I hope you are enjoying the last days of spring and are excited about summer. I love both. I’m a little reticent in my excitement, because I am so behind. As I have mentioned in previous posts. I had no idea this rebrand would take so long.
I am finally about to release a new book, the first since first quarter of 2018. The book I’m about to release, A SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN Vol Two [ASGV2], I finished in summer of 2018. I received it from my editor late September or early October. I don’t remember exactly when. I elected not to release it until after I returned from the RAM conference. I knew I’d learn some things I could use, but still release the book at my projected time of December 2018. This would have been the anniversary of volume one in the series. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, because underestimate of the rebrand.
I thought the rebrand would be simple. I’d change a few things on the website, hold the new covers until 2019 and update the cover on volume one. All of which I thought wouldn’t still allow me to stick to my scheduled release date. That didn’t happen.
I could have released the book without the rebranding being complete, but I decided not to. Looking back, I think I made the right choice. I went through several covers for ASGV1. I knew changing that cover was going to set the tone for volume two. What I didn’t count on was a change in the story.
I like writing cliff hangers. However, some of my readers don’t. ASGV2, had a cliffhanger. I liked it. In fact, I thought it was a good way to sell books, but not in all cases. FOR ME, I think it works when the next book is ready. In my case, I knew the next book, was going to be at least eight to ten months out. I was in a Facebook seminar and had the chance to ask a bestselling author her thoughts on cliffhangers. She was not a fan and said most readers aren’t either. She said readers want a HEA. I was a little dejected.
What convinced me was my manicurist. She asked how the book was coming and we got into a discussion about cliffhangers. She told me she didn’t like them and most readers don’t unless the next book is available. I was deflated. Not satisfied with those answers, I did more research and was surprised how many agreed with them.
I went back to my book, deleted the cliffhanger and all the things associated with it. When I finished, I was left with a few wholes that needed to be filled. I really thought it would have been a piece of cake. Instead, it was almost a rewrite. When I finished, I had deleted A LOT, added two characters, revealed more of my protagonist personality and added approximately 5000 words. There is a cliffhanger, sort of with another character. She has a secret, but if I choose to give her a story, I have something to work with.
Now that I’ve finished, I’m having second thoughts about the proposed cover. It doesn’t feel right. It’s missing something. So it’s back to looking at hundreds of shirtless men. I guess I have to take one for the team. [Smile]
So what did I learn from this step in my rebranding process? Don’t get attached to your story or cover. I liked the ending and the cover I selected for ASGV2. However, after making a few changes to the story, I like it better. I haven’t selected a new cover yet, but I’m sure it will be more reflective of the story.
Target release day for A SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN Vol Two, July 30th. I’ll keep you posted.
It’s hard to believe we are five days into the second quarter. I don’t know about you, but the first quarter didn’t quite go as I planned. However, I think if I didn’t have a production schedule and new daily agenda, I would not be as far along as I am in my rebranding journey.
Yes, I missed the deadline I set to release my book, but I had a very good reason. I didn’t like the ending. Let me back up. I like my book. I even feel secure in saying I love the story. However, in the back of my mind it felt like there was something missing. I sent it to a beta reader and she loved it. It’s one thing for a reader to say they like or even love your work. But if you get that gnawing feeling, then you need to address it.
The other reason I changed the ending, was because I asked an established romance writer and a reader how they felt about cliffhangers. Both had the same answer, “Don’t like them.” I’ve been called out via review by readers not liking my cliffhangers. One of them was my cousin. I didn’t know she was reading my books until she’d read quite a few and posted her dislike of the cliffhanger.
I thought using a cliffhanger at the end of a book was a clever marketing tool to get the reader to buy the next book. Apparently, I missed the mark and pissed off a few readers.
So on the eve or a few weeks before sharing my book, I decided to make a pretty drastic decision to re-write the ending.
I had written what I thought was a nice little cliff hanger, but even I had to admit it was lacking something. know what’s going to happen in the next book and wrote the end based on that. But I forgot, the reader isn’t in my head. Those words and plots are all mine.
Now I’m starting out the second quarter with a minor re-write. If I don’t call it major, it won’t overwhelm me. I think the ending is better and still sets up another book if I choose to continue with these characters or pick another pair from the story.
Let’s do a quick recap.
First quarter goals:
Release updated covers…6 out of 7 released [Cover seven ties into the new website and my upcoming release.]
