Category Archives: Series

Cliffhanger or happy ending?

PJ Sharon, here to hang with you on a rainy Tuesday morning. And speaking of hanging…I thought I would pose a question to you, my faithful readers, writers, and book connoisseurs.

When reading a trilogy, do you like the second book to end on a happy note, satisfying our endless appetite for romance, or do you prefer the cliffhanger ending that leaves you breathlessly awaiting the next book?

For me, a good cliffhanger gets me every time. Don’t get me wrong. I love romance and I live for the HEA endings that are a hallmark of all my favorite books. With a trilogy, however, I expect my HEA to make its appearance in the final installment. In books one and two, I want to be led on the merry chase. I want suspense! Will they get together, or won’t they? Will everyone survive, or will someone be killed off? I think there can be–and should be–a complete story arc in each book, but the over arcing theme of the trilogy requires phases that bring your characters one step closer to their happy ending–just not too soon. Each book in a trilogy needs its own goal, motivation, and conflict, and we expect some resolution to come at the end of each book, but how much resolution is enough to be satisfying, and how much should be left open for book three? These questions are for professional research, of course. I’ve rewritten the ending of WESTERN DESERT, book two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, four times! I so want to get it just right before I release it on the 24th of this month and dive into book three.

How do you all feel about it?

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Websites, tag lines, and titles, oh my!

PJ Sharon here today, and I’m asking for your help with some of my more immediately pressing concerns. First off, prioritizing my duties as an indie-published author and entrepreneur is challenging to say the least. There are many moving parts to this job and I wear more hats than guests at a royal wedding.
While I await my second round of edits for WESTERN DESERT, I have time to work on my marketing strategy for the release next month. Priorities include scheduling a short blog tour, setting up an advertising budget for paid ads, a possible launch party of some sort, sending out press releases, and finishing my back cover copy and art. The list goes on, but sometimes, I just need to let my instincts take over and tell me what is most important for the day.

Of course, writing this blog is always on my Sunday to-do list—though it often falls over to Monday night at midnight—but today I was talking to my DH about a new website. Those of you who know me, know that I have talked about switching over to a WordPress site for my website and blog for at least the past year. Currently, I have a blog on Blogger and I have a website that I love, but it has some significant limitations. My Circle Pad site, which I pay the requisite $8.95 a month for hosting, has some quirks that make it not compatible with Apple products for one. Search engine optimization is lacking, and the interface, as user friendly as it is to work with, is antiquated and doesn’t stand up to today’s market equivalents. Even with all of that, I have resisted switching to WordPress because,

a.) I’m tech-phobic and,

b.) I can’t seem to make decisions about details such as colors, design, theme, or whether to go with .org or .com?

In a come-to-Jesus moment, I have decided to just suck it up and do it! No matter how overwhelmed I feel, the website change is a must-do. In forcing the issue, I have come to realize that part of what holds me back is that I still haven’t clearly identified my brand. I’ve gotten as far as to say, “I write romance fiction for teens and beyond,” but other than that I don’t really know what defines me as a writer these days.

This brings me to my second dilemma of the day:

Should I change my tag-line, and what should I change it to? My first three books, being contemporary YA romance with hopefully ever after endings fit fine with my “Extraordinary Stories of an Average Teenage Life” tag line. But now that I have added dystopian to my repertoire, “average” doesn’t seem suitable—not for genetically altered teens in a futuristic setting. There is still a romance, but the story clearly fits in the YA category of dystopian fiction rather than upper YA/NA stories. Romance readers are not necessarily sci-fi readers and vice versa, so I feel like maybe I need to change my image a bit to reach out to a broader audience. It occurs to me that maybe I’m having trouble pinpointing my target readership because I haven’t truly discovered my “hook”—that message in our style and voice that makes us unique and offers readers the promise of something different.

Once I understand what makes my stories extraordinary, and have narrowed down my tagline to who I am and what I write, then the web design should be easier. I also just finished taking an online web-design course to get me over my tech-fear, and DH has vowed to help me get set up on a WordPress site by the end of June when I launch Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT.

