Happy February. It’s hard to believe we are 36 days into a new decade. Let’s get started.
Last month I invited you to follow me on my planning journey. One month down and I am in love with planning. Full disclosure, I have not settled on a system, yet. Once I do, I’ll share it with you.
In the past, at this time of the year, I would still be looking for a calendar I liked. I am a huge Kate Spade fan and have been using KS planners for a few years. It’s not to say they aren’t good because they are.
What have I learned from my first month of organized planning? I learned to focus and not beat myself up when I don’t get everything done on my daily to do list.
I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube channels on planning and it’s fascinating. I’m so excited to find channels on writing and planning. I watched another Sarra Cannon video about “Kanban Boards.” I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. In fact, I thought she was saying something else. But when I watched the video, I knew it was exactly what I needed to help me organize my writing life.
A Kanban Board forces you to focus on a few goals and all the tasks required to complete them. To be specific, here’s the Wikipedia definition: A Kanban board is one of the tools that can be used to implement Kanban to manage work at a personal or organizational level.
The way Sarra set hers up was on a board into three months. I like the idea of focusing on three goals. Here are my three: 1] Publish and promote both new and backlist titles to increase average income; 2] Increase fan engagement across social media, blog, BookBub, Amazon and newsletter 10%, 15%, 30% and 3] Complete Unexpected Love #2 and start a KDP Select book. [For privacy reasons, I didn’t disclose the financial aspects of the first goal.]
The goals and their tasks are broken down by 30, 60 and 90 days. My head went into a tailspin and I immediately understood why Sarra suggested limiting the goals to three or maybe two. I chose three. If you’re inclined, you can also add a personal goal. Each month has a different color to help keep things in order. If you’re interested, check out her video [https://heartbreathings.com/how-to-achieve-your-goals-when-youre-busy/].
How did I do the first 30 days? I missed the mark on a few things. Seeing all of the tasks on a board made me face my new work reality. I sort of mixed up my stickie notes…something I’ll correct in the next quarter. This first thirty days, I planned to rebrand a series. I made a set of covers late last year, but when I went back to them, I started having second thoughts and made another set. I’m not satisfied with the new set and will start on another set this month. This indecisiveness, has caused all the tasks attached to that series, to be pushed back. A few of the other tasks for January which I’m carrying over include some minor admin things.
This new plan allowed me to write again. I hadn’t written much the last quarter. I signed up for NANO, but didn’t complete the book. I would like to blame it on the business of life, but after NANO finished, I realized it wasn’t time to complete that book. If I’d stayed with it, it would have meant I wouldn’t get a book out until summer and I felt that was too long of a gap between releases. My last release was in October.
Instead, on January 13th, I know this because I wrote it in my planner, I went back to working on The Good Girl Trois [I had written 2653 words and put it aside]. I made it a point to be consistent. I set a daily goal of 1000 words per day. That first week was hard. There were a few days where I barely wrote 500+ words. And days when I did 2000+. As of today, I made my goal for January, 15,000. My new goal is to complete this book by the end of February. I’m not pressuring myself, but if I stay on track, I’ll make it.
My social media has been up and down, but that’s my fault. I have a plan, which I need to implement.
This year, I really want to put all of the things I’ve learned from courses and conferences into play and develop a marketing plan that’s right for me. This could mean limiting conference attendance and author signings. My goal this year is to publish four books and build up my readership. I hear you saying, “Author events will help with readership.” That is true, but I really want to advance and or complete two of my series.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far, is planning is no joke. I also see why, planner girls start working on their plans in October. I don’t like playing catch up, but I am a lot further along this year than I have been in the past. I’m excited to see how I do this month.
See you next month.
Happy New Year and Happy Decade. First I want to apologize for the mishap last month, internet issues prevented me from doing anything.
Let’s get this year and decade off to a great start. I don’t believe in resolutions. For those who do, good for you. Instead, I choose to set goals and plans for myself. This is what works for me. This method keeps me focused and forces me to strive for the next level. Do I always reach my goals in my designated time frame, no. But that’s okay, I simply push them back and keep working towards them.
