Goals for a Full Week of Inservice

I’m WIPED from getting Josh moved home. The stress more than the moving, since we had movers, then jamming an apartment’s worth of stuff back into two rooms. THEN his computer isn’t working (AGAIN) and we had to go get a new hard drive for it (and I got myself a FitBit). AND I’m behind on everything. Ev. Ery. Thing.

This week:

1) Catch up on my novel. This is imperative.
2) Get my classroom ready/work on lesson plans. (Also imperative.)
3) Call my dad for his birthday/mail his present.
4) Work on getting Where There’s Smoke ready to republish (formatting, updating).
5) Look for covers for other books for which I received my rights.
6) Cook and enjoy having Josh home for a while.
7) Keep up house.

Tired already!!

RWA Day #6–Lotsa Learnin’


This is about what I felt like Saturday morning. I think I had about three hours of sleep before Fred’s alarm went off at 5. I didn’t need to be downtown until 9:45 for the first class. It was the Self-Publishing panel with Marie Force, Bella Andre, Liliana Hart, Courtney Milan and Barbara Freethy. (I think half the classes I went to had Barbara Freethy, seriously.) So I got downtown, parked, got to my seat and settled in for 2 hours of awesome information. I’m going to break it down by who said what.

Liliana Hart–Her initial strategy was to have five books in, preferably a series, and release them at once, have one in reserve so you can release it a month later. To that end, I’ve requested rights back on three books. Though they’re not in a series, I’m going to see what happens if I drop them all around the same time I release book 2 of the Boom Town series. She also said most of the bestsellers (and most of us who aren’t!) don’t have an 8 hour work day. She has employees and because of that, she can have a group health insurance plan.  She said forming an LLC in Texas is the worst thing you can do, so if you start making 6 figures, incorporate, put yourself on payroll because of FICA. Get a CPA and a lawyer before. (Because I don’t even understand what I just wrote!)

She said her worst mistake was that she changed/rebranded 10 covers for $5000 because Amazon said they wouldn’t market her with naked man chest covers. She went against her instincts, and lost $60,000 in sales in one month!

She did NO paid publicity for the first year. She also said when you have money to reinvest, put the money in German translations.

Bella Andre–She said when you have money to reinvest, put it in audiobooks, and spend at least $300 per finished hour to get the best narrator.

On focus, she said that the more successful one becomes, the more opportunities are offered and it gets harder. It’s hard to focus on writing. We want to capitalize on opportunities because we’ve built it. She said take advantage while you’re enthusiastic. Apparently last year she also said “Balance is overrated.” She’s rethinking that now.

She had a different POV than Liliana. She said she wouldn’t hold the books until the series is done. She would release them when they’re ready, but advises you to be patient. She said series hit between book #5 and book #6. She wrote an eight book series.

Barbara Freethy–Make a plan, work with a virtual assistant. She has a publishing schedule to keep her on track, and she divides her day between creativity and business. Her daughter is a VA.

Marie Force–pay for help. Don’t try to get things done when you know you can’t. Then you feel guilty (can I get a HOLLA?) When asked about mistakes, she said to keep moving forward, don’t look back. She advised not to cut corners to join the gold rush. She uses Amazon Crossing for her German translations. Also, she’s tiered pricing on her series so people just starting to read her won’t have to pay so much to catch up.

Courtney Milan–“Hire out your weaknesses.” “Learn how to be happy where you are in your career. Someone somewhere has something you don’t.” She also believed that since she writes historical, a lot of her experiences are different than the contemporary ladies. She does well in Spanish translations, but they don’t.

All of them said not to worry about reviews, that blog tours are a waste of time, and writing is key.

The next workshop was “How to Sell Books on Amazon by the Truckload.” This one will be a little harder to document because she was all over the place, but with good advice.

