Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Westward Adventure

By Kristy McCaffrey

I'm pleased to share that I've got another short story available as a single sell for 99 cents. It's currently on pre-order with a release date of August 28. Why should you pre-order? The story will automatically load when available so you don't have to worry about remembering and it also helps an author with total sales on release day. This can sometimes push a work onto top 100 charts, and while it's certainly a boon to a writer's ego, the real benefit is that the title is exposed more at each site. So, if you haven't read it (it was previously published in the anthology Cowboy Kisses) and you think you might want to, then I'd sure appreciate a pre-order purchase.

Aspiring novelist Amelia Mercer travels from New York City to Colorado to aid an injured aunt. When the stage is robbed and her luggage stolen, bounty hunter Ned Waymire comes to her aid, acquainted with the harmless culprit and wanting to spare the boy. But Ned also seeks to impress the independent young woman. Amelia's wish to never marry, however, clashes with Ned's desire to keep her reputation intact. When a final bounty from Ned's past threatens their future, she knows that A Westward Adventure isn’t just the title of her novel but the new course of her life.

Excerpt from A Westward Adventure

The front door opened and shut, and in the next instant Ned Waymire filled the parlor entryway. As soon as Amelia locked eyes with him, he froze.

“Ned, I’d like you to meet my niece, Amelia Mercer.” Teddy waved him into the room. “Amelia, this is Ned Waymire. He boards here. There’s also another gentleman, but he’s been away recently.”

Mister Waymire removed his hat, revealing dark hair, and cleared his throat. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, miss.” He stepped forward to take her hand.

The touch was warm and his sun-darkened fingers overwhelmed her pale ones. As she smiled and nodded, she tried to ignore the tingling sensation that crept up her arm. Up close, he exuded even more strength than was apparent in the marshal’s office.

A man who spent his days outdoors.

A man who called the earth his home.

Vivid blue eyes stood out on a sun- and whisker-darkened face.

He was the perfect western hero.

“I just saw you,” she said, glad her voice sounded calm considering how her insides quivered.

“That’s right.”

He stepped back from her.

“You’re not married, are you, Amelia?” Teddy asked.

“No, ma’am.”

“Why, neither is Ned.”

Heat suffused Amelia’s cheeks. “I don’t believe in marriage, much like you Aunt Teddy.” The words rushed out of Amelia. “Women don’t need men to make their way in the world. Why, look at you? You’ve done quite well on your own.”

“I’ve never been placed on a pillar,” Teddy said. “What do you think of that, Ned? I’m a woman of example.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Ned replied.

“Did you get Billings?” Teddy asked.

“Yep. You were right. He was in Old Man Hill’s abandoned mine.”

“I knew it.” Teddy chuckled under her breath.

“Are you a bounty hunter, too?” Amelia asked.

Teddy cackled. “No, but I could be. Don’t you think, Ned?”

“You’d outgun us all, Teddy.”

Amelia sensed an affection between the two, and it warmed her heart, although this entire reunion with her aunt was far different than anything she imagined. She knew she had the first chapter of her new novel.

“I’ll just be turning in now, ladies,” Ned said.

Amelia, her cheeks still warm from being in the same room with him, met his eyes briefly then looked away in embarrassment.

What if he thinks I like him?

She imagined the type of woman he fancied was far from the likes of her. Why, he probably thought her a silly city girl. And he’d be right. But her mama had long taught her to be an independent thinker, to believe that a woman’s mind was equal to a man’s. Most of Amelia’s writings had been social commentaries, addressing important issues such as the educational welfare of children, the plight of the homeless and less fortunate, and the lack of voice the average woman had within marriage. But in her heart, she longed to pen an adventurous tale of a woman who not only sees the world, but tames a man in the process, who finds love with an equal, inciting passion in her partner.

She hadn’t told her mother she planned to write such a novel—she’d likely think it beneath Amelia—but her heart burned with the desire to share the story singing in her heart. Coming to visit Aunt Theodora had offered the perfect blend of adventure and inspiration.

