Happy January, Everyone!
It doesn't seem possible that another decade is upon us. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun, and if how fast 2019 went by is any indication, 2020 is about to get crazy.
And, what better way to kick off 2020 than with a new book announcement. Not only a new book, but a new series, and an amazing co-write with one of my favorite people on the planet. Geri Glenn. We've kept this secret under wraps for a few months now, but we are so excited to finally make the announcement now that we have a GORGEOUS cover ready to go. The debut title in our new series is hot, hot, hot, and we can't wait until release day. Stay tuned for more information about this series.
I am also working on both Demons & Desires and Devil's Queen. No definitive release date just yet, but I will be announcing them as soon as I send them off for editing.
On top of that, I do have a few other books up my sleeves that might just be coming this year as well. New series. New genre! All kinds of good things coming.
2020 is my year, and I can't wait to see where it takes me.
See you next month!
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May 2020 marks my fifth anniversary as a published author, and honestly, it seems that it was just yesterday that I published Damaged. My very first book. My HORRIBLY written first book. One that isn't available anymore because.. yeah, that horrible part I just mentioned up there. The story was my first escape from mourning my father's loss. One that I wrote in three weeks without a clue about how hard writing really is as a second career. It's easy to write a book and hit publish these days. It's even harder to watch your book get torn to shreds because you just didn't know or even understand the dynamics of your reader base. Which brings me to this month's topic. 10 things that I wish I had known before I published my first book. This comprehensive list is something I've been thinking about writing for awhile. Not only for myself as a reminder of how far I've come as an author, but to maybe those of you reading this that are struggling or even thinking about writing that first book.
1. Write For Yourself
I think this was the absolute hardest lesson that I had to learn after publishing. Everyone has an opinion. Good, bad, and the indifferent. Some like cliffhangers. Some don't. Others like the taboo. Other's want that Happily Ever After like there's no tomorrow. Every reader is different, and you can't please everyone. Read that last part again. You can't please everyone. Write the story that you want to write, and how you want it to end. You can always put trigger warnings in the blurb, but that's a completely different topic for another day.
2. Bad Reviews: Do NOT Engage
One of the hardest things you will have to do is learn to deal with bad reviews. It also goes hand in and with number one. There's always going to be someone who doesn't like it. Everyone's personally tastes vary, and it goes back to that pleasing everyone thing again. One of the worst reviews I've ever gotten was someone who was just appalled that one of the characters of the Heaven's Rejects MC was a fire bug. This review ripped me up and down for allowing such a person to go unchecked in that fictional world. The icing on the cake was that she ended it with thanking all fireman for what they do. Don't get me wrong, I have a very healthy admiration for the men and women who are firemen, but this reviewer was equating a fictional story to real life. It's not the same. I am writing a story, but to her... it might have been real. Which is why I encourage authors to not engage bad reviews.
They hurt like hell, but it's not worth it. There are reviewers out there that live to rip a book to shreds, and they do not give one rip about how you think they're wrong. It's their opinion. Just like you have your own. One the biggest pieces of advice I can give to you is to not engage them. Fume all your want and vent to your close friends, but do not post anything about it on social media or even respond to their reviewers with a comment. It's just not worth the trouble.
3. Finding the Right Team
You likely see all the time on social media where an author is looking for a new editor, personal assistant, cover designer, etc. I know I do, and I've been in their position multiple times over the last five years. Finding your "tribe" for all aspects for your books is almost as hard as writing the book itself. I have found that having someone on your team that isn't trust-worthy or as qualified as you originally though for the job puts you at a major disadvantage both personally and financially. If your reviews constantly ding you for your editing, it might be time to find a new editor. Same goes for all of your book related services. Editing and cover designer at the two biggest things readers mention in a bad review. Well, outside the story in general. If you're seeing those two things consistently, you don't have the right team of people, and that could mean you need to make necessary changes. Books that are riddled with mistakes or covers that are just plain messy will hurt your sales. It can even hurt your reputation as an author because readers won't recommend your books to others. You have to do what's best for your business. That's the bottom line. Surrounding yourself with the right team is key to that.
The other major bullet point under this topic that is you can always go back and fix your mistakes. Remember me mentioning how horrible that first book I wrote, I'm currently in the process of fixing it right now and re-releasing it. You CAN fix it. Just don't wait until you're too far down the rabbit hole to right the ship.
