Category Archives: Valentine’s Day

Is it really all about the numbers?

So long Christmas TreePJ Sharon here, coming to you from the hills, and enjoying country life. As many of you spent Superbowl Sunday watching football, laughing at commercials, and being entertained by Beyonce, I was out ringing in the spring. For me, the beginning of February marks a turn toward warmer weather and longer days. I know there will likely be plenty more cold and wintery weeks ahead, but I figure there are less ahead then there are behind. It’s also my birthday month—time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Whether we’re talking about football scores, rising temperatures, or adding another year to my age, life seems to be all about the numbers these days. It certainly is when it comes to the book promoting business. Sales figures, rankings, budget—all very important to pay attention to when seeing what’s working and designing any future marketing plans. One of the benefits (or curses) about Indie publishing is that you have immediate access to your numbers. You can follow your rankings and sales to determine if your current promotion is working or if you need to change tactics the next time around.

I’ve done a few FREE promotions through Amazon’s KDP Select Program so I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at them. Whether they are as effective as they once were, or if all of these FREE books are killing the publishing industry are topics for another day. For today, I’m happy to share the all-important numbers of an Indie-published author trying to make a dent in this tough book economy. Last week, I had my second Contemporary YA novel, ON THIN ICE, available for FREE for three days. I thought you’d be interested in seeing how one of these FREE runs is done, and decide for yourself if it’s worth the work and expense.

Pre-FREE
January 1-25th 20 copies sold (2 borrows) (I won’t include all the foreign sales, but this title does tend to sell well in the UK)
Amazon Ranking: #75,623 in Kindle Store

FREE Run January 26-28th
Saturday, Jan 26th
7,984 downloads
Amazon Ranking: #64 in Kindle Free Store
#2 in Kindle store>Kindle e-books>Teens>Romance

Sunday, Jan. 27th
4,171 additional downloads
#19 in Kindle Free Store (highest ranking achieved in Free Store)
#2 Kindle store>Kindle e-books>teen>romance

Monday, Jan. 28th
3,791 additional downloads
#1 in the Teen Romance category…woohoo! Not bad for a book that has been on the “shelf” for a year.

Also notable were the foreign downloads. It’s always so cool to imagine people overseas reading my books!
UK=143; de (Germany)=24; France=5; Spain=2; Italy=1 (crazy Italians!); Japan=3; and Canada=15

Now, realize that when the book went back on sale in the paid store, no one had actually purchased it in three days so the ranking dropped to about 245,250th in the Amazon Paid store (yikes!), but once post-promotion sales started, the rankings jumped back up and hovered between 11,000th to 15,000th all week. I got a slight bump from pre-promo sales of 1-3 books a day to about 10 a day. That’s already beginning to fall back down to about 5 a day with total sales since coming off the FREE promo adding up to 50 copies of that one title sold in the past week. That’s more than double what I sold in the first three weeks of January. I’ve seen a slight boost in sales of my other titles as well. There have also been 24 borrows (as good as sales at $1.81 per borrow), and I’ve gotten a few positive reviews for ON THIN ICE.
Not the results I’d hoped for, but worth the effort? Sure. So here’s how I advertised the sale.

I gave myself a $100 budget figuring I would make up the cost with a post-promo sales bump of about 50 books. I’ve broken even on the promo after one week. Running the promotion on a Sat.-Mon. made it easier for me to be there to monitor results and landed at the end of the US Figure Skating Championships, which I wanted to honor by giving the book for FREE that week and getting it into skater’s hands.

I contacted the following sites several weeks (a month ahead of time in most cases):

Book Bub-It cost me $30 to advertise my FREE run but they are the current “premier” advertising site. It costs more for other genres, but most people are saying it’s worth the ad cost, especially if you’re offering a discounted book.( .99-2.99)
Story Finds-$20
Authors on the Cheap-$25
Book Goodies-$15 for 3 day ad.
Bargain e-book Hunter-$5
Orangeberry Book Tours-$10

The following sites were free to advertise with:
(ENT)E-reader News Today (they book up months in advance and sometimes aren’t open for scheduling), Indie Book of the Day, Pixel of Ink, Awesome Gang, E-reader Café, Free Book Dude, Ask David, Books on the Knob, Free Booksy, The Kindle Book Review, E-books Habit, YA Promo Central, Book Blast (Kindle Fire Department), and I did a post on the Readers Guide to E-Publishing (RG2E) on Saturday.
You’ll find many of these sites and their links listed on Kindle Book Promos at Kindle Book Promos and Media Bistro/Galley Cat.

