Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Four Book Year

     This year, I have four titles being released: Heart of a Sinner, Lady Flora's Rescue, Dream for a Sinner, and in November, The Perfect Daughter.  All are full length from seventy thousand to over a hundred thousand words. Wow, people say. You are so prolific. How do you do it? Purely by accident. When I first started to write I realized and was told an author needed to supply fresh material frequently, not simply write one book and be done, though I know writers who have done this when they discover that writing is a ton of work that really doesn't pay.  Anyhow, I figured on two books a year as what I could manage. I've been published for nine years and found I average three books a year, but last year had only one, Putty in her Hands.
     Putty was the last book I did with my long-term editor who retired shortly afterward. Assigned a new editor for Perfect Daughter, I found she was a terrible fit, and I admit I backed out of that contract before I finished first edits so demanding it became her book and not mine. Because most authors lack confidence, I entirely shelved my second book for 2018 and asking for a new editor, proceeded through a glacially long editorial process for Heart of a Sinner which I'd had difficulty finishing. It was at the half -written when I lost all confidence as a writer thanks to editor #2. I struggled to the end, and the book became 93,000 words, but good words. Still, it was put through three edits, line edits, and two pre-galleys, something I'd never heard of before, before getting the final galley. I swear, if there is a mistake in that book, I couldn't find it. Because this editing process ran from July to October. Heart was pushed into 2019 for publication. It came out in January to great reviews.
      In the meantime, I took out the prequel to The Perfect Daughter which had been gathering dust because no one wanted an 18th century historical, and it was too long at 106,000 words. I did a rewrite. It is still 106,000 words, but the book was accepted by another press and sigh of relief, given to an editor I enjoy working with since she edits with a light hand, not a closed fist. The edits went well and fast, but their publishing queue was long, so it appeared in February of 2019. Feeling better about Daughter, I also rewrote it, taking out some of the edits I hated and restoring it more to its original form.  The same press accepted it. I worked with the same editor. That book will finally be out in November.
     And what about the fourth book of 2019? I wrote Dream for a Sinner from scratch while still doing the lengthy editing process on Heart of a Sinner. It is short for me, 70,000 words, but okay, I was a little tired by now.  I submitted it to my regular publisher, expecting a long, slow process that would result in a 2020 release. It winged through all the hoops so quickly I was astounded and will be out on August fourteen, 2019. The Sinners series is my most popular,  and all are written from scratch. That takes time. Usually, I submit one a year. Dream was supposed to be my 2020 Sinners entry, but became my fourth book for this year.  Now, however, fans of the series will have to wait a long time for the next, The Aussie Sinner, which I've started but is going very slowly.
     So, how did I do four full-length books in one year: two rewrites of older books, two brand new books and a crazy publishing schedule. I must admit, I am no Nora Roberts and don't make her kind of money either. Please don't expect another four book year!
   

