Amazon, Authors, and Why I’m Wide

Where can I buy your books?

Paper cut of heart on old bookI’m so glad you asked.

In this day and age, you have so many options when it comes to choosing where to buy your books. I’m happy to say that you can find my books at most of your favorite vendors!

I am not, and never will be, an Amazon-only author.

I remember back in the early 1990’s, Amy Grant released a Christmas album that was exclusive to Target stores. That was a cool promotion, because she recorded a special song, and they did some cute ads together. But she didn’t pull all of her other music from other stores and only sell through Target. Target didn’t say, “Well, in order to promote you, you must agree to sell only at our stores.” That would be silly, right?

And yet, that’s what Amazon is doing to authors.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am fully cognizant of the enormous good Amazon did for indie authors. I know that if they hadn’t opened the door for us, the publishing world might not be where it is today. I appreciate that. I’m grateful. I’m perfectly okay with selling my books on Amazon and playing by their rules for the books they carry.

But the playing field there is far from level.

In introducing programs like Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon offered certain advantages to authors who were willing to commit to things, like exclusivity. That’s their prerogative. It’s fair. But when they changed algorithms and standards so that KU and Amazon imprint books received more visibility and promotion as well as ranking advantages, that wasn’t cool. It wasn’t fair to authors OR to readers.

Essentially, Amazon offers me lower visibility and fewer advantages because I choose to publish wide. My books are on iBooks, Nook, Kobo and Google Play, among others. While the company might say that’s just their policy, it’s pretty crazy, when you stop and think about it.

If I chose to only publish with Amazon, my books wouldn’t be available in many countries around the world. They could only be read on a limited number of devices. And most troubling to me, Amazon would be in charge of my publishing destiny.

No, thank you.

And there’s more . . .

On Amazon, we as authors cannot set our books to free for a limited time, as we sometimes like to do when promoting a release. And because Amazon insists on being the lowest price on everything, if another vendor lowers the price one of our books, Amazon will price-match it, sometimes without our knowledge, or can even kick our book off its site. Amazon also can suppress reviews if it suspects a reviewer ‘knows’ the author.

I don’t trust the farmer.

Someone asked me recently why I didn’t like KU, why none of my books are in the program. I responded that I didn’t like the idea of putting all my eggs into one basket when I didn’t trust the farmer. And that’s the bottom line: I don’t trust them.

Any time you give a person or a company too much control over your product, your pricing and your promotion, you’re surrendering a big piece of your future to them.

I would never rule out a day when I might put ONE book into KU. Because I live by the motto Nothing ventured, nothing gained, refusing to take advantage of that program, if a time and book came along where it would fit, I might try it. But I will not put ALL my books into KU.

That’s why in 2017, you’ll see me working with other vendors even more. I’ll talk about that later, but it’s coming.

And you as a reader . . . think about where you’re reading. I have a Kindle, and it’s great. I also have an iPhone, and I read on that, too, both iBooks and on the Kindle and Nook apps.

Consider your options.

Meanwhile . . . did you know that you can buy my paperbacks in a ton of stores you might not expect? You can find my books at:

Walmart

Target

Books A Million

Barnes and Noble 

So keep reading. I’ll keep writing.

Can we chat?

14183769_10154105636729145_3475893206531129845_nSo this is how it works.

I finish writing a book. I have about two minutes of absolute euphoria, and then reality hits.

This wonderful story, the one I’ve just dedicated my life to writing, the one that has wrung every emotion from my heart, now must be shared with the world, which means I need to work on the dreaded P word: promotion.

If you ever become exasperated, feeling you’ve seen the same post over and over or perhaps different posts about the same book . . . trust me, we authors feel the same way about promoting. It’s not our favorite part of being an author.

In my perfect world, I’d finish writing my book and then sit down with a group of my favor readers to chat with them about it. We’d get lost in characters and plot lines and so on . . . and at the end of our lovely tea, they’d go out and tell their friends about the book, who would in turn tell their friends . . . well, you get the gist.

Meanwhile, I’d sit back and work on the next book.

