Bleed Blue 69 is Here!

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Title: Bleed Blue 69

Author: Anthology

Charity: The Officer Down Memorial Page

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: December 6

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Synopsis

25 Authors. One SEXY Police Station. All for Charity.
Spend your holidays with the brave men and women of Precinct 69 protecting citizens and stealing hearts in the Big Apple. Twenty-five authors have joined forces to bring you their stories—some sweet, some dangerously hot—but all for a great cause. These NYC police officers will keep you warm on a winter’s night, make you sweat in the most delicious way possible, and have you wishing for your very own set of cuffs. Only further begging the question: Can anyone resist a hero in uniform?

Multiple authors have come together to give you one police station where all proceeds from this collaboration go to families of fallen officers.

Contributing Authors:
Alexis Alvarez
Josie Bordeaux
Rebecca Brooke
Emme Burton
M.C. Cerny
Sarah M. Cradit
Chelle C. Craze
Jami Denise
Lisa Edward
Mary Catherine Gebhard
ZB Heller
Vanessa Marie
Glenna Maynard
Kristen Hope Mazzola
Morgan Jane Mitchell
Jenni Moen
Alexis Noelle
Rochelle Paige
Brandy L Rivers
Katherine Rhodes
Emerson Shaw
Kacey Shea
M. Stratton
Madison Street
Felicia Tatum

Landscape portrait of young beautiful stylish couple sensual and having fun outdoor. Film effect

Landscape portrait of young beautiful stylish couple sensual and having fun outdoor. Film effect

Landscape portrait of young beautiful stylish couple sensual and having fun outdoor. Film effect

Landscape portrait of young beautiful stylish couple sensual and having fun outdoor. Film effect

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About the Author

Alexis Alvarez

Alexis Alvarez writer erotic fiction and contemporary romance with heat. Her books feature strong, intelligent sassy heroines and the men who earn their love.

You can find more about her work on her website http://www.graffitifiction.com, where she and her two real-life sisters – who are also romance writers – blog about their books.

In addition to being a romance author, Alexis is also a photographer and digital designer. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and making really inappropriate jokes.

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Josie Bordeaux

Josie Bordeaux is the author of the Alluring Promises series. Her romance novels revolve around friendships, sizzling attraction and steamy sex scenes. Lust, passion and love are all entwined with a lot of drama and fun-filled friendships. Josie lives in the sunshine state with her best friend (AKA – husband) and two sweet, and very creative daughters.

When she’s not driving her kids around town, she’s usually clicking her fingernails on her keyboard or down at the beach where her eyes are glued to her kindle app reading.
Connect with Josie on Facebook or Twitter!
Sign up for Josie’s newsletter for all new release info: http://eepurl.com/2FsfH

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Rebecca Brooke

Rebecca a New Jersey native has had a passion for reading all of her life. No matter the genre, turning her dreams into stories for her readers to treasure is more than she could ask for. She lives with her family wishing every day could be spent in the summer sun.

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Emme Burton

Emme Burton is the author of the Amazon Top 50 Rom-Com/New Adult novel SNACK, the Better Than Series: BETTER THAN ME (Book 1), FIX IT FOR US (Book 2), and STILL INTO YOU (Book 3) and is a contributing author in the bestselling story collections, HOOK & LADDER 69 and BLEED BLUE 69. Her new stand-alone novel, AWKwaRd, Victoria releases January 3rd, 2017. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her amazing husband and sons, and her “fur boy,” Jasper. Emme has never, ever been lost in a mall either as a child or an adult. Her mother, and now her family, have always known where to find her. At the bookstore.

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M.C. Cerny

M.C. Cerny fell in love with books after experiencing her first real ugly cry reading, Where The Red Fern Grows. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Flashpoint was written in a series of post-it-note ramblings that would likely make her idol Tom Clancy blush. She is a post graduate of NYU, working fulltime, and calls rural NJ home with her menagerie of human and feline fur-babies. When M.C. is not writing, you’ll find her lurking in Starbucks, running marathons, singing Disney show tunes, and searching out the perfect shade of pink nail polish.

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Sarah M. Cradit

Sarah is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Paranormal Southern Gothic series, The House of Crimson & Clover, born of her combined passion for New Orleans, family sagas, and the mysterious complexity of human nature. Her work has been described as rich, emotive, and highly dimensional.

An unabashed geek, Sarah enjoys studying subjects like the Plantagenet and Ptolemaic dynasties, and settling debates on provocative Tolkien topics such as why the Great Eagles are not Gandalf’s personal taxi service. Passionate about travel, Sarah has visited over twenty countries collecting sparks of inspiration (though New Orleans is where her heart rests). She’s a self-professed expert at crafting original songs to sing to her very patient pets, and a seasoned professional at finding ways to humiliate herself (bonus points if it happens in public). When at home in Oregon, her husband and best friend, James, is very kind about indulging her love of fast German cars and expensive lattes.

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Chelle C. Craze

A native West Virginian, Chelle has always been a dreamer. She spent her time growing up writing songs, poetry, screenplays, and movie scripts. She never thought about writing a book until she got older. Now, Chelle likes to spend her time being creative by painting, drawing, singing, dancing, playing instruments, and writing. By profession, she is a biomedical technician with an Electrical Engineering Technology A.S. degree and lives with her husband and two dogs.
Her debut novel is Just Breathe, The Blue Series book one.

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Jami Denise

Jami Denise is an up and coming writer from Southern California.
She writes Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Erotic Romance.

Her books are always on the spicy side with a little bit of sweet to make you swoon. Her feisty kittens always give the bad boys a run for their money. She likes taking risks, pushing her characters into directions that challenge the reader and take them out of their element. You’ll usually find the unexpected to happen in her stories. Life isn’t always pretty, and she likes to layer her words with true grit.

