Category Archives: Dystopian

“It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

 PJ here. I was watching an old movie the other day with a great premise, snappy dialogue, and excellent performances from Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie was BOUNCE, cir. 2000. It’s essentially a romance, but the premise is that a young mother of two becomes a widow when her husband dies in a plane crash after exchanging tickets with an ad exec. The playboy ad exec—played by Affleck—then goes off the deep end with guilt, and in an effort to redeem himself, sets out to help the widow, never imagining he’d fall in love with her.

The movie didn’t do well at the box office, and I won’t try to convince you there were Oscar worthy performances involved, but I appreciated the nuances. The evolution of the romance was sweet and entertaining, the individual character arcs were well executed, and the black moment was satisfying—if not predictable. But my favorite line of the movie was, “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

Again, this isn’t a new concept or an original line, per se, but it sums up so much of what we look for in our heroes and heroines. Heroism is in admitting your fear and acting anyway. Doing the right thing and not always the easy thing. Choosing to become the person you’re meant to be, rather than a shadow of your true potential. Growth is hard. Most days, it’s downright scary.

Sometimes fear paralyzes us, but it can also be a prime motivator. It pushes us to change, to step out of our comfort zone, or maybe even forces us to face a part of ourselves we’ve been hiding from for whatever reasons. The result–when we can manage to face our fears head on–is that we become stronger…better. It is in those moments of overcoming our fear through action that we become heroes. Examples of this can be seen in almost any romance novel or movie. We lovers of the genre live for that transformation and can’t wait to see our protagonist find the courage to change from scaredy-cat to hero by the end of the story.

Have you read any books lately or seen any movies that showcase this transformation particularly well?

Speaking of heroines facing their fears, if you haven’t read WANING MOON, book one in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael Trilogy, it’s now available for free download on all major e-retailers. Here is the blurb and links.

PJSharon_WaningMoon__200In the year 2057, in a post-apocalyptic world where a polar shift threatens the survivors of a widespread pandemic with extinction, sixteen-year-old genetically enhanced Lily Carmichael has more immediate problems. Her uncle is dying of cancer and her healing abilities are ineffective against the blood ties that bind them. In order to find a cure, Lily must leave the protection of her quiet town and journey to the trading city of Albany, all while avoiding the Industry, an agency that would like nothing better than to study and exploit her abilities.

Seventeen-year-old Will Callahan has been searching for his father since severe storms blasted through the Midwest, killing his mother and sister. When he learns that his father may be in the city, he catches a ride with Lily, a girl who has come to his rescue more than once. As the two embark on a dangerous journey, the tension between them grows. But the secrets Will’s keeping could put Lily in far more danger than traveling to the city with him, and if he was any kind of man, he would have told her to run the minute she found him.

Amazon     Amazon UK     BN     I-Book Store     Kobo      Smashwords 

Enjoy!

Peace and blessings,

PJ

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Re-branding and Fall Clean-up

Fall 2004 015Don’t you just love October? A bit of Indian Summer to go with the beautiful autumn  foliage makes it the perfect time for some fall clean-up–although the past few days have felt more like May than October. I’m afraid I’ve spent far too much time indoors lately instead of being out enjoying this fabulous weather. I did get out for one last kayak trip this week, but yes, I’ll admit that I’ve been dragging my feet on weeding out my perennial bed and prepping for winter. I’m sure it will all get done in the nick of time, and trust me, I have a good excuse.

I’ve been working hard to finish up the third book in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, due out in December. I’m happy to say the first draft is complete and I’m diving into revisions. Yayyy! If you’re a writer, you know that reaching “THE END” is never an easy feat and it’s definitely cause for celebration, but you probably also know that it’s just the beginning of the hard work of revising and editing, polishing and publishing within a pretty strict set of looming deadlines. In addition, I’m in the process of writing a Christmas novella (more on that next month), and I’m re-branding the Lily Carmichael trilogy.

That means new covers, some targeted marketing, and cleaning up some minor issues with books one and two. That’s right,  in order to move on to revisions, I’ve had to go back and read  WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT to make sure I have all the details straight and threads tied up. During the re-reads, I found a few small continuity errors, typos, and some generally sloppy writing mistakes. (It turns out I’ve learned a few things in the past couple of years.)

One of the coolest parts of indie publishing is the ability to make changes even after a book is published. I consider this a fall clean-up project, much like cleaning out closets or washing windows. It’s not like anyone would likely notice the dirty little details, but it’s an opportunity to  put a fresh face on and make everything sparkly clean. I’m hoping that the combination of the new covers, the cleanest copy possible, and the ability to offer pre-orders six weeks in advance of the release of HEALING WATERS will have a significant impact on sales for the series. I’ll keep you posted and let you know if it works!