The day of the sale, I also posted to Snicklist, Addicted to e-books, Free Kindle Fiction, Good Reads (Free Romance Books group), Google+, World Literary Café (WLC), and as many FaceBook pages as possible that had to do with Figure Skating and the US Championships—(Stop back next week when I’ll be talking about niche markets).

Some of the sites have restrictions (many won’t publicize erotica-not that I’m writing that, but some of you are), and some have some gate-keeping systems in place. Digital Book Today requires 18 reviews with an average 4.0 star rating before you can advertise with them. It took some time to weed through all of these sites, but now that I have my list and links, it only takes me a few hours to set up a really comprehensive and relatively inexpensive promotional blitz. Of course I also schedule my tweets to go out three to four times a day, ask my network peeps to spread the word, and spend some time promoting on Face Book throughout the three days.

I know it sounds like a lot of work. That’s because it is. I haven’t found an easy way to reach this many new readers so quickly, or give my sales a boost in any other way that doesn’t require an equal amount of effort or money. I try to do one big promotional event per month. February’s event will be a three day FREE run with HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES right after Valentine’s Day, hoping to hit those new Kindle owners whose thoughtful men bought them an e-reader. After that, these two titles come off of the Select program and will be available once again on BN and Smashwords. I also plan to upload them to I-Tunes and Kobo this go around so that they are available on as many distribution channels as possible. Then I’ll leave the kids alone to see how they fend for themselves while I focus my efforts on gearing up for the release of book two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT, due out in June. It’s going to be a busy spring!

As far as other promotions, there are always the .99 cent sales, blog hops, blog tours, Good Reads giveaways, and contests. Each requires effort and planning and will yield different results depending upon the genre you write in, whether it’s your first or fifth book, and how the wind is blowing on any given day. All we can do is keep writing, add quality material to our cyber shelves, and hope our sails (and our sales) catch the wind when it blows our way.

Today’s Unlocked Secret: Don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Like age, the number doesn’t define us. How we navigate the rough seas tells us who we are. Happy sales!

Any questions?

Blessings,

PJ

You Write Romance Novels?

If you followed Jodi Picoult or Jennifer Wenier on Twitter this week you probably saw Jeffrey Eugenides name mentioned a lot. Mr. Eugenides is a Professor of creative writing at Princeton and the author of the Virgin Suicides and the The Marriage Plot.(Which I’m pretty sure is the name of a historical romance novel too.) He’s also the man who inadvertently started a lot of debates between writers by saying, “I didn’t really know why Jodi Picoult is complaining. She’s a huge best-seller and everyone reads her books, and she doesn’t seem starved for attention, in my mind — so I was surprised that she would be the one belly-aching.”

What’s he talking about? Literary vs. Commercial fiction. One is praised by critics the other is adored by fans. Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult are both NYT best-selling authors who have sold millions of books. That’s an achievement many writers would sell their mothers for a chance to receive but these two authors aren’t entirely happy. Their complaint is that they don’t get reviewed  in the New York Times or the same amount of serious coverage as some of their male counter parts.

Do they have a point? I’m sure they do. They may not get the serious street cred they deserve but what about us romance writers? We’re even lower on the literary totem pole. Snobby types would say we aren’t real writers at all because we write about love and happily ever afters.  That we aren’t artists. But we spend just as long agonizing over our books. We put just as much love and blood and sweat and tears into them as literary writers. Our writing is our life. And yet so many dismiss us because…  Why? I haven’t figured out the reason yet.

I’ve read literary books. I read classics and all the great works people say you must read before you die and the best book I’ve ever read was still a romance novel.  I’m probably not the only one who has had that experience. According to the 2011 ROMStat Report romance sales increased to $1.368 billion last year. And that’s with a struggling economy. In fact it remains the largest share of the consumer market at 14.3 percent.

