Friday, March 28, 2014

New publishing house for FINDING SHEBA & BENEATH!

So I've been sitting on this news for a bit as things were progressing.

On March 5, I received an email from Sr. Editor Anh Schluep at Thomas & Mercer. I do some indie publishing so I thought it might be an answer to one of my Amazon questions (which I'm regularly asking), but thought it odd that it came to my author email account. Anh wrote to me saying that she'd read FINDING SHEBA and she loved it, and would I be interested in republishing the book with them? She also said they wanted to re-release in 2014. So, of course I looked up Anh, and the imprint (owned by Amazon), and some of their authors. Thomas & Mercer publishes thrillers and suspense novels, and many of their authors are major New York Times bestsellers.

I showed the email to my husband and said, "This might be a game-changer."

The next day I scheduled a conference call with Anh (pronounced "On"), and we talked about the publishing contracts that Amazon offers. The only glitch was that I needed to get my rights back from the publisher who currently held them. So after reading through my original contract again, I contacted my publisher and he agreed to reverse the rights. In most cases, this is no small feat, and I'll be forever grateful for a publisher who saw that my overall career could benefit from this change.

Since Anh said they'd like to have first rights to anything in the Omar Zagouri thriller series, I decided that I wanted to use an agent to handle the business side of the contract deal. I emailed a couple of agents on a Friday afternoon (one who was listed in the top thriller agents) and the other I'd met at a writers conference previously and had been impressed with. Both agents came back interested, and Jane Dystel replied even though she was out of the office for the weekend. First thing on Monday morning she offered me representation and said she'd worked with Amazon on other occasions (which is one of the reasons I queried her). I signed with Jane, and in the following communications, Thomas & Mercer also requested BENEATH, which is a companion short story.

Tentative release date for the new editions of FINDING SHEBA and BENEATH is June 2014, and they will have new covers as well.

Here's the deal as reported in Publisher's Marketplace:

March 27, 2014 Fiction:General/Other
Indie bestseller Heather Moore's FINDING SHEBA, along with an accompanying short story, BENEATH, swirling around the seductive legend -- and perhaps reality -- of the tomb of the infamous queen, to Anh Schluep at Thomas & Mercer, by Jane Dystel at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World).

Monday, March 3, 2014

Join Blog Tour for THE FORTUNE CAFE

THE FORTUNE CAFE is almost here! Official release date is March 17, 2014. And just like I planned it all along, the cover it green.

I Am A Reader is hosting a blog tour in April. If you'd like to join in, receive the ebook for free, and weigh in with your review please sign up here.

THE FORTUNE CAFE is a "Novel in Three Parts", which I co-wrote with two fantastic authors, Melanie Jacobson and Julie Wright.

About the book:

Welcome to Tangerine Street
Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with its colorful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and exclusive bed-and-breakfasts. Situated in the middle of a charming collection of shops and cafes on Tangerine Street is The Fortune Café, a Chinese restaurant unlike any other because, well, to be honest, the fortunes found in the cookies all come true…

The Fortune Café
a novel in three parts

MIS-FORTUNE: Emma, a waitress at The Fortune Café will do anything to avoid opening a fortune cookie. Each fortune is rumored to somehow magically come true. Being a girl grounded in reality, she doesn’t have time for that kind of nonsense. But when trying to prevent a food fight at the café, Emma accidentally cracks open a fortune cookie: “Look around, love is trying to catch you.” If there is one thing that Harrison, her former best friend in high school is good at, it’s catching her unaware.

LOVE, NOT LUCK: Lucy has always been lucky . . . until her parents meet her fiancé’s parents at a disastrous lunch at The Fortune Café, and she breaks her lucky jade necklace. Even worse, her fortune cookie reveals that “True love is for the brave, not the lucky.” How is she supposed to read that? She’s always considered it lucky how she met her fiancé. But after breaking her necklace, Lucy’s luck takes a dive. And when her fiancé dumps her, the only person she can turn to is Carter, the unluckiest guy she knows. 