As for why the re-branding, Bella Andre once said in a workshop at RWA Nationals, that if your books aren’t selling, the first thing to do is to consider changing your covers. Aside from writing great books, it’s the easiest thing we can do and one of the few things we have control of. The market changes quickly, and competition is fierce, so it’s super important to try to make our books stand out and look professional. That’s why I hired Kim Killion of The Killion Group. She’s awesome to work with, reasonably priced, and tops in the industry. I’m excited about the fresh new look!

Here’s the new cover for SOUL REDEMPTION, the short story prequel to the trilogy. This is a 15k FREE short story available for download from Smashwords.PJSharon_SoulRedemption_200

What’s it like to be a teenager in the year 2057? Life is hard enough when three quarters of the population has been wiped out by a viral plague and a polar shift threatens to drive humanity to extinction. Adding a genetic modification that gives you the power to take life with a touch only makes being a thirteen year-old boy that much more challenging–especially when he can’t control his growing ability.

Zephron Carmichael would like nothing more than to have a normal life. But hiding out in the Northeast Hills trying to escape capture by the Industry—a rogue division of the New Government who wants to exploit Zeph’s gift—is hardly the way to go about it. Life isn’t so bad on the small woodland farm he shares with his Uncle, but he’s tired of living under the shadow of his annoyingly perfect and bossy big sister, Lily, whose ability to heal makes her well respected and loved in the community. It also makes her another perfect target for the Industry.

As Zeph struggles to control the awesome and terrible power that’s growing inside him, he must find a way to protect his sister, find a place in the world, and make amends for a terrible wrong.

You can also read Zeph’s story on WATTPAD

In the meantime, I’m releasing the new covers–one each Friday–over at my PJ Sharon Books FB page. For being such loyal followers of the Scribes, you guys get a sneak peak of the new cover for WANING MOON a day early!

PJSharon_WaningMoon__200

Be sure to pop over and “like” my FB page if you want to join me next Friday for the new WESTERN DESERT cover and on October 31st to see the big reveal for HEALING WATERS (my favorite cover so far!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts about new covers, re-branding, new ideas for marketing old books, or if you’ve ever wished you could go back and fix a book that’s already been published. Your turn…

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.

To Select…or not to Select. That is the question.

PJ Sharon here on this chilly New Year’s Eve Day. Since I’m in the process of re-evaluating my first quarter marketing plan for 2014, I thought I’d share the results of my latest promotion. Most of you are familiar with KDP Select, Amazon’s 90 day exclusivity contract that requires authors to publish only with them for that time period. The perks of putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket are paid borrows by Prime members (average $1.94 per borrow), entry into their new “Count Down Deals” program, and/or the ability to run FREE promotions for five days of the 90 day period. A year ago, all of this was very attractive. Now, not so much.

Most Indie authors agree that running free promotions has been much less effective than it was a year or two ago. Now that the market is flooded with freebies and bargain books, it’s getting harder and harder to sell at any price—even FREE! Sales of my last published novel, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, which released last July, reflect the drastic change. I’ll preface these results with the caveat that YA Dystopian is a hard sell across the board lately since that market is pretty much glutted. I also believe that book two in a trilogy is often tougher because folks won’t buy/download book two if they haven’t read book one, and readers don’t want to get hooked into a trilogy with no guaranteed release date of the third book.

Having said all that, I’m trying not to take it personally or be embarrassed about such a poor sales record. The fact is, I don’t think the numbers reflect the quality of the book at all. What reviews I do have, are excellent, and feedback I’ve had from readers has been awesome. So what’s up with the numbers?

Coming June 24th!
Coming June 24th!

I enrolled WESTERN DESERT into the Select program in October, figuring I would promote books one and two through Halloween, running my first two day FREE promo around the time readers might be drawn to Dystopian/Sci-fi-fantasy stories. I was part of a group sale, advertised on the usual 20-30 sites that promote freebies (some charge a nominal fee of $5-15), and did a social media blitz, including some blog appearances. The best I did was had about a thousand free downloads and sold eighty or so copies of WANING MOON, book one in the trilogy.

Now, I realize that those results meant that my book was in the hands of potentially a thousand new readers, and it did wonders for my sales rankings for both books during the sale, but being that WANING MOON was selling for the .99 cent price point, I made about $30. I’ll add that there was no after sale bump in numbers (meaning my sales flat-lined again immediately), and I’d spent my budgeted $100 for advertising the sale, netting me -$70 for my trouble. Consider the amount of time it takes to set up ads on 20-30 sites, schedule blog appearances, participate in social media non-stop for two days, and well…you get the picture.

