Well, that was easy

Draft2Digital made it absurdly easy to get the GNW series up on iBooks, Kobo, and Tolino.

I think there’s probably some delay time before they actually go live, but they’ve been submitted, new blurbs and all, and now…we shall see.

And all before 10 a.m.! I AM A BEAST.

We have come a long, long way since I stayed up all night in October 2011, hand-coding GNW so it displayed semi-properly.

And that actually does it for most of my GNW Makeover Challenge, which I’ll post about more fully in a couple of days.

The Joys of Housekeeping

I have a terrible secret to share.

Are you ready to hear it?

Brace yourselves. It’s ugly.

I work in digital marketing.

“But Suz,” I hear you saying, “what’s ugly about that?”

It’s not that I work in digital marketing. It’s that I’ve worked in digital marketing for years and have never bothered applying anything I do at my job to my books. Keyword research? Feh. Snappier back cover copy? Whatever. Tests? I can’t be bothered.

It was partially self-defense. I do all this stuff for my day job. I don’t necessarily want to bring it home with me. But during the last few weeks, when I finally dove into stuff like series maintenance, I started to see exactly the sort of problems we usually point out to our clients. No SEO keywords (!). Back cover copy, which I thought was kind of kitschy and entertaining at the time, was. not. working.

So that’s been my project over the last couple days. I dug out the old copywritin’ skillz and redid the back cover copy on the GNW series. Did some SEO research and selected some keywords for various search engines. And now, for my next trick, I’m going to try to get some wider distribution going.

Brace yourselves. New platforms are coming.

…provided I can figure them out.

Amazon Buys Goodreads

Not sure about this Amazon-Goodreads things.

Full disclosure: I don’t do much on Goodreads. I had an account some time back (well, I still have the account, but I don’t use it) and quickly realized that spending tons of time on an Internet forum talking about books and other things that interested me was pretty much my kryptonite. Goodreads is like Reddit. Way too easy to get sucked into. So I logged out and haven’t gone back, not because I don’t like it, but because I am way too easily distracted and this is the best I can get to enforced self-discipline.

With that said, I think it’s a valuable tool for authors and readers, and just a fun place to hang out.

And now Amazon has eaten it.

I happen to love Amazon. Not just because the bulk of my sales come from them, but because they’ve just plain been good to me. I ordered books off them when they first came into being. When they opened their music store, it was the only way I could have gotten my hands on Armageddon: The Score by Trevor Rabin, still one of my favorite soundtracks. It came out in 1998 or 1999; don’t remember which, but Amazon carried it, and I played it so often in my Discman (and later, my car) that I am pretty sure I wore out the CD.

From there, it’s been a steady stream of awesomeness for me, the consumer. Print books, ebooks, CDs, MP3s, movies, the occasional poster and beauty product. And now I can make a little money off them through my books. Hey, I heart Amazon.

With that said, I do see them buying up other companies and yes, it makes me nervous.

I also wonder what this is going to do to Goodreads as the supposed Bastion of Book-Reviewing Neutrality. Amazon’s been dealing with the issue of sock puppets and fake reviews for quite some time; how is this going to spill over into Goodreads? Maybe it won’t, but this is certainly something regular users should be wondering about.

It could be an outstanding opportunity for writers (including indies) to get noticed, but I do feel a little sad that yet another independent company has been bought out by a bigger one. Yeah, yeah, capitalism and all, but it gets tiresome.

Anyway, I’ll be watching the AG union with great interest. Here’s hoping it works out for everyone.


On Covers

What do you do for the book that won’t sell?

Echoes has a lot going for it. I think it’s actually the best of the three books I have out, but sales have never been all that strong. I’m going to try some different things with it in the coming year, just to see if I can bump up its sale rate a little bit, and step one was a new cover.

