Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mythbusting, The Writer's Edition

Before I even learned to write, I was a storyteller. As soon as I learned to write, I turned that in to a dream of wanting to be a writer. I'm probably going to date myself here, but I wanted to be the next Judy Blume or Lurlene McDaniel or even SE Hinton.

There are a lot of myths associated with being a writer, things that well-meaning people tell you. People think they know what it means to be a writer, but if you aren't one, you may not know the truth. I'm here to tell it to you. Here they are, in no particular order, the myths and the truth about being a writer.

1) Writing a good book is enough.
Sadly, this is not the case. It's certainly the first step, but it doesn't guarantee that your book will be published or that it will sell well if it is published.

2) Only self-published writers need to worry about book promotion.
Nope this is not the case. Many publishers require prospective authors to submit a marketing plan along with their manuscript. Even big name publishers won't invest much, if any, in their lesser known authors. They save their budget for the big boys and girls with a proven track record for stellar sales.

3) You're going to be a best selling author.
Believe it or not, this is harder than it sounds. Again, writing a good book is only the beginning. You have to find a way to get that good book into the hands of your readers. It's rare for most authors to be best sellers with their debut novel. It usually takes time for us to build a following.

4) You're going to be famous.
Some writers are but not all of us will. I've been writing for thirteen years, and I have yet to be recognized by an adoring member of the public. I have had readers reach out to me and express their excitement when I actually respond, and that still floors me. Those few incidents aside, I have yet to be out shopping and be recognized for being a writer.

5) You're going to have a ton of fans.
That's true for some of us, but it's not common. It also depends on the genre of your book. Authors who write in the more popular genres seem to have an easier time amassing fans. For the rest of us, we're more likely to have a small contingency of loyal fans who snap up everything we write and then post glowing reviews online. I love those people. They are the reason I keep writing even when I feel discouraged.

6) Having a widespread social media presence will increase your book sales.
It's not working for me. Now, I'll be honest, I don't take advantage of every social media forum. The truth is I just don't have the time. I currently have a Facebook page, a Twitter and Instagram account and a blog and a website, all of which I try to regularly update. My book sales don't change. No clue why. Maybe my social media posts aren't that interesting.

7) If readers like your book, they will write an Amazon review.
Your die hard fans will do this for you because they love you and they know how much this means to you. A majority of readers will not. They think buying the book and liking it is enough, but here's the thing. Book reviews are warm fuzzies, and if you don't post those reviews then I don't have any way of knowing how much you liked my book.

8) You should write a blog.
I've been blogging for a few years now. A fellow author strongly encouraged me to do it as a way to connect with my readers. I'm sure a few people are reading it, but it's rare that people comment on my blog posts or share my blog on their social media.

9) You should tweet incessantly about your book to generate more interest and sales.
You can, but it's probably not going to do any good. I don't know about you, but I follow a lot of people on Twitter. It doesn't take much for my twitter page to fill up and for tweets to bury one another. I'd have to tweet all day, every day to make a difference. Even then, would it work? Would you be more likely to buy my book because I tweeted about it?

10) Giveaways are a good way to generate interest in your books.
No, they're a good way to generate interest in free stuff. People will happily like, share, retweet or whatever you ask for a chance to win that gift card or coffee mug. That doesn't mean they are going to be so moved by your generosity that they buy your books.

11) Your books are good enough to be made into movies or a TV series.
They might be. This happens to a lot of books. It also happens a lot less than you'd think considering the sheer number of books that are published every year.

12) If your book is good, you could be part of Oprah's book club.
I'm not sure if Oprah still has a book club, but she did when I started out. I can't tell you how many times I heard friends and family tell me I needed to get on Oprah's book club. Sounds good. When you figure out how I can do that, you let me know.

It occurs to me, I could probably go on and on, but I think that's enough for now. Don't get me wrong. I love being a writer, and I'm happy with it. I just wish someone would have busted some of these myths for me before I started down this career path. It might have been less of a shock, but it wouldn't have stopped me from trying.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Now What?

When I find an author that's new to me, if I like the book I read, I'll go in search of everything else she wrote so I can read that as well. This can be a little discouraging when it turns out the book I just read is the author's latest or first release in a series and the next one isn't out yet.

Even though I'm a writer, I will freely admit that I am guilty of being impatient. I look at the book sitting in the new release section for a month or so, and I start doing a mental toe tapping and thinking it's time for the next book. Of course, as a writer, I know better than anyone it's not possible to release books in rapid succession. Well,  not unless you've already got several of the books written and ready to go, which most writers don't.

That being said, it occurred to me that I need to give you an update on what's next for me. It's been two weeks since Going Even Wilder was released. Going Even Wilder is a kindle world novella, the second I've done in the last year. So, now what?

My next book will actually be out in November. It's a romantic suspense novella entitled Missing Out that's part of the Chandler County series. It's currently in the editing stage and then will be sent for formatting. It will be available in preorder in September.

While Missing Out is being edited, I've already gotten started on my next book. The Truth Inside will be the first book in my New Beginnings new adult series, and I've got good news. There are currently six books planned for my New Beginnings series, but it's more likely to stretch to ten or more, provided you enjoy the first few.

