Have Some Indie Publishing Questions?

Great Lakes!

Hey, guys! This post will just bore the pants off of some of you, but I've been getting a lot of questions about indie publishing. I thought I'd post a few “must knows” here.

1. Series is king. You can do really well publishing stand-alone books (not that series books aren't stand alone), but overall, series is where writers are finding the sales sweet spot, especially if you're writing romance. It doesn't have to be series in the sense that we have this story arc that evolves throughout the books. It can be books that can be read in any order that are tied by setting or some characteristic, like all books include the adult grandchildren of a crazy, retired CIA operative in a small Arkansas town. Like my Sugar Creek series. 🙂

2. There's a lot of talk about Permafree not being effective anymore. For many of us, that's simply not true. (Permafree is setting a book to free that stays free indefinitely, like my In Between.) Once you have at least three books in a series, try putting that first book free. It helps to have copy in the back and multiple places of Book One that nudge the reader on to book two. Include a sales link to book two, include a sample chapter to book two.

3. Get a good editor. Editors are like toilet paper–you get what you pay for. : )  (I mean, editors are like fine chocolate! Editors are like imported coffee!)  If you need referrals for editors, I'll be glad to help you there. I have a handful of editors I really, really believe in. It's important to not only get someone with experience (lots of it), but to get someone who gets your voice and your goals for your books. Define some characteristics you need in an editor and stick to that. Straying from my list has not served me well, in indie or traditional publishing. For my list, I need someone who has a sense of humor, can handle a little edge, but make sure I'm not mean or crossing a line I've established, has years of experience, and gets ME. I also really prefer someone who has worked in traditional publishing and knows the rules we tend to stick to and the rules we just don't care about anymore. This list is not for every writer. It's just what's worked for me.

4. Exclusivity is a personal choice. Some writers prefer to enroll their books in KDP Select, which means they gain some benefits by allowing Amazon to be the only seller to have access to their books. No iBooks, no Nook, no Kobo. This is one of those things you need to research and maybe even test the waters. I have yet to go exclusive for a number of reasons, but mostly because I want all my readers to have access and because I believe in iBooks and their potential. I have friends who are exclusive with Amazon, and some are doing well. As Nook becomes less and less of a contender, my opinion might change, but so far having my book available in all channels has really worked well for me. There are bigger, better, more successful indie writers who talk about this often, and I'd really suggest following them on a regular basis. Folks like Hugh Howey, JA Konrath, Marie Force, and The Passive Voice. Their opinions have evolved as KDP Select has evolved, and their input is pretty important.

5. Get a good cover designer. Unless you are a top level designer, don't do the cover yourself. Also get feedback on your cover from folks you trust, absolutely trust, to give you an honest opinion. I promise on my Holstein Cow YA, that covers will make or break your book. They aren't cheap, but they're SO SO important. Ask around for referrals, and check out the designer's portfolio. I “save” photos of covers I like on a Pinterest board and in a folder in my gmail. That way when it's time to create my next cover, I usually have comp titles ready to go to better help define what I'm looking for or what I like. Pull up the Kindle best seller lists in your genre. What do those covers look like? What do they have or not have? One area that indie covers often fail is font. Get good ones that could be on any best selling book in a Barnes and Noble.

6. Once you get that Permafree book up, get a BookBub ad. There are other outlets to try as well, such as Ereader News Today and Pixel of Ink (I think they're up and running again?), but BookBub is the best in getting the news of your free (or discounted) book into the hands of digital readers. BookBub is expensive, but when advertising a free book, I've always made my money back on the first day. (Advertising for a book that is more than .99 was not successful for me, but one attempt does not make for good data.)

