Saturday, March 19, 2016

Writing a Romance Novel

There's a lot of confusion out there about romance novels. It's easy to see why. Your book might have two people who fall in love, and that might be the main focus of the story, and yet it still might not fall into the romance novel category. Then throw chick lit and women's fiction into the mix, and your head might spin wondering what you've actually written.

Let's start by talking about what a romance novel isn't. It isn't about two people happily falling in love. I'm going to say it again, a different way, because it's so important. Romance novels are not about happy couples falling in love. Romance novels are all about the tension, and leaving the reader wondering if they will end up together at the end. Every romance novel has something pulling the characters away from each other. If your book doesn't have this up until the end, your book is not a romance novel.

So, what is a romance novel then? Here are the things a romance novel must have in order to be in the romance genre.

1. Emotional Conflict -- This is paramount in a romance novel. There needs to be some kind of emotional conflict in the story that keeps the reader turning the page. This emotional conflict must not be resolved until the end of the book. This is what drives your plot forward and creates the need for your reader to finish the book.

2. Emotional Intimacy -- Your characters must spend time together during the course of the story, and this must lead to emotional intimacy. They must open up to each other. Share personal things with each other. As they spend time with each other they become more emotionally intimate. The ultimate payoff for a romance of course is when the highest emotional intimacy is acknowledged and the couple confess their love. Since this is the payoff, it must happen at the end of the book.

3. Physical Intimacy -- This does not necessarily mean sex, although many romance novels have sex. Since I write clean romance, my books do not. I must find a different way to show the physical intimacy. It could be as simple as running a finger down the side of a face, or a touch of a hand. A well written kiss is a wonderful way to show physical intimacy. But always keep in mind the emotional conflict that is pulling the two apart. As they become physically intimate, the emotional conflict will increase as well. If this is not happening, and all you have are happy characters, the genre changes and you're writing yourself out of the romance genre.

4. Attraction and Repelling -- Your main characters must feel the draw toward each other, while simultaneously feeling that a relationship can't possibly work between them. This is the emotional conflict at work, while the emotional and physical intimacy pulls them together.

5. The Climax -- Your climax of your story needs to be about the relationship. If the climax of the story isn't about the relationship, you have put a different aspect of the story ahead of the romance and that takes away from the most important thing about a romance novel. The relationship.

6. Happily Ever After -- Yes, all romance novels have a happily ever after. Your characters must end up together at the end. This doesn't necessarily mean married, but the relationship must feel final. If you are writing a romance series, you must focus on a different couple in the second book. If you are still working on the relationship of the couple in book 1, you are probably writing women's fiction or chick lit. And if one of the main characters die, you are writing in the love story genre and not the romance genre. (Think Nicholas Sparks.)

Some people think that romance novels follow a formula. This is not the case. There simply needs to be these elements in the story in order for the book to be called a romance. It has more to do with reader expectations than it does with a formula for writing romance.

Romance novels use romance to create suspense. "Working with suspense is a bit like mimicking the rise and fall of the sea. First you rev your reader's interest to a high pitch, then you drop back without completely satisfying her and then you do it again. You work incrementally, getting a little closer to fulfillment--for your characters and your reader--with every scene, but you always stop short of giving them everything they want.

"In a romance novel, the reader's main interest is in the relationship's progress, so your most effective strategy for building suspense is through that relationship." -- Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies

Romances can vary in setting, and cover a wide variety of sub-genres including romantic suspense, historical romance, paranormal romance, and romantic comedy to name a few.

If, after reading this, you're still not sure if you've written a romance novel, write a comment below describing your book and I'll be happy to give you my opinion. :)


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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I've what?

So you've worked and slaved, polished up your book until it sparkles, hired an editor and cover artist, and now it's finally published. Whew! That's a euphoric feeling, isn't it?

Hmm. What do you do now? Maybe you've announced your book on Facebook and Twitter. You might have even joined a forum or two and announced it there. I'm guessing your close friends and family might have even bought a copy. And now you find yourself strumming your fingers on the table.

Don't worry. I've made a list of things to do now. (And combined it with things NOT to do.)

