The Tweak That Changed Everything

Marketing & Promotion, Self Publishing

I can’t even remember how I stumbled across Nick Stephenson’s blog or newsletter but I’m so glad I did. The author of a successful thriller series, he’s recently been promoting a series of videos and workshop opportunities for other authors looking to increase their sales. I signed up for his newsletter on a whim, my curiosity piqued by all of the comments and feedback left by authors who’d already been helped by his advice. The first three videos were free so I had nothing to lose and after implementing the advice from just the first two videos alone, I’ve already experienced some amazing results.

In just one month I’ve gone from selling a couple of books a day (if I was lucky) to selling 10-40 books a day. And as far as free downloads go, I’ve gone from twenty or so copies a day to 300-800! My books are actually reaching readers and every day my audience is growing exponentially. I know some people might scoff at my results. Maybe it took them one book to achieve what I’m just now experiencing after publishing six novels, but as an indie author and as an artist, I know how detrimental comparison is. All that matters is my journey and I couldn’t be happier with the road I’m on and the results I’ve achieved.

When I first started self-publishing I knew absolutely nothing about the online retailers where my books were being sold. I was familiar with Amazon only because I was a frequent customer there but I’d never taken the time to understand how their search engine worked, especially when it came to keywords. But after watching Stephenson’s videos I’ve come to realize that keywords are KEY to an indie author’s success. Each online retailer is a little different in how they utilize keywords and allow customers to search but since Amazon is where I make 90% of my sales I decided to devote most of my time to making changes there.

Before making big changes to all of my books listed on Amazon I decided to experiment with just my paranormal series. Since it’s genre fiction I figured it would be easier to apply specific categories and keywords, not to mention the fact that those changes could be applied to all three books. It took me a few hours of digging up comparable titles, checking their rankings, and evaluating the competitiveness among each keyword–meaning how many books were categorized by that term (all these steps are explained more in-depth in Stephenson’s training)–but the changes I made were significant.

Prior to watching Stephenson’s videos I was using keywords that were way too specific. I thought narrowing down the keywords would place my book among less competitive search results, meaning it would be closer to the top of the list and much more visible. In fact, this was the very thing making my books invisible. For example, I might have used keywords such as “nightmares” or “dreams”. These mean nothing to Amazon customers. Think about the way you search for things on google or Amazon or any other search engine. Most people would search using broader terms first, especially if they’re just browsing. So instead of using keywords like “nightmares” or “dreams” I replaced them with keywords that were more genre specific like “paranormal romance for teens” or “free paranormal romance.”

Stephenson goes much more in-depth in his training videos and I highly recommend checking them out. I’ll be moving on to video three soon and if his suggested changes continue to provide me with stellar results I’m definitely going to consider paying for his other training as well. I’ve benefited so much from his generosity already so I encourage anyone who’s interested to please check out his videos for yourself or his Leopold Blake thriller series. Indies helping indies is a beautiful thing so if you’ve come across any life changing advice or resources please feel free to share in the comments below!

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The Children of The Moon

Self Publishing

It’s been two hours since I typed the final word of this novel and all I have to celebrate with is a baked potato. Fitting for St. Patrick’s Day, since SURPRISE, I’m Irish. But definitely not worthy of commemorating such a momentous occasion, especially one that was 14 months in the making. FOURTEEN. I had to go back and double check my old calendar but it’s true. I’ve been working on this series for over two years and I still have one novel to go!!!

But as excited as I am about the series as a whole finally coming to a close (I’m exhausted, ya’ll) I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Book three in the series still needs some final tweaking, including the revisions from my copy-editor, as well as the final e-book formatting. Nevertheless, this definitely calls for an ice cream cake or maybe a trip to the spa. Oh, and how about a cover reveal?

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Stay tuned for Teaser Tuesdays and upcoming purchase links when The Children of The Moon is available on March 31st!!

WIP Wednesday

Writing Process

I know it’s not technically Wednesday but let’s just pretend like it is. Despite the tardiness, this week I’d actually vowed to integrate blogging back into my life again, especially since it’s not enough to just tell the world that I’m working on something huge, but now that I’m approaching the publication date of the first novel in my upcoming series, I think it’s time to start actually showing it. Because I am working. Non-stop. This series is literally my entire life right now and the closer I get to that fall deadline the harder it gets to breathe. Which, if you happen to also suffer from anxiety, you know I mean that quite literally. It’s a stressful time but it’s also terribly exciting, especially now that I’m back to making steady progress.

