Monday, August 29, 2011

Study Your Peers - The Southern Vampire Mysteries

Today I'm taking a critical look into the Southern Vampire Mystery series by Charlaine Harris, aka The Sookie Stackhouse novels, aka the books that started HBO's TV series, True Blood.

Why am I attempting to analysis the work of a highly successful vampire author who's craft is one-hundred times better than my own? Well... that IS why. She writes vampire urban fantasy... I write vampire urban fantasy... She's famous... I'm just getting started. I'm trying to learn something here by studying one of the masters.

What? Surprised I didn't chose The Vampire Lestat for this post? There is no argument from me that Anne Rice is certainly a vampire master, but the industry has come a long way since the days of Interview with a Vampire and Harris' books are bit more current. Plus I am currently obsessed with True Blood, so of course I jumped to talk about it. *wink*

So here we go:

Blurb for DEAD UNTIL DARK - Book 1

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability". She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome - and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life....

But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of - big surprise - murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next.

What I love most about this series:  Right off the bat in chapter one, Harris makes it known that humans are well aware of the existence of vampires. But they didn't always know. The vampires had recently "come out of the coffin" before book one starts. Unlike hundreds of other vampire books, the focus is not to keep the vampire lover a secret. Instead of focusing on the secret world of vampires, Harris plays on what would happen if we found out vampires were real? How would politics handle it? Would they have the same civil rights as us? Should human-vampire marriages be legalized? How would the church react to this? Do vampires have souls? Etc. Even though this is all going on in the back ground, Harris does such an excellent job of making it real - as real as the battle for gay rights, for example.

Why it works:  Plan and simple - it's different. I can't think of anyone else who's taken this approach before. In fact, it's so different that no one cares about the fact that she uses the stereotypical type of vampires (the exploding in the sun, needing permission to enter your house type).

The Characters:  The characters are always the reason why I love or hate any book. So of course that means I love Harris' characters - vampire and human. She does an excellent job of making each character 100 percent unique and quirky. My favorite character is - without a doubt - Eric Northman, the viking vampire and true alpha male and hero of the series. *Spoiler Alert!* I have to admit I was disappointed when Bill and Sookie broke up. I kept waiting for them to get back together - the flirting with Alcide was okay, but I really didn't care for that bald tiger guy. But Eric and Sookie, on the other hand, Oh - My - God! It's not even the fact that Sookie and Eric are together, it's the way Harris put them together!!! She was extra sneaky about it and it worked.

However, there were a few things that didn't work for me. Harris has a ton of secondary characters that just didn't seem necessary at all. Have you seen the show? Only about a third of the secondary characters from the book made it into the show. I'm glad the books are written in first person without any head-hopping (with the exception of Sookie's mind reading ability) or it would have been worse.

Also, a lot of her characters have some funky names and/or names that are spelled weird. I'm not sure if that's because her characters are from Louisiana or what, but I had a hard time trying to guess the proper pronunciation. This always annoys me to no end. If I can't pronounce a character's name, I'm not going to use it and not going to remember it either.

The Setting:  I've only been to New Orleans once when I was a kid, but you can tell Harris is from the area. I have to assume that's the major reason why she used Louisiana. She writes it well and she writes about Southern values and traditions from Sookie's point of view like she's been doing it herself her whole life - which she has. I always think using a setting you know well gives the author a huge advantage. It's easy to make it real because you've been there. Plus the twist - southern vampire racism - is oh so fun in this story. Does 'till death do you part have any power with a vampire lover?

The Writing:  Ah, here is we run into some issues. Before we all start to judge, I'm just going to say my own personal opinions here. You are all free to disagree. Ever since I became a writer, reading for pleasure as oppose to critiquing has gotten difficult. I have to tell my inner editor to shut up and just enjoy the story - no matter what I'm reading - so it's really nothing personal to the author.

However, I had a hard time with the flow of this series. The beginning of each book is always long and drawn out with little to no action. There are a ton of little passive scenes about Sookie doing her grocery shopping or some other errand that has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. It's slow and boring and I sometimes skip over a lot of it. The only slight advantage I can see to this is that there is NO question as to what kind of person Sookie Stackhouse is because we're forced to follower her everywhere. It's a good thing Sookie is the type of heroine I like; strong, stubborn, and witty.

