Category Archives: Awards

Breaking News! #RITA

Congratulations to our own Katy Lee! Her romantic suspense,  GRAVE DANGER has been nominated for a RITA!

The nomination is well deserved and couldn’t have happened to a kinder, more generous person. Best of luck in New York City!

Please join us in congratulating Katy on this incredible accomplishment!

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A Day in the Life…

So, I’m a day late with posting to the Scribes, but when I’m through, you’ll see why. PJ Sharon here, and I thought it might be fun to share the short list of to-do’s in the days before indie-publishing two projects at once–Christmas week.

Box set cover1) Complete third and final round of edits for SAMI’s CHRISTMAS WISH LIST, a holiday novella releasing on December 19th as part of The GIRLS of THOMPSON LAKE box set. (Done)

2) Format box set prior to sending off for professional formatting. (I don’t want any surprises!) The box set includes HEAVEN is for HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and PIECES of LOVE, which means I had to go through all three novels, combine them into one document, and assure that formatting was consistent throughout. Being that my brain is in edit mode, you can imagine I was catching things right and left that needed fixing. (Done)

3) Final round edits for HEALING WATERS, Book Three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael Trilogy. (Done!)

PJSharon_HealingWaters_8004) Prepare/format HW for final upload to Amazon by…um…tonight. (In order to offer pre-orders, the final product must be uploaded ten days prior to December 23rd release.) (In-progress) If you pre-order it now, you’ll have it on your Kindle on release day! 

5) Set up FREE run for WANING MOON, Book One in the trilogy. December 22-26th. (Includes listing book on as many FREE e-book sites as possible…there are probably hundreds these days. This takes hours and requires a personal assistant or an all-night spree in the next few days. (In-progress)

6) Ordered print proofs/advanced copies for Goodreads giveaway. They arrived today. Yay!!! So cool having the book in hand. If you want a chance to win a signed ARC, you still have a couple of days to enter. Giveaway ends December 15th. (Done) Mail signed ARCs to winners on December 16th.HW Arc pic

Oh, and did I mention, I’m participating in a group blog hop from December 12-31st? My Addictive Reads friends and I are chatting about a “Few of our Favorite Things.” You can read mine here. We also want to show our appreciation to our readers by offering $50, $20, and $15 gift cards, and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire HD Tablet that we’ve front loaded with a bunch of our books, including PIECES of LOVE. Estimated value $239! Check out the EVENT page, fill in the rafflecopter, and visit each author’s site to find more goodies.AR-2014-Giveaway

Once I’m done uploading HEALING WATERS tonight, I’m determined to take tomorrow off to breathe and hang out with my CTRWA writer pals at our annual Margarita Awards Holiday Party. This year’s bash includes a luau and a pool party. I can see some margaritas in my near future! Maybe even of the “awards” variety.

The one part my multi-project launch I haven’t been able to manage (secondary to limitations in time, budget, and brain cells) is preparing a release party or setting up any major advertising. Since past efforts (FB parties, paid ads, and social media blitzes through blog tours and such), have all shown minimal success, this time, I’m focusing on getting the books out. Now that I have the third book in the trilogy completed and I have the box set to work with, I’ll take a bit of time off from new fiction projects and focus my first quarter efforts on promoting.

2015 promises to be an exciting year. I have a non-fiction project in the works and plan to teach some workshops at conferences. I’ve already been invited to appear at the New England RWA chapter’s April conference. I’ll be presenting a workshop on Self-Care and Ergonomics for writers entitled…”Is your writing killing you?”

Yes…I am an expert, LOL.

Miraculously, I seem to be able to juggle all of this and plan a little time with family and friends, despite my slight grumpiness and fatigue. If you’re wondering if there are two of me, there aren’t. But it is on my Christmas wish list.

Best to you all through the holidays! Wish me luck.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Book Signing Success

PJ here, just off a long weekend at the Granville Harvest Fair. I’ve done many such book signing events over the past couple of years, but this one was by far my favorite. For one thing, I live ten minutes up the road, so it’s close, and I inevitably saw lots of familiar faces. Thousands of folks ambled by my booth, many stopping to chat–whether they were teens or simply teens at heart. The fact that I was a local author was also a big draw. Putting a face to someone local who has achieved what so many others only dream about, seems to be an instant conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to—young and old—who said that they write in one form or another, and that it was nice to meet someone who has actually published their stories. It was lovely to be a source of encouragement and inspiration.

I’ve said in the past, that book signings have netted me little profit in the monetary sense and I’ve wondered whether they were really worth my time, but this event has changed my mind. In addition to making a modest profit from book sales, I gained a couple of dozen names for my newsletter list, and made many potential connections–including school teachers, librarians, mental health professionals, and teens interested in finding me on social media or purchasing my e-books for their e-readers after the fair. All in all, a great success. I thought I would share some tips that I found helpful. I hope you’ll share yours in the comments section below, so others may benefit from your experience.

harvest fair pic 11) THINGS TO BRING-A sturdy, 10×10 easy-up tent, a comfy chair, a couple of tables with table cloths (I have a six foot and a four foot table), books in plastic totes (don’t forget to take inventory and keep track of your sales), swag (bookmarks, post cards, etc.), tape, scissors, pens, plastic bags (recycle those plastic grocery bags and carry them in an empty tissue box for convenience), or have some nice bags made up with your name, website, and logo if you want to make an impression. You might reserve those for people who buy several books. Don’t forget a cash lock box, business cards, and candy (no chocolate on hot days) or a treat.

