Kindle

So this 50 Shades of Grey craze continues to explode. My sister-in-law (who doesn’t have time to read in her busy life) is now carving out some precious minutes to read this trilogy. These books are EVERYWHERE! And of course this month is the release of the much-anticipated movie!

So I’m doing my usual surfing around this morning and what do I stumble upon? Several erotic books jumping into the waters and riding EL James’s wave of success. It’s not plagiarism. It’s commercialism. And if I could write fast enough (or had thought of it), I totally would be grabbing my bathing suit (though I didn’t say I’d actually put it on) and jumping into these waters as well. Doing a parody of someone else’s work seems to be “in”. I haven’t read anymore than the sample and the reviews of the following books, but I’m thinking of picking up the first. It looks hot … and rather amusing. Frankly, I’m thinking of buying it just for the cover art!
 
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Publishing has always been a difficult way to make a living. Not just sitting down and actually getting the words on paper (which is a blog in and of itself), but the competition of getting your finished story to the reader.

The whole process has been made easier in the last few years as the world of self-publishing opens a new realm for authors hoping to see their work in print (or at least in digital pixels).

The competition no longer lies in trying to catch the ear of an agent and ultimately the attention of a publisher. The problem for an author is now trying to rise above the din of other books being released daily in HUGE batches. I feel like a woman standing in the middle of the stock market floor shouting “me me me … I’m over here” only to be drowned out by others who jump higher and yell louder.

Like many authors, I go out in the twitterverse and tell people about my books. I mention them now and again on Facebook. I’ve even done a couple of ad campaigns. But like other authors, I don’t want to scare readers away by being in their face every day shouting BUY MY BOOK … IT’S REALLY GOOD! Yeeeeah, that so isn’t going to work. No one likes the hard sell.

So what’s left? Well, Amazon used to have catagory tags for our books. We used to be able to have people agree with them and have our books show up on category searches done by readers. But Amazon found out some people were (in their words) abusing the system. Authors (like me) were having “tagging parties” to get high numbers of agreements so their books show up higher in a search. Some people were putting big name authors in their set of tags so their books showed up when a reader searched those author’s books. In some cases, this was done by some readers who wanted other readers to find an unknown author (which is awesome). In some cases it was done by the author (not cool).

Tags were being abused by some by adding erotic tags to books that didn’t fit that category. Some authors found tags like “spam” or “delete” or “trash” in their lists.

I think Amazon got tired of the sheer number of valid complaints they were getting and have now completely dropped the tags associated with books (Note: turns out this is only on the US site). I think the only way to search for a book now is through the categories authors/publishers add when putting a book up on Amazon. I haven’t heard any backlash from readers, but I’m wondering if many have discovered they’re not getting the results from their Amazon searches. And perhaps readers didn’t really use this feature.

I also think Amazon used the tags (and likes at the top of a book page) in their algorithms to determine a book’s ranking on lists. (Pure speculation as no one knows for sure how the algorithms work.) And Amazon doesn’t like to think the rankings are manipulated in any way. Getting rid of tags stopped the possibility that authors could do anything to “play the system”.

There are rumors that Amazon is going to get rid of the reviews as well. I don’t know if that will happen, but I do know similar things are happening with reviews being used to bring down (or up) an author’s number of stars. Unfortunately not all reviews are legitimate. Again, I’m not sure how many readers use reviews to find a new author. But I wonder if readers are going to miss the reviews if they’re no longer found on books.

What about you? Do you use either tags or reviews in determining whether you’re going to make a book purchase? Because you know … I’m curious about this kind of stuff!

No matter what happens there are always two sides to any situation and when either is blind to the other it can become a very negative situation.

At the end of June an author friend of mine emailed me to tell me they’d found their books and every single one of mine on a site called LendInk. I’d link to it, but it’s recently been taken down. Of course at first blush the site looked like every other pirate site that was offering my books for free. Only … it wasn’t. It was a matchmaking service for kindle and nook owners who legitimately purchased books and were willing to lend them and readers who wanted to borrow them. (Please see THIS post for an explanation of how it works.)