The middle is usually where we get the conflict - and the hot lovin' which is pretty much all I care about. LOL. Now as a new author who had the "rules" drilled into my head time and time again, presenting the conflict in the middle of the story is a huge no-no. It should be in the beginning! Harris likes to break this rule, especially in the later books.

It does lead to a fast and intense conclusion, though. And Harris likes to do the cliff-hanger ending which I both love and loath. Love because I just HAVE to get the next book! Loath because have to WAIT for the next book! :-(

Overall:  Guys, I really have no idea why The Southern Vampire Mysteries are a hit or why HBO decided to make it into a TV series. IMHO, the plot is week. The show is better - plot wise at least. But what it does have going for it is 1) The characters are awesome and dynamic. 2) Sookie is a strong leading lady that doesn't take vampire crap. 3) It's different. There is no other vampire book like it that I know of. And I think that's the most important element. And 4) Eric Northman would eat the Cullens for breakfast and make it look hot.

~ J.D. Brown ~
author of the Dark Heirloom series * March 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As Real As You Can Fake It

As C.J. mentioned Monday, this week we are talking about how we create the fictional worlds of our books and short stories.

Most of us are, no doubt, jaded by the fantastic world we see in the movie versions of books like Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter.

One must also remember that the creation of the worlds in those classics took years. In some cases, authors like J.R.R. Tolkien died while still fleshing out their new worlds.

My worlds are not quite that extensive.  Why? Because they don’t need to be. There was only one J.R.R. Tolkien, only one C.S. Lewis. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.

Fortunately, I don’t have to and neither do you.

I form my fictional lands from what I have or see around me. A childhood visit to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket can be the inspiration for an island of a fantasy age for Damsels of Distress.

For Land of the Blind, the lead character, Devereaux Marshall Fox, operates in a futuristic world, but one not more than a century or two beyond this current age. Therefore, I need only to bone up with an issue or two of Popular Science to get the juices flowing and come up with potential new technology for the future.

And I also use what I view. I see Tom Cruise uses special gloves to physically move items around a three-dimensional computer screen. Then, I see a prototype of that computer where users use interactive technology to move things around a flat screen. The computer can be displayed on any surface with a holographic fully functioning keyboard beamed onto any hard surface. Amazing stuff that I need only advance a few years for my world – say, in the form of a cell phone that can do all that.

I see a spy magazine advertising glasses with miniature cameras attached so the wearer can have both hands free. With a little imagination, those glasses can become view screens for computer information like map directions.

And why stay on Earth. Pay attention to the news. They found ancient waterways on Mars. So, imagine what Mars might have looked like with canals and oceans. Transfer those thoughts to a completely new world.

We all took science in school. We all know or have heard about novas, supernovas, black holes, quasars, red giants, pulsars. We might not have paid attention but we heard of them. Use that stuff. Make that journey through space much more realistic, so that when you do introduce something totally made up, it will seem natural.

Think of the Wormhole from Star Trek. That theory is so out there, it literally only exists in the minds of sc ience fiction writers. Scientists can barely get past the theory of dark energy and cold fusion. But, by using the foundations of basic science, writers can create wormholes to travel across entire galaxies in mere hours instead of years and, voila, readers and viewers think wormholes really do exist.

And, most importantly, remember the two most important aspects of your fictional world.

One, it must be survivable.

Create something so inhospitable that your characters have no chance of survival and watch the readers chuck the book or erase it from the Kindle. Your characters must be able to adapt and survive

And two – the most important feature –YOU have to like it. Seems like a no-brainer, but if you create a world that repulses you, you’re not going to revisit it to create your stories. It will be like one of those houses you see on Hoarders. After one visit, the likelihood of you stepping across the threshold again is somewhere between slim and none.

But, if you create it and feel comfortable with it, you’ll visit it again and again.

And, so will your readers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

C.J. Land

This week's topic is how do you put together the world your characters live in? I laughed when I read it. Why? Well, my whole life I've often questioned why things are the way they are in our world -- usually after hearing about recent government corruption or some grave injustice done to the little guy.

I'd often start off by saying "In C.J. Land…" or "If I ran the world…." much to my family's amusement.

Yes, yes, I'm admitting it here and now. I may not be the person to judge someone's worthiness to ascend heaven, but I have a very clear moral and ethical compass and most things are either "black or white" for me. Split second decisions, I go on gut and instinct. Doesn't mean I'm always right, but eh, I live with the fallout.