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Creating Small Towns

     Many of my books are set in small towns because I know them well having grown up in a tiny town, population 2,000, and now living in a vastly larger one with 37,000 people. In writing my very first book, Mardi Gras Madness, I needed to create a small town for my heroine to live in. She comes from a fictional town I've called Lost Spring, PA, based on my hometown area, and she moves to another deep in Louisiana, quite a different place in customs and history. I used the layout of a nearby town but fictionalized all the people and businesses. Some authors would make a map of the town before starting, but I dive right in and create the landmarks as I go as needed by the plot.
     Lovely Laura, the librarian, needs a place to stay in fictional Chapelle where options are very limited. She asks an old codger at the gas station (all towns need a gas station), and he directs her across the the street to a sandwich shop which has an apartment above the store. From there, she has a grand view of Main Street (most towns do have one of these) and the church on the village green. The church is vital to the story and is described in detail. Too much detail my editor said, but I convinced her that was necessary to the plot as was the feral kitten Laura finds living under the raised building for a mystery that slowly evolves.  She buys furniture at a thrift store down the street and clothes at Helen's Boutique, the only dress shop in town, and indulges in beignets and French bread from a local family run bakery. The library she has come to run is in an old house and very outdated. And so the town grows in my imagination. I had no great intention of using Chapelle again.
     My second book, Courir de Mardi Gras, took place in an even smaller town I dubbed Port Jefferson which had a stately home, a small library, one doctor's office, a not so good restaurant, a black neighborhood, and a bar where locals hang out. All figured into the plot when I still fancied myself a mystery writer. Deciding to try contemporary romance without a mystery plot, I found myself back in Chapelle which had grown since my last visit. It now had a B & B, a small paddle wheeler for tourists, some good restaurants, a real estate office, and an interior design studio. The old sandwich shop burnt down and is now a parking lot. Even I was astounded at how it had evolved just like the characters living there. Laura has managed to get a new library built in the intervening years and is now the best friend of Celine, the new heroine of A Taste of Bayou Water. Fortunately, Pommier's Bakery still makes hot beignets every morning.
     Then, a phrase from Taste about Celine'sgreat-grandmother dancing on a table at Broussard's Barn during the 1920's stuck in my imagination. It took me some time to tell Granny's Roz's story, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, and I had to strip Chapelle of all its modernity. The church still stands, few stores line the street, and the B & B is a boarding house. The local hospital is housed in a donated mansion, and the library is located in one room of the Methodist church hall. Broussard's Barn where Laura marries on one mad night out stands of the city limits and is now a speakeasy as well as a dance hall.  But yes, Pommier's still cranks out hot beignets.
     After I completed the Mardi Gras series, I wrote several single titles: A Trashy Affair, An Ashy Affair, and Putty in her Hands. All take place in Chapelle which eventually gains a Subway shop, a coffee house, and a Chinese restaurant. The funeral home in Madness has changed hands. Characters from previous books pop up here and there in small cameos. Broussard's Barn is still a dive but changes with the times,.and Pommier's makes fancier pastry, but still has hot beignets. Sometimes I am surprised at how the town grows between books featured there. Now, even my head Sinner, Joe Dean Billodeaux,lives on a ranch on its outskirts, spilling over from my Sinners sport romances.
     Obviously, I love building this town book by book and do have a weakness for both libraries and beignets. However, beware when you create your own. All these details must be committed to memory in order to recall when they appeared. Your readers will point out any slip as they probably know the town better than the author. Since all my books are on the same drive, I often flash back and forth to do a word search in order to make sure I've got the setting right.  Yeah, I should write all this down, but would rather be working on my next book which might just take place in Chapelle.
   

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Roving Characters

     I believe most writers are loathe to leave their beloved characters when they finish a book. Even bad ones can be used again if you don't kill them off. Since I write mostly series, I am able to hang on to the main creations for a long time though they may fade into the background somewhat. My former editor always chastised me for wanting to bring too many old characters back to life and sometimes made me take them out despite my argument that my readers wanted to know what the former characters were doing now. Yes, like real people they continue their imaginary lives, have children, take new jobs, retire, have grandchildren.
     I have several single title books that I simply call my Chapelle novels as they all take place in that imaginary town. Trashy Affair deals with a devoted environmentalist who falls for wounded warrior, Merlin Tauzin, who owns with a big ass truck. The funnier episodes were based on my own garbage collection problems. It's one of my personal favorites, but Merlin and Jane were left behind when the book ended. Still, people kept asking about him. I wrote Ashy Affair next, which takes place in the same town, but again I put aside the hunky fireman at the end of the story. Then, along came Putty in her Hands, and I was able to update fans about both the Merlin and the fireman since they all live in the same small town and would know each other. As  Julia attempts to save an old hotel from demolition, she goes before the Parish Council, and we learn Merlin now serves as a councilman who decides to help. Jane, always the conservationist, is on her side too, and so is another escapee from another single title, A Taste of Bayou Water, Jonathan Hartz, billionaire, and his Cajun wife, Celine. At one point, the fireman, now the chief, saves the hotel from burning down.
     Sometimes, my single title characters even intrude in my series titles. Recently, Jon Hartz, has employed Trinity Billodeaux as coder in his company and acts as his mentor. That book, Dream for a Sinner, one of the Sinners series, is in line edits right now. But in the same title, a retired bull rider, Bodey Landrum, makes a break from The Roses series and shows up at a charity rodeo given by the Billodeauxs along with three other Roses characters. Well, why not? Wouldn't Bodey take off from his famous bull riding school to help out in a good cause? And he'd absolutely take the geeky Trinity out to a honky-tonk and help him out in a bar room brawl. No pub date on this one yet, but probably winter sometime.
     Often, people ask me what became of secondary series characters who aren't really suited for a book of their own. A friend recently wondered about the scheming Ilsa and the outrageous Prince Dobbs.  I was happy to tell her I gave them a paragraph in the epilogue of The Heart of a Sinner. While not there in person, others gossip about them. Yes, Ilsa is still trying to get Prince to marry her.
     If there are any characters you are curious about, let me know. I assure you they are all living full and interesting lives in my imagination. Who knows when they will show up again in my writing?
     

