Tag: authors

Five Things I’ve Learned About Shared Series

Reading a great series, who doesn’t love it? I know I’m the type who might wait for the whole series to be out so I can binge read it, one book after the other.

So why wouldn’t I want to write for a publisher who ONLY publishes shared series?


Well, duh. I would. And I do.

You’ve heard me declare my love for my small publishers before. If you need a refresher, find it here.

But what is a shared series? And do I love writing for it as much as I enjoy reading a series by my favorite author?

A Shared Series

A shares series is a little different. It’s series written by multiple authors around a common theme or location. There might be appearances from previous (and future) main characters, but the “shared” element is generally a place or situation.

 

Five Things I Learned

1. You Need a Series Bible

I didn’t realize how important this would be until I wrote my manuscript, and I wanted to know things about St. Judith, Virginia, where MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER takes place.

Simple things like:

  • Where is this bank in relation to where my shero lives?
  • What are the baseball fields like?
  • What sort of neighborhoods are there?
  • How far is the bank from the baseball fields?
  • Who else lives around here that my people can talk to

And there was nothing. We knew there was a military base nearby, and we collaborated on names for the schools.

Those things were discussed and decided upon in our group, but after that, it was only a sketchy outline of a commercial district and a residential area.

So I floundered around trying to get a feeling for this setting. Thankfully, I was able to read a couple other books that preceded mine, but still the town felt vague and unformed to me.

A series Bible names businesses. It gives a general map of the important locations. It also mentions and describes any CHARACTERS who might be available to be shared (which they often aren’t because my characters are copyrighted along with my story.)

All these things were provided for the First Street Church series, so I took them for granted when I applied to right for the MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS series.

2. You Want to Work with Other Professionals

Most of us author-types work in a room by ourselves. When I’m creating, I don’t care if I EVER leave the room. In my office, the characters are real and their story is essential.

But in the larger world, I want—no NEED—to interact with other authors.

I expected to become “friends” with the people in this shared series. I would read their stories. They would read mine. We’d talk about the town of St. Judith and how to weave more reality into our plots.

It would be one big happy family.

Except some people didn’t show up with anything more than the required posts. They didn’t offer input on questions or toss out ideas for naming things.

It’s like they wanted to be on their own.

Flakes aren’t just for breakfast. Sometimes they show up at work, too.


3. Leadership is Key

I’ve taken several personality quizzes and assessments. The one that always stands out for me is one my husband and I did together shortly after our first son was born.

I was a lion. He was a golden retriever. I don’t need to explain how that can create a less-than-favorable dynamic in a home where a wife WANTS to follow the Biblical concept of man-as-head of the marriage.

I demand a LOT from my leader. Mostly, I expect them to be present, prepared and ahead of the game.

But I’m a creative, so I don’t want them meddling with my creative stuff.

The first argument I had with the series leader was over the title of my book. After reading the reviews for my story, there are readers who are JUST as confused as I am about the requirements for having “Mommy” in the title when my story wasn’t about a mommy but a MIMI. Would it really kill anyone to rename it Mimi Loves the Banker?

After all, we were encouraged to use OTHER caregivers in the story so all the matchmaking wouldn’t be between moms and dads. But all the titles had to begin with “Mommy.”

Enough said about that.

4. You Can Ride a Successful Author’s Coattails

Honestly? This is why I wanted to be part of a shared series through Sweet Promise Press.

I know there are authors publishing there with thousands of followers and who make more in ONE HOUR than I made the first YEAR I was published.

My publisher is a marketing genius. She knows exactly how to leverage her reading audience, and that pays off with sales for authors like me who don’t have a huge personal following.

The series lead for MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS had been skyrocketing with another series she was writing. Another author said she had an email list of 12,000 names. Oh-kay. And I was so thrilled when I hit 500 followers (by the way, that swelled to over 800 with a promotion and has since dwindled back to 680, only 400 of which actually open my emails).

People would buy those early books. They would love them, and they’d keep reading the series. Even though it wasn’t by the author they loved, that author would be telling them to try the next book (mine) and that would generate sales.

Once people READ my story, I knew they would enjoy it. Hopefully they would convert into a follower of ME. Maybe someday other authors would want to join a series so they could ride MY coattails.

5. Professionalism of All Authors is Mandatory

In a shared series, each author is getting paid for their own title, sure. That’s different from the anthologies and collections I’ve been part of where there was ONE sale that had to be divided among all the participants.

SPP contracted each of us and guaranteed us our share of royalties from EVERY book we sell.

Contracted authors are surely professionals, right?

