You can always check out all our other chats on our YouTube page. The top of my website also has a First Draught tab with all of our videos!
Hello lovely readers! I hope September is treating everyone well. It’s certainly been fantastic for Julia Kelly. Monday her new series from Pocket Star debuted on retailers everywhere! You all know Julia from First Draught and because she’s one of my favorite people. Get to know more about Julia in this short interview I did with her the other day. I ask her about her book, whether she’d prefer Thor or Loki, and her Facebook group: Really Old Frocks. If you love corsets, bustles, and fashion, you have to check it out on Facebook or Instagram! Then scroll down to enter the Rafflecopter (I have promised Julia whatever she wants from me, so be sure to enter!)
The Governess Was Wicked
Elizabeth Porter is quite happy with her position as the governess for two sneaky-yet- sweet girls when she notices that they have a penchant for falling ill and needing the doctor. As the visits from the dashing and handsome Doctor Edward Fellows become more frequent, Elizabeth quickly sees through the lovesick girls’ ruse. Yet even Elizabeth can’t help but notice Edward’s bewitching bedside manner even as she tries to convince herself that someone of her station would not make a suitable wife for a doctor. But one little kiss won’t hurt…
Julia Kelly is the award-winning author of sexy historical and contemporary romances about smart women and the men who love them. She picked up her first romance novel and the bad habit of reading well past her bedtime when she was thirteen. Years later, she decided to try writing books of her own and never looked back.
By day, Julia is an Emmy-nominated journalist in New York City where she chases breaking news and bosses reporters around. She never met a pair of stilettos she didn’t love and still stays up too late reading.
Want more Julia interview goodness? Check out this month’s episode of First Draught!
First off, let me start by saying Good Morning to all you lovely people! Good morning! So often life is what we make of it and not enough of us do something as simple as smiling and saying good morning.
I was reminded of this during my morning run. I truly live in a cool freaking town. We’re an athletic town. We have a National Training Center with several Olympic athletes. We’re a triathlon destination. We have low Florida hills, lakes, and beautifully paved trails. I try to get out and run every morning after I
lose drop my kids off at school. My run is on the trail around our lake. It’s pretty busy and every one–serious athlete in training or senior citizen–smiles and says good morning. It’s quite possibly the nicest way to start the day.
Anyway. Prepping for the week. I promised you guys more tips and recipes for the busy writer-mom. Here goes. This week we went light on the Sunday night prep. Nate and I are running a 5k in downtown Orlando Thursday night and the kids are off from school Friday. Here’e what our menu looks like:
Slow cooked BBQ Pork
Spaghetti and meat sauce
Publix (pre-cooked) Chicken and parmesan baked asparagus
Chicken parmesan grits
All the beef for the nachos and spaghetti was browned Sunday night and portioned off for the two meals it is part of. The pork is slow cooked and divided into portions. The veggie lasagna is a one-pot, cooked, and portioned. The nachos and asparagus will be created on their respective nights. Both are incredibly easy.
In addition, I washed and portioned out fresh grapes and celery. They key for fruit and veggie consumption in our house is having it grab-and-go ready, plus on the eye-line when you open the door. They are sitting next to a bowl of plums.
For breakfast we also pre-cooked a 5 cup pot of chicken parmesan grits, which is basically grits (quick or slow) but the water is substituted with chicken broth. When the grits are down I add half a cup of half and half, three pats of butter, and a handful of grated parmesan. Once cooled, we portion it off for quick breakfasts. Nate adds smoked turkey sticks to his while I much on whatever is the kitchen after my run.
I also premade my special pancake batter for quick pancakes during the week. It’s stored in an old Ranch dressing squirt bottle, ready and waiting to be used.
Below you’ll find links to some of the recipes I used this week, plus a link to my Pinterest board, Meals I Actually Cook.
One-Pot Lasagna (this month we subbed the meat for zucchini and squash)
One last bit of fun news! First Draught is back with all new episode tomorrow! We’ve changed the format slightly. We’ve moved to a half hour show (instead of an hour) and we’re sending you out the video and podcast links all at once. You can sign up for the newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bWCj0z and check out the website tomorrow (Tuesday) for this month’s show!
And don’t forget to join my Frisky Friends on Facebook!
One of the magic ingredients of serials is pricing. It’s magic because the pricing is what allows readers to find you, but it is also magic because of all the options it provides you. When you’re writing a single novel you only have one product to work with, and you likely only have a little wiggle room in the pricing of that single product. But over the course of writing a serial you instantly create a small backlist that gives you a few more options for testing your market, finding your audience, and learning where your sweet spot lies.
