Category Archives: Writing Genres

My Three-Year Journey to the 10K Cake Club

spice-cake-su-1673099-lIf you’ve never heard of the 10K Cake Club, it’s the name given to that elusive group of authors who reach the milestone of selling 10,000 copies of their book(s). Now, given that statistically, most authors will never sell more than a hundred copies (no kidding), reaching this milestone is an amazing feat. But we all know how numbers and milestones are relative, and our own expectations can often derail even the most wonderful achievements.

PJ Sharon here, celebrating with you, my dear friends, my three years as an independently published author. I released my debut novel, HEAVEN is for HEROES in September of 2011. (In celebration, I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HIFH over on my website blog. Stop by and leave a comment to enter and feel free to share the post with friends on FB or Twitter. Contest ends September 30th at midnight. )HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

Now, I recall being asked, while on a panel of Indie authors, what my sales goals were as a newly self-published author. At the time, self-publishing was on the rise, Indies were on fire, and sales were through the roof for newcomers. Being the ambitious and overachieving sort, I replied with confidence that I wanted to sell 10,000 copies a year, netting me about a $20,000 dollar a year paycheck from my writing–what I saw as realistic and an amount that would make all the hard work worth the effort.

This was a reasonable goal, but one that I soon found was more or less beyond my control to achieve. I did not foresee the effects of market saturation, the need for endless promotion, or the ever-changing Amazon algorithms that would make it nearly impossible to gain traction on the discoverability front. Basically, I could not have predicted the “luck” factor.

When, in the first year, I sold over 5,000 books (I had three titles out by then), I was not unhappy with my results. After all, goals are merely guidelines…a star to shoot for. But in the second year, when I had the brilliant idea to switch from Contemporary YA to writing a Dystopian trilogy, and sales dipped to half of what they did the first year, let’s just say I was less than thrilled with the results of my ongoing efforts. I shuddered to consider my hourly wage as a writer and decided it was best to stop looking at daily sales reports, screaming into the wind about my books, and beating my head against a wall trying to figure out what the heck the secret to success actually was.

My third year hasn’t been any more profitable than the previous two, despite the fact that I–at the suggestion of Indie superstar Bella Andre no less– went back and wrote another Contemporary YA. In fact, I’ve spent more on covers, editing and formatting on PIECES of LOVE than I have on any of my others simply because I’m trying to compete in the market and feel that others do a better job of these things than I can do myself. Added in is the cost of producing a theme song for POL (thinking that this might be a novel idea and help with sales, but has as yet, not appeared to make any difference at all). With production costs up and sales down (thanks to Kindle Unlimited and the insane amount of new product coming into the market), I’ll be lucky to recoup my costs over the next year.

I’m hopeful that once I finish the Dystopian trilogy, add a boxed set or two to my cybershelf, and get back on the promotional wagon in 2015, that I might see some real return on my investment.

Lest you think that any of this is sour grapes on my part, think again.

I went into this with eyes open that it would be a LOT of hard work, gave myself five years to turn a consistent profit (this is typical for any new business), and expected that there would be a steep–and ever-changing–learning curve. I’ve had to adjust my expectations for financial success, but am hopeful that with perseverance, the pay-off will be worth the continued effort. This is, after all, my retirement plan, and being that I have another fifteen years until retirement, I’ve got plenty of time to make it happen, right?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that success is measured in many ways. Positive reviews and happy readers who are excitedly awaiting my next release are priceless in the grand scheme of things. Knowing that over two and a half million readers have enjoyed SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad thrills me beyond words. And the awards and accolades for my books tell me that I’m doing something right. Reader reviews continue to average 4.5 stars across the board.

Another important lesson for me–one that continues to be challenged daily–is about finding balance. I worked around the clock that first year and a half, typically putting in 80 hours a week between my two jobs. I finally decided this past year to set myself a schedule. Knowing that I need to work my day job at least 20-30 hours a week to earn a  guaranteed paycheck to cover expenses, I set a limit on my writing/publishing time to 25-30 hours a week. Perhaps that’s partially to blame for the decrease in sales numbers, but I will say, I’m much happier and healthier these days. Time with family and time to take care of myself are far more important to me than sales figures and financial gain. If I’m in this for the long haul, that’s the way it has to be. I’m good with that.

It’s taken me three times longer than expected–and I’ve stopped comparing myself to others who have done it seemingly effortlessly–but I’ve finally made it into the 10K Cake Club. very-excited-girl (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC)

Cake and ice cream all around! And perhaps a bottle or two of wine…

What milestone can you celebrate today? I hate to eat cake alone.

SCUBA Research, Katy Lee Style

Hello Scribe Followers! I shared this post at the Jaunty Quills last week, but wanted to share it with you all, too. I’m here to tell you about the third book in my Stepping Stones Island, Maine series. Sunken Treasure released this month and was a book I had to really step out of my comfort zone to write. You see, my hero, Gage Fontaine, is a wreck diver which meant I had to gear up and take the plunge.

GearSCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving was an integral part of the book since an old sunken pirate ship, treasure and all, lay off the coast of the island. For my hero, diving is no big deal, but for my heroine, Rachelle Thibodaux, who has never had the opportunity to breathe underwater, I had to know what she might feel like when the modern-day pirates pushed her in. I had to know the panic she would experience when she watched the surface grow farther away as she sank deeper and deeper in the dark, cold sea. I had to know what one would do when their mask came off, or they came up against another kind of hunter of the shark variety. Yes, I could have researched and read to acquire the knowledge, and for much I did, but there is just something about breathing underwater that needs to be experienced in order to write it right.

face maskBut, I‘m also a little chicken, so I took my daughter with me.

She’s a competitive swimmer and used to holding her breath for a whole lane. She’s also used to moving fast in the water, something SCUBA divers don’t do. It’s a very slow and methodical process. Because of this SCUBA diving was not for her. She kept getting yelled at for not breathing. (The instructor knew because she made no bubbles.) One time she submerged without her regulator (mouth piece) even on. I thought the instructor was going to blow up. After that she said she would stick to swimming and just took pictures for me.

SuitAs for me, I’m not sure if I would strap on tanks anytime soon again, but I won’t say never again. Writing has taught me to never say, never. If I want my readers to experience what my characters are experiencing, I am going to have to partake in activities, too. However, I draw the line at skydiving out of a perfectly good airplane.

 

But not driving fast cars. That I will do any day. (Yes, that is me driving a Ferrari, all in the name of research.)

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DANGER ON THE HIGH SEAS

Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is used to modern-day pirates chasing after his boat and the buried treasure he salvages. But when he unknowingly leads a dangerous criminal to the waters off Stepping Stones Island, he puts a beautiful fisherwoman in grave danger. Rachelle Thibodaux has spent the past year hiding on her boat to avoid the town’s censure for her father’s crimes. But when she comes face-to-face with a gun-wielding pirate, she becomes a new kind of target. To save her own life, she’ll have to work with Gage to find the treasure before the pirates do.

Amazon

BIO

Katy Lee writes suspenseful romances that thrill and inspire.  She believes every story should stir and satisfy the reader—from the edge of their seat. A native New Englander, Katy loves to knit warm wooly things. She enjoys traveling the side-roads and exploring the locals’ hideaways.  A homeschooling mom of three competitive swimmers, Katy often writes from the stands while cheering them on.  Visit Katy at:  www.KatyLeeBooks.com. There you will find FB and Twitter links to connect with Katy further.

It’s Finally Here!

Hello, my faithful Scribelings! Suze here. I’m too excited for any niceties, so I’ll get straight to the point. FETA ATTRACTION, Book 1 of the Greek to Me Mysteries, has a cover. I think the art department at  Berkley knocked it out of the park, don’t you?

Feta Attraction Cover

FETA ATTRACTION is available for preorder now, and releases on January 6, 2015. I can’t wait to share it with you!

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Goodreads Giveaway of SUNKEN TREASURE by Katy Lee

Hello Readers, Katy Lee here.

Lots of good news to share with you all.  First, I am holding a9780373446216 Goodreads Giveaway for my September romantic suspense release, SUNKEN TREASURE!  You have until August 31, 2014 to enter and can go right to www.KatyLeeBooks.com to press enter.  Simple as that.

Romantic Times Book Reviews announced its review of SUNKEN TREASURE yesterday.  Here’s what they had to say:

4 Stars! Compelling. A Page-Turner!  “Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is trying to outrun the pirate after his treasures. He unwittingly places fisherwoman Rachelle Thibodaux in danger when he leads the pirate to her boat. Rachelle has been in hiding due to the shame she feels over her father’s criminal past. Now she must work with Gage to survive. The use of a female pirate is a nice twist on the movie-fantasized life of pirates and treasure hunters. Bible verses are nicely tied to the storyline. The analogy of God seeing us as lost coins is encouraging.”  ~RT Book Reviews Magazine

And now it’s time for my other news.  This week I accepted and signed a contract with Harlequin for four more Love Inspired Suspense books.  I’m super excited about this new series that involves fast cars and fast-paced suspense!  Stay tuned for pictures of me driving a Ferrari!  All in the name of research.  I LOVE my job!

Thanks for stopping by to hear my news.  Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of my September release, SUNKEN TREASURE  at www.KatyLeeBooks.com!

 

The Research Quagmire

 

Happiest of Scribe Days to you! What’s Scribe Day? July 7, of course. Seventh day of the seventh month. Seems like a good day to celebrate!

