Self-Publishers Online Conference and Other News

Me and My Mom in Sydney

I am about to leave for Michigan to visit my mom. She’s been in ICU since Easter and a very generous friend bought me a plane ticket home to see her! (Thank you, God!) In the rush to leave tomorrow, I thought I’d leave you with some things I’ve been reading about lately.

First, I just signed up for the Self-Publishers Online Conference! Yay! The last day to get the Early Bird Discount – $50 off – is today! Check it out and see if it’s something you’d be interested in. There is also a free “preview” call on May 2 that you can sign up for on the web site. I’ve listened to both of the other free preview calls and I’ve enjoyed them enough to decide to sign up for the conference.

Interested in learning more about what people are earning from self-publishing? I’ve linked to Debra Holland’s blog several times so you can read about her wild and crazy success. In fact, just last week she made the USA Today bestseller list with an ebook! To get a difference perspective, some of us are still not making much. My book, Little Miss Lovesick, came out the end of September and I only last week sold enough copies on Barnes & Noble to warrant getting paid. (You only have to earn $10.) Here is a blog post from Rhonda Pollero, a writer who is taking the long view on her sales.

Speaking of income, here’s an article from Novelists, Inc. by writer and teacher, Lawrence Block on writers and income. Very level-headed.

Dean Wesley Smith wrote a post comparing how much you might make selling short fiction to a traditional source, like a magazine, versus self-publishing it. I’d been wondering about this myself.

When the whole writing and publishing business gets you down to the point where you aren’t doing anything (writing, for instance  ::waves hand in the air:: ), consider again the power of positive affirmations. Here’s a post on that from the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood.

After you get yourself psyched up from the power of your positive thinking, you may decide to procrastinate just a tiny bit more in the name of research and craft. If so, here is an article from Writers in the Storm with “13 Ways To Show (Rather Than Tell) in Your Love Story.”   And Savvy Authors has an article  on “Writing with Emotion – Yours!” that I enjoyed.

By the way, if you write humorous romantic fiction and still think it’s okay to say “chick lit” in front of other writers, here’s a site for you.  I just found it and haven’t explored it, but I was excited that there are other women out there writing fun stories who aren’t ashamed to admit it. 🙂

If you’re interested in writing a nonfiction piece about your self-publishing journey, this might be of interest to you. Flirty Author Bitches have a call for submissions on that topic. Again, haven’t looked into it much yet, but it looks interesting to me. (Maybe something to do in the hospital during the long hours of waiting.)

Finally, do you blog? Do you think having pictures makes your blog more interesting and easier to read? Do you have a heck of a time trying to find such picutures? ::me waving my hand wildly again:: I did a Google search (my husband’s answer to everything) and found this. Happy Kitty.

I hope one or more of these pieces helps you. Remember to look into the Self-Publishers Online Conference today in case you want to register and get the Early Bird Discount. And read that article on affirmations. Figure out what affirmations look like to you. I’m going to read it again and journal on it and come up with a system that works for me. I think I’ll incorporate Bible truths into mine, something that I can believe in easily without having to force myself. “I am a bestselling author” doesn’t work for me. But “All good and perfect gifts come from God, and I use my gifts to encourage and entertain others” is something I already believe to be true. Hmm, I might have to blog more about that! 🙂

Happy Writing, Everyone! Thank you to everyone who has been praying for my mom, my family, and me! Keep those prayers coming – they’re working!

Promoting Your Book – and More

Hello Friends!! I’m so freakin’ excited – John and I are finally out apartment hunting! Yay! We’ll be moving soon, so today I’m sharing more links and posts that might be helpful for you. Some might be helpful only if you’re self-publishing or thinking about doing so. Others will be helpful for any writer. Enjoy!

A great article by agent Rachelle Gardner about using Goodreads: “Goodreads: 8 Things Writers Should Know”

A story that many writers dream will be their own story one day: A Modern Day Fairy Tale by Jennifer Probst

This looks like it’s a Christian epublisher: BelieversPress

Another article from John Locke about how he created his success: “An Army of Authors and Friends”

This is a helpful article on figuring out what you need to spend in your self-publishing venture:”Epubbing on a Budget” on WG2E (The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing)

And here’s a great article on making your book cover: “The Making of a Bestselling eBook Cover” on WG2E by Jen Talty of Who Dares Wins Publishing

Another cool – and free – educational tidbit I like to partake of is the Booklist webinar. They have all different kinds of topics. Next month, they have one called Picture These: What’s New with Graphic Novels. You can register here. Booklist webinars are at a set time and you dial in via a “meeting” site. You listen to the speakers and watch their slideshow presentation. You can take notes, but later you’ll get an email with a link to the archives where you can watch the video of the whole thing again. Here is a listing of all their upcoming webinars. You can sign up to get an email letting you know about new webinars. That’s what I do.

Remember when iBooks Author software  came out and there was a big hubbub about the terms and conditions? It read like you couldn’t put your book on any retail site except for iBooks. I spoke to an Apple Store employee who said that the “upgrade” to iBooks Author is only a change to the terms and conditions to better explain what you are and aren’t allowed to do. If I understood correctly, what the terms and conditions were trying to convey is that the software only creates a file that uploads to iBooks. To upload your books to other sites, you simply have to use other software. Apparently, that’s all it was saying. I’m going to download the software and check out the T&C. I’ll try to remember to let you know what I find out. Let us know here in the comments if you’ve already checked!

Another interesting article on self-publishinig sales from author Gemma Halliday.

Read more about how The Hunger Games did their social media promotion. It might give you some ideas for promoting your own books.

I haven’t watched this yet, but I love the Pixar story team, and this is a TED talk by Andrew Stanton from Pixar on crafting great stories.

Interested in Amazon’s KDP Select program? Here is one self-published author’s explanation on how it worked for her. Or more to the point, how it didn’t work.

And finally, three suggestions from my friend Kathleen, co-author of Dog Daze, book one of The S.A.V.E. Squad. She and I both use Scrivener, and here are some useful templates from Mel Corbett. Kathleen put a QR (Quick Response) code on her business card, which I thought was totally cool! Here is an article by Athena Grayson explaining QR codes and how you can use them. Just in case you don’t visit this site very often, here is a reminder to bookmark it. Daily Cheap Reads is a site with all kinds of books listed to highlight some of the many potentially good ebooks selling for under $5. I’m pretty sure there is always at least one free ebook listed as well.

Fun Links for Writers

I’m having an AWESOME time this week hanging out with two of my best writer friends and writing and brainstorming! Woo-hoo!! So I thought I’d give you guys some of the links I’ve been finding over the last week or two. Hope you find one or more of them useful. 🙂

I’ve been sent so many different links over the last few months to posts on The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing, or WG2E as it’s affectionately known, that I needed to make sure you’re aware of this web site. You know I’m on a self-publishing journey, and if you are, this is a site you need to check out. There is so much information here that I actually find myself a bit intimidated when I wander around. If you’re a regular, I’d love it if you left a comment about the best way for a writer new to the site to get the most benefit from it. If you’re easily intimidated by information overload, do what I did and just subscribe to the posts so they come in your email Inbox. Easy and done.

Interested in making your own book cover? Or maybe a banner or other picture for your web site? Check out this step by step post on making book covers in PowerPoint. I took one of those free Apple Store classes on using Keynote (the Apple competitor to PowerPoint) and I was astounded at all the things I could do graphically! I think I’m going to take this article on how to play around in PowerPoint and use what I learned about Keynote to do some playing. Hmm…when do I have time for playing? (Note to self: add “playing” to my To Do list.)

Sue Grimshaw, former romance book buyer for Borders and current acquiring editor at Loveswept, talks about promotion on Writers in the Storm. Loveswept is a digital imprint so Sue is actively seeking ways to connect with digital readers. Join in the conversation in the comments section. And subscribe to Writers in the Storm, if you haven’t. They have massive amounts of craft and other writerly information on their blog every week. Lots of great writers there.

Luke Flanagan, a dear friend of John’s and mine, is blogging about his journey to self-publish his children’s book. NOT epublishing, but a real live book. Luke wrote it, illustrated it (he worked with John on Happy Feet 2), and used to raise the money to get the book printed. I find the whole thing exciting and inspiring! And I’m happy to say that our own personal copy of the book will be flying in from Australia soon. Yay! (It better be autographed, Luke!)

Many of you know I’m writing a superhero romantic comedy. (The first short stories in my universe come out this summer, the first novel early next year.) Shonna sent me this great link to Superhero Nation. I’m happy as a pig in mud! Woo-hoo!! Thanks, Shonna! I totally can’t wait to waste a whole day “researching” on this site! 🙂

I’ve only had a chance to skim this article so far, but Dissecting Pages for Mood looks like a great post on how a writer adds mood to her/his stories. And there’s color-coded highlighting! Who doesn’t love that?

Are you writing a story that requires you to plant clues and misdirect the reader? This short post by Kara Lennox might help you. It might also cause you to throw out all your red lipsticks!

I just found this web site on Friday, Indies Unlimited. I have barely gotten past the home page, but it looks like it could be a great site for self-publishers – and probably other writers, too.

If you’re interested in self-publishing, you’ve probably heard about John Locke and how he sold 1 million ebooks in five months. Here is another interesting article about him.

Here’s an article by Bob Mayer on what if/when e-royalty rates go down. And here is a NY Times article on the government’s involvement in ebook pricing.

My friend Dwight sent me this link by Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, talking about description versus action. Donald seems to be a fan, like me, of describe it enough for the reader to see it in their imagination, and get on with the story! (My emphasis. 🙂 )

I mentioned this a while back – there is a Self-Publishers Online Conference coming up in May. The dates and major speakers are posted here and, thanks to James Byrd of S.P.O.C., I can tell you the prices. There is a standard pass, giving you access to the conference and the recordings, for $97. The premium pass gives you that access plus several TBD bonus items for $147. After May 1, the prices go up to $127 and $199. Sounds like it could be great! (And if anyone knows of any conferences or classes for publishers, I’d love to know more about them. I need to learn more about how to be a good publisher, especially since I only have one client and I want her to be happy and stick around. 😉 )

And finally, before I totally overwhelm you with links to click, here is my latest reader-must-have – the Albatros bookmark. Check it out, it’s so cool! If only I had a checking account balance that wouldn’t notice if I bought some for my birthday. 🙂

Hope you enjoy some or all of these links. Now that I’ve written them down here and know I won’t lose them, I can close some of the 52 open tabs on my web browswer. Whew!

