Fairway’s Great Escape Story

About a year ago I made a big decision. It was to offer my self-published book, Fairway To Heaven to Escape Publishing to see if they liked it, and FairWayToHeavenFinal-harlequin 200_200x315wanted to re-publish it in the Escape stable.

Escape’s managing editor, Kate Cuthbert, sent me a lovely note saying, “this book was great” and from that point on, deal memos and contracts were signed. I hit the ‘unpublish’ button at Amazon to remove Fairway To Heaven from sale and it took four or five months before the book appeared again for sale, under Escape and Harlequin’s banner, in April 2015.

Fairway to Heaven got a new cover. It went through an edit with lovely Laurie Ormond, but other than a few changes to the ending, it remained the very same book it had always been. I joke with my writing friends about Fairway as “The Dodgy Fanny” book. It is a book that takes risks both with the heroine (Jenn’s) story, and for her love interest, (Brayden). Some readers have found it too explicit but not because of the sex – more for the medical issue that plagues Jenn’s life and that she must resolve, during the book. 

It’s quite something to have a “dodgy fanny book” in your portfolio… 🙂 

In this ever-changing publishing environment, many aspiring and established authors wonder about the merits of self-publishing versus going with a traditional publisher. I thought long and hard about it too. I had one title (my first title – His Brand Of Beautiful) with Escape, and after that I self-published two other works, Fairway To Heaven and The Goodbye Ride.

Now, all my books are contracted to Escape and I no longer have any titles self-published. In the end, I think it comes down to what individual authors are seeking from their writing, and what stage they might be in their careers. For me, the motivation for moving from self-publishing was multi-factored. One was the ease of being with a major publisher – getting one royalty statement at Tax Time rather than trying to track Amazon sales against my bank statements.

The other was to engage the marketing expertise of Harlequin, the largest romance publisher in the world, and have them repackage Fairway (with new cover, new blurb etc).

By far the major factor was sales. I wanted better sales. My reviews and feedback for Fairway were excellent, but the book didn’t sell as a self-pubbed title.

In August, Fairway To Heaven became a Kindle Monthly Deal on Amazon Australia. In that month it hit the Amazon Top 100 which was the first time any book of mine had reached that level, and then it kept going. Top 50, Top 20, and the highest ranking I saw it reach was 12 overall and 5 in Contemporary Romance.

Fairway spent more than 20 days in the Top 100, and sales of my debut book, His Brand Of Beautiful also bounced to levels I hadn’t seen before. In October, His Brand Of Beautiful was a Kindle Daily Deal, reaching No 22 in the charts. During the time when both these books were doing well, my newbie, So Far Into You came up for pre-release, and pre-sales and sales in its early days have been wonderful, brilliant, great! (I’m not comparing to anyone except me!)

The good news didn’t stop there! Fairway To Heaven will be in a print book bind-up with Victoria Purman and Juliet Madison called More Time For The Beach, released in January 2015-16, but possibly on shelves in time for Christmas. Booktopia is selling it already on pre-order.

So from self-pubbed and wallowing, to a Kindle Monthly Deal, the Top 100, and now a print book bind-up. That’s pretty good going. It’s another tick on my writing bucket list. A print book! My first one.

More Time for the Beach

So that’s my Fairway To Heaven story. It’s not every self-published author’s story and it won’t suit every writer, but for me, I’m so very glad I made the decisions I did, and I’m very grateful to Kate Cuthbert and Escape Publishing for the opportunities they’ve given to me. 

Lots of Bookish News

Well, not heaps of bookish news, but some.

First, my next book for release, So Far Into You, is currently in the hands of one of the wonderful team of Harlequin editors, the lovely Belinda Holmes. Belinda has edited some of my work before, for an anthology called It Happened At Cafe Nix that was released by a group of Escape Publishing authors earlier this year. It made me all warm and fuzzy inside to think I’d be working with Belinda again.Lily's Nix cover

So Far Into You begins in Margaret River and moves to the Adelaide Hills, so it’s sort of mimicking my life. I was born near Margaret River and went to school here before moving to South Australia in late 2001 (although I’ve since moved back to Margaret River in 2013). The book is set in the wine industry and involves several events from my memories, the Margaret River Vintage Festival being one.