Ned Waymire departed the room and his footsteps could be heard climbing the staircase.

That man was the epitome of adventure and inspiration.

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Smashwords Seminar

 By Kristy McCaffrey

I recently attended a seminar by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, a self-serve digital platform for authors to publish electronic books. Smashwords distributes to retailers such as Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble, hosting over 350,000 books and 100,000 authors. What follows is information that he shared.

In 2008, about 1/2% of sales were ebooks. In 2015, that has risen to 26%. We are currently in a slow-growth market for ebooks, with the explosion of the ebook market finally reaching an equilibrium. However, ebook reading is on the rise. The Indie author movement is greatly affecting this market, with romance authors leading the charge. Being an Indie author is no longer a stigmaoffering books that never go out of print, the ability to publish a book immediately, lower expenses, lower prices to consumers, and total creative control.

A career writer must have a long-term focus. The reality is that it’s difficult to make money as a self-published author, just as it is for many traditionally published writers. However, there’s never been a better time to self-publish a romance ebook. Of the top sellers at Smashwords, 87% are romance. This is an increase of 70% from 2014.

Marketing suggestions—focus on activities that lead to permanent discoverability and platform building. Coker also touched on the aspect of luck. At some point, every author will receive a lucky break, perhaps through a blogger loving their book or a random promotional opportunity that could expand their reach. But in order for that lucky break to pay off, an author must have already laid the groundwork by doing the following (otherwise known as the secrets to ebook publishing success). Without it, the lucky break will fall flat.

Write an awesome book.
*Good isn’t good enough.
*Be fanatical about quality.

Great cover.
*Our brains process images faster than words. It takes 13 milliseconds to process the meaning of an image, but 200 milliseconds to recognize a word.
*Must look good as a thumbnail image.
*The great thing about e-publishing is that bookcovers can be changed if not working.

Publish another great book.
*Best-selling authors offer deep backlists.
*Build your brand.

Give books away for free.
*Highest grossing authors at Smashwords give away at least one free book.
*It can turbocharge a series.
*Free series starters lead to a 66% boost in series sales.

Patience is a virtue.
*Ebooks can start slow and build gradually.
*Ebooks never go out of print.
*Never unpublish your book.
*Nourish it. Give it time.
*The biggest mistake Coker sees is authors who give up after a few months, or even a few weeks. Building a writing career can take years.

Maximize availability, avoid exclusivity.
*Limits readership and global audience.
*While Amazon holds the largest market share, they only sell in 13 countries. iBooks is present in 51 countries, Kobo in 160 and Smashwords in approximately 200.

Best practices drive book sales, and include the following:
*An awesome book.
*Behave like a publisher with professional covers and editing.
*A great book blurb.
*Utilizing metadata well (pricing, title, categorization, author name, ISBN, publication dates).
*Good back matter (author bio, a listing of additional books and author social media contacts).

Pricing strategy.
*Pricing impacts sales and earnings.

*Common price points in 2015, beginning with most popular.

*Most downloaded price point, beginning with highest (includes fiction and non-fiction).
$1.99 (this is a black hole, authors should push this price to $2.99)

*Best price point for author earnings (includes fiction and non-fiction, but overall dominated by romance fiction).
$3.99 (at this price, an author can sell more books and build a larger readership)

Don’t let piracy scare you away from self-publishing.
*An author’s bigger risk is obscurity.
*Most piracy is accidental. (Friends sharing with friends.)
*Pirates who steal your work weren’t going to buy it anyway.
*Many pirate sites don't actually have your book. They're trying to steal credit card info.
*The bigger you are, the more likely you’ll be pirated.
*Combat it by making your books easy to buy at a low, fair price.

Build a platform you control.
*Blog, newsletter, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Don’t forget backmatter in your books.
*Author bio.
*A listing of additional books.
*How to connect with the author.

Be a nice person.
*Develop relationships.
*Share secrets.
*Avoid negativity on the internet.

