Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Greatest Mistakes, Successes and Gnocchi!

Hi guys,

I'm over at Erica and Christy's blog talking about Zyan Star (naturally), my greatest mistake, greatest success, something other things, and most importantly, my gnocchi recipe!!

Pop over and say hi!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

One Year Self-Pubiversary - What I've Learned

At the beginning of 2015 I decided that it would be the year my writing career moved forward, one way or the other. It would be my seventh year of writing with the aim to be published, not counting all the stuff I wrote in my teens thinking I could publish (ha!). So, on August 7th, 2015 I released Black Magic and Mojitos, the prequel novelette to the Zyan Star series. Ironically enough, I signed with my agent two weeks later for a different series.

Initially self-pubbing was exciting, and then fairly disappointing with little sales coming in, and then things caught on and it's been exponentially growing in a short period of time. I sold 1,800 books in the month of July, with another 1,000 or so downloaded in a free promo. Black Magic and Mojitos is on the top 100 bestseller list for sci-fi fantasy short reads most of the time, and Martinis with the Devil hit #5 in Paranormal Romance with angels a few weeks ago. I've been having SO much fun, and I wanted to share what I've learned. Caveat: each person's path is different, so what worked for me may not work for you. I don't particularly care for most of those writing and publishing posts that insist on one and only one way to do something. So, use what resonates with you, don't worry about the rest. Here we go!

1) Have a good book.

Before you roll your eyes, let me elaborate, and provide a caveat. Caveat first: if you love writing, and you want to share your writing no matter what, I think anyone has the right to express themselves artistically and creatively. Don't let anyone stop you. Now, taking that one step further, if you are wanting to self-pub with the aim of making some money, or breaking into the market, I think some things should be considered. If you write your first book and try querying for six months and want to self-pub just because querying sucks man, and all those agents are idiots, well... I'm going to venture that probably (not definitely, but probably) your book is not ready, and you are probably not going to like the publishing world in general. Self-pubbing doesn't avoid the haters, trust me. If you slap something up on the net you're likely to get bad reviews that hurt a lot worse than those form rejections from agents. Because EVERYONE gets bad reviews. And you have to be able to roll with the punches.

The reason I chose the Zyan Star series to self-pub was because I'd gotten a lot of agent interest, with many saying that they loved it and the writing was good, but urban fantasy was too hard a sell right now. Too hard a sell for the traditional market, that is. I had also gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback from numerous entries in contests like Write Club, where your entry is anonymous. So, point being, get feedback from lots of people, not just the ones that are going to be nice to you.

2) Have an amazing cover.

It's true, guys. We ALL judge books by their covers. And if you self-pub, you don't want anyone to be able to tell by looking at the cover that you self-pub. Covers help sell books. If I see a crappy book cover I wonder how serious the writer is about their writing, and wonder at the quality of the book itself. Does that make me an asshole? Possibly. But I can tell you, I'm not the only asshole out there. Don't shoot yourself in the foot at the onset. Make a stunning first impression.

And P.S. this doesn't mean spending a ton. My guy (the amazingly talented God of cover design, Steven Novak, Novak Illustration) charges less than a hundred dollars for an e-book cover.

3) Pay attention to the self-pub authors that are making it.

When I ventured into this, I contacted RaShelle Workman, a self-pub author with over a million e-books sold. That's a LOT of books. She makes her living writing full-time. Total rockstar.

I contacted her first about her cover artist (she referred me to Steven). I later asked her about marketing tips (see below). And I lot of it I learned by observation. For instance, if you look at her and some of these other baller self-pub authors, they have at least the first book in the series priced at 99 cents, and sometimes several of them (or all). I'm actually going to use that to segway into my next point...

4) Price your book at 99 cents.

Those of you familiar with Amazon will know that if you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, you get 2/3 of the profit, whereas if you are above or below that bracket, you only get 1/3. Thus, I see a ton of books out there from brand new authors priced at $2.99. Personally, I am not going to spend $2.99 on the first book from an author I don't know. I'm cheap, yes. But kind of like the asshole comment above, so are many, many other people. We live in a world where jerks buy e-books, read them, and then return them for a refund (which I think is totally awful BTW). Again, don't shoot yourself in the foot. Make it EASY for people to take that chance on you, as a no-name author. See above about the rockstar ballers charging 99 cents. They have made hundreds of thousands of dollars on their e-books. If it works for them, it could work for you. There's a lot of debate about this: if you pick 99 cents you don't have worth in yourself as an indie writer, etc., etc. That's not what it's about. It's about building an audience. I'd rather get my books in readers' hands.

