Friday, July 24, 2015

Kindle Unlimited, 1-year later: SHOCKING!!! ... and yet, not shocking.

Last year rolled out Kindle Unlimited. If you want to know what "Kindle Unlimited" is...
Amazon's perspective:
An unbiased perspective:

The purpose of this post is to look at the effect of KU 1-year later in a very narrow scope, specifically the effect of KU on the visibility of romance books in the following categories:
1) Contemporary Romance
2) Romantic Comedy
2) College/New Adult Romance

Screenshots of Amazon top 20

IMAGE A: Top 20 on Amazon in Contemporary Romance

IMAGE B: Top 20 on Amazon in Romantic Comedy

IMAGE C: Top 20 on Amazon in New Adult/College
So.... yeah.

The breakdown
1) Contemporary romance
Of the top 20 books, 13 are enrolled in KU (65%)
Of the 7 not enrolled in KU:
4- $.99
1- $1.99
1- $2.99
1- $3.99

2) Romantic Comedy
Of the top 20 books, 16 are enrolled in KU (80%)
Of the 4 not enrolled in KU:
1- $.99
1- $2.99
1- $3.99
1- $4.99

3) New Adult/College
Of the top 20 books,  17 are enrolled in KU (85%)
Of the 3 not enrolled in KU:
1- $.99
1- $2.99
1- $3.99

Dear Authors, DON'T FREAK OUT!

Main Conclusion: Books in KU are much more visible than books not in KU (as I eyeball these, I think I can also add to this that NEW RELEASES are much more visible if they're enrolled in KU that NEW RELEASES *not* enrolled in KU).

I know a lot of authors are very much against KU. If you don't know why, go here:
That "amazon exclusivity" means that any book enrolled in KU will never hit the New York Times or USA Today. It also means you will never reach readers on platforms other than Amazon (so, iTunes, Barnes and Noble/Nook, Kobo, Scribd, etc.)

Now here is the "don't freakout" part....
I suggest you do not think of KU as an "all or nothing" program. Meaning, you do not need to enroll all your books in KU. I suggest you enroll 1-release a year into KU (as a new release). This will introduce KU readers to you and increase your overall visibility on Amazon. If they love your book, they'll look for new releases by you (KU or not) and may be inspired to purchase other books on your backlist.

My conclusion (how I will leverage this information)
1- KU book a year. That's it. Not "all my books or none of my books". Use KU. Leverage KU to improve your visibility once a year... Just think about it.

<3 Penny

Monday, July 20, 2015

Truth or Beard is ALIVE!

Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my! 
Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in na├»ve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life. His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her… 

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order. 
Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk? 

Series Description 
Everyone in Green Valley, Tennessee knows that the six bearded Winston brothers have been imbued with an unfair share of charm and charisma… and are prone to mischief. 

Truth or Beard is book #1 in the Winston Brother’s series. Each book is a standalone, full length (110k words), contemporary romantic comedy novel, and follows the romantic exploits and adventures of one of the six Winston Brothers.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Beauty and the Mustache Reid-Along (next week!)

Details for this read-along
Who: Everyone
When: July 13 - 20, 2015
Where: HERE
How: If you participated in last year's read-along of Neanderthal Seeks Human leading up to the release of Neanderthal Marries Human then you know what to expect. If you didn't, here is a link to last year's event:
What: Read or re-read or re-re-read Beauty and the Mustache, answer book club type questions, discuss the book, participate in games, win stuff, post or comment on fanart, hang out with cool peoples.
Why: Only you can answer this question for yourself....

Read-along schedule!
JULY 13 (DAY 1) Chapters 1 - 4
JULY 14 (DAY 2) Chapters 5 - 9
JULY 15 (DAY 3) Chapters 10 - 14
JULY 16 (DAY 4) Chapters 15 - 18JULY 17 (DAY 5) Chapters 19 - 22JULY 18 (DAY 6) Chapters 23 - 26JULY 19 (DAY 7) Chapters 27 - Epilogue Every day we'll be posting a 1-sentence summary for each chapter; the chapter posts can be used as a central place to ask Penny questions.

Book discussion questions (at least two) will also be posted daily (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). Readers should feel free to post discussion questions as well!!

There will be a giveaway DAILY! and winners will be announced the morning of the next day.

I hope you can make it!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Warnings for the Winstons...

Some things you should know about The Winston Brothers series...

