Saturday, August 25, 2018

Web Site Woes

     Eight years ago when my first book was published, I was told by nearly everyone that I absolutely had to have a web site. This included my publisher who of course would not help develop or pay for it. Now, I grew up in a time when people were still making punch cards to enable a huge computers to play Bolero. I did more or less master Word because I needed it to write my novels, and I also came to enjoy e-mail and Facebook--but web sites, I had no idea how to go about them, and they were expensive to set up. At that time, I had a friend who was jumping on the band wagon to be a web site developer and web master. She offered to put together my site for $350, which, believe me, was a bargain. I told her what I wanted on the site, wrote tons of copy for it, supplied pictures, etc. In the end, I was happy with my simple site www.lynnshurr.com. She also did updates and other maintenance for the site for very little money. In January, she broke the news that she was out of the web site business that, like e-publishing, was reaping small rewards. I was on my own.
      Fortunately, my computer literate son agreed to do my updates which aren't very frequent. Easy, he said, just use html. The only part of that I understand is that the L stands for a language I do not understand. Then, a week ago came the annual demand for the renewal of my domain name and hosting from the provider. No problem, I thought, until I noted how much the fees had gone up and received notice that they'd detected malware on the site which they could fix for yet another $90 in virus protection. I had two knowledgeable people go into the site. Neither could find anything wrong.I responded saying as much, and immediately get another notice that they can prove I have malware but it is buried very deep. So, twenty minutes later, the helpful person on the other end shows me some code that he says is the malware--frankly I wouldn't know. So, how do I get it off? Pay them  the $90. I inform them that in the diminishing e-pub market, that plus the domain name and hosting comes to half of my royalties for last year and maybe is not worth it.
      Okay, they can remove it for one set fee--but my web site is old and needs to be migrated to a new and safer platform. Great. After much discussion, I ended up with a discount if I renewed for three years, and the malware would be removed, but still over $200.  And I must now navigate the migration of the web site with which they will help me.. I suffered through several migrations at my place of work. They are never easy or pleasant, but this one must be faced in the next few days. Mostly, I am fearful of losing all the work I did for the first web site--though I might update my out of date picture of me-or maybe I will choose to be that younger age forever. All in all, I know I am not cut out to deal with this and yet I must. Another learning curve, sigh. They seem to get more treacherous all the time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Covers Uncovered

     I missed doing my monthly post by one day thanks to having two contracts for new books come in  on the same week and edits for those books at two different presses arriving on the same day. It's a good problem to have, but I've done little but edits for two weeks. Lady Flora's Rescue, an 18th century romp, will be out in January or sooner.  No date set for the latest Sinners book, The Heart of a Sinner. Neither have covers as yet.Which brings me to this month's topic, Covers Uncovered.
     I have a "friend" who constantly corners me at social events and introduces me as Lynn, who writes those dirty books with naked men on the cover. Please note, she has never read even one of my books, but simply judges them by their covers--none of which have a naked man. At a library event, I marched to the stacks, pulled one of my books, the 1920's historical, Queen of the Mardi Gras  Ball, and placed it in her hands. Great story with low sexual content, I told her. The cover has a Flapper wearing a red dress. She told me she only read murder mysteries. I countered that by saying there was a murder in the book. Did she read it? Nope, took it to the desk and returned it. Tired of all this, when she started her dubious introductions again, I told her companion, "Don't listen to her. She's never read one of my books and has no idea what they are about."  Repeated several times, she finally stopped her salacious introductions.
     Currently, I have twenty-three books in print. I decided to count up what kind of covers I've been given--authors have less to say about this than you think unless they are self-published and design their own. The tally came to this: 3 shirtless men, 6 sexy guys with all their clothes on, 3 couples, clothed, 7 women, clothed, 3 with miscellaneous items (flowers, a necklace, etc.), and 1 horse. Though I hate to admit it, the sexy guys covers do sell the best except in my conservative home area where readers always go for the flapper, the necklace, or the horse. I you are writing romance, go for the sexy guy.
     When I received the cover for A Place Apart which takes place in coastal Maine and features a wounded warrior with PTSD, the cover artist presented me with a man in a red hunting cap staring into the woods. I did protest: 1. no man with PTSD is going to call attention to himself by wearing a red cap and 2. the scene is the coast of Maine, not the deep woods. She said she'd checked recent best-sellers' covers and concluded the solitary man worked best.  Yes, in the proper setting. I dove in and found a better stock photo to use which she accepted cheerfully (some don't), and she photo-shopped the wonderful Portuguese water dog who plays a major role in the story to sit by his side. Between the two of us, we got it right. A Place Apart is selling very nicely, though I think it might be because of the dog.
     Another publisher recently sent out a notice that they'd been getting criticized for "old-fashioned" covers. I'm not sure what that means, but we aren't to have as much input is my guess. Personally, I hate dark colors and always go for bright if I get a choice. On the cover of Sister of a Sinner, I did get the dress changed from black to red, much more eye-catching.I prefer to work with cover artists who give me choices and don't get snitty over a requested change. In one case, the artist did a wonderful cover first time out, but her second for me did not hit the mark, not even close. First one, the hero looked evil, second try, way too young, finally compromised on another on the third try, still not my favorite cover by far. I also got a lecture that she was paid with a small percentage of my sales and since I was a nobody that wouldn't come to much. Needless to say, we haven't worked together since.
     So, I await my two new covers. Obviously, one will be new-fashioned. No idea what the other will be like as that publisher seems to switch the cover artists fairly often.  We'll just have to wait and see. I'll post them when I get them.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Sales go Up;The Sales go Down

