Monday, August 4, 2014

KDP-Didn't Work for Me

     Months ago, I promised to let you know if Amazon's KDP program catapulted me to fame and fortune. For those who aren't familiar with KDP, basically Amazon gets exclusive rights to your book for three months. First month, it releases only on Amazon. During the second month, your book is offered free for a week and on sale during its last month. After that, the title is distributed to all outlets. Okay, no problem the first six weeks though many of my readers use Nooks (big local Barnes and Noble presence in this area) and they had to wait or buy a paperback at the local bookstore or get it from me.
     This book happened to be A Trashy Affair, one of my best efforts. The free week approached, and I advertised the heck out it. Trashy was downloaded over 10,000 times and reached number one on the Free List and the Free Contemporary Romance List.amid some better known writers. I did get more reviews than usual, most of them positive, some odd.  My favorite complaint was that the book was not trashy enough by far. Made me laugh. Despite the title, I never do trashy..The book is about recycling on many levels. However after the free week, I had only a handful of sales and made little money on the book. Everyone who wanted it had it for free already.
     Seeing these results, I wasn't joyful when my publisher put my new Sinners football romance, Love Letter for a Sinner, into the KDP program, too. Frankly, the Sinners books are where I make the most money as they have a following. So, I didn't promote this one as hard. It got 6,000 downloads for free and did reach second place in free contemporary romance. Again, sales were depressed after that. I garnered one truly hateful review among many good ones. But, the person was coming into the series at Book Five, and it didn't make sense to her. She will never read another of my books again. Big sigh of relief from me.
     The Convent Rose, the start of the new Roses Series came up next and was again put into KDP by my publisher.  Downloads: 5,000 plus without much push from me. First review-awful and long.  I understand some people don't get my sense of humor or that my romances often aren't typical. Fine if they don't like one of my books, but I do hate when a reviewer then gives away the entire plot trying to make the story seem as ridiculous as possible-and gets it wrong in many places right down to name of the hero.My editor whose shoulder I cried upon, said not to worry. I have fans and they would enjoy the book. They did. Six favorable reviews finally popped up, but the first one anyone browsing sees is the long and ugly. Sales-not good on the whole series now.
     After that, I was given a choice whether to participate in KDP or not. I opted out. I made half what I usually do in royalties during this time (not a fortune during my best quarters), gained a few lovely new fans and collected a few trolls who always start their reviews, "I hate to write a bad review."  No, they don't. They love it. Frankly, if I read a book I hate, I don't review it all  It takes so much time and effort to write a novel and tastes are not the same. I would never tear apart another author. I also feel that people don't value what they get for free. They expect bad and so see bad. Others simply won't pay for a book with so many free out there. Sales have been sluggish ever since because I suspect some readers keep waiting for a free week on my new or reprinted books.  Ain't gonna happen anymore. Amazon may discount them. My publisher might offer them for sale, but I will not be doing free again.
     Now before I close, let me say Amazon does more for authors than any other venue. KDP just wasn't for me. Still not rich (a little broker really) and still not famous (figured that wouldn't happen anyhow). Always Yellow Roses will be coming out September 5th, the third in the Roses series, but really more of a stand alone historical romance novel. In other words, you don't have to read the other two first to enjoy this one--and I hope you do buy it--because there will be no free days.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting Reviews-Wish I Knew how!