Drives my husband crazy, who is very much a "shades of gray" type of person. Which could very well be why we're such a good match. Never a dull moment as we debate the rights and wrongs of an important situation.

"That eight year old child spoke rudely to his neighbor, with arrogance and disdain dripping from his tone. His parents should be smacked for not raising him right."

Yes, that is the kind of pig-headed stubbornness you'll hear from me. And if I were to expound more on what is wrong with today's youth I'd probably get locked up, or you'd look at me like I was some angry ninety-year-old man yelling from his front porch. So, let me climb off my crazy soapbox and get back to the topic -- which is world-building.

For me, world-building is not hard. I throughly enjoy playing out scenes in my head where I'd walk up to the mother (whom I probably know) and politely lay out why her child is a raging brat or has the table manners of a three year old. But, since it wouldn't gain me any friends, I wisely keep my mouth shut. And trust me, some days that's very, very hard (especially since my house has been over run with kids this summer who have crappy table manners).

I grew up reading high fantasy novels. After reading The Hobbit in seventh or eighth grade, I was hooked. I especially enjoyed the glossaries found in most fantasy books. It would often help me understand all the aspects of the author's complex world. And if the Lord of the Rings was written today, I'd bet you a thousand bucks the publisher never would have let the names Sauron and Saruman both be used. We're watching the movies with the kids right now and the closeness of the two names drives me crazy.

For me, building my own world is the same thing -- creating a mental glossary of terms and characters. It may be in my head for most of the writing of the first book, but now, with book three being written, the terms are clearly laid out in the earlier books for easy reference for me as well as the reader.

Want to create a contradiction in your world? Easy-peasy. You're the creator. If a rule doesn't match what you've previously set up, think of an exception to the rule and how it might work. Sometimes, details are implied in your finished product, other times you may have to flat out explain it within the text through teaching or an interview scene between two characters.

How do you keep it all straight? Keep notes or start your glossary early. You may not use the long version in your published book, but it will ensure you make no glaring mistakes along the way.

What are some techniques you use in world-building? Please share, I'd love to hear!


~~ C.J. Ellisson ~~

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Get Visible Off the Internet

The internet is a fantastic and powerful tool for promoting our work and books, but it's not the only tool available. Get out there and get involved in the real world. Join the local writers group, organize a critique group, go to local book signings and author events. Get out and be seen.

I joined my local writers group and got involved, becoming their blog director. Being new to this community, it was a great way to meet people and let them get to know me. They root for me because they know me. People can't root for you or support you if they don't know you exist.

Another thing I do is attend monthly gatherings at my local library to hear a featured writer / poet read their work. Afterward, there's an open mic. I often get up and read something I wrote. One, it's good practice, to get up in front of an audience and read my work. Two, it's gotten me notice. Three, it led to publishing some of those stories as free reads on the internet because of the great response I received for them. Fourth, applause now and again is a nice change of pace. I got my very first fan (not related to me or a friend, but just liked my work that much) this way.

I'll be reading later this month at an event sponsored by my local writers guild to promote my free reads. I used to dread reading in public, but practice has made me much more comfortable with it and much better at it.

I also volunteer. Every summer (I'm in the middle of my 4th summer), I docent at Pine Mountain Observatory as a star guide. I had a set of business cards printed with my website address, blog address and email, and I hand them out. Not to everyone, but to people I get into conversations with who then get curious about me and what I do.

So, yes, definitely leave the computer once in awhile and get out there and let people around you get to know you. It can be another very powerful tool in your arsenal.

~M. Pax
The stars are the beginning ...
website / blog

Monday, August 15, 2011

Promotion: Laying the Foundation

This week, the Wicked Writers are blogging about self-promotion!


I mean… yay…

Well, I can’t tell you what works to sell books because my debut releases on the 19th of this month. So, until then, I don’t have any numbers or sales success – or sales failures – to share with you.

But, I do have a pretty good web presence. Google my pen name, Danielle Ravencraft. You’ll see. I’m on FacebookI’m ALL OVER Facebook… even my blog has a Facebook page

Which brings us to blogging. I blog. A lot. I used to belong to about four group blogs, a blog hop group, and had two personal blogs. I was able to do it only because I had nothing published and, thus, nothing else to promote at the time. A few of those blogs went under and I converted one of my personal blogs into a group blog. So now I blog for two groups and my personal blog, plus I manage a website that promotes urban fantasy authors. That one is new. And not doing so well because I haven’t had time to promote it as vigorously as the others.

