Saturday, December 28, 2013

Most Self-Published Books Don't Sell

I've heard, many times, people say things like: "Most self-published books only sell a handful, to family and friends." Or: "Don't spend money on editing and cover art, you'll never sell enough to re-coup the costs."

This kind of talk rubs me the wrong way. I don't know why. I guess because I know so many authors selling really well on Amazon. I mean, REALLY well.

Let's take a look at some numbers.

Here's a current rough estimate of how many books you sell a day to get a certain rank on Amazon.

1 day/ rank 175,625
5 day/ rank 28,711
10 day/ rank 13,161
15 day/ rank 8,340
25 day/ rank 4,693
50 day/ rank 2,151
100 day/ rank 986
200 day/rank 452
300 day/ rank 287
400 day/ rank 207
500 day/ rank 161
1000 day/ rank 74
2000 day/ rank 34
3000 day/ rank 21

(Data gathered from here. From what authors are reporting, this gets you in the ballpark.)

Looking at that chart, that means if a self-published book has a rank of 13,161 or better, that book is selling 10 or more copies a day.

If that book is priced at $2.99, that's earning the author $600 (or more) each month.

Even if that book is priced at $.99, that's still earning $105 (or more) each month.

But if the rank is in the top 1,000, that means the author is selling in the 100 copies a day range. Wow. That's $1,000 a month for a 99 cent book, or $6,000 a month for a $2.99 book. That's some serious cash! You can't tell me those authors are only selling to family and friends. These are authors selling tons of books and earning real money.

Even at just 10 copies a day, that's selling 300 books a month. 3,600 books a year. You can't tell me those are only to family and friends. These are real authors selling real books to real customers.

Now, how many self-published books are actually selling? WAY more than those nay-sayers are leading you to believe. Here are links to books that are currently ranked better than 13,161 in the Amazon store.

This list is in no particular order, and of course the figures listed here will be outdated an hour after I type it, but I wanted to document the books and their current rankings as of the time of this post.

1. Reapers by Edward W. Robertson - Rank 1,576 - $2.99

2. The Breakers Series by Edward W. Robertson - Rank 257 - $.99

3. The Cutting Room by Edward W. Robertson - Rank 2,814 - $.99

4. Whiskey Sour by Liliana Hart - Rank 2,004 - $4.99

5. Whiskey for Breakfast by Liliana Hart - Rank 2,020 - $4.99

6. A Dirty Shame by Liliana Hart - Rank 582 - $4.99

7. Dirty Rotten Scoundrel by Liliana Hart - Rank 665 - $4.99

8. Shadows and Silk by Liliana Hart - Rank 1,608 - $4.99

9. Secrets and Satin by Liliana Hart - Rank 2,364 - $4.99

10. Sins and Scarlet Lace by Liliana Hart - Rank 765 - $.99

11. Sizzle by Liliana Hart - Rank 616 - $4.99

12. Kill Shot by Liliana Hart - Rank 3,112 - $4.99

13. Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey - Rank 285 - $5.99

14. The Italian Billionaires Twin Pack by Jennifer Blake - Rank 3,375 - $2.99

15. The Seasons Series by Denise Domning - Rank 4,478 - $2.99

16. Shoot to Kill (a boxed set with four indie authors) - Rank 457 - $.99

17. Magic, Myth and Majesty (a boxed set with seven indie authors) - Rank 2,763 - $.99

18. Pirate Hearts (boxed set with three indie authors) - Rank 1,868 - $.99

19. A Highlander for Christmas by Christina Skye and Debbie Mocomber - Rank 3,355 - $2.99

20. Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christiana Miller - Rank 4,585 - $3.99