TAKEOUT: Stella is content in her new life of taking over her mom’s jewelry shop. No more boyfriend to worry about, and as long as she stays busy, she doesn’t have to dwell on her non-existent love life. When Evan comes into the shop with his young daughter, Stella is charmed. But she is reluctant to complicate her straightforward life, so when she reads her fortune after ordering takeout from The Fortune Café, she completely ignores it. After all, how can a fortune as vague as “Do the thing you fear and love is certain,” apply to her?

Tour Schedule
April 2nd
I Am A Reader – Guest Post
Tifferz & Her Sisterz Book Reviewz – Spotlight
LDS and Lovin’ it – Review
Book Briefs – Review
The View From My Window – Spotlight

April 3rd
C&F – Spotlight
Amethyst Daydreams – Spotlight
Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews – Spotlight
Pink Fluffy Hearts – Spotlight
Why Not? Because I Said So! – Review
Oh My Books! – Spotlight

April 4th
Mel’s Shelves – Review
Love. Pray. Read. – Review
Christy’s Cozy Corners – Spotlight
Books Are Sanity!!! – Review
Gamila’s Review – Review
My Devotional Thoughts – Review

April 7th
I Love to Read and Review Books :) – Review
Clean Romance Reviews – Spotlight
MamaNYC – Spotlight
A Casual Reader’s Blog – Review

April 8th
Maureen’s Musings – Spotlight
From the Bootheel Cottonpatch – Spotlight
Rebecca Talley – Review

April 9th
For the Love of Books – Review
StoreyBook Reviews – Review
Sweeping Me – Spotlight
Being a Momma and Lovin’ it – Review

April 10th
Magick Inside Pages – Spotlight
It’s A Book Thing – Review
the LastWord – Spotlight
Katie’s Clean Book Collection – Review

April 11th
Bookworm Lisa – Review
readalot – Review
RachelleWrites – Review
Hearts & Scribbles ~ Jennifer Faye – Spotlight
deal sharing aunt – Spotlight
Ranee the wRiter – Review

April 12th
Snarky Mom Reads… – Spotlight
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – Spotlight
Cassandra M’s Place – Spotlight

April 14th
Getting Your Read On – Review
Tressa’s Wishful Endings – Review
Julie Coulter Bellon – Review
A Book Lover’s Retreat – Spotlight

April 15th
Bound 2 Escape – Spotlight
The Lovely Books – Review

April 16th
Maureen’s Musings – Spotlight
Literary Time Out – Review
Lindzee Armstrong/Lydia Winters – Spotlight

April 17th
My Book A Day – Review
Bella Harte Books – Spotlight
Clutter Your Kindle – Spotlight

April 18th
Little Whimsy Books – Spotlight
Good Choice Reading – Spotlight

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How I became a USA Today bestselling author

The Scoop: How I became a USA Today Bestselling Author

Part 1—Idea: On October 25, 2013, author Heather Horrocks (picture on the left) and I met for lunch to discuss our experiences we’ve had while self-publishing. Both Horrocks and I are hybrid authors, which means we self-publish and also traditionally publish. (I’m going to refer to her as Horrocks since we are both Heathers… to avoid some confusion.) Self-publishing projects that didn’t fit our traditional publishers' niches was giving us a lot of flexibility, especially in promotional opportunities. I’d been impressed with Horrocks’ writing as well as her marketing savvy. I had even gone so far as to invite her to contribute to my anthology series A Timeless Romance Anthology. During our conversation, Horrocks told me of a friend who had hit the USA Today bestsellers list by bundling three of her novels and selling the box set for 99 cents. I looked at Horrocks, a bit wide-eyed and said, “Let’s be USA Today bestsellers.” She smiled and said, “All right.”

Part 2—Research: Through a series of emails following our October lunch, Horrocks and I discussed what type of box set to put together. All of my novels but one was tied up with traditional publisher contracts. One of the problems was that Horrocks indie novels are contemporary cozy mysteries with a dash of romance. My indie novel was a gothic historical romance (with a ghost!). So we debated whether or not we should write new books—then team up with another author to do the same. What if we tried for a Christmas set? Horrocks had a Christmas-themed book as well as Diane Darcy—one of Horrocks writing group partners. We discussed if it should be three of us or maybe more authors involved. Researching showed that the box sets that were hitting the lists had 6 or 7, or even 10 authors. I kept coming across a box set that was on pre-order called The Scandalous Brides series. I had read one of the novels already—The Salt Bride by Lucinda Brant. I wondered if Amazon would let us do preorder, but from all that I’d heard, the KDP program didn’t allow it. I emailed Amazon anyway, and emailed them again, asking question after question. I even went so far as to apply for Amazon affiliate status, but that didn’t seem to be effective for what our goals were because we wanted to release in ebook only. I emailed several other box set authors, and the ones who replied said that BookBub had been their tipping factor (I was soon to find out that BookBub would not promote multi-author box sets, they’d only promote single-author box sets).