Now, though, my chatting takes place on social media. When I post a picture or a link, it’s my only way of telling people when to expect the next book. Live events are lovely and give me a chance to talk to readers in person, but there’s a limit to how many of them I can do. And so the internet it is.

Of course, I’m very lucky that I have my dear Temptresses with whom to speak. They let me go on and on about characters and stories, and I’m grateful. (If you enjoy my books and want to join us on the Temptress group, go here.) If only we could mystically meet up each time I finish a book and talk it out in person! They’re also awesome about sharing and twisting friends’ arms to get them to read my books . . . I adore their enthusiasm. It’s what keeps me writing.

Regardless of the opportunities offered on the web, nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to books. You telling a friend about a story that captivate you is more effective than fifty Facebook ads. Sharing your favorite reads is so important!

Well . . . since it seems no one is going to come bring me tea and chat about Days of You and Me just now, I guess you’ll keep seeing the pictures, the promos and the posts. If you feel spunky, shares are always appreciated, as are posts and tweets and emails . . . whatever does the trick.

That’s part of this author’s life.

All’s Fair in Love and Football

Once upon a time, authors were told that there were certain types of heroes, certain characters, who were off-limits when it came to romance novels. Among those were football players, because it was widely accepted that women, who are the chief readers of romance, didn’t like sports and wouldn’t be interested in a story featuring a sports figure.

Times have changed.

Sports romances—whether we’re talking football, hockey, baseball, swimming or any other popular athletic activity—are no longer taboo. Some of the most popular books flying off the shelves today boast an athlete in the starring role, and it’s not just the male leads who’re the game changers. Often the heroine rocks cleats when she’s not in stilettos.

So what’s different?

To be honest, I wasn’t sure. As an author, I don’t write to trends, and I’ve never paid attention to people who told me I couldn’t write about <insert character type here>. It’s part of the beauty of being indie or hybrid. And as a woman, I’ve always been a football fan. No one informed me that women weren’t supposed to like football or baseball or hockey, and my dad raised me to appreciate sports.

For me, writing a story that features a tight end as the male lead didn’t feel much different than writing one that included a carpenter, or a chef, or a college professor. The job contributes to the character, but it doesn’t necessarily define the romance. A sports figure might be more likely to struggle with injuries and a life in the public eye, but that’s merely another aspect of the plot. It doesn’t have to be integral to the storyline.

On the other hand, the game is rife with romantic opportunities. Take your typical football player: he’s in his twenties, with a seriously-built body and the know-how to use it. And then remember that women are not only fans now; they’re also working in the front offices and in sports broadcasting. The typical female lead in a football romance isn’t a cheerleader or a bimbo. She’s a strong woman with a career of her own that may or may not intersect with the game.

The truth is that football, whether it’s high school, college or pro, is attracting women fans at an incredible rate. At some point in the last decade or so, we began to realize that it’s cool to admit we enjoy the game, instead of pretending that we’re only interested in the tight pants and broad shoulders, and now women fans make up nearly 50% of the NFL’s fanbase, according to numbers released in 2014 (Washington Post). The league caters to its female fans, with marketing and merchandising aimed at women more often than ever.

It stand to reason, then, that if we’re passionate about the game and the players, their stories are what we want to read.  When I’m watching the game, I’m interested not only in what’s happening on the field, but also what’s going through the minds of the players, their wives and their girlfriends. I want to eavesdrop on what the coaches and staff are talking about on the sidelines. I want to know what the players do after a big win?or a devastating loss.

When I read sports romances by Kristen Callihan, Sarina White Bowen, Elle Kennedy or Jami Davenport, that’s what I’m getting: a little peek behind the scenes. When I write books like my own football trilogy, it’s what I’m giving my readers. It’s also why I’m hooked on the Amazon Prime series All or Nothing, a season-long documentary about the Arizona Cardinals’ 2015 season. It’s the drama, the humor and the heartache—not coincidentally, all essential elements of a good romance.