1. I'm going to assume you did your homework and hired a reputable editor. You probably got sample edits from several sources, looked at the different editing styles, and chose your favorite. You maybe even hired a proofreader to catch any stray errors after you're done making the final edits. Good. Please make sure you did this before doing anything else, or you could end up embarrassed. If you've published prematurely, don't worry, just hire an editor now and upload a new file once it's edited.

2. Now you're ready to submit your book to book reviewers. (I also call them book bloggers.) Don't go submitting without doing your homework. Make sure they take self-published books and review your genre. Read their guidelines and respect them. Don't send them an ebook if they only take paper copies. You may also want to read some of their reviews to see if you think they would mesh well with your book. You can find book reviewers with google searches, or on Twitter. It may be helpful to find another self-published book that is similar to yours and search for book bloggers who have reviewed that book. Here's a couple of websites that list reviewers who accept indie books to get you started: and

3. It takes a while for book bloggers to get to your book. Don't pester them. Some might never get around to reviewing your book. Accept that and send out a lot of books so you have a better chance at getting some reviews.

4. If a book blogger gives you a bad review, do not respond. I know your fingers will itch to post on their blog telling them they don't know what they're doing. Resist the urge. Even if they said your book was riddled with typos, and you paid several hundred dollars to have it edited. Don't respond. Even if they said, "I hated the zombies" and there are no zombies in your book. Go take a walk. Breathe in and out. Do NOT respond to any negative reviews. Ever. It just makes you look bad, no matter what you do. And don't respond in private either. The only correct response for a review, good or bad, is to thank the reviewer. You'll be shocked to hear it, but I know reviewers who have had threatening emails after posting a bad review. Never never never do this. A bad review isn't the end of your book. If you get a bad review, the best thing to do is look up your favorite book on Amazon and read all of the one star reviews. It will make you feel a lot better.

5. Okay, now that you've sent off your book to some book reviewers and prepared yourself to react in a super awesome way no matter what kind of reviews you get, it's time to build yourself a fan base. Giveaways are a great way to do this. You can give away books on a Facebook page that you've created for yourself, or on your blog. Attracting readers to these things can be hard, but don't despair. This is where the next step comes in.

6. Join some forums or social networks and socialize. The socialize part is the most important part of this. It's easy to join social networks. Twitter, Facebook, Kindleboards, Goodreads...these are great social networks. The hard part is the socializing part. Do not join these places and send out messages about why people should buy your book. That is called Spam and it doesn't work. You'll only annoy people. What you'll want to do is join in the conversations. There are some great people on Twitter. Follow some people. Watch their tweets. If they don't talk to people, they're probably not worth your time to follow. Try to follow some real people. When they post something interesting, respond with something equally interesting. Try to strike up some conversations of your own by posting witty comments. Be yourself. You'll make friends. Once you've made friends, you can invite them to your giveaways. You'd go participate in a giveaway from a friend, but you probably wouldn't care if it were someone you didn't know.

7. Don't spam, but don't be shy about the fact you're an author either. When you sign up for social networks, make sure to put in information about your book. On facebook, you can use your book cover as your avatar if you want. On Kindleboards, they allow you to put your book cover in your signature line. On Twitter, put that you're an author in your bio, and mention the title of your book. And of course you're using your author's name everywhere you sign up, right? (Whatever you're using on your book covers.) You want to get your name out there. If someone gets to know 'writerchick' on Twitter, they might want to check out her book. But they can't remember her name. It's important to get your name out there.

8. Network with other authors. This is important. If you log in each day and check out the Writer's Cafe on Kindleboards, you will find opportunities to advertise. I recently started up a website called Addicted to I announced it on Kindleboards and invited authors to post their books. If you check the new posts each day, you'll find lots of great opportunities to share your book with others. Be sure to post regularly too, so authors will get to know you. You might be invited to do an interview or participate in something else.

9. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Don't be so focused on yourself that you forget to help others. If you see a new author asking what you might think is a silly question, answer it. Be kind. If another author has a book that looks like it would be good, buy it and read it. If you liked it, post about it on the social networks. Tell others why you liked the book. Wouldn't you want someone else to do that for you, if they read and liked your book? If you have a blog, maybe you want to interview other authors. If you see an opportunity to help someone, do it. You would like the same thing done for you. And I always believe that what goes around comes around.

