cozy mystery, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel

Writing Update, PLUS Rivals by Jennifer Lane | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. Instead of answering the questions, I’ve got a writing update for you, PLUS I’m sharing Jennifer Lane’s fabulous new release – Rivals.

Writing Update

March was a busy month in writing land!

I finished up book #6 in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series – Overboard on the Ocean. It’s now with the editor and I’m hoping to release it in late April. This is the last full-length book in the series so there was a bit to wrap up in terms of Mollie and Scooter’s overall character arcs, as well as their quest to get their boat ready to sail off into the sunset. Of course, there’s a dead body or two as well! The final book in the series will be a fun Christmas novella. I gotta say, it’s bittersweet getting ready to say goodbye to Mollie . . . although, you never know, she could show up again in a spin-off series.

By the way, if you want to pre-order a copy of Overboard on the Ocean, you can find it at your favorite retailer HERE. If you’re interested in an ARC, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at ellenjacobsonauthor@gmail.com.

Toward the end of March, I started working on a new romantic comedy, Smitten with Candy Canes. This is a Christmas novella set in Santa’s Village, Finland. I’m teaming up with some amazing ladies to release it as part of a sweet romantic comedy collection which will be headed your way in July. Naturally, I’m insecure about whether my story will be as funny or swoonworthy as theirs are since they’re all pretty seasoned romance writers.

Anthologies are a fantastic way to connect with fellow writers and to find new readers. In fact, my first publication was as part of an IWSG anthology – Hero Lost. I’m really looking forward to reading the newest IWSG anthology – Dark Matter – which is coming out in May.

I’ll share more details with you about Smitten with Candy Canes and the sweet romantic comedy collection next month, but if you can’t wait, you can always pre-order a copy now for only 99c at Apple Books, Barnes & Noble or Kobo HERE. 100% of pre-order profits will be donated to Pets for the Elderly, an amazing cause which connects shelter animals with seniors. (Note: the collection will be available on Amazon at a later date.)

Also, if you can help out with spreading the word about the romcom collection on your social media, blog, newsletter etc., that would be awesome! Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at ellenjacobsonauthor@gmail.com.

Rivals by Jennifer Lane

If you’re a romance reader, you’ll want to check out Rivals by Jennifer Lane. Having gone to graduate school at a Big Ten university, I was instantly intrigued by the premise – an enemies-to-lovers romance between two coaches from rival schools. Learning what goes on behind the scenes in college sports programs was fascinating and watching Jeremy and Lauren’s relationship unfold tugged at my heartstrings. Find out more about Rivals below. You can also read my review on Goodreads.

Blurb

I embrace my rival. But only to strangle him.”

~Jean Racine

After landing her dream job as head volleyball coach at Ohio State University, Lauren Chase’s career has become a nightmare. Her only hope of saving her job is to recruit a star player to her team. Too bad the player’s twin has signed a football scholarship for OSU’s chief rival, Michigan. And too bad Michigan coach, Jeremy Trent, sends sparks through Lauren every time they cross paths. But no way will she pursue an attraction to a man who represents the university she hates.

Jeremy detests his boss, and he hopes that signing the nation’s #1 recruit is the ticket he needs to become a head coach himself one day. Lauren Chase is already a head coach, and Jeremy has to admit that she intrigues the hell out of him. He wants to know why her performance has tanked after winning a national championship. He wants to see beneath Lauren’s fast pace and dirty mouth. But he can’t get with a Buckeye, right?

Maybe rivals don’t have to remain enemies. Maybe they can learn to appreciate their opponent’s strengths. And, if they’re lucky—if they excel at the game—maybe rivals can bring out the very best in each other.

Read in Kindle Unlimited or grab your copy at: Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU)

About Jennifer Lane

Psychologist/author (psycho author) Jennifer Lane invites you to her world of sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist!

Jen fell in love with sports at a young age and competed in swimming and volleyball in college. She went on to become the Honda Award Winner for Division III Athlete of the Year. She still gets high from the smell of chlorine and the satisfaction of smashing a beautiful volleyball set.

Jen’s latest novel is Rivals, a romance between coaches from rival universities. Her Blocked trilogy also explores the transformation from hate to love. Particularly in this time of division, Jen’s favorite theme is finding common ground.