This takes us to my third issue of the day, month, year…a title for the third book in the trilogy. Here are the parameters:

1) Title must be in adjective/noun format (Waning Moon, Western Desert)

2) It would be nice to keep with the “W” alliteration, but I’m not attached to that.

3) The title should reflect that Lily and Will are embarking on the final stage of their journey across a post-apocalyptic US. This time they are leaving Las Vegas and heading east along the southern route, which will take them through the Southern Swamps. (I already thought of that as a title but I think that would only work if there were a fourth book since this one will culminate in the final battle with the Industry and will take place in Chicago and then Vegas again. I do wish I had made it a series and not a trilogy…another lesson learned.)

4) Basically, I want a title that sounds catchy alongside the other two, is different enough to not be competing with a dozen other books by the same title, and one that metaphorically shows the shift to a hopeful ending rather than a title that focuses on gloom and doom.

These are a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear yours!

CHANGING/SHIFTING/RISING TIDES (you get the drift)
SHIFTING/RISING WINDS
STORM SURGE
HEALING WINDS

Thanks in advance for any help, advice, or suggestions!

Rest in Peace, Duchess

Hi, Scribettes and Scribes. Suze here.

Jeanne Cooper 1928-2013
Jeanne Cooper 1928-2013

I was going to talk about my recent trip to St. Louis today, but yesterday’s news made me think about something else. Jeanne Cooper, the matriarch of my favorite soap opera, The Young and the Restless, has died. I don’t know if the part will be recast. On one hand, no one can replace her. Jeanne Cooper was Katherine Chancellor (on screen, anyway), and I for one would have trouble accepting anyone else in the role. On the other hand, the longest-running storyline is the feud between Kay Chancellor (her son Brock always called her Duchess) and the wonderful, scheming Jill Foster Abbot, and that’s always been the pivot point on which the whole show turns. Without Kay, we’re going to feel lost for a while until we get our bearings and see which new direction the show will take.

As writers, we can learn so much about plot and character from the soaps. One of the brilliant things the writers of Y&R did in the beginning was to give Kay some pretty big and scary demons. Her husband was in love with a much younger woman (the aforesaid Jill); Kay became alcoholic; she killed her husband in a deliberate car wreck where she intended to kill herself too, but instead survived. This formed the basis of the conflict between Kay and Jill, and although there have been times when they’ve reconciled (at one point, it looked like Jill was Kay’s daughter given up for adoption. This was later proven false), that underlying hatred of each other was always there. And when things got bad for Kay, the writers could always make it worse and send her back to the bottle so she’d have yet another internal/external struggle.

We hear so much about GMC–Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Well the Kay Chancellor storyline (click here for the Wiki article, if you want to read a synopsis) illustrates that beautifully. And as for plots, of course they’re outrageous. That’s why we love the soaps! But notice how every single episode ends on a hook, and there’s a bigger hook on Friday’s show to bring the viewer back on Monday. While your plots might not take the crazy twists and turns of a soap story, every chapter should end on a hook, big or small. Every book should end making the reader satisfied but wanting more (your next book). And if you ever need inspiration on how to throw rocks at your characters (remember the classic advice: Run your character up a tree. Throw rocks at her. Get her back down.), nobody throws rocks like the writers of soaps. Abducted by aliens? Secret babies? A long lost twin back in town and bent on revenge? Why not?!

So tell me. Do you love the soaps? What’s your favorite show (whether or not it’s still running)? What character keeps/kept you coming back for more and why?

The Beauty of the .99 cent Price Point

Welcome to another Tuesday edition of the Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes. PJ Sharon here with today’s unlocked secret. I’d like to talk about e-book prices. Specifically, ways to use the .99 cent price point strategy to boost sales, gain exposure, and get your books listed on the hottest advertising sites around.

