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mlouisalocke_bks_medWelcome to my Front Parlor, a place where I hope to engage you in some stimulating conversations about my continued journey as an indie author and the joys of writing historical fiction. I continue to marvel at how well the first three books in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, and Bloody Lessonsand the companion short stories, Dandy Detects, The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage, and Mr. Wong Rights a Wronghave been selling. Thanks to all of you for your support. Do come in, look around, comment, and before you go, please leave a visiting card (url, twitter, fb address, etc) so I can return the courtesy and visit you next time.          

Deadly Proof and Historical Fiction eBooks

NewHFAClogoI am a member of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative, a group of authors who banded together several years ago because we wanted a way to reach people who were interested in finding good historical fiction ebooks. The group started small, and our membership is by invitation only, but we now have 47 members and nearly 200 books in our catalog on our website http://hfebooks.com.

We feature books and posts by our authors every Monday, and every Thursday we post a list of books that are currently free or discounted and announce new publications. If you are at all interested in historical fiction, I strongly suggest you go on over to the site and subscribe so you will get these posts.

Meanwhile, today with the publication of Deadly Proof, it is my turn to have a featured book and a blog post. Click here if you would like to read my blog piece about my inspiration for writing this series and a little about women in the printing industry.

M. Louisa Locke, February 23, 2015

Deadly Proof–anatomy of a book launch

DP_cover_800x1200I am proud to announce that Deadly Proof, the fourth book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series, is now available for sale (see links below).

As with the other three novels in this series, Deadly Proof finds Annie Fuller and her beau, Nate Dawson, investigating a crime that will lead them (and the reader) into an exploration of the lives of working women in the late 19th century—in this case women who held jobs in the printing industry.

If you read my last two posts on my marketing strategy for 2015, you will know that I decided to take all my full-length books out of KDP Select and upload them everywhere and make the first book perma-free. My hope was that this strategy would provide a fertile field for this newly published book. So far, my hopes have been realized.

First of all, Maids of Misfortune, the perma-free book, is still being downloaded at a nice pace, making it highly visible in the popularity lists on Amazon and on the free lists in the iBook and Barnes and Noble stores, and I can see sell-through going on. The sales of the second book in the series, Uneasy Spirits, and now the third, Bloody Lessons, have been increasing each week. And now, some of these new fans of the series should be just about ready to  try this new book.

Second, while more complicated than back in the day when I only had to upload my books on Amazon, the process of uploading Deadly Proof for publication in multiple online stores was quite easy since I had recently gone through the process for my other novels and my short story collection.

In addition to KDP and CreateSpace, I used the distribution service Draft2Digital to get Deadly Proof into the Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and Page Foundry bookstores and into the subscription service Scribd. I also uploaded the epub that Draft2Digital generated iinto GooglePlay, and then used Smashwords to make it available on various library channels and the subscription service Oyster.

This process was also made easier because my books are very simply formatted––no drop down caps, special fonts, or illustrations, and I start with a word document for the ebook editions and a pdf for the print edition—both generated from Scrivener. Besides making sure that I didn’t have Amazon-specific links in any of the books I was uploading elsewhere and making a few changes in the front and back matter, there wasn’t much work to change the word document from the Kindle edition to upload elsewhere.

Deadly Proof went live in less than 12 hours on KDP, Apple, Scribd, Page Foundry, and Smashwords and it took a less than 24 hours to go live on Nook and Kobo. The CreateSpace print edition took four days to go live. In short, within seven days of getting my book back from the editor–it was published everywhere.

When you consider the time between the final edit of a book and publication for traditionally published books–this is essentially going the speed of light!

And this brings me to the puzzling question of why an author would decide to only offer their books in the two or three largest online stores. Yet I read statements by authors on various author forums asking whether or not they should bother putting a book up on GoglePlay or trying to decide whether to use Smashwords or Draft2Digital–instead of using both.

While I understand and have quite frequently discussed the benefits of going exclusively with Amazon through KDP Select, what doesn’t make sense to me is not making a book available in as many on-line stores as possible when you haven’t gone the exclusive route. Even if the number of sales from a particular store are small. A sale is a sale—and each sale is potentially someone who will eventually by some of your other books.

For example, in the ten days in December that the second book in my series, Uneasy Spirits, was on sale as an ebook in the Barnes and Nobel online store, I sold nine copies and made $26.73. Not an overwhelming amount of income, yet it took me less than a half an hour total to upload, preview, and publish this book through Draft2Digital so this is decent rate of hourly pay. Even if I never sold another copy of the book in this bookstore. But I did sell more copies; in January I sold 143 copies of Uneasy Spirits for the Nook, making over $400, and those sales didn’t cost me anything more in terms of time or money.

