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10/10/15 A Walk in the Sun , Uncategorized # , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WalkinSun HC

COMING MAY 3rd FROM HARPERTEEN

 

Advance Praise for A WALK IN THE SUN

“… a story about love of all kinds, including love for oneself.” – School Library Journal

“… immediate chemistry…”  – Kirkus

 

Katie Cotugno meets The Bridges of Madison County in a magnetic tale about summer love that stays with you long after the seasons change.

Rose Darrow never wanted to spend her life working on her family’s farm. But when her family is rocked by an unexpected tragedy she has no choice but to put her plans for the future—and dreams of escaping her small town—on hold.

Bodhi Lowell left home as a kid and never looked back. Years of working farm jobs has given him the one thing he wants most: freedom to travel without answering to anyone. He’s already looking past his job at Darrow Farm and plans on leaving in September — until he meets Rose.

Neither Rose nor Bodhi can deny the sparks flying between them, but with the end of summer looming, they must decide if it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. . .

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07/22/17 inspiration , Life , Meditation , Mindfulness , positivity , quotes , self-inquiry , Swami Satchidananda , yoga # , , , , , , ,

Digging One Well

I have always been a well-digger, by which I mean I have always had a lot of interests. I’m a naturally curious person, and at various times in my life I’ve immersed myself in everything from writing to business to marketing to politics to cooking and baking to homemaking to antiques and antique selling to Buddhism to yoga to meditation to fitness…

You get the idea.

It took me awhile to realize there is a difference – a big one – between an interest and a passion.

There are a lot of great things about being curious, but one of the downsides is that it’s easy to get distracted. The sad truth of it is that there are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much available psychic space in a day too.

The last fifteen years or so I’ve gotten better about sensing when I’m off track, when I’ve let my interests monopolize my time instead of treating them like a condiment to the meal of my passions. There are so many fascinating things in the world and they have never been more accessible to us than they are right now. What can I say? It’s easy to get sidetracked.

The Indian proverb above is expanded upon by Swami Satchidananda who explains it this way:

“There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the first effort is wasted and there is no proof you won’t hit rock again.”

Sometimes we dig deep and actually hit water. In that case, we should sit awhile and enjoy the fruits of our labor, taste the water and see if it’s to our liking. Even if it is, there is no guarantee it will always be that way (and no guarantee the well will always have water – wells do run dry). And for the record, it’s okay if you hit water and decide to move on anyway. I’m a big believer in the idea that sometimes you have to get what you think you want to know you don’t actually want it.

Either way, it’s natural and healthy that we should re-evaluate our priorities from time to time. We are always changing. Every second of every day cells are dying and being born in our bodies, perceptions are shifting, we are accounting for new information by discarding that which is no longer true or useful and making room for that which is.

Well, I hope we’re all doing that. Jesus… I’m freaking glad I’m not the same person now I was when I was twenty, and I pray to the Universe I am not the same person when I’m seventy that I am now. That’s part of the magic, isn’t it? The knowledge that there’s a vast repository of experience and knowledge out there? That we are free to draw on it at any time?

I’ve dug a lot of wells, but the through-lines of my life have been reading, writing, and learning. I have never lost my desire for any of these things. Lately I’ve been sensing myself at a crossroads. Some of it is probably that Caroline, my youngest, will be leaving for college next month, and while I still have two young people at home (one getting his Masters and one commuting while he gets his undergrad degree), knowing the kids are all officially adults is a huge change that’s bound to bring some introspection.

But the truth is, I’ve never really lamented my impending empty nest. My children and I are incredibly tight (as those of you who have seen us en masse at book events can attest!). I miss them when they go. But there are so many things I’ve been waiting to do and experience and it really does feel like time.

So the big question for me is which well will I dig next? Specifically, how will I use my words to honor the things that have moved to the forefront of my consciousness?

Because I’ve always been committed to a joyful life. I’ve done some intense things to achieve joy and harmony (quitting a lucrative career with nothing else in the works, moving 3,000 miles to a place where I knew no one, getting a divorce), and one thing I can say with certainty is that I have never regretted a single one.

I’m incredibly fortunate to live in such harmony. I acknowledge this with gratitude while also saying for anyone else out there who feels the need for change that I have made conscious choices to live this way, and in case you should think I live a trouble-free existence (no perfect-life filter here!), there are sacrifices (I have no health insurance, as the sole breadwinner for my family, my income is sporadic, which can be terrifying, etc.).

All of which is to say you have the power to radically alter your life if you feel the need – and so do I.

In fact, I’ll let you in on one of my favorite secrets: THERE IS NO LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF TIMES AND WAYS IN WHICH YOU CAN REINVENT YOURSELF.

Say that again for yourself. Believe it. I do.

I’ve always found it most helpful to work backward from what I want. Working forward from where I am now can be too intimidating. I’m not sure I would have known what to do with the advice to move 3,000 miles with four kids or get a book deal. But knowing I wanted a book deal meant knowing that I had to have a book to sell which meant knowing I actually had to learn more about craft and finish a book, possibly several.

So that was my first real writing goal: finish one book, even if it sucked (it did).

But I dug that well through five books to sell Prophecy of the Sisters. I did not allow myself to be distracted by other interests or by doubt or by anything but the shovel in my hand, the dirt I was throwing over my shoulder, the possibility of water.

So what do I want now? I want to travel freely and expand my writing to the areas that have been speaking to me lately. I want to continue living joyously and help others to do the same. I want to keep learning and being open to all the possibilities.

With  that in mind, I’m doing a lot of centering work right now to determine the best road to take for the next phase of my journey. I know which direction I’m heading, but I’m still charting the course.

I hope you’ll join me on the path. There is room for all.

<3

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07/21/17 Book News , Once Upon a Time # , , , ,

New Book Announcement!

I’m beyond thrilled to announce that I’ll be writing a book for the hit ABC show Once Upon a Time. I couldn’t be more excited to write this story, a modern day New York City fairy tale featuring OUAT’s Henry and Violet in high school.

Once Upon a Time is such a magical show, and the opportunity to write a story set in my favorite fairy tale city is a dream come true.

More details to come! In the meantime, make sure you’re all caught up on the show, will you?

😉

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02/01/17 Life , Meditation , Mindfulness , Politics

Coping Mechanisms for the Resistance

I was supposed to write this post at the beginning of the year. It was meant to be a kind of New Year’s post about moving forward in the post-election world. But the truth is, it’s taken me this long to get my head around what’s happened and where we are, and the hits come on an almost daily basis.

This isn’t a political post. But for those who are saying, “Give Trump a chance,” I can only say; have you been watching the news? The night he was elected I knew I’d have to give him a chance. Then he started appointing anti-Semites and racists and mysogynists and homophobes and even people who just don’t know shit about the job for which they’re applying. He’s got so many conflicts of interest it makes the allegations against Hillary (all unproven) seem like a kid stealing a candy bar. He has ties to Russia that could amount to treason. He is looking to roll back discrimination protections for the LGBT community and to appoint a Supreme Court judge who will vote to reverse Roe V. Wade, putting millions of women at risk for dangerous pregnancies and illegal abortions. He has alienated our allies to such a degree that they are scrambling to form new alliances with other countries and he has instituted an unconstitutional ban on immigrants based on religion – but not from any of the Middle Eastern countries that actually have a history of importing terror to the U.S., or (not coincidentally) from any of the Middle Eastern countries where he has business interests. Through all of this he has not issued one unifying, reassuring statement to the people of this country.

This man has already been given far more chances than President Obama was given by the GOP.

The time for chances is over. Now it’s time to fight.

But fighting takes a lot of mental energy. It’s emotionally draining and even depressing. In the real world (as opposed to Trump’s world where, when it gets to cold, he can simply decamp to the “Winter White House”, which is apparently the new name for his estate, Mar-a-Lago) we have to work. We have to buy groceries and take care of children. We have to socialize without giving the impression that we are a hair’s breadth away from screaming out loud.

And that all means we have to cope. We have to balance. We have to practice radical self-care while continuing to fight in whatever capacitywe can manage, because not fighting just isn’t an option right now.

hey girl coping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that in mind, I’m going to share some of the things that have helped me over the past couple of months as I’ve sought some equilibrium. They’re strategies I’m going to focus on this year in my quest to remain sane – and dare I say it? – even happy while this shit show runs its course.

Meditation

I’ve written here about it before so I’ll keep this short, but it is unrivaled in its ability to open up some blank, white space in an overcrowded mind. It can be difficult at first (which I always see as a testament to how badly it’s needed, because if we can’t sit quietly with ourselves for ten minutes a day, we’re in trouble), but it’s so worth the small amount of time it requires. It gets easier over time, so stick with it. No special equipment is needed, you can do it anywhere, and many Buddhist monasteries offer free meditation instruction. In lieu of that, you can search this blog for my previous posts about it or contact me with any questions.

