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A Bear Comes to Town is Finished!

Yay! Another book complete. I don’t know if authors feel the same thing I do when they finish a book. I’ve heard the biggest doubts occur at the 25% and 75% mark. But I have to say that I mostly feel good about a book while I’m writing it. When I’m done. I should feel relief and happiness, but that seems to be when I’m most doubtful about how good it is. I do feel relief, though. The first draft is completely, and I just need to work on edits now. I had really hoped to get the book out to my ARC team by now, but obviously that didn’t happen. So I’m going to try to get it sent out early next week. Tuesday seems pretty reasonable. I’m going to start doing some rough outlines for Dragon Gold while I work on edits for ABCTT. Part of my wonders whether I should have waited on the BookBub until the final book was complete, but I actually think the timing was fine. Hopefully those that read through the entire series will be finishing up just as the 5th and final book comes out.

And speaking of BookBub, it’s definitely the real deal. I’m not experiencing phenomenal success (yet!), but a little over halfway through the month I’m already double any previous month in income. Again, I’m really glad I went wide. iTunes in particular has been great the past couple of days, but Barnes & Noble and Kobo have both been pretty strong. The ratings have dipped a bit, mostly on Goodreads, for Dragon Blue. But I’m going to focus on those readers that like my stuff (you can’t please everyone!) and try to keep giving them what they want.

So far, my overall strategy is working. It looks like it’s going to be an incremental grind on the path to supporting myself full time with writing, but I really feel like it’s possible and that I’m going to get there.

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BookBub Update

Today the rest of the data came in from yesterday’s BookBub on Dragon Blue. I got a little under 3,000 downloads on iTunes, and 18 sales on the other books. All-in-all, that puts me above the 23K downloads BookBub, ¬†estimated for the promo. and I’ve already made my money back. Whether or not it’s going to be a career-changer, we’ll see. It’s definitely going to get me a lot more exposure in the near-term. Whether or not the revenue will keep flowing, we’ll see. The book peaked at a high of #7 overall among free books on Amazon, which is great. It’s already slid back down to #11. I’m curious to see how well it sticks and what sales look like over the next week. The ratings are taking a hit on Goodreads. It’s kind of a shame, but it also seems inevitable. This was my first shifter romance. I feel like each subsequent book, I learn more and the storytelling gets better. But Dragon Blue is my lead-in to the series, so as the weakest book, it’s also not that effective a hook. I guess my next series should perform even better.

I’m almost done with A Bear Comes to Town. I’d planned on that being either a stand-alone or a 3-book series. I can now see how the longer a series is, the more potential it has to generate money from something like a BookBub promo. But I still plan on releasing my latest book at $2.99 wide and seeing how well it performs. Time to get back to writing…

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Wrapping Up January

Just a few updates…

January is going to earn me more than any previous month, but it’s still not a lot. But as long as I’m making incrementally more money every month, I think I’ll get there. It may just take a while. That said, I’ve got the BookBub lined up for Valentine’s Day. I’m really hoping that’s going to be a game-changer, but I don’t want to get my hopes up too much.

Work is proceeding on A Bear Comes to Town. I like my characters and the basic set-up, but a lot of the plot details are still kind of murky. My brain hasn’t let me down so far, so I’m confident I’ll be able to find a way through to the end. I do know how it’s going to end, so that’s good.

The Time-Traveling Outlaw just rotated out of Kindle Unlimited, so I’m in the process of pushing it out wide to all available retailers. It’s already on B&N and Kobo, but iTunes and all the others take a little more time. I know it’s got it’s flaws, but TTO will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first full-length romance novel. I was really proud of the way I plotted that one. Some of the other elements are maybe really rough, but like I’ve said before, I feel like plotting is my strong suit. I feel like TTO has a really solid story at its core, and finishing it was a huge boost of confidence.

Okay, off to write about bears!

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Trickling Wide

So you don’t just “go wide”. It takes some time. I had to wait for Dragon Red to stop being available in Kindle Unlimited. Once it dropped out (on Sunday), I published it and Dragon Green to Barnes & Noble and Kobo. It took a couple of days for them to be approved, but now they’re both available via those stores. The links for my books on this page have been updated.

I futzed around with iTunes trying to publish through them, and whew, it was not fun. It’s basically worth the 10% cut of an service like Smashwords not to have to deal directly with Apple. So I’ve published books 2 and 3 through Smashwords. They’re still waiting on approval. Then they’ll be pushed out to iTunes and a number of smaller stores. Hopefully that should only take another day or two. It would be nice for them to become available by the time I publish Dragon Black, Dragon White. That’s slated for release this Thursday, January 19th.

I plan to do the same thing with DBDW, publishing direct through B&N and Kobo and using Smashwords for everything else. Once it releases on all the major platforms, then I plan on planning another marketing blitz on the first book. Fingers crossed. If the entire series falls flat on all the non-Amazon stores, I’m going to be a little depressed, but I’ll deal with it.

