Posts Tagged Thomas & Mercer

It’s Good to Be an Amazon Author

Last weekend I was in Seattle for a conference hosted by Thomas & Mercer that may be the first of its kind. Amazon paid for everything, including meals, leisure activities, and a schwag bag with a Paper White Kindle. (Nice suprise!)

But what was unique was the purpose: to simply say thank you to its authors. It wasn’t a reader convention to build sales, and it wasn’t a writing workshop to develop its authors. The event was simply a gathering of T&M authors so we could meet the Amazon team and socialize with each other. But more important, I heard over and over that the company appreciated me.

There were panels on Saturday, which were open to the public and attended by some local writers, but they were mostly about T&M authors sharing their publishing expertise and getting to know each other. The program started with a great panel about writing for television and movies with Lee Goldberg, Marcus Sakey, Greg Widen, and Johnny Shaw competing to tell the funniest stories. A hard act to follow!

But we did our best on the branding panel that came next with me, Barry Eisler, and Max Collins. That was another unique feature: more men than women. Most reader conventions I’ve attended are predominately female. But Saturday night, I had dinner with eight male authors (and Larry Kirshbaum, the president of Amazon Publishing). I’m sure other women writers had similar experiences of being outnumbered. Overall, Amazon made a great effort to ensure that we all met new people. I chatted with so many authors, it would be weird to name them all here.

Friday was the best day though. After a presentation at Amazon headquarters, we had lunch on the Argosy, then embarked on a cruise of Lake Washington. A beautiful day with perfect 75 degree weather. I got to hang out with J Carson Black, an online buddy I’d never met in person, as well as good friends Andrew Kaufman and Michelle Scott.

Then Friday night we had dinner at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which had the most stunning display of blown glass I’ve ever seen. The meal itself was in a room made entirely of glass with a hanging glass sculpture running the length. A very special evening that I’m glad I dressed up for.

As an author, this weekend was the first time I ever felt like I was “somebody.” Yet that’s just ego, and it doesn’t really matter. What’s most important is what signing with T&M did for my career this year—introduce me to more readers than I ever dreamed of.

No Longer Indie

Transition day is here. Before it’s over, I’ll take down all my self-published books, so Amazon can launch its new versions tomorrow. Clicking those “unpublish” buttons will be scary and difficult. For two-plus years, this is how I’ve lived my life. Writing like mad, getting the books ready for publication, uploading them to KDP, and watching over them 24/7 as they compete in a crowded ruthless market.

Thomas & MercerI’ll still be writing like mad and watching my books on the market, but I’ve already stopped doing the production aspect. The other major thing that will change is that I’ll lose control of the pricing and promotion. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, it’s a relief. Watching the rankings—which equal visibility—and constantly adjusting pricing and promotional time & money is a lot pressure.

Not to mention exhausting.

But knowing me, I’ll still be monitoring the ranking/visibility/sales, but I’ll be powerless to do anything. Except email my team at Thomas & Mercer and offer suggestions (or pleas). Which they are very responsive to. But they’ll also be marketing my books and gauging the results, and I trust them to do a great job.

My hope is that I’ll be so pleased with my growing readership that I’ll be able to let go of the daily worry about marketing/sales and focus more on writing. And living. There’s so much I want to do this year. Like take hand-drumming lessons and dance classes. And go on a real vacation.

Most important though is that my books will reach new readers. Amazon can, and will, contact readers who’ve never heard of me. And because I’ll have the credibility of a respectable publisher, many more readers will try my work. I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m also happy to report that Amazon is keeping the prices low.

I’m thrilled with the new covers too. It was a long process, but T&M included me in every step, and I’m happy with the new branded look for both the Jackson stories and the standalone thrillers. I think the branded aspect adds professionalism that readers will be drawn to.

You can see the new covers on my website already, and starting tomorrow, the new T&M versions will be selling on Amazon, B&N (print), and other retailers. It’s another major transition in my eventful writing career, and hopefully, one that will bring me respectability and peace of mind.

What do you think? Do you like the covers? Will Amazon help my books perform better? Readers, are you still on board?

B-Con 2012, Part Two

Bouchercon was terrific for me this year. I finally felt like a real author with a wide reader base and respect from other authors, even though the conference programmer didn’t offer me a panel until I politely pointed out that I met all the criteria. But in the long run, it didn’t matter.

My highlight this year was having dinner with the Thomas & Mercer team and getting to know Andrew Bartlett, the acquisitions editor. At that dinner, I also met Blake Crouch, Sean Chercover, and Dana Cameron, and walked back in the rain with with Tom Shreck, whom I’ve known since we were both with the same small press. (Blake and Tom are in next photo.)

But let me back up. I started Friday with a Sisters in Crime breakfast, complete with singing a chorus of “You show me your gun, I’ll show you mine.” Then I attended panel called Old Friends, New Friends, nicely moderated by Jen Forbus, followed by Eve of Destruction, with authors Sophie Littlefield, Deborah Coonts, Tracy Kiely, and Rochelle Staab. I spent a lot of time with Rochelle, who I’d Skyped with earlier in the year for a Big Thrill feature. She’s just as dynamic in person. (Bottom photo in gorgeous red leather.)

A little latter I met up with longtime online friend Debbi Mack for the first time—lovely woman—and had lunch with her and fellow panelist, Conda Douglas, and new author friend, Molly Cox Bryan.Blake Crouch and Tom Shreck

Friday afternoon, I attended Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, a terrific panel where they talked about writing from the opposite gender’s perspective. The room was pack to see Elizabeth George, Val McDemid, Alan Jacobson, Tom Shreck, and another friend, Alexandra Sokoloff. The moderator, Daniel Palmer did a great job of keeping it lively.

Saturday was a day of conversations. I chatted with readers and authors all day—including Zoe Sharp, Julie Hyzy, Claudia Whitsitt, and Annette Dashofy —and had lunch with my terrific roommate and author Terry Shames (next photo), along with Keith Raffel, Boyd Morison and his wife, Randi, Tracy Kiely, and another delightful author whose name escapes me. By that point, I’d met and chatted with so many people, it was hard to mentally keep everyone straight. We talked shop, but also veered off into other stimulating subjects.

Still, that evening at the awards ceremony, I met more authors for the first time. Edgar nominee Darrell James was charming, and so was Kathy Wiley and new author Anne Cleeland. I went to dinner with Darrell James and a female author named Darrell who writes under Avery Aames, as well as Rochelle, Dana Cameron, Roberta Isleb, and another woman I should remember. I also chatted with numerous authors in the bar that evening, staying up late to connect with as many people as possible.L.J. Sellers and Terry Shames

That’s the problem with blogs like this. I can’t possibly mention everyone I talked even if I could remember all their names. So if I left you out, please don’t be offended, and feel free to comment and remind me! And I have to mention that I chatted with Stan and Lucinda Surber who talked me into being a chair for Left Coast Crime 2015 in Portland. It’ll be fantastic, so put it on your calendar.

The best panel I attended was on Sunday morning and called Red Herrings. Moderator Keith Raffel (a great guy!) was sharp and funny, despite a late night in the lounge, and the panelists—Beth Groundwater, Pennie Ross, D.M. Pirrone, and Melodie Campbell—all kept up with him.

Afterward while waiting to leave, I chatted with agent Janet Reid, who did her best to convince me that personal one-to-one emails are worthwhile, even with a thousand-name email list, and I know in my heart she’s right, even though the task would be overwhelming. And I shared a cab to the airport with Gigi Pandian, an delightful author I shared a shuttle with at B-con 2010. We both seem to fly home to the west coast at the same time

L.J. Sellers and Rochelle StaabI also talked with people on all of my flights coming and going, two of whom have already emailed me, hoping to stay in touch. I wish I had total recall for all the wonderful people I’ve met.

If you attended B-con, please share one of your moments.

Putting Sex Back in the Series

After all the trouble of taking Sex out of the Jackson series, I’m about to put it back. Some of you may be thinking, It’s about time. But those of you who know the series, know that I was talking about The Sex Club, the first book to feature Detective Wade Jackson.

Late last year, I pulled it as the lead Jackson story and moved it into my standalone thriller category, mostly for political reasons (see blog). The book features a Planned Parenthood nurse and crazy anti-abortionist (protagonist and antagonist, respectively), and I made the change so the first book in the series would be more palatable to all readers.

I worried that some readers would simply be turned off by the title. Many other readers bought the book for the title. Either way, at this point Amazon Publishing/Thomas & Mercer owns the rights, and they plan to market it as part of the series. By the time their version comes out in January with all the other Jackson books—including the new one, Rules of Crime—I’ll have modified my website, bio, and book listings to match up with Amazon’s marketing.

Once again, The Sex Club will be the first title many readers see when they visit my website or see a list of my books. I have mixed feelings about this. I love the story, and I’m proud to be its author. But it’s the only title I have that doesn’t really reflect the crime-fiction genre that I write in. Hopefully readers will look beyond that book and see that I’m really about crime, violence, and death. 🙂

When my kids were growing up, I used to say I’d rather they watched sex scenes in movies than violence, but that’s another subject.

For the record, I could have objected to the strategy to market The Sex Club as a Jackson story. Amazon is very concerned with my input and involves me in all decisions. But I trust them to know what they’re doing. And I’ve felt guilty about moving the book since I made the change.

The Sex Club is different from the others. I wrote it as a standalone with two main characters, one a nurse and the other a homicide detective. So it’s little different from my other police procedurals. But I knew I might bring Jackson back. And for readers who like to start at the beginning of a character’s development, it’s only fair they know about the first book. (Which I’ve tried to do anyway by including phrases like “featuring Detective Jackson” in my marketing text.)

So Sex is back. And it’s a good thing. 🙂

 

The Exclusivity Dilemma

Amazon often dominates my thoughts these days. Like many other authors, because of Amazon’s KDP self-publishing program, I now have readers and I’m able to make a small living. So I’m deeply grateful to Amazon, even loyal. As an author, I’m also entirely dependent on the company. If it kicked me out of the KDP program, I’d have to go back to freelance editing, and I would write far fewer novels.

Yet, I don’t want to see Amazon become a monopoly or have it be the only place my books are available. I want readers to have choices. Still, to survive financially, I may have to climb on board the Amazon train and let go of the idea that I’m an independent author.

Two issues are on deck for me right now. First, is the lending library that everyone’s buzzing about and some are calling predatory. Amazon called me two weeks ago to pitch KDP Select to me personally. Surprised by the contact, I assume it’s because I have ten books on the market and sold quite a few on Kindle last year.

My only concern was the exclusivity issue, but in the end, I decided to enroll two of my standalone thrillers. Which means I had to pull those books from all other e-readers. I wasn’t making enough money on them from any other sources for it to be a financial decision. My hesitation was based only on my commitment to give readers full access to my books.

But the promotional opportunity Amazon offered—a five-day giveaway of the books—was hard to resist. The exposure could be invaluable. Right now, The Suicide Effect is being downloaded in record numbers. Because I have nine other books for new readers to buy, this could turn out well for me. I’ll know in the next month or so.

The other issue is the possibility of becoming an Amazon-published author. I have two thrillers in submission to Thomas & Mercer, with the hope that Amazon will buy the rights and republish them as T&M titles. If that happens—and I hope it does—those books would then be sold exclusively by Amazon. The benefit to me would be Amazon’s incredible marketing machine, which would expose my entire body of work to thousands of new readers.

So my commitment to full access for readers is eroding. After last year’s run-up in sales, followed by the inevitable decline when the Amazon algorithm dropped me (as it eventually does), I came to the conclusion that Amazon already owns me…if I want to be a full-time novelist. The struggle to resist is futile.

So I’m tempted to simply get it over with and put all my books in the lending program and give up on selling them anywhere else. I believe I’ll end up there someday anyway. It wouldn’t change my finances enough to worry about, but it would make me feel guilty about denying my books to readers who don’t do business with Amazon.

What do you think?

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I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
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The author expertly intertwines multiple story lines, presents readers with fully realized characters that readers will feel they know, and keeps the action and suspense levels high. That’s a lot to expect from an author but L. J. Sellers delivers.” ~OverMyDeadBody
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