Why I’ll Stop Self-Pubbing (at least for now)

I’m lucky enough in my writing journey thus-far to have one book published with digital publisher, Escape Publishing (my debut novel His Brand Of Beautiful); and a novella (The Goodbye Ride) and a second novel (Fairway To Heaven) that I chose to self-publish.
978085799030311.jpgI’m always asked by writing friends, and reader friends about my decisions to opt for self-publishing. Mostly these have been to do with the timing of my books. For The Goodbye Ride, it was written for the June long weekend (the Queen’s Birthday long weekend) and it was ready in May. For Fairway To Heaven, it’s a summer book, written for January/February and I had it ready in December. So the decision for me was about timing. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for a publisher to appraise your book and decide if they will accept or reject or ask you to revise it, and it takes further months from any decision to accept it for publication, before it gets through the process and gets published.

And I’m impatient. Yes, there… I’ve said it. It is so nice having got to the end of the writing process, having bought a customised cover, to actually hit that ‘publish’ button and get your book out there.

Something I like about self-publishing is it removes the awful roller-coaster that is the path to publication. There’s no more ‘will the editor like it, will he/she take it… wait for that email, and wait, and wait some more.’ There’s so much waiting in writing.

And did I tell you I’m impatient?

So, having said all that, here’s my big news.

I’m about to tell you that Escape Publishing, with editor Kate Cuthbert, recently agreed to publish Fairway To Heaven, and this weekend I’ll be signing the Contract to let Escape do exactly that. It means I’ll be removing Fairway from cyberspace, hitting that ‘unpublish’ button that I pressed so happily about 9 months ago, and waiting another possibly six months before Fairway (or it may be called something different at the behest of Escape) again gets launched to the world.

It will have a different cover. It may have a different name. And it may not even be quite the same book, as it will go through another editorial process on the way. But given the lovely Kate responded to me with the words: “It’s great”… I’m hoping any changes will be minimal, captain.
So how did it come to this? Here’s what I can nail it down to.

a) Tax Time. This was the big one. July 2014 gave me a huge eye-opener. I had payment receipts from Amazon US (US Dollars and they have a different reporting year/tax year to Aus). Some of the payments were cheques. It cost me $15 per cheque to bank into an Aussie bank (NAB). The Goodbye Ride is $2.50 (AUS) and I get 35% of that from Amazon so you imagine how many books I have to sell just to pay to bank their cheque! Now at least Amazon pays me direct into my account but it was like pulling teeth to get that to happen. Tax Nightmare! Compared with this the Escape royalty statement that spells out sales and earnings for His Brand Of Beautiful was an absolute breeze.

b) Sales. Yep – that old chestnut. I believe in my book 100% and both Fairway To Heaven and The Goodbye Ride have excellent reviews, not all written by my mother or sister. (In fact, neither my mum nor my sister have ever written me a review. Note to self!) Could the sales be better? (Yes!) What might make the sales better?

c) Marketing. I paid attention to a few social media discussions with book marketers going back a while and they tell me that if reviews are solid, the next thing to look at is the cover. I love both my covers for Fairway To Heaven and The Goodbye Ride, but are they exactly right for the demographic? That’s the question I have to ask, and I’m prepared now to test it with the experts. What about the title? Fairway To Heaven works for me and it just felt right… but does it label the book a sport/golf book? And does that mean prospective buyers are looking at my book and thinking they don’t like golf, so they won’t enjoy the book? Have i missed sales because of either the cover, or the blurb, or the title? Probably. I have enjoyed being able to test promotions, such as the ‘free’ promotions with Amazon Kindle Direct. They are great fun to do because it’s so nice to think how many of your books are flying free off the ‘virtual’ shelves. But at the end of the day you’re giving your work away for free. So where’s the return in that?

