Kay: 2019 Trends in Publishing

For those of you who are interested in publishing news and trends (and who among us isn’t?), Jane Friedman’s newsletter for traditionally published and indie-published authors, The Hot Sheet, is a great resource. The annual subscription cost is $59, but there’s a free trial period. And for those who don’t want more stuff coming into their inbox, Friedman did a roundup of trends on her web site that I thought was interesting. She covered both fiction and nonfiction; here are a few highlights about fiction for 2019:

  • Print sales are flat, and the ebook market for traditional publishers has declined every year since 2014.
  • Digital audiobooks are doing well. Binge listening is a thing. One editor received an audio rights offer for a wordless picture book. (I wonder how that works?)
  • The top YA fiction category is science fiction/magic.
  • Psychological suspense remains popular, but has started to fade. Horror and dystopian novels are experiencing a resurgence.
  • The current reader mood: escape combined with nostalgia. Millennial readers are nostalgic for life before social media (the cutoff is around 2006).
  • High concept can sell a book, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to a long sales life. Long-term sales success depends on good storytelling and voice, books with deeper layers that move readers, who give it strong word of mouth. However, a good hook never hurts.
  • Authors are more responsible than ever for marketing. Authors who think of themselves as public figures are well positioned to succeed.
  • All publishers are buying graphic novels, and readers of every age group are reading them.
  • Studios and producers are open to all kinds of voices and stories and are buying more middle grade and YA work for TV and movie adaptations. Works that are better suited to episodic format find a place among the streaming options.

Some of these trends looked familiar, but I was surprised by some of this news, too. My view is that authors shouldn’t try to write to a trend, but if you have a bunch of ideas rattling around and you can write fast, maybe it’s worth trying to hit a current sweet spot.

What about you? Have you witnessed any of these trends yourself, or does any speak to what you’re working on?

Jeanne: Selling Books the Old-Fashioned Way

Indy Bookstore Day 2019On Saturday I attended a book-signing at New and Olde Pages, a local bookstore, in honor of Independent Bookstore Day, where I sold seven books. That may not sound like much, but it’s twice what I’ve sold on Amazon in the past week, including my KU reads. (On Sunday I had to suspend my “trickle” ad when the trickle became a flood thanks to Christmas shoppers who apparently clicked on my ad only to remember that they weren’t shopping for themselves. Since the Zon charges per click, this is the worst possible outcome. Like many other authors at this time of year, I had to suspend my advertising.)

For an author with only two books on the market, selling seven books in an afternoon is a very nice result. It wasn’t especially profitable, because I bought books from two other authors there (of course), but it was an enjoyable afternoon of chatting with potential readers. It was also, for an introvert, insanely stressful. When I got home I walked in the door, ordered up a drink (it’s lovely when your husband is also your bartender) and proceeded to binge on Spider Solitaire while listening to the soundtrack from Hadestown for a couple of hours while I unwound.

(If you’ve never heard Why We Build the Wall, it’s absolutely haunting.)

As I write this post on Sunday morning, though, I’m largely recovered from the ordeal of talking to other human beings and I think hand-sales is something I need to pursue more aggressively in 2020. I believe in my books. I think they’re funny and thought-provoking, with unique and compelling characters. And when I talk to people face-to-face, this comes through persuasively.

So one of my goals for 2020 will be to approach independent bookstores and ask if they’ll take my books on consignment (or order through Lightning Spark). There are only a couple of Indies here in the Dayton area, but there are more in Cincinnati and Columbus. I also plan to approach the local library systems and see if they’d be willing to stock it.

Which means I’ll need to talk to people again.

Is 9 a.m. too early to start drinking?

 

Nancy: Because Amazon Moves in Mysterious Ways

As of yesterday, there was supposed to be a special sale price on Two Scandals Are Better Than One in a few select countries for the rest of this week. As of today, thanks to Amazon, it appears the book is discounted everywhere. That’s great, I guess? Except I was not prepared to advertise and otherwise support the sale price.

But if you’re interested in Luci and Edward’s story and haven’t yet gotten your copy, this week is a great time to do it! The sale price is 2.99 USD (marked down from 4.99 USD), although it’s discounted a bit more in Canada, Australia, and the UK. You can find the ebook on Amazon.com, but the sale price also applies on Amazon in other countries, as well as on Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

And here’s the blurb:

A foray into London’s seedy underworld will unmask their hidden desires.

Edward, the upstanding Viscount Meriden, is desperate for one reckless adventure. After years of holding his crumbling family together, he finally has the chance at one night of abandon at a debauched house party, where he meets a masked mystery woman. He longs to uncover all her secrets. But when he realizes she’s an old friend on a dangerous mission, he insists on becoming her protector.

Miss Lucinda Wagner is the only woman in a family of men rumored to be spies. When her father goes missing, she infiltrates a treacherous world to find him. No one suspects her double life until her childhood friend Edward discovers her secret. Now “Steady Eddie” insists upon watching over her. To gain his silence, she allows him join her search.

