When your Happily Ever After Gets REAL

Today, I’m jitterbugging all over my office. It’s an exciting day for me, and I hope you’ll join the fun. Who doesn’t love happily ever after?

Good News: The final installment of the Virtual Match romance series will be released by Roane Publishing on January 22, 2018

Yes, I’ve had the signed contract for some time. I probably already mentioned this news to my faithful Facebook followers.

However, I wasn’t authorized to share specifics–until today.

So let’s start with the gorgeous cover.

And then, to whet your appetite for the rest of Ronnie and Marcus’ story, here’s the official blurb:

Happily ever after collides with reality to make or break their love.

Systems architect Marcus Jordan proclaims his love for career girl Veronica Shay, but life keeps hurling obstacles into their relationship. When Ronnie’s niece is born prematurely, Ronnie rushes to be the big sister Tony needs, knowing she is to blame for his fear of failing at fatherhood.

Marcus decides to help put their daddy issues to rest, but his discovery sends Ronnie into a tailspin. Ronnie already knows trusting men risks her heart and stability. Why would she want to meet the first man who rejected her?

An even bigger secret about Ronnie’s father convinces Ronnie to give him one chance to explain, never knowing it will bring her face to face with the true source of her trust issues.  Will the revelation come too late to restore the happiness she’d found with Marcus?

Now comes the part where you get to show your excitement. 

As always, there will be a week of promotional posts when the book releases. And I need your help. If you have a Twitter account, or a Facebook profile or a blog, would you be willing to Tweet or post about the release on January 22?

If so, please click on this link. It will take you to my publisher’s official promotional tour page. Fill it out so you can get all the goodies needed to build your post for the BIG release.

Or maybe you know a book blogger? Or another romance author? I hope you believe in my writing enough that you could forward this link to those people, asking if they would support an independent author whose trying to get the word out.

As always, there will be a giveaway associated with the release, and I’ll make sure to pass along those juicy details as they become available.

To make sure you get all the details, special sneak previews and special access to review copies and giveaways, click here and I’ll send you a FREE romance to tide you over while you’re waiting.

You haven’t started this series yet? Why not check out the first book, Reality Meets its Match now?

Now to dance a little over my real life happily-ever-after.

What I’m Writing these Days

If you follow me on Facebook, you get a monthly update of my writing projects. If you don’t, you’re going to get one now.
I’m an author so I write. I wish I could say that I only write things I LOVE and am jazzed to sit behind my laptop day-in and day-out pounding away on my wireless keyboard (which is missing seven letters and throws me off when I look at it to type).
I write blurbs and other marketing copy. When I’m selling or pitching a book to agents and editors, I pen query letters, outlines and synopsis (*cringes typing the word*).
What I write most often: blog posts.
You know, like this one.
Sometimes I even have interesting content or “high concept” ideas. Most of the time I feel like I’m shooting a post into the dark abyss of virtual space…hitting nothing, reaching no one.
So if there’s something you wish I would blog about, please complete the contact form here on the site…or leave a comment on this post.
My love is fiction and especially fantasy. Unfortunately, the market for that is rather soft and in order to “sell” a manuscript now and again, I write romance.

But I’m usually working on multiple projects at one time.

Fiction Projects

Unfortunately, there is no fantasy writing on my horizon. Even though I have an amazing dragon-covered Write Mind planner waiting for the magic of a new world with quests and magicians, I don’t know when I’ll get to write fantasy again.

I need to focus on writing things that sell.

At the moment, I have two projects that I’m guaranteed to sell.
The first is a short story (really more of a novelette) for the ONE SULTRY AFTERNOON anthology my publisher is planning for the summer of 2018.
Here’s a quick summation:

Ivory is in Leavenworth to earn money for her college education by guiding rafts on the river. Her boyfriend graduated and headed to the East coast without a backward glance, so Ivory isn’t looking for romance. Not even a sumer fling.
Prescott survived leukemia as a child only to become touch sensitive as a teenager. When he dropped out of college to pursue his painting, his photographer uncle opened his home in Leavenworth, in exchange for help manning the gallery and gift shop. The rugged beauty of the Alpine village of Washington inspires his creativity.
When they run into each other on a hiking trail, all their plans derail. But love is always a choice, and unless Prescott can overcome his fear of living he’ll never convince Ivory to choose him.

