Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Now Released: Carved In Stone

Carved In Stone (Book One of the Art of Love Series) is now available at Smashwords and Amazon.  Hopefully, it will be available at Barnes and Noble later today (Tuesday) as well.

Now if the publishing gurus are able to get to everything this week, Carved In Stone should ship to Apple, Sony, Kobo and Diesel on Thursday or Friday.  I'll come back and amend this info if I find out differently.

Check out my website at  www.donnamcdonaldauthor.com. I revamped my website a bit over the long holiday weekend and now have links to sale sites. This is the easiest way to check out the books and find an immediate link to your preferred retailer. I am not at Kobo yet (should be in early June), so that link is still missing. I will add Kobo as soon as it becomes a reality for me.

Thanks for taking a look at the new series. Let me know what you think. The characters are a little more intense than the first series, but I did try to lighten things with some humor.  If you want to read the background of this series, check out this blog entry about the first book.

Have I mentioned how much I appreciate all the messages, emails, blog comments, and Facebook posts? Well, I do. I really appreciate hearing from readers.  Thanks so very much for taking the time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Confessions of a "Snuggie" middle class writer

My significant other listens to NPR's Planet Money pretty faithfully. When I got back from a writer's meeting on Saturday, he was practically vibrating about this one.  He insisted I listen to it and respond because Jonathan Coulton's story in the music industry is basically my story in the romance novel industry.  I was writing books that didn't fit the existing published romance genres well. Coulton is writing music that doesn't fit anyone's genre but his--which is gutsy and the most artistic part to me. He believed in himself and what he was doing and just did it. How can you not admire that regardless of your opinion about his art?

While this Planet Money podcast is about the music industry, the discussion contains some great examples of what traditional industry thinkers are really worried about concerning anyone making money from artistic Indie efforts. They talk about his uniqueness not being repeatable and say he's a "Snuggie" musician who is just lucky/good at marketing (as if this was a bad thing).

Somewhere else in the debate Coulton is also referred to as a middle class musician. I believe his earnings last year for selling his songs at $0.99 each was a half million dollars. Middle class? Not hardly. With a master's degree, I made 23K last year teaching college English classes at four colleges and universities as an adjunct and had to have two other part-time jobs in order to keep paying the bills. Middle class? Every middle class person I know is having to work multiple jobs to maintain a reasonable standard of living in this economy. Coulton is a successful musician in a field where it is hard to make a professional living. He is doing well for himself and working to achieve his success. He is anything but middle class. His efforts are admirable.

Let me summarize Coulton's sins as mentioned by NPR Music Industry specialists who co-interviewed with the regular Planet Money host (these are the same sins as those frequently mentioned against any Indie writer--see Konrath's blogs):
  • he was having fun
  • he was giving some work away free
  • he was talking directly to his fans/customers (and having fun doing this as well)
  • he was writing songs for a niche market (computer software programmers mostly)
  • his was "undervaluing" all music sales by pricing his songs so cheaply
  • his success wasn't repeatable by the average person (as if true art is supposed to be mass repeatable)
  • he didn't "earn" his money--he got lucky (this was implied by every criticism)
Here's the link to the podcast if you're interested in hearing it.  I highly recommend it if you are an Indie or thinking about becoming one:  Via @nprnews: The Friday Podcast: Is This Man A Snuggie? | http://t.co/svDpqqx
Here's the answer I posted on NPR's blog (along with several other Indie writers who commented):

I found the Coulton story incredibly inspiring and validating for my own journey as an Indie.
As a fiction writer, I tried going the traditional path. Like Coulton in music, I did not fit the mold. In March,I self-published several books on Smashwords.com that had been rejected by agents and editors. I made the first one totally free so readers could see if they like my writing before they put out money. The second and third books are priced at $2.99. I have another book out this month and one in early July.

These are humorous romances featuring older characters. My readers range from ages 20-60. It is looking like I will be able to earn a living and do something I love that makes other people happy. If anyone calls me the "Snuggie" of middle-class writers, I would just laugh about it on all my social media sites. My readers would probably love it.

If I'm paying my bills and happy AND if my readers are willing to pay for my work and happy, what other success is more worth having as an artist? Super fame does not look as happy a condition to me.

Is what I do repeatable or can any other writer do this? Yes, if they can write a story readers want to read. It is repeatable. I am planning to repeat it over and over myself.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Birth Announcement: Carved In Stone out to editor

For a writer, there really is nothing like finishing a book and getting it out to the editor.  I am still hoping to get it back, revised, and published by the end of May, but it's looking more like the first weekend in June now.  Sorry.  It turned out to be a more complex story than I thought. 

