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A Wild Week

Apologies for the lack of meaty posts on the blog this week. White Witch Magic came out this past Tuesday and I’ve been wrapped up in new release stuff and promotion. I promise next week it will be back to your regularly scheduled blogging, starting with a guest tour and giveaway! Until Monday…

Self-Pubbing Check In

I have about two months under my belt now with my self-publishing experience. My first self-published book, Black Mountain Magic, went live November 15th and I put it on sale for 99 cents on December 15th. I made a post talking about what I learned when I first started this adventure and I’m going to make another update now.

As of today, I’ve sold 218 copies on Amazon, 22 on B&N, 4 on Kobo, 5 on iBooks, and 1 on Smashwords, for a total of 250 books sold. About 75% of those sales have been the result of paid advertising, which I haven’t broken even on, so don’t cheer for me yet!

Here’s where I’ve done promotion. If you’re looking into doing paid promotion, my experiment may help you out:

Total: $203 spent on promotion.

Out of all these promoters, the only two who were any good and worth the money were Ereader News Today (which is ALWAYS gold) which netted me 106 sales on Amazon, and Bargain Booksy, which netted me 73 sales on Amazon. However, I paid twice as much for Bargain Booksy for less sales, so take that as you will. Would I use them again anyway? Absolutely.

The others got me between 0-10 sales. BKnights gave me back my money (I didn’t ask for it) but in the form of a credit to use on Fiverr. Books Butterfly guarantees your sales or your money back, but in the introductory email they tell you this is just ‘store credit’ to try their services again (also they weirdly track your visits to their site and list them in the email). Since they didn’t work for me I’m not even going to bother asking for a refund and chalk it up as a learning experience. Maybe it was my genre or the timing of running the promotion on a holiday (I didn’t pick the date of the promotion, they did).

Ereader News Today (usually referred to as ENT) continues to be the BEST site for promotion outside of BookBub (which is incredibly difficult/expensive to get into) and I’ve used them for almost all my books in the past. Some authors don’t use them because they mistakenly believe you have to have a certain number of reviews for them to accept you.  This isn’t true, you simply have to have an overall decent rating if  you have any reviews at all.

What I’ve learned so far: you gotta spend money to make money. But spend it in the right place!

Other things I’ve learned from self-publishing:

  • If you think understanding your sales with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) will be easy, you’re gonna have a bad time. Amazon continues to lead the market in not making a lick of sense, so don’t expect the various confusing parts of your sales dashboard and your sales rank to correlate or reflect each other accurately at any given time. Just smile and nod, and understand if you want to get anywhere with self-publishing at all, you need to be on Amazon.
  • Smashwords has a hilarious attitude about Amazon, to the point I’m pretty sure they try to gaslight their customers into believing there’s no such thing as a Kindle. Don’t mention the word Amazon anywhere in your book. In fact, if you wrote a book about the Amazonian jungle, you’ll probably want to avoid publishing it on Smashwords. They seem to believe they’re going to be bigger and better than Amazon. Just smile and nod.
  • Send your book to reviewers and review sites yourself. Don’t pay for reviews, as this could get you kicked off Amazon for life. Of the 1,000 sites you send a review request to, about 10 will say they’ll review it and 2 will. However, don’t believe the scare tactic of “Reviews are the only way to sell books! Ooooh!” It’s not true. I’ve sold 250 copies with one review. I would rather get them organically than pander.
  • Trying to size book covers correctly is the devil.
  • If you’re not a super-duper popular author, the only real reason to produce a paperback copy of your book is so you can buy insanely discounted copies for yourself to not sell to people who don’t want them (also so you can run a Goodreads giveaway because you can only give away physical books).
  • Just keep writing.

So that’s my two-month report. The second book in the series, White Witch Magic, will come out February 21st and I’ve already racked up a wonderful 16 presales for it! I’m a superstar!

Book Sale!

Black Mountain Magic is on sale for just 99 cents right now at all retailers! Get it cheap for the holidays!

