Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Of Awards, Contests & Reviews, again

Recently, I attended an authors' luncheon with two better known than me guest speakers. Both had recently won awards of some kind or another--and both acknowledged that hadn't made a bit of difference in their sales. One was for Indie books, and I think the public knows little about these awards and could care less. I also suspect the only awards that would have any meaning would be the Rita for romance in my case or one of the library awards such as the Newbery or Caldecott which can make careers.The Pulitzer would count, too, of course, but that is a different kind of writing altogether. Recently, I received an offer to pay a hefty fee to enter a Reader's Choice Award. No thanks. If I have learned one thing, these are primarily popularity contests, and will-known, very popular authors always win them--or people who have lots and lots of relatives to vote.

Similar offers have come for cover contests. I placed third in one of these that had a modest entry fee, but soon figured out that the best cover did not win and would not win. The winners were those who could spend all day voting for themselves as this contest had no rules against that or had lots and friends and family. A perfectly wonderful cover even better than mine got very few votes. The bit of free advertising that came as my award really didn't result in any sales. My friends and relatives already know about my books, though I did startle some folks at a recent class reunion who said, "You're writing what?" Yes, spicy romance novels. Mostly these contests exist to draw your band of merry followers to their web site and a mailing list.

Speaking of which, I received a notice that one of my books, Son of a Sinner, had been entered in a contest, but not by me. At first, I was a little flattered until I realized every book reviewed by that site had been entered in the contest. The contemporary romance category was huge. In order to go on to the next round, my book had to garner fifty more votes. I did try to get those votes until the people I begged to vote for me reported that they had to join the site to vote and the process to do that was laborious. This was just another case of a site building their mailing list. When I understood this, I ceased soliciting votes and didn't get my fifty to continue. I doubt winning would have made any difference. At least, this one was free.

Also, I have been bombarded lately by people offering to review my books on one hand and offering me an advertising package with another. Oh, how we all pine for reviews, so hard to get these days with so many books out there. I fell for this once.  I sent a review copy, but declined the $350 advertising package. Got a scathing review of a book that had otherwise gotten decent reviews. Smell a rat? Amazon did not post it, so I suspect they were also on to something.  So go with care when offered one of these deals. We are all desperate for reviews.  If you want to do something nice for an author, review one of her books on Amazon or GoodReads for Christmas.

I'm not saying any of the above are scams.  Business is business, and they want to sell advertising and draw people to their sites.  It's up to the writer if they want to participate or shell out the money and see what they get. If any of you know if any of these worked for you, please feel free to comment.

In parting, hi to Lisa and Sarah. Thanks for following my blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Author's Pet Peeves

     It seems that agents and publishers are always posting their pet peeves, but authors are not allowed this outlet. Sometimes, we need to gripe, too. No names shall be named here. These are just general complaints brought on by my recent spate of submissions.
     Oh, how I wish for a standardized submission form. Yes, I do the usual, doubled-spaced in Times New Roman,standard margins, and headers, but then there are some publishers who even specify margin size and insist you cram your entire life story in the header which really messes up the look of the page. Then, a few want single-spaced. Some want attachments, some want embedded chapters, some want fulls, some chapters. A few make the submission process incredibly complex such as asking for your marketing plan and all your platforms as well as your publishing history. I realize they want to weed out the insufficiently motivated, but some also say if you make even one tiny mistake in following their directions, you are not professional,.and they will not take even a glimpse at your work. They have the power to do this of course, and we are at their mercy. We are too many and must be culled, but I am so tired of constantly reformatting.
     Most submissions are done by computer these days--easy to receive, easier to reject and delete, easier for me, too, than running a brown envelope to the post office to be weighed and paying for postage. However since we are in the age of computers, you would think agents and publishers could at least set up an auto reply that says, "We have received your submission."  Some do, but others don't. Their site will say if you haven't heard from us in two or three months, we aren't interested.  But, how do you know they ever got the submission in the first place. What if you broke one of their rules? You will never know. Some say you can inquire after a certain period of time. Frankly, I've never done this as I know they don't want to be bothered, just as people you pitch to do not want your card or contact info which they will only throw out later. I did once submit the same manuscript to an agent twice as I wasn't sure it had been received. To this day, I do not know, but I won't submit there again. Do I really want an agent who can't take the time to at least send an auto reply that says the classically vague, "Not right for us" so you won't go out and kill yourself over all the months you've wasted waiting to hear from them. Yes, I long for the days of the SASE with the standard brushoff and sometimes a single sentence of encouragement.
      Okay, got that off my chest. I shouldn't be broody. A contract did come through for my women's fiction novel, A Will of her Own, about a young woman whose life takes some unexpected turns when she decides to get over her college crush and date men who might really be interested in her. It's already undergone a title change and a blurb rewrite. Edits will show up soon taking me away from working on a new romance, A Splashy  Affair.  Best guess is that it will be out next spring, but She's a Sinner surprised me with a release date months before I expected it.  In publishing, you just never know anything.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