Female fans, I might venture to say, are more well-rounded in their appreciation of the game. We get the rules on the field, don’t worry–but we also know who’s married to the quarterback. We’re going to scream and shout just as loud as the next guy—but we also might tear up when the receiver who just caught a TD pass blows a kiss to his girlfriend in the stands.

Come to think of it, that peculiar juxtaposition of teamwork and true love just might be why so many of us have fallen for football romances.

~~~***~~~

Don’t forget!

You can preorder Book 3 of the Keeping Score Trilogy

Days of You and Me

And you can also see an exclusive sneak peek there.

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Tell Me Your Love Story . . . Nana and Sa

 

DOYAM banner

As we draw closer to the September 27th release of Days of You and Me, I’m sharing a series of personal love stories (from my family and friends). Today’s is very special.

~~~***~~~

Harry Thompson was born in Philadelphia in 1905. He was the second son of Jesse and Annie Murphy Thompson; Annie had been born in Ireland and immigrated with her family. Their oldest son, John, was just under a year when Harry was born. 

During her pregnancy, Annie, who was only 25, was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was almost always fatal. Baby Harry was born covered in sores, apparently, and had to be carried on a pillow. He came into the world in July, and by December, Annie was dead. 

Jesse raised his sons in a series of boarding houses in the city, with the help of a few friends. He never married again. 

Harry left school and began working when he was fourteen years old. When he was eighteen, he met and married a woman and had a son, but the marriage didn’t last. 

Meanwhile, on a farm in South Jersey, in June of 1911, a second daughter was born to Harry and Elinor Shute. This farm had been in the Shute family since David Shute bought the land from William Penn in the 17th century. Marian June was raised in a large family of eleven children, in a strict Methodist upbringing where cards and dancing were forbidden. She was close to her big sister Ida and her younger sister Evelyn.

In 1935, Marian took a job as a secretary in Philadelphia at an insurance company. It was the middle of the Depression, and jobs were scarce. While working there, she met a handsome young paralegal named Harry Thompson. 

Harry was taken by Marian and enjoyed visiting her family’s farm, where he was welcome by her large family. Now, what did Harry Shute think about his daughter seeing a divorced father of one? We don’t know, but I can’t think he was thrilled. 

FullSizeRender 19Harry and Marian decided to get married, but at this point in the Depression, in this company, a married woman was not allowed to continue working. So they had to wed in secret, so that Marian could continue working. 

On August 19, 1936–eighty years ago today–Harry and Marian, along with their two best friends, slipped down to Ocean City, NJ, where they were wed in the Baptist Church there. They kept their marriage a secret for at least a year! 

Over the course of their marriage, they raised three children–Richard, Robert and Eleanor. They had seven grandchildren and a myriad of great-grandchildren.

Harry was an old-fashioned man who held the family to strict standards. The women did the cooking. No jars or containers were allowed on the dining table: everything had to be in a dish. His concession to helping was making the toast every morning at breakfast, manning the toaster which was alongside his chair at the head of the table. 

Harry worked as a paralegal well into his 80’s. Although he kept retiring, he also kept going back to work. His second son joined his long-time law firm in 1979 as a lawyer and became a partner in that firm a few years later.

In the late eighties, the family noticed that Marian was becoming forgetful. Tragically, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. But Harry did something no one had expected: he stepped up and refused to relinquish care of his wife to anyone else. Until her death in August of 1999, Harry cared for his Marian with love, patience and gentleness. It was a beautiful example to the entire family.

After her passing, Harry remained active with his yard work and gardening. He made chocolate chip cookies for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He told stories, and every Halloween, he hosted the big family gathering, calling ahead to order the pizza weeks in advance. 

When he passed from this life in June of 2002, it was in peace, as he went to join his Marian. 

This was the story of my Nana and Sa. Harry was called Sa by his grandchildren, thanks to me. He was a bit of a smart-ass, and when I was born, he told me, “Call me Sam.” I couldn’t say Sam, so I called him Sa, and Sa he remained. 

When I was little, I remember Sa saying to Nana, as he had their whole life together, “Stick with me, sweetheart–you’ll wear diamonds!” She never did have a diamond–even her engagement ring was pearl–but he gave her a greater gift than that. His love and faithfulness was something I will never forget.