21. Operation Breakout by Mark E. Cooper - Rank 5,007 - $4.99

22. King of Swords by Russel Blake - Rank 6,177 - $3.97

23. Jet by Russel Blake - Rank 1,858 - $2.99

24. Z-Risen by Timothy W. Long - Rank 3,716 - $3.99

25. Just Good Friends by Rosalind James - Rank 5,842 - $3.99

26. Just For Now by Rosalind James - Rank 1,094 - $.99

27. Circle of Thieves by C. Greenwood - Rank 2,940 - $2.99

28. The Godling Chronicles by Brian D. Anderson - Rank 8,910 - $2.99

29. Breaking Free by Theresa Reasor - Rank 4,260 - $2.99

30. SEAL the Deal by Sharon Hamilton - Rank 3,935 - $4.99

31. Westin's Chase by Cristin Harber - Rank 1,550 - $3.99

32. Secrets Collide by Kathleen Brooks - Rank 1,072 - $3.99

33. When Love Intrudes by Christi Snow - Rank 3,654 - $2.99

34. Cold Day in Hell by Jerrie Alexander - Rank 6,509 - $2.99

35. Ashes by Kelly Cozy - Rank 2,593 - $.99

36. With Werewolves Trilogy by K Matthew - Rank 4,059 - $.99

37. Power Revealed by Leah Berry - Rank 5,964 - $2.99

38. Random Acts of Crazy by Julia Kent - Rank 2,923 - $3.99

39. For Love or Legacy by Ruth Cardello - Rank 1,379 - $.99

40. Omega Rising by Joshua Dalzelle - Rank 5,263 - $.99

41. Omega Force by Joshua Dalzelle - Rank 8,168 - $2.99

42. Busted by Jean-Luc Cheri - Rank 3,276 - $.99

43. The Sitter Gets Fired by Jean-Luc Cheri - Rank 4,956 - $.99

44. A Special Favor by Jean-Luc Cheri - Rank 7,511 - $.99

45. The Perseid Collapse by Steven Konkoly - Rank 4,891 - $4.99

46. Mud and Gold by Shayne Parkinson - Rank 2,083 - $2.99

47. Settling the Account by Shayne Parkinson - Rank 2,565 - $2.99

48. A Second Chance by Shayne Parkinson - Rank 3,115 - $2.99

49. Peaches Monroe Trilogy by Mimi Strong - Rank 631 - $7.55

50. Another Chance by Ariadne Wayne - Rank 1,848 - $2.99

51. A Modern Witch by Debora Geary - Rank 622 - $3.99

52. Witches of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase - Rank 2,524 - $3.99

53. Demons of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase - Rank 4,644 - $3.99

54. Angels of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase - Rank 3,410 - $3.99

55. Redeeming the Amazon by L.V. Lewis - Rank 7,696 - $1.49

56. Betrayal of Thieves by C. Greenwood - Rank 1,927 - $2.99

57. Magic After Dark (Boxed Set with six authors) - Rank 150 - $.99

58. Once in a Lifetime (Boxed Set with four authors) - Rank 344 - $.99

59. Moon's Flower by Marie Hall - Rank 6,829 - $2.99

60. A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan - Rank 5,098 - $7.99

61. Hot Property by Susanne O'Leary - Rank 1,134 - $2.99

62. King and Kingdom by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 1,797 - $3.99

63. Heir in Exile by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 2,150 - $3.99

64. The King Takes a Bride by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 2,654 - $3.99

65. The Wrath of the King by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 2,939 - $3.99

66. The Royal Elite by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 4,585 - $3.99

67. A March of Kings by Morgan Rice - Rank 468 - $2.99

68. A Grant of Arms by Morgan Rice - Rank 1,551 - $2.99

69. A Song of Swords by Michael Ploof - Rank 2,148 - $4.99

70. Fledgling by Nicole Conway - Rank 394 - $.99

71. Secret Girlfriend by Bria Quinlan - Rank 4,656 - $3.99

72. The Academy by C.L. Stone - Rank 729 - $3.99

73. Guardians by Lola StVil - Rank 4,583 - $4.99

74. A Thankful Love by K. Victoria Chase - Rank 9,371 - $2.99

75. Chocolate, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 6,102 - $3.99

76. Fourteen Days Later by Sibel Hodge - Rank 9,799 - $.99

77. Trafficked by Sibel Hodge - Rank 5,192 - $2.99

78. Fashion, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 1,405 - $.99

79. Money, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 5,279 - $3.99

80. Voodoo, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 6,851 - $3.99