     Recently sitting on an Author's Row at a conference, I had some time to talk to a few fellow authors about their sales. One of them actually earns a living writing travel pieces and contracted non-fiction about local towns and attractions, but like all of us, she'd like to do well in fiction. I asked how her new mystery series was doing.  Good sales when a book first comes out, and then it flat lines. I've experienced the same thing. I think it means we have fans who wait for the new book, but we aren't attracting new readers which is very hard to do. Every once in a while, I notice someone has bought the entire run of Sinners sports romances, all nine of them. I am so grateful for those sales. It does mean someone new has discovered them, but it doesn't happen often enough.
     I've always thought certain times of the year should be great for book sales like December as I feel books make great presents and stocking stuffers, but my holiday sales don't back this up. December is always a quiet month for my books.  Sales pick up again in January, perhaps because, baby, it's cold outside, and there is nothing like a good read in front of the fireplace with a warm drink in your hand.  Then, along comes Lent.  Hard to believe my sales plummet during Lent, but they do. I think romance novels must fall into the forbidden pleasures category and are given up for a time. After Easter, sales perk up again.
     You'd think people wanting a good beach read would buy my books in the summer, but no. My sales are higher in spring, fall, and winter. I'm guessing people are too busy vacationing to read. Just because I don't travel without several books in my suitcase, doesn't mean everyone does. Of course, they can buy my books on their Kindle, Nook, and many other devices wherever they are in the world. However, it doesn't appear to work out that way. I do participate in some summer giveaways through The Romance Reviews and get a fair number of hits on the answer to my questions.  Still, I haven't notice much of a bump in actual sales.
      I do remind people of my long back list of titles on Facebook fairly often and try to add interesting facts about them to bring them up to date. To be real, I know my eyes tend to skip over any book cover promotions to get to the real news and connections with my favorite people. Others must be doing that also. As the market gets more and more crowded by indies, sales have gone way down. It's hard to attract attention among so many, and readers flee back to the New York published as a sure thing rather than spend money on the unknown author. Not an indie, I write for a small press and got into the business eight years ago, enough time to gather a modest following who stay with me. The slump in sales does make me wonder if all the time and effort is worth it for scant rewards. I know many who have given up. Right now, I am writing mostly for my own pleasure and hoping others will enjoy my work, too. Every time I notice a sale on Amazon or my publishers' site, I have to shout a triumphant yes! And be happy with that.
     

Saturday, May 26, 2018

TRR Contest Answer

Here we go again!  The Romance Reviews is having its summer contest giving away lots and lots of books and prizes. Again, I will be supplying them with a first edition, autographed paperback copy of Paradise for a Sinner as it seems to fit the theme. The story takes place in American Samoa, the answer to last year's puzzle. This year, the answer is Giant Fruit Bats.  Intrigued?
The Romance Reviews
Oh, I think mine will be up for grabs on June 13th. New titles offered every day.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Death and Authors