Part 3—Selecting the Authors: Horrocks was in, and she said that Diane Darcy would be happy to join us. With Diane on board, that would give us the possibility of 2 historical novels in the set, which would eventually lead to the title Romance through the Ages. We’d decided on 7 authors, and so I started going through names, looking for authors who had been indie publishing for a while, produced professional products (cover, design, editing), had multiple romance novels out, and were savvy marketers with tons of 4 & 5 star reviews on their novels. I had worked with Rachael Anderson on an anthology earlier in the year and she’d also done some cover work and typeset layouts for me. She had two indie novels out that were doing well, and I was impressed with her writing and her marketing. Once I talked to her about it, she had a lot of great ideas to throw into the pot. Rachael was good friends with Karey White—who I had my eye on already—and so we invited Karey. I was glad Karey was willing since only one of her books was indie published, and so that’s what we’d have to use. Next, I asked Janette Rallison, crossing my fingers. Janette is very well published, mostly in the YA market, and one of her claims to fame is having sold over 1 million books. She agreed, and the project suddenly moved up a few levels. When we invited the next author (who will remain unnamed…) she was very hesitant. Her book was selling well and the idea of putting it into our box set and cutting into her sales (we were keeping the individual novels on sale simultaneously), and splitting $0.35 royalty seven ways, wasn’t too appealing. And she didn’t know any of us personally, so how could she really know how awesome we all were. LOL. Her rejection led to landing another amazing author though. Karey White suggested Amy Harmon. I feel embarrassed I had no idea who she was, hadn’t heard of her or read any of her books. I discovered that Amy had a stellar 2013 year and hit the NY Times with her indie published novel A Different Blue (she has now hit the NY Times with Making Faces). Amy agreed! And she would put in her novel Running Barefoot. I promptly read it and fell in love with Amy’s writing. So now we had our fabulous seven with a combined total of over 800 4-5 star reviews on Amazon. I knew this set would be rock-solid.

Part 4—Cover: Researching box set covers in depth quickly told me that the box sets that were hitting the USA Today and New York Times lists were steamy romances or erotic romances. With 7 “sweet” romance novels (ie PG to PG-13), we had a monumental task ahead of us. I began to doubt, and wondered, “Are the box sets hitting the lists because they are steamy romances, or are they hitting the lists because they are 99 cent box sets?” Well, we were already moving forward and it felt too late to put on the brakes. Plus, Amy Harmon was part of the set—if all else failed, that was just cool to think about in and of itself. Rachael Anderson designed the 3-D box set image:

Pretty, huh? Obviously not steamy or erotic. So we were hoping that we’d still have a chance, that maybe the auto-buys were for the “romance” and “box set” and “99 cents”.

Part 5--Pre-order status: After many failed stints of trying to talk Amazon into doing a pre-order status (don’t get me wrong, Amazon is great to work with, but they have policies in place), we finally caught a break. Because one of the authors in our box set was a New York Times status, Amazon was willing to give us pre-order. I was elated. And even though other box set authors I'd talked to who were also granted that status said they didn’t care for it, I still felt like it was a major step forward. About the same time BookBub turned us down. It would take a few emails to discover the “real” reason. (And don’t get me wrong here either, BookBub is fabulous and I’ve done two other successful promos with them. But again, they have their policies. I recommend BookBub hands’ down—but know that they are a paid promo service to the tune of several hundred dollars.) It was a few days before Christmas now, and we set the release date to Saturday, February 1st (which would turn out to be a mistake later on). We asked reviewers who had read at least one of the books to post on Amazon the review of that specific book, and when we had about 20 reviews posted, our ranking increased.

