WHOO-HOO, CONGRATULATIONS—IT'S A SERIES!
Yes, it’s exciting … but just like a baby doesn’t happen overnight, neither does a series, and trust me, gestation is a LOT longer than nine months! So with the April launch of my “Heart of San Francisco” series, book 1 Love at Any Cost, I thought it might be fun to track my “pregnancy” from when it was just a twinkle in my eye to that final torturous push in the delivery room. Or in short, from WOW to OW in the birth of a fun and quirky family called The McClares of Nob Hill. So here we go ...
THE FIRST KISS …
Ah, that first dangerous tingle from the touch of his lips, the caress of his hand, when your body gets excited and your mind says, “YES, YES, YES … I have an idea for a book!”
So with a delicious, little shiver, you flirt with ideas of what if …
… a Texas oil heiress, jilted by a fiancé after daddy’s oil wells run dry, hightails it to San Francisco to heal her heartbreak with wealthy cousins she loves? And what if one of those wealthy cousins is best friends with a handsome but incredibly poor fortune hunter desperate to afford a surgery for a crippled sister whose infirmity he blames on himself?
Uh-oh, pucker up, because I’m praying you’ll fall in love with “The Cousins McClare” just like I did!
PLAYING THE FIELD …
But … to make sure this was the series for me, I decided to “test the waters” by seeing if 1933 San Francisco appealed to my readers as much as it did to me. So I “courted” others’ opinions with a Facebook contest to determine which locale my readers preferred—San Francisco or Charleston. Obviously San Francisco won hands-down, which convinced me it was true love and not just infatuation.
GETTING “SERIES”OUS …
Mmmm … suddenly I know this is it—a love affair with San Francisco, and I want this baby bad! So next I get “serious” with a 1-line premise, a moral premise and Scripture base for all three books just to get the hormones revved for a full-blown proposal. Mind you, I didn’t have to do a proposal for my publisher, but I’ve found doing so helps solidify and embed the stories in my brain, giving me a great kick-off point to begin writing the series, so here’s what I came up with:
Book 1: WORKING TITLE, DARE TO DREAM. FINAL TITLE, LOVE AT ANY COST.
A spunky heiress without a fortune falls in love with a handsome pauper looking to marry well.
Pursuit of material things, pleasure or escape will lead to discontentment and emptiness, but pursuit of God will lead to fullness of joy and fulfillment.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. —Matthew 6:21
Book 2: WORKING TITLE, DARE TO LOVE. FINAL TITLE, DARE TO LOVE AGAIN.
A sassy socialite burned by love twice butts heads and hearts with a jaded cop burned by the upper class.
Avoiding relationship because of past hurt leads to bitterness and loneliness, but investing in relationship in light of past hurts and God’s help leads to communication and love.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. —Psalm 33:22
Book 3: WORKING TITLE, DARE TO HOPE. FINAL TITLE, TBA.
An ugly duckling who becomes a swan plots romantic vindication on the man who spurned her with the help of the best friend who steals her heart.
The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook. —Proverbs 18:4
NEXT: POPPING THE QUESTION …
Ah, the PROPOSAL … the moment you get down on bended knee and … PRAY your publisher will say “yes” to your new series idea. And believe me, I prayed plenty about my “Heart of San Francisco” series, putting together a 30-page proposal that included very detailed 5-7-page synopses for each book that actually read like a novels with snippets of dialogue. I also included a series overview and the first chapter of book 1, Dare to Dream, which is now Love at any Cost. Just for fun, here’s a peek at the overview:
“THE COUSINS MC CLARE” SERIES
From the glitter and glamour of San Francisco’s Nob Hill and Napa wine country, to the seedy dance halls and gambling dens of the Barbary Coast, The Cousins McClare is a study in contrasts between the haves and have-nots and barriers between rich and poor that only faith can transcend. The story of the McClares, a wealthy political family in 1933 San Francisco, will be told in three 350-400 page novels that not only highlight the struggles of faith and heart of three cousins, but of the matriarch of the family as well. A widow of strong faith and beauty, Caitlyn McClare butts heads and hearts with her handsome brother-in-law Logan McClare, the fiancé who betrayed her before she married his brother. In a breathtaking city where the Irish were predominant in the early 1900s and wielding power in both politics and wealth, “The Cousins McClare” is a glimpse into beauty and degradation, poverty and Prohibition during a riveting time that brought our country to its knees.
