Tag Archives: Lightbringer

Start Planning Now For 2013

I know that’s not what you want to hear right now. You’re in the throes of buying holiday gifts, decorating, making the rounds of parties, and hosting guests. You’d rather wait until January to make plans for 2013. But after all the ribbons and candles are put away, you’ll want to hit the ground running, and that will be easier to do if you already have a plan. It doesn’t have to be rigid or too detailed. In fact, I think it’s better to leave it a little loose because as we all know, Life Happens. But in the end you’ll be happier with where you wind up if you know where you’re going.

One of the things already on my calendar for 2013 is a class I’m teaching for WriterUniv.com. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, co-founder Laurie Campbell asked me to teach a class called “Before You Indie Publish” next March. I have the lessons completed already, and I’m putting together a companion book (BLAZING A TRAIL: YOUR SELF PUBLISHING JOURNEY) with additional material. That’s almost done, too, and will be released in late February or early March. I’ll be finishing the production process for that in January and February. (BTW, I’m including an appendix of interviews of indie authors. If you’ve self-published at least five months ago and would like to have your perspective included, please contact me.)

I’m also talking at the Tucson Festival of Books next March. First, I’m on a panel titled, “50 Shades of What? Is Erotica Romance?” and the next day I’ll be on a panel about blending genres.

I’ll be releasing BETRAYED BY TRUST early in the year, too. (BBT is set in 1979 and in the same “universe” as LIGHTBRINGER.)

After that, I’ll be working on GUARDIAN, the sequel to LIGHTBRINGER. I’m really looking forward to writing fiction again, but I may take a couple of weeks off to catch my breath.

What do you have planned for next year?

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LIGHTBRINGER Is Back on Nook!

FrankieRobertson_Lightbringer_200pxIf you’ve been waiting for LIGHTBRINGER to be available on Nook, your wait is over. After a promotional period on Amazon’s Kindle Select, the first book in my Celestial Affairs series is again for sale online at Barnes and Noble. It’s still available on Amazon, and soon it will be up on several other sites, including Kobo.

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I’m Interviewed On Juli Revezzo’s Blog Today

Author Juli D. Revezzo invited me over to her blog to help celebrate Halloween this year. Come over and see what secrets the Mistress teased out of me.

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One Year of Indie Publishing

This month marks my one year anniversary as an indie publisher. LIGHTBRINGER:  A Celestial Affairs Novel was the first of four self-published titles I’ve released since last October. It has been a busy year, and while I’m usually focused on the next goal I’ve set for myself, this seems like a good time to look back and see what I’ve learned and how well I met my goals.

In terms of sales, I didn’t really have any specific goals. I had no idea what an unknown author like myself could expect. I had read about a few phenomenal success stories, but I figured they were from the far right edge of the bell curve. I hoped that I would join them there, but I didn’t really believe I would. Not in this first year, anyway. My minimum was that I wanted to break even within a year.

LIGHTBRINGER started slow, selling only about 12 copies a month for the first five months. I wasn’t doing a lot of promotion other than blogging and facebook (and not much of the latter).  At this rate of sales I figured that it would take me 2 1/2 years to break even. I was a little depressed. Even the holiday bump only increased my sales to 22 in December, and half of that was because I’d introduced a second title, WITH HEART TO HEAR. But I’d only been at this for a little over two months. Way too soon to get discouraged.

Then I decided to try Kindle Select and use the free promotion after a friend reported significant success with it. Amazon was already changing its algorithms by then, but I still experienced a 650% jump in sales to a little over 80/month. A few months later when I found more sites to notify about my free promos, sales jumped again by 250%. By this time I’d published a third title, DANGEROUS TALENTS.

Overall, in this first year I’ve sold just under 1000 copies of my self-published books (and given away over 35,000). That doesn’t sound like much, but sales are trending upward. I’ve achieved my minimal goal, breaking even on my investment. And I’ve achieved something else that is worth more than money to me: empowerment. I am happy doing what I’m doing. It’s challenging to balance production with promotion. I firmly believe that getting more great books out is the single best way to improve my sales. Beyond that, it’s a challenge trying to determine what works and what doesn’t, and what I’m willing to spend my time on to improve my books’ performance in the marketplace.

