Monday, March 2, 2015

Maybe the most important Indie Author post you'll read all year

Do you want to become an author? Then may I suggest you read this facebook post by Carey Heywood, New York Times and USA Today Bestseller. Not only is it incredibly brave, it's honest and real and will give you a very unusual perspective on being an author.

Because being an author is really lonely. <--- This is not a complaint. It's a fact. Yes, authors have readers. But writing is a solitary pursuit and, let's face it, an author is only as loved by and relevant to her/his readers as his/her last publication. And that's okay. Really and honestly. Readers owe authors absolutely nothing (other than, you know, basic human decency; like, don't spit on us).

But that doesn't change the fact that being an author is really lonely.

Read the post. Read the whole thing. And don't feel sorry for Carey. She is brave and strong and on her own journey. But maybe take this rare opportunity to grab a peek into the psyche of authors. The take home message is to learn from this post (about others and about yourself). This post is a gift.

Friday, February 27, 2015

eARC Elements of Chemistry: ATTRACTION

Okay, people. ARC news for Elements of Chemistry: ATTRACTION

1) ARC's for EOC part 1: ATTRACTION are going out to my "Always ARC list" momentarily.
(This list is comprised of authors/readers/and bloggers who have consistently posted HONEST reviews for my books across major platforms. That's right, honest. Not always 5 stars. Honest.)
If you are on this list (you know who you are...) and don't get a copy by 9PM EST, please email Fionuhfischer AT gmail DOT com

2) Bloggers: If you're interested in being part of the blog tour/release day blitz for Parts 1-3 of Elements of Chemistry, then please don't forget to sign up with IndieSage PR here:
These ARC's will be going out within the next few weeks.

3) If I disappear off the face of the earth, it's because I'm going to the moon, not because pregnancy hormones will make reading feedback and honest reviews difficult.

<3 Penny

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Experiments in self-publishing: Week 1

So... here's the summary data for week 1 of NSH being free:
Some notes:
1) NSH has been downloaded 28,011 times since making it free one week ago.

2) % change is the actual change (increase or decrease in % of books 1.5-4 in the series sold over the baseline average). As you can see, the % change has been substantial over the course of 1-week. Books 1.5-4 in the series are selling 2 to 4.4 times as much since making NSH free.

3) The "Example Change" measure: I decided not to include actual numbers of paid downloads because I don't want people to focus on how many downloads my books have per-day; I want people to focus on the % change over time (increase or decrease). Therefore, I used "10" as the baseline representation of 100% because it is a nice, benign round number.

If books 1.5-4 in the series were selling 10 books (total) per day, they are now selling (as of today) 34 books per day since making NSH free.

4) Reviews: NSH has received 39 new reviews since becoming free.
25- 5 star
10- 4 star
2- 3 star
1- 2 star
1- 1 star
If NSH's rating were based on these new reviews only, NSH's average rating would now be 4.4 instead of 4.7

5) All promotion thus far has been "free" and done entirely via facebook and social media. In June I hope to do promotions via various websites (paid promotion) to determine how effective each of these websites actually are in spreading the word about free books (verses social media).

I'm interested to see what the data looks like over the next month, whether the % change for books 1.5-4 in the series remains above the baseline over time or if it starts to drop... I'll keep you posted. :-)

Best, Penny 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Experiments in self-publishing and pricing

In case you don't already know, I made Neanderthal Seeks Human free yesterday.

But what you might not know is why I made Neanderthal Seeks Human free. It might surprise you to learn that I have no expectation that making Neanderthal Seeks Human will help my overall book sales. In fact, I suspect it will do the opposite.

Thus, I am conducting an experiment that I hope will help other authors (who write in my genre) make an informed decision about whether to make their books free.

Hypothesis: I propose that the "first book free" advantage no longer applies to contemporary romance authors who price their books appropriately. I propose that making a book free (in my case, the first book in my contemporary romance series, Knitting in the City) will do absolutely nothing (positive) in terms of sales.

Reasons I hypothesize "first book free" doesn't help sales/my assumptions:
1. Over half of the top 10 "free kindle books" on amazon are contemporary romance. Thus, I conclude that "free readers" of contemporary romance read mostly free books.
2. My backlist is priced appropriately (meaning, the rest of the books in the Knitting in the City series are priced according to their value, at $5.99). These books are worth $5.99. If a "free reader" were inclined to purchase another of my books, they would immediately dismiss my books based on the price-tag, because "free readers" are used to reading free books, not books priced according to a book's value.
3. Many/most "free readers" never read the majority of books they download. They are book hoarders (and I mean that in the nicest way possible). Many/most will never read my book.
4. Many/most "free readers" who do read the book AND leave a review will leave a negative review (because those who read it and like the book won't leave a review at all). These negative reviews will bring my overall rating average down. Thus, after my book is no longer free, my book will have a lower star rating and therefore it will be less attractive to paying readers.