First off, if you are traditionally published, changing the price of your e-books is likely beyond your control. Additionally, publisher prices of e-books in most cases will set you and your books outside the realm of “discounted” or “cheap” reads since all of those folks in the middle (agents, editors, etc.) need to take a piece of your pie. The average traditionally published e-book is priced anywhere from $7.99-$15.99–not exactly an impulse buy kind of price. Being that there are no print costs, storage rates, or delivery fees to pay, I’m not sure what these prices reflect– other than the publishers trying to make up for a declining print book industry. These prices may not discourage rabid fans of Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or James Patterson, but if you are a new author trying to gain a readership, your publisher may be pricing you out of the market. There is simply too much free and reduced price product available to readers. As such, higher priced e-books are likely going to to have difficulty finding an audience as time goes on. Then again, I could be wrong. The benefits of having a publisher with access to a publicist who is willing to help you get exposure through pre-orders and reviews might just balance out the playing field. (I’d love to hear some comments from trad pubbed authors about this topic.)

If however, you have self-published titles that aren’t selling well, or you have a series that you would like to promote, the ability to give your readers a deep discount can open some new doors.
For one thing, there are several advertising sites that focus mainly on selling discounted e-books. Kindle Nation Daily, Book Bub and Kindle Fire Department just to name a few. All of these sites can give your discounted e-books the excellent exposure they need to get them into the hands of lots of new readers. The caveat is that because there are so many authors trying to get their books in front of the world, advertisers have the advantage of picking and choosing which books they will feature. Requirements are becoming more stringent. Some expect as many as 18+ reviews with an average 4.5 star rating. To further narrow the field, the books may not be accepted if they have been offered for free within the past few months, causing some issues for authors who have participated in the KDP Select program with Amazon.

Lest you feel you are “giving away the shop” with this .99 cent price point, think of how large retail stores encourage consumers to try a new product. They will often give away samples or significantly reduced price items in order to introduce customers to a new product or product line. It’s known in the industry as a loss leader. Even if you normally price your e-books at the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot for impulse buyers, a drop to .99 cents can expose you to a whole new readership who ONLY buys .99 cent books or downloads freebies. You might take a cut in royalties (from 70% down to 35%) but if it leads readers to other books in a series or gains you a new following, the increased volume of sales and the boost to your rankings can be a sacrifice well worth making.

Now, there are a few tricks you can try to employ to keep 70% of your dollar. By changing the price of your e-book on Smashwords and BN, for instance, and then waiting for Amazon to price match. If they choose to change the price, they won’t change your royalty rates, but as the TOS (terms of service) agreement states, authors are not supposed to offer the book at a lower price on any other distribution channels,so it may ruffle their feathers. It could also take several days or even weeks before Amazon catches up with the new price (a process that can sometimes be sped up by having friends “report” the lower price), and there is always the risk that they could call you out on the contract breach. So far, Amazon has been amenable to price matching strategies that self-published authors are using. One of the silly benefits of allowing Amazon to match the lower price of their own volition is the neat little slash they put through the old price so that customers know they are getting a deal.(See here for example)

If you decide to try a .99 cent sale on one or more of your books, it can help to boost your exposure if you join with other authors who are doing the same thing. Readers will often look for these “group sales” so that they can stock up on “cheap” reads all at once for their summer reading. Indie Romance Ink, a yahoo group for independently published authors has just such a sale coming up this week from May 1-3, called the Book Lovers Buffet, Bouquet of Books, offering over 150 e-book titles across multiple genres, all priced at a very affordable .99 cents each! There are books for every reader available all in the same place and we have a staggering number of authors promoting the sale. We’ve lined up dozens of book bloggers, FB pages, and advertisers all promoting with us. Hopefully we’ll have a good turn out. Check out our landing page by clicking the icon below, but wait until tomorrow if you want to enter to win great prizes. If you stop by today, you can browse through the books, but the prize page won’t be active until tomorrow and there are no price guarantees until the sale starts.bouquet-sale-button[4] Be sure to spread the word to family and friends. Hope you find exactly what you’re looking for!

As for me, both WANING MOON and HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES will be available for .99 cents during the sale. I’ll also be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift card at my http://www.pjsharonyawriter.blogspot.com site to one lucky vistor who drops by and leaves a comment with a valid e-mail address (not to be used for any other promotions).

Contest ends at midnight on May 3rd. Winners to be announced Sunday, May 5th. Thanks to everyone who organized the sale (Clover Autrey…you know who you are), and a big thanks to everyone for passing along the word on FB, twitter, and Goodreads.