Part 6—Lining up Promotions: As you can imagine, trying to find and select promotions is always any authors or publishers toughest job, especially if advertising dollars are at stake. We weren’t opposed to investing money, but we wanted an ROI, of course! Read any marketing book and you’ll quickly realize it’s a bit like throwing stuff at a wall—what will stick? I knew by experience that BookBub was the real deal. But it seemed that door had been shut firmly in our faces. Was there anything that was comparable to BookBub? After email several bestselling authors who had hit various lists, I started to gather websites that offered email blasts to readers who were interested in the romance category. We also hit a few deadends, and some that seemed to do nothing—yet perhaps they helped us maintain rankings. Our focus was the two weeks leading up to release date (because we had pre-order status) and the week of release (which would be your primary focus if you don’t have pre-order status). The list I’m going to give you is what worked for our box set and I believe gave us a decent ROI, but please remember our results may not be your results. NOTE: I only tracked Amazon ranks., Amazon rank jumped from #1036 to #585, FREE (They say on their website that their advertising is currently free, although you need to tweet/Facebook. Full disclosure—I hadn’t seen this much success with two other books I posted through ReadCheaply as I did the box set. I was pleasantly surprised. And it tells me that the product can make a difference, and results can widely vary. But you can’t beat free.), Amazon rank jumped from #1521 to #161, bills 25% of “sales” according to their formula (yes, this sounds a bit vague, but you can read more on their website. I was very pleased with the results!), Yes this is a UK promotion, but exposure is exposure and we did sell several hundred copies on the Amazon foreign markets. I did the week long promo where we were featured in their daily email blasts. By the time it ran, we were already ranked at #124 on Amazon. Only $25., This one actually didn’t help our ranks, per se. We started at #499 and dropped to #711 that day. But I really can’t complain because it was only $10.00 and it’s hard to judge if a promo might just be helping maintain your numbers. Yes, dropping 200 spaces is a drop, but we were still in the top 1000 for the day and more than a week out to release date. Only $10., The first day this promo ran we went from #1650 to #1424. Not a huge jump, but measurable. We did the “special feature” deal which means Peoplereads tweets the deal for two weeks. They only have 2,000 followers, but there were dozens of retweets by some who had tens of thousands of followers. Worth it? I say yes. $19.99., This promo acts as a broker, and they send to 50 other sites. A great way to save yourself submitting to a bunch of other places. I really can’t give you a yes or no on this, but I think it’s something to consider. $40.00, This promo had a single focused date and our ranks went from #1661 to #595. Definitely a success in my mind especially since it was about 3 days before release and we really wanted to get our ranking moving up. $50.00, Okay, this was for me the “big expectation.” This was going to replace BookBub, and the price was way up there. But it had been recommended to me by several bestselling authors and it’s one of the vehicles used by the Big Deal promos on Amazon (that are only offered by invitation only). So, biting the bullet, I emailed KND and asked for their recommendations. We put together a “power package” which has several levels of promotions built in. Results? Awesome. Ranks went from #440 to #161. You might think, well, you have those kinds of jumps with cheaper promos. You have to understand, once you are hitting the higher ranks, the differences between #400 and #150 is a lot bigger than between #1200 and #1000, if that makes sense. Cost: $349.00, [now:] This promo ran the same day as KND, so some of the rank jumps cited above are crossovers from both promos on the same day. This was also more expensive because we selected the “bestseller list package.” As you can see, in the days leading up to the release of the box set, I was pretty much willing to take a few risks. Did this one pan out? It would only be accurate to say that I’d have to run KND and BookBlast on separate days to give you a better estimation. But for the purposes of my goals for this box set, this was the right decision. Cost: $250.00, I love this website and I’ve been advertising on it for about 14 months, swapping out various books. So they were one of my go-to promo. We did a website side-bar ad (about $30.00) that stayed up for the entire month of January and then we did the “book bargain newsletter” ($25.00). Was it effective? For the price and the reputation of InD’Tale, I’d say yes. The newsletter was blasted on Feb 4, so right in the middle of many of our larger promos, so I can’t gage exact results, but I believe there were sales. Cost: $55.00 total.

