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Topics - Usedtoposthere

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Writers' Cafe / Book stuffing, bonus books redux--Amazon official reply
« on: August 03, 2017, 10:58:49 am »
I received this this morning from Executive Customer Relations after a rep bumped my question to the Content department. It actually sounds very clear, and not as canned as usual. This is the most direct and unambiguous answer I've read to date. It also gives you a helpful place to report books that are violating the terms & conditions in this way, should you want to do that. (I don't report other than in general terms. Mostly because I don't want to spend my time looking at people's stuffed books and so forth. Makes me mad to no purpose.)

If you're one of the "I'm a book stuffer and I'm proud!" group that's been insisting this practice is A-OK--it doesn't look like Amazon thinks so. Could well be that they'll never come down on your for it; heaven knows they're inconsistent. But you may want to be aware of what their policy is.

Not my job to convince anybody; just sharing.

[From Executive Customer Relations]

Hello [my name],

Thank you for your questions about bonus content. Generally, bonus content is permitted, so long as it and its placement do not create a misleading or disappointing customer experience, this applies to all books including books enrolled in KU.

To your specific example, authors are not permitted to publish the same work multiple times with only minor changes or a reordering of content, regardless of whether the book includes bonus content. When we determine authors are publishing undifferentiated titles like this, the titles are subject to removal from the Kindle store and the author is subject to potential account-level action.

If you have other examples you would like us to look into, please send them to [email protected]

The italicized part seems unambiguous to me, though I'm sure somebody will beg to differ. I'm not the content police and I don't spend my time thinking about what Amazon "should" do (a fruitless exercise if there ever was one), or arguing about what things "mean" (doesn't matter what we think, only matters what Amazon thinks), so I won't wade in anymore here.

Writers' Cafe / What makes a 100k author?
« on: June 08, 2017, 09:31:45 am »
A survey by Writtn Word Media on what makes a 100k author. Interesting in light of some perennial discussions here.

I will point out that these are general statistics, and of course anybody can point to Author X who does her own covers or Author Y who made it to 100k on two or three books. (Or one.) I personally fall on the "wrong" side of about half of them. But it's a good basic list of commonalities. Most of it will seem like common sense, but it's good to see it laid out.

In brief: (but the article has cool graphs and much more info)

1. Time. 100k authors have generally been writing longer--3+ years.

2. Indie: most 100k authors answering were indie or hybrid. (Of course we can all point to megawatt tradpubbed folks. Again, general rule.)

3. Wide or KU isn't a divider--100k people can be either.

4. Covers: pro covers. $100-1000 in general.

5. Editing: pro editing, mostly $250-1000.

6. Paid marketing.

7. Less likely to have a day job. (Obviously)

8. Work more hours and have more books out.

(Me again.) I've been interested lately in the divide between people who do well for a while and the people who keep doing well after 5, 10, 15 years as this industry keeps changing. The big things I see are

1. Continuing to work hard and get books out. Lots of people do well then sort of stop or slow way down.

2. Smart decisions and calculated risk taking: venturing into other media and platforms, new series, new subgenres or genres to build an audience.

3. Adapting to the market. I don't see some of the big names anymore who were killing it with very short stuff for KU1. Other folks shifted with the market. Still others (I'd be one of those) write less trendy and create their own market in a way. People like Jana DeLeon and Penny Reid--two authors I admire who've done things very much their way and succeeded hugely.

4. Strong voice and author brand.

I'm sure other people can think of things I've missed. Interesting to think about.

Cross-posted from another thread, because this comes up in just about every thread about romance.

"Romance is fantasy"
"Happily ever after is unrealistic"

 How about some information and statistics?

1) Divorce rates in the US are falling. If current trends continue, three-quarters of all marriages will last.

Yep. For couples marrying now, marriage is "forever" for about 70% of them.

2) How many of these people are truly happily married, though? Studies say 60% of married Americans describe themselves as "very happily" married.
(Note they're presenting this as a negative because it's "only" 60%)

Does that mean they never ever have any problems? Not in the books I write. They're people. They have issues that come up before they're married, and they will have issues come up after they're married. But you know who's most likely to stay married? People who trust each other, like each other as people, bring out the best in each other, can work through their differences and communicate honestly, and can also communicate intimately--have mutually satisfying sex. You know--like they do in a good romance. (There are many articles about this--Google predictors of marriage success. But here's one:

So: 70 percent of US marriages last forever. Sixty percent of married people are very happily married.

