Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adventures and Lessons in Self-Publishing

As an author with many published books in the realm of digital first publishing, I had always looked down upon self-publishing as a second class citizen of sorts. I figured only authors who weren't able to get their work published through a legitimate publishing house would go to that extreme.

Self-publishing, only a few years ago, meant paying sometimes big bucks to a company that would offer their services to design a cover, maybe edit your book, create the digital file for you and maybe even help with distribution channels. All of these services could be purchased a la carte or in packages. The whole notion of the money flowing from the author to the publisher was against everything I believed in.

But very recently, all that changed. Digital publishing was made nearly free through outlets like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and other sites if you were somewhat technically savvy. And the money started flowing immediately in the right direction - straight to the author.

Successful self-publishers like J. A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking emerged and more and more traditionally published authors started taking notice. Barry Eisler turned down a half-million-dollar deal from a New York publisher to self-publish a series on his own. More and more mainstream authors started giving the self-publishing route a try, most using the technology to get their backlists out there or maybe offer a shorter book or something that didn't fit the much more rigid confines of traditional publishers.

So I decided to dip my toes in the water. I took a manuscript that didn't fit the romance convention of the hero and heroine meeting in the very first chapter. The story required more setup but I loved the story and so did my crit partner. Since said partner tried self-publishing first and was having good luck with it, I went for it.

My friend Jax of Jaxadora Design made me an awesomely hot cover for Game of Smoke and Mirrors, an erotic romantic suspense. I was very pleasantly surprised when the Kindle book started selling well immediately. Smashwords and B&N were slower going. I listed it on All Romance EBooks as well and it quickly became my fastest selling book there out of the eleven I had at the time. The best part about it was that I could neurotically check my sales several times a day, rather than wait for a royalty statement every month or every quarter, as I do for my regularly published books.
Next I decided to re-edit an older book I'd published under another name. I'd gotten the rights back months before. That book, however, was not erotic. And it dealt with the heavy subject of drug addiction, but it was the book I'd gotten the most fan mail about. So I put Not Enough up for sale and it sat. I didn't make my first sale for several days and I started to get nervous. It did start selling, but it still hasn't come close to the level of my erotic romance.

I wondered if my first experience had been a fluke. So I started looking at books I'd written more recently but for one reason or another, I hadn't sold. I had a book I loved, but again, it didn't fit my publisher's unofficial guidelines for a different reason - the hero had a teenage daughter who played heavily into the plot. My erotic romance publishers don't usually want anything with kids in the story.
Since Not Enough hadn't even earned enough to pay for the cover, I decided I'd have to make my own cover for the next one, just in case it too didn't sell well. So I took four Photoshop classes at my library then bought a scaled down version of the program on ebay for $50.
My first attempt at a book cover came out pretty well. (It helped that the photo I bought for it was uber hot!) So I loaded Employee Relations yesterday and crossed my fingers. Thankfully, it is already starting to sell well.

Lesson learned. For me at least, erotic romance sells best. It's where I've made my name and my brand.

Do I plan to quit writing for my publishers? Hell no! I'm only self-publishing books that I've already written, books that I love, hoping other people will love them, too. And I figure that expanding my backlist and hopefully growing my fan base can only help. Time will tell if my plan works. In the meantime, I'm supplementing my income and learning some new computer skills.

For readers - have you bought any self-published books? For writers - have you tried self-publishing? If so, how is it going for you?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Color, Color Everywhere ...

Welcome my guest blogger for today - Nina Pierce:

Winter in northern Maine is very long. Up here our four seasons are: almost winter, winter, still winter and preparing for winter. The cold and snow comes around Halloween most years and lately has been staying through most of April. Yeah, winter just goes on and on and on and … you get the idea.

When the first flakes of snow fall in late October, they float gently to the ground coating the green grass in a lacy layer of white. It’s beautiful. But after shoveling, snowblowing and clearing cars for 5 months, that *@^%*# white stuff isn’t even sort of pretty. It’s a real pain in the … oh, sorry. I lost myself for a minute. Anyway, suffice it to say snow and white gets tiresome.