In the meantime, I’m getting good feedback on DBDW. My ARC readers are great, pointing out little typos here and there and already leaving reviews on Goodreads. It’s already up to 15 reviews as of this morning, which is pretty nice.

I’m going to start a new book today, though I’m still not 100% on what. I may start a couple of new projects this week and just let the muse decide. I keep reading posts in another forum about how people killing it with contemporary romance. And that’s a little strange to me. I had asked for feedback about my progress a while back, and some authors suggested that paranormal romance was too hard to crack into. The whole point of writing to market seemed to be to find a niche that has a high demand but not quite enough supply. One way to do that is to look at the spread of rankings in the top 100 in a subcategory. Currently, the 100th-ranked book in Contemporary Romance is ranked #420 overall in the Kindle store. But the 100th-ranked book in PNR is #1631 overall. So they’re both wildly popular subcategories, but if anything, PNR should be easier to break into. So the advice to write contemporary seems at odds with the concept of writing to market.

Anyway, I’ll figure out what to write this week and keep you all updated.

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Down the Home Stretch

I’m nearly finished with the first draft of Dragon Black, Dragon White. I should be done by tomorrow, or Monday at the latest. Then it’s editing time. So I’m looking to send the advance copies out to my team by mid-to-late next week. I’m pleased with the overall story structure, but the particulars are going to need a lot of fine tuning. You never know until you start looking back at the draft. I don’t do that until the whole book is complete. It’s too tempting to start revising and then you can get bogged down tinkering instead of finishing.

So I’m looking at a release date somewhere around the 17th-20th. Dragon Red falls out of KU on the 14th, and I feel like the third week of this month is going to be a key turning point in my plans going forward. The free version of Dragon Blue already has¬†thousands of downloads on iTunes, Kobo, and B&N. If the sell-through of the series is decent, I could be looking at a nice boost in revenue from those other sources. If the sales fall flat on those other platforms, then I’ll have to rethink my whole strategy. I plan on reapplying for a BookBub. If that falls through, I’ll still push on with some other paid promos to boost Dragon Blue‘s visibility around the launch of the 4th book and the release of books 2 and 3 on the other platforms. I’m really hoping for at least a 25-30% increase in revenue through those other channels, but we’ll see.

I’m going to at least write the first chapter of the 5th and final book in the series, entitled Dragon Gold: A Tale Untold. I’ll included it as a bonus at the end of DBDW. But I think I’m going to take a deep breath and think about what to work on next. I don’t want to limp across the finish line with this series. I think writing another novel in a different setting will likely give me the needed space from the series to recharge the creative batteries a little and finish the last book stronger. I’ve been thinking a lot about a trilogy of bear shifter stories set in a small Texas town. I like the worldbuilding that goes along with writing fantasy, but it can sometimes wear you out a little. If you write something set in contemporary America, you don’t have to conjure up every little detail of an imaginary world. That stuff is already there for you. You just have to describe it well. And then you can focus on stuff like the plot, the characters, and their relationships.

I’m not completely decided, though. I’m going to take a couple of days after hitting the publish button on DBDW to see how my publishing strategy is working. And I also plan to do a little more reading and research to see what people are most interested in reading right now. But so far I’m excited for 2017. I think that at least for my own writing career, it’s going to be a good one.

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Year-End Wrap-Up and Goals for 2017

When I look back on 2016, I’ll think of it as the year that I finally got serious about making a career out of writing. Whether or not I’ll actually be able to support myself as a full-time writer remains to be seen, but I feel like I’ve grown and learned an immense amount this year. I also feel like I’m poised to make it if I keep doing what I’m doing and things fall into place.

I wrote about 300,000 words of fiction this year, including 4 full-length novels, plus a 5th that’s almost done. Lightning didn’t strike and I didn’t hit it big. It’s been a slow grind so far, but there has been a slight, steady upward trend. That’s certainly better than the alternative. I have two very straightforward goals for 2017:

  1. Publish 10 novels. Pretty clear-cut. I know I can keep up the same pace that I maintained through the last half of 2016, and that’s a 50K-word novel about once a month. The common wisdom is that one key to success in this industry is being prolific, with fast release schedules. If you’d told me even two years ago that I could produce that much prose that quickly, I would have said no way. But sticking to a disciplined regimen and planning well has allowed me to write more than I thought possible. I know I can meet this goal and that if I’m going to be successful, I need to meet this goal. Which leads me to the second goal.
  2. Earn at least $10K from writing. Up until now I haven’t kept very good records, because the dollar amounts are not that serious. But the amount I’m earning from my writing is increasing month-over-month. Going wide already feels like the right strategy, and that’s without even releasing the rest of the Dragonlords series on other platforms. Starting in the middle of January, books 2 and 3 will no longer be rolled in KU, and I can take them wide. I’ll also have the 4th book out at that time. Then I’ll be able to go full-throttle on promoting book 1. Dragon Blue has already gotten a solid amount of downloads on iTunes and Kobo, and I think I can probably do reasonably well with sell-through on those platforms. I wanted to already be making a little more on a monthly basis by now, but I feel reasonably confident that I can start generating between $800-1000 per month once I can release all my books for sale on all platforms.