What do you all think about e-book prices and the .99 cent price point strategy?

Interview with Author Laura Bradford/Elizabeth Lynn Casey

Hey, Scribelings! Welcome! I have another special treat in store for you today: an interview with cozy mystery/romance author Laura Bradford/Elizabeth Lynn Casey. I recently asked her a buggy full–or should I say a sewing box full?–of questions, and she was kind enough to answer all of them. Here’s what Laura had to say:

AssaultedPretzel_cover2Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m one of those folks who knew what she wanted to be since she was a little girl. I was officially bitten by the writing bug while playing at a friend’s house in 4th grade. It was raining and we’d had our fill of Barbies. So out came the paper, the crayons, and we started writing and illustrating stories. I was hooked.

Fast forward through my post-college days as a reporter and then the birth of my two daughters and I decided to tackle my love for fiction-writing. It took me five years to write that first book (twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there while my youngest was occupied with a toy). I sold it to a small press. The book released (with a horrible cover) and was soon nominated for an Agatha (it didn’t win) and picked up for Worldwide Mystery’s book club (which meant new life with a big publisher and a far bigger audience).

Today, I have sixteen books out and another six under contract.

Tell us about your latest book, Assaulted Pretzel. (I love this series, by the way!)

ASSAULTED PRETZEL is the 2nd book in my new Amish Mysteries with Berkley Prime Crime. The protagonist of the series—Claire Weatherly—owns a specialty gift shop in Amish country. The local detective—Jakob Fisher—is former Amish. His ex-communicated status makes him the last people the Amish want to talk to. So when crime happens, and they have to talk, they prefer to talk to Claire.

This particular book has the head of a large toy manufacturer coming to Heavenly, Pa, to hire the Amish to build a new line of toys for his company. When he reneges on the deal and is found murdered, a number of people—Amish included—are viable suspects.

You write romances as Laura Bradford and mysteries as Laura Bradford and Elizabeth Lynn Casey. How many books a year do you write?

There was a year or two there when I was writing four books a year. That has slowed somewhat with the Berkley Prime Crime titles being moved out to a 12 month model.

So, at this time, two a year…unless I add in a romance…or a thriller…or a women’s fiction. 🙂

Do you have any advice on how writers can increase their productivity?

Just write. Set a word count goal for yourself and keep track. Seeing those numbers growing really helps motivate me.

How do you keep your various projects organized?

Since I’m writing two cozy series, I have an index card box for each. Inside, are cards for each character—what they look like, issues, background, etc. It helps tremendously when I switch from writing one world and more onto another.

What kind of marketing do you do for your books? Do you have any marketing advice?

  • I send out postcards (my mailing list grows every time I do a signing/event).
  • I send out an e-newsletter to the people who have signed up via my website.
  • I keep up on my FB pages—one for each name.
  • I try to tweet but I don’t find it as effective.I do a daily blog on my Elizabeth Lynn Casey website.
  • I do contests on my FB pages as we’re closing in on a book’s release.
  • I guest blog on various sites (maybe 3 or 4) during the lead up/first month of a book’s life.

How do you battle the Doubt Monster? We define the Doubt Monster as: the nagging feeling that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid, and no one in her right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it.

I just keep going. Or I pout and then I keep going.

Do you have any pets?

Angus is the family pet. He’s a black cat. With seven toes/6 nails per foot.

What’s your junk food of choice?

I think just about any of my fans (at least the ones who frequent my FB pages) could answer this for me.

Chocolate.

Unless I’m on deadline. Then it’s candy corn (with milk).

9780425257845_large_Remnants_of_MurderWhen will your next book be out? What’s it about?

My next book release will be August 6th and that’s for the 8th book in my Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries Series (Berkley Prime Crime) written under my pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey.

In this book, one member of the Sweet Briar crew is convinced the death of an elderly local man is not what it seems…

You can keep up with Laura/Elizabeth here:

www.laurabradford.com

www.elizabethlynncasey.com

Laura Bradford AUTHOR page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Laura-Bradford/316744455035472?ref=hl

Elizabeth Lynn Casey AUTHOR page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elizabeth-Lynn-Casey/286853572181?ref=hl