10. Be professional. Like it or not, if you've published a book you are now in the public eye. Be careful what you post on the internet. Treat others with respect. It's okay to joke around, but never do it at the expense of others. If someone on the internet makes you angry, don't react right away. Cool off and come back with a level head. Never participate in flame wars. And most of the time it's better not to say anything than get involved in an online argument.

11. Be ethical. Don't go ask your friends to post good reviews of your book, or worse, post fake reviews using sock puppet accounts. It doesn't make you look good to have reviews like that.

12. And finally, watch and learn. Keep an eye on the successful indies, and watch what they are doing. Read their posts on their blogs and on the forums. See what kinds of decisions they make, and which ones work for them and which ones don't. Many of us try a lot of things. Some of them work and some of them don't. Before you make a decision about something, look to see how successful it is. Pay attention to the trends. What worked last year might not work today. And if you see someone giving out advice, click to see what rank their book is. Sure, it might save you money to do your cover art yourself or not hire an editor, but if you see the person giving out that advice has their book ranked #250,000 on Amazon and has several one star reviews, maybe that's not the best advice to take.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Secret to My Success

Since my book made the New York Times best seller list, I've had a lot of people prodding me to tell them the secret. How can they have success with their own book? Which, of course, made me ponder. What is the secret? Here's what I came up with.

First of all, in order to have a best seller you have to write a best seller. Duh, you say. That's a given. But it's amazing how many people come to me and ask me for help to create the same phenomenon with their own book, when they've written one titled "The Joy of Raising Naked Mole Rats." Sure, there's probably a small market for that, but it's never going to become a best seller. (Sorry if I sound harsh.) If you've written for a niche market, that's fine, but don't feel bad when sales are slow.

If your book is not aimed at a niche market, you're already a step ahead. However, to become a best seller, your book needs to appeal to the masses. There's a reason why books that don't have a clear genre have a hard time finding an agent or publisher. That's because in order to appeal to the masses your book needs to be well defined. That's not to say that a contemporary-western-mystery-romance-fantasy can't sell. There are people out there willing to give cross genre books a chance. But it won't appeal to the masses unless it's got a clear genre.

To write a best seller you also have to craft a good story. To do this you have to get outside opinion on your work. If you've skipped this step, remedy it right away. Join a critique group. Trade chocolate for beta reading. If all you get is praise from your outside opinion givers, it's time to seek other opinions. You need some people who are going to tear your story apart and make it better. The best critics are other writers who have been down the road a few times, have had success finding an audience and who preferably write in your own genre. And don't try to edit your own book. You'll miss stuff.

The next thing on my list is having an eye catching cover. Not only eye catching, but it needs to communicate the genre at a glance. If it's a romance, don't put an apple and a pencil on the cover, even if your main character is a teacher. Now, I'm not going to tell all authors they have to hire a cover designer. Why? Because I've seen some great covers created by the authors themselves. And I'd be a hypocrite because I designed my own covers. I will stress how important it is to get outside opinion on your cover. Again, seek opinions from other authors who have been down the road a few times and have found success in your genre. ( is a great place to find such people.)

If you try and can't create a good looking cover, don't settle. Pay a professional. Sure, it can be expensive. So can replacing your stove when it breaks. But who eats raw chicken each night because they can't afford a new stove? Not you I hope. You scrape together the money. Don't expect people to buy your book if the cover doesn't look professional. You're offering them raw chicken. Not a lot of people are going to bite. Scrape together the money and pay for a professional looking cover.

The last thing I think needs to be done to have a best seller is to make people aware of your book. I did giveaways, joined forums, posted on facebook, tweeted, blogged, and paid for a couple of ads. But what really helped spread the word was lowering my price to 99 cents. I had already created a buzz about my book before I lowered the price. After lowering it other people started announcing the price change. Blogs that feature low cost books announced the price change. This got me an initial flood of sales. Then Amazon's algorithms kicked in and they started marketing for me. My low price made it an impulse buy. If you don't want to price at 99 cents you can still become a best seller, you'll just need to work more on the marketing to make people aware of your book. Come up with some creative things to do.

