Free Publicity Fridays: Mae Clair

Solstice Island by Mae Clair

21849684It’s new release time! My friend, romance and mystery writer Mae Clair, is celebrating the release of her very first self-published title! HOORAY!!!!

Solstice Island is a superbly written novella that balances romance and mystery perfectly. It’s hard to develop characters in novellas (speaking for myself here), but Mae does it so well. I felt like I understood her characters’ goals and motivations, and I sympathized with them at every plot twist.

Don’t miss out on this fantastic tale! It’s only $0.99!

Here’s the blurb:

Can an ancient leviathan work magic between a practical man and an idealistic woman?

Rylie Carswell is an amateur cryptozoologist in search of a mythical creature, the Sea Goliath. In order to reach Solstice Island, a location the ancient leviathan is rumored to haunt, she’s forced to hire charter boat captain, Daniel Decatur.

Initially, Daniel wants nothing to do with the trip or the fool woman waving double payment in his face. Convinced she’s yet another loony treasure hunter looking for gold on the remote island, he reluctantly agrees. An embittered neighbor wants to have his charter license yanked, so the extra cash will help him stay afloat.

It doesn’t take long for Daniel to realize Rylie is after the same beast his parents were tracking when they mysteriously vanished ten years earlier. He’s avoided all links to cryptozoology ever since, but the smart and sexy cryptid hunter has him second-guessing his oath and wondering what he’s signed on for.

Warning: A family legacy, glowing plankton and rough waters.

 

Oh man, how can you resist a blurb that hints at family secrets, two people with opposing goals, and an obscure area of scientific study? Before reading Solstice Island, I didn’t know what cryptozoology was. Now, thanks to the seamless way Mae weaves her research into her plot and descriptions, I’m so fascinated I spent way too long on Google images looking at blurry images of animals that may or may not exist.

Hop over to Mae’s blog to read more about Solstice Island and to meet her. She’s got a fun Monday feature where she writes a couple paragraphs about various myths. Super cool.

Mae’s Bio:

Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, anartist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.

Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with conflict, romance and elements of mystery. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about writing, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.

Contact Links for Mae Clair:
Blog
Twitter (@MaeClair1)
Facebook Author Page
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads

Purchase SOLSTICE ISLAND from:
Amazon

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It Started as a Novella

Famous Last Words

JessiGage_Reckless_2500pxWhen I started writing Reckless, over two years ago, I planned it as a novella. I wanted to tell the story of a man who, through one reckless act, changes his life irrevocably…and finds love in the most unlikely of places.

I completed the story at just under 20,000 words, a decent novella length, and queried it around, looking for an agent to represent it. This was before Piper Denna, an editor at Lyrical Press and a talented romance author, accepted me on as a Lyrical author when I queried Wishing for a Highlander.

Originally, Reckless was titled Road Rage. It was short and sweet…and, according to the few agents who requested a sample, rough around the edges. I received one personalized rejection in which an agent I have a huge amount of respect for told me the story should be longer. She thought I’d rushed the development of my characters and had a bigger story to tell than I allowed myself room for. I took some time to think about this and eventually decided she was 100% correct.

Anyone who’s written a manuscript, whether it’s 5,000 words, 20,000 or full length at 100,000 or more, knows the sheer terror that grips the soul at the prospect of scrapping a project and starting over. I experienced this terror. As an avid knitter (with some perfectionist tendencies bordering on obsession), I knew well the disappointment of discovering something I’d spent countless hours on creating needed a complete reworking. Opening a fresh Word document and typing “Road Rage, draft 2″ at the top of a blank page was about as disheartening as tearing out an entire sweater, re-winding the yarn, and starting over.

Granted, I was able to do some copying and pasting to ease the way, but the book soon became something totally new, something so much more vivid and personal than the novella I had written. I soon found myself envisioning new supporting characters, like the hero’s ex-wife and his eleven-year-old daughter, like my heroine’s brother, who of course had a terrible secret he’d been keeping from her for years.

I gave my heroine some pretty intense baggage. I sculpted her personality into something that closely resembled parts of my own personality, and through forcing her into a situation in which she would have to overcome her baggage, I found myself discovering new strength in myself.

At some point in every manuscript, what goes on the page changes from simple words to something magical. This happened for me when I was deep into converting Road Rage from a novella to a novel. Now, years later, it has a new title and a new life as the first in my Blue Collar Boyfriends series of rough-around-the-edges heroes who can be tender when it counts. Later this year, I’ll be releasing two more contemporary romances in this series. Since Reckless is so special to me, I’m so glad it’s the first.