I miss them so much . . . in my kitchen is a tea cart that sat in their home all my life. Even I see it, I remember the love in which these two wonderful people raised me. Their home was the true home of my heart. 

~~~***~~~

Come tell me YOUR love story. Go here and share your personal love story. You’ll be entered to win the contest: prize is a $50 gift card AND the chance to have your love story included in Days of You and Me. (Names and details can be changed at the discretion of the winner and the author.)

Authors, Readers and the Value of Art

vintage-typewriter-100234507This has been a tough week for me, for a myriad of different reasons, both personal and professional. Being an author is a crazy ride. I could, and have, shared all the ways I love what I do–and they’re all true. But at the same time, there’s a flip side, and it’s a little darker than you might think.

I’m not complaining. I’m lucky beyond the telling of it to be able to do what I love, and I am the most grateful person around. Being appreciative, though, doesn’t obligate one to pretend bad things don’t exist.

Putting the struggle into words wasn’t easy, ironically. I couldn’t quite pin down what was bothering until I read a post on Facebook.

These are the words of author CM Foss, as shared by K Langston. I linked the post here, so you can read it first-hand, if you’d prefer.

From the desk of CM Foss…

A Swan Song

Except I can’t sing, so I’ll spare you that.
From what I hear, basically everyone is aware of me bowing out of the biz here. It is not temporary and I am not sad about it.

What I am sad about are the astounding number of texts and emails I’ve received from other authors, ones who I thought had their shit together way more than me. Confessions of marital problems, anxiety, blood pressure dangers, misery, stress, guilt. They say they’re impressed, maybe even a little jealous, that I just shut it all down.

Guys. Wtf.

I am no expert. I’m a mess, quite honestly. But I’m really good at looking at things from an outside perspective and telling people what’s what. Since I’m no longer in the trenches, I can do that now. 🙂 Also, I’m a business major and a business owner. Let me tell you something.

The book market is bad. It’s just bad. Like the housing market has been bad. It happens. It doesn’t mean nothing will sell, but it does mean that your chances aren’t super duper. It means it’s a buyer’s market. That means prices are low and dropping and that means it’s overall a bad time to sell.

I don’t want to sell my house at the bottom of the market, I want to sell at the top, unless I need to fire-sale.

I don’t.

I have watched others (and certainly been there myself) literally killing themselves to get a book out. They do a million takeovers, give away thousands of books, give GIFT CARDS of their own money, mail out paperbacks and swag like its free, politely beg for reviews, entertain, hold their tongue when their work is torn apart, and shrug off senseless character attacks.

Daily.

Daily, people.

Then, they weave stories that make readers feel and think and escape.

Then, they cook for their families, wipe butts, drive carpool, go to work, clean dishes, mow the yard. They try to spend enough time with their spouses or significant other or some late night mistake to capture the same romance in real life as they do on paper.

It’s an incredible world we live in, to be able to connect with people around the globe, to self-publish, to realize dreams. But there is a lot of bad. The negativity, the drama, the stress, the angst. The ego.

It is not worth it. It is not healthy. It is not fun. It is not real.

So, to authors I say: Slow down. Have fun. Realize what matters. Crawl out of your hole and your head and spend some time with people, in person (I know. It’s hard.) Make a phone call you’ve been ignoring and read a book that you just want to.

To readers: Slow down. Enjoy the words. Pay for books. If you are driving the market, don’t drive it into the gutter. Have respect, for your time, for the authors, for family. And remember– authors can write without readers, all for themselves. But readers need authors. Don’t hurt them.

As for me, I’ll be closing my laptop and unplugging my kindle. I’ll be reading old-fashioned paperbacks and re-reading old favorites. My writing life is a chapter closed. My books are unpublished. My last stash has been signed and shipped to The Bookworm Box, so if you get a hankerin’ for one, give them your money. They’ll do right by it.

Despite this note, and the reality of it, I did have fun, and I did meet some wonderful people. I made the USA Today Bestseller list with some fabulous friends, and my words have been tattooed onto skin. That’s amazing. Thank you for the support and the laughs and all the great times.

God bless, peace out, and #dontbeadick.

When I read that, all I could think was . . . YES.

