Riding the eBook Industry Roller Coaster

When Just Ella had been out for just a few weeks, Amazon took notice of the fact that I was selling a few copies a day, which meant I was quite a bit more successful than a lot of self-pubbed authors, so they picked it up and marketed it for me. That made all the difference. I had the power of the great Amazon marketing machine in my corner and my sales shot up.

Knowing that, when Keeping Kinley was published with Kindle Press, I was very excited. I would have the full weight and power of Amazon marketing on my side. I thought I would see a marked increase in sales over my last couple books. After all, surely the combination of my own efforts with the Kindle Press team would equate to many more sales than I had been able to generate by myself, right?

I have spreadsheets of each month of sales for each of my books. It was pretty disappointing to compare my Painting Rain first month with my Keeping Kinley first month and realize that it was pretty much a wash. The numbers were very similar, and if anything, my Keeping Kinley numbers were actually lower.

The why of those numbers has been bugging me, and I’ve been giving it a lot of thought.

The eBook market has been an interesting thing to watch as it has developed, not only as a reader, but as an author as well. When Kindle, Nook, and iBooks came on the scene, they broke open the publishing industry. They made both consuming and publishing books as easy as a click of the mouse.

Prior to those platforms, any author who wished to be published had to either be chosen by a publishing company, or they could go the route of “vanity publishing.” My understanding is that it was known as vanity publishing because only people who were too vain to realize that their book just wasn’t good enough would be willing to shell out the money to have their own books published. Vanity publishing was synonymous with bad writing.

A lot of us had a front row seat as that changed. More and more authors who had been summarily rejected by the publishing industry became brave enough to publish their own books now that the big eBook distributors allowed you to do so without the need to cough up a bunch of cash.

When I first finished Just Ella and started querying publishers in 2012, the industry was just on the cusp of of changing. People were starting to read books published by the authors themselves, and it turns out that some of them were really well done. Thus the change from calling it “vanity publishing” to “self-publishing.” There was no longer a heavy stigma hovering over self-published work. After all, we live in a world of computers, and maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to change with the times. Perhaps we didn’t all need to be held captive by the publishing industry.

Looking back, I realize that Just Ella hit the eBook market at exactly the right moment. Readers were ready to give self-published authors a chance, especially when such books were usually priced at half the cost of traditionally published books. Just Ella was comparatively cheap and with the help of the ‘look inside’ feature that amazon offers, readers could sample the book before committing to the buy.

No one was more surprised by the success of Just Ella than I was. When my first day of big sales numbers rolled in, my husband and I both agreed that it was a technical glitch. But the sales continued the next day and the next. I slowly realized that it had been included in some emails that Amazon had sent to readers. The pump was primed, and I had jumped into the market at the opportune moment.

Since then, a lot of people have read my books. A lot of people have liked them. So with the success of my first, I anticipated that the launch of each subsequent book would be even more successful. After all, I’ve gathered a fairly loyal following and my name is known by a few people (at least in my niche market). However, that hasn’t been the case. Each of my book launches has been less and less successful. The numbers aren’t as high right off the bat, and the sales taper off more quickly.

When even Keeping Kinley (with the Kindle Press team on my side) didn’t compare to the success of Just Ella, I had to wonder: What gives?

My guess is this.

Demand for ebooks rose sharply when:
1) Self-publishing lost its stigma and those books started to be welcomed and anticipated by readers.
2) With the Kindle app and other eBook reading apps, people were given the ability to read anywhere they went. We now have access to hundreds of books from our phones and can consume books at a higher and faster rate.

This demand for more books was met with a response from authors.
1) Authors who had been too timid to publish before decided to give it a try. Many had multiple books finished and just waiting to be published.
2) As self-published authors learned how to navigate that world, they have banded together to cross-promote; they’ve teamed up on series and anthologies; they’ve taken an industry that used to be exclusive to the big publishers and they’ve figured out how to do it on their own. They write and edit and market from their couches and their home offices. Some do it full time, others do it as a hobby in their spare time. Regardless of how they got into this, self-published authors have claimed their spot in the publishing industry.