But the site made authors noodgie. It’s scary watching your hard work being downloaded for free at sites where they don’t have your permission. Pirating is like a flu bug making you puke and weakening your resolve to keep writing.

So I completely understand when authors started banding together on twitter and facebook, sending DMCA notices to take down their books at LendInk. The fact is, they reacted before reading the fine print. (They had actually given Barnes & Noble and Amazon permission to have their books lent.) Hey, it happens. Authors are carrying a lot of responsibility for their careers these days. More, I believe, than any other time in publishing history. It’s a tough business with so many trying to carve out a career in the crazy noise of so many books.

And now LendInk is down and people are pissed … angry enough to post author names with twitter and facebook posts. (I’m not giving the link to that post.) One commenter mentioned he went to an indie store with the list and pulled all the authors’ books from the shelves. Others are boycotting the authors listed in protest.

And the whole thing makes me sad. Yes, LendInk was completely operating within Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s terms of service. Yes, they were making a small amount of money as Amazon Associates when someone clicked through their site and made a purchase on Amazon. Yes, readers were enjoying their site to find books to lend/borrow. BUT, for some authors, it smacked of, if not breaking the rules, definitely pushing the envelope of what Amazon and B&N had originally intended with their lending ability.

I completely understand why DMCA notices were sent. I understand why readers (and many authors who like the lending option) are upset the site was taken down. But making matters worse by punishing authors who felt they were only protecting their intellectual property seems to me, to be pushing things just a little too far.

Seriously as a middle child I’d just like to see everyone drop their pitchforks and torches, grab a coke and start singing:

Techdirt has a great explanation of how the whole thing unfolded (and I particularly admire their disclaimer at the beginning of the post).

*** NOTE: My apologies on missing a couple of posts the last couple of weeks. I’m working REALLY hard to edit my next book and seriously … these vampires are just NOT cooperating. But I’ll try to be better next week.  ***

Welcome to this week’s Six Sentence Sunday where I choose six sexy sentences from one of my books. This week (since it’s recently gone free on Barnes & Noble) I’m offering a little something from my romantic suspense story, Blind Her With Bliss.

Her internal muscles surrounded him, taunted him to let go. And when he felt Julie arch and stiffen beneath him—her own climax moments away—Damon surrendered to the bliss. His world became narrowly focused on the woman writhing in pleasure beneath him. Fireworks of ecstasy exploded, filling every cell with the promise of what she’d become to him. “I love you, Julie.” The words slipped quietly from his lips even as the realization shook the very foundation of his life.

Also available FREE at Sony and Kobo.

Thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate your comments. Please click HERE to check out other authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday this week.

Enjoy your week!

When a book is put up on Amazon, whether directly by a traditional publisher or an indie author, Amazon offers the opportunity to make the e-book “lendable”. Unless you choose the 70% royalty option and then it’s not an option … it’s required.

I’ve always thought this was a great idea. What better way for a new reader to find my books than to have someone “share” it, even from their kindle?

When I first published with a digital publisher, kindles were a mere twinkle in Amazon’s eye. A high majority of readers enjoyed their digital books on their laptops … e-books they received via email. Even back then authors were aware that legitimate readers forwarded files to friends and vice versa. Was it illegal? Of course. Did it stop them? Nope. And you know why? Because these friends generally went out and bought other books by that author. Thereby taking one sale and turning it into several. (I did hear from one author whose over-enthusiastic reader actually emailed an ebook to every person in her address book … oops. Okay, so that didn’t work out for that author. And therin was the problem. One file could be forwarded an unlimited number of times.)