The reason the rate gets skewed is that second and subsequent marriages are much less likely to last. But still, well over half of ALL marriages last forever, and the divorce rate is dropping. The better educated and wealthier are much less likely to divorce, so your average romance novel couple (who tend to be better educated and on the upside of that wealth curve) are probably in pretty good shape.

3) Oh, and that 80-year longevity study of happiness, the Harvard study? Guess what the #1 predictor of happiness is? Yep. Close relationships. In particular, marriage.

So if folks could stop coming onto romance threads and telling us that romance is "unrealistic" as a genre because HEA is "a fantasy," I'd be most grateful, and I'm sure I speak for many of my fellow romance authors.

HEA is real. "Bliss forever" isn't real, but then, that's not what I write.

So go on. Write your happily ever after. Write a couple who can celebrate the good times and hold each other through the bad times. I've had that in my life for 35 years. I've seen it around me as long as I've been alive. It's no more an unrealistic goal than, say, losing 30 pounds or running a marathon. If you take the right steps, you bet you can do it. And so can your romance-novel couple. That's what's so wonderful about it. We get to SHOW them taking the right steps. We get to write a happily ever after a reader can believe in.

And that's a pretty wonderful job to have. Kinda like working in Labor and Delivery. Miracles happen every day. Sadness is real, but so is joy. So is happiness.

Writers' Cafe / Try, try again (agents can be WRONG)
« on: January 22, 2017, 05:30:58 pm »
So I'm procrastinating at the moment as I try to finish my 21st or 22nd novel (can't remember). I'm a couple days out. Anyway ... something made me click on the email folder entitled "Agents and Editors." I clicked down it and read all the rejection letters. A total of 38: in other words, all the 50 I submitted to, minus the ones who didn't even answer. Reading them over, my breath shortened and my heart sank just as they did then.

This was almost five years ago. I'd written this book, my very first fiction, and I was writing the second one. I didn't know anything about publishing. I read up and found the various agent query sites, and started sending my query around for my first book.

Now, I spent 10 years s a copywriter, among other things. I had a good blurb. I had what I thought was a very hooky story.

Everybody said no. For three or four months. I'd worked through all the "possible" agents. I was finishing the third book. Life happened, reminding me that none of us knows how long we'll have. I said the heck with it and self-published the first three books. $300 investment in 3 covers.


So why am I typing this? What's new about this story?

This is the email I got this week.

Dear Rosalind,

Congratulations! Your title "Auszeit in Neuseeland" has been sold over 30.000 copies in Germany!
We would like to thank you for being such a great partner! We are so happy about all the success you have had so far, and all the success to come.

A little gift is on its way to you to celebrate this success.

All best from Munich,

Your Amazon Crossing Team

So what is that? It's selling 30,000 copies of that same first book that all those agents rejected.


Boy, am I dying to forward that letter to all those agents. I'm not petty. Much.

By the way? The audiobook was also nominated for an Audie in romance.

(And I do have an agent now. One of the ones who rejected me then.)

I'm just saying. If you think you have a great book, if people whose opinions you trust are telling you that you have a great book ... try and see. Present it the screamin' best you possibly can--professional-quality cover, blurb, and editing. Put it out there. Do everything you can to get eyeballs on it.

Because you never know.

Writers' Cafe / On a lighter about THIS goof?
« on: September 22, 2016, 09:05:29 am »
So I put up a new book, new series for preorder yesterday. Really excited about it. Prepared my newsletter and sent it to everybody at 5 AM today. Yay!
Except I started getting emails from people in other countries: "I WANT to preorder, but it's not available in my country!"


Come to find out, I had MISSPELLED MY NAME on KDP. Yes, I had. So they searched by my name or went to my author page, and . . . no new book!

Cue second newsletter.

Proof that I need somebody walking behind me with the broom and shovel to clean up.

Thought you all might appreciate that.


On September 1, 2012, I held my breath and pushed the KDP "Publish" button for the first time, and sent off my first three books into the world.

I had never read a craft book or taken a writing class. My first book was my first fiction. I started writing it, and it just--boom. Felt like I'd found what I was born to do, 50 years AFTER I was born. I thought the books were pretty good, but, man, I really had no idea.

Boy, was I nervous. I just prayed I wouldn't crash and burn, and hoped in my wildest dreams that I'd make back my $1,400 investment by Christmas.

It took 10 days.

So it's been four years. In that time, I've written 20 books (about 2 million words in all--average length about 100K). I've sold (or had borrowed) about 700,000 books in ebook, audio, German ebook, and print (very few there!). I've made $1.43 million dollars [edited; I added wrong], and in 2016, for the first time, I should crack the $500K/year mark. This past year, I wrote 600,000 edited words--another personal record.