A romantic suspense trilogy (The Conduct Series) and a psychological thriller (Twin Sacrifice) complete Jen’s collection of stories. She calls Ohio home and shares writing space with her two trusted feline collaborators: Tuxedo and Tessa.

Whether writing or reading, Jen loves stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time, she likes to exercise and visit her amazing sisters in Chicago and Hilton Head.

Connect with Jennifer at: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram

What about you? How was your March? What are you looking forward to in April?

cozy mystery, Cozy Mystery Publishing, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel, Writing

2020 in Review: Writing and Publishing Cozy Mysteries & Romantic Comedies | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Everyone has a favorite genre(s) to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely on only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choices?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. Instead of answering this month’s questions, I have my annual year in review post for you below.

It’s that time of year, when I post my annual review of my writing and publishing journey. 2020 was a doozy of a year, but somehow I managed to keep focused on my writing. I think in some ways it helped me to escape to some degree from all that was going on in the world.

Before we dive in . . .

For those of you who are new here, let me give you a little bit of background about me. I published my first book in June 2018, the first in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series featuring a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth. This series is based in part on my own adventures (and misadventures) living and sailing on boats in New Zealand, the States, and the Bahamas. {You can find out more about my background HERE.}

I published book #2 in that series toward the end of 2018. The following year, I released three more books in the same series (two full-length novels and one prequel novella), along with a box set. From the outset, I’ve been wide, meaning that I distribute my books on all retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play etc.).

{For more info on my writing and publishing journey check out my 2018 review post and my 2019 review post.}

Stuff that got done in 2020 and plans for 2021

Okay, now that we have the background out of the way, let’s talk about what I accomplished in 2020. In my Mollie McGhie series, I published book #5 – Shooting by the Sea – and a short story – Buried by the Beach.

When I originally planned out my production schedule for 2020, I had a goal to publish two more books in my Mollie McGhie series. But . . . um . . . well . . . I didn’t.

Things don’t always go as planned, especially not during the year we all had. So instead of publishing more cozy mysteries, I decided to launch a sweet romantic comedy series. The Smitten with Travel series features three things I love – travel, food, and happily-ever-afters. I released the first two books – Smitten with Ravioli (set in Italy) and Smitten with Croissants (set in France) during 2020.

Romcoms are so much fun to write! And the genre is a good fit for my goofy sense of humor, so you should expect to see the third book in the series (Smitten with Strudel – set in Germany) come out in 2021, and possibly the fourth book too (Smitten with Baklava – set in Greece). For all those Mollie McGhie fans out there, don’t worry, I’m currently writing book #6 in the series – Overboard on the Ocean – and it will definitely be released later this year.

Okay, enough about that . . . let’s see some charts!

Who here likes numbers?

Don’t worry, we’re not talking about square roots or long division. Trust me, math is not my strong suit. But I do like keeping track of how many books I sell and how much I make. And I find making spreadsheets to be a soothing activity. Yes, I know, totally weird. But the upside for you, dear blog reader, is that I’m able to produce some nifty, colorful charts which you may find interesting.

All right, time for a little disclaimer before we jump in. I’m not going to share actual numbers with you. I know some people are comfortable sharing how many books they’ve sold and how much money they’ve made, but that’s not me. However, I promise there is still some interesting info in the charts below.

Some boring financial terms

The charts you’re going to see below show the peaks and troughs of my sales and revenue.

Note that I used the term revenue, not income. These are pretty boring financial terms, but the distinction is important.

Revenue is how much money has come in from the sales of your books. Income is what’s left over after you deduct expenses. You may see people post their earnings in various Facebook author groups, blogs etc. and be in awe of how much they’re making, but don’t forget that the numbers they’re sharing may be before expenses which means they’re taking home less than you think (in some cases, a lot less).