Update website….Tweaking…launching this month
Bonus goals…format ebook interiors with paired down back matter [I sort of over did it on the excerpts.}
I also reformatted the ebook lay out pushing the acknowledgements, dedication and a few other things to the back. This gives the reader more story to sample.]
New Tagline and color theme
Graphics for new book…done
Did you make your goals last quarter? If not, ask yourself why and what can you do to complete them this quarter.
Next month, I’ll share the new website. It’s different, but very me.
To everyone attending Cal Dreamin’ enjoy this time hanging with your friends. I hope you get everything out of it you were hoping for.
See you next month.
This is where the rubber meets the road. The Production Schedule can be a scary thing. It’s where you set your money plan for the up coming year. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something insane like write a title a month. It’s another thing to actually do it. Oh man, I just had a flash back to 2016.
There’s a scripture that says to write the vision and make it plain, for in due time it will come to pass. It might feel like it’s slow, but it will happen. I did a little paraphrasing [Habbkkuk 2:2-3], but it’s true.
When we write things down, we give them life. When you put those words on an 11” x 17” piece of paper and post it on your office wall where you see it every day, it becomes your silent assistant, constantly reminding you of the tasks at hand.
I have been using a production schedule for a few years. The last two years, I sort of ignored it, which meant, I had subconsciously decided not to make that much money. Insert gasp and call me a bad writer. I know why I ignored the schedule on 2017, I was exhausted from 2016. But last year, I haven’t got a clue what happened nor a justifiable reason. I started the year with these grand plans of writing four books, possibly doing a couple of short stories and creating another boxset.
Last year saw me publish one fiction book and one non-fiction book. I did however, write another book which I held until after I attended RAM. I figured I’d use what I learned to release it. That was before I realized I needed to clean up a few things before I could release anything.
So here I am sixty-four days into a new year and I’ve yet to release a book. According to my production schedule, I should have released all of my new covers. There’s been a little hitch in my plan. This rebrand has taken a little longer than I thought. Rebranding is sort of like redecorating. You start out thinking a fresh coat of paint is all you need and then you realize the sofa looks horrible, even though you matched the paint against before you attacked the walls. So now it needs to be recovered. Now the carpet and drapes don’t work. Before you know it, you’re knocking down walls, ditching the carpet for hardwood floors, changing the light fixtures and buying a new sofa.
So when I changed the covers, I had to update the blurbs. When I started loading the covers to the website, they didn’t fit. The wall had to come down . . . a new website . . . a new logo . . . new color scheme. This December I will celebrate five years as a published author and so far, instead of doing special celebrations, I’m in the middle of a major remodel. Oh yeah, and I have a few books I need to write so I can make some money.
In January, Skye Warren published an explosive mini course on RWA which was a game changer for me. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It was scary, but it was also very enlightening. It forced me to look at my writing career differently as if RAM hadn’t already got my juices flowing. I did the assignments and started a new production schedule. I saw things a little differently. I didn’t realize, I had as many titles sitting around waiting to be shared.
I had decided I was going to put four titles out this year, but it was looking a little bleak while rebranding. But I when I looked at my catalog, I discovered four boxsets. I could easily call it a done deal, but I look at these titles as four unexpected new revenue streams. I attacked my Production Schedule and now it wasn’t as scary. Instead I saw the potential to make money. I haven’t released anything yet, because I’ve been busy redecorating, but the new titles are on my website as coming soon. If I stay focused, before the end of the month, I’ll start releasing titles and sharing the new covers to all the selling platforms. The new website and newsletter design will be live as well.
So here’s a peak at my production schedule.
Release New Covers
New Newsletter Design
I’m going on vacation . . . this isn’t a title.
I know it looks a little insane and almost as nutty as my book a month project. Keep in mind, most of these things are written or down. This is more less a proposed release schedule. Once I complete the website, all I have to do is load the files to Vellum for the box sets. I’m cleaning up A Southern Gentleman Vol 2. The other three books on my schedule are in my head and waiting to be written. There’s something I want to try with those . . . I’ll let you know if my plan works.
I almost forgot, here’s another set of covers. If you’re counting, you’re correct, I have only shared six. I’m holding the seventh, A Southern Gentleman because it’s part of the launch for A Southern Gentleman Vol 2.
Have a great month and write a lot.
Last month I shared about my plans to rebrand myself as an author. This month I started putting the plan into action. Excuse me while I pause for a little childish whining…this is hard.
Now I’m back to my adult self. No one who has gone through the rebranding process said it would be easy. It’s more like masochism. How is it possible to derive pleasure from such a challenging process? But it’s exciting seeing the changes come to life.
I have another business and had the opportunity to work with a consultant and was shocked at what I learned about my business. I’ve been an entrepreneur for quite a while. I thought I knew my business, but in the back of my mind I always felt I could be doing more…doing better. So when the opportunity arose to work with a consultant, I jumped at it.
I thought I had my stuff together, but after the first meeting, I realized I didn’t know crap about my business. When she asked me “Who my customer was?” I gave my answer. Only to discover, it was too broad. I thought my website was amazing, after all, the site host, family and friends, all said it was great. They were sincere in their compliment. However, the reality was, my social media was a mess [Thank God Elena Dillion helped me with my Pinterest page before my first meeting, giving me one brownie point with the consultant]. There was a mix of styles. The colors and graphics were all over the place. My business profile had no cohesion.
When I completed the process with the consultant, my business had a definite brand. So when I listened to the RAM speakers talk about rebranding, I understood because I’d just gone through it with my other business. However, this was a little more difficult because the product that needed a new look was something I created. Something I needed to take a hard look at.
As writers we are very creative, but sometimes we’re not as objective to the marketing process as we need to be. I’m not saying you have to design your own covers and graphics. You do however, need to know what the trends are in your category and most importantly, you need to know who your reader is. And make the necessary changes no matter how painful it is.
I write Contemporary Romance with African American Romance as my secondary category. The books in these categories are similar. I looked at the also boughts for the titles I wanted to change and came up with designs I liked. The commonality for both categories was shirtless men or couples. My two most downloaded books have shirtless men wherever possible or a hot couple. Of course there’s an exception to every rule. For me that rule is having a woman on the cover. My third most downloaded book, has a woman on the cover.
My cover design plan included shirtless men, couples, bold fonts and eye catching blurbs.
I’m using stock images right now. I would love to use exclusive images on some of the books, but I first want to see what the reaction is going to be. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with stock images. However, if you can afford to use an exclusive image, do it. Most exclusive images give you a little more latitude in use. If an exclusive image isn’t an option and you can’t find anything you like with one of the stock image sites, there are several free sites with nice images. Some of the free image sites allow for a little more flexibility in use. I’ve used www.unsplash.com and www.pexels.com .
I have been in the creative lab and wanted to share some of the new covers. [These are all stock images from Deposit photos.] I have a little tweaking to do before making these live.
THE FIX UP…
I like the original cover, unfortunately, after a couple of years, the bloom is off the rose. The new cover was originally A Southern Gentleman Vol 2. The new image felt more in tune with the character.
I like the image, but the font is horrible. I’m pretty sure the poor font choice is why this book isn’t moving as well as it should. I opted not to change the image because I might want a new look when I release book two and what a cohesive look.
FIRST ENCOUNTERS OF LOVE…
This was my first boxset. It does fair. However, the image is similar to another one which does well. You’d think this would benefit. However, I think the other image confuses people or makes them think they already bought the box set. I’m going to try something I’ve never done before, a couple. I know the shirtless man does well, I’m hoping the couple does just as well.
Before I finalize a cover, I ask my reader group for feedback and then run test ads on BookBub and Facebook. The one with the best results is the winner.
My plan is to start releasing the new covers this month.
Next month, I’ll share all of the updated covers and talk about my production schedule.
It’s five days into the new year and I still don’t have a production schedule. I hear your screams. It’s not like I’m clueless. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it. Unfortunately, right now I feel a little like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz….”If I only had a brain.” I’ve got a brain, but right now it’s full of the other things I need to get done before I can figure out what I want to write. Okay, that might not be exactly true. I have a completed book I held back for a few reasons.
Last year, I had the privilege of attending an amazing conference, Romance Author Mastermind. When I say incredible, that is an understatement. I spent three days and evenings in total fan girl mode. I couldn’t believe I was sitting next to Lauren Blakely in one session and Carly Phillips in another. CD Reiss is so down to earth and funny. I tried to maintain my cool when I spoke to Skye Warren. And I was so excited to see Brenna Aubrey on a panel and leading roundtables. Wow! There were so many others I can’t even call all of the names. I also got to spend time with Maria Seager and Christine Ashworth.
Once reality set in, it was time to get to work. When I say I’m still buzzing, it’s not an exaggeration. I got a major wake up call. I went into the conference with a sense I was going to need to make a few changes. After the first session, I knew few was an inaccurate word. A lot of changes were going to be required.
