Kay: The Train Wreck of Traditional Publishing

Did you ever wish you had a traditional publishing contract? Count your lucky stars. Since our pandemic began, traditional publishing has gone off the rails.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch breaks it down for us on her blog. It all began when she tried to order a book in June and was informed that the book would ship in September. Surprised that it wouldn’t arrive sooner, she looked into why that should be.

And guess what? It turns out that traditional publishing isn’t all that nimble when it comes to crises. Here’s the story.

What the heck happened?

When the pandemic hit and bookstores closed, some publishing companies moved their biggest spring and summer releases to the fall, hoping that the situation would have recovered by then. But as the pandemic dragged on, the schedule fell apart, because the fall schedule was already mostly full. Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Break-Even Point

I’ve recently been reading my way through my TBR pile.  I seem to have landed somewhere in the 1950s (give or take a few years) and have been alternating between English mysteries and “strong independent woman” set-pieces.  Portable typewriters have featured prominently in many of the stories and fledgling writers have abounded.  There was at least one family saved from penury by an enterprising heroine who knocked out a novel in no time at all and received a nice advance check just in the nick of time.

Even my non-fiction reading has included authors and references to advances, though in one case it was an author who had missed a deadline and had to return an advance check- ouch!

Anyway, all of this has gotten me thinking about advances and book sales and led me eventually to the question:  Just how many books do you need to sell to earn out an advance?  Continue reading

Jilly: Another Shiny New Cover

Another week, another seven days closer to the end of this pandemic, whenever that may be. I hope you’re safe and well.

And Happy Easter to everyone who’s celebrating today. Even though this is an Easter like no other, I hope you’re able to find the joy in it.

Here in England the weather has turned gorgeous, which makes it even harder to stay inside. I’m lucky that we have a small garden, and if I work at the table in the kitchen I can open the double doors and get a hit of birdsong and sunshine. It helps a lot.

I’m still waiting for the edit report on Daire’s novella, now officially called The Seeds of Exile, but I have a cover, and here it is. You might remember that I found a stock photo of a guy I thought was perfect for Daire—hair, face, expression—but who wasn’t a golden historical fantasy prince. I hoped my cover designers would be able to turn him into one, and I must say they surpassed my expectations.

What do you think? I hope you like it as much as I do.

I’d love to know what signals it gives you. Does it look like your kind of book? If you noticed that cover as you were browsing online, would you click on it to check out the blurb?

Thank you in advance for your comments, whatever they may be.

And huge thanks to the team at Deranged Doctor Design, who are a delight to deal with, not to mention brilliant creatively and technically. I feel very privileged to be working with them.

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

Michaeline: Three Questions for Nancy Yeager

Cover: Four Corners of Heaven, young woman in fancy dress,

Four Corners of Heaven came out March 12. (Image courtesy of Nancy Yeager)

Our own Eight Lady, Nancy Yeager, has a new book out this week! Four Corners of Heaven is part of her Harrow’s Finest Five, a period-romance set in the 1860s and 70s (see below for past posts about her series). I got the chance to read the book in beta, and it was a good read. Botany, women’s empowerment and fizzy romantic feelings!

I took the opportunity to ask Nancy three questions about her book, and here is what she said:
1. What’s your new book about? (Is it a stand-alone?)

I’ll take the easy part of that first. This can be read as a stand-alone book, but it the latest release (5th of an eventual 7) in my Victorian romance series, Harrow’s Finest Five. Regular readers of the blog might recall that the series is about “smart women, sexy men, steamy passion, and the occasional scandal.”

Four Corners is about two scientists pursuing a place in history who learn that love confounds logic every time. When their research unravels and forces them onto opposite sides of a scientific controversy, they’re forced to choose between their careers and their love .I think of it as my geeks-fall-in-love story. My goal, though, wasn’t to make them out as awkward or obtuse, absent-minded scientists. It was explore the way that two people who have single-mindedly, almost ruthlessly, pursued a goal and have their eye on the distant prize might be ill-equipped to handle or even recognize love when they trip right over it. And steamy passion. All the books in the series have some steamy passion!

2. What about the book makes you most proud? 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?

 

Jeanne: Things I Learned from Publishing My First Book

1. Rely on others

I’m not a very visual person, so when I got my teaser ads back from my publicity agency, I asked other more visually gifted friends to look over the ads. They came back with issues I never would have seen.

Takeaway: Rely on your posse. (And plan to be their posse in return when the time comes, with whatever you have to offer.)

Even though I’m not very visual, because I’m less emotionally invested in their stories than they are, there’s still a chance I’ll notice things they didn’t.

2. Give yourself more time than you think you could ever possibly need.

Once you get a final draft completed, it feels like most of your work should be done. While that’s probably true, there’s still way more to do than you realize, especially if you’re going to give your book a sendoff that will allow it to sell well.

3) Give yourself plenty of backup. Don’t rely on any one arena to promote your book.

I have a couple of friends with upcoming releases, one a debut. A couple of weeks ago their web host ghosted them. Their sites are down and they can’t get support from the hosting company.

4) Make sure you know your target market and the comps for your book.

After The Demon Always Wins came home with the Golden Heart, I kind of expected agents and editors, maybe not to flock to my door, but at least to be interested. So it was really disappointing when they weren’t.

Now, four years down the road, I understand why they weren’t. Paranormal romance wasn’t selling well at that time and the demon sub-genre was almost non-existent. When asked for comps for my book, I didn’t know of any. I wasn’t sure why it mattered, since the book wasn’t likely to wind up on physical shelf anywhere.

Then I tried running an Amazon ad. Amazon ads live and die by your keywords, and your keywords are mostly going to be a list of comp authors for your book.

These days I can list half a dozen off the top of my head.

5) Understand the conventions for your niche.

We’ve covered this in some detail in other posts, so I’m going to keep this brief, but my covers were all wrong. Very cool, but all wrong for romance. Your cover should not be weird and exotic and intriguing. It should be similar to the covers that sell those comps we just talked about.

6) Recognize that you don’t know what you don’t know.

There’s a learning curve to the book promotion game.

You can bypass some of it by hiring people to do some of it for you, but the fact that you don’t know how to it very likely means you won’t know how to hire the right people either.

You can bypass some of it by reading books and taking courses in book promotion. I read some books, but I didn’t take the courses. I have a friend who did. Her first book will debut later this year, and I’m waiting to see how well she does before passing judgment on the value of the course.

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

Justine: WHEN Do the Kids Go Back To School?

overwhelmed momI’m not sure what sort of writer you are, but I’m definitely a big chunk writer. I need time to GET into my writing world and time to STAY in my writing world (preferably without interruptions).

With the kids home this summer (they’re 11 and 10), that just isn’t happening. So I’ve pretty much written off getting any substantive work done on my MS. Fortunately, their return-to-school date is August 1st (believe me, I’m counting down the days).

Instead of writing, I have been focusing on other things that are still career-centered, but make it a bit easier for me to handle interruptions switch gears.

Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula (SPF) Course

For those of you unfamiliar, Mark Dawson is a British writer who has put together some very thorough and detailed web courses on the ins and outs of self-publishing. It’s pricey and there are limited times during the year when you can sign up, but I think it’s well worth it. In addition to the typical nuts-and-bolts of self-publishing, he gives you some good tactical and strategic advice, such as about maximizing newsletter sign-up (both from your ebooks and your website), pros and cons of going narrow or wide, and launch strategies. All of his courses are one-cost-for-life, so you’re eligible for all course updates in the future. 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