Reviews and Reviewers; Pricing

I’ve been really fortunate to have many of my books rated highly by readers, and although I’ve made friends with some of my readers, I have never paid, coerced, traded favours, etc to get positive reviews.

I know that negative reviews are inevitable – no matter how good a book, there will be someone who doesn’t like it. The novel may not be their cup of tea, be written in a style they don’t like, have content that upsets them or any number of other things.

I appreciate it when someone takes time out to rate and review my books, even if they have an issue with them. I think, (and if you look at Amazon you can see for yourself), even when the rating isn’t perfect I have often thanked reviewers or explained why I did something, and in a few cases, I’ve altered my books to make things a little clearer.

So it’s frustrating when I get a review that is one star and slags my book and mention incorrect things. (In the case I’m thinking of, my book is written in present tense but they say it’s written in past tense.)

I don’t know why it bothers me so much – maybe it was the parting shot that, ‘there’s a reason it’s free’ that stung and I thought was unnecessary, especially since the reviewer got their fact wrong. With over seventy ratings on Amazon, I have a 4.2 average rating, which I think is great! I know it is inevitable that some readers won’t like it, and I think constructive criticism benefits me as a writer. When one reviewer thought I let Stuart off a little lightly in book five, I added some extra bits to flesh things out and hopefully give more context. It is easy to be myopic, especially when you have spent a lot of time around a set of characters, because after a while you know them intimately and understand so clearly who they are, you forget the reader doesn’t have that same experience.

There is a lot of talk among authors whether you should respond to people reviewing your book. I think if a person has a point they have made or a concern, it is perfectly reasonable to open a dialogue. I like people, am generally a friendly person in real life, and am humbled readers are interested in my books and have taken time to think about them and consider what I’ve presented; I want to honour that time. I was also brought up to show appreciation when someone does you a kindness – to display gratitude, humility and return compliments, so I have an urge to respond when people post a generous review. Some authors are horrified their fellow writers respond and think it’s poor form because it invites difficulties, but others see things similarly to the way I do.

It’s difficult to tread that line. For example, some readers have grumbled about pricing for example, for my five book series that it cost $14, (it’s less than that now). There is a huge disparity in pricing of books, particularly erotica. I’ve seen 25 page ‘books’ that sell for the same price as my 250+ page Lily books, and I recently came across a 170 page Indie erotica book for $7, whilst my 1300+ page compendium of Lily and Stuart is $8.99, discounted a dollar. Some authors argue that selling around the $2.99 price point further reinforces the notion that Indie authors suck, because no self respecting ‘big’ author like Rowling would EVER sell anything that low. I think you need to know your audience a bit, and I hope the audience understand that Indie doesn’t mean you get almost the whole cost of the book.

I tried to price more according to the length of the book, but that caused pricing differences in the same series, so I ended up just pricing all the Lily books $2.99 after the first one, which is free. Unfortunately it is difficult to sell directly to B&N, iBookstore and some other places so I use Lulu for that, and whilst Lulu takes a small cut – usually no more than thirty-five cents – B&N and Kobo in particular take a flat percentage which means that for the $8.99 compendium, I receive less than HALF of that price as revenue. It’s crazy, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Big publishers have this system figured out, and readers expect mainstream to cost more, so I think they are more comfortable with paying extra. They price in marketing and labour, and have infrastructure in place that grinds into motion when a book is released, so their overhead goes to somewhere. The overhead for publishing through Kobo for instance, is basically a vig for the right to be listed on their site, and that’s it.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining – I am trying to give a little insight into what is behind the curtain, some of the moving parts and thoughts that affect an Indie writer, in this case me. I am grateful I am selling books, that most readers seem to like what I write, and I fervently hope to be able to make enough so this is my job, full time. There is a lot a to manage, and a learning curve no doubt, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and I’m already several steps down the road… and excited to see where it all leads.

 

 

Book Blitz!