     Believe me, if I knew how to get reviews, I would tell you.  When I was first published in 2010 with Goals for a Sinner, Wild Rose Press sent my book to ten reviewers.  Only one posted a review, a very good one that I still quote today.  I don't think I've had anyone on that list review one of my titles since.  I am not railing at them.  Among my librarian friends is a reviewer for one of the library journals. Every quarter, she is inundated with ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) from the four remaining big New York publishers. She can only choose a few and passes along the others. It is very hard for the e-published to compete with that when the author must provide and pay for the copies sent out. I'm not sure if sending e-books works. It certainly hasn't for me.  Knowing my friend has her hands full, I did not ask her to read mine, but she did give me a name of another reviewer who might take on one of my books.  I did send one along. No response yet.
     At Romantic Times, people are encouraged to make contacts. I found one who again gave me another name to try for a review. Still waiting without much hope.  Another lovely young lady who reviews books on her blog once did one of mine, but she opened the flood gates when she put her name on a list of persons willing to review and found herself drowning in e-books, most of which she found to be too bad to review. Being a kind person, she did not post anything about them. Another blogger I met at RT said she no longer reviews because a person who pushed a book on her and got a bad review continued to hound and argue with her to the point of being abusive.  Reviewing can be a perilous life.
      Free weeks on Amazon will get you reviews. Usually the haters post first ruining your sales. Good ones come later and balance things out but the damage has been done. People don't seem to appreciate what they get for free. I can tell you I am done with that means of getting reviews. Lately, I've been giving out review copies liberally to people I think might be interested. No results on that yet either. I know they fear a book will be bad, and they'll have to face you later and strain to think of something nice to say. Actually, I've been on that end of it, too, reading a book I didn't care for and trying to find some neutral words to describe it.
     Of course we all rely on family and friends though I've gone beyond that point and find most of the people who give me a brief review on GoodReads or just some stars are strangers. Amazon will no longer post reviews, either good or bad, by other authors for reasons I entirely understand.  But, as most of my friends are authors, this cuts out a huge source of reviews. I think my relatives are beginning to dread when I have a new release because I always ask them to post an opinion. When I requested a good friend, an English teacher, to review one of my books, she handed me with a two page book report, very detailed. I had to explain I couldn't post it myself but really appreciated her effort. All I needed was a brief paragraph posted on Barnes and Noble or Amazon-which she did once she figured out how to do it. So simple, but people rarely take the time to hit the Post a Review button.
     I can only conclude that "we are too many" now that e-publishing has busted things wide open.Reviews are harder to get than ever. Without reviews, sales come hard. Believe me, if you enjoy a book the nicest thing you can do for an author is hit that Post a Review button and simply say why your liked the story in a few brief sentences. Only takes a few minutes. Am I begging? Maybe.
   

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

RT14

     One word to describe the Romantic Times Conference in New Orleans--Overwhelming. Yes, I did go to the orientation for newcomers, but it didn't help me cope with the long lines or the crush at all. For some reason I thought I'd run into FaceBook friends and writers I knew simply by reading name tags--impossible. Not to say I didn't make new friends and meet interesting people because I did. So sorry I never found Jane Lange and Cassandra Carr but did get to talk to Farrah Rochon whom I've known for some time as we both do football romances.
     My pithy observations on the conference: Cover models are thinner and older than on their covers (camera adds twenty pounds and I suspect some air-brushing goes on with them as well as female models), but all were very nice gentlemen who helped elderly writers up on the stage and appeared at every big event doing whatever was asked of them such as handing out Mardi Gras beads at the Pub Crawl which I did not attend.  At the end of that exhausting day, I merely crawled back to my room three blocks away hauling immense bags of free and heavy books and watched an NCIS rerun while trying to decide which new book to read.
     Writers are also older than they appear in their cover shots.  That's because we never get a new photo taken and remain frozen in time. But, all were very approachable and many were good speakers. Though I don't in any way think of him as a romance writer, Lee Childs excelled as an especially good speaker.  The awards ceremony was incredibly long, but I did enjoy hearing the short back stories of so many of the authors. Those who stayed until the end were rewarded with another bag of books.  That and winning a giant basket of erotica caused me to skip the last of the big parties and limp back to my room once more helped on my way by a new friend, blogger Jenna Perlin, who helped me lug my loot. We went out for hamburgers, talked, and I gave her one of my books and one from the gift box.. Actually more my kind of evening than a big soiree.
     I confess I did one thing I swore never to do again--I pitched at the Pitchapalooza where like speed dating you got three minutes with an agent or editor. Having just attended a workshop on writing Regency novels ( yes, people were there in costumes) and learning that genre was not dead after all, I pitched to three editors and one agent.  All gave me cards and expressed interest in my Longleigh Chronicles and even in the contemporaries I have in print. What a pleasant surprise. Now, I must force myself to submit.  So far I've only followed up with the agent.
    A high point for me: a woman sat next to me on the bus to Mardi Gras World for a huge event and told me she'd read all my books.  I doled out some signed postcards, the only thing I had with me for promotion since I didn't want to drag foam footballs to a party.  The low point: another attendee said people only do that to get swag.  Oh well, I got to enjoy the glow of being recognized for about twelve hours before having my party balloon pricked. Nearly everyone I met was very pleasant with the sole exception of a wannabe writer (guess I should say pre-published) who seemed pissed that I had ten spicy romances in print while she hadn't sold her inspirational novel yet.  I later saw her, sour expression in place, at Pitchapalooza and gathered it did not go well for her.
     Would I go again?  Not without a room in the conference hotel and a wheeled cart to haul books, but I would recommend it to others.  Next year's venue is in Dallas.  Not too far away, but I haven't quite recovered from this one yet.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Making a Series

