Updates On What I’m Doing

At long last, I have returned to writing romances. I needed the break in order to get my creative edge back, and working in other genres helps me do that. My first love is, and always will be, romance, but from time to time, I need to write something else. It’s why even within romance, I divide up my focus on Regencies and historical westerns. Once in a blue moon, I do a contemporary.

This is the point where I unintentionally went off on a tangent:

My mind can’t just single out one specific type of romance. I need a variety. It probably also explains the varying degrees of heat levels in my works, though I have learned to have at least one love scene in my romances so I don’t confuse anyone who only wants clean reads. I made that mistake early on, and two authors of clean reads wanted to cross promote with me, and I had to let them know the majority of my books aren’t a good fit for their audience. The last thing I want to do is lead someone to believe my book is something it’s not. I mean, I learned most of you guys will read a book with or without love scenes, but these authors who were approaching me strictly wanted clean reads. (And I know “clean” is subjective. I don’t consider my books “dirty”. I try to show the beauty of sex within a marital relationship. But everyone’s definition of “clean” varies. So I use “clean” to mean no sex.)

Seriously, I didn’t plan to add all of that when I started this post.

Back to the actual post:

My pen’s name stuff is off to the edits

This is why I can now focus on romance. Like I said, I was going through old stories I had done back in 2004-2006. I had published these with vanity presses, and a couple years ago, I finally got those old books taken off of sale. So I can finally revamp these stories and self-publish them.

My pen name will YA books. I’m going to do some fantasy and some thrillers. That’s why I’m separating it out from the name I do romances on. The audience is a separate audience. This is not going to be a name I do a lot under. My focus is still going to be on romance.

Anyway, I am going to take the short story I wrote in the Ink Slingers’ Anthology called The Very True Legends of Ol’ Man Wickleberry and his DemiseThe story I wrote is called “Body Swap”, and since it is a YA thriller, I’m going to put it under the pen name, Barbara Joan Russell.  I’ll keep the name the same.  I figured I should mention that just in case someone stumbles upon it under the pen name. This way, you’re aware of what’s happening. The story will stay as is under my Ruth name in the anthology. I hope that avoids any confusion in the future. Self-Publishing is great for flexibility, but I can how it can be complicated when authors start to do stuff like this. My goal is to branch off so I’m not writing thrillers and fantasies, or even YA stuff, to romance readers.

I am keeping the Enchanted Galaxy Series, Return of the Aliens, and Late One Night under “Ruth” because those are not YA books.

Now that I cleared that, off to the more interesting stuff I’m doing….

I’m adding an Epilogue to The Rejected Groom

This is Book 2 in the Misled Mail Order Bride Series. (Book 1 is The Bride Price.)

The Rejected Groom Ebook Cover

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Based off some feedback I got from two beta readers who said the book needed something “more”, I am going back and putting in an epilogue. I love this particular couple, esp. the hero (Tony Larson). I love heroes who work with their hands. For some reason, I find that quality very sexy in a man. So I don’t mind adding an epilogue to help draw out the story a little more. Plus, it gives me a little more time to spend with the couple.

I don’t have a release date set yet. I want to wait until everything is ready before I announce it.

I’m about halfway into Make Believe Bride

This is Book 3 in the Marriage by Fate Series. (Book 1: The Reclusive Earl. Book 2: Married In Haste.)

make believe bride

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For a while, I thought I was going to finish The Marriage Contract first, but this one picked up steam over the past month, and I’m now further ahead in this one.

I’m currently taking the hero and heroine (Lord Whitney and Lady Stacey) to one of Lord Edon’s dinner parties. Ethan, aka Lord Edon, was the hero in A Most Unsuitable Earl (way back in the Marriage by Scandal Series), and Mr. Christopher Robinson (hero in His Reluctant Lady, also a part of the Marriage by Scandal Series) will be at this dinner party. I love Ethan and Christopher. That’s why they keep popping up in the Regencies. In this story, I get to give an update on their children and continue in their happily ever after. So I’m enjoying that.

Soon, I hope to give an update on how things are progressing for Lady Eloise and Mr. Stephen Bachman. I already decided to kill Lady Eloise off before The Marriage Contract takes place, which is five years after the events in Make Believe Bride.

I was counting up the Regencies I’ve done so far and as surprised to find out I already published 18 of them. Since all of them take place in the same world, I feel the kind of connection with these characters that I do with the Larson family. When I write in their worlds, I feel like I’m with friends. So it’s always fun to bring in old characters and mention updates on others when I can.