The book blitz is on and in honour of it, the Compendium is on sale for $8.99. For some reason Amazon has discounted several books in the series so the anthology wasn’t as good of a ‘deal’ as I meant it to be, so I will keep it at $8.99 until I sort out this with Amazon, unless they have decided to permanently discount the books.

Links:

Amazon

Lulu

ITunes

Kobo

Barnes & Noble (waiting for update to pricing, still at $9.99)

Holly

Compendium

I am currently editing book five in Lily’s story – hooray! – and then I’ll be ready to put it all together in prep for a book blitz Dec 4-10. More details to follow! =)

After that I need to do a little cleanup of other books, and then I will be back to writing, which I miss! The next book is my ELEVENTH, which I can hardly believe! There are two more installments in the Sine Qua Non Cycle, and one more in the main storyline for the Void Chronicles, and then a side novel, which deals with some issues the conclusion brings to a head.

I also have some ideas for other stories, and requests from several readers for a little insight into Lily and Stuart after marriage, and what happened with Janet, which I am considering. =)

Hope autumn is going well for everyone. =)

xoxo,

Holly

 

What’s Up, Pussycat?

Hope everyone is doing well!

Right now I’m editing Lily’s series – getting rid of archaic forms and words, and I’m on “The Air I Breathe”, and have uploaded books one and two to Amazon and Lulu already.

I’m also trying to get ready for autumn. I need to make a final pass on my garden, bring some plants in from the deck, get some more firewood… batten down the hatches and get ready for, (what I think), might be a rather dramatic autumn and winter season.

A few years ago there was a short power outage during winter, and I was grateful for the stockpile of wood I had because there was none to be found in any store. I closed off rooms I didn’t need, boiled some water to send steam into the air and lit my fireplace/wood stove. (It’s inset like a fireplace but clean burning, with secondary combustion, so it acts like a stove.) I hung sheets to help keep out the chill and slept on cushions in front of the fireplace. It was cozy – everything lit by the fireplace or dozens of candles – and even though I missed the net and being able to play video games with the boyfriend, I also liked the peace. We played board games, read, chatted and played with the kitties.

We haven’t had snow here in the PacNW much the past few years and this summer was very mild, so I think there’s a decent chance it might make up for it during winter. I remember as a kid my parents always got down ‘winter clothes’ in September, and put up our summer togs, and I guess that tradition (?) or sense of a distinct break in seasons remains with me.

On Stalking – Liliana, Nathan and Real Life

(may contain some spoilers)

In ‘The Liliana Batchelor Series’, one of the story lines is how Lily is harassed by her boss, Nathan. He does his best to try and make her life difficult, make her dependent on his good graces, and when he is no longer her boss, he resorts to other means to disrupt her life.

I have been stalked twice in my life; once somewhat casually by a man who I now realise wanted to groom me and was testing the waters, (I was a sophomore in High School, he was in his late 20’s), and later on, after I moved out to Washington, by someone who threatened me with physical harm. I am sometimes asked if I use real life events in my books and I don’t, although my experience definitely influenced that portion of Lily’s story.

As you may know from reading my bio, I moved to Seattle when I was eighteen. It was rough – I had no support system and only two acquaintances out here. I also had bills, as it was difficult to get a job when all my references were in New Jersey, and I rapidly went through the savings I brought with me. After several years and a few jobs things were looking up; I was a receptionist/office assistant at a small software company in north Seattle. For a while I rented rooms in homes, then shared an apartment with a roommate, and finally was able to rent one on my own – a little one bedroom within walking distance of the aforementioned job. I still had a backlog of bills but I was paying them off, albeit slowly. I still had power, gas or phone, (in one case two of the three), turned off once in a while, but things were improving on the financial front. My relationship with my mother could still be described as fractious, but I was pleased to finally capture a bit of the stability that had eluded me since my father died, even if things with my mom were still strained. I was given a loveseat, bought an inexpensive table, moved in my futon, (I slept on the floor for six months after I moved here), and settled into having my first ‘home’ on my own. It felt good to have done it by myself – difficult, but good, empowering. I finally felt I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

I answered the phones at work, (let’s call the place ‘RTI’), and one day after reciting my greeting to a caller I was hit by a voice I didn’t recognise. I actually have a really good memory and had a knack for remembering voices – so that often just by a person’s hello I would realise who they were. “How are you Sonja? Are you still seeing that issue you mentioned yesterday?” People began to expect that which was a problem sometimes, especially during a busy spate when my attention was a bit scattered.

