Monday, September 16, 2013

New plans. Again. What's next?

I was tempted to start off by saying that writing sometimes doesn't go where you expect it to. But, truly, writing never goes where you expect it to. For the last several months, my plan was to write a new Small Town short story every month for the rest of this year--until the third novel, Secrets in Small Towns, comes out. The story for September, "Wonderful Town," was the subject of my last post. But something happened on the way to finishing "Crow Fair," the projected story for October.

First of all, the original title, "Crow Fair" had to be changed to "Indian Summer," for a bunch of reasons that you'll understand when you read it. Second, the story turned into a novella with major developments. And third, it goes into facets of Sue-Ann's relationship with Gina that I don't feel I can give away before Secrets comes out in January.

In the beginning, the stories were just interjections between one novel and another--fun snippets to keep the small town of Pine Oak, Florida, alive. I had not really planned on sequencing them. In other words, "A Question of Breeding" or "Sensei" contain no anachronisms; they could easily have taken place between the second novel and the third, which was when they were published. But then the stories began to demand their own block of time. The action in "Grand Theft" and "Wonderful Town" both take place after the time of the third novel; in fact they might actually make more sense if you read all three novels first. But I wasn't too concerned about this because any anachronisms are insignificant.

But chronology becomes super-important in the current novella, which takes place six or seven years after "Wonderful Town." For me to release it this year would make some of the many surprises in Secrets in Small Towns less effective. In fact, the story itself would be less effective.

So here is my latest decision. The rest of the short stories will be released, as singles, after Secrets in Small Towns has been out for a while. As a collection, they will be released in 2015. They will be shaped into a kind of novel-in-stories, with many different mysteries to solve, but with Sue-Ann and Gina continuing to develop as a couple, with their town and their friends developing around them. There are many surprises in store, believe me. It's just that you're going to have to wait just a little longer for them.

Writing "Indian Summer" has been exhausting. Even if I had decided to publish it as planned in October, I doubt if I could have finished new stories for November and December anyway. The ideas I have for the future need more research and development than I have time for right now. Hopefully you all can bear with me and stick it out another couple of months until Secrets is finally here.

What's that? Why don't I just publish Secrets in Small Towns today and get it over with? Two reasons, both of them pretty major. First, it needs another go-through. I know that when I finished the latest draft I liked it a lot, but I don't know what I'll think of it in November or December. Second, I want to be able to compete in the annual Indie book awards for several years to come.  I was fortunate to get two top-5 finalist mentions last year for The News in Small Towns. This year I want to win the top prize. And if not this year, then next year or the year after. But I'll only enter one book a year.

In the meantime, please check out the existing stories and novels in the Small Town series. Tell your friends. Rate them on Amazon and Goodreads. Start up your own reading groups featuring novels about female LGBT detectives. The Small Town series is unique. Talk it up.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sue-Ann and Gina in The Big City.

Hey, folks. I've just posted the latest short story in my Small Town Series. As I may have mentioned before, the first novel in this series, The News in Small Towns, was a top 5 finalist in the national Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I actually traveled to New York for the awards ceremony, which was nice and all, but what's even nicer was that the experience gave me an idea. What if it had been Sue-Ann who had won a similar award and if what if she and Gina had visited the Big Apple instead of me? And what if the two more-than-friends met up with two hotties, Michael and Chuck, who volunteer to help catch someone that seems to have it in for Sue-Ann in the worst way? Check it out here.
And as always, if you like it, review it on Goodreads and on the site you downloaded it from. In this case, Amazon.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Update on the move.

In July, I mentioned that I would be moving my entire e-book and e-story catalog to Amazon Kindle Select, who requires that it not be available elsewhere. I was prompted to do this by less-than-sterling sales and by an acquaintance who found that the Select program was bringing him fame and fortune. The first month is now over and I can report that, although I'm not yet rich and famous, my sales on Amazon doubled. There are all kinds of reasons why that figure has to be looked at with a grain or two or salt, but I certainly see no reason to be discouraged or to backtrack. My information was that it would take six months or more to establish the kind of fan base that would result in more significant sales.

So I say, so far so good. As many of you know, I have two full-length novels and four short stories (Amazon calls these "singles") currently in the program. Although Amazon allows up to five free promotion days for each title every 90 days--which would give me 30 free promos--I used only 4 in August, two for a novel and two for a story. But those free days resulted in over 350 downloads for these titles. And a free download can often result in a paid download if the interested reader likes what they read. That's the point, I think: to get the books and stories into as many hands and reading devices as possible. This month I'll use more promo days and see how it affects sales.

