September 24, 2012

Why I don't do print

Every now and again I get a request from a reader who asks me why my more recent eBooks are not available in print.  Here's the answer, in a nutshell:

Last week I received payment notification from Amazon, under whose CreateSpace division I published my first two indie releases in print.  While the initial sales numbers for print were pretty good (in 2009 and 2010 there weren't as many eReaders as there are now, and at that time I was offering direct-to-consumer autographed copies), they have dropped off to nearly nothing in recent months. I'm not much to talk publicly about my earnings (which I frankly consider to be nobody's business) and probably will not do so again, but right here, right now, I'm laying it out in order to make my point.

To wit (I always loved that expression):

For the five-month period between April and August of this year, I made a little over $7000 in eBook sales of all my indie titles published under Bunderful Books.  I'm no bestseller, and this is certainly not enough to live on, not even in an off-the-beaten-path place like Guayaquil, Ecuador, but a very nice supplement right here in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

For this same period, for the two books I offer in print, I made $16 and change.  Let me remind you:  This was five months.  They had to wait this long to issue me a check because I hadn't earned the minimum (which I believe is $10).  Again, I only have two titles available in print, but I honestly do not believe my earnings would be much higher even if all my titles were offered in this format.  Now, it just so happens that my books tend to be lengthy, and in print-on-demand the more pages, the the price must be.  My available print books sell for $12.95 and $13.95 in trade size. The ones I wrote after that are longer and would be more like $15.95/$16.95, which I feel is too much for a consumer (they are priced between $3.49 and $4.79 in eBook format).  Add in the time it takes to format, the expense of an ISBN number (every author doesn't feel this way, but I want Bunderful Books, not CreateSpace, to show as the publisher of record, which means I have to have purchase my own ISBN), and I get the makings of a losing proposition.  For other authors it may be different (and probably is; who in their right mind would go through all that to make $16 in five months?), but that is the way it looks for this particular indie author. 

To print or not to print is a personal decision, just like the decision to indie publish and every aspect thereof.  For me it's better not to offer my books in print...because mid-to-upper four figures vs. less than 20 bucks speaks for itself.

I figured I'd put this on the blog, so that I can refer people who ask for print books to it.  Those numbers speak louder than anything I could ever say...
September 22, 2012

Dating Yourself

As I get older, I find I enjoy writing about characters my age, but it’s hard to build a book around people in their fifties. It’s a young person’s world out there, so I usually relegate these people to what in movies is called “supporting roles.”

That said, it can be hard for a middle-aged woman like myself to successfully convey a younger person's mindset.  Here are some dead giveaways that suggest that those 30-something characters are written by someone over 50 (or over 80, for that matter):

  • Characters who have names that were popular 60 years ago.  Linda, Deborah, Patricia, Phyllis, Diane, Brenda, Stephanie…those names pretty much were out of use by 1970, and practically extinct by 1980.  Some male names have retained popularity, like Chris, Robert, Matt, and even John (looks more modern spelled without the “h”) and the always popular Michael.  There are web sites that list popular boy and girl names by the decade that are quite useful.
  • Your 30-ish characters call flight attendants “stewardesses.”  Any character using this term should be at least  75.
  • Your 30-ish character’s dream man is Denzel Washington.  Come on…Denzel still looks good, but the fact is he’s a man in his late 50s…old enough to be the father of a 35-year-old.  Choose a younger dream celebrity.
  • Your 30-ish characters are doing “the bump” or even worse, “the bus stop” at a party.  Dances today really don’t have names, unless it’s line dancing like the slide cha-cha or the Cupid Shuffle.
  • Your 30-ish characters sound old.  Come on, folks.  If the hero calls the heroine a “treacherous little minx,” it just doesn’t come off sounding like contemporary jargon.  I actually read that line of dialogue in a contemporary African-American romance novel.  Just thinking about it cracks me up.  I once tried to repeat it to a writer friend, but laughed so hard I couldn’t get the words out.  Dialogue should sound natural...and preferably taken from the century in which the story is set.

Have you noticed any factors in books that give away the author's age?  Share!
September 10, 2012

Anatomy of an eBook:  Something Real

It sounded so simple...Answer reader's requests to know more about a strained romantic relationship that was in the background of my book The Heat of Heat, and since the female half of this duo, Olivia (Liv) Oliveira had been introduced in my book Save The Best For Last , why not have her share a story with the heroine's other friend from that book, Francesca (Cesca) Perry?  I'd already set the stage by having Cesca harbor an intense dislike for policemen...and I'd included a scene where the heroine, Gen, encounters a policeman who is initially suspicious of her marriage when she is unable to give him a contact number for her husband other than, "Four pound" on her cell phone speed dial.  He quickly reverses his opinion when he witnesses Gen's husband Dexter rush to her hospital bed and interact with her tenderly, unaware that his first suspicions were was a sham marriage, but the two of them were actually falling in love.

