Book Business Blather

If you don’t care about numbers and math and publishing talk, feel free to go pick up a free copy of Letters to An English Professor or The Horse Master of Shanhasson and skip the rest of this post!

I’ve always been pretty honest about sales and my numbers – which have never been fantastic, other than a really good year in 2010. That was my best year ever. I actually made more with books than That Man did at his full-time job that year.

But despite publishing many more books since then, my income has halved and halved and halved… again and again.  Of course the Samhain debacle last year put a huge crimp in my sales across those 10 books.  One Cut Deeper did really good (for me) at Carina, but follow-up sales of Two Cuts Darker were disappointing enough they declined to even consider Three Cuts Deader.  The Bloodgate series was already dead.

The Billionaires did pretty “okay” at Samhain in the beginning – but nowhere near my expectations.  I don’t know if it was the covers, their generally declining sales across the boards that forced them to close, MY generally declining sales…  All of the above, likely.

So I had a lot riding on the re-release of The Connaghers, and especially Mine to Break in July.  First and foremost, I needed to make back $1200 in covers alone.  I’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads and they are NOT cheap.  Even $5/a day (their min) to explore audiences ads up quickly.

I’ve invested $20/month in Instafreebie to build my list. Just under $40/month for my newsletter service.  Since I started last year, I’ve managed to increase my list from 100 to 2200.  Not bad.  My open rates are between 45-50%.  I’d like to keep growing there, and building connections with those subscribers, so I’m experimenting with some polls and small giveaways.

So where am I at right now with the business end of things?  The good news:  I’ve almost made back the cover expenses.  Now all of that isn’t in my needy little hands.  As money comes in, it goes right back out the door for newsletters, giveaways, and advertising, and royalties come in 60-90 days after the fact.  But it IS coming back and I feel like it was a good investment.

Comparing January sales to what I made in July:  I saw a 676% increase in sales.  That sounds great, right?  But 676% of not much is still… not much.  July was a release month, and already those numbers are decreasing.  August was a release month for the Billionaire books at Entangled, and they did pretty well at first with the $.99 prices, but sales have quickly dropped off again (according to Amazon rankings).

So I need more books out, in those series, to keep the numbers. And of course I don’t have anything. Yet.

The bad news:  I’ve decided to pull the Connagher books back to Kindle Unlimited at this time.  So far in September, I’ve only sold 10 books across all of Draft2Digital’s venues.  TEN. For five books.  Yeah.  It’s just not worth it right now – and while the KU payout is small, I need any advantage I can get for visibility right now.  If you primarily buy at B&N or Kobo or iTunes, I’m sorry and if you reach out to me (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com), I’ll make you a copy that you can read on your device.

Returning to KU will allow me to do more creative countdowns and free days. I’m doing some promotions with Love Kissed Book Bargains that have really been outstanding (nearly 1500 downloads of Letters to An English Professor when I listed it) and will continue to do some targeted free day and $.99 bargain deals.

I will probably pull the Shanhasson books to KU too at some point – but they need some formatting work.  (I originally uploaded them in 2011.)  I’d rather get some new material out there than do this kind of busy/admin work, so that’s not high on my priority list at this time.

My take away at this point is positive – but needs improvement.  I’m going the right direction. The best thing I can do for my numbers right now is keep growing, keep giving away books, and write another Connagher book, and write another Billionaire book or spinoff. AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.  That wasn’t in my wish list right now – I have so many interesting shiny ideas I really want to do, but from the numbers game, it makes the most sense to capitalize on where I am right now.

I am still working on the vampire series — but I plan to release three books close together in back-to-back months, so I’d really like to have them written, or close to written, before I release the first one.  The cover artist doesn’t even have slots for the other two covers until Dec/Jan, so it’s going to be a little while yet before I can share that new world.