She is a self professed cat lady, addicted to coffee and Monster, cupcake lip balm, and loves all things old,grungy,and fast. She’s well versed in sarcasm, and the F-word is her favorite adjective.

When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, or fingers on a keyboard, she’s spending time with family and friends, watching old movies, and waiting for the next felon to come sweep her off her feet.

She loves interacting with her readers and meeting new friends.

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Lisa Edward

Lisa Edward is the author of The Songbird trilogy, and the novella Duty of Care. While Lisa has called Melbourne Australia home for her entire life, she has lived and worked in England, and travelled through most parts of Europe and the United States. She loves nothing more than spending time with her beautiful daughter, or curling up into the early hours of the morning with a great novel. By day, Lisa works in the analytical IT field, so relishes the opportunity to foster her creative side through writing. Her deep appreciation for literature was nurtured from a young age, being taught to respect books and get lost in their stories. She enjoys reading honest and realistic novels that are relatable, thought provoking and leave a lasting impression. She can’t write without music playing, using the emotions from different songs to invoke those of her characters. Lisa takes inspiration from her own life experiences, the people around her and those she has met in her travels.

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Mary Catherine Gebhard

Mary Catherine Gebhard bites off more than she can chew. She’s lived in Salt Lake City, Utah her entire life, but occasionally goes on vacation from reality. Don’t worry, she sends postcards.

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ZB Heller

As a little girl it was always a dream for Z.B. Heller to become She-Ra Princess of Power. Since this dream was unobtainable, she spent what was probably way to long in college trying to “find herself”. Becoming an artist scratched the creative itch until the stories in her head were getting to be to loud for her to get anything else accomplished.

She lives in St. Louis with her husband, son and Flemish Giant rabbit Chloe. In her spare time she likes to read, stalk celebraties on Twitter and create the type of art people scratch their heads about.

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Vanessa Marie

Always the cause of shenanigans, Vanessa is a heavily tattooed, sarcastic motorcycle enthusiast who started her career as a Jeep tech at the age of sixteen. The happily married mother of three little monsters—oops, children—lives in Kentucky by way of Las Vegas, Nevada. Once her life took a different direction—sidelined by Heart Disease at 26 and becoming a pacemaker recipient—she decided to write as a creative outlet, and Heartless was born. She realizes life can be dark clouds and acid rain at times, but her outlook on life puts a positive and sarcastic spin on it all.

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Glenna Maynard

Glenna Maynard is a Kentucky native with a passion for romance best known for her bestselling romantic suspense novel I’m with You and The Black Rebel Riders’ MC series. When she isn’t arguing with the voices in her head or drinking reader tears, she enjoys watching classic TV shows with her two children and longtime leading man.

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Kristen Hope Mazzola

Hi! Thanks for dropping in…

You want to know more about me? Well, let’s see…

I am just an average twenty-something following my dreams. I have a full time “day job” and by night I am an author. I guess you could say that writing is like my super power (I always wanted one of those). I am the lover of wine, sushi, football and the ocean; that is when I am not wrapped up in the literary world.

Please feel free to contact me to chat about my writing, books you think I’d like or just to shoot the, well you know.

A portion of all my royalties are donated to The Marcie Mazzola Foundation.

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Morgan Jane Mitchell

Bestselling erotic romance and paranormal author, Morgan Jane Mitchell spent years blogging politics and health trends before she rediscovered her love of writing fiction. Trading politicians for bloodsuckers of another kind, she’s now the author of bestselling post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Sanguis City. Her action packed series of vampires, witches, demons and zombies is paranormal romance, dystopia, urban fantasy and erotica in one bite. When Morgan Jane is not creating the city of blood or conjuring up other supernatural tales, she’s dreaming up erotic and dark romances. Morgan Jane lives in the beautiful bluegrass area of central Kentucky with her husband, 3 sons, 3 cats and a greyhound shepherd mix dog named Miss Penni Lane.

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Jenni Moen

Jenni Moen lives in her hometown in Oklahoma with her husband and three crazy, exuberant kids who have the potential to burn the house down at any moment.

When she’s not chauffeuring kids around town, performing her mom duties as a short order cook and maid, or vacuuming for her fastidious husband, she hammers away at her keyboard. Sometimes that means she’s up to no good. But every now and then a new book is born.

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Alexis Noelle

Alexis Noelle lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with her husband, and three kids. On top a writing career, she is a full-time student and a full-time mom. She loves spending time with her kids, although she has to hide the computer from them when she is writing! She love being active and being outdoors, especially if it involves any kind of shopping.

She has always been passionate about writing. She loves to read romance books and feels like being able to lose yourself in a book is one of the more exciting aspects. The books she loves to read and write will be ones that make you feel for the characters. Alexis believes that you should have an opinion on every character in a book whether you love them, hate them, or think they are up to something.

She also believes that the most important critic is your reader, so she loves to hear from the readers. She want her fans to be open & talk to her about what they want for the characters in the story, and what they would like to see happen.

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Rochelle Paige

Rochelle Paige is the Amazon bestselling author of eleven books. She absolutely adores reading and her friends growing up used to tease her when she trailed after them, trying to read and walk at the same time. She loves stories with alpha males, sassy heroines, hot sex and happily ever afters. She is a bit of a genre hopper in both her reading and her writing. So far she’s written books in several romance sub-genres including new adult, contemporary, paranormal and romantic suspense.

She is the mother of two wonderful sons who inspired her to chase her dream of being an author. She wants them to learn from her that you can live your dream as long as you are willing to work for it.