Next year, I am also going to join the Romance Writers Association. You want to know this because it means I might be able to start doing author appearances. I don't do them now because I don't know about these conventions and events until it's too late. Being part of the RWA will change that, and I am excited about the possibilty of meeting my readers. It's always so humbling to hear that people like my books.

There you have it. New books and a new series are on the horizon, and I can't wait to share it all with all of you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Not My Bad, Review That Is

Even if you don't follow any of my other social media, as a regular reader of this blog, you know how much book reviews mean to me. You have often heard me asking for them, begging even, and assuring you that a review doesn't have to be dissertation length. A simple one liner means as much as an essay. The point  isn't how long the review is. It's that you cared enough about the book to write it.

You're probably wondering if I write as many reviews for other authors as I beg to be written for my books. The truth is that I don't, but I have a good reason.

As an author, I know the blood, sweat and tears, the time and effort, that goes in to writing a book. I know how much an author's book means to her and how nerve wracking it is to find the courage to share that book with the world. I not only know how soul crushing a bad review can be, I can't in good conscience put down a peer by writing a bad review. If I read a book that doesn't appeal to me, I simply don't write the review.

From a reader's standpoint, I probably should. Some readers make a point to read reviews before deciding whether or not to buy a book. I don't want to warn anyone off. Doing that can cause the loss of a sale which affects an author's livelihood. One man's trash and all that.

There are some authors who read every one of their reviews and some who don't read any. Some of us lose sleep over one bad review, ignoring all of the good ones surrounding it while others just lift the proverbial finger in its direction. Many of us do one or more of these things, but some of us do one other important thing.

We read our reviews and use them as a means to improve our craft. Those honest reviews, though sometimes brutal, can be as valuable as the glowing five star reviews that proclaim we can write no wrong.

I know this, but I just can't do it. I can't write a review telling a fellow author how they got it wrong. If I was just a regular reader, I'm sure I could, but I feel a responsibility to support other authors. The good news is that I feel just as strongly about writing good reviews for my peers because they deserve to know their hard work is appreciated.

There you have it. The not so ugly truth. As long as I'm a writer, I won't write reviews that trash the books of other writers.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Going Back to Sapphire Falls

Last year, I was beyond excited when best selling romance author Erin Nicholas invited me to release a book in her Sapphire Falls kindle world. The book, released last October, has been well received.

Recently, I got a chance to write another book in this fabulous series, and I didn't hesitate to jump on it. Several authors from the prior releases joined me in adding new books to the collection, making it even more fun.

I'm happy to say that, Going Even Wilder, my second Sapphire Falls kindle world book released today. Like the last book, it's a novella. This one is shorter than the last one, but these are meant to be short books. The longer the books, the higher the price point which can be less appealing to fans.

Going Even Wilder is a follow up to my first Sapphire Falls book, Going for Wilder. In the first book, piano teacher, Jillian Somers, is bound and determined to get her childhood sweetheart, Jackson Wilder, to admit he still has feelings for her. Flash forward eight months to Going Even Wilder. Jack and Jill are back and this time wedding bells are in the air. Or rather they would be if Jackson would just propose to Jillian already. When Jillian decides Jackson's not moving fast enough on the proposal, she takes matters into her own hands and the hilarity ensues.

I had as much fun writing Going Even Wilder as I did Going for Wilder. I can only hope I did justice to the spirit of the amazing world created by Erin Nicholas who is one of my author idols.

With Going Even Wilder, I'm headed back to Sapphire Falls. If you want to join me, the cost of the trip is just $1.99 for the e-book. Hope I see you there!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thanks Teddy Roosevelt!

I'm not just an author. I have a day job. My day job often sends its employees to training seminars in the name of making us better. Yesterday, I went to what amounted to a leadership development training. Naturally, the facilitator had a power point presentation. One of his slides was this quote from Theodore Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy.

As soon as I read that, I had one of those a-ha moments, but it wasn't related to my day job. It was centered around my writing. I realized just how much I compare myself to other writers.

Every time I shop for e-books, I'm looking at the covers. Sometimes, I'm thinking I love a cover and how much I'd love to have it on one of my books. Other times, I'm happy that my covers are better and I'm grateful to my graphic artist.

The big thing I do when I shop for other books is look at the reviews. When I see a writer with more than twenty reviews, I'm immediately jealous. I wish I had that many reviews. I wonder what the author did, other than write an amazing novel, to encourage readers to leave a review. I start thinking about all the ways I can get more reviews and wondering if I can make it happen.

When I crack open a book and start reading, one of two things always happens. I either find myself rewriting it in my mind as I would have written it if I were the author, or I wish I'd been clever and creative enough to come up with such a stellar book.

Every month, I get a report of my book sales for the prior month. My sales are steady, but there is no way I could support myself on my royalties. I see that report, and I start thinking about my peers. Some of them share what they make on their social media. If a peer makes more than me, I start to wonder why and how I can make more money, aside from writing better or more books.