Black Mountain Magic – Kentucky Haints #1

Witches and Lycans and hillbillies, oh my!

Lorena Mills is a witch, but she’s not very good with potions and incantations. Working for a government agency that puts down dangerous uprisings of supernatural creatures, she does much more paperwork than spell casting. When her less-than-magical job lands her in the small Appalachian town of Blue Ditch, Kentucky, in the shadow of Black Mountain, her life starts to get a whole lot wilder.

In the forests surrounding the town, Wolvites—twisted, bestial creatures who hunt and kill humans—are posing a threat. When handsome, charming, and altogether reckless local Deacon Kelley insists on taking matters into his own hands, Lorena has more than monsters to worry about. He won’t stay out of her way, and he won’t take no for an answer.

Deacon is a Lycan–in modern terms, the non-shifting descendants of werewolves–and he and his family have protected Blue Ditch for generations. But now, something too sinister to be controlled by their efforts alone is stirring, and the Wolvites are far more vicious than they’ve ever been. Will Lorena be able to stop the threat and uncover the deadly secrets surrounding it before it’s too late?

To keep the town, and Deacon, safe, she’ll have to—and she’s really starting to like this town.

Read the first chapter

Buy it at:

Amazon| Barnes & NobleKobo | Smashwords | iBooks

Gatlinburg

Today my heart and thoughts go out to the people of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, who were devastated by wildfires over Monday night and Tuesday morning, resulting in almost all of Gatlinburg being burnt to the ground. The destruction is terrible and many people lost their homes and livelihoods. Unfortunately, most major news outlets barely gave any airtime to the story, instead continuing to rattle on ridiculously about politics. I find it disgraceful that most people had to rely on the internet for any information at all. I’ve never been to the area, but it looks beautiful.

If you would like to know ways you can help, here is an extensive list of places and charities taking physical and monetary donations.

Release Day Is Almost Here!

My first self-published release, Black Mountain Magic, will come out on Tuesday! I’m really excited about it. You can pre-order a copy at all major online retailers right now if you like.

I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff on my first self-publishing excursion. I’ll share with you some of those lessons, if you’re planning on doing the same and still need advice:

Thing I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

  • Use a simple, non-fancy font on your cover flat. I learned this the hard way, after I received copies of it. The cover flat is the back and front of your physical book, that you upload to a place like CreateSpace. The font I used for the blurb on the back looks wonky. No one I’ve shown the book to so far has even noticed it, but it bothers ME, so I’m in the process of re-doing it. Making a cover flat and getting it to fit right is harder than you think. You might have to tinker with it over and over again.
  • Don’t be afraid of reviewers. I sent my book to a bunch of reviewers pre-release and some of them actually said they’d review it! I found them through reviewers who had reviewed my traditionally published works, as well as through the tour service I do blog tours for, and Manic Readers. You can also just Google ‘book reviews (your genre).’ Make sure you read each reviewer’s guidelines for submitting books and MOST will tell you if they review self-pubbed works.
  • Have a Goodreads giveaway! This is only possible if you have physical copies of the book to give away, since you can’t do an e-book giveaway. It’s free, and tons of people have entered my giveaway, much to my surprise. A large portion of those people also added it to their to-read shelf and a few pre-ordered.
  • If you publish through Smashwords, they will distribute your book to places like Kobo and B&N as well. I didn’t even realize this. Whoops.
  • If you don’t publish through Smashwords and use Nook’s self-publishing platform, you can’t put your book up for pre-order. However, if it’s distributed by Smashwords, you can do pre-order on Nook.
  • Most people have no idea your book is self-published unless you tell them. I haven’t had a single person ask who my publisher is. Most people don’t buy books based on the publisher, either (unless they’re looking for books from a publisher-specific imprint).
  • If you made your own cover, don’t tell people. Let them see it first and get their honest reaction before you tell them. 😉 I was pleased so many people exclaimed “oh, I love the cover!” only then did I buff my nails and do a little bragging.
  • Don’t check your sales obsessively. Seriously, doooooon’t.