I also have a Twitter account. I love Twitter because it’s simple. Enough said. I’m also a member of, Linked In,,,, Good Reads, my publisher’s reading group and author loops, my publisher’s blog… eventually I’ll have an Amazon author page…

Point is my name is out there. People know who I am or have at least heard of me. I have a pretty solid group of author friends from all different genres and levels of writing. I’m slowly – and I mean SLOWLY – building a readership of non-writing people, lovingly called “pen muggles”.

So, when my book releases, I won’t be starting from scratch. I have a solid foundation and that’s the first step. I have ways to go, though. Tons more to do. I think it helps to have a plan or rough outline of how you will market each book. For “Dark Heirloom”, for example, I have a list of eight review sites – all urban fantasy or vampire themed – that I want to submit ARC’s too. I plan to have a virtual book tour for it in April or May, just like theone I’m doing at the end of the month for “A Trace of Love”. Then there are bookmarks, business cards, giveaways, etc.

And of course, there are C.J.’s proven tactics which she has generously shared with me and which you can read HERE. She has also recommended a book to me, “HowI Sold 1 Million eBooks In 5 Months” by John Locke, which I now own and have read. I plan to mimic what both C.J. and John have taught me as best I can with my publisher’s permission.

Well, this has been a ramble post. I apologize. In a few months, I’ll have a book or two out and then I’ll have actual figures to share with all of you. Before I go, I want to mention it’s a good idea to keep a record of how much promotion you do each month, what kind, where, and when, and compare it to your monthly sales. Unless you have a PR team, you can’t be everywhere all the time. You have to make your efforts count in the places that pay off the most. So it’s important to keep a record.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll politely bow out, but please come back tomorrow and see what S.M. Blooding has to add.

J.D. Brown
website ~ blog ~ facebook ~ twitter
Ema Marx wasn't bitten and she's not undead, so how did she become a vampire? 
-"Dark Heirloom" look for it March 2012 from Muse It Up Publishing Inc.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Ideal World Or My One Big, Fat Wish

Okay, say my fairy godmother offered me a wish--anything I wanted, what would I say?

Well, I’d motion her closer and say I wanted the world to be different. Everything: no illness, no wars, no hatred, no bigotry of any kind.

And while I'm at it, fairy godmother, I’d also like to see the world of writing and publishing different too, and not just for me but for every hard working writer hammering away at a keyboard.

See I'm talking about a chance--a chance to be up there with the Gods of writing, with the bestselling authors. Those iconic authors whose work we savour. I read them, you read them, we all read their works, but hey Mister, give me a chance too, huh?

Remember that scene in Funny Girl when Barbra Streisand playing Fanny Brice wants to audition for a show and she sings the song about being the greatest star ‘only no one knows it?’

Well that's what this blog post is about. There are so many of us wanting to be noticed, wanting our writing seen by all.

I feel I have something to say, something new and different. I'm another voice crying in bookdom's wilderness, I'm building a fan base but I also want to sing: MR. KEANEY, HERE I AM (Funny Girl again).

I studied acting many years ago and auditioned for a couple of off Broadway shows, it was fun and terrifying at the same time. It's a tough business show business, but you can audition for big shows for big producers too sometimes.  I don't think writing is like that. That's what I'd like to see different.

Showing up for an open audition is straight forward. The producers, stage managers are either there or they're not. They're going to give you a shot or not. You'll know it or you won't, no guessing.

We had a free blog post topic this week, where we could discuss what we liked. I did this; I did it because it's something I feel strongly about.

Having said that, I don't want you to think I focus on this all the time because I don't. I'm too much of a realist and a pragmatist. I work hard and will continue to do so.

I am writing the sequel to my novel now and am enjoying every minute of it even though it's tough. Nothing comes easy in this life and that's a good thing because it keeps us on our toes and focused.

So if everything remains the same and I have to continue to promote myself and my writing I'll do it because there's no way I would stop, not now, not ever, after all the show must go on!

