Monday, August 31, 2015

Publish or Perish in the Romance-Writing World, too?

(Reposted from my Facebook Author Page)

I worked 20 years in academia as an admin assistant and editor and this had a whole different meaning then. But in the past few weeks, I've had a number of conversations with my author friends about stress, poor health, and other problems arising from the publish-or-perish mentality that's pervaded publishing for the past year when Amazon introduced KU and visibility for those of us refusing to be exclusive had our sales go down the tubes as far as finding new readers.

In writing circles, the pervading wisdom is that you have to put something out every 2-3 months or readers will dump you like a hot potato and move on. This is a phenomenon found mainly in the Romance genre. Other genres allow authors a year to publish a major-length book. Twice a year at the most. In today's world, if you can "only" put out three titles a year, you're a slacker. Seeing friends practically burning out from writing because of this constant "When's the next book?" pressure or from committing to more than a human being can do with all the marketing demands to try and stay visible in this new market really upsets me for them and for the readers. We can't churn out books like a machine. We need time between releases to refill the well of creativity.

Now, you all know I've tested the limits to the max on how long a writer can go between releases (with as much as 15 months between two of my 500-page releases in 2012-2013, but I can easily go 9-12 months between two, regardless of length). Those putting out rapid-fire releases tend to write a lot shorter or are really driven to produce (more so than I am!). And I don't think the fault lies with readers. It's something we authors have done to ourselves in that effort to return to the glory days of 2013. And changes at Amazon didn't help any, either.

But I'm going to be honest here:

1) I won't write every day. I just plod along (with my new book, I'm averaging 900 words a day--including all the days I didn't write a single word--and about 1500 a day on the days I actually worked on ROAR).

2) I don't feel a need to be in anthologies, box sets with multiple authors, Kindle Worlds, and other schemes to get my name out there on a more regular basis. (Of course, you all know I can't write short anyway!)

3) I'll publish when *I* decide my book is ready, even if it means pushing back release dates (which I did in March and landed in Amazon preorder jail for a year because I made you wait 3 more weeks to get a better book). I try very hard not to announce release dates, although I sometimes *think* I can't possibly miss and then let it slip. So far, only my team knows what I'm thinking and they also know I've already pushed it back a month.

4) I'm not going to try to chase after new readers. You all share your love of this series and those new readers find me on a slower scale than if I poured a ton of money into advertising cold to an unknown group of readers. Marketing is stressful and expensive. I don't think anything can beat word-of-mouth, though, so you all just keep talking!

I'll also admit that, since KU rolled out last summer, I bought into the notion that if I pushed myself harder, I'd get back to where I once was in rankings or sales. But I've come to realize the rankings don't matter and are so skewed now to titles in KU or Montlake or other exclusive Amazon titles that I'll never make it back into the rankings there. I'm going to try to build audiences who shop elsewhere (and just did an exclusive preorder with Apple with my box set to start).

Can I write shorter and faster? Well, while still recovering from my hysterectomy last fall, I wrote and published a 71k book in six weeks. (Possibly because I'd stopped marketing, which was a colossal waste of time and focused on writing.) And it was a book I could be proud of, too, because I'll never put out a book that isn't worth the hard-earned money you'll pay for it. Then I dove right back into finishing Nobody's Dream because you all had been waiting for Luke and Cassie's story since September 2012 and I'd put two other couples' stories ahead of them. Of course, in retrospect, those who read them can see why it had to be that way, but I took a lot of grief from upset readers during those 2.5 years demanding I drop Somebody's Angel and Nobody's Lost and get back to Dream. (I'll guess those are among the readers long gone from my reader base now. But you know what? That's fine. Hopefully they've found authors better able to give them what they want and to meet their expectations. Less stress for us all. And I'd much rather blow readers' expectations out of the water than to give them what they want or expect.

Yes, I have lost readers since 2013. Tens of thousands of them. Not even because I'm not in your face with a new release every few months, but probably more so because I chose to let my characters dictate when their story would be told and how. Different heat levels caused the erotic-only readers to drop. Even different subgenres from psychological drama/trauma to a downright Sweet Romance (well, until about page 500 when they finally exploded from all that sexual tension in DREAM). And all this in a series where the first three books are being marketed (and rightly so) as erotic romance in a box set right now. The next box set in the same series (whenever I choose to do another) will probably be eligible for steamy Contemporary Romance status.

I'd be as bored as my readers if my series had books that followed a formula and were jammed into a one-size-fits-all series box the way traditional publishers made authors write over the last 30 years. I don't plot, so if they're not talking to me, I just sit and wait. Patiently. Sometimes for days or weeks! I know the pervading wisdom for writers is to write even when you don't feel like it. Well, I may read a few chapters of a how-to-write book or do research or simply watch a movie for inspiration on those non "writing" days--but all of those activities are part of MY writing process. But to sit and force words onto the page because of an arbitrary deadline is counterproductive for me.

Despite my not dancing to the beat of the loudest drums in this business, you know what? I'm blessed with a core readership of 25k strong (based on the sales of my last two books, the least popular in a series that used to sell four times as many books).