When I published Echoes and GNW (I think they were about three weeks apart?) I was flat broke and had no money for cover art. I did have an old copy of Photoshop and some classes under my belt, along with some photo manipulation skillz left over from a previous magazine gig. My covers weren’t great, but they were serviceable. When GNW took off, I promptly hired a real cover artist, Steven Novak, and he gave it a new look. Steven also did the DBG cover.

I left Echoes alone. Maybe not the best thing I could have done for it, but sales were so meh anyway, I found it hard to justify sinking money into it. But while updating my Facebook page, the Echoes cover looked so…sad…next to the GNW/DBG covers that I emailed Steven to inquire about a redesign.

The bottom line is that I think Echoes is a good story. Despite its poor sales, it’s been extremely well-reviewed, and if I can give it a chance to shine, well, I should do that.

Steven out-did himself on this one. He listened to my vague ideas of what I was going for and knocked together a beautiful cover for Echoes. I’m going to have to dig up the original file to add the cover to, so that will be tomorrow’s task, along with re-upping to B&N and Amazon. I’ll also upload the cover to the site tomorrow.

Now all three of my books have proper covers. I’d squee, but that would be undignified.

Oh, all right.


Facebookin’ It

I am not a fan of Facebook.

Never have been. I dumped my personal FB page last July and have never missed it; beyond that, I always had trouble with the FB author page vs. the admin account I used for it vs…look, I’m just not Facebook-savvy, okay?

But…it’s recommended for authors, and I do occasionally get messages from readers through it, which I discovered when I logged in today and found some sitting there.

Say it with me now: Oh, shit.

So I’m going to try to get into it. Try being the key word here. I updated my author photo (which came about because I had way too much fun with the Dead Yourself app) and responded to some messages and liked The Walking Dead, and…that’s all I’ve done so far.

I sent my Dead Yourself pic to a pal before putting it up.

“Really?” she asked. “Really?

“I think I make a cute zombie,” I said. I also made it my Twitter picture.

Speaking of zombies, reached 2,024 words on GNW3 today. Not too shabby. Finished a gigantic, soul-eating freelance project last night (well, early this morning) so that will free me up for more writing time.

At least, that’s the great hope.

In the meantime, a very happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all! Drink some green beer for me.

Sheepishly Returning

Well, I sure did a bang-up job of maintaining this blog, didn’t I?

Um, sorry, all. If anyone actually reads this. I did try to keep tweeting consistently, even though most of my tweets seem to be centered around coffee. I think the problem with blogging and tweeting is that I just find myself really…really…boring. I’m not a very exciting person, really. Why would anyone want to read my scrawls?

If you think this is bad, you should check out my Facebook page. Or better yet, don’t.


A few things happened between this post and my last one. Namely I decided Atlantis wasn’t working the way it should, so I scrapped that for a while; I also got saddled with some very time-consuming projects, both of which pay me far more than my novels at the moment, so of course they have received the bulk of my attention. I’m actually on the tail end of a huge ghostwriting project and some managerial stuff, so maybe in the next few days everything will settle down.

On the plus side…I have about 1,092 words on GNW3.

But didn’t you start GNW3 like, months ago? And have a lot more words?

Oops. Yes, yes I did. I started it in October, actually. And while I liked the overall plot of the story, it just wasn’t quite working for me. I think in hindsight I needed more of a break after the summer rush to get DBG out.

So the other night I was looking at my calendar and realized I was actually supposed to start work on GNW3 on Monday. (I think I looked at it on Wednesday.) Feeling rather guilty, I sat down and wrote 500 words. Then today I wrote 500 more. That’s about all I can manage at the moment with my workload (I really shouldn’t even be blogging, but I gotta start somewhere). So hey, I’m a week behind and many, many words behind, but…actually I can’t really find the silver lining there.

All my own writing is behind. I am more bummed about this than I thought I’d be.

My original release calendar went something like ATLANTIS I (April), GNW3 (June), BIG INTERSTELLAR ADVENTURE (fall sometime). Oh, I also had three 2013 releases slated for a second pseudonym.