So--yeah. That's not bad. And yet...and yet. I still compare myself to other, better-selling authors all the time. I still hear that it's much more profitable to write 50K or 70K books, which I could get out there every month or six weeks, instead of every two and a half or three months. I still hear advice about studying the market and dissecting books and writing to trend, and wonder, "Should I do that?"

And still...what I actually DO, always, is write exactly what I want to write. I still need a few weeks between books to think up the new one. I still write in three or four subgenres in romance instead of sticking to one thing, with not always optimal results sales-wise. I still jump around in series instead of dancing with the one what brung me. I still write 2K to 8K a day instead of 10K, because I edit extremely heavily as I go, and I go back over and over my work to polish it. I'm a little faster than I used to be--writing a 100K book still takes about six weeks, as it did from the start, but editing has gone from a month to a week. But I don't use any techniques to get faster. I'm still in Select and not wide. I've still never put a nekkid manchest on one of my covers.

Basically, "artist me" wins every time. (Though I feel pretty uncomfortable with that "artist" label--call it "craftsman me.") What I want above all else is to learn and grow and try new things and take risks, as uncomfortable and scary as it is. Fortunately, I have some readers who will read me across subgenres and series, and my sales stay fairly steady over time; my early books still sell. So--it's a different way to "do" a career, but it's not bad.

I'm still struggling to accept that doing it my way probably means never cracking the really big time. I'll say I want to, but I'll start that new series anyway. Because I don't need a million dollars a year. I NEED the creative fulfillment of meeting that challenge, of pushing that new boundary, of writing in first person or writing a mystery that really works. Whatever it is.

I think my way "works," inasmuch as it does, because I do understand at a fundamental level what readers in my genre are reading for. It's not really "about" billionaires, stepbrothers, bear shifters, rock stars, or motorcycle guys. (Which is lucky for me.) It's about escape, and fun, and above all else, emotion. It's about believing in these people, feeling with these people. It's about being taken for a ride, even if that's not a bumpy rollercoaster one (I tend to write at the lower-drama end of the scale).

There are lots of readers out there. Figure out what your genre's readers really want, underneath the surface trappings, and satisfy that need. You might never hit seven figures a year, but maybe you'll get to spend a few months in New Zealand every year. And that's pretty nice.

Writers' Cafe / The problem with female protagonists
« on: August 06, 2016, 05:56:28 pm »
Because the discussion went so well last time . . .

What do studies REALLY say about how well people judge the number of books they read with female vs. male protagonists? How about how much women talk compared to men? And how much talking "about" women is too much? (Not talking about them sexually, that is.)

Well, here are a few interesting answers.

Personally: this is one of many reasons I love and adore writing romance. Because in romance, the female protagonist is always as important as the male, and her needs and desires every bit as central. At least the way I write 'em. :) Tell me another genre where that's true.

Writers' Cafe / My first-ever indie Kindle Deal is today
« on: July 25, 2016, 10:27:41 am »
Even though I've sold much better in the past than I do right now, a couple months ago turned out to be the first time I got that letter about "considering me" for a deal. On my Montlake books, I've had Kindle Monthly Deals (OK, but not huge) and one Kindle Daily Deal in the US (huge). But nothing indie till now.

Welp, today is it! I don't follow this stuff that closely, but I was surprised that they put NINE of my books into the Kindle Daily Deal. It'll be interesting to see what happens. I'm grateful of course. Whatever happens, and however long the tail lasts, it'll be a better sales day today than yesterday! Hopefully it will earn me some new readers.

This is the Deals page.

We were talking about writing to market . . . or not!

The quick version: Here I am on New Zealand primetime television tonight, with steamy passages from my latest book being read by famous All Black Piri Weepu.

So about four years ago, I got this dumb idea. I'd never even written a short story before, but I'd been living in New Zealand in the midst of Rugby World Cup fever (hosted in NZ in 2011, and won by the All Blacks in a VERY tight battle that had the whole nation biting its fingernails). And I thought, literally, "I wonder if I could write a book?" And I did. Six weeks later, I'd written a book. About, of all things, rugby romance. AND I'd quit my job to write.

Seriously. Who does that? Me, as it turns out, the world's most conservative person.

Six months later, I'd written two more, and been turned down by 38 agents and publishers. The last rejection I paid attention to came from the head of a major agency who'd asked for a full. She said that New Zealand rugby romance was "too tough a hook" for the US market.