I never expect to be reviewed by the Times. I don’t expect to be any one’s next book club selection but I refused to feel slighted or be embarassed because I write books that make people happy.

Romance novels sell. It’s a simple as that. And to all the haters who rather be caught dead than to be seen with one of our books in your hands… We’ll see you on the best- seller list.

YA Love

Happy Valentine’s Day Scribes fans! In honor of romance, I’ll be giving away double the love with an e-book copy of each of my books, On Thin Ice and Heaven Is For Heroes to one romance-loving commenter to be chosen at midnight tonight! Also in honor of good old Saint Valentine, I’d like to talk about YA love.

I’ve been asked several times why I write Young Adult fiction, specifically, YA Romance. When I began writing for publication, I started by writing adult romances, but I had some issues with it. Other than needing to learn a lot about the writing craft, I was also incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of people I knew reading my romantic scenes. I’m a massage therapist by day and my clients were very supportive of my writing from the very beginning, but thinking about them reading the steamy scenes I was putting on the page had me breaking out in hives. Ironically, that was the best part of my writing and like most of my own adult relationships, my adult stories all seemed to lead to…well…sex. So what’s a die-hard romantic to do?

Oh Dear!

As any smart girl will tell you, romance novels aren’t just about creatively writing sex scenes. Romance novels are about capturing the emotions, building the tension, bringing those romantic moments to life for the reader. I wanted to do that with my stories, but I wasn’t comfortable with the down and dirty details. Once I realized that my “voice” (that elusive quality that makes each writer unique), was best suited for first person narrative and that I had a rather “young’ perspective, I realized that my heart was in sharing “extraordinary stories of an average teenage life.” I had loads of teen experiences to draw from and it was a way for me to share some valuable lessons I’d learned along the way.

Perfect Love

As a wonderful bonus, it turns out that the inspirational life lessons that come through in my stories are as meaningful to adults as to any of the teens who might read my books.

Let me be clear in saying that I have nothing against those that write the higher heat level books. I love a good rogue Duke or Chaps-wearing cowboy. Even in YA romance, the steaminess level runs the gamut. There are graphic scenes in many YA novels on the shelves these days. Even though the topics in my own books are mature, they lean toward the sweeter side of first relationships. I like offering an option that fills a gap between young adult and adult romance.

Sweet Love

I’ve also come to realize that it’s not always necessary for adult romances to draw the reader a blow by blow (pardon the pun) description. In fact there are many romances that are sweet and romantic and very successful without that (ie: Kristan Higgins’ novels and our own Katy Lee’s upcoming release, Real Virtue).

I enjoyed writing those steamy scenes, but I needed to find a way to tone down the intensity for my own comfort level, so I started thinking about my own life and who I was BS (before sex). I was immediately struck by all the first times that came to mind. I love writing YA romance because I get to travel back to all those first times and in some ways re-write them. You remember that first kiss, your first Valentine, and maybe even your very first date? Everything for teens is so immediate, so crucial, and so DRAMATIC!

Eternal Love

Romance in YA fiction is all about falling in love, mending a broken heart, finding that one person who completes you and makes you feel whole—much like adult romance, but with the freedom to end on a hopeful note rather than attaining that ultimate HEA ending. I like the idea of leaving my characters room to grow up.

 How do you like your romance? Hot and heavy, or sweet with a little steam? Have you read any YA romance? If not, you might find it surprisingly satisfying.

The Man I Love…

Sigh… I fall in love twice a year. That day dreamy, can’t- stop- thinking- about- him, long- to- see- his- face kind of love. You really should meet him. He’s strong and tall. Sensitive but in a manly way. And sexy. He’s got a killer smile and eyes that seems to pierce the soul. Oh sure, he’s got flaws but they are so gosh darn adorable they only make him more lovable.  And it’s only through a cruel twist in fate that we cannot be together.

Much to my mother’s disappointment the man I love doesn’t exist. Sigh… (No grandbabies this year.) That’s because the man I love is my hero. The one I spent months creating and he belongs to somebody else.