I’ll come back AFTER it goes on sale and I’ve had a little experience with that and let you know what else I’ve learned. I’m sure there will be plenty!

A new release!

Well, I’ve gone and pulled the trigger on my self-publishing endeavors! I’m really excited about this venture and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’ve had a crash course in formatting documents for various types of book files, but it wasn’t too frustrating. Okay, I lie, there was definitely some hair-pulling involved–but next time it’ll go smoother because I know what I’m doing now, right? Right?!

I’m proud of how the cover turned out, too. It was far less frustrating to create, I think because I knew exactly what I wanted ahead of time and I’d found the perfect picture (that being my sassy yet sultry heroine). The story is a bit of a twist on shifter romance with a southern flavor and a dash of humor.

I’ve decided to release it on November 15th (just in time for holiday buying!) and I’ve put it on pre-order at all major retailers. It will eventually be on B&N if you’re a Nook fan, but Nook’s self-publishing service takes longer before you’re approved and can put books up. As soon as it’s available on Nook, I will add the link. Nook is now available and added below!

I will be doing some promotional stuff and giveaways in the near future and after it’s released. If you like to review books of this sort, or have a friend who does, please let me know here or shoot me an email, I will be happy to provide you with a review copy! This is a full-length book, 270 pages.


Black Mountain Magic – Kentucky Haints #1

Available November 15th

Witches and Lycans and hillbillies, oh my!

Lorena Mills is a witch, but she’s not very good with potions and incantations. Working for a government agency that puts down dangerous uprisings of supernatural creatures, she does much more paperwork than spell casting. When her less-than-magical job lands her in the small Appalachian town of Blue Ditch, Kentucky, in the shadow of Black Mountain, her life starts to get a whole lot wilder.

In the forests surrounding the town, Wolvites—twisted, bestial creatures who hunt and kill humans—are posing a threat. When handsome, charming, and altogether reckless local Deacon Kelley insists on taking matters into his own hands, Lorena has more than monsters to worry about. He won’t stay out of her way, and he won’t take no for an answer.

Deacon is a Lycan–in modern terms, the non-shifting descendants of werewolves–and he and his family have protected Blue Ditch for generations. But now, something too sinister to be controlled by their efforts alone is stirring, and the Wolvites are far more vicious than they’ve ever been. Will Lorena be able to stop the threat and uncover the deadly secrets surrounding it before it’s too late?

To keep the town, and Deacon, safe, she’ll have to—and she’s really starting to like this town.

Pre-order at:

Amazon | Barnes & NobleKobo | Smashwords | iBooks

Ch-ch-ch Changes

I’ve made a big important decision about my writing career, and I thought I would share it with all of you today. After much thought and consideration (and a lot of research), I’ve decided to make some changes that feel right, and I think I’m finally in a good place to make them.

I’ve decided to become a hybrid author.

What the heck is that?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, no, I won’t be splicing my genes with some other author to make myself into some sort of weird book-writing chimera. A hybrid author is an author who is both traditionally and self-published. It’s something a lot of the hip kids are doing now, as it gives an author more creative options. I am currently only traditionally published, but that’s about to change.

Why have I made this decision? Here are a few reasons:

  • I have an established readership/following now. It’s small, but it’s mine, dammit! Hopefully through my already established social media presence and this blog, I can show up to the self-published party without worrying that not a single person will have any idea who I am. I’ll have a few people to mingle and eat cake with in the corner.
  • I want greater creative and career freedom. I don’t just mean with what I write (I’m still sticking to largely paranormal romance and some smutty stuff here and there) but also as far as covers, distribution, and promotion. I have some graphic design ability (check out my Twitter, Facebook, and G+ accounts for my graphics-making chops) and with a stock photo account in hand and some visions in my head, I think I can make myself some pretty killer covers that I’ll cherish.
  • I’ve gotten better at writing. I’m not as green in the self-editing and plotting arena as I used to be when I was a wee writer. This does NOT mean I won’t still make use of beta readers and professional editors, but I think (or hope) I know enough now not to make a fool of myself.
  • I know the business side of writing a lot better than I used to. I also learned all I could about self-publishing platforms, pricing, and formatting.
  • Even if the whole venture flops, I’ll still be ahead. My income from writing now is minimal, so even if the response to my self-published work is lukewarm, I’ll probably be making about what I am now with traditional publishers. But if it does even slightly better than lackluster…I’ll be ahead!

