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?

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?