Author Crush Month: PJ Sharon

My guests during this Author Crush Month have all talked about some form of self-publishing. James Scott Bell talked about self-publishing his short stories and novellas. Jacqueline Diamond told us about self-publishing her backlist. And Debra Holland shared her experience in self-publishing her fiction even though she’d traditionally published her nonfiction. To finish off my part of the month, PJ Sharon is going to tell us how she ended up self-publishing all of her books. Please welcome PJ!

Thanks for having me, Kitty. It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m very excited about the indie-pub road that’s available to writers these days. I traveled the traditional publishing route for about three years and started to feel like a hamster on a wheel chasing a withered piece of lettuce. My dream of being signed by a big six publisher was looking less and less attractive. There is something intrinsically wrong with doing ninety percent of the work and getting paid ten percent of the profits.

After being self-employed for the past six years, I knew I didn’t want to work “for” someone ever again, and the traditional publishing model did not come across as being author friendly or what I would consider a collaborative effort. I had two young adult manuscripts that no one wanted, despite the contest finals and persistent submissions. I totaled about fifty rejections before I considered the alternative. When I wrote HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, I knew I had a winner. But I also knew that on the trad-pub trajectory, it would take at least a couple of years before it would see a book shelf, if ever.

I first decided to self-publish last March. I had spent several months researching and reading everything I could get my hands on about self-publishing. My husband was all for it and basically double-dog-dared me to “just do it.” So I set up a Facebook fan page, Twitter account, and created a website with the help of my techno-genius hubby. He created my covers and agreed to do my book trailers and all my formatting, so I was halfway there. I was already working with a freelance editor, so I had a team in place.

My first book was a huge learning curve with lots of expenses that I learned later were unnecessary. I paid for editing, cover art, book trailer pics, and paid ads that didn’t amount to much. The second book, ON THIN ICE, cost me half as much, and my third release, SAVAGE CINDERELLA, has cost me one tenth of what the first book did. It’s been a wild ride with three books out in six months, but I’ve recouped my expenses and am now turning a profit, albeit not enough to pay my bills and quit my day job—yet. Each effort is less stressful than the last, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it all. Having the three books completed ahead of time allowed me to put them out in quick succession, which I think is a good strategy for getting the ball rolling and creating a backlist.

As far as the actual process, my plan was to try to duplicate the traditional publisher’s process. I figured they’ve been publishing books successfully for about seventy years. They must know how to get the job done. Once I decided to self-publish, I set a production schedule and picked a release date about six months out so I would have all the time I needed to put everything in place. Hiring an editor, a proofreader, and having a few beta readers is crucial to putting out a finished product. I would also recommend paying for cover designs unless you can create a professional product on your own. I happen to really love my covers and have gotten very positive feedback about them.

I like having books for print since a lot of people I know still prefer paperback books to e-readers. I wanted the option of print on demand, so I used CreateSpace for hardcopies. I upload and order four copies a full month before the release date. One goes to my editor for a once over, then to the proof reader. I keep a copy and I send out the other two to reviewers. Once I have feedback, I do another round of edits before the final copy gets uploaded to CreateSpace and then to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

For my third book, I will try the KDP Select program since I sell very few books on B&N. Smashwords is great for offering free books as giveaways and review copies, but I’m hoping that the Select program and the opportunity to offer my book for free for five days during the ninety day exclusive period will impact the sales of all my books. It’s all a grand experiment at this point, but I’ve learned so much by following other indie authors through sites like WG2E and groups like Indie Romance Ink.

When I heard that most new authors never sell more than a thousand books, I set that as my short term goal. I met that goal in about four months with the first two books, and I expect to see that number grow exponentially with every new release. Having a backlist and consistently putting out new material is the way to grow your following and increase sales. I’ve seen it with many other indie authors with varying degrees of success, so I’m just following the trail that has been blazed ahead of me.

I plan to release the first book of a Dystopian Trilogy in July and I have a companion short story that will be a part of a WG2E anthology in October. If I can manage it, the second book in the trilogy will come out in December—unless a publisher wants to offer me a good deal on the series. I would still be happy to talk with an agent or publisher about working together on a project. The wide distribution opportunity that is available through traditional publishers, collaborating with a team to produce a high quality product, and the possibility of a healthy advance, appeals to me. I’m much more confident that I could work with a publisher now that I know how to actually publish a book myself. But I enjoy the freedom I have now to write what I want to write and have creative control over my covers and my career. We’ll see where it all goes.

If I had to say what my least favorite part of the process has been, I would say that promotion is by far the hardest part of this job and the most labor intensive. I’m slowly finding a balance in creating time to write, to network, and to promote, while still making time to take care of myself and nurture the people in my life who love and support me. It’s a precarious balancing act, but with each new effort, I learn ways to streamline the process. It’s not getting easier, but I’m definitely getting better at it.



