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Are Newsletters On The Way Out?

The warning signs are everywhere. “Newsletter fatigue” is setting in among readers as authors (and well, pretty much every business on the internet) inundates their inboxes with special offers. Yet, authors are still being told by every marketing guru out there that a newsletter to your fans is a must. But how effective is it as a marketing strategy?

Gold Fever

I’ve heard the mantra since I got serious about becoming a published author years ago. “Your mailing list is gold. They are your fans. They want to hear from you.” I believe the essence of this is true, in theory. If someone signs up to be on your mailing list, they are agreeing to hear from you, right?

Not always.

Part of the problem is the sheer number of authors using this tactic has overwhelmed the market. It’s no longer new, or unique; pretty much every author has a newsletter sign up on their website for which they actively seek subscribers, promising freebies, exclusive content, and other goodies in exchange for their coveted email address. So the competition factor has forced authors to be more creative in enticing readers to sign up. Just liking your books seems to be the last reason readers sign up these days.

More Free Stuff!

Another common way to get readers to sign up is mass promotion, or cross-promotion. Promotional companies or groups of authors offer gift cards or other prizes to readers in exchange for signing up to the mailing lists of several authors listed on their promotion. This seems to work, and sounds like a great way for readers to find new authors. But when the main motivation for someone signing up is a prize, and not you as an author or your books, will they stick around and actually read your newsletter? Or will they opt out the first chance they get, or worse, put your emails into spam?

Speaking of Spam…

I have been getting occasional emails from authors I have never heard of, spamming me about their book. I couldn’t figure out how that was happening when I had not signed up for their newsletters. But today I saw a conversation on Facebook where another author received over sixty (!) unsolicited emails from other authors spamming about their books. The thread was long as others commented they, too have been inundated with unsolicited emails from authors. Somehow, author newsletter swaps are occurring and getting into email lists. These kinds of abuses are precisely why readers are getting fatigued.

Sending your email to someone who never asked for it is spam, plain and simple, whether you do it directly or through a co-opted swap. It is also illegal and likely against the Terms of Service of your email service provider.

Another reason you want your list to be comprised of engaged readers is the fact that maintaining a list can be costly. Most email services charge when you get to a certain number of contacts or send out a certain number of emails. Which is disheartening when you find the open rate is small compared to the number you are mailing out and paying for. Some authors go through periodically and delete contacts who don’t open the emails, but apparently some email platforms allow reading without fully opening, so they may be purging engaged readers. There is no definitive way to tell for sure if the newsletter is being read. So, rather than having tons of subscribers who may or may not care to be on your list, wouldn’t it be better in the long run to cultivate a list of readers who really do want to hear from you?

The Struggle Is Real

Email itself has become a necessary evil in our lives. It’s a struggle for many to keep up with. I have a friend whose little red dot on her phone says she has over six thousand unread emails! I’m sure she is not alone, and some of those unread emails may well be from some of her favorite authors. (I am one of those who obsessively clears my emails, so no red dots for me. But I still struggle with reading them all in a timely manner).

No doubt newsletters still work for many, but there are challenges. If you end up with a certain percentage of loyal readers who really do read and respond to your email newsletter, then it will be worth it. Just don’t engage in abusive practices, or expect miracles from your newsletter. It is just one tool in your marketing arsenal. Like anything else, it all boils down to discoverability and engagement.

When you find that, it truly is gold.

 

 

 

 

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Why I Love To Give Free Stuff

I’ve been giving stuff away lately, and I have to admit, it feels pretty good! And I’m not even concerned about getting anything back. That’s the best way to give, isn’t it? Pay it forward and all that. So when I give I try to do so with pure intentions and hope karma does the rest.

Free Works, Apparently

I was pleasantly surprised this month when I had my “free days” on Amazon. My first book, Unexplained, had almost four thousand downloads! I had run some promotions on social media and a few newsletters, and it seems to have paid off. All three of my Higher Elevation Series books are in Kindle Unlimited right now, and the sales and page reads have been better than I ever expected. The idea of giving away that many copies felt weird to me at first, but at least my books are out there, finding an audience. So I consider this a win.