I waited a couple of months, planned my last three day FREE run for right after Christmas, hoping to catch all those new Kindle owners, and promoted both books like crazy. As in, “Two Books for under a buck!” “Buy WANING MOON for .99 cents and download WESTERN DESERT for FREE!” I joined with Awesome Indies for their Holiday Bonanza e-book sale, promoted on 30 FREE e-book sites (I’m hearing now that it takes 50 sites to make a dent), and I scheduled mega tweets, FB, Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, and tumblr promos. I spent my $100 budget, and had the support of dozens of other authors who tweeted, posted or otherwise shouted it to the world for me. Here were the results:

Worldwide (including a few downloads in Germany, France, India, Canada, and Australia—a new market for me!), I had a whopping 543 downloads of WESTERN DESERT and 39 new sales of WANING MOON. Oy! Hours of preparation, insane amounts of marketing, and yes, I’m down about $85. I did reach the #1,026 mark on the Amazon rankings in the Free kindle store, #2 in the Sci-fi/fantasy/Genetic engineering category, and #10 in the Dystopian category, but numbers bounced right back to oblivion when the sale ended.

Granted, I was unable to procure ads on the really big sites like Book Bub and a few others which require as many as twenty-five reviews these days to even be featured and are very choosy about what they pick to advertise, but really? For the work involved and the investment of time and money, it feels like I’ve run a marathon and placed next to last. A far cry from last year’s FREE promo for SAVAGE CINDERELLA  when I boasted 40,000 downloads between my two day and then a three day promotion. The best part was the over 800 direct sales in the weeks after my free run. Yikes! What a difference a year and-a-half makes. Even HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES and ON THIN ICE promos last year at this time did much better than my 2013 efforts for my Dystopian reads.

It would be nice to get a few (hopefully good) reviews out of the promotion and getting my name out to new readers is always a good thing, but all in all, the Select program has little left to offer me with this book series. Perhaps when I publish another Contemporary YA romance, or when I have a boxed set of all three books in the trilogy, I’ll give it another go, but for now, KDP Select is a losing proposition for me. Of course, take all this with a grain of salt, because I’ve heard of a few other authors on my loops who are still pulling in good numbers with Select. Go figure!

What do you think? Have you had better results? How did you do it? Am I missing something?

Holiday Happenings!

Merry Christmas Eve!

PJ Sharon here, there, and everywhere, currently coming to you from the coziness of my living room.christmas tree I’m wrapping last minute packages and the smell of fresh baked cornbread is wafting in from the kitchen. I hope you’re all taking some time off during the holidays to spend with loved ones. I’m grabbing a few days off, but since writers are never totally on vacation, here’s what I’ll be up to until the end of the month.

For the past ten days, I’ve been part of the Sleigh Bells Ring, Are you Listening, giant audiobook giveaway hosted by Rita Award winning author, Wendy Lindstrom. Today is the last day to enter if you want to be in the running for a chance to win some awesome audiobooks, an MP3 Player, or even an iPod Nano! Just click here to bring you to the Sleigh Bells Ring are you Listening contest page where you’ll find a Rafflecopter entry form. It’s super easy, and only takes a minute, I promise!Sleighbells ring promo pic You might even win an audiobook of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES.

I’m also participating in the Awesome Indies Holiday Book Bonanza, where dozens of e-books are on sale for only .99 cents between December 26-30th.aia_holidays (1) If you aren’t familiar with Awesome Indies, it’s a great organization of Industry professionals who read, rate, and review books by Independently published authors. They have very stringent criteria that have to be met, so you can rest assured that approved books are top notch! I’m proud to say, WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT made the cut and are now listed on their front page! For my writing friends out there, check out their website at http://awesomeindies.net/ for some invaluable resource material (check out their criteria for submission info).

While WANING MOON, book one in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael is only .99 cents, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the trilogy is up for FREE from December 26-28th.

Available NOW!
Available NOW!

 Bookmark this page and come back during the sale for easy links to the books on Amazon or find links on the Awesome Indies Holiday Bonanza Book sale page. With all those new Kindles under Christmas trees everywhere, I couldn’t think of a better time to offer WESTERN DESERT up for FREE! If you’ve got teen readers at home or enjoy reading YA dystopian romance yourself, here is your chance to get both books for less than a dollar. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Please help me spread the word about this great opportunity by sharing this post on your Facebook page, twitter, or other social media. Simply click on the social media button of choice below and add a note of encouragement for friends to download WESTERN DESERT for FREE from Thursday to Saturday this week. Promotions like this are the best way authors can give back to readers, and readers can show their support of their favorite authors by spreading the news, leaving reviews, and chatting about the books with friends and family. As always, your support is greatly appreciated and means the world to me. May you be blessed with good health, peace, prosperity, balance and harmony in the coming year!

So that’s where I’ll be and what I’ll be up to for the next week or so. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays, squeeze in some “healthy” food choices, and plan a nice hike for after your Christmas dinner.

I’m making our traditional spiral ham. How about you?