5) Have a series.

I mentioned at the beginning that after some initial excitement releasing Black Magic and Mojitos, the sales dropped off. I was bummed, obviously. So I contacted RaShelle and asked her what her marketing ideas were. She took the time to look up my book (have I mentioned she's a super nice rockstar baller?) and said that with only one book out there and nothing else for readers to buy, I had lost momentum. She said her most important suggestion to anyone was to have a series with at least five books, and release the first half of the series in close succession. She suggested every few weeks.

With the Zyan Star series, I had initially planned to release Martinis with the Devil shortly after Mojitos came out, but then I signed with my agent and she wanted me to wait. After a few months of being on sub, we came to a compromise, which was that I could release the Zyan series with the books being cut in half, so they technically weren't novel length (this was just trying to preserve my debut status, that weird publishing world virginity thing). Within a few weeks of releasing Martinis parts one and two, sales started to grow rapidly. And that brought in a new influx of sales for Mojitos. A couple months later I released Whiskey and Angelfire parts one and two, and the same thing happened. So, so far RaShelle's advice is spot-on. I also think part of it is that having multiple books out just makes you look like a more serious writer. And a series lends itself to branding yourself and building a set of fans potentially more than individual books do.

6) You don't have to pay for expensive ads (or at least proceed with caution).

I'm going to start this one with a BIG caveat. I have known other authors that have seen spikes in sales from paid ads. I personally have had zero luck with them. Since I have a full-time job outside of writing, I luckily had money to spend several hundred dollars on ads. I got an expensive Goodreads ad and a blog tour, and lots of other supposedly life-altering social media promos. None of them did much, at least nothing noticeable. One problem with a lot of these services (blog tours, newsletters, etc.) is that your audience is other writers. While writers are certainly readers, it's not the same as tapping into a pool of readers that are ready to spend money on books. Since us writers usually have lots of writer friends we like to support, and because we're more picky about writing, we tend to be a little more stingy about buying from new authors we don't know.

7) Make sure you have a stellar hook and strong search keywords.

Just like with querying, you want the brief description of your book on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, etc. to really sing. It should be extremely compelling. Again, look at the successful self-pub big dogs and see what they have in their descriptions.

Also, keyword combos are important. Amazon lets you have up to seven. I made one of mine '99 cents' and one of mine 'urban fantasy' and now when you search under '99 cents urban fantasy', my Zyan books are usually four of the top five results.

8) You might enjoy self-pubbing more if you're a control freak and workaholic.

A lot of people ask me if self-pubbing is hard, because you not only have to write the book, you have to arrange editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. I would say the first trip through was somewhat daunting, but after that it's been easy. I have a checklist for e-book formatting - that's the one really tedious part. But now it only takes me a few hours since I've done it a few times. I am ALL about the checklists - I have a very Type A side to my personality that lives opposite the creative side.

I also like to stay busy, and love being able to control all the different aspects of my book. When I do land a traditional pub contract, relinquishing control will definitely be something I'll have to adapt to. The last year has made me realize that I definitely want to be a hybrid author. I want to have some traditionally published works, but I think I'll always continue to release some of them myself.

9) Have fun.

In closing...make sure to have fun. If you're controlling your own destiny, enjoy yourself, eh? We're all just a work in progress as humans and as writers. My sales go up and down still, and I worry that somehow it's all going to vanish. But it's not. Because this isn't a static point, it's a step in the journey. Keep writing, keep having fun. Do it because you love it, whether or not you want to make a career out of it. Celebrate the small things and the big things.

And speaking of that, I am raising a glass to myself for an epic first year of self-pubbing and self-discovery, and to you if you read this far down in the post! TTFN, friends!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gargoyles and Soul Thieves - An Interview Swap with Rebecca Chastain!

Hi, guys! A few weeks ago, I got an email from a fellow urban fantasy author asking if I wanted to do an interview swap. I love stuff like that, so I jumped on board right away. Rebecca and I have chatted quite a bit since then, and she's super cool and so are her books! Gargoyles and elemental magic are the feature of her latest series. Oh, and she's an Amazon bestseller, so that's rad. Are you ready? Rebecca's answers below, and my answers about the Zyan Star series over on her blog!

She looks badass, right?!

Me: Gargoyles and elementals together? Yes, please. What else can you tell me about your Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles series?

