Jilly: The Murderbot Dilemma

How much would you pay for an ebook? Or a series?

I’ve been trying to decide whether to invest in Martha Wells’ Murderbot books. I don’t usually dither over book purchases, but this series has me hovering over the buy button.

The community on Argh Ink (Jenny Crusie’s blog) loves Murderbot. Jenny loves and re-reads the series. These are smart people. They read a lot. They’re sharply observant and constructively critical about their recommendations and DNFs. They tend to like the kind of stories I like. So that’s a strong positive.

I read the first novella, All Systems Red, and really enjoyed it. I wasn’t desperate to read the next book immediately, but I haven’t forgotten it and moved on. I felt like that about Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles—had a hiatus of maybe a couple of years before I bought the second book—but that series became a favorite and one that I regularly re-read.

The Murderbot premise is great—an introverted, self-hacking robot protagonist who’s technically not a person but who has an engaging personality–fascinating, funny and conflicted. The author makes you care about the character. The writing is clever and complex. The stories are sci-fi, with lots of great world-building and action, but deeply character-driven. As far as I can see from a quick scan of the reviews, the first four novellas arc to a satisfying conclusion.

There’s really only one argument against Murderbot. The price. According to the many disgruntled reviews on the Zon, the first four titles are essentially one book, with each act published as a separate novella. According to Amazon US at the time of writing, they are: Continue reading

Jeanne: What a Tangled Web

Back in 2017, I hired a local web developer, who also happened to be a romance author, to build a website for me. It wound up taking longer than I anticipated (around five months) and consuming a lot of energy, but in the end I was happy with my site.

It was themed with my brand, matched my very fun covers, and had this very cool animated snake.

Then I learned, much to my chagrin, that ophidiophobia, fear of snakes, is one of the most common fears and that the presence of that snake on my covers and my website would discourage potential readers.

Once I had time to absorb this, I hired a new cover firm, who created the “hot guy” covers that sell so much better and created a website header to match my covers.

toucheddemon-estridge-TW

About the same time, my developer encountered a series of life-altering events and decided to get out of the website business. She sold my site maintenance contract to another firm. Continue reading

Jeanne: Another Cover Story

originalsin-estridge-ebooksmallOn Sunday, Jilly shared the cover of her new novella, The Seeds of Exile. It’s spectacularly alluring and I think it will perform well for her. (Hope so!)

I, also have a new cover to share, along with a snippet from the short story it fronts.

If you’ve read any of my Touched by a Demon books, you’re familiar with Lilith, the she-demon who serves as one of Satan’s primary agents on Earth. Although Lilith excels at fieldwork, she ends each story headed for the maggot pit because she’s also Satan’s primary whipping girl when things don’t go as planned.

“Original Sin” is Lilith’s origin story and I’ll be giving it away as a freebie to anyone who signs up for my newsletter. It won’t be on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any other vendor site–only as a reward for joining my subscriber list. (And to everyone who’s already a subscriber, of course.)

The cover was created by Paper and Sage, who also did my other covers. I love that this one echoes those, but it’s enough different to signal that this is something…different. A short story, rather than a full-length novel.

Here’s the tagline and blurb for the story:

In the beginning, God created Adam and…Lilith?

Meet the founding member of the First Wives Club. Before Adam met Eve, he was married to Lilith. Created at the same time and from the same dust as her husband,  Lilith views herself as Adam’s equal.

What if the original sin wasn’t curiosity?

Here’s the first scene (lightly edited in keeping with Eight Ladies’ PG rating): Continue reading

Jeanne: Using Instagram to Sell Books, Part 3

Today we come to the paper-pushing portion of this series: how to use the attractive, friendly Instagram account you’ve set up to actually sell books. There are several ways you can do this:

  1. The most direct method is to create a flatlay, an Instagram post that features your book cover with an attractive background and post it. You can include a quote from the book, either as text on the graphic or as comment, but remember that Instagram is primarily a visual, rather than a verbal, medium.

Here’s one for Eight Lady Jilly’s debut novel, The Seeds of Power, that I created back at Christmas:BookBrushImage-2020-2-15-11-1047

 

How, you ask, do you make a pretty picture like this if you don’t have a nice background available? Continue reading

Jeanne: Using Instagram to Sell Books, Part 2

Last week, we talked about how to set up your Instagram account for maximum attraction to book buyers:

  1. Limit yourself to three topics.
  2. Identify and adhere to an overall layout. Good article on that here.
  3. Choose a limited color palette.

This week we’ll add some more pointers and talk about how that may translate into book sales.