An hour later, my doctor called and said she was referring me to the oncologist, and if it was bad, it'd be very bad. By that time my diet was pretty much pain pills.

My first thought was, "Thank God my kids are grown." My second thought was, "I'm not going to die without publishing my books."

I didn't die. I finished Book 3 a day before I went into the hospital. I came out a week later, and four days after that, I was sitting up for an hour a day editing. I published a month later. Three books at once. New Zealand rugby romance, that unmarketable thing.

Three years to the month later, I'd made a million dollars. A. MILLION. DOLLARS. From publishing those unmarketable books.

Because I was right. New Zealand rugby romance was a FANTASTIC hook. A wonderful hook.

And tonight, I was on primetime New Zealand television, with one of the HEROES of that 2011 Rugby World Cup win reading from my latest New Zealand book.

Yep. I was.

Sometimes, you've just got to follow your heart.

Here is the clip.

OK, here's one on the Author Bucket List.

The first Rugby Romance tour of New Zealand starts tomorrow--the ladies get off their various planes and get met by the guide. Two and a half weeks, visiting the sites of the books.

I meet up with them at a few points, which should be a lot of fun.

(And no, I'm not leading it! God forbid!)

Here it is if you want to see:

Going to be another group going next spring, I guess. 

I sure wouldn't have believed this four years ago, when I started writing my first book, thinking, "Maybe I could write a book. Huh. I wonder." (And this is where I thank my hubby, who said, "Of course you could.")

Writers' Cafe / New covers!
« on: March 30, 2016, 08:29:51 am »
So--Series 1 is rebranded! (Well, it will be once three of the books get out of being stuck "in review." Next up: Series 2.

I've always loved my covers, but what looked good in 2012 isn't necessarily what looks best now, and I've been told that my existing covers mostly failed to signal that there could be steam inside. (This series is feel-good, heartfelt romance with some women's fiction and chick-lit elements and some quite steamy scenes, but is by no means erotic romance. A little hard to get the tone!)

So--here you go; here's what we came up with.

Next up: Series 2! (Series 4 is already perfect IMHO, and Series 3 is Montlake so they do the covers.)

Writers' Cafe / How to Be Hooky
« on: January 03, 2016, 02:46:16 pm »
Domino Finn's recent excellent post on "engineering a bestseller" inspired me to think some more about "hookiness," and how I've been paying more conscious effort to it recently. I've written down a few thoughts about it, probably because I'm waiting out the hours until a new release.

When I look at the books I really enjoy, that I burn through, they're pulling me in and pulling me on. So--how do you grab a reader? How do you KEEP the reader? How do you entertain a reader enough that she will go on to read the next book? How do you (I) consciously do those things better?

Fair warning: like all my advice, this is pretty basic. That's the level I'm comfortable discussing.

Last summer, I was writing a book (FIERCE: that was quite different for me. KU2 had also just begun--meaning you wanted, more than ever, to have people finish the book. So I wrote that book thinking hard with every chapter about pulling the reader along. About making them want to turn the page. Here were some things I thought about:

Start strong. Chapter One really matters! Even though not all my books have lots of "action," I start most of the New Zealand ones, especially, with a more gripping scene. Since the book is called, "Escape to New Zealand," it's usually what the person is escaping from. Something pretty important should be happening in Chapter One. The reader has to be engaged from Page One.

Here's the first line of FIERCE:

Have you ever noticed how, when you're around certain people, you seem to grow an extra thumb, and not in a good way?

My first book ever, JUST THIS ONCE (Escape to New Zealand), starts out,
Wow. Welcome to New Zealand.

And then the heroine almost dies. I honestly think that first chapter is what made my career.  You want to say, "BOOM. Here is the book."

Last lines of chapters. Every chapter is a cliffhanger, even if it doesn't end with action or whatever. There need to be questions asked to which the reader wants an answer. In the case of FIERCE, it was mostly, "What will Hemi (or Hope) do NOW?" I realized that I always spend a lot of time on the endings of my chapters, trying to pull the reader along in the story.

Here are some last lines of chapters from FIERCE:

So, yes, you could say I was at a low point that day I met Hemi Te Mana. But it wasn't as low as I'd go.

Nobody should be treating her like that. Nobody should be doing anything to her. Nobody but me.

"Be ready," he said softly. And he left.

I pay attention to this on the paragraph level as well. If there's a new thought, a leap, that happens at the beginning of the next paragraph. If there's something the hero or heroine is going to find out, I don't telegraph it.