I would love to work on Three Cuts Deader – but while Carina still holds the rights for the first two books, I’m limited in what I can do. I have covers purchased, so I do want to work on them – but I can’t run the same kind of growth plans as easily when I don’t control the pricing.  So I’m still working on a plan for that series.  The longer it takes me to come up with a decision and plan, though… the less it will benefit me sales-wise to write them.  Two Cuts Darker came out well over a year ago.  Few people are going to remember Charlie and Vincent at this point except for a few beloved friends and family and a few dedicated readers (hugs, I love each and every one of you).  The general Amazon reader isn’t going to care about a third book in a series that came out 2 years or more ago, by the time I actually get the book written.

And of course, Lady Wyre is (not so) patiently waiting for me to decide what to do with her and her men.  My Entangled (former Samhain) editor would love them, and that would give me the more immediate opportunity to write another book(s) in that series.  I just hesitate to put too many eggs in a publishing basket when my last basket rotted and fell apart on me.  I’ve priced polishing those covers (not starting over from scratch) and am looking at $600 plus $250 for the third Lady Wyre book.  It’s going to take some time for me to get that much built back up.  So Lady Wyre is in a holding pattern until I decide for sure what I want to do.

I do have one last proposal out to Carina under a new pen name and entirely new genre. That could be a game changer and anything I plan now could get thrown out the window. I should know in the next few weeks (it’s been under consideration for 2 months now).

The bad thing for me is that I hop around too much. I can’t make a decision and stick to it.  I think, Oh, I should work on this! It’s so cool and I have a great idea for a giveaway! Or I hear about a great boxed set opportunity, that would let me write another book in the Nightgazer world. Or the Zombie Category Romance world. Both worlds I love and want to work in.  But I can’t hop around back and forth. I’ve got to focus. But focus is NOT my strong suit in the writing game.  (Picture horse kicking down her stall and running out into the blizzard again.)

And things at home aren’t the best. I can’t get into details but it’s not easy, it’s never easy, and carving out MY time to write is a constant battle.  I type this while facing a THIRD trip to the high school this afternoon/evening to pick Littlest up from marching band. Both she and Middle are in Geometry this year and I help them with homework several nights a week. Of course they can’t begin said homework until Mom’s ready to go write…

Anyway, that’s my long-winded blather post about the state of the union.  Onward and upward!

Mine to Break is out now!

He’s bringing war to the Mistress of Dallas’s bed.

Mal & Colby are finally out in the wild!  Retailer links are below.

This book got me writing again after the darkness of the past few months.  Mal and Colby gave me hope and reminded me about all the things I love. I got to visit with old friends, fix a few things that I left unfinished or didn’t get quite right, and hopefully lay a few threads down for the future. There’s also an Easter egg – a character makes a brief appearance from a different series.

And blackberry cobbler will never be the same!

Experimentation

Is it possible to fanfic yourself?

It sounds crazy and full of hubris, I know. *cringe*  But here’s what I’m working on while waiting for Mal to hit the world.

I’m on several Facebook groups for pre-made cover artists. Mostly I’m just watching for sales, deals, and getting a taste of each artist’s work to know whether I want to hit them up in the future. All of them are new-to-me artists that I personally had never heard of.

One day, someone posted a cover that literally made me gasp out loud.

It was so ME. The old me, the core me, the original Dreamer. The person who wrote the bloody Shanhasson stories. Blood, menage, it screamed ME ME pick ME.

But it was clearly contemporary.

I could not shake that cover. It haunted me. Within hours, I had to buy it. Even though I’m seriously strapped right now after remaking all the Connagher covers and generally having very little royalties coming in since I haven’t had a new release in ages.

I HAD TO HAVE IT. Even though I didn’t have a story for it.

It already had a story. I just had to write it.

After payment, I made that cover my wallpaper. I also printed out a small version and taped it to one of my notebooks. And I started writing down my dreams, because yeah, I dreamed the book right away.

It’s been a long, long time since I dreamed a book.  (This is Dreaming in Rhyme, after all, but I’m generally too tired nowadays to dream a book that I can actually remember the next day.)

