Cheat Her With Charm

Any of you who stop by my blog on a regular basis know I’m an over-achiever. I always have been. I blame it on being the middle child of five and my mother. (Aren’t all problems the mama’s fault?) Just kidding mom. I have no idea what drives me. I just know that when I decide to do something I learn everything I can about it and plunge in with both feet fully expecting to succeed! Failure is not an option. It’s not just a motto … it’s how I’m wired.

And so it was with the writing career I began 7 years ago. In anticipation of leaving my teaching job I took a “Writing Fiction” class at the local university. No sense going into something new without having the tools to do it right. (It would take me a whole year of writing to figure out I’d spent $400 on a class that wasn’t worth the cost of paper the syllabus was written on. But that’s a rant for another blog …) My point is, I was ready to buckle down and write! I had dollar signs in my eye. After all I wanted to replace my teaching salary.

I won’t repeat the road I’ve travelled since most of you already know so let’s fast forward.

After years of publishing books with traditional digital publishers, I was discouraged by my lack of sales. Regardless of what sub-genre of erotic romance I wrote or what marketing I tried, I just couldn’t seem to hit the same numbers as other successful authors with the same publisher. After watching the success of so many writers who went before me, I decided to self-publish three previously published books whose contracts had expired. (It will be a year at the end of the summer that the books will have been available.) I mean, the money is in self-publishing, right? Well, okay, not for everyone. I’ve been very open about my numbers. What’s worked for me and what hasn’t. I do this because I’m hearing so many authors making HUGE money. Like, win the lottery kind of money. In light of that, it’s hard to stand up and say “I finally got a check this month from B&N”. (Minimum payment $10.) That would be THIS post.

My sales have continued to grow as can be seen HERE and HERE. I credit the growth of my sales to offering the first book in my series BLIND HER WITH BLISS, free across all retailers in February and March. I stopped the free promotion at the beginning of April and sales plunged.

Just as I was trying to offer that first book free once again, Amazon made a mistake and price matched the second book, DECEIVE HER WITH DESIRE at the beginning of June. For a week it was given away free. A huge advertising site picked up the promotion and before Amazon corrected the mistake 20,000 books were downloaded. (I would have been ecstatic if it were the first book as that was my plan, but if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck. LOL!) I also learned during all of this that Amazon has changed its terms of service. Even if it price matched in error you are NOT due royalties from lost sales. Bummed me out it took them 5 full days to find out they had made an error. Fortunately, when it came off free this time the book continued to sell (as you can see on Amazon). The sales at B&N on the other hand, haven’t been the same since BLIND was offered free. And I’ve figured out why my books aren’t selling through Sony … I discovered the first book in the series is completely missing in their listings and the book descriptions of the other two are missing on the book pages. (Lesson learned: periodically check book pages at all vendors to check price and book info.)

So here are the approximate sales for May & June:

Amazon:
Blind Her With Bliss: 140 books = $240.00
Deceive Her With Desire: (20,000 free) 160 books = $310
Cheat Her With Charm: 137 books = $265

Barnes & Noble:
Blind Her With Bliss: Distributed through Smashwords (so it can be offered free)
Deceive Her With Desire: 56 books = $109
Chear Her With Charm: 39 books = $77

Smashwords (approximations since reporting is inconsistent here):
Apple: 186 books
B&N: 1187 (free and $.99 Blind Her With Bliss books)
Diesel: 12 books
Kobo: 43 books
Sony: 2 books
$700 across all venues

Self-publishing these books was a great decision for me. I don’t regret it at all. With formatting and uploading becoming more user-friendly it’s getting easier to publish direct. I don’t see any reason why an author wouldn’t want to include self-publishing in their marketing plan. My sales are steadily growing. And yes, self-publishing is a marathon. But this impatient over-achiever always wanted to be a sprinter even if it meant jumping a few hurdles.

Check back next month to see how my sales are going. If all goes well (and luck is on my side) Amazon will stop being so stubborn and finally price match all the other sites and the first book in my series will be offered free at all retailers boosting sales for the other two books.

This self-publishing gig is tough. From hiring an editor and cover artist to deciding whether or not to format books yourself or hire a formatter. (I wouldn’t have thought that necessary until I saw the really pretty formats of some ebooks I’ve purchased. All lovely scroll work at chapter headings and figuring out how to put title and author name on each page of an ereader … but I digress.) You get the idea, there are a lot of decisions to make.

And one of the hardest decisions an author has to make is pricing.

That’s right. Pricing. There are a lot of articles being written on the $.99 phenomenon. This POST offers an hypothesis as to why returns go up when the price goes down. Many authors are also discouraged because they feel pushed into scandalously low prices for their books. It’s not so much about feeling bullied by readers’ expectations that cause me to experiment with pricing … it’s sales.