Unlike my last WIP check-in, things have actually changed this time around and I’ve actually made some huge dents in my to-do list. Book 4, the first book in my upcoming YA series, is still waiting for its final read-through before I send it off for a copy-edit. But, finger’s crossed, I will have the FINAL draft ready for spit-shine by next weekend.

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AND I’m only about 6 pages away from completing the 4th (really the 6th) draft of the sequel. This book I really struggled with. I mean, really truly, pulled my hair out struggled. And I’m still struggling, primarily with the ending. All I can hope for at this point is that everything save the last thirty or so pages is fantastic and maybe I’ll have an epiphany between now and the fall. Still it’s off to my FINAL beta reader this weekend and I can’t wait to get her feedback on how the series is evolving.

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Being that I was totally an editing machine this past month, I also made some huge progress with the third novel in the series and it is now off to my second alpha reader for review. This is hands down my favorite book in the entire series. The first two were all about discovering the story’s true identity, while this third one was just pure joy. I don’t know what made this one easier to write than all the others, surely it has a lot to do with the groundwork I laid all those months I spent writing and re-writing those first two novels from scratch. There was so much starting and stopping and so much self-doubt that by the time I got to the third novel in the series I was at least sure of the essential things, which made exploring not just a necessity anymore but something I actually looked forward to. I’m praying that plot-wise this novel is much more solid than the others but I also don’t want to let my love for it blind me from its imperfections. Luckily I’ve just sent the third draft off to one of my harshest/most insightful critique partners and I can always breathe easy knowing that her suggestions will always improve my work tenfold.

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I was supposed to resume working on the first draft of the fourth and final book in the series this past week but editing the previous two took wayyy longer than expected. I’m officially three weeks behind schedule, which sucks, but I’ve refused to go into panic mode just yet. The work I did on the previous two books was necessary and it couldn’t have gotten done any other way. Sometimes things just take longer to evolve and sometimes there are days when you’re only capable of doing so much. I worked my butt off this month but for the first time in a long time I didn’t let myself get burnt out. And for me that’s a victory. Not to mention it makes it painfully clear that some of my deadlines, okay most of my deadlines, were probably ridiculously unrealistic. But you live and you learn. So as of now the final book in the series is still sitting just shy of 50K but I plan to finish it within the next couple of weeks and then work on the first round of revisions throughout the month of August.

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Speaking of August I can’t believe that it’s really almost HERE. I’d very vaguely mentioned in the past that I was shooting for an August publication date for the first novel in the series and while, truthfully, that novel has been hanging around waiting to be tweaked one last time and published, I’m thinking of holding off for just one more month and moving the release date to September. I’d say the first and second books in the series are practically ready to go but being that I’ve found myself three weeks behind (which, like I said, really doesn’t count seeing as my deadlines were unrealistic in the first place) this final book is going to be cutting it terrifyingly close if I still want to release it this winter. Which IS still what I want. As much as I’ve enjoyed writing this series, now that I’m reaching the end, there are other places and other characters calling to me and I can’t wait to get to work on something new.

Unfortunately though, that probably won’t happen until…(let me check my calendar…) December. Well…that sucks.  At least I’ll have a nice break from this series when I get down to editing/re-writing my next NA contemporary romance, which is still in the totally unsalvageable first draft stage, so why bother putting up a fancy progress meter at all.

Last month’s WIP check-in was totally shameful. I didn’t make any substantial progress on a single thing. But this month was all about kicking it into high gear. If everything works out according to plan from this point on I will be publishing my first new novel in a YEAR. Yes, almost an entire year has gone by since I published Breathing Ghosts and it breaks my heart. And when my heart is broken I do crazy things like attempt to publish four novels in order to make up for the months of silence. Four. Like I already mentioned, I will try my hardest to get back to blogging, but if I end up dead or in a coma at least you’ll know why.

