What do a Victorian Lady and a 1940s Gal Gumshoe have in common?: Part One

One carries a parasol One carries a .38Two women sleuthsTwo novelsFREE1-20-22

When M. Ruth Myers and I discovered we were both promoting books in our respective historical mystery series at the same time, we thought how much fun it would be to compare the responses our female sleuths from different historical periods would make to the same questions.

Uneasy_Spirits_800x1200_72dpiOn the surface, Mrs. Annie Fuller, the protagonist in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, is a rather typical 19th century widowed woman who supports herself by running a boarding house. The fact that she supplements her income as the pretend clairvoyant, Madam Sibyl, is a secret she must protect in order to preserve her reputation as a respectable lady.

game_dame185x2801-1In contrast, in M. Ruth Myer’s award winning series, her protagonist, Maggie Sullivan, is proud of her profession as private eye. Living in Depression-era Dayton, Ohio, Miss Sullivan drives a DeSoto, carries a .38, and isn’t ashamed to admit she likes an occasional nip of gin.

In short, you might imagine that Miss Maggie Sullivan couldn’t be more different than my genteel Mrs. Annie Fuller.

Well, let’s just see, as we ask them a series of questions.

Today’s post is Part One and tomorrow Part Two will continue over on Myers’ blog at http://galgumshoe.com

1. What got you interested in pursuing such an unusual profession for a woman?

ANNIE: Although I know that there are such things as female investigators who work for the Pinkerton Agency, I am strictly an amateur. In fact, it is my occupation as the clairvoyant Madam Sibyl, giving out financial advice to wealthy San Francisco businessmen, which got me involved in solving crimes. When one of my favorite clients died under suspicious circumstances, I decided to go undercover as a servant in his household to find out who killed him (and recover his missing assets.)

MAGGIE:  My dad was a cop, so I grew up around cops from the time I knew how to toddle.  I wanted to do what they did, but I wasn’t very good at following rules the way policemen had to.  Then a woman in our neighborhood killed herself after her husband skipped out and she heard rumors he might have another family down in Cincinnati.  My dad said if she’d been able to hire a detective and find out for sure, it might not have happened.  I decided that’s what I wanted to do, to help people like that.

2.  What is your relationship with local law enforcement like?

MAGGIE: Way too many of them try to mother hen me because they watched me grow up.  Half the others, I went to school with.  I get along fine with everyone on the force except two.  One made a pass at me and I had to hurt him where it counted to convince him No meant No.  The other’s the head of homicide, who clings to the notion I find things out by batting my eyes instead of using my brain.  Nobody slips me information and I never ask for special favors – although I’ve been known to trick people into inadvertently letting a tidbit drop now and then.

ANNIE: Actually, I have tried very hard not to have my activities as an investigator come to the official attention of the San Francisco authorities, since any public recognition of my involvement would damage my reputation as a lady. All formal connections with the police have come through the San Francisco lawyer, Nathaniel Dawson, and Patrick McGee, a local patrolman, who happens to be my cook’s nephew. They have both proven to be invaluable collaborators in my investigations.

3.  How do clients hear about your services?

ANNIE: Several of my first cases came from people who live in the boarding house I run who asked for my help, and Mr. Dawson has kindly brought me in to assist people that his law firm was hired to represent. Recently, it has been my growing reputation as an accountant who can ferret out financial wrong-doing that has led people to ask for my assistance.

MAGGIE: Many of my clients come to me through word of mouth.  Some come because they’ve seen my number in the telephone directory.  One even came to me because she found my business card in a library book.

4.  Are there any ways in which being a woman gives you an edge over a man in pursuing your cases?

MAGGIE: Sure, several.  It doesn’t occur to most people that a woman could be a private eye.  That means I can blend in.  Men, even when they find out what I do, tend to underestimate me.  Women, on the other hand, are more likely to talk to me than they would a man.  Sometimes I have to let them chatter on to sift out a tidbit or two.  Men don’t have that kind of patience.  Mostly they don’t even think of questioning the likes of manicurists and cigarette girls because such women are invisible to them.

ANNIE: I must say I agree with Miss Sullivan, that the fact that people tend to underestimate or over look me as a woman gives me an edge. It was amazing what I learned when I pretended to be a female domestic…people simply didn’t notice I was in the room. Women have to be observant to survive in a world dominated by men, so despite my relative youth, I have learned how to read the unspoken meanings behind a person’s clothing, the way they hold their bodies, and their facial expressions. And I can ask the kind of questions that would be seen as suspicious or rude, if I were a man, because I am perceived as just a gossipy woman.

This concludes Part One of our interview. Look for my post tomorrow where I will link to Part Two on Myers’ site.

Meanwhile, do go and check on the first book in her series, No Game for a Dame, which is free on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks.