I wonder if starting Reckless as a novella was an essential step in eventually getting to that place where I felt magic happening. I suspect, for this particular story, it was.

I’ve recently started another novella that I’m planning to release in 2015. It’s the prequel to my Highland Wishes series of time-travel romances. I’ve had several readers ask me whether I plan o telling the story of how Constance and Wilhelm meet. These two make an appearance in Wishing for a Highlander. By the time my heroine, Melanie meets Constance, Constance is an older woman who has been happily married to a Highlander for more than twenty years. Like many of my readers, I began to wonder if their beginning was as happy as their lives once Melanie and Darcy show up on the scene.

I decided I definitely needed to write their story. So all those who have encouraged me to get on that, THANK YOU!

I’m only three chapters in. Not very far. About a quarter of the way, if, indeed, this will be a novella. But I wonder if this one, like Reckless‘s origin, might be a full-length novel waiting to happen.

I haven’t felt that magical spark with The Highlander’s Witch yet, but I know it will happen. It always does, eventually. I just need to be patient, let the characters work through their issues, and keep adding words. Whether this one remains a novella or grows into something bigger, I don’t know, but I’ll certainly let you know as soon as I find out:-)

How about you? Do you like reading novellas? Do they leave you wishing for deeper character development? Do you have to be in a certain mood for a shorter piece?

I want to know!

After you post a comment below, please swing over to my giveaway at Rafflecopter (click the word GIVEAWAY), and enter to win one of five e-copies of Reckless. The giveaway will run for the whole month of April, and you can enter every day to improve your odds of winning (see the giveaway page for details).

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

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The Wolf Needs to Run

Cover Reveal & A Giveaway

It’s almost time to unleash Riggs, my half-fae-half-mythical-wolf, on unsuspecting romance readers everywhere!

When can I get my hands on The Wolf and the Highlander?

The Wolf and the Highlander (Highland Wishes #2) will be released at all the major e-retailers on May 1st! Look for it in print later in 2014, along with Highland Wishes #1 Wishing for a Highlander.

What?! I have to wait a whole month? No fair.

I hear you. But I’m still working hard on promoting my last release, Reckless (Blue Collar Boyfriends #1). A girl can only do so much!

But never fear. I’ve got a cover reveal for you below. I’m willing to give you a glimpse of Riggs to tide you over until I can get his story into the hands of readers.

If you’ve been chomping at the bit for another heaping helping of romance with a side of Scottish burr, head on over to Goodreads and mark The Wolf and the Highlander “To Read.”

Then, if you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss release day.

I don’t have any money. Can I still read The Wolf and the Highlander?

Yes! I’m giving away 3 copies and some other prizes. The giveaway will run the whole month of May.

If you’d like a head start, hop on over to Rafflecopter to enter for a chance to win:

  • 1st Prize: E-copy of The Wolf and the Highlander & $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • 2nd Prize: E-copy of The Wolf and the Highlander & $5 Amazon Gift Card
  • 3rd Prize: E-copy of The Wolf and the Highlander

And now, meet Riggs

The Wolf and the Highlander

JessiGage_TheWolfAndTheHighlander_1400px

Aren’t his eyes SO dreamy? And I love his hairy chest. Do you have any idea how hard it was to find a model with no manscaping? Seriously. It was tough work combing through all that stock photography of shirtless men, looking for one with just the right amount of manly hair, but I’m glad I kept my nose to the grindstone. This guy makes a great Riggs.

Thank you Kim Killion at The Killion Group for this gorgeous cover. Check out Kim’s other covers on her website. She’s a true talent in the world of romance covers, and her prices are excellent.

So what’s it about?

In a nutshell, The Wolf and the Highlander picks up where Wishing for a Highlander left off with Anya. That’s right, this one is about the villainess of the first in my Highland Wishes series. She has a chance to mend her ways and find redemption in the arms of a wolf-man with a huge axe (you thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?).

Here’s the longer blurb:

Anya’s been a bad girl. A vindictive plot against one of her clansmen backfired, resulting in her grave injury. Now scarred and crippled, her selfish ambition has turned into bitter self-loathing. She finds nothing lovely about herself, and doesn’t expect anyone else to either. But when a magical wishing box sends her to another dimension, she becomes the most valuable prize imaginable.

While hunting a rare marbled boar, Riggs, a trapper in Marann’s western forest, hears a strange cry. Distracted from the hunt, he loses the sow but finds instead something more valuable than a whole cart packed with marbled boar skins. A woman. She is delicate, her teeth are small and flat, and her skin is curiously hairless. She is not wolfkind. Maybe she is the miracle his people have been hoping for.

Riggs must bring Anya to King Magnus, because breeding rights belong first and foremost to His Majesty, who needs an heir. But the female calls to a primal part of him. He longs to keep her in secret and take her as his mate. But if he gives in to the temptation, he could single handedly bring about the end of civilization.

Thanks for stopping by to help me celebrate my new cover and upcoming release. Leave a comment and let me know if you have a good redemption story to recommend.

 

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A New Release and a Giveaway

JessiGage_Reckless_2500pxReckless Goes For a Spin

Originally released last year as Road Rage, Reckless gets a new title, a new look, and a new publisher: me!

I’m doing the happy dance today as I hit “publish” for this first installment in my Blue Collar Boyfriends series, featuring rough-around-the-edges heroes who can be tender when it counts.

To celebrate my second self-published title, I’ll be doing a blog tour and a giveaway the whole month of April. Join me on the tour and enter to win one of five free e-copies of this steamy contemporary with a paranormal twist.

For a jump-start on the giveaway, click the word “giveaway” to go to the Rafflecopter page and start earning entries now! You can tweet about the giveaway once each day for extra entries. Subscribing to my newsletter will give you two entries.

What Reckless means to me:

The psychology of driving has always been fascinating to me. Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m a super nice person. A people pleaser. An encourager. A sympathetic confidante. Most people who know me would say I don’t have a mean bone in my body. If I make someone upset or hurt somebody, I am grieved for probably an unreasonably long amount of time.

Those who have driven with me, know this is only part of the truth. Behind the wheel, I am likely to lose patience with the person in front of me if they’re not driving fast enough or spout curses at the driver behind me who is inching closer and closer to my bumper in a none-too-subtle hint that I should be going faster.

I suspect I’m not alone in behaving somewhat differently (read: like an entitled brat) behind the wheel. To hear some of my driving-related confessions, make sure to follow my blog tour. There will be opportunities to get some of your own confessions off your chest and perhaps to hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and meditate on how we can all be a little more patient when we drive.

Knowing driving is such a powerful anger stimulant for me and many others, I wanted to explore the psychology of this pastime/occupation/convenience/necessity and dig into the head of a person who makes a mistake in his anger on the freeway. What might the consequences be? How might shining a spotlight on anger stimulate a person to change? What if we add guilt into the mix?

That’s how Reckless was born. It started as a scenario. A guy acting out in anger on the road. And it became a love story that I still love reading even after what feels like a gazillion rounds of editing.

Here’s the blurb:

Sometimes it takes a miracle to find forgiveness.

Divorced construction worker Derek has anger management issues. Acting rashly on the freeway, he causes an accident. His truck escapes unscathed, but he can’t say the same for his conscience. Visions of the wreck haunt his dreams, but they’re always followed by the sweet caresses and soothing words of a beautiful woman who calls to everything male in him.

Cami assumes she is dead. With no memory of her past, all she knows is endless fog and the occasional visit to a darkened bedroom where she comforts a man battling nightmares. When she wakes in a hospital bed and regains her memory, she assumes the ruggedly handsome Derek was no more than a figment of her concussed mind.

As Cami recovers, she learns that Derek is not only real but also the driver charged with causing her accident. She should be furious with him, but their inexplicable nights together showed her a tender side beneath his rough exterior. Will she let one reckless mistake drive them apart, or will forgiveness have the right of way?

Where can you get it?

Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | ARe | Goodreads

Or

click to enter my giveaway and you might win one of five e-copies of Reckless.

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Counting My Blessings

Writing and Salary Updates of a Self-Pubbed Bestselling Author

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013, Flickr, Wana Commons

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013, Flickr, Wana Commons

I use the term self-pubbed proudly. I use the term bestselling with a slight eye-roll because we’re talking sub-genre Amazon lists here (Time-travel & Scottish romance), not the NYT. But still. It’s a thing, and I’m one of those things, and so there. I’m using it. *Sticks tongue out*

This is an exciting week for me! First of all, I want to thank everyone who visited my blog and spread the word last week, when I discussed my decision to go indie and compared my earnings my first month as a small-press-published author to my first month as a self-published author. I got a record number of hits and as an unintentional bonus, I saw the sales of my time-travel romance, WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER spike into unheard of territory for me. I came so close to a ranking in the #2000′s I could taste it. And it tasted damn good. (nom nom nom! yummy rankings)

Today, I’m going to overshare again and post my income earned in February 2014, my first month as an indie author. I am happy to admit I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Because of the popularity of last week’s post and the sales that came about as a result, my actual earnings will be much more than I anticipated. But before we get to the juicy details of what an indie author with a bestseller makes on a release month , I have some news to share.