Except then I realized A1 needed reworking, I dropped GNW3, and that interstellar adventure is going to have to wait.

I don’t know if there’s a lesson here, but this is what happens when you treat your writing as a hobby. I still do that. I acknowledge it and I’m mostly okay with it. The three books I have out have done surprisingly well, considering how little I do to promote them (little meaning nothing, in this case), but there’s only the three of them. The “real” authors out there, the ones that keep cranking out the books no matter what…I tip my hat to them. I find I am just not willing to work on my own stuff after I’ve been asked to crank out two novellas in a week. The brain is fried.

(Ghostwriting is deadly work, folks. Maybe there’s a post unto itself…taking on more than I can chew.)

Every now and then I think, Maybe if I take this thing seriously I’ll get better dividends from it. I invariably spend a week or two planning to do just that, and then get distracted by the newest shiny thing (or more likely I’m waylaid by actual paying work) and that’s the end of my planning.

In the end, I don’t know what the answer is. I will get GNW3 out this year. I’ll get a couple of books out under a pseudonym, too. Once this work crush slows down I’ll be able to reassess and see what I need to do to really get the Blackmore brand, so to speak, off the ground.

The ironic thing in all this? I am making a living as a writer. I ghostwrite in many genres and I handle a lot of nonfiction as a freelancer. That’s my words earning me money. When people ask me what I do, I can say I’m a writer and it’s not a lie. I could have business cards made. Then it would be official.

(I do have business cards, by the way. They say many things on them, as I was juggling many trades when I had them made. Writer is on them, but so are other things.)

(Can you tell how much I like parentheses? Also, I really need to sleep. Like now.)

Genre Bender

I discovered L.E. Waters earlier this week while looking for books about past lives. Her Infinite Sacrifice is free for the time being, and it is gorgeously written. If you like past lives and beautiful writing, it’s a definite recommendation. I’ll be buying its sequel, Infinite Devotion, next week once I have some time to sit down and read!

When I like an author’s work, I check out their blog, and L.E. Waters brought up an interesting question in this post about J.K. Rowling. Namely, how do you handle writing in multiple genres?

As someone who likes to dabble in different genres, this post really got me thinking. My work under SPB fits into comedy-horror and sci-fi. The zombie stories are the big sellers; the sci-fi…not so much. What I mean is I track the sales, and I’m not getting a lot of crossover traffic. I do have a handful of emails from people who have read either GNW or Echoes and ventured to the other based on enjoying that one, but for the most part they’re very different sets of readers.

So…I guess what I’m asking is, is a writer betraying her readers if she tries a new genre? Reading Waters’ initial post, I’m beginning to suspect some readers will feel some level of betrayal:

My heart sunk when I saw that it was a black comedy, reminding me of a plot for new tv series. I know she is a great writer, but I don’t want to read about this sort of world. I want to read her fantasy.

She goes on to say that she’ll be changing her writing plans, and will probably release a historical novel after the Infinite series to better please her readers.

I’m of the opinion that Rowling was up against a brick wall no matter what she chose to do. If she wrote another fantasy novel, it would be forever compared to Harry Potter. If she switched, she’d be questioned for trying something new. She could always write under a pen name…but then how do you transfer the force behind the Potter brand to the new book? Clearly, her publishers are hoping some of the Potter magic will transfer to the new book and spur gigantic sales figures. Writing under a pseudonym probably wasn’t even an option for her.

And really, should she have to? She devoted years of her life to Potter and that fandom. She’s well within her rights to try something new. Her fantasy fans don’t need to read the new stuff, but I bet a lot of them will check it out, just because hey, it’s Rowling! Frankly, I can’t blame her for trying something totally new. It’s like the whole Tarja vs. Anette situation with Nightwish: they weren’t able to duplicate the Tarja voice, so they went with its polar opposite. And it worked.

Rowling discussion aside, I completely understand where Waters is coming from. It’s probably a question most working writers must address: what kind of stories do I want to write? What will sell?