As an independent author, I have a number of expenses including:

  • editors (one of my biggest expenses, but so worth it to me)
  • ISBNs (these don’t come cheap if you’re based in the States—$575 for 100 of them—which is one reason why not everyone uses these book identification numbers)
  • proof copies of paperbacks and large print editions from Amazon KDP and IngramSpark
  • paid email promotions
  • advertising (I primarily use AMS ads, but I have also dabbled unsuccessfully with Facebook and Bookbub ads)
  • licenses for images used in marketing and book covers (primarily Shutterstock)
  • author website hosting / domain fees
  • other system subscription fees such as BookFunnel (used for ebook distribution to my ARC team and for distribution of my reader magnets) and Mailerlite (used for newsletter)
  • books related to writing craft and marketing
  • membership in the Alliance for Independent Authors (the cost of membership is offset for me by the fact that I don’t have to pay fees for paperback uploads / changes on IngramSpark)

Come on already . . . let’s see a chart!

Are you still with me? Ready for a chart? Here we go – this one shows how many units I sold (the blue bars) and how much income I made (the red bars) each month. I like presenting it this way because I can get caught up in how many books I’ve sold, but that doesn’t always correlate with how much I’m making.

PRICE DROP PROMO (MARCH)

See that big blue spike in March? I dropped the price of my first in series cozy mystery (Murder at the Marina) to 99c / 99p and did a bunch of promos including an international BookBub Featured Deal, Fussy Librarian, Book Adrenaline, Book Sends, Bargain Booksy, and Ereader News Today. I also organized some newsletter swaps.

The result was that I sold a lot of books. But that doesn’t mean I made a lot of money. When you sell a book for 99c / 99p, you only make pennies after the retailers take their cut. But that’s not why I do promos. I do them to gain visibility and attract new readers who hopefully love my writing so much that they go on to buy other full-priced books in the series.

{By the way, “lot” is a relative term. Everyone has their own sales baseline. A lot of sales for one person might be a drop in the bucket for someone else. Comparing yourself to other authors can be a dangerous path to follow. Possibly even the path to despair and too much chocolate.}

BIG UPTICK IN LARGE PRINT SALES (APRIL / MAY)

I’ve always done relatively well in terms of sales of my large print editions, but during April and May, they exploded (my AMS ad spend also exploded which was very scary at first). When the lockdowns started happening, people were looking for books to read. Cozy mysteries are fun and lighthearted, a good way to escape for a time from the stress of the pandemic. I suspect many other cozy mystery authors saw an uptick in their paperback and large print sales during this period.

My large print sales leveled out during the remainder of the year, although I did see a slight increase in December. No surprise there as books make good gifts for the holidays.

Author Central BookScan Chart – shows spike in paperback sales in the US

LAUNCH OF MY ROMCOM SERIES (MAY)

I released book #1 in my Smitten with Travel sweet romantic comedy series in May. I didn’t set the world on fire with this release, but I didn’t expect to either. My strategy is to release three books in a series before I do any serious marketing. To me, it doesn’t make sense to do a price drop, book a bunch of promos, spend a lot on advertising etc., if there aren’t any other books in the series for readers to buy.

{Wondering what I mean by “sweet”? I use it to indicate that my romcoms are on the “clean and wholesome” side of things. As with my cozy mysteries, there aren’t any sex scenes or naughty language in my romcoms.}

COZY MYSTERY ANTHOLOGY RELEASE (JUNE)

I joined in with a group of other authors to put together a collection of cozy mystery short stories. My contribution was Buried by the Beach, a standalone story which takes place between the events of book #3 and book #4 in my Mollie McGhie series. We published the anthology in June, and I thought it was a great success both in terms of attracting new readers to my series and making connections with an awesome group of authors who were a delight to work with.

Our stories were exclusive to the anthology until the end of 2020. I’ve since separately published an expanded version of Buried by the Beach with contains an epilogue and bonus material. The original version is still available in the anthology which the group will continue to collectively promote.

COZY MYSTERY BOOK #5 RELEASE (AUGUST)

August saw the release of book #5 in my Mollie McGhie series – Shooting by the Sea. I had a lot of fun writing this one, especially around the bits about Scooter’s silly celebrity crush on a game show host and Mrs. Moto learning to play the ukulele. (If you’re new to the Mollie McGhie series, Scooter is Mollie’s hubby and Mrs. Moto is their adorable Japanese bobtail cat.)

ROMCOM BOOK #2 RELEASE (DECEMBER)

I somehow managed to squeeze out book #2 in my Smitten with Travel series, publishing the ebook edition of Smitten with Croissants at the end of December. This was a blast to work on because I got to include all sorts of geeky references to Star Wars. I may just be a bit of a Star Wars geek myself.