Compartmentalization

I used to pride myself on my ability to compartmentalize – focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of all else – when I was juggling work in an office with four small children at home. Now I realize that it’s just another word for mindfulness, which has been a cornerstone of my spiritual practice for the past couple of years. One of my favorite sayings is “The lesson will be repeated until it is learned.” And boy is it true.

In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes;

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly — you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over.”

Compulsive thinking is a disease, and it’s frighteningly easy to fall into it at a time like this. Learning to breathe into the moment, to truly be wherever you are, is a tremendous gift. It means that when you are using your mind (which we all must do right now), you are fully engaged in that activity – not preoccupied with fear of the future and all its possibilities, but focused on the action you are taking that moment. When you aren’t using your mind to take political action, be in the moment then too. Fully engage with your family and friends without looking at your phone. Really watch a movie without letting your mind wander. Spend a whole afternoon drinking tea and reading a book. Whatever you’re doing, be there doing that. When you notice your mind wandering to anxiety-producing topics, gently let those thoughts go and bring yourself back to the moment at hand. Sometimes it helps to really notice the feel of a chair under your body, the color of your child’s eyes, the feel of a soft blanket against your cheek – whatever you are experiencing in that moment. I’m nowhere near where I need to be, but remembering to be fully present and limiting the times when I’m in anxiety-producing situation has helped a lot.

PemaChodron sky-weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media

Listen, we need it. It’s part of life now, and if you’re a writer or another public figure, it can actually be a detriment not to have it.

But with all the political activism going on right now, social media can be a quick road to burnout. I’ve found that limiting my time there helps. I’ll sign on for about a half hour in the morning, a half hour in the afternoon, and a half hour at night to catch up. Then I really try to stay off and to be fully present in the rest of my life. Some days I’m more successful than others, but generally speaking it allows me to be politically active while maintaining a sense of sanity. Being fully present in the rest of my life is a reminder that I DO have a life beyond what’s happening in the larger world. And I think we need that now more than ever.

Physical activity

This has been a huge coping mechanism for me. I started going back to the gym again about a year and half ago, and although I feel much better physically, it’s also helped my mental state tremendously. I’m able to burn off some of the manic energy that I have in times of high-stress, and it leaves me relaxed and also helps me sleep well at night. Sometimes on a Sunday I just get outside and go for a walk. Being in nature helps. I’m lucky to live in the country, but going to a park is just as lovely and good for the soul.

Breathing

This might sound like a silly thing to add, but in times of stress we actually forget how to breath properly. Instead of oxygenating our body with full deep breaths from the diaphragm, we tend to breathe shallowly. The feeling that comes with shallow breathing goes hand in hand with anxiety and panic attacks. I use Darth Vader breathing when I feel this way. A yoga teacher taught me this technique; breath in deeply through the nose until your belly inflates, then exhale forcefully (mouth still closed) up through the chest and throat and out through the nose. It will sound a little bit like Darth Vader and you should immediately feel more clear-headed. You can do this anywhere! Just take three deep breaths like that whenever you feel anxious. All that oxygen will help take your anxiety down a notch.

Lastly, I would say to remember that everything is temporary. Everything. We have been through dark times before, but I fully believe the light is always there too. It’s there in the love of family and friends, in the common purpose we find with others, in the rising and setting of the sun and the ever-changing and unchanging ways of nature. We will fight the injustices that have been perpetrated and those that will come. But we must continue to live – and love – as well.

Isn’t that what we’re fighting for?
<3

M

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09/08/16 Uncategorized

One Year and Nine Books

This is what the last year of my Indie labor has looked like.

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Fearless_front_V2Lawless_front_6ix9i_RGBSavage_front_coverPrimal_front_cover_RGBEternal_front_cover_RGBCovenant_front_coverMuscle CompleteTheSentinel_6ix9i_RGB_eBook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to write this blog post last year, since my official One Year Indie Anniversary was August 3rd, but I was finishing Covenant, my ninth Indie book and just didn’t have the mental energy to reflect properly on this past year.

As many of you know, I was very transparent in the first few months of my Indie journey, providing you with numbers and sales figures and even earnings. I felt obligated to be forthcoming because so many Indie authors had done it before me, and their stories were a big part of why I ultimately decided to take the plunge. As the months have worn on, I’ve been able to update you less often (I also had a YA book release with HarperCollins in May which took some of my focus and energy), but I wanted to do one last roundup that I hope will give you a sense of how much things have changed for me because I took that chance a year ago, and also a sense of where it will lead me next.

The first thing I’ll touch on is money, because I know that’s a huge question for a lot of people considering an Indie writing career, and especially for those thinking about moving from Trad to Indie, or thinking about going Hybrid. I’m not going to be as specific as I was in the beginning – being that transparent was hard for me even back then. But I will say this; my first series sold to Little Brown in a high six-figure deal, and I have made more this year than I did in the first year of that deal. Context is important. The Little Brown deal was for three books, which means that total amount was paid out over about five years. It was still more money that first year than I had ever made to that date – and I still made more this year on my Indie books alone.

But here’s another important thing; there are no guarantees. I’ve been so, so lucky on so many levels. I have a great cover designer who created striking, iconic covers for my series. I had a little bit of money to hire Authorbuzz, which did an amazing job creating and targeting Facebook ads that were absolutely key to the early success of Ruthless, which then made subsequent books that much more successful. I had some friends on the Indie side who gave me so much advice and support, and who talked me through a lot of ugly self-doubt and technical screw ups. I had a little bit of money left from my last traditional book deal, which helped me survive until my Indie stuff started paying. I also created a twist on the Mob subgenre that resonated, which was probably pure luck.

All of those things came together to give me a great out-of-the-gate boost, and I feel its important to say that it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve had friends go Indie since then that have done amazingly well, and others that have been frustrated by what they see as an underwhelming showing (thankfully many of my talented friends are still at it, writing new stories and trying new things). The good news is, at least some of this is in your control when you’re Indie (covers, marketing, etc.), something that is usually not the case on the traditional publishing side.

In addition to writing all those books you see above, in the past year I’ve created a social media presence for my alter ego, Michelle St. James, and also a dedicated website. I went to Romantic Times in Las Vegas and learned a ton, plus made new friends. I was asked to participate as a Discovery Author in a new initiative by the publishers of the 1001 Dark Nights series. I’ve read more romance novels than I can count, and have continued reading the literary fiction and thrillers that have always been beloved to me, assuming it all goes to my writing style in the end. I’ve created an adult romance brand that makes sense and feels natural for me, making it easier for me to maintain because it’s an accurate reflection of who I am.

Following are some other things I learned.

You can’t count on any kind of consistency. Fall and Winter (2015-2016) were HUGE for me. I was making stupid amounts of money. But in April things really started to slow down, and they remained slow through summer (most of those months were about 25% slower than during my really solid months in Fall and Winter). I am REALLY glad I set asidemoney when things were good. It helped a lot with quarterly taxes and unexpected expenses during the slow months. It’s September, and I have no way of knowing if I’ll have another good Fall or if it will remain slow. I have no idea if it does remain slow whether that will be a reflection of the books I’ve most recently released, bigger issues related to the economy, or something related to the market itself, either temporary or permanent. So I guess the lesson here is to take nothing for granted. If you have a great month, set a chunk of it aside for a rainy day.

Ads are also ever-changing. One ad might resonate amazingly well, helping you sell hundreds of books a day for months at a time. Another ad that is very similar, that you like just as much, for some reason might not resonate. Audience matters, too. One target audience might see very little click-through. A very similar audience might give you huge results. Sometimes an ad will perform well for months. I had an ad for Ruthless that ran for over three months, and I was selling hundreds of books a day during that time. It was awesome. During that time, I didn’t have to think about the ad at all. But when the ad went stale and I replaced it, the new ad didn’t perform as well, and we could never really put a finger on why. Ads require a lot of trial and error, which is why I’m still using AuthorBuzz to manage mine. Frankly, my time is better spent writing at this point. None of which should discourage you from Facebook/Instagram ads. Without my ads, I’d see very little traffic. But expect that they will require some time, energy, and a good dose of patience on an ongoing basis.

