Words Are Powerful

The last week in Romanceland has been rife with controversy. I kinda got caught up with it emotionally because I knew people in both camps, and as a result, I’ve fallen behind on my word count.

Like, really behind.

I had originally thought about not writing about it but at the same time, I thought, why don’t I want to write about it? It’s important, isn’t it?

Well, maybe not to the regular person it’s not, so this may not be of interest to you as a casual reader. But for an author like me who writes in the field of romance, the implications are pretty huge.

You see, a fellow romance author trademarked the word “cocky.” She writes a series that started out as the Cocker Brothers of Georgia (or Atlanta, I can’t remember now…), about seven brothers with the last name Cocker. And so each book in her series starts with the word Cocky. Cocky Roomie, Cocky Heart Surgeon, Cocky Cowboy... you get the drift.

stencil.facebook-photo
Can’t touch this…

So with 17 or 18 books now in her series, I guess she figured besides trademarking Cocker Brothers of Atlanta (or Georgia), she might as well trademark Cocky because, well, it’s her “brand” now.

She applied for the trademark in September 2017 and was granted the mark last month. Then she started sending C&D letters to other authors who had Cocky on their titles or series, mostly released after she published the first Cocky book (Cocky Roomie). She told them to change their titles and series names or she’d sue them for monies owed to her. She told them she would win. She told them retitling would take a day, nothing more.

Cue #cockygate.

The backlash? HUGE.

Her response? “Branding.”

Amazon’s response to her trademark infringement claim? Removing the “infringing” authors books along with a note stating that they may owe the cocky author monies earned.

Other people’s response? Meh? Who cares? Just a bunch of women fighting with each other. One misogynist dared “spiteful jealous mean girls” who had a problem with it to suck his cocky.

Words were exchanged. Emotions got heated. Parody cocky books popped up and are selling like hotcakes…

I mean, things escalated quickly.

But the precedent set over the trademarking of a single word that is a huge part of romance? Dangerous.

SkipToTheEnd

It was exhausting.

But now it’s back to work.

I need to write more words. Maybe I’ll even throw cocky in there just to be sentimental about #cockygate and the weekend when I should have been writing.

***Romance Writers of America (RWA) has stepped in to stop the take-down of affected books and the rest (petition to cancel the trademark, maybe) will be handled legally. 

So You Want to Write (and Publish) Erotica…

So I’ve been publishing Naughty Pen’s stories now since July 2017 and so far, these are the lessons I’ve learned so far (these are just the things that apply to me so YMMV). I’m going to list the things I’ve learned below but you’ll need to click on Page 2 at the bottom of this page to get to the rest of the post (because it’s a lot!).

  1. Write more than one story before you hit that Publish button.
  2. Formatting and Cover Design
  3. Should I write a series or do standalone books?
  4. Exclusive to Amazon or Wide Distribution?
  5. How to Promote my Erotica books?
  6. “The Filthy Fifty”

Diving Back In

stencil.blog-post-feature (1)

So last week I lamented my lack of motivation to write. It made me sound lazy (I am but that’s beside the point) and in need of validation with every chapter I wrote. Then I took a closer look and realized that it’s not exactly true.

One reason why I haven’t been into my Liz books is because I’ve been paying more attention to Naughty Pen’s books. Yup, she’s got three of them. Four, if you count the one I just unpublished because it’s only the first part and no sense in releasing that out there if I don’t have the second one ready to go.

I’d published the first of Naughty Pen’s books in July and then I went about my merry way not paying attention to it until I released the second and third parts in October and December respectively. Enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, they did poorly. So poorly, Naughty Pen’s total income for all three books for the 2017 was $56 and change.

This month, I decided I had to stop playing around with Naughty Pen’s fate. Secret pen or not, it’s still a business, right?

So the three books left Kindle Unlimited at the beginning of this month and went out to the world of wide distribution like eager eighteen-year-olds. Happy to say that Naughty Pen’s readers were never on Kindle Unlimited but in iBooks. In the last week and a half, the series has made way more money than it did during its first six months in KU. If I’d known… but then, hindsight has always been 20/20.

