Hired Gun Rollout

I am, at heart, an auto-didact (lifetime learner). And this has helped me weather some of the less than sterling reviews of Hired Gun. Despite some of the negative comments, I am maintaining a solid four-star average on reviews and currently have received 88 in total. Here are some of the things I have learned over the past three weeks since rolling out my latest book.

No Happily Ever After = No Romance

I didn’t know. I really didn’t. My only excuse on this is that it never occurred to me to Google the question “Is a book considered a romance if it doesn’t have a happily ever after?” until after a couple of negative reviews started rolling in.

I discuss finding the proper audience below, but it wasn’t as much of a catastrophe as I first thought it might be. There were plenty of romance readers who found my sexy thriller (NOT romantic thriller) interesting and worthy of reading.

I Need to Improve Writing POV

I remember when I first began writing creatively in high school. This was in the Dark Ages when personal computers were not readily available and most document writing took some advanced knowledge of computer programming to accomplish.

In other words, it was all hand-written!

I was incredibly lucky. I attended a small private high school and my teachers (whether it was because they were tired of my complaints, or possibly saw the logic in my argument for practicing instead of just learning theory) allowed me to write creatively instead of plodding through those horrible grammar books.

I say that they saved my life. They really did. I have never forgotten it and always been so grateful. I learned about paragraph breaks, writing dialogue, story construction, and so much more.

And I have continued to learn. While dangling participles still elude me, my lesson on this book was: Stick to one point of view!

After several comments, I realized I had a real problem. It is probably something I will fix soon, because that can be very confusing and distracting for readers.

Better Foreshadowing = Happier Readers

The book description did not explicitly say that there was no Happy Ever After ending, and I also neglected to say that this was the first in a series of seven books that were intertwined and that yes, eventually there might be a happy ending (or even more than one).

I have now changed the book description to read:

Lila Benoit has finally moved into a gorgeous loft and bought a new car. Her work as a data analyst for a prestigious real estate firm is her first “real job” since graduating college. Lila hasn’t broken the law, or witnessed a crime. She’s led a quiet, uneventful life. So why is someone trying to kill her?

Shane Ellis is a hired gun, determined to do his job, and keep his clients alive, no matter who is trying to kill them. Shane lives by and enforces The Code, a strict set of rules that have given his clients the highest survival rate – despite the dangers they have faced. Follow The Code and you stay alive.

But Shane isn’t prepared for Lila, sexy, stubborn, and determined to ignore his rules. And Lila isn’t prepared for what he will do when she breaks each and every one of them.

If you like sexy thrillers that don’t necessarily end in happily ever after…

If you prefer a wild ride filled with suspense, twists and action…

If you are into complicated plots and multiple book series…

Then you really need to start reading Book 1 of the Benton Security Services series today!

“All I can say is wow – what a thrill ride!” – Pamela Mitchell

“Smoking hot with lots of twists and turns.” – JM

“Shuck’s foray into a sexy thriller is long overdue” – Kerrie McLoughlin

Better With Every Book

I am learning and growing with every book I write. Thanks to personal feedback from readers and friends I am reminded to take my time with each book and not rush things. I won’t be doing any more pre-orders on books as a result. The book will be ready when the book is ready, and not a minute before.

Marketing = Finding MY Audience

I was listening to a great podcast the other day. The host was talking about marketing and he pointed out that marketing does not have to be a bad word. For most writers, all we want to do is write. We don’t want to write ad copy, or follow trends, or analyze sales data. We just want to write our stories and share them with others.

But the truth of the matter is, just as we don’t read everything, neither do others. We write (hopefully) what we would enjoy reading and the purpose of marketing is not necessarily to sell our books to everyone, it is to sell our books to those who will enjoy reading the books.

Thus, I continue working on writing ad copy that I would find interesting and want to read.

This is a good thing. If I find an audience who, like me, enjoys my stories, then I will have better reviews as a result. Instead of marketing to a romance audience, if I market to the thriller audience for Hired Gun, things will go smoother!

Back to Basics

With all of the audio rollout, the hours of listening to the words and suggesting changes on four of the five books, I haven’t gotten much writing done.