I think these are good goals because they’re a little aggressive, but not outright crazy. They’re definitely attainable. I want to try to get a BookBub in 2017 as well, and I think that would go a long way towards helping me meet my financial goal.

In addition to maintaining a high word count, I also want to increase the quality of my work. I try to listen closely to what readers are saying about my books, and I want to make them as happy as possible. You can’t please everyone, but you can definitely do your best to produce a high standard of quality. I want to grow my newsletter and friends/followers on all social platforms. I didn’t realize when I started getting seriously into all this how wonderful and supportive a lot of romance readers and writers really are. It’s a great community and one that I’m loving being a part of.

So if you read one or more of my books this year, I just want to say thank you. That’s really what this is all about, sharing stories that make people happy. And if you’re reading this, I hope the end of 2016 finds you well and that you have a wonderful new year.

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The Slow Grind

I’m still chugging along on the latest book. My motivation waxes and wanes, but I still make sure to get down my daily word counts. I really hope 2017 sees a breakthrough, even if it’s a small one. For now I’m going to stick with the plan. I don’t want to change things up too much, since I just went wide with Dragon Blue permafree. I’ll be able to take my entire series wide with the launch of the fourth book in the middle of January. I’m already seeing a good number of downloads of Dragon Blue on other platforms, so I’m feeling pretty good about the prospects of the series wide.

I should be able to get the bulk of Dragon Black, Dragon White written over the next two weeks. Even if I somehow managed to finish it before Christmas, I think that’s probably a bad time to launch. So I’ll plan on releasing in January. I read yet another success story today of someone on a forum saying they spiked into the top rankings with their first romance novel, getting tens of thousands of page reads and a very good chunk of money in the process. I don’t know whether to take such stories with a grain of salt or not. They typically don’t share any insights that are helpful, such as particular genres/approaches. So I guess it’s best to take them as inspirational rather than actionable in any way.

The number of reviews for Dragon Green finally passed Dragon Red on Amazon, though they’re still pretty close. I think maybe I approached new advance readers too early for Dragon Green and they lost interest before release. I don’t know. It’s still a little disappointing to me that I didn’t surpass 50 reviews in the first week, given that my ARC team quadrupled since Dragon Red. I probably need to cull the ARC list, and this time I’ll start recruiting a week or so before release, probably right after Christmas.

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Dragon Black, Dragon White

So I’m now a good 10K into book 4 in the series, entitled Dragon Black, Dragon White: Darkest Day, Brightest Night. It’s going pretty well, though I still don’t have a lot of the plot points worked out. I’ll get there, though. The cover art is actually challenging on this one. For one, the title is very long. It’s difficult to get that much text on the cover and still make it readable. But I’m in love with the title, and I’m not going to change it, so I just need to make it work. Second, it seems like a black and white cover obviously isn’t very colorful, so it’s going to be hard to make it pop next to the first three books. But again, I’ll figure it out.

Here’s a short excerpt, the opening of the book (subject to change):

Of all the days he lived, until he took his very last breath, he would remember that day more than any other.
That was the day the sun went black.
That was the day everyone he had ever known went mad and tried to murder him.
But for all the evil that day held and all the horrors he saw, those were not the reasons he would remember it above all others. Because it was also the day he met her.

So the book starts with the sun over Xandakar going black, people and creatures going mad, and the whole world being thrown into chaos. Our two young lovers are going to need to find each other if they’re going to survive, figure out what’s happening to their world, and try to stop it. The book is (hopefully) going to weave together all the storylines from the first three books and tie them together heading into the finale. I’ll see if I can pull that off.

I’m planning on publishing the book in early January if all goes well. I’m now wondering whether I should release the next book at 99 cents or 2.99. Royalties are so bad for 99 cents. It seems to me the main reason to release at that price is to drive up sales to drive up ranking for visibility. But I may just be better served taking a small hit on sales in favor of better royalty. Then I can just lower the price if I want to run any promos. I don’t know what I’m going to do with that yet.