So that’s where my head’s been at all this time, and all the while my own characters suffered.

devin-paisley
Forever my inspiration for Gareth: Devin Paisley

So now that Naughty Pen is kinda set with her three books for now, I’m finally ready to dive back into the world of my own characters. I did a poll on my Facebook Reader Group, asking them which character they’d like to see first. Hands down, the winner was Sawyer, Dax’s friend in Everything She Ever Wanted. Running second was Gareth of Loving Ashe, and third was Blythe from Collateral Attraction. Blythe doesn’t get a lot of love but that’s okay. She gets enough love from me and these three books are on the docket for 2018.

I just need to figure out which one to write first.

In my heart, I know whose book to write. I’ve only been agonizing his fate for the last two years, too afraid to go against what readers want versus what I’ve wanted from the very beginning. But this book had never been written to market and so the third book will be written the same way: not to market.

For those unfamiliar with the term written to market, it basically means writing what sells. If you’re an author with books in KU, it can be bad boy romance, urban fiction, fantasy, space marines or whatever else. It takes studying the Amazon algorithm to know what sells before you write the first word.

But the book I’m going to tackle is not to market and that’s a challenge to business me. Still, I can’t delay it any longer and so back into Gareth Roman’s world I go. It means diving into Barbed Wire, the short story from his POV of what happens in Chapter 24 of Loving Ashe and moving on from there. I wrote this short story two years ago and it’s my most polarizing story so far. You’ll need to have read Loving Ashe to get its context, and as I edit the story to fix a few things, it feels like I’m home again.

Guess my vacation has finally come to an end, and back to work I go.

And do you know one thing that gets me back to work mode? It’s this video, a tribute to the chase scene from Ronin, one of my favorite movies from the 90’s (or was it the 80’s?). The title of the music used is perfect, Inertia Creeps, and it’s exactly what was happening to me last week even if I was distracted by Naughty Pen’s business end.

This video features the best movie chase scene EVER. Hands down. You got to crank up the volume for this one…

 

Getting Ready for 2018: Book+Main

This is one of those posts that will be published in a series (if I remember!) so I don’t get overwhelmed with all the information. Because with so many things to take care of for 2018, I figure it’s a good idea to break them down into individual posts instead of putting them all in one giant one. Who knows? Maybe it will even make me more accountable that way! 

bookandmainbites

I’ve mentioned Book+Main a few weeks ago and so far, I’m liking it. And so, for the new year, I’m contemplating on posting my stories, teasers, and excerpts on Book+Main, a website and Android/IOS app that features primarily romance books. It’s free for readers and right now, free for authors, too, although each one has to be vetted before they can be given an author account and post “bites” for readers to discover.

I’ve been posting a few excerpts here and there, trying to get used to the platform, and followers get first dibs! You can follow me via this link where I post excerpts like this one:

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 12.20.34 PM

Unfortunately you can’t really see much unless you register first. When you click on the link, it will take you to the main page where you’ll be asked to register. You’ll need to search for my name to find me otherwise you’ll start from the letter A to pick your first few authors and you won’t get to me at all LOL

Some of the bites I post aren’t steamy at all, while others are steamy up to 5 flames like the one above. The site and app are for dedicated romance readers to find new books and new authors, and since it’s my genre, well, that’s where I’ll be for the coming year.

And with a new book coming out in the first quarter, I’ll be posting excerpts on Book+Main first. It should be interesting, right?

mobile-block

So I Got Featured…

Yup, just like the titles says, I got featured over at Instafreebie and I forgot to tell anyone all about it.  And then I realized nine days later, that because they post every day, if I didn’t at least find the link to it, then I’ll never find it!

So here it is, and I even have an author picture to go with it, although this one was taken a few years ago in our garden gazebo and there was even a makeup artist in attendance.  But then, my brother is a professional photographer…

They sent me a questionnaire first and here are my answers:

Any (not-so-secret) pen names: haha it’s a secret!

Favorite genre to write: Women’s Fiction and Romance with hints of mystery

Favorite genre to read: Mystery/Suspense

My readers would be surprised to know that I draw. It makes my mom happy to know that if this writing “gig” doesn’t work out, I can set up a stand at the park and draw your portrait for a fee. My favorite medium is graphite and colored pencils as well as digital art using a tablet although these days, I just draw straight on my iPad or iPhone. Whenever I’m stumped on my books’ arc, conflict or plot, I’m usually drawing away and posting them on Instagram. If you don’t see my drawings, that means I’m busy writing!