The second project is a novella for a 2018 release in the First Street Church Kindle World of Sweet Grove, Texas. While writing my debut in this world (coming November 15), I stumbled upon a minor character who’s about to run headlong into LOVE’S LITTLE SECRET.
Read on for the brief overview:

Norma Wells works at Sweet Grove High to nurture students, always aware of her own barrenness. She doesn’t understand why God didn’t grant the desires of her heart. At her Silver Anniversary party, she learns the reason her husband had no desire to pursue fertility specialists.
Herman Wells doesn’t deny that the Hispanic boy who crashes the Silver Anniversary party is his son. When he’d been the District Manager, he’d spent half of every month in New Mexico where he’d rescued Osaria and fallen in love with her. Or at least the idea that she needed him while his wife seemed content to build a life without him.
When Herman’s secret rocks their world, Norma has to decide if she can forgive her husband and welcome his now-motherless son. Herman wishes dealing with this fallout was the worst of his problems because when the pink slip comes, everything he build his life around tumbles around his ears.
An unlikely matchmaker seeks to reignite the love that life’s hardships snuffed out. Will Norma’s wish for motherhood come too late? Can Herman discover the most important truth before he loses everything?

Both of these are rough sketches, but hopefully they give you an idea.
I’m also working on edits for:

  • Love’s Late Arrival (due to release on November 15, 2017)
  • Reality Ever After (due to release on January 22, 2018)

My plan is to draft another two novellas in Sweet Grove for National Novel Writing Month OR to write the sequel novel to the women’s fiction novel I need to flesh out before trying to market it again.
What to write? What to write?

Nonfiction Projects

In my original business plan, my goal was to write two Bible study books each year. Unfortunately, that has never happened.
At the moment, I have four or five scattered ideas for studies but nothing concrete enough to begin working on. So it looks like there won’t be a new study in 2017.
The other nonfiction project I’m working on is the Christian living book about struggling through the aftermath of grief. I’ve been writing vignettes and Bible expository segments since 2015.


After meeting with a memoirist and getting feedback from two agents, I’ve got fresh ideas for how to approach this book. Now to be in the right state of mind to work on it.
What do I mean?
This project is an emotional vampire. I can never write more than one section on a given day. And it might drain me so I can’t touch the project again for a week.
But it’s the project I know God wants me to write, so I will do it. But it isn’t a project I can force myself to work on, so I have to pray and trust that He will guide me through it.
Eventually, I’ll market this book to Christian agents and publishers, but I’ll give myself a deadline for acceptance. If I don’t get it, then I’ll indie publish it.
But that is a LONG way off. Probably somewhere in my three-year plan.

A Three-Year Plan

In the coaching session of the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference, Susan May Warren challenged her students to do the math and figure out how many novels, novellas, short stories, whatever they could write in a year.
When I’m on a roll, writing 1,000 words an hour is pretty common. Which means I can crank out 5,000 words in my five-hour writing day.
When we’re talking about the short fiction I’m writing for my publisher’s summer anthology, that means I can draft the story in a week. Those novellas I’m writing for the Kindle World? It will take five or six days to pen those first drafts.
You do the math. How many novellas could I write in a year at this rate?
Except for drafting them is the easy part.
According to Warren, I need to plan an equal amount of time for rewriting, revising, editing and polishing. (So the 25,000 word novella will take 10 to 12 days to be ready for beta readers.)
Still, if I focused on writing only short fiction, I could realistically churn a novella out each month (as long as my editor and cover designer could match my pace).
Whew!
If people purchased these, and I was an indie author earning 70 percent of the sale price, I could make some money. Maybe even support myself solely by writing.
Of course, that’s a big IF.

And rather than dream about this possible paycheck, I’d better get back to writing.