Lending is a little different. And lending is not pirating. Let me repeat. Lending is very different from pirating. Pirating is uploading a book to a torrent site and making unlimited copies available to anyone for free. It is illegal and authors lose thousands of dollars a year to these thieves. (Though many argue that those frequenting pirate sites wouldn’t buy a book anyway. So it’s not really a sale lost. Either way, we’re not talking pirates today…)

Lending allows a reader to purchase a book and loan it ONCE to one person for 14 days. During the lending time the book is not available on the purchaser’s kindle. Again, this sounds like a great perk for kindle owners. As an author, I can only hope that the person borrowing the book will love it so much they’ll buy their own copy for their “keeper” shelf or perhaps buy another couple of my books.

The reason this particular program came to my attention last week is that there are now sites popping up like virtually libraries. A kindle reader can register at these sites and list books they have to “lend”. Or they can request a title to “borrow”. It’s still one purchase = one borrow, but much more global than immediate family or friends.

Some authors are feeling very noodgie about the this … others not so much.

What about you? As a reader do you borrow books from your friends? Have you found new authors this way? If you’re an author, how do you feel about the lending program? Of course I asked, I’m curious about stuff like this.

So it’s been a month since I shared sales figures for my self-published romantic suspense series. In the spirit of full disclosure I thought I’d share what’s happened since I put the first book in my series up for free! I have to tell you, there are still LOTS of people who cringe that authors are doing this for fear it may set up 1) unrealistic sales expectations for readers or 2) that it is devaluing the time and talent required to write a full novel. But as you’ll see, this is working for me.

I didn’t enroll these short novels in the Kindle Select program where Amazon asks for exclusivity to any books in that program. They also offer authors the opportunity to take advantage of 5 free days during the 90 day period it is in the select program. This just didn’t seem to fit for my books and I chose to upload my book through Smashwords and have it distriubted for free to all venues save for Amazon. Once the lower price was reported to Amazon, my book was price matched at the $0.00.

And I want to repeat what I said last month. There are many authors making goooood money through self-publishing. Some of these authors are even being courted by Amazon to pull their book from the virtual self-publishing shelves and sign a contract with their Montlake publishing arm. There are many success stories, including Debra Holland, who has also been forthcoming about her sales success with her self-published series. But remember it ain’t all roses and royalty checks for everyone.

And there isn’t one right path to success in the self-publishing business. What works for me and my books, may not work for you. The only consistency is writing the best book you can and making sure it not only is well-edited, but also presented in the correct format for the platform whether it be kindle, nook, sony or iTunes. So don’t hesitate to try different price points or different methods of promotion. Find out what works for you.

Listing the first book in my sexy romantic suspense series, BLIND HER WITH BLISS has been a real boost for promoting my books. Following are the sales I posted last month for books released 4/11, 6/11 and 11/11. (Sales figures are just for Amazon, because there weren’t enough others at B&N, Smashwords or ARe to make an impact on my royalties.)

December: 136 books = $142.80
January: 74 books = $84.22
February (until the 20th): 4695 free books 20 books = $40.00 (approx.)

And here are the sales for the full month of Feb and March (to Date). And just a note, I took my books down from All Romance Ebooks because they really weren’t selling over there:

Amazon

Free Downloads: 6280
Deceive Her With Desire: 73 books = $76.65
Cheat Her With Charm: 62 books = $65.10

Barnes & Noble
Free Downloads: 2319 (through Smashwords)
Deceive Her With Desire: 87 = $168.78
Cheat Her With Charm: 56 = $108.64

Apple (through Smashwords)
Total Books:   264 = $448.85
(That’s if I’m reading my Smashwords report correctly. It’s the first time I’ve had sales there, so I’m trying to figure this one out)

So there you have it. It may not be the blockbuster sales other authors are experiencing, but seeing as March is turning out to be my most successful month ever, I’m extremely pleased. I whole-heartedly believe that offering my book for FREE! is working for me. BLIND HER WITH BLISS floats between 15 and 30 on the free romantic suspense list right next to the PAID list. And 25 to 40 on the contemporary list. (It was lower on both lists at the beginning of the month when downloads were at their peak.) Being listed next to the paid books means that readers who search particular categories may peruse books listed for free as well.