I’ve also given away paperback copies, signed, of course. I ran Goodreads Giveaways, I gave away books through my Facebook Group, Renee Regent’s Readers. I gave away an Amazon gift card when I did a takeover on Facebook. This is nothing new, authors have been doing this and more for years, but I never realized how good it would feel to do it. I knew giving things away was a good business strategy, but it’s more than that. It’s something I actually look forward to. Even though it’s common now to hand out swag and free books, people still get excited about it, and for me, seeing their excitement is the fun part.

But Wait, There’s More!

All this giving away of goodies had me thinking, “What else can I give?” While looking through the statistics report of my blog for ideas, I decided to compile a free mini ebook. Or two. Well, I ended up with five, actually!

I’ve been blogging since 2013, and according to WordPress, I have over 2,400 followers. I’ve written over one hundred posts on various topics, some of which have been viewed thousands of times. I love blogging and have covered diverse topics over the years, so I compiled some of my most popular posts into mini ebooks by subject. They’re a quick, easy read, and I hope readers will find them fun and informative. Here’s a rundown:

Romance Novel Trends– a (sometimes humorous) look at the trends shaping Romance Novels today, from those ubiquitous “Ab Covers” to Seasoned Romance

Writing Tips on Marketing– the elusive Holy Grail of discoverability, and ways to find it

Writing Tips on Craft– Useful and practical information I’ve learned along the way. I put myself through the ringer so you don’t have to!

Supernatural/Metaphysical– curious about the Law of Attraction? Wondering if ghosts are real? Find out in this exploration of the unexplained, which often end up in my stories

From the Heart– In which I share stories from my real life experiences. There’s some humor, some heartbreak, and of course, love.

 

Whether you are a writer, a reader, or both, I hope you’ll find something interesting in these posts. They are available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers. If interested, you can sign up here.

There’s also a page on my website called “Free Reads”, where you can read the first chapter of Unexplained.

When it comes to giving, I feel like I’m just getting started. I have plenty of stories and blog posts still in my head, so don’t worry, there’s more to come. If you were one of the readers who downloaded or bought my books, or read them on KU these past few weeks, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

That’s the best gift anyone could give me.

 

 

 

When It’s Time To Change Book Covers

Rebranding a book or a series is more common now than ever before. From Indie Authors to small presses to large publishing houses, changing the cover of a book is a marketing strategy which can breathe new life into sagging sales. It can also cause the book to appeal to a different audience, bringing in new readers. Some authors or publishers do this periodically, just to keep their product packaging fresh and on trend.

The Strategy
But there’s another reason you may want to change your book’s covers. While I loved the original covers of my Higher Elevation Series, once all three books were published I got some feedback indicating there was some confusion as to what genre they were. When you’re an indie author, you have to do the best research you can, and get as much feedback from readers and other authors as possible, to “test market” your covers and back cover copy before you publish. Which I did. But….

Sometimes this writing gig is all about trial and error. Which is true of many businesses. Having been an entrepreneur all my life, I can’t tell you how many flops I’ve had! But I’ve also had outrageous success, lucky breaks and then times when nothing special happened. So though it was disappointing to learn my covers weren’t “perfect” as they were, it was simply a business decision to change them. What I had chosen originally was doing fine, but it wasn’t exactly the best representation of my stories.

The Quest
So the quest for new covers began. I spent countless hours on stock photo sites and book cover sites, until I was about to go cross-eyed. If you have spent any time doing this, you know how frustrating it can be. I wanted to strike a balance between what I “saw” in my mind’s eye for the book covers, and what the cover designer, with her expertise, could do. I finally found Spellbound Cover Design, and together we came up with the brand new covers you see here, and on my website http://reneeregent.com  I also rewrote my cover copy, with the help of some author friends. There are a few professionals who write cover copy, or blurbs, and I hear they do a fabulous job. So it’s worth looking into, because blurbs are hard, right?

You can research and tweak these things forever, so at some point you just have to go with the best book packaging you can produce, and put it back out there. I think the look and feel of these new covers better represents the supernatural/mystery/suspense aspects of my books, without detracting from the romance. Plus the color really pops!

The Bottom Line
Your book’s covers may never be perfect, and what looks great today may not be so hot a few years from now. (“Bodice Rippers”, anyone?) So be open to the idea of changing your covers periodically. The bottom line is, no matter how much research you do, sometimes you don’t know how a book (your product) will be received until it’s out there in the world.