The folks who contact me most about my work are zombie fans, but while I love zombies, I don’t want to write about them exclusively until the end of time (or until December 21, whichever comes first). But at the same time I want to make a living, and Vibeke vs. The End of the World has been helping me pay the bills for almost a year.

So no, I don’t want to alienate anyone who may be into me just for the living dead. But I also want to try other things.

At the moment, my plan for the Blackmore pseudonym is to use it as my main genre handle. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and its offshoots. The story I’m working on for NaNoWriMo looks like a sci-fi novel with a love story in it…is it a romance? Not quite. So if it’s ever published, it would be under the Blackmore name. But if I got the urge to write contemporary chicklit, then yes, I would publish it under another pseudonym.

But then I’d have to figure out how to handle the pseudonym. I’ve had some pretty good sales under Blackmore. The natural thing to do is say, “Hey, I’m writing under another name, check it out if you’re interested,” but doesn’t that kill the purpose of a secret moniker? Or is everything just an open secret on the Internet anyway?

Three Ways to Handle a New Pen Name

a) Create a new pseudonym. Tell no one. Hope the work stands on its own. (The Super-Secret Pseudonym.)

b) Create a new pseudonym. Announce it on your website and have a link to your second handle’s work. Casual readers may not know it at all; only your diehard fans who visit your site will be aware. (The Open Secret Pseudonym.)

c) Use some variant of your present name to keep the two handles connected. “Patrizia Blackmore,” for example, blazoned across Fabio’s chest on the cover of the new romantic novel. (The Lazy Man’s Pseudonym.)

Actually, I kind of like Patrizia…gives me an exotic flair I lack in real life.

Anyway, it’s an interesting situation to ponder, and many thanks to L.E. Waters, both for writing an outstanding book and providing fodder for my latest blog post!

Growth of the Indie Market

I recently read a New York Times article about purchasing reviews. It’s an interesting piece, and I recommend it for writers in general. The article largely discusses purchasing reviews in connection with indie writers, but a small publishing house I worked with a few years ago did the same thing. While I don’t like the idea of buying reviews, whether they’re good or bad, the guy profiled in the article apparently managed to turn it into a lucrative business; in this economy I have to tip my hat to him for that.

What really caught my attention was Bowker’s estimate that 300,000 titles were self-published “last year” (I’m guessing that means 2011) in print or digital form. They also say that there could be 600,000 self-published books in 2015.

Six hundred thousand.

Folks, that is a gigantic number. It’s enough to make me pause and wonder if there will be room for me.

The article and my recent efforts to step up my marketing have left me to reconsidering what remains of my 2012 writing goals. After a rewarding but grueling year, writing-wise — I had independent projects up the wazoo, plus DBG being a problem child — I was all ready to kick off my shoes and just take it easy for the rest of the year. I figured I’d work on some short stories, but definitely put off the big stuff for 2013.

Now…now I think there’s not a moment to lose. A writer’s greatest strength is her backlist. I’ve got to get cracking on that. Right now, there’s three books with my moniker on them floating around in cyberspace. The big sellers, not surprisingly, are the zombies, because zombies are hot right now and I do think there’s a niche for a snarky female lead.

So I’m retooling my writing schedule through the end of 2012 in an effort to build up a little more momentum. I’m looking at a sci-fi novella for starters, along with several zombie short stories to feature on this site…

Meanwhile, Echoes is in its second day of free promotion and is #27 on the Kindle Science Fiction list. I have no idea why they’re lumping it in with the paid list, but…they are:

Paid or not, it feels pretty dang good to see it on any list. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away. 🙂

Marketing Mysteries

I am not a good marketer.

I am very shy by nature, so putting myself (and thus my work) out there is something of an alien concept to me. When I first stuck a toe into the self-publishing pond, I knew marketing was part of the deal, yet I avoided it like the plague. I think I posted on two message boards about Echoes and GNW when they were first released; that was it. I tweeted once or twice. I did blog steadily, at least for a while, but that was pretty much the extent of my marketing. I figured, Hey, it’s a minor miracle that I’ve got anything out there at all. Let’s just leave it at that.