This one has been a major eye-opening experience for me. When I released Damaged, I had it in my head you can't heavily advertise your book until it's released. WRONG! You should be advertising your book for months in advance of the release. When I first started publishing, Facebook group takeover parties and posting in large promotion groups on Facebook were a great way of advertising. Five years later, they are basically extinct thanks to the algorithms that hide everything anymore on social media. And, I mean everything. Posts, photos, links. None of it gets seen anymore especially in those promo groups. I recently went through my groups and removed myself from nearly every single pimp group I had joined over the years. Not only did it clean up my timeline, but now, I am seeing more relative content that I actually want to see.
But, how can you advertise on social media if posts aren't seen. Ads. Paid ads should be a major part of your budget. Done correctly, paid ads on Facebook and even Bookbub can help you sell more books than no ads at all because of the audience targeting. You can select your ad to be delivered to readers who follow authors who write in the same genre as you or even readers who use specific reading devices. Ads get your book in front of readers looking for books like yours. The downside is learning how to create eye catching ads, and not spending thousands with little return. I've been taking ad courses over the last two years, and learning absolutely everything I can about what makes a good ad. It's made a major difference for me.
5. Book Covers
Your cover is the very first thing that a reader sees. If it doesn't fit with the genre you're writing it, the chances are the readers will skip on past it. For example, you have dark romance book you've just released, but the cover is a couple laying in a green field with horses. As a reader, I would see that cover screams contemporary romance. Not dark. You've excluded yourself just off the first look. Readers probably won't even bother to click on your book or read the blurb. Knowing the trends of your genre is key to your success. It's great to stand out among the crowd. It's another thing to hide what is possibly a great story behind a mismatched cover.
This again goes back to advertising. Not all paid promotions are the same. In fact, many of the promotional platforms that I have used over the years have become less and less effective. Blogs used to be a huge staple in my advertising plan. But again, they are being stifled on social media platforms because of the algorithms. I used to dream about having one of my books featured on the top dog level of blogs. Now, I don't even see a post from them. In fact, many of the blog leaders in the romance genre have stepped away from blogging all together. It's sad to see such an important platform for authors go by the way side, but we can't control how our social media platforms pick and choose how we can share our content.
But, you have two great options at your disposal that you can control. Your website and your newsletter. The biggest of that being your newsletter. Since 2017, I have focused a lot of energy in building my newsletter subscribers organically. What does that mean? I have targeted those readers who already like my books. I've done that my keeping my back matter of my books current and by including a link to my newsletter. Your newsletter is delivered directly to the readers inbox. You can't say the same for social media. The same goes for your website. If you are providing your readers with exclusive content on your website, you have more of a chance of them seeing the information you want to deliver than you would say posting on your Facebook page.
Social media is still very key in how we interact with our readers, but you can't control it. By investing your time isn't something that isn't controlled by someone else, you're making better use of your time, and delivering the right content to those who WANT to see it.
7. Value Your Time
I can't stress this enough. Value your time. Value your work. Readers nowadays have gotten accustomed to indie e-books being priced at $0.99 even for full length books. You are basically giving away your hard work away for free. Book piracy takes away enough as it is. Don't do that to yourself. At most, you're only making $0.35 per book. If you've got all of your books priced that way, you're hurting yourself and your bottom line.
And, I'm not talking about putting books on sale because it's a great tool to bring in new readers to your series. Short term sales are great, but short term sale is the key. Pricing is another big thing you need to research. Find what works best for your and your reader base. If you have a long series, make the first book $0.99 as a way to draw in a new reader, but don't do that for your entire series.
This is your BUSINESS. Treat it like one. You don't see longstanding retailers like Apple handing out free iPads on the hope that consumer will buy something else to make up for it.