When the first soft winds of spring warm the gray branches of the trees and the gentle rains wash the dirty, muddy remains of snowbanks down the culvert, the ground begins to warm. Tiny sprigs of green shoot out of the damp earth and blossoms of crocuses, tulips and daffodils bloom. Oh, the color! After months of monochromatic white, the flowers are welcome. As trees fill out in the green shades of spring, window boxes and hanging baskets of flowers adorn homes. And my heart smiles with the return of all the hues of the rainbow.

There is something about flowers that lift spirits and gladden hearts. Flowers help us celebrate the important moments of our lives; births, deaths, marriages, and graduations. They show up on every holiday, sent by people we love. Florists in a small town, like where I live, have their finger on the pulse of the townspeople. All the big news sorts right through their workbench as they create bouquets for the residents of their community.

So it was an easy choice for me when I set my erotic suspense series in Maine, to have the Tilling sisters own a floral shop and landscaping business. What better way to get a feeling for the small town of Delmont where they live? The first book, Blind Love is my newest release. It introduces the Tilling family and finds oldest sister Julie investigating her best friend’s death.

He’s a shock jock looking to reform. She’s an accountant hoping to cut loose. Can love open their eyes to forever?

Uptight CPA and oldest sister, JULIE TILLING, is the glue that binds her family. Everyone depends on her to do the right thing. When her friend from high school dies and Julie is the only one who believes he didn’t commit suicide, she takes it upon herself to investigate his death.

DAMON COREY didn’t come to Maine to become a shock jock. But when his dream career of becoming a concert pianist seems unobtainable, the radio station’s offer is too good to pass up. When mysterious brunette Jewel, hooks up with him at the night club run by a college frat brother, their one night fling wraps around his heart and makes him believe in love at first sight.

But can Damon expose his inner soul without pushing Julie away or will his enigmatic shock jock persona become Julie’s sexual undoing and reveal him as the missing piece that solves the puzzling questions surrounding her friend’s death?

Julie hauled up the leather corset that had dropped a quarter of an inch on her rapid walk in from the parking lot. She hadn’t expected the outfit to expose so much of her bosom. But that’s what she got for indulging in fantasies and shopping on the internet. She yanked on the hem of the leather skirt trying to keep it from exposing her lacy thong. But pulling on it only dropped the corset again. She needed to stop fiddling. Sex kittens on the prowl didn’t worry about exposing too much skin. And that’s who she wanted to be tonight—a voluptuous vixen cruising for a wild night of uninhibited sex with a stranger. Hopefully that would get her into see the owner, Elvis Castonguay.

Standing just inside the door of Starry Knights, Julie caught a couple of guys ogling her. Heat rushed up her neck, and instinct had her hand splaying over her cleavage. They both turned away. Stupid. The bulging eye reaction was exactly what she’d been hoping for when she decided to venture out of her comfort zone and buy the outfit. Maybe she just wasn’t cut out to be Julie Tilling, shameless sex goddess.

And maybe she had simply expected too much from herself on her first visit to a bar. Julie hadn’t done the usual college experimenting that so many people enjoyed in their carefree youth. Valedictorians didn’t have much time for frat parties and bar hopping. But maybe it was time to change all that, even if it was nearly a decade too late.

“Just go with it,” she mumbled, trying to boost her waning confidence. No one knew her here. She could be or do anything she wanted without repercussions. Buoyed by that thought, Julie threw back her shoulders and let her chest lead the way. Undulating to the thunderous cacophony of music and voices, the throng of people on the dance floor moved as a single mass of heated bodies. Someone grabbed her butt. Too stunned to acknowledge the intimate touch, she continued to maneuver her way to the bar. How did people do this night after night?

“I’ll have an iced tea,” she shouted into the bartender’s ear.

“Long Island?”

“No, Delmont.” That was a strange question. Why would he care where she was from? Maybe he was just hitting on her.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Release Day to Me!

Does it ever get any less exciting? I love when my books release. It's like giving birth without all the pain and suffering;-) Belle Behind Bars will be my very first story under the Taboo banner at Ellora's Cave. 

This story is special to me in another way, though. Part of the story takes place in a county jail, a setting where DH—who calls himself my "Head of R&D"—has been working for many years.

In celebration of the release, I will give one commenter a free download of the story. Here's the blurb:

Jail Sergeant RJ “Ram” Ramsey is incensed when he learns he’s losing a promotion to a less-qualified woman who’s learned all she knows about the job from behind a desk.