The second book in my series, Uneasy Spirits, is free for the next three days (1/20-22) on Kindle

M. Louisa Locke, January 20, 2016

The unexpected effect of the “perma free” strategy on my productivity

dreamstime_m_42093656In a post entitled Time for a Pivot? I detailed a shift in my marketing strategy for 2015. In 2014, all my books were in Amazon’s KDP Select (which requires exclusivity) and I used the 99 cent Kindle Countdown KDP Select tool as my primarily form of promotion. In December 2014 I took all my books off of KDP Select in order to sell them in a variety of bookstores (Apple, Nook, Kobo, GooglePlay), and for these first six months of 2015 I have been using the perma free strategy (making Maids of Misfortune, the first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, permanently free) as my major promotional tool. I also committed to writing more short stories, getting audiobook editions out for the next two novels in my series, and writing a short story for a new science fiction collaborative project called the Paradisi Chronicles.

While the table below demonstrates that this shift in strategy worked—in terms of maintaining my monthly income—the unintended consequence and perhaps the most important positive outcome from my shift in strategies is revealed in the last row of the table. My writing productivity quadrupled.

January to June 2014          January to June 2015
1 4 books on sale all in Select 5 books not in KDP Select 1 perma free
2 Total Sales and Borrows 21,200 13,626
3 Ave per month 3,500 2,200
4 Total royalties $36,000 36,500
5 Ave per month $6000 $6000
6 Free books 10,000 129,000
7 Promotions 5 KC (including 2 BookBub) and 1 Free promotion 1 BookBub of permafree book
8 Words written 2 short stories 18,000 words Draft of novel 85,000 words

How did this happen?

First of all, let’s look at the numbers. In the first six months of 2014, I had three novels for sale as ebooks (Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, and Bloody Lessons) and a boxed set of those books, with print editions for the novels, and an audible edition of Maids of Misfortune.

In the first six months of 2015, I had three novels for sale (Uneasy Sprits, Bloody Lessons and Deadly Proof––the 4th book in my series), Victorian San Francisco Stories (a collection of short stories) and my boxed set. I also now had audio book editions of Uneasy Spirits, Bloody Lessons, and Victorian San Francisco Stories. This meant that even with the loss of the ebook version of Maids of Misfortune as a source of paid income, I had two more ebooks available for sale and several more audio books as a source of income.

Second, while I had lost the income I was getting in 2014 from borrows from KOLL (Kindle Online Lending Library) because none of these books were in KDP Select in 2015, I had picked up sales from Apple, Nook, Kobo, and GooglePlay that made up for that loss of income. For example, January thru June 2014 (before the Kindle Unlimited subscription service was started by Amazon) I averaged 370 borrows a month from KOLL — about $700 a month in income. For 2015, with none of my books making money from borrows, I made on average $1000 a month (which included sales in the Apple, Nook, Kobo, and GooglePlay stores as well as the Kindle store).

Third, while I sold more books in the first six months of 2014 than in 2015 (see rows 2 & 3), a lot of those books were discounted to 99 cents as part of Kindle Countdown promotions (my main promotional tool in 2014). This explains why I was getting the same income for selling fewer books (averaging 1,300 fewer a month in 2015; see rows 3, 4 & 5). In 2015, I was giving away a lot more of copies of one title (see row 6), but I was also selling all my other titles at full price.

Which leads to the fourth and main point. Those Kindle Countdowns took time. As you can see from row 7, in 2014 I did a promotion every single month. And while this strategy produced more book sales, promotions took a lot of my time — which I could have used for writing. I had to schedule each promotion a month in advance, often with multiple promotional sites. The week the book was on sale, I engaged in daily activity on social media to further the promotions, and in order to determine the profitability of each sale, I spent additional time in record keeping to track average sales before, during, and after the sale.

While the time I spent in 2014 yielded income, it also meant that I only got two short stories written during that six-month month period (a total of only 18,000 words). In contrast, in 2015 I spent much less time on promotions. I had a one-day Book Bub promotion of my perma free book, Maids of Misfortune in January and I ran several Facebook ads for that book whenever the number of downloads per day fell. That’s all.

And the short story in the Paradisi Chronicles I said I wanted to write? It became Between Mountain and Sea, a full-length novel (85,000 words) that I wrote between February and June of this year. A much higher rate of productivity and an unexpected bonus from my shift to the perma-free strategy for my series.

So, have any of you authors noticed perma-free freeing up your writing time? If so let me know.

And for the rest of you, why don’t you go and check out Between Mountain and Sea, the fruits of my greater productivity, which is now available for pre-order. You will notice this book is in KDP Select because I am anxious to see how the new “payment by pages finished”​ process of Kindle Unlimited works. Stay tuned!

M. Louisa Locke, July 21, 2015

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

Next to last stop on Bloody Lessons Blog Tour: An Author Interview

Today I am being interviewed over at  Cozy up with Kathy,  revealing all my deepest, darkest secrets!

great escape tour banner large bloody lessons640

Copperfield Review Interview

Meredith Allard has just posted an interview with me at the The Copperfield Review–A Journal for Readers and Writers of Historical Fiction that you might find interesting. The Copperfield Review is an electronic journal that reviews historical fiction (including poetry), and historical non-fiction, as well as does interviews with historical fiction authors. I found the questions very thought-provoking, and I appreciated the chance to write a little more about my journey as a historical fiction author and my participation in the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative.

You can find my interview here.

M. Louisa Locke, July 3, 2013