I decided to put Cesca and that suspicious policeman, Terrence, in what would be a complete romance, with the requisite happy ending, but that the relationship between Liv and her love Brian had the potential for more angst, so their tortured relationship would not be resolved this time around (Let me say that again, will not be resolved).  Because this book would be divided into Book I and Book II, with the first beginning the spring after Save The Best For Last ended, with a jump forward for Book II to after the end of The Heat of Heat, I would have an opportunity to let readers witness the start of Liv's love affair with Brian and see what drove them apart.  Then I threw a wrench into the story that really twisted it up, because there's nothing like giving the readers a good surprise that they (if I'm lucky) won't see coming.

Yes, it sounded simple.  Yet, this book is turning out to be Extremely, with a capital E, difficult to write.  I'm not sure why.  Like all my books, I had this story outlined before I started to write.  But as I do a read-through I'm finding that I need additional scenes here and there, need to move this scene up and push that scene other words, this thing is driving me nuts.  The only thing that is keeping me going is that I absolutely loooooove the way it's turning out!

Which brings me to the point of my post (yes, I know, it's about time).  Why are some books so hard to write while with others I can't get the words out fast enough?  My last two eBooks, Isn't She Lovely? and A Kiss of a Different Color, were both easy to write.  Sure, I added scenes here and there when transitions seemed too harsh, and characters needed more development so readers could really feel they knew them.  But they were quick writes, with the former following the latter to publication by just five months.

It has now been over six months since Isn't She Lovely? was put on sale, and I'm still working on Something Real.  My goal is to have it turned over to the editor by the end of this month and to publish by the end of October.  But I'm not sure why some stories are soooo difficult while others are so easy.  If anyone has any ideas, please share!

And wish me luck! 
September 2, 2012

Good Advice

This blog post from New York Times bestselling indie author Gemma Halliday about the importance of good eBook cover art is from last spring, but it remains relevant.

Here are a few of Ms. Halliday's covers.  Not only do they look like traditionally published books, but they work well in thumbprint form.

Remember, even successful writers never stop learning and are always open to new and better ways of doing things!
September 1, 2012

In Celebration of September

It's just one flip of the calendar page from August 31st to September 1st, but for me this shift in months is second in importance only to December 31st morphing into January 1st.

So, in honor of this month, all together now:

September means, of course, that summer will soon be at an end.  Only a few more days remain to don those white slacks or even slip your feet into those white sandals.  It means apple cider, which I love (I picked up my first half gallon of the season yesterday!).  It means a new season of TV shows will soon be airing.  It means cooler temperatures are around the corner.  It means back to school for the kids (although in many parts of the country this has already occurred).  It means I blew it yet again when it comes to summerizing my snowblower, which I will probably have to have serviced to make it operational for the winter.  It means my family's reunion is drawing closer and I'd better start making arrangements, since my husband and I are hosting. Yes, I can practically feel the chill in the air.

I'm also on an efficiency/organizational/clean kick, which I get every spring and every fall.  I'm writing this after a vigorous scrubbing of my oven with baking soda and vinegar.

That desire for efficiency stretches out to my writing.  The 5th of September will mark six months since the release of my last original eBook, Isn't She Lovely? back in March.  (Accidentally Yours, ePubbed a few weeks ago, is actually a slightly revised reprint of a previous book published under a different title.)  Since Something Real is still in the edit process (more on that in an upcoming blog), it means I missed my preferred six-month deadline to publish a new product within six months. But you know what?  That's okay.  I'm not gonna shoot myself over that.  It might not even be out by October 5th (although I do expect it to be out by the end of October).  The fact is, pre-edits are hard...Every few pages I have to ask myself things like, Wasn't the heroine wearing a dress earlier in the scene? Why is she kicking off her jeans?  (The answer:  Because I made a consistency error.)  This gets exhausting after a while.  But these pre-edits (before I submit the manuscript to the editor) would be a lot harder if I was a sloppy writer.

You see, I've caught the habit.  The writing habit, that is.  Editing is a slow and tedious process, but writing is getting easier and easier.  A few months ago I committed to writing 1000 words a day, and for the most part I've kept up with that, usually by dictating into my handheld and then hooking it up to my laptop and letting the Dragon software transcribe my words.  I've also stayed on target with reading over the text and, if necessary, checking what I actually said if it didn't transcribe correctly (that is something that also happens less and less and Dragon has become more familiar with my speech patterns).  The result is that my future projects have a healthy amount of text.

I'm also having a lot of fun learning the ins and outs of the Scrivener writing software while I wait for my copy of Scrivener for Dummies to arrive so I can make sure I'm getting the maximum use of this amazing software.  In the interim, I've learned that I can essentially storyboard (plot out a book) using this software, even though if a plotline is giving me trouble I still prefer to use an actual board with different colored Post-It notes to determine which thread of the story each action belongs to (I usually divide these between General, Hero, Heroine, Antagonist, and Romance threads).

Using a different color for each thread, I can view my color-coded plotline chapter-by-chapter (or the entire book) in either list form:

 or index card form (similar to Post-It notes):

and check the balance of the story (am I too heavy on this thread or that thread while neglecting others?).

Lovin' September!  (humming the bars to the Earth, Wind, and Fire song).  What do you like about this month?