You should pick up “Loving Ashe” because it’s a sweet chick lit romance between a sweet barista named Riley Eames and the swoony British actor she gets trapped with in a Midtown Manhattan elevator. It’s about opening your heart again to love even when your personal world seems to be falling apart.

Describe “Loving Ashe” in one word: swoon

Speaking of drawing, these are a few and they’re all drawn in a red art journal.  My favorite medium are graphite pencils, colored pencils, and ink.  I started doing portraiture but love line drawing so much I used to just do the line drawing and fill it in with color. I struggle with shading still and can’t, fo rthe life of me, do hair.  Sometimes I color it on my iPhone like I did the one of Jim Morrison of the Doors.

 

Where Do You Get Your Books?

This morning, I learned all about segmenting my subscribers according to their e-reader choices.  This was from one promotion that I participated in where it was one of the questions: What device do you use to read your e-books?

Out of about 890 or so subscribers, I got the following information:

776 read on a Kindle
21 on Google Play
43 on iBooks
33 on Nook
19 on Kobo

It’s definitely something to think about, given that Amazon/Kindle represents about 75% – 80% of the ebook market. It certainly is the case for my books that are available “wide” (they’re available everywhere like iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Google Play and Amazon) with Amazon still taking 80% of the sales.

It made me wonder, as far as readers who stumble upon this blog, where everyone gets their books. Are you a Kindle reader, a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, or Nook, Kobo, or iBooks user? Are you with Google Play which I just learned is the default bookstore for android devices?

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-3-40-45-pm

Lists – How Important Are They for Indie Authors *cough*… Like Me?

When I was much younger and a regular staple at the library or Borders, I used to judge books not only by their covers but by the words NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER.   It made me attend conferences with notable guests like Pulitzer Prize winners and Poet Laureates.  I learned, maybe erroneously, that “By New York Times Bestselling Author” were not hits compared to the ones that held the label, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER.  I mean, dang, that book was the bestseller so it must be good.

Funny thing, though – when I started publishing, I never paid any mind to making “the list.”  It was stressful enough just having your book edited, packaged with a nice cover and then released, even if it was to crickets.  And there are two more lists, by the way.  The USA Today and Wall Street Journal.

Late last year, I learned about the ways to make it onto a list, along with calls to join box sets designed to make “the list” and thus have the privilege to call myself a USA Today or New York Times Bestselling Author.  It’s definitely more eye-catching than just seeing just Liz Durano on the author line, right?  And with indies showing up on the lists for a few months now, it’s definitely an accomplishment especially when primarily traditionally published books make most of those lists since the day were published.  It was a chance for indie authors like me to catch that elusive label and, in the case of box sets, for much less than if I were making a run as a solo author.

Well, as of today, fellow indie authors are noting the absence of the E-Books list (the easiest entry to the list via ebook sales versus paperback sales) from the New York Times.

16265371_10211253956171890_8095398318486973262_n

It may just be temporary. (EDIT: it’s not) Maybe the list is late, although I doubt it.  But whether it’s late, intentional to exclude or make it harder for indies to make the list or not, it made me wonder just how important it is for me to make “the list.”

It would be nice, right?  And I’m not going to deny the chance if it were offered to me.  But writing my stories, I’ve discovered, is stressful enough.  I don’t write them as fast as I used to, or would like to, simply because real life is just too busy for me.

For one, my 7-year-old is acting out in school and I don’t have the luxury of deciding whether I should complete my novel or find ways to get him more active with after-school activities or socialization.  It’s not even a question.  I have a mother who loves to scare the bejeesus about my choice to be an author because she insists every week when I call her that the “recession is coming” and that my choice of vocation is poverty.  It’s enough to make this indie author paranoid of everything, much less spend thousands of dollars to make a list so you’ll pick my book over everyone else’s.

Some days, I think, life is just too short to worry about such things just so you’ll pick up my books.  I just want to write my stories and hope that whoever reads them finds joy in them.

… though I’m sure making any of those three lists would be a nice bonus.