81. Six Months in Montana by Pamela M. Kelley - Rank 5,629 - $2.99

82. Don't Look Back by Christine Kersey - Rank 3,610 - $3.99

83. Elei's Chronicles by Chrystalla Thoma - Rank 7,931 - $.99

84. After the Storm by Maggie Dana - Rank 11,307 - $2.99

85. Supernatural Six (boxed set with six authors) - Rank 329 - $.99

86. One More Day by M. Malone - Rank 3,804 - $2.99

87. The Things I Do For You by M. Malone - Rank 8,160 - $4.99

88. He's the Man by M. Malone - Rank 5,792 - $4.99

89. The Alexanders Boxed Set by M. Malone - Rank 1,614 - $.99

90. Destiny by P.T. Michelle - Rank 12,836 - $4.99

91. A Taste For Passion by Patrice Michelle - Rank 8,032 - $.99

92. Sacrificed in Shadow by S.M. Reine - Rank 5,597 - $3.99

93. Colt by Jude Hardin - Rank 3,717 - $2.99

94. Fatal Reaction by Belinda Frisch - Rank 8,658 - $2.99

95. Loving the Marquess by Suzanna Medeiros - Rank 8,547 - $3.99

96. Dimitri by Roxie Rivera - Rank 3,140 - $3.99

97. Yuri by Roxie Rivera - Rank 2,601 - $3.99

98. Nikolai by Roxie Rivera - Rank 2,208 - $3.99

99. Sergei by Roxie Rivera - Rank 2,050 - $3.99

100. A Very Russian Christmas by Roxie Rivera - Rank 1,521 - $.99

101. In Kelly's Corner by Roxie Rivera - Rank 6,046 - $3.99

102. Seduced by the Loan Shark by Roxie Rivera - Rank 7,475 - $.99

103. Just This Once by Rosalind James - Rank 1,568 - $.99

104. Just For Fun by Rosalind James - Rank 6,751 - $3.99

105. Just My Luck by Rosalind James - Rank 4,559 - $3.99

106. Welcome to Paradise by Rosalind James - Rank 4,484 - $3.99

107. Nothing Personal by Rosalind James - Rank 2,276 - $3.99

108. Lord Runthorne's Dilemma by Sarah-Jane Steele - Rank 8,368 - $.99

And, a bunch more here, with the top 100 Indie Books listed in the Amazon store.

I could go on and on, posting links, but I don't want to waste my time. My point is, self-published books DO sell. Lots and lots of them are selling.

This goes right along with what I've been saying all along. Customers don't care if a book is self-published or not. They just want to read a good book.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Author's Panel

I'm thrilled to announce I have been invited to sit on an author's panel at our local bookstore, Chapters Books & Gifts, on Sunday, September 23rd. The event is from 1:00 to 3:00pm. You can listen to the panel live at

The panel will address such issues as using social media to market, contracts with publishers, self publishing, ebook sales, and taxes.

The other members on the panel are: Connie Reimers-Hild, author, entrepreneur and educator with the UNL Kimmel Education and Research Center; Jim Hild, author and Facebook guru; James Reisdorff, South Platte Press; Dennis Kahl, Seward County Extension agent; Annette Snyder, author; Liz Flores and Kathy Prevo, educator with the Nebraska Department of Revenue.

Again, you can access this panel discussion live on the website:

See ya there!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

So You Got a One Star Review...

Yes, it is the bane of an author's existence. The dreaded one star review. Someone didn't like your book. How can that be? You worked so many hours on that book your buns became molded to the shape of your chair. You wrote, and re-wrote, and slaved away for months...maybe even years.

And someone just left you a bad review! Unthinkable!

But wait, before you go into a tirade and tear up all your unfinished manuscripts, vowing to never again throw your pearls out into the public for desecration...take a deep breath. Don't do anything rash. And whatever you do, don't go post about it on your favorite online forum. Those threads usually end up with some well-intentioned writers saying horrible things about the reviewer. (Remember, these reviewers use the Internet too. The last thing you want is a mob of angry readers targeting you because you started a reviewer bashing thread.)