Anyway, that day I didn’t recognise the voice, and thought it was perhaps a prospect for the sales manager, but the brief return greeting was followed by something ominous: “I watch you walk to work.”

It could be a joke, a prank, and go no further.

But it did.

I could hear noise in the background as he told me he was going to rape me, although he called it fucking.

I hung up, but it shook me. I’m tall for a woman – 5’8” like Lily – and fairly tough, but I’m still the average height of a man and I know no match for the strength of a man. And of course there was that chilling fact he knew – I did in fact walk to and from work most days, even sometimes going home for lunch.

Perhaps it was a one off – a guy who did it on a dare, or whatever – but that wasn’t to be the case. After a few days he called again.

So I started walking to work less, usually sticking to bright days and times when other people were around the small building, because of course I didn’t know who he was. I would probably recognise his voice but by then it would be too late, right? I am a fairly cautious person with regard to my safety but that increased – I was even a bit nervous walking to my car which was parked in front or on the side of the building because maybe he was hiding in between the vehicles. I had my keys out when I did walk home, but that was a more and more difficult thing to do because he continued to call sporadically. I told my manager and she seemed alarmed but there was nothing she could do. I called the police but – and I’m not kidding – they couldn’t do anything because he didn’t call regularly enough. Sometimes he’d call once a week, sometimes three times, or skip a week entirely.

I started to hate it when the phone rang. Our clients liked me – during a survey of the company they said I was their favourite thing about the place! – and I had begun to settle in, feel welcome and make friends with some of the people who called as well as my coworkers. This harassment cast a pall over everything – my newfound security, my sense of my job, everything. At one point I briefly wondered if it was my fault in some way; my mom always said I answered calls like a phone sex operator, that my voice was too sexy and I thought, did I in any way encourage it? Luckily I was able to shake that off immediately – I had done nothing to deserve this.

As the weeks went by he got more bold, and his descriptions of what he was going to do to me became more violent. I would sometimes say something back to show him I wasn’t afraid, thinking that perhaps he wanted a cowering victim but it didn’t matter. Sometimes if I hung up straight away he would call back quickly and be angry, or wait for a few minutes or a few days. I called the police again, as what he said became more threatening, but still the calls weren’t specific or regular enough. It was often the same officer who was there when I called, and he genuinely seemed regretful that the situation didn’t allow him to tap the phones. It was surreal.

Then it got more surreal. I think my boss, ‘Judy’, didn’t really ‘get’ how bad these calls were but she definitely got an earful when he left a message on the answering machine. One of my jobs was to check the answering machine for messages and he fucking left one on there. Fairly brief, and to the descriptive point. When Judy heard it, she turned pale and was shocked. I called the police again – aha, proof! – but no. Still no help.

I won’t get into specifics and exact descriptions but I will say this – he promised to repeatedly rape me violently, to the point of injury.

So I did what I had to do; I got a gun.

My father used to hunt and I had fired a gun on my great aunt’s farm with him – he had grown up on a farm himself, and was a good shot. One of his exercises for me was to shoot a watermelon and I remember it was mangled afterwards. This was a reminder to never shoot unless you mean it, because the damage is horrific – you could easily kill someone, so do not do shoot lightly, he said.

I never thought I might actually NEED to protect myself like that until those calls, and until the police would do nothing about them. I had endured the harassment for about two months – two months of every day going to work and wondering who was watching me, which building he lived in… could it even be mine, and he was biding his time? Two months of hating when the phone rang, because the PBX didn’t show a caller ID on the phone a lot of the time – it could be a client, it could be him. Two months of breathing easily when he didn’t call for four days, only to be unpleasantly surprised on the fifth, perhaps, or the sixth day.