Graphics are important. You will probably use a lot of them. I’m lucky to have  my daughter’s company, Rebekah Zink Media, on retainer. She keeps me in tons of striking teaser and ad graphics, hunts through photo sites for pictures that will meet Facebook’s ad guidelines, and comes up with snappy tag lines for each book. Ideally, you know Photoshop or something like it, or you can work out some kind of arrangement with someone who does. Facebook’s guidelines for ads are all over the place, but in general anything that has naked people or is overly suggestive will be rejected by them – but their definition of these things doesn’t always make sense.

Professional covers are critical. You know how some things just look… amateurish? It’s true of movies and commercials and yes, book covers. I feel bad saying it, because I know it’s so hard to do this on your own, and money is absolutely a consideration. But covers are so, so important. And the #1 important thing, in my opinion, is that they look professional and high end. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you’re  better off purchasing a professional-looking, ready-made cover (there are lots of designers and companies who do this) even if it’s not overly original. Anything that looks cheap is not going to compete in the current Indie marketplace. If you don’t want to do a ready-made cover, you can also try bartering services with someone who has great Photoshop skills.

Editing. Oh, boy do I hate this one. It’s been a challenge for me since day one, mostly because my release schedule was necessarily aggressive. Let’s just say I now understand why traditional publishers have layer upon layer of editing. I’m finally at a place where my release schedule is slightly less difficult, but even with more time and a great editor, occasionally things slip through the cracks, and I never stop hating it when they do. I’m still trying to find a system that works for me (two proofreaders? one copy editor and two proofreaders?), but I’ve reached a point where my one proofreader does a pretty thorough job as long as I can give him enough time.

Which brings me to release schedule. I purposefully released my first three-book series a month apart, and my second three-book series two months apart, plus a stand alone and a novella in between because I was trying to build my catalog quickly. I’m pushing now to release my next three book series six weeks apart in order to meet my marketing goals for the busy Christmas season, but next year I’m planning to move to a three or four month schedule for my new series. Now that I have a solid catalog and my financial situation is stable, having a less aggressive release schedule next year will allow me time to work on my YA project, an adult project that’s complete except for edits, and also to have some adventures, which I’ll finally be able to do now that my youngest will be heading to college. I’m not going to lie; the more books you have, the more books you will sell. This is especially true if you include links to your other books, specifically the next book, in the back matter of your existing books. Statistically, a large percentage of people who read one book and enjoy it will click through to buy another book or preorder the next if a link is provided. That’s the funnel that will pull readers through your catalog and keep them reading. My advice is always to release your first 2-3 books quickly (ideally no more than two months apart). After that you can gauge what kind of breathing room you have or don’t have.

Be willing to rethink everything you thought you knew about book marketing. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many giveaways I’ve done over the course of my publishing career. I was once the Queen of Swag, giving away elaborate packages stuffed full of luxury bath products that tied into my book, gourmet food items, custom made jewelry, signed books, and gift cards. I’m not sure any of it moved the needle, and the vast majority of Indie authors I’ve spoken to agree that giveaways just don’t net much in terms of books sold, and they require a lot of time and money to run and manage. Ditto blog tours, which for me just haven’t netted the kind of results that move the needle. As an example, a blog tour for Ruthless was netting me about 10-15 sales a day. Overnight that number jumped to 157 (this was by 8am the next morning). Why? Because my Facebook ad had been approved and was already generating clicks. Now if you want to do them because they’re fun or you’re happy with modest results or you have the time and money and it’s just another thing to add to all the other stuff you’re doing, go right ahead! But for the time I spent generating content for 45 blogs and the money I spent hiring someone to set it up, I saw a thousand times the sales connected to my FB ad. I tried it all on the Indie side only to work my way back to the fact that it really wasn’t necessary, and the one thing I could do that would definitely sell more books is to write more of them. For a long time I felt… lazy. Like, “Shouldn’t I be doing, I don’t know… MORE?” But one of the things I love most about the Indie romance market is that I don’t feel like I have to jump through hoops to sell books. My readers are SO lovely and SO loyal. They don’t need giveaways or anything else. They are happy to have a new book from me, and to interface with me a bit on Facebook. As long as I have a good ad running, I can focus on writing, and that’s still my favorite part of the process. THAT’S the “more” that I want to be doing, and in many ways, it’s a lot less than the marketing I was required to do on the traditional side.

All that said, a mailing/newsletter list is one of the few things that WORK. They are worth the time and effort, and even some money to run ads if you can find a good ad/audience, because they connect you directly to your readers. No one can stand between you and your mailing list. It is a direct line to the people buying your books. You can run polls through them to gather data on trends and reading habits, and you can even distribute ARCs as a way to build buzz and reviews by providing a link to a a free copy through a service like Instafreebie. I’m still working on making my newsletter regular, and I could KICK myself for all the years when I was traditionally published and didn’t actively work to build my list. Look at it this way, if statistically even 10% of your list buys a book when you send out an announcement and you have 25,000 people signed up, that’s A LOT of books just from your mailing list, and you can even have a Sign Up button link to it from your Facebook Page. It does take some time, but once you set it up and establish a template (I use Mailchimp but there are a lot of other services out there), it’s pretty easy to distribute something short once a week. Improving my mailing list (and my own track record getting it our regularly) is my number one marketing goal over this next year.

There is a learning curve. And a time curve as well. That is to say if you want to do well, you will spend a lot of time the first few months (and maybe the first year). You will spend time reading marketing blogs and Facebook threads about marketing and ad management, You will spend time reading a wide array of romance novels to get a handle on what’s out there. You will spend time looking for pictures for ads (unless you have someone else do this for you). You will spend a lot of time writing. You will spend a lot of time getting a handle on Amazon’s KDP platform, Apple’s iBooks platform, B&N’s Nook, Kobo, etc. You will spend time learning to format (easy with Vellum!) or hiring someone else to do it for you. None of which is said to deter you. More to prepare you. I came back from BEA in 2015 fired up to tackle the Indie side of publishing. I didn’t know if it would work, but I was READY to try, and I leaned in extremely hard a good six months before I started to feel a bit of relief, but during that first six months, I was determined not to feel sorry for myself. This was something I wanted to do, and I knew that to be good at it I would need to do my homework and my due diligence. As with everything in my life, my goal was to make sure that if it didn’t work out, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

😉

Sometimes when I tell people how many books I’ve written in the past year and how many I still have to write this year, I can tell they think I’m crazy. Or miserable. Or both. Neither is true. I’m more relaxed than I’ve been in a long time, owing both to the financial relief of being paid regularly and to the fact that I’ve found a system that allows me to write for an hour or two most days and still write a book a month. It started with the book 5,000 Words Per Hour, which some of you might remember my mentioning in an earlier blog post. The idea behind it is that you set a timer and write like the wind – no going back, no fixing typos, no stopping for the bathroom, water, research, etc. You just write. According to the authors, this method increased speed exponentially while also allowing for a kind of stream of consciousness flow that actually resulted in better work. I tried this for awhile and came to the conclusion that adhering to their parameters exactly didn’t work for me. Not fixing typos made me crazy, and sometimes I needed to stop and ponder for a minute to make sure I was heading in the right direction and avoid wasting time building on something that wasn’t fundamentally sound. But the idea had merit, and now I use a hybrid theirs/mine model: make sure I have a one or two sentence idea of what the next chapter or scene entails, set the timer (there’s a free app that tracks words per hour but any timer will do), write until the time is up. I do stop to fix typos if I notice them, and I do stop to think about something if I’m not sure I’m headed in the right direction. But if I need a location or a name I haven’t thought of yet, or I’ve blanked on the year of a famous event, I write BLANK in caps so I can go back and fill it in later. If I think of something I already know I want to fix, I add it to a running list of things to address in edits. I do this until I reach the midpoint of my book, at which time I go back and carefully read through, fixing and tightening and adjusting to make sure that first half is solid as a rock before I build on it with the second half. Then I continue. This process allows me to write a standard romance-length novel of about 60,000 words in a month. I’m writing about 2,000 words an hour, and that’s what I aim for every day, splitting that hour into two 30-minute sprints or one 40-minute and one 20-minute sprint or whatever. That means I write for about an hour a day and still finish a book a month. Of course, there is more time spent plotting and researching and marketing and such, but my actual writing time is an hour a day, which I think is perfectly reasonable. It keeps me in the writing groove and prevents me from feeling too stressed. Most importantly, it allows me to feel in control of my time and my schedule, and still leaves me time to work on other projects, go to the gym five days a week, meditate, go to movies with my kids, read, etc.

