Chocolate for Breakfast – First Anniversary!

Light tasty breakfast, on wooden table

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. Two years ago, I ended a career in fraud investigations, and once I’d healed myself (externally and internally), I began writing the book I’d always wanted to write. At the outset, I thought a story about a young girl who spends a year abroad in Switzerland, living in a tiny attic room, and who experiences the unexpected loss of a parent, would make for a compelling book. That was my story. But it wasn’t really interesting enough. So I let it take flight, using my imagination to create the character of Bernadette and sending her on a personal coming-of-age journey. Thanks to all who have read CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST! And thank you for your positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and for the kind and encouraging messages of support during the past year.

As many of you know, I’ve written and released a sequel, CHOCOLATE FONDUE, and I’m planning to release the third and final (really, last one) book in the trilogy, BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE, sometime this fall. In the meantime, I’m celebrating the first-year anniversary of CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST by hosting a little party, and you’re all invited!

You can enter to win a great prize here: an Amazon gift card, a copy of CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST in e-book form*, a signed copy of CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST*, or some Swiss chocolate! Just enter through Rafflecopter below.

*If you already own CFB and would like to read CHOCOLATE FONDUE, I’ll gladly make the switch. If you’d read both books, I’ll send you a copy of the new novel when it’s released. Your choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So – I tried to get this Rafflecopter thing to work, but I don’t know if it’s going to take. So, if it doesn’t show up on this blog post, all you have to do is leave a comment and tell me what kind of chocolate you enjoy most. That’s it! If the Rafflecopter widget shows up, use that instead. (Hey, I’m technically-challenged and/or it doesn’t like WordPress.) If Rafflecopter doesn’t work, I’ll use to choose the winners.

What I Did Wrong

One of the best blogs for writers is Anne R. Allen’s. It’s my favorite, because she always provides valuable content. And she’s funny. Her most recent post listed the 12 Things for new independent writers to avoid. You can the entire post here, and if you’re a writer, you should.

Of those 12 things, I was guilty of three of them. So I want to make my confession and tell you what I’ve learned in the past year.

#1. DON’T Publish your first novel before you’ve written a second. I did that. Anne writes, “The most popular way of marketing a self-published book right now is giving away a lot of free copies. But this only works if you have other books for the customer to actually pay for. You should write at least two novels before you try to publish—whether you’re hopping on the query-go-round or self-publishing. Marketing takes a whole lot of time, and once you’re doing it, writing novel #2 is going to be really tough. Give yourself at least two novels worth of time before you jump into becoming an author-publisher.” She’s right. Giving away Chocolate for Breakfast was intended to get me more “reach,” and perhaps it did. I did receive messages from strangers telling me I’d written a good book. And I’m hoping they liked it enough to buy the sequel. But if I’d had the sequel available at the same time, I believe my sales would have been better. Hey, I can’t go back. All I can do is keep writing.

#7. DON’T Expect a lot of sales right away. I did that. Anne writes, “Self-publishing works on the principle of slow building. It doesn’t work like traditional publishing with a big splash, push for about a month, then a slow petering of sales, followed by returns, pulping the leftovers and rinse, wash, repeat. Self-publishers sell mostly e-books, and e-books are forever. A title can sell nothing for months—or even years—then suddenly take off once you’ve built an audience with other books.” Now I know. Once Chocolate Fondue was released, I saw an uptick in sales of Chocolate for Breakfast. Because people could see that it made sense to read ‘Breakfast’ first. And here’s another thing: I expected a lot of reviews right away. That doesn’t always happen, either. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Plenty of readers have let me know how much they’ve enjoyed one, or both of my books. I’ve asked them if they would consider posting a brief review on Amazon and/or Goodreads (on Amazon, I hear it helps with visibility). But it doesn’t always happen. Some people simply don’t want to do it, or don’t understand how necessary a good review is to a book’s ranking. You can’t force it, and no, you can’t buy it.

