Romance

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.

 

 

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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

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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

Buy RUTHLESS on Barnes & Noble

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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

Buy RUTHLESS on Barnes & Noble

Buy RUTHLESS on iBooks

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08/16/15 Fearless , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , ,

Self-Publishing; Week Two Lessons

You guys… it has been a CUH-razy couple of weeks. After a modest start, things EXPLODED about a week ago. I was selling about 25 books a day (if you remember from my first week blog post, I was happy with those numbers), and then one night, it jumped to 37. By the next day, it was a 158.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 11.33.02 AMThis is what my ranking looks like today.

Monday is the start of my third week, and I’m currently selling about 300 books a day (it’s 11:30am as I write this, and I’ve sold over a hundred books today).

This is way, WAY more than I expected for this first book, written under a pseudonym (albeit an open one), in a genre for which I am not well known. And the really cool thing is that I can share my experience with you, because in this case, there was a definite turning point connected to a very specific marketing tool, namely a very well-designed, very well-targeted Facebook ad.

I’ve heard SO many people say they tried FB ads to no avail, but I can only conclude that my experience was due to A) a gorgeous looking ad (I didn’t design it, so I can say that), B) a pretty kick ass cover and tag line (Not Your Mother’s Mob), and C) knowledgable targeting by the folks at Authorbuzz, who have been managing my ad. I’m not sure I would have had the same results on my own, but frankly, the people at AuthorBuzz know their shit. They took charge of my ad, and within four days I was seeing crazy click though. As of now, I’ve sold over 2,000 books and have only spent about $110 on the ad itself.

So right now, that’s where I’m putting all my marketing money, and I can’t recommend AuthorBuzz enough for this and other marketing services. I know it’s hard to go out of pocket with this stuff, but if you can at all afford it, IT IS SO WORTH IT. There’s a lot of nuance to making the ad (and marketing campaign in general) work, and in my opinion, it’s harder to get the same result without the services of a company that really knows their way around this stuff.

That said, I know money is sometimes an issue, so following are some things you can try on your own;

1. Spend the money to get an excellent design from a designer who knows FB’s parameters. When I say excellent, I mean this ad has to look professional, like something you’d see in a trade journal. It has to have a super compelling tag line. And if you’re writing romance, it should be HOT (not necessarily to be confused with nakedness, because my model is in a tuxedo). Hiring a freelancer to do these ads is cheaper than you might think, usually between $25-$50.

2. Once you have an excellent design, do a ton of research on FB targeting, because it doesn’t matter how great your ad looks if it’s popping up for the wrong people. If you write romance, for example, thinks about your readers; what would they list as things they like to do on Facebook (be specific)? Which authors might they list as favorites? Probably they’re women, so target females to avoid wasting impressions on middle-aged dudes are unlikely to read in your genre. Author buzz did most of this for me, so I can’t speak to the specifics of my ad, but hopefully this will give you a start.

3. Encourage people to leave honest reviews, because again, the more people interact with your Buy page, the more the algorithms are going to work for you. I always forget to do this! People post on my author page that they loved one of my books, and I say, “Thank you so much!” Then later I face palm when I realize what I should have said is, “Thank you so much! Would you be willing to leave a review?” For readers out there; please leave reviews for the books you love. It makes such a difference!

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 5.58.14 PMAfter about five days of very heavy traffic to the Buy page on Amazon (reason enough to run your FB long enough to gain some traction), Ruthless landed on the first page of Hot New Releases for Romance > Contemporary, and I saw a big spike in sales right around that time. So it pays in more ways than one to get people engaging with your book’s Buy page. There’s no way to know exactly what caused this amazing string of events, but I’m told by those who know more than me that it’s probably a combination of the FB ad, a compelling cover and tag line, good reviews and word of mouth, the kicking in of Amazon’s algorithms, etc. Basically, the more people engage with your book on Amazon – – by buying it, reviewing it, etc. — the more you’re worked into Amazon’s algorithms, and that increases your exposure exponentially.