Measurements: I will measure over time the following:
1. Number of Neanderthal Seeks Human copies downloaded.
2. % increase or decrease in sales (downloads) of other books in the Knitting in the City series.
3. Overall star rating
4. # increase in individual star ratings (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5)
5. Ratio of low to high star ratings

I realize it's been less than 2 days, but I do want to note that early results show that my hypothesis is correct. I've already seen a decrease in sales across my other books (reduced from an average of 103 per day to 76) in addition to losing the income typically brought in by Neanderthal Seeks Human (an average of 26 books per day).

I'll update this blog with findings at weekly intervals if you're interested in seeing the data over time.

Best, Penny 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Elements of Chemistry News

I've been saying for awhile that Elements of Chemistry is going to be loooooooooooooooooong. 
It is. 
It's really long.
When I realized how long this book/Katy and Martin's story was going to be (because they required that much story) I briefly thought about finishing it and not releasing it. In the end I sent it to several friends / authors who I trust; they all agreed that it was too long to release as a single title.

As well the themes, ages of the main characters (and maturity levels) firmly make this story a "new adult" romantic comedy. So... different from anything else I've ever written. 

Therefore, after a lot of deliberation, I've decided to split it up into 3 novels. This is for several reasons:

1. As I stated above, it is long. In fact, it's so long that each of the three parts will be 50-65k words. Really, it's waaaaay too long. But, the thing is, I don't want to cut or combine scenes. I feel like these two characters take a journey and each of their interactions moves them forward. I'm not interested in making it shorter so it can be a single book.

2. Since the story is "new adult", I recognize that the books is quite different than The Knitting in the City series. As such, the first of the three parts will be priced at $.99. I figured, in this way, readers could grab the first 1/3 on the cheap and see if they want to continue with Katy and Martin's story. If I'd released it as one book then it would be priced at $5.99.

3. It feels like the right thing to do for the characters and their story.

If you want (no pressure) you can add parts 1-3 to your goodreads shelf here--
Part 1: Attraction

Part 2: Heat

Part 3: Capture

Best, Penny

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Message I received from reader on my facebook page re: domestic violence as a plot device

I received this message from a reader on my facebook page re: the portrayal of domestic violence in my most recent book The Hooker and the Hermit:

**WARNING: it contains spoilers for the book**

"Hey Penny,
Love your books. I have laughed/smiled/sighed my way through all of your books. I adore the portrayal of fun, complicated, smart, independent women who have strong bonds with their friends and delicious men to love on. I was so looking forward to The Hooker and The Hermit and literally read it last night in just a few hours!

BUT, I am seriously concerned about the portrayal of domestic violence in this book. A false accusation of domestic violence was used as a plot device to force Ronan and Annie to "be together" and show how his ex is a terrible person. In reality, when a woman comes forward with an accusation of rape or domestic violence - especially with a celebrity--they do so in the face of almost certain public slut shaming, disbelief, discrediting (just see what's happen to all the Bill Cosby victims). I was disappointed that this plot device would be used in one of your (especially your) books. I know this is fiction and fun, but because I know how much fiction and fun can influence people's beliefs in the real world, I wanted to call this out.
In the book, Ronan was asked by a room full of strangers (he's a celebrity, they are working for him/being paid to make his public image stronger) if he abused her. He said no. Everyone believed him. Because a dude (especially a celebrity) would tell a room full of virtual strangers--"yes, I abused her." WHAT? If his ex was in the room and she said, "yes, he did abuse me," would the people around the table have believed him or her?
Annie, who has already been abandoned and emotionally abused multiple times over growing up, as (as her alter ego) gives him the heads up about the public allegations of abuse. She automatically believes his denial because she's met him in person a time or two and exchanged some emails with him (that actually started with him trolling her)? Annie also tells Ronan to back off multiple times (oh wait, her voice said no, but her eyes said yes) and instead, he kept pushing her with extreme sexual innuendoes and then sent her expensive gifts for multiple days. There's a fine line between romance, sexual heat and stalker tendencies. His character crossed the line.
I believe you and your co-author could have used another plot device without reinforcing the false (and dangerous) narrative that women who come forward with accusations of abuse are making it up. I have never written to an author before (especially one I adore), but it's because I have loved your work so much, that I wanted to write.