What would you like me to blog about? What genre would you like me to write in? What advice or encouragement do you have for this bumbling author?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Five Reasons I Love my Small Publisher

I’m a full-time author. I have multiple short story publishing credits with two separate small, independent publishers. This month, I published a novella with my first publisher.

Now available
Now available

I’m a “real” writer. I have an Amazon author page. I’m qualified as a Goodreads author. If that’s not enough, surely my website and business cards will prove it.

In the past, I strove to be traditionally published. Every manuscript was marketed to agents who have inroads with editors at the Big Houses. I figured these gatekeepers would insure that I didn’t put my work out there before it was ready.

But I would have zero publishing credits if I hadn’t changed my mindset.

I’m thankful for the ever-growing population of independents publishers with qualified editors and artists at their helm.
I adore the hard work these people do. They’re entrepreneurs with a love for authors, books and readers. In other words: my kind of people.

I wouldn’t trade my experiences with my two small publishers for anything. Here are five reasons why I especially love them.

RoaneHeader
They always respond to every query

I’ve sent out hundreds of novel queries over the past three years. In that time, I’ve garnered a dozen or so “no thanks, but good luck”
form-letter replies.
Every submission to a small publisher netted me a personal response. Even if they said, “no thanks” it was written in a way I know the person who read the query wrote the letter.
And I have to say, I’m sick of hearing nothing. Because “due to the high volume of queries, we can only respond to manuscripts we’re interested in.”
Seriously? It takes so long to hit “reply” and copy and paste one of those form letters into the email?
Yeah. The message here is: we’re too important to spend even a minute responding to your crappy idea/query/whatever.

They’re prompt with payment

Okay, I’ve had a 50/50 experience with this, but the publisher who hasn’t paid me yet, isn’t behind with the royalties. In all fairness, I submitted to a charity anthology, so earnings from the first 500 copies were supposed to benefit a non-profit.
The publisher I have most of my work with pays promptly after the end of each quarter. The titles and sales numbers are plainly accounted for.
This is the same regularity I get from Amazon with my self-published Bible studies and Biblical fiction novella. And Amazon is a massive corporation.
Kudos to any small business who has the same consistency.

M9B Friday Reveal

They treat me like a person

Not only do I know the managing editor and marketing director by first name, they know me. If I ask them a question using Facebook Messenger, they respond. I’ve had several lengthy conversations about general policies, specific projects and promotions.
It’s nice to know I’m not a number on a spreadsheet somewhere. I’m an author who they respect as an integral part of the success of their business.

My input on covers is welcomed

If you get a contract with Random House or another major publisher, you won’t have an opinion about anything.
Well, you might be able to fight against some content edits. But when it comes to covers? Their designer will make all the decisions.
I’ve heard of authors being given four options and the one they chose wasn’t used. Why? Apparently, someone knows more about the importance of a cover than they did.
I’m in the process of writing a three-book series with Roane Publishing for their Novella Niblets line. I’ve already discussed how to keep the continuity in the covers and their designers were more than happy to spend HOURS tossing ideas at me.
Also, this is a “digital-only” line. However, the managing editor is open to discussing the possibility of taking them to print. (Because there’s something about holding your book in your hand and sniffing the pages.)

They pay better than the Big Five

It’s not about the money for me. Which is great because I don’t make much. According to the Tax Man, I’m earning in the negatives.
But my contracts with the small publishers offer me HALF of their net profit on every title. A traditional contract would have me splitting 40 percent (or less) with an agent.
I love my small publishers. Which is why I promote their other titles here and on my social media accounts. They don’t get the same sort of exposure.
You can show a little love for them, too. Buy their titles. Review the books on major retail sites.
What do you love about the company you work for?

This is Me … Begging

Logo GradientI am amazed and thrilled that nearly 300 people in a world of seven billion subscribe to my blog. And yet, I’m going to beg all of you for a small favor.

Before you delete this email, I promise to make my plead short and sweet.

I would love for you to subscribe to my infrequent update mailing list. At the moment, less than seven percent (7%) of the incredible readers of this blog do.