I’m excited about this experiment. I want to be my own boss, so to speak, even if my employee is a pain in the butt. Will I continue to publish traditionally? Of course. I just want to open my options.

Additionally, I’m going to be making a major overhaul to my woefully neglected newsletter. As soon as my first self-pubbed book comes out (details soon) I will be offering free stories as an incentive to those who sign up. Those kind few of you who are already signed up, I will make sure to contact you to offer you these free stories as well!

I’m a little nervous and a lot eager. Watch this space for lots of news in the near future!

Query Do’s and Don’t’s

A lot of authors and writing blogs talk about query letters and dispense advice on how to compose one. There’s a lot of tutorials out there, some very detailed and informative. As an author who has written many query letters, and even gotten a few publishing contracts out of them, I thought I’d throw my two cents in as well.

A query letter is a pitch you make to an agent/editor/publisher in the hopes they will say “this sounds interesting, show me more.” It can be nerve-wracking and stressful to put together, as you only have one shot to make a good impression. As a rule of thumb, query letters should be 90% about the project and 10% about you. Why? Because agents and editors are busy people and they want you to get to the point. They want to know about the story. Even if you have 100 books published and a trophy case full of awards, those things have nothing to do with this project.

Write a blurb for your book–the type of thing you’d see on the back cover–and make that the bulk of your letter. Keep your own bio brief and relevant. For example, if I was pitching a paranormal romance, I’d mention the paranormal romances I already have published. If you don’t have any or many writing chops, mentioning any background or education you have on the subject matter is good.

A great blog for learning more is Query Shark. There, hopeful authors get real advice on their query letters and how to improve them. If you’re trying to write a query letter I suggest checking it out.

Here are some pieces of advice when writing a query letter:

  • Keep it short. 3-4 paragraphs maximum. Agents and editors are busy people and if your letter is pages long, they’re probably going to pass it over. You only get a few seconds of their precious time, so make sure you utilize it wisely.
  • Keep it relevant. Talk about the story, as I said above. Too much rambling about yourself and your plans for the future will derail the point of your letter.
  • Don’t ask rhetorical questions. A lot of new authors think this is a way to build excitement. They start with a hook like If ravens pecked out your eyeballs, what would your life be like? Don’t do this, it’s pointless and annoying and A LOT of publishing professionals don’t like it. Instead, ask yourself the question and put the answer in the letter. After having his eyeballs pecked out by ravens, Timmy finds his new blind life difficult and traumatic.
  • Put some technical details in there somewhere. Tell the word count and genre of your story, and if it has series potential. Don’t call it a ‘fictional novel.’ All novels are fiction, that’s the definition of ‘novel.’ Don’t say the manuscript is ‘complete,’ that is implied (see below).
  • Get names right. Make sure you don’t misspell the agent/editor’s name or call a Mrs. a Mr. You should do your research before you send the query off, so you have this information correct (however, if I don’t explicitly know if a woman is married, I use the ambiguous Ms.).
  • Know what you need to send. Every publisher and agent has specific requirements for what they want you to send along with the query. Make sure you follow these to the letter. Some don’t want anything but the query, and that’s all you should send.
  • A query letter is not a synopsis. A synopsis details a story from start to finish, in deep detail. You don’t need to do this in a query letter, and you don’t need to tell the ending of the story. A query is simply an enticement.
  • Don’t query unfinished projects. Your book should be fully written and edited before you begin querying. You’re not going to make a good impression if someone wants to see your full manuscript and you don’t have it finished yet.
  • Check your formatting. Email can do wonky things to your text. Make sure you give it a look over before you send it off–breaks between paragraphs, no weird fonts or random symbols.
  • Don’t be chummy. Unless the person you’re sending the query to is someone you actually know, keep it professional and focused. Use formal language, don’t make jokes, and present yourself in a friendly but not overly-familiar way, like you would in a job interview.