Couple with that my yearning to garden (I remain as much a gardener as I am a writer) now that the weather allows for such things, I have been thoroughly distracted.

Life is full of multiple priorities, and as usual I struggle with each change to our ever-changing schedule.

I also find myself making lists, and plans, and plotting world domination through massive book production that would only work if I were living alone on a mountaintop and doing nothing but writing, eating and sleeping. And perhaps going light on the eating and sleeping part.

I dream of the day in which I do have 20 or even 30 books published, but I also have to be realistic. And the truth of the matter is, when I focus on writing and producing to the exclusion of the rest of my duties, all I do is get myself stressed out. Nothing happens then – not writing, nor much of anything else.

So, back to the simple task of writing 500 words per day. Over the past three days, I’ve written around 1,300. Not bad when you consider that the first day, it was eight in the evening when I decided to jump back into it.

500 words a day. Every day. More if I want, less if life gets in the way, but the goal will be there – 500 words a day.

Things I’ve Learned and Earnings for 1st Quarter 2019

As always, I’ve learned plenty in the last couple of weeks and months. I want to share that with you along with my 1st Quarter earnings for 2019. Read on…

Be Flexible

In my newsletter, I promised I would write a short story called “Take the Shot” but despite all good intentions, each time I sit down to write it, my brain slides sideways. It tells me, “Nope, not going to happen right now.”

And as I tried to push it this morning, it rebelled and began to dig its heels in. Fine, I thought, a short story HAS to be written today. So if not Take the Shot, then what?

In Scrivener, I have a file called Kapalaran Universe (Kapalaran is the Filipino word for fate) in which I keep all of my short stories. Whether the short stories are associated with War’s End, G581, the Chronicles of Liv Rowan, or Hired Gun – they are all here under one roof. And as I scanned down the list, I found Secret to Survival – a short story set in G581’s universe.

As with most of my short stories, this adds to a storyline, giving details of a character or circumstance I mention in passing.

I’m working on it today, along with adding a couple of ideas to Smoke and Steel as I flesh out Book 2 of Benton Security Services. I will continue to flesh out and outline Book 2 as I work on Glass Forest, Book 1 of the Chronicles of Liv Rowan.

Back at It – Lessons Finished or Not

I’m learning to listen to my gut. When it tells me “stop” I stop. When it tells me “go” I try to go.

I still don’t feel like I have a handle on the whole marketing thing, but I’ve made some improvements. I’m currently compiling a new list of keywords to point my Amazon ads to for Hired Gun. I think they will pay off. I’ll continue to try to weave in some learning, but I could feel the need to write rising within me. It’s something I cannot ignore.

I think that, overall, the reviews I’ve received from the Hidden Gems ARC reviewers has really served to inspire me. I’m ready to dive back in and give them book 2, but that is firmly behind Glass Forest and then G581: Zarmina’s World.

Although, who knows, things change on a dime around here. My job is simply to flow with it, and get as much writing done as possible!

First Quarter 2019

I’m still learning, still struggling to keep advertising costs low and increase sales. I still have a long way to go. Here are the numbers. A whole mess of them!

January:

Income from eBook Sales: $     97.93
Income from Paperback Sales: $     238.85
KDP Pages Read Income: $      16.99
Total eBooks Sold34
Total paperbacks sold85
Avg Daily Income of: $       11.41
Total Gross Sales: $    353.77
Advertising Costs $    218.38
Net Profit: $    135.39
% of Profits Paid to Advertising:62%
% of $2k income goal:7%

February:

Income from eBook Sales: $     112.35
Income from Paperback Sales: $         84.28
KDP Pages Read Income: $         83.12
Total eBooks Sold37
Total paperbacks sold30
Avg Daily Income of: $          9.02
Total Gross Sales: $      279.75
Advertising Costs $      222.20
Net Profit: $        57.55
% of Profits Paid to Advertising:79%
% of $2k income goal:3%

March:

Income from eBook Sales: $        85.22
Income from Paperback Sales: $      114.63
KDP Pages Read Income: $       97.16
Total eBooks Sold24
Total paperbacks sold38
Avg Daily Income of: $         9.58
Total Gross Sales: $     297.01
Marketing Costs$ 145.08
Net Profit: $     151.93
% of Profits Paid to Advertising:49%
% of $2k income goal:8%