Here was my response (typed very quickly this morning while giving my daughter a bath and going through a bought of morning sickness... O.o )

"Hi Tracy, 
Thank you for taking the time to write me this message. All the points you raise are excellent ones. Our goal was to make Brona appear as despicable as possible. As well, and as you point out, show that publicity teams don't care whether a person is guilty or innocent. Their job is to protect the image of their client. Throughout the story I tried to (perhaps too subtly) make this point about the internet, media, and public perception. Annie believes Ronan because she feels she knows Ronan, has spoken to those closest to him. Now, using a claim of domestic violence as a plot device in a romantic comedy... Hmm... I see your point, but I don't agree. I understand, as a writer, I cannot make everyone happy and I will (from time to time) upset and/or offend people. Regardless, I appreciate you voicing your opinion. I shall use this dialogue as a touchstone in the future and endeavor to utilize more sensitivity with such topics. 
Best, Penny"

So... I've been thinking a lot about the points Tracy raised in her message to me (now that I'm not rushing around)... and these are my thoughts:
1) As a writer (sci-fi, romance, fiction, etc) or any other member of society, we are beholden to be good people. As well, when we write, it is important to write RESPONSIBLY. Just because I write romance doesn't mean I am exempt from researching issues, topics, characters, etc. In fact, some would argue (since romance as a genre has received a big fat collective eye-roll from the rest of literary genres) romance authors should try even harder to be responsible and diligent.
2) I can't make everyone happy. Without a doubt, I will always manage to offend someone (even though I never want to offend anyone).
3) I rely on a team of 6 BETA readers to help me see issues that I (as a writer) may not comprehend because I'm too "in the middle" of the story. One of my BETA readers in particular is extremely sensitive to women's issues/societal responsibility. I recognize that I have tunnel vision and that I am also imperfect... so very, very imperfect. I need these BETA readers to ensure that I am telling an excellent, responsible story.
4) I am SO GRATEFUL that I have readers who trust me enough to send me intelligent, calm, well-reasoned messages voicing their opinion. I've heard some horror stories from other authors who receive hate-mail... O.o

Which brings us back to the message from Tracy.
Ultimately, after re-reading the section on domestic violence, I do feel the story is fine as is. I do not feel like we've portrayed the issue of domestic violence in an irresponsible way. Domestic violence served several purposes for the story:
1) Highlighting that the publicity team did not actually care if he'd abused Brona. Because publicity teams don't care, not really. They actually don't want to know. You, as the public, should know this. The job of publicists for sports figures and celebrities is to create an ideal image of a person... as is stated in the book.
2) Showing that Annie had grown to trust Ronan / and showing Ronan that Annie had grown to trust him; this moved their story/romance forward.
3) Creating a situation where Annie and Ronan would be thrown together more often (as they became a *fake* couple)

Now, could a different plot device have been used? Yes.
Could a different plot device have been just as effective? ...Possibly.
Did it occur to us that we should use a different plot device (after 12 BETA readers and 2 authors)? No. It didn't. Out of the 14 women who read the book, it didn't occur to any of us that using a false report of domestic violence would be a problem.

What is the answer? 
The answer is to ask Tracy to be my BETA reader. When an author finds a person so completely tuned into sensitive topics and issues, that person is a treasure. If she agrees then obviously, like with all my BETA readers, I will listen to all feedback and pick and chose what I feel best serves the story (because, as the author, I get to make that decision).

In summary
In an effort to be a decent member of society and a diligent writer, I should ALWAYS be looking for ways to improve. Yes, I write romance. But I want to write responsible romance. As such, research is necessary, listening to topic-experts is just as important.

Characters and situations portrayed in romance should be well researched. As a responsible writer, I'll have to walk the line between being a PSA (public service announcement) and being an excellent writer of fiction. Not all my characters will make smart decisions, not all my characters will practice safe sex, etc. The key is to not glamorize bad decisions.

I'll have to find a way, I won't always make everyone happy; but I'll always do my best.

<3 Penny 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blogs to follow in 2015 :-)

So… wow.

Beauty and the Mustache and Love Hacked made quite a few bloggers’ top lists for 2014. To be included with such amazing books and authors has been—quite honestly—humbling, confusing, and shocking as steak kabobs at a fish fry!