7. Do your research. The cool thing about indie publishing is there is SO SO SO much information out there. The indie community is awesome about sharing what they learn and know. We want people to succeed and we want people to be informed. Get last year's RWA conference recordings, which was FULL of classes on going indie. (Also great info that would transfer to traditional publishing.) Follow blogs of indie writers like James Scott Bell, Joanna Penn, etc. There are a handful of great podcasts out there. I really like Joanna's podcast The Creative Penn. It's so helpful and full of info–sometimes more than I can handle. Read some books by successful indie writers. One of my favorite books on indie publishing is The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing. Some of the info might be a little dated now (it only takes a few months), but it's incredibly encouraging to read the success stories of these writers who have hit the NYT, hit the million dollar club, and/or were able to write full time and make a living. Write, Publish, and Repeat is good, as is The Indie Author Survival Guide and Let's Get Digital.  If you are not interested in any of the above and “just want to write,” then this probably isn't the route for you. And that's okay. Some days it's not for me either. 🙂

8. Join a list-serv for indie fiction writers. I subscribe to one hosted by Marie Force, and it's very informative to just lurk and a helpful resource for when I have a question of my own. I recommend leaving any list-servs that get negative, especially about traditional publishing or publishers. Traditional publishing is still a good choice for a lot of authors, and it drives me nuts to see that option immediately deemed stupid. It happens–it happens a lot.

9. Get Scrivener. Despite the huge fan club it has, I still don't love it for word processing, but it's very useful for formatting your indie book yourself. I also use a wonderful formatter who is AMAZING to work with–very kind, patient, prompt, and reasonable. Paul Salvette of BB eBooks is just the best. I can't recommend him enough.

10. One of the encouraging things about indie publishing is the main thing that sells your book is the next book. So you can post selfies on Instagram all day, publish witty quotes on Facebook, tweet hilarious photos, hire the world's best publicist. But your next book is the best “pusher” of your previous novels. And the more indie books you have, the better your income flow and readership.

11. Be encouraged that at some point, through trial and error, you will assemble your team. One of the biggest things indie converts miss about traditional publishing is not having a support system and their “team.” But eventually you find the right editors, the right cover designer or two, a few beta readers, a formatter if necessary, and those writing friends in the trenches who will listen to you whine while on deadline. I no longer have to worry about the possibility a devo editor who has never read YA, a copy editor who doesn't have a sense of humor, or a middle aged man with no taste deciding my covers. Not that that's ever happened. But you get to customize your team now until everyone aligns with you and your brand and just rocks at what they do. It took me at least a year, but I have my team, and they are keepers.

12. Take the time to write a good book. All of the above will be about as useful as a Kardashian without Botox if you haven't made sure you are putting out the best product possible.

Happy Writing!


Just One Summer Giveaway

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW before jumping in

Hey, y'all! To celebrate JUST ONE SUMMER on sale for the awesome price of 99 cents for the next three days (Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, GooglePlay), I'm doing a giveaway. We have a few adorable, cute, fantastic, I need to stay out of them locally owned stores where I live, and when I saw this bag, journal, and sassy tumbler, I immediately thought “I gotta buy that and give it to someone.” And that someone should be you. I'm also throwing in a paperback copy of JUST ONE SUMMER signed by all four authors. This bag couldn't be more fun unless Ryan Gosling popped out of it. (And I'm sorry. He's not. I asked him to volunteer, but he reminded me that he lives in Los Angeles. And then he reminded me of the definition of restraining orders.)


So how do you enter? I'm glad you asked. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. We have lots of options to give you extra entries, so have at it!

This contest ends Saturday, August first. Plenty of time to go crazy with the entries and clear out some closet space for the loot. Fingers crossed for you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Writerly Wednesday


Happy Friday that is definitely not a Wednesday! Is everyone having a good summer so far? I am really, really proud to say I have yet to contract poison ivy, which I've done the last few years, and when I say “done,” I mean DONE REALLY WELL. Like, I don't want to brag, but I kind of take the whole poison ivy thing to new heights of itchy achievements. But enough about my personal accomplishments. Today kicks off a new blog segment that I'd like to call Writerly Wednesday.