I don’t even regret the fact that my sales of Uneasy Spirits haven’t been nearly as successful on GooglePlay (I sold only eight copies of Uneasy Spirits there in January) because all I risked in putting that book up on GooglePlay was, at most, an hour of my time. And since there have been 3500 downloads of Maids of Misfortune, the perma-free book in my series, on GooglePlay, I assume that some of the people who downloaded this book will go on to buy and read Uneasy Spirits, Bloody Lessons and, in time, Deadly Proof. This is a long game–but isn’t that one of the benefits of ebooks–that we can afford as authors to play that long game.

Finally, as part of this more organic approach to selling, I have done what you might call a slow launch of Deadly Proof. No virtual book tour, no facebook event, no expensive promotional campaign.

I had already decided not to put the book up for pre-order because I wanted to make Deadly Proof available as soon as possible after I got it back from my editor and made the final corrections. It had been a year an a half since I published Bloody Lessons, the book before Deadly Proof, and I felt I shouldn’t keep fans of the series waiting a day longer than necessary. These are the readers I am most interested in reaching at this time. And I quite frankly love getting messages from them as the buy the book and start reading.

Consequently I only announced the availability of Deadly Proof on my facebook pages, on a few mystery facebook sites, and in my newsletter (and now here on my blog). All places where I am likely to encounter people who have already read the earlier books in the series. The hope is that over the next few weeks I will get enough sales from these fans of the series so that the book will achieve some visibility in the popularity category lists on Amazon (which rewards steady sales rather than rapid spikes) and begin to garner positive reviews.

So far so good. In the five days it has been available, I have sold over 200 copies of Deadly Proof on Amazon, and 35 outside of Amazon,  it is showing up in the top 100 best seller lists in most of my main categories on Amazon, and I have 2 5-star reviews.

Once I feel I have gotten enough reviews, I will then start on the next stage of spending some money to promote the book. And meanwhile, I will be thanking my lucky stars that I am an indie author who doesn’t have to worry that if I don’t have enough sales in the first weeks of publication that this means that my book is dead in the water or that my chances of getting another book contract has been ruined.

M. Louisa Locke, February 21, 2015

Deadly Proof: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery (Book 4) is now available in the following stores.

eBook: Kindle   Nook   Apple   Kobo   GooglePlay   Scribd  Page Foundry     Smashwords   

Print: CreateSpace Store    Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Outside the Box: Women Writing Women

There is an exciting new collection that is coming out this week that I thought that a lot of you might be interested in. This new boxed set brings together some of the best work by self-published female writers. I’ve read one of the books, Blue Mercy by Orna Ross and just loved it–so I am looking forward to reading the rest.—M. Louisa Locke

International Authors: Universal Themes

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEGWhile mainstream publishing plays safe with predictable stories and heroines who repeat the same familiar tropes, where are today’s most ground-breaking authors? The answer is that they are self-publishing. Now, seven of the most prominent female entrepreneurial authors have brought their work together in a limited edition compilation of novels —Outside the Box: Women Writing Women.

The project is the brainchild of Jessica Bell, an Australian writer living in Athens, Greece. A literary author and the Founder/Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Jessica wanted to showcase the most exciting fiction being released by authors who are in full charge of their own creative decisions. “I couldn’t imagine collaborating with a finer group of writers,” Jessica said. “The authors in this box set are at the very top of their game.”

The collection will be published in e-book format on February 20 (pre-orders from January 12) and available for just 90 days.

WWW_Memes_Joni reducedThe box set introduces a diverse cast of characters: A woman accused of killing her tyrannical father who is determined to reveal the truth. A bookish and freshly orphaned young woman seeks to escape the shadow of her infamous mother—a radical lesbian poet—by fleeing her hometown. A bereaved biographer who travels to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist. A gifted musician who is forced by injury to stop playing the piano and fears her life may be over. An undercover journalist after a by-line, not a boyfriend, who unexpectedly has to choose between her comfortable life and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness. A former ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, and the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for sharp objects and blood to raise a respectable son.

Jane Davis said, “This set of thought-provoking novels showcases genre-busting fiction across the full spectrum from light (although never frothy) to darker, more haunting reads that delve into deeper psychological territory.”

But regardless of setting, regardless of whether the women are mothers, daughters, friends or lovers, the themes are universal: euthanasia, prostitution, gender anomalies, regression therapy, obesity, drug abuse, revenge, betrayal, sex, lust, suicide and murder. Their authors have not shied away from the big issues. Some have asked big questions.