Why the rant today? (Not ranting at you, but at this notion that we publish or perish that pervades our business right now.) I have heard from a handful of writer friends who are struggling against burning out. They're so stressed trying to keep up with writing and marketing and all the other demands that they're on the verge of making themselves sick. Seriously sick. And I know most would love to be blessed with a readership as strong as mine, even after that many readers moved on.
And you know what else? I did give it a try to push harder and I will be ahead of my past few years in the number of books I'll put out in a 12-month period starting last December and until ROAR is released with three new titles and a box set with bonus materials as well. (That set kept me from working on ROAR for two weeks, but I'm glad my readership is enjoying the bonus materials I included! So much so that I'm extending the sale until Sept. 7!)

But yesterday as I realized how much more work I have to do on ROAR to meet my self-imposed deadline, I was cranky and making myself sick. I know you're going to flood this thread with lots of support because if you're still reading my posts and books, you've definitely learned to be patient with me. <smile> Still, I put more pressure on myself than my readers ever will.

So, I'm very stressed right now because I'm further behind than I want to be on ROAR. But since I haven't given you any clue when I intended to release it, I'm just doing that to myself. I have 7 intense weeks of travel coming up and rarely do well writing/editing while on the road. But I'm hoping to change that. I have a lot of appearances planned, too, thinking I'd be done with the book by then. But meeting readers energizes me so I won't back down on any of those. But I will stick to my guns and carve out writing time and not be as accessible as I've been at previous cons. I'll say good-night promptly at the end of a planned dinner and go write or edit.

And over the next three weeks before I hit the road, I'm going to bust my ass to get this story whipped into shape so that my editorial and beta teams can be working on them when I can't!

Now I'm off to hit 100k today. (I'm 5,838 words short of this arbitrary deadline.) So if I don't make it, at least I hope the story will be that much closer to a cohesive one, since it's still got a lot of holes to fill and bridges to be built (written).

But I hope my rant will give other stressed-out authors a little solidarity in making healthier choices for both their careers and their lives. I have a lot of books I want to write, but if I have a stroke or heart attack making myself sick in the process, well, where would we all be then? Thanks for your continued support and patience over these past four years! I hope I have another 24 good years to bring you more stories! And I'll do my best to stay healthy and energized to give them to you!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Two Up Close and Personal Gatherings for Readers!

Two Opportunities to Get 
Up Close and Personal with Kally This Year!

You know how much I love to hang out with readers. Yes, I'll be doing some of the big conferences (including Lori Foster's Reader And Author Get-Together in June, which is sold out, but there are two public signings, including one Friday afternoon, June 5, which I'll be at, and one Saturday afternoon with other authors) and RomCon (not to late to register for this one in September!).

But I want MORE! More what? More face time with my readers where we can just hang out and enjoy each other's company without too many distractions and overbooked programs.

So I have two events planned this year where we can do just that!

First Up:
the Rescue Me Saga
Sightseeing Tour of Colorado!

From Sept. 21-24, I'm taking a very small group of readers (limit 25, including Charlotte and me!) on a tour of the places in Colorado that will have you feeling as if you walked into the pages of my books. This tour will take place in the days leading up to RomCon (a reader-author conference in Denver Sept. 25-27). We won't spend a lot of time in Denver, but will take a bus to the Breckenridge, Park County, and Beaver Creek areas so I can show you some of my inspiration sights, talk with you about the books and characters, and just hang out for a few days in an amazing place. Of course, I'll have a few places to show you in Denver, too!

We're still planning the trip's itinerary and, honestly, when we created our Google interest form, we didn't quite know what the plan would be. We'll know more after we find out just how many readers are interested in hopping on the bus and what type of lodging we can book! (We could go with hotels or rent a huge vacation house to accommodate one helluva slumber party!) Soon, we'll be asking for a non-refundable $100 deposit at which point we can gauge who is seriously planning to join us. The cut-off to register will be in the next month or so so that we can book the bus and make lodging arrangements. If you'd like to be in on the planning discussions (no need to pay anything at this point), express your interest level for the Rescue Me Saga 2015 Sightseeing Tour of Colorado here. Most likely we'll set up a Facebook group, but if anyone can't be on Facebook, then we can attempt another way of discussing the trip!

Among some of the places we'll visit on the tour are The Pines resort in Beaver Creek (inspiration for the D'Alessio family's lodge/resort), Hoosier Pass (inspiration for Iron Horse Pass, where Cassie's cabin is located), and Alma and Fairplay in Park County (inspiration for Aspen Corners and Fairchance, respectively, in my saga). We'll also visit Mount Evans AND the house in Denver that inspired me as the location for the Masters at Arms Club. (No, you can't go to the door and ask if you can play with Adam, Marc, or Damian! The owners have NO idea how their house was immortalized in the pages of my books!)

