Sunday, March 29, 2015

Indie Publishing: Lessons Learned So Far

When I decided to indie publish my old backlist I didn't realize two things - how much there was to learn and how much I'd enjoy the process. Yes, process is quite an overused word these days but the language can be limiting. That's the only word that fits. 

The biggest adventure so far has been learning how to photoshop pictures. I'm not an expert, nor will I ever be, and that's okay. Sure the cover of a book is the first thing a reader sees. The second is the price. Well, maybe some folks see the price first and that's okay. I've been known to purchase a "try me" book for 99-cents, too. Anyway, learning to create covers is a lot of hard work but each new tool discovered ups my level of enjoyment with the software. 

Now comes the time to confess what I really like about going indie and something the naysayers might want to think about. Perhaps if I'd thought about it sooner, I'd have begun this new phase of my career a few years ago. 

It's a topic always discussed in private author circles. Is my publisher paying me for every copy sold? How do I know if they're not? It's an unfortunate reality the author doesn't know if she/he is being cheated. 

Yes, most (but not all) publishers are honest and most contracts have clauses that state the author can request an audit of her/his sales records but the author has to pay for it. Please believe me when I tell you only the lucky few are making enough money to pay for a forensic audit and those chosen ones are the few the publishers wouldn't dare fuck with because they do have the money. So what's one of the little people to do? Publish a few indie books.

When you become your own publisher you suddenly have access to sales reports direct from places like Amazon, All Romance eBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo - any online bookseller you hook up with. How does this help? Here goes. I'll try to make it simple.

Say I go to All Romance eBooks and search for Rayne Forrest. The results come up and I sort them by best selling and make a note of the day and the order of the books. Then I log into my publisher account and get the numbers of sales per book. Say I do this every day for the quarter and at the end of the quarter my indie book, which as been ranked as my third seller for the last several months has sold 100 copies. This means the two books above it have each sold more than 100 copies. I then get my royalty report from ARE. 

Books number 1 and 2 had better show sales of over 100 copies each, eh? Okay, they might only show 95, which would be close enough for me to know all is well. One thing I don't know is how many people bought a book and then returned it after they read it. (The practice of doing that is a blog for another day - after I learn a few more curse phrases.)

Is it a cumbersome lot of work to track sales this way? Absolutely. Will it give you enough money to pay for an audit, if necessary? Nope. It won't. But it might tell you it's time to look for another publishing house to handle your work.

And that's the bottom line here. Your books are your work. You license them to someone else to do the publishing end. You need to know if you're being treated honestly and an independent sales report is simply one more tool to that end. 


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Step Into Tomorrow for #MSS84

This week the My Sexy Saturday blog hop is about sexy tomorrows. How perfect is that for Step Into Tomorrow? This book is all about the moment of choice for what tomorrow will be to both our hero and heroine. Will they make it tomorrow? Or should the true question be when will that tomorrow exist?

Here are seven sexy paragraphs from Step Into Tomorrow.
= = = = = 
Rhys hoped she realized they would share a room tonight. And a bed. He couldn’t let her out of his sight. It was too risky. She’d bolt like the hounds of Hell were after her. Thank all deities she’d never see the real thing. They’d blocked the way out of the lower layers of time known as Hell.

The thought of being in a bed with her, even if he stayed on top of the covers while she was under them, brought his cock to attention. The memory of her beneath him burned in his blood. He wanted her, and he had five years to get her. Starting tonight would work out just fine.

“Oh, and find a place that has, um, what’s it called? Room service? I’m hungry.”

“Eat your crackers if you need food,” she shot back. “We can cross the state line and look for a place. Crossing the state line makes you a worse sort of felon or something.”

"Really? You mean I might become wanted by NASA?”

She groaned. “Why me? Why does it always have to be me? Why do I get the good ones?” She finally shifted in her seat to face him. “It’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rhys. The F-B-I. Not NASA. NASA is the people who go into outer space. You know outer space. Isn’t that where you came from? Didn’t Scotty beam you down?”