I’m probably 1/3 of the way into this one

This is Book 1 in the Marriage by Fairytale Series.

The Marriage Contract new ebook cover

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And it’s Stephen’s book. Lady Eloise will be dead by now. Sorry, guys, but there’s no redeeming Lady Eloise. She is just too awful. For those of you who read my Native American Romance Series: remember Ernest from Brave Beginnings?  He was probably the darkest character I’ve ever done. Lady Eloise is THAT bad. I’m not going into detail on how bad she is because some things are “too dark” to put in a romance, but trust me, she is bad. She can’t be a heroine. There’s just no way it’s ever going to happen.

Stephen, however, is redeemable. He reminds me of Neil Craftsman from His Redeeming Bride (in my historical western Nebraska Series).

I know some of you haven’t read my historical westerns, but for those who have, you’ll get the references.  Suffice it to say while Stephen has some good in him that can be drawn out after a period of suffering, Lady Eloise has no good in her at all. I know some of you were hoping to see Lady Eloise evolve into a character we can like, but it’s not possible.

Instead, I’m going to introduce a brand new lady to this series.

I’m in Chapter 2 of The Perfect Wife

This is Book 3 in the Misled Mail Order Brides Series. (Book 1 is The Bride Price. Book 2 is The Rejected Groom.)

The Perfect Wife Ebook Cover3

Click here to pre-order!

I don’t know if there will be a Book 4 or not. It all depends on the events that transpire in this book. I do plan to get to Annabelle’s romance, but I don’t know if it’s going to be a part of this book or will require a separate one. I’ll let the characters tell me what to do.

*****

Since I went on for a ridiculously long time (again), I’ll end this here.  I hope everyone is enjoying a good book! 🙂

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Things Don’t Always Go According to Plan

The Editing As I Go Thing Isn’t Working

Well, I was a few days into my new plan to edit the story as I go along when I realized it wasn’t going to work. Sometimes I don’t get back to a story until two or more days later, and when I do that, I forget things that happened in another chapter. For example, today while I was writing Make Believe Bride, I went back to Chapter 1 and saw a huge inconsistency issue. I changed it, but who knows how many of the details I’d miss if I relied on reading the previous day’s writing for my initial edits?

I can’t sit down and read an entire book in one sitting to make sure things line up before I write for the day. I’ll never get a story done doing that. I don’t want to skim, either, because skimming still means I’d miss something.  For example, someone could be sitting in one part of the scene and standing later on. These things happen during the first draft, and when I go through, I usually catch all of them. Yes, my editing team helps me pick up the things I missed, but I don’t want the list of inconsistencies they catch to be longer than what they already find. I’ll end up rewriting segments of the book, and that could lead to more errors. So I’m going to just do the first draft and work through the entire story when I’m done.

Moral of the Story

If you don’t try something, you won’t know if it’ll work or not.  One of the benefits of self-publishing is that authors can change the course if it isn’t working. A lot of what I do is trial and error. Failure is another way of saying, “Try something else.” In this case, it was, “Go back to the way you were doing it before.” And that’s fine. Last year, I tried plotting, and I realized it was not for me. I never would have known that for certain if I hadn’t done it.

Now, someone might ask, “Why don’t you try KU and see if it works?” The answer to that is that I’ve decided not to give Amazon exclusive control over one of my books. I have a book in the Amazon Australia store that has been removed from sale. I don’t know why. Amazon doesn’t always explain the why of what they do. As other authors are quick to point out, “It’s their sandbox, so it’s their rules.” To which I say, “Fair enough, and since I don’t like the rules, I’m not going to play.” If I can’t control what they do in one of their storefronts with a book that is wide, that’s bad enough.

At least I know that book is for sale on other platforms. I had a reader ask me about that book in the Australia store, and I couldn’t explain why the book wasn’t there because I don’t know why Amazon removed it from sale. It’s hard to answer someone a question when you don’t have an answer. Self-publishing offers a lot more control than going with a publisher does, but it doesn’t offer control over what a retailer does. By the way, I have lost a couple of books at Kobo, too. This isn’t just an Amazon issue. With Kobo, I was able to go to my Smashwords dashboard, take it off Kobo, and then send it back to Kobo. Doing this worked every time I had to do it, which up to now has been about three times.

At the end of the day, the author needs to do what works best for him/her.

