Okay, writing books is my profession these days. My business. And I figure everyone reading this blog also enjoys books. That’s what A Slice of Orange is about.
I can always keep busy writing–yes, busyness. My mind keeps plotting away, even if it doesn’t need to. Ideas keep flashing into my brain and not letting go. Good thing my computer is usually nearby so I can at least start jotting down those ideas, and potentially flesh them out later. And I’ll also bet that a lot of the people reading A Slice of Orange can really identify with that, too.
Over the time of the pandemic I haven’t had many books published–just one so far, in February 2020. I’m used to more, but that’s okay. Things have changed a lot in many ways lately.
It’s especially okay since I will have two new books published later in 2021 and at least another two published in 2022! I always say I love to include dogs in my books, and I do that as much as I can, although sometimes I may think about dogs, and obey my own dogs while I’m writing, but not all of the books I’ve been writing lately can actually include dogs.
My upcoming books? Well, first will come Her Undercover Refuge, the first Harlequin Romantic Suspense book in my new Shelter of Secrets series–in August. And yes, it includes dogs.
Next will be Uncovering Colton’s Family Secret, the tenth in the Coltons of Grave Gulch series also for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, in October.
And then in February 2022, my next mystery, Bear Witness, an Alaska Untamed Mystery will be published by Crooked Lane… under a pseudonym. It does include a dog as well as Alaskan wildlife including–what else?–bears!
I’m working on another Colton book for HRS which will be published in 2022, and there may be more books as well… info to come.
So… Yay! Yes, I’ve used this blog post to talk a lot about myself and my work, and my business and busyness. It’s all about me–but not entirely. I hope it gives other writers inspiration to leap on ideas, and encourages them to stay busy as well. Assuming they’re not already, which they probably are.
And I certainly wouldn’t mind if any of you pick up one or more of my upcoming books when available, and read them.
By the way, I’m really thrilled that I’m A Slice of Orange’s featured author this month!
I have a confession. I am a writer who hasn’t released a new book in over a year. There, I said it. I can’t believe my last new release was late 2019.
I will not lament about the ups and downs of 2020, nor will I use the pandemic as an excuse for not publishing a book. Instead of publishing a new book, I concentrated on completing a book, which I did. Truthfully, my plan was to release The Good Girl Part Trois last year, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, I reread it and realized it needed a little work. A little work quickly turned into a lot of work. I’m not complaining because I’m very pleased with the story. However, I’m a lot disappointed I let so much time lapse between releases. The extra time gave me some perspective and an opportunity to figure out a launch plan.
I listened to several podcasts and You Tube videos searching for a new release launch plan. In the end, I decided to try something completely different slow and escalating. I would love to land in a bestseller spot at the end of release day or week. To accomplish such a feat would take a lot more planning than I have. My plan takes patience. I look at it as setting my book up for long term sales.
First step in my plan, push the release date back. This was a difficult decision to make. After all, in Jann’s post as well as mine, I said my release date was February 23rd. Why the change? A couple of things…lack of time and a couple of amazing promotion opportunities. As it got closer to the middle of February, I felt rushed. Although I was going with a slow crawl release plan, I still felt rushed. The other reason was promotion slots.
I forgot it was difficult to book premium newsletter slots without reviews. Since I hadn’t finished tweaking the edits, I didn’t have time to secure additional beta readers. I was in trouble. Thank God, I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of free giveaways.
I was already considering making book one free as a lead in for the series. When these opportunities came up, jumped on them and made the first two books free. This got me to thinking, instead of trying to buy a lot of newsletter ads for the new release, I’m buying ads for the first two books. I’ll stagger them for maximum the exposure. Bottom line, I’m going to promote these free books like crazy for a month. Hopefully, this will lead to a lot of pre-orders for book three. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Second, reformat books one and two. I knew I had to upload the new covers which would only literally take a few minutes with Vellum. All I needed was the original file. Sounds easy, except for one minor detail, I couldn’t find the file. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of hours searching my computer, that I remembered I didn’t format them.
Once I found the original files, I loaded them and in a matter of minutes the books were formatted. However, before calling it a day, I reread the books and made a few tweaks. That’s a joke. I re-wrote a few chapters. In the end, I added a few hundred words and modified some of the character behavior to match up with books three and four. This little task took about a week to complete. I didn’t stop there. I also decided to update the style of the book which led to another week of work.
I thought I was done with the first two books, until I realized I needed to update the print versions as well. If this was a new release, this step could have waited, but these were books that were already out. I took them down on Amazon, but I think they might still be up. This may sound bad, but I hope no one buys a print version until I get the new version uploaded.