For someone brand new to the industry or still building a customer base, 99 cents and free are your best friends.
99 cents is low entry point for readers. If you have a great cover, gripping blurb, and fantastic first few pages, then you are likely to start selling a few copies, even without any fan base. Most readers are happy to pony up 99 cents for something new and exciting. Plus, once you get the first three books in your serial out you can lower the price of your first book to FREE! And free can be magical.
There are a lot of marketing options out there for free books. Even using the hashtag #FREE (and combo that with #iBooks or #Kindle) on Twitter will grab you a few eyeballs. If you combine that with some inexpensive advertising and politely ask some relevant blogs on Facebook to post your freebie then you can start to generate some buzz!
Why is free magical?
It sucks in new readers, helps build reviews, and your mailing list. Free books get more reviews because they get in front of more eyeballs. More reviews means more options for paid advertising. It also makes you look good! But the real gold mine is in building your email list. Put a link in the back of your book asking readers to signup for your mailing list to get an alert when the next book in the serial releases. Facebook comes and goes, advertisers decide who makes the cut, but everyone who subscribes to your newsletter sees what you send out. My biggest jumps in sales are always after a newsletter goes out announcing a new release and my biggest signup point is the back of my first free book in a serial.
And by the time Book 5 comes out you’ve got a nice little fan base going. I recommend going wide to all the retailers (unless you don’t have the time/energy.) Release to all retailers and make Book 1 permafree until sales taper. When your sales taper off is the time to reevaluate your sales strategy, reprice your books and your bundle.
Here’s what my pricing strategy looks like:
Book 1: 99c/Free (when book 3 releases)
Book 2: 99c
Book 3: 99c
Book 4: 99c/$1.99 (after the series is complete)
Book 5: 99c/2.99 (after the series is complete)
Box set: 3.99
I play with my prices all the time. For a while I actually put my Tease series in KU (due to family issues I didn’t have the time or energy to keep up with all the retailers and sales strategy. For six months I focused solely on Amazon.)
Kindle Unlimited did affect my pricing strategy, but I was surprised by how successful it was. Even with the first book at 99 cents instead of free, readers kept picking it up! Instead of buying each book individually (because I had raised the price of every book in the series) they purchased the box set. The box set looked like a really great deal since buying the series one at a time wound up costing close to $10. The series also did well with Kindle Unlimited readers. Not so well that I stayed with KU, but for the circumstances we were in at the time, it was a very effective change for my serial.
And that’s what I want you all to keep in mind. There is no single formula for success. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Follow your gut instincts and keep in mind that your readers come first.
Pricing is one of your biggest assets in serial writing. The flexibility, options, and strategy give you so much to work with in a short period of time. In my next post I’ll be discussing the writing process and how to schedule your serial. You can also check in tonight on First Draught! The entire show is dedicated to serials! You can find the links and information on the First Draught website!
Hey gang! This month First Draught tackled size. Of books. We sat around in a virtual circle and discussed the differences between novels and novellas, short stories, series, and serials. It was a good time and everyone got a good laugh out of my drink.
Just to clarify, it was a whiskey and tonic not just a giant glass of whiskey. I’m stressed, but not that stressed!
Mary Chris also coined the new word #interlapping.
Check out the show on YouTube, Soundcloud, or iTunes and stop back next month when we tackle getting ready for RWA!! Woot!
Visit the First Draught Website
As yet another NaNoWriMo approaches I’ve had a few people comment on the fact that I’m writing two books at the moment. It got me thinking (mostly because I for some bizzaro reason ended up feeling guilty, like I shouldn’t be working as hard or as little as I can) about why I’m working on so many projects between now and the end of the year.
A big reason is that the floodgates have been opened. I have a lot (a lot!) of stories stored up inside me. Stories I’ve been meaning to write for years. Stories I’ve been pondering my whole life. But I was on a fast track and didn’t have time to stop and put those stories down. I had a master’s degree to earn. A marriage. Kids to have. Mountains to climb. Places to see. I was in such a rush to get to all these places and it felt like writing was stopping. You know the phrase “stop to write”? Yeah, that’s all I kept thinking: I can’t stop to write! I gotta keep moving!
And you know, it takes a long time to get a story down on paper. It takes even longer to build a career in this industry (for normal people who do not become instant successes). I didn’t have time to stop and write. Except that writing isn’t stopping, it’s just a different way of moving through the world. And while I was so busy ignoring the stories in my head, they kept right on growing and changing. So that once I did finally sit down to write, it was like I opened the floodgates and story after story was released. It feels like my body is constantly saying, “Thank god! I couldn’t hold this in much longer!” and the words tumble out of my brain faster than my fingers can type most days. (My CP’s can vouch for the frequent and bizarre missing words).
I’m writing so much because I have to. Now that I’ve started putting the stories down it feels like they all have to come out at once. Some days I feel a little crazy, to be honest. I constantly feel like I have this urgent need to get somewhere quickly (like I used to feel when I was on the fast track), but really, it’s just the words screaming to get written. Quicker. Faster. More.
Last year for NaNoWriMo I sat down to work out a story that wasn’t ready to come out. I tried to force it onto the page and it didn’t work (at all!) because I wasn’t ready to tell that story yet. I’m glad I tried because I learned a valuable lesson. Writing is a job, but it is also a creative calling. And like all creative callings, it isn’t always fed by word counts. It is a process that involves reading, thinking, dreaming, watching television, and getting out and living life. When the words aren’t working it is good to keep practicing, but it is wrong to expect magic to happen every time you sit down to write.
NaNo is great for teaching you to learn to be consistent, to set goals, and learn that you can achieve them. But it can also teach you how important it is to feed the process from multiple angels, to accept defeat, and keep on working. It’s not really about winning NaNo, it’s about learning that you can be a writer, how to be a better writer, and to find a support network of other writers who can help you grow on your journey.
If you’re setting off on the journey this November, then I wish you the best of luck! If you are still considering it from the sidelines, watch NaNo this year and plan (really plan!) on doing it next year. I have my profile up and going on the NaNo website, so please send me a buddy request and we’ll all cheer each other on! Good luck NaNoWriMo contestants!
***First Draught will be talking about NaNoWriMo this month! Watch our chat live or on YouTube the first Tuesday of every month!
This weekend Nate and I went to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We go every year, stroll around the World Showcase, hand in hand, drinking and eating our way around the world. We try to go at least once without the kids, and once with. Since we were alone, we took the car. My old car (and Nate’s current car).
I say my car because I still love that thing. I bought the car for the engine. It is a fantastic engine. I giggled maniacally when I test drove that baby. And so, to this day, when we leave the house without the kids, we take the car.
And drive fast.
With the music up. Because what I didn’t fully realize back then, was that my car has a badass stereo. The kind that blows the clothes off women (to quote a movie we both love). So here we are, flying down the highway toward Epcot with the music blaring. If you couldn’t guess from the title above, that music was Imagine Dragons. One of our all-time favorite bands.
We yelled at each other over the music, suddenly reminiscing over what each song meant to us, and that reminded me of how we found Imagine Dragons in the first place: I was writing my first manuscript.
I’d given myself a thirty day challenge to actually finish a manuscript. My problem has never, ever been the writing, or even story ideas. If our recent move taught me anything about myself, it’s that when I say I’ve always been a writer, I mean I’ve always been a writer. I now have two shelves in my office dedicated to the seemingly endless stream of notebooks, journals, and printouts of books I’ve written throughout my entire life. I knew I’d always been writing, but until it was stacked in front of me, I don’t think I fully appreciated the concept that I have always had a notebook on my nightstand, and that I’ve always written stories in them.
So anyway, I gave myself this thirty day challenge. And all the while, I was sitting in bed each night (and each morning) with my laptop in my lap and Pandora playing on the television. I was obsessed with Alex Clare and had it tuned to that station every time I was writing. Thanks to Pandora’s super cool algorithms, it started playing me this hot, new up and coming band: Imagine Dragons. I loved Radioactive. I still remember the day Nate came sliding into our bedroom, “This song is the theme song for Butterfly Rebellion.” I smiled, “You bet your sweet ass it is!” I’d already written several chapters to the song.
But it was this other song, Demons, that kept coming on. It haunted me. This song was my song. That first, short manuscript suddenly blossomed into a massive, thoroughly overdone hunk of junk in revisions. Because this song was haunting me. Compelling me to write something deeper, something about that fear we all have about our inner demons, and how we want to love someone without hurting them.
I still put this song on every book soundtrack. In two-ish years I have interpreted the lyrics in a dozen different ways and found meaning in so many different ways. If you ever want to know what’s going on in my head when I write a romance, listen to Demons.
Another song on the album, On Top of the World, is also super meaningful to me. This chorus in particular is what has kept me going through months of zero sales, bad reviews, and doubts:
And I know it’s hard when you’re falling down
And it’s a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.
Needless to say, Imagine Dragons is kind of inextricably linked to my thoughts of my first manuscript and the beginning of my writing career. And so Nate and I are taking this long, lovely walk down memory lane to the music of Imagine Dragons when I realize everything that first, terrible manuscript has done for me. I eventually shoved it in a drawer and started from scratch a story called The Storm Inside. I used the bones of that first terrible manuscript, and everything I learned while writing it, to create the book that became my first novel. But most of the manuscript stayed locked away in that binder (I assumed never to be seen again).