After this week, the analogy of book writing to giving birth suddenly makes sense to me. I had Chapters 1-16 finished for ages. Even the beta reader finished those several weeks ago. It was the last five chapters that hurt the most and took me more than two weeks to resolve. When this one was finally finished, it really was like those first few hours after birth where a mother stares in shock at the new human that came out of her and wonders how it all happened. Too tired from labor to appreciate the higher purpose of creating new life, all the mother can think is "Thank God, that work is over." That's exactly how I'm feeling right now to finally see this book finished. My characters and their emotional problems wore me out. If it wasn't for the women fighting over my hero in the final scenes, I'd have never made it. It was the most fun I'd had with them in over a month.

So tonight I'm exhausted and tomorrow (May 15) is my birthday. I can only say thank you to the muses for granting me one more. Finishing a story is the best birthday present in the world for me this year.

Read Chapter 1 posted in a note on Facebook. 

Also, the cover was finished this week, too. Thanks to my cover artist Dara England for another fun one! 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Living the crazy Indie life

My day job has demanded all of me for a week now, and working on my stories has been something I could only dream about doing, but regardless of other obligations, I see my writing as a business deserving my attention. I continue to spend a bit of time each day doing what I consider to be the "business" side of Indie publishing.

The first thing I do is check email in all locations and answer all notes from readers, websites, my editor, my cover artist, and well--you know what I mean. It's only a few minutes--maybe twenty--a day, so it takes little time. I'm not exactly overflowing with them yet on two books, but I consider each one very important.

Next, I want to find out how I am doing so I first head to Smashwords. I check download numbers at Smashwords for Dating A Cougar (Book One of the Never Too Late Series) which is still free there. I see interest in that book as a barometer of interest in all my work so noting that downloads are hitting the 4400 hundred mark at two months is very encouraging. The ten reviews about it are equally so and make me want to go back to my writing immediately. To those of you tracking real numbers, my publish dates on Books 1 and 2 were both in mid-March so I had two weeks of sales on Book 2 before the official end of the Smashwords first quarter.  I just received my first royalty payment from them. It was a grand total of $15.13. Are you laughing? If you are, I can understand your mirth, but I will quote a fellow Smasher and kind mentor Brian S Pratt about this first payment and just say it was $15.13 I did not have so I was very excited to see it. I am using the proceeds to help me pay for the cover of Carved In Stone which is Book 1 of my new series releasing this month.

After I have gotten my warm fuzzy from Smashwords, I jump over to check Amazon to see how I did overnight. Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world buy while I am visiting dreamland. Based on their net 60 pay habit, this month I finally get a payment from the March proceeds at Amazon which was also about two weeks worth. It's about $35 before taxes. I was pleased. The April proceeds I will get in June will be about $80. This is the first week of May and I have three books up now. Dating A Cougar is .99 cents. The other two are $2.99 each. Since May 1, I have sold 38 books total in seven days for a total of about $50.  If I do that good every week, my May royalties (paid out in July 60 days net) will be around $200 before taxes for just those two books. I plan to have Carved In Stone out in a few weeks and Dating A Metro Man (Book 4 of Never Too Late series) out in June.  I am nothing but excited at the possibilities of what having more books for sale might mean.

Then the last thing I do is pop over to Facebook and try think of something to say to the readers and friends who post to me there. I do the same for Twitter which I am just finally getting the hang of after a couple of months. If I'm feeling really brave, I might go check a few reviews. I keep hoping to see some positive ones at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Sony. Now and again I might see one or two. It seems unhappy readers post the most <sigh>.  As I blogged before, these are needed and useful, but I'd like to see the positive ones there, too. Amazon and Smashwords have the best reviews. I know as a consumer and book buyer that I read reviews to see if I want to purchase. So I understand their importance, but I like them to be organic. The best ones are those from readers who just want to say "loved the book, loved the characters, and looking forward to reading you again". I have those and I remind myself frequently to be grateful.

All of the above, including email, social networking, and checking reviews, takes me about forty minutes and I do it once in the very early morning, and sometimes again in the late evening if I have the energy.

Writing this blog is the longest time I spend during the week. It takes me about an hour to write it and another to agonize over whether I should post it or not. The agony seems to be the writer equivalent of an actor's stage fright. But if you're reading this, then you already know that I eventually pull up my big girl panties and put it out there for you.

What I guess I want to say in closing is that the business stuff just seems like such a natural flow to me. I've had a business before that was ten times more demanding and I worked on top of it. When my day job contracts end as they are going to next week for me, then I will use most of my time until they start again to write. I can't tell you how good that feels. I just can't. If you're a writer, and you love to write, then all I can say is Indie publishing has given me the life I have dreamed about and wanted. If you believe in the "math" of sheer numbers (check out blogs of JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, and Dean Wesley-Smith), then at the speed in which I plan to publish books, in a year or so I might not need a day job.  If it were not for the writing risks I took with my work this year in abandoning the traditional route and just putting my work out there for the masses, I would not even have this possibility. 

So if you are hanging on the precipice and wondering if you should spread your wings and try to fly, check out me and all the other Indie authors who are out there learning.  It's hard work, but that's nothing new for any of us, right? Two months in and still hopeful, I'm very satisfied to be living the Indie life.