Amazing how something which seemed simple turned into a major project. I wasn’t looking forward to reformatting the print books. Again, I was feeling pressured. I use Vellum and this turned out to the the perfect time to try their print version. In a matter of seconds, I had a print version of my book. It was nice, but I tweaked it with some special chapter headers. I like the file, now all I need to do is order the proof. I’m going to try to release the print version for book three on release day, but it might have to wait a couple of weeks. I need a break.
What does the rest of my release plan look like? A lot of ads. I already have a Facebook ad running, but I’m going to increase the spend and add another one. Funny thing, I mentioned two of the promotion events I’m doing are for free books. I set the books as free on all the platforms except Amazon. I was waiting a few days. However, someone must have requested a price match for The Good Girl Part One, because Amazon set it as free. As of this posting, it was #11 in Black & African American Romance and #14 Two-Hour Romance Short Reads. Seems like my plan is working.
Now all I need to do is finish the edits, format and continue with my launch plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Happy August. How has your summer been?
I am at the end of an experiment per se. I booked a review slot with Hidden Gems.
Like some authors it hasn’t been easy for me to get my readers to post reviews. I really wish I understood why this simple request is so difficult to fulfill. Then I think about myself. I have read quite a few books and am guilty of the very thing my readers haven’t done…post a review.
As a writer, I have become more aware of the importance of leaving reviews.
Last month, I enlisted the review service Hidden Gems. I heard great things about the service, but was a little apprehensive because of a past experience with a different review service. After asking around, I settled on them and I’m glad I did.
I choose their entry level plan, 50 reviews with my book A Southern Gentleman Vol One. I was very nervous. The nine reviews weren’t representative of the sales. This is my best selling title. When I do signings or book club events, the book is well received. Many have said how much they like the hero Jeremiah. However, the majority of them have yet to write a review.
Working with Hidden Gems was me walking into the lion’s den to face fifty readers unfamiliar with me or my books.
When the first reviews came in, I was good. Then a bad one appeared and I was fit to be tied. I know I’m not Jane Austen, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele or Debbie Macomber, but I can tell a story. However, I get a little pissed when people say they couldn’t get passed the first chapter. A thing like that can shake a writer’s confidence.
I think what stopped me from replying to that first bad review was the fact the review misquoted several things. Here’s a review tip…if you’re going to leave a bad review, know of what you speak. As I re-read the bad review for the fifth time, I came to the conclusion this person was looking for a reason not to like my book. Oh well, their loss.
As the reviews came in, I was surprised to see how my book was viewed. Let me clarify. I thought of it as sweet & sexy. However, the reviews came back as just sweet. There was the occasional rushed storyline. Some were upset I didn’t mention the faith element. Overall Jeremiah has been well received.
A bonus during the review period was an increase in sales across my library.
I’m glad I tried the service. It was well worth the money. Will I do it again? Yes. I have to be honest, I wouldn’t have done this if it hadn’t been for the fact that I want to apply for a BookBub Featured Deal. I’ve heard of authors getting a BookBub Featured Deal without a lot of reviews. However, the two times I’ve gotten featured deals was with my book that has 30+ reviews. Using that as a measuring stick, I wanted to make sure I set myself up in a positive light. We’ll see what happens when I apply.
As of this post, my Amazon average is 4 out of 5 stars for A Southern Gentleman Vol One. I’m hoping to keep it there or higher.
I also think I’ll be adding Hidden Gems to my release plan. I know it’s costly, but if it will help make my book launches more successful, then it’s well worth the money.
If you’ve tried Hidden Gems or another service, what was your experience?
See you next month.
Happy April and Happy Birthday to me. Today’s my birthday and I am celebrating at a very intimate and exclusive restaurant, my house.
There is no need to rehash or complain about what we are all enduring. Here’s my only comment or prayer, we are all victorious survivors and can endure more than we can imagine.
I’m going to keep it short this month.
I just finished my first quarter as a planner girl. It has been an amazing experience. I’m a lot more focused and I’m amazed at how much I got accomplished. There are some tools I really like and some that I didn’t. At least right now. I might revisit the ones that didn’t fit later. I will only be discussing the planning tools I’m using for my author business.
Tool: Kanban Board
I’m not going to say I love this just yet, but I really like it. It helped a lot to see my tasks in front of me daily. It also forced me not to bite off more than I could chew. When I put this in place, I was going to write a different book. About two weeks into the first 30 days, the book I scheduled just wasn’t. I switched books and the words flowed like a faucet. In fact, the book went from novella to novel length.