I’m in this business for readers to find and (hopefully) enjoy my books. I’m not interested in putting in all kinds of time creating characters and weaving stories only to have my books sit in the dark, lonely nether regions of the internet, never to be downloaded to an e-reading device. Nope. I want them out in the world running wild and playing with all kinds of new readers.

This is one pricing list I’ve seen and it makes so much sense:
$0.99 – Books less 10,000 words
$1.99 – Books 10,001 to 20,000 words
$2.99 – Books 20,001 to 50,000 words
$3.99 – Books 50,001 to 75,000 words
$4.99 – Books 75,001 to 100,000 words
$5.99 – Books 100,001 words to ???

Now this might not make sense for everyone or for every book, but it’s a nice starting point. So then the question comes in … Where does FREE fit into this equation? According to some … it shouldn’t. Offering free books gives readers expectations that if they wait long enough a book will eventually be offered free and they will never have to buy another book. I don’t completely agree with that theory. The fact is, any reader has always been able to feed their literary addiction with free (libraries and convention giveaways) and drastically discounted books (garage sales and library book overstocks). Why wouldn’t the savvy digital reader expect the same thing?

For me personally, offering BLIND HER WITH BLISS, the first book in my sexy romantic suspense series for free was the best thing I could have done for sales. In February I reported my self-publishing numbers BEFORE my book went free. In March, I updated my sales figures. Sales continued strong through April … UNTIL I took the first book off the FREE promotion.

As in, I went from selling 20 books a day across all venues to selling 2. (I do realize that early spring is a slow time in general for digital book sales, but I’m sure this isn’t just that flux.) I suspect it has more to do with offering BLIND HER WITH BLISS as a loss leader which is bringing readers to my books. By the end of this month I will be offering it free again. Probably permanently. Yes, I’ve had 11,500 free downloads, but I know authors who have had four times that many downloads in a 2 day FREE promotion. So there are still plenty of readers who haven’t gotten my books.

I won’t do this with all my self-published books. But when a reader emails to tell me that she loved the free book so much she bought the whole series AND three of my traditionally published books … well, that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Some argue that free may be good for the individual, but not good for the publishing industry as a whole. I’m not sure. I only know it’s working to build my readership and therefore it’s growing my business.

And in the spirit of full disclosure my APRIL sales:

Amazon
Free Downloads: 1666
Blind Her With Bliss: 40 books = $39.88
Deceive Her With Desire: 56 books = $110.31
Cheat Her With Charm: 38 books = $76.26
(Avg 35% drop in sales)

Barnes & Noble
Blind Her With Bliss: 177 books = $106.20 (through Smashwords)
Deceive Her With Desire: 51 books = $98.94
Cheat Her With Charm: 36 = $69.84
(Avg 40% drop in sales)

The month of May is dismal. I’ve sold a total of 30 books at Barnes & Noble, 36 at Smashwords and 35 at Amazon. The numbers speak for themselves.

FINALLY it’s here! The book trailer for the Tilling Passions series. Thanks to the very talented Lex Valentine who created this for me …

All three books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You know, it occurred to me I’ve never shouted out about my print book Dangerous Affairs. It’s a print anthology of BLIND HER WITH BLISS, DECEIVE HER WITH DESIRE and CHEAT HER WITH CHARM.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite lines from these stories:

BLIND HER WITH BLISS:
1. The loss of her best friend had ripped away a piece of her heart and Julie doubted the ache it left in its wake would ever subside.

2. Wind whistled past the tinted visor of Damon Corey’s helmet, but it couldn’t muffle the roar of the chrome dual exhaust. Noise equaled power, and at the moment, he had both.

3. If you’re looking for the person I was last night, well, you’re in for a big surprise. He’s as fake as Santa Claus.”
The tip of her tongue darted out to wet her full lips. “I still believe in Santa Claus.”
She would.

4. Until she understood how Damon, Jason and Elvis were connected—-and Julie did believe they all knew each other—-she would troll the waters of Damon’s sexual past with caution. No sense baiting a shark without the right equipment to catch him.

DECEIVE HER WITH DESIRE:
5. “I did a nice job? Me? You were the one sneaking up like some pirate looking for lost treasure.”
The woman had no idea how close to the truth she was.

6. “We’ll get the drug arrest straightened out, Dee. Don’t worry,” said Julie.
And just like that the family unit solidified as the Tilling clan circled the wagons.

7. “Too much vending machine coffee and not enough sleep.” He popped a couple of tablets. Yeah, not even close to the truth. The fact was, when the Jameson deal went down, there was no way Ayden was going to be able to walk away from the sexy redhead who’d crawled into his bed and wrapped herself around his heart.

CHEAT HER WITH CHARM:
8. Meghan Tilling’s body quaked with fear and the bone-chilling thirty-eight degrees of the cooler where she was trapped. She pressed her forehead against the icy metal of the door, her palm caressing its pebbled surface, trying to fight the panic lurking like a sinister shadow and threatening to overwhelm her in despair.