As Luci and Edward delve deeper into the criminal underworld, their lives turn upside down. Danger lurks around every corner. Threats assail them from all sides, and the only safe harbor in the city is in each other’s arms. Until the sparks between them threaten to ignite their long-denied passion.

Have a happy reading week!

Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Which Cover Works?

The current cover, circa 2012

I was so pleased with the covers I commissioned for the “Phoebe” trilogy I just finished that I took a look at the rest of my books with a new eye. Back in the old days, six or seven years ago, when ebooks were still pretty new and finding freelancers who had good skill sets for book design was more difficult, I had some covers commissioned that I thought in the end were all right but not wonderful.

This first cover to the left is one of them. I like the image a lot, but I’ve never liked the type treatment. And these days, it’s design best practices to have some kind of tag line on the cover that gives readers a third hint (after the image and the title) of what’s in the book.

Maybe, I thought last week, it was time to redo these old covers.

Betting on Hope is set in Las Vegas. Hope, our heroine, holds her family (sister, mother, niece) together with a lick and a prayer. And then to her shock, she finds out that her father, a professional card player, lost their ranch—the family home and her sister’s livelihood—in a poker game.

Cover 1

Cover 2

A child prodigy poker player herself, Hope had given up the game long ago after too many betrayals by her father. But when the family is given thirty days to move out, she decides to try to win the place back from the east coast Mob boss who won it.

She enlists the professional players from her past to help her brush up her game. They introduce her to the hero and his daughter. The Mob boss brings his moll to Vegas and then the wife shows up. Not to mention, the Russians. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

Cover 3

Cover 4

There’s a lot of poker playing in the book, and a lot of the reviews on Amazon think the story is “about” gambling. When I wrote it, I thought the book was about what family is and means. I read thirteen (count ’em! Thirteen!) books about Texas Hold ’em, the game Hope plays, and by the time I was finished reading those books, I’d decided that people who play poker professionally can benefit from luck, but they must have skill to win consistently, which is what makes professional card players not the same as gamblers, who rely solely on luck, unless they cheat.

Cover 5

But as we learned at McDaniel, the book you write is only half the experience. The reader brings the other half.

I mention all this by way of pointing out that some of these covers are more about card playing, and some of the covers de-emphasize this aspect. But I’m interested in what cover best reveals the story.

I have my favorites. What do you think?

 

Justine: Drip Campaigns (aka Automation) for New Authors

email marketingI recently switched over my email service from MailChimp to MailerLite (for a detailed explanation of why, read this post by David Gaughran). Mind you, I hadn’t sent any emails to my 46 subscribers since last November, and I figured (now that my kitchen reno is done and the kids are back in school) it was time to saddle up the ‘ol marketing horse again.

At the same time, I’m planning some FB ads in the near future to spread the word about my free short story (which is also a backstory to my first upcoming book His Lady to Protect) and hopefully help drum up newsletter subscribers prior to its release later this year.

However, before I go gung-ho on the FB ads, I wanted to make sure I had a drip campaign–also know as “automation”–set up for my new subscribers. Continue reading

Jeanne: Anatomy of a Newsletter

On Friday I sent out my seventh newsletter.

When I started sending out newsletters last summer, just before releasing The Demon Always Wins, I planned on once a quarter. Current marketing wisdom says weekly, but who has something to say that often? Even book-factory authors who spit out books like they’re running an assembly line take six weeks or so to write and release a book. Also, I personally loathe getting author newsletters that frequently. And anything more often than once a week I consider spam and quickly unsubscribe.

Still, over the last few months, I’ve fallen into a monthly pattern because I have had news to share—contest finals, new covers, good stuff.! And now that I have a few newsletters under my belt, I feel like I have some useful ideas on what works.

  1. A header/template that reflects your brand. Here’s mine:

Header

2. News. This goes back to what I was grumbling about earlier. It’s only a newsletter if it contains news. In this case, it was the news that The Demon Always Wins won Best Paranormal Romance and Best First Book in the Detroit RWA Booksellers’ Best contest. It included a picture of my (very hard to photograph) awards: Continue reading

Jeanne: Looking for Mr. One-Click

As regular readers my know, my first book continues to win prizes but it’s not not selling like I’d hoped.demon_wins_1500--POD

Feedback from experts suggested that my original cover wasn’t working for me.

A local bookseller had an issue with the snake. “People are afraid of snakes,” she said. “They won’t pick up something with a snake on it.”

Hmm.

A couple of author friends who sell a lot of books had a more basic criticism. “Your cover doesn’t say romance.”

And I never did like the fact that it was so hard to read the title.

When I had that first cover made, a marketing friend who had read an early draft suggested going with an “object cover”—that is, a cover with an object rather than a person—with the intention of trying for cross-genre sales. Continue reading