At the same time that my publisher, Black Bay Books, moved my titles to Amazon Kindle Select, they also moved another of their titles: Still Waters by Sara Warner. Percentage wise, her sales results were similar to mine despite Still Waters being her only title. The fact that it is the first book in a series says good things for it at present and bodes even better when Sara has other books to go with it.

For this month, Black Bay Books has just added another series to the Kindle Select list. Hell and High Water and Museum Piece, both collaborative efforts by P. V. LeForge and Anne Petty, are the first two books in their North Florida Series. Fun and well-written, these books, which I have read with enthusiasm, not only tell a good story with interesting characters, but the authors tackle many of north Florida's urban legends, such as the Wakulla Volcano, the legend of Tate's Hell, and Panfilo Narvaez's expedition to Florida. Seeing how these books fare under the Kindle Select program will be interesting, and may result in increased sales of other Black Bay Books, like my own.

In September, look for my latest Small Town short story, "Wonderful Town," in which Sue-Ann and Gina travel to the Big Apple.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Become an author advocate.

We have gotten to a point where traditional critics--those well-paid pundits that write for New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, etc.--don't have the sway they used to have. Instead, most of us would rather pay attention to the opinions of our peers. And these opinions are not hard to find. Look at any major book distributor, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and the like, and you'll find reviews from the community at large--people with no stake in saying what they feel. If they like something, they are lavish in their praise (or in the number of stars they confer), if they don't like it, they don't mind trashing it, although hopefully, they will do this in a tasteful way.

The thing is, every one of us has the exact same ability to approve of or disapprove of a book. The trouble starts when someone downloads a book--probably a free promo--and finds that there is something in it that pushes the hate button, such as a negative description of Halibuirton, a non-christian (or pro-christian) point of view, a gay or lesbian character. These type of readers tend to read a few pages--just until they reach the disapproved-of part--then proceed to give a bad review or give such a small amount of stars as not to even illuminate a corner of the author's writing space, which is small enough to begin with. One of my own books was dismissed as non-LGBT because the reader simply didn't read far enough (and she didn't really have to read all that far). So that, essentially I was bashed by someone in my own "family" because the juicy parts didn't show up quickly enough. Another reader took that person to task and I am grateful, but that doesn't negate the bad rating I received. On the flip side, another--this time an anti-gay--reader wrote, "Lesbian sex, ewww!" when the story was distinctly tagged LGBT. Bad reviews can not only kill a book, but damage the author's psyche along with it. And one or two-star reviews are wicked hard to overcome.

One way to counter these counterproductive readers and their reviews is to become an author advocate.

Okay, what's an author advocate? Well, it's a term that has surfaced recently to describe those prescient readers who discover a new talent and want to tell the world what they have found. And there are ways to do this. I have done the same for new Indie authors I have discovered in my meanderings through the Smashwords new releases and the Goodreads chat rooms. Here are a couple of possibilities you can explore if you find an author you think is worthy of a wide readership..

1. Give the book a good review and five stars. As much as I hate to say it, four stars don't do enough to counter the bad reviews that the prejudiced readers have no qualms about dropping on you like birdshit from above on an otherwise sunny spring afternoon. At the very least, rate the book on Smashwords or whichever of the e-book retailers you downloaded the book from, free or not. Then to go Goodreads and rate it there; that is, give it five stars. Most of these venues do not require a written review--although a detailed written review does far more good than a short one or none at all.

2, Go to Amazon and review it there as well. Amazon does not require you to buy the book (either in paper or e-book form), but they do require you to write at least 20 words of a review. This should not be difficult even for the shyest reader/reviewer. And as I said above, if a review is better than no review, then more words are  better than less. This is your chance to tell other readers exactly why you like this book or this author and why they should spend their time and money reading this instead of something else.