His hands clenched around the steering wheel as he gave her the truth.“No, beautiful. I didn’t come here from outer space. I came from the seventeenth layer of time. Oz.”

Available now at Amber Quill Press

Rhys St. Clair is the best of a select group of highly trained time specialists. When events in the layers of time run amok, it’s his job to step through the Matrix and fix the problem. A mistake in his calculations sends him back to the year 1996 and nets him more than he ever bargained for – Sophia Townsend.

Sophia Townsend needs a life makeover. When a confused stranger shows up inside her home, with no idea of where he is, or even what year it is, it doesn’t take Sophia long to figure out the man in her living room is the most interesting guy she’s ever met, and the sexiest, too.

When Rhys whisks her away, Sophia isn’t sure if she’s been kidnapped, or if the handsome stranger is taking her on the greatest adventure of her life. When the truth catches up to them, Rhys has only one thing left to offer her – but only if she’s brave enough to step into tomorrow with him.

Rayne Forrest

Check out all the My Sexy Saturday blogs below for lots of great excerpts from the participating authors! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When it rains... go indie

This has been an unusual winter. We expect cold - got it. We expect snow - got it. We expect many days to be breezy but yet sunny - nope. Didn’t happen.

It’s been the topic of conversation in the office for several months. No one remembers being without sunshine for so many days in a row. It’s, well, it’s depressing.

A few years ago a lot was written about the link between the lack of sunshine and depression. While I don’t think I get clinically depressed, I do sort of go into a hibernation mode during the winter. Sleep is preferable to just about anything else.

Somehow this year I survived both the gray, dreary days and the urge to hibernate. I’m not sure how, but I’m not looking this “gift horse” in the mouth. I’m taking it for what it is.

I’ve spent this winter going over manuscripts and learning new things about self-publishing. My account at All Romance eBooks was just approved and I hope to get Mischief at Midnight and To Bed a Spy uploaded with the next few days. After that, it’s time to move on to other outlets.

The ability to have control over my work is exhilarating. It’s not that I think publishers are dishonest, but I do think the writer, on whom this ENTIRE industry depends, is not treated equitably. Without the writer, the publishing industry collapses. Somehow it’s come to be believed the publisher makes the author’s career. Um, no. The ability to tell a good story makes the author. It should be a symbiotic relationship and it is with the really great publishers. 

It's been an eye-opener to discover I can do for myself everything a publisher does, but could I have done this without the experience of being with nine different publishers over the years? Nope. I still think a publisher is a good idea for someone new to the industry. 

Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from publishers and editors. Bite the bullet and commit to a few years of having your work under contract. Remember nothing in this business worth the effort happens overnight. There are no shortcuts. You're either in it for the long haul or you should stop now. And if you're in it for the long run, don't shut off any avenue of forward progress. 

Think about it. 


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Across Time by Rayne Forrest for My Sexy Saturday

Welcome to Twenty-six Keys! The blog got a new look this week and I like it quite a bit. This week I'm jumping in on the My Sexy Saturday blog hop with Across Time. 

Across Time was the first book of mine that went "live" although it wasn't the first story I had contracted. The rights came back to me a while back and I revamped the manuscript to apply everything I've learned since Across Time was written. The result was well worth the effort. I love combining science fiction with romance. It's my favorite thing to write and I think it shows. 

Here are seven sexy paragraphs from Across Time. 

+ + + + +

The closures on her bra popped open, baring her breasts to him. He knelt above her, straddling her. His hands deftly opened his pants and his erection sprang free.

Corri reached to touch him, but he grabbed her hands and pinned them above her head. He lowered his weight fully onto her. Never taking his eyes from hers, he spread her knees with his. She couldn’t stop from arching up to him as his cock slipped across her slickness.

The teasing of his body was at odds with the bruising vise of his fingers around her wrists. She tried to pull away, and his grip tightened.

“Don’t ever say this is rape, Dunn.”

“I want you, Devin. Please.”

His gaze lowered to her mouth and then flicked back up, once more locking with hers. He slowly released her wrists and slid one hand beneath her head, cradling it from the hard ground.

“This is your last chance to say stop.”
+ + + + +

More about Across Time, available at Amber Quill Press:

Corri Dunn’s mission to distant Adhara VII begins on a downhill slide. Not only have her superiors withheld vital information, but Devin Tremaine knows what it is. Corri must face Devin, and what happened between them five years ago, or lose her command. Confronting the truth means facing the fact she still loves Devin. She wants him back in her life, and her bed, but she has to complete her assignment first.

Devin Tremaine made one big mistake in his life – he lost Corri Dunn when she needed his understanding and he couldn’t give it. Now they’re both at Adhara VII, caught in a web of deceit – and renewed passion. Corri’s been sent into a trap and he’s the only one who can save her.

The secrets of Adhara VII unlock their past, present and a future fast unraveling. To survive, Corri and Devin must make a leap of faith – across time.

Rayne Forrest

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rayne's Ramblings - Writing is like Gardening

Having been at this business of blogging for many years, I have quite an archive of blog entries. Twenty-six Keys is simply the latest incarnation of the many blogs I've had over the years. It got to the point where it was easier to start fresh than go back and remove old, invalid links and outdated content. And so Twenty-six Keys was born. 

Since I do have all that old content, I'm going to recycle some of it. What follows is an entry originally posted on one of those now defunct blogs in July 2007. It may be eight years later but I find writing is still like gardening for me, and this old blog entry still applies. 


Writing is like gardening

I've been a lifelong gardener. I suppose it's in my blood, passed down from generations of women who knew long before the evening news told them so that houseplants keep indoor air fresher. One thing my mother and grandmother always had were flowers.

My mother used to collect cardboard milk cartons to trim and fill with potting soil. In these she started her seeds. Once the seeds sprouted she would turn the cartons every day so the tiny seedlings weren't forced to stretch one way or the other toward the sunlight.

Mom nurtured the plants until the first of May then the cartons were set in the garage to "harden" before being planted in the regular beds or pots after May 10th, which is historically the day the chance of a hard frost is over for our immediate area. By July my mother's yard was blooming and she was hard at work weeding and watering. With the arrival of October she was clearing the beds of frost damage and making mental notes for the following year and washing out new milk cartons to stack in the garage for next March's seed sowing.

Mom has scaled back some in recent years but she still maintains a flowerbed that stretches along her driveway. She's mostly content with a smaller area but sometimes we reminisce about her hundred foot long border along the edge of the backyard of the house I grew up in. Glory days. 

Writing, for me, is much like gardening. The seed of a story comes to me either from something I've already written or from whatever it is beyond myself that makes me want to create characters and stories. The seed sometimes quickly sprouts, sometimes lies dormant waiting for a different season. Once it begins to grow it needs attention, nourishment, and sometimes a lot of weeding. If I'm lucky it eventually matures and blooms into something I can be proud of, something well worth all the work.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Old dog, new tricks

One of the scarier aspects of self-pubbing my old stories isn't whether or not they have any shelf life left. I have no control over whether or not anyone buys a copy and I'm actually content with that. The thing is I enjoyed creating them and there's no reason to hide them away on my computer. So what is the scary part? Creating a decent cover.

It's pretty proven wisdom the cover needs to catch a reader's eye. Okaaaaay. What catches a person's eye is a personal thing. Can we please everyone? Of course not. 

I'm learning how to make simple covers. So far I like the results. They've been very clean without a lot of frills but the more I learn about manipulating the software to match my vision, the more complex they'll become. 

I'm rather pleased to report the old gal (me) can still learn a new trick.