Every author will need to deal with a one star review sooner or later. That's just part of this whole writing gig. And I admit, it stinks. Some reviews make you feel like giving up, or question your ability to write. Some might even make you feel depressed.

Never fear, I've got the perfect thing to make you feel better. When you've gotten that horrible, terrible review saying your characters are cardboard and your writing is worse than a first grader's, come on over here and read these:

"I thought that this book was totally dumb from beginning to end. It had absolutely no plot whatsoever." - One star review left on Carrie, by Stephen King

"This book is the worst book ever. The only reason a person should read this book is if they are forced to or they like to hear about thieves." - One star review left on Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens

"that book is the most boring i have ever read in my life. i regret that i read it and i suggest everybody not reading it. reading that book is absolutely waste of time !!!" - One star review left on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by JK Rowling

"The story read like all the sentaces has been thrown it a blender and then reassembled into a book." - One star review left on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

"...I generally try to find something redeeming about books, but I honestly have nothing good to say about this drivel. Meyer writes as if the reader is an absolute idiot who has to be told every sing tiny little thing; we are never given the chance to interpret what's going on in the characters' heads. There is no mystery, no intrigue, no suspense. The characters themselves are cut-and-dried, stereotypical, and maddeningly unoriginal." One star review left on Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

 ""The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is a tedious, exasperating, and mind-numbing story. This is my first Mark Twain book, and it's surely to be my last, as I was sorely disappointed. While the grammar and dialect are supposed to be written realistically, I found it cumbersome. The adventures changed constantly, and if Twain had written with one adventure in mind, then my attention span would not have diminished. When Tom Sawyer entered the book permanently, I became irritated, because when he arrived, the story became prolonged and trivial. I feel I wasted my time reading this book. I do not recommend." One star review left on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

"I agree with the other negative reviewers. There is nothing remotely satisfying about any of these books. Not only is the premise of the first book rather disgusting, the second two are just horrible. I had to force myself to finish the third one. I'm posting this here in the first book to save readers some valuable time!" One star review left on The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

"A beautifully illustrated book based on poor scientific knowledge. Butterflies do not come from cocoons - moths do. When butterfly caterpillars pupate, they do not spin silk to make a cocoon. If you want your child to learn inaccurate science, use this book with them." One star review left on The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

One last note. I'm not delighting in the bad reviews left on other books. It just helps to know that even the best books get bad reviews. Don't give up writing. Bad reviews happen. Even to the best of them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

KDP Select

The KDP Select program can help a book reach readers, but there are some things you can do to have a more successful period in the program. First, let's go over the basics.

What is KDP Select?

KDP Select is a program that Amazon offers to those ebooks uploaded through Kindle Direct Publishing. If you have a publisher, you may or may not have the option to join Select. You will have to talk to your publisher. If you uploaded your own book to Amazon, you can enroll in KDP Select through your dashboard.

In order to enroll in KDP Select, you will have to agree to sell your book exclusively through Amazon for 90 days. If you have nice sales on B&N or Smashwords, you probably won't want to try KDP Select. (I'd say if 20% or more of your sales come from outside of Amazon, don't do it.) If most of your sales come through Amazon, or if you've got a new book, I think KDP Select can be beneficial.

What benefits do I get?

The best reason to join KDP Select would be to take advantage of the option to put your book free for a short time period. You will get five free days - and they can be used together or split up. Putting your book free on Amazon can get a lot of eyes on the book, and can increase your sales after the book goes back to it's regular price. The second benefit is that your book will be enrolled in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, in which you will get paid for each time your book is borrowed. The payment fluctuates, but usually ends up being between $1.70 and $2.40 per borrow.

How do I have a successful free promotion?

Just scheduling your book to go free without doing anything else will not give you good results. You might get lucky and get some downloads, but for the most part you'll need to work at it. Here are a few important steps to take in order to have a successful promotion.

1. Look at your genre. Genre does matter. I wish all books were created equal, but unfortunately they're not. If your book is written for a niche market, it's possible that going free won't help you. The most successful books are the ones that have 'bestseller' potential. Romance, thrillers and mysteries work really well. I've seen a lot of cookbooks and some inspirational books do well also. However, there are always those quirky books that break the rules and break out dispite the genre. My basic rule is this: If your book is selling okay - 1 to 4 books a day - I would not try going free with a niche genre. If your book is selling poorly or not at all, it wouldn't hurt to try a free promotion.

