Kindle Scout to Kindle Press—A Final Wrap-Up

When last I posted here, my book had been accepted for publication through Kindle Scout, but wasn’t yet available to be purchased. Since then, it’s gone up for pre-order, and then for general purchase. Rankings have been lingering in the five figures, between about 65,000 as the low and 12,000 as the high. I had expected a faster drop-off, but I haven’t seen it yet—the numbers have stayed pretty steadily in that range (of course, I go to check right now and find it at 77K BECAUSE OF COURSE IT IS!). I don’t know what kind of sales that means, exactly, and I won’t know until I get my first sales report, which will be either the end of this month or the end of next.

The process of publication was dead simple. I got some edits back, which were less than painless, then got an email telling me when the book would be available. I was asked if I’d be willing to change the cover, which I did. (You can see the new version right here!) This had to do with the inclusion of a weapon on the original cover. I just found a shot of the same model without the gun (actually, she does have a gun in this picture, but it’s by her side, so it was easy to remove it from the visible portion), plopped it into the original cover, cleaned up a few things, and went on my way. I like the new layout at least as much as the original.

After the book had been out for a bit, I received an email with screencaps of some of the promotions Kindle is doing for the book, which right now consists of inclusion in their “New Releases” newsletter and in advertising sent to Kindle users. Three months after initial release, which was 12-24, I’ll be eligible for a regular promotion. These include pricing promotions, and according to the email, the book has also been nominated for various placement promotions. I’m not sure what this entails, but hopefully it’ll sell me some books. I’m also doing some ad placements myself, as well as hitting social media, etc. I’ve decided to do this on a “drip” strategy rather than a big “splash” strategy, so I’m not flooding all my social media channels all the time. In addition, I wrote two short prequel stories and am offering them for free to new newsletter subscribers.

I’ve found the process so far to be satisfactory. If you’re the kind of person who likes to ask a lot of questions and get answers right away, you might find the Kindle Press approach frustrating. I get the impression they’re a bit overworked and understaffed, but that’s probably true of any publisher these days. They’ve provided all the information I really needed in a timely fashion, and I’m happy to plug along with other things while I’m waiting for people to get back to me, so it hasn’t bothered me particularly. In the mean time, I’m working on those promo plans and, yes, busily scribbling away on a sequel.

Also, the book’s gotten some absolutely fabulous reviews! Reviews came up during the pre-release phase, so that was helpful. People who voted for the book were able to submit reviews and have that star rating all ready for the general release. So that was a good thing, and I like to think it’s helped get sales jumpstarted. Hopefully reality won’t hurt me too hard when my actual sales numbers come in.

I hope sharing my experience with Kindle Scout has been helpful. I’m excited about all the different ways we can get our stories out in front of readers, and this one seemed like it would be fun and potentially snag a larger audience than I’ve been able to find all on my own. If you have any questions about anything I’ve discussed in this series of posts, please ask! And best of luck to all of you working to get their stories out into the world.

 

Romance Sub-genres Part 2

Happy New Year, Campers. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Ours involved 80-100mph winds and no electricity. We had a daring chicken rescue as well but that’s a story for another time.

Last month we covered some of the sub-genres of Romance - Romantic Comedy, Chick-Lit, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense, Historical, Inspirational. Wow, that’s a lot. We also “touched” - haha, get it? - on the different heat levels in some of the genres.

This month, we’re going to finish up with sub-genres. We’ll look at the vast world of Paranormal and also talk about Regency Romance.

Let’s do Regency first, shall we? Regency romance has a very strict set of rules.

• It must be set in England in 1812 (okay you can fudge just a smidge on this - but not much)
• It must be historically accurate for the time and place. It was a time of violence and danger lurked around every corner. The streets weren’t safe. King George III was on the edge of insane and England was embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars.
• It must include kings, and dukes, and lords and ladies and titled nobility of all sorts. And you have to keep them straight and right. Your readers will.
• It must include accurate character names that fit the times. Keep your classes straight and your names fitting.
• It must use the language of the times. Peculiar terms and phrases abound in Regency.

With Regency - the authors writing this sub-genre are well versed readers first.

If you come across the term “Regency-set historicals” think Regencies set in locations other than England. America was fighting a war too at the time.

Want to write Regencies? Read Regencies.

Now on to Paranormal.

