Happy June. Let’s get right to it. Let’s talk about print.
I finally took the plunge with Ingram Sparks. I have been reading a lot of things on blogs and Facebook groups, plus a few YouTube videos about the service. I have to be honest, the main reason I hadn’t tried Ingram was the set up price. Let me preface this by saying, I dipped my toe in the Ingram water with a personal project and one for my lingerie business. I liked the results, but they were mostly 4-color images. These were my fiction babies and I would be sending them out to strangers who had no problem criticizing their print quality.
The other reason I finally took the plunge with my fiction is because I was a little disappointed in my last proofs from KDP. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not a fan of that black bar wrapped around the cover. I wanted to see what a reader would see. I also didn’t like the new order process. Unless I did something wrong, I didn’t like not being able to order author copies until the book was live. What if I wanted to make changes, what if I didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love selling books via Amazon, I just don’t like the proof policy.
I had used my Ingram NANO discount for my other projects and when I was ready to do these proofs it had expired. A friend told me to check the Ingram Facebook group and other author groups for a discount code. I went hunting and found a code. Hallelujah.
I never would have said searching for a discount would be easier than reformatting my books. Take that back. It would have been easy if I hadn’t wanted to add fancy chapter titles, but it was so worth it. Even with the fancy titles, it still didn’t take me as long as it had in the past to format a book. I am so grateful for the template I got from Kitty Bucholtz. Now I use it for projects that require a lot more graphics and odd size books. But for fiction, I’m a Vellum girl. By the way, Kitty turned me on to Vellum.
The thing that really had me concerned were the covers. I was prepared to have to do at least two or three proofs. Why so many? My covers have African Americans and it’s a little tricky getting the skin tones just right even with me submitting CMYK files.
I triple checked the interior files and was pleased with the digital proof. Unfortunately, I made a mistake in the set up process with book one. I accidentally selected white paper instead of cream. I also had an additional page in books two and three and one typo. I was so upset with myself. However, I was elated with the finished product. These books are so pretty. Believe the hype. Ingram is amazing. I love my covers. The colors are perfect. I only had to do one cover test.
I compared the Ingram books against my KDP books and there is a definite difference in the quality. My books look very professional. I know I sound like a novice first author, but it’s the truth. I love my proofs. I have a few things to clean up before ordering author proofs and making the books available for sale.
A bonus to working with Ingram is more exposure. I’m pretty sure I knew this, but it didn’t click until recently. Using Ingram Spark means my books are available to small and independent book stores. Which means I’ve just opened myself up to another revenue stream.
A con against Ingram, due to COVID, their phone lines are down. Customer service is via email. They’re pretty good about responding in twenty-four hours. One other con, shipping. I thought since I was ordering three proofs at the same time, they were shipping from the same location. In my mind that would have been one shipping fee and one handling fee. Nope. The books arrived the same day, but from different locations. Con/Pro, I paid the same amount for one beautiful proof as I did for the multiple proofs form KDP.
The next thing I’ll be trying is a hardcover book. It’s safe to say I’m hooked on Ingram Spark for my print books.
See you next month.
This is one of my favorite times to post, because it’s my birthday. So Happy Birthday to me.
The past month while preparing my new release The Good Girl Part Trois, I realized it had been over a year since my last release.
The other thing that shocked me was the size of the book. I knew it was going to be slightly larger than the previous two in the series. Those are novellas. However, I had no idea it was going to finish out at 70,000+ words. I know what you’re saying, didn’t you have the page count on while you were writing? Yes, I did, but it’s not until I formatted it that it clicked. Based on the way I format my print books, I think this book is going to officially be my biggest and longest print book.
I’m just beginning release month so I have very few things to share with you about this release.
Prior to the release, I started listening to the Six Figure Author podcast. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but gleaned a lot of information. I also listened to Tim Grahl’s “Your first 1000 Copies”. I also reviewed some of my Self Publishing Formula lessons.
I did all of this research because I wanted different results with this release. It might sound vain, but I really want that NYT, USA Today, WSJ, Amazon bestseller tag. Don’t judge. I know a bestseller tag doesn’t necessary equal sales. Nor does it validate you. It’s one of those unexplainable author things. But because I write a very different type of romance…faith and sex, hitting the list would mean people get me. In a nutshell, it would validate my writing. It also means readers understand and appreciate the stories I’m telling.