d) Costs. I’ve spent about $600 combined on the covers for both my self-pubbed books. I paid $90 to lovely Marion Archer, Marion Making Manuscripts who beta-read Fairway for me – her feedback was gold and she’s worth every cent. I did the editing myself, but I’m an editor by trade. I paid $90 to get Fairway formatted for Kindle and for Smashwords (which feeds to iTunes/Nook/Kobo etc). With The Goodbye Ride I did this myself, but Goodbye Ride was only ever on Kindle. Smashwords is harder to get the formatting right. I didn’t ever spend money on things like Netgalley (I couldn’t afford it), or FB ads. That investment is gone now – I’ll never get it back. But if I stick with the status quo because I’ve sunk money into it, where does that leave me in another year? Still wondering what might have been?
e) Control: Lots of authors say to me: don’t you love being able to control everything? The blurb. The cover. The marketing. The title? They tell me: “I do all this marketing and promotion and my publisher expects that, and my sales are still lousy. So tell me what the publisher actually does for their cut?” Control is good. But remember – if you have all the control and your sales are still lousy… you only have yourself to blame. It’s human nature to find the grass greener on the other side.

f) Quality: I think self-pubbed books can get let down by the mass of badly (or non-existently edited) crap that is out there! It’s easy to get tarnished with the same brush.

I could let things roll along. I could change nothing, and I could continue to feel that my self-pubbed sales could be better, or that I could/should do more to promote them. I also know that having Escape select my book(s) for publication alone will not guarantee me improved, or even ‘good’ sales. They are taking a risk too. The entire business is a risk. My expectations are much different now, a few years along, than when I first got that wonderful ‘call’ that my debut book had been accepted for publication.

There’s no going back. Once I sign that Contract this weekend, Fairway To Heaven leaves my control. Pretty much forever unless sales are so abysmal, Harlequin decide in about 7 years, they don’t want it anymore.

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Meanwhile I’m ‘writing the next book’. It’s a follow up to my debut His Brand Of Beautiful, not with related characters, but with the title, currently: Her Brand Of Bargain and because it’s back to the wine industry/vineyard-set books of both His Brand Of Beautiful and The Goodbye Ride. It has always been in my mind to write this book with view of offering it to Escape.
All this is just my opinion, and it’s only my view… but it’s been a long decision and not taken lightly. I can’t wait to see what Escape come up with for Fairway’s cover and blurb… and it will be fun to see what new readers might make of my book about Jenn and Brayden on a Busselton beach. Meanwhile, they’re waving goodbye, until sometime in the new year.

Maths and Stats: Kindle Free Promotions

Last week I made a big decision. I took Fairway To Heaven off its Smashwords distribution, which included iTunes & Kobo & Barnes & Noble etc, and put it exclusively with Amazon in its KDP Select program for a 3-month stint. I did it because by far my most sales of my books comes via Amazon, and because I wanted to try the marketing packages that the KDP program offers, specifically the free promotion you can do for up to 5 days during that 3-month period.

There are also ‘Countdown’ offers, but I haven’t tried these yet.NewFinalFair#2

My novella, The Goodbye Ride has previously been free before, and I wrote about the downloads this achieved in a post about a year ago. You can read that here. Given the only time I can tolerate maths seems to be when it relates to book sales, sales rankings, or free downloads, I thought I’d update that post with this weekend’s results.

So, my promotion was from 30/5/2014 to 2/6/2014 (3 days). In total over that period, 8255 people downloaded Fairway To Heaven. This is more than double the downloads of The Goodbye Ride when I first used the ‘free’ option at Amazon last year.

I am having many thoughts about this entire self-publishing caper at the moment, but one thing I do love about it is – you get access to your own statistics, and you can see exactly where the sales are coming from. So here’s the breakdown: amazon.com (7773); amazon.uk (162); amazon.de (50); amazon.fr (1); amazon.esp (6); amazon.it (4); amazon.in (29); amazon.ca (90); amazon.br (4); amazon.au (36).

My biggest surprise, the sales of Fairway To Heaven in the US. 7773!!

My second biggest surprise, the sales in Australia. Seriously! Only 36 Aussies wanted to read a contemporary romance set in Australia? I thought we were the sport-loving country!? I wish I could claim it’s because thousands of Aussies have already bought my book, but (sadly) that wouldn’t be true. Although certainly some have. (Thanks Mum)

Sometimes having this data gives you more and more questions. Why is the Aussie interest not there? Is it the title? (Too golfy). Is it the cover? (Too risque/trying to be too clever?) Maybe Australian readers want their romance covers with a woman on the front, a man on the front, or a woman and man on the front. Or a cat.