Story arc. This seems simple, but you really have to be building to something. It does NOT always have to be conflict. One of my best-reviewed books, JUST FOR FUN, has almost no conflict in the whole second half between the hero and heroine, but it has plenty of drama. When I first wrote it, though, it didn't have enough of a climax/resolution. My best friend said, "Something else has to happen." I called another friend and wailed, "But the whole POINT is that she trusts him! She isn't going to do one of those 'misunderstanding-run-off-things!'" She suggested something with their son that she'd wondered about--whether he wouldn't react strongly to the thing that had happened. BOOM. In another hour, I'd written three chapters of nail-biting tension, then resolution and weepfest, that totally worked and drove the story to the finish line.

Take out the boring stuff. If nothing really important is happening in the scene, it probably doesn't need to be in the book. If there are lines or emotions or information that are necessary, maybe they can go at the beginning of the next chapter or something. [Of course, people who don't like your book will always say it is "boring." My most common negative review is "slow and boring." (Well, that and "too much sex.") But lots of times, you can spot your boring passages/chapters and remove them.]

End strong. The ending sells the next book. Think back to some books with "blah" endings. Even if the rest of the book is good, it doesn't make you want to buy the next book. For me: I want readers to cry! In romance, you want a happy sigh at the end, that lingering feel-good hum that makes the world look a little brighter. For a thriller, you want a nice solid recap that reminds you that Good won. Whatever it is for your genre.

What are your own best tips about hooky writing?

Writers' Cafe / Speaking of indie vs. trad--just signed new contract (APub)
« on: September 30, 2015, 08:09:29 pm »
So, as this has been discussed recently--

I just signed a new two-book contract with Montlake Romance for Books 3 & 4 of my romantic suspense series. Book 1 has been out since June, and Book 2 comes out in December.

Montlake has been just amazing to work with (incredible editorial support, for one thing), and the turnaround time from MS delivery to release has been 7 months for all the books. That feels VERY slow compared to indie, but is lightning speed compared to Big 5. They've supported the book well with marketing (I had a KDD a few weeks ago and have a UK deal coming up in October), and all in all, it's been a very positive experience.

I'm still writing indie books, but I'm mixing those up with the others. It does get tricky for a not-blazingly-fast writer, as it makes for longer gaps between releases, but the Montlake push on their series does help keep the other books more visible as well.

Putting that out there just as one example of how different strategies can work for different authors. Oh--and their audio is terrific, and you get that out at the same time as the other formats. (And don't have to pay for it yourself--YAY.)

Writers' Cafe / Deep breaths. My first-ever Kindle Daily Deal
« on: September 12, 2015, 11:59:49 am »
Welp, today is my first-ever Kindle Daily Deal.

I'm not nervous at all.

That is a lie.

Here it is if you would like to see:

I've had a Kindle Monthly Deal once in the GERMAN store, and even that was ginormous. So--no idea what to expect from this one. So far it is about 1 PM Pacific time (I am in New Zealand), and it's showing a rank of 1401, but ranks always lag a lot during big spikes. My best-ever rank prior to this has been various spots in the 30s.

And if you ask--No, I didn't get it on my own, with my indie books. They've never had a deal (so far. One can always hope!) This is my first Montlake book, which released not quite 3 months ago.

It is interesting, because this month is also my 3-year anniversary in publishing, and it also marks the milestone of my earning 1 million dollars in publishing. When it started well, I spent months (years) waiting for it all to crash and burn. In some ways, I'm still waiting. But the one thing I think I've done right has been to keep working through the anxiety and uncertainty, and to keep trying to get better. I do think I'm writing better books now. So I guess if I have any takeaway from all that, it's "keep trying to get better, and keep trying to enjoy what you're doing." Because if we're not doing those two things--what's the point?

OK. Off to work on the WIP, which is Book 3 in this series. Wish me luck today, I hope.

If you're interested in getting into audio and would like to hear a narrator talk about the process and ask questions of your own: My Audie-nominated narrator, Claire Bocking, is doing a live Q&A chat on my Facebook page on Sunday, April 26 at 11 A.M. Pacific time.

Date: Sunday, April 26
Time: 11 A.M. Pacific (noon Mountain, 1 P.M. Central, 2 P.M. Eastern)

More at:

Claire's first audiobook (my first book, JUST THIS ONCE: Escape to New Zealand Book 1) got nominated for an Audie--which tells you how good at this she is!

Writers' Cafe / My first tradpub cover...
« on: April 01, 2015, 12:37:06 pm »
Just posting because it's so pretty. Montlake Romance. They worked with me a bunch on the concept & execution--very happy about how it turned out.
Working with them has been just a pleasure so far. Great editing, very responsive--really none of the horror stories you hear about publishers.