PJ Sharon is author of several independently published, contemporary young adult novels, including HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. Her stories have garnered several contest finals, including two awards for ON THIN ICE, and a place in the prestigious Valley Forge Romance Writers and the Florida Romance Writers Golden Palm contest for SAVAGE CINDERELLA.

Writing romantic fiction for the past six years, and following her destiny to write Extraordinary stories of an average teenage life, PJ is a member of  RWA, CTRWA, and YARWA. She is mother to two grown sons and lives with her husband and her dog in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA.

Follow PJ on Twitter or on Facebook, and watch her book trailers on YouTube. Read her blogs at Extraordinary Stories of an Average Teenage Life, on Tuesdays at Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes, and on Fridays she writes a Healthy Teen Tips blog at YA Beyond. Her books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and CreateSpace.

Author Crush Month: Debra Holland

Over the last two weeks of Author Crush Month, we heard from James Scott Bell about self-publishing his short story and novella collections, and Jacqueline Diamond shared her experiences self-publishing formerly out-of-print titles in her backlist. I asked today’s guest, my friend Debra Holland, to share her journey self-publishing all of her fiction (though her nonfiction is traditionally published). She expanded on a blog she wrote earlier this year. Please welcome Debra!

Debra Holland Looks Back At Her Self-Publishing Journey in 2011

What a difference a year makes! Last January 1st, I’d hadn’t even considered self-publishing. In fact, I had a negative view of self-published books. I was deep the process of writing my nonfiction (traditionally published) book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving. At this point in the process, I’d had my two sample chapters accepted by my editor and was looking at writing 18 more in the next two and a half months. I had secret doubts that I’d be able to write a GOOD book by the deadline. I used every motivational trick I knew to keep myself positive and on track. It was the one of the most difficult things I’d ever done. But the book is out now, I’m getting stellar reviews and making an impact on people’s lives, so it was all worth it!

Around February, Delle Jacobs posted her monthly self-published sales numbers to our group of friends, The Wet Noodle Posse. I was blown away. I made a mental note to self-publish my novels (that two agents hadn’t been able to sell) and wished I wasn’t buried in the grief book so I could do it now. Once the grief book was turned in, I knew I had two weeks before my editor would get the revisions back to me. So I did a read through of each of my two fiction manuscripts, paid Delle to do my covers, and made a 10 minute attempt to format the first book, Wild Montana Sky, before giving up and paying someone to do it for me.

Wild Montana Sky went live on the evening of April 28, and the next day, Starry Montana Sky followed. Of course I had hopes for some sales, but I never dreamed that they’d catch on and I’d sell so well: 27,069 (Wild Montana Sky) and 10,207 (Starry Montana Sky) for the year. These numbers are a combination of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There are probably another 100 or so sales through Smashwords, which reports quarterly. (Monthly numbers below.)

I’ve been flabbergasted, excited, and humbled at the success of these two sweet historical Westerns. After the grief revisions were done, I began working on Stormy Montana Sky (which I’d begun in 2004 and stopped writing after 50 pages.)

I became a self-publishing cheerleader, speaking to my chaptermates and writing blogs because I wanted other writers to know they had options besides traditional publishing. I also began preparing the first two books in my fantasy romance trilogy for publication.

Sower of Dreams went live on July 31 (799 sales) and Reaper of Dreams followed on August 7 (243 sales.) As you can see, they didn’t take off like the Westerns did, but they are selling steadily at about 100 and 50 a month. The covers are by Lex Valentine. They’ve paid for themselves by the end of the year.

Although I’d finished Stormy Montana Sky by late November, it had to go to my editor. After my revisions, I sent it to several copyeditors, and didn’t get it back in time to self-publish the book in 2011. (Although it’s self-published now.)

In the meantime, I decided to self-publish my Romantic Space Opera, Lywin’s Quest, (a 2005 Golden Heart Finalist.) I hesitated to self-publish it because it’s EPIC at 140,000 words and the next two books in the trilogy are going to be a lot of work. It also didn’t have the copyedits finished in time to self-publish in 2011, although it’s now available.

Self-publishing has reawakened my creativity. When my books didn’t sell, I became discouraged. I stopped writing fiction and switched to nonfiction. What I didn’t know I was doing was stifling my creativity. I’d get a story idea and squash it, thinking, “It’s too much work to write a book that doesn’t sell.”

Now ideas are flowing. The Montana Sky series has expanded (in my head and in notes) to two more full-length books, 3 novellas, and a collection of Christmas stories. I’m having fun playing with story ideas.

The way I write is by starting with the “bones” of a scene. At the end of the day of writing (or during the next day or two) I print it out, and read over it, editing mistakes, making changes, and fleshing it out. Then, when it’s time to write again, I start by making the changes. This gets me into the story and starts the flow. I’m usually doing this several times with each section, so by the end of the book, I have a fairly good draft.

My weekly writing routine tends to vary. After finishing the grief book, I felt burned out about writing, even though I wanted to finish Stormy Montana Sky. But at the rate I was going, it would probably take a couple of years. I asked another writer friend who lives in my area (whom I knew also wasn’t writing) if she’d be willing to come over to my house (which is quieter than hers) and write a few times a week. She agreed, and for the last five months, we’ve gotten together for two and a half hours, two days a week. That has given me enough motivation to write more between times. And as my creative inspiration has returned, I’m more eager to write.