In 2017 I’m planning to put out three new romance novels, get my other books on audio, pass a YA book onto one agent and an adult book onto another, walk the Camino with my kids, and either move to the city (NYC) or travel once my youngest goes to college. I’m beyond thrilled that I get to keep writing stories I love, that I have the privilege of meeting new readers from all over the world, and that I have a solid, independent income that allows me to work anywhere in the world. This past year has been a great adventure. I wish you many of your own. And I hope the universe keeps mine coming.

<3

You can find me as Michelle Zink and/or Michelle St. James on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and you can find all my adult books on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

 

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06/09/16 A Walk in the Sun , Book News , Events

Event Reminder

B-Fest_Social_Twitter_date

 

Just a reminder that I will be talking about A Walk in the Sun, writing, and pretty much everything else at Barnes and Noble as part of their Teen Book Festival this weekend.

I have two events, one in Tribeca and one in Kingston, NY the following day. Hope to see you at one of them!

<3

 

 

 

 

Friday June 10th @ 5pm
Barnes and Noble Tribeca
97 Warren Street
New York, NY 10007
with Amy Ewing and Jordana Frankel

Saturday June 11th @3pm

Barnes and Noble Kingston
1177 Ulster Avenue
Kingston, NY 1401
with Jeff Hirsch and Julie Chibbaro

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05/17/16 A Walk in the Sun , Book News , Events

Two New Signings

WalkinSun HCHi, friends!

I wanted to let you know that I’ve added to two new signings to my calendar, one in NYC and one in Kingston, NY to celebrate B:Fest, Barnes and Noble’s Teen Book Festival. I’ll be signing copies of A Walk in the Sun and anything else they have in stock and/or you bring with you, and I’ll be joining some other awesome authors to talk books and writing and who knows what else.

These events sometimes have a mind of their own.

😉

I’m especially excited to talk about A Walk in the Sun in New York, because the book is set in the Hudson Valley, and it feels a little bit like home.

Hope to see you there!

 

Friday June 10th @ 5pm
Barnes and Noble Tribeca
97 Warren Street
New York, NY 10007
with Amy Ewing and Jordana Frankel

 

Saturday June 11th @3pm

Barnes and Noble Kingston
1177 Ulster Avenue
Kingston, NY 1401
with Jeff Hirsch and Julie Chibbaro

 

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02/18/16 Indie , Lawless , London Mob , Mob Boss Series , Romance , Ruthless , Savage , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , ,

Indie Publishing: Truth Versus Myth

It’s hard to believe I’ve been publishing Indie for six months. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when everything was so new and scary. I had no idea how FB ads worked or how to format my own books, pricing strategy was a mystery, and it seemed like I would never have more than a book or two in my catalog.

Fast forward six months and I have a solid grasp on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to ads. I format all my own books. I’ve recently made Ruthless permafree after running a BookBub ad that sent sales of the next two books into the stratosphere. I’ve self-published seven books. Savage, the most recent, was released last week and begins a whole new series.

But one thing remains the same; there is always plenty to learn.

This will be a year of continued learning for me on the Indie side, and also a year of reaching out and getting to know other Indie authors. My Indie releases are now spread out two months apart instead of one with the goal of more time to work on non-Indie projects in between. In general, everything is smoothing out. I’m more financially secure than I’ve been in a long, long time, and I feel like I have a handle on how to keep all this going. I’m learning to plot more thoroughly on the front end so I can draft faster. Most importantly, I feel FREE. I’m writing what I want, whenever I want. I can put out one book a year or twelve. I’m no longer worried about whether my books will be appealing to bookstores or editors — only whether they will be appealing to readers.

Liberated. That’s my word for 2016.

To be honest, I’m so ridiculously happy with how my Indie career is shaping up that I only have one regret; I wish I’d done it sooner. Preferable three years ago when I first started thinking about it. In the end, I only have myself to blame for waiting so long. Having said that, there were (and still are) some blanket statements that serve to discourage people from going Indie. And hey! Maybe it’s not for you. But if it’s not, I want you to be able to make that decision based on fact, not speculation or fear.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of Indie Facts and Myths from some of the best Indie authors in the romance genre.

51xvhB8kK1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_MYTH: You won’t make enough money to pay your bills.

FACT: “I was making enough to pay my mortgage by my second month in indie publishing (Oct 13) and that has remained true every month since.” – Jessie Evans, author of Good Girl VS. Bad Boy and formerly traditionally published under another pen name.

Of course, there are never any guarantees. But this was an oft-repeated phrase similar to the ones I heard when I was trying to get traditionally published. You now the ones I’m talking about. Things like, “Only 15% of manuscripts will find an agent,” and “The average first time advance is $10,000 so why bother?” I never let those statements stop me on the trad pub side, and I went on to work with one of the best YA agents in the business, and to sell my first series in the very high six figures.

But for some reason, I let these kinds of comments discourage me on the Indie side. It seems a little crazy now, but it almost felt SAFER to keep doing what I was doing — writing books, hoping they would sell to trad pub, hoping I would get an advance that would make it possible for me to keep my family going for another year.

The thing that made the difference for me was reading the personal accounts of authors who were doing it successfully. That disclosure required a lot of bravery on their part. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to take the leap without their inspiring stories. I remain grateful for their candor, and it’s part of the reason why I was so transparent in the early days when I had no idea if this would be a successful or failed experiment.

So yes, not everyone will make a ton of money publishing Indie. But if you can check off a few key things — great writing, compelling and professional cover, a willingness to market, and the ability to release content fairly quickly in the beginning — it’s more than possible to make a living on the Indie side.

MYTH: You’re going to spend a lot more time marketing Indie than with traditional publishing.

FACT: It depends.

If you are one of the lucky few in traditional publishing whose deal came complete with a giant marketing budget, you might spend more time marketing on the Indie side. If you’re among the other 99.9% of writers who have published traditionally, you’re not going to spend any more time, and you might actually spend less.

I’ve been on both sides of the equation. The Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy had a massive marketing budget. There were two tours and print advertising and pitching at foreign book fairs like Frankfurt, Bologna, and London. Still, I busted my ass marketing. I did giveaway upon giveaway. I tweeted. I posted. I shared. I liked. I went to every event within an hour of my house, and many within three, even when it was a school night and even when I really couldn’t afford the time. I accepted every invitation to books fairs, festivals, and conferences, no matter how small or little known. I personally answered every email, every comment on Facebook, every tweet. I posted constantly to my blog. I did it all, even when my editor at the time said, “You’re not going to be able to keep this up forever.”

I did it despite the large marketing budget because I never wanted to look back and wonder if I didn’t do enough. Whatever happened, I wanted to know I did my best, and I repeated the actions, give or take a few, with every book I sold thereafter until fairly recently when I began to suspect it wasn’t moving the needle.

Did it make a difference? I don’t know. If it did, it probably wasn’t enough of a difference to mean success or failure. But I can definitely look back and say I did everything in my power to make those books a success, from writing my very best to marketing my heart out.

The truth is, I do much LESS marketing now. Or more accurately, more of my marketing is automated on the Indie side. I run Facebook ads constantly, but once I hit on an ad that performs well, I don’t really have to do anything with it. This is in large part thanks to AuthorBuzz, who handles the day to day minutiae of monitoring the ad results, making changes to the audience, etc. It’s also a product of the kind of marketing that works best on the Indie side. It’s no surprise that readers of ebooks are found online. They like to talk about the books they’re reading, get and give author recommendations, and generally commiserate with other readers on the internet. All of which means reaching them there is pretty easy. Other than that, I don’t do much but keep in touch with my readers on my Facebook author page, which I enjoy. I’ll be attending RT in Vegas this year, and hopefully a couple more conferences, but that’s strictly for fun and to connect with other authors. The truth is, I have a lot more time for writing now than I did when I was publishing exclusively traditional.

51hoZLkcv6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_MYTH: Indie publishing is a last-ditch option for those who couldn’t get a traditional deal.

FACT: “Authors who write for a living, like all business professionals, have choices about how to conduct our business and with whom we’d like to partner. Indie publishing is a choice, just like the choice to seek out a traditional deal. There are pros and cons to both options, but many authors — including those of us who have successfully published traditionally in the past — are choosing to go indie for all or some of our projects. It’s not a choice made out of desperation, but one made from a place of empowerment, good business sense, and the excitement that comes from having the freedom and flexibility to try something new.” – Sylvia Pierce, author of the Bad Boys on Holiday series and an Indie romance author who also publishes traditionally under another pen name.