During one of the phone calls to the police, the officer I spoke with several times – let’s call him Officer Nelson – said something interesting. He had asked if I recognised any sounds or distinguishing features and I said it sounded like there was a cartoon on in the background. (!!!) He didn’t seem surprised, (I’ll paraphrase what he said).

“A lot of times these men are ones who feel impotent. They might have lost their jobs or whatever and are now the ‘wife’ and they are looking to gain control in their lives and this is how they do it. Sounds like this guy is home alone with the kids and these calls are how he is making himself feel important again.”

None of this made me feel any better – sure he was home with the kids now but he leaves the house sometimes. Could we shop at the store and he’d pass me and I would never know it and he would? Would I walk outside one day and find my tyres punctured? Could I go out with my girlfriends and unknowingly meet him at a club? His recitations of what he was going to do to me as I said were getting more violent and descriptive, despite any stand or attitude I gave him or how many times I hung up on him, so would it progress to the next step?

I don’t think I scare easily, but I was worried.  I hope to God you never have been or ever will be in this situation, but no matter how brave you think you are it gnaws as you – he knows me but I don’t know him, and I have to be vigilant.  I felt it was clear he was watching me by comments he made, so I wondered if it was only a matter of time until something broke, until he escalated, until he learned some pattern or saw a hole he could exploit.

So I had a gun at home and that helped, because I could even the playing field if he tried to force his way in, since he knew where I lived. I didn’t answer the door to people I didn’t know, speaking through it instead when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by, for instance, and I looked into getting a concealed weapon permit after I found out a friend had one.

Then, thank God, there was a break. I called the police again – it had been a bad week for calls – and Officer Nelson suggested something.

He told me it might not work, but it was a trick that could scare the stalker.   Nelson told me next time the stalker called, I should tap the disconnect on the phone, as if I was switching to call waiting but not actually do it enough to hang up, and say something to the effect of, “Officers, this is the call to trace.”

So simple, yet it worked. The minute I did that HE hung up and never called again. To be honest I felt guilty a little because it didn’t solve the problem – he wouldn’t call me, but was he still a threat to someone else? He could have been calling other women too, or moved on to an easier target.  It took a while before I finally believed he wouldn’t call again, and for things to return to some semblance of normalcy; after a while I once more felt that bit of security I had captured when I got my job and apartment, constructively taking control of my OWN life.

Even though the worry is gone and it’s been a long time, the shadow of those feelings remain, even as details – like the name of the Officer – have faded. It felt good to exorcise those demons through Lily and for Nathan to get his comeuppance. As I said early in this post the situations aren’t the same, but I definitely drew on my experience when I created Nathan and that situation.

Holly

Liliana Batchelor Series & Editing; Upcoming Compendium

Hello all! Thanks for stopping by. I am currently editing Lily’s story into a compendium, and over the years I’ve received a few comments about how some of the books, especially book 1, seem to have odd formatting that goes beyond the unusual or archaic spelling or formatting I sometimes use, (particularly on the Kindle). One reader was even so kind as to provide me with approximate locations of some of these things, (including multiple dashes, words hyphenated inappropriately, like ‘balk-s’, etc), but using Amazon’s emulators I hadn’t been able to approximate the behaviour.

I *think* I may have found the culprit. I realised I didn’t have all of the formatting notations turned on, and in several of the problematic places, extra ‘en’ and ’em’ spaces seem to have been inserted – possibly when I copied the original document into a formatted template I created. I am currently re-editing the series, removing things like , ‘to-day’ which people feel is too archaic, and fixing the extra inserted formatting. I hope this will solve some of not all of these problems, and will re-release book one with the fixes as soon as I am finished. I will post here when it goes live with the new changes.

If you want to download the new version when I am done, just delete the book from the library on your device, browse to it again on the Kindle store and re-download it.

Sorry for all this, but I HOPE this effort will leaving your reading experience cleaner and better!

xoxo,

Holly

Q & A for “The Templars Falter” Blitz!