There were a few things that were moved because it involved the book I was no longer working on. My math might be a little off but here are the results. I started the year with 3 goals and 59 tasks. I complete the goals. I realize those are going to take a little longer than expected. The goals had 59 tasks. I completed 32 tasks, 15 didn’t get done and 7 were carried over.
As of this posting, I’m working on next quarter’s Kanban board.
I have been meaning to try Fussy Librarian and just hadn’t gotten around to it. However, I received an email offering me a chance to try them for free with a free book. I did and ad day produced great results. My book got to #4 in a couple of categories and in the top 100 with another one. The tails on the ad lasted about a week. I will definitely be trying them again.
I have an official ad budget and I’ll let you know how it’s working at the end of the quarter. I think I need 90 days to really assess the results. I am currently in the first stage, testing facebook ads. This is an area I really want to crack. I have spent too much time and money on courses for them not to work.
Tool: Planner Inserts
I have been testing a mixture of planner inserts searching for the ones that are right for me. I think I have a system I like. I’m not the planner who likes a lot of stickers. Although I did see some last week that I really like. I do use colored transparency tabs and some dots.
I created an engagement log sheet which I use weekly to chart my sales, word count and social media followers. This has helped me. When I write things down, it helps me visualize and push myself. Or know when to take a break.
Tool: Author Planner
My author planner is really a business bible. It contains a calendar, production schedule, newsletter and ad schedule, expense and sales log, print book inventory and event schedule. This is very handy. I use it in conjunction with my 90 Day Plan notebook. Any story ideas are kept in a separate notebook by my bed.
Tool: Instagram…Social Media
I did an online course on building your Instagram audience for my lingerie business and tried it with my author business. It works well for the lingerie, but not as well for my author business. I’m thinking about trying Planoly to schedule my author posts. When I post on Instagram, I make sure to click the other social media options. This helps me stay engaged and post regularly. Interesting thing, when I post a shirtless man, I get great engagement. Go figure.
WIP…as of this post, I am approximately 4500 words away from completing my book. I know last month I said I was about 7000 words away from completing my book. That was true. However, the story took a turn and I added a few more thousand words. I really thought I would have finished it sooner. But the delay has worked to my advantage. I’m not sure how a release would have done right now.
I’m not sure what I’ll talk about next month. Let’s play it by ear.
Happy April. Stay safe.
Magazine articles may not be a full novel but I have found the process in writing smaller articles to stretch me in ways I didn’t expect.
As a writer, it’s one thing to write down your thoughts, ideas and inspirations. It’s another to hand it over to someone who is going to take it and print it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a full-length novel or smaller articles.
I’ve always loved writing, and had many experiences in the corporate world creating pieces for our customers to use with their customers. But these were always product related and the specifics were crafted by a team of people.
You never know where opportunities are going to come from. Because I need to find a way to generate an income if I want to write full-time, I thought to look into other areas. Last spring I happened upon a booth for a regional magazine and inquired about writing articles for them. She gave me the contact for the editor, I reached out and submitted some writing samples. She offered me a choice of some articles and in the July/August 2018 issue, my first two magazine articles were printed. Little did I realize they would be cover stories!
They even used a few of the pictures I submitted, which made it all very exciting!
See, in our Orange County Chapter of RWA, roses are awarded for publishing. Different color roses represent different types of works. Novels are Red, and so on. For articles they are white. I have been watching for YEARS, waiting for the day I would receive a rose, so it was so meaningful to receive roses for these two articles plus one more for the next issue.
Each time a new issue publishes, I’ve been asked to write for the next issue (picking from a list already decided upon by the editor). It’s been great writing experience writing different types of topics. I feel my writing is growing stronger. I’m gaining experience in working with an editor, meeting deadlines, submitting and the concept of letting go (which we all know is difficult to do).
July/August 2018 – Adventure Awaits on Route 66 and Homeward Bound
Jan/Feb 2019 – Safety Tips for Your Family – Kids and Tech
September/October 2018 – Celebrating Milestone Events
March/April 2019 – Finding New Ways, to Thrive Follow Your Passion Now which is the Current issue online.
And printing in the May/June 2019 issue: Women Learn to Brag…you can’t be modest in business.
So today I’m celebrating a few publishing milestones. It’s been a blessing to write these articles and gain this experience. It’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve come. I’d love for you to join in the celebrating with me.
Thanks for reading,
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