Well, they should be. And when members of a shared series drop the ball, they affect everyone else. Whatever tie-in was supposed to exist to keep readers engaged to buy the next book is important.
If there’s no communication from the author you’re intended to follow, how are you supposed to make that connection?

This was a dilemma that I faced. Partly because I draft my stories early. Looming deadlines do NOT improve the clarity of my prose.

Apparently, not all authors work the same way.

If you enter into a shared series, you should expect that you’ll need to stretch out of your writing comfort zone. That you’ll share your story with others writing BEFORE it’s ready for public consumption. Why? For series continuity.

If we’re all professional authors, that shouldn’t be a problem.

But having a book (or many books) published by big-name publishers doesn’t make an author understand this sort of professionalism.

Have you read anything from either of the shared series I’m part of? Do you enjoy reading a shared series as much as a series from a single author?

Writing “The End”

November. It’s golden leaves turn brown and crunch beneath the soles of my shoes. (Shoes and socks?! Ugh!) Then the wind blows them away.

Meanwhile…at my computer…

National Novel Writing Month compels me to write at least 50,000 words.

For the past five years, I’ve attempted to accomplish this feat before Thanksgiving. Since the first day of the month was a Thursday, my favorite holiday came early this year.

Which means my Nanowrimo deadline came later.

Day One

It begins. I’m excited. I have prepped the two Scrivener files I’m using for the next two First Street Church romance novellas. If I draft both of them fully, that should take me closer to 60,000 words.

There’s a write-in at a local coffee shop from 1 PM to 3 PM. There are only two of us there, but words pour from our fingertips.

I update my word count on the nanowrimo.org website as frequently as possible.

Day Two

I’ve decided to write all Bailey Travers’ point of view scenes first and then return to write the shero scene. This is exactly how I wrote my young adult fantasy novel during November two years ago.

By the end of the day, I have 8,000 words.

Write on!

Day Three and Four

The weekend. I don’t usually write on weekends. This means I won’t get the badge for updating my word count five days in a row. *sad face*

Day Five

I’m scheduled to work at St. Helens Middle School. This position involves teaching seventh grade science for four hours and monitoring a study hall for an hour.

During the hour prep period, I start Jaz’s first scene.

Since I’m showing the same movie and discussing the same work sheet during all four class periods, I manage to finish writing the scene during the afternoon class sessions.

Day Six

I need to research a few items about the Texas Family Protective Services for Jaz’s story line. Also, I’ve missed my Monday scheduling of Facebook and Social Media, so my morning is unproductive as far as word count goes.

In the afternoon, I finish off all of Bailey’s scenes. I’ll be ready for Jaz in the morning.

Day Seven

I wake up with a sore throat.

Day Eight

I’m still lethargic from not completing the usual workout stuff. I’m in the Hot Seat during the weekly Novel Academy webinar, so I work on the dark moment for Tessa, the shero of the second novella I intend to write during November.

I do manage to get the SEQ filled out (although it changes somewhat during my 30 minutes of fame online), and write a scene from Jaz’s point of view.

I’m still ahead in the word count.

Day Nine

Finally, I have a 4,000-word writing day.

Word count by day-end: 20,875

Day Ten – Eleven

Weekend Again. I write this blog post and do laundry. Sunday, there’s church.

Day Twelve

Conquer the FINAL scene of November novella #1

(Yes, this manuscript might need additional scenes to complete it, but I’m ready for Tessa Travers to face her demons and fall in love.)

Except wait…this scene refuses to be written today, so on to the the opening scene of Tessa’s story. Hey, at least I wrote a couple thousand words.

Day Thirteen

Thanks to the repeated listening of John chapter 11, my writer’s brain gets a new idea. It would include redesigning the cover this book:

And releasing it as A PONDERING HEART next Christmas. After that, another new book written from the perspective of other Bible women would be released each month until Easter 2020, when the fourth (and possibly final) REFLECTIONS book would come out. (Thus, it’s a series so a cover redesign is imperative so all the covers can feel similar and I can’t afford to hire the cover designer who created what you see above for THREE additional covers.)

So, I wrote a scene for that first story (Maybe A SERVANT’S GIFT) to the total of 1,527 words.

Afterward, my muse allowed me to finish Jaz and Bailey’s story.

Thank you, Ms. Muse.

Daily total: 3,556 words

Day Fourteen

Edits on LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE.

Must. Submit. To. Publisher. This. Week.

Day Sixteen

Tonight’s the night. Our local writers show up at the public library at 5PM and write and write and write.

Creative energy buzzes around us, increasing everyone’s typing speed.

There is pizza. There are sweet treats. Some drink coffee and others consume tea.