Lieutenant Belle Buchanan has a lot to learn. Ram has been an enigma to her since he threw her over years earlier. When they end up alone together, the attraction that first drew her to him flares hot. She wants the hunky sergeant to master her in other, more intimate ways.

You can find an excerpt HERE.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Library - An Awesome Resource

With the ready access most of us have to the Internet, it's easy to overlook one of the best resources out there -- your local public library.

I was reminded of this last week when I decided I wanted to learn how to use Photoshop, which is an extremely complex piece of software. It didn't take me long to look up computer classes on my library system's website. I learned they actually had online classes as well as in-person ones.

I signed up to take the four available online classes on successive evenings. But after the second level, I realized that in order to learn a new software, I'd be better off actually using that software, which I hadn't yet purchased. The branch closest to my home actually had the next two level classes scheduled the following day so I signed up.

When I arrived for my classes, I couldn't believe how busy the branch was in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Every area was being utilized to its fullest. And I'd been correct in my assumption that I would pick up the technology faster if I could actually play with it.

I still have a long way to go in mastering the program but the experience gave me a new respect for the library system. Unfortunately, in my state of Florida as well as many others around the country, government funding of libraries is drying up. It would be a terrible shame if this fabulous resource ceased to exist. I, for one, plan to lobby my state legislators not to reduce library finding. I urge you to do the same. You can take action HERE.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lesbian Romance: Why are people fascinated by girl on girl action?

Please welcome today's guest blogger, Berengaria Brown

As soon as there’s an item in the news about two female celebrities kissing, men swarm to the site, attracted by it. Women have always kissed each other in public. Yeah, sure, mostly its air kisses, but the concept is older than time. So what’s the attraction? Why all the hype?
Are men worried about the whole idea of women satisfying each other romantically, and men finding themselves no longer needed? Or do they lust after seeing twice as many breasts, twice as much female flesh to taste and touch?
More recently women are openly finding and reading lesbian fiction. Is it something they’ve always enjoyed, but previously hidden? Or is it something new, that fulfils a need they weren’t previously aware of having?

There’s something exciting about a kick-ass heroine who can save herself from danger finding romance for herself too. Finding her perfect match in maybe another kick-ass type, or possibly in someone softer, sweeter, gentler. Either way, the sex is sure to be explosive. After all, no one knows what turns a woman on, like another woman does. Likely because it turns her on too.
My fourth lesbian erotic romance novella has just been released. If you’ve never yet tried lesbian erotica be daring, give it a try!

"Paige's Passion" blurb
Paige is sent on a business trip and invites her good friend Madeline to go with her. They’ve been lusting after each other for some time but Paige was worried that taking the step to a sexual relationship might destroy their friendship. At the end of the second night they are committed to an ongoing relationship together.
But when they get back to their ordinary lives Paige is consumed by her job. Paige desperately wants the relationship to work, but her career is very important to her and Maddie is so easy-going. Can they ever be happy together?