I’m still not writing nearly what I should be, but I’m a psychotherapist, corporate crisis counselor, and martial arts instructor. Also, working out (women’s fitness bootcamp) is a priority three times a week. However, the income from self-publishing has allowed me to cut back on my psychotherapy practice from two days a week to one day, which is a good thing because I was also feeling burned out from a couple of difficult clients.

So far, I haven’t put that extra day to good use because crisis jobs keep dropping into my schedule. It’s hard to turn them down when I know people need me. However, I’m better at refusing the ones where they want me to drive to the other side of LA during rush hour traffic, only to be on site for an hour or two. I know I might have to start turning down crisis jobs in order to write more, but I’m just not there yet.

Having an income from writing, instead of spending money on it through taking classes, going to conferences, buying books, belonging to writers’ organizations, and paying for editing, is wonderful! And I do intend to put the freedom from working that extra day into writing more. Soon. Really.

Here’s my sales breakdown by month:


WMS 11 (.99)

SMS 5 ($2.99)


WMS 479

SMS 106


WMS 2454

SMS 638


WMS 5085

SMS 1842



WMS 5106

SMS 2180

SOD 97 (.99)

REAPER OF DREAMS (ROD) 45 (Aug 7) ($2.99)


WMS 4348

SMS 1733

SOD 104

ROD 44


WMS 3975

SMS 1445

SOD 104

ROD 47


WMS 2386

SMS 1047

SOD 119

ROD 57


WMS 3232

SMS 1227

SOD 129

ROD 50


WMS 27,069

SMS 10,207

SERIES 37,272

SOD 556

ROD 243


During this time, I’ve done very little promotion. I’ve written some blogs and done some guest blogs. I’ve requested reviews from about 10 review sites and the books have been favorable reviewed by all those who said yes. I had a brief pop of sales in October from Pixel of Ink picking up the book. If you look back through my blogs over the last six months, you can read about other things I think work.

Barnes & Noble sells very few of my books in comparison to Amazon. I’m frustrated with that company because there’s so much more they could do to improve sales for all their authors. (But that’s another blog post.) However, in adding up the numbers for this blog, I was able to see how the consistent (although small) sales can add up over time.

I’m more grateful than I can express to all the readers who bought my book and to the authors who led the way on the path of self-publishing and to those who continue to support and educate me.

I hope you are all taking the time to reflect on what you can do to make 2012 the best year ever! Best of luck with keeping all your New Year’s resolutions. Here’s to a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous 2012!


Dr. Holland has a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy, and holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California, and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has twenty-five years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and groups. Dr. Holland is a popular psychotherapist, consultant, and speaker on the topics of communication difficulties, relationships, grief recovery, stress, and dealing with difficult people. She is a featured expert for the media, and does entertainment consulting.


Author Crush Month: Jacqueline Diamond

As I mentioned last week, this year I’m going into Author Crush month in a slightly different way. I want to see what other people are doing in the self-publishing world. Last week, James Scott Bell talked about how he is self-publishing short story and novella collections. This week, my friend Jacqueline Diamond is going to talk about self-publishing her out-of-print back list. Please welcome Jackie!

Judging a Book by its Cover

When I began my journey into reissuing my older books, I wasn’t worried about covers. It seemed to me, in my naiveté back in late 2010, that simple blocks of color with text—accompanied by low prices—would work fine. What did readers expect, anyway?

Well, not simple blocks of color with text. The buzzword, I later learned, is Discoverability. This means standing out among all those thousands of tiny rectangles on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Plus instantly conveying the genre.

Not asking much, are they?

My friends said, Hire a designer. But that’s expensive. Besides, you need to have an idea of what you want your covers to look like, and I didn’t. For instance, should I pick a unified theme, even though I write romantic comedies, Regency romances, mysteries and paranormals? I didn’t like that idea, but how should I choose?

In case you’re wondering, I’ve sold, to date, 93 novels. I’ve regained all rights to about 16 and own the digital rights to 11 more. In addition to reissuing my older books, I currently write the Safe Harbor Medical miniseries for Harlequin American Romance. My February release is The Detective’s Accidental Baby (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble).

Some friends steered me to websites where generous and talented designers from around the world upload photos and pictures for free use. So I taught myself to use Photoshop Elements and set to work adding titles etc.

Flowers on the Regency covers. Various and sundry stuff on the various and sundry books. I was learning as I went. One stunning but subtle picture of lavender flowers in an old teapot entranced me but didn’t entrance readers for my romance Old Dreams, New Dreams. Out it went in favor of a funny silhouette of a couple, with the woman obviously pregnant. You can see all my current covers at, in the right-hand column.

Nor was I just sitting around playing with Photoshop. I was revising and updating the books and reformatting them. Writing three Safe Harbor Medical romances a year. Teaching writing through Long Ridge Writers Group. Serving on the board of the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Occasionally sleeping.

What I needed was a vacation. What I got were further adventures in covers.

My Regency covers, it seems, might be pretty but fellow author and Regency blogger Anne Glover felt I could do better. She introduced me to a wonderful designer, Kelly at, who created a charming period-authentic cover for my Regency The Day-Dreaming Lady (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble), which I posted at the end of January. I’m planning to post more of her covers as well.