Goodreads Ad, This promo also came highly recommended. I knew nothing about it, and it seems there is quite the method to it. I set our limit to $250, with $0.50 per click-through. In other words, I only get charged if there is a click-through. And I could modify any time. After creating a campaign that only had 25 views in 2 days, I emailed Goodreads “help!” They gave me instructions about how to power-up my advertising (maybe I’d just neglected to do the research) and I created 5 ad campaigns with different descriptions and reaching different markets. The most successful were the “no targeting” campaigns. By the end of the 10 days, we had 156,000 views. Not a lot of click-throughs, but the exposure was there. Total cost: $23.50.

Smaller promos:
The Fussy Librarian ($15.00) ($15.00)
storyfinds “smashup Saturday” promo ($50.00)
Facebook ad (was paid by one of the authors, not sure on the $)
You can find a list that’s a good starting point here:

Organic promos:
This is what I’m calling promos done by the authors through their own networks. Like I mentioned earlier, the box set contains authors who have very strong platforms. So they have their own decent reach and marketing abilities. Some of what was done by each of us individual included: Newsletter blasts (I have 800 on my newsletter list and I’m sure the other authors have at least that or more), Facebook events, Facebook shout-outs (calling in all favors!), our own blogs and other blog shout-outs (calling in more favors!), “swapping” shout-outs with other authors on Twitter/ Facebook etc, and the authors would send me tidbits of things they were doing that I didn’t write down. It all culminated into the “big release week”. As you can see, the success of this box set wasn’t just an idea thrown together and authors grabbed and a cover put up. Each author and even each book had a viable track record, a strong readership, and a solid platform. The combination of the promos and events surrounding this box set could never be exactly duplicated again. But this will give you a good idea of the work involved and the time dedicated to one purpose.

Part 7—The Numbers: Just tell us the numbers! Remember when I said Feb 1 release date was a mistake? We found out that the New York Times counts their sales week starting on Sunday. Feb 1 was a Saturday… the absolute worse day we could release on. Thankfully, we caught it in time, and Amazon changed our pre-order date to Sunday, Feb 2. Later we read that the USA Today starts their count on a Monday, but others have blogged about it as a Sunday. So that’s very murky! If you are considering doing something crazy like me, then research this—and release on a Monday!

Pre-orders: This was incredible to watch on KDP. The pre-orders started to dump in about 500 at a time, reaching just over 3500 on release date. And then we had our two big promos running that day, KND and BookBlast. Also, the Barnes & Noble rankings started rising and on this first day, we sold about 126 on Nook—this was definitely due to KND and BookBlast. And as fate has a way of knocking you down a peg, my internet service was completely out, so I was checking rankings and sales on my phone and emailing them to myself. 

Monday: You must know that when you do larger promos, the benefits are also seen on day 2, and carry over for another day or so after that. By 5:00 pm Monday we’d sold 199 on B&N and 5381 on Amazon. Ranked #130 Amazon, #109 B&N.

Tuesday-Friday: This is where the amazing happened. Remember all of our favors for shout-outs and postings were happening in these days. And consider the ripple effect factor and once your break into higher rankings, your exposure and metadata become a giant rotating circle of regenerating algorithms. The evening of February 5 we hit the peak: #31 Amazon, #18 B&N. We had sold 839 on B&N and 7473 on Amazon. Fantastic, yes! We were also listed on Kobo, but those sales were in the 10’s. From conversations and questions of other bestselling authors, we’d heard that if we got in the range of 8k-9k, we had a chance for the USA Today list. The New York Times was a bit more touchy, but we knew authors who had hit that list with much less sales. There were so many factors and one of them was how much other books were selling. 

End result: By Sunday night (which may or may not have counted on one of the lists, not sure), we had 1595 sales on B&N, and about 9200 on Amazon. On Thursday, February 13, we found out that we'd made #127 on the USA Today list. I discovered this about 2:30 a.m. and well, didn't sleep after that.

Part 8—Would we do it again? Looking back, I see so many times of uncertainty, ups and downs, and realize it really was the perfect storm coming together. So, yes, I’d possibly do it again. But I know the work that will be involved and how crucial finding the right combination of authors/books would be.