All you have to do is click here and fill in three short blanks and hit the “submit” button. Easy – peasy.

Why I ask

Being able to contact people interested in reading what I write is essential to building a writing career. The number one way marketing gurus everywhere agree to do this is to have a list of email addresses of people who WANT to read your stuff.

Is that you? If so, I promise not to fill your email inbox with junk. In six months, I have sent exactly THREE newsletters.

Think you might be interested? Sign up here.

What You’re Signing up For

newsletterIf you complete this form, you’re telling me it’s OK with you if I send you information about upcoming book releases. I also might send information about personal appearances (but I don’t have any of these on my immediate horizon).

This isn’t a weekly newsletter. It probably won’t even wing its way to you on a monthly basis.

I will give you a hint, though. This fall, I have two exciting new releases on the schedule. Once I have specific details, people signed up for my newsletter will get all the details.

I’m also offering access to a subscriber-only short story. When you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get access to the story.

The newsletters will offer special promotional prices and easy links for purchasing from your favorite retailer.

I appreciate you reading to the end of this post.

I love you if you sign up for the newsletter. Click. Complete. Submit.

You make my world a better place.

End of this begging session. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

Road to Self- Published – Promoting your Release Date

release date

This whole “promoting” thing just isn’t my thing. It feels like tooting my own horn. Or going door-to-door with a case of encyclopedias.

Sure, I mentioned every stage of writing this book on my Facebook page. I posted about my release date on social media forums, but it felt superficial.

How do you promote your release date? What do the pros have to say about it?

The most important thing to do, they say, is build up an email address list. When they time is right, blast these people with information about your new work in well-timed increments. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Or not.

As of this writing, I have seventeen addresses on my email list. Yes, as in NOT EVEN TWENTY.

And I’ve done everything the experts recommend except create a pop-up for every visit to my site. (I hate pop-ups. Don’t you? I don’t want to be that person.)

Creating an Email List

Every page of your website should have a prominent display for signing up for a newsletter.

I can check that off. Except…I fear I may have confused people because I have a space to follow my blog posts (and 200 people do follow it) right above the newsletter sign-up.

Whoops!

The newsletter sign-up is a relatively new addition to the site. I’m getting ready to mail out only my second newsletter this Friday. It announces – you guessed it – the upcoming release. And offers links to my site and the purchase pages.

The logic behind collecting email addresses is that people are asking YOU for something. They WANT to hear about your upcoming books and events. You aren’t spamming them with information they never asked for in the first place.

Social Media

I hear mixed things about using social media to promote your book’s release date.

First of all, you should have a presence on your media sites of choice BEFORE you start slamming everyone with requests to purchase your book. Show up and talk to people about things that interest you.

Share their Tweets. Like their posts and pages. Be authentic.

When you’re ready to release your book, don’t hammer your feed with the same link over and over again. I’m aiming for once per day for ten days leading up to the release. Then once per day for the first week.

After that, I hope people will be Tweeting or posting reviews about my book. Then I can share their comments, keeping the subject alive without looking like all I ever do is shove my book in people’s faces.

There might be a science to this, but I don’t know it.

Street Team

Okay, I failed at this.

I tried to find some people – even friends and family – who would willingly read an advanced copy of my book and post a review of it.

My sister and three of my writing friends signed up. I don’t know if any of them will actually finish the book (well, my sister did), or write a review once the book is up on Amazon and Goodreads (which it should be tomorrow or Monday, April 27).

I sent them an email offering a link to a private page on my website that listed simple things they could post each day on the social media venue of their choice. I tried to keep these blurb-ish statements short enough for Twitter. Most of them include links to the order page or my website.

Image by Tim Grahl timgrahl.com

The truth is – I don’t want to promote Reflections from a Pondering Heart. It doesn’t feel like the story belongs to me.

It is an important story, though. I want people to read it. I pray it helps them gain a better perspective of people from the Bible we often ideal-ize.

They can’t read it if they don’t know it exists. They won’t know it exists unless the word gets out. Somehow.

Aren’t there some Book Promo Brownies who take care of this sort of thing?

