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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?

 

Facebook Groups- Why Authors Need One

If you have spent any time on Facebook lately, you may have noticed a proliferation of Groups. Groups on Facebook have evolved as a way for people with common interests to share information. They can be private and closed, or they can be open, but most require you to request admittance. Simply press the “+Join” button on the group’s page, and a member of the group will add you. (I have not heard about anyone being rejected and not added, so I’m not sure what happens in that case. If anyone knows, please share).

A Great Tool For Authors

Groups are a great tool for authors. If you don’t have your own group page just for your readers, set one up as soon as possible. It’s best if you can think of a catchy name that ties in to your books or your author brand, but if not, at least think of how it might look in a Facebook search. Mine is called, “Renee Regent’s Readers”, and I’d love for you to join us! Message me on Facebook and I’ll send an invite, or you can enter my name in the search bar, and it should come up. I’m showing this as an example, so authors can set up their group, and readers can find the authors they like. It’s a great way to interact with your followers or others interested in your books and to share news, ask for feedback, and do giveaways. I’ve already given away books and swag and plan to do much more in the future.

Why A Group Page?

But why have a reader group page when you have your Author page? The answer is visibility. When you post on your Author page, Facebook restricts how many people see it in their feed. They want you to boost your posts by paying for them. Unfortunately, even that doesn’t get maximum viewing, and several authors are saying they no longer use their pages as much as they used to since hardly anyone sees it. But in a group, all members get notifications when someone posts (it can be the author or administrator of the group, or a member). Thus they are more likely to be aware of posts when they occur, and you may have a higher rate of engagement.

How To Get Members To Join

Once you have set up your reader group, spread the word through all your social media channels, your newsletter, any place you have contacts. Some marketing groups, such as Love Kissed Author Promotions, will do a promotion for a minimal fee to help build your group. Ask other authors or join a few author groups and see what is working for them.

Group Etiquette

Facebook also has a way to add people to your group, by listing your friends next to an “Add” button, but don’t use that. It is considered rude to add someone to a group without asking first, so get their permission or invite them to ask to join your group. It’s a good idea to welcome new members when they join, and when you post, ask questions to get everyone to join in, or have members post their own pictures. Eye candy photos, pet photos, talk about favorite tropes, etc. You can be creative because it’s your group.

Keyword: Anything Goes

There are also many groups now focused on the business side of writing, especially marketing. You can ask questions to the group and get feedback, or simply share your own experiences. Some of the groups I’m in and monitor regularly are Love Kissed Author Promotions, Genre Crave Book Marketing, and Seasoned Romance. There are groups for every genre and subgenere, and every interest under the sun, really. Enter any keyword in the search bar and related groups will appear. It’s that easy.

So take advantage of Facebook groups now, while they are still free and unencumbered by ads. Oops! Did I say that out loud?

What Facebook Groups do you belong to?

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Five Tips For Handling The Book Promotion Phase

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You finally published your book, and holding it in your hands for the first time is such a thrill. Mission accomplished! Right?

Yes. You should enjoy it, savor it, and bask in the attention. Because the next phase of authorship, called The Promotion Train, is about to leave the station on the 13 ½ platform and you’d better be on it!

Promos, Promos, Everywhere!

Once you have your books in the marketplace, your work has just begun. Ideally, your promotion efforts  should begin way before your first book is published, but that’s a whole other post. If you are traditionally published, this may also apply to you, because most publishing houses won’t do all the promotion for you. Establishing your brand and connecting with readers is important, no; it’s crucial, for any author. But since I’m indie and that is where my experience lies, this post is slanted in that direction.

I was inspired to write this post because tonight, for the first time in months, I took a few minutes to sit on my deck with a glass of wine and just be (see it on Instagram, under Renee Regent). I actually relaxed.  I can’t even recall the last time I did that. Before I started writing to seriously pursue publication, I sat on my deck as often as I could. But writing a three book series for indie publication requires dedication, and a ton of time, and I am happy I accomplished that.

To Help You Navigate

I’m in the process now of learning what it takes to promote and sell those books and to gain readership. I’ve blogged for years, and have been active on social media, but having books published means switching gears in a few ways. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the possible ways to promote yourself and your books, so I wanted to mention a few things I have learned so far:

Take a breather now and then. You can’t do it all, all the time. If your stress level takes the fun out of writing, step back, even if it’s just a few hours, or a day. Being frazzled means you won’t be effective.

Don’t neglect your S.O. (significant other). Whether that is your husband, boyfriend, your best friend, your mother, or your cat or dog, remember to make time for them. Writing is a business, yes, and it requires your attention. But so does your support network, the ones who were there before you wrote the book and who will be there after your big success. Or your quiet retreat into retirement. In any case, don’t neglect your loved ones for the sake of promoting your book. The book is going to outlive all of you, anyway.

Research before you try. There is a proliferation now of groups for promotion and companies providing author services. Some are wonderful, some are predatory, and some are ineffective. Talk to other authors, read blogs, search keywords on Facebook. I belong to a Yahoo Group of authors who regularly discuss marketing they have tried. If you try something, don’t forget to let others know if it works or not. Pay it forward.

Remember everyone’s path is different. This is so easy to say, and not so easy to follow, but I believe it’s true. Just because another author seems to be on the fast track, or another seems to be doing everything wrong, the two can’t be compared. So many varied factors that play into an author’s success. Yes, there are trends and best practices to follow, and you should seek those out. But what works for one book or one author may not work for another. Remember, your path is your path, and no one else’s. Celebrate the successful and help to support everyone who is still finding their way.

Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t take success for granted. We all come to the writing table with different skill sets, and we all have something to learn. And the wheel goes round and round….

I’m so glad I took a moment to step back, because I was getting a bit frazzled. I love writing too much to give it up, but I don’t want it to drag me down, either. What about you? Have you felt overwhelmed with all the choices for promotion? How do you determine what to try?

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

The Four Elements of Writing

The four elements: earth, water, air and fire

Authors, here’s a tip you may not have considered:

Are there elemental forces influencing your writing? How can you use the concept of the four elements to enhance your stories?

 

Elemental, My Dear

The concept of The Four Elements is an ancient one. Though it varies in different cultures, the most common elements are Air, Water, Fire and Earth. While we may not take the four elements as seriously today as we used to, the basic concepts have endured and can still be applied to gain understanding of a subject. Here’s a summary of the most common descriptions of each element:

Air– Thought, communication, intelligence, the power of the mind

Water– Emotion, healing, the feminine aspect

Fire– Passion, purification, destruction, the masculine aspect

Earth– Physical, grounding, growth, material world

 

On Trend

Currently in Young Adult, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction and Urban Fantasy genres, there are so many stories featuring “Elementals”, (people or beings with special powers corresponding to an element) that it is almost a subgenre.  The idea of wielding power over nature is appealing, and it’s interesting to see how different authors twist the concept. But you don’t have to use the elements in a literal sense, to gain understanding or benefit. Here’s how I use the element’s influence in my stories:

 

Setting- physical location where the story happens (place), corresponds to Earth. This grounds the reader.

Ideas- the communication of the story (words, dialogue), corresponds to Air. This speaks to the reader.

Emotions– the theme and feeling of the story (characters) – corresponds to Water. This makes the reader feel.

Action– what happens (plot) – corresponds to Fire. This drives the reader to finish the story.

 

Keeping the four elements in mind while writing can help to achieve balance in a story.  Have you used the concept of the four elements in your work?

 

 

 

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?