The past three years, I reached 50,000 words on this night.

So not happening this year. But the camaraderie is delightful and the story unfolds.

Day Nineteen

More of the same. Some scenes fly off my fingers. Others feel like I’m cutting them out with a dull Exact-o blade.

But…eventually…I reach the end of the second novella.

It’s Finally Over

Not really. Come January or February, these two stories will be subjected to my extensive rewriting and revising process before finding their way to beta readers and my editor.

If you’re a faithful reader, I’m planning for them to release in April and June 2019.

But, what is finally finished is the insanity of National Novel Writing Month.

Goodbye, November.

I’ll be heading to Hawaii in three weeks…and I’ve got some revising to do on my other April release before then.

National Novel Writing Month Again

November.

Five years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, and I wrote a young adult fantasy novel.
It was beyond easy to churn out 50,000 words in less than thirty days.

This convinced me I could be a professional author. I have the ability to write at a professional pace.

And that manuscript?

I revised it and tried to sell it to agents. But no one was buying. So that book and the other two in the trilogy are slumbering on my hard drive.

Will I ever revisit them? Maybe. I did re-read them and I love the premise, but since my audience is engaged in my Christian romances, I don’t have an audience for these books.

I still wish to write the young adult fantasy books. I even submit the polished manuscripts from time to time. But since the doors aren’t opening, that means it isn’t the path God wants me to take at this time.

Still, it’s November, and I love the camaraderie of writing with others who are trying to create something from nothing. So, my plan for this National Novel Writing Month is to complete the final book in the Texas Homecoming trilogy and to draft Tessa Travers’s romance.

Texas Homecoming

The first book in this series shows up as book nine in the First Street Church romance series.

You can check out LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS here. I hope you’ve read it. If you have, what did you think?

The second book is on its way back from my line editor. Once I get the manuscript back, I’ll incorporate the editor’s recommended changes, make any small adjustments and read through it for a final polish.

It’s due at my publisher’s office by December 1. I’ll have it there early, and hopefully, LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE will hit the shelves at Amazon before Christmas.

This means the love story between Jaz and Bailey is fresh in my mind. It should pour from my fingertips with ease during the month.

The working title is LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH.

This is the quick blurb I wrote for the nanowrimo.org website:

His past calls out his future in the ultimate showdown.
Bailey Travers wrote off his biological father the same day his grandmother gave him and his sister to the state. Too bad the thief and dealer is out now and back to ingratiate himself to Tessa Travers, who has none of the black memories Bailey hasn’t considered in a decade.
Jazlyn Rolle’s only back in Sweet Grove to help her mother recover from an automobile accident, but when she discovers a runaway in Cider Mill Park, she can’t leave the situation alone. He reminds her of the boy Bailey carries around in his soul, and helping the boy gives he more sense of purpose than anything her paralegal work has done.
While Bailey tries to keep his father from making off with more than a few antiques, Tess is pushing him to forgive the man and welcome him into their life. She can’t see past the charming exterior that pushed their birth mother into using and dealing drugs. This time, he won’t let Jaz rescue him. It’s time he faced down his past or he’s sure they won’t have a happy future.
Letting go of a sure thing, Jaz walks away from her job in Austin and embarks into a degree program that will allow her to be the County Children’s Advocate and administer a new halfway house for foster system kids. When her father shows up to support the opening, she’s come full circle.
Bailey will need every ounce of the emerging faith in God and himself to banish his past and grab the future Jaz offers him back on the ranch where he belongs.

Tessa Travers

As early as last May, I fell in love with Tessa Travers. She was a bubbling force of nature, and I decided she needed her own story.
But she didn’t come to me fully formed.

I had an idea that the romance would center around her determination to convert her family’s ranch into a dude ranch, and the hero would be her business partner, but I didn’t have much clarity beyond that.

After the pain of the Deep Thinker’s Retreat, I know better than to sit down to write without sketching out my character’s SEQ. I needed to know what Tess’s dark moment story was and what lie and fear haunted her because of it.

Furthermore, I needed all of those things for the hero, too. I had some work to do before that story was ready to be drafted.

But, I’ll manage to scribble down enough so the first draft won’t be too ugly.

Have you ever written a novel? What is the hardest part for you?

Professional in Need of Feedback

I’m a professional author. That means I write a story and send it off to my publisher. Right?

Wrong.

In most cases, most professional authors write a manuscript and return to it to rewrite, revise (not the same as rewriting), edit (not the same as revising) and polish (a cat of an entirely different color) as many as TEN times before sending it off to anyone. And often, their first readers are NOT their editors but a group of alpha readers, many of whom are writers in a similar genre.

Now that I’ve been a published author for four years, my manuscripts should be pretty close to perfect at the end of two or three drafts.

I wish.

My Process

Sadly, I don’t write a first draft that’s ready for public consumption. Not even by my Aunt Betty who dearly adores everything I write (because she loves me). Manuscripts I write have generally survived three passes from me before they go to my early readers.

  1. FAST DRAFT: Just as it sounds. I sit down with my character sketches, the major plot point beat sheets and write the story.
  2. REWRITES: A few weeks after I finish the first draft, I read through the manuscript and mark it with symbols. I mark where more detail is needed, where there is a plot hole, where I’m bored and where things don’t make sense. A week later, I sit down with that manuscript and rewrite all the troublesome areas. Usually, I will increase the word count by about ten percent.
  3. REVISIONS: Shortly after I finish the rewrites, I turn to page one and begin revisions. I start by making a scene chart. At the beginning of each scene, I ask what the goal of the scene is and whether it’s accomplished. If there is no goal, the scene is scrapped or rewritten to reflect a goal. I go sentence by sentence through the revised scene and cull needless words.

Now my manuscript is ready for beta readers. Generally, I send them a list asking them to look at specific aspects of the story, but I always invite them to comment about anything they like or dislike as they’re reading.


Once all the comments come back, my manuscripts get three more passes.

  1. MORE REVISIONS: First, I read-through the comments and make changes on a scene level as I see fit based on the beta commentary. Sometimes, I have to scrap or completely rewrite scenes. Other times, I need to add some meat. I may not work on EVERY scene in this pass, only the ones that needed work according to the readers.
  2. EDITS: I print out a copy of the manuscript and read it aloud. Yep, some people might find this crazy. I use a colored pen to mark up the manuscript. Usually I read a couple chapters and then return to my computer to input the changes. Sometimes they get changed again as I’m doing the inputting. This pass generally takes longer than any of the others.
  3. POLISH: I compile from Scrivener to a Word document. I do a few macro searches for overused words and change them out. Then I start at the first page and polish line by line, making sure spelling, grammar and punctuation are as perfects as I can make them.

Now, the manuscript is ready for my publisher.

This Story

This summer, Kindle Worlds closed down. I begged Melissa Storm, the author who owned the universe I’d published in there, to form her own small press. She did!

Sweet Promise Press is unique in that they are 100 percent shared series. Not only has she opened up the First Street Church universe that was the Kindle World, but she’s invited authors to pitch ideas for other worlds. Then she opens up submissions for these individual series.

As an author from her Kindle World, she invited me to the group right away. I submitted interest in two of the first five shared series, and I’m contracted to write a novella for the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers series in April 2019.

The novella is written. As I pen this blog, it is with an amazing editor for critical feedback about plot and character arc, as well as the style. Since I’ve never written this genre, I’m worried my sense of humor may get missed or not resound with readers.

One thing about Sweet Promise Press that was quite different from Roane Publishing (where my first fiction works were published)is that they only proofread. It is part of the author contract that a manuscript is line edited before submission.

This is NOT that edit. I’ve contracted the recommended line editor to handle that closer to publication.

My manuscript is with Kristen Corrects, Inc. for something more along the lines of a developmental edit. Except that would have cost about twice as much as what I’m paying her to do with the story. I’m hoping that I’ve got the story RIGHT and only need help with the comedic elements.


SO…I hope I sell enough copies of this story to offset the cost of TWO rounds of editing.

My Hope

I worked with Kristen on my first First Street Church novella, Love’s Late Arrival. She really helped me make that story shine.

I’m hoping she’ll be able to spot all the weaknesses in this new story.

In this case, readers deserve to get the best story. I know I can deliver a great story, but if I miss the mark on the humor, the reviews are going to scream it.

“Romantic comedy is supposed to be funny!”

Most of my stories have an edge of darkness. I always end on a hopeful note, but I’m a realist. I don’t write fluffy stories. My character face some hard issues, but they press on and find light at the end of the shadowy journey.

That’s not the case here. So I had to find lighter issues for my characters to face, but I didn’t want it to be trite.

If anyone can help me bring the story to a smile-inducing place, it’s Kristen.

What questions do you have about the writing or editing process? Are you surprised I spend so much time on each manuscript(and will still release three new novellas and two short stories this year)?

You Said Video Would Gain Exposure

Facebook algorithms favor video. Oh, and groups. So, to get the best organic exposure on facebook, post videos in your groups.

Sure. Whatever you say.

Who said it? People who know all about making your brand stand out. Professionals who are PAID to make videos that bring in customers.

But I’m an author. I’m not selling a class. And, sadly, I’m not selling many books either. But if I get my face out there, people will hunt down my stories.

Hey. No need to hunt. I’ll provide the links.

But, apparently, the quest is part of the excitement. Or something.

So I took a course about making videos to share my brand.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2143024042585774-record.mov

But one is never enough. In fact, once a week is probably not enough.

My unplanned videos got the best views.

When I tried to only post the video to my group, only two people watched it. Of course, there are only 20 members (maybe) in the group, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0315.mov

So I went back to posting live on my author page. And my sister watched.

Of course, I didn’t really announce that I would be going live. I need to do that. Maybe more people would show up if I did that. Maybe I’ll do that next week.

If I wait until the evening when more people might be on Facebook, maybe that will get me more views, too.

Who knows?

All I know is that I fumble for something to talk about in these videos, and no one comments to give me any ideas.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0361.mov

So, here I am posting a video or three on my blog. Because a few people read that, right? Maybe they’ll watch the videos and leave me some feedback.

I wish building my brand and audience worked the way the “professionals” said it would.

If wishes were riches, I’d own a small country.

If you’re reading this, what do you wish an author would talk about on live videos? If you watched the videos, what would make them more engaging?

Amazon: Destroyer of Future Plans

I’ve never been one of those author with scathing commentary about the monopolizing power of Amazon’s book store. Instead I was all-in with several Kindle-only titles.

Then they pulled the plug on Kindle Worlds.

At the moment this was announced, I was begging beta readers to return their comments on the third book for the series published in this universe. That story was planned to release in less than two months.

The day after the announcement, I got my royalty statement from Amazon showing the first month when two titles were available for sale. It was great. The sales had been strong and steady, more than anything else I’ve ever published.

Amazon was jerking the rug out from under my expanding readership.

Worse, I was positive that the introduction to this world and the amazing influencer who conceived it was the future of my writing career. At least for the next couple years.

Thanks, Amazon, for demolishing that business plan I made a week earlier.

But as much as this derailed my career planning, I knew the news was even worse for Melissa Storm.

I messaged her. I wanted to encourage her and let her know that no one was mad at her and we hoped we could still work together.

By the next day, she’d formed her own publishing company.

And why not? She has an incredible platform of followers. She launches all her new releases to the bestseller list.

Those characters I was dropping into Sweet Grove aren’t displaced after all. Their stories will be told.
*Shakes fist at Big Brother Amazon*
In the future, I might even explore some of the other shared series worlds she’s planning to launch along with Sweet Promise Press.

So if you’re an author, you should check it out. There’s a form to fill out if you want to write for her.

Those lines in my business plan that mention Kindle Worlds will have to be lined out. But those titles should still reach you.

In a few weeks, I’ll give you a glance into the next First Street Church novella. When I know the release date, I’ll pass it on.

Make sure you don’t miss any of these updates. Follow my author page on Facebook. Better yet, join my Facebook group.

It’s nice to know that Amazon doesn’t actually have the same destructive power of…Thanos. Indie authors unite with more strength than the Avengers, too.

Do you buy most of your books from Amazon? Is there any way we can curb their market share?

Florida in February

Who wouldn’t want to go to Florida in the middle of winter? (Okay, winter is only a month from being “officially” over, but still.)

What writer wouldn’t want to attend a five-day writing retreat with two best-selling authors? Maybe someone, but not this author.

I wish I could tell you more about it, but at the moment, I’m in transit. Since the retreat is held at a house in Destin, Florida, I’m having to zig and zag all over the place to get there from the Pacific Northwest.

I left before 7 am this morning from Portland to fly to San Francisco. From there, I’m heading off to Houston, which appears to be the only major airport on the west side of Destin with flights to the little airport.


I arrive at 6 pm, exactly one hour before the shuttle leaves from the airport to take a bunch of us writers to the retreat.

Bright and early (okay, not really early in my book) on Friday morning, the retreat begins with breakfast and devotions led by Rachel Hauck. Not sure who that is? One of the best-selling authors. She writes Christian historical romances and historical fiction, so if those aren’t your genres…you’re forgiven.
There will be classes in the morning. Group sessions for brainstorming and applying the lessons.
In the afternoon, I’ll be writing my next Sweet Grove romance novella. That’s the entire focus of this retreat for me. I hope to come back with 5-10 thousand new words. If nothing else, I’ll have an incredible hooking scene and complete understanding of my characters’ motivations.

Because the first draft WILL be written before the second book releases on March 13.

Yes, here’s the pretty cover, in case you missed my post about the series. (You did? Here’s the link.)


Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know how well the retreat worked out for me. Maybe even this time next week.

Or maybe not since I’ve scheduled March 1 as an official “recovery” day from all the travel and lack of sleep.

Where is your ideal winter vacation spot?

What’s “Bestseller” Really Mean?

Many writers have the goal of having a best-selling book. After all, that would be the ultimate sign of writing success, right?

Or maybe not.

There are different definitions for “best-selling” on different platforms. Many lists exist that determine what sells the best: USA Today, New York Times, and Amazon are the ones most often referred to in author biographies.
If a book is a bestseller, that means its sales must be watched and compared to other books. That’s why the list it bestseller list it appears on matters in actual significance.

Amazon

Amazon is unique among these three lists in that it is an actual book distributor.
Therefore, the sales of these books aren’t tracked anywhere but on Amazon’s site. And while Amazon is certainly a large book distributor, it isn’t the only outlet for book sales.
Another thing about Amazon is that it has hundreds (maybe even thousands) of sub-categories for its books. This is great if you’re looking for a book about starting a monkey ranch, but it can also be misleading in the case of a “best-seller” tag.
What do I mean?
I’ve seen books in very specific categories sell one copy and since they were the only book sold in that category that day, the book gets the orange “best-seller” banner from Amazon.
The author begins to claim they are a best-selling author (because they are) but what does that really mean?
Shouldn’t a best-selling author have hundred, thousands or millions of books out in readers hands? Certainly if I made dozens of crochet cases for tablets and only sold one of them (which is actually true), can I claim this is the best-selling product I’ve ever made?
After all, it’s the ONLY thing I’ve crocheted that I’ve ever sold. So in one sense, the statement is true.
But it’s misleading.
Fair warning: someone who is an Amazon Best-selling Author may not have actually sold a ton of books. (Caveat: Amazon does have a list of best-selling books that includes ALL the books. The day I wrote this, most of the books in the top ten on that list were also on one or both of the other lists. The number one book was also number one on BOTH of the other lists.)
Since learning this, I give much less credence to that label when it’s claimed by authors. It sounds impressive and prestigious, but it doesn’t always mean a book sold tons of copies.

USA Today

This is a list I’ve seen many of my indie author friends strive to make. And many of them have attained the status.
So, how do you make this list? Is it more prestigious than Amazon’s list?
This is a weekly list (as opposed to one that’s updated hourly like Amazon’s) that ranks titles selling well in both print and electronic formats. The sales numbers are collected from a variety of outlets: bookstore chains (like Barnes & Noble), independent bookstores, mass merchandisers (think WalMart or Target) and online retailers (including Amazon). See the complete list of sellers and the actual definition at USA Today’s site.

The list does NOT subdivide out according to category. This means the list will include nonfiction, romance, fantasy and memoir, along with any other genre that sold in substantial quantity.


For example, the week I wrote this (January 12), the number one seller was in current affairs, number two and three in genre fiction, number four in business and number five in youth.
A couple of my author friends hit the #89 slot with a boxed set including twenty-six fantasy/science-fiction novellas. They marketed hard in order to hit this list so they authors would be able to claim the status as “USA Today Best-selling Author.”

As amazing as this title is, in this case, I don’t think it means as much as it does for those authors who hit the list with a stand-alone title. Before everyone batters me in the comments, let me explain.

I pre-ordered the collection (and pre-orders are important if you want a book to hit a top spot because all those sales count on the day the book releases). I did so to read one specific story by an author I adore.
Eventually, I did finish a few of the other stories, but there were plenty that didn’t fit my reading preferences. And some of the writing wasn’t all that great (in my opinion). But every one of those twenty-six authors is now a best-selling author. Even if NO ONE reads the story they contributed to the collection.
This is the reason I say attaining the bestseller label in this way might not mean much. So, again, I don’t pay that close of attention to author’s who claim this title. (Sorry, that makes me sound like a book snob, which I’m not. I hardly ever go to the bestseller list for book recommendations.)

New York Times

The New York Times publishes “authoritatively ranked lists of books sold in the United states, sorted by format and genre.”
As you can see, this means the books are ranked in genre (so all the self-help books will compete against other self-help books) and format. This means that the numbers of hardback, paperback and digital formats aren’t considered together.
That makes this list more concise than USA Today’s but not as narrow as Amazon’s. Which means it is more difficult to leverage yourself onto the list.

These are the weekly best sellers lists:

  • Fiction combined print & e-book fiction, hardcover fiction, paperback trade fiction
  • Nonfiction combined print & e-Book nonfiction, hardcover, paperpace, advice, how-to & miscellaneous
  • Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover, Picture books, series, Young Adult hardcover (meaning the paperback and e-Book sales don’t even count for authors making this list.)