I did a Q & A as part of the promo stuff supplied to blogs for the  book blitz – here it is in its entirety, for your enjoyment. =) -Holly

 

Let’s start with telling us a little something about your book that might surprise us.

This is actually the tenth book I have published!  It also puts me about 900 words shy of one million words written in just under four years. So great milestones, and I *think* this might be my favourite novel; I feel that despite  her ups and downs and moments of weakness, Julianna really starts to come into her own.

What was your favourite scene to write?

I think the ending. Without spoiling anything…  Julianna had to pull away from something, from a temptation that was great after she had suffered a lot. Even when she had a chance to enjoy things and get a respite she was restless, felt her duty tug on her, remembered her loyalties. She made a choice – a very definite choice and although she regretted the pain it would cause, she knew it was right. But to do all that she had to be honest with herself – about her feelings for various characters in the story, what she thought she owed others and herself.  She wasn’t bitter about it either, although like I said there was some regret; I think that says it a lot about her, sums up her drive, her perseverance. She is not immune to fear or doubt, but she is very clear-minded when it comes to her principles and values and I was proud of her for doing what she did.

If you could hang out with one character in your book, who would it be and what would you do?

Hard choice! I love Julianna, and I think she is amazing – spending time chatting with her about how she has coped and adapted would be an incredible opportunity.

Tristan is also compelling – he’s achieved so much at a young age, is already one of the most respected leaders in Templar history, and is a heady combination of sensuality, intelligence and drive.

But I think I would have to go with Lucas. He is a complex character – motivated by intense passion and determination, with a dark and tragic history that has made him who he is. Lucas is an imposing figure, energetic and powerful, sort of like containing a thunderstorm in a spice bottle.  If he would actually sit down and talk and share, I would pick him.

What was the most interesting part of your research for this novel? Is there something surprising or fascinating that you stumbled on?

First off, I tend to do a fair amount of research for my books. Even though I have a lot of interests across a broad spectrum of topics, I want to get it right and I don’t know everything, unfortunately! =) So researching herbs that are used in aromatherapy, types of weapons, the best treats for horses and the gaits they have… I look it all up. One thing that pulls me out of a book fast is reading something that I know is blatantly incorrect. I want my books to be accurate, as much as I can help it.

I love ruins and ancient fortifications and it was fascinating to look at layouts for castles and get a sense of the scale of them. They really were self contained, with things like bakeries, wells, halls and granaries surrounded by sometimes two layers of walls. The Cloisters layout is roughly based on the floor plan for Harlech Castle in Wales.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The death and destruction and in particular the Cloisters, which is a Julianna’s first large battle. The typical follower of the Void is ruthless, and up until this point you see the destruction they have wrought after the fact or watch as smaller battles like Hayden’s Gate unfold. Here I really wanted people to get a sense that the Templars are fighting a difficult war – that as much as you have seen them train and how they spar and prepare, they are battling terrible foes who have tireless servants. I wanted the weight of their responsibility and the near impossibility of their task to weigh on the reader.

What does your writing process look like? Do you outline the story or go with the flow?

I know the story from start to how it will end and I also know the big milestones or revelations that will occur, so it’s just a matter of weaving it all together and ensuring the flow of information works well. I don’t outline it, other than having it in my mind as I mentioned, although I do use OneNote to track everything related to the lore and story that is important, so I can refer to it easily.

So generally once I sit down I just start typing.  =) I might add something or change around a scenario with another one or alter a little detail, but for the most part it’s a matter of following the track in my head and figuring out the specifics of dialogue and minutiae. I save my document at various points along the way, using an underscore and letter after it to show the order, so I can back track if I make some significant changes I decide to reverse.  It’s only happened once, but I’m paranoid I might tear something up or change things around and then have to undo it all!

How do you go about creating your main character? 