2. Get professional. Professional presentation is highly important, and if you can't do it alone, hire it done. Your cover, description, and writing all need to be professional and all work together to sell the book. The cover needs to tell the genre at a glance, and needs to make people want to click on the book. Get outside opinions on this, from people who won't just say, "I like it," just because they like you. If the cover screams "homemade," you won't be able to give it away. Definitely hire a cover designer if you're not a graphic artist, or can't fake it good enough to make people think you're a graphic designer. The description needs to be brief, and yet give the reader enough information to want to read more. It needs a hook. Get outside help with this as well. (Have I told you lately to join a critique group? This would be a great time to have one!) And while we're on the subject, have your critique group make sure your book starts in the right place, and has a hook. And don't go free unless you've hired an editor, or you'll get bad reviews. You can always edit the book later, but the bad reviews that talk about errors in the book stay forever.

3. Make sure you have reviews. Going free with a book that has no reviews will not give you good results. (I'll talk about what "good results" are later.) See, there are a few blogs and websites that announce free books. Not all free books, but some of the free books. They will not usually announce a book if it has no reviews. Thus, you will not get any coverage. Without coverage, your free book will not get many downloads. And without many downloads, you will not see any sales when you're done. I suggest waiting until you have three good reviews before putting your book free. (Don't just wait for them, you can actively seek reviews from book bloggers and fans of your work. Do not trade reviews with other authors, though. That's never a good idea.)

4. Schedule your free days at least four days in advance. You'll need to tell all the websites who announce free books. Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today are the two biggest ones, so make sure you don't forget them. Here's a great list of who to notify when you have a free promotion. (Some of these will want to know the day you're free, like the Facebook pages. Some will want advance notice. Pay attention to which ones want advance notice.)

5. Schedule several days together. I suggest scheduling at least two free days together, and sometimes three or more works best. If your first day doesn't get coverage, you might only give out a few hundred copies of your book. It's best to have a second or third day as well to help with your momentum. And, if you see a dramatic increase in books being given away on day three, you might want to extend your free promotion to take advantage of the bump. (See below for actual numbers.)

6. On the fist day of your free promotion, shout about it! Tell everyone you can. Post about your book on Facebook, encouraging others to share it. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Make sure you go down that list I linked to in #4 and get all the places that want you to post the day it's free. The more people who know about it, the better off you'll be.

7. Price smart after your book goes back to paid. This is a difficult one, because it changes over time as well as over genres and even book to book. The only advice that I have is to do a bit of research. Look at the free books, and pay attention to what prices they go back to after they are no longer free. Pay close attention to the books in your genre. Look at the ranks of the books after they go back to paid. Do the higher priced novels do better than the lower priced novels? Is there a price that seems to do the best? The rest is experimentation on your part. Maybe you'll try one price this time, and next time try a higher/lower price. It also helps to keep up with what other authors are saying on the subject. There's almost always a thread or two over on the Kindleboards in the Writer's Cafe about price. Read through and see what prices are working for authors right now.

8. Don't put your free promotions too close together. The blogs and websites that announce free books won't announce the same book twice in a short time period. I would wait at least 60 days before doing another free promotion to make sure you will get the coverage needed for a successful run.

What can I expect from a free promotion? What are good results?

It can be hard to gauge if you're having a good free promotion if you've never done it before. How many downloads is considered successful? Here's my own personal measuring stick. If you are done with day one and you've given away a few hundred books, you are not doing very good. You will probably not see any post-free sales. If you've taken all the steps I mentioned, stick with it for another day. You might get mentioned on a popular blog and see a huge increase on day two. If you've skipped a few steps, you might as well cancel your free run and try again another time, after you've prepared a bit more.

If you're done with your first day and you've given away between 1,000 and 5,000 books, you're doing fairly well, but it could get better. Keep doing what you're doing and wait to see what day two brings.

