Wednesday, March 25, 2015

That's a Good Question

Last week, I was talking to a good friend who asked what made me want to be a writer. It’s been so long since someone asked me that question that I was stumped for a minute. I’ve been a professional writer for ten years, but I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember. No joke.

In the fifth grade, I remember being so proud because my teacher taught me to use quotation marks before she taught the other students. After reading a number of my stories with undefined dialogue, she saw the need for me to learn something new to improve my writing. That was a long time ago, but it stuck with me.

In the sixth grade, I won a school district wide writing contest. My essay took first place in the division. To celebrate the honor, the school district hosted a banquet for all of the winners and I got a $50.00 gift certificate to a now defunct toy store; a gift certificate my mother made me use to buy something for my brother as well as me by the way!

In the seventh grade, I wrote a chapter book about mermaids that my English teacher liked so much she used to read it aloud to the class every day. It was also the first year I wrote a fan fiction, a genre that didn’t have a name at the time. And, get ready for this, it was the first year I incorporated sex scenes in my novels. Yes, even back then!

I wrote all through high school. My psychology teacher saw some talent and shared it with his good friend and colleague who was an English teacher. That teacher, Mr. Capriola, spent a lot of time helping me to develop a story I’d written about a young police officer who accidentally shoots a civilian child and has to deal with the fallout.

As much as I loved to write, it never occurred to me to make a career of it. I should have and I wish I would have tried sooner, but I didn’t see it as an option. I was so afraid to try something new and move beyond what I thought was safe that I didn’t think I had any options.

In college I stopped writing. I got married, had a child, had a full time job and basically got busy. There was no time to write. I wasn’t even inspired to write. Sometimes I missed it, but most of the time I didn’t think about it.

Eleven or so years ago, that changed. I don’t remember what I was doing, but one day a sentence popped into my head. I grabbed a notebook and started writing what turned out to be a scene in the middle of a novel. That had never happened before. It was a challenge to go back to the beginning and develop the plot and characters, but it sparked something. It reminded me how much I liked to write and I felt somewhat encouraged to think I wasn’t that bad.

Once I started writing again, I’ve never stopped. I love to write and I love to share my work with the world. My sales are modest and my name isn’t recognizable to many, but I’m okay with that. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to be a best-selling author and you all know that, but it’s not my primary motivation. I’d rather touch a few people with something genuine than reach the masses with something hollow. As long as I have one or two readers, I have a reason to keep going.

What made me want to be a writer? Nothing I guess. I think I was just born to write, but that’s a good question!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Let's Help Each Other Out

Anyone who knows me will tell you I am the absolute worst at promoting my books. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my writing. I just don’t know how to talk myself up. When someone asks what I write, I say romance. When someone asks what my latest book is about, I say it’s another contemporary romance. This is not going to sell books. Neither is relying on word of mouth.

As an independent author, my marketing budget is pretty small.  A few years ago, I couldn’t have even told you what a marketing plan is. I actually had to buy a book about marketing for authors to learn how to write a plausible marketing plan and that book is so old it predates social media!

Social media is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to promote anything. In fact, I can do promotion for free on my Twitter account or Face Book page, the drawback being I only reach those who have followed me or liked my page.

In an effort to expand the reach of my book marketing, I did a Face Book search to find groups for authors. Not surprisingly, I found several. I’m now a member of a book promotion group, a book marketing group, a romance and thriller writers group, a group that claims to be for any and everything about books and a group for book reviews.

I’ve recently started to notice something perplexing about these groups. Authors are posting their news but don’t seem to be truly supporting one another. They encourage people to like their page by offering to trade a like for a like. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want someone liking my page because we traded likes. So what if I show more likes and more people will see my posts? If they’re not interested in my work, they’re probably going to scroll past my posts.

So many authors are promoting their books that it doesn’t take long for a post to get buried so to speak. Authors log on to the group, post their news and just move on. They don’t seem to be taking the time to read or like other posts or discover new authors. Granted, it’s not an obligation, but nothing is free. If you want people to notice you then you have to notice them.

And do not get me started on the book review group. I’ve posted a number of requests asking for reviews of my work in exchange for a free copy only to hear nothing but chirping crickets in response. Since you’re probably wondering, yes I do respond to other authors’ requests for reviews of their work but only if I like the genre. If you’re a steampunk author, you don’t want me reading your work since I don’t like the genre, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t meet your need.

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like some authors are selfishly using social media for their own gain without giving anything in return. I do my level best to make sure I’m not one of them. Along with my own posts, I look for new authors and try to respond to review requests for genres that interest me. And when I find a new author I like, I not only like their Face Book author page and follow them on Twitter, but I use my own Twitter account to promote them to my followers.

As authors, independent authors in particular, I think we have a responsibility to support each other in this dream. So, what do you say? How about we step outside of our own world and help each other out?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Problem with Book Pricing

I’m not just a writer. I’m a reader as well. Sounds like the beginning of a bad public service announcement, but stick with me.

For my recent birthday, I asked my family to buy me a gift card for my favorite e-reader. My nineteen year old daughter came through and that day I promptly went out and bought four books in a series I’d just started reading. I then spent the remainder of the day reading those books in between spending time with my family.

At dinnertime, my kids asked me if I’d bought any books and if I’d finished them. I told them I’d bought four and finished two and was reading the third. My kids were impressed, but they didn’t need to be. The books weren’t novel length, more like novellas. And here we come to the problem I’m having, one I’ve noticed more and more lately.

I used my e-reader gift card to buy several books, most of which were priced at $4.99. I don’t have a problem paying five dollars for a book. Before the days of e-readers, you could expect to pay that much for a comic book and not a full length novel. With the inception of the e-reader, that’s changed. One of the things readers find so attractive about their e-readers is the bargain books. In fact, I have a friend who won’t buy books unless she gets a gift card. Otherwise, she only downloads the fee books. As a writer, this bothers me. As a fellow reader, I completely understand.

I have to admit, I was a little incensed to spend five dollars a book on an eighty-five page novella when I’ve downloaded free books that were three times that size. If I’m going to spend five dollars then I expect to get a meaty story, not something I can skate through in a few hours. Who’s to blame for the overinflated prices depends on who releases the novel.

Independent authors have the luxury of choosing their own asking price. However, the higher the retail price, the bigger the royalties an author will make from the sale of her book.  It would be easy to say it was good old fashioned greed that made some authors drive up their prices, but I don’t think that’s fair. Writing is a business and like any other business, it comes with costs. There’s the cost of paying for your website and its upkeep, the cost of promoting your work, the cost of paying a cover artist or formatting and so on.  If the royalties aren’t high enough, the author won’t turn a profit so it’s easy to understand the higher prices.

Authors who have signed a contract with a publisher have no say over the sale price. That’s determined by the publisher who not only has business expenses to pay but has to pay royalties to the author. The reason for the publisher setting higher prices is virtually identical to that of the indie author, particularly for small publishers who struggle to stay afloat.

As a writer, I understand all of this. As a reader, I can’t help feeling cheated when I spend five dollars to read a novel no bigger than that of the average comic book. I want to get my money’s worth and I don’t always feel like I do.

I don’t know what the solution is and maybe I’m the only one who truly has a problem with this. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that I have a problem with pricing. As long as I continue to be an indie author releasing my novels on my own, the prices will always be reasonable enough that readers don’t feel cheated.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An Author's Birthday Wish

My birthday is almost here. In a few short days, I’ll be turning forty-one. I say that with pride because I’m enjoying my forties. Besides, they say forty is the new twenty so if you think about it, I’m only turning twenty-one!

Every year, the approach of my birthday follows a distinct pattern. It starts with my younger daughter reminding me about one month in advance that my birthday is coming up. She then proceeds to spend the next few weeks repeatedly asking me what I want. I drive her crazy with my typical mom answers: I don’t want anything, I want you and your sister to be happy, I want Daddy to take the money he plans to spend on my birthday and pay our taxes instead and so on.

One to two weeks before the big day, my husband starts asking what I want. And of course he has to remind me to ask for something for me and not for the kids. He also asks if I want to go out to eat or have him cook me a meal. I usually respond by either giving him ideas far too extravagant to make a reality or I throw out a bunch of little gift ideas of things I could honestly get for myself anytime.

This year, there is only one thing I want. My husband and my kids can’t give it to me, but my awesome readers can. The best part of all is that it would cost less than three dollars and it’s the one gift that would make me happiest to receive. Any guesses?

If you said, I want to be on either the NY Times or USA Today bestseller list then you know me well. That’s all I want, all I’ve ever wanted. I would love to see my name on one or both of those lists alongside some of my favorite authors. I’d love to get that kind of validation for my years of effort. And I would sure love to be able to put NY Times or USA Today bestselling author on the cover of all of my subsequent books.

So, if you were looking for a birthday gift for me, look no further. You don’t need to buy me anything. Spend 99 cents on any of my Time for Love books and help me make my bestseller dreams a reality. If you’re feeling especially generous, you can buy all three of the Time for Love books. Each book is only 99 cents, so you’re still spending less than three dollars.  Just in case you’re actually interested in taking me up on this offer, here’s a link to purchase any or all of my books: 

Thanks again and I’ll let you know how this turns out!