The Chronicles of Lumatere

Motivation & Inspiration

Melina Marchetta is a goddess. She is one of my favorite authors in the ENTIRE world and one of the greatest in the YA genre. Even though I like to keep the recommendations on this blog to a minimum, mostly because it’s very rare for me to gush this hardcore, for all of my fellow authors and all of my fellow readers I just had to tell everyone about this series. The Chronicles of Lumatere is a fantasy series but like all of Marchetta’s novels, it’s a story about identity and finding your place in the world. So many people have fallen for Marchetta’s contemporary pieces but I still don’t think she’s ever received the recognition she truly deserves. Every single one of her books is so poignant and breathtakingly real and every time I finish reading one I learn so much, not only about the human spirit, but about myself. Jellicoe Road changed my life and Saving Francesca saved it. Growing up reading her novels served as a foundation for me, not only as a writer, but as a person and when I spotted my own flaws in her characters it helped me learn to accept them and more importantly love them. She is the pinnacle for me of everything I want to be and do and say as a writer and I think if every person on the planet read her books the world would be a more beautiful place.

I’d dabbled in reading the fantasy genre before but had never found anything that really grabbed me. I’ve always loved reading series and loved the idea of some epic journey of self-discovery but Marchetta’s mastery of contemporary fiction, combined with her foray into this new genre really put her in a league of her own. Because she’s fearless. She takes the most unworthy characters and turns them into heroes and she builds relationships where they don’t belong between people who seem too broken to be capable of such a thing. The Chronicles of Lumatere is pure magic and I guarantee that if you have a soul it will speak to it.

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her . . . but in himself.

FOTRFOTEQOC

 

Binge Reading

Self Publishing

We’re a generation of impatient consumers who want everything all at once–movies, music, television, and now books. Because we’re also a generation of people who love stories. We love to live in them and not just for an hour but for days. We love to curl up on the couch in front of the television indulging in a little (or a lot) of Netflix or with our tablet reading an entire series in one sitting.

It’s the ultimate and most immersive form of escapism and has become such a popular way of consuming media that television series are now being released all at once and publishing companies are looking to mimic that model by releasing books in a series closer together and demanding more than just one novel a year from their contracted authors. Something that indie authors have already been doing for years and yet with traditional publishers jumping on the bandwagon the pressure to produce a high quality product in half the time is no doubt going to change the every day life of writers everywhere.

As a consumer nothing sounds better than waiting three months rather than a year for the next book in a series I love to come out. But as a writer the whole idea of releasing three to four projects a year is no doubt a daunting one. I released three books in 2013 but I didn’t write three books in just twelve months and I’m not sure that I could. It takes me 6-8 months to write an entire novel, start to finish, revisions included but with the new model that’s emerging that might not be quick enough.

Quality is going to become a big issue of contention for a lot of authors out there feeling the pressure to be more prolific and one that might have some unfortunate effects on the landscape of literature. Not to mention, with even more books on the market, the competition for ideal release dates, attention on blogs and other media outlets, and reaching the consumer might only become even more fierce. And yet I can’t deny that there will also be some amazing benefits.

We as writers will have the opportunity to cut out the waiting game completely and release things when we’re ready rather than when our publisher is ready and because of this we’ll be able to reach out and connect to our readers even more. Stories will stay fresh in their minds and so will the anticipation of the next installment which means that finding an audience will not only become easier but more sustainable. We’ll also be able to let go of things more freely and in a more timely manner, moving on to whatever new projects happen to be exciting and inspiring us at that moment. Which might also inspire us to explore other genres or other topics resulting in more original stories that might not have been born otherwise. We’ll also have the amazing opportunity to earn a more sustainable living which means more of us will be able to make the transition to writing full time.

But despite all of these opportunities it will still be readers who benefit the most from this. They’ll have even more books at their disposal and the fact that they won’t have to wait as long for releases from their favorite authors will only increase their appetite. People will start devouring books the way we devour everything else and just like it’s done for television, it will create this trickle down effect, inspiring readers to discover other authors and give their books a chance.

It’s not just about writing books anymore, it’s about becoming a living, breathing part of our culture. And that means adapting to change. No doubt change is scary and this new way of writing won’t be ideal for everyone but there are ways to make the most of this next revolution of publishing, especially when we stop to consider that writing more in less time doesn’t have to restrict us. In fact, if we can learn to marry our own expectations with those of our readers, it might actually turn out to be quite liberating.