as well.
There are measures in place to stop subscribers from downloading a stockpile of books at once and then cancelling the service. There is a limit to the number of books that you can borrow at one time. But if you are a fast reader, you can power through as many books as you would like each month.
With any service like this, there are customers that will end up making out like bandits. It’s like the people in the buffet line who pile up their plates and get way more than their money’s worth. But these consumers are offset by those who may pay for the convenience of this option, but may not borrow their monthly subscription fee’s worth in books.
In all fairness, anyone’s work is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it at any given time. I don’t see a difference in the value of a reader coming from a subscription service as opposed to a direct sale from a retailer, especially when the bottom line is exactly the same.
The jury’s still out on if this will be a profitable venture for everyone involved. In theory, it appears to be a great way to gain discoverability by a new audience. And since authors are still getting compensated for their work, what’s to lose?
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?
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!
Smashwords has a new feature on its website for those of us who are authors of a series. It’s called their Series Manager, and I stumbled across it while visiting my Dashboard to stalk the sample downloads of my pre-release. At first, I thought I was just horribly unobservant and hadn’t noticed it before, but it turned out that it had just been announced and really hadn’t been publicized at that point.
Like the eager person that I am to explore any new marketing tactic, I happily clicked on the link to find out more. The concept is pretty simple: you create the title of your series, then you can add books to it. If you already have published books that are in a series, no problem. If you’re starting a brand new series, that’s cool, too. Once you’ve added your books, they will be distributed everywhere you opt into as part of that series. You’ll also see them displayed on a special page set up just for that particular series on Smashwords.com. No more trying to figure out how to tell readers that you should read the books in this order, plus increased visibility for other titles in your series. I was immediately on board.
Of course, to establish said series, you have to name it. I’ve gone on record that I don’t like naming things, though I already have books 3, 4 and 5 named and their cover art chosen. But a series name was a little more elusive for me, since I’d really not considered what I would call it if I was given a chance. More than one character will have narrator duties over the course of the books, so I couldn’t name it after the voice of books one and two.
In the end, I settled on naming it after book one. Just as I was about to type in “The Intoxicated Series” as the title, I noted that authors were strongly discouraged about using the word “Series” in their series title. Seems that some retailers automatically add the word “Series” to a title, and “The Intoxicated Series Series” would just sound stupid. So I countered with “The Intoxicated Books”.
Intoxicated books. That’s just kind of funny.
And as my series progresses, we’ll also have sightings of more things that are intoxicated. I’ve already dubbed the main characters “The Intoxicated Crew”, there will be at least one intoxicated wedding and quite possibly a couple of intoxicated babies. Well, not really. But you know what I mean.
You’ve probably noticed that I have a pretty decent sense of humor about things, and the titles of my books are nothing different. When I was marketing my first book, the catch phrase I came up with was “Get Intoxicated” – pun intended. I’ve carried on the tradition with book two – “Get Shattered” – and since I’ve already leaked the title of number three, there will be a “Get Designed” as well. Just wait for the titles of four and five; four may very well be my personal favorite.
I had a lot of fun coming up with the top ten list for Intoxicated, so I figured it was a feature that I wanted to continue for the other novels in the series. So here you go, get ready for some Shattered trivia.
1. After writing the first draft of Shattered, I went back and read Intoxicated. Ultimately, I was very glad that I’d done so because there were a few continuity issues that I noticed that no one else probably would. Two of the biggest were that Lauren’s workplace had automatic doors (in book two, I mentioned someone opening the front door for her, which wouldn’t be necessary) and that I inadvertently had two characters named Stacy.
2. I got through two whole books without giving poor Chris a last name. Since he is going to play a huge part in book three, this made me feel kind of guilty. One of the bit players in book two got a full name and Chris was still just plain Chris. So it was epilogue to the rescue.
3. I wrote the poem at the beginning of the book in sixth grade. That was way more years ago than I’d be willing to admit to, but it’s haunted me ever since. And no, it wasn’t originally about a romantic relationship, but it works well for several characters in our story.
4. Chapter Twenty-Two makes me cry. I cried when I wrote it and I still tear up when I read it.
5. My original cover art idea featured a vase of roses that had fallen to the floor and, you guessed it, shattered. Once I latched on to the wine glass concept for the entire series, that image was scrapped.
6. Though the title implies otherwise, I didn’t want this to be the most depressing sequel ever written. For this reason, I wrote Gracie heavily into the action to provide her unique brand of comic relief.