First, keywords. She suggested (as I heard in another workshop) that you change out your keywords. She said a good place to look for them is on the sidebar on Amazon. For example, set the search bar to “Kindle store.” Type in something like “rodeo romance” and scroll down the side. You’ll see something like this:

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That will give you ideas for keywords to add to your books. She also suggested not just using one word, but using “strings,” like “rodeo romance.” She said to think about how people search for books, and use those. Try to repeat the keywords in your product review as well.

She also said narrow your category as much as possible. If you hit the top of your given category, say, “western romance,” the algorithms notice and you’ll get more promo.

Author Central is another area to look at. She said to add photos to your book page–inspiration, quotes, etc. She also suggested commenting on reviews and offering the reader an advance copy of your next book. She is the only person I’ve heard, ever, say this.  As for quotes, she said you can see what people highlight on their ereader at the bottom of your book’s page. For example, these are posted about Midnight Sun:

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You can use those to make quotes visual.

She suggested getting your own url, using keywords, and pointing it to your Amazon page. I kind of know what she means, but that seems a little pricey.

She said to have a reader letter at the back of the book to ask for reviews, and maybe mention other books, then have a reader letter in the beginning of the next book.

She suggested offering a book free for two days, to get reviews.

She said the trend is for 20,000 word novellas, and the sweet price is $2.99. I’m finding $3.99 isn’t so bad :)

ANNND she said to own a narrow market, to find your niche and publish exclusively to that niche.

So, LOTS of good info, coming at lightning speed, to a packed room!

Next, Trish and I went to a workshop that I THOUGHT was going to talk about how to best sell to all retail outlets. Instead, it just talked about the pros of each one.

At this point, I was looking at the carpet and wondering if anyone would notice if I just curled up and took a nap. After class, I told Trish I was going to skip the Rita awards and go home to bed. It meant I didn’t get to say goodbye to a lot of friends and didn’t get to wear my GORGEOUS dress, but I was miserable tired. I came home, got on the couch and fell asleep for half an hour, then went to bed at nine!

The next morning, I picked up Trish and her editor Johanna Raisanen and took them to breakfast at the Guenther House. It was very nice and more relaxing than I would have expected, lol! Then back to the hotel, Trish went and got her stuff, and back to my house. We spent a few hours debriefing and making lists, then she napped and I got ready for the game night we had that night! It was a blast. We KILLED in Pictionary! And the next day when Trish left for home, I went back to bed and slept until 2!

Goals for the Week of Back to School :::SOB:::

Errr…this may have been me a time or two.

We have a 2-day work week, which bums me out. It means the rest of the week is One. Long. Sunday. Then I get two texts from the union (I’m the building rep) and a text from the head music teacher on Friday. The union wants me to be at the new teacher orientation Monday morning (at 7:30!) and a meeting on Tuesday at 4:30. Uhhhh….I said I’d be the rep because the retiring teacher who HAD been the rep said it was no extra hours, much less TWO SUMMER DAYS messed up. And the music teacher wants a lesson from me by Tuesday. I can’t remember any of my lessons–it’s summer! Plus, you know, I have a book to finish and a last day trip to take and hair to color and nails to do…

  1. Cry
  2. Finish rough draft of Boomtown book
  3. Change my blurbs on Nook
  4. Look for new covers for a few books
  5. Make Dad’s present and mail it
  6. Go to dry cleaners
  7. color hair/paint nails
  8. Shopping with Mom
  9. Lunch with retired teachers
  10. Move Josh home
  11. Make something fun
  12. Clean/declutter
  13. Cook/exercise

RWA Recap Day #5

Friday at RWA I was still very energized. I knew it was going to be a long day, because HARLEQUIN PARTY, but I was still excited.

I started out the day volunteering at the workshop desk, and it turns out one of my Wet Noodle Posse pals, Sandy Blair was volunteering, too! So we had fun, though honestly, we had to ask the RWA people more questions than we could answer.

Trish and I went to lunch at Maria Mia’s, right outside the hotel, and it was good but we each got two HUGE tacos that we couldn’t eat! We should have shared a plate.