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Brandy L Rivers

Brandy L Rivers is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She is kept busy writing the Others of Seattle, Others of Edenton, Combustible, and the Pine Barrens Pack series.
An avid reader, Brandy has always loved writing. She became serious about it as a stay-at-home-mother. With every story her world of characters expands, pulling her new directions.
Living in rainy Western Washington with her husband and three kids, Brandy is already working on future stories in each of the series, and several other projects.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

Katherine Rhodes

Author of erotica, light BDSM erotica and paranormal erotica. Expert in the profundities of bad movies and awful literature. Armed with her Bachelors of English, Literature she has set her mind to writing erotic romances which are kinky, dirty, and fun. A lackadaisical laundry goddess, Katherine resides in Philadelphia with her husband, three cats and a betta named Fishtian Grey.

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Emerson Shaw

Emerson Shaw was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelors of Business Administration. She is married and has two beautiful children. Her debut novel, Acts of Desperation, was based off of a true story. She recently began a new romantic suspense series called “The Hot Pursuit Series.” Straight Flushed, book one, was released on June 22, 2015.

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Kacey Shea

Kacey Shea is a mom of three, wife, and indie author who resides in sunny Arizona. She enjoys reading and writing romance novels as much as her son loves unicorns, which is a lot.

When she’s not writing you will find her playing taxi cab to her children while belting out her favorite tunes, meeting friends or family for food and to share some laughs, or sweating it out in the gym. Kacey finds that picking up heavy weights repeatedly is good for her mental health as much as it is for the physical.

She has an unhealthy obsession with firefighters. It could be the pants. It could be the fire. It’s just hot. On occasion she has been known to include them, without their knowledge, in her selfies outside the grocery store.

Kacey one day aspires be a woman hand model in a sexy photo shoot. You know, the woman’s hand raking across the muscular back or six pack stomach of the male fitness model. Yep, that hand.

Until that day comes she will continue writing sexy, flirty romance novels in hopes to bring others joy!

Kacey enjoys interacting with her fans so please feel free to stalk her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Sign up for Kacey’s newsletter and never miss a release: http://eepurl.com/b5FI4f

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M. Stratton

M. Stratton is an International Amazon bestselling author in the romantic suspense and mystery suspense categories for her Storm Series and Bender. She lives with her husband and son in Arizona, which is a big difference from where she grew up north of Chicago, Illinois. As an only child she learned to tell herself stories to make the long winters go by quicker while dreaming of summer vacations. Now as an adult she still makes up stories to pass the time, but now she writes them down to share with other people.

Stratton is a self-proclaimed dork who loves to make people laugh. Her inner rock star is always on stage performing to a sold out crowd, but she quiet and shy on the outside. She spends her days plotting new ways to surprise her readers.

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Madison Street

Madison began writing at a young age. She would write episodes of her favorite television shows and her passion has grown since. She decided to pursue her dreams and debuted her dark romance suspense novel, Little Things, in June 2014. It was well received by thousands of readers and became a bestseller in Romance Suspense on Amazon.

Madison Street was born in New York City and was raised in the Bronx, where she resided until she was 17 years old. After 9/11, Madison joined the United States Navy to serve her country.

During the deployments, Madison constantly wrote short stories and she discovered her passion for writing. You will find Madison always on the computer, whether she’s on Facebook, designing websites, messing with Photoshop, or writing for her blog.

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Felicia Tatum

USA Today Bestselling author Felicia Tatum was born and raised in Tennessee. She always loved reading, and at the age of twelve began writing. Her passion for creating stories grew and in May 2012, she finally wrote her first novel, The White Aura.

She still lives in Tennessee with her daughter and her kitty. She loves cooking, books, and animals are some of her best friends. She watches a lot of Disney channel and often dreams up new book ideas. She’s currently working on various projects. She’s the author of the White Aura series, Scarred Hearts series, and Intoxicating Passion series.

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5 Years in Publishing: A Reflection

being-a-good-writerYesterday was my 5 Year Publishing Anniversary (or “Pubiversary” as some of us call it. Authors are allowed to make up words, right?). The day was a busy one for unrelated reasons, so I didn’t get to celebrate as I should have. But five years is a long time, and my celebration will come in the form of reflection.

The last five years might as well have been fifty for how much has changed for me as a direct result of publishing my work.

Let’s back up further, to 2000. I was watching TV with my husband (we weren’t married yet, though; not until the following year). A single line popped into my head: “It was raining the day I buried my wife.” Depressing, right? But if you’re a creative type, like me, depressing ideas often become opportunities. I was struck with the overwhelming certainty I was meant to write this line down, and more, that this line would become the beginning of a novel. Now, I had been writing since I was in the second grade. I’d won awards for my stories, and was known for being the girl who’s “imagination would get her in trouble one day.” (For the record, it got me in trouble more than a few times). But I was notorious for never finishing anything I wrote, except short pieces. No matter how much world building or planning I’d do, I was great at starting, okay at the middle, but a complete failure at tying it together into an ending. Endings were scary. Endings required commitment in a very final way.

Worse, like most writers, I was a perfectionist. Nothing was ever good enough. And I had no one to tell me nothing ever would be. I had to learn that on my own.

I’ve written before about how St. Charles at Dusk, which started with the line above, took me over a decade to write. If you’ve read the book, you’re probably asking:  How?? The answer requires an essay of its own, but the short explanation is perfectionism and crippling self-doubt. Two things authors are intimately familiar with.

Then one day my husband came across some articles on Amanda Hockett and her success in self-publishing and encouraged me to give it a shot. Up to that point, when I thought of self-publishing I envisioned the middle aged man with boxes of his magnum opus sitting in the garage, waiting for him to drive around and peddle them to random strangers. Obviously, things had changed if a young girl could sell over a million books without anyone in the industry guiding her. This was a chance to get my work out there, without the stress of finding an agent or a publisher. A toe in the water. What did I have to lose?

Nothing, as it turned out. Instead, I had everything to gain.