WWW head shot banner reduced

WWW_Memes_Orna reducedOrna Ross (founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, named by The Bookseller as one of the 100 most influential people in publishing) selected Blue Mercy, a complex tale of betrayal, revenge, suspense, murder mystery – and surprise.

Joni Rodgers (NYT bestselling author) returned to her debut Crazy for Trying, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Discover Award finalist.

Roz Morris (ghost writer and teacher of creative writing master classes for the Guardian newspaper in London) presented My Memories of a Future Life, the haunting story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs.

WWW_Memes_Kathleen reducedKathleen Jones, best-selling award winning author, Royal Literary Fund Fellow, whose work has been broadcast by the BBC, contributed The Centauress, a compelling tale of family conflict over a disputed inheritance.

Jane Davis (a British writer whose debut won the Daily Mail First Novel Award) nominated An Unchoreographed Life, an unflinching and painfully honest portrayal of flawed humanity.

Carol Cooper (author, doctor, British journalist and president of the Guild of Health Writers) provided One Night at the Jacaranda, a gripping story about a group of people searching for love, sex and everything in between.

For Jessica Bell (Australian novelist, singer/songwriter, Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and whose award-winning poetry has been broadcast on ABC National Radio), her latest novel White Lady was the obvious choice, an intense, suspenseful ride rife with mystery.

Speaking about her reasons for taking part, Roz Morris said: “For me, these writers are the real superstars of self-publishing. They’re storytellers dedicated to their craft, who have proved their worth with awards, fellowships and, of course, commercial success.”

*******

An extraordinary collection, varied in style but united in quality, demonstrating precisely why indie publishing is a treasure trove for readers.’ JJ Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs series and founder member of Triskele Books

‘The authors of these books are at the forefront of a strong cohort of ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women writing and self-publishing literary fiction. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.’ Dan Holloway, columnist for the Guardian books pages and publisher

‘The optimism and confidence in this new collection is palpable.’ Alison Baverstock, lecturer in publishing and self-publishing at Kingston University.

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women

Just $9.99 for seven novels. Available 90 days only from February 20.

Review copies available from jessica.carmen.bell@gmail.com

More information on www.womenwritewomen.com

Pivot Post Update

550px-Balloons-aj.svgThis  report on how my plans for marketing in 2015 are working can be summed up in one word: Super. But for those who are interested––here is a little more detail.

Recap of Strategic Goals:

Recognizing that the Kindle Unlimited subscription service on Amazon was undermining the effectiveness of the Kindle Countdown 99 cent promotions for my books, I decided to:

  • take my 3 full-length novels in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series (Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, Bloody Lessons) and my short story collection (Victorian San Francisco Stories) out of KDP Select
  • upload these 4 books into other bookstores
  • make the first book in my series, Maids of Misfortune, perma-free
  • advertise Maids of Misfortune as free through a BookBub promotion.

By the middle of January I accomplished all of these goals.

  • I uploaded my 4 books to Apple, Nook, Kobo, Page Foundry, and Scribd through Draft2Digital (a simple process of uploading a word document), used the epub that D2D nicely gives you to upload to GooglePlay, and stripped my word document down to upload it to Smashwords to distribute to several library affiliates and Oyster.
  • Within 3 days of Maids of Misfortune showing up free in other bookstores, Amazon price matched, and it was now free everywhere.
  • January 11, 2015 I had a BookBub promotion of Maids of Misfortune.

Reported Outcome:

There has been a dramatic improvement in my sales and therefore my income.

November 2014 December 2014 January 1-24 2015
Amazon:
Total Book Sales
(not borrows)
213*         283*            978*
Other Bookstores:
Total Sales
0           24             354
Amazon:
Free Downloads
0        5018         67,643
Other Bookstores:
Free Downloads**
0          390         13,599

* this figure also includes Audible sales and the Victorian San Francisco Mystery Boxed Set (Books 1-3) that are only sold through Amazon.
** These figures just show downloads from Apple, Page Foundry, and Smashwords

As you can see, even before the BookBub promotion in mid-January, making Maids of Misfortune free had begun to give the other books a boost on and off of Amazon, but the BookBub promotion was what really made a difference in my sales.

Two weeks after that promotion, Maids of Misfortune was still listed in the top 100 Free books on Kindle, ranked #5 on the Nook’s Free list, and #27 in Free mysteries on Apple. In addition, there have been a nice increase in positive reviews for this book on Nook, Apple, and Amazon.

During these two post-promotion weeks, the increase in sales of the other books in the series demonstrates that people who downloaded Maids for free are going on to buy the next books.

For example, on Amazon the average number of copies sold of Uneasy Spirits (Book 2) went from 1.5 a day in November, to 2 a day in January before the BookBub promotion, to 13 a day in the two weeks since the promotion. The average number of sales of Bloody Lessons (Book 3) has gone from 2.2 a day in November, to 2.8 a day in January before the promotion, to 11 a day in the post promotion period.