She's a Sinner

My newest Sinners book, the second in the Sinner's Legacy series dealing with Joe Billodeaux's many children, was released yesterday. Placekicker Tom Billodeaux meets his match in Alix Lindstrom, a tall, strong young woman who wins the position of punter on the team. Not only did I gain a lot of new knowledge about punting while doing the research for this book, but I had so much fun imagining what adding a woman to an NFL roster would entail. Alix is the NFL's first female player, and all sorts of problems crop up because no rules are in place.

First of course is locker room etiquette.  Where is Alix going to change and shower at the practice field, at the Dome, and after away games?  Tom with his experience of many sisters helps design a private bathing area for their new punter who will lead the team from the field, pass through the locker room, and go straight to her own shower.  Away games?  She takes a waiting vehicle back to the hotel immediately. And what about language?  I had the best time creating a "sexual sensitivity" class all the guys were required to attend and asked to clean up their words. Alix must attend her own session on how to deal with her male companions.  Declining to turn them in for infractions against her, she works to earn the respect of her teammates, some of whom don't want her to succeed.

Others welcome Alix, none more than Tom who is smitten at first sight. Imagine, a tall blonde who understands every aspect of kicking.  While Alix thinks of herself as a big and clunky female jock, more than one fellow on the team finds her attractive. Are there any rules about dating a teammate?  Not yet.  Tom doesn't move fast enough and is nearly shut out by another player. What about marriage?  Nothing to stop them, but Tom ponders, what if he gets a football player pregnant for the first time in history, and she cannot honor her contract?  Would this situation be treated the same as an injury?  Lots of questions came to mind, and I didn't answer all of them.

I do hope you will enjoy meeting Alix.  She's a Sinner is on sale this week of September 9, 2015 only for $3.00 at Check out the great cover by Diana Carlile there or on Amazon or barnes&  Write a review for me if you find the book engaging. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Traveling for Inspiration

 I don't really need to travel to find inspiration for my books. After all, I'm the person who wrote a novel about my garbage collection problems in A Trashy Affair which turned out to be one of my best efforts.. The truth is I write in order to travel. My royalties pay for one nice trip a year with my husband, not exactly Nora Robert's riches, but good enough for me. When I travel, I take along promotional cards for my books and hand them around. When I return I always find a few curiosity sales from my fellow travelers, so don't leave home without some PR product to do a little shameless self-promotion. Just saying.

Those I meet on trips always want information on publishing and also ask if they will appear in any of my books.  I am quick to say none of my characters are real people unless they are historical figures, but I certainly do save up characteristics to use in my creations like the woman who kept disappearing from tours in order to have a smoke and a large coffee or the still spry World War Two nurse who had tales to tell. Recently, I returned from this year's big trip to Ireland, plenty of inspiration in that country with all its history and woes and lovely landscapes. I was asked if I would write about that country in my next book. Well, no. It might take me years to percolate the information, come up with a plot, and then find the time to write the story. I have a list of five books to write in my head already, and Ireland will have to wait its turn.

It took me over two years to get around to writing A Place Apart based on a trip to Maine. I finished the first draft of this 100,000 word novel before I left for Ireland and now must get back in the groove and polish it. Though you can find anything on the internet, visiting a place does enable you to add bits of local color you might otherwise overlook and catch the way people in that area have of talking. For instance, I noticed an incredible number of quilting and knitting shops in Maine, a good way to pass a long, cold winter is my guess. The fifth season in Maine is called mud season when the thaw occurs. And lets not forget the small but tasty Maine shrimp, tiny cousin to its marvelous lobsters, and the schooner ride on Penobscot Bay which features prominently in the new book.