10608594_10204384390957197_7459378025498670569_o (1)Outside of a few Google searches, I knew absolutely nothing about self-publishing. I had no idea where to even start, and, at the time, I didn’t know any other authors (nor did I have a clue where to find them). I met a designer (referred to me by a friend) for coffee and tried to articulate the book and my vision for it, and failed miserably. He ended up designing a stunning cover, but it wasn’t what I was looking for, and I blame myself. Learning to articulate my work clearly and concisely was a skill that would come later. But it was a professional cover, and I published St. Charles at Dusk with it.

Formatting took me weeks to get right. I must have ordered ten proof copies before getting it passably correct. Figuring out where my books should be published (outside of the obvious choice of Amazon) was another mountain. My sanity was tested.

305064_249627531745014_118012210_n.jpgAnd then, on September 26th, 2011, I released St. Charles at Dusk to the wide world. No fanfare beyond a few excited friends and family members (I remember who supported me in those early days, and I love you all so much for it). Holding my own book in my hands for the first time is a feeling I cannot begin to describe, so won’t even try. If I got tagged in a “5 Best Moments of Your Life” post, that would be on there for sure.

Then… nothing. I had no clue how to market my work to anyone beyond my contacts, and my built-in humility made it hard to do even that. In 2011, I made exactly $53.24 (while I couldn’t sell books, I’m an ace at financial tracking). I’m fairly certain I could attach names to every one of those sales, too.

The first half of 2012 was no different. In fact, I made less. $49.50. I marketed the book exactly zero times, and the excitement I had in late 2011 from this accomplishment died from “I’m an author,” to “I published a book once.” I would daydream about the next book, but the ideas never made it to the page. I was The Queen of Concepts.

Then, as always, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I had a trip to Turkey and Morocco planned for late November, so I knocked out the entire required 50,000 words in twenty days. And I loved the story! It wasn’t exactly a sequel to St. Charles at Dusk (which was meant to be a standalone, but I found I couldn’t bear to leave that world). In fact, it felt like a beginning to something more. The Storm and the Darkness was, in my own way, a love letter to introverts. Ana Deschanel and Jonathan St. Andrews were my best attempt to show the world what it is to feel isolated and awkward, and to search for your place in the world. It was also the true start to what became The House of Crimson & Clover Series.

I didn’t touch the manuscript again until early 2013. I’d been laid off at work, and I needed something to keep me busy. I started blogging, mostly about travel and Tolkien topics, and met some amazing people, many of whom I’ve continued friendships with into today. I met other writers. I started to get a broader view of the industry beyond the small piece I occupied by myself. Inspired by being around other artists and rediscovering a sense of purpose, I dusted off The Storm and the Darkness and published it in June of 2013, a month after starting my new job.

Before, I’d told myself it was too difficult to balance a full time career in the outside world with a career in the writing world. Now, I was determined to ride this newfound excitement and momentum and prove myself wrong.

Flourish came in August of 2013. The Illusions of Eventide followed in December. Shattered in February of 2014, and then another four titles that same year. In 2013 I made hundreds of dollars. In 2014, thousands. Somewhere between Darkness and Flourish, I started learning Photoshop and began to design my own covers, which was an evolution in itself. Inspired by my good friend Becket, who had learned to design his own as well, I decided I could do anything I put my mind to, and if I practiced enough, I could do it well.

11215768_10207522698732930_466527202291173829_nIn 2014 I was invited to be a featured author at Anne Rice’s Undead Con in New Orleans. I was invited back in 2015. I had a chance to speak with Anne personally and tell her what her work had meant to me, and how she had inspired my work almost more than any other author.

Somewhere between those two events, Christopher Rice (another one of my favorite authors) picked up The Storm and the Darkness and declared it one of his favorite books, much to my incredible shock. He featured it as a Favorite Read on his Dinner Party Show.  I still don’t know how this happened. It still takes my breath away.

I busted my ass and by the start of 2015 I had nine titles.  But what I did not have was a solid marketing strategy.

JPG (3)Around this time, I finally envisioned the design that would define my brand. I spent endless hours redesigning my series, my website, my marketing materials. I began to understand that the reason I struggled to market before was that I was inconsistent in how I saw my work, and that included picking a genre and sticking with it. By focusing my brand into something others could see and recognize as mine, I was able to target the readers who should be reading my work.

In 2015, I published seven more titles. I became an Amazon Bestselling Author for the first time on my own (several times), and hit the USA Today list twice in anthologies. My sales went from four to five figures. I started to get emails daily from readers instead of monthly. I began to see the impact my work could have on others. My income moved from the four digits into the five. I was able to re-invest back in my business and grow it further.

Now, in 2016, five years after I hit publish with shaking hands, I have 22 titles under my name. I’m beginning to branch outside of The House of Crimson & Clover, and I now have a system that works- for writing, getting a book to market, and getting it before readers. And despite all that, I know I still have so much more to learn.

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The accomplishments I’m most proud of in 5 years:

  • Hitting publish for the first time. This required more bravery than anything I’ve ever done.
  • Learning to design my own graphics work and creating a brand design that I’m absolutely in love with, still, almost two years later.
  • Being a featured author at the Anne Rice Undead Con in New Orleans twice.
  • Hitting #18 in the overall Amazon store on my own. Also hitting the Top 100 four times on my own.
  • Hitting #3 in the Barnes & Noble store on my own.
  • Hitting the USA Today Bestseller’s list three times in anthologies.
  • Having Christopher Rice feature my work and continue to call me one of his favorite authors.
  • Charles at Dusk made it to the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.
  • I both met and exceeded the business goals I set for myself in 2014 and 2015 (and the goals were aggressive). I’m on track for the same in 2016.
  • 22 titles. Twenty-two. How are there even that many words in my head?

If some of this feels less than modest, that’s because there’s something else I’ve learned to do in five years: Not be afraid of success. In any other career, we are encouraged to go after promotions and opportunities, and we are equally encouraged to find pride when we get them. There’s a certain level of shame in admitting when you’ve done well as an author, as if the career choice is not viable in comparison to others. So this is me saying, I am thrilled with where my career as an author has taken me. And I’ve even more excited to see where it goes.