For reals.

Therefore, I’d like to thank those bloggers, readers, and reviewers who took the time to compile their lists, share their thoughts, write reviews, and spread the Knitting in the City love. 

Also, those tears earlier weren’t because I was overcome with emotional writer feels, but were due to the onion I was chopping for lasagna… okay, I can’t lie. It was the emotional writer feels.

In alphabetical order, because I love them all equally <3

Aaly at
Love Hacked and Beauty and the Mustache – Best Books of 2014
Twitter: @Aalyandthebooks

Kelly at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top Ten Books of 2014
Penny Reid – Top 10 New-To-Me Authors Read in 2014
Twitter: @kellymckayhi5

Chelle at
Knitting in the City Series – Top Ten Best Series of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:

Jenn at
Love HackedBeauty and the Mustache,Friends Without Benefits and Neanderthal Seeks Human – Favorite Reads of 2014
FB Page:

Brittany at
Knitting in the City Series – Favorite Reads of 2014
Twitter: @BookBumblings

Michelle at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top 20 Books of 2014 (#3)
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @BlushingReader

Jenny at
The Knitting in the City Series – Top 10 Reads of 2014
Blog Post:
Twitter: @tea4my3

Cat at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top Book In A Series
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @CatTBowen

Christy at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top 15 Books of 2014
Twitter: @christy_likes

Chanpreet at
Penny Reid – Top 10 New-To-Me Authors in 2014

Ellie at
Beauty and the Mustache – Best Reads of 2014

Feeding My Addiction Book Reviews at
Beauty and the Mustache – Favorite Reads of 2014
Twitter: @FMAbookreviews

Jaime at
Beauty and the Mustache – Best Books of 2014
Twitter: @ficfangirls

Indian Book Love Affair at
The Knitting in the City Series – Top Books of 2014
Blog Post:

Jen at
Love Hacked and Neanderthal Marries Human – Favorite Books of 2014
Beauty and the Mustache – Top Book of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:

Erin and Sarah at
Beauty and the Mustache – Favorite Quote of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @litslaveblog

Laurie at
The Knitting in the City Series – Favorite Books of 2014
Beauty and the Mustache – Best Covers of 2014
Drew Runous – Top 10 Book Husbands
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @LiteraryGossip

Kayla at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top 10 Must Read Favorites 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @mybookmuse

Steph at
Beauty and the Mustache –  Favorite Romantic Reads of 2014
Penny Reid –  Favorite Indie Authors of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @NoBSbrBlog

Karina at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top Reads of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @KaraKarinaNBR

Cat at
Love Hacked and Beauty and the Mustache – Best Contemporary Romance Reads of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @CatsBooksRom

Amir at
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Book Pushed Most People to Read in 2014
Neanderthal Marries Human – Book Most Likely to Be Re-Read in 2015
Janie and Quinn – OTP of the Year 2014
Penny Reid – Favorite New Author of 2014
Blog Post:
Twitter: @lilradrad

Kristal, Charmaine, and Amy at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top 5 Summer Reads
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @Onceuponbookblg

Patti at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top 8 Books of the Year 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @parajunkee

Sherry at
Beauty and the Mustache – Best Romance with both a Brain and a Heart
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @RecRomance

Miranda at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top 30 Books of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @redcheeksreads

Kimberly at Reflections of a Book Addict at
Knitting in the City Series – Top Ten Reads of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @lifeand100books

Christie at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top Ten Books of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @blogsmokin

Straight Shootin' Book Reviews at
Penny Reid – Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @Str8Shooter73

Hildy at
Penny Reid – Top Ten New-To-Me Authors in 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @TheBookBosses

Laura at The Book Junkie at
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Best Book Read in 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @Lagnella

Geri at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top Books of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @MyEverAfters

Tina at
Beauty and the Mustache – Top Ten Books of 2014
Beauty and the Mustache – Best Book Covers of 2014
Penny Reid – Top 2 Author of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @TDBlog_
Suzanne at
Penny Reid –  Author of the Year
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @UTCBookBlog

Vilma at
Beauty and the Mustache –  Favorite Books of 2014
Blog Post:
FB Page:
Twitter: @vilmasbookblog

Honorable Mentions:
Beauty and the Mustache – Kathy at

I hope I didn't miss anyone. If I found you or you told me, you've been included. 
I write because I love to write... that being said, your love makes me write faster.
Thank you, each of you, for loving my books <3