See! It does a girl’s head in, and it completely messes with an author’s brain!

My goal in providing Fairway To Heaven for free is to expose more people to my work. If they won’t take a chance on a new author with their hard-earned cash, then hopefully they’ll try my work for free. If they like it, they might tell their friends, or mention it on a forum somewhere, and/or buy my other books.

Until the weekend I had only 4 or 5-star reviews for Fairway To Heaven, most from people I know in the writing community (bless them) – and all of these were wonderfully positive about the book. I’m very proud of Fairway, but it is different for ‘a romance’… and this might be part of my problem. Don’t people say that there’s a formula for romance, and break it at your peril?

By making the book free, I now run the risk of finding opportunistic readers, who clicked my book only because it was free, even if they don’t read romance or have no interest in an Aussie book. It may languish in their Kindles forever unread. It might be read, and loathed, or not finished. (And that too is something they could tell their friends). Double bad whammy.

So there are pros and cons all the way, but I tell you – one thing about doing these type of promotions – it makes the weekend a good fun ride, and it gives a girl some very small numbers to look at on the rankings. And for me, that makes a nice change.

The best I saw it on Amazon.com (US) during the promotion was at No. 35 Free, & No. 2 in ‘sport’. That’s pretty special.

If you picked up Fairway To Heaven over the weekend, thank you for giving my book some of your time. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love you to drop me a line and tell me what you thought: lilymalone@mail.com

Cheers!

Kindle readers: Fairway To Heaven is free this weekend

It’s a long weekend this weekend in Western Australia where I live. That seemed as good a time as any to make my golf romance, Fairway To Heaven free at Amazon for Kindle. I hope you get the chance to snap it up, and if you enjoy it, please tell your friends.

lily2When Jennifer Gates drives to Sea Breeze Golf Club to kick off date-night with her boyfriend, the last thing she expects is to find Golf-Pro Jack giving one of his lady students a private—and very personal—lesson in bunker-play.
Lucky for Jenn, her best friend gives her the keys to the Culhane family’s beach shack on the white-pepper shores of Western Australia’s Geographe Bay. Jenn hopes a weekend on the coast with her young son will give her the space she needs to rebuild her confidence after Jack’s betrayal.
But she’s not the only person seeking sanctuary by the sea. Brayden Culhane is there too, and Jenn can’t look at Brayden without remembering the tequila-flavoured kiss they shared on the shack steps years ago.
As long-buried feelings are rekindled, and a friendship is renewed, Jenn knows it is more than lazy summer days bringing her mojo back. Romantic sunsets, ice-cold beers and the odd round of golf can only go so far, because this time, trusting Brayden with her heart won’t be enough. Jenn has to learn to trust her body, too.

Buy links:

Amazon US

Amazon AUS

Amazon UK

A Different Kind of Heroine

Since I wrote and published Fairway To Heaven in January 2014, the most common reaction readers have had to the story (apart from enjoying it – thank goodness) is to ask me: “why did you write a heroine with a fanny problem?” You can insert your own word for ‘fanny’ into that sentence! For my part, I refer to Jenn’s ‘dodgy vagina’ quite openly (okay, some have said ‘explicitly’) in the book, and I did this primarily because I wanted to raise awareness about a sexual health problem for a growing number of women (and men) around the world.

Lichen Sclerosus is not cancer, and it won’t kill you (although – if it’s unchecked, there are somelinks with vulval cancer). It can be pretty damn hard to live with and manage though, and the most frustrating thing seems to be that, like many auto-immune chronic-type problems, no one really knows what causes it, and although the condition can be managed, there is no cure.

So writing a heroine with a fanny problem makes Fairway To Heaven a very contemporary romance, and a rather unusual one. While I am all for reading for escapism, I have reached the stage where I’m tired of the heroine seeing stars at the touch of her hero’s hand. I like my romance to be real. (Unless I’m reading Twilight, of course. Then they can all have skin that sparkles like diamonds, and drink ‘vegetarian’ blood, and there can be werewolves, and I shan’t bat an eyelid.)