All that research led me to make a decision to do a soft or small launch. This is because I’ll be releasing book four in the series in a few months. An author in one of my Facebook groups suggested I “plug the crap out of book four and the series”. I could do that, but how?
I mentioned last month why I pushed the release date back, but now I needed a plan. How was I going to set up a small launch? All of the launch plans I researched had some of the same components…get
reviews, schedule ads, alert your list and post to social media. Possibly do a giveaway. Also, don’t focus so much on the day, but the month and how to turn that into sales with tails.
I changed my focus, which was hard. I really wanted to go after a list spot. Let’s be real, I’ve never come close to a list position with a paid release. Now free books is something different. The first two books in The Good Girl Series have been doing very well as freebies. So much so, that I am seriously thinking about making book one permafree. Since I made it free, I’ve seen an increase in reviews for both books.
Here’s what I did and will be doing during release month.
I participated in a massive one day free book giveaway. I used my first two books in the series as a lead in for book three. The giveaway yielded several thousand downloads plus preorders for book three. For the first time in my writing career, I had almost 100 preorders. For some this is a small number, but for me it was huge.
I offered a preorder. In the past I sometimes waited until the last minute to put up a preorder. The reason being, I didn’t want to get boxed into a corner with Amazon in case I missed the date. Another first for me, preorders across all platforms.
Facebook. This is where I ran into a little problem. I had what I thought was the perfect image for my Facebook Ads. Unfortunately, they disagreed and shut my ads account down for being too suggestive. I freaked out because I was testing ads. This set me back a couple of days. I immediately started praying and asking my groups for advice. I did as suggested and appealed to Facebook and the following day, my account was reopened. This pushed my plan back, because of the necessary testing period. Looking back now, I consider this to be a good thing, because it means my ads will be set for book four’s release.
AMS and BookBub. I set up ads for all three books on these platforms. Books one and two are doing well. Unfortunately, book three isn’t. I’m not going to freak out. Once I get it right, it will be set for book four’s release.
Newsletter ads. I took advantage of The Fussy Librarian’s special and booked two free slots for the first two books. I don’t have any proof, but I’m pretty sure it led to some preorders on the days the ads posted. I also, booked an ad for later in the month with another site.
Promotions. The promotion I mentioned involved free books which meant I had to make the books free in advance. Doing this pushed me in the top ten free in several categories in a few countries. Once the promotion ended, I left the books as free to drive sales to book three. I’m doing another free promo in a few days and I elected to use book one in the series. I’m hoping this will drive more sales to book three.
Social Media posts. I posted to all of my pages with some hits. What surprised me the most was people commenting on the ads thanking me for the free books. That’s nice. To my knowledge, there’s no way for me to know if those will turn into sales.
Newsletter swaps. I did one with a friend and want to do more. I think it’s important as authors that we help each other. Sharing or exposing my readers to other authors is something I want to incorporate in my newsletter on a regular basis.
Reviews. This is where I dropped the ball. I was still tweaking the book up to a few days before release so I didn’t do ARCs. I know I should have gotten reviews which was part of my plan. I have no reason for why I didn’t do it. I did seek out a review service and they said I would need to offer the other two books as well. If that’s the case, I’ll wait until book four to use the review service. Good review news, as of this morning I had two five star ratings.
How do I feel about the small or slow launch? It’s too soon to say. I did review my past release month results and so far, this is working. I will admit my best release month so far, was with Unexpected Love. I followed a different plan which called for a 99c release price. So far, I sold more books with that release, but money wise, this release has made more.
So what have I learned with this release so far? Making the bestseller list is a goal and can be achieved anytime in a book’s life. Rank is good, but not the only measure to a book’s success. You can’t use the same launch plan for every book. Steady sales pay the bills. Write what you want to read, because there are a few readers out there with similar reading tastes.
This has been a challenging last couple of weeks. I don’t know where the time went. I’m going to keep this short. First, I want to thank Jann Ryan for the nice interview a couple of days ago. The timing is perfect. Her post summed up what I wanted to write about.
When Jann approached me about the interview, I was working on The Good Girl Part Trois. I was a little behind and didn’t finish it until a little later. Once I finished, a major problem occurred… an unexpected additional book in the series.
News of another book should be a good thing, and it is. But when you don’t have a cover, it becomes a problem.
When I wrote The Good Girl Part One, I quickly found a cover image I liked. While looking for a cover for The Good Girl Part Deux, I came up with this idea to use the other half of her face for book two. When placed side by side, you saw her entire face. Then another book happened. But I had a problem. I was writing another book and didn’t have a cover.