Authors- have you changed your book’s covers? Did it help?
Readers- do you notice when a book’s cover has been changed? Does it affect your decision to buy?

 

Is Silver The New Grey? Older Heroes & Heroines in Fiction

There’s a growing trend in fiction, and it’s not grey, but almost. Silver is in, with older fictional heroes and heroines (not in their twenties) in romance novels, and even in some other genres, too. Which makes sense when statistics show a significant portion of readers who read books regularly are women, and over the age of fifty-five, as shown in this recent Book Bub study. Many readers enjoy stories with characters who are more like them, who have more life experience and are facing problems and challenges they can relate to.

Several social media pages or groups have emerged to provide a place for those interested in reading or writing romances featuring mature or “seasoned” main characters. For example, the “Seasoned Romance” group page on Facebook declares that it is a “place for readers and writers of love stories with heroes and heroines in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. Sex and love can get better with age. So let’s read, write, and talk about it!” They have already passed five hundred members as of this writing, proving there is interest in stories with older characters.

I am working on a new series featuring “seasoned” characters, so I did some research to find out what readers are responding to. Here’s what I found:

New York Times Bestselling Author Roxanne St. Claire features “silver fox” heroes in her popular Barefoot Bay Timeless Series. This series promises “plenty of laughs, a few tears, and a chance to fall for a man who’s lived and loved and knows exactly how to treat a woman. I promise you’ll break out a tissue or two with these emotional stories about three handsome, accomplished, and sexy men in their forties who kick off their shoes and fall in love again.” I agree there’s a certain appeal to a man who knows what he’s doing in the bedroom, and older guys usually do. Judging by the models on the covers of Roxanne’s books, they still look hot, too!

The blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has a post discussing the appeal of older heroes and heroines. Here’s the link: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/2017/04/rec-league-silver-foxes/   Scroll down to check the comments for recommendations from actual readers─there’s a ton of info here.

Even more proof that Seasoned Romance is now a thing─there will be a Vintage Love panel at this year’s RWA convention in Orlando in July, and also at next week’s (May 1-7) Romantic Times Convention in Atlanta. I will be attending RT, and attending the Vintage Love panel to take some notes. If anyone is going to the one at RWA, I’d love to share info with you! And if you are attending RT, let’s meetup.

Author Natasha Moore has a Silver Fox Series, with the tagline, “Love Can Happen At Any Age”. She also has a book in a multi-author collection of mature romances, entitled, Hot Silver Nights.”

Sometimes only one of the main characters is older, leading to complications due to age differences. It also plays into the fantasy of attracting younger partner. This list on Maryse’s Book Blog, from a few years ago, has several older woman/younger man books recommended by readers. The theme of an older man/younger woman has fans, too─as this list I found on Amazon shows: https://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/fullview/RQFUP0JV5QOEA

Heck, even Nora Roberts is on this list of Mature Romances on the Booklist Reader Blog, and of course Goodreads has a list of novels with Older Hero and Heroines (over 40).

Perhaps part of the appeal of older characters is they have more to offer─more experience, more connections, and thus they often have more at stake. They may have children or a business, something significant to lose, more so than perhaps a younger, twenty-something character. They also may have more emotional baggage, since they’ve been around; second chance romances or widows/widowers are a common trope with older characters.

I know diversity of characters is a hot topic these days, and rightfully so─fiction should reflect a wider view of the world than it sometimes does. And that includes characters of all races and origins, in the prime of their lives, who still have dreams, ambitions, and yes, hot sex!

This is one trend I can get behind, because for many of us it’s true that love, sex and romance do not belong only to the young. I’ve had some of the best sex and most romantic moments of my life after I turned forty, and I’m not done yet!

How about you? If you have any recommendations of books featuring older characters that you loved, let me know!

 

 

 

Interview With Author Lexi C. Foss- Two New Series Debut

 

I am very excited to feature a debut author here on my blog. Her name is Lexi C. Foss, and I’m predicting she will be a well-known author in no time! She debuts in May 2017 with not one, but TWO new series, and already has the interwebs abuzz. Her paranormal romance, Blood Laws, and her Contemporary Romance, The Prince’s Game, will both be released in May 2017. Lexi took time out of her ultra-busy release schedule to tell us a bit more about her herself and her exciting new releases.