ENGAGEMENT AND MARRIAGE!!!
Pop the champagne—the publisher said, “YES,” and now I have a ring on my finger! I was very excited to say “I do” to Revell for my third series and happily so. The only stipulation was Revell asked me to change the era from the early 1930s to early 1900 due to research indicating the 1920s and 30s were not as saleable eras as the late 1800s and early 1900s. So with a few tweaks and adjustments, The McClares went from 1933 to 1902 and I went to work ...
Ohhhh my … now this is the moment I’ve been waiting for … the culmination of a marriage with the sheer pleasure of bringing a “couple” to life on the pages of my book by actually WRITING the novel!! Sigh … my favorite part of being an author!
PREGNANCY AND GESTATION:
From inked contracts to UPS dropping off a box of author copies, one experiences a lot of due dates and morning sickness over bloody edits, title changes, and cover angst, but OH the joy of that first sonogram—when you proof your own galleys and see the stirrings and movement of a novel taking shape! Some authors hate the galley editing and proofing phase, but not me—that’s my very favorite time, to be able to sit down and read my book like one of my readers would.
LABOR AND DELIVERY:
Whoo-whoo, hee-hee … whoo-whoo, hee-hee … For me, the worst part of having a “baby” were all those awful contractions (i.e. promotion = pain) right before (and after) the big push. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not partial to all that pacing and waiting to see just what kind of birth it’s going to be—are you going to have grunt and labor for hours and hours, or will this baby glide right out after a few tiny pushes, straight to the CBA bestseller list?
Personally, I don’t know a single Christian author who’s glided to the bestseller list with their first baby, nor many who have with the second and third. The norm for most authors is long labor (years of writing, revisions, edits, promotion), weight gain (in emotional baggage … will it sell, will it win?), hormonal ups and downs, and lots and lots of pain when somebody thinks your baby is ugly or not very bright (Ouch … those nasty 1-star reviews!!).
And yet, despite all the pain and angst encountered in giving birth to a novel, suddenly like a mother holding her babe after a 24-hour labor, an author forgets all about the pain when she holds that precious book in her arms for the very first time. It is truly an amazing moment in a writer’s life, an accomplishment like few others for those who love the written word. A moment to be savored and cherished truly … because I hate to tell you, but the true work and expense has only just begun … ;)
And there you have the process, from pregnancy to promotion, and no, it’s no coincidence that I liken promotion to both contractions and afterbirth … two of the least pleasant things about having a baby! But OH, so necessary to the process. Now begins the blog tours and blog interview/giveaways, the contest entries and Facebook promotions, the book signings and contests to promote, promote, promote! Don’t get me wrong, there are things I LOVE about promotion—connecting with readers in a personal way, precious friendships made with bloggers, reviewers and reader friends—but the truth is, promotion is a time-eater, and to an author that is deadly.
TIME TO PASS OUT THE CIGARS …
So … to give you writers out there some takeaway from this trek through my pregnancy, I’m going to hand out some cigars and free advice, giving you the benefit of my limited experience with promotion in a very simple list of what worked for me and what didn’t. Some things have given me “smoking” success and others just stink up the room.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME:
1.) BOOK SIGNINGS: Absolutely NOT a cost- or time-effective way to promote a book unless you are Beverly Lewis, Karen Kingsbury, or Mary Connealy. My publisher tried to tell me this, but I SO love talking to people in person that I wouldn’t listen. I’ve had some really successful book signings, mind you, but the majority are not and quite frankly, the time and expense are not worth it. Nor is the humiliation when only three people show up, two of which are church librarians who take you to task for the passion in your books … true story! :\).