8. Book Signings: The Good and The Bad
I love going to book signings. Getting the chance to meet readers that I have only had the pleasure of talking to on social media and getting to spend time with author friends is one of the biggest draws for me. Signings are fun, but they are expensive, especially if you are traveling a long distance to get here. Fun doesn't pay the bills. That being said, if you are going into a book signing thinking that you will make back all that you have invested into it... take a deep breath because 99% of the time, you won't even be close. I can count on one hand how many times I have made an actual profit on my signing investment. One hand. I've been to at least fifteen signings in the past year that I can name off the top of my head. Maybe three have I come out in the green. That's 20%. Many other authors will likely tell you the exact same thing. Signings are great marketing tools, but if you walk into a signing thinking that you are going to make big bucks think again. You won't. And, if you are working on a very tight budget, there are other ways to advertise your books that may be more cost effective than attending a signing, which is my next point.
9. Quit Spending Money You Don't Have
I don't know how many times I have seen authors posting about the mountains of debt that they are in because of their books. Admittedly, I was one of them for the first two years of my career. I wanted to be just like the authors at the top of field. I use promotion companies I couldn't afford. I went to signings where I was the only new author there and bought so much swag to give away that it took me years to finally hand it all out. It wasn't until I saw how much money I was really sinking into my then failing business at tax time that I realized what I was doing. You can seriously hurt your family's finances when you don't spend within your business budget. One of the best things I did was to start tracking my monthly sales in a spreadsheet and budgeting out what I wanted to spend it on months in advance. When I had excess, I saved it to use for future releases. Within a year, I turned my failing business in a profitable one that I have today. Even when sales are down, I have a reserve of money sat aside that can offset a bad months of sales. A safety net as you will. The bottom line is if you can't afford it, don't spend it. I don't care how much you love that exclusive photo. If your sales can't cover what you'd spend on it, just don't.
Another useful tool that I use is to try to find ways to cut my service costs when it comes to publishing. For me, it was learning to format my own books with Vellum. I was paying around $100-$200 a book on formatting alone. With Vellum, I took that $200 I would have put into formatting one book and reinvested it into a tool that will save me money in the long run. And in fact, it also gives me the ability to use formatting as a side business to generate more revenue for those authors who choose to not do it themselves. There are numerous ways that you can make your business profitable outside of writing books. Profits that you can then re-invest into your business and use to do things you weren't able to afford to do before like signings.
10. Stop Setting Unrealistic Deadlines
This one has been the hardest lesson of all for me to come to terms with. Working full-time in a stressful field and writing part-time is not easy. When you put yourself up against a deadline that you thought you could make three months ago, you're hurting yourself and your family. I don't care how many times I have talked about how I write well under pressure in the past. The truth is that it's not always the same for every book. This year has been a testament to that. Outside of a few small projects, I haven't been able to finish a single full-length title. Something always gets in the way. And, it came at a cost when I lost my pre-order rights for a year on Amazon for having to cancel a release. Long pre-orders are the most financially lucrative for me, and because I thought I could push and punish myself to get a book done, I paid the price. If you know you can't make a deadline, stop making them. Be more realistic on your writing schedule. Your loyal readers are always going to be there to support you if you have to push back a date. The best thing you can do for yourself is to actually look out for yourself. Don't punish yourself when you don't get many words down for your daily writing goal. It happens, and the more pressure you put yourself under, the harder it will be to get it done. Find a pace that works best for you and stick with it.
The author life is far from easy, but I hope that if you're reading this you can see that you aren't alone in your struggles. We've all been there at some point. Pushing yourself to put out a book or even trying to write to market in a genre that you are just not comfortable with is not the answer. Write what you love. Be who you want to be. Find yourself. That's how you truly exceed.
Happy December, Everyone!
It's finally here. Christmas! My favorite time of the year. The house is decorated to the hilt. Trees and lights as far as the eye can see. Jimmy Buffet's Christmas Island is blasting through the stereo. The power bill is skyrocketing because... I like lights. LOL. I can hear Mr. Paige already grumbling about it, but I just ignore him. I live for this time of the year, and I can't help it. Reliving those childhood traditions just brings a smile to my face, and even more so as I introduce our nieces to a piece of our family history. Do you have a favorite Christmas memory? Mine would have to be listening to the scanner for Grissom Air Force Base's Christmas Eve Santa sighting report. I used to listen so intently then drag my parents home because I was not about to be skipped that year for presents because they were lolly gagging at my granny and paw's house.