Lastly, I know there is a camp in trad pub that thinks Amazon is the anti-christ, but I have to be honest; they have been the easiest and best to work with by far, from ease of upload and revision of files to number of books sold (I’ve sold 17 books on Nook and 15 on iTunes, the rest of that 2,000 came from Amazon). My questions and problems (minimal!), have been addressed promptly and pleasantly, and they have really made the whole process so easy.

So, thanks, Amazon! And thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, and recommended the book. It is so gratifying to see RUTHLESS reach so many readers, and I’m totally DYING to share FEARLESS with you on September 7th.

<3

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08/12/15 Indie , Mob Boss Series , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

RUTHLESS on the Rampage!

You guys! It’s 12:09am and I still have A LOT of writing to do before I can go to bed, but I have to give a quick shout out to those of you reading RUTHLESS. After posting last week about how happy I was with my numbers, I’ve watched it steadily climb in the Amazon rankings.

Right now, it looks like this;

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 12.08.16 AMBasically, Ruthless is killing it at #1,182 Paid in the Kindle Store, #69 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Romance#277 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Contemporary, and #296 in Books > Romance > Contemporary.

For the record, I was VERY happy when it was hovering around 12,000 overall. This is far beyond my wildest dreams for a book published under a pseudonym in a genre that is fairly new to me.

There are a couple key things that have happened to make this a reality. I’ll share those in a longer post later in the week, but for now, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who is reading/has read/plans to read RUTHLESS, and for all of you who have spread the word and reviewed the book. And if you haven’t done those things and are willing to do so, I’d be forever grateful.

Now someone pinch me!

<3

 

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08/06/15 Book News , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Romance , Ruthless , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , ,

Self Publishing; The First Four Days

Well, I’ve  been self-publishing for four whole days, and while I’m far from an expert, I’ve learned a few things!

 

 

I’ve promised to be as transparent as possible about my experience, so rather then give you one giant post at the end, I’m going to keep you updated any time it seems I have information that might help.

So far I feel pretty good about how well Ruthless is doing. I’m going to wait to give you numbers until everything shakes out at the end of the month, but I’ve been surprised to find that I’m selling a decent number of books every day. I think I’m doing some things that have helped (which I’ll share), but I know I still have a lot to learn. The book is listed at $3.99. It’s held steady at around 20,000 in the Kindle store, and it hovers right around 1100 in Contemporary Fiction > Romance, which is a huge category. This feels good to me given that I’m using a pseudonym and have never written a full length novel in this genre. I’m looking forward to the release of FEARLESS, the sequel to Ruthless, on September 7th. Hopefully having the second book out so soon after the first will bring in new readers (Lawless, the third and final book in this series, will release a month later in October).

For now, here are my lessons learned;

1. Get your cover right. This is a BIG one. Quite possibly THE biggest one after producing a solid story (which is a given here – seriously people, I’m not even going to waste space talking about that). I spoke to several authors before embarking on this journey and they all said the same thing; Cover is King. The problem with a lot of Design-Yourself-Covers is that they just don’t look professional. And professional is really important, especially when it comes to self-publishing which already has an unfairly bad rap for quality. I used an online service called 99Designs on the recommendation of several friends and was over the moon with the results. 99Designs allows designers to bid for your project, which gives you lots of options and allows you to inform the evolution of the design. Prices for book covers start at $300 and go up from there. I connected with a fantastic designer for that price and ended up giving her the work for all three covers (the covers for Fearless and Lawless were quite a bit cheaper). I’m ecstatic to have her on board and will continue to use her for everything, and I’m pretty sure my cover has gone a long way toward making readers feel like they’re getting a quality product.

2. Proofread WAY past the point where you think you need to proofread. I’ve always had respect for my copyeditors in traditional publishing. It’s SO tedious going through a manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and your brain does this thing where it shows you what you expect to see. So “form” looks like “from” even though it’s clearly a typo. You don’t see it — but your readers often do. I went through Ruthless very carefully after uncorrected galleys (which were sent out pre-copyedit because of time constraints) went out to bloggers. I even had someone else proof it. But there were still typos in the uploaded file, and to be honest, a friend and reader has found a few more that my formatter will fix today. It’s embarrassing to admit this! I do freelance editing, and I’m extremely careful about stuff like this, but it just validates what I tell editing clients; you CAN NOT edit your own work and get the same result, and it pays to have more than one person read through your book slowly for typos. Luckily, the digital platform means you can make changes even after you upload — but don’t count on it. Do everything in your power to make sure the book is perfect out of the gate.