To compare this with USA Today, on January 12, the number one book in combined print & ebook fiction was #2 on USA Today’s list. The number 2 book in this category was only #23 on the USA Today list, while number three was also in that slot on USA Today. The book at number four was ranked #8 by USA Today.
In case you’re wondering, the book in the top slot on USA Today was number one in both combined and hardcover nonfiction on The New York Times list.
Since it is obviously more difficult to make this list, does that mean it’s more prestigious? I wouldn’t say that, but then I’m not someone who follows these lists.
I will say that my best-selling author goal is linked to The New York Times, though. And I don’t plan to “leverage” sales to make this list. I want to get there organically.
Will that make it more meaningful? To me, yes, but who knows if the average reader will even care?
After all, is Sharon Hughson, multi-genre author any different than Sharon Hughson, NYT Best-selling author? In my mind, I’m the same person, writing in the same style, either way.
Is one of these seen as more prestigious or more famous or more salable? I guess that depends on if the reader cares about such things.
Me? If I like your writing, I don’t care if no one else has ever heard of you. I will buy and read your books. I will give them four or five-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, and I’ll recommend them to every reader I know.

What’s your opinion about the title of best-selling author? What makes a “bestseller” in your mind?

Meet the Authors who are BRAVING THE ELEMENTS

I love authors. I love supporting authors. And I LOVE introducing readers to their new “favorite author.”

That’s why I invite authors onto my blog. Today, I’m thrilled to have not one, or even two, but FIVE guest authors. All of these writers are published with Roane Publishing, the small house that gave me my fiction debut. (I ADORE them!)

No one wants to read a long, wordy interview. Especially not from FIVE different wordsmith-type individuals. So, today, I’m asking all the authors of the newest fantasy anthology from Roane only ONE question.

Isn’t this cover amazing?

 

No, that wasn’t the one question. But so you know, they all shouted YES! It was really harmonic too.

So, authors, you’ve written stories with elemental magic of some sort. Which element are you? Why? What will you do with your elemental power?

Terri Rochenski (author of Mist Weaver) says:

I think I would want to be Air. Being able to manipulate mass with blasts. Water, Earth, and Fire can all be somewhat controlled by Air.

Now we know Terri is all about CONTROL. A perfect character trait for a fiction writer.

Kelly Said (author of The Myth of Mt. Agony) takes a deep breath and admits:

I wrote about earth, but feel like AIR is a pretty potent element. It’s a gentle breeze that can bring relief on a sweltering summer day. It’s a powerful force that can lift up or knock down anything in its path. And it’s contradictory in its nature, because it’s usually there when you need it (ahh, breathing is life), but will let you fall if you trust it too much (gravity can be a bummer — Wile E Coyote). If I had the ability to control air I think my prankster side would totally pop up. I’d walk by breezing papers off people’s desks, or go strolling down the sidewalk giving everyone bad hair days, LOL! But then I could see how something might set my temper off and I’d probably pull a Darth Vader move and yank the air out of someone’s lungs until they turned blue. Sigh. I’m too human to possess such power, which is why I write about characters who do. 😉 

Another air aficionado. At least Kelly is wise enough to limit her elemental magic to the pages of the stories she writes. And who knew she was such a prankster?

Claire Davon (Author of The Dragon, The Witch, and the Swordswoman) had to think a moment before replying:

Oh such a complicated question! I like something about each one of them but if I have to pick one I would say water. If I had the elemental power to control and manipulate water I would want to use it to go down to the depths of the ocean that we cannot reach and see what it’s like down there for myself. What an adventure that would be! The ocean floor is such an unknown and it’s on our own planet!

Oh my. Claire is much braver than I am. The thought of all that water pressing down, suffocating me. *shivers* But authors have to be brave, so I applaud Claire’s adventurous spirit.

Rebecca Hart (author of Alice and the Egg) tilted her pirate’s hat at me and said:

I think I am a water element, personally, even though my story revolves around fire. I am addicted to all things ocean, and being a Virgo (the water bearer), I think it is just “who I am”. What would I do with my elemental power? Bring the ocean to me, of course. ?

Now Rebecca has the right idea. I’m a little bit of an ocean lover, too, as long as I’m on the beach.

Michael Siciliano (author of Forging Mettle) jumps right in with:

Um … is sarcasm an element, because I’ve honing my skill with that one since I was a teenager. All right, I admit, it’s not. It should be, but it’s not.

I’m kind of liking carbon, but if you put too much of it into the air, you get 90°F in January and beach front in Tennessee. Fine, fine, I’ll stop making jokes.

Medieval elements. I think my Talent would be to manipulate light. Making an area anywhere form pitch black to blindingly bright. Hey, that’s a pretty damned good idea. That might appear somewhere in a follow-up story to Forging Mettle. I call dibs.

Sarcasm is in fact an element. Wielded with skill by the bravest writers everywhere (consider Mark Twain).

And there you have it. Two air benders, a pair of water wielders and the man who would be a light bringer.

If you want to learn more about these authors, they’re also doing an interview over at Liz’s Reading Life.

Of course, the best way to know an author is to read their stories. So, support an author today. Pick up your copy of BRAVING THE ELEMENTS.

Last of all, enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

GIVEAWAY!!

A $50 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

New Conference: New Benefits

Professionals attend conferences. Since deciding to be a professional writer, I have attended three conferences in person and two online conferences. The new conference I’m attending this year offered some benefits the others didn’t.

I’ve been eyeing the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference for a couple years, but in the past it didn’t meet my needs.

For one thing, I wasn’t focusing on writing exclusively for the Christian market. And I’m still not. But I do have two projects in a “sellable” state that fit this market.

For another thing, it seemed to be heavy on nonfiction the first time I looked into it. Nonfiction? That translates to “no fun.” Right?

Or not. This year, one of the manuscripts I’m pitching is nonfiction.

Why This Conference?

There are two large writer’s conferences in the Portland Metropolitan area each year. I’ll be writing a post comparing and contrasting these two events.

OCW is what I need at this point in my career.

Let’s talk about the women’s fiction manuscript I’ve been laboring over for a year. It has a slight Christian bent, and that could be accentuated if I found a publisher that wanted to market it in the Christian marketplace.

I’ve pitched this story to one editor that I hope to meet with at the conference. There are a few other editors that I hope to get an opportunity to pitch this novel to.

Then there’s the thing I’ve lovingly referred to as “the grief memoir” for the past three years. Not that I was even writing it until last year. And even then it was sporadic. This book sucks my emotions dry.

What else would you expect from a book about dealing with grief?

Two agencies look right for this project. Both of these agents prefer memoir-like writings and are looking for nonfiction. I pray I’ll meet with these women and they’ll see the gaping hole in the market that this book can fill.

At least one of these women also represents fiction writers. You know that’s the one I really want. And I want her to ask when she offers me a contract, “What else are you writing?”

This year, OCW meets my needs much better than WW ever did.

Included Benefits

One great thing about this conference is that the fee ($550) includes everything.

Okay, it doesn’t include a room at the hotel and breakfast. So maybe not everything. But it does include:

  • Personalized workshops where I will interact with the instructor
  • Two full meals each day
  • A bookstore where I can sell my own books
  • Free manuscript critiques
  • A 30-minute mentoring appointment
  • Three pre-conference pitches
  • Appointments for pitching projects during the conference
  • Classes on everything from indie publishing to writing a memoir to building your brand

It’s pretty amazing that so many things I paid extra for at the Willamette Writer’s Conference (WW) are included while the main fee isn’t that different.

Also, the organizers are so incredibly helpful. They’ve made themselves accessible via email. They created a Facebook group for first time conference attendees (where they posted everything from a packing list to critiques of pitches).

Expectations

Professionals should know what they’re getting when they attend a conference. What’s more? They should have expectations about what the take-away will be.

After all, this isn’t my employer shucking out the money from a multi-billion dollar budget. It’s me and my “I’ve yet to make a profit writing” business. Is this conference worth the time and money invested?

Well, if it meets these expectations, the answer will be yes.

As far as workshops:

  • I’ll learn new things about how to get published
  • My writing craft will improve
  • I’ll understand the nonfiction proposal process
  • The author of my daily class will help me form a plan for being a novelist

As far as networking:

  • I’ll meet published authors who are real, approachable and helpful
  • I’ll meet publishing professionals who want to connect with me
  • Other newer writers will interact with me
  • Perhaps they’ll be some like-minded authors who want to form a writing critique group

As far as career advancement:

  • Half the books I take to sell will sell
  • The agents I meet with will request pages
  • The editor I meet with will request pages
  • The mentor I meet will help me formulate a nonfiction proposal and writing schedule

So, really, I’m not expecting much for my $550. It should be easy-as-pie to get all these things.

Look for a post later this month detailing whether the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference met or exceeded my expectations. (Notice I’m not giving it the option of NOT meeting them.)

Do you attend professional conferences? Why or why not?