Huzzah!

However, all of that means that the eBook market has been absolutely flooded with new content. The number of books published every day is staggering. Even just looking at the clean romance genre, which used to be minuscule, I now come across new books constantly. That’s great for readers. As a reader, I love it.

As an author, I have to adjust to it. And I also wonder how long this trend will hold. Is it already turning in a new direction? Will the demand for books stay high? Or will the ability to stream Netflix and other on-demand TV shows and movies right to our phones mean that consumers choose to watch their entertainment instead of read it?

If the demand for books does go down significantly, will some authors decide it isn’t worth their time and pull out of the game? I saw a Facebook post recently from an author who was disappointed with his sales numbers. He was thinking about throwing in the towel and not finishing the sequel he had planned. I wonder how many authors might do the same. Will that become a norm? Will those who can’t find an audience in a bloated industry back out altogether? Maybe.

So then, should other authors be leery of jumping into the publishing game? That depends entirely on what they’re after. Writing isn’t a way to make a quick buck. Books sell well when they’re great books, and it’s been my experience that the best books are the ones written by those who love the writing.

I wrote a piece several years ago about suffering for your art. My advice now would be a lot the same as it was back then. If what you’re doing is truly your art, you won’t mind the suffering. Writing keeps me sane. Writing is my time to think grown-up thoughts and interact with grown-up (though fictitious) people. Any author will tell you that if you’re in it for the money, you should pick a different career. But if you’re in it for the joy of it, for the sanity it brings to your life, and for the love of characters no one else realizes exist, then in the end, what the market does or doesn’t do won’t matter.

I could wonder, research, and try to understand the grand complexities of eBook supply and demand, publishing trends, and marketing, but nothing I learn is going to change the fact that I love writing books—so I’m going to keep doing it.

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The Prologue that Wasn’t

The KindleScout campaign for Keeping Kinley has officially ended. Thank you so, so much to everyone who nominated it! Whether it’s chosen or not, it’s been a great experience. I hope you all enjoyed reading the first couple of chapters and I’m excited to get the rest of the story into your hands.

As I was going through my manuscript (yet again) and looking over different files, I found a prologue that I toyed with using. In the end I decided it was unnecessary (as most prologues are) and it went into my ‘deleted’ folder. However, I thought it would be fun to share it with y’all, because I do like how it turned out.

The Prologue that Wasn’t:

I told myself I wouldn’t look, but some self destructive tendency drove me to part the curtains. He was returning from a carriage ride. With her. She was dressed in her finery, the picture of innocence and ladylike decorum. He smiled at her.

I loved that smile.

It shouldn’t have hurt. The crushing disappointment shouldn’t have had the power to knock the wind out of me. But he had made me believe in him, in us.

Even so, I was practical enough that I should have expected this outcome. The world was always going to come between us. The truth of who he was, and who I was. The truth that had forced me to walk away from him—again. Yet this was so much worse than when I had left him the first time, when we were children, and the only thing we had to lose was friendship.

Fun, huh?

I also wanted to share my print cover. As always, the handsome man that I call my own helped me with it. Or…I helped him with it. We collaborated, there you go. I especially love the apple watermark that he made for me.

 

I ordered the paperback proof several days ago, and I’m so excited for it to arrive. That’s still my favorite part of this whole process—getting to hold the physical book in my hands for the first time. There’s nothing quite like testing the weight and flipping the pages, knowing that I wrote all that.

So now I’ll sit back and wait to hear from the KindleScout people, and in the meantime I’ll proof my paperback so that it will be ready to go as soon as either KindleScout or I publish the ebook.

ONWARD!

 

Loving Your Characters

When I start reading a book, there are many factors that might prevent me from being able to immerse myself in the story. One of the biggest is unlikable characters. I imagine that’s the case with many readers, especially if you enjoy character driven books. We don’t want to cheer for a character that we just don’t like. Sometimes I don’t like characters because they’re boring, other times it’s because I don’t respect them. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that writing likable characters is essential for an author’s success.

