Jeanne: My First Book Birthday

Roses from A&A

Saturday, September 1, was my debut book release. It went well–I even received this lovely bouquet of roses from my daughter, congratulating me on achieving a life-time dream.

Because I’d badgered, I mean, encouraged people to pre-order the ebook, my royalties report on my Amazon Central Dashboard looked like this at the end of the first day:

 

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Jeanne: In Which I Freak Out a Little

People kept warning me that marketing a book is really time-consuming. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, exactly. More that I didn’t know enough about what I’d have to do to understand how much time we were talking about.

Let me educate you:

  1. You need to grow your platform. That means:
    1. Aggressively friending people on Facebook.
    2. Inviting all those brand new friends to Like your Author page
    3. Dealing with the sudden onset of people, in turn, friending you, many of whom I suspect are Russian trolls and Nigerian princes.
    4. Which means reviewing profiles. Despite your best efforts, some of the ones you accept will immediately attempt to contact you via Messenger to a) offer you a business opportunity (Buy My Jewelry! Day Trade at Home!) or b) request money for their charity.
    5. Searching out people to follow on Twitter.
    6. Following them back (which requires looking at their tweets to be sure you’re not following a known psychopath)
    7. Being winsome on Instagram. (That’s much easier. See flower pics below.)
    8. Participating in any other social media you can tolerate. (Hasn’t happened–I’m already well over my tolerance limit with Twitter, which a writing friend likened to an “angry kaleidoscope.”
  2. Collect as many invitations as you can muster to appear on blogs, with the understanding that each of them is going to want a completely original blog post and a never-before-seen snippet from the book. Thus far I’ve written:
    1. A recipe describing Belial, my protagonist, for the Alpha Male Cafe over at I Smell Sheep, a paranormal romance blog. That one will appear on September 9.
    2. A post titled, “When the Drapes Don’t Match the Carpet,” on the importance of covers conveying what’s inside the book for Fresh Fiction, appearing September 13
    3. A Q&A for the USA Today HEA blog for September 6th (including a pic of me with my 90’s hair, if you’re interested. I must say, I had a bucket of hair back in the 90’s.)
    4. An interview with Belial for D. Lieber’s Ink and Magick blog that begins with the phrase, “Welcome to Ink & Magick. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you today?” Date yet to be determined.
    5. And we’re working on several more. For that reason, I share with you a half dozen of the bazillion wildflower pictures I’ve taken over the past few years.

      Because somebody needs to remember to take time to smell those beauties.

Jilly: The Appeal of Foreign Stories

Do you read contemporary stories set in countries other than the USA? What kind of stories are they? What do you especially like about them?

I have a reason for asking.

I’m just back from a most excellent vacation in the States, including an action-packed weekend at the Writers’ Police Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin with fellow 8 Lady Kay, followed by a few days in picturesque Door County (click here to read Kay’s description of our excursions to the Northern Sky Theater Company).

Before I met up with Kay, I spent an afternoon in Chicago talking all things writing with a developmental editor. Mostly we focused on Alexis, but we also talked about my English/Scottish contemporary romance, which I decided to dust off in time for the next (and final) RWA Golden Heart contest.

The editor gave me the same feedback I heard from a very respected agent a couple of years ago when I tried to shop this book: the writing is strong, but a contemporary British setting, with all British characters, is hard to sell outside the UK. She said that the story offered a kind of insider perspective on life in London and Scotland, which is not what the mainstream American romance reader is conditioned to expect.

In her view, when US readers pick up a foreign-set story, they expect the setting to be either

  1. exotic;
  2. glamorously urban; or
  3. small, close-knit communities where the culture is a large part of the appeal.

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Jeanne: The First Pancake

PancakeThere’s a wonderful indie comedy from 2003 called Pieces of April about a young woman who invites her suburban family to her walk-up apartment in the Bronx for Thanksgiving dinner, only to have her oven go out Thanksgiving morning. I saw it years ago, but there is one line that stuck with me.

Asked by some friends about her relationship with her parents, April says, “I’m the first pancake.”

The film goes on to explain that the first pancake is the one you throw away so the others will turn out okay.

The Demon Always Wins is starting to feel like the first pancake. Continue reading

Nancy: Novella (.5) Cover Copy

As I’ve mentioned a few (hundred) times recently, I have a lot of writing balls in the air right now. Partly this was intentional: I knew the writing and editing tasks for my multiple books in my Victorian Romance series would have to overlap to meet a rather aggressive publishing schedule (set by yours truly, so no one to blame but myself for that). Partly this was unintentional: I got behind schedule on a few different things, shifted some dates, zigged when I should have zagged, and suddenly multiple deadlines converged and…well, here I am.

Last week, I asked for your help for a 50-word pitch and 250-word opening sequence for Take the Money and Run, my Women’s Fiction manuscript. This week, I’d love some feedback on a totally different task for a completely different book, the back cover copy for Too Clever By Half, the kickoff novella of my Harrow’s Finest Five series. I’ve been working on this slippery sucker for a while, and now it’s time to get it nailed down so I can get my cover completed (and then share it here!). The goal of the cover copy? Convince a reader to pick up the book from a bookshelf or click on the ‘look inside’ option online. In brief, the cover copy should include a high-level hook, introduce you to the protagonist(s), introduce the conflict, and make you eager to read more.

Your task today, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me whether this cover copy does that for you. The more specificity you provide about what you like, what you dislike, or what makes you say ‘oh hell no!’, the more I can improve it. So leave your thoughts and – really importantly – your first reactions to reading this in the comments, please and thank you!

Two fierce competitors engaged in a battle of intellects might just be outwitted by love… Continue reading

Justine: A Lesson (or at Least an Exercise) in Author Branding

41323542 - brand branding marketing commercial name conceptI really don’t like branding. At least the coming-up-with-it part. Just to set the proper expectations. Some people go nuts for this kind of stuff. Not me.

What you read below is my lesson/exercise in personal branding. I am no expert, that’s for sure, so caveat emptor. I knew after deciding to self-publish that I’d need to rebrand myself, and I’m oh-so-lucky that I attended an awesome Damon Suede (DS) seminar last weekend on marketing and branding.

Brand new author brand? Here I come!

One of the key things that we learned from Damon was Continue reading

Jilly: Evaluating Also-Boughts

What’s your most tried-and-tested method of finding new authors to read? Do you ever use Amazon’s also-boughts?

I’m always checking out new search methods and new-to-me authors, but lately my selections have been especially hit-and-miss. The problem is that “I’ll know it when I read it” is not really searchable. I’m looking for a combination of qualities rather than neat pigeonholes like settings or subgenres.

I like upbeat stories with happy endings, romances or books with a strong romantic subplot. After that it gets tricky. I want heroes and heroines with intelligence, agency, and emotional depth. I love stories where strong characters deal honestly with one another, especially when that’s difficult. I prefer confrontation to secrets or lies or withholding information. My fave authors write series with strong communities. I actively seek out humor and kindness. I enjoy voice, but not when it tips over into look-at-me writing. I love a good sex scene, but only if it moves the story. I’ll try most subgenres.

I believe the Zon is one of the most powerful search engines in existence, but while it’s awesome at identifying reverse harem cowboy stories (not kidding), the search box is not my friend.

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