Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “Marie Force”

What I learned in 2014

Today’s Brew: next to nothing. I had oral surgery yesterday, and my meds aren’t agreeing with me. Most of this was prewritten, but please forgive any whackadoodle typos in this one.

by Kristen

Like I said, I had oral surgery yesterday. I had three teeth that basically needed an overhaul, and I had the last of the hard stuff done yesterday. I’m so glad it’s done. Besides using up the very last drop of my ’14 dental insurance money, I thought it was appropriate. 2014 was about the ugly stuff, and 2015 will be about the pretty stuff. I think that holds true for my publishing career, too.

I had to make some big changes in 2014. I had my hardhat on for much of it, looking at what I had and bringing it to where it needed to be.  Even though I’m in no way an expert on publishing, I learned so much this year. As I was waiting for the procedure to start, I was thinking the tooth analogy worked for my books, too. 2014 was for the ugly stuff, and 2015 is about hitting my stride.

Without further ado….here’s what I learned:

  1. Things in publishing change fast. What might have been tried and true doesn’t work anymore.  What worked in the beginning of the year doesn’t work anymore.  This is what’s going to stay constant: change.  I know a lot of people got burned by Kindle Unlimited. I actually benefitted from it. I wasn’t getting the exposure on the other channels, and even though I did get a lower payout for my full length books, it got them off the virtual shelf and into people’s hands.  As a new writer, that’s what I needed. My full length stuff won’t be in there forever. But I’m going to continue to consider it a tool in my tool box, and try to leverage it so it works.
  2. Writing is the easiest part of the job. For real. My brain supplies me with the stories, and my fingers follow. There’s no rules to the story. I just write. And it’s fun. But then that story needs to be edited and packaged and put out in the world. Putting out a book is like planting a garden. You can’t just forget about it. You need to nurture it to make it grow. I heard a great talk from Courtney Milan at RT, about the phases of being a successful author. I’m somewhere between Phase 1, where I am actively selling every book, and Phase 2, where my books are starting to sell each other.  Getting from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is much harder than writing the book. There’s Phases 3 and 4, but right now, I need to focus on where I am.
  3. You have to spend money to make money. Before you start throwing things at me, hear me out! What did you do before you were a writer? I’m a makeup artist. While that was actually very helpful to me, since I’d already built a career in the arts, a publishing expert it didn’t not make. As an independent author, I pay for editing, cover design, formatting, and publicity. There’s no guarantee I’ll ever see that money back. Tammy Farrell referred to publishing a books as an investment. We need to stop looking at the short game and remember the long game. The books will be available as long as we want to sell them. It’s a business, and you need to treat it as such. Even if you have a publisher, may have to pay for marketing. Your contract may include some marketing, but it may not be enough. Even if you’re going out on your own and contacting bloggers, your time is still an investment. Nothing is free. You have to invest wisely. There’s never any way to tell what’s going to pay off and what won’t.  See #1.
  4. Those who have had success are willing to share. Thank God! So many of those people helped me right my own shaky ship earlier this year. One of the leading voices in makeup business said to us, “you’d never ask someone who’s bankrupt for financial advice, why would you look to someone who’s not successful in your own career for advice?”  Marie Force, Courtney Milan, Zoe York, so many others are putting out some great information on what’s worked for them. I mention Zoe, she’s new to me, but she’s a solid mid list author who is growing. Some of her advice is more tangible for me than what the megastars do.
  5. Publishing is a lot of work! I can sit at my computer from the time that I wake up until the time that I go to bed, and I never get to a point that everything is done. Sure, one project might be complete, but it moves into the next stage, and I start with the next.  It doesn’t feel like work, because most of the time I do it in my jammies. And sometimes I drink. But it’s work.
  6. No two authors will have the same journey. We all have different definitions of what success means. I saw recently someone say no one reads the same book, meaning that our words have a different effect on everyone. That’s so cool! Our stories and schedules are all different. We really are all special snowflakes. Even if you do exactly what another author does, your story and timing is different. Results will vary.
  7. Nobody wants to hear they’re doing it wrong. I made a lot of decisions that were the best ones I could make at the time, and they were God awful. Some people tried to speak up, but again, I thought I’d done all the right things. I brushed them off. Once I was finally ready to listen, I made the changes I needed to. And it was the best thing I ever could have done. We’re not going to get everything write the first time. Some of us are going to fall on our faces pretty spectacularly. I learned so much from the mistakes I made with Because the Night, and I’m a better author for it now. I
  8. Nobody wants to hear they’re doing it wrong, part II. Let’s stop beating up on each other for how we decide to publish. As long as you’re putting the best book you can in the best manner you can, that’s all that matters. A reader shouldn’t know the difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published book. It’s that simple. What I learned in #7 was to make sure the people you ask to work for you are doing the best job they can. For you. That person might do a great job for someone else, but not for you. Stand up for what’s best for you.
  9. Try new things! This is an exciting time to be in publishing. You can be a hybrid author. You can write fan fiction and make a fuckton of money. You can put your books in your own store, or enroll them in Kindle Unlimited. You can write a variety of genres. You can put out as many books as your little fingers can handle typing. Think something is cool? Try it. You might enjoy it.
  10. Writing is the most challenging and rewarding job I’ve ever had. I’ve worked way harder than I expected to, and the journey was nothing like I expected. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
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You’re Not The Customer: Is This Why Your Book Didn’t Sell?