3. Goodreads has an interesting option involving lists of books in certain categories. The best YA Fantasy Books, for instance. Go  back to Goodreads and put the book you are advocating for on whatever lists are appropriate. Here's an example. My book, The News in Small Towns, features a newspaper reporter in a small Florida town that manages to solve a number of quirky mysteries that come her way while trying to train her horses, keep her archery skills from deteriorating, and coming to terms with the fact that, despite spending her first 35 years in traditional heterosexual relationships, she is now in love with a woman--a very Southern singer/songwriter. If you go to Goodreads and click on The News in Small Towns, you will find, after the first reviews, the words "Lists with this Book." And just underneath that, "More lists with this book." Included are the following lists:
Best books set in or about Florida
Horse books/novels
Best lesbian mysteries
Lesbian mystery/detective series
Fiction involving music
Best LGTBQIA literature
Women who solve crimes.
Someone has voted for The News in Small Towns or its sequel, Madness in Small Towns, in each of these lists. In fact, as I write, it holds down the top place in a couple of these lists. It does not require you to write a review or even give as rating; just vote for it.

Here's a step-by-step direction of how to accomplish this.
1. SIgn into Goodreads. If you have not joined, do so. It's easy.
2. Type in the name of the books (The News in Small Towns and Madness in Small Towns).
3. Click on the title of the correct book (Several will probably be shown).
4. Scroll down past the Friends Reviews and you will see "Lists with This Book."
5. Click on each list and find the title you are looking for (it's there, you may just have to scroll down to find it).
6. Click on the button that says "Vote for This Book."
7. Do the rest for the other lists, including those listed under "More lists with this book . . . "
That's it. That's all there is to it.

A lot of people look at these lists. I look at them often to find new and exciting books or series of books to read. Your vote on any of these lists--or on any other lists you might think that the book fits in--can be a wonderful help.  This is the very tip of the Goodreads iceberg and whatever votes I can get will serve me well down the road when many more people look at them than do now.

In other words, if you like something--if you think you have discovered something special--be proactive in promoting it. Rate the book. Review it. Vote for it on the Goodreads lists. Give it as a gift to friends for Xmas or birthdays or just in friendship. Not only will the author be eternally grateful, but you will have done a service to anyone who reads your opinion and takes your advice.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New moves afoot.

Today I will be moving my entire e-book catalog into the Amazon Kindle Select Program--at least for a while. My two Small Town novels and associated short stories have been getting a terrific number of free downloads (thank you!), but actual sales of the books are disappointing.

A colleague who, like me, has written books in a series, told me about his own sales. Before he joined the Amazon Select program, his sales were about 30 books over a six-month period. Six months after he joined, the total had skyrocketed to 40,000. Un-fortunately, to join the program, an author has to give Amazon exclusive distribution rights. 

There is no guarantee that joining this program will cause my sales to take the kind of leap that my friend's did.  He writes science fiction and I don't. Plus, he has more books out there than I do. But the difference in his sales just can't be sniffed at and turned away from by any but the most independent, anti-corporate author or publisher. I know some of these; I was one of these. But for my own books to succeed, I have to generate a larger fan base than I presently have. It's as simple as that. Amazon may make that possible. 

I am also working against time. The third book in the Small Town Series is scheduled to come out early next year. It is arguably the most exciting of the three and puts the finishing touches on several plot strands. I would like to have a wider audience anticipating this book's release. Once that is achieved, I would like nothing better than to have my work distributed again by the other e-book distributors, large and small.

For those of you with Kindle e-book reading devices, nothing will change other than the fact that you will have to download from Amazon. For those of you with iPads, simply download the Kindle or Kindle Cloud reading app. Or you can download the Kindle for PC or Kindle Cloud reader on your PC or laptop. I am not familiar with Kobo or Nook reading devices, so you're on your own there, sorry. Paperback copies of the novels, of course, are available, and you don't have to buy them from Amazon.

For those of you who are already following the Small Town Series--or would like to be--here is a list of what has been published so far, as well as a few titles that are firmly scheduled to be published in the near future.

The News in Small Towns (Novel, 2012)
Madness in Small Towns (Novel, 2013)
Secrets in Small Towns (Novel, forthcoming, 2014)
Mysteries in Small Towns (Story Collection, forthcoming, 2015)
"A Question of Breeding" (Story, June 2012)
"Sensei" (Story, November 2012)
"Trail Ride and Barn Dance After" (Story, July 2013)
"Grand Theft" (Story, August 2013)
"Wonderful Town" (Story, September 2013)
"Indian Summer" (Story, October, 2013)

All of my e-books are presently available here:
For copies of the paperback novels, click here.

If you like the books and stories in this series, please review them on Goodreads and at the place where you downloaded them--at this time, of course, that would be Amazon. Your reviews and comments mean a lot more than you might think.