How I Rediscovered Amazon
Over the past few months, I did some evaluation of being an author at this point in my life and I began to get over negative interactions with previous readers. Last week I went into Amazon again for the first time in years. Not with flight syndrome about comparing my books to other people's or even comparing my books to each other. I just examined the book section as if I was new to reading, like a potential audience for a book--an increasingly disengaged, only-reads-a-little-bit type of reader. In short, the way most people browse Amazon books. It was both eye-opening and fun. I really, really enjoyed it. After looking at each genre, I noticed readership patterns, types of books that were popular, and levels of engagement with entire genres that surprised me. (Some have MUCH less than you'd think, some much more.) My books are on a par with other authors except for visibility and intensely genre-specific expensive cover design. But I don't write formula trope books that readers can pick out just by their cover. I write within a category, but my work has a bit broader goals than being identical to other books and for placement within a genre, so readers have some idea what to expect, my covers are more than adequate. They're actually excellent.
I found myself in the Teen and Young Adult Category, which is how I've marketed myself for basically all my writing career. But a problem arose as I noticed that three of my books didn't really fit into the category and what I find quite ironic is that these three out-of-character books have also been some of the most reviewed. If readers were looking to learn more about my writing (or about me personally), they should have looked at any of the other books that were tucked away on the side since those are far closer to showing my thoughts on relationships or at least more reflective of my writing persona even if they don't reveal much about my personal life.
So for various reasons, these three books keep my marketing from being sufficiently focused on a category. They are still available for sale and I have added hardcover editions of them on Amazon along with the hardcovers for all my other books. But I am simply removing them as part of my overall author image. For instance, they don't appear on my website; they won't be featured in any new stories that use characters from my books (after consideration, I've changed my mind from a few months ago when I planned to use elements from Bellevere); and they will not be promoted through review or book promotion sites. I feel almost sorry for readers who got sidetracked by these three books, even if finding out more about my personal secrets wasn't a good motive to have. I need to be very clearly a Young Adult Author so in future I am going to be a little more focused on that genre. What started out as simply an openness to trying more writing styles became a bit of a marketing issue when my less-typical books were viewed by readers as my primary ones. And since neither of us found what we wanted--they gained no information about my personal opinions and I didn't get a dedicated readership on my slice of YA fiction--it's best to take a new path that is more narrowly placed.
And there will be more updates.
I’m excited to announce that my entire collection of books is available as part of the Smashwords 2022 End of Year Sale! This is a chance to get my book, along with books from many other great authors, at a promotional discount. Each author chooses the discount level--mine is at 50%. That's 50% off every one of my books. Prices now range from free to $1.99!
You can find the promo here:
This sale runs from December 15th through January 1st. Smashwords is a huge indie publishing site. For years it was the primary alternative to Amazon for self-publishers, and this year-end sale will be advertised to about 1 million readers! Since the merge between Smashwords and Draft2Digital, D2D authors like me are now part of Smashwords. I had made an account with them before, but they use a complicated file conversion method and I could not get it to work. Now D2D does the conversions for me, so except for some tweaks to Ryan and Essie, where a small area of front matter needed its own separate heading, every one of my files converted nicely. My books are on a new account created this month when Smashwords opened to D2D authors.
Making an account at Smashwords is very easy. It was the file conversion step that got me. As readers you will find the site lovely to use because you can download books in non-Kindle formats and read them on your computer or phone. They also stay in your account on Smashwords so you can always access them. And if you wouldn't mind lending a hand to me and the other indie authors taking part in this sale, you can share this promo with your friends and family. Just copy the book link I put above and send it to anyone who would love a chance to find their next favorite book!
Thank you for your help and support!