Net Income for 1st Quarter 2019: $344.87

Total # of ebooks sold: 95

Total # of paperbacks sold: 153

Percentage of sales by book:

  • Get Organized, Stay Organized: 87%
  • The Storm: 5%
  • A Brave New World: 3%
  • G581: The Departure: 2%
  • An Old Wives Tale: .03%
  • Hired Gun: 2% (pretty good when you consider it was only for sale on the last day of the quarter)
  • Schicksal Turnpike: 0%

In other words? Writing is not a get rich quick scheme.

Keep in mind these numbers do not reflect any costs for book covers, editing costs, narrator fees for turning five of my books into audiobooks, or ads or description (blurb) writing services.

Listing those would simply put me in a very deep hole income-wise.

I am not of the opinion that art is for art’s sake. Yes, writing is my passion. And I dearly love to hear from readers (seriously, email me, it will make my day). But I keep my eyes firmly on the prize. There will be a day when all of this pays off. I believe in it deeply. It can happen and I’m looking forward to that day and working hard to make it happen.

It will get better. I know it. And you will get the chance to see it from front-row seats. I hope you are enjoying watching the journey.

Up, Down, and All Around

Sorry, I THOUGHT it Was Romance

Romance.

Erotica.

Romantic suspense.

Sexy thriller.

Racy mystery.

Semantics have tripped me up yet again.

Around four or five years ago, I decided I really needed to get rich by writing erotica. That very quickly turned to, “Well, maybe I can hit it big with romance because erotica has no plot.”

At some point after that I settled on writing a sexy romantic thriller. Call it evolution if you like.

At first, I jumped into the sex. That earned me a head shake from my beta reader, so I stopped, set it aside, and worked on different projects while I let the story do a slow burn in the back of my brain. I finished Schicksal Turnpike and returned to Hired Gun, determined to finish it.

I googled words like erotica versus romance, erotic thriller, romantic suspense, and more. And despite reading a great deal of definitions I never once found the humdinger or rules.

Are you ready for it?

#1 Rule of Romance Writing – It MUST have a Happily Ever After

Well, shit, Skippy. Somehow, someway, I missed that.

My bad.

I adjusted the categories in Amazon and I have an order in for a new book description, one that I hope will properly convey the hot and sexy thriller, Book One of the series, out and ready for readers.

Romance readers will still enjoy the book. In fact, I’ve heard from quite a few that REALLY liked the book.

Try to please everyone. Please none. – Aesop

The audience that will enjoy Hired Gun is vast. I just need to put in the proper description, run the right ads, and help bring my book into their hands. So I’m now working on a description of my perfect reader. Here’s what I have so far…

  • Enjoys complicated plots and subplots
  • Is looking for a story arc series to dive into
  • Appreciates sexy scenes and the sizzle of attraction
  • Doesn’t require a Happily Ever After

It’s rather ironic. I had read some advice on sitting down and describing your target reader or audience and dismissed it as overthinking things, or just overly complicated, but it really does make sense.

I wrote a book I would enjoy first, but I know that I’m not the only one who will. I’m not in the business of pleasing everyone – just a specific set of people. I imagine that, if you are still reading, that’s you!

Website Nightmares

It’s a really long story, but the long and short of it is that, in the middle of rolling out Hired Gun, my websites both went belly up and began to smell just like a big black snake will do if you corner it.

This website flat out disappeared, replaced with my other website, The Cottages. And shortly after I spent an hour on the phone with Go Daddy fixing this one, The Cottages suddenly sprouted Arabic. I kid you not. ARABIC.

I’m probably on some watch list now.

Head Spinning, What’s Next?

I think I’m suffering from a split personality because I want to do four things at once…

  • Finish writing my first fantasy novel – Glass Forest
  • Write the sequel to G581: The Departure – Zarmina’s World
  • Keep the impetus moving forward with Book 2 of Benton Security Services – Steel and Smoke
  • Delve into a completely new genre of suspense/horror with Winter’s Child

I’ll figure it out. Heck, maybe I’ll just rotate between them in a big circle. Who knows?