What Does Success Look Like to You?

I recently had a front row seat to hear one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Anna Fermin, perform. She was previewing new songs with her band, Trigger Gospel. It was easy to get a great spot because there were only about 30 other people in the club.

Anna has been performing professionally for almost 20 years. Her voice was once described as “a perfect balance of grace and gusto.” Best of all, she’s a wonderful, evocative songwriter who obviously works very hard at her craft.

But Anna has never achieved the commercial success she deserves. It hasn’t been for lack of hard work or talent.

Listening to Anna made me think about how we define success. Most people see success in terms of outward rewards. Money is the big thing. We’re successful when we write a best seller, buy a house in Malibu, and drive a Tesla. Or we get other kinds of outward rewards: a Pulitzer in literature, an Emmy or Oscar, or maybe just 100 likes for a blog post.

Those rewards are nice, though often fleeting, but what about rewards that we can actually control, rewards we can enjoy for their own sake? What if we, as writers, measured success by our own satisfaction with a book we’ve written, or maybe with just a really good writing day, or even a single sentence that makes us feel happy.

Think about it, and don’t get too hung up on outward rewards. It might just heighten your creativity, and making you a happier person in the long run.

Best wishes,

Kelee

 

Free Review Copies of Goddess

You may have read my post a while back about my struggles to get reviews for Goddess without resorting to asking friends and family. (“Really, Kelee,” said my Aunt Agnes. “Erotic romance? Maybe you should bake a nice apple pie instead.”)

Paying people to post reviews felt as unethical as a soliciting a slew of 5-star reviews from my friends. Then, while looking for places to advertise my next big sale, I came across Reading Deals. They don’t advertise erotica, but they do have a side service called Review Club. For $39 an author can get 10-15 reviews on Amazon, plus tweets promoting your book. Yes, it does cost money, but it doesn’t go to the reviewers and there’s no guarantee they’ll give me good reviews, so I felt like it was ethical. I’ll let you know how it works out.

And if you’d like to join Review Club as a reviewer, you can get a lot of free books, including mine:

http://readingdeals.com/free-review-books/goddess-by-kelee-morris

Happy reading, everyone!

Best wishes,

Kelee

How Long Should My Book Be?

When I was a screenwriter, I knew hitting the right page count was an essential part of the writing process. No agent or producer was going to read your 200-page epic movie script, no matter how good you thought it was. (And any unproduced screenwriter naive enough to submit a 200-page script probably doesn’t have the experience to make it good.) Most new screenwriters continue to believe conventional wisdom that a script should be about 120 pages, but even that is inaccurate. In today’s market, 100-110 pages is the rule, unless you’re Christopher Nolan.

When I became a romance writer, I knew that word count was probably important to literary agents and publishers too. It turns out I was right. Few agents will even consider a very long manuscript. (Sci-fi being the exception.) Unless you’re already a best selling author, a fat book is risky because it’s more expensive to print. But a thin novel can get lost on bookshelves and readers might think it’s not worth the money.

When I began writing GoddessI read on a blog that the average romance novel is 76,031 words. I’m not sure where that figure came from, but it turned out to be pretty accurate. Romance novels can be somewhat shorter (perhaps 60,000 words) or longer (90,000), but you shouldn’t get too far out of that range or most agents won’t request the manuscript.

I didn’t have much of an issue with Goddess. I always try to cut unnecessary words and sentences as I write each draft, and when all was said and done, I ended up with a submission-ready manuscript of about 77,500 words. Perfect.

Of course, I ended up self-publishing Goddess, where page count isn’t as much of an issue. (Though I personally wouldn’t buy or agree to review a 100,000 word romance novel. They are rarely good enough to invest that much of my time.)

However, when I finished the first draft of my new comedic romance novel, Anywhere’s Better Than Here,  I discovered I had a word count problem. It came in at about 53,000 words. Much of this had to do with its origin as a screenplay, where brevity and tight pacing in a romantic comedy was a necessity. I liked what I had written, but I knew marketing such a short book to agents would be even more of a challenge than usual.

The first draft was a breeze, but the second draft has been painful. I’ve found places where I need more character development, and my b-story needed a little more beefing up. I’ve also found spots where transitional scenes would make the story feel not quite so rushed. (Though I do want it to be fast paced.) But overall, I’m surprised at how difficult it is for me to add to a story, rather than take away from it.

“Kill your babies” was the maxim I learned as a screenwriter. Don’t be afraid to cut favorite scenes or lines of dialogue if it’s necessary for pacing. But now, it seems, I need to birth a few more children. It’s challenging, but if writing isn’t difficult at times, then it’s usually because it isn’t very good.

So I return to my manuscript, redoubling my efforts, on a quest to make it as perfect as I can before it goes out to beta readers. Wish me luck!

Best wishes,

Kelee

Happy Friday! Check Out the New Interview With Me

Thanks, horror author Mercedes Fox, for the wonderful interview. You can read it here:

Meet Author Kelee Morris

And while you’re visiting Mercedes’s site, pick up one of her werewolf novels. I’ve always wanted to write a steamy vampire novel myself. Mercedes’s books may inspire me to give one a try.

Best wishes,

Kelee

Should You Offer Your Book for Free?

My first three months with KDP Select is winding down, and I was considering whether to take advantage of their free book promotion (up to five days) before the end of January. I started to do a little research, and the first thing I learned is how difficult it is to offer your book for free on Kindle outside their exclusivity agreement. My understanding is that it’s fairly easy to set your price at free on other platforms. If you published through Smashwords, all you have to do is notify them and they’ll do the rest. But for Amazon, you first have to change your price on Nook and other distributors, and then convince them to match it. Perhaps running through an Amazon warehouse naked will get you noticed, but otherwise, it can take a lot of time and effort.

But first things first: is giving away your book a good marketing strategy? Being a list-making kind of person, I read a lot of author blogs where they shared their experiences and came up with reasons why we authors should and shouldn’t give away our work.

Four Reasons You Should Definitely Give Away Your Book

  1. You can gain a lot of new readers. Authors report that, with a little advertising, they often get thousands of book downloads. That can translate into readers who will love your writing and eagerly buy your other books.
  2. You can score some new book reviews. Some of those new readers are (hopefully) going to post reviews of your book. Reviews mean future potential sales as you gain visibility and credibility for your work.
  3. It can be a great way to launch the next part of a series. Offering part 1 for free just before the next installment is published can mean more readers will be clamoring to buy it. This is especially true if you wrote a cliff hanger.
  4. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Competition is stiff. There are hundreds of thousands of book published every year. Your only hope of getting noticed is to try to get your book into as many hands as possible, by any means possible.

free_books_01

Four Reasons You Definitely Shouldn’t Give Away Your Book

  1. Downloads don’t necessarily translate into reads. Yes, thousands of readers have downloaded your book, but how many of them will actually read it? There are no exact figures, but based on what others have reported, very few. Readers who like free books tend to download a lot of them. Without having to put any money down, those files may sit in their Kindles for years until they can’t even remember why they downloaded them in the first place. Then, all they have to do is hit delete. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  2. Downloads don’t necessarily translate into reviews either. Many authors report being disappointed by how few (if any) reviews they get from those thousands of downloads. It could be that people haven’t read the book, or that they’re as lazy about reviewing books as they are about buying them.
  3. Worse yet, those downloads can mean bad reviews. Say a sci-fi fan downloads your free contemporary romance novel without much thought because he likes the babe on the cover. He reads 10 pages and gets so annoyed by the dearth of sex that he leaves a one-star review on Amazon. That certainly won’t help recruit paying customers.
  4. Offering free books perpetuates the belief that everything on the Internet should be free. I pay for web access to the New York Times because I demand good writing. I don’t want to get my news from Yahoo or some other crappy free site. Offering books for free means we don’t value our writing, and readers won’t value it either. If you want to make even a tiny living at writing, somebody is going to have to pay you at some point.

Charging even $.99 can force readers put a little skin in the game. In the long run, I think everyone will benefit. But I do see number 3 in the first list as a good reason to offer a book for free. I especially like the idea of offering a free book through an author’s own website, where your followers have already expressed an interest in you and your writing.

Whatever path you choose, good luck! I’d love to hear the experience of other authors who gave away their books.

Best wishes,

Kelee

 

Goddess Blog Tour Now On the Road

Goddess, Book 1 is now on sale at Amazon and my blog tour is underway. Thanks to all all my fellow bloggers and authors for your support.

Today I’m guest blogging on Reading Romances Goodreads Group about how I fell in love with romance. Check it out here:

Reading Romances

After you read it, don’t forget to hurry out and buy Goddess!

Best wishes,

Kelee

Goddess: Three Days and Counting

It’s been very busy over here at Goddess world. (If only it were theme park; it would make for a very satisfying visit.) I’ve submitted my guest blog posts to my lovely fellow bloggers/writers, Melanie Moxon, Leigh Anderson, and Nat at Reading Romances. My first reviews are out, I have author questions to answer for Deal Sharing Aunts, and tomorrow I’m giving readers a little preview of the book by posting the first chapter right here on my blog. So check back here over the coming week and enjoy the ride!

Best wishes,

Kelee

Taking Life One Book at a Time

As soon as I first understood that noun + verb = sentence, I became a voracious reader. By the time I was a teenager, I was binging on at least a novel or three per week. I remember absorbing Ross Lockridge Jr.’s massive American epic Raintree County in three days. (Stirring and wildly romantic, it’s a must-read in my book.) Digging through my parent’s basement one day,  I unearthed a wonderful treasure: a box stuffed with paperback versions of pulp fiction and literary classics from the likes of Faulkner, Orwell, Hemingway and many others. Published in the 1950s, they featured lurid covers that immediately fascinated me. I read every one of them.

This was the cover that led me to read everything George Orwell wrote.

But even though my parents had lots of books around, including bookshelves full of hardcover fiction and non-fiction in my father’s study, I never saw them actually pick up a book and read it themselves. They read the newspaper and magazines, but never books, at least in my presence.

That bothered me. My parents were highly educated people. They must have read books at one time. Why didn’t they do it anymore? I never asked them. I just continued my solitary pursuit of devouring one book after another.

Then something happened. I had children. All of a sudden, life revolved around diapers and spit up. I still read to my children every day. (I must have read Jamberry to my older daughter a thousand times.)  But reading for myself fell by the wayside. If I had a few moments to breathe, I would turn on the television. It was so much easier to disengage with TV than engage in a book.

But my oldest daughter picked up the habit I had lost. We read through Nancy Drew and American Girl books together, and then she started reading them on her own. Everywhere I looked, there were piles of books. I bought her a Nook and soon I was downloading e-books for her right and left. I was proud of what a great reader she had become.

But I didn’t feel so proud of myself. What kind of role model was I ? If she didn’t see me reading just for fun, would she lose the habit, just like my parents and i did?

About five years ago, I began to consciously strive to read more. I’m no longer a binge reader, but I feel good that when my kids come downstairs in the evening before bed, they often find me curled up, not with the TV, but with a good book.

I’ve visited many, many book blogs lately as I request advance reviews for Goddess. I’m envious of how many books these bloggers read. Maybe someday, I’ll be binging again too. But for now, I’m happy to to take life one book at a time.

Best Wishes,

Kelee