In mid February, the fourth book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, Deadly Proof, will be out, and I can now anticipate that a good number of the people who have made their way through books 1-3 will be ready to buy it, helping with the launch. For example, I have had 36 new subscribers to my newsletter since the promotion.

I don’t know how long Maids of Misfortune will stay visible or what the conversion rate from free downloads of this book to subsequent sales of the rest of my books will be, but I have always believed that my job as author is to give my work the best possible chances to be discovered, and then let the work itself do the rest. This new strategy for 2015 seems to be working to achieve that goal.

Implications for Other Authors:

Will it work for everyone? Probably not. The whole perma-free strategy works best with series. And one of the reasons I hadn’t tried this approach before is that with only 3 books in the series, the long-term loss of sales of one of those books seemed too risky—particularly when short-term discount promotions were working for me. The eminent publication of a fourth book in the series made the shift less risky.

While I was achieving some success in downloads and sales before the BookBub promotion, the effect was limited. So I know that one of the reasons for my success was getting the Bookbub promotion. I am always good about filling out their post promotion surveys––not just so that they have the data to judge when I next apply––but also because I hope this will make them more likely to accept other authors with similar books following similar marketing strategies.

My series also has wide market appeal. Within the mystery category, the books fit in the cozy, historical, and women sleuth sub-genres, and they also fit in straight historical fiction and historical romance categories. This has helped keep Maids of Misfortune visible longer after the BookBub promotion ended.

This in turn has helped the book achieve visibility on the popularity lists (which is what shows up when you browse in kindle store on your devise). Because of the current algorithms, which seem factor in price, it is very difficult for free books to rise to the top of the popularity lists. For example, currently Maids of Misfortune is #60 on the mystery popularity list—yet there are only 3 other free books on the top 100 of this list. So, even with a successful BookBub promotion—continued long-term visibility for a book is not something that many authors can count on.

Conclusion:

Once again, I have found that by paying attention to the data on my own sales, reading about other authors’ experiences, and being willing to experiment, I have been able to keep my books visible and selling–something I know is a direct outcome of the opportunities available to indie authors during the rapidly changing publishing and marketing environment.

As usual, I love to hear what strategies are working for other authors.

M. Louisa Locke, January 27, 2015

Interview with Uneasy Spirits Narrator, Alexandra Haag

US_audibleYou know how your own voice always sounds so strange when you hear it recorded? Well, my voice in my head always sounds warmer and deeper to me than it does in real life. Not surprisingly, that is also how the voice of my main protagonist, Annie Fuller, sounds to me. This difference between my real voice and what I think Annie should sound like is one of the reasons I would never narrate my own books.

Unfortunately, the narrator of my first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series didn’t produce a voice that satisfied me—or many of my fans, so I put off getting Uneasy Spirits, the second book in the series, narrated for some time.

Then, at a local book club in town, I met Alexandra Haag, a professional narrator, and I fell in love with her voice. Here was the warm, rich tones I envisioned for Annie Fuller. I also liked the idea of working with someone local. This has worked very well for me with my cover designer, Michelle Huffaker, and I looked forward to duplicating this experience.

Alexandra Haag and I first collaborated on the short stories connected to the series, getting feed-back from fans who have their own ideas about what my characters should sound like. Links to the audiobooks of Dandy Detects, The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage, and Mr. Wong Rights a Wrong, individually, or as part of the Victorian San Francisco Stories (a collection of these stories) can be found here. As a bonus, currently, if you already have a Kindle copy of any of these—you can get the audio versions for $1.99!

However, what I am most excited about is Ms. Haag’s production of the second full-length book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, Uneasy Spirits, which has just come available as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon.com,and  iTunes.

I thought that this might be a good time to interview Alexandra Haag about what it is like to be a professional narrator and to narrate a long work of historical fiction such as Uneasy Spirits. Here is what Ms. Haag had to say!

How did you become involved with making audio books? 

Alexandra Haag

Alexandra Haag

By the time I first considered audiobook narration, I had read the newspaper on our local PBS Radio Reading Service for about three years and was a lector at my church for many years. I’d received some very kind encouragement about my presentation which “primed the pump,” so to speak, for exploring voice work.

There was a book that the afore-mentioned book club had read that I thought should be in audio format but wasn’t. So I began to explore how to get that done. One thing led to another and here I am! But that book never did get published as an audiobook – maybe the publisher didn’t think there was a huge market for the work of a 14th century mystic; go figure.

What special qualities to you personally bring to your work?

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