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Pricing

     It's no secret that authors, especially the self-published and e-published, are making less and less money for their writing efforts. E-publishers are feeling the pinch, too, and several have gone out of business recently. The amount of effort that goes into writing, perfecting, and publishing a book is vast, and after a while, no longer seems worth the effort. The day of putting a book out there for ninety-nine cents and expecting to make a fortune by selling millions is past, though I do know people who only buy books prices under a dollar and simply delete them one after another when they are found unsatisfactory. Every once in a while, they get a good one and, I guess, are satisfied with that. They also scoop up freebies, the idea being to give away the first book in the series and they will buy others. I can tell you from personal experience, that rarely works either.
     So, what is a fair price for an e-book that is well-written and edited and provides a good story? One of the presses I write for started off selling all their books for $4.99, the best price they thought they could get. The authors' royalty came to a dollar a copy. Then, the publisher decided lowering the price of all their books, whether 100,000 or 70,000 words or 40,000 words to $3.99 would bump sales. Nope, but now the author got eight-five centers for sale. Surrendering finally to Amazon which now pays by the pages read or gives the books away to their top members, I found my royalty for a 90,000 word book is now forty-seven cents per copy, scant reward for all that work and in my case hours spent on research.
     Fortunately, my primary e-press is still holding the line with shorter books priced at $4.99 and longer ones at $5.99. Their brief foray into turning all their new titles over to KDP for a short time resulted in lots and lots of unhappy authors, and eventually they backed out of that deal. I think these prices are fair for good reads well-edited and of some length. Of course, my royalties are not what they once were in the heyday of e-publishing. So many cheap books have glutted the market, it is hard to meet even the $25 required for them to cut a check in the case of the publisher mentioned in the above paragraph. I still get a quarterly check from my primary publisher whom I once asked what happened to my sales?  She replied, "You are doing better than most just to get a check each time." They, too, don't pay out if you earn less than $25 a quarter. At the end of the year, even the smallest pittance is paid out to balance the books. I know some of my fellow authors asked where their final check had gone.  The answer, they hadn't sold any books in a year's time. Some are getting out of the business altogether as there is no profit in it.
      Let's not forget about pirated books and sales of used copies. The author gets zilch from these sales, many of which seem to be set up for money laundering. For a few days, one of my used books was listed for sale at over $1,000, and it quickly vanished, deal complete, I guess. At the moment two used copies of Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball and Son of a Sinner are offered for $36.33 and $69.72 for a supposed mass market edition--which doesn't exist. All my books are Print on Demand rather than mass market which puts thousands of copies out at one time. Wouldn't that be nice, I've often thought. All of my books are still available in print and e-copies. I'll send anyone in the U.S. an autographed copy for $20, and that includes the postage. Sadly, they are hardly collectibles. Wish they were. Somewhere money changes hands for my books. I just don't get any of it.
     As for me, I keep writing because I enjoy it, have tales to tell, and time to put into a project that takes a year to complete from writing the first word to getting it out in print for such small rewards. The irony is that I know my current books are better than those that sold so well when I started out as experience counts. I do hope a few people out there enjoy them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