On to the news!

JessiGage_Reckless_2500pxVery soon, I’ll be re-releasing RECKLESS. This book is a special one to me. As a person who has difficulty processing anger, especially anger directed at me, I found it both challenging and therapeutic to write a romantic hero with anger-management issues. I dig deep into the psyche of anger and what it takes to be able to put it behind you. I’ll give you a hint…it has to do with finding someone special worth changing for.

RECKLESS also explores themes of forgiveness. Is there any act truly unforgivable? What about an act you committed? Are you more likely to forgive someone else than forgive yourself, even for a similar wrong?

If these questions get your creative/entertainment juices flowing, head over to Goodreads and mark RECKLESS “to read.” Also sign up for my newsletter so you’ll be among the very first to know when it goes live.

In other news, I’ve been tagged by the talented and beautiful Kitt Crescendo! Come back next week to see my answers to a few questions about writing process. I’ll also be tagging some of my favorite authors to answer the same questions the following week. In the mean time, click over to Kitt’s blog to see how she gets her wips (works in progress) in shape. She’s also a hoot. If you love nostalgic music, frank discussions about just about everything, and excellent poetry, you and Kitt will get along splendidly.

Now for the money talk

Last week, I blogged about my choice to self-publish. If you haven’t peeked at that post, you can find it here. It’s long but I’ve been told it’s worth a read, especially for anyone curious about what one might make as an indie author as opposed to earning a royalty from a publisher.

To sum up, I’m glad I took the indie plunge. When I posted at the end of the 3rd week of February 2014, I predicted two things based on the data I had available (Amazon sales reports):
1. As a debut self-pubbed author, I would sell about half the number of books in my first month as I did my first month as an author with a small press.
2. My income for Feb 2014 would be nearly double what I made in my first month as a small press author.

I was wrong on both accounts, and couldn’t be happier.

Let’s take a look at my first supposition, that I would sell about half the number of books as an indie author as I did as a small press author. I based this guess on a couple of factors. One was that the small press I worked with had a decent marketing program, and I didn’t think I could match that effort all by my lonesome. Second, as a reader, I’m a little skeptical about indie authors unless they’ve been highly recommended or they have a slew of positive reviews. I figured simply by having my own name listed as publisher, I’d lose a few sales.

I prepared myself to sell about half the number of books as a self-pubbed author as I had as a small-press author, but I hoped I might be able to match the number. After all, I was dropping the list price by $2 and because WISHING is in a popular romance sub-genre, I knew I’d get some exposure if I could just get enough sales to pop up on that bestseller list again. But I wasn’t going to hold my breath.

Well, now that February is over and I’ve crunched the numbers, I’m pleased to report my sales numbers actually increased over what I sold as a debut small-press author. My total number of sales my first month as a small-press author (January 2013) was 330 books.

This February, I sold:
Amazon – 546
Barnes N Noble – 80
iTunes – 6
All Romance – 24
Total – 656

I almost doubled my sales! I sold so many copies on Amazon, my ranking shot up and I landed in the top 20 (on the first page!) of the time-travel romance list. I almost fainted when I bypassed my favorite time-travel author, Karen Marie Moning. And stayed there for more than a week. I’m still there. It’s unreal.

There are a few reasons I can come up with as to why I’ve done better as a self-pubbed author. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Lower price ($3.99 vs. $5.99)
2. New cover
3. Supportive indie community
4. In the past year, I’ve established some minimal name recognition that might have paid off
5. Blog love. Before last week’s post, in the first 21 days of February, I had sold 291 copies of WISHING on Amazon for an average of 14 sales/day. After the post, I sold 255 more copies in just 7 days for an average of 36 sales/day.

Who knows whether any, all, or some combination of these factors contributed to WISHING kicking butt sales-wise. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful! If you bought my book after swinging by to read last week’s post, I’m sending you massive e-hugs with cherries on top right now.

I’m just so happy my stories are getting into the hands of readers. That’s why I do this. It’s an awesome feeling.

Get to the money, already!

Okay, okay, cool your britches. Here it comes.

One nice thing about self-publishing is access to sales reports. I could always contact my publisher and ask for my sales numbers, but generally, I had to wait about three months to see what I sold in a given month. This is because retailers don’t pay until 60 to 90 days after the close of a sales period. Once the publisher got paid, they’d process royalties and send out statements and payments. So I was always thinking in terms of, okay, here’s my check. This represents what I sold 3 months (or more) ago. It was hard to get used to.

I still won’t get royalty payments until 60 to 90 days after the close of a sales period, depending on retailer, but I have almost immediate access to my sales numbers simply by logging into my accounts with each retailer. It takes me about 5 minutes to check all 5 places I’m selling books and see what I sold the month before.

Amazon is the most informative. Their Kindle Direct Publishing reports provide sales-to-date data for the current and previous month as well as royalty reports for the previous six weeks. Barnes N Noble is pretty good too, providing a running count of your month’s sales and royalties. All of the retailers I’m working with provide at a minimum sales data for the previous month pretty much immediately after the close of the sales period. Which is awesome for a gal who likes to play with numbers.

So, what did I make off my 656 sales? I have yet to receive the deposits (talk to me in 60 days), but I’m pretty confident my income for February’s sales will be $1764.05. This averages out to $2.69 per sale.

To give you an idea how this compares to my experience publishing with a small press, my best month as a small-press author was May 2013. I sold 509 copies of WISHING and earned $703 in royalties for an average of $1.43 per sale.

Am I happy I took the indie plunge? Yeah. I am.

Is it for everyone? No, it’s not. See my myriad caveats in my previous post. Hard work, good judgment, yada yada yada…

Would I do it again? Yes. In fact, I will be self-publishing five books this year. Sign up for my newsletter to get a brief email when my new releases come out or swing by my website’s books page for blurbs and covers the second I get them from my awesome cover artist, Kim Killion.

Thanks for stopping by. Every click on this site feels like applause. The self-pub community rocks. It’s a good season for me as a writer.

THANK YOU!

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Self Publishing vs Small Press: One Author’s Experience

 

Is the Risk of Self Publishing Worth It?

Cupcakes coffee & critiqueAnd even more importantly, will there be cupcakes?

I’m a scientist by training. And I want to open this post with the caveat that 21 days isn’t a great data sample in the whole scheme of things, but I wanted to share some things I’ve learned in the last 2/3 month about self-publishing as an encouragement to those considering going indie after traditionally publishing.

If you’re asking yourself:

Am I willing to take on the risk and expense of self-publishing?

Will the expense be worth it?

Can I trust myself to put out a product as high-quality as my publisher did?

Will I fall flat on my butt if I try this?

Then read on. This post is for you.

I am a traditionally published author who chose the self-publishing path

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, my former publisher, Lyrical Press, has been acquired by Kensington as a digital-first imprint. This is a great step forward for Lyrical. They’re gaining in marketing reach by moving up from small independent press to imprint with a good-sized New York publisher.

But was it going to be a great step forward for me? That’s the real question for a serious author.

For me, the answer was: No. After crunching some numbers and doing my homework, I decided that moving to a bigger, well-established publisher wasn’t necessarily going to be a good career move for me. Here’s the story of how I made that decision and what the results have been 3 weeks later.

My origins as an author

As I grew as a writer and added works to my portfolio, the responses I was getting from literary agents shifted from form rejections to personalized notes like, “I like this, but I don’t think I can sell it” and “This is good, but there’s no market for it right now.”

I took responses like this to mean I was getting closer to having publishable-quality work, but maybe I wasn’t quite there yet.

cupcake royale logoThen I got back in touch with a writer I hugely respect, and we became critique partners along with another author. We formed a three-woman critique group called the Cupcake Crew.

With the encouragement of these friends, who also happen to be awesome authors in their own right (Amy Raby and Julie Brannagh), I decided that maybe the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t ready to publish, but maybe traditional NY publishers weren’t ready for me.

A lot of you are/were in the same boat when you began considering self-publishing. You wanted the validity of going the traditional route, but the traditional route wasn’t working for you. Doors weren’t opening. You were tired of being told no. You just wanted to SHARE YOUR WORK with people.

I considered SP at this point, but craved the validity of having a gatekeeper say “yes” to me. I kept trying, but with a different strategy. I sent my work to small e-first presses. You know the names: Samhain, Entangled, Resplendence. It was one of these small presses, Lyrical, that gave me my first shot.

It started with a tweet I read where a Lyrical editor was taking tweet-length pitches. She requested WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER based on a tweet pitch, and requested a partial manuscript. Not a full, like she was requesting for a lot of other tweeps. A partial. I didn’t get my hopes up. I’d been here before. But guess what?

She loved the partial and asked for the full. Soon after, I received a Lyrical contract in my inbox. I’d gotten my “yes”! And I didn’t look back. I signed that contract knowing this would be the start of something big for me. And it has been, just not in the exact way I had planned.

My experience with Lyrical

It took about a year to see WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER finally in e-stores. Once that day came, I hit the promo hard and reaped the rewards. My book was selling! By the third month, I was selling 100 books per week and had hit the time-travel bestseller list on Amazon. I stayed on that bestselling list for 8 months.

Lyrical’s royalty rate (40%) was the most generous I’d heard of in the e-first world. NO other publisher was giving their authors that much. It was more generous by FAR than the 25% common with NY publishers. It’s one of the reasons I was so proud to be publishing with them. They understood that authors were the key to publishing, not publishing the key for authors. There were many, MANY other things I loved about working with Lyrical, including stellar editing, high quality, prompt responses to my questions, and a great network of fellow-authors to cross-promote with.

Six months after publishing WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER with Lyrical, my contemporary romance ROAD RAGE came out. This one didn’t do as well as WISHING. It had a pretty different author voice. It was a totally different genre. It too got some good reviews, but it was only selling about 10 to 20 copies per month. Even that rate tapered off to maybe 5 copies per month by the time it came off sale when Lyrical sold to Kensington.

With this sales feedback, I decided to devote myself to writing more Highlander books. Time-travel was selling, so that’s what I decided to write. And since I like writing it, it wasn’t a sacrifice. I kept writing contemporaries too, because I can’t NOT write what’s on my heart to write, but I made sure I was still producing Highlander stuff for my growing fan base.

In 2013, Lyrical contracted another Highlander book and another contemporary from me. I had 2 books on sale and 2 in the pipeline. I was on the rise as a career romance author happily publishing with a generous, well-run small press. Sure I was selling 95% in ebook and only a handful of POD hard-copies, but I didn’t care what format my books were in. I was earning royalties, and they were good. Things were good.

January 2014, everything changed. Lyrical sold to Kensington and became a digital first imprint for the NY publisher. I blog about it here.

Kensington offered all Lyrical authors the chance to sign with them for back-list titles and titles currently contracted but not-yet-published. I had 2 books published (one doing pretty good, even a year after pub date) and 2 more (another time-travel and another contemporary) in the pipeline.

Suddenly, I had an opportunity to sign with a NY publisher for a whopping 4 books! My dream realized! Great, right?

The reality was not so great. While Lyrical negotiated a generous royalty rate with Kensington that is unheard of in NY (Kensington should be commended for this), the Kensington contracts included some clauses and that would have limited me as an author and tied up my rights for longer than I was willing to part with them. Furthermore, there was no print deal guaranteed. And the advance for print if your book sells well enough to make print, was nothing to write home about.

I could either sign the contracts and become a NY published author or I’d get my rights back on all my titles, and my published books would come off of sale.

So what did I decide?

After doing a LOT of homework (Courtney Milan’s blog, reading lots of posts, some involving Steve Z, the CEO of Kensington, joining self-publishing Yahoo groups, etc), I decided to hold onto my rights with a death grip.

Why?

Well, WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER was still selling around 200 e-copies a month on Amazon under Lyrical’s management. This is 10 to 11 months after initial publication! I was getting a decent little paycheck each month.

But, I did some calculations, and here’s what I found.

If I self-published and managed to sell on my own even half of what I was selling with a small publisher’s marketing machine behind me, I estimated I would make just as much. Because by self-publishing, I’d get 70% of the royalty from Amazon versus 40% of the publisher’s 70%. I could even set the list price for $2 cheaper and STILL make twice as much per book as I was making with Lyrical.

Before I continue, I must say this: PUBLISHERS DESERVE TO GET PAID. Just like authors do.

Publishers work hard to acquire what will sell, to polish books so they will appeal to readers, to promote books through partnerships with high-impact publications and review sites. All of this costs money.

The desire to take revenue out of my publisher’s pocket was in no way a motivating factor in my decision making. In fact, that is the part that pained me most. I value loyalty, and if things hadn’t changed, I would still be happily publishing with Lyrical. They did good by me.

Amazon (and other retailers) took their 30-40% cut of the pie. Lyrical took their 60% of whatever was left. And I got the remainder (40% of Lyrical’s take). Everyone who worked on the book got paid, and that is fair in my book. I was happy with this arrangement, and it was one of the most generous in the publishing industry, if not THE most generous to authors.

But through research and talking to a LOT of authors published through varied means, I learned that the larger the publisher, the more hands touch a book. Every hand has to get paid. Guess what that means for the author? A smaller slice of pie.

Though this wouldn’t have necessarily have been the case with Kensington, who seems to be trying more than any other NY publisher I have heard of to be fair to authors, it’s a general truth of the publishing industry. The larger the machine is, the more expensive it is to operate (in general).