B&N doesn’t have a ranking system, but I have no doubt it is the free book that allowed readers to try out a new-to-them author and brought about the sales of the second and third books in the series. Since I haven’t seen any sales at that venue prior to this, it is the only thing I can attribute my sales success this month.

Again, this method might not work for you. But with my sales the highest they’ve ever been, I know offering the first book in my series is working for me. Writers, have you tried something different that worked to get your books noticed? As a reader, what makes you willing to try a new author you’ve never read before?

Today I’d like to welcome romance author, Diane Amos.

The thought of writing a book never entered Diane’s mind until a friend mentioned she was writing a romance and belonged to the Maine Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. She accompanied her to a meeting, and was hooked. Undaunted, to her, writing a book was simply stringing together sentences to form paragraphs, arranging the paragraphs into scenes, then placing the scenes into chapters. If she wrote enough chapters-viola, she had a book. Little did she know!

Take it away Diane …

Most authors have a book or two that are their favorites. GETTING PERSONAL is one of mine. It was my first sale to Five Star, and my first step into the world of publishing. Some authors live gilded lives. They wake up one morning and decide to write a novel. They type at the speed of light and a few weeks later their book sells for a gazillion dollars. They become an overnight success and Oprah interviews them on a television special. My overnight success took seven years and nine manuscripts before I sold. My advance was slightly less than a gazillion bucks!

What is it about GETTING PERSONAL that tugs at my heart? I LOVE these characters! The sexual tension practically crackles on the pages when Monique and Jake are together. This couple is memorable and fun to be around. The reviewers also loved the book, and I earned the title of Contest HO from my RWA chapter when GETTING PERSONAL won numerous contests along with the Maggie Award of Excellence. The book is funny, sexy, and since many of the fans on this website write or read erotica and really hot love scenes, I should mention there’s a scene when the heroine handcuffs the hero to her bed. I was pleased to get the rights back and be able to re-release this through Amazon. I hope it finds new readers who will fall in love with Monique and Jake the way I did while I was writing this story.

BLURB:
Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. No one knows that better than Monique St. Cyr, parochial school dropout, dieter extraordinaire, and want-to-be investigative reporter with pit bull tenacity and a habit of leaping headlong before she looks. Monique, obituary writer for a tabloid-style newspaper in Portland, Maine, lives next door to her mother, Anne Marie, an erotic fiction author. Anne Marie enlists Monique’s help to do research for her next book about couples who meet online…by filling out several personals for her daughter. Monique is swamped with emails, and her life gets even more complicated when she meets Jake Dube, a policeman with a wicked grin and a heated gaze.

EXCERPT:

My mother wrote erotic fiction under the penname, Busty Galore, a misnomer because unlike me her shoulder blades protruded more than her breasts. I loved her dearly, but she had a way of butting into my life. Plus, her 20/20 eyesight and keen ears were capable of seeing and hearing only what she wanted.

As she clicked onto the personals, apprehension sliced through me.

“Look at it this way, by helping me, you’ll help yourself too.” She checked the box in front of men looking for women, then continued down the column, ages 28-40, built athletic, average, or slightly overweight.

I swallowed past the lump in my throat. “The last time I got involved in one of your schemes I ended up knee deep in mudflats with bullets whizzing over my head.”

“That clam digger sure got edgy when he thought you were staking claim to his territory.” My mother laughed. “Anyway, everything turned out fine once I explained I was gathering information for a book I was writing. Besides, that was so long ago, I’m surprised you still remember.”

“How can I forget! My boots were suctioned in muck. I ran barefoot, pursued by a wild-eyed man toting a sharp clam fork and shouting obscenities. I’m lucky I wasn’t killed.”

“You exaggerate,” she said sweetly. “Besides, I thought he was kind of cute. And thanks to you, I got enough material to write my book, which I’ve already sold for a considerable sum, I might add. If you hadn’t been so crabby, I bet he’d have asked you out.”