To briefly recap 2019. I started the year with great aspirations to publish four books. That didn’t happen. Instead, I released one book, A Southern Gentleman Vol 2 in October. I did however, release four boxsets, Secret Love, Real Love, Loving Her and Falling For Her Boss. I didn’t get more books published because I made a decision in 2018 which carried over into 2019…ReBranding.
I talked about ReBranding a lot at the end of 2018. However, I failed to underestimate how long it would take. In 2019 I started changing covers and blurbs, which opened a can of creative worms. I love the new covers and the new website. I still have work to do on the website, which appears to be a constant work in progress.
Since I do all of my graphic design, it takes up a little more of my time, which sometimes makes me a victim of poor time management. This is something I’m working on this year. [I’ll talk more about that later.]
It wasn’t until I released A Southern Gentleman Vol 2, that I realized I needed help. Me not getting help was costing me valuable time. I thought by me doing everything myself, I was saving money. In reality, I was losing money and valuable time. As my mother says, “you can always get more money, but not more time.”
A few weeks before my release, I booked a publicist [Honey Magnolia PR] to help me. The minute, I booked Honey Magnolia, I immediately felt relief. I had used a PR company before, but the results weren’t as good as I had hoped. So I was a little apprehensive to go that route again, but this time, it worked. I saw good sales and engagement.
My takeaway from 2019 was simple, be patient with rebranding and know when to get help.
A couple of years ago, I took you on a wild challenge of writing and publishing a title a month. This year, I want to take you with me on another journey…no, it’s not a book a month. SMILE. Planning. It seems so simple, but for me, it’s not something I’ve really committed to. Let me clarify.
In the past, I would start the year with a production schedule. Pretty much every month was filled with a title. There was a mix of new books, backlist updates and special boxsets. I figured the best was to get eyes on me was through titles. This is sort of a good plan when worked effectively. But I failed to schedule promotions and market the titles.
I went searching for a marketing calendar for my other business and stumbled on a couple of authors who like to use planners. One in particular, Sarra Cannon, opened my eyes to planning. She also shared her 90 Day plan. This is a remarkable plan. I’m, going to try it this quarter and share my progress.
This year, I’m also going to share how I use a planner to help me write and organize my business. Trust me, this is a world I never knew existed, but it’s filled with tips on how to work more efficiently.
Next month, I’ll share the results of my first month using a planner and update my 90 Day process.
I apologize in advance for the long post.
Last month I shared about my first release in over a year. I was very nervous. So much so, I thought I’d broken out with a case of hives on release day. Only to discover it was an infection. The medical drama is a couple of posts on its own. Bottom line, I just finished my second round of meds. Thank God, it wasn’t anything serious, but could have been.
So how was my release for A Southern Gentleman Vol 2? AMAZING! Did I hit the numbers I wanted? No. But that was okay, because I got something better. But first let me explain the slight glitch I encountered.
I rarely do pre-order on Amazon. Committing to a date without the option of last minute changes, isn’t something I like. However, I thought I’d try it this time. After all the book had been on pre-order on all of the other platforms, so I thought. Turns out when I loaded the book to Kobo, it was as a pre-order. At least looking at the dashboard, it wasn’t. I’m pretty sure, there was a glitch because every time I made a change, it kept indicating that it was a live book.
Back over at KDP and the pre-order, I loaded a placeholder file…my ARC. However, I wasn’t familiar with the countdown clock. I received an email that said “Thank You for the file” or something to that effect. I misread the email. I thought it was reminding me, when in fact it was telling me the file was set and no changes could be made until after it was live. Insert panicked face here. I freaked out and started praying and searching the blogs for an answer. I found a post in one of my Facebook groups, that mentioned a window to make changes. Apparently, there’s a small window before pre-orders are delivered when you might, be able to go in and make changes before the file is delivered.