2) SIGNAGE-Invest in a nice banner, which you can have printed up through Vista Print. I have yet to do this, but I made do with a homemade banner. Plastic stand-up sign holders from Staples work great for specific table top signs. You can make whatever signs you want on your computer to fit the 8×11 frames. “Local Author of Teen Books,” “Sign up for my newsletter and enter to win…,” “Follow me on FB, Twitter, etc.” and pricing signs, are just a few ideas. Be creative.

3) PRESENTATION-Consider your brand, your audience, and your space. Create a visually appealing stage for your books. harvest fair pic 3Use color wisely to catch attention of passersby and don’t overcrowd your space. Too much to look at can be a deterrent.

4) SELLING-You can offer book sets with special pricing/discounts, you could sell merchandise related to your books (cups, tee shirts, or in my case, wooden whistles which I also offer as a free gift to those who purchase both book one and book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy).

5) SALES PITCH-This is an opportunity to hone your sales pitch. Have a one liner to pull people in. Keep it simple. “Feel free to take a bookmark.” Keep it real and fun. “This is the glamorous life of an author.” This last phrase spoken as I used duct tape to secure my tent signage or while I peeled tape residue off my tent poles. I got lots of smiles with this one. Pitch to your audience. “I write books for teens…and teens at heart,” when speaking to adults and elderly folks who actually might enjoy reading my books. I describe my contemporary YA novels as the kind of books that would make great Lifetime Network or Hallmark movies, and note when I’m speaking to parents of teens that I write books that I wish had been available when I was a teenager. I mention accolades and awards, my million plus reads of SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad (which made that particular book sell very well all weekend), and try to hone in on what might appeal to the demographic to which I’m presenting. “The book is about a girl who is kidnapped as a child, left for dead in the high country of North Georgia and survives in the wild.” One sentence grabbers are essential! Comparisons also work well as in “Savage Cinderella is like Law and Order SVU meets Nell.” Of course this only works for people old enough to remember the movie with Jodie Foster, LOL. With teens, I might compare The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael to the TV show, Revolution, or books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, but not quite as grim and gritty. As time goes on throughout the event, you’ll find what works best. It’s excellent practice for agent/editor elevator pitches at conferences. You never know who you’ll meet, so always have a professional and friendly demeanor.

6) GIVEAWAYS-Book signings are a great place to expand your newsletter mailing list. Offer entry in a prize giveaway, a FREE download, or some incentive to get people to sign up. Reassure them that your newsletters aren’t spammy and that their information will not be used for any other reason. Be prepared to offer something for free. You can be generous without giving away the store or breaking the bank. It costs me nothing to give away a free download of ON THIN ICE (I get a coupon code through Smashwords, and have cards printed up through Vista Print with my cover on the front and instructions and the download code on the back. I can usually get 250 cards printed up for free or next to nothing when I’m ordering other items through Vista Print).

Most importantly, have FUN! Try to stay engaged with people and don’t stick your nose in a book or hide behind your computer screen. Fortunately, we had a dry and beautiful weekend with a great turnout. I met some amazing people! I also had some fabulous apple pie with Granville cheddar cheese…yum! And yes, I even sold a good number of books.

Any other ideas or things I missed?

Pumpkin’s Progress–2013

Howdy, all! Oops, just back from my dear niece’s country-themed weddin’ — so much fun and I guess I’m still talking cowboy. I wish Rachel and Johnny many blessings, especially as Johnny heads off to boot camp in a few days to join our armed forces.

Behold, HRH King Arthur
Behold, HRH King Arthur

When we got back to suburbia from our travels, we were pleased to find that this year’s giant pumpkin was doing very well. Giant pumpkins put on weight very, very quickly (up to 20 pounds a day for the size we grow) and it’s noticeable when you haven’t seen it for a few days. As of today it’s about 200 pounds–just a baby in the competitive world. The world record pumpkin in 2012 weighed in at 2009 pounds. Yes, you read that right, two thousand and nine pounds, and was grown in Rhode Island. Click here to see one ton o’gourd.

Last year at our local agricultural fair (Four Town Fair), we were beaten out for King of the Pumpkin Patch by a kid–a KID! (WTG, sweetie!) But Mr. Suze and the Crown Prince, who have claimed for the last several years that this will be the last time we grow them, were undeterred and dutifully ordered seeds and some kind of organic fertilizer, which they apply faithfully. Every day they go out and bury the pumpkin vines as they grow and put down new roots so the plant can suck up more water. And it seems to be paying off. In just a few weeks, King Arthur will be off to sit on his pallet throne and we’ll see who takes home the prize.

So, wish us luck. Wish me luck as I prepare to turn in my first book to my wonderful editor–I had no idea it would be so hard to call it done (for now) and let it go but I can’t wait to see her suggestions to make my book way better. And wish my niece and new nephew much luck and love as they start their life together (or apart, temporarily). And for all of you, dear Scribelings, blessings of the harvest season!