Most of all, though, I want to say thank you. To my readers who keep reading. To my author friends who keep me going. To my family and friends who believe in me. Writing is a very solitary profession, but having a support system makes it just a little bit less lonely.

Onward to the next 5 years.

So You Want to Self Publish

being-a-good-writer.jpegI am often asked some variant of the question: “I’ve written a book. How do I self-publish it?” The question, as well as the answer, can feel overwhelming. Certainly whenever I’m asked, I often think, where do I start? What level of detail do I share? How much of my time can I give to assisting?

Time is unfortunately a commodity I have very little of nowadays, but I also love to help others, especially those serious about pursuing their creative endeavors. This article attempts to achieve that balance.

What This Is: The basics to get someone started in publishing, to get their feet wet. To literally get a book for sale and ready to market. Things you need to know before you publish, and the places you can go to do so.

What This Is Not: An all-inclusive guide to self-publishing. There’s no way I could cram 5+ years of learning into a single post, nor does my brain cooperate in that way. This is also not a guide for how to find an agent or a publisher.

This article assumes you have already written a book. This also assumes that you are aiming to publish your work with the intention of getting it into reader’s hands (as opposed to just printing copies for yourself). I have other guides that cover tips for the writing process. This guide picks up at the point you have a completed book and need to know what to do next.

10 Things That Have to Happen Before You Publish

If you are sebest-fiction-writing-to-do-funny-ecard-nOZ.pngrious about getting your work into the world, these are all things you have to consider. They all require considerable time, and in certain cases, money. If you expect to see any success in this business, they’re also not optional (with the exception of author groups). Proceed with a deep breath, and decide if you’re ready for this level of commitment.
 
  1. Editing: You must have the book edited. Sometimes new authors believe this is an optional step, but I can assure you, no matter how proficient you are in your language (even if you yourself have edited books), you need an objective set of eyes. You cannot be objective. We just are not wired that way. The best way to find an editor is by recommendations from other authors, and most credible editors will do a small sample for free for you so you can get a feel for their process and style. Be sure to find one who is experienced and has good relationships with their clients. Your friend Sally who got an A in English is not a substitute for an editor. The type and degree of editing you need will depend on your experience level. I started off needing a content editor, but now have a copy editor.
  2. Beta Reading: Beta reading differs from editing in that with beta reading you are looking for pure reader reaction. What works? What doesn’t work? Where are there inconsistencies in story or character behavior? What was unclear? Unlike an editor, your beta readers do not need to have any formal experience, they only need to feel comfortable and safe giving you very honest feedback. You can find beta readers within author groups, or even from friends. The most important thing is that your beta reader is not telling you what you want to hear, but what you need to. I recommend 2-3 beta readers. Beta readers should be willing to work for free, although sending them a paperback of the finished book is a nice gesture.
  3. Formatting: Your book needs to be formatted to properly work on the various types of e-readers, as well as for paperback. Some authors (myself included) do their own formatting, but for your first time, I recommend leaving this in the hands of an expert. You’ll need an .epub file, a .mobi file, and a PDF of your paperback. Some editors also offer formatting, but if not, there are a lot of places to go to find a formatter.
  4. Blurb: Yep, those things on the back of the book telling readers what it’s about? You need one. They can be painful for authors to write, as it’s often hard to paraphrase our own work, but your editor can help you get it cleaned up. Couple of tips: strong statements, avoid repetitive words, and keep it in present tense.
  5. Cover Design: You need a cover. Not just any cover, but a good cover. Unless you are already a skilled and proficient graphic designer, no you cannot create the cover yourself. Fair or not, many readers can and do judge a book by the cover, and a cover that is either poorly done or does not fit with your genre/theme/brand is not only not doing you favors, it will actually work against you. You can find a cover designer the same way as an editor. You might even reach out to authors whose covers you loved and ask who they used.
  6. Brand: You need to decide what your brand is. What keywords should be associated with you, what you want readers to think of when they see your name and read your books. This is not a black and white exercise, but as you begin to wrap your mind around this, everything you do (from your covers, to your marketing, to your social media presence, etc.) should represent your brand. I may speak more on this in another article, as this is a huge topic that deserves its own space.
  7. Marketing: You can write the best book in the world, have it edited to perfection, commission the best cover, and have a consistent brand message, but if you don’t market your work, you will not sell any books. Sadly, books do not sell on their own. I know marketing is typically an ‘after the fact’ activity, but I bring it up in the ‘before you publish’ category because you need to know and decide upfront how much money and time you are going to invest in marketing. This includes time you spend on social media promoting your own work as well as paying third party advertisers to help you spread the word. Realistically, I spent 5-10 hours marketing (sometimes more) each week. Many authors are caught off guard by the cost and necessity, so it’s better to go in armed.
  8. Social Media & Newsletter: Create your social media presence EARLY. It’s so much easier to build from day one than to go back after a year and attempt it. You’ll want Facebook (an author page, not a personal profile), Twitter, and a Newsletter for sure. You might also want Google +, Instagram, and Pinterest, but your mileage may vary with these. And, most important of all, get your newsletter started. This will be the single biggest marketing tool you have as an author. I cannot stress this enough. You can get a free account with Mailchimp or Mailerlite, and it only becomes a cost service once you reach a higher number of subscribers. Include links to all of these places (FB, Twitter, Newsletter, etc.) in the back of every single one of your books.
  9. Author Groups: Look for author groups on Facebook and join them. Observe the discussions. Befriend authors, and where you take help, also offer it (perhaps by offering to beta for them, as an example). Over time, your author friends will become your tribe, but they will also help you navigate the often unfair, often confusing waters of publishing. They are also the only ones who know what it is to suffer from crippling self-doubt, but, on the flip side, the absolute high from nailing a passage.
  10. Financials: This one is as simple, or as complicated, as it needs to be. Essentially, you need to decide where you’re going to get your checks. It’s usually easier and cleaner to open a separate account for any book revenue. Also, be sure to track any expenses related to your books for tax time. Covers, editing, marketing, materials- items directly related to expenses to keep your writing business moving forward can probably be written off at tax time. I am not a tax attorney, though, so take that advice with this fact in mind, and consult one if needed.
That may seem like a lot; it is. But if you’ve come this far, and you’re serious about the work you’ve created, then your work deserves your continued focus to make it a success. Every single topic above deserves its own article, and I may one day expand on those, but there are also a ton of resources on the internet. Just be wary of anything that feels like a shortcut to success. As with fad diets and get rich quick schemes, they often fall way short of reality.