Rebecca: If you took the United States in the early 1900s, added in a population who can all wield varying levels of earth, water, air, fire, and wood elemental magic, and topped it off with multifarious mythical creatures, you’d have the world of the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles. Within this magic-saturated setting, I built my story around an ordinary woman, because I’ve always felt that no matter how fantastical the world, the best stories involve relatable characters making tough decisions.

Mika is a midlevel earth elemental who has worked a lot of late nights as a freelancer to hone her skills with delicate quartz projects. Her goal is to leave her dead-end quarry job and open her own artisan shop. Unfortunately, her carefully constructed five-year plan—and years of hard work—are jeopardized when a baby gargoyle bursts into her studio and begs for her help on a desperate mission.

As you can probably guess, she can’t say no to a baby gargoyle. Could you?

When you built the world for Magic of the Gargoyles, how did you start?

I start every story by opening up a fresh Word document and typing everything that comes to mind in a non-stop brainstorming session. A lot of…we’ll call it “fluff” comes out in these session, but there’s nothing like that moment when a spark of an idea ignites into an entire story. With Magic, it was baby gargoyles. The moment I pictured a housecat-sized gargoyle, I knew I had to write the story. After that, I researched quartz and mythical creatures, but mostly I focused on building a magical world that would be fun to romp around in for a few novels.

If you could manifest the magical traits of one of your characters, what would it be?

Mika’s elemental abilities, definitely. She can alter the structure of quartz with her magic, shaping it into incredible masterpieces. Plus, she’s the one that gets to help baby gargoyles…

Have you ever traveled (or have plans to) in the name of research, and where?

I don’t know if this counts, but my Madison Fox series is set in my hometown. In essence, every errand run around town could be construed as research.

What are your reading habits these days? Do you have rules about what you read while you’re writing?

I do have rules! While writing the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles, I refused to read anything with gargoyles in it. In general, I try not to read anything in the genre I’m writing, and when I’m deep into a writing project, I often skip fiction entirely and focus on nonfiction. I have an idea for an alternate history fantasy that may or may not ever happen, so for the last two years, I’ve been reading tons about the world around 1492. I’m now a font of weird facts. For instance, did you know there were no earthworms in the United States before colonists started carting in soil from England? They’d been killed off in an earlier ice age, and those in warmer climates farther south had never burrowed back up this way. 

And here's a synopsis of Magic of the Gargoyles:

To help a baby gargoyle, Mika will risk everything.

Mika Stillwater is a midlevel earth elemental with ambitions of becoming a quartz artisan, and her hard work is starting to get noticed. But when a panicked baby gargoyle bursts into her studio, insisting Mika is the only person she’ll trust with her desperate mission, Mika’s carefully constructed five-year plan is shattered.

Swept into the gritty criminal underworld of Terra Haven, Mika jeopardizes everything she’s work so hard for as she attempts to save the baby gargoyle from the machinations of a monster—and to stay alive…

From the imaginative mind of international bestselling fantasy author Rebecca Chastain, Magic of the Gargoyles is a spellbinding adventure set in a world full of elemental magic and adorable gargoyles that is sure to enchant young adult and adult readers alike.

Want to pick up a copy? (sure you do - 99 cents!)

Amazon, US                Amazon, everywhere

Rebecca's official bio:

Rebecca Chastain is the internationally bestselling author of the Madison Fox, Illuminant Enforcer series and the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles, among others works. She has found seven four-leaf clovers to date, won a purebred Arabian horse in a drawing, and once tamed a blackbird for a day. Writing stories designed to amuse and entertain has been her passion since she was eleven years old. She lives in Northern California with her wonderful husband and three bossy cats.

Hit her up on the Internet!

Hope you all enjoyed our swap! If you want to check out my answers to the questions, hop on over to Rebecca's blog. TTFN!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG - The Nicest Thing That's Been Said About My Writing

Hi, writer friends! It's July! Fireworks, beach and popsicle time! One of my books came out yesterday! My birthday is next week! It's definitely one of my favorite months :)

For this month's IWSG post, there is now a question you can answer if you want, which is: What's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your writing?

Well, two from recent book reviews spring to mind. The first is a review of Martinis with the Devil, and the person said:

"I just love the story line and the characters to pieces, to death, to the end of the world, whatever..... man I wish it never ended and just went on forever."

And then a very recent review of Whiskey and Angelfire, which came out yesterday (three snippets from one review):

"I am completely in love with this series. Earlier this year, I read both the prequel novella and the first book in a frenzy of insomnia and emotions and I've been dying a little ever since then because I needed to know what happened with these characters and this world...." and "This group is so great because it feels like you fell right in the middle of a family and you can't help but love them all and want to make sure they're happy." and "I'm seriously considering selling my soul to Lucifer so I can read the next book right now..."