This weekend I'm traveling into the Texas panhandle, a 14-hour trip driving both ways, to the wedding of an old family friend. I'll stay overnight with my sister for three nights over the weekend to cut the driving into stages because we have to be at the wedding at a certain time. (Duh.) I haven't traveled much at all for many years, so it feels quite different. I have to remind myself that the natives (gasp) speak English! Even Texas English. Really, it's not that far from home. But if you look at a Google map of where I've been recently, there are like 5 dots pointing to places I went last year to visit my sister in Oklahoma and then about 200 dots all clustered in 4 towns close together. This will be a much-needed change of pace.
Similarly, I am looking into a much-needed change of pace with my published works. I've traveled the same ground with them many times by now. The idea I last pitched to you, of writing a story that linked all of them together, grew in my mind into separate stories, one about each of the books. So really, it's like a reloaded version of the original book. Why is this necessary? Because I've taken to looking at these books in the same way and my readers have done the same.
In fact, a lot of readers have become like robots when they read any book, with predictable reactions that show a lack of real involvement. They praise every book the same way based on their having liked the cover, been assured it was their kind of story, and then skimmed through to find a few plot points they wanted to be there. Their negative reviews are also hack--they dislike every story for identical reasons, don't like the cover, skim through and find it missing those few plot points they like, and then complain it's poorly written!
They also can't accept rewrites or changes. Once they've skimmed the book, they go on robotically treating it the same way because their actions are not dictated by observation of the book, more by habit. If they find they can't get away with the same opinions because the book has changed too much, they just huff and ignore it because they certainly can't be bothered to read the book again, which is odd for self-proclaimed bibliophiles who say they love reading. People often joke anxiously that there are real predictions AI could write the next bestseller because the formulas are becoming so uncreative. But readers can act like droids too.
First book I'm going to tackle is Bellevere House, because it was treated in a linear way over the years even though the book has been changed in important respects. A lot of reactions are just imitative of initial BETA readers. These beta readers published reviews of how they felt about the pre-publication manuscript. I am quite suspicious that one such reviewer, based on her comments to me, didn't even get past the third chapter! But she felt that was not important since she was not really reading, just skimming to look for elements to appear at set intervals. Once they did not appear when she wanted, sometime in the first three chapters, she just gave up, but that didn't stop her from being critical and many others from imitating her with assembly-line produced reviews for years. No matter what changes I made to the book, the underlying attitude in reviews never changed. It was like they were encoded with a computer virus.
There is no mandate that any particular elements must appear in a good story--just that the story uses some of the many possible elements for correct storytelling and no incorrect elements. That's not the point though, as Bellevere was quite a bad story. You'd think they would feel much fondness for something as flawed as this book (I can hear Emperor Palpatine chuckling "good, good. You are writing this in my voice!") because they are very flawed people. But for some reason they didn't and unlike other books, they've continued to give this one a lot of robotic attention. One reviewer of this type could be forgiven since we've all had immature moments. But after almost 6 years it has gotten quite stale. So I am going to write a little reboot of Bellevere that gives it a few twists, takes place about 10 years after the end of the book we have now, and focuses on Ed's internal struggle. And yes, it will be neatly edited without typos.
I do intend to use just a newsletter template in future! I know this is still a blog post, but setting up a newsletter direct from my provider instead of the blog format I've been doing takes a little time. I need to make the header and other elements match the one my newsletter subscribers have been receiving. I will get onto that soon.
So do please check out the Smashwords sale! You won't regret it as this is a great chance to explore a bunch of authors discounted from 25% to 100% off!
And there will be more updates.
Wow, That Was Quite a Summer
I was shocked when I looked at the calendar and realized it’s been three months already. I was supposed to come back with lots of publication-type-things to unveil! I have collected a lot of writing-related items and ideas, including new folders, new notebooks, and a commitment to writing by hand (used to do it all the time as a teenager and I think I had more fun writing that way.) 😊 I got a book of writing prompts, that I picked up for $2 in a resale shop, and a brand new workspace complete with a lovely organizer set that has each item in a different pattern in shades of blue. I had initially decided not to include four of my books (Harrisons, Bellevere, MerrySummer, and Ryan and Essie) in the new time-travel magnet because I could not think of any continuing storylines for those characters. But I got a load of new ideas as I was organizing the china between our little white cabinet and our hutch. It was a busy afternoon's work as all the china needed to be taken out of cardboard boxes and unwrapped out of newspaper. So I thought about stories while I worked and those four books quietly found a place to belong.