~*~Carole Gill~*~

Website   *   Facebook   *   Twitter  *   Personal Blog 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The First 30 Years Was the Easy Part

I came to a particularly disturbing conclusion last Friday. It turns out that all the writing I’ve done professionally and recreationally for the past 33-plus years was a piece of cake. White chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake, to be exact.

It seems that, somehow, I escaped the hard part – a.k.a Auntie Em's wonderful Christmas fruitcake -- until now.

That hard part is getting published. And, by that, I mean the technical stuff to actually get it into the hands or Nooks or Kindles of readers.

And how do I know it’s the hard part?

Because the process shoved itself into my face. Well, okay, maybe “shove” is too harsh a word. It introduced me to the ugliest blind date in history and, while I was gagging, sneaked out the back door and drove off.

No longer would I be able to just write the story and palm it off on the editors who would handle the actual printing aspects like I did at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram or JDTV, Inc., my old magazine publisher.

No longer would I upload my stuff to Lulu and Smashwords, wishing on big sales while the actual sales figures could best be described by the phrase “pennies on the dollar.” I was content to say that I was a published author. Not a writer, but an honest-to-goodness published author.

Oh, no. This time around I was going to have to do some real work. Disconcertingly, I have learned that dealing with coaches, athletes and parents for quotes, trying to meet a crushing deadline and reworking the same piece of fiction umpteen times was, in fact, the easy part.

For example, last Friday, C.J. Ellisson (online publishing tour de force) told me I needed to bookmark and hyperlink my table of contents, chapter headings and glossary for Hunters.

Bookmark? Hyperlink?


I've always been a quick learner (except for Calculus III and Differential Equations and Advanced Chemistry). So, I went online to look up those terms. I knew them already but had never actually bookmarked an item within a story. Slowly and painfully, I went back through my novel Hunters to make the changes necessary for publication.

I looked to C.J. for advice. Up front, she was real supportive and patient. In reality, I was worried she might have hurt herself from either laughing her ass off or finally experiencing what a migraine felt like as she dealt with my shenanigans. At the very least, I’m pretty certain she can see up into her brain from rolling her eyes so much.

Anyway, just when I had gotten this bookmark & link thing down, next I had to offer up half of Hunters onto my novellas Dark Tidings Volumes I & II and They Call the Wind Muryah. It was a business move to attract readers to my novel, so I did it.

Keep in mind, my mood during all this wasn't that great. It came after I did up one of my patented honest book reviews for a fellow writer. It seems the review had a lot of punch as I was promptly knocked into next week.

This marks my tenth trip into the future, if anyone’s curious (and it doesn't even count all the problems I caused with my editorial skills in high school and college). I might have to be less honest in the future.

As I was saying before I became nostalgic, my mood wasn't the greatest. But, I've persevered for three decades, so I could handle it or so I thought. C.J., the head of Red Hot Publishing (I'm not being paid for this free advertising) told me to insert the title page with table of contents (check), glossary (uncheck) and chapter headings replete with bookmarks and links (check). 

She provided an example from her own high-selling novel The Hunt. It all looked good until I got down to the ISBN.

For the uninitiated, ISBNs are not those new North Korean ballistic missiles. They’re International Standard Book Numbers, thirteen-digit numeric codes. They make it real helpful in getting books into libraries, bookstores and other places that generally weed out 99 percent of aspiring writers who have no clue what they’re doing. But, occasionally, they let their guard down and guys like me slip through.

Getting an ISBN is not as difficult as you might think, especially if you have someone on the inside, which I do. This someone is pretty smart and has a high level of tolerance to put up with my crap and still be talking to me. 

Part of getting an ISBN is to figure out the length of the work. To do that, I had to do up a glossary, a necessary item if you have a lot of characters and/or technical terms in the piece. Even worse, I had to do my own acknowledgements. You know, where you thanks people who have helped you. That was very hard. Aside from the usual people (family, publisher, etc.), you never want to leave out people who might have helped you out in indirect ways, like maybe inspiring you to keep going when you were ready to chuck it all. They may say it's okay if you leave them out, but I know it must hurt nonetheless.

But, I got everything done, putting one novella, one anthology and one full-length novel through the technical stuff. They've all gotten ISBNs and have been sent off to Red Hot Publishing.

Remember I had to add half of Hunters to the anthology and novella, so that took a bit of time to figure out the number of pages.