Here are five things I’ve learned this year, in no particular order:

  1. Expect to learn as you go. You can’t know it all before you begin.
  2. Be nimble and willing to experiment. Indie publishing is shifting rapidly. Vendors and distributors keep changing their ways of doing business, while new promotional opportunities seem to arise daily.
  3. Keep writing. You never know which book will be the one that catches on. The more books you have out there, the more opportunities readers have to find you.
  4. Think hard about where you invest your time. There will never be enough of it to do everything you want to do. It’s a finite resource. However you spend it, make sure what you do is either productive or fun.
  5. Listen to others, then make up your own mind. It’s your career.

For next year? At minimum I expect to triple my sales. But my goal is to sell ten thousand copies. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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An Accidental Series

I’m guest blogging over at Secrets of 7 Scribes today thanks to an invitation from Casey Wyatt, the author of MYSTIC INK and THE UNDEAD SPACE INITIATIVE. I’m talking about why I’m writing not one, not two, but three different series. Come over and say hello!

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To Series or Not to Series

I recently had an online conversation about whether a book being part of a series helps or hurts its sales. Almost everything I’ve read suggests that most readers like series. What they don’t like is not knowing where a book falls in the sequence, or being left hanging until the next book comes out.

When I started writing my first novel, DANGEROUS TALENTS, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just writing a story I wanted to tell. I certainly wasn’t trying to start a series at that point.

Then my critique group said, “Tell us Ragni’s story!” So I wrote FORBIDDEN TALENTS.

By this time I’d decided that writing a third book in a series that wasn’t selling yet was a bad idea, so I wrote two more stand-alone books, VEILED MIRROR and LIGHTBRINGER. Except some of the characters in LIGHTBRINGER  told me that their stories needed to be told too, so it turned out to be the first of another series. And then I decided I had to tell a story that turned out to be connected to the Celestial Affairs universe, but not actually about the Celestials. I started writing SEDUCED BY TRUST. Then I stopped because the hero’s mom needed her story told first. That’s how BETRAYED BY TRUST came to be written.

The problem with writing multiple series is that you have to keep it all straight. That’s too much for my little brain to remember, so I have  haphazzard story “bibles” that help me keep track of eye colors and name spellings. I’m also creating a series arc for the Celestial Affairs and Trust books.

Some writers just can’t stand to outline because it robs them of the joy of discovery. Fortunately, I’m not one of them. I start with a general idea for a book, some characters, a place and a goal. I’ll write a chapter or three to learn about them, but it doesn’t take long before I have to know where I’m going, so I draw myself a little map which gets more and more detailed as I go along. Usually that’s enough for a singleton, but with three more books in the Celestial Affairs series and the two Trust books to link in, I can’t wing it. I have to know.

So I’m drawing myself a big map that covers all six books. Each of the next two Celestial Affairs books, GUARDIAN and APOSTATE, will stand alone but will build to a big finale in the last book, SERAPHIM. At least, that’s the plan.

So here I am with three series begun, and readers asking for more in each of them. It might not have been the smartest way to go, especially since I’m not the fastest writer, but I’m thrilled my readers are so enthusiastic. (And when it comes out, I promise to tell you where a book fits in each series.)

In the meantime, the next book to be released is the 2nd Vinlanders’ Saga book, FORBIDDEN TALENTS. You won’t have to wait long–it comes out in early October.

Thanks for reading!

 

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My Self-Publishing Journey: 2012, Part Deux

I was recently discussing the need authors have for Business and Marketing plans with a few other writers. We all agreed that having them is a good idea. It’s like carrying a map with you on a cross country trip. You may not always follow the planned itinerary, sometimes you decide to take a side road, and sometimes there’s an unexpected detour, but having a map (or a business plan) helps to keep you from going in circles.

Most writers don’t have rigid or formal plans. And given the new information that seems to come out daily about what does and doesn’t work to build sales, that’s probably a good thing. Based on recent information, but mostly on my own observations, I’ve made some changes to my plan.

Back in January I told you about my plan for the year. Here’s how I’ve implemented my plan, and how I’ve changed it.