Welcome, Lexi! It’s unusual for an author to debut two separate series at the same time, so tell us how that came about.

I’m still debating if this was a good decision, or one made in a moment of insanity. I wrote both books around the same time because I needed to balance the dark with the light. Blood Laws is a bit edgier with darker elements, while The Prince’s Game has a humorous undertone and light subject matter. I’m curious to see how they do in comparison to each other with readers. I’ve always loved statistics, so I’m sure I’ll have some fun playing with the results of this case study.

When did you make the decision to write your books and how did you decide on indie publishing?

I’ve always been a daydreamer. On a boring day back in 2009, I decided to write down some dialogue that was floating around in my head. Then I added some description, and suddenly I was staring a 300,000 word monstrosity that I realized was a full blown series. I toyed with various voices, wrote a few other story ideas out, and then I went back to school for my Master of Public Health. My hobby was put on hold until last summer (2016) when a friend of mine encouraged me to get back into writing and take it seriously. She told me about indie publishing, introduced me to an awesome group of writers, and the rest was history.

In Blood Laws, you created a world with paranormal creatures, who appear on the surface to be everyday people. What challenges did you face to make your characters stand out?

I don’t know that I really faced any challenges in making them stand out, but I have faced challenges toning down some of their voices. They are all very loud in my head, demanding I write one thing or another, and sometimes I have to put them in timeout for unruly conduct. Balthazar is the biggest offender. He wasn’t supposed to be in Blood Laws at all, but he kept badgering me until I gave in (he would tell me – “I told you so” – because his scenes did make sense in the end). They all have their own quirks, and I love writing about them. Their voices and unique mannerisms are what makes brings them to life on paper.

The Prince’s Game is a bit different from the intensity of Blood Laws. Was it a challenge to write two series at the same time?

Not at all. The Prince’s Game offered me the mental break I needed after writing Blood Laws. It was a lighter, funnier story that is very different from darkness of Blood Laws. Writing both books so close together kept my creativity fresh, and gave me a break before starting on what will be a very dark novel – Forbidden Bonds.

Will you be attending any conferences this year, so readers can meet you?

I will be all over the place this year:

  • Romantic Times Convention in Atlanta, Georgia: May 2, 2017 – May 7, 2017
  • Romance Writers of America Conference in Orlando, Florida: July 26, 2017 – July 29, 2017
  • Book Obsessed Babes Author Signing Event in Destin, Florida: September 9, 2017
  • Indie Romance Convention: October 4, 2017 – October 7, 2017
  • For the Love of Books & Alcohol in Chicago, IL: October 14, 2017

What’s next? Tell us about your upcoming works in progress or new releases.

Blood Laws will be released on May 2nd and The Prince’s Game will be released on May 9th. So those are my upcoming new releases.  As for works in progress: I’m currently writing Forbidden Bonds, which is book 2 of the Immortal Curse series, and outlining The Charmer’s Gambit, which is book 2 of the Mershano Empire series.

Just for fun, let us know something personal about you…

I was born into a family of Eclipse Chasers. You might be wondering what the means… Well, it means I travel all over the world to see total solar eclipses of the sun. I have see 5 so far in my lifetime (Mexico 1991, Caribbean 1998, Zambia 2001, Turkey 2006, South Pacific 2012), and I will be adding a 6th one to my list in August 2017 (Nashville, TN).

Thanks Lexi! I’m so looking forward to reading all of your books. Here are the important links for everything Lexi C. Foss:

Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Blood Laws Buy Links

The Prince’s Game Buy Links

 

 

 

Switching Gears Without Derailing- New Series Coming Up!

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Ever have to switch gears so rapidly your head was spinning?  That’s where I am now, and it’s nerve wracking, but also a lot of fun.  I’m finding that growing as an author means adding layers, by branching out and trying new things. It’s also learning how to discern which opportunities are the right ones to take advantage of.

Times are tough for indie authors right now, but they are also fantastic. As I mentioned in an earlier post, discoverability is the Holy Grail. There are so many books available, and tons more being added in a constant stream, that the admirable accomplishment of publishing a professional, well-written story is just the first step in a long journey.