STORY Excerpt WARNING Lesbian Romance
"Shit, Paige, this's a really nice suite. Are you sure it's okay for me to be here with you?" asked Madeline, looking around at the solid wooden doors hiding the huge flat-screen TV and mini-bar, and at the ultra king-size bed.
Paige opened the drapes wide, exposing a fantastic view across to the river, which was dotted with yachts and other sailing boats. "Of course it's okay. Wait 'til you see the bathroom, Maddy. It's something special. Go, look at it."
"Oh, wow, this is great. Two would definitely fit in this Jacuzzi and in the shower. And there's a separate room for the toilet. That's really classy." Madeline's voice echoed back to Paige.
At forty, Madeline's hair was still a shiny chestnut with no signs of gray, her hazel eyes were always alive with fun, and she flitted from job to job as the mood took her. Paige, ten years younger, considered her short, dark brown hair and brown eyes positively dull beside the vivacious Maddy.
Paige grunted some affirmative noises, but her eyes and her mind were on that huge bed. She sat on the side of it and sank deeply into a cushy mattress and puffy quilt.
I'll finally be sharing a bed with Maddy. It's what I've wanted to do for so long. She turns me on so much more than any man ever has. And I know she's bisexual, she makes no secret of that. But does she desire me in that way? And if we fuck, will that ruin our friendship? We get on so well together. Will taking our relationship to a sexual level destroy our ability to have fun together? Gods, I wish I knew what to do here!
"Hey, wake up! Let's go try out the pool and hot tub on the roof," suggested Maddy, bouncing back into the room.
"Good plan. You change in the bathroom and I'll change here. But you have to put your clothes and shoes back on; they don't let you in the hallways just in swimwear."
"Not a problem," responded Maddy, grabbing her tote bag and heading back into the bathroom.
Paige changed into her plain navy one-piece and hastily dropped an equally plain navy A-line skirt over it. She was buttoning up a pale blue shirt when Maddy called out, "Okay to enter?"
"Yeah, sure," Paige replied, moving over to her luggage to grab her flip-flops.
Paige's heart began to beat so hard it almost drummed its way out of her chest as she looked at Maddy. Her friend was wearing a bright candy pink and orange tankini that should have clashed horribly with her hair, yet somehow looked stunning. Maddy's lush breasts stretched the top enticingly, her hips rounded out the bottom, and her belly protruded just the slightest bit, making a smooth-flowing curve across the garment that was very enjoyable to look at. Her legs were long and straight and slightly muscled, yet very feminine.
Maddy dropped a pink sundress over her head, slid her feet into matching pink sandals, and asked, "Are there pool towels, or do we need to take towels with us?"
"When I went up to look at it before you arrived, there was a stack of pool towels on a table by the door."
"Excellent. Let's go."
Paige grabbed her keycard and followed Maddy to the door, trying not to drool at her friend's yummy ass swaying beneath the sundress. It was even worse as they got off the elevator and walked up the few steps to the pool entry. Maddy's calf muscles flexed and stretched. She's my friend. Just a friend. Someone to hang out with and talk to. Not a lover, she told herself sternly.

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Berengaria Brown
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Switching Genres - Sort of

Well, I'm still writing erotic romance, but my upcoming release, Belle Behind Bars is definitely a kinkier tale than my others. With a bit of BDSM, it's being released under the Taboo line at Ellora's Cave. This is a story near and dear to my heart since it is set in a county jail and my own DH works at one. His coworkers are anxiously awaiting the release, or so DH tells me. You can find this Quickie on sale on Tuesday, April 26. You can find the blurb and an excerpt HERE.

I also have a non-erotic offering now available. Not Enough is now available in all ebook formats. This book was one of the first I wrote and was originally released years ago as The Kitten Club under another name, a story that garnered much praise from reviewers and fans alike. It's very different from most of my other books in that it deals with the very serious subject of drug addiction. Plus, it is in the middle of the heat scale, rather than tipping the end of it!

I hope you'll check out Not Enough, offered at an introductory price of only $1.99. And please notice the awesome cover, done by my multi-talented friend, Jax of Jaxadora Design.

And lucky me - I already have my first review of this novel from Romance Junkies, which you can read HERE.

So here's my question. Do you think an author should use a different name when switching genres (not from erotic to BDSM, but from erotic to straight romance)?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Out Damned Spot

I was cleaning my wood floor today and I knew there was a spot in one place because it had been bugging me for days. I made the overhead lights brighter, but I still couldn't find it. Finally, I shut off the lights all together and low and behold, there it was.

I got to thinking that sometimes -- just like on my floor -- shining a more subtle light on something is more meaningful. When it comes to writing character emotions, the same can hold true. Just like the scene from MacBeth when Lady MacBeth continually tries to wash away the sight and smell of blood from her hands rather than admit her guilt directly.

Donald Maass, literary agent and educator, suggests finding a strong emotion then replacing it with a secondary one. Or find a throw-away moment and infuse it with rich emotion. Great advice to draw your characters with a more precise brush

Alicia Rasley, editor for Red Sage and author of The Power of Point of View, talks about evoking emotion  subtly to pull the reader deeper into the character's head. In one of her workshops, she reads a passage about someone visiting a relative in the hospital and the visitor sees an Amish family sitting with their child, who is ill. A few days later, the visitor passes a procession of black Amish wagons and knows the child has passed away. The image holds more power and speaks of a more skillful writer than if the scene had depicted the parents weeping as the doctor pulls a sheet over the child's head.