“The man was a lunatic!”

“Once he calmed down, he seemed nice enough.”

“I refuse to discuss this again.” I smacked my lips shut.

My mother turned back to the computer.

I was twelve years old when my father died. My mother worked two jobs, often doing without so my brother, Thomas, and I could wear the right clothes and fit in with the other children at Saint Joseph’s Parochial School. We owed her big time. Unlike me, my brother made himself scarce, which didn’t matter because it was a Catholic daughter’s duty to assist her “poor decrepit mother”—her words, not mine.

Ten years ago my mother sold her first book, and much to the family’s surprise became an overnight success. Unfortunately, each time she coaxed me into helping her, something backfired.

I rolled my eyes. “I absolutely refuse to root around in dirt, scale buildings, or anything else that might do bodily harm.”

“There’ll be no bullets this time. No mud either. This is very safe, and you’ll enjoy yourself.” She eyed me warily. “You really need to go out more.”

“Humph,” I muttered, knowing I’d already lost this battle.

“Look, mom, I know you mean well, but I’m happy, really.”

“Keep your phony baloney for someone else. I know you’re lonely, and I’ve found the perfect solution.”

I groaned. If she heard, she didn’t let on.

My mother clicked several categories. Checkmarks filled small boxes. A list of screen names appeared. “Here we are, dear, males for the picking, just like ripe fruit off a tree.”

A wormy apple sprang to mind. I shook my head in disbelief.

“The internet is a viable way to meet the opposite sex.”

It finally sunk in. “You expect me to talk to men online?”

“Yes, and once you get to know them, you’ll tell me all about your conversations. Of course, you’ll go on dates with a few of our favorites and then report your results.”

She beamed an innocent smile. “Who knows, you might even find the man of your dreams.”

I glanced at the screen names on the monitor: Studman, MusclesManiac, I’veGotIt, Babemagnet, and Willin&Able. I turned to my mother. “You can’t be serious?”

“I’d like to submit an ad with your profile and a recent picture. That’ll allow me to learn what type of man prowls the Internet for love.”

“There’s no way in hell…”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GETTING PERSONAL is FREE on Amazon until Sunday so be sure to run over and download your copy. If you like what you read, keep in mind there’s a sequel, MIXED BLESSINGS, with many of the same characters.

Thanks for dropping by, and thank you Nina for inviting me to visit.

Thank you for stopping over Diane. I’ve always loved Diane’s quirky sense of humor and how she manages to carry that over into her stories. There are very few authors who make me laugh out loud when I’m reading like Diane is able to do. What about you, ever find yourself laughing at a good story? How do you like your romance? Straight up serious, or with a little snarky humor thrown in? You know me, I’m always curious about stuff like that.

There are days when I feel I never get away from the Internet to get other stuff done. Between Twitter and Facebook and blogs I visit, I roam the virtual cybersphere and yet … I seem to miss all the fun controversy. I guess last week people were all up in arms about self-publising and Amazon’s moves to slowly take over the book selling market.

I don’t know about that. I do know they’ve made it easy for a person to self-publish print books. And they’ve made it even easier for authors to publish digitally. Really, there is no super-sekret formula … just upload a manuscript and a cover and voila! within 24 hours your book will be for sale! Yes, you can do this through other venues, but I have to say, I really like Amazon’s ranking system. There’s no greater satisfaction than seeing your book climb the ranks. Now they’re trying a new program, Prime Membership for readers and on the author side it’s called Kindle Select. Readers and authors are tentative about this program. Some are loving it and others … not so much.

But Amazon is trying. They are seeing the face of publication changing and they’re trying to be on the cutting edge of that change. Good for them. They’re not stupid. With big name authors like Joe Konrath supporting their efforts, it seems to me they’re going to be the front runners when everyone else is floundering. Does this make them bad or greedy? I don’t think so. It makes them smart. As in Apple smart. Always leading the pack, not the one running and out-of-breath trying to catch up.