Then we split up. She went to the hybrid author workshop and I went to the sustainability workshop, which was a panel. Mostly it was about how to survive long-term, and a lot about balance and your personal life. I’d kind of wanted more career advice, like how to sustain your place on lists, etc. But I did get the message about off-loading tasks that you can’t/don’t want to do, and how you shouldn’t compare yourself to other authors, how you should manage your time.

Lisa Mondello (the mother of my cover artist!) had some good advice about changing keywords every 90 days or so to keep it fresh (I heard this two other places, so that was the FIRST thing I did.) She also takes out inexpensive ads and plays with her description and pricing.

After that I went to the Happy Endings workshop with the husbands of some of the Houston RWA chapter. I thought it would either be silly or more serious, so I was disappointed when it was neither.

Next was the iBooks workshop. I’d learned a lot in my one-on-one meeting. Free books do really well on iTunes, and lead to more sales. They will retweet you if you mention them in tweets, and help spread the word. You can set how long a book will be free, too.

After that workshop, I decided to go home and get ready for my FIRST HARLEQUIN PARTY! Honestly, I don’t remember the drive home. I came home, took a bath, then Fred came home early, which totally messed with my head. He talked me into going out to eat BEFORE I put on my dress (made me sad) so we went to our Thai place, then I came home and got dressed and he took me to the Westin hotel.

I was meeting Trish there, so Fred dropped me off and the first person I saw was Nora Roberts, having a smoke break with a bunch of ladies. I would never in a million years interrupt, though OMG, I wanted to! I wandered into the party, which was gorgeous, all red and white. I didn’t see anyone I knew, and ended up complimenting Heather Graham Pozzessere on her dress! I had no idea who she was, lol! Finally Trish came and saved me from myself! We got dancing socks (just realized, mine are still in the car!) for when our shoes started to hurt from dancing too much. I got a beer from the open bar, a Dos Equis dressed with sugar instead of salt, which was interesting and delicious. Then we started dancing and didn’t stop!

At one point, Trish and I were dancing and she grabbed me and another lady and said, “Mary, this is Molly.” It was Molly O’Keefe, who I was DYING to meet but had no idea what she looked like! I told her who I was and she hugged me because I always post on her Facebook because I’m a little stalkery. So cool.

I got to see Mary Curry, who was also enjoying her first Harlequin party, Tanya Michaels, Merrillee Whren, Toni Anderson, Elle James, Jolene Navarro, Teri Wilson, Trish Morey and Emily McKay. Was. A. Blast.

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Then it was over, and Fred came to get me. We dropped Trish at the hotel and headed home. SO TIRED!

RWA Recap Day #4

I realize I left you hanging on the RWA recaps. I’ve been crazy busy trying to implement all I’ve learned, and to try to finish my book before summer ends on Wednesday. I’ve hired a web designer and have asked for the rights back on some of my books and have been looking for covers….anyway.

Thursday at RWA.

I went to the Carina Press breakfast and it was…a press. I was about 10 minutes late and there was NO place to sit. Some nice people made space for me at one of those tall tables where you stand, but can you believe I don’t remember their names? They’re teachers, though, so we quickly found common ground! At one point Angela James stood at our table and I used the line I’d been using to start up conversations all summer. “How are you enjoying San Antonio?” Turns out, she wasn’t a fan, lol. But she talked about her daughter, who I feel I knew, since I’ve been reading Angela’s blog since it was called “Brianna’s Mommy.” So anyway, the crowd started thinning and I headed down the hall to Tanya Michaels’s workshop. Well, it turned out to be a crush, and I had a meeting about halfway through, so I gave my seat to someone and headed over to the Grand Hyatt for a meeting with iBooks.

Liliana Hart had arranged for the iBooks people to meet with the Club Indie people who were going to National. I was nervous, because I wasn’t sure what to say, but I’m SO GLAD I went. When I sat down, I told him, “I’m not sure what to say,” and he said, “That’s okay, I’ll do the talking.” I learned so MUCH in that half hour!! I know how to do banners and buttons now, and I have the ability to have a preorder without having any content.