TRR March, 2019 Contest Answer

     It's that time of the year again for a contest. On March 19th, I'll be giving away an autographed copy of my latest Sinners book, The Heart of a Sinner, in The Romance Reviews spring contest. Here is the answer: D Matt's Sister-in-law. Good luck in the drawing. This book has been getting excellent reviews. http://theromancereviews.com to enter.
     Speaking of reviews, I mentioned last month trying a new review service similar to NetGalley but cheaper.  Buzz Marketing promised ten impartial reviews within a month for $125 or my money back.  The reviews did not come in as a deluge but one by one slowly, then picking up speed and still coming in. They are generally well written and more than a few words, mostly four and five stars for the above title which I feel it merits, but then, I am the author. Of course there was one sort of puzzling review, not bad exactly, but the only person to give it three stars, though she mentioned it should be 3.5. I couldn't figure out what she didn't like about the story except that it was complicated and she hated a character she was meant to hate. Anyhow, I appreciate that she wrote a review. I learned years ago that my books will not be to everyone's taste. Though I did get some NetGalley reviews, this seems the better bargain financially.
      My new historical title, Lady Flora's Rescue, will be up for grabs on NetGalley in March, just for a week, which I do not know. Please keep an eye out for your chance to get a free read. I might also submit to Buzz Marketing again. Sad that trying to get reviews costs more more than I make on my books. However, I did see a small uptick in sales that I believe are the consequences of these reviews as I reached new readers, a good result.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Reviews Quandry

     Authors live for positive reviews. We ask for them, beg for them, plead for them, and usually don't get them. Way back in beginning of my publishing career nine years ago, I could depend on a few relatives and some fellow writers posting some kind words for my books.  But, Amazon banned reviews from relatives and the trading of reviews between authors even though I have one child that never gave my books more than four stars and another who always wrote a very balanced review. As for my mom, she said my books were good but never posted anything about them. I think she didn't even tell her friends. Supportive she was not. Frankly, I am relieved I don' trade reviews with authors I know anymore. I once gave only four stars, and that person is still mad at me. If I'd been entirely honest, their book was three stars at the most.
     Since I write for small presses, neither them nor I can afford to send out hundreds of free copies in order to garner a handful of reviews as big New York publishers do.  To give an idea of how many books must be read to get a bunch of reviews, I did a KDP with one of my best. Ten-thousand copies were given away for free in a few weeks. How many reviews did I get?  Forty.  I have also done the contest thing, giving away one free soft cover copy which then has to be mailed. I always enclose a friendly note asking the winner to drop a review for me on Goodreads or Amazon if they enjoy the book, As far as I know, none ever has, leading me to believe they didn't enjoy the book or never read it in the first place.
     For a while there, a myth prevailed that if a book could get ten reviews, not as easy as it sounds, Amazon would promote it more heavily.  More recently, some claim if you can get fifty reviews, they will make your book a part of their permanent catalog. I doubt both. If mine manage to get more than ten reviews, it is usually because a controversy has ensued. One of my books, The Convent Rose, was trolled badly the second it was released by a person who didn't even have the name of the hero right and intentionally garbled  the plot to make it seem foolish. Fans I didn't know I had came forth to defend it. Likewise, when Ashy Affair was released missing half its pages (the e-book only), a publishing error, not mine, it was badly attacked. Though I contacted each reviewer and told them to ask for a corrected free copy, only two did. The others didn't take their bad reviews down. Slowly, those who read the entire book got it up to four stars. Controversy--a hard and hurtful way to get reviews.
      The difficulty of getting reviews for indie or small press authors has created a whole new industry.  The author shells out money for a company to put up an e-copy of the book free for a length of time in return for a fair review. Net Galley is one such business. I have no quarrel with them, but they are expensive to have a book up for a month. One of my publishers purchases space and prorates its authors for a week or two if they want to participate. I've done this several times and reaped two to four reviews from total strangers who rewarded me with four or five stars--and best of all vowed to read more of my books. However, this effort usually stalls out at no more than four reviews that come to twelve dollars apiece paid to the company, not the reviewer. Recently, I tried another, paying $125 for a month of exposure, ten reviews guaranteed or your money back.  So far, zilch reviews. Might be taking them up on that refund. Sure hope they aren't a scam.
     Often, when I am signing or trying to hawk my books on Authors Rows or at arts and crafts fairs, people do come up to me and tell me how much they liked a particular title or series. Some of these folks I know, some not. I always ask them to post their kind words in a much needed review. Few do. Most people seem to have a phobia developed in grade school and connected to writing book reports. I did have a person who said they couldn't post a review online for all to see but sent me a five page, hand-written  book report. It was lovely.  I still have it.  But, it did me no good as I can't post it myself. Really, the review need only be a few lines, what you loved or didn't love about the book. I keep the latter in mind when writing my next book. I listen to my readers.
      My new historical came out last week, Lady Flora's Rescue. So far, not one review. Nope, I do not expect even my fans to drop everything and read it immediately, but please do so in the future and give me what I need most--a few encouraging words.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Back from Down Under