As for the contemporaries, while rewriting (extensively) and updating my two-book series The Runaway Heiress, I got inspired by my teddy bears. I photographed them and designed some, shall we say, unique covers for Unlikely Partners (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble) and the sequel, Capers and Rainbows (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble). I just posted covers and books at the end of January, too.

Are they discoverable? I expect so, but they don’t necessarily shout Romantic Comedy. What do you think?

And the journey continues…



For the past thirty years, Jacqueline Diamond has been busy proving that writers can’t be stuffed into a box. She’s sold 93 novels including romantic comedies, Regency romances, mysteries and paranormals. She also wrote How to Write a Novel in One (Not-so-easy) Lesson, which she self-published digitally. A former Associated Press reporter and TV columnist, Jackie received a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine and has twice finaled for the prestigious Rita Award. Please join Jackie at her website,, to read free writing tips and free first chapters. You can follow her on Twitter @jacquediamond.


Author Crush: James Scott Bell

For Author Crush Month 2012, I wanted to continue my study of self-publishing. So I asked four friends to share with you their self-publishing experiences from four different vantage points. Today, James Scott Bell shares his story of self-publishing shorter works even while he continues to traditionally publish his novels. Please welcome Jim!

So I’m sitting there little over a year ago after having three books come out and looking at these people self-publishing and making extra dough. Sometimes a lot of extra dough. So I finally said, What am I doing sitting here not making extra dough?

My current traditional contract is under a pen name, K. Bennett. This is for zombie legal thrillers, a genre I happened to invent. That left a window for James Scott Bell to start experimenting with e-books. And to become the sort of writer he always admired.

I love the old pulp writers, the guys who made a living pounding out stories during the Depression, some of whom became truly great. People like Hammett, Chandler, Cornell Woolrich. I like the idea of being prolific and being good at the same time.

I started with two collections that each included a complete novella and three stories. I did the novellas in the style of James M. Cain, another prolific writer of the old school.

One More Lie is the title novella of one collection. It’s the story of what happens when you make one bad choice and try to cover it with another.

Watch Your Back is the novella in the other collection, and it’s one of those stories where the too-slick hero gets involved with a femme fatale. Sort of like Double Indemnity. Who is using whom? This collection also features a story readers seem to love, “Heed the Wife,” with the sort of twist ending I love.

I find these types of stories to be profoundly moral. I think the best noir comes out of the view that rough justice happens. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done.

Also, I put out a collection of some of my articles on fiction writing as an e-book, Writing Fiction for All You’re Worth. And I started a short story series, boxing tales set in 1950s Los Angeles.  The first of those is Iron Hands.”

All this was done as I completed work on my contracted books. I was busy, but extremely happy. Especially when I started getting those monthly infusions into my bank account.

Here’s the deal: It’s all about options and freedom. So long as you’re honoring your traditional contracts, and you have negotiated them in the proper way, and you’re getting along with everybody, having an independent line that complements your traditional work is a no-brainer. It’s real income, and I have this quaint notion that writers are entitled to earn real income from what they write.

But with this freedom there is responsibility. Being in charge of your own writing means you are CEO of your own publishing enterprise. You can expect to experience the stresses and strains of running a small business. You will need new skills to handle them. These can be acquired, but only through effort and self-discipline.

The most challenging part is internal quality control. With traditional publishing, you’re working with a team of professionals and a window of time of a year to eighteen months per book. One of the most exciting things about indie publishing is the speed with which you can bring out books. But you have to find ways to give your work the attention it needs, everything from cover design to marketing copy to editing and formatting. You simply have to think like a business for all these tasks.

So don’t move too fast. Learn your stuff. Put yourself through a self-imposed meat grinder with your writing. Get critiqued. Hire a good freelance editor. Use beta readers you can trust to give you the straight scoop.

This all takes time to develop, but you need that network. You’re not just going to roll a new car out of your factory in a couple of days. You’re going to need tests to make sure the thing runs and can make a long trip. Turn out a couple of those and you can make it an assembly line.

Which is the coin of the realm in self-publishing. It’s as simple and as profound as this: write crazy good books and stories and get them out into the market. And keep doing that, over and over, for the rest of your life.



James Scott Bell is the author of the #1 bestselling book for writers, Plot & Structure, as well as Revision & Self-Editing and The Art of War for Writers. His latest release is Conflict & Suspense.


Please leave a comment and ask Jim any questions you have about his books or his foray into self-publishing. He’d love to hear from you!

So Much to Learn in Self-Publishing

It’s January and it’s Monday. Beginnings make me feel like it’s time to hurry up and get moving. I’m a morning person (when I’ve slept well) and mornings make me feel that way, too. Hurry up! Go running and eat breakfast and hurry to your computer! So much to do! (Or on more embarrassing days – Hurry and get to your computer! What do you mean it’s dinner time? I haven’t even taken a shower, let along exercised or anything else!)

There’s so much to do because there’s so much to learn. I spent all day last Thursday just trying to read through some of the online group posts about writing and publishing and self-publishing, and then clicking the links to the great posts those people had found, which led to more links and reading more posts. Sheesh! How’s a girl to get any writing done?

But there’s a lot more to being a 21st century author than there was to being a 1950s author. Not only do you have to learn a lot, you have to do a lot. I took Kristen Lamb’s class on Becoming a Brand two weeks ago and now I’m trying to do everything I’ve been learning about. I’m following more people on Twitter and Facebook, retweeting and replying, and commenting on blogs. I think I did a week’s worth of social media in one day.

I saw some immediate results (I tripled my Twitter followers and got my own blog up and rolling again), so I downloaded the Kindle samples of both of Kristen’s books, Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer and We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I loved the samples, so I bought the books. I’m reading both at the same time now, and trying to apply something new every day. Wow.

There are a gazillion great blogs out there and I read a lot of them last week! (This week, I swear, is going to be more about writing and balance.) Instead of trying to explain everything I read, I’ll just give you some short descriptions and you can decide what you can use.

Oh, and in case I lose you somewhere amongst all these links, let me remind you that Author Crush Month starts on Wednesday! Yay!! We love Author Crush Month, and we know you do, too! We’ve got some really great guests this month talking about their process, their craft, their journey. Be sure to stop by every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in February.

Also, we will have a special guest joining us on the first Tuesday of every month beginning in March. You’re going to love her! (You might even already know her!)

And tune in tomorrow as we welcome Janice Cantore to talk with us about her new book, Accused. If you remember, Janice has been struggling to sell her books with a small press but last summer signed a 3-book deal with a major publisher! Her new book releases February 1st. Woo-hoo!

And now to my list o’ links:

Elizabeth Spann Craig explains how she uses Google Calendar to stay organized

An online self-publishing conference! I’m waiting by my Inbox for an email with details about registration costs.

The CEO of Smashwords gives us his thoughts on self-publishing in 2011

A Smashwords blog post about the Amazon Select program

I took an awesome online class in November about helping your brain work better, and the teachers wrote this guest post

I’m signed up for another online class next month on how to write cozy mysteries, and here is an article by the teacher (I’m hoping it will help me bring my superhero romantic comedies up a level)

A great craft post from Jody Hedlund on how to make your book play out like a movie

Another self-published author, PJ Sharon, shares her 2011 numbers

From Kristen Lamb’s blog, What’s the Problem with FREE?

Sharpen Your Blogging Habits, a 4-part series from Kristin Nador

Which could lead you to this brilliant post on creating better tag lines for your blog  (I just changed my tag line for my own blog. What do you think? Better? Not quite right yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!)

From Bob Mayer, a post that explains why I’ve never dreamed of being on a bestselling list, I dream of selling books for the rest of my life 

From Writer Beware, The Fine Print of iBooks Author, free software from Apple to create ebooks that can only be sold in the iTunes store

And the blog author’s reply to common misconceptions about what he wrote

Books I’m reading: Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer; We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media; Dollars and Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-Publishing Success

Anatomy of a Deadline

This year, my blog here is going to be all about self-publishing but in the context of being a writer first. As a writer, I’m interested in any opportunity where I get to write stories that make me happy and where readers are going to find and enjoy them. With that in mind, I’ve just submitted a short story to an anthology. Yay!

The good news is that I made the deadline with a half hour to go. LOL!

The rough part was the 48 hours before that deadline.

Oh. My. Gosh. What was I thinking? I quickly got to that point where I was sure I not only sucked as a writer, but was completely delusional as a human being. Why, oh why, had I ever quit accounting?

I’d had the idea to take the discarded beginning of my superhero novel and create a short story about how the couple met. I thought it would be fun and I could put it on my web site for free to introduce readers to the characters. That way, when the novel came out, there would already be readers waiting.

But it had been longer than I thought since I last looked at that beginning. When I was ready to start working on it, in fact, I found two totally different beginnings. Hmm, right. I remember now. Some books have a dozen beginnings before you figure out what the heck you’re trying to do.

No worries. I’ll take the best sections from these two and craft a short story out of them.

Um…except I’ve never really written a short story. I’m a novel girl.

Yeah, I started this whole thing grass-backwards.

So. It’s 48 hours before the deadline. I think I’ve got a pretty good version ready to polish. I sit my butt in the chair at the beginning of the day and find an email from a writer friend with an awesome checklist for polishing. I write her back and tell her I love her. I open my file and start working.

I see something that doesn’t work. It needs to be changed and I have an idea on how to improve it. Ooo, I like it. But I have to go change this other thing to work with the improvement. Hmm, which means this other thing doesn’t work.

I knock my head against the wall and my husband tells me he believes in me. I try again. This sucks. It still doesn’t work. This really sucks. Maybe I should just let this deadline pass me by. The anthology is a fundraiser for my chapter so I won’t make any money (which means I’m not losing any by backing out), and no one is counting on my name to sell books so it won’t hurt the chapter if I’m not there.

I open my email again (because that’s what you do when your writing freaks you out) and find a couple emails from other chapter mates who are also racing toward the deadline. I decide not to give up yet.

I make some other changes. There are still problems. I wander out to the kitchen to find something healthy to snack on. I eat almonds instead of chocolate. John tells me again that I rock and I can do it. I promise him gratitude sex when this is all over. He tells me I really rock.