Included in Paranormal Romance are Fantasy Romance, SciFi Romance and Futuristic Romance, Time Travel Romance, Reality based vampires and werewolves and such, Ghosts and Angels and Goddesses, and also more sinister creatures of the night.

Fantasy Romance will include the world building common in all fantasy fiction - from complete other worlds to earth realities that have their own rules.

SciFi and Futuristic Romance can include elements of SciFi, Space Opera, etc. The difference between the two is SciFi is outer space based and Futuristic is Earth based.

Time Travel Romance - pretty self explanatory. Might Outlander fit this category?

Reality based creatures - these would be stories much like Contemporary Romances with vampires or werewolves in staring roles.

The term Light Paranormal refers to your ghost stories and angel stories - suggesting that these paranormal creatures are friendlies. Dark Paranormal would be your blood suckers and baddies of every variety. Fairies and leprechauns and selkies and such can be creatures of light or creatures of darkness. You get to decide.

But remember, in all these sub-genres, the key is the Romance. It must be front and center. Any and all of these sub-genres can and do have further categories such as Young Adult and New Adult.

After I finished this list, I realized I’d left out the paranormal I’ve written. It’s a reincarnation story. So there’s another category.

Confused? Don’t be. Just be aware that the variety inside Romance is LIMITLESS. There’s something for anyone who loves happily ever after.

Going Deeper for 2017

Welcome, 2017! So glad to see you. This year promises to be the best writing yet.

In that vein, I’d like to discuss a problem I’ve been having and hopefully you’ll have advice. Because, that’s what writer’s groups like RMFW are all about. Asking questions of your tribe. And mocking them when they give you bad advice…

So tribe, here’s my dilemma. I’ve been working on a cozy mystery. I sent it to my agent to read, and she suggested we make it more of a general mystery instead of a cozy. Her suggestion for doing so is, to go deeper.

Now that sounds easy enough.

Blinking at the blank page…

What the heck does go deeper even mean? I understand it in the general sense. But how do I make it happen? Does anyone have ideas or tools they use to create more depth and emotion?

So far, I’ve added some additional backstory and description of surroundings. Gotten more graphic in terms of the murder itself.

Most of that advice came from the internet, so you know it’s true.

What say you? How do you make your stories more complex? I promise not to laugh and point.

 

What Makes a Workshop Proposal Stand Out?

Volunteering for the workshop proposal selection committee offers a rare opportunity to see all the workshop and panel proposals that are submitted for consideration to Colorado Gold. For the past several years, I have served on this committee, and now in my second year as conference chair, I'd like to share some of what I've learned.  When you are exposed to hundreds of proposals over the course of months, it becomes easy to spot the standouts.

A lot of consideration and planning goes into the selection process on the part of the committee and then by the conference chair. Our goal is to ensure we are providing the widest range of classes to suit writers at every level of their career from beginning writers to published authors. As publishing continues to evolve, so will the types of workshops and panels at Colorado Gold.

