Friday, September 21, 2018

My First DNF (Did Not Finish)

So I got a note from an old friend and former co-worker the other day, saying they couldn’t finish The Demon Always Wins because it was too scary. Pressed, she admitted that she never actually started it–just the idea of demons freaked her out.
I was sorry she couldn’t enjoy the book, but I didn’t really take it to heart. It didn’t feel like a rejection of my work so much as a rejection of the genre. Since I have no expectation that I’m going to convert anyone who doesn’t like paranormal over to reading it, I wasn’t upset.
What felt a little more personal was the lady at the gym who declined to read it because of the cursing in the first chapter. I pointed out that only the bad guys curse, but she wasn’t swayed. Cursing makes her uncomfortable.
I think the reason this felt different was because, for the first reader mentioned, there was nothing I could have done with this story that would have made her a fan. For the second, some fairly minor changes in execution might have altered her perceptions.
The problem with that is, the first scene in my book, which features God, Satan, Loki, Zeus and my hero, the demon Belial, playing poker in the ninth ring of Hell, is the one that grabs most readers. In it, the characters smoke cigars, drink whisky and rib each other the way men do when they’re playing cards. And the first cursing incident occurs when Satan calls Loki a “reindeer-f**cker.” That totally cracks me up. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
The fact is, while the book is often funny, it is not a lighthearted read. It’s about a demon who is absolutely determined to corrupt and destroy a very nice woman in pursuit of promotion to Chief Executive Demon of Hell. He throws everything he has–money, supernatural seduction skill, and his unique ability to see into the heart of who she is–into achieving that goal. Compared to that, a few f-bombs seem like pretty small potatoes.
What kinds of feedback have you received on your writing (or other artistic creations) that made you stop and reconsider what goes into your work?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

My First Book Birthday

Saturday, September 1, was my debut book release. It went well–I even received a lovely bouquet of roses from my daughter, congratulating me on achieving a life-long dream.
Because I’d badgered, I mean, encouraged people to pre-order the ebook, my royalties report on my Amazon Central Dashboard looked like this at the end of the first day:
 A few things to notice:
  1. If you add this up, it appears that by the end of the first day, I earned just shy of $250.00. Unfortunately, this isn't true. Each of those amounts are in local currencies. If you recalculate that last column in U.S. dollars, it actually comes out to $124.44
  2. I have no paperback sales. Since I know at least one, and probably more, people who ordered the paperback on Saturday, I think this is because paperback sales don’t record until the book actually ships.
  3. This doesn't include revenue from Kindle Unlimited, because I didn't enroll in that program until Day 2. 
I elected to enroll The Demon Always Wins in Kindle Unlimited. This was a decision I debated with the other Ladies, because Amazon has really been challenged, over the past few years, to deal equitably with KU authors. Book scammers and stuffers have been gobbling up the lion’s share of the bonus money through unfair practices (e.g. writing fake books that don’t actually contain a coherent story and jamming a bunch of junk into a book to inflate the number of pages that show up as read when the reader jumps to the end).  Fortunately, the Zon recently took action to remedy these problems and I’m hearing good things about the results.
In other statistics:
  • I have seven reviews showing on Amazon, averaging 4.8 stars.
  • My book, at the highest point I saw, ranked 3539 in Kindle Paranormal romance and 65,538 overall in the paid Kindle store.
Over the next month, I have a blog tour planned, including a feature on the USA TodayHEA blog that I did on Thursday, September 6th and a really fun recipe for the Alpha Male Cafe on the I Smell Sheep blog that went up today. Although I know blog tours work better to build name recognition than to actually sell books, I’m hoping to score a few more sales over the course of the month.
So if you know anyone who’s interested in reading a "devilishly good match made in heaven*" please feel free to share this link: The Demon Always Wins.
*From actual reviewers on who actually liked my book!