Speaking of trees, as promised, I have included the video of my office tree with so many of the ornaments that I have received from readers this year. Each one a special token of support. From the handmade to the ornament, they are all beautiful in their own way. I can't thank you all enough for helping make my year round office tree so special. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of all the love and support I have behind me. Even when I can't find the words to write. I know y'all have my back.
Because this is the last newsletter of 2019, I want to touch quickly on what I have planned for 2020. Books are coming. Demons and Desires and Devil's Queen being two of the first releases. Dates are still TBD, but early 2020 is the goal for both. I will announce the pre-orders when I get to a certain point in the book. I also have a few other projects in the works, but I am not ready announce those yet. I even have a surprise return trip back to my very first book, Damaged, which has been off the market since 2016. It's about time I finish that story.
Oh... did I forget I have a little present for you all? I didn't? Shame on me! For those of you who didn't get a chance to read Silver Belles from the Christmas at the Clubhouse Anthology last year... you can read it now.. FOR FREE! My gift to you.
Claim your free copy here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/akyldlfgsa
I hope you're ready for a fantastic 2020!
See you next year!
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Happy November, Everyone!
If you follow me on Facebook or just about any other of my social media platforms, you may have seen a post that I began circulating around mid-week last week. Tragedy has struck members of our chosen family, but before I talk about, I want to go back to the beginning.
In late 2009, Mr. Paige, then my fiance, headed off to California with full-ride scholarship for his Master's degree, and a dream that I would be joining him in the summer after our wedding. Living apart was one of the hardest times of my life. We coped the best we could, but it wasn't easy planning a wedding when one half of your partnership was on the opposite end of the country. A month into his move, I received a call that I never expected.
Glen had hurt himself on a youth group trip to Six Flags. He assured me he was okay, but turns out, he wasn't. He struggled for weeks to get medical care and an answer for his shoulder when a guardian angel came into our life in the form of our friend, Pat. A woman in her 70s who was a board member at my husband's church. She showed up to Glen's apartment with a few of the church men in tow, and moved him into her house while he sought medical treatment. She drove him to class, helped him do his laundry, typed papers for him. etc. You get the idea. Throughout the months he lived there, they became close. You see, Pat, had lost her to youngest son to drug addiction. Her husband followed soon. After losing two important people in her life, Pat began giving back. Her home became a shelter to those who needed help. Friends in need became her family.
Even after Glen was forced to move back home for medical treatment, she never let him give back her house key. This wonderful woman even flew in for our wedding that next summer, and even came home for the weddings of friends who had come with us on our annual trip out to see her. Her home became our home. A refuge for us all.
In July 2018, our annual trip was something much different. The minute we arrived, Pat's beautiful smile was a little dimmer. You see, Pat's breast cancer that she had bravely fought off the year before was back. This time in her lungs and very aggressively growing. Something that she knew weeks before we arrived, but hadn't told us. We made it a mission to spend as much time with her as we could that week because I knew how bad it really was.
Two weeks after we got home, she passed away. Her death hurt us both so much. Hurt the friends who she had welcomed into her home and life as family. But, her legacy wasn't over yet. Her son, Darren, continued her life's work by offering her now vacant home to our friends and their family, filling it with love once more.
That is until last week when a plane tragically crashed into the master's bedroom, and destroying the house. With a friend's husband and 18 month old son inside the home. Thankfully, they escaped, but their home. Our home was gone. Watching the national news coverage brought so many memories back for me this week. The love we shared in that house now gone. Our memories there the only thing left. You can read more about the crash here.
Until I realized tonight that it was just a house. Not the definition of her life. Her spirit and her love is still with us, and a part of me truly believes that she kept our friend's safe. That she protected them from harm. The house may be gone, but her love will always live on.
Now, I know that this isn't the kind of story you expected to read this month, but it's the story that was on my heart when I sat down to start writing this month's newsletter. I hope that you found hope in it because even if you lose every physical possession you own, life and love is all that matters. And with Thanksgiving this month, I can't help, but feel thankful for Pat being in our lives and how she impacted those around her.
Hug your love ones a little tighter today.
“I’m going to miss this, Iz,” he laments. His voice, trailing off as if he has something else to say. “Sitting here with you. The town. Just everything.” He pauses. “Maybe, I shouldn’t go.”
“This is your dream, Alex. You can’t just turn your back now. This is your chance to change your life. Why wouldn’t you go?”