Writing the secondary emotions or the peripheral observations that figure in to a story take more effort and more skill than being more direct. But the technique deepens both the characters and the story.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The EBook Reader Jungle

Nearly everyone I know got an ebook reader recently, myself included. My husband surprised me and gave me a Kindle 3 for the holidays. I wasn't sure about the idea of reading all my books on the device. I figured I'd read some things in hard copy and others on the reader. But once I started using my gift, I knew I wasn't going to buy very many paperbacks anymore. The best part about the Kindle was I could finally read as I walked on the treadmill, something I'd found challenging with a paperback. You see, I am a klutz. If I neglect to hold on to both bars on the treadmill, I tend to stumble! But I digress.

Now that all my books are available for Kindle as well as all the other devices, I'm curious about the differences between the popular ebook readers. So I did some research.

The Nook Color looked intriguing. Its colorful displays make magazines and books with lots of illustrations come alive. But when I considered that I never read magazines and rarely download anything with pictures, the added features would be wasted on me. Plus, I use a computer all day long. The LED screen would only be more of the same punishment for my eyes.

The standard Nook is similar in price to the Kindle and features an integrated dictionary, a nice touch. The selection of available books is definitely smaller, but is growing every day.

The Kobo eReader also has a similar price tag but it has a quilted back, which makes it more comfortable to hold. A nice feature is the SD slot. A card up to 4G can be added to boost the 1G memory.

There are many other readers out there and they all have pros and cons. Me, I'll stick with my Kindle. The one downside? It's so easy to download books that I am feeling the pinch on my credit card!

Have you joined the ebook revolution yet? If so, which device did you choose and how do you like it?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lucky Me

I had an awesome weekend. Part of the reason was that my husband was around for all of it, instead of working as he so often does on the weekend. The fact that he was home was the luckiest thing to happen to me in a while. 

You see, Friday afternoon he happened to be in the garage cleaning it out and listening to the radio. I was inside, writing in silence, as I always do. 

Suddenly he came running inside and said that my name was called on a radio station. I had half an hour to call in to win a prize. Now mind you, Friday was April Fool's Day. Traditionally, I am the one in the house who pulls the most April Fool's Day tricks. So I said, "Sure, right."

He practically jumped up and down and told me to find the number to the station on the Internet. That's when I realized he wasn't April foolin' me, so I called. The DJ told me that she had indeed called my name. I'd won a thousand dollars.

Now I've never won anything so this came as quite a shock. Heck, my luck is usually so bad that I refuse to even play the slots the few times we've gone somewhere we could gamble. 

On Sunday I realized that we'd acquired a couple of uncommon expenses that same day. Between our tax bill, the accountant's fee and the cost of having several tree branches removed that had cracked a few days earlier during a bad rain storm, there went my thousand bucks. 

But there was enough for DH and me to go out for a nice Italian dinner. And it was all good. At least I had it for a moment.

Have you ever won anything totally unexpected? How did it make you feel?

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Kindness of Friends

You know how they say what goes around comes around? Doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. I have a friend who needed some serious help a couple weeks ago. Several people told me what a good friend I was to her, but honestly, I didn't even think about not coming to her aid because she was in a very bad way and she's a good person who would have done for me all the things I ended up doing for her.

Now I've always considered myself very fortunate to have a large number of awesome friends. That point was brought home to me recently when a few of my friends each did something really nice for me. I started thinking about kismet and all that. Maybe there is such a thing, maybe not.

First, my wonderful critique partner and friend, Katie Reus walked me through the formatting jungle to self-publish a story (which you can now find on My Books page or here).

Then my friend Randy, who had made me a book trailer for Protective Custody, decided that book trailer wasn't professional looking enough. So he went and bought a new program then made me a page on YouTube and sent me a brand new book trailer!

Lastly, my writing buddy, Jax Cassidy, aka Jaxadora Designs, made me a gorgeous book cover for Game of Smoke and Mirrors. Then she revamped my website and gave it a fresh new look.

Frankly, all the wonderful thinks my friends have done lately outweigh the help I gave my other friend. So now I am a believer. Not only does what goes around come around, but it comes in spades.

Be a Winner!

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