Some of you know a little about my background. For over twenty years, from the time I got married until about five years ago, I was a wife and homeschooling mom. When I hit publish on my first book (it’ll be five years this December), I knew less than nothing. I was greener than Kermit. It took me five months before I realized I could make a paperback book! I didn’t know that there were cover designers and formatters . . . and I knew zilch about promotion.

Needless to say, I learned.

The May before I published, my husband graduated from seminary. He’d been called to a second career (third?) in ministry, and when my first book went live, he was a hospice chaplain. In 2014, right in the middle of THE ONE Trilogy being published, he transitioned to parish ministry.

Why does this matter? Well, in case you didn’t know, chaplains and priests don’t earn much money. I saw a T-shirt for priests and ministers the other day that read, We’re in it for the outcome, not the income. Yup, that’s the truth.

So while we are extremely blessed and very grateful for his ministry, we are also full dependent on MY book income to keep us solvent.

 

Right now, I have 35 books live and published, between both of my writer personas. I’m not doing as well as I was last year–but I am working an average of about eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. In between working, I’m schooling my son (last one at home!), being a wife, a priest’s wife (those are two very different things), a mother and a friend. I do the laundry and about 95% of the cooking in our house, as well as the grocery shopping, budgeting and planning.

Because of the sharp decrease in sales, I’ve had to stop using the services of the wonderful PAs who have helped me over the years. I’ve cut back on every aspect of business, except what I can do myself . . . which means I’m doing most of the work myself, other than what wonderful and generous friends help me to accomplish.

My most expensive book is a box set that sells for $6.99. That’s FOUR full-length books plus a short for under $7. Most of my books are between 99 cents and $4.99.

And yet some readers say they want cheaper books. Some circumvent the system by using pirate sites, where they can download my books for free. (For a telling look at how pirating affects all authors, read Colleen Hoover’s post here .) I’ve had readers inform me that they deserve to read my books for free. I’ve had readers message me DEMANDING that I send them free paperbacks–it’s their right as a reader.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I love my readers and the majority of them are beyond awesome. Earlier this year, one of my readers asked me about a short story she thought she’d missed reading. When I offered to send it to her for free–she is a loyal reader and very supportive!–she refused, saying that it was worth the price for her. Bless her heart!

I love to write. I will never stop writing. I don’t want to stop publishing. But I’ll admit, it’s getting harder. Not only is it difficult from a purely business point of view–and it is–but it’s also demoralizing as an artist. When a growing segment of the population makes it clear via action and words that my books are worthless to them when we’re talking dollar value, it robs me of a little of the joy of being an author.

Maybe one of the dark sides of the indie publishing revolution is that lines which used to be clear are now blurred. Social media means that readers have more access to authors than they ever have–which is good and bad.

I don’t claim to have answers, but perhaps a good place to start would be by defining our rights and roles.

As an author, I have the responsibility to produce my best creative work, in whatever way I might see that. I have the responsibility to give my readers clean copy, an appealing cover, with professionally formatted pages. I have the responsibility to accept fair and non-biased reviews from readers. I have the right to choose which books I will write, when. I have the right to price that work at whatever price point I decide, with the knowledge that overpricing will negatively affect my bottom line. I have the right to privacy, for both myself and my family.

As a reader, you have the right to decide what books you will or will not buy. You have the right to decide the dollar amount you can afford to pay for books and choose which books you will buy with that amount. You have the right to express your opinion of authors’ work in a non-personal and non-combative manner. (In other words, leaving a review that attacks an author for how she prices her work or any other aspect of her personality other than the content of THAT book is not cool.) You have the responsibility not to download books illegally. You have the responsibility to treat authors with the same respect you would any other artist.

Now, I’m going to get back to writing the next book.

{For one of my earlier posts on authors and the value of books, go here.}