But the thing is, all that extra stuff I wound up writing after falling in love with Demons, it was good stuff. Wrong, terribly written with a weak heroine, and an overstuffed plot line of too much drama, but good stuff, nonetheless. It kept tickling the back of my mind–I’d left too much behind.
I eventually pulled it out and rewrote that manuscript into Tease. I love the story it became in the end, but I wasn’t ready to write that story two years ago. It was something that needed time in a drawer to stew and remix into something better.
Tomorrow night, First Draught will be talking about old manuscripts. I will be remembering that first manuscript, Imagine Dragons, and everything that has come along because of them. Please join us at 8:30 pm (eastern) or on Youtube anytime afterward.
Also, the food and drink at the Food and Wine Festival was all fantastic and I can’t wait to go back with all my boys to watch Sister Hazel in two weeks!
HELLO PEOPLE!!! It is not MONDAY! Yesterday was Monday, and that Monday was a holiday. Therefore, I forgot to post my weekly shoutout of the book I’m reading (which is Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young). But this works out well for me because I have a lot to tell you and I’d rather do it all at once!
So, before I talk about Before Jamaica Lane, here’s what is up:
- One Week in Wyoming releases one week from today! We have a series of blog posts up on the One Week in Love website full of fun information. Today was my day to post. You can see it here.
- I have a book signing on September 13th in Tampa, Florida! You can find details here. I’ll be signing fresh new copies of The Storm Inside and the very first paperbacks of….
- Tease. The entire five-volume collection is now in paperback! I will have my very first set at the book signing. If you’d like to order a personalized copy, send me an email. In person copies are $10 and mailed copies (in the US) are $15.
- I will have swag packs and gift sets of all kinds of goodies ready to go out next week! Be sure you are following me and signed up for my newsletter if you want to win stuff!
- FIRST DRAUGHT is back tonight! This month we are talking about research! You know, that stuff we do before, and during, our writing to make sure it is accurate! Our special guest this week is AL Parks. She is currently doing a bunch of research and she’s super smart and funny! RSVP now so you can watch it live, or follow the link to YouTube any time to watch. You never know what is going to come out of our mouths next!
Alright, book time! This week I’m reading Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young. She’s my favorite author and my go-to for books that take me away from real life. My favorite thing about every book in the On Dublin Street series is that, from page one, I feel like I’m sitting down with a group of people I love, can relate to, and I’m simply listening to their love stories. I always feel swept away and like I know each of these characters personally. I’ve just started the book, so check Facebook, Twitter, and such for updates or to keep the discussion going! I love to talk about books!
First Draught met last night for our video chat series to talk about all things RWA. It was a really good chat full of lots of laughs and great information. Unfortunately lightning struck about two minutes into the chat and knocked me offline for about twelve minutes, but I returned! Via the power of 3G on an iPhone! So if you are a first timer wondering what to expect, or a veteran looking to get ready, take a look at our chat!
And if you’ve ever wondered about Mr. Anne, he helped us out with some tech support before the chat. He’s a funny guy!
DUDE! In two weeks we will be in San Antonio! RWA is right around the corner and packing is kind of important unless you want to walk around naked for five days. I mean, I wouldn’t mind… and probably most of us would use you as a case study for our next book, but… yeah, probably not the best plan.
So that brings us to two fundamental questions: what do you need to bring and how are you getting it there. Last year I packed everything in a carry-on. It worked, but left me little room to bring anything home. If you are packing light, remember to bring a pre-paid USPS “If it fits it ships” box for your swag and books. You can also ship home from the conference (but check prices, it can get expensive!), so no need to worry about fitting fifty shiny new books and swag into your little suitcase!
What do you need?
- Business casual clothes for three days. This can be anything from comfortable work clothes to suits. You will see it all at RWA! Since so many of us spend our days in pajamas and workout clothes, RWA kind of becomes an opportunity to dress up and get fancy. Personally, I wear pencil skirts, colorful blouses, and low heels all week. They are comfortable (to me) but also pretty and fun. You can get away with jeans, if that’s your style. If you prefer comfortable shoes or sneakers, go for it! The reality is that you will be spending a huge chunk of your time sitting quietly in packed rooms while listening to speakers. Dress however makes you feel professional and comfortable!
- A cocktail dress. Even if you don’t know a soul or have a single plan outside of workshops, bring a dress just in case. There are lots of parties and you never know when you might find one to join. If you don’t, sit in the hotel bar and have a drink! It’s a great time to strike up a conversation with another writer.