It’s basically the Shanhasson premise, copied into a contemporary setting. With vampires.  I mean, I already had the blood, the biting, the whole bonding thing in Shanhasson. It was always vampiric without actually bringing out the fangs.

I condensed a couple of characters into one. I set clear boundaries for myself, that this would be ROMANCE only. No major character deaths. But otherwise, it’s Shanhasson in a modern world. With vampires. Did I say vampires?  I swore I’d never write a vampire book but there you go.

All first person.  So you get first person Dharman/Rhaekhar scenes. First person Sal scenes. First person Shannari scenes. AND I CAN’T WAIT FOR FIRST PERSON GREGAR scenes. Sorry, I’m shouting. But I can’t fucking wait – though that will likely be book two the way I have it set up in my mind.

And now, I’m more confident in a BDSM setting too. When I wrote Rose, I had no idea that was the direction I’d eventually go. (It was my first book.)  I had no clear understanding of masochism and submission – just what the characters needed and wanted. I didn’t have the labels.

I didn’t know the significance of a Blood kneeling before his queen and offering his throat, yet still being fully alpha and tough.

Yeah.

Oh, and this menage won’t cheat the boys either. It’s all MMF, baby. Then some MMMF.

Another oh, I think this will be my first MMMFF too. Yeah, I will go there, a first for me, in book 3. I’ve had a certain somebody ask if I’d ever do FF and the right character and book world has arrived.

The only cramp in all this will be purchasing covers for books 2 and 3 because she’s $$$ if it’s not premade. The chances that she’d do another premade exactly like what I need are slim, so I’ll need to set funds aside for custom. Ideally I’ll release these close together, but it depends on how quickly I can get covers turned around. She’s already booked into December, so by the time I raise the funds, it might be 2018 before I can get the covers made.

I’m a damned fast typist, but this is the kind of book that I literally cannot type fast enough to capture. I’m planning to blow through these 3 books as quickly as possible and have them written, ready to release close together. Then see what I can do for covers. And no, I won’t show you the cover that started all this until I have everything lined out.

But I promise. It’ll blow your mind.

It sucked to be twenty two years old and still afraid of the dark.
Bad things always happened in the dark. I’d learned that at an early age, when my father was brutally murdered in front of me. My mother met the same fate when I was seventeen.
Waiting for the sun to set, monsters were real and they were always hungry. Always hunting.
Demons with pasty gray skin, wasted bodies down to skin and bones, with red, glowing eyes. Mom always said they were hunting her, but after she died, I kept seeing them.
They were still hunting… me.

Mal and Colby, Favorite Lines, ARCs, and more

It was a long time coming (snerk) but Mal and Colby are finally finished and ready to share.  If you’re able and willing to post an online review, sign up to receive an ARC here.  I’ve automated this process as much as possible to get the book in your hand quicker.

Mal is a damned fine Mistress (her words) so hopefully I did her justice. I don’t know that I could have written her before Lilly (The Billionaire Submissive), who taught me so much about femdom. So many layers, so many ways a scene can unfold. So many ways it could go wrong, or so very very good. It all depends on the Mistress and how she controls the scene.

She reminded me of all the things I love about writing and got me back into the headspace I needed to find my words again. She may have lured Colby with blackberry cobbler, but she lured me with her confidence and effortless control. A reminder to trust the process. To sink into it and let it be. Let it happen. Because…

Her hand locked on his nape, her grip strong and unyielding. He closed his eyes, soaking it in. Peace. Everything would be all right. Everything would work out for the best. Everybody was safe. He could close his eyes and rest. Because his Mistress had him by the neck and wasn’t letting go.

Some other favorite lines without spoiling too much…

The hell if he could think with his dick tied up in a bow.

 

“If BDSM is like this… Why doesn’t everybody do it?”
She choked back a laugh and tucked his face against her throat. “The hell if I know, sugar.”