#10. DON’T Publish through a vanity press. Yep, I did that. Here’s Anne’s take: “Oh, sure. I know that,” sez you. “I’d never get duped by a scammy outfit like PublishAmerica. I’m going with a big name publisher: Simon and Schuster. I’m using their self-publishing wing, Archway.” Sorry. Archway is run by AuthorSolutions, a notorious vanity publisher (even though AS is now owned by Penguin.) For more on vanity presses and how to avoid them, see David Gaughran’s blog post.  You don’t want to publish with a vanity press because they make money off the author, not book sales. They often charge 10 times what the normal self-publishing route would cost and the books are so overpriced you can’t make a profit selling them. Please go back and click on the link to read her points in entirety, especially if you’re not yet published. I’m an intelligent woman who dealt with law and contracts a lot in my previous life. But I wanted to be published. And my emotions led the way into what I now see as a bad deal. Yes, I was published. It cost me over two thousand dollars to get an e-book online, and it would have been an additional sixteen hundred dollars to have a print version. The publisher kept 30% of whatever I sold, and when a book is priced at $2.99, there’s not much left for the writer. Certainly not enough to make up the cost of getting published. I’m not saying I was a victim – but I was naïve and inexperienced. Now, I’m neither, and if I can help to educate a new writer, I want to help.

Anne R. Allen doesn’t just write a great blog, she also writes great books! Visit her Amazon page here.

Third Time’s a Charm for This Book Cover

Cover by Stanzalone Design - property of Martha Reynolds
Cover by Stanzalone Design – property of Martha Reynolds

Finally, I have a beautiful cover for my first book! StazAloneDesign made the covers for both of my books, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’d created my own cover after severing ties with the small press I’d been working with since last summer. After educating myself about self-publishing (note: educate yourself before you self-publish), I decided that I’d paid them enough money. I wanted to keep what I earned, not give it back to them. And even though I believed I had ownership rights to my original cover (after all, I’d paid for it as part of their “e-book package”), I really didn’t want that cover anymore. I wanted to start fresh. So I took a photograph of a still life I created on my dining room table – a beautiful little cup and saucer from Italy (thanks, Kevin) filled with dark coffee, a croissant, and a bar of Toblerone. Chocolate for Breakfast! I learned how to create my own cover, and, honestly, I liked it better than the one I’d had originally.

But when I decided to create print versions of my book, I found that the photo was unacceptable. Not enough dpi, whatever that means. All I knew was that I couldn’t use it, and in an effort to get the print books done, I used a CreateSpace template that was pretty horrible. Anyone who purchased one of those, I’m really sorry, and all I can ask is that you don’t judge this book by that cover.

Anyway, I went back to my pal Lyn Stanzione, who create my luscious cover for Chocolate Fondue. She made this delicious cover, and I couldn’t be happier with the two! Thanks, Lyn!

Blog Hop Eggs-travaganza!

Good morning and Happy Easter!

I wasn’t planning a post this morning, and it isn’t about this blessed day, but because I begin the A to Z Blog Challenge tomorrow, I’m posting today. Wishing you a day full of hope and renewal, whether you observe or not.

It’s a Blog Hop Egg-travaganza-elleganza! Thanks to my friend Sandra Bellamy at Quirky Books (here’s a link to her blog) for tagging me.

With CHOCOLATE FONDUE releasing soon (most likely in the middle of the blog challenge, probably around mid-April), it’s now my turn to answer the blog hop questions and pass this on to some hopping good blogs.

  • What is the working title of your book?

CHOCOLATE FONDUE (and is a sequel to my début novel, CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST)

  • Where did the idea come from for the book?

One of my closest friends inspired me to write this sequel when he asked about one of the characters in my first book. I knew that I could continue the story, and I wanted to stay with the chocolate theme.

  • What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary fiction. A little bit of romance.

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’ve always liked Emma Stone as Bernadette, but she probably is better suited to the first book, and the younger Bernie. Julianne Moore, perhaps, for Bernie. Abigail Breslin is a little young, but I think she’d make a great Lucia. Mila Kunis has a good look for Nani. I’m still thinking about Michael and Gary!

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Twenty-three years after giving him up for adoption, Bernadette Maguire unexpectedly meets her son, who is unaware of who she is.

  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am self-publishing.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November, and drafted this novel in thirty days. Then I spent the next three months revising it.