Querying is stressful, but it’s the necessary first step in getting a yes. There’s lots of information out there–do some research before you send that letter off!

Upcoming Promo For The Burning City

The third novel in my Siren Song urban fantasy series, The Burning City, will be released on July 5th from Kensington Books/Lyrical Press. There’s lots of fun stuff going on for the release, including multiple chances to win prizes!

Here’s a list of events and places I’ll be:

The main event is a Facebook party for release day! Prizes will include:

* Two $10 Amazon gift cards (e-mail delivery only)
* The complete Siren Song series in e-format
* An autographed paperback copy of The Burning City

Never been to a Facebook party? It’s easy to participate. All you need to do is show up during the party (3-6pm EST), chat, and have fun! Use your FB account to click the +Going button at the top of the page, and FB will even remind you when the event is coming up so you don’t miss it. Hope to see you there!

  • On June 28th, The Burning City will be featured in a Teaser Tuesday at Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours–stop by for an exclusive excerpt!
  • On July 4th, The Burning City will be featured at Cover Reveals.
  • I will be doing a promo blitz on July 5th through Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. 20-30 blogs will feature The Burning City that day. I will post more information when I get the list of participating blogs. This blitz will feature a $10 Amazon gift card giveaway!
  • On July 5th I will be visiting author Suzanne Johnson to talk about The Burning City. I will be doing a surprise giveaway there, as well!

I may end up doing other promo as well. I’ll keep you updated!

Tell us what it’s about

I’ve been doing a lot of editing this week, preparing a novella for submission. That also means writing a synopsis, which I think is easily the most difficult part of any submission process. If you’re still preparing for your first ever submission and you’ve never written a synopsis before, you’re going to find out quickly that it’s an art form in itself–and that you’d probably rather write a thousand books than one synopsis.

The facts about a synopsis that will make you laugh with utter insanity:

  • You have to distill an entire story–no matter how long, even a book–into just a few paragraphs to one or two pages. The whole thing! All of it!
  • Remember, you gotta make it sound interesting and exciting!
  • You have to decide what’s important to mention and what can go without being detailed in the synopsis…but wait, isn’t all of it important?!
  • Good luck!

My method of writing a synopsis is to write the first version as long and detailed as I want to, and then go back through it and omit things that aren’t pertinent or don’t directly move the main plot. And then go through it again and remove more. And then again. And then again.

Here’s some other methods you might try:

Pretend you’re telling a friend what the story is about and they have to catch their train in two minutes.

Tell the bare-bones version of the story. Who is the main character, what do they want, what’s working against them, how does it get resolved? Remember, in a synopsis you have to reveal the ending. There are no ‘spoilers’ in publishing, agents and editors want to see that you can write a coherent story that gets resolved in a satisfying way. They’d rather read the two-minute “my train is coming” version of that first before bothering with the manuscript itself because they’re busy people.

Describe what your story is about in one sentence.

This sounds even more insane than a synopsis, but if you can do it, you can then expand on that sentence rather than whittling down a longer description. Work backwards!

Write the synopsis as you write the story.

I have grand plans to one day actually try this, but I haven’t done it yet. Each day after you write, also write a brief description of what you wrote that day, and then at the end shape this into the synopsis. It sounds much easier than working on a synopsis post-story, but I’ve yet to remember to try it.

Writing a synopsis is daunting, and I’d like to tell you it gets easier the more you do it, but I won’t lie. It’s never easy to distill an entire story down to just a few words and you always feel like you’re leaving out something vital. If you’re one of those people who can write an amazing synopsis effortlessly, kudos to you and also send your magic fairy my way.