Three Things (Self-Publishing)

One of the things I love to listen to while doing stuff around the house (i.e. not writing) is The Author Hangout: Book Marketing Tips for Indie & Self-Published Authors podcast.  Towards the end of his interviews, Shawn usually asks what three things his guests would do if they were starting out again.

It got me thinking about the three things I’d definitely do if I were to do it all over again.

  1. Write a series of at least three books and don’t publish until the third book is DONE.  That way, you can release each book in 30 or 60-day intervals at the same time writing your next book.  It’s less stress and the job’s already done, basically.  All you have to do now is get them out the gate in 30, 60 and 90 days.  If you happen to be writing a really wrong novel, like one that’s over 100k words, I’d definitely break it down into two or three books, again with each one releasing in 30 or 60 days.
  2. Start building your email list NOW.  There are some amazing providers to start with like Mailerlite, which is free to use for up to 1000 subscribers.  And unless you’re using Instafreebie which is an aweesome way to build subscribers by offering free content like a free first book (it could be that first of three books you just wrote in #1 or a short <10K word prequel), your subscriber list will be slow and more organic.  Maybe people who find you on your blog and like what you write, whether it’s short stories or that free first book (that’s not free anywhere else but via your mailing list; it’s still for sale in all the outlets).
  3. Set aside a budget for marketing your book.  So what if you wrote the best book ever?  If you don’t tell anyone about it, or unless people start talking about it, no one will know.  So you’ll need to have a budget on hand to start with advertising.  It could be setting up a blog tour for a cover reveal before you release that first book and then a release blitz, or if you’re patient and willing to sit through countless Facebook how-to’s on making your Facebook ad, you could put a minimum of $5/day into advertising. You can also set up sale promotions (free or discounted price sales) and promote it through newsletter services.  I’ll detail #3 below because the formatting for extra paragraphs under lists drives me batty.

I didn’t do FB ads for two years and when I started doing it in September/October last year, it was a total game changer for me.  It meant that I had to budget my money because I had NO budget set aside for advertising, especially after I purchased my exclusive cover photo.  It meant not buying that grande mocha latte at Starbucks if it meant I could apply that money to $5 of daily advertising instead.

What’s a reasonable budget?  If you can spare it (remember, this is for long-term), set aside $1K – $2K to tide you over for 30 to 60 days while you’re helping your newly released book build up steam, get reviews, and also be more visible.  At $5/day of advertising, I started seeing sales on a year-old release on all platforms (Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble) and it was definitely one of those “why didn’t I do this sooner?” moments, but it’s better to do it now than never.

If you don’t have $2K, then do it the way I did – no, not credit cards although I’ve seen authors do so much better with higher budgets, more than $50/day per ad. Being broke, I budgeted $35/week to ads and went one week at a time while I fine-tuned my ads to get the best click-through rate and cost as well as ROI (return on investment) that translated in sales… all while making sure I had the money on hand when Facebook billed and took the money automatically on the 29th of each month.  Sometimes I paid every week so I wouldn’t be a nervous wreck towards the end of the month, especially considering Amazon’s 60-day net (I don’t get my royalties until 60 days after the sale). Don’t get me wrong: while FB ads worked for me right away, it may take some time for FB advertising to work for you and what works for me just might not work for you.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t go into self-publishing without a budget, even if so many people say you can do it with zero investment.  You may sell a few books to your friends and family, but you’ll need to sell more books to people you don’t know in order to keep at doing this (writing and publishing) for a long time.

What’s an alternative to FB ads? You can raise visibility for your book by holding sales promotions like free book downloads or 99 cent sales.  To promote them, try newsletter services for your book promotions like BKnights (on Fiverr) which works for free books (free download days if you’re on KU), Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Daily (or ENT as they’re mostly known), Robin Reads, and more.

So those are the three things I’d do if I were to do this writing thing all over again. There are so many more things I’d do but for now, it’s a good start.  What about you? What are the three things you’d do if you were to do this writing thing all over again?


 

When she’s not blogging about self-publishing, writing poetry or hanging out with her 7-year old little prince, Liz Durano writes women’s fiction and romance. Her latest novel, Everything She Ever Wanted, is available on Amazon and free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Resources:

Let’s Get Publishing and Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright.

The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn

The Holy Grail of Book Launching: Secrets from a bestselling author and friends by Mimi Emmanuel