I tried not to panic at the thought of not having a cover. I figured it would all work itself out, because book four wasn’t coming out until summer. I forgot Jann was going to need the cover for her post. Oh crap! I was on borrowed time. My immediate response was to wait until I released book four and change the covers for the first three books in the series. I figured I’d do a special promotion centered around the new covers. I had a plan. I didn’t say it was a good one, but it was a plan. I knew what I needed to do… redesign the series.
I found a new set of images and created a new set of covers. The new covers were nice, but I could never get the skin tone right. I submitted the new covers to one of my Facebook groups for feedback. I implemented the changes, but I couldn’t get the skin coloring right. These new covers were quickly becoming too much work. I reached out to a couple of my author friends, and they gave me some very good feedback. One even sent me a photo suggestion. I used it to troll depositphotos.com searching for similar images. Within a few hours, I had images I liked, which could easily be tweaked.
This may not sound like a big deal for most authors, but it is for me. I haven’t committed to custom images yet, so I try to find images I can tweak to look like African Americans or AA images that haven’t been overused.
The new covers for The Good Girl Series are very contemporary, which I love. They change the entire feel of the series. As much as I didn’t want to change the covers, I knew it was for the better.
What do you think?
Old Covers – These were the first updates from 2018
See you next month.
A California native, novelist Tracy Reed pushes the boundaries of her Christian foundation with her sometimes racy and often fiery tales. After years of living in the Big Apple, this self-proclaimed New Yorker draws from the city’s imagination, intrigue, and inspiration to cultivate characters and plot lines who breathe life to the words on every page. Tracy’s passion for beautiful fashion and beautiful men direct her vivid creative power towards not only novels, but short stories, poetry, and podcasts. With something for every attention span. Tracy Reed’s ability to capture an audience is unmatched. Her body of work has been described as a host of stimulating adventures and invigorating expression.
Jann: What inspired you to write The Good Girl series?
Tracy: This is a very easy question, sort of. I was asked to be in a box set and needed a book. The box set was focusing on heroines in their twenties. I had a possible book, but the heroine was older and it wasn’t possible to make her younger. I kicked around a few possibilities and then I got an idea for a book. A young Christian woman gets her dream job and how she handles the possible ethical and moral challenges. I kicked the idea around some more and started writing.
Jann: How long did it take you to develop your characters, Gabriella Townsend and Phillippe, and plot for the series?
Tracy: I’m a pantser, so all I had was a basic idea…an office romance. I develop my characters on the fly as the story unfolds. I write books with faith and sex. In all my books someone is wrestling with their hormones, urges and faith. I call it real life. People of faith or Christians are not super heroes. They face the same challenges and temptations as anyone else. It’s how they handle them that’s different.
Since I use a basic template, it didn’t take long for me to develop this story. The biggest challenge is to keep Phillippe’s identity a secret. I think I handled that pretty good. I didn’t want Gabriella to come off as naive or not bright although she’s very perceptive. She knows he’s keeping something from her, but she hasn’t been able to figure it out. I sort of address it, by having him tell her there are things about his employment contract he can’t divulge.
I knew the characters had to be the opposite of each other. Gabriella is petite, curvy, pretty and has curly hair. She loves God and has a heart for people. She values character more than money. In the beginning of the series she sounds a little immature, but when she is exposed to Phillippe’s world, she grows up fast. Her dream is to work for Morgan Grant, eventually earning a VP position and a corner office.
Phillippe is a triple threat…handsome, smart and rich. To make him even more appealing, I made him very tall, dark, part French and African. He often slips into French when he gets excited. Which makes some of the love scenes very interesting. Gabriella refers to this womanizer as a walking sex dream. He’s amassed a fortune of his own, but heading Morgan Grant isn’t something he expected to do until much later.
Jann: The Good Girl Part Trois makes its debut this month. What major conflicts do your leading characters have to work through in this book?
Tracy: The way I write books is a little sadistic. I rope you in with a semi-sweet story and slowly turn up the heat throughout the series.
This book is no different. On a scale of one to five flames, I think this is about a 3.95. Gabriella is wrestling with her emotions and raging hormones. She’s promised herself she would save herself for her husband, but that’s a lot difficult to do when your boyfriend is a walking sex dream…your boss…and neighbor. She’s adjusting to her new life, feelings for her boss and convincing it might be possible to have a future with Phillippe. There’s just one thing gnawing at her, what is Phillippe hiding?
