My Old Fantasy Series gets a Facelift

This summer while I was on vacation from writing, I managed to get the “spring cleaning” done on my old books that I’ve been wanting to tackle for a couple of years.

Just this week, I finally updated the book covers for my fantasy series.

Here are the original covers:

a royal engagement ebook cover  royal hearts ebook cover  the royal pursuit ebook cover  royal heiress ebook cover

Here are the new covers:

A Royal Engagement new ebook cover  Royal Hearts new cover  The Royal Pursuit new cover  Royal Heiress new cover

I was never all that crazy about the original covers, but at the time I made them, I was in the middle of moving and had so many other things going on that I could not devote my full attention to the project. I loved the stories. (Still do.) I originally wrote these in the 1998-2004 time frame. I rewrote them in 2015 because the stories wouldn’t leave me alone. This was a 100% passion project. This series was never published with the mindset of making money. It was just about having them published because I loved them and wanted to see them out in the world (and especially on my Kindle).

But I was never thrilled with the covers. When the books came out, I figured I’d go back and give them better covers at some point. But then I got so caught up in writing romances. Yes, this fantasy series was my passion project, but my first love is romance. So I kept putting this series on the back burner. I did go back and add some spicy content last year (I think) to Royal Hearts and The Royal Pursuit because no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, the storytelling part of my brain kept telling me the stories weren’t complete until I added them. As soon as I added them, the stories finally felt done.

Now, I had no such compulsion to do that to The Royal Heiress, so I left that one alone. If I don’t think a story needs sex to make it complete, I don’t write it. I know that surprises a lot of people since I have sex in 95% of the stories I write, but once in a while, a storyline will come up that doesn’t need one.

I go with what is best for the story. I also vary how much spice to add to a book depending on what makes the story strongest. I never put anything into a story that’s filler. I only put in what makes it work. This doesn’t just go for sex. This goes for everything that makes its way into my books. Humor, drama, violence, action, any historical facts I learned while researching a topic to put in the book, etc.  I write whatever is needed for each and every scene. I hate sagging middles. I like to get to the point. So only what enhances the story to some degree will make it into my books. I’ve tossed out quite a few scenes along the way because when I finished the first draft, I realized they weren’t necessary.

Anyway, while I was searching pre-made covers on The Book Cover Designer, I realized that the “writing to market” voice started to rear its ugly head. (Old habits are hard to break.) Instead of looking at covers that appealed to me (the person who wrote the books), I was thinking, “What will so-and-so think?” “Am I branding these books correctly?” “What about consistency?” I had to stop myself in my tracks and remind myself of two very important facts. 1. This series doesn’t sell at all so it really doesn’t matter what others think of the covers. 2. Who cares what others think? These are my books. I can use whatever covers I want to.

As a side note: I have always used covers I wanted for my romances. This is why I don’t have scantly clad women or men on my covers, even though most of my romances have sex in them. I don’t like the covers that look as if the characters are ready to hop into bed. Sure, they might be ready to hop into bed during the course of the story, but that doesn’t mean that’s their goal. Their goal is to have a happy marriage. Their goal is the happily ever after ending. And I find that is best portrayed by the kinds of covers I do. I love the tenderness of an embrace or smile. I love pretty flowers and brides. Sure, marriage involves sexual activity, but it’s foundation is in the emotional connection between the characters. That’s why I choose the covers I do.

Anyway, now I’m 100% satisfied with this fantasy series and can move on to other things.

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My Editing Process

strive for progress not perfection

I don’t know if anyone is interested in this topic, but it keeps poking at me to write about, so I figure I might as well get it down. 🙂

Once in a while, someone will ask me, “Do you edit your books?” They also ask, “Are you the only person who edits your book?”

Yes, I edit my books. I edit them myself and I have a professional editor.

Without further ado, here is my process…

1. Initial edits. This is done by myself.

After I finish the first draft, I wait for a short time before I go in to do my initial edits. This stage is mostly about smoothing out the flow of the story. I reword awkwardly worded sentences. I look for typos. I look for consistency and timeline errors. I read through the whole book in the course of two weeks. I will set aside a certain number of chapters to go through each day. I usually do two chapters. Any more than that, and I tend to gloss over things. Needless to say, I don’t catch everything, so this is why I send the second draft off for other people to look at.

