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Merry Christmas!

I’ve been out of town for a couple of days, so I took it easy and didn’t write or blog this weekend. I’m probably not going to get a lot done before the first of the year, either. DBDW (Dragon Black, Dragon White) still need another solid week of writing, followed by a solid week of editing. So I’m shooting for a release maybe the second week in January. Then I’m going to assess whether I want to just storm on through the fifth book or shift gears a little and work on a standalone or start a new series. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Anyway Christmas was fine. As you get older, it gets a little less exciting. You tend to live vicariously through the younger generations, since you tend to get practical gifts like socks. But it’s still a time to get together with friends and family, eat some good food, and relax. My next post will probably be my year-end recap and goals for 2017, though I’ve probably talked about them a bit already. Until then, I hope every is having a great holiday season!

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Things are Picking Up

I ran a promo on Thursday with I Love Vampire Novels, promoting Dragon Blue for free and got a very nice boost. It seems to have had some sticking power for the last few days as well, so it was definitely worth the money I spent on it. I’ll be using that one again for future books. I think I’m now starting to see the path by which I can actually do this full-time. Though I’m pretty sure that’s not going to be possible unless I either have multiple series or one of my books just goes viral. I’m pretty sure I just need to keep turning out solid stories for my catalog and eventually everything will add up.

But I got a really nice email today from a reader that reminded me it’s not just about marketing and strategizing and trying to maximize ROI. She said she’d read my latest book and that it helped distract her from the worries in her life. Imposter¬†Syndrome is a very real thing, and even though I’m not a “high-achieving individual” (at least not yet), I have doubts nearly every day. I can read a good review and wonder if the reader actually means it, but when someone tells me something I wrote helped them through a rough time, I really have no reason to doubt their sincerity. It’s just a really nice feeling.

I’m still getting that nagging urge to jump over and start a new series, but I’m pretty sure I need to resist it. In my last post, Sheila suggested that I take a little break. I’m definitely doing that for Christmas, but I want to make sure I get the bulk of the draft for Dragon Black, Dragon White finished first. I passed the halfway mark this week. It’s going to need a fair amount of significant revision, but it’s coming together. After Christmas, if it just feels awful sitting down to work on it more, I might actually take a little break to work on something else.

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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.

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Dragon Green Launch!

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Dragon Green: A Vision Unseen launched on Amazon today. The launch price is 99 cents, but then it will go up to the normal price of $2.99 next week.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. A lot of authors say the third in the series is when you start to get traction. I’m also second-guessing myself a little about going wide, but I’m pretty sure it was the right choice given where I’m at. Amazon price-matched Dragon Blue for free. Time to start pounding on that with free promos.

Also time to churn out the next book. Outlining isn’t going so great. I’ve got the opening and the ending of the story clearly in mind. I know the two lead characters and their path to come together and fall in love. It’s all that messy plotting in the middle that I’m mostly unsure about. I think this one is going to be like Dragon Red, mostly written by the seat of my pants. But I think it will end up working out okay.

I’ll update here about how the launch goes over the weekend.

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Taking the Plunge: Going Wide

One of the biggest ongoing debates in indie publishing is whether or not to “go wide” (publish through as many retailers as possible) or stick with only Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. I’m releasing Dragon Green this week (Thursday, Dec. 1st), and I’ve decided to take the plunge and go wide. Lots of blog posts and forum topics do a good job of running down the pros and cons, but for me it boils down to three main reasons:

  1. Poor KU Results. I’m just not getting a lot of page reads. I hear about other authors getting tons of page reads, but it’s just not happening for me. If it were, it would incentivize me to stay in the program. It could very well be an issue with my books. But for whatever reason, they’re not performing well in KU, so I think it’s worth seeing if they do better across many channels with a different model.
  2. BookBub. The holy grail of promotions. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I see a lot of authors claiming that BookBub prefers authors that go wide. I don’t expect to get a promotion with any individual books in the series, though I would love to. Basically I want to position myself to be in the best possible spot to get a BB promo for the entire series as a boxed set.
  3. Permafree. I’ve also heard that the first-book permafree model doesn’t work quite as well anymore. But since I’m not doing well in KU anyway, I figure I can probably only go up from here. And you can’t set the first book in your series as permanently free unless you go wide.

Basically, though, with the release of my fourth book overall and the third in my series, I want to try it out. Going wide is a fair amount of work. But I also want to do it because I really like the idea of exposing my books to as wide an audience as possible and diversifying future income. If I’m able to build up a wider audience, great. If not, I can always choose to enroll future books/series in KU. The scheduling is a little weird, though. Dragon Blue just rolled out of KU, and I’ve spent today setting it up through different vendors. Dragon Red doesn’t unenroll from KU until January, though. So it’s not really going to be a good lead-in for the other books in the series, at least until then. But I will be able to assess demand for the free book for the next two months. Then I can see about trying to drive sales with promos for Dragon Blue.

I don’t know how well it’s going to work, but I’m hopeful. I’ll update my store links once it’s live in other places.

In other news, I passed 1,000 subscribers on my mailing list. The bulk of those have been through Instafreebie and cross-promos. I’m pretty interested to see how well it performs on release day. I’m also going to try resending a week later to subscribers who didn’t open the first email. That’s a strategy I haven’t been using that I probably should.

And on the writing side, I’m in the process of outlining Dragon Black, Dragon White: Darkest Day, Brightest Night. No traveling back and forth from Earth this time. I know who my hero and heroine are going to be, but right now I only have the vaguest idea of how the story is going to play out. This one’s going to take place in a time of war and chaos, though, all of which will be resolved in the last book. Other than that, you’ll find out when I do.

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Post-Thanksgiving Post

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and didn’t eat too much or get trampled by shoppers the next day. I actually ate until I was comfortably full, then stopped. It didn’t really feel like Thanksgiving. I should have had one more serving of mashed potatoes just to get that ripe-watermelon-about-to-burst feeling.

Anyway, like I said in my last post, I sent out ARCs just before I left for the holidays. I feel like I rushed a little too much. I should have spent some more time on editing. I hope the ARC readers don’t punish me too hard on that. I’ve got 3 reviews so far on Goodreads (2 four-stars and 1 five-star). There is some negative feedback about the story taking some time to get rolling and the characters not being compelling enough. Those are definitely aspects of my novels that I’m aware can be improved. Something to work on as I finish out the series.

Dragon Blue is free for the next couple of days in case anyone out there hasn’t picked it up yet. Then it’s rolling out of Kindle Unlimited, and I’m going to try taking it wide and setting it to perma-free. I’m just not getting much in the way of page reads, so I think going wide is a pretty low-risk strategy. So I’m going work on that the next couple of days, then get to work on outlining the next book.

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Dragon Green ARCs Going Out

I finished edits on Dragon Green and sent out advance copies to my team today. I’d like to think every author is filled with self-doubt upon finishing a book. I certainly am.

I’m certainly happy to have it done (or mostly done). I will likely do more revisions before launch. I plan on launching on December 1st. I’m not going to hit the promos very hard this time. I’ll just do a couple that I know were effective last time around. I really want to start relying on my newsletter as my main source of early sales/reads.

Anyway, I’m going to spend a couple of days with my family, so I’ll be out of the loop until at least Friday. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. Take care and be safe!