Fireworks

The Scribes have come a long way since that fateful day in 2011 when we launched this blog. We are all now published or, in my case, about to be published–FETA ATTRACTION releases January 6! Cover reveal coming soon, I promise. Yeah, I’m the caboose on the Publication Train, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.

One problem I never thought I’d have three years ago was being on deadline. Oh, of course I’d heard of other writers being in a mad race to finish and turn in a manuscript to an editor–I just never really considered that someday I’d have a pony in that race.

So here I am, in the middle of the third book of my series, which is due in a couple of months, and I’ve found myself bogged down. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been researching. Ah, research. My Strange Addiction. I keep waiting for the producers of that television show to call me.

I’ll say it now. I. Love. Research. Love it. Give me a computer with an internet connection and I’ll happily research anything, for hours on end. Genealogy and local history are my two danger zones. And both of those topics feature heavily in my Greek To  Me Mysteries, set in the Thousand Islands, situated between New York State and Canada in the St. Lawrence River.

Kraft%20Thousand%20Island[1] My latest research obsession? Don’t laugh. Salad Dressing. Thousand Island salad dressing, to be exact. Next time you open a bottle of that pink creamy stuff to pour over your greens, you might be interested to know that the origins of this dressing are shrouded in mystery. There are three competing versions of its Creation Myth, all with a northern New York connection. And based on my hours of poring over old cookbooks at Project Gutenberg and Archive.org and some more obscure digitized public domain materials, I think I’ve come to a decision about which of those myths is the most likely to be true. Not that I can reveal it just yet, LOL! But if you’re interested in a summary, click here.

But for a book to feel authentic, a writer needs to do her research, right? So the hours were necessary. Well, yes, but only up to a point. My story only needed a minimum amount on this topic–and yet my investigative journalist-like nature overtook me and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. See, I’d like to be the one to break a story like that. Someday, I just might do it.

Research can enhance your storytelling. Or it can be a huge timesuck-slash-avoidance behavior.  The research doesn’t mean much if you don’t get the words down on paper and out the door to a waiting editor.

So, I am allowing myself one more hour of research on this topic–for now, until book 3 is finished. I ordered a DVD of a local PBS documentary which claims to have found the smoking gun in the Thousand Island dressing and when that comes, I will watch it. But no more hundred-year-old cookbooks. No more searching the Internet for contemporary accounts of salads. Pinky swear!

Do you do research for your writing? Can you stop anytime you want or do you get obsessive? What’s your favorite salad dressing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with PJ Sharon about her Latest Release

Suze here, posting outside our regular schedule. But PJ Sharon’s new novel, PIECES OF LOVE, has just released and I couldn’t wait to ask her some questions about it. PJ will be in and out today to answer your questions too!

She’s got a heck of a schedule planned for her blog tour where she’ll be giving away some neat prizes like signed books and a nifty beach bag!

1.  Okay PJ, tell us a little about PIECES OF LOVE.

So cool being on this side of the interview questions, Suze! Thanks for being here with me to celebrate and chat about the book.

PJSharon_PiecesOfLove_800pxIn PIECES of LOVE, a Contemporary YA Romance, sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to play her guitar and get high, hoping to escape the pain of losing her sister. But when her second arrest for pot possession leads to her mother’s breakdown, Lexi is sent to stay with her grandmother for the summer. While embarking on a Mediterranean cruise hardly sounds like punishment, being forced to face her demons and falling for a guy she may never see again gives Lexi a chance to discover what it means to love someone—even when you have to let them go.

2. A trip to the Mediterranean inspired the setting for this novel. What was the most beautiful or memorable place you saw on your trip?

An impossible question to answer—mainly because they were ALL beautiful. But honestly, it was such a whirlwind trip, the days and ports kind of melted together, LOL. I remember LOVING Barcelona and thinking I had to go back to see more of Gaudi’s amazing work and the passionate artistry that infused every part of the city. I also remember not having a good impression of Cannes, France, but that’s because of a bad allergic reaction to the perfumes! The Greek Islands are heavenly, but I’d have to say Dubrovnik Croatia was one of the loveliest, most interesting locations. Old Town is a spot not to be missed! I have to go back just to walk the mile long, 19-foot thick wall surrounding the village.

3. A little birdie told me that there’s some extra special companion content that goes along with PIECES. Want to tell us about it?

Um…you must be referring to the PIECES of LOVE theme song. This came about because my character, Lexi, is a song writer and singer. In an effort to get readers into her head, I decided to write a song for her sister in the book. In spite of the fact that I’ve never written lyrics before and don’t write music, the words flowed onto the page and a tune popped into my head to go with them. Funny how those creative little miracles happen. So I downloaded a recording app onto my phone and sang the song so I wouldn’t forget the tune. With four years of voice lessons behind me, it didn’t sound half bad. I approached my neighbor and good friend, Ozone Pete, who is a professional musician. Once he saw I was serious, he helped me with the arrangement. He happened to “know a guy” who runs a recording studio in Westfield, MA. A month later, I had recorded the theme song for POL. I was pleased enough with the outcome to put it up on i-Tunes for sale and used part of the song for the book trailer.

