Sunday, November 28, 2021

Can Income-Earning Authors Take a Break?

Can income earning authors take a break? The short answer is "no." The longer answer is "it depends." The more you earn, and can thus save, the longer you can take a break between books. 

It also depends on whether you used income from well-earning books to buy items (such as houses or cars) that require regular (high) payments.More expenses, higher earning threshhold required.

I make enough to pay many of my normal expenses. I'm fortunate, but I do work hard. 

I had a slow publishing period a couple of years ago and learned that my income does not stay consistent without at least three genre-fiction books per year. No complaints.

To reaffirm this premise, I recently downloaded sales and income data from Amazon and Smashwords (an aggregator that handles sales of most of my books for ibooks and Nook). 

I learned several things.

1) I do need to publish consistently or income drops quickly.

2) If I lower the price or give away the last book in a series before issuing the new one, sales of the new one are highter.

3) If I give away books on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, it makes little difference in sales.

4) If I give away non-KU books on Amazon because of a price match with other siters, it not only helps sales but I get a lot of Amazon reviews.

5) If I keep the first box set of a series free on all sites but Amazon (via Smashwords), succeeding box set sales are very good. The moral here, for me, is to leave the first books free all the time. (The next two box sets are always in the top ten of box set sales, and have been number one or two at times. Other authors' sets come and go. My Jolie Gentil series stays high.)

6) Better to write some every day rather than try to crunch out three books at the end of the year. That's kind of a big 'duh,' but worth noting.

It's a good idea to pull historical data every year. You can obsess by examining data weekly or monthly, but it works better if you use that time to write.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Look Into the 'Real' World

When revising my website this year, I spent time considering how to describe my writing. Not in terms of genres, but how to put forth broader perspectives. This is what I came up with:

What makes Elaine’s fiction different from other traditional mysteries? Some might say the dry humor (only a few say lame), but she thinks it is the empathy her characters show to others. Fiction can’t ‘lecture’ readers. But it can contain people whose paths we cross every day — whether we know it or not. The bright colleague or grouchy neighbor who’s actually in severe emotional pain, the families struggling to provide enough food for their children, the vet with PTSD. 

While characters solve crimes or plan silly fundraisers, they can tacitly let us know there is a world beyond those activities. And maybe they can make it a little better.

I don't "have" to embody these ideas in stories, but they seem to arise naturally for me. The challenge is to convey the daily world in a way that fits in with the stories without implying that people should behave in a certain way.

Fiction offer the chance for characters to move beyond their routines. It's not every day a person falls in love, finds a body, or saves the world. While they're they're solving a crime, maybe there's a chance to show a little kindness. As long as things stay interesting.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter


Friday, November 5, 2021

What to Learn from Reviews of Your Books

Most authors I know read at least some of the reviews of their books. I've learned a lot from reading them, especially if a reader doesn't like something. 

I've talked a couple times about early reviews of the Jolie character in the cozy mystery series, set at the Jersey shore, that bears her name. In Appraisal for Murder, she's left a gambling husband and settled at her aunt's B&B as she reorganizes her life.

To me, it made sense that she was a tad sarcastic and more than irritated at her ex-husband. She also had a fling (a cozy, so not that kind of a fling) and focused on her own needs to a greater degree than she would in later books. 

These seemed like things someone might do if their life turned upside down. And if she found a woman dead in bed on her first day on a new job.

Readers commented some on the humor, a lot on Aunt Madge (whom they liked), and some on the pets. A number of reviewers liked the story but said Jolie was self-centered. I realized that while I created her to behave as a woman in her situation might, readers wanted a more likeable protagonist.

I had planned for her to eveolve as life got happier, but I changed more of her internal thinking than I might have had I not read the reviews. Less sarcasm, more dry humor. And as she gets more involved in the food pantry and life in Ocean Alley, she focused outwardly more.

As I wrote new series, I consciously made the protagonists more likeable -- or at least more relatable. Is this kow-towing to others' opinions? A bit. I write for me, I publish to entertain readers and make money. Readers have to like my genre fiction or they won't keep reading.

Mixing Mystery with Life

My next big learning experience was a head slapper. 

I am very critical of TV mystery series that devolve into soap operas. House was a good example. It started with such keen medical mysteries and eventually became the story of Dr. House's addiction and love life, plus various life and love events of other characters. Boring.

As the Jolie series has evolved, I've had reviews such as this recent one of Vague Images:

The mystery is sort of in the background but the relationships are what make books great. Full of friendships, family relations and a touch of romance. I had actually forgotten about the main mystery by the end but I enjoyed how it all wrapped up.

Gulp. 

On the other hand, here's a review of Mountain Rails of Old, the most recent book in the family history mystery series. Memorable characters and intriguing plot combine with genealogical research to make a fun read.

Lesson learned, perhaps not as consciously as I should have, but I do let the stories have a life of their own.

As with much of life, I suppose there has to be a middle ground.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter