Smashwords Sale

I’ve put my most recent books into the Smashwords Sale. That means the last two books in my fae series, Flying Free and On The Edge are currently available at $1.20. So is the fifth volume of The Skilled Investigators, The Road. The short story anthology Beating Hearts is FREE.

So if you need reading matter for your enforced stay at home. go along to Smashwords! The sale lasts till April 20th.

Stay safe, everybody!

Smashwords’ Read an E-book week.

Every year, Smashwords have a special Read an E-book week and authors are encouraged to offer their books at a discount.

Last year I participated in the Smashwords Read an E-book Week sale. I was startled by the number of downloads of my ‘freebies’ and hoped that might translate into ‘fans’ who’d actually buy some. It didn’t seem to. There were a few sales but not enough to make the whole exercise worthwhile so this year I haven’t bothered.

However, this year’s sale reminded me of something else. Last year, I wanted to show support for other authors – and for Smashwords, for that matter (I find them a great deal easier to deal with than the ‘other’ place) – so I trawled through a few of the sale categories and ended up with far too many free or incredibly cheap books which I have currently left in their own special file on my hard drive, so that I don’t get distracted from my already overloaded tbr list.

While I was going through, I found a fair number of books where the reader was invited to set their own price.

I found I wasn’t willing to do that and after a while I just stopped looking at the info on anything in that category. I didn’t feel able to download them for free as that might have felt insulting to the author. As I knew nothing whatsoever about them I didn’t feel able to ascribe any kind of sensible price. If they were wonderful and I’d paid very little I’d feel guilty – something that wouldn’t happen if the author themselves had set a low price. If they were awful I would feel cheated at having paid anything at all. I would rather an author gave me something free in the hopes that I’d continue with a series (as I did last year) or charged a low price for the first in a series as a lure. So I felt uncomfortable with this set-your-own-price thing.

Has anyone else felt that, or is it just me?

Meanwhile, the sale starts tomorrow and there are plenty of books at very low prices so go and have a look!

Marketing: a plea for advice

A New Year’s Resolution you are invited to help me keep.

It’s still January (isn’t it?) – and anyway, I had lots of reviews to post.

I’ve been thinking really hard about marketing. I usually do, at this time of year, just before making some kind of New Year Resolution. It never really works, but at least it means I spend a little time considering the options and the various things I could do. So this yeajorar’s resolution was simply to work harder at marketing…

I ought to start by saying that when I began to write novels and novellas for publication, I very quickly abandoned any publishers other than myself. I found I was too much of a control freak to cope with editors, sales teams, etc. That doesn’t mean I don’t use editors – I do, but I’ve chosen them because I like their work, not because somebody else has imposed them on me. Then, having settled for self-publishing, I made the one resolution (in June, not at New Year) I have actually so far kept. As I began the process in 2012 I’m quite pleased with myself.

What’s this amazing resolution? Not to spend any money whatsoever on my work other than the obvious cost of having a laptop, an internet connection and programs such as Word and Photoshop. Things I would want anyway. Oh – and some money on Skype which was the cheapest way to communicate with the US tax people and get a foreign exemption. My editors (more than one) are people for whom I edit in turn, or repay in other non-monetary ways. And yes, at least one is a professional editor. I make my own covers. I do my own formatting. I seek advice from other writers on FB or WordPress. I read the advice given by Smashwords and Amazon. I follow bloggers like David Gaughran for his inestimable advice.

I know my books are as good as I and my editors can make them in terms of language, story development, formatting, etc. Technically, I don’t think I need to change anything.

I also know that because my works cross more than one genre they will appeal to fewer readers than straightforward romance, crime or fantasy will. They are, perhaps, less sexually explicit than many romance books which may also affect sales. On the other hand they are definitely not YA material though some young adults might well enjoy them.

I do find it hard to write adequate blurbs and choose appropriate tags, and this is probably the area where 2020’s resolution will end up initially.

I’m happy with my covers. I personally dislike covers that feature stock pictures of models (sometimes the same one on various different books) – pictures that often don’t tie in with the descriptions of the character inside, or my vision of them, and pictures that in many cases are simply unappealing. I prefer covers that give a glimpse of the kind of world the reader will enter, so I end up not using figures on my covers at all. I find working with graphics programs (and my own photos) quite therapeutic, so sometimes I start creating a cover even before a book is finished. I’m aware that romance novels are supposed to have those stock figures. I’m also aware that stock figures sell copies.

Then there’s pricing. I’ve tried various price levels and have used Smashwords’ sale (when some of my books were free), given coupons for freebies or discounts to people I know or to people who might leave reviews. I don’t think I’m getting it right.

I’ve looked at other authors’ pricing and also at my own buying habits.

I am really reluctant to pay much for the first book by an author I have not tried before unless I am getting recommendations from a lot of people I trust and who I know share my tastes. So maybe I ought to be pricing the first in each series lower? I am also reluctant to pay much more than $3.99 for any e-book – the publishing costs are far lower than for print books and even when I know and like the author anything more than that price usually has to be in a series I’m following and also be a full length novel. But I have actually stopped following some series because of the high prices (e.g. Rivers of London). And yes, I check the length of books before buying; I’m not keen on paying anything for a standalone short story, however good.

I have noticed that anything under $3 tends to be novella length at best, so maybe I’m selling my series short? I personally tend to avoid short stories unless they’re in a collection (I do have a vaguely limited budget) and it’s possible potential purchasers see my prices as indicating reduced content, especially since my first two publications were novellas.

I currently have the following books available with, as they insist, the same price on Amazon and Smashwords.

Series: The Skilled Investigators (fantasy, elf detectives, female heroine, intelligent dragon, sub plot of mm romance)

 The Scroll
 The Market
 The Crown
 The Lantern
 The Road

All full length novels (between 60k and 80k words) and all currently priced at $2.99. The final volume in the series, The River, is finished (currently with betas) and I hope to publish it early in the New Year. Before Easter, anyway.

Series: Living Fae (‘urban’ fantasy with fae living in Cheshire, UK, plus unicorns, with both mm and mf romance)

 Growing Up Fae
 Tales From Tara
 Flying Free
 On The Edge

Again, all at $2.99 and again, all full length. These overlap to some extent but need to be read in sequence to make sense.

Once both my two series are completed, I have wondered about creating box sets and altering the price – maybe make the individual books dearer but give heavy discounts on the box sets. I could probably then justify doing some kind of relaunch. Thoughts?

Novellas: stand-alone stories which are longer than short stories

 The Lord of Shalott (an mm take on Arthurian legend)
 Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers (an mm version of Snow White set in mediaeval Great Zimbabwe)
 Silver Chains (contemporary mm romance)

The first two are currently $1.99 and the last is $0.99 – it got a lot of downloads when it was free in the Smashwords sale. That hasn’t generated any actual sales and whilst I’m happy with the story it doesn’t really showcase my usual style.

Collections of short stories:

 Three Legends (mm retelling of legends)
 Beating Hearts (five fantasy and sci fi stories)

Both currently $1.99

I published a short Christmas story in December making it free until at least the end of January – maybe till Valentine’s Day. Once I’ve sorted out some formatting I might price it at $0.99 or I might just leave it free. I wrote at leisure but published in haste, so the technical bits need tweaking!

 False Starts

2020 will be devoted to The Virgin and the Unicorn, which is written but needs a lot of work. It’s a full length novel, a regency-style fantasy with an arranged royal marriage plus sentient unicorns and a lot of culture clash which is one of my favourite themes. I suppose going by my current pricing it would be $2.99 but I have a feeling I’m getting that wrong.

I’ve tried ‘advertising’ on FB, not only on my own page but also on various groups. Some writer friends have been nice enough to ‘interview’ me, and reblog my posts. I admit to getting confused about where and when to ‘promote’ my books and possibly not doing enough research. That’s definitely part of the resolution!

Meanwhile, I’m not making many sales. Not none, but not many. Not enough, in fact, to make up for the nightmare this time every year of having to deal with the Inland Revenue (see https://jaymountney.wordpress.com/2020/01/09/its-that-time-of-year-again-tax-returns/). So obviously I need to reconsider various aspects of marketing. I’d seriously welcome comments and advice from all and sundry. You could comment here or find me on FB and message me. Or you could email me at harlequinandyarrow@gmail.com

I’d really welcome advice from strangers who happen to be following this blog as well as from people I already know!

By the way, I do have two other resolutions:

 healthier eating for the whole family and paying extra attention to environmental concerns (especially with regard to packaging).
 actually using the jewellery and accessories I have/buy/receive instead of hoarding them, dragon-style. Dragons are, I think, for fiction rather than the dressing-table.

My latest novel is ‘live’

My latest novel just went live on Amazon and Smashwords.
This final volume in the Living Fae series brings all the family loves and lives up to date and ends with Harlequin and Yarrow more in love than ever. There are mm, mmmm, mf and ff romances, there is travel, there are unicorns, and there’s a strong family saga element.

If you’re unsure about mm romance, please don’t hesitate to try the series. There’s very little explicit sex, and there are other romances to satisfy most tastes as well as exciting travel and adventures. And if you’re even less sure about polyamory, well, remember these are fae, with fae, rather than human morals and emotions.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/999158

There’s a page on this blog where you can see a timeline to orient you in the various stories in the series which overlap slightly, and a glossary to remind you of details and names of all the characters. I’ve been advised that some of the page formatting needs work and I will remedy that, but meanwhile, all the information is available.

Talking of formatting, I’ve checked the final product on Smashwords and whilst it’s perfectly readable and consistent it isn’t exactly what I intended. Word and I are going to have to have words…

I’ve already started a short story that will act as a further glimpse into the lives of the fae on Alderley Edge. I’m intending it as a free Christmas/Solstice story for the end of 2020.

Later this month a friend is going to give me a guest blog spot to advertise more widely, and my next post here will be to set out my marketing options and ask your advice.

Oh, and the tax issue is sorted – but at the cost of a sleepless night.

My writing: an update

I feel really strange.