If at the end of day one you're sitting at 5,000 to 10,000 downloads, you're doing really well! You can expect to have a fantastic sales bump after you're done with your free run. Keep the free run going for at least one more day.

If you get done with day two of your free promotion and you're sitting at less than 1,000 downloads, something isn't right. Either your book genre is too niche, or you've picked a very busy day, or it's possible your book doesn't look professional enough or doesn't have reviews. Cancel your other free days and try to diagnose the issue. Try again later after you've fixed the problem.

If you're done with day two and you're in the 1,000 to 5,000 range, you're doing fairly well. I think you'll see a sales bump, but don't expect to get to the top of the charts or anything. If downloads are slowing, quit your promo. If downloads are increasing, especially by a large jump, let it run another day.

If you're done with day two and you're in the 10,000 to 30,000 range you are really going to have nice results. You can quit your promotion without fear. If you want to let it go one more day, it won't hurt anything either.

What should I expect after I go back to paid?

If you've had a lot of downloads, you should expect to see sales after your go back to paid. It will start out slow. Don't panic if you wake up and you've not sold any and your rank is horrible. It can take a little while to see results. Most of the time I have 50 to 100 sales on the day after a nice successful promotion. I have seen more. My best promotion saw over 9,000 sales over the three weeks after my free days. I've also been contacted about movie rights, and agents have emailed to see if I had representation, all from seeing the book at a nice rank after a free promotion.

However, don't set your expectations too high. Your book could see a small bump in sales, but then stick there and see steady income. And don't forget you do get paid for Lending Library borrows too. Those will add up if you've had a nice free promo.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview with J.A. Beard

Today I'm interviewing an author friend of mine, J.A. Beard. J.A. and I met online in a critique group, and I fell in love with his writing style. I'm happy to have him here today.

Vicki: Tell us a little about yourself.

J.A.: I'm happily married with two children. I'm a bit of a restless soul, so I've lived several places and tried my hand at difference careers including computer programming and a stint in the USAF. Currently, though, I'm in a PhD program for microbiology. So, when I'm not writing or with my family, I'm in a lab.

Vicki: When and why did you start writing?

J.A.: I’ve been writing on and off for ten years. I began writing as a way to sate some of my creative urges and deal with the story ideas I had floating around in my head. When I was younger, I was involved in the table-top role-playing scene. As that involves character creation and world creation, it satisfied my creative urges. Years passed and I played those kinds of games less, but I still had this desire to create characters and be involved with telling their stories. I started experimenting with writing.

First, it was only short stories. I didn’t feel I had the skill level to pull off a novel. I participated in National Novel Writing Month a couple of times in the early 2000s. The novellas I produced weren’t publishable, but the experiences did help me get over my concerns about my ability to produce longer works. I wrote here and there over the years until finally buckling down a few years ago and getting serious about my writing. I started writing novels and joined writing groups to improve my craft.

Vicki: What is your book about?

J.A.: THE EMERALD CITY is a loose modern YA urban fantasy re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz.

Kansas teen Gail Dorjee has tried to escape from the pain of her parents' death by retreating into a hard shell of anger and sarcasm.

Her aunt and uncle ship her off to an elite Seattle boarding school, Osland Academy where she spends her first day making enemies, including the school's most powerful clique, the Winged, and their leader, the ruthless Diana.

Social war and the school's uptight teachers are only mild annoyances. Mysterious phone outages, bizarre behavioral blocks, and strange incidents suggest Osland is focused on something much more sinister than education.

Now Gail has to survive at the school with a pretty pathetic assortment of potential allies: her airhead roommate, Lydia, and, Leandra, a cowardly victim of the Winged. There's also the small matter of the handsome but cold Nick, a boy who seems interested in Gail. He just happens also to be Diana's boyfriend.

Vicki: Who is your favorite character?

J.A.: I have two really. Gail’s my first favorite. She’s feisty yet vulnerable. She’s a good person, for the most part, but far from perfect. I’m not so fond of anti-heroes in fiction, so I worked hard to create a realistic, flawed character that still is a heroine and not an anti-heroine.