Friday, August 31, 2018

In Which I Freak Out a Little

People kept warning me that marketing a book is really time-consuming. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, exactly. More that I didn’t know enough about what I’d have to do to understand how much time we were talking about.
Let me educate you:
  1. You need to grow your platform. That means:
    1. Aggressively friending people on Facebook.
    2. Inviting all those brand new friends to Like your Author page
    3. Dealing with the sudden onset of people, in turn, friending you, many of whom I suspect are Russian trolls and Nigerian princes.
    4. Which means reviewing profiles. Despite your best efforts, some of the ones you accept will immediately attempt to contact you via Messenger to a) offer you a business opportunity (Buy My Jewelry! Day Trade at Home!) or b) request money for their charity.
    5. Searching out people to follow on Twitter.
    6. Following them back (which requires looking at their tweets to be sure you’re not following a known psychopath)
    7. Being winsome on Instagram. (That’s much easier. See flower pics below.)
    8. Participating in any other social media you can tolerate. (Hasn’t happened–I’m already well over my tolerance limit with Twitter, which a writing friend likened to an “angry kaleidoscope.”
  2. Collect as many invitations as you can muster to appear on blogs, with the understanding that each of them is going to want a completely original blog post and a never-before-seen snippet from the book. Thus far I’ve written:
    1. A recipe describing Belial, my protagonist, for the Alpha Male Cafe over at I Smell Sheep, a paranormal romance blog. That one will appear on September 9.
    2. A post titled, “When the Drapes Don’t Match the Carpet,” on the importance of covers conveying what’s inside the book for Fresh Fiction, appearing September 13
    3. A Q&A for the USA Today HEA blog for September 6th (including a pic of me with my 90’s hair, if you’re interested. I must say, I had a bucket of hair back in the 90’s.)
    4. An interview with Belial for D. Lieber’s Ink and Magick blog that begins with the phrase, “Welcome to Ink & Magick. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you today?” Date yet to be determined.
    5. And we’re working on several more. For that reason, I share with you a half dozen of the bazillion wildflower pictures I’ve taken over the past few years.
      Because somebody needs to remember to take time to smell those beauties.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Interview with Ellen Lindseth

I first met Ellen through my 2015 RWA® Golden Heart® class, the Dragonflies.
Even before we met in person, it became apparent that we had some things in common. Ellen resides in Minnesota, where I lived for three years back in the 90’s. We both love to travel. And we both love flowers.
The day I posted a picture on Facebook of a water plant I was having trouble identifying  and Ellen hopped on to say it was bladderwort, our friendship blossomed. Then, in February of this year, our mutual friend and Dragonfly Tracy Brody, hosted a writers’ retreat on Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina, and we got to spend a week writing, taking long walks on the beach, sharing meals and swapping brainstorming ideas.
Enough reminiscing. On with the questions!
Question 1: I love the idea of a set during WWII. Tell us a little bit about A Girl Divided,which became available Tuesday on Amazon.
Hi, Jeanne! First, I’d like to thank you for this chance to talk about my debut book. I’m super excited to talk about my story, which is both like and yet unlike other WWII romantic fiction books currently out there, and is receiving very good advance reviews. One thing readers will note right away is that my heroine, Eugenia Baker, never sets foot in Europe. This was a deliberate choice on my part because the war truly was a global conflict, and affected so many other parts of the world, including China, Burma, India, and South Africa – all places that Genie travels through on her journey to the U.S.
I also wanted A GIRL DIVIDED to explore themes different from the typical ‘will good triumph over evil’ one. I wanted it to speak to more timeless questions, such as how to juggle societal and familial expectations with one’s own desires, how to balance one’s own ethics against another’s, and even how to survive sexual harassment in the work place. Readers of historical fiction will still find plenty of rich WWII-period detail, and well-researched facts, but the war, in this case, is more catalyst for the journey than the actual focus of the book. A GIRL DIVIDED is primarily about a young woman finding her place in the world, and becoming the person she was meant to be.
If your readers would like to read more about my plucky heroine, Eugenia – and I hope they do! – A GIRL DIVIDED is now available in paperback, digital and audio formats through on-line sites such as Barnes & NobleAmazon, and
Question 2: Tell us why you chose traditional publishing, and what were the challenges to getting this story published.
The marketplace, particularly the romance one, is changing. It is increasingly difficult to get a traditional publisher to take a chance on an atypical historical romance, despite my having finaled twice in the RWA’s Golden Heart contest (2014 & 2015) with WWII romances. The feedback I got was that they loved the stories, but didn’t think they could sell them. My agent, the wonderful Laura Bradford, refused to let me get discouraged, and suggested I try my hand at writing WWII women’s fiction. A GIRL DIVIDED is the result of that experiment. Because of my love for romance, I insisted the novel still have a HEA despite its women’s fiction focus.
Luckily my editor at Lake Union Publishing agreed, and signed me to a two-book contract. This after penning my first romantic story almost fifteen years ago, so it’s been a long journey, but a rewarding one. I think the key in this business is persistence and adaptability. If I had refused to try a slightly different genre, I doubt I would now be published.
Question 3: You and your husband travel a lot. What’s the most interesting place you’ve been to?
Wow, that’s a really tough question! I find almost anywhere I go interesting, but if I had to pick, I would say our recent trip to Antarctica was the most surprising. I really didn’t think I would like it, given how much I dislike cold and snow (both of which are plentiful there), but the landscape was so jaw-droppingly beautiful. Everything always looks smaller in photos, so I was really surprised by the reality. When I was in a zodiac cruiser at the base of these enormous cliffs, looking up at the skas nesting on the bare rock thousands of feet in the air, or watching the icebergs larger than our ship pass silently off to the side, the ice electrically blue, more vivid than I thought possible, or even swimming in water so breathtakingly clear I forgot how cold it was (28F to be exact), I quite honestly forgot why I hadn’t wanted to come. I totally lost my heart to the continent.