I'd written four books before I attempted a series. One of those books, now entitled A Taste of Bayou Water had a sequel, Blessings and Curses, the first being the sister's romance, the second the brother's story.  But, I deliberately wrote Goals for a Sinner to be the first in a series that would follow the life and loves of the players on a fictional football team, the New Orleans Sinners. I vowed I'd use players other than a flashy quarterback and started out with a wide receiver, then broke my vow when I became intrigued by the quarterback, Joe Dean Billodeaux, who helped the receiver through his crisis. Joe Dean became the hero of the next book, Wish for a Sinner. When I couldn't sell either book, that series came to an abrupt halt. I moved on to cowboys and Regency dukes. Tides turned and Goals became the first book I sold.  Then, I had to get cracking writing the third book, Kicks for a Sinner and so on up to five books in all (so far). I never got over Joe Dean and found my stories followed his career to its end while encasing a new romance inside that overall arc. Some people like that. Some don't.

Series simply do sell better than single titles.  I can swear to that.  In fact, I created an unintentional series with my Mardi Gras books.  The first, Flames, had a mystery sub-plot and less sex than the Sinners series. A pivotal point n the plot takes place at a ball at a small town Mardi Gras.  I explored a country Mardi Gras where the celebration also plays a big role in the plot with another small mystery going on in a story called Masks. These books were only very loosely connected by the Mardi Gras theme, different towns, different characters. Searching for another book to write, I finally tackled the 1920's historical novel, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball.  It grew out of three sentences in A Taste of Bayou Water, "You got your great-grandma's moxie showing up here. I remember that shawl from when she danced a fandango on a table out at Broussard's Barn on New Year's Eve back when I was just tadpole. Rosamond St. Rochelle was some high-stepper in those.days."  I wondered about Granny Roz for years after writing Bayou Water. What was her story? Because she is the heroine's great-grandmother, obviously she came of age in the Roaring Twenties and would have to be a rebellious flapper.  Nine months and much research later, I finished Queen, one of my best books to date.  Couldn't sell it. No one wants to read about the 1920's I was told, but again a prime plot point takes place during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

So, no takers on any of these books as single titles.  I wondered if they'd sell as a series, technically a trilogy, if I repackaged them. First I changed the titles of the first two books to Mardi Gras Madness and Courir de Mardi Gras and developed a nice catchy phrase,"Anything can happen on a Mardi Gras Day in...a small town, the country, New Orleans. I rewrote the earlier books mostly to bring them in line with what my publisher wanted-and they sold as a group. The connection between the books is still tenuous and each can be read alone, no problem, but they had no appeal as single titles. Queen and Madness came out in October, 2012. Courir was due out in September, 2013. Anyone who follows this blog knows what happened next. My publisher went out of business before Courir appeared. Queen and Madness went out of print. I still have some new copies and some are available used, but people kept asking me when the third book in this series would be out and even suggested I write another based on Mardi Gras in the 1800's.

