Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sidelines: Life Between Kickoffs

Like most writers, I have various short stories stashed in files on my computer. Some were written in response to writing challenges or contests and so had to fit some kind of criteria set by the contest. In fact, The Mark Taylor series was born out of a 1000 word story for a challenge, so you never know what will happen with a short story--so I never completely delete them.

Until Kindle Unlimited came along last month, I really didn't have any good way of publishing them. I had one posted here on my page for a long time, but I took it down and made some changes to it that I've been meaning to do for a long time. It was in second person because that was the challenge criteria. It worked, but it sounded distant. I have to say that the re-write in first person makes it much better. I didn't bother fixing it before because collections of short stories are a hard sell--most readers want more than thirty minutes worth of reading for their money. I don't blame them as I'm the same way. However, for readers in KU, the obstacle of price a negated because they are paying the same price every month regardless of the length of the work. That means a short story can finally find an audience. I really think that at least two of these stories have some of my best writing, and I was thrilled to finally have a chance to publish them as a short story collection.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Keyword Changes for Perma-free

I stumbled upon Nick Stephenson's blog post that mentioned how keywords can help with sales and discoverability. I've tried keyword changes before, but never noticed much difference. However, as this graph clearly shows, it made a huge difference in downloads of my perma-free book, Mark Taylor: Genesis. I went from less than ten downloads a day, on average, to four to five times that. As you can see, the increase was immediate. I made the change last Saturday morning, it was live by mid-afternoon, so even with just a partial day, I had nearly doubled my downloads from the day before.

Ireadereview posted the book on their site a few days in and I have to wonder if the tweaks I made in the keywords had something to do with them finding it so they could list it. The book has been perma-free since early May and never had a mention before. It's too much coincidence to think it just happened a few days after making keyword changes. Other than ireaderreview, I think I tweeted it as a freebie once or twice, but I did that before too. Prior to the changes, I also posted it on several Facebook groups for book promotion. Obviously, tweeting and the FB groups did very little to increase downloads. 

Also, a note that the last day showing there still has three to four hours of reporting to go.  I expect the graph will show even more downloads for today.

I have already noticed an increase in sales of my second book, No Good Deed and hopefully, that will continue with the other three books in the series. 

I've tweaked keywords on my romantic suspense, Seeking Vengeance, but haven't noticed the same results. Maybe I just haven't hit on the keywords, or maybe it's just that I couldn't use the word 'free' in the keywords since it's not free. Or it could just be that this is generally a slow time for book purchases, and so needs a little more time. I'm going to leave it as for now and see what happens. 

 Everyone keeps saying that perma-free of the first book is key to selling a series, but I was never able to get visibility for MT: Genesis. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this improvement continues and I'd like to thank Nick Stephenson for sharing his knowledge with other authors. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Cover Reveal for The Merry-Go-Round by Donna Fasano

The Merry-Go-Round
by Donna Fasano
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 2, 2009

When Lauren divorces her husband, she has one thought on her mind...stepping off the merry-go-round. However, her life quickly turns into a three-ring circus: her hypochondriac father moves in, her ex is using her shower when she’s not home, and her perky assistant is pushing her out into the fearsome dating world. She also has to decide if the dilapidated barn and vintage merry-go-round she was awarded in the divorce settlement is a blessing or a bane. As if Lauren’s personal life isn't chaotic enough, this slightly jaded attorney is overrun with a cast of quirky characters who can’t stay on the right side of the law. What’s a woman to do? She can allow life to spin her in circles forever. Or she can reach out and grab the brass ring.

What are you working on now? 
I’m currently writing two projects at once. I've never done this before, and I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. I’m writing a Christmas Novella entitled Almost Perfect Christmas, the story of man who enlists the help of a woman in giving his daughter a perfect Christmas. Unbeknownst to him, his little girl has every intention of playing an angelic matchmaker. The other project is the first book of a 3-book series called Following His Heart, the story of a man who is eerily drawn to a woman, and after they fall in love, they discover what brought them together, and it just might tear them apart. Yes, the description is vague, but that’s just the way it has to be for now. I’m chuckling as I type this. Both books are contemporary romance novels and are due out this fall.

What are you reading now or what do you have in your TBR pile? 
I just finished Learning to Swim by Sara Henry. I’m currently reading Love Me Tender by Mimi Barbour. On my TBR pile you’ll find A Reluctant Hero by Jackie Weger, Creatus by Carmen DeSousa, The Neighbor by Dean Koontz, Three Junes by Julia Glass, One Way or Another by Elaine Raco Chase…should I go on?

What flavor is your writing style?
I always tell people I write cotton candy for the mind. Think back to when you were a kid and you took a bite of that delectable confection. What did you do? You smiled. That’s what I’m going for in my romance novels.