2.) FACEBOOK DAILY-POST PROMOTIONS: Because I e-published A Light in the Window on my own, I hired a publicist who suggested a themed month-long promotion on Facebook where they provided me with 30 days of short Christmas-related blurbs for daily posts in November. Well, being the anal CDQ that I am, OF COURSE I had to rewrite all the blurbs and then post them daily as well as respond to comments and run a contest along with it. Sigh … never again!! WAY too much time and effort for very little return on my investment.
3.) BLOG INTERVIEW/GIVEAWAYS: This is kind of a catch-22 because although I strongly advocate doing lots of blog interview/giveaways in the beginning of your career, there comes a point when the time, effort, and expense expended far exceeds the benefit of acquiring new readers. My publisher tried to tell me this after my first series, but frankly, I enjoyed interacting with my readers through comments, so again I didn't listen (I'm a very stubborn girl). Not only that, but I actually LOVE to reward my die-hard readers with chances to win a free signed book. But … I am now limiting myself to no more than 10 interviews per release (down from 35) because frankly I need more time to write. :)
WHAT DOES WORK FOR ME:
1.) BOOK TRAILERS: I’ll be honest, I have never been a really big fan of book trailers because I haven’t seen a whole lot of them that I really liked. BUT … I have noticed over the last year that many are far more professional now and actually do sell books, so when Revell asked me if I wanted a video, I said YES!
And HOLY COW, do I LOVE my new video for Love at Any Cost!! So much that I’m running a contest on my Journal Jots blog where viewing and “LIKING” my video automatically gives you two extra entries in today’s Seeker giveaway plus an entry in my Journal Jots blog contest for choice of my books and choice of a top CBA book from my library. So here’s the trailer, and if you watch it and “LIKE” it, then let me know in your comment today. Then if you want an automatic entry in my Journal Jot contest (top prize is a KINDLE, CHARACTER NAMED AFTER YOU IN MY BOOK, SIGNED BOOK and FIVE TOP CBA BOOKS), go to JULIE'S JOURNAL JOTS and click on the Rafflecopter tab in the box halfway down the page that says you watched/viewed the video.
Here’s the video link, so make sure it’s on “large screen” and crank that volume up!!
VIDEO FOR "LOVE AT ANY COST”
2.) FACEBOOK “PROMOTE” PROMOS AND ADS: WOW … I just got turned on to Facebook ads and promos by Tina Radcliffe, and I have to say buying an ad for $10.00/day to promote a contest or giveaway has been a very cool way to get the word out. And DOUBLE WOW—the “promote” tab beneath a post on Facebook? PURE GOLD … because you can double your post exposure for only $7.00!!
3.) CONTESTS: I am not one to ask people to help me promote unless it’s a win-win for us both, so I like to offer an opportunity to win something in return. My newsletter contests where a reader friend can win having a character named after them in my next book simply by posting reviews has been HIGHLY successful and although Amazon’s review policy has gotten much stricter recently, I have noticed two big Christian publishers are now doing the SAME thing, so what does that tell you?
4.) WEEKLY INSTEAD OF DAILY PERSONAL BLOG: I started out blogging on my Journal Jots blog five days a week, ducked down to three, and now I only blog every Friday, which allows me to keep in contact with my readers without draining me dry. I’d always heard you need to blog daily to be successful, but I disagree. My numbers are good on my Journal Jots blog and posting once a week is very manageable for me and gives my readers something new every week. Feel free to subscribe to my blog and get weekly e-mail reminders here: JULIE’S JOURNAL JOTS BLOG.
CHRISTENING PARTY …
OKAY, IT’S PARTY TIME!!! Help me celebrate the birth of my baby by leaving a comment to enter you in a giveaway of winner’s choice of any of my books!!
THEN … here’s a chance to win a KINDLE ($69 value), A CHARACTER NAMED AFTER YOU IN MY NEXT BOOK, A SIGNED COPY OF THAT BOOK, AND FIVE TOP CBA BOOKS FROM MY LIBRARY (all new) with an extra advantage for Seeker commenters!! Head on over to my JULIE'S JOURNAL JOTS BLOG for all the details and because you are a Seekerville commenter, I am giving you TWO extra entries in that contest, so just click on the “Seeker Commenter” box and GOOD LUCK!!