 

So by now you should have a fully edited and beta read book, with a fabulous cover that fits your brand, a marketing plan (or at least an idea of the time you plan to spend marketing), your social sites created and running, and some author support groups on your Facebook. Phew!

You’re ready to publish!

become-a-writer.jpgFor self-publishing, there are a number of sites where you can load your book. Each site asks for a different file type, and has certain requirements. Most are fairly easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. Below I’ve listed out the main sites where you can distribute your work. They all have FAQs and Tutorials should you need help.

For eBooks, you can publish directly or through a third party. For paperbacks, there are several places you create and distribute your work, and I’ve listed them below separately.

Bear in mind that eBook royalties vary by how you price your work. Most retailers will only offer max royalty if you price your book $2.99 or higher.

Direct Distributors for eBooks

A direct distributor simply means you are selling your books directly through the retailers. With Amazon, you have to go direct, as they no longer allow third party uploading. For all others, you can choose to use one of the third party options above, or you can upload directly with them for quicker reporting and tighter control.

  1. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: http://kdp.amazon.com. Distributes to all Amazon markets that sell ebooks. Kindle sales are a top earner for most authors, so I recommend starting here. KDP also offers a program called Kindle Unlimited that has some perks, but requires exclusivity (can’t publish anywhere else). They offer 70% royalties on books priced $2.99-$9.99 and 35% to anything under $2.99 or over $9.99. On top of that, they remove a small amount for delivery fees, which is based on the size of your .mobi file. For uploading, for best results, use a .mobi.
  2. Barnes & Noble Nook: http://nookpress.com/. Distributes to Barnes & Noble US and some EU countries. For royalties, they pay 40% up to $2.99 (or over $10) and 65% for $2.99-$9.99. When uploading, for best results use an .epub.
  3. Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/writinglife. Kobo is a Canadian company that distributes to a number of markets. They’ve seen a lot of recent growth, including the ability to book promotions directly with them. They offer 70% for books over $2.99 (no cap), and 40% for anything under.
  4. Apple iBooks: https://itunesconnect.apple.com. Apple is the only one of the retailers listed here that requires you to have very specific hardware: a Mac, in this case. You have to download an app called iTunes Producer to distribute content to iTunes. If you do not have a Mac, you can use one of the third party aggregators listed below to get your work on iBooks. Apple does not have a firm royalty table published, but royalties come out between 60-70% usually.
  5. Google Play: https://play.google.com/books/publish/. I’ve never been able to find a straight answer about Google’s royalty payments. I always estimated between 50-60%, and the end result comes out around there.
  6. All Romance: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/publishers.html. I don’t have much personal experience with this retailer, but some romance authors do very well here.

Third Party Distributors for eBooks

A third party distributor basically acts as a middle-man between you and the direct distributor (Nook, Amazon, etc.), and handles all the publishing and sending of files to those retailers. The benefit of this is being able to manage it easily in one place. The downfall is that the reporting is often delayed, and you have less direct control over how your content is sent and displayed. There are also different royalties using third party than doing direct. Note: Neither will distribute to Amazon, so even if you go this route, you will still need to distribute directly with Amazon.
  1. Draft 2 Digital: https://www.draft2digital.com/ They distribute to iBooks, Kobo, Nook, and several other niche retailers. D2D, of the two, is easier as they do not have rigorous controls over the content you upload. It also appears on the retailers quicker, in my experience.
  2. Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/ They distribute to most of the big retailers (iBooks, Nook, Kobo), as well as many of the smaller, up-and-coming, or niche retailers (see site for full list). Smashwords, in addition to distributing to other retailers for you, has their own storefront where consumers can buy your books as well. Their content requirements can be more tedious if your formatting isn’t perfect, and they take longer to send books to retailers. However, Mark Coker, CEO, is very active in the indie community and loves feedback.
Note: for both third party distributors, you can choose which retailers you want to distribute to, or opt out of. Also, some of the smaller/niche retailers listed for these third party uploaders can ONLY be uploaded to via their site, and not direct.

Third Party or Direct?

There are pros and cons of both and it comes down to personal preference.
For third party, on the pro side, you have convenience, and also some of the retailers (like Scribd, as an example) don’t have direct selling options, so you get your book in more places. On the con side of third party, your reporting is often delayed and less sophisticated, and you’re trusting a third party to translate your content.
On the direct side, the pro is the control and reporting. On the con side is, for iBooks specifically, you can only upload directly if you own a Mac.
Personally, I distribute direct everywhere.

Paperbacks     

There are several third party companies who will do print-on-demand for your paperbacks. Some cost you nothing upfront, others have an expense. They all have different distribution options, as well. Personally, I use CreateSpace due to their ease of use and broad distribution, and my books can be purchased online at Amazon, Nook, Powell’s, and other retailers. Lightning Source and Lulu are other companies you could check out for comparison (I have not personally used them). Ingram Spark is also popular, but has setup fees. And Barnes & Noble is also offering a paperback creation service now.