Was writing always the first thing you wanted to do in life?
No, I wanted to be a teacher, but then I met and fell in love with my husband. We married and began raising a family. It wasn't until my children started school that I started writing.

While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters? 
I believe there’s a lot of me in my protagonists. I write about women who are strong, yet vulnerable. My main characters and my secondary characters have flaws and make mistakes (don’t we all?), but then most of them do all they can to learn, grow and become better people.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
One piece of advice I often give to writers is to READ. Don’t just read in the genre in which you write. Read everything. And then figure out what you liked and what you didn't…and then think about why. Reading and analyzing the writing of talented people can help you perfect your own skills.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 
I bow down to readers! I am so appreciative that they spend their hard-earned money on my books and then take the time to read my stories. I am so blessed to have a job I love, and I wouldn't have this job if there weren't readers who love romance novels.

What inspired you to write your first book? 
I came to writing through my love of reading. I spent many a Saturday as a kid in the local library. I loved books, but I never imagined I would ever write one. My husband gets the credit for my becoming a writer. When my children started school and I decided to find a part-time job, he looked around at the piles of romance novels in our home and said, “You've read a lot of those. Why don’t you try writing one?” So, you see. It’s all his fault.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 
Not my latest book, but one of my titles—Where’s Stanley?—features an ending that I didn't come up with. I handed in the completed manuscript, and my editor suggested a different ending. I wasn't happy, but I did as she asked. Personally, I think the book suffered for it, but readers seem to enjoy it.

What books have most influenced your life most? 
Old Yeller, Sounder, The Bell Jar, To Kill a Mockingbird…how can people read these books and not be influenced? There are so many titles that inspired me and moved me, molded and shaped me, there isn't time to name them all. The characters in these wonderful books help young readers to decide what kind of individual they want to be.

Do you ever experience writer's block? 
There was a time when I’d have said no. I have a plant-your-butt-in-the-chair-and-the-words-will-come attitude. But I did suffer writer’s block while my dad was battling cancer. It’s difficult to write feel-good happily-ever-after when your beloved father is dying.

Do you write an outline before every book you write?
I do, yes. I equate an outline with a road made; how do you know where you’re going if you don’t have a map? I might write the first chapter or two on the fly, but I always take the time to plan out where I want the story to go. Now that’s not to say that the characters are going to stay on the straight and narrow. They decide to veer off the highway every now and then, and that’s when I have to do a quick reroute.

Have you ever disliked something you wrote? 
I've never published anything that I disliked. I have started projects that haven’t seen the light of day, either because I couldn't figure out where to take the story, or I couldn't make the protagonist sympathetic or likable. It’s a rare occurrence, and when it happens, I just set the story aside and hope I can someday come up with a solution.

USA Today Bestselling Author Donna Fasano has written over 30 romance and women's fiction books that have sold 4 million copies worldwide. Look for Ehefrau auf Zeit (German Edition) due out September 16th, published by Amazon Crossing, and the first novel of the brand new 3-book Ocean City Boardwalk Series called Following His Heart, due to be released at the end of October.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Are you a #KindleUnlimited member?

Read a great book in Kindle Unlimited? Are you an author with a great book in KU? Fantastic! Come and share the links with us in the new Facebook group: Kindle Unlimited Facebook Group 

There are tons of Facebook groups dedicated to cheap and free Kindle books, but I haven't seen any for Kindle Unlimited books. There is overlap, but with over 600,000 books available to KU subscribers, finding something can still be daunting. If you're like me, you went in like a kid in a candy store, downloading books willy-nilly, only to stop reading some around 8% or less. They don't cost anything except time, but I'd rather spend the time reading something I like. 

All of my books except for my box sets are in Kindle Unlimited at least until October. I hope it works out! If you haven't read them yet, here's your no risk chance. :) You can click on the book images or find them on my Amazon Author Page.

So, happy reading! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kindle Unlimited: My Thoughts

When the news came out last week about Kindle Unlimited, I had mixed feelings. For those not aware, Kindle Unlimited (KU) is sort of a Netflix for books. For $9.99/month, Amazon readers can read all the books they want from a special library of participating books. Right now, Amazon says the library has 600,000 books, but I have no doubt that will grow.

I wasn't sure I wanted to pull my books from other vendors because with the success of Thrilling Thirteen, I was finally getting some sales at Barnes & Noble, and even a few at Apple and Kobo.
The last thing I want to do is alienate readers, but with the VAST majority of my sales still at Amazon, I took a deep breath, and pulled four of my Mark Taylor books from other vendors. (The only one still available is Mark Taylor: Genesis, which is perma-free on, and also in the UK, Canada and Australia.)