I keep trying. The next day I find several things that really have to be done before I start writing again. Really. Very important. Trust me.

After a few hours, I ask John if we can switch computers so I can change positions. My butt hurts. I take the laptop to the couch near the fireplace. Apparently the change has shaken something free in my brain. I realize the broken sections need to be deleted not fixed.

A few years ago I found a way to delete stuff that didn’t cause me heart palpitations – a new document called “Deleted Stuff.” Yeah, baby. Over the next few hours I deleted one third of the story. Wow. Then I read it again. I’m a genius.

It’s 8pm and the deadline is at midnight. I’m freakin’ exhausted. But it’s not done, and now I’m committed.

It’s 10:30pm and I’m no longer terrified of what my friends will think when they read this. But it’s not perfect. Keep working.

It’s 11:15pm and John asks me if I’m awake. My eyes are open, but he thinks I’ve learned a new skill. I finish the final read without moving anything but my mouse finger and my eyelids. I move to the other computer and re-read the submission guidelines and attach the document to the email.

I hit Send.

And I tell myself that when I get some sleep, I’m going to feel pretty darn good about myself.

Writing and Publishing Tips from Angela James and Patricia Wynn

This past Saturday my local RWA chapter (Orange County Chapter in California) met. Our guests were historical romance author Patricia Wynn talking about combining history and mystery, and Carina Press’s Angela James talking about publishing in the digital age. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day and thought I’d share some of the things I found most interesting.

Though I don’t write or read historicals (except for the occasional regency romance) or mysteries, there were a couple of things Patricia said that struck me as useful in my writing.

  • She believes your story should grow out of the setting in such a way that it couldn’t happen just that way in any other place, at any other time. I started thinking about my superhero books and wondered if I’m doing enough with setting.
  • In terms of scene and sequel, Patricia said that if you have fewer and shorter sequels, you will increase the pace and the tension of the story.
  • Another thing that will increase conflict and tension is giving your protagonist fewer people to talk to and confide in. At first I thought, I’m not getting rid of Tori’s best friend or her sister. But then I thought, all I have to do is create reasons why she can’t confide in them, or can’t confide right away.

During Angela James’ talk, several topics caught my attention.

  • Authors need to understand their contracts before they sign them. (I strongly agree as a business person. I know several authors who couldn’t tell you what their royalty percentages are, let alone on what basis they are calculated.)
  • She wouldn’t suggest that an author already getting published by a traditional print publisher switch over to an epublisher just because of the better royalty rates for ebooks. There are many factors to consider, and there are still a lot of benefits in being published by a traditional print publisher like Harlequin.
  • It’s to an author’s advantage for the option clause in their contract to be as narrow as possible. You don’t want to sign something that sells all rights, in all territories, in both print and digital and in every form yet to be created, in perpetuity. Remember you are licensing your work, not “selling” it. (See the blog by Kristine Kathryn Rusch discussing both licensing and how writers are agreeing to be paid less than in the Great Depression.) Know what the term (length) of your contract is. Once you sign it, you’ve agreed to that deal for that length of time.
  • The greatest position of strength for either party trying to come to an agreement is their willingness to walk away from the negotiations. Know where you stand, what you’re willing to accept, and in what areas you won’t negotiate. Almost all contracts are negotiable, but not all sections of the contract are negotiable.
  • In answer to the question, “Why should I choose Carina Press or any other publisher over self-publishing?”, Angela smiled and said, “I don’t think all of you should.” She said some self-published authors have made it very clear that they hate to be edited. That’s one reason not to try to find a publisher – you’ll both end up miserable. Some people like the inherent control in self-publishing. Others like that a publishing house is doing more of the work (for more of the money) so that the author can spend more time doing what they presumably do best – writing. And she reminded us that there is still a lot to be said for a brand. Harlequin, Penguin, Random House (my list, not Angela’s) are still powerful brand names that people associate with quality books.

Angela’s talk gave me a lot to think about. I agree that there are more benefits to being published by a publishing house than self-publishing and doing all the work yourself. But I agree with people like Kristine Kathryn Rusch and J.A. Konrath who believe that there are better ways to pay for the services than to pay a large percentage over the life of the contract (which can be forever, depending on what you sign).

Self-publishing is expensive. I firmly believe an editor will help you write a better book. How many times have you heard an author say that their editor pushed them to make changes the author wouldn’t have made on their own, changes that made the book better? But many (most?) self-published authors don’t spend the money on quality editing. (I’m talking about both content/structural editing and copy editing.)

I expect to have to pay hundreds of dollars per book for the right content editor, and additional fees for a copy editor. I’m going to start paying someone to format my books as soon as I have some extra money to do so. Meanwhile, I have to accept the opportunity cost of doing the copy editing and the digital and print formatting myself: for every hour I am not writing, I am potentially losing money. And there are many more expenses that I have to pay for out of pocket as well.

It’s a difficult path I’ve chosen. I’d add one more reason to Angela’s list on why you should choose self-publishing over licensing your work to a publishing house: because you really get a kick out of creating your little business yourself!  🙂  That’s how I feel. And I think I’ll continue on my path as long as I feel that way.