Writerly Wednesday will be the semi-occasional Wednesday of some tips for my fellow writers, especially those new folks. Today's tip is…DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

In the last year I've talked to a handful of new writers who are into writing, into getting those books out, but not into studying the craft. And you gotta. Show me a writer who hasn't read a craft book in a few years, goes to a conference and attends zero classes, or doesn't read for analysis, and I can show you a writer who has a really great chance of not going the distance. I love the story someone told me years ago how a fairly new writer went to an introductory plotting class at a conference. She was kind of feeling like it was a waste of her time when she looked over and saw a well-known author taking copious notes. It was Francine Rivers.

I am the queen of buying writing books. Admittedly, I don't read them all. And some I've read only to think, “I have no idea what that guy just said.” Someone once told me if she can get one good idea from a writing craft book, then it was worth it. I tend to agree. Here are some of my newest favorite craft reads:

1. Super Structure by James Scott Bell.
You know what I really like about books on writing in the last year or so? They're super short. Which is great–because so is my attention span. Mr. Bell has made this book short and sweet, with no filler. He just gets down to business. It's a great book on structuring a novel and revisits his idea of the Mirror Moment, something he also write a book about. I liked this one so much I bought the paperback because I knew I'd want to mark it up and flip through it often. I've even gifted it. (P.S. The digital version of this book is super cheap!)

2. Take Your Pants Off: Outlining Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker
I was a little disappointed to order a book called Take Your Pants Off and realize it was not the pictorial memoir of Chris Hemswoth. Instead, this is a book about plotting and outlining. I'm not an Outliner. If the Outliners evangelized door to door like a Jehovah's Witness, I would not only let them into my living room, I would absolutely read their literature and convert, thank you and amen. I'm a Seat-of-the-Pants Writer (thus, the title, sadly). I would give my next box of cereal to be a plotter, so I buy lots of plotting books thinking “THIS will be the one that will help me!” Plotters typically write faster than I do. Plotters typically don't toss out hundreds of pages like I do. Plotters typically don't want to drink as heavily as I do. (Sonic lemon water, extra ice)  (P.S., the digital version of this book is ALSO super cheap!)

3. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
This is an oldie, but a goodie. Mr. Snyder is no longer with us, God bless his legacy, but he wrote a fabulous, easy-to-read book about movie structure. He breaks down the events that are in every great movie, and you see how it's incredibly relevant to books as well. I think of his book and advice often. If you get nothing else out of his book other than employing his “save the cat” moment, you'll be doing well.

4. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
I'm late the Story Engineering party (I was too busy writing and making bonfires of my wasted chapters), but I finally bought this book as a summer read. Many writers refer to his advice, and many folks who teach writing or write books on writing use Larry Brooks methods. I've yet to even start it, but I mention it because I think we writers should always have “that next thing” we're reading or intend to study to become better at what we do. If writing is what you're passionate about, be a student of it.

There are lots more great writing books out there. These are just a handful that have my attention lately.
What about you? What's a favorite writing craft book? Favorite blog? What are you reading now?
Oh, and by the way, if you do find that Chris Hemsworth memoir…let me know.


Just One Summer Is Almost Here!

JustOneSummer BN Kobo-1

Hey, guys! I'm excited about a few things. First, today was our students last day. We teachers are never quite sure we'll make it 'til the end. It's always a sweet blessing to still be alive and conscious at the bitter end. And of course, I'm excited about a fun New Adult book coming your way June 10th.

Just One Summer is a novella collection written by four authors, about four young women. It was a lot of fun to write (maybe not nacho-eating fun, but in the creative sense), and really cool to work with friends.

Four college girls, best friends since childhood, have found one constant in their ever-changing lives–summer. Every June the girls have chosen a destination to reconnection. Only this summer is different. Now each one must face life's challenges on her own, overcome fear and failure, and learn the beauty of falling in love for the first time.

You'll love the novellas from authors Amy Matayo, Nicole Deese, and Tammy L. Gray. And then there's mine! And I wrote about a hot cowboy! Does it get any more summer than that? (Okay, yes, if hot cowboy was in a pool. With sweet tea. And Coppertone. And ice cream. But that's a story for another time.)