OK, I can't make it post an image. How do you do that? *Scratches head.* OK, I figured it out. HERE it is:

Writers' Cafe / What makes a book re-readable? Your thoughts?
« on: March 27, 2015, 03:01:33 pm »
I almost never start threads. But I thought I'd start one, because I think this is sort of a helpful "meta" way to think about writing and books in a way I'm not good at doing (I just write what's in my head and don't think about it too much); and because this is, I think, sort of a neutral, craft-focused topic that might be helpful right now.

I posted this on my blog this morning:

I'm giving the link so you can read the reader comments, if you like. I thought they were interesting. Since writing it and reading responses, I've decided that some of the answers, for me, are:
1) Feel-good factor: I'll read great, upsetting books once, but usually not twice.
2) Memorable characters: both main & secondary
3) Strong sense of place
4) Realistic emotions: I can feel the feelings. They feel "right," not "off."
5) Memorable scenes in the middle; strong beginning that pulls me in; strong ending that finishes the book on a high note.

OK, here's the post. Would love to hear your thoughts.
I answered a survey from Amazon Crossing today (my German publisher). One of the questions they asked was, "As an author, which of these are most and least important to you"? About ten items followed--such things as "making a living," "artistic/creative expression," "connecting with readers," "professional recognition," etc.

It was pretty easy for me to choose my "most important. " "Artistic/creative expression" and "making a living," in that order. I want to write the books I love, and I don't want to do anything else! But after I filled out the survey, I realized there was an item that wasn't on there:

Writing re-readable books.

I'm a huge re-reader. If I love a book, I often go back and read it again. I want to savor it, to re-experience it. (Same thing with movies. I watch them twice.) I have a few authors whose books I've read and re-read over the years, whose books have really stood the test of time for me. Only a few. Jane Austen, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Dick Francis, the wonderful and under-recognized Eva Ibbotson. I own those authors' books in paperback, ebook, AND audiobook, just so I can read or listen to them any time I want.

I realized that, for me, the very best thing would be to write books that are re-readable in that way. My favorite emails from readers are the ones that say they've re-read the books, or that they've listened to the audio and it's been so much fun to hear the books. And that made me think about a couple of things.

First, it's why I don't go faster. I've tried to push my process over the past year or so, when I found out that other authors were able to write eight books a year where I could only write four. But I found that my books stubbornly refused to get thought up faster. My one experience where I started writing without really knowing my characters, without getting fully into their heads, was JUST GOOD FRIENDS. I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to write a second book, I jumped into it too fast. I finished it and was happy, but I sent it to my beta readers, and they said, "Ehhhh..." Kate's character, it turned out, wasn't developed enough, because I hadn't thought enough about what it would FEEL like to have been in her situation, to have been stalked and terrorized. Once I did, I rewrote the book, and everybody liked it much better.

Same thing with writing. It takes me 4-6 weeks to write a 100k (350-page) book once I start, and while that sounds fast to non-writers, for many romance writers it would be a snail's pace. But I find that I need a certain amount of time to write, edit, polish the prose; time to think and let the book "rest," to come back the next day and edit some more, to have the characters' reactions, on and off the page, unspool in my head, in order for the book to have some richness, for the other things to occur to me so it isn't just a rush from A to Z and on to the next book.

I'm not saying that those who write faster aren't writing rich books with great character development. I'm saying that for me, there's a pace where that happens, and a pace where it doesn't, and I need to be good with that.

So--what DOES make a book re-readable?
I think it's all that--the depth and "reality" of the characters, that they're people you remember after you finish the book. There are some authors who write very well, and the experience is pleasant, the cost of the book well worth it, but I couldn't tell you a single memorable character from any of their books, even if I've read 15 of them.

Then it's the flow, the ease of it, and the writing quality, too. It's some indefinable spark that makes that book come alive, where you're escaping into that world and just--immersed. Whether it's a thriller, a mystery, a historical novel, a romance, a literary novel, you're THERE. As a writer, during that 4-6 weeks when I'm writing, I'm totally wrapped up in my book. I'm with the characters, believing that they're real, living in their heads and hearts. My goal, my dream, would be that I could transmit some of that "life" to my readers as well; that they could believe, for just a little while, that they were there, too. That's the sharing and connection that makes it all worthwhile for me.

What do YOU think? What qualities make a book re-readable? Who are your most re-readable authors? Whose paperback books are still on your shelf in this digital age? Whose books do you go back to for a comfort read? I'd love to know.