If you follow me on facebook or here (my blog) then you know I like to "warn" readers ahead of time about certain (potential) issues regarding my books. So here is a short list of things you should know before starting the Winston Brothers series: 
1) These books will focus on the growth/journey/experiences of the Winston brothers (more so than the heroines' journeys). This is a reversal for me, since the Knitting in the City series (and all my other writings) have focused primarily on the growth of the female character.
2) There are 6 brothers. I know 6 primary/important characters are a lot of characters for some readers to keep straight, especially when they all have beards and have the last name of Winston. No judgement, I just know this to be true. I'd be happy to make a matrix for readers if needed... you let me know.
3) The books will be told in dual POV (one or a few chapters from the heroine's perspective, and then one or a few chapters from the hero's perspective, and then back and forth, etc.).
4) These books are set in a small town in Tennessee. As such, the culture, beliefs, and the language of small town Tennessee are reflected/discussed in the books. I cannot stress this enough: THESE ARE NOT BIG CITY BOOKS.
5) Related to #4, if you read 'Beauty and the Mustache' then you'll have a pretty good idea of the "feeling" of the Winston Brothers series. The best word I can think to describe the feel is *methodical*
6) Sex scenes (descriptions, etc.) are on par / of similar ilk to the Knitting in the City series. I know the second book for 'Elements of Chemistry' (and the book I co-wrote with LH Cosway, 'The Hooker and the Hermit') were more risque, but these books will (generally) not be. Note that I only include risque / explicit sex scenes and descriptions when I feel it serves the story.

I think that's about it for the warnings... - Penny

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Elements of Chemistry... COOL NEWS!

Cool news is as follows:
1. Have you seen the Romance Author created, educational videos for the elements of chemistry yet??? If not, here are the links:
Video 1: Featuring Amy Harmon, Daisy Prescott, and Mia Sheridan 

Video 2: Featuring Tara Sevic, Colleen Hoover, and April White

Video 3: Featuring Samantha Young, Elizabeth Hunter, Aleatha Romig, and Penny Reid

2. AMAZING FAN TRAILER!!! for 'Elements of Chemistry' It knocked my socks off.

3. The entire Elements of Chemistry series will be made into Audiobooks! A publisher acquired the rights last month and it should be available sometime over the summer! YAY!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Plotting and the creative process

I've been told that there are three types of authors: Plotters, Pantsers, and Plotansers (Plotter + Pantser, so a combination of both).

I think most authors are Plotansers (some combination of both), but the level/detail to which a person plots or flies by the seat of her/his pants varies greatly.

What I do:
1. Character driven: All my books (so far) are character driven. Therefore I define the characters (hopes, dreams, faults, etc.) and I decide how they're going to change over the course of the book. What will he/she learn? What is the point?
2. Before I write I also create: a character sheet for each main character (physical traits, quirks, fears, relationships, education, history, etc.), a master list of places (fictional places), and a master character list/spreadsheet of all characters. This way I can keep track of who is who and how tall they are, etc.
3. I plot the entire book before writing, every chapter, every scene. If the book I'm writing is part of a series and I want the books to connect, I plot every book in the series before writing the first (this is what I did with the Winston Brothers). When I realized that The Knitting in the City series was going to continue, I plotted book 2-7 all at once.
4. As I write *things* will happen... i.e. the characters will disagree with some of my plans or they'll do something completely unexpected, or they'll want more scenes/time/care/attention given to a particular issue. I usually go with the flow, let the characters drive the bus. They usually surprise me, at which point I go back and update the plot/character sheet, then look at the other plot/character sheets to determine if anything else needs to change.

Some other points of note:
1. I've never taken a class in writing fiction. I know what a protagonist and an antagonist are. Other than that, I have no concept of established theories on how to write fiction... I should probably research this topic at some point...
2. Everything I do, I do because it makes sense to me. All my templates, spreadsheets, flow diagrams, etc. are resources I've created from my brain (because I needed them, so I made them). Isn't that what fiction writers do? They make stuff up? ;-)
3. I frequently have "writer's block". I ignore it. I just write anyway. This seems to work for me.
4. I have come to the conclusion that there is no "right" way to write. No magic formula. Nothing that will work for all or most people. But most people's creative process follows something resembling these (or a combination of these):

Templates I have templates for:
1. Plotting
2. Character sheet
3. BETA reader form
I am sure there are much better forms/templates/resources for these kinds of tools. But I'm a big fan of simplicity. Personally, I don't need anything more than these basic tools, therefore why would I use something over-engineered, made to meet more than my needs? I wouldn't.
Basic Plot Sheet
Character Sheet