I do wish I could have gone to American Samoa to research Paradise for a Sinner first hand. They don't have much of a tourist industry there, and the plane fare was huge. Think I could have written the trip off on my taxes since a book resulted? An accountant warned me not to do that as a big ticket item is sure to get IRS attention. So, I contented myself with Samoan blogs and travel info to capture the flavor of that country.

As for Ireland, while waking early in adjusting to the substantial time change again, I began to form a plot in my head. The two main characters took shape as did the town where they live. I'd weave in a little mythology inspired by ancient tales and a trip to the New Grange barrow graves (very narrow and low passage-hit my head twice and I am short). Irish music must figure in somewhere. Then,. the alarm went off and I had to get up for real and start the day. File this story as number six in the line of tales I have to tell. Travel truly does inspire, and I will write to get more of it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Too Darn Hot--Or Not

Some of you know I also blog the first Saturday of the month at, romance authors who love sports and the men who play them. An interesting question came up among the contributors posited by Sophia Henry, new to our group and about to have her first hockey romance released soon. She'd been panned a few times by reviewers who received advance copies because her book  lacked the heated sex scenes implied by the PR hype where she'd been compared to Toni Aleo and other highly erotic authors.

 I had a similar experience when I started the Sinners series and my first book,Goals for a Sinner, was compared to Bella Andre and yes, Toni Aleo. New to the publishing game, I timidly suggested that the cover supplied was sexier than the book, and I feared readers might be disappointed. The reply back was along the lines of "This is what sells a book, honey".  They did remove the hero's black beard since I pointed out he was blond and clean-shaven.  I got a review that said, "You call that a sex scene?" Unfortunately for readers expecting more, my sex scenes are somewhat realistic. People get interrupted by phone calls. The couple doesn't copulate for hours and hours, and sometimes don't have simultaneous explosive orgasms because sex rarely happens that way. The best I've ever done is three flames or jalapenos or whatever icon is used for heat level, though a reviewer described one of my most recent scenes as panty-melting. Well, I guess I finally went up a level though not intentionally.

Like Sophia, my aim is to provide a good story about a sport I love.  I am more interested in the lives of the players and those around them than I am on their having lots and lots of sex. Some books have more than others because it depends on the character. I always say whether I write a sports novel or one of my many other books, there is as much sex as is needed for the plot and that particular relationship. There may be only one sex scene or many.  None will be longer than two or three pages simply because I get tired of writing them. A sex scene should never take longer to read than real sex.  But, that's just me talking.  I totally respect women who want the escape of a really hot encounter.

I suggested to Sophia that she check her cover blurb and cover art and see if she could get them adjusted or toned down. Writing for a big publisher, she won't have much input. Usually, I compose my own blurbs, but the PR folks sometimes ramp them up. I also get input on my covers, but have learned to adjust my expectations because this is what sells, honey.  I have built a following for my brand of sports books. Readers who like my books find me, and they will find Sophia as well. Maybe her cover copy should compare her to Lynn Shurr.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hand Selling