7. My plan for the book initially was to reintroduce Matthew much later – maybe about halfway through. It got to the point where I just couldn’t keep him away any longer and I personally think the story is better for it.
8. Like with most of the other homes in the book, I know exactly where Lauren’s place is. I drive by the addition several times per week and actually watched as this particular house was built. When I saw it, I knew that it would be perfect for her.
9. Very early outlines of the plotline (back when it was a one and done) had a huge story arc involving a car accident wherein the Mustang got totaled. I realized how much I loved that damn car and how I couldn’t get rid of it. I’m pleased to announce that the Mustang will remain intact throughout the entire series. The only thing that I kept from that whole idea was Chris and Lauren’s “talk” which now obviously comes as a result of very different circumstances.
10. Though Intoxicated will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first published work, Shattered is the true love story that I wanted to tell. As much as people refer to book one as being a love triangle with a cliffhanger ending (which it definitely has), everything in that book leads up to where we are now and where we’ll go from here.
Can’t wait to see what happens? Download the first 20% from Smashwords right now by clicking on this link: http://bit.ly/1d0zYCg . Like what you see? You can preorder from B&N, iTunes or Kobo right now by clicking on the book cover over on the sidebar and selecting the symbol for your favorite e-reading device. Amazon doesn’t offer preorders for self-publishers, but rest assured, it will make its way there, too.
Ready for October 29th?
Preorders are commonplace nowadays. Just sitting down to write this post, I thought of several things that I – or my husband – have preordered and are currently waiting for. Most of them are PS4 related, but there is a certain book that is coming out in December that will automatically be downloaded to my Kindle come midnightish on that glorious day. And, no, I’m not talking about anything I’ve written.
Now I am. As I’ve alluded to previously, I’ve decided to join the ranks of game developers, musicians and e-book authors and make my upcoming release available for preorder. Mind you, this is only available to me as a self-pubbed author via Smashwords, so that means it will show up on B&N, iTunes and Kobo with that option, but not on Amazon. So for the seven people out there waiting in breathless anticipation to find out what happens next, as long as you choose one of those formats, you can order it, forget you bought it and be happily surprised when it unexpectedly shows up. And for the Amazon readers, I’m going to try my darnedest to make it go live on the same day.
As I’m prone to do, I’ve thought long and hard about this. Not the actual preorder bit, because as soon as it was announced that it was live to all Smashwords users I was on board. It just makes sense to have your book come out on the same day everywhere and this is by far the easiest way to make that happen. Come on, ask me the release date for my first book. There are many of them; do you want Amazon, Smashwords, B&N or Apple? All different.
No, here are the things that I am left to ponder:
1. When should I upload my book?
You have to have a complete, formatted version. You can’t upload a work in process to motivate yourself to get it done by a specific date. It has to have a cover, title, things of that nature. It should be pretty and shiny because people are going to be able to sample it while it is in preorder status. It doesn’t, however, have to be the final-final product.
So in essence, I could submit my manuscript tonight because I have all of those things right now. Then I could go back through it with a fine tooth comb as many times as my heart desires in the upcoming weeks and upload any changes later. The people that preordered would get the final copy submitted; not the one that was out there the day they clicked the “buy” button.
But will I really do this? I read my first book about seven times before I was comfortable hitting the upload button. Even now I still find things in it that I would go back and change. If my new release passed the formatting hurdles imposed by Smashwords et al, would I really go back through it time and again? Or would I just set it and forget it while focusing on marketing and writing book three?
2. What’s my release date?
Conventional wisdom says to give your preorder a lead time of at least 6 weeks or so before release. This gives you time to market and to tweak things if needed. I think that’s a good call. This means that I’m looking at sometime in October at the earliest, which is right around where my goal was anyway.
Or should I make it November?
Most books, music, movies and games come out on Tuesdays. Should I also make my book release on a Tuesday? I know I can set any date I want to, but would people think it’s weird to release on a Friday or Saturday? Logistically, this would work better for me given my schedule. After all, I barely touch my computer on Monday night so I’d have to make an exception to upload my book to KDP the Monday night before release everywhere else. Then keep my fingers crossed that it would go live as quickly as the last one.
Or maybe I should make it a date that is meaningful to me. My wedding anniversary’s coming up; just an idea. “Remember the year my book came out?”
3. Once I do pull the trigger, what happens next?
Obviously, my book gets sent to retailers and is then displayed next to my other one. People can sample it and choose to purchase it then. I get that part.