  • I brought out DANGEROUS TALENTS in April. I completed the first draft and first revision of FIRSTBORN which is now titled BETRAYED BY TRUST, a book set in the Celestial Affairs universe in 1979. I won’t be releasing BBT until next year, though. Instead, I’m bringing out the sequel to DT, FORBIDDEN TALENTS, in October. I’m also working on a non-fiction book derived from this blog. That will be released next spring. I also hope to release GUARDIAN, the sequel to LIGHTBRINGER, next fall.
  • Social Media: I’ve recently seen data that casts doubt on the effectiveness of using such sites as Facebook,Twitter, and Goodreads to promote sales.  On the other hand, there’s anecdotal evidence that suggests it does help. In the meantime, my use of such sites remains minimal. I will continue to blog, however, because I enjoy it.
  • I haven’t followed through very well on submitting my books for review. I plan to do more of that.
  • I have done the personal appearances and speaking events I planned to do.
  • I haven’t sent out postcards to conferences or conventions. I no longer believe that to be a cost effective means of advertising, except as inserts in books in the same series.
  • I’m making use of Kindle Select’s free promotions to increase awareness of my book and improve sales. So far, that seems to be the single most effective tactic I’ve used. The 80/20 Rule dictates that I should do that and forget the rest. I’m not sure I’m ready to do that, however.
  • I will gradually move books to other distribution platforms.

That’s the essence of my business plan for what’s left of 2012 and early 2013. I’ll let you know if anything changes.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: Kindle Select Update

I mentioned in an earlier post that Amazon has been changing its algorithms for Kindle Select so that books using the free promotion days no longer get  the significant bump in sales they once did. Since then I’ve read more about this, and realized that none of my books were  in the program during the golden or even the silver age of  Kindle Select. In the early days (less than six months ago) books could expect hundreds or perhaps thousands of sales after a free stint. That had changed by the time I signed up. Which is not to say it can’t still happen. It can, as Edward W. Robertson (no relation) experienced with the aftermath of the free promo of his book BREAKERS. But as Ed recently posted, Amazon’s changes to its algorithms has changed the game for many self-publishers.

After an amazing amount of close observation, number crunching, and analysis, Ed determined that Amazon has been testing not one, not two, but three different algorithms, each with different consequences for self-published authors. It’s unlikely that Amazon will go back to the old way of weighting free downloads equally with a sale. In fact, as Ed mentions at the tail-end of a recent podcast interview, there’s evidence that more expensive books are weighted more heavily in Amazon’s popularity lists than cheap books are. (Time to raise the price on those 99 centers!) This makes some sense. A book that costs $4.99 or $7.99 requires more of a “buy in” on the part of a customer than a free book or a 99 cent book does. The buyer must want it more to spend more, so Amazon gives that purchase more popularity “points.”

These changes are also the topic in Russel Blake’s post. His take on the future of self-publishing is more negative than Ed’s, but his basic premise is sound: Amazon is in business to make a profit, not to support indie authors.  Amazon will make changes to its algorithms with that goal–to maximize profits– in mind. Some of Jeff Bezo’s business decisions will benefit self-publishers, some will hurt us, and some will have a mixed effect. Working with Amazon is like sleeping with an elephant, after all. They may not mean you harm, but you feel it every time they twitch.

Personally, I think Amazon will choose a middle ground between equating a free download with a sale and not recognizing it at all. I think they’ll continue to use an algorithm that counts free downloads as 10% of a sale. If they don’t do at least that much, they’ll be missing a chance to increase sales and profits from indie authors (minimal though they might be to Amazon’s balance sheet), and authors will stop making their books exclusive to Amazon through Kindle Select.  In that case Amazon might as well discontinue the program altogether–which I doubt they want to do.

It has been ten days since LIGHTBRINGER  went back to paid status after its most recent free promo. So far the post-promo sales for LIGHTBRINGER are comparable to what I experienced after my other two free promotions. The book’s sales numbers aren’t as amazing as some other authors experienced in the first months of the year, but they are an improvement over what my books were selling before the the promotion. While I would have loved to have experienced those phenomenal rebound sales, I think the smaller bump in sales may be more sustainable (also due to the change in Amazon’s algorithm). And since I’m in this for the long haul, that’s probably more important.

What’s the take-away from all this?

  1. Amazon will continue to experiment with their algorithms.
  2. It’s harder to make a killing using free promotions through Kindle Select than it used to be.
  3. There are still benefits to using Kindle Select.
  4. Focus on what you can control: writing a good book, with good editing, good formatting, a good cover, and a good product description. Rinse and repeat.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: Planning 2012

I’m a big believer in making lists and having a plan. I don’t always follow the plan exactly, but I’ve got one.