BETA reader form

I hope this helps... someone.
Best, Penny

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

UPDATE Post for Authors: Newsletters-- 14 Months Later

--Indie Author Resource Post--
Back in February 2014 I wrote an indie author resource post about Newsletters; you can find that post here:

I have some updates, new information to add (if anyone is interested...) as follows:

For my Newsletters, I use mailchimp:
Updated stats (using mailchimp):
List growth over time

"opens" are top line; "link clicks" are bottom line
Outlier (A)-- As you can see, the second to last newsletter sent (March 2015) was a duplicate of the one prior (also March 2015), but sent only to those subscribers who did not open the original March 2015 newsletter. Before I culled my subscriber list, I wanted to re-send the last newsletter to inactive users (giving them one more chance to open before I deleted them from the list). That is why the open rate is so low for that particular email campaign. Of the 1058 subscribers, less than 300 opened the email. Therefore, I removed 700+ subscribers from my mailing list (trimming users who don't interact).

General Impressions:
1) The newsletter is wonderful, worth the investment, and it works.
2) I have more sign-ups the month of new releases than other months.
3) The newsletter is time-consuming (takes 6-8 hours per month).
4) I send newsletters once a month and my readers like receiving them...

How do people sign up? 
1) I put a signup link in the back of all my electronic and print books. Therefore, when a person finishes one of my books they can immediately sign up for the newsletter.
2) I have a link here (on my blog). Mailchimp will create an html form for you; you just need to paste the code into the html view.
3) Since October 2013, I do about 3 blog posts/FB post/twitter announcements a month letting people know about the newsletter and that they can sign up.
4) I bring a mailing list sign-up book to all my signings so I can grab people as they walk by my author table.

Do you delete subscribers?
I've been in the habit of culling my list every 6 months by removing/deleting inactive users (i.e. those users who have not opened a newsletter in the last 10 months). This cuts down on the number of unsubscribers and-- until recently-- kept my list under the paid threshold for mailchimp (after 2000 subscribers, you have to pay to use mailchimp). However, April was a huge month for subscriptions (over 500); therefore I now pay $35 a month to use mailchimp.

What do you put in the newsletter?
I have two kinds of newsletters:
1) The Book is Live!
Used sparingly and only for new book releases. This email is very short and contains 1 or 2 graphics and links to purchase the book.

2) Newsy Newsletter
I communicate release news and share excerpts. My last newsy newsletter 'table of contents' was as follows:
  1. It's April... That's not even an April Fool's joke.. How did this happen? Are you all still out there?
  2. Elements of Chemistry: ATTRACTION is LIVE! 
  3. More Elements of Chemistry newsy news... woot.
  4. Prepare yourself for those loveable Winston Brothers... an excerpt of Truth or Beard. :-)
  5. The Hooker and the Hermit is going to Kindle Unlimited!
  6. Personal News/canceled signings
  7. Scenes from the City is AVAILABLE AGAIN?!
  8. Neanderthal Seeks Human is still FREE! Find out why...
  9. Listen to the awesome via Audiobooks!
  10. Happenings/updates with the Sharks of Awesome
  11. Updated Writing Schedule for 2015
  12. Where you can find my books
  13. 2015 signing updates
  14. And, as always, lowering your expectations
Why do you send newsletters?
I, personally, send newsletters so that my readers-- who have expressed interest-- can receive updates and news. I do NOT use my newsletters to push my readers to do things. It's not a call to arms, it's a method of information transfer. ---- UPDATE: this methodology has served me well for the last *almost* 2-years...

Do you have any tips?
Yes. Same as before, as follows:
  1. Use mailchimp. Take 3 hours and learn how to use it. It's free as long as you're sending to less than 2000 people a month
  2. Put links in your newsletter. Links to goodreads pages for your books, purchase links for your books, links to events and signings, links to your facebook page, amazon author page, goodreads author pages, etc.
  3. Announce the fact that you're about to sent out a newsletter on Facebook/twitter/blog/etc. and include a link so that people can sign up. Then, the day of, post another reminder (tell people to check their spam and promotions folders). 
  4. Send a newsletter once a month. You should have something to share at least once a month!! This way people will get used to getting email from you and will look for it.
  5. Your newsletter is for your readers. If they don't enjoy reading it, they're not going to want to receive it. Exclusive excerpts will keep people interested. Always include an exclusive excerpt of something!!
  6. Brand yourself, get a logo, include pictures, make it look nice. :-)
  7. Give love to others (i.e. other authors and bloggers that have supported you). Karma is a real thing.
Feel free to ask me questions! I'll try my best to answer them this week. Best, Penny