Today’s Brew: I’m making some new vanilla Starbucks Kcup for tomorrow morning that smells heavenly. I’m going to mix that up with my peppermint mocha creamer and just be happy at 4:30 AM.

by Kristen

At the beginning of the month, I attended the Independent Author Symposium hosted by NYT best selling author Marie Force and Penny Watson, who you might know from her beard lovin’ blog, pennyromance.com. I’m not going to do a total write up about the seminar, because KT Grant already did a great job of  that, and you can read it here.

I’m going to share the three things I found most interesting about the seminar:

1. There were many traditional multi published authors in attendance, as well as many authors pursuing the traditional route.  When I asked why they came, they said that made business sense to understand all facets of the industry.  Just because you have a contract for this book, doesn’t mean the next book has a home. Things are changing fast in the industry. Kudos to these authors who have the business acumen to explore all avenues.

2. Some authors who are getting their rights back from their publishers for back catalogue or publishers that no longer exist are choosing to self publish these titles.  Why? Money. The authors retained control of the books and a higher profit margin.

3. My big Oprah A-ha moment of the day: According to Marie Force, publishers aren’t buying with readers in mind. They aren’t selling to readers. They’re selling to distributors. The distributor is their customer. Distributors placing books in Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target, Supermarkets. Now all the “YA is over!” “Paranormal is dead!” hysteria made sense. I’d never thought of it like that before.Of course the distributors only have a finite number of spaces for each genre. I even got a rejection from an editor that started with “I can see this doing well in the NA market….”  So, then buy it! Or…this.

So, in this light, whether or not our books sell is determined by a shrinking and dying model. I am hoping that indie publishers that are selling digitally direct to customers and self published authors will change this model. Now, for the first time, we know what the readers really want because they have access to all of these titles that there was just no room at the inn for before.

(Oh my God, that coffee smells amazing! But I digress)

The one thing that’s been repeated at this seminar as well as last springs NECRWA conference is this is a great and exciting time to be an author. Don’t be discouraged because the old system doesn’t work.  Things are changing fast. You’re an artist. Rules don’t apply to you. Kick down those doors and find a home for yourself.

Romancing the Writing Conference

Today’s Brew:  Blue Moon Agave Nector Ale.

by Kristen

This is a great time to be a writer.

Yes, you read that right.  In the face of the gloom and doom of the demise of the big box book retailers, the self publishing revolution debate, and the frigging recession that just never wants to quit, that was my biggest takeaway from this weekend’s New England Chapter Romance Writers of America conference.

You are only limited by your imagination and the effort you are willing to put into your writing.