So why did I write Lichen sclerosus into Jenn’s body, and my book?

When my kids were toddlers, I met two other mums in the playground. They had older children a similar age to mine, and younger babies that were usually in prams, or kicking on rugs. I think women generally tend to be quite frank with each other, and I think that when they have young children, women open up even more about physical matters. Any pregnant woman can probably vouch for a horror birth story she’s been told by a complete stranger on a bus! This is where I first heard of Lichen Sclerosus (in the playground, not on a bus) because one of these women had been having awful trouble resuming any kind of sex life in the months after the birth. She put it down to the physical trauma of a tough delivery… but discovered later it was a completely different kind of problem.

There is a scene in Fairway To Heaven where Jenn meets another mum in a playground near the jetty at Busselton, where most of the story is set. Their conversation isn’t about ‘dodgy vaginas’… but that conversation in the book has some of the feel of my conversations in those playground days.

When the book begins, Jenn doesn’t know what her sexual issue is. She thinks it’s hormonal, and doctors haven’t been able to give her any firm diagnosis. She discovers her partner (father of her son) cheating on her, and blames her inability to have sex, for her partner’s betrayal.

Early in the book Jenn states to her best friend: “I just want sex to feel normal again. I don’t have to see stars. I don’t want multiple orgasms. Normal. Do you think that’s possible?” 

P1020188So Jenn’s very personal quest to repair her shattered ego, and regain her sexual mojo, begins when she leaves the city with her son and goes to spend time at her best friend’s beach shack at Busselton.

Some reviewers have called my book “brave” for its focus on a heroine with a sexual problem. I don’t know if it’s brave, but if I can raise some awareness about this as an area of our medicine that needs research and attention, then I think as a writer, that’s a very positive thing.

I would like to thank the two gynecologists who gave their time to help me understand this issue for women during the writing of Fairway To Heaven. There are some excellent resources on the web about Lichen Sclerosus. I have linked to some below.

http://www.caredownthere.com.au/index.html

http://lichensclerosus.org/main-information/

I wish ‘mum’ was the word

I know of writers who have their mum as top of the ‘critique’ list. Their mum reads every word they write, gives feedback, and feels part of the process through the whole crazy trip.

My mum’s not like that. I didn’t tell any family or friends I had started writing romance for a very long time and it was only when my entry made the final of the 2012 First Kiss competition (RWA) that I dared breathe a word about my writing to anyone.NewFinalFair#2

If anything, my poor mum has suffered at the hand of my art, on the great old adage of: “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” She asked me once why I write such “awful” mothers. In my usual spin-doctor way, I said: “It’s a good thing mum. I have to make this stuff up because you did such a great job, and I had such a happy childhood… and who ever reads a book about a girl with a perfect childhood?”

No one. Exactly. (And I should put the disclaimer in here right now that my mum did do a wonderful job and both me and my sister turned out fine!)

In His Brand Of Beautiful, Christina’s mother abandons her as a 4 year old girl and runs off to join a cult.

In The Goodbye Ride, Olivia’s mum is borderline obsessive-compulsive, keeping the cleanest house you’ve ever seen, and has tried to commit suicide at least once after the death of Olivia’s younger brother.

My mum has read both HBOB and TGR. I printed the pages for her and passed them on and after mum finished, I know she gave them to at least one aunt.

But Fairway To Heaven was a bit different. I hadn’t printed Fairway out for mum – she’d never asked me to – but I have a hunch I knew printing Fairway for her would be asking for trouble. I thought I could hide Fairway safely behind my mother’s lack of technological know-how. But she and my sister tricked me.

It turns out my sister bought my mum a Tablet for Christmas, and so my mother now has the power for one-click e-book purchasing. I’m still trying to get my head around this as Mum-Malone comes from the generation that thinks the touching of a mouse is precursor to breaking the Internet.

So last week in the school playground as we were waiting to gather up my kids, and her grandkids (my sister’s boys) from school, mum looks me in the eye and says: “So, I read your book.”