Psst . . . between you and me, how much did you make?

Sorry, no can do. But, I will tell you this. I actually made money in 2020!!!

There’s a reason for all those exclamation points. That’s because it was the first time in my publishing career that I was in the black. Yep, that’s right, in my first two years of being a published author, I lost money. My expenses were greater than my income.

I know some people turn a profit during their first year, but not me. However, I did stick with it, realizing that it’s a long game. And I’m fortunate enough to have had the money to invest in my books during those first couple of years.

The chart below illustrates the progress I’ve made over the past three years. Notice how 2020 is the first time the yellow income bar is above the zero mark? What had been a very expensive hobby is now making me a little bit of money and I’m now treating this whole author thing more like a business.

Let’s talk formats

As I mentioned earlier, a significant chunk of my sales are paperback and large print books. During 2019, the majority of my sales were ebooks (73%) compared to 21% large print and 5% paperback books.

During 2020, that ratio changed drastically with the majority of my sales being large print (54%) and paperback books (5%). Ebooks only made up 41% of my sales. My guess is that this was a one-off, related to the pandemic lockdowns, and ebook sales will once again surpass my large print and paperback sales.

By the way, I use both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark print-on-demand services for my large print and paperbacks. I definitely sell most of my large print and paperback books through Amazon than on other retailers, but I have no idea of the exact breakdown. That’s because Ingram Spark doesn’t breakdown sales by retailers. Amazon also outsources printing to Ingram Spark at times, meaning that some sales that show up on my Ingram Spark reports can be attributed to Amazon. But how many that is . . . well, I don’t have a clue.

Ebook sales and revenue by retailer – Wide for the Win!

Let’s break down my ebook sales and revenue by retailer, shall we? No surprise that Amazon has the largest share, but I continued to actively try to grow my sales on other retailers during the past year. I’m all about the “Wide for the Win” mindset – i.e., not wanting to have all my eggs in the old Amazon basket. And it’s worked to some degree – 57% of the ebooks I sold in 2019 were on Amazon, compared to 51% in 2020.

Barnes & Noble continued to be my next strongest retailer (30% of ebooks sold, which is on par with 2019). I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted into some of their promos which have really boosted visibility and sales on their storefront.

Kobo came in number three accounting for 11% of my ebook sales (up from 8% in 2019). Kobo also has great promo opportunities, especially when it comes to box sets and their romance BOGO deals.

Apple Books trailed behind the other major retailers, but I saw a massive increase in their share of ebook sales, up from 3% in 2019 to 8% in 2020. No idea why, to be honest.

I struggle to make any sales on Google Play except when I’m doing a first in series price drop promo like I did in March. And even then, sell-through to other books in the series is pathetic. Maybe one day I’ll gain traction there. Maybe one day I’ll give up eating chocolate and lose weight. Miracles can happen, right?

There was a new entry on the retailer scene for me in 2020 – Eden Books. This is a small, romance-only storefront which I’m delighted to support. I’m not selling tons of books there, but it’s always good to expand my reach to potential readers.

Before we move on, take a look at the units sold (blue bars) versus the revenue (red bars). See how on Amazon the revenue bar is higher than the units sold bar? When it comes to Barnes & Noble, the situation is reversed. Interesting, huh? Just another reminder not to always focus on how many books you sell on each retailer, but rather on how much money you make.

{If you’re interested in wide distribution, you might want to check out the super informative, supportive, and helpful Wide for the Win Facebook group.}

{How about another parenthetical note? I distribute directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play, and I use Draft2Digital to reach Apple Books and other smaller retailers.}

A brief note about sell-through

If you write series, then you definitely want to track your sell-through. Some people call it read-through, others say buy-through. It all means the same thing – what percentage of people who read / buy the first book in your series go on to read / buy subsequent books in the series.

It’s an important metric. If you have a low sell-through, do you want to keep investing your time and money in other books in the series? Are you targeting the right audience? Do you need to make tweaks to your cover, blurb, or even the content? Should you eat more chocolate? These are all important questions, especially the chocolate one.