3. A great formatter is worth his or her weight in gold. Mine was absolutely awesome and was also very responsive, critical when I was uploading and had a problem that needed resolving asap. Also, she’s been a gem about fixing those typos I mentioned above, which is important because unless you have the formatting software and know how to use it, going in and doing it yourself is more complicated than it sounds (at least for me!).

4. Give yourself plenty of time to upload. I started uploading three days before Ruthless was slated to release. I didn’t tell anyone, because I wanted everything to be in place for release day, and I’m glad I didn’t. I tweaked the description several times, played with the metadata (see below), and resolved problems with an old Nook Press account I had forgotten I had. The Amazon KDP platform was by far the easiest and fastest to use, and their Customer Service team was extremely responsive when I had questions. I also got help from many generous people on the Kindle boards. Nook Press was, frankly, a nightmare. There were all kinds of tricky rules regarding accounts and it took a lot longer  to get help, in part because I think their Customer Service is offshore, and the language barrier became problematic at times (at least two emails were wasted without getting an answer to the question I asked). Once I got everything resolved, the book showed as On Sale a good two days before it actually showed up on B&N online. But one thing I like about the Nook Press system is that you can make changes to the manuscript (like correcting typos) using their system, which means I didn’t have to go back to my formatter to make a small change. iBooks was my least favorite in terms of ease-of-use. First of all, you have to download two different apps to upload the book — iBooks and Producer.  You also need an iTunes connect account, which is different from your regular iTunes account. Then it was around three full days from the time I uploaded the book until it was actually on sale in the iTunes store. As the release date for Ruthless got closer, I was glad I’d given myself extra time to get everything in order.

5. Connect with other writers in your genre. This is true of both self-pubbed and traditionally published writers. Since most of my work has been YA, I didn’t know many writers in the romance genre, but I started reading romance and connecting with the people who write it months before my release. I learned so much about the genre that way, and it’s been gratifying to have their support, even if it’s just in an occasional tweet or share on social media. I’ve been very lucky to have a few friends in the genre who have gone above and beyond by reading and blurbing the book and spreading the word to their readers, and I’m looking forward to the day when I can pay it forward, both to them and to other newbies like me.

One word of advice; don’t be a user. Working relationships, like all relationships, are best founded on authenticity. It’s always a nice bonus when you can help a friend or they can help you, but it’s much more sincere to show a genuine interest in their work and to connect on a personal level where possible. I don’t connect on a personal level with every writer out there, and that’s okay. I focus on building genuine friendships (online and otherwise) and let the rest take care of itself.

6. Get all the help you can afford. I made the decision early on to hire InkslingersPR to do a release day blitz and two-week blog tour for Ruthless. To be honest, this isn’t money I have laying around. It was hard to part with it. But I do think it’s made a difference, and it’s been a relief to focus on writing while the bloggers that are part of the tour take the lead in spreading the word. They’ve done a great job so far, and the peace of mind it’s given me has been more than worth the money I spent. I’m pretty sure a good part of the reason why I’m selling regularly is because of the sustained attention given to the book during the campaign.

7. Try Facebook ads (and others) if you can afford to. I’m still experimenting with this, but so far I’ve been happy with the results. As a disclaimer I have to ad that I have a very knowledgeable friend who has helped me get this done right, but so far my ad on FB (I’m paying  maximum of $100) has garnered about 1500 targeted impressions and 30 clicks to the Buy page (the last time I checked). I’m also going to experiment with a Goodreads ad. It’s a bit more than the FB ad, but I think the reach is a lot wider. I’ll try to keep you posted on my results going forward.