An extraordinary number of Indie authors actually published traditionally FIRST. Many of us started out the old fashioned way — querying agents (sometimes via mail before email was accepted everywhere), waiting for a response (sometimes for months), going through rounds of edits with our eventual agent that sometimes lasted close to a year, waiting while our books were “subbed” to editors, and if we were lucky, waiting a year or two to see our book on shelves after it was acquired. Some of us had successful careers in trad pub only to be winnowed out as the marketing emphasis became more focused on a few big blockbusters a year. There was a time when it was expected that most authors would take time to build their audience. Publishers invested in them long term, even if their books weren’t big out of the gate. Those days are mostly gone as publishers invest the vast majority of their marketing budgets into a handful of high profile titles that all but guarantee the slow death of even mid-list authors. Some trad authors write in a less high profile genre. Or maybe their work crosses genres and that make it difficult for a publisher to know how to market it. There are lots of reasons for going Indie. However, I know surprisingly few Indie authors who have done it because they tried and failed to get a trad pub deal, and I know quite a few who were offered trad pub deals but chose to go Indie instead.

MYTH: If you have a traditional publishing career, your agent/editors won’t let you self publish other titles.

FACT: “My agent has been nothing but supportive of my diving into self publishing while continuing to pitch other books to traditional publishers, and none of those publishers have raised any concerns either.” -Eva Chase, author of Caught in the Glow, and an indie pen name for a traditionally published author.

My agent always erred on the side of caution when I was thinking about trying my hand at publishing Indie. He wanted to be sure I knew that it wasn’t necessarily easy, and that there were no guarantees. But he never threatened to stop representing me if I did it, and we work together to this day on my traditional stuff.

I was SO nervous to mention that I was considering writing Indie under a pen name to my editor. I thought maybe she would look down on it — or me. But now I feel foolish, because she was wonderful about it. She understood my financial concerns, and she encouraged me to do whatever I needed to ensure my family was okay. Her support was a very big deal to me, because I love working with her. If she had discouraged me, I might have thought twice. Thankfully, she didn’t, and I have high hopes that I’ll get to work with her again on future projects.

1lmjjffMYTH: You need a traditional print deal to sell globally.

FACT: Selling globally is as easy as clicking a button on your computer.

As Natasha Boyd, author of EVERSEA explains, “Platforms like Kobo and Amazon and iBooks reach mobile devices in countries your publisher has never heard of, nor will ever market even a print book to.”

Uploading a book to an online store is like getting a glimpse of the entire reading world. Making your English language book available to virtually any country is as easy as checking a box on the Rights page, and if you’d like to take it one step further, you can even find translators that will translate your book into any number of languages for sale to native speakers in any country. In fact, many Indie authors are finding whole new audiences by investing in translations for Germany, Spain, and many other countries.

A large number of my readers are from the UK and Australia, and those territories have become key in terms of ongoing royalties. Plus, it’s so fun to connect with readers all over the world, and to know that your work is inspiring people in far away places.

MYTH: The Indie market is saturated now. It’s too late to take advantage of it.

FACT: Nobody knows.

Make no mistake about it; there are A LOT of Indie books out there. Like, a lot, a lot. But the truth is, no one knows where the bottom of this market is. I’ve been hearing the “Indie books are on their way out” refrain since 2011, but I’m doing more than fine in this market. There are two things I know for sure, though.

  1. Indie books – and the online reading platform – are here to stay. There is evidence that print books are experiencing a rebound, but this in no way means ebooks are out. Millions and millions of ebooks are sold every year, and many of those ebooks are also represented by print version in bookstores. The digital platform is now a way of life for many readers, so while I do believe readers are becoming more selective, I don’t see a time when we will ever go back to strictly paper content.
  2. You’ll never know unless you try. See, this is kind of like the trad pub thing. We can sit around and try to predict what’s going to happen. You can spend a lot of time talking about it and guessing at your odds of success. But you just won’t know unless you take the plunge, and all that talking and guessing takes away from time you could spend researching and writing and learning. I’m glad I did it when I did, but if it hadn’t worked out, at least I would be able to say it didn’t work firsthand.

None of this is meant to sway you either way. These are personal decisions, weighted with things like family and money and time and career and other commitments. But I’m by nature a positive, action-oriented person, and I know how demoralizing it can be to feel like nothing is changing. Like no matter how hard you write and how hard you try and how much you learn, you just can’t get to a place of even relative comfort and security. I know what it means to feel powerless even in the face of the knowledge that your art belongs to you.

That’s right.

YOUR ART BELONGS TO YOU.

These are the things I know.

I can’t control whether traditional publishing buys any more of my books. I can’t control whether readers will like my books. But I’m a writer. That’s what I do, and I do it whether I get paid or not, whether anyone else is reading what I write or not. I don’t know who I am without it. As writers, we’re finally we’re at a place where we have some options.

And that counts for a lot.

 

 

0 likes 2 responses
12/09/15 Book News , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Romance , Savage # , , , ,

SAVAGE Cover Reveal

Savage_front_coverWith The Muscle Part Three wrapping up next week, I’m super excited to reveal the cover and blurb for SAVAGE, the first book in the London Mob series featuring Farrell Black and Jenna Carver. Those of you with eagle eyes and a great memory will be able to place Jenna from the Mob Boss books, and of course, no one can forget Farrell, my biggest, baddest — and dirtiest — main character yet.

 

If I was Superman, Jenna was my Kryptonite.

Farrell Black is dirty, dangerous, and holds nothing sacred. Growing up on the mean streets of London, he clawed his way to the top of a criminal empire with nothing but sheer force of will and the determination to need no one.

Ever.

Then he met Jenna Carver, and all bets were off — until the day she walked out of his life without a backward glance.

Leaving him was the hardest thing she’d ever done.

As a kid, Jenna knew how people looked at her. Like she was stupid. Worthless. Poor. So she spent her life working to become someone else. Then she met Farrell Black, and their all-consuming passion blew a hole in everything she thought she knew about herself.

Until she was forced to make a terrible choice.

Now Jenna is back in London for her father’s funeral, desperate to avoid the one man who can banish her hard-earned reason in favor of red-hot ecstasy. But when her father’s death is tied to an abuse of power at the highest levels, she has no choice but to ask Farrell for help.

As they work together to find answers to a puzzle that could have dangerous implications, desire threatens to undo them both — and forces Jenna to choose between keeping the secret of a lifetime and possessing the only man who has ever commanded her heart and soul.

Preorder Savage Now

0 likes 8 responses
11/24/15 Book News , Lies I Told , Promises I Made , Reading # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Promises I Made Release Day!

PromisesIMade HC CToday’s the day I’ve been waiting for – the day readers will finally get to know the outcome of Grace’s story from Lies I Told. This books means so much to me, and I’ve already been getting mail from advance readers saying it’s my best book ye, the highlight of which was a reader who emailed to say, “Of all your books, Grace’s story is the one that moved me the most.”

Add that to praise from Kirkus – who called the book “riveting” – and it’s an understatement to say I’m excited for this story to be out in the world. I so hope you enjoy it! As always, please consider adding it to your Goodreads shelf and leaving a review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.

They help more than you know!

<3

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11/13/15 Book News , Reading # , , , , ,

A Walk in the Sun Cover Reveal

La-di-da! Oh, happy day!

I finally get to reveal the cover for my Summer 2016 book, A Walk in the Sun. This book has a very special place in my heart. It’s about love, loss, family, and the risks we all have to take to really live. It’s a quintessential summer love story with heart, and I could not be more excited to share it with you.

So without further ado…

WalkinSun HCI just love this cover for its simplicity, and for the fact that it really highlights the setting, a family farm in a small town in upstate New York. There’s a wounded female with a spine of steel and a tough-talking cowboy with scars of his own who works on her farm for the summer, peach pie, old orchards, swimming holes, small town fireworks displays, and lots of questions about legacy and loyalty, and how much of ourselves we should sacrifice in the name of those things. Most of all, it’s a love story in the truest sense of the word. I think it will speak to the uncertainty a lot of young people feel at the end of high school, and to the healing power of love in all its forms.

You can preorder it now (even though the cover isn’t up yet), and stay tuned here for more information as we get closer.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Also, if you’d like this kind of news first, plus free bonus content and chance to win a Tiffany necklace every month, please subscribe to my email list on the right sidebar. I actually revealed this cover early for email subscribers. You can easily get in on that action.

😉

 

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10/21/15 Fearless , Indie , Lawless , Lies I Told , Mob Boss Series , Promises I Made , Reading , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Three Months Indie: An Update

Lawless_front_6ix9i_RGB

Well, I did it. Lawless released last night, bringing my first full-length Indie series to a close. It’s hard to believe less than three months ago I hadn’t even released Ruthless. I was nervous and scared, wondering if I was going to look back on my decision to go hybrid as a huge mistake.

Thankfully, that is NOT how I’m feeling.

Like, at all.

😉

I’ve sold over 20,000 books in less than three months. At least one of the Mob Boss books has been on at least one of the Top 100 lists almost the entire time, and I’ve met hundreds of new readers, all of them passionate and enthusiastic about modern romance. I’ve also met countless Indie and hybrid authors who have been incredibly generous with their information and beyond supportive of this newbie. I lost track a long time ago of the dumb questions I’ve asked along the way, but there hasn’t been a single time that someone hasn’t offered me an answer.

To give you an idea of my progress, here’s a 90-day graph showing you my sales from August 1st when Ruthless released to today.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 8.47.53 PM

You have to ignore that REALLY big jump at the end — that was my 2300 preorders for LAWLESS dumping into the system. It makes it look like I wasn’t selling well before, but my sales actually held steady between 200-300 a day from August 10th onward. I had a quite few days where they were over 300 —  one where I inexplicably hit 411 — and fewer where I dipped to 175, usually after the 30-day sales cliff that follows a new release. But it’s been pretty steady, with sales of around 6,000 books my first month and close to 9,000 my second month. October will probably see me around 10,000 when it’s all said and done. You can see little jumps in early August and the beginning of September which coincide with new book releases, proving that new content goes  a long way toward keeping you visible. I’m very happy with these numbers, even if they don’t grow, but I see no reason why they shouldn’t with a consistent new release schedule.

Financially, this is the best decision I could have made. I’m not going to be quite as transparent here as I was in my last update, but I will say that if you know I’ve sold over 20,000 books in less than three months, and you know I’m typically making a 70% royalty on the Indie side, you know why I am pretty ecstatic. I haven’t discounted my books at all up until now, so they’ve all sold at $3.99.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like my feet are under me, and it’s hard to explain the relief I feel knowing I’ll be paid once a month instead of twice a year (or less if I haven’t earned out) on the traditional publishing side.

But the biggest gain of all is in creative choice. If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’ve spoken before about the necessity of writing what’s selling when you make your living writing. “Write the book you want to read” is great advice — but not always sound if one must bring home a paycheck from said writing. I’ve always loved the books I write. I pour my heart and soul into every one, and I have a powerful, lasting bond with every character and every story.

But there are other stories. A near-future sci-fi thriller. A coming of age YA novel set against the backdrop of travel on the cheap. A contemporary story about sisters that deals with divorce and mental illness. An adult thriller about eco-terroism. These are all stories that I’ve shelved at one time or another because I was told the market wasn’t ripe for selling them, or that my particular brand wouldn’t support a sale in one of these areas. To be clear; I am GRATEFUL for this advice. The people looking out for me know I make my living writing, and they know I support four people with that income. There hasn’t been much margin for error.

But here’s the thing; the kind of can’t-sleep-I’m-so-excited passion I have for certain projects doesn’t come along every day. It was the way I felt about Prophecy of the Sisters when I was writing it, and it’s a voice I’ve tried to listen to ever since. Having to shelve those ideas because financial concerns forced me to play it safe was hard and sad and creatively demoralizing. Because the financial noose has loosened, I’ll be able to take more writing risks on the traditional publishing side — with the bonus of having an Indie readership who may read those books if they don’t sell to traditional publishing.

I feel like I can breathe again. Most importantly, I’m starting to dream again. Of the books I can write (even if no one thinks they will sell) and the things I can do for myself and my family and others with this bit of financial blessing. I think that’s one of the worst parts about being in survival mode; you’re so focused on getting through it that it’s hard to remember to dream. Dreaming feels like a waste of time and energy when you’re struggling to survive, but what a loss it is when we stop. It’s so wonderful to feel hopeful and excited again — about my writing and about life in general and the opportunities I might have now to travel and write ALL kinds of stories.

That I owe to the people at Authorbuzz who spearheaded the marketing campaign that started sending traffic to my book pages right out of the gate, and to my readers, who have been so lovely and wonderful and excited about these books, and whose enthusiasm has carried me forward through a difficult three month writing schedule. I also owe a thank you to my mom and my kids, because they have been right there with me, game for anything, urging me to take the leap after talking about it for years. Having people who have your back, people who believe in you and cheer for you and make you feel like you can do anything… Well, that makes all the difference.

Now that things have stabilized, my focus is expanding. I have books lined up for both Indie publishing and traditional publishing for the foreseeable future, and I’m working on a schedule for 2016 that will allow me to continue releasing my Indie stuff no more than 6-8 weeks apart with time to work on two speculative projects as well. I plan to attend a few conferences and/or workshops next year, and I’m looking forward to meeting more awesome authors.

On the traditional publishing side, PROMISES I MADE (sequel to LIES I TOLD) comes out November 24th, and my first YA love story, A WALK IN THE SUN, will be out next summer. On the Indie side, THE MUSCLE, my new serial featuring Luca, a character from the Mob Boss series, launches November 17th and will b complete by Christmas. I’m excited to share them with you!

And there’s always more to learn! I’ve found the marketing and business side of Indie publishing to be fascinating (color me surprised!), and I can spend hours reading about it or watching videos or talking to other Indie authors about the things they’ve done. I also need to work on maximizing my exposure on Nook, Kobo, and iBooks, because right now, I’m only selling a tiny fraction of my total there. I have a feeling I’m missing some promotional opportunities and methods for connecting with readers on those platforms, and that’s something I want to be better about. I’ll also be creating a dedicated website for Michelle St. James so I can further separate my two writing names and the books that go with each.

Most importantly, there’s craft, something that has always fascinated and challenged me. I want to continue getting better, and I’m excited to keep working toward that goal. Writing MORE has always been my proving ground, and I’m so very excited to know now that I’ll be able to do so for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride!

And if you’re curious, you can buy Ruthless, the first book in the Mob Boss series below;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

Fearless, the second book, can be found here;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

And LAWLESS, the final book is out now;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

(iBooks is still in review)

0 likes 6 responses
10/14/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told , Promises I Made , Reading , Uncategorized # , , , , , , , , , , ,

Promises I Made ARC Giveaway

PromisesIMade HC CI can’t believe we’re only a little over a month away from the release of Promises I Made. It’s so nice to have this duet released nine months apart instead of a year, which is more standard for series. It’s always hard to wait such a long time for a book!

I’m especially excited to share the conclusion to this story. It’s a story that really speaks to a struggle I think many of us share — the struggle to believe that we are really worthy and deserving of love and hope and all the beauty that life has to offer. You can preorder it here (and with any book retailer), and if you haven’t read LIES I TOLD, you can do so here (also available at B&N, Kobo, Ibooks, and local Indie).

In the meantime, I have two very coveted ARCs available for giveaway. There are lots of easy ways to enter, and if you already follow me on Twitter or Instgram, or you are part of my Reader List, you may already have entries in the bank.

😉

 

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09/11/15 Indie , inspiration , Life , Uncategorized # , , ,

A Head Full of Fear

Head_Fear_QuoteI saw this quote about a week ago and have been thinking about it ever since. I’ve always had a saying that has served me well;

Never make a decision out of fear.

You’d be surprised how many decisions are fear-based when that is your litmus test.

Now because this is the internet and the internet is full of trite sayings that, when dissected under the magnifying glass of critical thinking, aren’t helpful and might actually be harmful, I’m going to give you a disclaimer.

Fear can be good. Fear makes you look both ways before crossing the street. It makes you think carefully before making a career decision that might have lasting implications for you or your family. It keeps you from driving too fast and eating too much junk food.

That’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the kind of fear that paralyzes you. The kind of fear that keeps you from taking a step in any direction because something might go wrong. Like many people, I struggle with that fear on a weekly basis. The burden feels greater because I am responsible for other human beings, and I don’t want to fuck things up for them.

But friends, I am so, so, SO glad I have not let fear rule my life. I didn’t let it rule my life when I got out of two bad marriages. (yeah, my track record there isn’t so great, but you know what? Everyone is happier now, my kids included). I didn’t let it rule my life when I ditched a very high paying but unsatisfying job in my home state of California for a quieter life in rural New York where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a job. I didn’t let it decide whether I should write back in 2004, when I got serious and started writing the books that led me to Prophecy of the Sisters and my first deal with Little Brown. I haven’t let it rule my life while I’ve experimented with a bunch of different genres – from YA Gothic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, Steampunk, and contemporary fiction to adult romance and psychological thrillers.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been scared. It doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes either. But I haven’t regretted any of them, because I’ve been in motion. I’ve been MOVING. And even the things that seemed like mistakes at the time, later looked like exactly the thing I needed to lead me to the next good thing that WASN’T a mistake.