One of my best friends says that I’m so picky when it comes to men because I read too many romance novels.(I disagree!!!!) But there is some truth in that statement. It takes me a long time to fall in love with my hero. When I first start writing a book it’s a little like a first date. I meet my hero. I find out that he’s kind of cute and he’s got a cool job and his bottom looks super fine in a pair of jeans. Dates two and three are like chapters five and six. I find out a little more about him. Stuff that is slightly more personal, like he’s got a fear of cats and a dimple appears on his left cheek when he laughs. Then after a couple of months I learn that maybe his relationship is not so good with his mother and that his 5 o’clock shadow appears around 7:30. And despite the fact that he never puts away his shoes he still a really good guy.

It’s a this point I’m in love with him.

As a romance writer I have to be in love with the guy I’m writing or my book is not going to work. I’m not sure how it is for writers of other genres but I have to love my hero because I am giving him to my heroine. And she’s a girl that I really like. She’s is somebody I would want to be friends with if we ever met.

I have to know them both inside and out. Their favorite colors, what they smell like, what they look like when they wake up in the morning. What makes them afraid. It’s why for me, writing those first few chapters is so torturous. It’s like a first date, nerve-racking, anxiety producing torture. First chapters and first dates are where you make first impressions. For singles it’s when you decide if you want to see them again and for readers it’s the time you decided whether you want to continue with the book.

So do you see why I have to love him? Because I can’t expect my heroine and more importantly my readers to. Non-writers might think I’m nuts but Scribes fan you understand me, don’t you?”

And since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow I thought I’d ask you: Have you ever fallen in love with your hero? Are you friends with your heroine? Do you get what I’m saying? Do you feel the love? Any and all comments are welcome. Chocolate and roses are too!

I Hate Romantic Comedies…

Surprising come from someone who writes them? Well, maybe hate is a strong word and a little bit of an over statement. But truthfully most romantic comedy movies annoy me. With the exception of LOVE ACTUALLY( sigh…) “But for now, let me say – Without hope or agenda – Just because it’s Christmas – And at Christmas you tell the truth – To me, you are perfect – And my wasted heart will love you.” (Double sigh) And PRETTY WOMAN, because really, who doesn’t like PRETTY WOMAN?

As a writer most of these movies annoy me. Writers have a tougher job of making you believe two people are in love. We have words and words alone to weave a tale of love, to take you inside of our characters’ hearts and minds, to show you their heat. Our goal is to make you feel  their love. We can’t rely on two big name actors (that most of the time have NO chemistry) to make our stories work. When you put our books down we don’t want you thinking, “That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” We want you sighing like little girls and looking at your husbands wondering why the hell he can’t be more like a hero.

Before I go any further into my rant, I’ll get to my point. Romantic comedies annoy me because they fail to show the complexity of love. Yes, I understand they are supposed to be light but, when I walk out of a movie I want to at least believe that the two characters I just spent my evening with could possible be in love. Because when I write THE END on my stories I want there to be no doubt that the people I just spent the last three months creating, are head over heels in love and made for each other.

And that’s why I’m recommending all romance writers to see LOVE ETC. It’s a documentary profiling five real people/ couples in different stages of love.

There is a young, eighteen year old couple, who are in the bloom of first love and grappling with the decision whether to stay together while they attend separate colleges.

And a young Indian couple who are newly married, having a difficult time living together but due to their religious beliefs do not believe in divorce. Both of them ,in their own way, feeling stuck.

There’s a single father, divorced, two children, who was looking for love and having a hard time finding it.

And a single gay man in his forties who wanted to be a father more than anything. So he hired a surrogate who got pregnant and delivered twins.

Finally there was an older couple who are still deeply in love. The husband 79, the wife 89, married forty-eight happy years and now faced with the wife’s progressing dementia. 

I loved this movie because it showed real love in all it’s stages and no matter who you are or where you come from you can identify a little bit with each and every one of these people. Whether it be a new love that get’s your heart going, or an old love that makes you feel like home. Or love for a child that expands your heart and changes your whole view of the world. Or the pain one feels when love ends. This movie will make you think. 

And since Valentine’s Day or Single’s awareness day is fast approaching. I really want to know what you think about romcom movies. 

Hate ‘em? Love ‘em? Think I’m being too tough? Disagree with me? What are some of your favorites? Is there one great one that I’m missing? As always any and all comments are welcome.