I only tracked sell-through for my Mollie McGhie series in 2020. I’m happy enough with it, especially considering this series probably isn’t written to market as much as other cozy mystery series are. Cozy mysteries featuring a sailing hook and an amateur sleuth who like investigating UFOs in her spare time? Not your typical draw for the cozy reader crowd. Writing more to market is something I’ll be paying more attention to when I launch my next series.

Anyhoo, approximately 9% of readers went on to buy book #2 in the series. That might seem low, but it reflects the fact that I did a price-drop promo on book #1. Lots of people will pick up a book if it’s only 99c, but then either not read it (ask me how many unread books I have on my ereader) or find that it’s not their cup of tea. However, if folks go on to read book#2, then around 85-90% of them will buy the subsequent books in the series. I can live with that.

Don’t forget about libraries and subscription sales

I used to lump in my library and subscription sales in with my other ebook sales, but I’ve started to break them out into separate categories. Why? Well, because they’re kind of different beasts, wouldn’t you say?

During 2020, I didn’t sell tons in either of these categories. At least, not enough to be bothered to make a separate chart for them. But I didn’t want to lose sight of the importance of these distribution channels, so I’m gonna tell you all about them. Now might be the time to grab a Snickers bar. The peanuts will give you the stamina you’ll need to keep reading.

One of the great things about being wide is that you can distribute ebooks to libraries. If you’re exclusive to Amazon (i.e., enrolled in KDP Select, aka Kindle Unlimited), then you’re out of luck when it comes to libraries.

No can do. I like libraries. Actually, scratch that. I LOVE libraries. My whole family loves libraries. I was practically raised in libraries, and my sister even works in a library. So, the thought of not selling my ebooks to libraries was inconceivable. I use both Kobo and Draft2Digital to reach libraries via Overdrive, Hoopla, and Biblioteca.

{Note: This only applies to ebooks. You can be exclusive to Amazon for your ebooks, but still distribute your paperbacks / large print books to libraries.}

Remember how I mentioned Kindle Unlimited a moment ago? Well, it’s not the only ebook subscription service in town. There are other services which are non-exclusive including Kobo Plus and Scribd. I have my books enrolled in both of them via Kobo and Draft2Digital.

Okay, I think that wraps it up. Anything else you want to know? What are you looking forward to in 2021? What’s your favorite candy bar?

Cozy Mystery Publishing, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries

Bookbub Featured Deal Update & Arranging a Dream by JQ Rose | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. You can see how I answered the question below, find out about JQ Rose’s wonderful memoir – Arranging a Dream – and get an update on how my recent BookBub Featured Deal went.

Blogging Friendships

When I saw this month’s question, I smiled. That’s because the answer is really simple . . . yes, indeedy, I sure have made friends through blogging. Some of them I’ve even met in real life (like fellow IWSG member Liesbet at Roaming About). It’s such a joy to be able to connect with people with whom you share common interest. And in these pandemic days we’re living through, online connections become even more powerful.

One of my blogging friends is the delightful JQ Rose who I met through IWSG several years ago. I was thrilled when she asked me to read an advance copy of her lovely book, Arranging a Dream. I just adored this book. It’s a feel-good memoir that makes you realize that ordinary people can indeed arrange their own dreams, and, as a result, lead the most extraordinary and rewarding lives. Have a read below to find out more about it. You can also see my review over on Goodreads.

About Arranging a Dream

In 1975, budding entrepreneurs Ted and Janet purchase a floral shop and greenhouses where they plan to grow their dream. Leaving friends and family behind in Illinois and losing the security of two paychecks, they transplant themselves, their one-year-old daughter, and all their belongings to Fremont, Michigan, where they know no one. 

Will the retiring business owners nurture Ted and Janet as they struggle to develop a blooming business, or will they desert the inexperienced young couple to wither and die in their new environment?

Most of all, can Ted and Janet grow together as they cultivate a loving marriage, juggle parenting with work, and root a thriving business?

Follow this couple’s inspiring story, filled with the joy and triumphs and the obstacles and failures experienced as they travel along the turbulent path of turning dreams into reality.