That's the rub for many authors and if I had a ton of sales elsewhere, I would hesitate to put my books in KU also. However, there's another issue for some authors. The fact that Amazon is paying the full purchase price on a 10% read for a traditionally published book, while indie authors only get a cut of a pool of money that will be divided by the total number of books downloaded and read past 10% and the amount Amazon put into the pool that month. That will probably average out to about $2 per KU download. (based on current average paid per Prime Lending Library borrow)

At first I was ticked about the unfairness, but now I'm okay with traditionally published works receiving the full royalty. For one thing, many of those authors are already getting less per sale than I'll make per borrow. I would hate for their cut, after the publisher and agent gets their share, to be something like a dime or a quarter. That would be terrible. The other reason is a little more selfish. The KU library NEEDS well-known books and authors to attract readers to enroll. Once they enroll, my books will have more eyes on them and more eyes mean more downloads.

I know that if KU proves successful, getting in early could be key. I want to have my books in there when there's still buzz and people are joining up. That's when the most exploration will take place. Without the fear of being stuck paying for a book they don't like, a reader is much more likely to give unknown authors a try.

It's only been a few days, but the first two days, I had no increase in sales and no borrows. I was second guessing myself and wondering if I made a huge mistake, but then I made No Good Deed free for a few days. It was a spur of the moment move as I had no promotion set up for a free day. In fact, I barely got the promo set up in time for it to go live the next day, but I did, and the free days did fairly well. No Good Deed even made the top 100 free. (barely, lol. it reached 99 for a few hours). At the same time, I started tallying up KU downloads--even on NGD. Instead of losing ground as I have other times my books were free, when the book returned to paid, it had a better rank than before it went free. Since then, I've had more than a dozen borrows, and my sales of the other books have creeped up to where I'm no longer second guessing my actions.

The one book not doing well, is Seeking Vengeance. It is my stand alone romantic suspense that is not enrolled in KU yet. I had already arranged some promotion for a 99 cent sale, but I'm thinking of writing the few places I applied for promotion and telling them that it will still be 99 cents, just not available anywhere but Amazon. I'm not even certain that they plan to run my book even if I don't put it in KU, so it seems like a no brainer to pull it from other vendors.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Self-Publishing Was a Great Investment For Me

For those considering self-publishing (or even those considering submitting to agents/publishers), check out Joe Konrath's blog. When I finished my first book and sent it out to dozens and dozens of agents without any luck, about three months into the process, I found Joe's blog. He had been self-publishing a few books he got the rights back from his publishers and posted his sales numbers/earnings. Wow! That opened my eyes. After reading more, and about Karen McQuestion's success, I finally self-published No Good Deed in June 2010. What made me think of it today is that in the most recent post of Joe's, he emphasizes findings of a UK study (referenced in the above like to the blog):

"self-published authors surveyed made money -- a 40% profit at the time of this study"

Whenever I get down about my sales, I'm going to remember that--because, well, I put in maybe $10 for the stock photo for the cover, and over four years, a few hundred bucks in promotion and I made WAY more than a 40% profit! Math isn't my best subject and I'm too lazy to pull out a calculator, but if I did, the % would be in the thousands. I did not hire an editor at that time--it wasn't in the budget, but even if I had, I'd still be in the black by thousands of dollars. 

 In fact, my latest two books returned a profit in just a few days. Even factoring in 'labor' costs of writing the books, I've done okay. It would be like if my job gave me an $11/hour raise if I worked full time. But of course, I never spent 8 hours a day writing. More like 8 hours a week. That's not a bad return on time invested. It also inspires me to make better use of my writing time because every day that I let slip by without writing is lost earnings. Yikes! It's like calling in sick to work without any sick time pay. 

Would I have earned more traditionally publishing? I guess I'll never know because I wasn't ever given the chance to traditionally publish. Sure, I could have continued querying, but after 100 agent refusals, I I was pretty pissed at traditional publishing. 

Maybe they could have sold more than I did on my own, but that still is no guarantee that I would have earned more. Remember, selling and earning are two different things. I don't need to sell as many as an indie author to earn more than I would with a traditional contract. Also, my first book took a year to hit the top 20 Bestseller List on Kindle. I doubt it would have ever had the chance to do that while traditionally published. Heck, it probably wouldn't even have been published yet, if the trade publishers accepted it!

Also, as of this posting, No Good Deed is free and will be for two days. Mark Taylor: Genesis, is free for another six weeks. 

Seeking Vengeance is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. One more thing, Mark Taylor: Genesis is also part of a boxed set anthology of thrillers. It will only be available for the summer and is a great deal for only 99 cents. 13 thrillers for under a buck: Thrilling Thirteen