I'm so looking forward to sharing these special places with you and just spending a few days hanging out in gorgeous Colorado! This trip will be one-of-a-kind! Do NOT miss the bus! Here are a couple pics of some of the readers who took the first sightseeing tour (in Southern California back in 2013). I promise we'll explore some exciting places, then relax over dinners and other meals as we talk about the books! Cost is all-inclusive (meals, lodging, transportation) but we're still calculating costs until we know how many days we need the bus, how many nights lodging (we counted on two so far in our $400 estimate with double occupancy, but single occupancy would be more, adding Monday night more, or we could make out better by renting a big vacation home--so until I know who wants to go and what we're going to do, I can't set the final price. Hoping to do that by later this month, tho! Definitely before asking anyone to sign up and put down a deposit!)

(Touring the Thousand Steps Beach, site of two hot beach cave scenes)

(Touring La Valencia in La Jolla, inspiration for where Damian and Savannah met)

But that's not all! 

I've invited six special author friends who all write Military Romance (and sometimes in other subgenres) to the second annual KallypsoCon! Joining me this year are New York Times and/or USA Today bestselling authors Sharon Hamilton, Cristin Harber, Elle James, Kennedy Layne, J.M. Madden, and Teresa Reasor. These award-winning authors and I will be gathering for one very special Halloween weekend in New England at Nashua, N.H. Join us, too! The $200 registration fee includes two buffet dinners with drinks, open bar at the Halloween Party, Saturday breakfast, Sunday champagne brunch, presentation and ad-lib sessions with the authors, plus Top Griz (who has helped a number of us with our military and weapons facts!), a two-hour Q&A session with all 7 authors where you can ask anything (and will be surprised at how honest we'll be in our responses!), fun and games, a chance to have a meal with a different author each time, a bag filled with premium swag goodies from each of the authors, and lots of opportunities to hang out in between programmed events for some awesome Military Romance authors.

Here's what readers from all over the United States, Canada, and the world (we had readers from the UK and Australia there!) said about the first KallypsoCon:

“The  whole  weekend  was so much  fun and meeting  you  all was so great.  Often times  you meet celebrities (please know I am a  dork and authors are  celebrity in my  little  world )  and they aren't  as  great as you  thought they  would  be  but you guys  were all so  lovely and flipping hysterical.” (Deana)

“A HUGE shout out to Kallypso Masters for bringing together some of the loveliest ladies, readers, and like-minded thinkers for a more than memorable weekend at Kallypsocon 2014!! We laughed til we cried, and we have stories to tell! (Boy oh boy...!) And a special thanks to each of the amazing authors who made this weekend ROCK!” (Annalise)

“I loved the whole weekend and it was well worth the long flights thank you, Kallypso and Charlotte, for organising it all!” (Ruth)

“I was lucky to be able to attend. All of you who wished you could have been there missed getting to really know all these great ladies. Keep watching for announcement when the next one will be so you have more time to make your dream come true.” (Sabrina)

Don't miss out on the 2015 KallypsoCon (click this link to learn more)! Register TODAY before we fill up the 100 reader spots! I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at this year's events!

Here are some photos from last year's event:

Readers playing Cards Against Humanity with Annabel Joseph

 Discussion during the panel session.

Kennedy Layne will be returning for KallypsoCon 2015 and bringing Hubby Griz (Top Griz to me!) with her this time!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Read a long excerpt of NOBODY'S DREAM (releasing March 31!)

I know some of you did not get the announcements via social media last month that the release date of NOBODY'S DREAM has been moved to March 31. As you know, I will not release a book to you before I know it's the best it can be. It simply was not ready. However, it's very close to being ready now and WILL be released March 31. Anyone who preordered it at Amazon, Kobo, Apple iBooks, or Barnes & Noble, you WILL receive it on that date without doing anything further. 

So who wants an excerpt? If you missed it via my newsletter or social media, I shared the Prologue and Chapter One via my newsletter two days ago. DISCLAIMER: My editors, betas, and proofreaders are still going over it for the final time, so there might still be some typos or things that will change in the final.

Of course, if you have read SOMEBODY'S ANGEL and the post-avalanche scene with Cassie and Luke in it, there are no spoilers in this excerpt. This is the very opening of NOBODY'S DREAM as you will read it when the book is released later this month. (Parts of NOBODY'S LOST will be important in DREAM later, too, so if you haven't had a chance to read that one, do so. Ryder and Megan's journey will continue in NOBODY'S DREAM and there will be spoilers if you don't read LOST first.) 


Click here to read the excerpt 
in my newsletter (web version)! 


You can preorder (or order if you are reading this March 31 or later) NOBODY'S DREAM at the following book retailers:

Amazon UK
Amazon Australia
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble NOOK

Coming to other retailers (including Google Play and All Romance eBooks) after March 31!

Not caught up with the First "Five" Books?

And if you need to catch up on the earlier books in the series, you will find ALL buy links and the reading order (as listed on this page) on my web site's Rescue Me Saga page! Please read all in order! (Yes, NOBODY'S LOST provided a new entry point for NEW readers and can stand alone, but the hope is they then go back to the beginning and read through. You definitely wouldn't want to read DREAM until after reading LOST, though, or you are going to have chapters and scenes with characters you haven't met yet--Ryder and Megan! (Ryder has even replaced some of the other guys as readers' all-time favorite book boyfriend. Find out why in NOBODY'S LOST. While it's a short novel, it's longer than MASTERS AT ARMS, so only short by MY standards!)