Lydia, Gail’s roommate, is my second favorite. She’s a bit of a comic relief character who Gail calls the “Queen of Sunshine”. She has a quirk of constantly screwing up famous quotes, though she does play an important “serious” role in the plot as well. There’s a nice little contrast with her as well. She’s normally a bit of an airhead, but sometimes her weird thought processes let her figure out things that pass by others.

I’m a very cynical person, so it was a fun challenge to write a completely non-cynical character.

Vicki: Are any of your characters based on real-life people?

J.A.: Not really. Although I try to draw on my own experiences and people I've known in generating character psychology, there's no particular direct relationship between any character in THE EMERALD CITY and anyone I've known or read about.

Vicki: As authors, we often throw horrible stuff at our characters to create tension and drama, and to see how our character is going to react. In this book, what's the meanest thing you do to a character?

J.A.: Well, arguably, the cruelest thing happens before the book even starts: Gail's parents dying. Gail's also forced to confront the reality of that death in a particularly cruel way near the end of the book. There's also a phobic character, Leandra, being forced to confront one of her main phobias in a particularly extreme way.

Vicki: Do you have another book you're working on?

J.A.: With the aid of my editor, I'm finishing up edits on two other projects scheduled for release in February and March respectively, A WOMAN OF PROPER ACCOMPLISHMENTS and MIND CRAFTER.

A WOMAN OF PROPER ACCOMPLISHMENTS is a slightly alt-history (sorry Americans, we lost the Revolution in this timeline) sweet Regency paranormal romance.

MIND CRAFTER is a fantasy story focused around a young telepath who gets drawn into a dangerous conspiracy involving a religious cult.

Though I'm also working on the sequels to the above, I'm also working on a historical thriller planned for release in the fall. This story will be set in Heian era of Japanese history.

I'm "cheating" a bit in that I have several novels I'm releasing this year, but most of those manuscripts were completed previously and just in need of some editing.

Vicki: Do you have a blog or website?

J.A.: or

Thanks for having me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Guest Post by Cidney Swanson

Today I have the pleasure of having Cidney Swanson stop by my blog. She's just released a new book, Unfurl, and I'm thrilled to have her here as part of her blog tour.

Take it away Cidney!

Cidney: Hi Victorine! I’m so excited to be here today as part of my Unfurl Release Tour. I thought I’d share something today about how I got started writing full time.

It took two fifteen-year-old boys to convince me to follow my heart and start writing full time. Fifteen’s this great age. You’ve survived the battle arena of middle school and probably made it through your first year of high school. And in some part of you that maybe doesn’t hover on the surface, you know—absolutely know—that you can do something great.

Yeah, maybe a person or circumstance in your life has shoved that knowledge down to the deep end of the pool and tied it there with a big rock, but you still know it’s there, it’s true, and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because you know it.

Look around at the adults in your life: how many of them still know this, carry it around in their pockets? One? Two? Zero? We get old and we get tired and we forget that we ever felt this way once.  I mean, adults write sentences like “It’s never too old to be what you might have been” precisely because we have to see it spelled out in black and white to even remember what we knew at fifteen.

Four years ago I found Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I was standing in my Costco, looking at the books table (the coolest part of Costco.) As I browsed, I overheard these grandmas talking.

 “Wrote it when he was a teenager, and he’s a real nice kid. He home-schooled with one of my grandchildren.”

Well, you can bet that caught my attention. This gorgeous book was written by a teen? Whaaat? Anyway, I bought the book and loved it. And I thought to myself, Wow. This kid: he’s like, fifteen, and he didn’t have any issues with writing a freaking long book. He just did it. And then did it again.

That same year, I noticed another fifteen-year-old (my son) knocking out a couple of novels every couple of months. And I thought to myself: Wow. Where do you get that kind of belief in yourself and your abilities that lets you just do what you want to do?

And it’s like this light popped on, blinding me: when you’re a teenager, you know that you can do anything. Seriously, Teens. Can. Do. Anything. As a late-bloomer, I’m probably not the best person in the world to convince you of this fact, but look: someone else said it too! (Better than I did.)

So on March 20, 2009, I told myself: “No more ‘I’m-going-to-write-a-novel-someday;’ I need to just write. Like those fearless fifteen-year-olds. Forget ‘someday.’ This is someday.”