I'm happy to say Courir might be out next year. I've submitted it to Wild Rose Press and await their word. If they accept it, I will see if they want the others as well. I admit I've been dragging my feet on this while trying to get my real bread and butter series, The Sinners, back into print. I blogged about that struggle last time. After that came the launch of the cowboy series, The Roses, starting with The Convent Rose and followed by A Wild Red Rose.  The third book in that group, Always Yellow Roses, has gone to galleys, so now I have a little time bring those Mardi Gras books forward again. Wish me luck with my unintentional series.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Getting Back in Print

With a sigh of relief, I recently welcomed Wish for a Sinner back into print (and e-format of course). Wish is a key book in the Sinners sports series since it deals with the quarterback, Joe Dean Billodeaux, whose career we follow throughout the five novels. For some reason unknown to me, my new publisher chose to reissue the books in reverse order so that the second book came out last. They still held rights to the first book, Goals for a Sinner. I can be thankful for that since it made it easier for me get the books reprinted. I know authors who had only one book out with my former publisher and are still looking for a home for that book. Wild Rose immediately picked up my whole series and the three books I had planned to publish with Dreamspell in 2014. Naturally, publishers prefer fresh works that have not reached the end of their sales peak.  With a series, new readers are picked up along the way and that makes them more appealing for reprinting.

So, what goes into getting a book back into print? More work than you would suppose considering that the title has already been professionally edited. I received new galleys on all of my reprints that had to be read word for word for errors. Somehow, when a manuscript is put into book form, all sorts of things can go haywire. A paragraph indent might disappear. Two words could run together.The worst I ever experienced was in my first book with Dreamspell. All the quotes in the center of the book were turned backwards. We fixed it, but the process was tedious. Then, there are tiny mistakes you missed in the first edition which is just plain embarrassing. How both myself and an editor could read the book at least four times and not see them, I do not know, but they are always there.

Cover art does not travel with the book, but is redone unless the original artist is paid for its reuse. All mine received new covers which meant I had to fill in numerous forms describing the hero, heroine, the location, etc. for each book. The back cover blurb must be rewritten and sometimes, the author is asked to gather quotes of praise from other authors and reviews. This is highly time consuming--and frankly, I never rely on those quotes or even read them in other books.Regardless, I think the Wild Rose artists did a great job on my books. Sorry to those of you who miss seeing Joe Dean shirtless.

The Sinners reprints came out one a month for four months which meant I had to publicize each one as it appeared and order new promotional items with the current covers. Thankfully, Amazon retained my reviews and switched the covers with no special requests from me. But, I did get more forms to fill in from the Wild Rose PR people listing my favorite scene, quotes, and interesting things about me for their own efforts. I do this blog, am on FaceBook, but don't Tweet. They tweet for me, thank heaven! Anyhow, the work load was tremendous, even more so considering I had three new books coming out at the same time, the new Roses cowboy series, and the stand-alone A Trashy Affair.

 Time to write during these months: zero. I am beginning to wonder if I will ever finish a Regency I started last September. Especially since the next Roses book, Always Yellow Roses is now in edits and another book edited but never released by Dreamspell, Courir de Mardi Gras, is the next to be offered for contract.  Meanwhile, the next Sinners book is simmering on the back burner of my mind. I have a title, Son of a Sinner and a half-cooked plot so far. Am I complaining? Not at all. It means everything to have my books back in print again.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Unlikable Heroine

Last month, I wrote about the characteristics a romance hero and heroine should have. Briefly, I mentioned that the heroine should be likable from the very beginning of the story. I have violated this rule twice, maybe three times. In the now out of print Mardi Gras Madness, my heroine is sitting at the funeral of her young husband and has a breakdown after she returns home in the opening. Before the end of the chapter, she overcomes her depression and ventures into the world to start over in a strange place which does take courage. Still, this one was rejected because my heroine wasn't sympathetic from the very first page. I'm still trying to figure that one out. I guess she shouldn't have had the breakdown but immediately packed her bags and blithely started over which would not have made sense to me if she truly loved her deceased husband.