I had planned to write a clean contemporary romance after finishing this series, one based in Louisiana and centered around food. I may still do that. But I’m also thinking about sending a poll out to my newsletter asking what they might like to see next. I’m not sure how many other authors do that and how well it would be received. I think my three main choices of what to write next year are:

  1. The novel I just mentioned, entitled The Plate Lunch
  2. A new shifter series (probably a trilogy, not dragons, probably present-day, set in a small town)
  3. Alpha/Billionaire contemporary, dirty romance with BDSM elements

I think a shifter trilogy would be the most natural thing for readers to transition into from my current series. I don’t want to commit to another 5 or more books. I have a strong sense of how #1 would go, and I think it would be a strong book and a relatively easy one to write. I just don’t know how well it might be received, and it might look strange in my catalog. I’d also feel pretty confident writing #3. I’ve read a few of these lately and they’re still super popular in the rankings. But that’s still a couple of months out. Until then, it’s time to my my nose back to the grindstone and knock this dragon series out.

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Dragon Green Launch Weekend Update

Not a big change from last time I posted. The launch has still been pretty disappointing. I have a few take-aways and things I want to take action on, though, so that’s good.

But first, reviews are looking pretty good. Still underwhelming given the fact that my ARC list tripled since Dragon Red. But I’ve got 40 reviews on Goodreads and 35 now on Amazon, and the average is above 4.5 on both.

My timing is probably horrible, though. Switching Dragon Blue to permafree right before launch was probably a bad idea. I should have worked on making it permafree at least a couple of weeks before launch. Another thing I’ve come to realize is that I’ve probably stumbled pretty hard with the opening of Dragon Blue. I started chapter one with a very explicit sex scene with my heroine. My initial intent was to write the books very, very steamy. But based on the feedback I’ve gotten, I think they would work a lot better if the steam was turned down a notch (something I’ve been mindful of in the latter two books). Also, I don’t think readers react very well to getting slammed in the face with explicit sex from the get-go. Here’s where knowing how many people abandoned the book after the first chapter would have been super useful. Hint, hint, Amazon. Give us that data, please.

Anyway, after looking back at Dragon Blue, I can easily just lose the first chapter and do some minor revisions. That way I would start chapter 1 with the hero, which is the way the other books start. So it will be more consistent with the rest of the series and less in-your-face. I think that will work a lot better. So that’s on my to-do list for this week.

I’m also going to add a sample chapter of the following book as a lead-in. That’s a pretty old and effective strategy for getting readers interested in the next book. I don’t end each book on a cliffhanger, though the epilogues are a bit of a teaser in each. But I think the sample chapters will help.

And I also think I’m going to take the plunge and invest in Vellum. The formatting is just so much nicer, and I have a Mac in addition to a PC, so the only issue was the price. I think it’s worth the investment, though.

Dragon Blue has gotten something like 700 downloads since it went permafree. Most of those are on Amazon. I’m seeing a little of a trickle of sell-through, but I’d expect to see more this coming week as the first batch of permafree readers finish the book. We’ll see. But at least I feel like there are some steps I can take to shore up the first three books going forward as I work on the fourth.

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Dragon Green Launch Update

Just a quick update on the launch…

One day after launching, it’s not going great. Now I know I shook things up a bit by moving Dragon Blue out of KU to permafree, but there are still a few things about this launch that are quite disappointing.

First of all, I sold 25 copies yesterday. Not very good at the 99 cent price point. I wanted to rely less on promos and begin leveraging my mailing list as the core of my first-day launch strategy. I have over 1,000 subscribers on my newsletter list now, so 25 copies sold is very underwhelming. The bulk of those come from cross-promotions and my Instafreebie giveaway. The open rate for yesterday’s newsletter was 43.7%, which is not that great. I’m going to send out a follow-up newsletter to those who didn’t open this one next week, but I’ll also need to do some pruning on the list.

I sent out the link to Dragon Blue in the same newsletter, noting that it was free. My hope was that a lot of readers would download the first book and go ahead and buy the next two while the third was at a discounted rate. But maybe the way it works is that I’ll see sell-through to the third book down the line as people read the first one for free. I don’t know.

Also slightly depressing is the number of reviews. Right now Dragon Green has 25 reviews, which would normally be great. But at this point in my launch of Dragon Red I already had 20. And that was with an ARC team of 59 readers. I worked hard to build the list up to 180 over the past month. I also made the ARC available through Instafreebie and Facebook, where it got nearly 400 downloads. I was hoping to have 50ish reviews by this point. Again, maybe they’ll trickle in at a higher rate. Or maybe Amazon is glitchy. I did notice the first 3 reviews appearing and disappearing from the listing yesterday as I checked it.

So maybe offering Dragon Blue for free is demotivating readers from buying the 2nd and 3rd books. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong with the cover/blurb. Anyway, I’ve got a couple of small promos running on Dragon Green over the next week, and I’m going to stick with my plan to hammer the free promos for Dragon Blue. I’m just waiting for it to be listed on B&N before I sign up for any big promos.

I’ll try to keep my spirits up while I work on the next book. Maybe sales will pick up over the weekend.