What would you add to this discussion? What do you feel is the best way to promote your book’s release date?

Additional Resource: Book Publishing Guide

Road to Self-Published – Using CreateSpace

roadto selfpublished

If you’re new to this whole “Be your own Publisher” reality, I’m right there with you. Even though the CreateSpace environment is user-friendly, it isn’t self-explanatory. Choosing the correct categories, perfect metadata fields and pricing your book require some research.

To this end, doing a Google search will garner millions of page results, but won’t filter the useless tripe from things that will actually help you. (Yes, I did test this out so you don’t have to.)

My Resources

I’m sure you’ve already spent time browsing Amazon in your book’s category. You can get an idea about the best pricing structure here. You can also determine which BISAC category is the best fit for your book (more on that later).

Before you get too far in the process, you should read a few books on self-publishing that address pricing and categories. I suggest:

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran – The most important information I gleaned from this book is all the specifics about getting the manuscript ready to publish. He offers specs for covers that I sent directly to my designer. The whole process feels doable once I read this book.

How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn – Penn breaks down marketing into digestible chunks. She address the importance of key words and categories. If you don’t know what meta-data is (and I didn’t), this book will help.

Working with CreateSpace

It will take a few hours to shuffle through the four sections for your new publishing project at createspace.com.  I recommend setting up the account before you’re ready to upload a file.

Inside your profile, there are links to information about every aspect of the process. Take some time to explore this. It might save you time when you return to “get serious” creating your book’s profile.

Setup

The Setup of your new book requires four steps: 1) title information, 2) ISBN, 3) interior and 4) cover.

To complete the title information, you will enter the title and subtitle of your book. This information can be changed later, so don’t sweat it if you aren’t settled on your title when you first start the process.

Enter your name as the primary author. You can also add co-authors, editors, cover artists or anyone else who deserves acknowledgement on this project. (The names you add here will appear on the product information screen.)

On the ISBN page, you select one option for your International Standard Book Number. I allowed CreateSpace to assign my number for this project. One reason you wouldn’t want to do this is if you were planning to sell to retailers NOT listed as approved by CreateSpace.

You can purchase an ISBN that could be used on all distribution channels. The cost can be as little as $29 or as much as $129. Check out the Publisher Services site for more information and details.

Before you spend tons of time formatting your interior, I suggest downloading the sample templates provided by CreateSpace. These are based on the physical size of your book (if you are having a print book made). I didn’t do this on my first round and it caused quite a few layout issues.

You can upload .rtf, .pdf, .doc or .docx files for this step. I used their MS Word template and found making changes during the review process was much easier using this type of file. (You won’t be able to make any changes to the document online. Save it to your data storage location so you can update it and then resubmit when it’s fixed).

I didn’t use their cover creator since I hired a professional designer. I did download the PDF describing the dimensions and resolutions, though, and forwarded it to my cover artist. He used the information to make sure the cover looked perfect on the print book.

Review and Distribute

Once you have set everything up, you submit the file for review by the CreateSpace team. The website says it might take as much as 24 hours for your files to be approved. I had the approval in about two hours.

You’ll return to your account and they will tell you any problems they found with your files. You can fix them or decide to order a proof and view them for yourself. Until you approve the proof, your book won’t be available to the public.

Using the Distribute section, you determine what channels you would like to sell your book through, the price, the cover finish for your print book and the description that will appear on the sales page.

The description page needs special attention. The BISAC category you choose will determine the Amazon selling charts. Another thing to pay close attention to is the search key words. In Joanna Penn’s book, she describes the best methods for determining these.

There’s so much more to self-publishing than I had ever suspected. I’m glad for the number of successful indie authors willing to share their expertise and experiences.

Additional Resource: Book Publishing Guide

Perhaps you noticed I’ve changed my posting days. I’ve decided to post on Mondays and Thursdays so the content doesn’t barrel at you at the first of the week and the last of the week. I have mixed data about which days get the most views and shares, so I might experiment with Tuesday and Friday postings if I see a drop in activity.
Do you have a preference?