Collaborate with authors on boxed sets.
*Share fan bases.
*Everyone wins.

Think globally.
*In 2014, 45% of ebooks sold from iBooks via Smashwords were outside the U.S.
*The market for English-language books globally will eventually surpass the U.S. market.

Pinch pennies.
*The reality is that most books don’t sell well.
*To stay in business, be frugal.

*This is the single most powerful tool for Indie authors.
*Right now, it’s better than pricing a book free.
*Benefits are: more buzz-building (captures the sale the moment you have reader’s attention), signals a commitment from the author to the reader, is a fast-track to bestseller lists (especially at Apple and Koboit won't help at Amazon but Coker still believes you should set up pre-orders there), same-day availability on launch day, and increased promo opportunities (sites such as iBooks feature pre-orders).
*Books born as pre-orders sell better.
*Currently, only ~10% of authors are doing pre-orders.
*A longer runway is recommended (12 months) but at least 4-12 weeks is best. Still, if you can only do a few days, it’s better than nothing.

Timing—when should you release a book?
*Since traditional publishers generally release on Tuesdays, try to avoid that day.
*The biggest ebook buying days are Saturday and Sunday, so an author is more likely to chart on these days (hit a Top 100 list at retailers).
*If the goal is to hit the New York Times or USA Today Bestseller lists, publish on Monday or Tuesday.
*Holidays can be strong days EXCEPT for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
*To hit Smashwords reporting list, release early in the month. (This list is shared with retailers such as iBooks.)
*The biggest ebook selling period is Dec. 26 – Jan. 7.

If you’re an author who splits books between Amazon KDP Select (which requires exclusivity at Amazon) and other retailers, Coker advises against this. As an example, he shared that if you manage to break out at iBooks and they choose to feature you on the front page, this opportunity could be lost if your books aren’t all available at the Apple store. Currently, iBooks is the #2 global seller of ebooks.

What can an author do to increase his/her chances of breaking out at iBooks? Make sure all books are available at the iBooks store, run a free promo or make a book permanently free, release all books as a pre-order (on release day iBooks counts all pre-order sales in book ranking, which can help with hitting a chart) and if you have a series then make the first book free. One thing to consider: iBooks doesn’t like covers with a lot of skin. If you write erotica, the content of the book is not of issue to them but they won’t feature it if the cover is too racy. Also, keep the blurb and front matter clean, even if the story is not.

And finally, a rather surprising statistic—longer books sell better than shorter by a large margin. During the last 3-4 years, the top 50 bestsellers were 100,000 to 200,000 words. Indie publishing exposed this trend, since many traditional publisher routinely rejected long novels, never allowing them to come to market. Clearly, consumers enjoy immersing themselves in longer works.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Silverton And The Alpine Loop

By Kristy McCaffrey

Established in 1874, the town of Silverton is located in the San Juan mountains of southwestern Colorado. It's a beautiful location to visit in the summertime, and one of the main starting points of the Alpine Loop, a 65-mile rugged road that passes by many mining ghost towns. In July, my husband and I, along with our two teenaged daughters, joined my parents and sister for a vacation.

The Silver Summit RV park.

My husband and I in the Rocky Mountains.

Box Canyon in Ouray, Colorado.

An amazing beaver dam.

The beginning of the Alpine Loop.

The San Juan Mountains.

Four-wheel drive vehicles are required to drive the Alpine
Loop in its entirety.

The ghost town of Animas Forks, which sits on the three forks
of the Animas River. This is one of the most visited old
mining towns in Colorado.

Animas Forks.

Me at Engineer Pass (12,800 feet) on the Alpine Loop.

We came across a moose mother and her baby (not
pictured) eating by the side of the road along the
Alpine Loop.

Cinnamon Pass (12,640 feet) on the Alpine Loop.

My husband and parents at Cinnamon Pass. We were
caught in a mini-snowstorm.

Silverton has a ski area and it's not
for beginners.

Silverton Mountain Ski Area.
Our last night in Silverton.

To soothe the soul, come to the mountains.