Let me clarify. I don’t have to make changes. However, Whitney G…yes, I met her too. Side note, she was so nice and she brought the most delicious cookies for everyone. She asked us a simple question, “What level of writer do you want to be? Three, Four, Five, Six or Seven Figure Writer?” I have to paraphrase the next part. She said if you’re told you need to change your cover or make some other change how you respond will indicate what type of writer you’re on track to be. The three and four figure writer will hesitate and not make the change because they’re attached to the thing that needs to be changed. The five figure writer hesitates, but makes the change. The six and seven figure writer is making the change before they get to their computer.
I want to be a six, seven figure writer. If that means a rebrand is required, then so be it. Someone asked CD Reiss, “What about the readers who already bought the book? Won’t they be upset you changed the book?” I won’t use her exact words [Smile], but she said they already bought the book, you’re trying to market to those who haven’t.
Like I said, I went into this knowing there was a strong possibility I was going to have to make a few changes. However, when I sat down with Brenna and Olivia Rigal and asked their honest opinion about one of my covers, I braced myself for their feedback and got confirmation. CHANGE WAS NEEDED. I went upstairs and got to work. The following morning, I had a new cover. However, it’s not the one I’m going to use, but it got my juices flowing.
But that was just the beginning. We’re still talking covers. I was introduced to “Exclusive Cover Images.” Sweet Baby Jesus…I had no idea this world existed. Side note, I have been using stock and there is nothing wrong with stock. Hey, you have to crawl before you walk, but entree into this world comes at a price. [I’ll do a post about that later.] I didn’t know you couldn’t use stock on certain types of marketing materials [i.e, book marks, postcards, posters, etc.]. Let me clarify, you can if you purchase an extended license. That additional cost is plus for using an exclusive image.
Before attending RAM, I made a few drastic decisions. I shut down all of my ads…Facebook, BookBub and AMS. I wanted a clean slate once I put everything I learned in to play. Only thing is…you know how they say actions have consequences? Well, here’s my consequence to my drastic move…no ads, equal no sales…no money. However, I did have a clean slate.
I thought I knew a few things, after all, I do my own covers and graphics. I have decent book sells. But sitting in a room filled with women who have achieved the level of writing success I want, was contagious. I don’t see how it was possible to leave without wanting to get to the next level.
This all leads back to why I don’t have a production schedule yet. I completed the sequel to my best seller A SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN before RAM. When I got accepted to the conference, I made a decision not to release it until after the conference. I am so glad I did, because if I had, I know the release wouldn’t have produced the results I desired. So here I am with a book on deck, but first book one needs a major facelift.
So this year, my blog will focus on my steps to rebrand and what I learned at RAM.
First step, rebrand Tracy Reed Author. I know who she is, but am I conveying that to my readers? I’ve been reviewing my covers and blurbs…first steps in the re-branding process. I like my covers, but RAM taught me, they could be better. I made a list of all my books and took a hard look…images, fonts, colors. Then I looked at them as thumbnails. Then I looked at the top books in my category. Doing the comparison was difficult. I took the things I liked and figured out how to apply them to my covers and style.
I’ve tried to do artsy covers. Artsy is nice, but in my case it wasn’t selling as many books as I would like. Funny thing, the image I selected for A Southern Gentleman Book Two, is one I had considered originally for book one. Apparently, I was on the right track. I went with another one because I thought it was too steamy. Talk about full circle.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been as open to change the cover if it hadn’t been for what I learned in the graphic design session with Regina Wamba and CD Reiss’ openness about her covers. I didn’t think I was the abs author until I was on my way to a signing talking to my mother. I have one book with abs on it and thought it was being down loaded daily because it’s free. This book has been out since Summer 2016 and hovers in the top Free 100 on Amazon daily. Occasionally it will spike to the top 15 or slip a little below 100. It didn’t occur to me it was doing well because of the cover. Who knew a shirtless man could sell books?
I selected a book that wasn’t moving to start the rebranding process. THE NIGHT I FELL IN LOVE, has a new cover and blurb. I posted the covers in the RAM FB Group for feedback then tested the options with my reader group and was surprised. Next was test ads on Facebook and BookBub. I made two ads, one with a shirtless man and the other with a blurb and the book. Do I even have to tell you which one worked? Next step is to make it live. Because I’m changing several books, I want to wait until more are ready. Anyone who tells you rebranding is easy, is removed from reality. In addition to the books and marketing graphica, I’m also tweaking my website, another reason I’m waiting before I make the new covers live.
Next month, I’ll share the evolution of my first covers to undergo rebranding and possibly my production schedule.
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