It’s good, essential even, to have dreams, but you have to have a plan for how you’re going to get there, or you’re likely to flounder around without making much progress. I believe in setting goals which are measurable and within my control to achieve. I start with the big goal, then break it down into smaller steps as I get closer. As the saying goes, life is what happens while you’re making other plans, so I like to keep my plan loose until I’m almost ready to implement the next step. You might call it “just in time” management. I don’t see the benefit of nailing down every detail far in advance, when circumstances might change.

I’ve had one quarter of being a publisher as well as a writer. If sales continue at the current pace, I’ll break even in 22 months. My dream is that the pace of my sales will increase as I continue to bring out more books, but I have no direct control over that. What I do have control over is how much I charge for my work, and how much I spend on the various components of publishing. I also have control over how much time I spend on free social media promoting my work. I don’t have control over whether time spent on social media converts to sales.

So how am I going allocate my time and money in 2012?

  • The majority of my time will be spent writing, revising, and publishing two books. I’m currently preparing a backlist novel, DANGEROUS TALENTS, for publishing. DT should be out by May. I’m also writing FIRSTBORN, a tie-in novel in the Celestial Affairs universe that LIGHTBRINGER began. I plan to release FIRSTBORN in the fall. Then I’ll either begin work on GUARDIAN, the next Celestial Affairs novel, or prepare FORBIDDEN TALENTS for publishing in 2013. I will not plan another Christmas release as I did in 2011.
  • I’ll continue to use social media to let the world know that I, and my books exist. I’ll blog a little less frequently, and tweet a little more. I’ll look into guest blogging so I can reach a new audience.
  • I’ll send review requests to blogs that discuss the kinds of books I write.
  • I’ll make personal appearances at events I enjoy: The Amore and More talks at the Pima County Library, the Tucson Festival of Books, and TusCon Science Fiction Convention.
  • I’ll send postcards to book events advertising my books. I’m not sure how immediately effective this kind of advertising is, but at least it has the benefit of being targeted to readers. In direct mail campaigns a 1% conversion rate is pretty standard. With a targeted campaign it might be as high as 3%. Hmm. Now that I’m doing the math, that’s not a good return on investment. I may rethink how I implement this.
  • I will research less expensive alternatives to certain production tasks, like cover design.
  • I’ll research inexpensive advertising opportunities to implement once Castle Rock Publishing has three titles for sale.
  • I’ll stay flexible and keep my eyes open so I can take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Mostly this year, my focus is going to be on making my work available for sale. My long range plan is to release a minimum of two books a year. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

 

 

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Covers: Know What You Want, and Ask For It

I enjoyed producing LIGHTBRINGER so much that I decided to go ahead and bring out one of my earlier works as a single. I’ll be releasing WITH HEART TO HEAR soon, just in time for the holidays. It’s an erotic beauty and the beast novlette, set in the late Victorian era.

Seeing a cover take shape is exciting for me. As I mentioned in a previous post, a cover is often the first experience a reader has of your story, so it should give them a clear idea of what your book is about. It doesn’t have to reflect every element, but it shouldn’t mislead them. It should appeal to your audience and make them want to click on it to find out more. (You do know who your audience is, don’t you?)

Rae Monet did this cover for me (as well as the one for VEILED MIRROR). Kim Killion did the cover for LIGHTBRINGER. What I learned from working with Rae and Kim is to be clear and specific in my requests. Artists are busy people and sometimes distracted by other demands. Creation of your cover is more likely to be quick and smooth when you take the time to be careful and specific in describing your vision to the artist.

Here’s what I think is important to designing a cover for online sales:

  • The quality: does your cover say “professional”? Does it promise that the story is carefully written and edited?
  • The feel: does the cover reflect the kind of story it is?
  • A clear focal point: does your eye know where to rest?
  • Readable fonts for title and author name when the cover is a small size.

Keep in mind that your artist is a business person. Her time is valuable. At the same time, you have a right to get what you want. Listen to the artist’s advice but make your own decisions. Keep asking for what you want, and express your ideas clearly and courteously. Don’t change your mind half-way through unless you’re willing to pay extra for the artist’s time.

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