What’s the first step to writing likable characters? You have to actually like them yourself. If you don’t love the characters you create, then how can you expect readers to love them? Continue reading

Year End Wrap-up

Painting Rain

PR PromoOriginally I had planned on releasing Painting Rain by mid-December. However, with the rewrites required, and other unforeseeable issues, I gave up on that deadline and allowed myself to focus on Christmas and family. I haven’t done much with it for the past several weeks, but now that out-of-town family is gone and the festivities are finished, I’ll be able to get back to work. I need to complete my final read-through before sending it off to copy editors. Once that’s done, I’ll finalize the cover and make it available for pre-order. I expect copies will land it reader hands in 4-6 weeks.
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Writing Retreat and my Next Project

I spent the second half of last week in Bear Lake with five other writers. It was our second annual writing retreat. The point is to get away from our usual days of work, family and kids, and focus just on our craft.

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Took this during one of only two times that I bothered enjoying the view.


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Inspiration for Heroes

Another question from my FB page. Someone asked where I get inspiration for my heroes. So here’s my attempt to answer:

Firstly, none of my characters are based on real people. I have utilized little quirks from people I’ve known and incorporated them into some of my characters, but that’s the extend of it.
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The Original Idea for Ella and her Sisters

I had a reader ask on my FB page where I came up with the original concept of Ella and her sisters.

The first few scenes that I wrote for Just Ella were so bad. They were stilted and awkward, the dialogue was contrived, and I was trying to write in the style that Jane Eyre was written in, which didn’t work since I’m not Charlotte Bronte. I didn’t have a handle on the old timey speech, and I didn’t really know who Ella was.
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Will Lorraina’s Story be Next?

Short answer: Yes.

I’ve been surprised at how many people ask this question. I doubt it will come as a surprise that out of all of the sisters, Lorraina was my least favorite. But I couldn’t just keep her as the token brat throughout the books. It didn’t feel realistic. So when her storyline started to progress in Missing Lily, I appreciated the chance for her to grow. Yes, she was still selfish and overly critical, but I started to better understand the reasons behind it, and I was able to make some headway with her character development. However, by the end of Missing Lily, I still didn’t like her enough to want to write from her point of view. I couldn’t empathize with her enough.

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Deciding to Save Marilee

43While I was still in the middle of writing Missing Lily, I started contemplating my next project. I decided that I didn’t want to do another princess story. I was done with those. I tried starting the story of Gavin’s younger sister, Kinley, but it never grabbed me. I thought about telling the story of Brinna, Gavin’s jilted fiancée, but I barely got beyond a couple of paragraphs with her.

As you know, my decision to not do another princess story didn’t pan out.

I had always liked Marilee because she was fun and made me smile, but I knew that she wasn’t mature enough for me to want to be inside her head for an entire book. I knew that if I was going to make her a heroine, she’d have to grow up, and she’d have to do it the hard way.
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The Chiseled Hero and Willowy Heroine.

I’ve read a lot of books. (Shocker.) And most of those books are romance because I love reading about those feelings—the discovery of attraction, then waiting on pins and needles to find out if the other person feels the same way. There is something so basically human about finding love. However, I think many authors get stuck on attraction and have a hard time moving on to meaningful relationships. When I’m reading a book, there is only

Unknownso much physical description that I can take. If the hero’s rock hard abs are the main focus, it’s tough for me to take it seriously. I tend to roll my eyes when the heroine’s berry red lips and tiny waist are expounded on. Physical description is fine. It’s good to know that the hero and heroine are attracted to one another. However, should that really be the characteristic that is focused on the most? Do we need to keep going back to the fact that she is the spitting image of Aphrodite anP10_116_1d his physique is like the statue of David?

My objection isn’t just that it’s redundant, or that it flattens the characters into nothing but their physical attributes.
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