 

Now all I can do is sit back, watch the Mistress of Dallas unleashed in the world, and hope for the best. I’d love to write more of the extended Connagher family (there are some developments with Elias, Vicki and Jesse that you learn in this book, and I’ve got an idea for Mason brewing), but a lot rides on how Mal does.  It wiped me out to get all this redone after Samhain closed, in more ways than one.

So we’ll see. In the meantime, I appreciate anything you do to help spread the word!

Overcoming Inertia

So it’s been a pretty long drought.  But I can finally say… I finished another book.  Mal’s book, MINE TO BREAK, is finally going to release on July 25th!  You can pre-order it for $2.99 on Amazon here, but I will be uploading this book wide to other retailers if Amazon is not your jam.  (It just may not be up for pre-order, though I’ll see how it goes once I get edits completed.)

So how did I finally grow some words in a barren, cracked earth?  It took some doing, that’s for sure.

The number one thing that helped me was a class I took in May at the Margie Lawson Writing Academy, called Write Better Faster with Becca Syme.  It’s a little pricey for a class ($75) but highly recommended and well worth your time.

But don’t go into the class expecting some secret handshake that suddenly helps you write 5K a day. It’s not that kind of class. First off, she had us take personality and strength quizzes.  What makes you tick as a writer and person? Once you delve into personality, she helps you tap into the proven tactics that increase productivity and performance for your unique situation.  This includes an hour on the phone with her talking through the results and things to try.

For the planner lovers, we even had a session on which planners tend to work best for your personality.

But for me, none of that was as illuminating as the class on essential pain. That’s the idea that sometimes change and growth and work can be painful. It’s a natural human survival tactic to want to avoid pain (unless you’re a masochist!), so sometimes we avoid doing what we know we need or want to do, just to avoid that pain, without even realizing it. Ironically, we end up causing ourselves MORE pain with that avoidance.

So I realized for a lot of reasons I can’t get into publicly that I had started to avoid writing, because I didn’t want to face that other pain.  As Jane Yolen says, a writer has to “tell the true.” And I was avoiding the true.  Which caused me more pain, because I lost the thing that was giving me sanity and pleasure when I most needed it.

Silly, huh?

The other thing that has really helped me this year, and especially this past week, is daily meditation.  I use HeadSpace, available in your app store. This week, I started the creativity track and WOW.  It’s so illuminating, literally.  When I was avoiding writing, avoiding the true, I ended up making myself smaller.

I was drawn up tight in a fetal position, just holding on for dear life.

At first, I was trying to protect myself – but when you’re small, you take up less space, and nature abhors a vacuum. Others start taking up that space, squishing you even smaller. And smaller. And smaller. Maybe intentional, maybe not, but it’s hard to gain space to breathe.

But as I started to uncurl and look around and push back against the crowded confines I’d gotten used to, I realized… hey. Why was I allowing myself to be made to feel so small? It wasn’t protection – it was prison.

The creativity pack starts with a visualization, that your creative energy is a spark inside your chest. Small, but bright. And then you visualize it growing. It fills your body, the room, envelopes your house, the world, the UNIVERSE. It’s not small, it’s HUGE and wonderful and you sit there imagining all this warmth and sunlight and energy all around you and I’m thinking

DAMN! WHY DID I GIVE THIS UP?

And then in the next heart beat, I’m thinking

I’LL NEVER LET ANYONE MAKE ME FEEL SMALL AGAIN.

Mine to Break Updates

Mal is coming soon! I promise!

I took a huge step (for me) and set up Mine to Break as a pre-order on KDP/Amazon.  I’ve never set a hard deadline for myself like this before. Now it’s real and I’ve got to meet my commitment. It’s a good test for me and should match up with my personality well.  I need the pressure to perform sometimes!