I was prepping for release day and this little voice said to check the locked file. I did and it was open. The pre-orders hadn’t been delivered yet. I hurried about and got the correct file loaded. Hallelujah! I also had a problem with how I loaded the file to Apple Books. The opposite was happening at Apple Books. I had put the incorrect date in, which meant the file probably never would have dropped.
On to the results. The Saturday before release[book launch date 10.08.19], my Sweet & Sexy romance was #8 on Amazon.co.uk in African American Fiction. I was over the moon. Then on release day in the US, ASGV2 spent it in the top 100 African American Christian Fiction. Both are very good. What really had me bouncing off the walls, was where A Southern Gentleman Vol 2 was it’s first weekend…#21 in African American Christian Fiction [Kindle Store] and #22 African American Christian Fiction [Books] in the US. YEAH!!! I almost passed out. The book stayed in these spots for a few days.
You may be wondering about the category placement. I did a little research and found some more books similar to mine and noticed they were positioned in that category. I have never wanted my books to be pigeon holed as Christian Fiction or Romance. However, there are enough of those elements to put them in that category. Last week, I moved ASGV1 to that same category and have notice a big shift. I also put another couple books in that category as well. I’m experimenting with category placement, but that’s the subject for a different post.
So what did I do differently this time?
I hired a publicist – It was time to get help. I used Honey Magnolia PR. Tia Kelly is amazing. She helped me formulate a plan that was right for me and this book. We did a Book Blitz, Blog Tour and Social Media Blast. I was very hesitant to do a blog tour, because the first and last couple of times I did, I didn’t get very good results. This time, I saw social media results as well as a bump in my BookBub followers. I also got an amazing review.
ARC Team – This is an area where I am still having a challenge. I get people to signup yet they won’t post reviews. If anyone has tips on how to get your ARC Team to cooperate I’d appreciate it. However, the reviews I have are great, but I really want to get in the double digits.
Facebook Ads – I did three test ads and eventually nailed it down to one. It is so true about FB Ads. For me, as long as I’m running an ad, I see sales. I started the ads late [a few days before release day and as of the post, I’m still running it. From the looks of it, the ad is beginning to pay for itself.
BookBub Ads – I can’t say for sure, but I think these are responsible for my amazing sales with Draft Two Digital.
Newsletter Ad – I’m not quite sure of the results and that’s my fault because I should have done a better job of tracking.
Facebook Party – This was a first for me. I never hosted a FB party. I have a small reader group, but not enough for a party. So I asked a friend A M Roak to help me. She was awesome and connected me with The New Romance Cafe. This was so much fun. I put a call out and Christina Alexander, A M Roak, Saharra Sandhu, Kelly Violet, Cass Ford, Naomi Springthorp, and Dee J Holmes, all jumped in and helped me.
There were a few ads I wanted to run, but I let time get away from me. And I really wanted to give Facebook another shot. I have spent a lot of money on courses and now need to make them work for me.
On to phase two of the release. More Facebook ads and there are a couple of newsletter ads I’d like to try. I also would love to apply for a BookBub on book one in the duet. The other thing I’m going to do is a special giveaway for my list. I did two giveaways at the beginning, one for the Blitz and one for the tour.
So am I excited about this release? Yes. I’m also a little sad, because that means I have to put Jeremiah to the side while I give another book boyfriend my attention. Next up on my computer is Ty from Unexpected Love. I was inspired during a holiday and re-read my book Unexpected Love. When I finished I decided it was time to tell the next part of this story. And to make sure I do, it’s my NANO project. So far I’m behind, but I’m sure I’ll get my writing wings any day. As of writing, I’m 3872 words in. We’ll see what happens.
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy NANO to all.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I haven’t released a new book since January 2018. Strange considering just a couple of years ago, I was feverishly or as some said, stupidly releasing a title a month.
This year, I had a plan and it went to, I won’t say hell, because that would mean I’d given up on those titles and I hadn’t. Those wonderful stories are either on my computer or in my head waiting to be born.