“You,” he answers quietly, but without a single bit of hesitation. All the while, not looking at me. My breath hitches, as my chest seizes. Why now? After all this time. Is it because he’s leaving, and he’s trying to check another girl off his list, or is this one last desperate act of a boy finally admitting what I have been feeling all this time? Neither seems likely, but yet, here we are. Alex adjusts to face me, and I notice his knees, bouncing with his nervous tick.
“Me? Alex, are you crazy?” I fire back. “There is absolutely no reason why leaving me behind should be any reason for you not to chase this. I’m not that special. There’s bound to be hundreds of girls already lining up in Nashville, waiting to take my place.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Iz. No one can replace you,” Alex leans in. His face is so dangerously close to mine. “None of this makes sense without you.”
“What are you saying?” My voice is soft and cautious.
“Come with me.” He leans in closer. His lips so close to mind that I feel the heat rolling off of them. I move closer, but the front porch light flickers on. I turn to see Dad standing behind the screen door, scowling. I stammer out an excuse, but when I turn back trying to explain Alex’s presence on our porch yet again in the middle out the night, he’s gone.
Falling for your best friend, who just happens to be an up and coming country star, is probably not the best idea. Not even being a blip on his romantic radar? Yeah, shoot me now.
Growing up in Alex McCloud’s shadow was far from easy. Then, he blew out of town, before the ink was even dry on his recording contract, with empty promises of keeping in touch that he has never once kept. Some best friend, right?Now, he sings his heart out to millions of fans, and I milk cows on my family’s struggling dairy farm.
Well, that is until Alex strolls back into town, and he’s got more than writing his new album on his mind. I know from experience that I need to guard my heart, or I may end up being just another girl in a country song. It’s just harder than I thought, trying to get my brain and my heart on the same page.
Grab your copy now and meet 24 swoon worthy book boyfriends and decide which one is your favorite‼️
Its still $0.99 but only until the 25th!!
Apple Books: https://apple.co/31OEId
You may be wondering about the title, and why I would want to blog about my not so perfect wedding. Why would I want to share about one of the scariest times in my life? Sure, the pictures above look happy and blissful, but that day almost never happened.
It's weird thinking about to 9 years ago today, and our wedding day. The flowers fragrance filling the old church my husband served as minister. Our family and friends gathered around us, surrounding us with love and support. A perfect dress. But, the only thing out of place was my soon to be husband, carefully being helped to the alter by his groomsmen. You see a our wedding was delayed a week. My husband the Tuesday before our original wedding date began experiencing severe pain and swelling in his leg. He thought he'd strained it at a church league softball. That it was just the remnants of one of his horrible night time leg cramps. I was at work over an hour away, unable to see his pain and to access what might be going on. It was until that night when I arrived at the home that would soon be ours together that I realized something was very wrong. My soon to be husband, stubborn as always, assured me it was fine, but when he struggled to walk, it took my dad coming over to help me convince him to go to the emergency room. It was there his condition went from concerning to life threatening.
He had a blood clot in his leg, but that wasn't the most concerning part of it. It was the at least six other smaller clots that had passed through his heart and embedded into his lungs. The next few days were a blur. Spending my days in the hospital with him. My nights at our hopeful home with my cat, and re-planning our wedding. The biggest event of my life on hold until we knew whether or not Glen would make it through. After an experimental procedure, he was released, but we weren't out of the woods yet. As much as I wanted to postpone our wedding further, Glen insisted we would get married the next week.
And, we did. On my 24th birthday. Of course, things weren't perfect. Glen was restricted in the length of time he could stand so we had to have a stool for him to sit on for the ceremony. He had to walk with a cane when he did walk, and the only time he stood unaided was our first dance at our reception.
That was not so perfect wedding, but I wouldn't trade it for the world because I almost didn't get to be his wife. I almost didn't get to marry my childhood best friend. The boy I had fallen for in the 5th grade while he read the morning weather report over the intercom, and spent years admiring after him until he finally saw me for me. I may write happily ever afters for a living, but the best one of all is my own.