My early memories of the Margaret River Vintage/Wine Festival were way back when it was set in what was then a vacant lot (now a carpark and supermarket) beside the Settlers Tavern. I remember plank-walk races, and barrel races, and that the festival involved laughs, community, and drinking lots of wine.

So Far Into You begins with a meeting between the heroine, Remy, and the hero, Seth, at the Margaret River Wine Festival just prior to a storm that puts paid to the day. The book also includes some other favourite memories, such as bushwalking in spring and looking for orchids, which these characters do. Seth doesn’t know his donkey orchid from his cowslip, but Remy sets him straight.

Orchid spotting on a spring bush walk near where I live.
Orchid spotting on a spring bush walk near where I live.

I’ve been told the book will be ready for release in October 2015, which is very exciting!

Yesterday, I heard from Escape about my last remaining self-pubbed work, the novella, The Goodbye Ride. After picking up Fairway To Heaven last year (this too was originally self-pubbed), Escape Publishing has now agreed to take The Goodbye Ride into their expert hands.

For me right now, I’m moving away from self-pubbing my work and I’ve been happy with this decision.

Last, just for a change of pace. A few of us in our writing group, The Naughty Ninjas, challenged eachother to write a shapeshifter romance in the last week or so. So I just did that (you know, as you do). It’s about 3500 words, involving a prehistoric animal as the ‘shifter’… I don’t have a name for the story yet, but it might just find a home at Wattpad.

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.

NewFinalFair#2

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.

The Goodbye Ride – release day May 23

Cover design by Wendy Johnston of Bright Eyed Owl.
Cover design by Wendy Johnston of Bright Eyed Owl.

Your mission, Lily Malone, should you choose to accept it: Self Publish your new novella, The Goodbye Ride.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this past weekend, and my mission is a SUCCESS! Houston… we had no major problems! Just a little bit of techno-juggling between my MS Word laptop, and my Pages Mac, converting files from Pages to Word then to HTML… sending them to my Kindle so I could watch the e-book take shape and preview everything.

There was also a last minute read through by hubby (my Ducati Pantah 650 resident expert) to make sure I had all the engine details perfect. Ducati’s don’t purr you see, they have far too much of a “stonking v-twin” to purr… A Honda, however, does purr… (That’s why I need my husband!)

And my e-book is working fine! It was so exciting to send my own e-book to my Kindle and read it on there. I’ve even enjoyed adding in all those things like acknowledgements and dedications and promo material into the mix. I’m really happy with the story, and with how the e-book looks. I absolutely love The Goodbye Ride cover, designed by Wendy Johnston of Bright Eyed Owl.

I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned how to hyperlink within the book to create a Table Of Contents that actually works (squee moment), and how to create ‘guides’. My only hiccup was with the fonts – I lost all my italics – (heart attack moment), but I worked out what I’d done and managed to fix the problem. (By then, requiring a stiff Scotch moment).

The Goodbye Ride is now live on Amazon. It’s a few days early, but I have read so much about problems with uploading the files, or time delays in getting the book live, that I didn’t think it would matter to have it online a few days before its ‘official’ release.

But for followers and friends – please don’t rush out and buy it yet (unless you really can’t wait!). On its official Release Day – May 23 – you can get it free at Amazon (time differences and Pacific Standard Times vs Eastern Standard Time willing); and it will be free for several days. Watch here and on Facebook – I’ll be sure to let you know when!

In the meantime (like I said – if you can’t wait) buy it here.

You can also check out my page for The Goodbye Ride and add it to your TBR list at Goodreads.