You know how adults or teachers say that their kids teach them so much? (Yeah, we do say that, and if you’re a teen and the adults in your own life aren’t saying it, that sucks—they should, because it’s true!) So anyway, it took a pair of undaunted teenage boys to teach me that if I wanted to do something bad enough, I needed to just start. Today. 

No matter what your age is: be that fifteen-year-old version of yourself.  And if you are fifteen? Do what you know you can do. Do it now before you get old and forgetful and busy doing things that don’t really matter to you anyway. Take it from a late-bloomer. Nuff said.

Thank you, Chris Paolini, for showing me that it’s okay to do what you dream of doing and that if you weren’t too young to do it, then maybe I wasn’t too old. And thanks to my son, the ‘JWS’ to whom I dedicated my first book. Because if it weren’t for him and Paolini and their teenager-ability to just do stuff, I wouldn’t be writing novels today.

And that would just be sad.

Thanks so much, everyone, for the chance to stop by and visit today! Come say hi anytime!

cidneyswanson at gmail dot com
Books for sale:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post by GM Barlean

Today I have a wonderful guest here on my blog. GM (Gina Marie) Barlean is stopping by to tell us a bit about herself and her book. I met Gina through a local writer's group. Not only is she an amazing person to know, she writes, she blogs and she makes the best gluten-free cookies. I've really enjoyed getting to know Gina, and I hope you do too.

Gina: Victorine, thank you so much for having me as your guest. Your support is truly appreciated.

Although I have written for years, my concentrated effort to write fiction began in 2009. I completed my first novel, Dead Blow, in the summer of 2010. I became a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, participated in National Novel Writer's Month (Nanowrimo), and joined the Prairieland Romance Writers of Nebraska, that fall. When participating in Nanowrimo, I began writing the novel, Casting Stones, which I just published. I reached the goal of writing 50,000 words of this novel during Nanowrimo, and then went on to finish up the book by February of 2011. I spent the remainder of 2011 working on fine-tuning the book and I also took two different online writing courses. The process of finishing my book included many friends reading the book and helping me make it the best product it could be. In the spring of 2011 I attended an event called, Write Across Nebraska. At this event I met C. K. Volnek. C. K. (Charlie) later that year, invited me to join the Seward Writer's Group. C.K., myself and three other writers (Victorine Lieske, Kathy Gillmore, and Sabrina Sumsion) have also created another writing support group called, The Local Muse. This support has turned out to be the most important link in my chain to publishing. By November of 2011, the book was ready for professional editing, and then it was off to be published and printed.

It should be noted, as said above, I could never have written this book without the help of many friends, one of which was you Victorine. Victorine created the book cover for Casting Stones. She has also guided me along the way and answered so many questions regarding how to publish. I believe I am one of many who will tell you, Victorine is one of the most helpful people I've ever met. I also firmly believe that God has led me to all of the people who have helped me along the way, from my first reader, Donna Sturgeon (author of Millie's Rose) to my most recent relationship with my new editor, Carol Weber of Of course, my husband, family, and friends played an essential role as well, (specifically the hubs!).

Casting Stones is a dramatic fiction, set in Missouri and Nebraska during the years 1926 through 1945. It is a story about struggle and survival, retribution and redemption. If you wish to meet the characters, please visit my blog Moments of Clarity. Want a little free reading? I've written a short story prelude to the novel. The prelude gives a glimpse into the main characters and sets the stage for the trouble that will come. You can get a free copy of this short story either from my website:, or from Do you like movies? I have created a book trailer and posted it on Just scroll down to see it. I think you will really enjoy watching this. A friend of mine, Rae Welch, created the original music for this short film, and it is perfect. The e-book for Casting Stones is available on Amazon, and Barnes and Nobel. Both of these sites offer a sample of the novel.

Thank you so much for allowing me to let your readers know about my book. I hope some of you will consider buying, Casting Stones.

I would like to give a free ebook copy of my debut novel, Casting Stones, to one lucky person who leaves a comment to this article. Check back to see who the winner is! Thank you for reading!

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