Your Books Are Uploaded: Now What?

12107076_10156152566230287_2043869407394405191_nFirst, check the retailers to find your titles. Depending on the retailer, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, but once you have your links, I recommend keeping them in a note somewhere so you can find them easily.
  • Start executing on your marketing plan. This is another topic that deserves a separate post (if not an actual course). However, the absolute best marketing for your book is another book. If a reader loves it, but has nothing else from you to buy, they will move on.
  • Keep your social media active. DO market your work there, but DON’T only post about your books. Find interesting content, images, etc. that relate to your brand. For example, my books are set in New Orleans so I often post articles and pictures of the area.
  • Engage with people who engage with you. If you start selling like Stephen King, this might prove more challenging for you, but in the beginning you have all the time in the world and you should use it wisely.
  • Don’t ask for favors from other authors. They are your friends, and maybe your fans, but mostly your friends. On the flip side, do join cross-promo groups or author co-ops designed for helping one another with promo. Learn from other authors, take what advice works, and adapt it to work for you.
  • Learn early that everyone’s experiences are different, and what works for one may not work for another. Everyone I know who has seen success in writing has done it in different ways. Master your brand, keep it consistent, write good content, and most importantly, begin writing the next book.
  • Start tracking your sales. Put your spreadsheets together early, and update them periodically so you don’t have to go back months later and reconcile. There’s a lot of ways to look at data, and I may tackle this is another post, another time.
  • Don’t expect overnight sales. Or even any sales. You might get no sales at all for a while, and 10 books in your first month might be ambitious. It takes a long time, a lot of work, and a significant amount of patience to build a brand and a fan base. But, don’t despair. One reader will lead to another, and another. View this as a business that deserves (and requires) your time and commitment to thrive.
  • Research! There’s so much to learn, and so many great resources out there. Here’s a list of some sites that have some great information for authors new to publishing: https://soulsistersauthoradvocates.wordpress.com/start-here/

That’s All For Now!

If you’ve made it to the end, you’re likely thinking that was ridiculously long. I don’t mean to scare you, but this barely scratches the surface. This gets you through the door and into the big, scary, but immensely rewarding world of publishing. I could talk about marketing, brand, pre-orders, optimizing call-to-actions, networks, loss leaders, how and when to put your book on sale, and a million other things but they will mean little to you at this stage. For now, you did it! Now, take a deep breath, and get to learning.
Good luck!

10 Learnings Over 4 Years of Publishing

Become-a-writerI published my first book, St. Charles at Dusk, on September 26th, 2011. Four years have passed, and with them, more learnings than I could ever fully wrap my mind around. In those early days, I was a woman alone on an island, getting all my advice from Google. I didn’t know a single other author who had published their work.

Flash forward four years. I’m no longer a woman alone on an island, but one surrounded by hundreds of authors, thousands of readers, and years of experience (with many years still ahead). I have seventeen original titles out (and numerous boxed sets), and an endless quantity of ideas. I’ve been lauded by esteemed authors, and appeared on the USA Today Bestsellers list, twice. I’m nowhere near an expert, and far from perfect. I’ve had successes and setbacks, like any author, and I move forward knowing I’ll have more of both. I’m excited to have more of both, because the setbacks teach me, and every learning in this world is a gift.

Perhaps a new author will stumble on this post, and find it helpful. Maybe a tenured author will read through and nod their head. In any case, I hope your journey finds you well.

No Two Author Journeys Are Alike

originalNo, really. Every single author has their own experiences, their own luck, their own skills and tools. Even if you took two authors who write identical genres, covers, and used identical marketing strategies, they would not share the same results. It’s fruitless to compare your journey with any other author, or to ask yourself “why am I not seeing the same results?” unless you truly do have something that needs changing (covers that don’t grab attention, editing issues, as examples). You’ll drive yourself crazy making comparisons, which will lead to negative feelings, inevitably resulting in creative blocks. Control what you can control, and understand the rest comes down to timing, luck, and the humors of the universe.

The Best Marketing for Your First Book is More Books

The very first thing I did when I hit publish on Dusk was research how the hell I was going to get the book in front of readers. Naturally, some of my friends and family bought it, probably half from support and half from shock. But I had no clue how to get it in front of a broader audience, and I spent way too much time (creative time) trying to solve this.

images (7)It wasn’t until I joined several author loops that I understood why this was a waste of my time. Let’s say a reader bought Dusk and loved it. They go to find the next book and… nothing. In the time it takes to write another book, that reader will have moved on and forgotten their love of the first one.

On the other hand, if they love that first book and find half a dozen more, you’ve now found yourself a fan willing to wait for future releases. They’re invested, and fans who are invested will keep checking back.

Learn your craft. Write well. And keep doing it!

Marketing is an Art, Not a Science

HELLOAnd, like any art, the interpretation varies by audience. What works for one, may be a turnoff for another. The only consistency I’ve found is that moderation is key. Readers don’t want endless advertisements from you, but if you don’t tell them how and where to find your work, how will they know?

Over half the posts on my social media accounts aren’t about my books, but they are peripherally related: articles/pictures on New Orleans (where my books are set), writing anecdotes. They’re thematically in line with my brand, which inevitably also relates back to my work, even if indirectly.

Finally, loss leaders. Perma-free, or lower price ($.99) for first in series (while a blow to your ego, which you need to learn to check anyway in this business) is a proven tool, and a great way to bring in new readers.

Get to Know Other Authors

socially-awkward-friends-party-friendship-ecards-someecardsAs friends and comrades, not a potential audience. While half of what I learned these four years has been through trial and error, the other half came from the various author loops I’m a part of. While mileage varies by author (see the first point), there’s much to be learned from what others have done. They are also the only ones in the world who will understand what you’re going through when the words won’t flow, or you get a review that hurt (even when you know you should shake it off).