Isn’t life funny that way? I’ll bet if you look back on the “bad” things that happened to you, you’ll find that the vast majority were precursors to something good that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been confronted with the “bad” one. If you think about taking away that one negative experience, what would you lose that was good?

And I’ll let you in on another secret; almost always, the thinking about doing something scary is worse than the actual doing. That’s because we build up all these scary scenarios in our head, and statistically, they aren’t ALL going to come true. Plus, when you’re moving, you don’t have as much space in your brain for worrying and being scared. You’re too busy taking steps, looking around, making something happen.

For the first time in a long time, I feel in control of my situation. Wanna know my one regret?

Not taking control sooner. Being so scared that I stood still for so long, or if not still, that I didn’t move in the one direction that offered the most promise.

So look your fear in the face, dear friends. What’s the worst that can happen, really? What’s the best? Is your avoidance of the worst worth sacrificing the possibility of the best? Will you be satisfied later, when you’re still in the same place because you were afraid to take a step? Because here is one absolutely universal truth; nothing in your life will change if you keep doing the same things over and over again.

And you know what? Taking a step isn’t very hard. It’s just one step. Take one today and another one tomorrow. You will be two steps closer to the thing you want, and you’ll be so busy moving, you’ll be surprised by how your fear recedes into the background. Free up all that space in your brain and psyche and imagination for something better. Because there is always something better than fear.

<3

 

 

 

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09/06/15 Fearless , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless # , , , , , , ,

FEARLESS is Now Available!

Fearless_front_V2Technically, it’s not out until tomorrow, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I always pad my release dates by a day or two when I don’t set up a pre-order. That’s because each retailer has wildly different upload times.

Amazon is always the first to make a book live, so those of you reading the Mob Boss series on your Kindle are in luck; FEARLESS IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.

I’m still waiting for B&N and iBooks to make the book available for sale, and the paperback is also in processing, but those should be available tomorrow on the technical release date.

In the meantime, happy reading to those of you who are able to pick it up today!
<3

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09/02/15 Fearless , Indie , Lawless , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

A Big First Month for RUTHLESS

front_6ix9i_RGB_300dpiIt’s September 2nd. A month ago today, Ruthless, my first self-pubbed novel wasn’t out yet. I had no idea what was in store, how well (or not) the book would sell, if going hybrid would change the landscape of my career like I hoped by giving me more control over my work and how it’s published and marketed.

Hard to believe that so much can change in a month.

But it did, and I’m happy to report that Ruthless sold over 6,000 copies in August. It’s a number that was far beyond my wildest expectations back when I was hoping royalties from the first month would just cover the money I spent on covers, formatting, marketing, etc.

One of the biggest reasons I decided to give self-publishing a try is because of all the Indie and hybrid authors who went before me. For context, it’s important to note that discretion is highly valued in traditional publishing. One doesn’t talk openly about advances or royalties, about the editors we find difficult, about publishing houses who have reneged on promises (it’s okay to shout from the rooftops about those we love, and we do!).

I get it. Being professional is important in any business, and much of this information is of a highly personal nature. Still, it’s been difficult not having easy, timely access to sales numbers and earn-out rates over the past few years. It’s hard to know if you need to make changes to your marketing plan or do something different without data.

One of the most refreshing things about going Indie with my adult work has been the utter transparency, both among many Indie authors and with regards to real-time data. It’s been a little exhilarating to watch my numbers climb, and those moments were well worth the few times when they dropped and I was left wondering if it was a trend, if it was due to everyone going back to school, if maybe I’d simply reached the end of RUTHLESS’s novelty as a new book. In a way, those moments were good for me, too. They were a reminder that you can watch your numbers all day long, but when push comes to shove, you need to keep your head down and write more books.

Anyway, I’m not sure I would have taken the plunge if not for all the authors who were generous and brave enough to report their experiences before me. Because of this, I feel like I owe a debt to pay it forward for anyone else out there thinking of going this route. This is where it gets a bit squicky for me, because I don’t like talking about my personal income any more than the next person, but it’s impossible to share sales numbers without talking royalties (mostly because anyone can figure it out knowing that the standard royalty on a self-pubbed book at $3.99 is 70%), and it’s impossible to give you an idea how life-altering this experience has been without talking sales numbers.

With that in mind, I’m going to be totally straight with you, with the caveat that I will probably not do this again, at least not to this degree of detail. I’m sure there are lots of ways I can screen shot and post graphs, but it’s the first day of school and I’m running on three hours sleep, so I’m going to keep it simple

August 2015

Total Books Sold (all formats) – 6,218

Print Copies Sold – 13

Digital Copies Sold (iBooks) – 19

Digital Copies Sold (Nook) – 41

Digital Copies Sold (Kindle) – 6,145

Total Royalties – $15,198.69

These numbers are with only one book – RUTHLESS – for sale. I never once discounted it, because I feel strongly that authors (and all artists) should be paid fairly for their work. This means all 6,000+ copies of the book were sold at my current full price of $3.99.

This is what it looked like;

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 11.26.51 AMThe vast majority of sales were from Amazon for the Kindle platform. To be honest, I wasn’t very surprised. I had heard that Kindle sales compromised a majority of the digital marketplace — I just hadn’t realized how much. And while I know this isn’t going to be popular with some, I have to say; I can see why.

Buying in the Kindle store and reading on a Kindle device is so easy, and from an Indie author’s perspective, Amazon is by far the simplest to work with in ease of upload, speed of listing, access to foreign markets, and resolution of problems/questions. Like anyone, I feel a little nervous knowing that so much of my income is tied up with one distributor, but if another retailer wants that to change, they need to do better to compete in this space. Because frankly, Amazon is killing it on every level. I don’t always love the decisions they make, but the truth is, I haven’t always loved the decisions made in traditional publishing either.

Another interesting trend; RUTHLESS killed it in the UK Amazon store. Even now, nearly a month after it’s a release, it’s sitting at 503 in all Kindle books and 29 in New Adult Romance. The book also did well in Canada and Australia, with a few copies sold in Europe, and even in India.

If you read my post two weeks into the month, you know that the Facebook ad set up by AuthorBuzz was instrumental in giving the book the push it needed to get more visibility (you can see on the graph the crazy turn things took when the ad kicked in). That continues to be true, and I can’t say enough how much I recommend them for marketing and ad consultation. The ad image was just one part of what gave the books legs. Without the design expertise of the people at AuthorBuzz (they know how to work within Facebook’s parameters for maximum success) and keyword knowledge, the ad may very well have sat in the sidebar with no clicks. As it is, I have received thousands of clicks on the ad, and it’s still going strong. That traffic to the book got me more sales, which pushed Ruthless up on the list of Hot New Releases on Amazon and gave me yet more visibility. For a long time, the book was on pages 2-4 in several categories, and that really helped as well. As more people read it, more people reviewed it, talked about it, added it to their Goodreads shelves. It was a beautiful circle of momentum that began with the ad, and I plan to continue using AuthorBuzz for marketing on an ongoing basis for both my Indie work and my traditionally published work.

There was a bit of a learning curve — and a courage curve — with preorders. I didn’t list FEARLESS (the second book in the Mob Boss series) for preorder because Amazon has some rules about preorders that made it scary for me. Namely, you have to upload the final file ten days before the release or lose your preorder privileges for a year. As someone who’s sometimes tweaking small things right up until the book goes live, I just wasn’t ready to commit to it, especially since I was working to get the books out close together for my readers.

But I decided to do a preorder for LAWLESS, the final book in the series. I want readers to be able to see that the final book will be available the month after Fearless releases, and I wanted to be able to put the link in the back of Fearless to make it easy. This meant I had to upload the Lawless preorder before Fearless is even out in order to have the Buy link for my formatter. I’m sure it’s a little confusing for anyone digging around on Amazon for book two to find only books one and three available, but it will all make sense in a few days when Fearless is up on Monday. Next time, I’ll build in lots of time and list each book for preorder before publishing the first one.

I can’t tell you how much fun this has been, and how, well, RELIEVED I feel. I don’t think I realized how scared I was all the time. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep selling books to trad pub, scared that my advances there would dwindle, scared that I had zero control over the fate of my career and my ability to support my family. For now, I still hope to sell my YA stuff to trad pub, but for the first time in a long time, I am resting easy in the knowledge that there are people who want to read my stories — and that I have the ability to get those stories to them for the foreseeable future. I’m excited to write the next series (based on characters introduced in Ruthless), and maybe to play in the serial space, too.