If the large machine (I’m speaking generally here, not about Kensington specifically) can provide to authors benefits that out-weigh the cost to the author in terms of royalty percentages and advances, then I say GO FOR IT. Publish big. Let NY put the power of its machine behind your books and your author name and watch your books sell, sell, sell.

Why I worried I wouldn’t thrive with a NY publisher

Remember all those rejections I had been getting?

Yeah, those.

Those rejections were for the same books I had contracted with Lyrical. I went with a small press because I believe readers go to small presses looking for the quirky, the unusual, the boundary-pushing diamond in the rough. I know I do. I get some duds when I shop small presses, for sure, but I find some amazing gems as well. Some of my favorite authors are small press authors (or they were before they went indie…).

In other words, I heard over and over again from agents (who are the gatekeepers to NY publishing) that my work was a square and there were only round holes in NY. Now I had a chance to get these rejected books into a NY publisher’s hands, a NY publisher with no guaranteed print deal, industry-standard (aka kinda small) royalties on print if you’re books sell well enough to justify a run, and an advance if you make it to that stage that wouldn’t even pay my kid’s private school tuition for a quarter.

I wasn’t convinced a larger machine would translate to higher sales for me and therefore justify the potential sacrifices I’d be making (more hands touching my books and needing to get paid). As I did my homework, I became more and more willing to gamble that I could do for myself (or outsource at my discretion) most of what a small press did for me and some of what a large press could do for me and keep a larger piece of the pie.

I took the self-publishing plunge

I went for it. I borrowed a little money so I could purchase ISBNs, and a new cover for both my books that Lyrical had published and so I could publish these two books plus the two others that had been in Lyrical’s pipeline on my own this year. I calculated I could do all four books for under $3000, including 2 rounds of professional editing for the two in the pipeline.

Last year, I made just over $4k on WISHING with Lyrical. Remember my calculation that I could make the same amount even if I sold only half the books? Well, the income from WISHING alone could conceivably cover my self-publishing costs for four books, with enough left over to pay taxes next April. I went into the decision knowing this wasn’t a guarantee, but willing to take the risk. For ME it was worth it, because I had confidence WISHING would continue to sell well, and I had the support of my family.

I self-published WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER Feb 1st. Hop over to my website or go to my books page for buy links:-)

RECKLESS (Blue Collar Boyfriends #1) will be out March 1st (retitled from ROAD RAGE)

THE WOLF AND THE HIGHLANDER (Highland Wishes #2) will be out May 1st

VIRGIN’S SACRIFICE (Blue Collar Boyfriends #2) will be out August 1st

COLE IN MY STOCKING (Blue Collar Boyfriends #3) will be out November 1st

This is a packed release schedule, possible because two of the books are technically backlist books and two others were already written before the start of 2014. Don’t expect 5 books from me every year. I would have a heart attack if I wrote that much! LOL!

Also note, it’s a release schedule that most likely wouldn’t have been possible with a large NY press. It certainly wouldn’t be in my control. I wouldn’t be able to state these dates with such confidence so early in the game. Another benefit to SP.

Fast-forward 22 days

Amazon prnt scr Feb 22 2014

With just my own power behind the marketing, a new website ($72/year with Godaddy), new cover ($135, a phenomenal value and wonderful work by Kim Killion of The Killion Group), new blurb, and the support of the SP community, I have sold over 300 copies of WISHING in 21 days. WISHING is currently ranked in the top 5000 books for sale on Amazon and is on the first page (top 20) of the time-travel best seller list.

So, I’m a bestselling self-published author! Again! Pinch me; I must be dreaming.

I’m pleased as punch that WISHING is still doing so well even after being out a whole year. I’m also pleased because my sales numbers this February are looking to be comparable with my numbers from my first release month, January 2013. So a comparison by a scientific-minded person was inevitable.

Lets look at some numbers

Following the trend set by many brave authors who have reported earnings, I’m going to post a comparison between what I made with a small press my release month (Jan 2013)and what I’m making as an indie author this February.

With a few caveats:

1. We’re going on 21 days here, people. There’s no way to predict what’s going to happen down the road. Maybe I’ll do another post like this in a year, after I have a year’s worth of data on indie publishing to compare with a year’s worth of small-press publishing.

2. Lyrical is/was a very generous small press to authors. And let me be clear and state again, they earned every cent of their portion of the pie.