And though I like what Amazon is doing for readers and authors alike, I just want to say, it ain’t all roses and royalty checks for everyone.

There are many authors making LOTS of money (as in quitting their day jobs and writing fulltime) going the self-pubbed route through Amazon. But there are a whole heck of a lot more of us taking our monthly royalty check from Amazon and buying a cute necklace from Kohl’s that just went on sale … on the clearance rack. So you get the picture. Now, please don’t hear this as complaining. It’s not … well, not totally. Wait, no really, I’m not complaining. I just want people to understand that it is possible their book(s) will take off, but it’s just as likely it won’t. Even if you do the same marketing strategies successful writers do. *shrug* It’s just how it is.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me give you some sales figures for the last three months for all three of my books (released 4/11, 6/11 and 11/11). (And this is just for Amazon, because it’s not worth my time to share with you my sales from B&N, Smashwords and ARe)

December: 136 books = $142.80
January: 74 books = $84.22
February (to date): 4695 free books (YAY!) 20 books = $40.00 (approx.)

Why am I sharing this sales information with you? I think authors play it too close to the vest. When authors are looking to make an informed decision it means … they need the information. I think it’s easy to find GREAT sales information. You know, those authors that sell 136 of each of their books every day. It makes many authors who are sitting there with 4 books sold in a month–because that’s the typical sales on Amazon–feel inadequate. Like “what am I doing wrong?” The answer is probably nothing. Even the big 6 publishers can’t tell you why one of their books is doing better than another. Now we’re the publisher … we just have to do the best we can.

I do like Amazon. I like that they have world-wide distribution. I wish I could boast sales on the other venues that were as good as my Amazon sales. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, even when I try to market my books at those venues.

Is Amazon going to take over all publication and distribution of books in the near future? No, it’s not going to happen. But other publishers and booksellers will need to stop doing things the way they’ve always done them and think ahead or they’re never going to catch up.

What do you think as a reader/writer? Does it make you a little noodgie the way things are going with Amazon? Are you worried about what is happening? Because you know me, I’m curious about that kind of stuff.

Welcome back to another Six Sentence Sunday where authors choose six sentences from one of their books to share with readers. Since I’m in the last stages of getting my sexy romantic suspense series in the print anthology DANGEROUS AFFAIRS, I thought I’d share six sentences from the last book in the series Cheat Her With Charm.

Even in the darkness of the kitchen, the heavy snow outside glowed eerily on the trees. The branches bent and swayed in a mesmerizing ballet with the wind. It was beautiful to watch, but if it continued to ground planes and keep her fiance stuck in Philly, Meghan would be a basket case.

On a heavy sigh, she headed for a flashlight in the bottom drawer by the sink, intent on starting the kerosene heater and snuggling back into bed. As she stepped around the counter, an arm came around her chest, pinning her arms and trapping her against the hard wall of a large male body. The attacker’s other hand snaked up from behind and covered her mouth, stifling her surprised scream.

I always enjoy all your comments. Thank you. Click HERE to check out other authors participating this week.

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Welcome to another week of Six Sentence Sunday

Last month was a wonderful month for my sexy romantic suspense story, “Blind Her With Bliss“! Thank you everyone who went out and purchased it (and it’s still on sale for $.99)! I thought I’d do a little happy dance and give you another six from the first book in “The Tilling Passions” series.

It was a wonder the man pouring his soul out through the piano keys didn’t simply collapse; an empty husk of a body, sacrificing everything to give life to the passionate strains of music filling the auditorium. Surely nothing so poignant could come from anywhere other than the heart. As melancholy notes penned by some dead composer plucked at her heartstrings, Julie could feel Damon’s sorrow filling her and resonating through every molecule of air.

As the emotional melody pulled her along its river of notes, she thought of her family. As much as they aggravated her, they also anchored her—gave her a sense of belonging. Damon had no one.

Thank you for your comments you leave week to week, they mean a lot to me. And don’t forget to go HERE to check out other authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday this week!

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