8. Play with your metadata until you get it right. Metadata is the keywords and categories used to drive readers to your book. If you list your book as Action Adventure but it’s really a Romance, the right readers won’t find it. And if you simply use the keyword “romance”, it will get lost amid the millions of other books categorized that way. There is tons of great information online about metadata (I think I’ve read about twenty hours worth), but I’ve found that “keyword stuffing” helps a lot. This means instead of wasting one of my keywords with “romantic mystery”, I use “romantic suspense mystery thriller”. Instead of using “contemporary romance”, I use “contemporary urban modern new york city romance”. Because all of those words are within the commas, they count as one keyword. Try to think about the search strings reader might use to find a book like yours if they don’t know about your book. You can also start typing things into the search bar as if you’re a reader, i.e. “romantic suspense” pulls up previous searches for “romantic suspense kindle books”, “romantic suspense books”, and “romantic suspense boxed set.” If any of these things apply to your book, use them!

Obligatory word of caution; don’t abuse the system by invoking the names of similar authors or using adjectives that won’t always be true (like “new”). You MIGHT get away with it, but you might not, and if you don’t, your book can be delisted. Just be smart and follow the rules, and if you search for your book using adjectives a reader might use but don’t find it, it’s time to tweak your metadata until it comes up higher in the search results.

I think that’s it! But it’s a lot for four days, amIright?

 

 

Please check back over the next month for more updates. In the meantime, you can buy Ruthless on Amazon, B&N, and iTunes, and you can add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

 

 

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07/08/15 Indie , Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

Some Like It Hot

You guys! I’m going to have a new book for you — in less than a month.

🙂

And this one is completely different, both because it’s my first full length adult romance (the Shadowguard books were all novellas) and because I’ll be joining the growing list of hybrid authors publishing both traditionally and Indie.  I’ll be going into the details in a later blog post, but the short version is that after six years, seven published novels, six novellas, one TV/book deal that never happened (the book was written, but the TV part was put on hold which also shelved the book), and countless samples, partials, and proposals, I’m anxious to have more control over my career.

Those of you who know me know that I’m prolific, and this will give me the opportunity to publish as much as I want in any genre. All of which means MORE books in MORE genres– starting with RUTHLESS, book one in a three book series.

 

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Two years out of college, Angelica Bondesan spends her time working as a barista, keeping in touch with her prodigal brother, and trying to figure out how to bridge the gap with her father, a wealthy real estate developer.

But all of that changes the night she’s kidnapped. Thrown into a windowless room, Angelica is positive there’s been some kind of mistake — until she meets Nico Vitale.

Gorgeous and frightening, Nico became the boss of New York City’s Vitale crime family after the execution style murder of his parents two years earlier. Since then he’s turned the old-school mob into a sleek, modern army of ruthless men who understand that physical violence — while always an option — isn’t the only way to get what you want.

Now Angel is forced to face the truth;

Her father is not the man she believed him to be.

Nico Vitale is dangerous, possibly lethal.

She is falling in love with Nico Vitale.

 

RUTHLESS will be out August 3rd, and the next two books, FEARLESS and LAWLESS, will be out in September and October respectively. It’s been loads of fun to read and write in a different genre, and I’ve been really impressed with the adult romance I’ve read in the past few months.

Best. Research. Ever.

Although fair warning to those of you who don’t like it HAWT; romance has gotten decidedly more wicked in the past couple of years.

😉

As part of this new chapter (see what I did there?), all of my adult romance will be written under the name Michelle St. James. It will be an open pseudonym, which means everyone will know it’s me, but I hope this will decrease confusion between my adult and YA work. I’ll be keeping the two separate to some degree, although I may occasionally post from the Michelle St. James Facebook page (Like it here to get updates, freebies, etc.) to my personal profile since so many of you follow me there. For now, www.michellestjames.com will forward to this site, and you can also follow the Michelle St. James Twitter profile. The Michelle St. James pages will have content unique to the adult genre including hot guys, adult romance recommendations, and anything else that might not be appropriate for my “mainstream” audience.

You’ve been warned!

🙂

I’ve watched a lot of my friends go Indie and have been so appreciative of the information they have so willingly shared. I’m going to try and pay it forward by being as transparent as possible, so stay tuned for updates on my progress (and some angst along the way, there will probably be angst). I’m considering this an evolution in my career, and I’m so excited to share the journey with you guys!

 

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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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