I have been talking about my forthcoming release A Southern Gentleman Vol 2 [ASGV2] for quite a while. The endless changes and pushed back release dates had me wondering if there was a subconscious reason why I was delaying sharing the next part of Jeremiah and Avery’s story.
I have been living with this couple for quite a while. I’m still in awe how a couple that were very minor guest stars in What My Friends Need To Know, have become my most popular couple to date. I have had more people tell me how much they love Jeremiah and how this story should be a movie. I’m flattered, but that’s not my goal. If such an offer were ever to be made, I think I might have to say no. I’ve seen some of my favorite books turned into movies and was very disappointed. I don’t think I’d be able to handle seeing my characters not as I conceived them. Everyone’s interpretation of art or your story is different. That’s one of the main reasons why I rarely use a face as the cover on my books. I give you just enough information for you to craft your version of that character.
Which leads to this month’s post. Last month I shared my release plan, which has taken a detour. I’ll share what I did next month.
Back to the subject at hand, the cover. So, I had a wonderful cover, I thought, then I went to the RAM Conference and had a come to Jesus moment. After a few hours at the conference my creative juices kicked in like twelve cans of Red Bull. My mind and fingers danced on the keyboard visiting stock photo sites. I found an image I loved. Unfortunately, it didn’t love my wallet. I could have bought a pair of shoes for the price of that image. There’s a reason why exclusive images cost so much, because they can and they’re beautiful. I did a very small test with the watermarked image and the response was amazing.
This would have been great to have because of the license freedoms. I could use the image on anything. Side note: Did you know some stock image sites only allow limited usage. And that one of the things not included are marketing materials [pens, buttons, bookmarks, postcards, etc.}
On to the second cover. I liked the image, but I needed to test it. I was going with abs or man chest. One image had a red sweater and abs. The other a black tuxedo jacket, and of course, abs. I was trying something new with my branding, a slightly sexier or sensual vibe. Ironically, I had originally considered the tuxedo image for book one, but went with the classic tight white shirt. I did a new test and the red sweater did well.
Fast forward a few months and the end of a major re-write to the end of the story and I started to feel the red sweater, didn’t feel right. It almost seemed too sweet. This story was more sensual making this image not right. However, I wasn’t going to make a change without doing a test. Did I forget to mention all of this happened just a few weeks ago. That’s right. About a month before my release date,I still hadn’t settled on a cover. Keep in mind, I have been sitting on this book over a year and here I was rethinking the cover.
I remembered a free image I used for marketing posts and thought it might be nice. His face wasn’t visible which was another plus. However, the man had tattoos and my character didn’t. A small one, I could skirt around like I did on book one [I have since removed it]. But these were big. One of his pecks and forearms were covered with tattoos. Other than those areas, the image was good.
I searched You Tube for Photoshop videos on how to get rid of tattoos. The tattoo on the forearm wasn’t an issue because of the shadow I put on the bottom of the image. Some more minor color adjusting, and I had an image I really liked.
I was ready to test again This time between the red sweater and the abs only chest. I hurriedly assembled a test group of readers and authors and was shocked at the results. Without knowing anything about the new ending, the red sweater lost…by a landslide. There were a couple of people who had read the revised book and agreed the abs was the best cover. What do you think? [Look below]
During this process, I was posting about the book and used a black placeholder cover. I placed the book on Pre-Order everywhere accept Amazon. I have mixed feelings about Pre-Orders on Amazon. I like that I can get early sales, but I don’t like the deadline. The pressure to make sure the file is up and complete is horrible. This time, I wanted to do a Pre-Order. Grateful for the early sales, but I made a mistake or misread the timeline details. I have a placeholder file up. More accurately, I have an ARC copy up. Now I am praying I can get it changed before the pre-orders are delivered. I believe everything will work out.
As I count down to release day, let me clarify, it’s not just a day, but a month. I’ve got a few things planned for the entire month for this release. Some of which, I have yet to put into play. I am currently finishing up Facebook and BookBub ad testing. Come Sunday, I’ll adjust the Facebook ads and book newsletter ads for the rest of the month. Instead of directing all of my ads for release day, I’m going to space them out over the course of the month to keep the momentum going. If this works, this may become my new ad strategy.