After the meeting, I danced back to the Marriott, where I met Trish and we went into the luncheon together. She was awarded the Emma Merritt Service Award, which is a BIG DEAL. We got to sit up front with the other award winners, and it was super nice.

Afterwards, we went to our first workshop, on ACX and Audible. Yeah, I totally want to do another audiobook once I have some money in the bank! We got a code for a free audiobook, but I haven’t decided whether to get the next Sookie Stackhouse or the second Outlander book. I’ve read Dragonfly, but not the next Sookie, but Dragonfly is $41 and Sookie is $24 regularly. I have a few more days to decide.

Then I went to the Nook mixer, which was packed, and I met someone from one of the indie loops. I thanked her for all her helpful posts. I thought it was odd, though, that no actual people from Nook were at the mixer, and since I was by myself, I left and went to the other hotel for the Nook Press Focus workshop.

I learned that they’re very interested to know if you’re going to have a BookBub ad, a new release, any kind of sale. They want you to list all books in the series in the product description (need to do that!) They’re not ready to have books set to free, though they’re considering that, and preorders.

Afterwards, I was going to go to the AGM to meet up with Trish, but I saw Linda Carroll-Bradd and she invited me to dinner. I hadn’t seen her in AGES so yes, I went with her and some of the other San Antonio Romance Authors. I kinda felt bad because Linda and I talked a blue streak and the other ladies barely got in a word edgewise!

After that, I met up with Trish to go to the Amazon party. We were supposed to RSVP and I did, but Trish got put on the waiting list, but she was a VIP at this conference, so we got in. It was a CRUSH. I had a drink, she got a soda, then we decided to forget it and went over to the food court so she could eat.

Who did we run into there but Brenda Chin? She was eating alone (and I hate to see that, though it doesn’t bother ME to do it) so we invited her to sit with us. She is super cool. She told us about her adventure vacations and her husband and her pets. She’s changed so many lives in the writing world, it was neat to end my day getting to know her!

Goals for the Last Full Week of Summer :::SOB:::

Yes, it’s true. Just 8 more days off and so much to do! This weekend MAY be free, which would be the first free weekend in months. I am not holding my breath.

  1. Work on Boomtown book
  2. Start revisions
  3. Big grocery trip–haven’t been in weeks
  4. A million little things that I learned at RWA but need to apply, like newsletter buttons and affiliate links and new covers…I thought about hiring someone but I may be too much of a control freak!
  5. Celebrate stepdad’s birthday
  6. Shopping with Mom
  7. Make something fun, which I have NOT done since I spray painted my chairs in early June. Never got out the sewing machine ONCE.
  8. Clean/declutter
  9. Cook/exercise

RWA Recap Part 2

Last Wednesday night was the RWA Literacy Signing, which is a book signing with about 500 authors. I’ve been to 5 of them, starting in 2001 when I met Nora Roberts for the first time. This year was the first time I got to sign.

I was CRAZY nervous. CRAZY. I packed and repacked and STILL forgot the basket of candy. I had to bring my own books in, and I wasn’t sure where to go, and I was hauling my books in one of those rolling carts. Oy. But I got into the room about 4:30, found my spot, set up my books. Angela James had written me a note to wish me luck and I burst into tears. Then she came by and I met her for the first time. I looked around the room for friends to see where everyone would be, then settled in next to Caroline Fyffe. She was so sweet and we commiserated about me forgetting the candy because we were STARVING.

Fred came down for moral support and had to get in the giant line to get in.

I sold 5 books, 2 to people I didn’t know, and had 5 people sign up for my newsletter. I was a little disappointed that no one I knew from town came, but I know it’s a pain to park downtown.

After the signing, Fred saved us a table down at the Italian place, and Trish, Tanya Michaels and three of their friends from North Carolina joined us. We were there a LONG time because the waiter didn’t bring our checks, but we talked a lot. I was wiped out when I got home, and I had my three longest days ahead of me!

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