     When famous and beloved authors die, we always mourn both them and the fact that there will be no new titles forthcoming, although that is not always the case. I remember when V.C. Andrews of Flowers in the Attic fame passed away. Her books continued to come out for years afterwards under her name but obviously "ghost" written by others. Long lasting favorites like Agatha Christie never go out of print. Her heirs are probably still receiving royalties. I'm not sure what the British copyright law is, but last time I heard in the USA, it was forty years for the author and then another forty for their family.
     But what becomes of the rest of us, the indies, the small press authors, the one book wonders? In my contracts, there is a clause that says all of my works, which now number twenty-three, will immediately be taken down. My heirs will receive my last quarter royalties, probably not enough to buy flowers to cover my coffin. That will be the end of my books and me. I have taken the precaution of naming one of my children as my literary executor. She has a background in journalism and can reclaim my rights from the publishers. Should she choose, she can reprint them or offer them to other publishers. Of course, covers would have to be changed and the books reformatted which is considerable work. As she has a career of her own, she simply may not have the time or interest to do any of this, knowing I certainly did not get rich from my efforts. She is also instructed to share any royalties with her two siblings. I certainly hope they don't get into a fight over that eighty-eight dollars I have coming!
       Mostly, I hate to think of all my characters dying with me. They become so real when I am creating a tale. As it is, I sometimes get inquiries about what happens to them after I've written "The End". What did they do in the future? How many children did they have, etc. So, I occasionally work them into new stories and give them cameos. For instance, Merlin and Jane of A Trashy Affair, easily my most successful book, appear in Putty in her Hands. Jane is now a mother of two boys and still an environmental activist. Merlin serves on the parish council. Both help Julia in her fight to save an old hotel from demolition.  Celine Landry, now wife of billionaire Jonathan Hartz from A Taste of Bayou Water, also joins the cause. They are aided by Miss Lolly and Miss Maxie, two every elderly former teachers, who are willing to chain themselves to oak trees to save the building. These two characters have appeared in my Sinners sports romances and jumped into several of my single titles as well. They always add humor, driving around in their big boat of an old Lincoln and feeling free to say whatever they want as age hath its privileges. They must be pushing a hundred by now, but I still hate to have them die with me.
     My family will have to deal with the stacks and stacks of books I have in our storage area, some good sellers, some gathering dust. As I grow older, I order fewer copies to resell at conferences and book signings as storage is becoming a problem. I imagine each child might each take a set of my complete works, all pre-autographed, and donate the rest to the library book sale where they will resurface for years until they fall apart. It is nice to think of someone reading my now out of print books.
      All of this makes me rather sad.  But, it also gives me incentive to keep on living as long as I can just to keep my characters and their stories alive.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Signing in the Rain

     What authors do to sell their books! March in Louisiana is fair and festival season, primarily because the weather usually fine, clear, warm, but not too warm. It's the best time to promote my books, too. I signed up for four events to do so, one a wonderful arts and crafts fair where I usually sell a number of books and sometimes small pieces of art. Setup must be completed by nine, and the fair runs until four o'clock.  It's a long but worth it day most years, and I don't have to pay for my space. This year, the first weekend in March was simply freezing. I bundled up, but found doing my setup too hard with gloves and was fumble-fingered hanging the art and doing my book display. I finally settled into my chair, threw a blanket over my legs, drank some of the hot tea I'd brought along, and consoled myself with a cookie purchased from one of the vendors.  Of course, customers did not venture out until almost noon when it warmed up. I had all my sales then and met a bunch of people who might buy later, but the whole time prayed I wouldn't get walking pneumonia again as I did at a chilly event in December.  Not doing anything outdoors in December again--though it can be warm here. You never know.
     Event number two took place on a week night to entertain six hundred visiting bicycle riders--who after riding forty miles really had no interest in art or reading. My husband was scheduled to set up his telescope for sun viewing. I said I'd put up my tables nearby as he usually has a line and hope for the best. Clouds closed in and threatened rain. My husband packed his telescope and helped me drag my tables under a nearby awning in front of an office in case it rained.  It did. While huddled there, again with hot tea from my thermos to ward off the damp, a woman approached and asked what I am doing there and who am I?  I replied, "Participating in the art walk and taking shelter from the rain."
     "Well, my boss wants to see some ID."  I gave her my business card.  She asked if all my info was correct. Yes. They wouldn't do me much good if it wasn't. She contacts her boss in the bowels of the office building--which is closed. He wants to see my driver's license. I get it out, and she photographs it and me. Now, I have lived in this town over thirty years and know a lot of people. First time
 I've ever been treated like a criminal, especially since I'd been asked to participate. I'd had enough and said I'd pack up and leave.  Oh, no, now I can stay.  I did for another hour. Had one sale to a rider who bought my shortest book for his wife--because he has to tote it in his backpack. Nice guy from California.  The sky grows dark again. I pack up as a misty rain falls. I do believe this is my last participation in a cycling event. Just not worth the hassle and being hassled. And by the way, public sidewalk, and I was not blocking his door or the right of way. Guy was a lawyer--figures.
     Event number three was several days later, a literary festival with fifty authors lining the main street and offering every kind of book for sale. I was set up in my paid spot between an interesting mystery writer from New Orleans with an impressive setup and tent and a self-published friend with a card table and no canopy. Not wanting a repeat of the last rainy venue, I'd brought mine. Supposedly, my tarp can be set up by one person--one very tall and strong person, which I am not. My husband raised it with the help of the fellow from New Orleans. I set up my display and waited. Some traffic, not much interest, and weather that turned cold and threatened rain. I had my first sale around noon when the hospitality committee brought us all a nice lunch of pasta and chicken salad and a cookie, but I kind of wished it were nice hot gumbo. Again, saved by that thermos of hot tea. An hour later, the wind is whipping and a drizzly rain if falling. Those without tarps pack up and go home. We were supposed to be out there until three. I call home for help getting the tarp down and begin to pack. Suddenly, two people who said they'd come back and buy later (they rarely do) rush up and buy a total of seven books. In one case, I had unpack to find the ones she wanted, but I did appreciate the sale. I'm home by one-thirty, as I think most of the writers were, and had a nice, cozy afternoon where I actually got some writing done instead of trying to sell it. 
     The last event, thank heaven, was indoors at a library. The authors were clustered in a rear meeting room which library patrons avoided. Mostly we visited each other, and some of the newly published had their families show up. For me, a three hour round trip drive and one sale, but I did hand out a lot of cards and appeared to score some sales on Amazon later. At least, I wasn't cold and damp.
      So aspiring authors, this could be your life. Think you can just stay home and write?  Nope, you have to put yourself out there to get noticed.  Be sure to buy a canopy of your own because you might be signing in the rain!