Grab your copy of Arranging a Dream at: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

About JQ Rose

Whether the story is fiction or non-fiction, J.Q. Rose is “focused on story.”  She offers readers chills, giggles and quirky characters woven within the pages of her mystery novels. Her published mysteries are Deadly Undertaking, Terror on Sunshine Boulevard and Dangerous Sanctuary released by Books We Love Publishing. Using her storytelling skills, she provides entertainment and information with articles featured in books, magazines, newspapers, and online magazines. 

JQ taught elementary school for several years and never lost the love for teaching passed down from her teacher grandmother and mother. She satisfies that aspect of her character by presenting workshops on Writing Your Life Story.

Based on the lessons taught in her workshops, JQ created a book, Your Words, Your Life Story: a Journal for Sharing Memories to help life storytellers write, publish and market their stories. She decided to take her advice and pen her memoir, Arranging a Dream: A Memoir. 

If you would like to write or record your life story/memoir, check out the Facebook Group, Telling Your Life Story and Memoirs Circle for encouragement and ways to spark memories. Click HERE to join.

Blogging, photography, Pegs and Jokers board games and travel are the things that keep JQ out of trouble. She and her husband spend winters in Florida and summers up north with their two daughters, two sons-in-law,  four grandsons, one granddaughter, two grand dogs, four grand cats, and one great-grand bearded dragon.

Connect with JQ at: Blog | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest | BooksWeLove

BookBub Featured Deal Update

For those of you who popped by here last month for my IWSG post, you’ll know that I had a BookBub Featured Deal scheduled for mid-January. I was a bundle of nerves wondering if I would make back my investment. The good news is that I did – phew!

My BookBub was for Murder at the Marina, the first in my cozy mystery series. I dropped the price to 99c, as well as lowered the price on the second book in the series (Bodies in the Boatyard) to $2.99. I sold 2100+ copies of Murder at the Marina during a six-day period (breakdown by retailer in the chart below), got reasonable sell-through to other books in the series, and a number of people have also pre-ordered book #6 in the series (Overboard on the Ocean). Overall, I would say that it was a success.

If you haven’t read Murder at the Marina yet, it’s still on sale. Grab a copy at your favorite retailer below.

Grab your copy of this hilarious cozy mystery at:

Amazon (US)
Amazon (CA)
Amazon (UK)
Amazon (AU)
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Apple Books
Google Play
Smashwords

Have you read any good books lately? Made any friends through blogging?

Cozy Mystery Publishing, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel, Writing

BookBub Featured Deals, Writing Update & Camping in the Desert | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book / throws you out of the story / frustrates you most about other people’s books?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. Instead of answering the question, I’m chatting about the terror that overcomes you when you pay for a BookBub Featured Deal, giving a writing update, and sharing the best part about camping in the desert.

Scoring a BookBub Featured Deal – Eek!

Last month, kind of on a lark, I applied for a BookBub Featured Deal for Murder at the Marina, the first book in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series.

While I had been accepted for an international BookBub Featured Deal last year, I knew that getting a US one was competitive. People get turned down all the time. That’s what I was expecting – a big fat “NO!” Instead, I got a “Congratulations. You’re booked for mid-January. Now, give us lots of money.”

{By the way, if you’re not familiar with BookBub it helps folks discover new things to read through daily emails which feature free and discounted books. Authors pay to have their book included as a Featured Deal. And it’s not cheap.}

The thing about being an author, like with any other business, is that you have to invest money to make money. Things like editors, cover artists, website hosting, promotions, advertising etc. add up. And you don’t often see a return on your investment for a while. Sometimes, a long while.

So when I opened up the BookBub invoice to pay for it, my stomach churned. This is a lot of money with no guarantee that you’ll earn it back, the scaredy-cat part of my brain said. The more gung-ho part of my brain said, “Go for it. Chances are good you’ll make it back and then some!”

I went for it. The invoice was paid. My BookBub Featured Deal is booked. My fingers are crossed.

Writing Update

When I haven’t been hyperventilating about shelling out money to Bookbub, I’ve been hard at work launching the second book in my romantic comedy series. Smitten with Croissants came out at the end of December and I couldn’t be more excited about the reviews that have come in so far. Sure, you try to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter what people think about your books and that there will always be people who don’t like your writing, but until you get a few positive reviews under your belt, the worries and insecurities bubble away at the back of your mind. So, many, many thanks to those folks who have left reviews! They’ve left a huge smile on my face.