So, that's all INCREDIBLY flattering and I'm SO happy people are loving the book. On the flip side of that though, you get bad reviews... so I guess that's my insecure thing for the month. Whenever you release a new book, you want everyone to love it, or at least most people. So, as these first few reviews start coming, there's a lot of nail biting going on for me :)

How about you? How's your month going?

Don't forget to visit the other IWSG posts, and of course our lovely host Alex Cavanaugh! (I nearly made a corny joke there about our lovely host Alex Trebek) (I'm probably not the first to go there).


Monday, July 4, 2016

Whiskey and Angelfire Book Birthday!!

It's here!

Zyan Star Book Two! Lovers of urban fantasy, your 4th just got a lot spicier :) 

"I'm seriously considering selling my soul to Lucifer so I can read the next book right now..." Top 100 Goodreads Reviewer Emily Seamir

**blushes furiously**

This is what Zyan's doing in the second book:

Can Zyan avert the war that's brewing before her past catches up to her, quite literally?

When one of the angelic warriors goes missing, Zyan and Eli head off to Dublin to join the search. As soon as they arrive, they're swept into rising tensions between the angelic forces and the other supernatural races. As more supernaturals go missing, Archangel Michael will stop at nothing to put the perpetrator behind bars, even if it means placing the city under martial law.

To add to the mess, Zyan's sister Anna is in Dublin, and where Anna is, Lucifer is only a step behind. Not to mention Alexander, Zyan's sworn enemy. Zyan has more than a sneaking suspicion they're at the heart of a spree of recent demon invasions. But something is odd about these demons, and if she doesn't figure it out before Lucifer reveals his ultimate plan, the price could be catastrophic.

As if things couldn't get worse, being back in Ireland where she was turned immortal has dredged up the worst from her past. Including her maker, Olga, who's none too pleased that Zyan's come back.

Plus, I'm trying something new for this book: leave a review and get a free download of the prequel novelette to the Zyan Star series! Just email me or leave a comment here (include your email if you don't have responses set up), and I'll send you a Book Funnel code to download it for free. 

Plus, you can vote on which Zyan backstory novelette I release later this year. Either Zyan in the 1920s, or when she met Riley and Quinn (or you can throw in another idea)!

Barnes and Noble

I'm SOOOO excited to share Zyan's story with everyone, and I can't imagine a better day than a day of fireworks and fun. Happy 4th of July everyone!! 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Colorado Vacation Pics

Just got back from Colorado yesterday! I went for one of my best friend's wedding, and to do some hiking. I managed to get some writing done, too, as I have a self imposed deadline of July 4th weekend for the first draft of Vengeance and Vermouth, the third Zyan Star book.

I thought I'd throw a few pics up here on the blog before I get back to writing :)

Union Station, Denver

Denver Botanical Gardens

Me at the wedding (the humor in this is that I'm a vegetarian)


Grand Lake, CO

My son at Rocky Mountain National Park

RMNP again

My son, me, one of my besties at the Tundra Trail in RMNP, over 12,000 feet

Any summer vacays or weddings coming up for you? Hope the summer is going awesome so far. TTFN!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I'm Co-hosting IWSG! Plus, Cover Reveal for Whiskey and Angelfire!

Hi, friends! This month I'm helping co-host IWSG with creator Alex Cavanaugh. I'm pretty excited about it!! IWSG stands for Insecure Writers Support Group, and we support each other through the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to #writerslife. Go say hi to the other participants here!

My big focus/insecurity this month, as it was last month, and as it will be for probably the foreseeable future, is launching my Zyan Star urban fantasy series. I released a prequel novelette last August, and the first book this April. I've been very encouraged to see that with the release of the second one, I'm getting a lot more sales, and cross-over sales with the novelette. The next book, Whiskey and Angelfire, is releasing on July 4th, and I have a tentative date of Labor Day (9/5) for the third. Hopefully sales will continue to grow, and the ripple effect I'm already seeing will spread more! So that's my nail biter for the time being :)

Speaking of Whiskey and Angelfire, I am extremely stoked to reveal the cover!!


What do you think?? I absolutely adore it.

So, what are your big plans/focuses/insecurities this month? Any books coming out soon? Whatever your writing focus at the moment, all of us are here for you!

TTFN, friends :)