2. I send the book out to beta readers and my editor.

I give everyone one month to go through the book. I don’t believe in rushing through the editing process, so I give them plenty of time. That way they can go at their own pace.

Beta readers are not expected to edit. It’s nice when they pick out a typo if they find it, but the main reason I have them go over the book is to find out how the story “felt” to them. Do they like it? Why or why not? Are there any weak areas that can be tightened up? I know some authors send their betas a list of questions to go through, but I don’t do that. They can give me a sentence or two to let me know what they think. I have four beta readers. These are people I consider friends because I’ve known them for so long. I trust them and respect their opinion, and what’s best is that they love romance so they have their pulse on the genre I write. In return for their help, I give them a signed paperback copy or a free ebook copy when the book comes out as a way to thank them for their help.

My editor is the one who edits. I use Lauralynn Elliott, and she’s awesome. She does more than a simple proofread. She goes through the book with a fine-tooth comb. She’s extremely thorough, which is something I appreciate. I pay Lauralynn for what she does.

3. I go through final edits myself.

After I polish up the book from the feedback I get in step 2, I put the book into a mobi file and email it to my Kindle. I listen to the book using the text-to-speech feature on my Kindle. This stage is faster than stage 1 because I’m listening to the book. When I’m done, I fix anything else that needs to be fixed, and then I upload the final book for pre-order.

***

Does this mean all of us catch everything? Nope. A couple of errors still fall through. When I started self-publishing, I fretted over every single typo that made it into the final version of the book. There was a 70,000 word book I had out that I got a 2-star review on because it was “riddled with errors”. It turned out, I had one typo. Just one typo, and the reader (who was actually another author) felt it necessary to ding me in a review and claim the whole book was that way. It took years to overcome the need to make my book perfect. Perfection is a myth. It doesn’t exist.

So if someone out there is struggling with the same issue I was, I urge you to let go of the need for perfection. It’s impossible. Someone out there will find fault with your book for one reason or another. Life is too short to dwell on the negative. It’s best to focus on the positive. Some authors get so scared of publishing a book with a typo that they never publish a book. It’s just sad to see stories that are loved collecting dust. I’m not going to spend my life afraid of what the critic will say.

If someone can’t read a book without getting their red pen out, that’s their problem. It’s not yours. I’ve read plenty of books that had a typo or consistency error pop up, and I’m able to move past it because I’d rather focus on the story. I’ve also seen plenty of movies and TV shows where errors have cropped up. Does it mean I can’t bring myself to watch those TV shows or movies anymore? Nope. It just means that people aren’t perfect.

I hope whoever needs to hear this will take comfort in it.

Alright, I’m getting off my soapbox. 🙂

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If You Want to Write for Passion, Get Your Finances in Order

inspirational quote with orange and yellow gazania flowers on a

ID 121111302 © Kim Britten | Dreamstime.com

One thing I noticed with the books that are written to market is that most of them start to sound similar to one another.  Why? Because authors can’t afford to take risks with their writing. I know this because when I wrote to market, I went with what was safe. I scanned other books in my genre and picked out stuff (such plot, hero trope, and heroine trope) that seemed to resonated well with the greatest number of people. After a while, I felt boxed in. I felt like I had nothing fresh and new to offer. There were no story ideas that lit my writing self on fire because I’d already exhausted the safe stuff that interested me. I could never write something that went against my core values. I have to be comfortable with everything I write. Because of that, I ran out of things to write a lot faster than other authors would have.

I have noticed that books written to market tend to sell better. Obviously, there is a demand for those books, and they resonate with a lot of people for a reason. Maybe it’s the familiarity factor. I haven’t researched this idea, but the part of me that got a degree in Psychology is intrigued with this. If I had more time on my hands, I would delve further into this particular topic. But suffice it to say, my hypothesis on why writing to market is so lucrative is because most people gravitate toward things that are familiar to them. (Please note I wrote “most” people. There will be outliers. I happen to be an outlier. I hate the same old-same old. I love stuff that’s different, which is probably why I got bored writing to market.) Anyway, I think most people like picking a book where they know what to expect. That’s why I think there’s monetary value in writing to market. When you’re writing to market, you’re hitting up something that has already been established. It’s easier to ride the wave of what’s popular than to take risks with stuff that is different.