Writers' Cafe / A dose of cheerful
« on: March 20, 2015, 12:23:59 pm »
I needed this today. I thought maybe some others would enjoy it, too. It can feel like an uphill battle sometimes, I know, but indies are getting more respect all the time. I got this email this morning:

Ms. James,

I just wanted to update you on how your books are doing at our library,
and I'm pleased to tell you that we've just stocked the next three books
in both of your series, and we can't keep them on the shelves! Patrons
really enjoy them and are constantly asking when we'll be getting the next
ones in. Because of the success, I've been given the go ahead to start
purchasing other indie authors for the library as well, which I'm really
excited about!



Oh, my gosh. Hubby about had to pick me up off the floor.

My first book, and my narrator's first audiobook, has been nominated for an Audie. Here's the list of finalists:

The Bridges of Madison County; by Robert James Waller; Narrated by Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale

Burn for Me; by Ilona Andrews; Narrated by Renee Raudman

First Love; by James Patterson Narrated by @LaurenFortgang

Just This Once; by Rosalind James; Narrated by @Claire.Bocking

Rumor Has It; by Jill Shalvis Narrated by KarenWhiteAudiobooks

I knew that Audible had sent it in to the committee, but I never dreamed it would actually be nominated. I'm in total shock.

Anyway--thanks especially to Joe Nobody for his encouraging words about audio, back one whole year ago. It's worked out really well, and now I guess I get to go to New York! Whew. Wild ride.

OK. My first pre-order not with a rep. I debated whether to do it as a pre-order at all (have done 3 with rep), due to the lack of bump on release day as we all know. (Sales diluted over the pre-order period.) But as it is a Christmas-type book (not Xmas-themed, but warm-fuzzies story), releasing 12/1, I decided better to do the pre-order anyway. Plus, readers like being able to pre-order.

So I released it for pre-order on Oct. 15. It did better than any of my others; got to #135 on Day 1, but that was with my usual 2-day 99-cent pricing period (present to my loyal readers & a way to get some early visibility). Then went down over the past week until yesterday, it was about #1200. Fine; normal for a book six weeks away from release.

BUT: Here's the useful part. I guess Amazon must put pre-orders in their newsletters now. I woke up blinking to find it was 200-something in the store. And now it's--#66. My VERY FIRST full-priced bestseller. That was a goal of mine for Year 3, which started in September; thought I was going to have to wait until 2015. (If, you know, ever.)

I thought this was useful info for others whose books sell well--pre-orders CAN climb the charts even if you're not normally an actual chart-topper, thanks to the miracles and mysteries of the Amazon recommendation engine.

(This can't be KU, as you can't borrow a pre-order. Got to be an email.)

Somebody pinch me. OK, back to work. Got a book to finish. (Not the pre-order one, thank goodness. That one's done.)

Writers' Cafe / Amazon Crossing--live in Germany!
« on: October 14, 2014, 08:57:18 am »
So my first (and so far only) book in German is LIVE on today.

It's #662 in the store right now. I have no idea what to expect, but hope for good things.

I just thought I'd post quickly, because I don't think I've ever seen much here about Crossing. I got contacted by them back in January, about doing the first book. It was a one-size-fits-all contract, pretty decent I thought as they were taking all the risk and it was no skin off my nose, found money as far as I was concerned, and I knew Germans loved New Zealand. (It's the first NZ book that they're doing.)

Here are some things that might be useful:
1) How long it took: 9 months!

2) What they did: Translation, copy editing of translated book, proofreading, new cover optimized for German market, and they say they'll do merchandising. (Makes sense, since they spent the money.) They already sent out an email, I think, as the book jumped to around #1000 a few days ago, near the end of its pre-order period.

3) How they've been to work with: so far, fan-friggin-tastic. They gave me two cover options, and I said, umm, my heroine's really blonde, and it's kind of a thing. They took them back and changed her hair. Then they gave them back and I had my readers vote and told Crossing the one we liked best. They liked it best too--who knows if they'd have chosen it otherwise--but that's the one they went with.

About a month in, I got an email saying there had been an error from their usual practices in the contract--something was net and not gross, or vice versa, can't remember. So they were changing it. In my favor. I don't think a lot of trad publishers would do that. 

They've communicated all along and been really good. And yesterday, I got a box with 12 print copies of my book.