About this point, my heart takes a bit of a dive. It’s not that Fairway is steamy, it’s actually quite sweet compared with the other two books I’ve written. The problem is it is very realistic, sometimes “explicit” in terms of describing a physical problem that lovely Jennifer Gates has, that makes it difficult for her to engage in rumpy pumpy with her hero. It’s also in first person, which automatically makes it personal. (To a mother, anyways).

So this is how the playground conversation goes:

Mum: “So I read your book.”

Me: “How? I didn’t print it for you.”

Mum: “Your sister bought me a Tablet for Christmas.”

Me: “Aah. Sneaky. So did you like it?”

Mum: “Yes…” Hesitantly, as one of our charges takes a wild ride down the slide knocking another kid at the bottom, and I’m distracted. “But, love, it’s very realistic.”

About now, I know where this conversation is going… and it’s really not the type of discussion fit for the kindergarten playground.

Mum presses on: “I mean, your husband’s name starts with B, and you’ve got Brayden in the story… and his birthday is May 24th in the book, which is the same… and so I have to ask…”

Me: as my son wrestles his cousin to the ground in the sandpit. “No mum, you really don’t have to ask.”

Mum: “Well, love. I mean… that problem the girl has in the book?”

Me: trying to check if any other mothers are in earshot. “It’s fiction, Mum.”

Mum: “But how would you know about this… stuff otherwise?”

Me: flapping a hand at her:  “It’s called research, Mum.”

About now, my youngest gets his fingers stepped on and he lets out a squawk, and I am able to drag both boys from the playground with “say goodbye to Nanna” all-round.

As I’m pretty sure she hasn’t worked out how to Google, I’m sure she will ask again. Hopefully she picks a place more conducive than the school playground to have a discussion about why I gave my heroine a dodgy vagina. (Let’s hope it’s not at my hubby’s birthday lunch in a couple of months!)

(p.s. Love you, Mum) xx

To prove I’m not dreaming…

lily2I have rubbed my eyes. I have checked it’s not April 1st.

My little golf (that’s not golf at all) book, Fairway To Heaven, reached 250 on the Kindle Paid Chart Australia today. I got so excited, I had to post it somewhere and I figure my blog is as good a spot as any.

 

 

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #250 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#1 in Sea Adventures

Sea Adventures!! How gorgeous is that… It makes me think of swashbuckling pirates and buccaneers and Moby Dick, mermaids and giant waves… not peaceful, serene, Geographe Bay in Busselton, West Australia. But if ‘Sea Adventures’ is coastal, then colour me a ninja dolphin, and watch me wag my tail!

Wow. I’m feeling very lucky, and very chuffed this afternoon. (Given it’s Monday!) Thank you for indulging me!

Dolphin Ninja
Dolphin Ninja says come on a Sea Adventure with me!

Buy Fairway To Heaven at Amazon Australia: click here.

 From March 2 to March 8, you can get Fairway free at Smashwords, on a special promotion. Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/394129

I’m in the mood for a Valentine’s Day sale

For Valentine’s Day I’m putting my two self-published titles, Fairway To Heaven (the newie) and The Goodbye Ride (novella) on sale exclusively at Amazon. 99 cents folks both books! One day only.

Buy now: Fairway To Heaven
Australia for Kindle
US for Kindle
UK for Kindle

Buy now: The Goodbye Ride
Australia for Kindle
US for Kindle
UK for Kindle

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Breakfast, and cricket. What are you doing this Australia Day?

AustraliaDaybloghop2014How are you spending Australia Day? Near to where I live, the local Lions Club is hosting a free breakfast in the Park. It’s a great family fun day of sausages, eggs and bacon, with music, and the annual awarding of a local Citizenship Award recognising those stellar locals who show great community spirit.

Community is big in regional Australia and with small town values of friendship and fair play, it’s probably no surprise that small rural towns make such great settings for novels.

My new release Fairway To Heaven is a summer story, set on the beaches at Busselton on the shores of beautiful Geographe Bay. It’s a real town. It’s a real book. You’ll find no ‘escapism’ or ‘purple prose’ here. It’s golf – but not as you know it, and (because I’m sporty) I’ll take a bet that it’s romance too, just not as you might expect.