If you happen to be a writer who wants to write for passion, I think the path is going to be more difficult. After all the stuff I’ve read over the past 3-4 years, I think that most writers who embrace passion don’t make as much money as those writing to market do.

But there is hope for writers like us. It involves getting our financial house in order. The main reason writers are flocking to writing to marketing is money. If you can lower your dependence on book sales, you will free yourself up to writing what truly matters to you.

I know this isn’t easy. Most of us are not independently wealthy. We have to find a way to pay the bills and buy food. I totally understand because, even with a husband who is working, our four teenage sons eat all the time, and I have to use some of my writing money at the grocery store. But there are some expenses we can all cut back on. It’s a matter of searching them out.

I tracked my expenses for a couple of months like the financial experts suggest, and I was able to trim out some excess. The biggest one was eating out. I don’t enjoy cooking. I do it because it’s cheaper than eating out, and I’m finally at the point where I’m used to it. (In other words, I’m no longer grumbling about having to do it.) I also gave up my cell phone service. I am using a Google phone now. The Google phone hooks up to the internet so you don’t have to pay a telephone company or a cell phone company to use a phone. We cut out satellite. We shop at thrift stores for clothes (except for underwear; I can’t bring myself to wear underwear other people have worn). The Dollar Tree offers the same school supplies other stores do, though I notice even Walmart can be cheaper on some items, like Composition notebooks. I’ve learned to comparison shop and look for coupons. Also, we gave up newer cars to buy two 10+ year old vehicles, and we live in a house that is considered cheap in our area. When we bought the house, it was a fixer upper. We’ve been slowly working on the place as funds allow.

In my opinion, the best way to cut out expenses is to get out of debt because when you’re in debt, you’re making interest payments AND you don’t own the thing you’re paying on yet. Those interest payments can really add up. I know because my husband and I spent most of our 19 years of marriage living under the curse of debt. It wasn’t easy to get out of the debt mindset. When I lost half of my writing income in the span of a year, I realized how dangerous debt was. (For that alone, I can say losing money was a blessing in disguise.)

If you’re a writer who needs their writing income to make money right now, my advice is to write to market and get books out as fast as you can. Then save as much of the money you make as you can. A lot of authors will tell you to spend that money on ads, so be careful on how much you spend if you choose to do ads. I see ads as a short-term boost to sales. Already, some authors are seeing it losing effectiveness. And to be honest, I also think writing to market and publishing books quickly will also lose its effectiveness in the years to come. I just don’t see how the human brain can possibly keep up. I guess you could start farming out writing to ghostwriters, but then, what’s the point of being a writer if you’re having others create the stories for you?

For those who want to write for passion, cutting expenses, getting out of debt, and saving as much as you can are all things you can do to buffer yourself against the ups and downs of the indie publishing business. If you can get multiple streams of income coming in, then you’re in an even better position.

It’s been three years now since I got serious about being intentional with my money. I realized if I wanted to keep writing books, I was going to have to make sacrifices to get there. I needed to make myself as financially independent of book sales as possible. That way I could embrace the passionate side of writing and not worry about trying to market myself to the point where my health or my relationships were affected. I’ve heard of authors who’ve ended up with serious health issues and ending up in divorce because they made the pursuit of sales their main priority. I don’t want to end up like that. So that’s why I started cleaning up my financial house.

The changes I made that helped me get a better financial foundation were gradual. I started with a small change that didn’t scare me too much, and then I slowly added more changes as time went on. I’m still slowly adding more changes. This is a process. At least it’s been a process to me. I can’t go cold turkey on everything at once. I tried it, but I ended up falling back into old spending habits. I had to ease myself into the changes in order to make them permanent. I know Dave Ramsey talks about cutting everything out right away, but that didn’t work for me. If it works for you, then do it. You’ll progress faster than I did.

And now to my final thought on this topic…

When you start to feel discouraged (because the road to progress is never smooth), remind yourself of why you want to write for passion. Write it down if you need to. Get a picture to look at that inspires you to keep going. Print out an email from a reader who encouraged you. Whatever motivates you, do it. This is not going to be easy, but it’s worth it. If your main goal is to write books you love without having to worry about the ups and downs of sales, then getting your financial house in order will help you get there.

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