Phillippe has been hiding his identity from the outset of the series. He’s terrified if Gabriella finds out before he proposes, she might leave him. Oops, I let one of the cats out of the bag. The reader has known from book one, who he is, but not Gabriella. In a way it seems like their relationship is built on lies, but it’s more like half-truths and secrets. Phillippe is trying to figure out why his grandfather is insisting he get married before taking over the company and why is his ex-girlfriend back in town.
Without giving too much away, a quiet vacation in Anguilla changes the course of their relationship forever.
Jann: Part One and Part Deux in The Good Girl series are novellas, why is Part Trois a full-length book?
Tracy: Book one had to be a novella for the boxset. As I was writing, I thought it was going to be a one and done. But something happened towards the end. The characters took a turn and I really wanted to see if they could make their relationship work.
In book one, the relationship happened quickly because I was on a deadline. Once I got to the end, I did a horrible thing and ended it with a cliff hanger confirming there would be another book. When I started book two, I read something about the power of cliff hangers for sales. So that’s what I did. I amped if the sexual tension and left it with a cliffhanger. I immediately started writing book three and a couple of people and a highly respected author told me no cliffhanger. Readers don’t like them unless the next book is available.
When I started the third book, I really thought it would be a novella too and that I could tie up everything. Once I started writing, the story kept going. I wish I could tell you what happens. If you’ve read the series, I don’t think you saw the ending coming. I know I didn’t. I have to admit, I was tempted to make Gabriella pregnant, but I thought that was expected. Instead I did something else while keeping Phillippe’s identity a secret from her.
Jann: How many books do you plan for this series? If there is a book four, when will it be out?
Tracy: Yes, there’s a fourth book and I think it will be the end. Book four is a result of what happened in book three. The Good Girl is now a sophisticated businesswoman engaged to her boss. That’s the only spoiler.
I’m writing the last chapters now. My goal is to release it a few months after Part Trois.
Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
Tracy: Good question. You don’t have to sacrifice your beliefs for love. Or as some would say, It’s just as easy to fall in love with a billionaire as it is to fall for the average bloke.
Jann: I understand you’re planning on rebranding your Alex series. Tell us about the series and what’s involved to rebrand it.
Tracy: The Alex series are the very first books I’d written. The series is about five best friends and a pact they made in college to never get involved with any of their exes, employees or relative. Unfortunately, they break the pact.
It was originally written as a chick lit. It was the book I used to get my agent, I had. While it was being shopped around, I wrote another book and started reading a lot. [Early in my career, I was told not to read anyone else’s work. I later found out that was some very bad advice.] The more I read, I more I knew the series needed work. I did a major rewrite.
I stand by this series. I received an Amazon review from a reader who got my style. “Book one of the series was set on simmer, but book two was a rip roaring inferno. The word used incessantly throughout the book, passion, tells you all you need to know. My favorite couple, Alex and Moses, finally get married, and boyyyyyy they dang near tear each other’s clothes off with their teeth!!! Y’all know that feeling!!!😁😁😁 The second part is just as good as the first part, but be warned, there were some unresolved issues that cropped up. There may be a book three, SURPRISE!!😄😄😄 incess. Buy it, read it and enjoy!!”
Sales have been slow and the few reviews have been pretty good. I believe in this series but know it’s time for a new look The new covers scream contemporary, which is what I want. The female body image is being replaced with man chest. I’m also changing the fonts and updating the blurbs. I’ll be testing the covers with my reader group later this month.
Jann: You’re a multi-published author. How do you stay motivated? What drives you to keep writing?
Tracy: Good question. The answer for both questions is the same. I like telling stories.
Jann: Thanks Tracy for sharing with us today. Good luck with The Good Girl Part Trois!!
A California native, novelist Tracy Reed pushes the boundaries of her Christian foundation with her sometimes racy and often fiery tales.
After years of living in the Big Apple, this self proclaimed New Yorker draws from the city’s imagination, intrigue, and inspiration to cultivate characters and plot lines who breathe life to the words on every page.
Tracy’s passion for beautiful fashion and beautiful men direct her vivid creative power towards not only novels, but short stories, poetry, and podcasts. With something for every attention span.
Tracy Reed’s ability to capture an audience is unmatched. Her body of work has been described as a host of stimulating adventures and invigorating expression.
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