Reading in High Cotton for $3.99 or Less.

This morning we had a little family breakfast for those of us who didn’t have to rush off to a real job. Since I sometimes forward emails of books I think my sister might like to her. I asked her if I should keep doing that. She likes chick lit. Or what I call chick lit along with a healthy variety of mysteries, etc. We moved around a lot as children and the first stops we made in any new town were, the post office, the bank and the library. We love to read. You try moving to a new town in the summer and you don’t know anybody at all. The libraries were our friends.

Well, I better explain what I mean by High Cotton. When the cotton is high, that is good. You don’t have to bend down so far to pick it. Yes, picking cotton is back breaking work. My mother swears she ruined her knees crawling around cottons fields because it hurt her back too bad to bend over and pick it. If we say someone is in high cotton, that is good. Things are going well for them. Now back to the story.

I just finished a new book by James Patterson called “Zoo”. It was a five star book. That fellow can turn a phrase. I’m a romance author. At least I think I am. I love action and adventure and mysteries along with a little romance and fantasy. If the characters who are doing the action and adventure and romance also happen to be paranormal, I’m okay with that too. So your boyfriend’s a werewolf, I won’t hold that against him. If the story is interesting, I’m going to read it.

I figured James Patterson’s “Zoo” would be something my sister might enjoy. But in response to my question about Zoo this morning at breakfast, my sister told me, speaking boldly and obviously quite proud of herself, that she no longer reads anything that costs more than $3.99.

She said that she gets so many great books ranging from free to $3.99 that she won’t read anything more expensive than that until she runs out of these great books by great authors she’s been reading. Oh, and um, she doesn’t foresee running out of those free to $3.99 books anytime soon. She’s right. There is a gold mine of good reading for $3.99 or less.

Well, that gave me something to think about.

I do sometimes read a more expensive book. But wait, let me explain. I got hooked on JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood before I even got my kindle. I have a handful of series that I’m invested in. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is another one I enjoy. Then there’s Patricia Briggs who writes the Alpha and Omega and the Mercy Thompson series. No better world building has ever happened anywhere. I love Karen Marie Monning’s Fever series along with Lara Adrian, Lori Foster and Kresley Cole.

Okay, maybe I’m invested in more than a handful of series. I’ve also discovered Susan Illene’s Sensor series which is more the genre I enjoy. Susan Illene is what I consider an indie author. Her books are great. Along with Susan Illene, I also read Jean Kilczer’s Star Sojourner series. I’m not really that into Sci Fi, but her stories are so well told and filled with action adventure and wonderful characters that I just read them all anyway. I’ve discovered other indie authors whose series I follow also, but there are too many to name.

I don’t plan to stop buying the more expensive books from the traditional publishing houses, especially if I’ve already read all the other books in the series, but I probably won’t buy any of those super expensive books unless they’re one of the series I already follow. I consider super expensive $15.00 for a kindle book. That’s just a lot to pay for a Kindle book. Fortunately, those only come out maybe once a year.

Like my sister, I’ve found a virtual gold mine of very good books by very good authors who sell their work for $3.99 or less. And if I pay $5.00 once in a while for a book I know is going to be worth reading, who cares?

This is a great time to be a reader. Those of us who love to read are in what we southerners call, “high cotton” with great stories which are well told in books of $3.99 or less.

Happy summer reading!

Some thoughts on writing.

I read a blog recently that brought up some great points about self-publishing. Their primary advice was for authors to get an editor. I agree with everything they said, but I wanted to add a few things of my own.

First of all, I hate the term, “aspiring author”. If you’re writing… you’re a writer. If you’ve published a book, you’re an author.

First tip: Write something people want to read. Know your target audience. I feel close to my target audience because I read the kind of books I write. I love the paranormal/dark fantasy romance. I read that genre myself. I’ll tell you a secret, when I first decided to write a romance novel, I spent some time on the Amazon romance forums. I didn’t say much, but I did listen to what they said, what they liked and didn’t like, etc.

Important advice here: Never, ever tell anyone you’re an author unless you’re on an MOA (Meet Our Authors) thread. But for learning about what readers of your genre like and don’t like, the reader threads on Amazon are great.

Second tip: Get people to read your story and give you feedback. These are called beta readers and they are worth their weight in gold. Tell them you want to know what they think. Were there places in the story where they were confused? Listen to them and do what you have to do to fix the problems they had while staying true to your story. Yeah, it’s a balancing act.

Important advice: Don’t just take your best friend’s word for it that the story is “good”.  In high school band, when we were playing in front of judges, my old band director used to say… “Remember folks, this audience isn’t just our families, they are real musicians, so play like a real musician.” My daddy, who couldn’t carry a tune in a syrup bucket, always assured me that I sounded great. I always smiled and appreciated that thought, but… the band director sometimes said otherwise. I listened to my daddy with my heart, while I listened to my band director with my ‘musician’ mind.

Third tip: Understand character and story arcs. Premise, theme, etc. Brand new author like I was? Buy books on how to write books. If you can find other authors to meet with, get in there and discuss these things. Fill out character sheets and know your characters like your children because they are. Learn about POV, what it means and how to use it. Make a real effort to know and understand your craft. There are tons of books out there and classes on how to write and what all this terminology means.

Hint: everyone seems to use their very own terminology… so don’t hesitate to ask what they mean by that word.

Important advice: Know what you want the reader to take away from your story. Have a premise and a plot. Would you read your own story and enjoy it?

Fourth tip: Know your genre.

Mysteries are written differently from romance stories which are written differently from horror stories. Lots of books on the differences in genre also. Do your potential readers like ebooks? Then you better publish an ebook. Do they prefer hard copies? Then you better have hard copies available.

Note: romance readers like ebooks. That way we don’t have to explain to our grandchildren why that mostly naked man is on the cover.

Pay an editor and story doctor to go through your book. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Get several beta readers to read the story and pay attention to their feedback. Get someone to proofread for you. If you have to re-write the story 37 times… do it.

Important advice: Yes, you need to pay someone to go through your story. If you can, pay more than one someone. Make the book as professional as you can.

Love your story. Write about something you love. If you truly enjoy what you’re writing, it will show through.

You’re going to read it until you’re seeing it in your sleep. Craft every sentence and paragraph. You will go through your story many times. Don’t be an “it will do” author.

Important advice: When someone gives you some feedback, respect it. You may not agree, but they are probably telling you the truth. You can always choose to ignore their advice or parts of it.

Use something to track word usage. Scrivener does it for you, but there are other programs available. People will get tired of the same word or phrase used on every page and the writing comes across as amateur.

Remember, this is not a high school paper, but rather a labor of love.

Cover art – If your book is about a beautiful girl in the desert, don’t have a picture of a jungle on the cover. Make the cover represent the story. Otherwise people will think you tricked them.

Pay attention to your book blurb! I hate to read a book blurb and still have no idea what the story is about. The whole reason I read the book blurb is to decide if I am interested in the story. Don’t try to cheat or trick potential readers with the cover or the blurb. I am a booklover. To this day, I cannot pass the section of paperbacks in the grocery store or pharmacy without stopping to oogle them. I’ve always decided which book I was going to buy by reading the blurb. The exception being a handful of authors whose books I buy without even reading the blurb. I know they write good stories and the kind I like. Now I have a kindle and seldom buy the paperbacks anymore, but I am still unable to pass up that section of any store. I become very irritated when I read a blurb and still have no idea what the book is about. It is no trouble for me to pass on those ‘mystery’ books.

Note: I think nothing breeds ill will like a misleading book blurb. I bought a book recently, it sounded like the very best kind of action/adventure. It read more like a cook book. No, I didn’t finish it and I feel like the author cheated me either intentionally or otherwise. I won’t buy another one of his books.

Accept that everyone in the world is not going to like your story. What people like is purely subjective. Target your marketing to the people you think will enjoy the kind of story you’ve written.

Self-publishing is not “easy”, nor is it “free”. Be prepared to pay editors, cover artists, etc.

Please, please, have at least one editor go through your story. Oh yeah… already said that. Let me say it again, have at least one editor who knows what they’re doing go through your story.

Self-published means no deadline except what you set. Why would you rush to publish a story with problems? Strive to put out the very best story you can.

There is an audience for pretty much everything. Remember, good stories, well told … never go out of style. Keep writing and best of luck.