  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m not sure. I’m inspired by Anna Quindlen, Claire Cook, Wally Lamb, but could never compare my writing to theirs!

  • Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Well, my first novel, CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST, was inspired by my own year of study in Switzerland. This seemed a natural sequel to the initial story, since I’d brought the character of Bernadette forward twenty years by the end of the first book. But I wanted to write CHOCOLATE FONDUE in a way that, even if you hadn’t read the first book, you could enjoy and understand the second.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s really a love letter to Switzerland. I would hope it would spark an interest in visiting this beautiful country. And it may inspire a little chocolate fondue creation!

Now I’m passing this along to…drum roll please…

To Be Free or Not?

It wasn’t an easy decision. Should I use some of the free days allotted to me by being in the Kindle Select (exclusive to Amazon) program for 90 days? That’s one of the benefits, if you call it that. Five free days to give away your book to whoever wants it.

One half of me thought, ‘I worked so hard on this book, spent a lot of money on editing, formatting, and besides, this is my full-time job now. I haven’t had a paycheck in over a year – why would I want to give away something I’d worked so hard to create and perfect?’

The other half said, ‘But the purpose of writing a book is for that book to be read, by as many people as possible. So even if you have to give it away, you’ll gain more exposure, and maybe (maybe!) those readers, if they like this book, will want to read your next novel.’

This past month was heady – because a lot of friends and family members downloaded my book and provided wonderfully positive feedback. They posted terrific reviews on Amazon. They shared the link with their own friends and helped me to promote it. Even some strangers let me know how much they liked it. It feels pretty good!

But now that we’re past the first month, it’s time to get this book noticed by people who don’t know me. So I’m on board with the free promotion, for today and tomorrow. If you haven’t had the chance to read “Chocolate for Breakfast” yet, here’s a great opportunity! If you had, you can gift it to someone you know.

Get it here:

This Past Week – wow!

This past week saw the launch of my debut novel, “Chocolate for Breakfast.”  (As if you didn’t already know!)  I’ve been touched by all the love and support, and genuinely moved by the positive reaction to this novel.  You can download it here.  A few people asked for the paper version – unfortunately, I’d blown my budget on editing, formatting, and the gorgeous book cover, so there’s only the digital download available.  But even without a Kindle or an iPad, you can read the book on your computer using the free Kindle app.  Meanwhile, I am keeping busy by working on my second book, which is totally unrelated to this one.  I’ve indulged in a bit of Swiss chocolate (!).  I’m also reading a manuscript for a writer pal – this is new to me, but I want to do what I can to help other writers, as so many established authors have inspired and assisted me.

Speaking of established writers, I read an interview with author Sue Grafton (“V is for Vengeance”).  You can read the interview here.  I’ll admit, I’ve never read any of her books, although I think this latest “V” book is somewhere in my house.  During the interview, she was asked if she had any advice for young writers (hey, I’m not young, but I am a new writer).  She said, “Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.”  Excuse me??  The interviewer, to her credit, mentioned the indie success of John Locke, and Grafton back pedaled slightly, but retained her belief that self-publishing is a short cut and self-published books are often amateurish.  So, anyone interested in a never-read paperback version of “V is for Vengeance?”

Here’s another one.  The Guardian (UK) posted a story this past week claiming that “Fifty Shades of Gray” has surpassed all other book sales.  You can read that article here.  I read all three books in the trilogy, and no, not because I wanted to read “mommy porn.”  As a writer, I wanted to know what put E.L. James on the bestseller list.  And yes, I’ve voiced my own opinion that the writing was not very good.  In fact, Erika Leonard, who is E.L. James, stated in an interview on The Today Show last spring that she is not a great writer.  Does it matter?  She has ruled the bestseller lists for months.  And some writers can’t stand it.  The vitriolic rants against E.L. James are unbelievable, especially coming from writers.  They want her off – OFF! – those bestseller lists, as if she has no right to be there.  They’ve started campaigns to bring her down.  Are they offended by the genre, the writing?  Or perhaps that she has achieved a success they can only dream of?

In the words of another artist who has received her share of peer scorn and ridicule, “Why do you have to be so mean?”