But the true question is, what do I do next to get people to even want to notice it? I’ve been batting a few ideas around. I’ve thought about posting the cliffhanger ending of book one. I’ve considered establishing Twitter accounts for a couple of the characters and having them banter back and forth with each other.
I haven’t considered doing a blog tour again. Or a giveaway. I’m not bitter at how things went with book one; I’m just not convinced that it helped drive sales, though it did get my name out there. Now that my name’s out there, I’m taking back control of it.
I’m excited to see how this little experiment goes. I think that preorders for self-pubbed authors are another step in the right direction for us to be taken seriously. Now we have the opportunity to announce a release date without having to cross our fingers behind our backs. Or say something generic like “Fall 2013”.
So when will Amazon wake up and join in?
In honor of the completion of the rough draft of Shattered earlier this week, I thought it would be an appropriate time to show everyone the cover artwork and give you just a little bit of a teaser.
I’m also excited that I’ll be able to offer a preorder through some retailers – though not Amazon, as they don’t allow self-pubbed authors to do that. I promise I will do my best to ensure that it is out everywhere on the same day; this was something that frustrated me about the release of my first book. Since I’m still in the early stages of refining Shattered, I’m not ready to announce a release date, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do.
In the meantime, here’s a little something to whet your appetite. Hope you enjoy!
With Eric’s proposal on the table and the memory of Matthew’s kiss on her lips, Lauren Jefferies has a decision to make.
After months of praying that Eric would take their relationship to the next level and come clean with his true feelings for her, he shocks Lauren by doing just that. Suddenly, he’s offered her everything she’s ever dreamed of. He’s agreed to compromise, whispering words of love and forever amid his plans for their future.
But his timing couldn’t be worse.
While Eric was busy with his soul-searching, Lauren found a new kindred spirit in Matthew. Her roommate’s brother was happy to fill in when her boyfriend wasn’t willing or able to be there. Eventually the lines of their friendship blurred, giving way to a deep seated attraction. She thought the feeling was mutual, but now that Eric’s shown his hand, Matthew’s pushed her away.
Matthew’s rejection stings more than it should.
Eric’s waiting for a response.
Ultimately, whatever she chooses to do will end up changing all three of them.
Lauren’s happy ever after was never supposed to begin like this.
If you read enough books in a genre, you’re bound to stumble across common recurring themes. It kind of goes with the territory, right? For instance, peruse a good amount of romance novels and you’ll find plenty of Cinderella stories, wealthy men, love at first sight, amnesiacs, bad boys with hearts of gold and the subject of today’s post: love triangles.
Some people who classify themselves as romance readers in one breath state in the next that they absolutely, positively hate love triangles. I have seen people actually put this in their Twitter bios: “hates love triangles”.
Why? What makes this such a polarizing topic that people feel the need to declare it publicly? Why not “hates car crashes” or some other oft-used plot point?
When used effectively – just like any other story arc – a love triangle can be a wonderful thing. Yes, I’ll agree that there are badly written ones. However, there are badly written everythings out there, so why single triangles out?
In the best love triangles, readers find it impossible not to choose sides. Depending on the circumstances, they might even do an about face and flip-flop on who they’re rooting for. When the triangle is resolved, one “team” reigns victorious and gets to gloat while the other is left screaming at their Kindle. But the bottom line is that the audience is emotionally involved. They care about what happens. Isn’t that what every author wants? Isn’t that what you want as a reader, too?
One of my favorite series centers around a love triangle. No, it’s not Twilight, but I’ve read that, too. This particular series isn’t over yet, so I have absolutely no idea how it’s going to end up. I’ve chosen my side, but if my “team” doesn’t win, I won’t be mad. Why? Because I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride thus far, and I can’t imagine that changing over the course of two more books.
Back to the Twitter bios of those that say they “hate love triangles”. I don’t follow them, even though some of these accounts get recommended to me on a very regular basis. If they’re like me when I get a new follower, they’d take a look at my bio and realize I’m an author. They might click on the link to my website or even search for my book.
Eventually the jig would be up, because they’d find out that I accidentally on purpose wrote a love triangle.
I’m all about agreeing to disagree, but types that utilize that prime bio real estate to tell me they “hate” something as benign as a love triangle probably aren’t the kind to gracefully offer their opinion and move on.
So let’s keep it civil here. Authors: are love triangles yet another overused cliché? Readers: would your entire view of the book shift if your “team” didn’t win?
And what’s with the anti-love triangle campaign?