Self-publishing does put an author in a vulnerable position. We have to be our own advocate. There is no publisher who is there to be a mediator for us. However, a publisher can only do so much as well. There is no perfect system. Each author has to pick the pros and cons to each decision and go with the one that works before for them.

But please understand, there is no easy button. Things don’t always go the way an author hopes they will.  All authors can really do is write the book to the best of their abilities and get it into the world. Sure, they can promote the book, but the effort of their promotion are highly reliant on who sees the book, who reads it, and who tells others about it. That stuff is outside of the authors’ control. That is why the writing business is not easy. It requires a lot of hard work, and often, the fruit from their labor won’t come in right away. It takes time to build a solid foundation.

I do agree with people who say the gold rush of self-publishing is over. That’s not coming back. But it doesn’t mean authors can’t still build a longterm career with their books. I do think it’s going to take getting more books out there to make that happen. Except in a few cases, most authors need a heavy backlist to gain momentum. One caution I would offer is that even though you might have more books out, it doesn’t mean you’ll make more and more money. I know it’s popular to hear that authors can secure a lot of money in a short amount of time or that money keeps going up all the time because you added more books to the backlist.

Books rise up in sales, and then they go down. Nothing stays on the top charts forever. Check any bestselling book. It might be there for some time, but it will not be in that top spot FOREVER. At some point, what goes up, must come down. And just because people loved that one book, it doesn’t mean they will love all of authors’ books. You might have one book that sells very well and have the next one flop. All you can do is hope the next one does better. Being in this business is a rollercoaster ride. Writing more books does help to keep things more stable, but it’s not a guarantee.

As for what to do for promotion, that has to be up to each author. How much can you afford to spend? What stuff is within your comfort zone? I’m fine with expanding the comfort zone, but you can’t do it to the point where it’s “too” uncomfortable. How much time can you promote while working on the next book? While you are trying to reach new readers, you also need to remember and care about your current fanbase.

It’s all a balancing act, which is why the answer to these questions depend on each individual author. See what I mean about this being hard? There are no easy answers. That’s why I go back to the beginning of this post. Things don’t always go according to plan. Try different things, see what works and what doesn’t, and adjust future endeavors to fit what you learned.

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Trying Some New Things This Year

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been listening to different podcasts geared for writers.  I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with my time.

1. Edit As I Write

The idea is that you do the creative writing part on Day 1. Then on Day 2, you spend 15-30 minutes going over Day 1’s writing. You rewrite, delete, and proof anything that pops up as needing work. Then you continue writing the story. On Day 3, you go over Day 2’s stuff then write. And etc, etc.

The reason I want to try this is because going back over my story once I finish it takes me a long time to do. It’s easy for me to be motivated to write. I love that part. I’m not a fan of the editing stage. It’s necessary. I do it so that I have a second draft to hand over to my editing team.

I’m sure this will slow down my average daily word count. Based on last year’s word count total of 518,794 words, I average 1,421 words a day. Now, I’m not in the camp of authors who believe you need to write every single day. I do better if I take about two days off a week. Those aren’t scheduled days. Sometimes I have time to work on the weekends. Sometimes I have so many errands to run during the week, I can’t get to writing even though the kids are in school. So I write on days when I have the time.

Also, I don’t make the same word count every day that I write. On some days, I write as little as 250 words.  On other days, I manage to get almost 4,000 words in. Rarely do I hit more than that. But this isn’t about churning out as many words as possible in a single day. It’s about being a marathon writer.

Now that I’m adding the “edit as you go” approach, I’m not sure how that will change my word count during the year. The nice thing is I have a daily writing journal that my friend Stephannie Beman made. So I can keep track of my progress, and at the end of the year, I can see how things have played out. I’ve been using her journals for a few years now, and it has really helped me stay on target for my writing goals for the year. I highly recommend it to writers who would like to have a “one stop” place for keeping their projects organized.

2. Writing More For Pleasure And Less To Market

For those who don’t know, there is a HUGE discussion in the writing community over which is better: writing for pleasure or writing to market. Writing to market is when you tailor your storyline (character tropes, plots, etc) to the market you intend to sell to. Some genres (and certain elements within that genre) are more popular than others. So often, writers will go to the market they believe have the best sales potential. I happened to get lucky because my first love is the historical romance market. Writing historical westerns and Regencies were already something I got immense pleasure in. What I would do is narrow down certain storylines and character tropes that I thought would appeal to the most people.