And don't expect your book to become a best seller overnight. It takes time. Most people I know who have sold thousands of books have had a slow build. The ones that didn't had means to spread the word to a lot of people right away.

Finally I'd like to say I'm not advocating changing the way you write just to become a best seller. If you're passionate about writing contemporary-western-mystery-romance-fantasy novels, by all means keep writing them. If you write an engaging story, it will find an audience.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Agents Becoming Epublishers

This has probably been beaten to death by everyone around me, so I hesitated to post this, but I feel like I need to get this out. So here it is.

I don't think it's a conflict of interest for an agent to epublish their clients. There. I said it. (Please don't hit me with rotten tomatoes.) I'd like to address some of the arguments I'm seeing.

Agents should be representing the author. If they're publishing the author, who is representing them? - Okay, first of all, the reason we all want to get an agent is because the large publishing houses won't look at your book if you don't have an agent. They're the go-between. They get to read all the slush, find the books they like, and submit them to the large publishing houses. If you don't care about being published in a large house, you can probably submit your book to some smaller publishers all on your own. In fact, I know quite a few authors who have been published without an agent. I don't see anyone up in arms over what the small publishers are doing. They are doing something for the author that they don't want to do for themselves, and that is set up their own publishing company.

That's right, authors. You can set up your own print publishing company and do it all yourself. It's much easier now than it was 30 years ago. But how many authors want to go through that work and expense? A lot of them don't. So they sign with a small press, without an agent, and the press does the work. And guess what, the small press takes a cut of the profit.

But what if an agent selfishly tells you to publish with them instead of someone else? What if there's a deal on the table and they don't even tell you about it? - If you believe your agent is honest and trustworthy, why would starting up an epublishing company change that? And if you don't believe your agent is honest and trustworthy, why did you sign with them in the first place? To me, this comes down to checking with places like preditors and editors to make sure you're signing with someone reputable.

But agents know nothing about publishing. - Bull. How in the world can someone work as a literary agent and not know anything about publishing? Admit it, agents know something about publishing. Do they know everything? Of course not. But I don't know a single indie author who went into self-publishing knowing everything. There is a learning curve, and we're all on it. In fact, I'd guess that the average agent is better equipped to self-publish than most of the indie authors out there were before they took the plunge.

But the authors can do this themselves, for a lot less than 15% over the life of the book! - Sure, an author can self-publish an ebook, just like we've established that an author can start up their own publishing company and publish paper copies. I know some authors who have done this. However, not every author wants to. It's a lot of work, time and money. Well, guess what. It's a lot of work to self-publish an ebook too. Less work than starting up your own paper publishing company, less money, and less time, but still it's not something all authors want to do. In fact I'd venture a guess that some authors don't even have the internet on their computer. Heck, some of them might not even have a computer.

What happens when problems arise? What if your agent isn't being honest with you? - What happens when problems arise with a small publisher? What if they're not being honest with you? What happens when an author has a problem with their agent that isn't epublishing related? Come on, folks. This isn't new. There are problems and issues with all aspects of publishing. This is no different. Be smart. Don't sign anything that you don't understand. If there's a conflict that cannot be resolved with discussions, go get an attorney.

What is an agent going to do for you that you can't do for yourself? - Okay, we know authors can self-publish. We know they can pay for a cover, pay for editing, and pay for formatting. We know they can pay for ads and build a website and market themselves. If an author wants to do all that, they're free to! But some authors don't. And I suspect that having an agent's marketing muscle behind a book would not be a bad thing.

Here's what it all boils down to. If an agent epublishes and the books skyrocket to the top of the charts, I suspect there will be some shifting of opinion on this matter. What indie wouldn't want their book in the top 100 on all the major ebook outlets? If all of the books languish at the bottom of the pool, it's possible some of the authors will be motivated to learn how to self-publish their next book in the hopes of being able to do something different and make that big splash.

In the end, we're all trying to find our way in this new world of publishing. This is my opinion on the matter. Now, don't throw those tomatoes too hard at me, I have sensitive skin.


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