Whenever I see a book on a best seller list, it pulls one of two reactions from me. If the book is really good, I wish that my writing was on par with the other author so I could also be a best seller. If the book isn't as good as I think a best seller should be, the green-eyed monster rears its head. This is especially true when the other book is full of errors or just plain weird. I always go on a private little rant about how it doesn't make sense that a book about alligator shape shifters can be a best seller, but my contemporary romance about a Marine suffering from PTSD barely registers on the radar.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Yesterday, I read this quote and I immediately understood just how true it is. By focusing so much on my fellow writers and trying to live up to them, I'm causing myself undue stress. I would not be surprised if that stress was carrying over to my writing and affecting its quality. I can also say without a shadow of a doubt that comparing myself to my peers often results in me second guessing my talent and ability and wondering if I should just give up. All because I'm so busy wondering what others are doing that I'm not putting my energy where it belongs, on my own writing.

I can't promise I'm going to quit my comparison addiction cold turkey, but I know it's not doing me any good. And I owe that knowledge to Teddy Roosevelt. Well, him and the trainer who introduced me to the quote. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Does Size Really Matter?

Last year, I was invited to participate in a Kindle Worlds release with several other romance writers. Until I received that invitation, I had never heard of Kindle Worlds. It's basically a fan fiction forum. Authors who write in this world are using the characters and settings of the primary author. Considering the person who invited me to participate was Erin Nicholas, one of the best contemporary romance authors ever, I didn't hesitate to say yes.

I have since learned that you don't have to be invited to write a story for these worlds. You can write and submit a story as long as you follow the publishing guidelines.

Several of the authors who were part of last year's Sapphire Falls Kindle World release have decided to do a release in July. With as much fun as I had with the last one, I agreed to be one of these authors, but I have a problem; a big one.

The story has to be a minimum of thirty thousand words to be accepted.

When I write, I don't focus on word or page counts. I just write. Some of my books end up being longer than others. For those shorter novels, I adjust the price accordingly.

Here's the thing with my July Sapphire Falls release. It's a continuation of the story I wrote last year. My story last year topped out at over forty thousand words. This one is just under thirty-one thousand words. While that meets the criteria, I'm concerned.

Thirty-one thousand words will translate to approximately seventy e-book pages, and here's where I'm worried. Is that too short? Do readers want something longer, or is this novella going to be enough? Should I go back in and fluff it up or trust that it's what it should be?

So many questions. As a reader, I don't mind shorter stories, but I want to see it reflected in the price. Nothing irritates me more than a writer offering a twenty-five page story for $2.99 or more. To me, that's the equivalent of a restaurant charging for a glass of water. It should be free, and so should short stories, unless they're part of an anthology.

My inclination is to beef up the story, but I'm resisting. I've already written three drafts and the third one has been fully edited. I think I'm going to trust the story to stand up as is. Let's just hope that size doesn't really matter. Does it? 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Finish What You Started

When I first started writing, all of my stories were stand alone novels. It never occurred to me to write a series. As a reader, I also don't recall reading a lot of serials growing up. I can think of a few, but I'm not going to tell you what they are so you don't realize how old I am!

A few years ago, I took my first young adult novel to Wattpad. Like You Mean It was a stand alone young adult novel about a popular teen who loses his arm in a car accident and has to learn to navigate life and relationships.

It never occurred to me to make the book a series. Not until I took it to Wattpad. As soon as the last chapter was posted, I was inundated with readers' requests for more of those characters. Not quite sure what else to do with Danni and Darren, I decided a spin off story for Darren's brother was in order. That series spawned two more series. Each set of books introduced new characters that readers wanted more of so I responded to the call of the readers as well as my muse.

Now, it's pretty common for books to be part of a series. Most of us not only expect it, we look forward to it. The more books there are, the more emotionally invested in the characters we are. I don't know about you, but every time a new book in a series comes out, I brush up on the story line by rereading all of the preceding books.

I love when books are in a series. You know what I don't love? Actually, I guess there are two things I don't love when it comes to a book series. The first isn't as offensive to me as the second.

First, I can't stand it when a writer starts a series and puts huge gaps in between the release dates of the books. The days of waiting a year for the next book in a series died when Harry Potter finally defeated Voldemort. I'm not saying I want a book a month, though it's nice. I just don't want to wait months and months between the book releases. Not without a good reason. Of course, there is one exception to this. If the book series is long, say ten or twelve books, it may take a couple of years to get from book one to twelve. That's okay, but taking two years to get from book one to book two because the author lost her inspiration? That's just wrong!

The second thing I can't stand, and I mean I hate it with a purple passion, is when a writer starts a series and never freaking finishes it. There are one or two or maybe even three awesome books with more promised only nothing more ever comes. Any number of things can be to blame: the book didn't sell as well as expected so the publisher doesn't want any more of the series, the author loses her inspiration, the author gets a better idea and shoves the original series to the side and so on.

Authors, if you want to work on more than one series at a time, that's okay. As a reader, the more I can get from my favorite authors, the happier I am. I just have one request. If you start a series, and you tell readers it's going to be a series, please, please finish what you started; especially if you ended the last book on a damn cliffhanger.