And then I ran out of ideas. And worse than that, I got burnt out because I was chasing trends.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have fun while doing this. I did. But I think it’s only something I can do once in a while. I don’t think it’s something I can do all the time. I get energized when I write stuff I’m passionate about. These stories tend not to sell as well as the others I write. So I had to make a choice. Do I continue to write to market or do I concentrate on storylines that I’m itching to write?

Just so everyone knows, there is no right answer in this discussion. This is something every author has to decide for him/herself. This year, I’m going to take on stories that most appeal to me. I’ll see how things go. When I write what I want, I never run out of ideas, and I don’t get so exhausted that I take a couple of weeks to a month to regroup. I’m sure some authors can write to market and stay energized. We all write differently, and we’re motivated by different things. I’m going to try writing for passion this year, and I’ll see where that takes me.

3. I’ll Be Giving Some Time and Attention To My Pen Name

I’m still going to work primarily in romance. Like I said, it’s my first love. Always has been. Always will be. But my second love is thriller and horror, especially in the YA area. Some have a paranormal edge. Not really vampires and werewolves. But there’s some magic involved that seems somewhat reminiscent of fantasy. I’m currently having a couple of author friends familiar with those genres read over the old stuff I did back in 2004-2006 to tell me where those stories fit. I’m also going over and rewriting them as needed.

This pen name is not going to be my main focus because it’s not where I make money. But I thought it would be fun to branch out and do something different. It’s part of my decision to write more for pleasure and less to market. Since I don’t want my pen name’s stuff to get mixed up with my romance stuff, I’m separating them out. This is why I have the pen name, and I created a different website for that name.

I have learned a lot over the nine years I got into publishing ebooks, and what I’ve learned is that books need to target the right audience. It doesn’t mean an author has to write what is super popular in that market, but the story, the covers, and the description have to fit in with that genre and what the market expects. For example, as a reader, when someone tells me they wrote a romance, and I find out the romance is only 30% of the entire story or the main characters don’t end up together, I get pissed because it was not a romance. Romance has certain rules. Other genres have certain rules, too.

That is why I’m having outside help in giving me direction and guidance with this pen name. I want to fulfill the promise I’m making when I market my YA books to a certain audience. Case in point, the other day I learned that 16 and 17 is the ideal age for characters in the Teen market. My characters were 18. The first thing I did was lower their ages to 17. Based on the research this YA author did, 18 is a black hole because the character is technically an adult, but that’s yet too young to qualify for the New Adult market (which is more in the early 20s). There are a lot of things I’m going to have to learn in this new genre I’m dipping my toes into.

Anyway, I was listening to a certain podcast, and the author, who’s has decades of experience, said that a writer should focus on the story they want to write and then ask others where the books fit (genre-wise). So that’s what I’m currently doing.

*********************

As for what I’m going to be doing that is the same…

I am going to stay wide.  That means I will keep publishing my books on all the retailers I can. The big ones are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords. There are smaller ones, like Scribd, Inktera, Library Direct, Overdrive, and others. At this time, Smashwords doesn’t distribute to Google Play. My small publisher has the books I have with them over at Google Play. I’d like to get more of my books over there, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I say all of this because I had considered putting some of my new books in Kindle Unlimited. I posed a question about it on my profile page on Facebook and again in my private Facebook group. About 65-70% of the people said they go to Amazon for their books, and there were some who said they would only read my stuff if it was in KU. But after serious discussions with other authors (some KU, some not), prayer, and research, I decided to stay wide.

I understand why some authors are in KU. I certainly don’t blame them for it. I was awfully tempted to join myself. But, deep down, I feel that the decision is not right for me. So I’ll miss out on some readers who will never check my stuff out since I won’t be in KU.

One thing I’ve learned in the past nine years of self-publishing ebooks is that there are a lot of hard decisions authors have to make. Nothing is black and white. There will be pros and cons to every choice.  I’m hoping that self-publishing across all retailers will still be a viable option for many years to come. I don’t know if it’ll play out like that. Depending on who you listen to, you’ll hear different opinions.

What I gathered from my research over the past couple of weeks is that nothing is guaranteed. You have to do what you think is best, and you have to work hard. The surest way to kill a writing career is to give up writing. My plan is to write until God calls me home. I don’t mean this to sound grim. I would like to die while doing what I love most, and for me, that is writing. I can’t remember who the author was that died at the desk while writing his next book, but I thought, “That is the way I want to go.” If I can do that, then it means I had a lot of fun right up until the very end.

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