     I left for my bucket list trip to Australia at the end of November without giving this blog a thought, but the journey did give me something to talk about other than writing. If you want a day to day account, friend me on Facebook. My husband took lots of great pictures, too. I'm not even going to pretend that my royalties paid for this trip. The cost was paid off monthly since last year and worth every penny from Enhanced Tourist Class on the plane which gave me extra leg room and great snacks plus a glass of sparkling wine to start the journey to watching the penguin parade and hand-feeding kangaroos.
     I was able to establish the Aussie character when a big six-footer reclined his seat into my lap for the eighteen-hour flight. Around two a.m., I desperately needed the restroom and found I was trapped. Afraid I would wet myself, I began shouting, "I can't get out!" and probably woke up half the plane including the guy in front of me who finally put up his seat, let me go, waited until I got back, and fully reclined again. Little did he know women my age need the bathroom every two hours. Each time I tapped him, he good-naturedly let me out again, then resumed his position. When I needed some food around six a.m. to take some meds, the staff provided me with a ham and cheese empanada. He put up his chair so I could get my tray out--and asked for the same. Honestly, very nice but not overly sensitive people. I have to say always willing to help and give directions as we found throughout our trip. Give up a seat on a crowded tram, nope, but share a table with you in a crowded restaurant--no worries. Sit yourself down.
     I did gather information for a Sinners book I plan to call The Aussie Sinner. Yes, there are Australian Rules Football players in the NFL, mostly kickers, but I want mine to play a different position if I can ever figure out what that is. Must get a copy of Aussie Football for Dummies soon, though I viewed several Footy games on the Footy Channel while recuperating from the day's activities. Only thing the games seem to have in common is having a ball of the same shape. Fun to watch as these very fit young men play in shorts with no padding flat out for their quarters, throwing themselves into piles to rip out the ball and sending it flying with a kick to the other end of the field. Our Melbourne guide, Peter, gave me lots of details on the sport as the game originated in that city which has nine teams of its own. I do need to give him a credit when the story comes out, probably in late 2020 so don't hold your breath.
     Meanwhile, The Heart of a Sinner is now up for pre-sale on Amazon and will be released on January ninth. This came as complete surprise to me as it hadn't been given a release date before I took off for the Land of Oz. That should tide you over along with Dream for a Sinner which I left nearly finished in order to take my trip. I do love to write, but traveling is even better. Here's a cover for you. Now I have to get back to cookie baking and present wrapping, both, like Dream, sorely neglected while I dined on kangaroo and flirted with platypuses. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all!