Ellen in Antarctica
Ellen in Antartica!
Ellen Lindseth received her B.A.from the University of Colorado, Boulder, has studied at the Loft Literary Center (Minneapolis, MN), and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Two of her WWII historical romances were finalists in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart ® contest, and one of her short stories was chosen for publication in Midwest Fiction Writers’ popular anthology. When not writing about the resourceful women of the 1940s, she keeps up her own dream of adventure by flying her own plane, traveling the world with her husband (also a pilot), and taking care of her three rescued kitties and an elderly bearded dragon.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The First Pancake, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about how self-publishing your first book is kind of like making your Pancakefirst pancake–it may turn out just fine, or it may be a scorched, runny mess, depending on how good a job you do of making the batter, setting up the griddle, etc.
I managed to get The Demon Always Wins set up for pre-order on Amazon on July 31. As of last night, I had 63 pre-orders. That may not seem like much, but according to Kameron Hurley, the average self-published book sells only 250 copies in its lifetime. And while the average traditionally-published book sells 3000 copies over the course of its publication life, 250-300 is the usual first year total.
So, with twelve days remaining till my book actually becomes available, I’ve already hit 25% of average lifetime sales for self-pubs and of first-year sales for traditional books.
So yay!
Some of this was due to the friends I’ve made in the romance writing community over the past few years, including my Romance Writing class at McDaniel College, my RWA® Golden Heart® classes and the wonderful folks over at Argh Ink, where Jenny Crusie so generously provided me with a bump and the Argh nation, with equal generosity, turned out in support.
Okay, enough hoopla. Back to the tricky stuff.
Despite the above celebration, setting up my book on Amazon for pre-orders is definitely an area of questionable pancake for me. Although other platforms roll up your pre-orders and include them in your first day’s sales, Amazon does not.  When you set a book up for pre-order, Amazon’s calculation looks more like:
Debut Day Sales + 1/2 (Debut Day – 1) Sales + 1/4 (Debut Day – 2) Sales + 1/8 (Debut Day – 3) Sales, etc. (I think this goes out 30 days).
Which means that the 60 or 70 books I sell before my Debut Day won’t help my Amazon sales rank to any appreciable degree.
Despite this, I’m still okay with my decision. Setting the book up for pre-order allowed me to work through a series of decisions, missed deadlines and outright errors before I was able to make the ebook available for pre-order. And, since I have a publicity team setting up blog tours and ads based on a September 1 release date, releasing late would have created a bigger issue.
The other value of pre-orders is they will allow me to measure the effectiveness of of my publicity team, because I’ll be able to compare how many books their publicity sold compared to my own efforts.
Would anyone out there care to throw out some words of warning about other potential pitfalls?
Because I’d sure love to hear them!


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