During the proposal selection process, the committee focuses on the proposed topic as well as the proposal itself. Knowing that your proposal will be one among many, it's worth your time to make sure it showcases your workshop in the best possible way. When putting your proposal together for submission, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your topic specific, fresh, and unique? The selection committee will always seek proposals on writing craft basics, best practices, how to, and industry standards, but if your proposal comes off as run-of-the-mill during the proposal process, what does that say about your class? There are many ways to talk about outlining, character development, queries, marketing, and publishing as a whole, but if your topic feels stale, it simply won't stand out.
  • Is your topic relevant to the industry's current climate? Publishing is changing at a rapid pace, and authors are savvy to what's going on. If you've presented on this topic before, how have you updated your class to keep it fresh?
  • Is your topic positive in nature? One of the goals of Colorado Gold is to pump up our attendees and fill them with the knowledge and information they need to face their writing with a fresh attitude and renewed excitement. A workshop or class that is geared toward the negative or focuses solely on what-not-to-do will have the opposite effect and is less likely to be selected.
  • Have you taught before? It's perfectly fine if this is your first proposal and your first time teaching. We welcome fresh talent! But make sure you share your credentials so the committee can see that you're the perfect person to teach a class on your proposed topic. Also, be sure to include enough content in your description and outline so it's clear you know your subject and you're prepared to teach the material. This goes for experienced presenters who are teaching a new course for the first time.
  • Are you submitting a proposal for a discussion panel? How do you plan to engage the audience? How do you plan to moderate the discussion? Have you listed all of the speakers? What topics will you discuss that will provide insights to attendees they can use? Is your topic so broad it lacks clarity? So narrow as to limit its appeal? Is your panel audience-focused? A panel heavy with self-promotion won't appeal to attendees who are looking for usable knowledge to apply to their own writing careers.
  • Does your proposal indicate concrete knowledge or skills?  What do you plan to share with your audience that they can take away and apply to their writing? Be detailed so that the committee can understand what attendees will learn in your workshop or panel.
  • Does your proposal clearly state your audience?  Is it for Beginner, Intermediate, Professional level writers? For everyone? Is it for published or pre-published writers? If it's geared toward already-published writers, does the content pertain to traditionally published, indie, or both? Does the content of your outline match the expected track level?
  • Is your outline detailed enough without being too detailed? This is important! If you submit an outline for your two-hour workshop that contains a handful of five bullet points and no supporting detail, it will seem as though you don't have enough content to fill your time slot. Conversely, if your outline for your one-hour workshop is fifteen pages single-spaced, it will seem as though you might not have a firm grasp on your subject matter or enough time to present all the material. Find a balance that allows you to show what you'll cover, how it will flow, how long it will take, and what attendees will take away.
  • Is your outline well organized?  A well-planned outline is easy to spot. It shows the main topic, the sub-topics in the order you plan to present them, and shares a bit of the direction your class will take. An organized outline indicates a solid grasp of subject knowledge and information flow, which results in a class that your audience will be glad they chose.
  • Have you proofread your proposal and provided all the information requested? This might seem like a no-brainer but think about it. Just like a resume, your proposal represents you during this process. Typos and errors reflect poorly on your proposal. You want to give the selection committee every reason to choose yours over another proposal. Do yourself a favor and submit your best possible proposal.
  • What are we looking for? If you have something that you think will be of interest to the attendees at RMFW Colorado Gold, we invite you to submit your proposals regardless of topic. Based on feedback from our conference attendee surveys, attendees have requested workshops and panels on the following subjects:

Writing Craft

  • Character Development, Character Arcs
  • How to Write a Beginning
  • Plotting Stories and Series
  • Genre-specific Tropes: Dos and Don'ts
  • Pacing
  • Writing Diversity: Other Cultures, Other Abilities, LGBTQ
  • Specialized Knowledge for Writers: Military, Battle, Police, Forensics, Weapons, Foreign Culture, Sex, History, etc.

Author Business & Professional Level

  • Marketing & PR
  • Networking: How-to, Strategies, New Avenues, What's Coming
  • Managing Financials, Taxes, Accounting, Best Practices
  • Contracts for Traditional and Indie Published Authors, Dos and Don'ts
  • Author Events, Public Speaking, Book Signings, Best Practices
  • Industry Insights for Traditional and Indie Publishing
  • Indie Publishing, What it Entails, How to Manage, DIY versus Hiring a Team
  • Social Media Management for Authors
  • Book Formatting
  • Book Reviews, How to Get Them
  • Audiobook Production, Options, How To
  • Cover Design
  • Discoverability
  • Author Platform, Building an Audience, How Tos, Options
  • Author Websites, DIY, How To, Options
  • Readers: Where to Find Them
  • Writing as a Career

This list is by no means complete, but hopefully, it triggers ideas and provides some insights about the kinds of things we're hearing from our conference goers about what they want to see. Proposal Submissions opened January 1 and will close at midnight on April 1Keep an eye on the conference page, your email, and the RMFW home page for details about Colorado Gold.

We look forward to receiving your proposals and building another fabulous conference for you!

Rocky Mountain Writer #69


Suzie Brooks  & Literary Wanderlust

The first episode of 2017 begins with the second installment of Writer's Rehab. This quick session with Natasha Watts deals with sprucing up your vocabulary.

Following Natasha, the guest is Suzie Brooks, who launched the independent publishing house Literary Wanderlust three short years ago.

Suzie talks the submission and scouting process, how she works with writers on everything from editing to marketing, and what it’s like to head up a small team of talented staffers working to produce quality books.

Since 2009, Suzie has served on the board of directors for RMFW. She holds a master’s degree in publishing from George Washington University and has many years of editorial experience.