I finished both the series that have consumed my brain and my time for the last fifteen years. Living Fae’s final volume, On the Edge, is in the last stages of formatting and might even be published about the same time as this post. The Skilled Investigators has reached a conclusion although my betas might ask me to expand bits. They usually do. I’m one of those authors whose word count goes up after editing…

On second thoughts, I’m going to hold back on publishing On the Edge. It isn’t a Christmas story and could get overwhelmed in the general riot at this time of year, and I’ll be publishing my Christmas offering so that friends not signed up to this blog can get it on Smashwords or Amazon.

Harlequin (Living Fae) and Genef (The Skilled Investigators) have lived in my head since their inception. I got to regard them as perfectly real and as good friends. Now I’ve told their stories and don’t quite know what to do with myself. I have a suspicion I might be lonely.

That’s not totally true. There’s another novel that has been languishing on my hard drive… it needs some care and attention but basically, it’s written. And it could possibly be the start of another series.

I haven’t only been writing the two series, of course. I’ve managed quite a few short stories, and a fair amount of fan fiction. I have also written poetry, reviews, and meta about writing. All in the last quarter of 2019.

I posted a poem recently (poems always get more reactions on WordPress than anything else I say) and I also posted (on AO3) a story for a Secret Santa exchange. My giftee liked it so that’s a plus and so did the mods! I can’t link anyone to it or say anything else until the author reveal which I believe is on Christmas Day. I published The Road, and the collection Beating Hearts, I wrote about typos and about reading mm romance, and I edited and amended a short story that I gave you for free (Hallowe’en Changes). Then I got another short story ready to post for you for Christmas (watch this space). So I suppose I’ve been busy.

All the same, Harlequin and Genef are going to leave a huge hole in my life. There is a vacancy in my brain for at least one more character to move in. How do I advertise for new tenants?

The Road. My new volume in The Skilled Investigators.

The fifth volume in my Skilled Investigators series is ‘live’ on Smashwords and Amazon.

In this volume, Genef, the female elf trainee detective, and her elf mentor Rath have been sent undercover to the neighbouring human kingdom of Norveria to investigate the murder of an elf. They find more murders, abductions and violence. They make friends with human Officers, and meet prejudice against elves on their road trip. Scratch stays in The Kingdom initially (after all, a dragon can’t exactly go undercover) but later visits his family in the mountains near the capital of Norveria and helps to solve the case and arrest the criminals. There’s a map of The Kingdom and Norveria under the Skilled Investigators tab here on my WordPress site.

I’m feeling quite pleased that the formatting and uploading needed for self publishing are becoming easier every time I have a new book out. I reckon I’ll be expert just as I run out of plots!

The series will finish in the next and final volume which I’m currently writing. It’s called The River and takes newly qualified Genef back to her home village where Scratch finds himself investigating kidnapping and murder under Genef’s supervision. I’m not quite half way through but I’ve already created the cover… (I find Photoshop a great distraction that helps me procrastinate!!!)

Sales are not going well. I think the books cross too many genres and I find them hard to market properly. I happen to like fantasy, dragons, female detectives, murder mysteries, elves, a sub plot with a gentle mm romance and general alien/fantasy world building. That doesn’t mean the series will appeal to many readers! I think when I have the six books published I’ll make a ‘box set’ of ebooks, change the blurb, tags and pricing and start marketing all over again. Any advice welcome!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/990200

Beating Hearts! (My new ebook.)

My latest book is available on Amazon and Smashwords. As the blurb on both sites says, it’s a collection of short stories and flashfics – all with a supernatural or paranormal element and all with an mm romance with a happy ending. I wrote the original material in response to prompts at various times in a Yahoo writers’ group I belonged to; it’s a group to which I’m eternally grateful because I learnt a lot and made friends I am still in touch with. The stories have since been expanded, edited, and brought together to form a collection with a fantasy theme. A couple of the stories contain slightly more erotic material than my usual work so if you go to Smashwords to look at the book, be sure to allow the site to show you adult content. I had fun writing the stories and hope some of you might have fun reading them! If you do, I’d be wildly grateful for a review on either site. I often seem to get links wrong so if these don’t work I’d suggest looking for my name.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/987045

Recommending a selling site: Clare London’s blogshop.

It’s not often you get so many posts in a row from me, but I can recommend Clare’s summer blogshop which showcases and gives links to a variety of summer themed lgbtq romances including my own Flying Free. Go and visit!

https://clarelondon11.blogspot.com/p/summer-2019.html

Sale!

I’ve entered all my books in the Smashwords July sale.

I’ve also re-priced some of them so that the prices are consistent. That means that on Amazon (and usually on Smashwords), all the novels in the two series are $2.99, the stand-alone novellas are $1.99 and the short story (Silver Chains) is $0.99.

So in the sale, the novels are $1.50, the novellas are $0.99 and the short story is free.

The coupon for the sale price is automatically deducted if you make a purchase.

I’ve noticed that even over yesterday and today the free short story has been taken by quite a few people so obviously Smashwords readers do look at the sale lists, and hopefully it will get my name as an author better known.

When I’ve finished the two series (Living Fae and The Skilled Investigators) I plan to market them as boxed sets but that’s some way off.

Anyway, if you’ve fancied giving my work a try, now’s a good time!