Sunday, February 23, 2014

Obsessing Over Numbers

This new world of publishing is the only one I've ever known, having begun my journey as a published author in 2012. I obsess daily over my Amazon rankings and check NovelRank to keep an eye on how many books have sold, even though I know they're unreliable. I check the number of hits I've had on my website and blog and keep track of the tweets I've posted for various books to gauge any correlation. My web presence checklist for each new release is about seventeen places and growing daily, it seems. That's not including any guest blogs I'm appearing on and must write content for. And, in between all this compulsive behavior I need to focus on writing the next book.

All of which led me to ponder how it was in the days prior to the internet and blog sites. The days when each page of a manuscript had to be printed out, bound in rubber bands, and mailed from the post office to the traditional publishers or agents who would then determine its fate. I've heard stories of Nora Roberts appearing on QVC to promote her latest book. I know book signings were more abundant back then, and people would be on the road for weeks at a time. Now, all I have to do it push a button to reach hundreds, or hopefully, thousands of potential readers. I guess a little obsessing over numbers is worth it.

My latest WIP features Rosemary Fitzpatrick, who is an author true to her day. She writes dime novels, so, in writing her story, I've had to learn a bit about what printing was like in the late 1850s. Her love interest is the man who has just taken over the publishing house where her stories emanate from, and many of their scenes take place in the office of the publishing house. Any student of journalism can tell you about lead type boxes and the tedium of creating headlines and text one upside-down letter at a time, then setting all of it into a frame. Ink was then rolled onto the lead letters and a sheet of paper laid over top and pressed into the ink. The advent of computer programs has now made lead type obsolete, and printing is much faster now. Several times I've been able to witness the big presses used for magazines and newspapers in action. 

We've come a long way. Books can be printed electronically in a flash, and the length of time from manuscript to finished product sometimes takes my breath away. But the smell of ink on the printed page is still one of my favorite scents of all time.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Wagons East

Very shortly, I'm going to be traveling on the Oregon Trail. But, unlike our forefathers who settled this land, I'm going to be traveling it in reverse. My journey will begin in Salt Lake City, from which point I will be heading east to St. Louis and then on to Ohio. Which got me to thinking of the comedy "Wagons East," the brilliant John Candy's final film before his death in 1994. It also starred Richard Lewis and the always swoon-worthy Rodney A. Grant. It was a funny take on a wagon train in reverse, heading back east from Oregon.

Which got me to thinking about how many times a wagon train going east really happened, during the mass migration in the 1800s. Disgruntled Americans, who were tired of being used for target practice by the Indians, wives and children whose head of household had met with a terrible end and were returning to family, goldminers who went belly up instead of making their fortunes. How many were there who returned? One never reads about people who traveled the Oregon Trail in reverse.

I'm guessing there were more than a few who left the wild west behind and returned home to the civilized east. So I think I'll be in good company. To travel the trail in either direction will fulfill a life-long dream of mine. I followed the Santa Fe Trail on my last cross-country drive. This time, it'll be the big one. I can't wait.

How about you? What life-long ambition is still on your bucket list?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Complicating Things

Now that I've been at this blogging thing for a couple years, I thought it was time to introduce some new things into my life. It's taken me that long to get used to the mechanics of posting, scheduling, properly tagging, guest spots, etc, and I think I've gotten the basics down now. Time to up my game.

If you'll notice the column on the right now has a gadget for collecting followers. There's one follower so far. I've had the "Follow By E-mail" gadget for awhile, and I know many of you are signed up that way. But, unfortunately, my blogger account doesn't want to show me those figures, so I truly don't know how many followers I have. I can see the number of daily visitors and am pleased by those numbers, but I need more than one follower. Please, if you aren't already, click to follow me. Thank you.

Guest blogging is something I like to do. Give me a topic and I'm off. But some of the blogs I'd like to be on make posting so difficult for someone like me, who still needs help navigating my way through my own blog, that I've had to drop out. I'm not going to point any fingers, but I can say I'm disappointed, and think there's got to be an easier way. Life, and technology, is getting more complicated by the day.

One of my good friends, and a fellow author, has decided to navigate the self-publishing waters for her debut novel. I've been watching from the sidelines as she sorts through possible editors, cover artists, formatters, and the myriad of other details that go into the production side of publishing a book. I'm not saying I'll never follow in her footsteps, but right now, I know when to cry "Uncle!" I'd rather stick with what I'm comfortable with, and what I think are the most pressing issues for me at this stage in my career--building a backlist and developing a following. 

One thing that hasn't changed since the era of Jane Austen is the basic one--write a good book and promote the hell out of it for the next few years. Book Five in my Cotillion Ball Series will be out March 3, and I'm working away on Book Six--Rosemary's story. I've still got a ways to go on that one, as editing for those books about to release has taken precedence. Deadlines and guest posts have gotten in the way of what must remain my primary goal--writing a good book. Yes, a captivating cover and a good blurb may get you noticed, but if you don't have a good book once people turn the page, you won't get anyone coming back to buy your second book. Or your seventh.

Write On!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Times, They Are A'Changin'

Bob Dylan didn't have the publishing industry in mind when he wrote that song in 1964, but he could have. In the past five years, the publishing industry has been set on its ear. The entire manner in
which one can publish has evolved in a giant leap and we authors have an abundance of opportunity available. No longer does the Big Six rule from their lofty, impenetrable glass towers. But all this flexibility comes at a price. Authors are now responsible, more than ever, for their own promotion, including blog sites such as this one.

Over the past few years, I have visited more blog sites than I ever knew were out there, causing a serious learning curve about what I wanted my blog to be about. I have given thought to my brand, and what I want people to expect when they come to my site for a visit. At a recent talk on blogging, my message was very simple: be consistent, both with content and with the scheduling of your new posts. People who have read my books will hopefully know that I have a healthy respect for history, that I love sassy contemporaries, and that I try to tie all my plot lines together with a dash of humor. I want my blog to continue to convey that branding message.

I feel the message has been getting muddied of late, so I've instituted some changes. While I still want to feature my fellow authors, I need to limit the amount of time they get and who they are. So, I'm cutting back to only one or two very special guests each month. The rest of the time will be just me, sitting down for a chat with just you. I'm setting up my own blog tours, and my appearances for each book will now appear in a block on the right hand side of this blog. I'll try to provide links to the various sites where I'll have a post, but I usually don't get that information until the day of the post.

Since I was reminded yesterday that I blog a lot about Mary, my puppy-mill rescue dog, I want to share her latest doings. I took her to my sister's on Friday to spend the night and the next day, since I wasn't going to be home much on Saturday. She loves her cousin Harry and, according to my sister, the two of them acted like teenagers at a slumber party. They had pizza delivered at 930, they took every toy out of the toy basket and threw them all over the house, they ran up and down the hallway, barking and growling at each other until 330 in the morning, when they finally fell asleep. And didn't wake up until 11am!

And finally, I'm pleased to announce that, for the entire month of February, all Crimson books published in 2012 and 2013 will be available for $1.99 each. Crimson's Valentine gift to their fans. Go snag some copies. Visit Crimson's site at to view all the titles available, and head over to my Amazon page at to load up on any of my books that you've missed. Happy reading in 2014!