This summer I spent a lot of time working in the house, reorganizing and renovating it. Writing fell by the wayside as a complete restructuring of our living space became a priority. My sister and I woke up one day in late April and realized we had never adjusted our home to accommodate two adults living alone, no children and just one small cat. Our changes had been gradual before, still keeping lots of old habits, as two sisters left the house and our parents moved down the road into our grandfather’s house. But except for some stuff that left the house when these people did, our structure remained the same on a daily basis. We were occupied with routines and never looked at items we had placed years before because they had always been there and we don’t spend most of each day thinking about household physical objects. But this year we saw that we hadn’t caught up to where our lives are really at. We were living in a house that was for a different family at a different time of life.
For instance we moved two musical instruments (our piano and also one of those huge old Conn electric organs that someone gave to us years ago so they could get rid of it) out of our bedrooms where they were taking up large amounts of space. From the sound of "piano and organ" you might think our house is sizable, but it is SMALL and that's the reason they hijacked our bedrooms. They had been put there to keep them safe as there was literally no place for them anywhere else, but honestly it’s been a decade since the youngest of us was under 13 and nobody is going to be kicking, scratching, or crayoning on these instruments now. I was especially glad to get a chest of drawers and my sister to get a desk, now there was actually space to put these things in our rooms! In fact, I made my new motto be “STOP keeping stuff in my room for later, to keep it safe. My room is MY room, all mine!” 😊 We also discovered a lot of gaps as we made the house better organized—for instance, we never kept bathrobes in the bathroom although there are hooks for them, because our house used to be very crowded so we kept our clothes near where we slept. But as we looked around the house we saw it was virtually empty these days. In fact we even have a SPARE bedroom now! (My parent’s room, vacated after they moved out.) We’d been using it as a sort of garage for junk we didn’t have time to go through. So we made time this summer and are turning the room into a den. Having suddenly much more space in the house also means we can create a small dining room area adjacent to the kitchen. We had no room for this before because the only table was used for both schoolwork and food preparation. I look forward to hanging some china plates on the wall.
Anyway, in the midst of all that, I got a nice computer and tidied up massive amounts of stuff from my desk (a lot of the stuff was stashed there to keep it for later and didn’t even belong to me.) I’m getting all set to write some more. I also uploaded about 18 months worth of new reviews to my book reviews blog, as I tend to get behind on that aspect of my website, and I redid the back covers for my books because when I finally got them out of a crowded closet box and onto a bookshelf I noticed too many of the spines were similar and too many of them were black. But I’d never put them in a bookcase before, so I hadn’t noticed. I like the new prompt book I got because writing prompts have always annoyed me. They are everywhere, often given as links or emails. But I don’t have a place to write the story immediately once I see the prompt. This book has a page below each prompt for writing. I’ve never used prompts before, but I’ve been so distracted lately I’m going to need them to get back in the writing game as I start the time-travel magnet.
AND I am going to send out the newsletter only when I have an announcement about a new book, a sale on older books, or other stuff like that. That way you’ll know when you open my email that you’re getting something big and that I’m expecting action on it, instead of you just receiving and languidly browsing a stream of updates about my life. Many authors both blog and send newsletters, but they often don’t combine them as I’ve been doing. Sending only every 2-3 months when there is something to announce is what I’ve seen other authors do more frequently than sending out constant blog posts to a newsletter. They might send these to a blog audience but not double it with a newsletter audience. So that is what I will switch to as well.
Until my next announcement, best wishes to all of you!
Young Adult Fiction Writer
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