Suzie Brooks

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

Intro music by Moby Gratis
Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Should We Continue the Getting to Know You (GTKY) Posts?

I would love to continue the Getting to Know You (GTKY) blog posts if we get enough volunteers. Here's one example of a member who was featured in the September 30, 2016 GTKY post:

Janet Lane

Website: http://janetlane.net/
Blog: https://janetlane.wordpress.com/ and RMFW Blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janetlaneauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/janetlaneauthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15418008.Janet_Lane

2016_Janet Lane1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I write "History, made passionate in medieval England," aka historical romance and women's fiction. It's my passion because I firmly believe that "Amor vincit omnia" -- Love conquers all. I love exploring relationships and making the impossible, possible through my characters. My favorite reviews mention that my writing transports them to my story worlds and makes them care for my characters. I write from my home office at an elevation of 8,300 ft. in Morrison, frequently crashing my husband's home office (better view), and wherever my MacPro and I travel.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I directed my community's annual musical production for 22 years, and I ran away from home at 6, 12, and 14. Oh, and my husband, John, and I were married at the Renaissance Festival.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

Must I choose one? I love to ski, spend time with my family and new grandson, and play tennis. And I love good treasure finds at estate sales and consignment stores.

 

We also have openings for guest bloggers throughout the year, so consider volunteering for one of those spots as well. Submission guidelines for guest bloggers can be found on the website.

Contact me at blog@rmfw.org and I'll email you the instructions for the GTKY posts.

You must be a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers member to participate in these opportunities, but it doesn't matter if you're published or unpublished, a long-time member or brand new to the organization. We want you to have a chance to introduce yourself to the membership and get acquainted with other members.

Enthusiasm Refill

The festive holiday season fills us with excitement, hope, cheer, enthusiasm, optimism. For several months we have something to look forward to. For many of us it is the excitement to see family and friends we haven't seen is a long time, for others it's seeing what Père Noël left for us under the Christmas tree, and for still others, like me, it's the anticipation of watching loved ones open presents we chose and wrapped just for them.

Inevitably after the holiday season there is a period of blahs, the unavoidable doldrums as we look ahead to what can't help to be mundane pursuits after the bright tinsel and blinking lights of such a heart-warming and lighthearted time. The lingering hangover from New Years Eve doesn't help.

Santa WritesHere's a perfect way to reignite your enthusiasm: write. Whenever I write, even when I have to force myself to sit down and put fingertips to keys, whenever I allow myself to be transported into the world I'm creating in my own stories, my spirits are always lifted, my heart lightened, my mind liberated.

It's safe to say the time-constraints of the season have necessitated that many (most?) of us have had to neglect our writing, even if only for a couple of weeks or so. This is the perfect time to get back to it. It's therapeutic, it's fun, and it's productive.

And it will keep at bay the post-holiday blahs.

What’s the Scoop on Colorado Gold 2017?

Every bit of information available so far about this year's Colorado Gold Conference can be found on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers website, conference page.

Conference dates: September 8-10, 2017
The location: Renaissance Hotel, Denver, Colorado

Want to submit a workshop proposal? Start here!

Want to know who the keynote speakers and visiting agents and editors will be or learn all about the conference fees? Hop back to the conference page.

You've probably already heard Diana Gabaldon has graciously accepted the invitation to attend as a keynote speaker. That's enough incentive right there to register as soon as registration opens on May 1st.

There's a Conference Facebook page where you'll find timely announcements and connect with other potential conference-goers.

More information coming soon. Don't forget about those workshop proposals...you can submit between now and March 31st.

 

Details, Details

Go find a copy of Lucia Berlin’s short story collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women.

Find “Point of View” within.

(Actually, okay, read the whole book or maybe one short story a week for as long as it takes. The title story is a masterpiece of humor and narration.)

But “Point of View” is a short story about writing, empathy, perspective, and the use of detail.

It’s like Lucia Berlin saying, "hey, here’s how it’s done."

“Point of View” has many layers to it and is a bit of genius, I would suggest, because of how effortlessly Lucia Berlin makes her point. It’s a short story in which nothing happens. The point of view is a writer. I don’t think we believe the narrator is Lucia Berlin herself. Might be, might not. The writer is writing about a woman named Henrietta and nothing much happens to Henrietta, either.

Joyce Carol Oates (New York Journal of Books, March 2016) has called “Point of View” Berlin’s “most complexly imagined short story.”