We all need to embrace the changes that are happening to the publishing industry.  If we don’t, we will be left behind.  The small press and self publishing revolution are giving control back to the readers.  They are saying loud and clear what they want to read.  We need to be ready to deliver.  And that doesn’t mean quantity.  You won’t get a second chance if you put out crap.  No matter what happens, you need to write the best story you possibly can.   That is the one thing that will never change.

So what are the things that readers are asking for?  Romance.  Erotica.  LGBT.  Male/male romances.  When I first started researching publishing, last year, short stories and novellas were dead.  Unsellable. Now they are hot, hot, hot.  So write what you are passionate about.  Don’t worry about trends.  They change just that fast.

My brain was so full of information by the end of the conference, it hurt.  The roster of great workshops and speakers never seemed to end!  Even though conference veterans suggested we take breaks, how could I miss any of this great information??

Julia Quinn spoke to us about writing great dialogue.  It never ceases to amaze me even though we all talk (some of us more than others), so many people struggle writing realistic dialogue.  Have someone else read your dialogue out loud.  Add personality with dialogue.  Next was Penny Watson, who talked about workin’ your bad self on social media and turning lemons into lemon martinis. The original cover for Lumberjacks In Love wound up on Lousy Bookcovers.  Instead of getting mad about it, she celebrated it.  And got a new cover.  Instead of becoming a joke, she turned her love of cheesiness into new fans for her writing.

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Penny Watson

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After telling folks the story, everyone wanted to buy the “lousy” book cover edition of LUMBERJACK IN LOVE at book fair.

After dinner, Marie Force, who is truly a force to be reckoned with, told us how after she got seven books rejected by traditional publishing, she self published her books and earned seven figures last year.  SEVEN.  That’s a million dollars, kids.  I am navigating my way through the traditional route, but I did not make a million dollars last year.  Or in my lifetime.  I want what she’s having.

ATTENTION!  If you never listen to another word I say, listen to this:  If there is a conference kind of near your house and you think you can save money on the hotel and go home in between days….no you can’t. You will be so much more exhausted than usual because your brain simply isn’t used to all that new,exciting information.  Get a room.

The next morning was also chock full of panels.  I actually started my Saturday (as well as finished my Friday night) with some impromptu pitches to editors.  Aaah!  Nothing like flying by the seat of your pants to get the blood pumpin’.  Both editors dug my idea, and my manuscript is in their hands.  Pray, kids, pray.

Something else heard during pitches…you can never be too young, too thin, or publish too many vampires.  Looks like the vampire publishing moratorium has been lifted!!

I started my workshops in the historical research talk.  Even if you don’t write historicals,  you probably need to do research for your book.  Sometimes you have to think outside the box of how things will apply to your work.  The big takeaway was to contact experts as well as doing your own research. They can cram years worth of their passion into a coffee date!  Also, think of pop culture references:  cookbooks, fashion magazines, comics, you name it.

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Then I headed to the paranormal chat with Kate Cross.  Kate is so fabulous looking I almost fist pumped when I saw she was the presenter.  We discussed alpha males, and how to mate humans and alpha creatures.  Kate gave me an ARC of her Steampunk Romance, Breath of Iron to review.  My very first ARC!  It is the third book in the Clockwork Agent series and will be out in August.  Keep an eye here in July for the review!

Last up before lunch was Tiffany Reisz’s Erotica 101. Of course, I wasn’t going to miss that.  I probably learned the most in this workshop.  The biggest marker of a romantic romance, besides the sex being an integral to the plot, is that it doesn’t have to have a happily ever after.  Romance needs to have a happy ending.  This is also the panel we spoke about fisting and cock. Professionally, of course.

After lunch I checked out Lori Perkins’ Writing Smut for Fun and Profit.  Lori’s advice:  take your ideas and run with them!  A small idea can pay off big.  Short stories and novellas are back.  And if you play your cards right, in a few years, if you write good books you can make more money than you were making at that god foresaken day job.

NECRWA was my second conference and I’m so glad I attended.  I could measure the growth I’ve had since Backspace in November.  I met some great authors, who I’m sure we will highlight on the blog in coming weeks, and made some great friends.  If you have a chance to go to a writer’s meeting or conference, GO.  Get out from behind that computer, meet people, get inspired, and learn something.

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