I’ve returned to Dark & Early, even though it’s complicated.  Luckily (?) I’ve been waking up between 4-5 with hot flashes anyway, so it’s just a matter of training myself to get up rather than falling back asleep for an hour. The book is almost at 30K already and I have a good skeleton for the last part of the book. I have a few sexual transformation elements to figure out first before I can say for sure how those scenes will unfold, and an unmet dream to discover. But the deep pasts and emotional wounds are playing out pretty well I think.

Kanaxa made the cover last week and it’s just as gorgeous as the others.  Join my newsletter if you haven’t yet, because later this month I’ll be sending the first chapter and sharing the cover there first.

Let me go make some words tonight before the late Royals game!

Guess that Book 2

Another really great night in the mystery book last night.  Believe it or not, this book is almost up to 10K. Sadly almost as much as I wrote all last year.  :-(

I ended in a bit of a tricky spot last night and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it.  We’ll see how tonight goes!

She let amusement dance in her eyes with a quirk on her lips. “You might like being house trained.”
His shoulders vibrated, his chin jutting out, his jaws working like he chewed on gravel rather than an expensive steak. “Not. Happening.”
“Good,” she purred, sipping her wine. “Keep on saying that. I like it. I like it a lot.”

Guess that Book

The good news:  I’m writing frantically again!  The bad news: it’s not what I’m supposed to be working on right now. So I don’t know how long I’ll indulge myself.

But it’s so so so nice to have fun with words again. To write effortlessly, thousands of words in an evening, and wallow in them afterward, giddy and happy with what I wrote.

So let’s play a little game. I’ll post a few lines each day I write in this book, just like i used to do in the old days. You try and guess which book it is.

Winner can read all the chapters I’ve completed so far, if they so desire.

Here’s the first clue that I posted on Twitter last night (with a bit more words since I have the space).

“What’s the catch?”
She licked her spoon again and damned if his eyes didn’t roll back in his head. He sucked in a deep breath, holding back the surge of lust that demanded he toss this table aside and fall on her like a starving man. “I get to be the lucky woman to break you.”

 

The Prince’s Beast

kinkininkStory #2 of the year is finished!

Granted, this is a shorter story (<10K) than I usually do, but I’m still happy with it. That story is far from “finished” though – because the world and characters have a ton of potential. There’s a whole lot of danger and sex to be played out before the prince and his Beast are safe.  *winks*

So if you’re interested in this new MM story, head over to the GoodReads BDSM group. This story and many others will be posted for free exclusively in the group through December!

 

Me, Myself, and I

The writing’s on the wall.  When one door shuts, another opens. Etc. Etc. Etc.  The answer was no thanks.

So it’s up to me alone to keep myself focused this year.  I was talking with my beloved sister and admitted that I only keep submitting to external sources because I want someone to tell me what to do and when.  When my editor says, “Turn this in on this date,” then my response is “Ma’am, yes, ma’am!”

The latent subbie living inside me, I guess.

But it’s true.  If I have a contract, I know exactly what to work on next, and even if it’s a miserable grind and the edits are bewilderingly hard, I find a way to do it. Because that’s what a professional does.

If it’s just me… I’m afraid I won’t push through the tough spots. It’s always easier to start a new project than to finish a difficult one.

I can write anything I want!  New shinies!  No one’s going to tell me to cut this or add that. It’s all my decision!

It’s all my decision.  What if I get stuck and I don’t have anyone to make suggestions on how to get out? What if I choose a really unmarketable project? What if I can’t finish the project?

I’ve been in this place before and didn’t finish a project for a year. I think that was 2005 but I’m not going back through the archives to verify. I have finished something this year, so all is not lost.  I just have to find a way to put my horse into the harness and start the journey, before she busts the traces, tangles the reins, and charges off into the hills bucking for freedom.

Of course, I have some medical things going on right now that are messing with my emotions and increasing my stress.  Hoping to come up with a plan of action soon. In the meantime, my concentration will be on The Prince’s Beast. I’m behind of where I need to be.

There is an open door. Somewhere. Even if it’s just a mouse’s hole.