     Generally, the term hand selling means a book store owner crazy about your work will bring it to the attention of a customer and convince them to buy on its merits. For those of us who are e-published or self-published, it means schlepping your books around everywhere and trying to convince stores or individuals to buy them. Currently in my hometown, I have convinced the single bookstore and two tourist attractions to carry a few of my titles--the ones without the sexy covers. Those sell well online but not face to face. The bookstore has them all, but prefers to show the ones without half-naked men as the face-out copies.Yeah, it's a conservative town. Another attraction turned me down flat and another took two sets of Mardi Gras books and sold them all, but I had to do everything from writing out an invoice to presenting and collecting the final bill, a little awkward.
       The worse part of all this, even for a very outgoing person like me, is marching into a store and trying to convince them your work isn't garbage. Most will take a few books on consignment, but you will wait and wait to get paid for them (and I'm not complaining about this-books don't sell stacked in my closet).  Profit is minimal. If the bookstore takes 40%, and you have to buy the books to place there, your return is pennies in income. But at least your books are out there, and some of the buyers might get the rest on Amazon where the royalties are somewhat better. You also have an answer for people who won't buy directly from you and say they prefer to support the local store. If only that were true and not just an "out", I am fine with that.
      Barnes & Noble lets local authors sign in their store a few times a year. You bring your own books and, they hope, your friends and relatives to buy them. Checkout is at the register. They take 40% and send a check for your share six weeks later. Again, a tiny profit but bragging rights that you've signed at B & N.
     I usually do well when I give a lecture at a library or book club and have a signing afterwards, but not always. I've put a lot of effort into events where not one book sold or on the funny side, sold one copy to three women who split the $15 cost and planned to hand it around. Just participating in a mass signing of many authors at a library which I have done a number of times--never sold a book to a stranger, though sometimes another author would buy one which covered the cost of my gas to get there. This also goes for literary festivals with dozens of authors attending. Children's book or very well known authors sell. I managed two, but got a great tan sitting outside all day in the sun. The book sales paid for my over-priced but tasty lunch at a food truck, but not my gas. Note to self: pack a lunch. Remember it is very hard to stand out in a mob, and if you are too bizarre, people walk way around you. (Not talking about myself, but I've seen some sights!)
     Locally, I do well at arts and crafts fairs and art walks where I offer note cards and some of my paintings for sale also. I have a friend who sells books and her knitted crafts. It helps to have some variety and not just books. Most people won't buy art, but they do browse and allow you a longer time to sell them one of your stories. I save my spiel for likely buyers-not mothers with kids and babies in tow. They could use a good romance, but just don't have the time to stop and buy. Lively older women are prime customers, men not so much. Teens can be excellent customers if you have something to offer them. I don't. I am devoid of dark urban fantasies, vampires, and shape shifters.
     My last crafts fair was my worst, however. Nothing sold at all between nine and noon. So many people told me they did not read or had no time for it, I began to suspect the whole town to be illiterate. At noon, it started to rain, nay, pour down along with thunder and lightning. We were given orders to pack our tents and get out (no refunds on the paid space) because of tornado warnings. Ever tried to pack a sopping tent in a storm single-handedly. A couple of my kind neighbor vendors helped me. I'd packed my books in plastic boxes and thought I had escaped without merchandise damage until I got home and found the wet tent had dripped on some sacks I'd left in the car and soaked through five copies. Call that a $100 loss if you include the gas money and booth space rental. Yes, I did pack my lunch.
      Okay, I confess I dream of the day that I will be picked up by a New York publisher who will send me boxes of my books to give away for free as review copies.and provide towers of them for signings that I didn't have to set up myself. Dream on e-pubbed author, dream on.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What's Next--You Tell Me!

As I've said before, I have so many plots rattling around in my head I won't get a chance to write all those books before I die--or at least can no longer spend four hours a day writing on a computer. Plots are everywhere from creating a contemporary romance out of my garbage collections problems (A Trashy Affair)  to spinning an historical novel of 112,000 words (Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball) out of one sentence found in A Taste of Bayou Water: "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 a tadpole." The reference was to the heroine's great-grandmother, a high-stepping flapper named Roz. For five years, I pondered Roz's story before finally writing it down.Sometimes a plot takes a long time to ripen.

Last month, I mentioned leaving my beloved Cajun Country to write a novel taking place in Maine. I'm now half finished with A Place Apart and already thinking what should I tackle next. A contract just came through for the next Sinners novel, She's a Sinner, about a female NFL player and Tom's love interest. Edits will follow shortly breaking my writing pace, but the Maine book should be finished by the end of summer if not sooner. Since The Courville Rose was turned down because its ghost character committed suicide 185 ago, I probably won't write the next two books in that series until I can find another home for The Roses series elsewhere. I had planned to do two short ones about Ty Beck and Jesse Niles.

Usually in the fall, I write a Regency novel, part of my unsold Longleigh Chronicles. Yes, I write books that might never sell. I think all authors do. But, always infused with new hope, I've sent the first of that series off to, gulp, a real New York publisher and await their decision which will come months from now. So, it is worth my time and effort to create more of these books, eight in the closet so far, or turn my attention somewhere else?

I have two ideas for single titles, A Splashy Affair, and An Ashy Affair to match with A Trashy Affair. You guessed it. Splashy Affair involves a swimmer and Ashy a fireman. The first has a rough draft, the second is still in the research stage. Other than a similarity in title, the stories really aren't connected. Of course, I can just move on to write another Sinners book, my best sellers really. I am pondering Xochi's story which isn't entirely worked out. I don't even have a title yet. Should it be called A Sinner's Sister or Sister of a Sinner? Or something else. I am open to suggestions.

So, I am leaving it up to you, my readers. Which plot should I pursue next?  I don't get a lot of comments on my blog, but do hope you will help me out.