Here's a little peek into my story, Wild Heart Summer:

Twenty-one year old Avery Crawford has had to fight for everything in her life, and this summer is no exception. When her culinary internship in a chic restaurant falls through at the last minute, she gets an unexpected offer to work on a dude ranch in the quaint town of Sugar Creek. The problem? The ranch is owned by the grandfather she's been kept from all her life.

Avery is completely out of her element with the cattle drives, trail rides, and most of all–cute ranch manager Owen Jackson. Not in the market for romance, Avery still finds herself tempted by the cowboy’s Southern charm and sweet kisses. But as secrets unravel on the ranch, Avery  will have to let go of the old wounds if she wants to hold onto the love Owen offers her. When the summer’s over, Avery must risk it all–or lose much more than her heart.

The novella collection also includes…

ISLAND SUMMER by Nicole Deese:
Joss Sanders needs an escape, a reminder of a sweeter, simpler, and steadier time. Only her family’s cabin isn’t exactly how she remembered it as a child, and neither is the charming boy who lives next door. Change is everywhere. If Joss doesn’t stop living in the past, she just might miss the promise of her future.

WAVES OF SUMMER by: Tammy L. Gray:
Sydney Andrews wants nothing more than to get away from a controlling ex-boyfriend, find some clarity, and enjoy a drama-free vacation. But nothing in Sydney’s life is ever that easy. Especially when the sexy bartender she meets at her mother’s wedding wants more than just her friendship. He wants the girl Sydney’s forgotten how to be.

DARBY'S STORY by Amy Matayo:
Darby Sparks has lived a very sheltered life as a homeschool graduate, a small town resident, and the only child of two overprotective parents. But she’s had enough. She wants to see the world and chase her dreams, so that’s just what she does–until she runs out of money. With limited options, Darby finds herself working for Lennon Dixon, owner of a downtown Los Angeles tattoo parlor. To call the job unfamiliar is the world’s biggest understatement. And to call her attraction to Lennon unexpected is a very close second.

WE'RE all very excited about this book. I love, love, love summer, and I'll take a beach read any season of the year. This book allowed me to go back to my new fictional town of Sugar Creek and write my first cowboy. I kind of had a cowboy crush when the book was done. (insert yeehaws here.) You can pre-order Just One Summer now on most e-retailers, including Amazon. My Facebook friends got to read chapter one of Wild Heart Summer, and my newsletter subscribers got to read the first three. I'm sharing chapters all over the place. I hope you're not missing out!

Have a great first week of June!

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Need some last-minute gift ideas? Have some folks on your list who are hard to buy for? Here are a few book suggestions.

1. Underwater Dogs, a coffee table book. I gift this quite a bit. It just makes people HAPPY to look at these pics of some very motivated dogs swimming underwater. If they already have it, my pick this year is Harlow and Sage: A True Story About Best Friends. (2 dogs made famous by their Instagram.) Need more words than pics? Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt is a wonderful memoir of an author who went to crazy lengths to save some dogs.
2. Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon. Nonfiction, but reads like a Clancy novel. Espionage, intrigue, and plot twists galore. Fascinating (quick) read, especially for your history enthusiasts.
3. Girls who read on a middle school level? This year I LOVED Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd and The Meaning of Maggie. Both so well written, both quirky and fun with lots of heart and “aw” moments. Both books receiving a ton of buzz.
4. Boy readers? My jr. high guys love anything by John Flanagan (Ranger's Apprentice), the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid, all things Percy Jackson, and The Last Apprentice series.
5. Another middle grade/elementary suggestion: The Warriors series by Erin Hunter. The covers kind of make me laugh, but I can't keep them on my shelves.
6. For fun: Nail Candy: 50 Ideas for Totally Cool Nails.
7. The chefs in your family might like the NomNom Paleo cookbook. Sometimes healthy food is difficult to prepare or gross. This collection of recipes are really great and very normal. This is my favorite cookbook right now.
8. Know someone who likes to bake? Popular books in my library are: The Big Book of Cupcakes, The Big Book of Cookies, and Cakepops by Bakerella.
8. Picture book readers: Tuesday Tucks Me In and The Day the Crayons Quit. LOVE LOVE LOVE these books.

Happy Reading!!!