4. So, what was it like being in a recording studio? How long did it take to get the final version of the song and what’s the process?

Jim Fogarty of Bing Studios is awesome to work with and he gave me a great deal on studio time! Adding his piano skills as well as his sound engineering expertise, Jim spent ten hours with me and Pete the first day and another five hours two weeks later for the finish work and editing. He hooked me up with a mike and headphones, and played Pete’s instrumental version in the background for me to sing with. He gave me a few tips along the way, but essentially, it was just singing take after take and then editing the best pieces together. It’s really an amazing process, especially when he starts manipulating things with auto-tune and adding background and harmony. He was able to take out any excess vibrato in my voice (opera training has its downside), and clear up any pitchiness. As he put it, “It’s still you. We just accentuated the excellence and removed the suckage.” To keep things fun, and not drive himself totally crazy listening to the song a thousand times, he would change the words once in a while, singing “Pizzas of love, pizzas of looove…” That’s when I knew it was time for a lunch break. I won’t even tell you some of the other lines he added. When it all got to be too much, he’d flip over to Three Stooges movies for a short giggle break.

5. The cover for PIECES OF LOVE is just gorgeous! Can you give us an idea of how you work with a cover artist to get just the right look for your book?

That is a challenge, Suze. I start with gathering stock photos that I like to represent the characters. Some cover artists will do this for you and give you some choices, but I generally know what I want and it saves time. I pay anywhere from $10-20 for a high resolution stock photo from Big Stock Photos. Cover artists usually have a form for you to fill out, asking you to detail the tone of the book, genre, color preferences, story concept, etc. Once they have all that information, they will work up several covers to choose from. It takes a few times going back and forth to decide which font works best, and to make necessary adjustments until I’m satisfied. It’s a relatively quick process if you have a good cover artist and you know what you want. If you’re picky like me—or unsure of your vision, it can take a little longer. Kim Killion from The Killion Group, made this cover for me in only a few days. Granted, she had a design concept already made because I had original hired someone else who came up with the basic design but just got too busy and wasn’t able to make the changes I wanted. It was a bummer starting all over with someone new, but I’m so pleased with the results of working with Kim, I’m planning to re-brand my Lily Carmichael covers this summer.

6. What are you working on now? What’s your next book and when can we expect it?

Gulp! Isn’t that always the question? I’m working on HEALING WATERS, book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, and hoping to have it done later this year.

Thanks, PJ! Can’t wait to read (and review!) PIECES OF LOVE.

Readers, until June 30th, PJ has her book on sale for only $2.99 for Kindle, Nook, and i-Tunes e-readers. The price goes up to $4.99 on July 1st, so don’t miss out!

Thank you, Suze, for taking time out to set up this interview. The support and generosity of my Scribe sisters is what keeps me going some days. In case I haven’t told you lately…you’re awesome!

Questions, comments? Any good books on your vacation TBR pile?

 

Sandra Orchard’s Latest Mystery in the Port Aster Series is Out

Hello Readers, Katy Lee here with a heads-up on Sandra Orchard’s Blind_Trustlatest mystery, Blind Trust.  And let me tell you she really stepped up the suspense with this second book in the series.  Back in November I brought you my thoughts on the first book Deadly Devotion. Click here to read A Great Whodunit, Sandra Orchard Style.  A great, well-developed beginning to the series that laid the foundation for the three books so well that I cracked open Blind Trust and jumped right into the excitement without a moment of delay.

Kate Adams, amateur sleuth is  caught in the middle of a case again that has nothing to do with her…or does it?   She’s about to find out.  Blind Trust ends with a great cliffhanger leading into the third and final book.  The back of the book gives the reader a taste of what’s to come, but it’s not enough, I say.  Looking forward to it, Sandra!

And here’s a bit about Blind Trust:

Kate Adams had no idea she was carrying counterfeit money, and she can’t believe that it came from her sweet neighbor. Or that it lands her in the middle of another one of Detective Tom Parker’s investigations. Determined to prove her neighbor’s innocence, Kate stumbles into a pit of intrigue that is far deeper than a two-bit counterfeit operation–and strikes too close to home for comfort. As family secrets come to light, her world–and her budding romance with Tom–begin to crumble. To Kate, it’s clear that she won’t be safe until she uncovers all of Port Aster’s secrets. But is it too late for her and Tom?

Award-winning author Sandra Orchard draws readers into a world of rogues, red herrings, and romance as she unfolds the continuing story of amateur sleuth Kate Adams.

Amazon Buy link: Amazon