Hands of Tarot vs Fall of Sky City Launches

Originally published May 9, 2013 

It seems like everyone wants to hear how the re-launch of my steampunk adventure series is going. It was a terrifying move. So I'll walk you through it and give you the real numbers.

Originally, I published the first book as the following:

Title: Hands of Tarot

Series Title: Hands of Tarot

She killed his father.

She imprisoned and beat him.And now she thinks he’s her trophy.Synn El’Asim will do almost anything to prove her wrong. But he’s only proving her right.Queen Nix awakened his Mark of power and inducted him into the House of Wands. She knew what she was doing. The son of the two most powerful Families standing against her is the ultimate prize.What she didn’t take into consideration was that maybe he was too strong for her.Maybe.
But the Families aren’t. They’ve been weakened and it’ll take a lot more than one young man with a powerful Mark to take on the Hands of Tarot.

The Response

No one knew what to expect with this book. The genre mash-up, while awesome and unique, doesn't tell the reader what to expect. Each genre has their own set of rules. The unfortunate thing was that people picked this up thinking it might be a steampunk romance because that scene is HUGE right now. Unfortunately, when Nix is breaking Synn, she uses a few methods that are absolutely TABOO in romance. No details were given. I didn't want to go there. I didn't feel it was necessary. But because people picked it up as a romance, they thought it was "safe", and thus were caught by surprise when Synn does a gloss-over of these events.

I love this cover. When Dawne first showed it to me, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. But it didn't do a great job of showing the reader to what expect. It shows the antagonist on the cover, instead of the protagonist. This is probably why people thought it was a romance.

Also, some people thought it was a how-to book on Tarot. I loved the play with the tarot card here, but it just confused the reader. That really bummed me.

The blurb was good, but not solid. It worked better as a teaser excerpt than a blurb. People read that and didn't know what the book was about.

So with all that said, in the six months the book was active, here's the sales stats:

SOLD: 7

FREE: 501

TBR adds on Goodreads: 15

The free days were heavily promoted and I paid for some of that promotion. Also, that's all five free days.

I also gave this book (3) blog tours, and they were BIG! And through all f that, I sold 7 copies. Granted, that doesn't count the hard copies that I sold to friends and family. But all that hard work, and there was passible interest and I sold 7 copies.

The RE-LAUNCH

So I sat down with my BFF's, Veronica and Cabbitgirl, and SistaPITA. Together, we came up with the idea that something was wrong in my marketing plan. They all agreed that this was probably the best book I'd written. It just needed to be presented better.

I gave it a new title, which was the scariest part! I got a new cover, which cost the same as the first one. I gave it a new blurb. Oh, and I gave it another round of edits. All in all, the investment was pretty small.

So, largely with SistaPITA's help, here's what we came up with:

Title: Fall of Sky City

Series Title: Devices of War Trilogy

In a world governed by the opposing forces of the mystical House of Tarot and the tribal Great Families, Synn is caught in the crossfire. He witnesses the slaughter of innocent people, and the devastating murder of his father.This act awakens his Mark of power, a Mark greater than any the world has seen in a very long time.

Queen Nix thought she won a great prize when she destroyed Synn’s father, the leader of the strongest Great Families. She had no idea she’d be doubly blessed by capturing his son. 

However, before Synn can become her treasured weapon, before she can use him to bring the rest of the world to its knees, she must break him and bind his soul to hers.

She does her job with brutal brilliance. Synn’s mind is broken and his soul is seared to hers in an unbreakable bond. That doesn’t stop him from wanting to be free. She may have broken his mind and claimed his soul, but he will find a way to destroy her.

Experience a world of ships that sail the clouds and cites buried beneath the ocean, and survive the fiery battle brought forth by those who control the forces of nature! 

The Response

I had 441 people add it to their TBR when I launched the cover reveal. People were talking about it a month before I re-launched it! I had people asking me for review copies, where as before, I couldn't pay people to take the book. I got three reviews posted before the official launch date, and the readers UNDERSTOOD what was going on! The new package was aimed correctly!

I set up one blog tour, not a huge one, but one. In the first WEEK here are my stats:

SOLD: 53

FREE: 1,077

I barely promoted the free days. I mentioned it on Twitter and FB. I asked Kathy at I Am a Reader to Highlight it and that was it.

Now, I realize I still have a loooooong way to go. It's going to be an uphill battle with this book and this series. We're in a difficult genre. This probably won't be a million dollar book (not that I'll ever have that, I know). But it's finally got the right marketing plan, and it shows with only a week in.

Lessons Learned: Editing

 

This is SUCH an embarrassing story! However, this series is not for me. It's for you, the writer, the would-be self-published author. Very few authors are willing to tell this kind of story. We appear weak by announcing to anyone who actually reads this post that we fail sometimes, that we're not great. We don't want readers to go, "Well, maybe I don't want to spend my 99 cents on this book. Maybe I want to spend it over here, instead." No, no. Spend it here. Really. No. @_@ Really.

 

The Dustman was written and published seven years ago. I had a team of editors go through it the first time. So I said to myself, "Self, this would be a good book to publish on your own. This award winning novel has already been edited. It's just not something you've written recently. The bad news is that you've grown as a writer. The good news is that you probably used 'past' and 'passed' correctly. You used to know how to use those."

I went through it and cut 20,000 words, which made it a stronger book. I was quite the rambler back then. I found a couple of people who said they would edit it for cheap and I sent it out.

The Problems

Budget

I was just starting on my path of self-publishing. I had a budget and it was TIGHT! It looked like this: Peanut butter and bread or an editor? You can't PAY an editor on a peanut butter and bread allowance. They laugh at you. So I had a problem. I couldn't afford a high-paid editor. I had to test-drive editors who were just stepping out, trying to see if they could make it. So I said, "Self, since you're test driving, forgo the peanut butter, eat eggs and Ramon Noodles instead, and test drive two."

Over Confidence & Too Much Self-Reliance

I knew that I could self-edit. I'm a veteran of the publishing business. *self-kicking groan* I know how to step back from my work and look at it like it's someone else's. This turned out to be problem number two. I was relying, primarily, on myself.

Lack of Time!

Which led to problem number three. I ran out of time. I'd already posted when I was publishing Dustman. Granted, I had all of five people who cared, but you never know the ones that are lurking on the sidelines, saying nothing. I was launching As Night Falls, finishing the last few chapters of The Hands of Tarot, working on edits for Those Damn Angels, finishing the last half of A Shady Side of Dead (still working on the title of that one) and building up a following, all while working a full-time job. (I know I'm a bit of an overachiever, but I have friends who put ME to shame.)

Falling on My Face

I launched Dustman, knowing that it was a good story. My BETA's all gave me great reviews. But then the real reviews came trickling in and they kept mentioning the grammar. Grammar and typos. Not only that, but there was a definite LACK of reviews from people who said they would and then never did.

So, I searched through it, doing a quick scan and I found five typos and/or grammar errors.OMW! I was dumbfounded. That many in just a quick scan. WHAT?!

I was still trying to finish writing  A Shady Side of Dead, which was kicking my butt, and waiting for edits back for Those Damn Angels. I was now in the middle of the Dustman launch and getting ready for my Demons Are Jackasses launch (which will be another topic at a later date).

The Wake-Up Call

I received the review that made me really take a good hard look at what I was doing, what I was cramming myself into. The review was from a friend who I had mentored years ago. She said that the story was good. But then she ripped me a new one on the grammar. She said I'd disappointed her, that a writer of my caliber shouldn't be putting out work of this poor quality.

This veteran sat down and CRIED! I'll be the first person to tell you that in this business, you have to be tough. Your Big Girl Panties had better be on, but I'll admit, even I cry sometimes. I sobbed like a baby!

Taking the Time to Edit the 2nd Edition

Luck was with me. I'd just found my Darling Dork and his mom said, "Let me look at it." She shredded it! It was amazing! Going through her edits, I realized that seven years ago, I was okay at telling a story, but in all that time, I'd grown as a writer more than I'd thought. My sentence structure was weak. My character arc bordered on stereotypical. The only thing I really had going for me were the secondary characters and the stellar setting.

Well, and the fact that it really is a great story if you look around the technical aspect. It's sold well for a book with a no-name author, and that's due to the book's premise. The plot and the setting are unique and interesting. I've sold over 5,000 copies and have a handful of reviews. It's good. It's just not great. On the other hand, it doesn't suck so bad that everyone has to jump on that bandwagon either.

Dustman, 2nd Edition, is as good as it's going to get unless I scrap it and re-write it, which I'm probably not going to do. It's a testament to how far I've come. It's also a visual reminder on WHY you should SPEND DEDICATED TIME to your editing. Don't just trust that others are polishing your book because you don't have the time. MAKE the time and DO IT RIGHT! Read. Every. Single. Word. Read it out loud. Do whatever it takes, but Do...It...Right!

The Lesson Learned

The Dustman could have been a FRELLING FANTASTIC book, but it will always be just a good story because of the level of writing that went into it. I hope that you take this lesson and learn from my mistakes. We need to flood the market with really GREAT books, not just books with great potential.

Update: I have scrapped it. I will be relaunching this book in 2019 under the title Saving Dreamland and the penname Hattie Hunt! 

Synopsis: Vocabulary and Questions

I've actually been teaching writers how to craft successful synopses for awhile now. So we're going to start off with a vocabulary lesson because I speak Frankie...which is a little bit French, a little Latin and totally gibberish.

Synopsis(ses): synopses is the plural form of synopsis. Synopsis is a shortened version of your book, kind of like a blurb, but longer and you give the ending away.

Plot Point (PP): A plot point, later referred to as PP, is a major climatic event in the structural plot line.

Structural Plot (SP): The structural plot, later referred to as the SP, is the story line that pushes the characters into action. It’s the murder that needs to be solved, or the prophecy that needs fulfilled.

Character Plot (CP): The character plot, later referred to as the CP, is the story line that makes the character grow. It’s the female mc and the male mc getting together, or the mc overcoming all odds to fulfill the prophecy, or the mc facing her fears in order to solve the murders.

Transitional Actions (TA): The transitional actions is the action or the road that takes the characters from PP 1 to PP 2. Example: PP1: Beth is on a ship for the Americas to marry a man she’s never met. PP2: She stranded on an island with Dread Pirate Bill. What’s the transitional action that got Beth from a boat in relative safety to being stranded on an island with a pirate? TA1: The storm that crashed Beth’s ship and Bill’s ship together, smashed them on the rocks, and left her and him stranded along with Bill’s crew, which is now holding Beth’s crew hostage. 

I think that’s all of the vocabulary lessons we need.

What makes most synopses fail? Well, a number of things.

1. Too many plot points.

2. It’s confusing. We don’t know how or why we’re going from one PP to the next.

3. It’s jarring to read.

4. It’s boring.

5. There are too many characters.

What makes a good synopsis successful?

Steering Your Career

Originally posted 5-Jan-2010

In the Novel Workshop's Workshop, I'm attempting to show others how to first choose, then steer, and then maintain their novel writing career.

That's a daunting task.

There's so much information to take in; learning your industry, understanding your market, reading your "competition", staying on top of trends, learning to socialize, and seeing if you even have what it takes to write in the genre you chose - more than the one book that took you five years to write.

I started the Novel Workshop nearly a decade ago and I've seen a lot of people fail because they didn't grasp the concept that this is a career. Investment is required, an investment of time and energy - lots of it. Or I've seen people who choose the genre they like to read, naturally assuming that this is the genre they'd be able write in only to fail because that's not what they see, it's not what they feel. Their chosen genre entertains them, but does not fulfill a certain need. Most of these writers haven't learned yet - they still very well could - that their genre might be different, that the stories they need to tell require a slightly different medium.

They failed. That was it. They were done. See ya later, buh-bye.

You don't want to fail. No one does. Well, that guy over there, he's okay with it, but it's called a psychological issue called a "well balanced" personality and I doubt it's true existence. If you're going to succeed, you literally have to sit down with yourself and ask some tough questions.

Can you see yourself doing this ten years from now?

Are you writing in a genre that will keep you motivated for another dozen years?

Do you need to switch to a subgenre?

Do you enjoy reading your competition?

Can you do this much work for this little reward for a substantially long time?

Are you constantly negative on yourself?

Do you cause yourself to succeed or to fail?

It takes a very strong person to be a writer. It takes a highly successful person to become a really brilliant author. Do you have what it takes?

Researching Your Rejection

Attempting to get published in the traditional novel world is...*clawed hands of mutant frustration*...it seems frelling impossible. You work hard on your book. You find a critique group that helps you polish it. You write that horrific, dreaded, sounds-like-a-dried-up-recipe synopsis and try, try, try to perfect your pitch. You've got six different plot pitches to the same book that are all basically the same but completely different. And you've got the one pitch to sell you that just freakin' sucks no matter how you spin it. But! It's the best it's going to get.

You're quivering in your boots, or slippers, flip-flops...whatever you're wearing. You're feeling the fear.

And then...*cue music*...it's time to send this puppy off!

If you're one of the few, the proud and the slightly insane, you've done some research and you know that most agents like to feel special when you query them. They want to know that you're not just sending out spam and regurgitating your query to them and dozens of others.

So you take the time. You research each one of them with great care and detail. Some of these agents have huge blogs to sift through and you do so that you don't inadvertently make that one mistake that just instantly sets them off and dumps your query in the reject pile.

It takes about an hour, at least, for me to research each and every agent I query so that I can get those two little sentences that tell the agent that I'm serious. I'm here to stay. This is the career I've always wanted.

 

This. Is. What. I. Want. To. Do.

*clenched teeth* Dang it!

And then two days later. *sags in dejection* The rejections start flooding in. "Thank you for your query. We’re afraid your project does not seem right for our list, but thank you for thinking of us, and best of luck in your search for representation." Or my absolute favorite.

Short, sweet and to the point. "Not for me. Thanks." I loved that one.

Then you start thinking, OMG! There's something wrong with my pitch. They hate me! They hate the book. The book's not "hot". Well, you already knew that. It's different. Oh, no! It's too different. *pulling out hair* Holy crap, Batman! Why'd you ever decide that you were good enough to enter into this frelling business?

*screams up to the heavens*

I SUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKK!!!!!!

*beaming smile* Sound familiar? This is where I'm at right now...so...pep talk time.

Researching the agency you're going to submit to is crucial. I don't care if it takes 15 minutes or an hour. Do it. Don't whine about it. Just do it! Repeat after me.

"This is a character building experience." *nods* Apply. Rinse. Repeat as often as is needed.

 

Researching the person you're going to submit to is also important. However, if you didn't do a great deal of research, don't pretend that you did. Just give him enough to know that you at least did the 15 minute Google Challenge on him. The idea here is that you're not just selling your book or yourself. You have to do your research to ensure you're not wasting either your time or his.

And...*deep shrug*...after about 25 rejections, take a good hard look at your book, your pitch, your synopsis and see if maybe you got something a little off.

1. How does your book fit into the market? Don't think that the agent is going to make that happen for you. Uh, no.

2. Is your pitch bland? Does it have a strong coherent thought or is it all over the flippin' place?

3. Does your synopsis have more than four characters introduced? *whispers* K.I.S.S. Trust me. It works!

However, until you get there. Don't wig out. It could be that the agents you're querying are already buried or have several projects that are similar to yours that they're trying to sell and it has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Rejection happens to us all. Expect it. Put yourself out there and demand it! If you're not being rejected, you're not doing something right.

*stands with hands on hips and looks at self* So quit whining, Frankie, and get back out there!

Creating A Platform

Originally published 26-June-2009

On several of the agent blogs that I regularly read, they've been talking about authors having a platform. Wow! What a daunting process. The internet is HUGE. It's worse than being in the city where there are millions of people. On the web there are BILLIONS of people and infinitately more websites and webpages. Where do you even start?

I'm on Twitter. Not really getting it so much.

I have the blog which I'm having tons of fun with.

I have the website--which seriously needs to be re-formatted. It's fun, don't get me wrong, but with my limited knowledge of web-building, it's just not working.

 

So how do I get more people? And how do I sell a product that...just isn't there yet?

*whimper, moan* People--all five of you!!--please tell others about these great books that they won't be seeing for a few years yet. *biting lip* Somehow I don't think that's going to work out so much.

I do have one link that will hopefully help me and you out. The platform link. I'm going to pour over this while revising DA and see what I can come up with as far as ideas to get more traffic in here.

I also read this blog post that was incredibly helpful and made me realize -- after I'd posted this in a mad fit of oh-my-freakin'-Pete-I'm-SCREWED-ness -- that I'm fine. I can't sell something that isn't sold and available to the public yet. So I'm fiiiiiiiiiine!

*wiping sweat off brow* How many years have I been doing this and researching and...holy crap! I nearly went into hysterics here going, "You're not ready. Everyone says to wait until you're ready and you're not ready!" I'm a dork. I know.

But, you know what? Since I'm not going to be published for awhile and I AM having a ton of fun with this darned thing (the blog, not Twitter and not the site) I'd like to see how I could open this to a whole bunch of others. My fellow writers. And not just in comments that are hidden. No, no. I have to find another way, to get everyone in here and talking about their current projects and some of the hurdles they're facing. I think that would be GREAT fun!

So if you're a writer/author that I don't know yet, please introduce yourself and let me know if you'd like to swap some ideas, post something on here...whatever.