Sunday, March 18, 2018

Losing an Editor

     Recently, I lost my editor of seven years, not to death but retirement. She has a new man in her life and wants to enjoy time traveling with him. I can't blame her and wish her well. We'd built up a friendship, too. I will miss that.
      Now seemed the time to experiment a little, and I submitted a Regency novel to my publisher. I was assigned a new editor in the history division, and a contract was awarded but came with red flags I should have heeded i.e. the manuscript needed a lot of work, would require three edits, and I wouldn't like some of the required changes. Well, I have twenty-three novels in print with the last one Putty in her Hands, the final book done with my old editor, getting very good reviews. I've done tough edits before on a couple of books. One sells regularly, and the other tanked. I've worked with other editors on my single titles and believe I am easy going. How bad can it be?
      Very, very bad--starting with receiving pages of information how to write and links to the publisher's manual. There were hints my old editor had been too easy on me. Nearly every page had comments that I was ambiguous or omniscient (that was actually intentional to give it Regency flavor-but had to go) and most scenes were required to be rewritten in the heroine's viewpoint. In my experience, nineteen-year-old debs aren't that deep even if wildly in love. I began to find her view tedious. Burdening the story with her emotions added one-thousand words before the halfway point. Where had my funny, fast, breezy story gone?
       Each day, I opened the file with apprehension and closed it with a stomach ache. When I reached a cherished scene that needed to be cut because it wasn't in her viewpoint, I finally could do it no more and asked to be released from the contract, something I have never done, being a person who prides herself on finishing what she starts and meeting all deadlines. I'm not faulting the new editor. She did the job as she saw fit while I could not comply with her directions. Despite her warnings, I signed on for a job I was unable do.
      My confidence shredded, I will return to writing contemporaries, but must face another new editor. I'd put aside the next Sinners book half-written to work on the Regency. Now, I am fearful that it, too, will be considered sub-par, and the new editor will not work out either.
     In publishing, I've been orphaned, trolled, had a book come out with only one-third of its pages, and gotten poor reviews on my first audio book. I don't make much money for all the hours involved in writing and editing. Still, I've managed to survive these crises. Last year was super-productive with Sister of a Sinner, Never a Sinner, A Place Apart, and Putty in her Hands being published. After this re-do,I'll be lucky to get one book out before the end of the year.
      Perhaps, I need a break. Often, I've said I'd quit writing when it wasn't fun anymore. Not having fun now. One more try, and we'll see how it goes.