As any self-publishd author (hell, any entrepreneur) will tell you…that’s a bad idea. Very, very bad.

In spite of this, GNW sold really, really well, hitting several Amazon bestsellers’ lists and basically saving my apartment when one of my biggest writing jobs went belly-up. I don’t feel like I could ask for a better performance from what I called “my silly little zombie story,” but I do occasionally wonder if I’m doing my writing a disservice by not working the marketing angle a little bit.

This point was driven home when I followed a series of links and inadvertently ended up learning a lot.

I’ve frequented Holly Lisle’s site since I was in high school (at this point we’re talking 15 years ago), and last week she put up an interview she had with Laura Howard. I followed the link to Laura’s site, listened to the interview, and ended up paging through the rest of Laura’s blog. She had interviewed many other women in publishing, including Ashley Barron, who had an entire series on her blog about getting started with marketing on your blog, using Twitter, and all that good stuff. It’s a freaking gold mine of information.

Why am I not doing this? I wondered. How stupid am I?

Pretty stupid, as Vibeke might say.

Inspired, I tinkered with the site layout a little bit and basically reactivated my Twitter, which I had forgotten about since a handful of posts in November. I’ve started following people again. So far, so good.

I can’t exactly tell you why I’ve bombed so badly in the social media aspect. Writing is largely a business for me. I’m a ghostwriter, freelance reporter, and blogger. I’ve done well in those areas…but I’ve completely ignored my own fiction – the stuff under my pseudonym. I haven’t exactly treated it like a hobby, but I think that’s been my approach to marketing it: “It’s not my main income, so I shouldn’t have to put a ton of thought into it.”

That mindset is the more comfortable one to slip into, but it’s not doing my books any favors. Thing is, they’ve done me favorsGNW — tiny brawler that it was — started paying a good chunk of the bills after I’d done pretty much everything short of self-sabotage to stop it. Maybe it’s time to see what my books can do when I work with them, not against them.

I am never going to be a mega-awesome promoter. It’s not in my blood. But I can blog, and I can tweet, and I can meet very cool people through both routes.

I’ll certainly document my findings here. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. Fingers crossed!

Joining Pinterest, Leaving Select

I finally joined Pinterest today. You can find me under S.P. Blackmore if you’re curious to see my pinning habits. So far I’ve got inspiring words and pictures I think are pretty. Pinterest gave me some people to follow…people who like food…so I’ve been staring at food for five minutes. Blegh. I’m also trying to get back into Twitter, which is an important marketing tool (and also a great way to find other writers and their blog posts…you wouldn’t believe how many hours I’ve killed reading during the last few days).

Anyway, on to the main subject of the night: After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to pull Echoes from the KDP Select program.

It’s been in the program all year. This isn’t a knock on Select; I know it works for some authors, but it never quite panned out for Echoes. Meanwhile, my zombie sales have been creeping up slowly but surely on B&N, and I’ve received some emails from Nook readers wondering when Echoes would be available for them.

Now…if Echoes sold like gangbusters on Amazon, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but honestly it’s just looking like lost income at this point, as KDP Select books can only be available on Amazon. Thus, when the book is cycled out of the program, I’ll put it back up on B&N. Look for it around September 14.

In the meantime, to take advantage of my remaining promotional days, Echoes will be available for free on Amazon from September 1 through September 3.

I like KDP Select as a concept, and I think authors with more titles may be able to get better results from it than I have. I considered tossing GNW into Select, but it’s still selling too well on B&N to warrant pulling it just to experiment. Still, I could see myself trying it again with a couple of books once I’ve built up more of a backlist.

The building of that backlist is my next big project. Originally, I intended to take the rest of the year off, as far as my own novels go; I figured I’d pick at some short stories, but that was it. Now…well, now I’m not so sure. I have a feeling time is of the essence here…