3. Keeping this caveat to digital only, my earnings with Lyrical were likely nearly twice what NY-published midlist authors made on the same number of digital sales because of Lyrical’s generous royalty rate. (I’m not taking advances for print sales into account since I have no experience with author advances outside of dreaming of one day getting a five-figure one of those;-)).

4. Every retailer keeps a different percentage for their “piece of the pie.” And some retailers (ahem, Amazon) alter the price and give a discount that entices readers to buy from them, but they still pay royalties on the list price, so you get a better purchase-price to royalty ratio at some retailers than others.

So how many copies of WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER sold in its first month out with a small press (Jan 2013), and what did I get paid for those copies?

Lyrical’s online store: 4 ($4.79)
Kobo: 9 ($10.79)
Overdrive (e-distributor): 2 ($2.40)
AmazonUS: 158 ($217.32)
AmazonUK: 6 ($6.17)
Nook (B&N): 31 ($49.79)
iTunes: 120 ($201.60)
Total: 330 ($492.90)

In my first month of being published with a small press, I made $492 on 330 sales.

This works out to an average income per sale of $1.49 (list price was $5.99).

As an indie-published author, am I on track to make as much by selling at least half as many books, as I hoped?

Here’s what’s happening after 21 days of sales. I’m ONLY using Amazon numbers here, because that’s the data I have available. WISHING is up on other retailers as well, but Amazon represents the lion’s share of my sales, as in 90% or more if I can go by what other authors of similar works have reported to me.

For those sticklers out there, this isn’t a great example of a scientific study. I know. I’m just using the data I have available to try and understand whether it was a good or bad decision to go indie. I’m sharing what I’ve got for other authors out there grappling with this decision. If you want hard science, go to Courtney Milan’s blog.

In 21 days, I am up to 291 sales (301-10 refunds).

I’m selling WISHING for $3.99, $2 less than the its ebook list price last year.

Using the first 14-days of data across Amazon outlets (some, like AmazonUS & AmazonUK, offer the author 70% royalties. Others offer 35%), I estimate my earnings per unit sold will be $2.72.

For the 291 books I’ve sold so far this month, I should make $791.52.

Let me reiterate. That’s JUST for Amazon and only for 21 days of sales.

Note that 291 indie sales for 2/3 of Feb 2014 is comparable to the 330 sales I made across vendors as a small-press author in Jan 2013.

However, there aren’t many people who would call earnings of $492 comparable to earnings of $792.

In fact, by selling a comparable number of books, it’s fair to say, I’m earning nearly twice as much as an indie author as compared with when I was a small-press author. This is on par with my estimate that I could sell half-as many books as an indie author and make the same amount as when I was a small-press author.

Conclusions

Regardless of the number of units sold, I’m making almost twice as much per sale as an indie author than I was as a small-press author ($2.72 per sale versus $1.49 per sale).

Taking just WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER into account, I will easily be able to cover publishing costs with my first royalty check.

This comparison is in no way meant to disparage small presses or Lyrical. I LOVED working with Lyrical, and I was happy to share the pie with them. Small presses take a piece of the pie, but they earn it.

Let me clear, by not signing with Kensington and by going indie instead, I wasn’t avoiding a big machine (NY publishing) in order to “go it alone”. Rather, I traded one big machine (NY publishing) for an even bigger, more efficient, more author-friendly machine (Amazon).

I’m a midlist author. I’m not the next Nora Roberts or Marie Force. I got on a bestseller list, yes, but not the NYT. It’s just a genre-specific, Amazon-specific bestseller list. For me and my unique situation, self publishing was the right decision. I knew it when I made the decision, but the numbers I report here help validate that decision.

Is it the right decision for you? Only you can answer that. Please don’t extrapolate from my data. But add it to the pool of information you’re gathering as you make this very important decision.

I hope some of you find this encouraging. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. It requires a lot of work, and, dare I say, good judgment. For example, a new cover might be the thing that gets you better sales. It might also be a sales killer (amateur photoshop, anyone?). But if you’re open to critical feedback, have a good book to sell, and are willing to work hard, it could be a better deal in the long-run than going with a small publisher.

What do you think? Do you have any fears about SP? Do you have a story to share, positive or negative? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by and reading this longa$$ post!

NEW INFO ADDED AS OF 3/10/2014. Please continue on to my Writing Updates post where I give my final salary numbers for February 2014.

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Winner Announced

Congratulations Melissa Keir!

You won a $25 Amazon gift card

and
An ecopy of Wishing for a Highlander

JessiGage_WishingForAHighlander_1400px

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway and ran out to get a copy of Wishing for a Highlander. You all have helped make my re-release a HUGE success!

 

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