I was a geek when I as a kid, still am to a large degree, and got used to being alone or perhaps ostracized and that made me an observer. So I notice details, mannerisms and the like, and I know I weave them – or something like them – into every character. I want them to feel unique, for speech patterns to perhaps have a different cadence or vocabulary selection, so that is how I go about building up my characters, thinking about the little things that make someone an individual. I don’t try to do that just for my main, but for important supporting characters as well. I want them all to feel fleshed out, and although there are traits I admire or focus on for my main characters, I do try to differentiate them in some way.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

I am in all of them to some degree, probably. I channel and recall the emotions I have had at various times – uncertainty, disappointment, passion, lust, surprise, et cetera – and try to conjure them with my writing when it is appropriate. Although I’ve never had to sword fight minions that want to kill me, when I am tackling a scene I might recall something difficult I have done and try to extrapolate that for Julianna’s character and set of circumstances.

With regard to Julianna, I sympathise with her determination and frustration, and then her acceptance of her situation and after that how she pushes forward to make the best of it. I moved across the country by myself when I was eighteen and had no idea how difficult it would be – there were no friends here just two acquaintances and some saved money but no job. It was a huge adjustment; Seattle is very different from the NJ/NY area where I spent my entire childhood, and I initially had these feelings of alienation and confusion whilst trying to learn the city and get my feet under me.  I definitely think about that when I am highlighting Julianna’s uniqueness and pangs of loneliness.

Give us a brief description of “The Templars Falter” using only 2 sentences.

Juliann’s tryst with Lucas is a secret and soon she learns something unexpected about VoidCleaver; it all weighs on her, and she is not certain who to trust. The battle at the Cloisters gives Julianna a glimpse of the power inside her while at the same time showing her the terrible price that must be paid while fighting the Void.

Want to be daring and share some of your (writing-themed) confessions?

Despite this being my tenth book, I still get nervous when I publish! I’ve accidentally uploaded the wrong covers and old documents, had issues at one point with the cover not showing on the nook, periodically had readers email me with weird formatting problems I have a hard time replicating… I spend a great deal of time and energy trying to make the story compelling and consistent, and the moment of truth – ‘firing phasers’ as it were – still rattles me a bit. I want things to go smoothly, but fear they won’t! I also dread the post-publication depression I get. For a few weeks it is a little hard to focus on things, especially writing related, I get distracted… it’s because so much of my concentration and efforts have been on finishing and getting the novel ready for release. I wake up and go to sleep thinking about the bloody thing, so when I don’t have that task to focus on, it takes me a while to re-centre and move on. I’m still in publishing mode afterwards, even though it’s done… sort of novel empty-nest syndrome or something!

I absolutely need snacks when I read – what would you tell me to eat while reading this book?

Julianna misses the comforts and familiarity of the world she knew – even though there are analogues for a lot of the things in her new world, it’s not quite the same. I think she would want to enjoy something fairly pedestrian to us but missing from her life in Galea. Maybe veggies with onion dip, potato chips with Hidden Valley Ranch dip or just some salsa and chips; food you would nosh on easily while watching a movie, which is something she will never get to do again… unless she finds a way back.  When we’re away from home it is the simple comforts that call to us the most, so I would suggest going with that. =)

“Blood and Frost” – Free on Amazon For A Limited Time!

At midnight PDT on August 19th, “Blood and Frost” will be FREE until midnight August 20th. If you’re curious about this supernatural dark erotica book, now there’s no excuse not to pick it up!

Also I am currently in the midst of a promo for “The Templars Falter”. Exciting times! Be sure to head on over to Goodreads or Rafflecopter for a chance to win a free signed copy! The Goodreads promo is open to the US, Canada, Australia and the UK!

All the best,

Holly

 

Goodreads giveaway!

I am hosting a giveaway on Goodreads to coincide with the Book Blitz next week for “The Templars Falter”. Xpresso will be hosting a separate giveaway too, so that’s eight copies I will be signing and mailing, and I have opened the Goodreads giveaway to Australia, England, Canada and the US. =)

Visit Xpresso or click on the link in the previous post to see what blogs are part of the blitz!

Holly

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Templars Falter by Holly Blackstone

The Templars Falter

by Holly Blackstone

Giveaway ends August 22, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway