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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Magical Mondays on a Thursday Evening

In the realm of "you never know what life will bring", I found this video last night. 

It's JK Rowling just after she finished writing the second Harry Potter which hadn't come out yet, and she was working on the third.  What I loved most was her excitement when she says (speaking of the first book the year it was out) "I sold 30,000 books in the UK which was just phenomenal." :)

Little did she know she'd be selling about that many per day just a few years later.  Enjoy and be inspired. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Books by the Numbers

There is a persistent belief that if you go indie, you'll never sell much. They say people like Amanda Hocking, Zoe Winters, JA Konrath, Tina Folsom, etc. are just "lucky" and the fact that they are now making a living with their indie books is a fluke. Ok, yes, they've gotten lucky - the luck that comes with writing a great story, being enthusiastic, learning what you need to know, believing in yourself, and taking a chance. The luck that is defined as "preparation meets opportunity."

Someone else whose "luck" is increasing due to the same formula, is my blogosphere pal, Edie Ramer.  She just sold 1000 books on Kindle this past month and I couldn't be happier for her.  I fully expect that as more people read her books (which are fabulous, by the way - I LOVED "Dragon Blues") those figures will increase and she will soon be making a living wage at it herself.

My former critique partner, Amber Scott, is also doing amazingly well. Like Edie and Zoe, Amber's enthusiasm and passion for what she's doing is carrying her far. In fact, I recently told her she is my hero right now because I remember clearly the first time we met in Barnes & Noble. Neither of us had been published, both were very shy - she, exceedingly so - but were having fun trying to make something of what we had. Now that formerly shy young woman is burning up the internet with her podcasts, vblogs, interviews, presentations, panels, you name it, and her book "PlayFling" was in Smashwords top 20 for weeks.  And I fully expect her next book, Fierce Dawn, to do really well. Go, Amber!

Now, as for me, I didn't really have very high expectations venturing into the Indie Arena. I had seen how badly things turned out for my grandfather when he self-published (in the days before Kindle), and I've read all the caveats (even by successful indie authors) that say don't get your  hopes up too much in the beginning. And of course, there is still some stigma attached to it. But I was willing to try it, to see how it went.

Since "Unmasked" is a re-release of an older novella--as well as a bit niche in its audience*--I didn't do any promotion except to mention it a couple of times on my blog, Facebook and Twitter.  I put it out there to see what would happen, and to test the waters of this Kindle publishing thing.

To my surprise, I've already sold more copies in the past month than I did the whole time it was with its original publisher, and I'm within 15 copies of matching my first month's sales of "Managing Maggie" at Cobblestone Press - and MM was their bestseller for that month.  (At first, I thought I had surpassed the sales figure, but when I looked up my royalty statement from last year, saw that I'm almost there.) Fingers crossed that I can match it in the next three days, but even if I don't, I've still been pleasantly surprised.

"Unmasked" started out ranking at around #1 million something, then got to around #300,000 the first few days, peaking so far at around 20,000 in the US, but generally ranking between 25 and 40K.  I was a bit discouraged by that number until I bought the most recent book by a well-known, traditionally pub'd  author that I like a lot, and hers was ranked at #36,000+ that day.  But about an hour ago, I just found out to my surprise that "Unmasked" was #36 on the Amazon UK's list for bisexual erotica - I broke into a top 100!  Who knew?!

Now, in reality, the number of sales this month aren't going to pay my rent (especially with Unmasked now priced at 99cents), but even so - color me hooked!  Being able to control whether and when my story gets put for sale was so liberating and empowering. Now I'm asking myself, "If my first niche novella that I've hardly promoted at all can do this, what might happen if I promoted a book that has a wider audience range -- one that I'm also very enthusiastic about?"

That will my next experiment.  I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

Meanwhile, I know Charles Gramlich, Avery DeBow, Sidney Williams, Marcia Colette, and Steve Malley have all also tried the indie route recently - any of you want to share your experience so far? :)

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*When I first wrote Unmasked back in 2006, it was in response to a call from a publisher looking to fill slots for an erotic anthology about a masquerade ball held by the gods. In researching the editor, I discovered she really liked male/female/female menages, so I wrote a story with that in mind and sent it to her. Two morals to that story: One, if you want to have someone else publish your books, research the editor; and two, even if your book has a limited audience, that doesn't mean it has NO audience, so don't give up!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cat Burglars and Covers

First of all, you may have noticed the slide show with your book covers has disappeared from the top of the page. That's not because I stopped loving you, but because Amazon cancelled all the affiliate accounts of people in Illinois due to some new tax law.  I'll add something else to point people to your great books later. :)

While you're waiting for that, let me tell you about our cat, Macy.  She has the bad habit of opening every drawer and cabinet she comes in contact with to examine the contents - she's worse than a toddler.  She goes through the kitchen cabinets and drawers at least once a day in search of food and entertainment.  One day, she pulled out all the pot holders and dish towels from a drawer and dumped them on the floor. The other cat promptly came over and peed on them. 

And my daughter wonders why I want to give them away...

This morning I got up, went to the kitchen, and saw that she had discovered there was actually a drawer under the stove she hadn't seen before.  This is a heavy, metal drawer full of pots and pans, but she somehow managed to get it open and sifted through my pans.  What was she doing?  Baking cupcakes?  Loaning the pizza pan to the neighbors?

Tonight, I think I'll post a sign on my door: "Cat burglars welcome. Steal my cats, please!" 
Of course, Macy might slip the muffin tin under her arm as she goes...

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Now, on an unrelated note (or related, since I did say "cats and covers"), in keeping with the 10 day overcome writer's block program, I've been bribing the right side of my brain with treats for writing.  For example, 20 minutes of writing = 20 minutes of something fun.  Tonight my reward was to play with making a cover for my WIP - a book unlike anything you've read from me so far - this one probably won't even have a single sex scene in it. ;)  It's more of an action/adventure with strong romantic elements.

Anyway, here is the result, and I kind of like it.  Of course, it's subject to change once the book is actually finished, but the right side of the brain had a good time, and it inspired me to keep writing.  (Oh, and I did another different sort of cover for my friend, Mark Diehl, whose drugs/guns/horror book will be released soon - you can find it on the Digital Art page - and if the cover I mention above doesn't show ((it keeps disappearing)), I'm going to try to add it to that page as well.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lies We Tell Ourselves

You're not good enough...You have nothing to say...You'll never finish this, because you never finish anything...You lack what it takes to follow through...You should give up now because you're wasting your time...No one will ever read this...

And so on.

Vicious, nasty inner critics that have paralyzed my writing for days, weeks, sometimes even years.  All based on one thing:  Fear.  Fear I'll never get published; fear that I will.  Fear no one will read it; fear someone will.  Fear it will be bad; fear it will be good.  You name the inner conflict, I've felt it.  And apparently, I'm not alone.

I've just finished reading a book on overcoming writer's block by Karen Peterson called "Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period."  In it, she promotes the idea that the left and right sides of our brains put out conflicting information when we're afraid of something, and gives some exercises to help figure out how to get around that, such as writing and answering certain questions using first our dominant hand, then the non-dominant hand to see where the conflict might lie.  She also gave lists of things to check off, using alternating hands.

I really didn't expect to see different answers for the questions, but was astounded when I did the exercises: my left hand really didn't know what my right hand was doing!

For example, for months I've been plagued by the thought that I have nothing to say, therefore, I shouldn't write (not even blog - that's a big reason why my blogging has been so sporadic.)  But when I checked off the lists of questions that included "I have nothing to say" and "I have so much to say I don't know where to start" I actually checked both - each with a different hand, and didn't realize it.

Using more information from the book, I delved a little deeper into that conflict, and realized that in fact, I have a LOT to say, but have been terrified of saying it; which is why for almost a year, I haven't said much of anything.  I also realized where the source of that fear came from and have been able to smack it down.

It was quite an interesting exercise.  I have a way to go yet, but found it helpful.

Meanwhile, to deal with that critic who keeps telling me I can never finish anything, I also took a long look through my hard drive. Yes, I did find 22 incomplete manuscripts.  But I also found 11 completed.  "Hah! Take THAT, inner critic!"  Obviously, I can write a story from beginning to end.

Then on to the next lie: "You'll never get published and no one will ever read/like what you've written."  For some reason, that's been a persistent belief, until I realized that I've only ever submitted 3 stories, and all three were published, and all three had strangers write to say they enjoyed them.

So, roll up your sleeves, it's time for the inner critic smackdown!  Kick those doubters to the curb!  What lies has your inner critic told you that you were able to prove wrong?  And didn't you feel like Rocky when you knocked them out? :)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

You've waited all year, and now it's here - Read an EBook Week!

Ok, maybe you haven't been waiting all year. But if not, why not?  Ebooks are great!  I'll admit, I was a skeptic, too, but they won me over. AND, I don't even have an e-reader. If I ever get one, though, I'm afraid my book store days will be over, except for rare occasions. That's a little sad, but there you have it.  You just can't beat the convenience, the price (well, with indies and the small pubs, at least), not to mention being able to carry your whole library with you at any time.

So, in honor of "Unmasked" now being up on Amazon Kindle (soon to be out in Barnes & Noble's Nook), and National Read an Ebook Week starting today, I put up a slideshow of some of my friends' ebooks, as well as just a few others that I've enjoyed - all with helpful links to take you to their pages on Amazon.

Try one!  Any one!  I'd love to hear about your experience with them.