I am happy to announce that Kicks for a Sinner is now back in print along with Paradise for a Sinner. Making progress!  But I must warn you that Kicks has an initially unlikable heroine, and did I take some flack for that! Cassie Thomas was rescued by Joe Dean Billodeaux and his wife from the clutches of an older man who took advantage of her as a teenager and left her pregnant. Joe and Nell adopted her baby at the end of Wish for a Sinner.  Now, Cassie is all grown up and infatuated with Joe as her hero and the adoptive father of her son. She rejects the advances of nice guy, Howdy McCoy, in favor of pursuing Joe who still has that bad boy aura about him. Eventually, she sees the light. Joe isn't interested, will never leave his wife, and Howdy is a tougher man than she suspected. Despite the happy ending, some readers haven't forgiven me for letting her hurt Howdy before the HEA. As I moved on to Paradise for a Sinner, I did put in a little karma for Cassie. Her firstborn with Howdy is a little red-headed girl who is just as hard to handle as her mother once was.

A Wild Red Rose just came out. This is the sequel to The Convent Rose where Renee Niles, a scheming gold-digger wed twice before is out to claim Bodey Landrum for herself--after she checks out all his financial assets. They have a long past physical history, too, so she figures she can stand to be married to him and if she must, give him a child. Bodey is having none of her and continues to pursue the artistic and religious Eve Burns.  At the beginning of Wild Red, Renee is still looking for her third rich husband but has time on her hands and takes up the offer of rodeo bullfighter, Clinton Beck, to go on a road trip. Unbeknownst to her, Clint has a private fortune but doesn't let on. He aims to tame her of all her bad habits and make her the lovely woman she should be. I enjoyed tearing Renee down, then building her up again often in comic ways, but she is definitely unlikable at the start. We'll see what readers think shortly. I hope they will give Renee a chance to become a better person.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Perfect Couple

     It seems to me the hardest part of writing a romance is perfectly balancing the heroine and the hero to eventually form the perfect couple. Of course, they cannot be perfectly matched in the beginning because there would be no conflict and thus no story. Immediate sexual attraction is fine and practically required, but must be resisted for a while.
     The onus does appear to be on the heroine, however. She must be smart, have an interesting career (unless she is Amish and even some of those women work outside the home), attractive or capable of becoming attractive, likable, and have a problem to overcome that is serious but not too serious.  The perfect heroine must be independent, strong, able to resist the hero initially, and capable of saving herself. That's quite a load for any woman to carry.
     On the other hand, the hero must be hunky, if not handsome, then rugged, maybe surprisingly masculine under a nerdy exterior. His problem can be more serious, womanizing or PTSD, but something the right woman can fix. He might start out obnoxious or arrogant and then change his ways, leeway not usually given to the female character who must be likable from the very start. She can save him, but he can't save her.  And oh, he has to be good in bed and a bit sensitive beneath that rough exterior. Abusers of any kind need not apply.
     I don't think I've ever created the perfect couple but came closest with Merlin and Jane in A Trashy Affair. She meets him head on and staunchly resists being rescued in this case saving her job and the local environment.  He rescues her anyhow, and she salvages him from a sad and bitter life. Okay, they have their first sexual encounter fairly quickly, but there is that attraction no matter how much Jame wants to deny it.
     Every other book I've written, I've gotten comments about the heroine. Goals for a Sinner-I would never treat Connor that way! Wish for a Sinner-Nell is too weak to tame Joe. Kicks for a Sinner-Howdy deserves someone better. And even in Trashy-Nell gets on my nerves.  No comments like these yet for Paradise for a Sinner, The Convent Rose, or A Taste of Bayou Water, but I am waiting.What I have observed is that if the reader really loves my hero, she doesn't so much like my heroine. Jealousy, perhaps, as we project ourselves into their roles.
     If any of you have read all or some of my books, I'd love to know who is your favorite couple and why. And for you, a Valentine's gift. The Convent Rose will have a free week on the Kindle from February 25-March first. The book features the first of my cowboy heroes and a heroine his complete opposite. I'd like to know what you think of them, too. This will probably be my last "free" book of the year. I mean I really need to make some money from time to time, not because I'd only write for money but because it is nice to know people will pay for your work even if you don't make a fortune. So enjoy this final offer. I hope you will follow the rest of my series even if you must buy them.