But “Point of View” is also a short story that is a note to writers about the power of detail. In fact, the main character comes right out and says that her story about Henrietta would be quite boring on the page but with the use of “intricate detail” she will “make this woman so believable you can’t help but feel for her.”

From “Point of View:”

“Most writers use props and scenery from their own lives. For example, my Henrietta eats her meager little dinner every night on a blue place mat, using exquisite heavy Italian stainless cutlery. An odd detail, inconsistent, it may seem, with this woman who cuts out coupons for Brawny towels, but it engages the reader’s curiosity. At least, I hope it will.”

The first-person “writer” of the story goes on to give examples of the details she uses from “her” life (the narrator) to bring her character, Henrietta, to life.

There’s a tug to these details. We care because the writer cares about Henrietta, has given her three dimensions through details and then slips into her point of view with attitude about her surroundings, too (even when she’s doing almost nothing).

“She lies in bed, sipping Sleepytime tea. She wishes she had her old electric blanket with the switch Lo-Med-Hot. The new blanket was advertised as the Intelligent Electric Blanket. The blanket knows it isn’t cold so it doesn’t get hot. She wishes it would get hot, comforting. It’s too smart for its own good! She laughs out loud. The sound is startling in the little room.”

You can almost feel Lucia Berlin breathing life into the story.

Through detail.

No brilliant new point here. There’s nothing you don’t already know, that the little objects and colors and stuff of your story add up, that your characters are reacting to the objects and colors and stuff of their lives all the time, that bringing the world of your characters to life will, in turn, deliver your character to your readers.

Reading Lucia Berlin will give you a jolt of inspiration. Your own life has ample material from which to draw, as “Point of View” suggests. All of Berlin’s story are quasi-autobiographical. Some, apparently, not so quasi. The detail is right there around us every day. We just have to see it. And write it down.

A full review of A Manual for Cleaning Women is here.

++

Details? On a side note (and very much related), the late Gary Reilly’s The Detachment was #2 on a list by Westword's Alan Prendergast for holiday gift suggestions among local writers. The novel is 154,000 words long. It is, if you read it, 154,000 words of documentary-level detail turned into a brilliant narrative piece of fiction.

Here’s what Prendergast wrote. Note the last two words.

2. The Detachment, Gary Reilly
Veterans who enjoy fact-based military fiction should take to Gary Reilly’s The Detachment (Running Meter Press), the second installment of his Vietnam-era novels featuring Private Palmer. Published posthumously last winter, the book is reminiscent of James Jones’s work—a look at the tedium and gut-checking that plagues an MP who, while not part of the frontline troops, still feels keenly the absurdity and madness of an unwinnable war. We’ve written about Reilly’s semi-comic “Asphalt Warrior” series of novels about a Denver cabbie, but the Vietnam work is of a different order: sober, poignant and harrowingly detailed.

The RMFW Spotlight is on LS Hawker

Our monthly feature, The RMFW Spotlight, is intended to provide members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers with more information about our board members as well as featured volunteers. This month we’re pleased to present LS Hawker.

2016_ls-hawker1. Hi Lisa! Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I'm the new PAL Coordinator. RMFW has been instrumental in my success as an author and I want to help other writers realize the same success.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

My newest suspense novel END OF THE ROAD comes out January 31 from HarperCollins Witness Impulse. You can buy it at any online retailer.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish -- what's one of yours?

One that I'm going to realize next summer is to witness a total solar eclipse. Ever since I read Annie Dillard's description in Teaching a Stone to Talk, it's been an obsession.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

As with most areas of my life, I'm a binge writer. I don't write every day. But I'll write up to sixteen hours at a stretch when I'm on deadline. I wish it could be different, but I've come accept that it's part of my process.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

I love traveling, speaking, reading, dreaming — but most of all, I love that I get to write for a living.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Don't rely on your "talent." Work your ass off learning your craft. Don't wait until you're in your forties, for the love of God.

2016_desk-ls-hawker7. What does your desk look like?

It's an electric adjustable desk so I can sit or stand, with two large monitors. What item must be on your desk? Coffee or bourbon, depending on the time of day, and a quote from Calvin Coolidge about persistence. Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it? A pair of wax lips, a rhinestone tiara, and Story Cubes.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Thanks Lisa!

You can learn more about LS Hawker at her website, blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.