Then, C.J. says "Oh, you could have just taken the word count and divided by 250 to get the page count."


Before I could handle that shot to the gut, though, I get an e-mail mentioning setting up a book blogging tour.

I can’t even set up a date without making a G20 Summit out of it.

No fear, though. With Red Hot Publishing’s help, I put my bid package in. The woman handling the tour comes with excellent references, so I'm not worried. Not too much anyway. There's a slight trepidation because she normally deals with paranormal and supernatural romance. Yeah, the teen girl angst-driven Twilight kind of prose. 

As most of you know, I write old-school horror and Golden Age science fiction. There's no making out with vampires and demons and monsters. This is a "how do you like your stake?" kind of horror or giant monster ripping a path of destruction through anything connected to the New York Yankees kind of science fiction. 

As I said, though, I am in very capable hands. After all, I am the novice idiot here and C.J. and the others have fought these "wars" before. They're making money.

And you know what the most ironic part of all this is?

Despite the steep learning curve, I think it's all worth it. The thrill of being published, I think, will make all of this both memorable and completely worthwhile. Soon, I'll be able to mention certain people's names without doubling over in excruciating pain.

Okay, they know I'm just joking.

Hold on a second. Got another e-mail from C.J. Let's see: 

Have I fixed the numbers thing yet? Do I have another book in the series ready to go so I can tease to it at the end of Hunters?

The hard part continues...

Monday, August 8, 2011

SoOoOoo What Are YOU Selling?

I read some interesting posts and opinions when I went searching on the Internet to find out exactly what those Amazon sales rankings equate to in actual sales. If you come from a sales background, like I do, you quickly realize talking numbers is just that, talking numbers.

Sales people do it to judge their own career and to see how well others in the same industry are doing. For them, it's like talking about the weather. A sales person who calculates their paycheck on a basis point percentage can do math in their head quick and know what people are earning.

What? Talk about income? Isn't that taboo? Didn't our folks say we should never ask someone what they are making?

How are you supposed to know if your boss is paying you well? How else would you learn the man in the next cube gets paid 20% more for the same job just because he has a weenie and you don't?

What's a body to do? Quit? Get mad? Complain? Sure, 'cause that always works, right?

Get a sales position! It's a great equalizer in gender comparison for income earnings across almost any field. You're paid solely on what you produce and not based on what equipment you have (or don't have *snort*). I've heard the discrepancies between earnings for gender is much less than when I entered the work force twenty-five years ago, but I have no modern comparison. I saw the writing on the wall back then and quickly got into sales.

Now, decades later, here I am – a writer who still focuses on sales. No matter how we may like to kid ourselves, money is a big motivator for any job.

How does one measure success? Is it by the happy, warm glow you get from helping others? Umm… since when does that "warm glow" pay the bills? 

Is it the satisfaction of delivering a well-told story and reaching readers…. Yes, as long as you don't like to eat and have someone else who can support your creative ass.

I have medical bills that get paid because my husband works. I'm incredibly grateful he's supporting me through my illnesses and the new career I've tackled while sick: writing. The medical bills have far exceeded what I've earned for the past two years, mainly because my insurance company refuses to pay for most of the "radical" treatment and would prefer to pay for a wheelchair or an institution, neither of which I'll succumb to at the age of forty.

Last month was a turning point for me. 

Not because I've miraculously gotten better and no longer require $1500-$2000 a month in additional medical care, but because my earnings from writing, for the first time ever, have exceeded my medical care.

Whoot! I feel like a real writer now. I've recently completed a bunch of interviews lined up to air in September, where people asked when I felt like a "real writer". A part of me felt it was when I landed an agent. In a moment of complete honesty, I can more accurately say it's when I started to earn money. What I consider "real" money, and not a few hundred a month.

Will it last? I have no idea. I plan on writing my little heart out over the next few months to help keep the proverbial ball rolling.

Here's what you all came here to see; a break down of my titles and what they've sold by month:

Gross Units
Another Sip (free read - half of book two in my fantasy series)

Released 7/16/11


Total AS:

Johnny Living Dangerously (erotica novella)

Release date 2/4/11

est. 135.00
est. 120.00

Total JLD:

Just One Taste (short story w/half of book one)

Release date 2/20/11

est 0.00
est. 0.00

Total JOT:

More Than Tolerable (erotica novella)

Release date 2/24/11

est. 150.00
est. 160.00

Total MTT:

Vampire Vacation (fantasy series, book one)

Release date 9/24/11

est 1,080.00
est 1,280.00

Total V V:

The Hunt (fantasy series, book two)

Release date 6/28/11

est 75.00
est 3,100.00

Total TH:

Total all ebooks, paid and free: 45,042 (est.)
Total paid ebooks: 14,359 (est.)