How do you describe the indescribable? That’s pretty much how I feel about how this week has gone. I knew when I was asked to join the Love, Loyalty, and Mayhem Anthology that there was something different about this group of women. Something special. The potential to do great things clear from day one. Potential that now only ten days post release has far exceeded any of our wishful dreams and near impossible realities.
I’m sure if you following on any of my social media platform you’ve seen the news, but I can’t help myself from shouting about it again. Not only did LLM hit USA Today’s Bestseller list, #28 I might add, but it also made #10 on Wall Street Journal’s list as well.
Writing those words now associated with my name seem surreal. I never thought in a million years that I would be able to claim two titles. Let alone one, and for the same book.
This means so much more than I could ever explain. After a tough year of self-doubt, stress, medical issues, and battles with my disappearing muse, I can feel myself falling back in love with writing. It’s like the veil of darkness that has been shrouding me since the end of last year is finally being lifted. And that is in part due to the response of Love, Loyalty, and Mayhem. Seeing how the twenty of us worked perfectly and harmoniously to make this anthology happen gives me hope about the future. We accomplished so much together that these amazing women are no longer just friends within the author community. They are a part of my extended family.
Just like every single person who purchased, shared, reviewed, commented, etc for our book baby. Without you, achieving these goals would have been impossible. Without you, our charity couldn’t be benefiting for our donation. I can’t say officially how much that will be yet as we are still waiting for numbers to come in, but it’s an amount that can bring great hope to those who face bullying on a daily basis.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. From all of our hearts for giving us this opportunity to help others.
I am so excited to see the month of July. Why you might ask? Vacation, of course. It's been over a year since I had any length of time off from work, and currently, I'm enjoying day six of my two week vacation in Orlando, Florida. I know it's not exactly the best time of year weather wise to visit the sunny and humid air of Florida, but a cold drink and a dip in the resort pool takes my mind right off of it. We have a great itinerary in store, and I might just be able to squirrel away a few hours to find some time to write. I find that I do my best plotting away from home. One of our annual trips out to California is the sole inspiration behind the Heaven's Rejects Series. It's not every day that you see a bunch of MC patched members taking their little girls in princess dresses to Disneyland. Mr. Paige just has to worry about me being the princess dress wearing adult Disney fanatic when we go in a few days, but he still loves. Weird and all.
I have something else to be excited about this month. Love, Loyalty, and Mayhem is LIVE! This anthology has been an amazing experience for me personally to get to work with so many talented authors. This is bar none my favorite anthology to work on to date. Not to mention the fact that all of the proceeds are going to a great cause. As someone who was bullied during nearly all of my childhood years, I am proud to be supporting a great cause, Bikers Against Bullies USA. If you'd like to find our more about their organization, you can do so by clicking here.
Don't forget, I have one more HUGE release coming up next month with the Sweetest Obsessions Box Set. It has been over a year in the making, and I can't wait to see how we do.
See you next month!
I know in my last few blog posts that I have touched lightly on the stress that comes with being an author. Life behind the fictional is far from easy. Every single time you sit down to put down a few thousand words on your new work in progress (WIP) are slivers of time away from your family, your friends, your responsibilities, and more. Being a working author like myself, it's even more difficult to find the time to write. Add in medical issues, and you have a firestorm of issues that just keep coming and coming until it feels like my brain is about to explode from the pressure.
I know many people have been asking over the last few months where my new books are. The books that I had been teasing since early 2019. The answer? They're coming. When, I don't know.
That's the hard truth about working in a creative field. Real life tends to supersede the fictional. Muses disappears. Words dry up. It happens to the best of us, and for me, it's been happening for over a year. Any time I sit down to start working on Demons & Desires or Devil's Queen, every ounce of motivation and creativity dry up. Poof! Gone. I hate it. I hate that I can't deliver on my promises. I hate that I can't get back to my early days where I could hammer out a story in a month, and be so utterly in love with it. Other than the two short stories that I had started long before this hit, I have nothing. A few paragraphs out of a several thousand words that I haven't just scraped.
Something has to change. It has to. I have too many stories floating around in my head to be told to not put them down. I have an entire series plotted out on paper that needs to be written and published. Finding that place again isn't going to be easy. The first step? Two weeks away on vacation where I don't think about writing. Our annual vacation to California is where Heaven's Rejects were born, and I have to hope that vacation will help me finish the series with one final book.