- RITA dress. The RITA’s are a chance to get as fancy as you want. This year we’re getting super fancy and wearing evening gowns, but a nice dress is more than enough. There is a lot of sitting and clapping and then drinks and socializing afterward.
- Clothes for any special events or sight seeing you have planned.
- Comfortable shoes
- A sweater (some workshops get cold!)
- Underwear (you know it is easy to forget in the shuffle!)
- A pair of emergency cold-feet socks
Other items to bring:
- Notebook and pen/iPad/note taking apparatus
- business cards
- cash (tips and emergencies)
- power cords
Things I worried about last year:
- Breakfast. The continental breakfast wasn’t much. If you need food to start your day (like me!) then plan on eating elsewhere. The free breakfast is great for killing time before the first workshop, getting an extra jolt of coffee and a danish, or meeting someone. But a substantive start to your day? Not so much
- Lunch. The way the day is structured this year may make it difficult to stop and eat. Make sure you have snack food on you in case the day gets away from you. Scout out places nearby, or in the hotel shop, that you can grab a quick lunch.
- Dinner. I was totally freaked out be the idea of dinner last year! I didn’t know anybody. What if I ate alone every meal? Well, guess what? I never ate alone. Not once. For one lunch I joined a group of complete strangers and we got to know each other. It was fun! (SIDE HINT for NEWBIES: all RWA ladies will stand out like a sore thumb. We have badges, bags, and more that identify us from a block away. Don’t be afraid to walk up to someone, or a group of someone’s, and introduce yourself.) The nice lady I met at the First Timer Orientation and then accidentally ate lunch with the next day? She texted me asked if I had dinner plans. She’s now one of my very best friends! So the bottom line? Dinner (and any meal) is a great excuse to make connections and get to know new people. Take people up on their invitations and if you don’t get one, invite someone else to join you. We’re all writers just there to talk about writing!
- After hours socializing. Again, I didn’t know anybody. I was really worried about sitting in my hotel room from 5pm-7am alone every night. The hotel bar is a great place to socialize (even if you don’t drink anything but water!) It will probably be packed at all times with writers. If I sat alone someone usually came over to say hi. One time I sat at the bar and got to know a librarian who looked like she was about on her last leg, just like me. We commiserated over exhaustion and overload. It was nice. Another time I accidentally wound up in a conversation with two RITA nominee’s about the future of publishing. Put yourself out there, it really is worth it at an event like this.
- Making it count. I just spent all this money on the conference, a plane ticket, a hotel room, business cards…I needed to make it count. I worried about making connections and learning. I think worrying is helpful up to a certain point, but too much worrying is counterproductive. This conference is worth it. Whether you are going for the workshops, the appointments, or to find your people and make business contacts, it is an event packed with opportunity for writers at all stages of their career. Don’t worry about making it count.
- Supplies. It is a convention hotel–they’ve got this covered. There are also plenty of shops nearby. Don’t feel the need to pack everything. You can always buy something if you need it. You aren’t stranded alone on a desert island. I promise.
Things I didn’t expect and wish I’d known about:
- There are fifty-gajillion books for free at RWA. All those book signings on the agenda? Free books. All you have to do is show up and ask the author to sign it. Some will be paperbacks, some will be cards with codes for downloading later. But there will be books everywhere if you want them! (I will be at the Indie book signing with a mix of both. Come see me!)
- Goodie Room. It’s actually pretty cool. There is a mix of all kinds of stuff from paperbacks and samplers to bookmarks and business cards. There are lip balms, coozies, rubber bracelet thingies, luggage tags, key chains, and anything else these creative ladies came up with to give away for free. Be careful though. A few things here and there add up quickly. Make sure you are planning to pack and/or ship home accordingly!
- Conference recordings. Many of the workshops are actually recorded! The recordings are available for purchase. It sounded weird and expensive to me last year but if you have a track you are following and some important workshops you really wanted to attend are at the same time, or overlap something you can’t cancel, get the recordings. It can invaluable. I’ve heard they make great listening in the car and in the background while working. The investment is something that feels like too much at the time, but it extends the value of the conference and it is something you get to keep and listen to whenever you need it! Pretty cool.
Pack accordingly! At the end of the day it isn’t about the clothes you wore or how you took notes, it’s about the things you learned and the connections you made. Check out our First Draught Google On Air chat about RWA here. And check back on Tuesday when First Draught will have a Google Hangout on Air all about packing and getting ready for San Antonio! You can RSVP here and leave questions for us to answer!