*Side note-- what made the sales in March drop for JLD? Changing the teaser price from 99 cents to 2.99  
**This is where I took JOT off sale at Amazon for six weeks because I was trying to get them to acknowledge the listing was up for free at Smashwords (so I did "sell" some during that time but SW reports the free reads as one big number, no monthly breakdown). Turns out Amazon didn't care when it was free at SW, but they did when it was free at B&N. So when it went free in May at B&N I put it back up for sale at Amazon and then they "found" the lower price eventually.  
*** V V was priced normally between 3.99 and 4.99. Previously, I had experimented with lowering it to 99 cents. Sales spiked for a few days and then went back to where they were. March is when I changed the cover and raised the price. I saw a 700% increase in sales at Apple with the new cover and about 30-40% at Amazon and B&N. But when May rolled around with the free read, I decided to follow what other hit authors were doing and priced the first book in the series at 99 cents. 
**** This book was priced at a friendship rate of 99 cents for the first two weeks. Sales did drop a little when it went to its normal price of 2.99, but they didn't tank. So far so good. Not sure how long sales will last.

Let me explain a few things. First, I don't have my print sales listed up there, those are only ebook sales. Print sales of Vampire Vacation have been limited to under 200 copies. The ebook & monetary figures for June and July are estimates, our bookkeeper has not tallied all the numbers yet. Calculating profits can be tricky (not something that should be estimated like I did above). Revenue varies from 35% to 70% depending on a few things (like selling at Apple or selling at a $2.99 price tag or above).

Also, most of the sales numbers up there are from Amazon. A few months ago, B&N gave them a run for their money with more sales each month earned for the company (not just my sales). Then, in April, they started listing free reads on the same bestselling lists as paid reads and our numbers as a whole tanked.

Dumb move, B&N! Smarten up. If we don't sell books you don't make money, so move the freebies to another list and all your sales figures will bounce back. Of course I've written to them, but who the hell am I and why should they care to listen? Idiots. They'll be the next to crumble if they don't wise up.

I'm moving forward with all the company's new releases to only be distributed through Lightning Source (wholesale pricing model versus the agency pricing most retailers offer to direct uploads). These individual retailer accounts with Apple, B&N, Amazon, AllRomanceeBooks, Smashwords, and now Kobo are killing me with uploads. 

You only see six titles up there, by our small company has thirty and when you multiply that by all the various requirements across multiple retailers you can see how managing our small catalogue of titles quickly becomes a daunting task. You make one correction and you have hours of work on your hands to re-upload everywhere.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out once my free reads went up at Amazon the sales really started happening. I've known other writers doing the same thing and it works, but the buy rate is different for each of us. I'm thrilled mine sits at currently 35% for the first book (meaning 21,692 free reads downloaded on V V and sales in that time frame were 7,497; indicative of 35% of the readers have opted to purchase the rest of the book). On the second book, the buy rate is currently 30% from the free read.

**Note to anyone reading this who is unaware of my sales strategy. I gave away a very short story titled Just One Taste (2500 words), and tacked on half of Vampire Vacation (book one in my fantasy series) for free. Since it worked so well, I did the same thing with Another Sip, but didn't have time to write a short story. I simply labeled it as "Part One" of The Hunt (book two), and gave away half for free. My logic is simple: if the reader likes it they will buy the rest of the book. If they don't then at least they gave it a shot.

Before I end this post, I'd like to thank the very important people who have helped me make it as a full time writer – the readers. Without you taking a chance on an unknown and trying my work, I'd still be dreaming, and wondering if this pipe dream could really happen. Thank you! I cherish every note, email, comment, and status update.

So, now that I've bared my soul with sales figures for all the world to see, care to share? What are you selling? And more importantly, what has worked for you?


Wicked Writers is running a summer long contest to win a free Kindle!! All you have to do is comment with your email on any post from now until Labor Day weekend. 

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