4) What else will they do? My understanding is that they always do one book first, by an author, wait and see how it does, and then decide whether to do more--since it's expensive. I know they do some merchandising--some promoting. We'll see how much, and how it works. But like I said--found money. I wasn't going to be getting translations myself, and nobody was clamoring for the foreign rights. So far, so good.

Writers' Cafe / Audiobooks--Can you contribute numbers for list spot?
« on: October 10, 2014, 09:53:10 am »
It's been my observation that audiobooks are quite different from ebooks--different genres "rule." What I think of as more "men's genres" or "dual-gender" genres do better in audio, from what I can tell: nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thriller. Romance doesn't seem nearly as dominant. Erotica, I suspect, sells great.

I can tell you from the past couple days what a really big bestseller looks like as far as sales/day in Contemp Romance--and it's not anything like ebook numbers.

#10: 87 sales/day
#9: 155 sales/day

By contrast, my very biggest ebook day on a title was about 3700 sales. That got me to some comparable ranking. (Can't remember exactly.)

Anybody have info like that for other genres? It seems like it would be helpful to know. I think people want to know how many audiobooks it's possible to sell. From what I've seen: my best month, the audio sales were maybe 20% of my ebook sales on that title. Others have said much higher audio-to-ebook. Again, may depend on genre.

(Thanks in advance for your contribution.)

Writers' Cafe / Holy cow. OK, this is a "look at me" post. Audiobooks.
« on: October 08, 2014, 06:43:58 pm »
ACX gave me a special-offer code to share with my Facebook folks. (This is for if you don't have a subscription already--it's a month's free trial.) They said it was a "custom" offer for my first book, but I wasn't sure that could be true.

(This is the offer. If you don't have a subscription and you are thinking of getting into audio, especially if you're in Romance--if you want to hear what they sound like--I think my narrator is really good, maybe worth having a listen to. ACX sent the book in for Audie consideration, so they obviously think so too.)

I guess it worked, because my first audiobook is, gulp, #10 in Contemporary Romance on Audible right now. #s 1, 2, and 3 are the three "50 Shades of Grey" books.

Maybe bragging like this will bite me, but I'm just kinda flabbergasted and wanted to share. I hope you will forgive me.

In the spirit of trying to make something helpful out of what is really bragging: I pay a lot for my narrator, but so far, the extra expense has been well worth it. If you can afford it, get the very best narrator you can find, even if he/she costs more. The narrator really, really matters in audio.

Writers' Cafe / Some of the best reader engagement I've had on Facebook
« on: October 05, 2014, 09:57:57 am »
Cindy Ratzlaff, who's a PR person and pretty much a marketing/social media genius, gave a talk to the PAN (Published Authors Network) group at RWA this year about--well, about marketing & social media. She had a lot of good stuff to share--furious note-taking all around

She gave this one tip that I tried the other day, and I got some of the fastest, most enthusiastic engagement I've ever had on Facebook. (Caveat: I think my readers are big Facebook users. I don't have a huge number of page "likes" at all, but I get really good engagement from them in general--my posts get seen a lot without advertising. This, though, was especially good.)

(This was actually a tip from her to do on Twitter. I did it on FB, though, because as I said--much more FB engagement than Twitter for my stuff.)

You ask people to give you a page #, from 1-wherever-you-are, on your WIP. Then give them a line from the book.

MAN, that got responses! And likes, and comments. It was fun, and since this is a new series I'm doing, it was a way to engage readers in it, fire them up a little about the characters, the story, the series.

Anyway--FWIW, passing it on!

Writers' Cafe / This is cool (CreateSpace's custom formatting service)
« on: September 08, 2014, 04:04:33 pm »
OK, I took the plunge and had my first book reformatted using CreateSpace's custom formatting service. I'd used an overseas formatter on all my ebooks a couple months ago, but he really didn't bring much new to the party--didn't give me the really polished, professional look I wanted. They didn't look "bad" before, because I'd done a good job (had done the ebook and print book formatting myself.) So even though I was out a fair amount already, I thought, well, let's try it, because they just don't look like the gorgeous Georgette Heyer ebook I read recently, for example.

Here's what the paperback looks like inside now:

The Kindle book looks just that good too. I was actually surprised by how much of a "perception" difference it made, just to have the beautiful spacing, the pretty heart fleuron, etc. And I love, of course, that the interior font treatment matches the cover.

(Now if I ever sold more than 100 paperbacks a month ... oh, well. It's worth it just for the Kindle version.)

Anyway, it's cool, and I thought I would share. If you get to the point where you can afford to have really nice formatting done (assuming you don't have the html or InDesign skills, as I don't, to do it yourself), it's a nice option.

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