First: Build an attractive, friendly profile. Continue reading

Jeanne: Using Instagram to Sell Books, Part 1

IG logoOn Saturday I was asked to speak at a local workshop on the business side of being an author on the topic of Instagram. Although I’m no one’s idea of an Instagram Influencer, and I have no graphic arts skills, I was okay with talking about it because:

a)  I LOVE Instagram. It’s all pictures and no politics. From the first day I joined, back in April of 2016, it felt like a perfect fit.

b) Over the last year I’ve taken a couple of classes on IG, so I know some best practices.

Today I’m going to share some of those best practices with you.

BP#1: Pick a lane or, actually, 3 lanes. Instagram works best if you limit your range of topics. Mine are: my books, my flower photographs and things-I-see-when-I’m-out-walking. Continue reading

Jeanne: A Tale of Two Stories

Identical Twin Babies in Green BlanketsAbout a year and a half ago, I got an idea for what I planned to be the third book in my Touched by a Demon series. The thought was to write a Faust story–a tale of Megan Swensen, an author who sells her soul to the devil to make the New York Times Bestseller list. The romance would be a second-chance-at-love story. James, a third-year law student and her grad school boyfriend, helped negotiate the terms of the contract under the impression that he was helping her with a literary assignment for school. When he discovered the truth, they broke up. As the book opens, seven years have passed, the contract is coming due and Megan is panicking.

For its demon, the book would feature Lilith, the she-demon who was a player in the first two books, as Megan’s literary agent and Hellish customer service representative. I even had a title–The Demon Wore Stilettos. Continue reading

Jilly: Booksweeps!

Do you know about Booksweeps?

I discovered them last year, when Jeanne included one of her Touched By A Demon books in a paranormal romance sweep. Since then I’ve heard good things about them, so when I saw they were running an Epic Sword & Sorcery Fantasy sweep I knew it was my turn. Here’s the graphic for The Seeds of Power:

A Booksweep is a contest that aims to connect avid readers of a particular subgenre with authors who’d like to reach a wider readership. First prize is usually something like an e-reader plus a free copy of every book in the sweep. Second prize is a free copy of every book.

Authors pay to be included. Readers don’t pay to play. They sign up for the sweep by joining the mailing list of the authors they like the look of out of the selection offered. They don’t have to join every list, but each one they join gives them a better chance of winning. Of course they could immediately unsubscribe from every list they choose, but past experience suggests that many of them don’t—as long as they enjoy the newsletter.

The giveaway I joined is called Epic, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy. That’s a nice, broad definition and I think the seventeen books in the bundle offer something for everyone. Some have battles on the cover—weapons and action, red-eyed dragons, mythical creatures and whatnot. Others highlight a central character, often female. Those look like my catnip.

I’ve been reading the blurbs and the Look Inside samples, and I’m especially tempted by Continue reading

Jeanne: Selling Books with Instagram

Instagram logoInstagram is, hands down, my favorite social media application. I love how visual it is. I love how it doesn’t lend itself to angry discussions. I have less love for the selfies you find there, but in every pot of honey there are bound to be a few bee parts.

Anyway, for the past couple of years I’ve been using my Instagram account to post pictures of wildflowers that I take while hiking. I am not really a visual person, but I hike with an artist who has been wonderful about helping me understand lighting and composition, at least in this very narrow context. As a result, my IG page is loaded with reasonably attractive pictures of flowers.

I’ve heard a lot of discussions about how great IG is for selling books, but I’m not clear on how to do that. (Unless you run ads. If you’re willing/able to spend beaucoup bucks, I’m sure it works very well.) Unless your post is an ad, Instagram doesn’t allow you to include a working link there, only in your profile. Given people’s dislike of extra clicks, that suggests IG is not a good platform for sales.

So what’s the deal?

Last Sunday I took an Instagram class, taught by Kat Coroy. She explained that Instagram is more of a relationship-building tool. If people come to associate your posts with things they enjoy seeing and a consistent theme, it will predispose them to buying a book from you when the time is right.

That works for me. I dislike being on the receiving end of the hard sell so I’d never want to be on the giving end.

Without poaching material Kat has created and uses to make her living, I invite you to go look at her page and compare it with mine.

While mine won’t make you want to poke your eyes out with a tuning fork, it’s definitely several steps down from Kat’s. And, realistically, it’s never going to look anywhere that gorgeous. But it’s also clear that with a little bit of work and planning, I can spruce it up and have a very nice page that just might make people think, “I’d like to read a book of hers.”

My plans for next year include:

  1. Identifying colors and fonts to brand my page.
  2. Selecting short quotations from my published books and works-in-process.
  3. Alternating flower pictures with quotes to make my page look more like Kat’s.
  4. Interspersing pictures of my book covers (and maybe even an ad or two!).

I’m also taking a class on Instagram for Authors that is being offered by my RWA chapter in January, so I’m hoping to learn even more. I’ll post an update when I’ve made some progress.

What about you? Are there any social media apps you’ve found useful in selling or promoting books?

 

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?