Also, some of my dearest friends in the world are authors. So there’s that.

Writing is a Full Time Job, Even if You Aren’t Writing Full Time

imageIf you think writing a book is the beginning and end of it, you’re in for a rude surprise. The quantity of things you need to keep track of, head up, and be on top of is endless. I keep a checklist for publishing each book, and there’s over forty items on it. That’s only for publishing! Maintaining my social accounts, my website, and other “businessy” things takes up more time than the writing. I love running my own business, but organizational skills aren’t optional.

Your Brand is Everything

I knew this going in, as my other career sits in the corporate world. Everything you do should be purposeful.

8Execution isn’t as easy as knowledge. Everything I say, everything I post, is a reflection of my brand. This isn’t simply posting about relevant things (as I mentioned above, with sharing items related to my books), but understanding the words we use have power, and are remembered. Venting about a lack of sales or other publishing frustrations might garner sympathy but will get you branded as unprofessional. Getting involved in drama is something others will remember. Responding to reviewers (especially negative ones) will only lead to misery.

Lastly, and this is a tough one when you’re friends with so many authors and want to help them: be mindful of who and what you promote. Your readers will look to the content you share as endorsements from you. This isn’t to say that you can’t help your friends. I co-created a blogger page to help share for others, because there simply isn’t enough time in the day to read everyone’s work. My author page remains reserved for content I’ve read and can stamp with a personal endorsement.

Creative Control is a Curse as Much as a Blessing

download (5)I’ve self-published 100% of my titles, and I have NO regrets in doing so. I’m not looking for a book deal, for many reasons, but not the least of which is that I love having full creative control over my work.

A few years ago, I learned Photoshop so I could design my own covers, largely because I wasn’t able to articulate to others what was in my head. The result? Six or seven different iterations of covers before I landed on the design I have now (which I adore). While I’m in love with the end result, getting there involved a lot of hair loss. When you know you can change things, that thought never leaves the back of your mind. In other words, a “to do” list that never shrinks.

This applies to other aspects of the business as well, the biggest one being content. Now, finding errors and uploading corrections on the fly is a fantastic benefit. But as you grow in your writing, inevitably it will improve. Yay, right? Yes. Except, when you re-read your earlier work and want to re-write the hell out of it, so it matches your current skill-set.

I’ll admit to having done this with Dusk, for many reasons. Never again. At some point, you have to accept your writing will improve, and most readers will enjoy watching that evolution. Your work represents different eras in your writing life, and you should be proud of them all.

Understand ROI

In addition to everything else we manage, the lure of “shiny objects” in the form of outside marketing tools bubbles to the surface. Anything from blog tours, author events, giveaways, and advertising. As with everything else, mileage varies. What works for one, may not for another, and *who* you employ to help with these things matters a great deal. Look for endorsements from other authors.

63911544Finally, there are items with very little ROI you may decide still matter. Author signings, for example. Few authors end up with a profit in the end (between the cost of books, swag, and table costs, it’s an expensive endeavor), but find it worth it to network with readers and authors. But that’s a decision you need to make with your broader business goals in mind. Personally, I do 2-3 a year, and I’m very targeted on which ones. As my books are set in New Orleans, I do an annual event there. I live in Portland, so I’ll do them here, because I don’t have to factor in travel costs.

Write First For Yourself

beauty-beginsThis is a polarizing stance, honestly. Writing is a business, and chasing trends will often result in more money and recognition. If you’re a writer who is versatile enough to do this, then I won’t discourage you, especially if your goal is to write full time.

Personally, when I write for anything other than where my creative genius drives me, it turns out to be uninspired drivel. Readers pick up on that. They want to hear your voice loud and clear, and it will only come across as such if you’re inspired. Besides, constantly worrying about every word will only stifle creativity. Let the words flow, and be unapologetic.

So, follow the inspiration… wherever it takes you.

Know When You Need to Slow Down

tumblr_mll11mAkDD1s9gzhqo1_500There’s this fear in the author world that if we don’t publish monthly, readers will forget who we are. There may be truth in this, but that’s why the best marketing for book one is more books.

With almost two dozen titles behind me (most of which were done over the latter two years, as I had a break between Dusk and the others), I look back and I’m glad I busted my ass, forgoing sleep for my muse, working two jobs. Why? Because now I’ve bought myself some time to slow down. My series grows more and more complex, the deeper in the story goes, and I can’t churn out a book in two months anymore. I need time to sink into the world I’ve created.

I waited almost my entire life for Stephen King to finish the Dark Tower Series. If you’ve given readers a reason to come back, they won’t forget you.

Authors, feel free to chime in with your learnings as well!

Guest Author: C.M. Michaels

My guest today is fantasy/urban fantasy author C.M. Michaels, creator of the Sisters in Blood Series. We will be on an author panel together late this month at Anne Rice’s Undead Con, on October 31st in New Orleans. I look forward to meeting him!

Please join me in welcoming C.M. to the Guest Author Program!

If you are interested in participating in the program, you can submit here. Continue reading

Guest Author: Josephine Templeton

My guest today is Josephine Templeton, urban fantasy author of titles such as Convicted of Love and Forever Yours. Josephine will be one of the Undead Con authors on Halloween this year in NOLA, and I look forward to meeting her there.

Please join me in welcoming Josephine to the Guest Author Program!

If you are interested in participating in the program, you can submit here. Continue reading

Guest Author: Paul Koudounaris

My guest today is Paul Koudouraris, an author and photographer, well-known in the field of macabre art and art history. I have to say… this is one of the most colorful and unique authors I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. And next month he will be featured on a panel at Undead Con in NOLA. As another panelist at UC, I look forward to meeting him!

Please join me in welcoming Paul to the Guest Author Program!

If you are interested in participating in the program, you can submit here. Continue reading