I know not everyone will get these results out of the gate. I’ve been lucky to have a career in traditional publishing that gave me a platform, and some of those readers have followed me to my adult work. But there is a place for good books that might not find a home in the traditional publishing marketplace, and there is some comfort to that. For you, too, I hope.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and cheered me on. Biggest thanks of all to those of you who bought, read, reviewed, and recommended RUTHLESS. None of the stories would matter if you weren’t there to read them.

<3

Buy RUTHLESS on Amazon

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08/25/15 Book News , Fearless , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized # , , , , , , , ,

FEARLESS Cover Reveal

Fearless_front_V2You guys! Ruthless has raced to the top of the Amazon rankings in both the UK and the US. I’ve been absolutely stunned by the response, and I can only hope this means you’re ready for the release of FEARLESS on September 7th (less than two weeks away!).

Assuming you are… I thought you’d all like to see the cover. I’m sure you’ll notice that Nico looks a little rougher around the edges. That is intentional (because…. story), and I think you’ll be really excited by the continuation of Nico and Angel’s story in this next book. You can add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read RUTHLESS, now’s the perfect time to do so. Thanks so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, and recommended to friends.
<3

Buy RUTHLESS on Amazon

Buy RUTHLESS on Barnes & Noble

Buy RUTHLESS on iBooks

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08/20/15 Indie , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Writing # , , , , , ,

Romance Readers… I <3 You!

Just a quick thank you to the many readers who have recommended and reviewed RUTHLESS. The book continues to defy in convention in how well it’s doing during its debut month, and I’ve been especially gratified by the number of favorable reviews that have been posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

Reviews are so super important to a book’s success, and it’s always felt a bit like an uphill stubble to get people to leave them, even when they’ve loved my books. I get it! We’re all so busy now. I actually had to make a pact with myself about a year ago that I would leave more book and product reviews, because I noticed that I relied heavily on them when making my own purchases, then never bothered to leave them for others.

D’oh!

Now I do try to leave reviews as often as possible, and I see that YOU GUYS DO, TOO!

So thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

For being part of RUTHLESS and this first foray into self-publishing, for cheering me on, for leaving reviews and recommending the book to friends online and IRL, and for inspiring me to write more stories from my heart.

<3

Buy RUTHLESS on Amazon

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08/16/15 Fearless , Mob Boss Series , Sneak Peek Saturday , Writing # , , , , ,

Sneak Peek Sunday; FEARLESS

I know, I know. It’s supposed to be Sneak Peek Saturday. But better late than never, right?

😉

While RUTHLESS is killing it in the Amazon rankings, I’m already ramping up for the release of FEARLESS, book two in the Mob Boss trilogy. The cover is currently being redesigned for the September 7th release of the book. In the meantime, maybe this sneak peek will tide you over.

 

The car was more animal than machine, its undulating curves sensual even rendered in steel and fiberglass. She shouldn’t have been surprised. Nico was all man — not exactly the type to drive a low-key sedan — and this car wasn’t about subtlety.

“Shouldn’t we be laying low?” she asked.

“We are laying low,” he said. “I had someone change the plates.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Someone? I thought the point of meeting Luca here was to stay under the radar.”

“Trust me. I’ve covered our bases. And when in Rome…” He took her elbow and guided her to the car.

“We’re not in Rome,” she said drily.

“No, we’re in Miami. Now get in the car.”

She slid into the seat with a sigh, sinking into the plush leather interior. He reached across her and buckled her seatbelt, just like he had the night they’d fled New York for Maine. His touch was no less electric now, and she breathed in the scent of him as his fingers brushed her skin, imagining the way he laid his big hands across her naked belly just before he spread her legs to enter her.

He clicked the buckle into place and retreated from the car. A moment later her door slid shut with a quiet hum, and he got behind the wheel. The powerful engine came to life somewhere between a roar and purr.

Like Nico.

He put his hands on the wheel slowly, like he was savoring the feel of it under his hands. He shifted into gear, and then they were flying through the parking garage, Nico taking the turns sharp and smooth until they exited into the Florida sunshine.

They got on the highway and headed south. It was like being in a different world, the bright colors and fast cars standing in sharp contrast to the wild Maine coast, the historical solemnity of Boston. Nico rolled down the windows and looked over at her with a grin, then accelerated through traffic. The wind whipped back her hair, and she was surprised to hear laughter bubble up from her throat.

She wasn’t a car person, couldn’t have cared less about what she drove at home, but the speed and agility of the machine connected with something deeply erotic inside her. She looked over at Nico — his muscled thighs moving as he shifted gears, dark hair ruffled by the wind, eyes hidden behind sunglasses — and grew wet with desire for him. She felt her old life falling away with a startling lack of fear.

A half hour later, Nico pulled into the Coral Gables address Angel had given him. The house was one of many owned by her father — now owned by her and David  — and occupied only sporadically. It wasn’t one of her favorites — she’d always thought it was a little garish — but now she could appreciate the gated entry, the long driveway that led to a brick courtyard at the front of the house. It wasn’t a fortress — as far as she knew it had been built for privacy, not impenetrability — but at least they would have a warning before someone made it through the gate and up the driveway. She didn’t expect anyone to know she and Nico were hiding out here, but they couldn’t afford to take anything for granted.

Nico pulled the car to a stop in the courtyard. He leaned forward, his arms on the wheel, and gazed up at the Spanish-style mansion. It didn’t look huge from the front, but Angel knew it was an illusion. The house was enormous, with eight bedrooms, a wine cellar, and a gym, among other things. The exterior was faced with ivory stucco, the windows framed with blue shutters, and palm trees offered just enough shade to the interior without blocking the sunlight.

“Nice,” he said approvingly.

“Thanks,” Angel said. She heard the note of sarcasm in her voice and felt like she should explain. “I still don’t know how I feel about all of this stuff.”

He turned to loo at her. “What stuff?”

“All the stuff bought with my father’s blood money.”

He nodded. “How do you know the house wasn’t built with legitimate income from Rossi Development?”

She thought about it. Everything was all tangled up together. The good and bad, moral and immoral, love and hate.

“I guess I don’t.”

“Maybe that’s a blessing,” he said, taking her hand.

“Maybe.”

They went inside, and Angel opened the windows and the doors leading to the balconies and terraces. The house was just like she remembered it, with soaring ceilings, expansive rooms, and an elaborate iron banister that wound upward with the curved staircase to the second floor.

When she was done airing out the house, she returned to the ground floor to find Nico standing on the terrace, looking out over the infinity pool and lagoon, and beyond that, to the open ocean in the distance.

“Will this work?” she asked him.

“It will,” he said. “Thank you.”

She reached up to smooth the crease in his forehead. “What’s wrong?”

“I wish you’d go back to New York.”

She dropped her arm, stung by his words. “You don’t want me here?”

“That’s not it.” He pulled her into his arms. “Sometimes I think I can breathe without you.”

“Then why?” she asked.

He looked down at her. “I won’t be able to live with myself if something happens to you. You know that, right?”

She nodded, then stretched to kiss him. “Which is why nothing is going to happen to me. We’re going to meet Luca, get a handle on what’s going on, and decide what to do next. No one even knows we’re here, and it’s not like anyone would suspect I’m hanging out with my former kidnapper.”

A brief flash of misery crossed his features in the moment before he was able to hide it, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” his voice was gruff.

“Don’t torture yourself over the past,” she said. “Trust me, it doesn’t change anything. And I don’t think I’d want to change it anyway.”

He shook his head. “You can’t mean that, Angel. If I hadn’t had Luca and Dante kidnap you, your life would be just as it was before.”

It was what she’d once wanted. Her old life back. Her old naivety. But that meant not knowing Nico. It meant never feeling the mysterious and powerful connection to the man now who felt like part of her. Would she wish him away? Wish away what they had? The answer was obvious; she wished her father hadn’t died in the flat in London, wished she and David had a chance to talk to him about all the lies he’d told. She wished finding out the truth hadn’t been so painful. But that was where her wishing ended. To wish anything else would be to undo what had happened between her and Nico, and whatever the future held, she was surprised to realize she didn’t want to undo what had happened between them.

“What I had before was a lie. I’ll take the truth.” She pressed her body to his. “I’ll take this.”

<3

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
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Acclaim

"This arresting story takes readers to other planes of existence…"
- Booklist (starred review)


“An intense and captivating story…”
- VOYA (starred review)


“A fresh and engaging cast of characters, a page-turning plot and lyrical prose add up to an accomplished feat of storytelling…”
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@MichelleZink
@gdcribbs Wild Geese is my favorite of hers, and one of my all time favorite poems.
@SaundraMitchell Lovely. Thank you! ❤️
@gdcribbs She’s my favorite.
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