It’s Raining Promo

It’s amazing how creative this industry is when it comes to promotion. Ads, Facebook Groups, Blog Tours, conferences, and other co-op type promotions are springing up faster than you can fill out a form to join them. Giveaways are raining all over social media, like confetti and beads at Mardi Gras.

Now that I have three books out (the Higher Elevation Series), I’m signing up for various events and promotions. I’m not sure what will work best, and what works for someone else’s book may not work for yours or mine. The best thing of course, is a recommendation from another author who has tried whatever marketing tactic you are considering, but that doesn’t guarantee results. So you make the most informed decision you can, keeping in mind your audience and your budget, and cross your fingers.

Unfortunately, this is how marketing and promotion work, most of the time.  It’s an educated crap shoot. But I started to wonder if it would help to have more than one product (series) to promote. Here’s how that played out:

A few months ago, after I launched my three-book series, I came up with a new Contemporary Romance series idea. I sketched out several good story lines, but nothing jumped out at me, begging to be written. But I also had the plot for Unraveled, Book Four of the Higher Elevation Series, in my head so I wrote an outline for it, and a few weeks later I am 10K in and it’s going well.

BUT!

As much as I was loving Sophie and Kane’s story (Book 4), I put it down to work on something else. What prompted the sudden switch was I had a new logo and a new author tagline, “Love Grows in Unexpected Places”. To me, the logo of a tree inside a heart represented enduring love that is meant to be. I love writing about mismatched people who beat the odds to be together, and my books represent that.

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So all those Contemporary storylines I jotted down now had a unifying theme, and they began yelling at me to be written. I’m thinking of calling it the “Love Grows” series. The first one, Cougar-ish, is about a couple, a younger man-older woman, who face many obstacles to be together. Once this series is underway, I can go back and finish Sophie’s story in the Higher Elevation Series. (Is it crazy I feel like I have to apologize to my characters for putting them aside?)

I think it’s an excellent idea to have more than one series to promote. I just wish I had four more hands and two more brains, so I could get them all done NOW!

What about you? Have you put down a beloved project in favor of something else? Was it the right thing to do?

 

2017- Taking On A Whole New Level

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

I wasn’t going to do the obligatory end of year post, but what a year it’s been!  When I read over my posts from the past two Decembers, I realize just how far I’ve come. One thing I learned this year─even when your dreams come true, there’s usually a surprise or two in the mix.

Mission Accomplished

In December of 2014, I wrote about how my life in general and my writing career in particular seemed to be gathering momentum. I had goals and plans, and they were taking shape. At the end of 2015, I noted how my goals and plans had changed, but the progress I had made was beyond my expectations. The same was true in my private life as well, as I had begun to consider some major changes to my day job.

Well in 2016, everything happened. I sold some of my business interests, a major change in my day job situation. The universe threw me a wonderful curve ball─as soon as I voiced my true desire and made a commitment to pursue it, the people and resources needed to make it happen came forward without me having to seek them out.  Funny how things begin to happen when you get out of your own way!  The result was I had a bit more time and energy to ramp up my publication schedule for my debut, Unexplained, Book One of the Higher Elevation Series. I also set up my author website and finally learned the whole process of producing an indie book and bringing it to market.  Unexplained, a paranormal romance, was published October 25 and was well received. Book Two, Untouched. followed on November 22.

Fallout Girl

Those surprises I mentioned?  I’m still working through them. There was some fallout from rearranging my businesses, and those you can never accurately predict, because people react to changes in different ways. Some aspects went well, some were difficult. The same was true for my rapid release schedule for my books, which I am still in the midst of (Book 3, Undeniable, comes out January 3, 2017). It was a thrill to finally be a published author, but there was some fallout from that, too. I talked about my unexpected reactions in my last post, Post-Publication Syndrome─Now What?

But that’s how it goes when you’re an entrepreneur, you learn as you go. If you start to think you know it all, you’re heading into dangerous territory. But I say learning is part of the fun, right?

Going Up?

So heading into 2017, it feels like I’m on a whole new level. As seems to be the state of the world, rules and traditions are changing, and all at a pretty rapid pace. The dust is beginning to settle in my personal life, making way for new things to grow.  I have new ideas for some old writing projects that have been fermenting, and a few new stories I’d like to work on.  Looks like the future is wide open, and I’m ready for the surprises yet to come.

What about you? Have you had any surprises this year? What are your goals for 2017?