Here’s the selfless promo. I welcome any help in getting the word out about my new release. I’m available to post and come with gifts. If you allow me to post in your group or share with your newsletter, I’ll give a download to one of your readers. And when you release or have a book you want to promote, let me know. I’ll share it with my group and feature it in my newsletter.
Have a great weekend. Next month, I’ll update you on the release results.
Before I get into my post, I have to apologize for not posting last month. I completely forgot. I took a much-needed break and my mind was elsewhere. I think it must have been the 111 degree temperature I was sitting in. Here’s the funny part, I took my iPad and laptop on holiday with the intention of writing. I figured, with the few days away from everything, I’d write a novella. That never happened. I take that back. I did write a couple of pages, but can’t find them. No biggie. I had started this book a while back, but couldn’t find it. When I returned home, I dug deep into my hard drive and found the original pages. I was able to recall some of what I’d written on holiday and included it in the new book.
Now to this month’s post.
I mentioned in my last post that I was working on my upcoming release, A Southern Gentleman Vol 2. I was going to hire a publicist to help with the release, but changed my mind. I’m not saying I’ll never use a publicist, but right now isn’t the time. I paid a lot of money on a course to teach me to market my books and I need to make sure I’ve given it a fair chance to work. I tried the techniques twice. Once with some success and the second with very little success. I need to make sure I can do this before I can tell someone what I want them to do.
So, what’s my plan. PRAY. Smile. Okay, I need to do a little more. I’ve learned a lot about marketing since I released my first book five years ago. My very first release, consisted of me accidentally pushing the Publish Button and hoping. I didn’t know about Facebook or newsletter ads. I did book a blog tour, which earned me a few reviews, but few sales. I decided to go wide, so I burned or used a lot of ISBNs because I thought you needed one for every platform. I sold quite a few print copies to family and friends. Unfortunately, those are one-time sales, which I’m grateful. However, I need and want fans, avid readers and followers of my stories.
I have a plan. Now I sound like a politician. SMILE.
I am going to take what I learned in the course, plus what I’ve learned from the various Facebook groups, blog posts and authors I’ve met and formulate a strategy. Will it be my road map from here on out? Maybe, maybe not. Every book is different and what works for one book, may not work for another. Now I should a little confused. Let me clarify. I’m building a basic plan which I will tweak with each release as needed.
Here we go. I’ve given myself approximately 30 days in the Pre-Order period. During this time, I’ll send the book out to my ARC Readers and people in my various groups to read and post reviews on release day. Next, Take Overs. I’ve been doing a few of these for other authors with pretty good results. So now it’s my turn. ADS. I’ve made a list of sites and a posting schedule. Not only do I need ads for release day, I need them for afterwards as well. I’m considering doing ads prior to the release day for A Southern Gentleman Vol 1 in order to draw attention the duet with new readers.
Where it gets a little tricky is Facebook. FB ads can be tricky, so I’m going to start testing graphics a couple of weeks prior to release. I know I’m going to do BookBub Ads, I would love to do a feature ad, but I think I waited too late to apply for one. I am going to try for a paid new release ad, but it might be a little late for that one as well.
All of that will be moot if I don’t do one thing…select a cover. I hear you cringing now, but let me explain. I had a cover, then I went into rebranding mode and it didn’t work. I have two covers and have done a soft test. Before I commit to a cover, I need to do a little more testing. So far, the one I like is winning. However, I don’t need the cover to do pre-marketing, although it would help, a lot. Right now, I’m as busy as a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest. [That statement reminds me of one of the characters in A Southern Gentleman Vol 2]. But it’s the truth. There’s quite a bit to do prior to release. Grant it, I could do nothing or the minimum and see what happens, but I want to make this my best release to date.
So here’s the plan:
I almost forgot. I have a new release date, October 8th, which means I have a few days before the plan goes into play.
I’ll update you next month.
Happy end of summer. Tracy.
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