9. Peter had lied to Meghan about staying put in a hotel today. He’d lied to the guy at the rental counter at the airport about a family emergency just to get one of the last four wheel drive vehicles left in the lot. More importantly, he’d lied to himself that this whole damn catastrophe-waiting-to-happen wasn’t going to derail his relationship with his fiancée.

10. She wasn’t sure how it sounded, but Peter’s own embarrassment and hurt added to the confusion clouding their discussion. “I didn’t say that. I—”
“No, you didn’t say anything. Your expression says it all.”
“Peter, if it’s something you want to try, I’m willing to—”
“Forget it.” Peter held up his hands as if to shield himself from her judgment. “I just thought it might be fun to try something different.” He backed away from her. “You’re right. It’s not something normal couples do. Seriously, just forget I mentioned it.”

11. And though Peter loved his fiancée with a fierceness that clawed at his soul, lately even Meghan’s love couldn’t fill the growing chasm in his heart. He wanted it to. God, how he’d tried to ignore the gnawing in his gut–the cold emptiness that was sated only when Meghan was in his arms.

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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?

I’m hanging out today on the beach with Jane Ormerod talking about favorite authors and drinking Mai Tais.

You can also visit me at a new Logline Blog. Where they’re featuring BLIND HER WITH BLISS (which is still FREE at Amazon and Barnes & Noble)

And I don’t know if you’ve been having trouble accessing my blog and website, but there seems to be something amiss in the coding somewhere. My webmistress (whom I absolutely adore) thinks the problem is somewhere in the blog files on GoDaddy. Unfortunately she doesn’t work with WordPress and the wonderful person who did the original coding is no longer in the business. I’m working hard to find a new blogmistress. In the meantime, be patient if you can’t seem to find me. I’m still here and hopefully will have the problem corrected soon!

And in other promotional news:
DANGEROUS AFFAIRS, the Tilling Passions anthology is now available in PRINT!

Back Cover Information:
BLIND HER WITH BLISS
She’s trying to find herself. He’s attempting to hide. Together they’ll discover a truth that threatens them both…

Investigating the death of her best friend, uptight accountant, JULIE TILLING, discovers an erotic world of adult nightclubs and Internet intrigue. When shock jock DAMON COREY rocks her world in a wild night of lust, she wonders if she’s found love…or the key to solving a murder.

DECEIVE HER WITH DESIRE
A woman determined to protect her heart. An agent hell bent on proving himself. One night that will change their lives forever…

Landscaper, DEIRDRE TILLING had no way of knowing that attending her friend’s party would throw her into a dangerous world of corrupt businessmen and police stings. Of course her sexual romp with undercover DEA agent, AYDEN SCOTT only pushes her deeper into the drug smuggling ring running up the Maine coast. As the heat rises between Deirdre and Ayden, one thing becomes painfully obvious…their relationship has jeopardized his mission and now someone wants them both dead.

CHEAT HER WITH CHARM
He’s got a secret past. She has dreams for their future. Together they have a problem that may just kill them both…

Floral designer, MEGHAN TILLING, has been in love with her fiancé since college. With her business, his promotion and a family illness, she’s finding the demands on her time are keeping them apart. PETER MADDOCK loves his fiancée with a fierceness that claws at his soul, but finding answers to his past becomes an obsession he can’t ignore. When bizarre accidents threaten Meghan’s life, he wonders if his secrets have finally caught up with him. Can they both discover the truth without paying the ultimate price …their lives?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you’ll check it out. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

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 everyone! Sundays I share 6 sentences from one of my books. (My apologies about last week, bad weather and circumstances made it impossible for me to post.) But since so many visitors enjoyed Cheat Her With Charm the last few times I posted, I thought I’d share six more from another perspective…

Crystal wanted desperately to know what motivated the handsome stranger from the internet and how much he truly knew about her. But whatever his reason—curiosity or a need for a relationship—she realized she wanted a more personal involvement in this man’s life.

Perhaps that was why she’d invited the guy to MIRL. Something about his conversations had made him sound sad, lonely—desperate. Something she definitely could relate to. At this point in her life, Crystal needed to be needed.

Click HERE to check out other authors from SIX SENTENCE SUNDAY. And thank you everyone for all your comments. They really mean a lot.

As a continuation of last week’s six, I thought I’d share another from Cheat Her With Charm from the hero’s perspective.

Peter didn’t want to admit he hoped meeting a strange woman in the honeymoon suite of a Boston hotel would fill the desperate void in his heart. He knew what people would think and what conclusions they’d draw if they suspected his deception. To hell with them. No one understood what he was going through. And even if they did, it didn’t matter.

He was like a train whose conductor had thrown the wrong switch—compelled to continue on this course until the bitter end.

I know it looks bad, but you should check it out … things aren’t always what they seem in romance novels.

Be sure to check HERE for all kinds of other authors joining in on SIX SENTENCE SUNDAY.

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