“Don’t let a lack of interest in golf put you off this book. Because it’s fabulous!”
All The Books I Can Read (23 January 2014).

“This was an absolute find. I laughed so hard at one point in time I ended up pouring tea on myself.” Georgina Penney (9 January 2014).

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How will you spend Australia Day? Leave me a comment to win an e-copy of my book. You can double your chances to win if you also LIKE me on Facebook, or FOLLOW me on Twitter while you’re at it. You can learn more about my three published novels to date by visiting the My Books menu on this site.

When you’ve finished having your wicked way with me, please return to Book’d Out, to learn about more wonderful Australian Authors, and do it all over again! Return to base by clicking here. Thank you Book’d Out for hosting me!

Bunker Play Blog Hop and Giveaway

Hi, I’m Lily, and I am an addict.

Lily Malone
Lily Malone

I’m addicted to sport. All sports, except those involving cars or motorbikes. (With apologies to Juanita Kees who loves V8s, and Peter Brock who was a darn amazing hero).

If I list highlights of my life, sporting stories will often leap to the front. For example: watching Viv Richards play cricket for Glamorgan during a visit to England about 25 years ago, and chatting up one of the security guys during a rained-out Test Match at Lords.

(I got the guy, but never did get to see a ball bowled…)

After a day out at the Adelaide Oval for a test match about five years ago, I encountered the late Tony Greig with Bill Lawry, as my girlfriend and I took a shortcut through (obviously) some place we shouldn’t have been in our efforts to make a fast getaway from the ground.

Tony Greig said: “Security, arrest those women!”

I’m glad to say, he was joking. We stayed out of jail to watch cricket for another day.4345176

Aussie Rules football, cricket, rugby union, tennis, golf. Winter olympics. Summer olympics. Commonwealth Games. I’ll watch swimming, cycling, horse-racing, polo. I’ve even got into Le Tour de France in recent years.

I have seen the Black Caviar documentary on Australian Story at least three times, and I cry every time. I sat up late to watch her win at Royal Ascot in England in 2012: the race she so nearly lost.

The hairs rise on the back of my neck anytime I think of the gold medal Kieren Perkins won in the 1500m freestyle at the Atlanta olympics in 1996 swimming from lane 8; and there’s a horse race from 1986 in which two Kiwi horses, Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star ran neck and neck down the home strait with Bonecrusher narrowly winning the Cox Plate. I cannot watch this without holding my breath and getting goosepimples all over.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu_umn8F-WY

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I wish I could say that the inspiration for Fairway To Heaven was golf and sport only, but it wasn’t. It was a little gem. A dark blue gem called a ‘sapphire’ that was the theme jewel for the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia short story anthology, Little Gems.

You see, about the time the call for entries to Little Gems came out, I mentioned to hubby that I was interested in playing golf again. He started researching clubs for me and he came up with Cobra Sapphires. And all of a sudden, I had a great idea for using ‘sapphire’ in a short story.

In the e-book version of Fairway To Heaven, I include my Little Gems story at the back. It was 3000 words, and it fleshed out to be 81,000. A gold-medal-winning effort at extrapolation if I say so myself.

One day, I will write a cricket romance. I’ll base my hero on Warney. Lout, rogue and all. Because I do love a good lout.

Now I need the RWA Committee to come up with a gem that reminds me of Shane, so that I can write cricket into the story. Diamonds perhaps. I’m sure he had a stud once. (Yes! Of course I mean, in his ear!)

I hope you’re enjoying the Bunker Hop to celebrate the release of Fairway To Heaven. (You can read more about the book in the ‘My Books‘ section of this website).

You can win an e-gift pack of my three books published to date, Fairway To Heaven, His Brand Of Beautiful and The Goodbye Ride if you tell me in the comments below of the most memorable sport moment you can recall in your life. (This is open to International & Australian entries).

There are some wonderful writers involved in the Bunker Play Blog Hop and Australian entries can win a major prize of a gift pack from me, filled with yummy delights (and a copy of Kate Belle’s book, The Yearning). Please navigate back to Blog Hop HQ using the link below, to see more sporty posts from sporty writing gals! 

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