By the way, if you enjoy sweet romantic comedies and you’re interested in becoming part of my review team, drop me an email at ellenjacobsonauthor@gmail.com.

Camping in the Desert

My hubby and I are currently camping in the desert with two other couples who also former sailors and now live full-time in their rigs. We’ve all formed a little, nomadic COVID bubble and had a lot of fun celebrating the holidays together. And, you know what one of the best parts of it all is? The fact that one of the people we’re camping with is none other than fellow IWSG member and author of the fabulous memoir PlungeLiesbet Collaert of Roaming About! It’s been wonderful to have someone with whom I can talk about writing-related stuff in person. And it doesn’t hurt that she and her husband make the best-tasting margaritas I’ve ever had either. LOL!

Do you subscribe to newsletters like Bookbub? Read any books lately? Have you ever been camping in the desert?

IWSG, Writing

How Many Croissants Can You Realistically Eat? Plus Plunge by Liesbet Collaert | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. Instead of answering the question, I’m chatting briefly about autobiographical moments in my fiction, as well as featuring the fascinating travel memoir, Plunge, by Liesbet Collaert.

I could never write an autobiography or memoir for one simple reason – I have the worst memory.

“Why don’t you keep a journal?” I hear some of you saying.

Well, in addition to having the worst memory, I also have pretty bad handwriting. Even if I wrote stuff down, I wouldn’t be able to read it.

“Um, you know you can keep a journal online, don’t you? You don’t have to write it out by hand.”

Yeah, but where’s the fun in that? Journals are supposed to be full of stickers, washi tape, and written in gorgeous script. At least, that’s how I picture them in my head.

In all honesty, I do keep a log book for our camping adventures, but the contents aren’t all that interesting. Nothing that would make for a riveting memoir. My imagination is a zillion times more interesting than my real life.

But, having said that, I do draw on my real life in my fiction. There are some autobiographical elements interspersed in my books. Take Mollie McGhie – my main character in my cozy mystery series. She’s a reluctant sailor. I was a reluctant sailor. She eats a lot of chocolate. I eat a lot of chocolate. She finds dead bodies and solves murder mysteries . . . and that’s where the similarities end.

Currently, I’m finishing up my latest rom-com, Smitten with Croissants. Spoiler alert: the main character, Mia, eats a lot of croissants. But perhaps you already figured that out from the title?

I have also eaten a lot of croissants in my time. In writing the croissant scenes, I drew on my own experiences eating those delicious, flaky pastries in France. Cafe au lait and a croissant, what could be better?

I also drew on my own experiences eating way too many chocolate croissants when I lived in New Zealand. There was this fabulous bakery in Auckland where you could buy pastries to take home and bake in your oven. For some reason, they sold them in packs of six which is just asking for trouble. Of course, I couldn’t stop eating after one, or two, or even three. I mean, come on, those things are to die for when they’re freshly baked and oozing chocolate.

Needless to say, I got a tummy ache. Totally worth it though.

Naturally, I decided that Mia should eat too many croissants and feel a tad bit worse for wear. Autobiography in fiction! It’s about as close to a memoir as I’m ever going to get.

As a fiction writer, I’m in awe of people who write memoirs and share their lives (warts and all) with us, like Liesbet Collaert. It’s a fabulous book – have a look below to get the scoop.

Like all memoir writers, Liesbet Collaert doesn’t shirk from telling the truth about her life. Because that’s what memoir is – the truth about one’s life told in nonfiction narrative writing. But, let’s be honest, not all personal memories are that fascinating. Day-to-day life can be quite dull and ordinary.

Not so the case with Liesbet Collaert. This is a woman actively in search of a life less ordinary and, boy oh boy, has she ever found one! In Plunge, she shares a riveting tale of her life as a nomad, exploring the world from a sailboat and embracing the highs and lows of life at sea. I think this memoir will appeal to all sorts of readers, not just sailors, because, ultimately, it’s a story about the choices one woman makes in search of love, fulfillment, and happiness – choices many of us can relate to.

{You can read my review of Plunge on Goodreads.}

About Plunge

Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.

Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.

Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.

Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?

Grab your copy of this fascinating memoir on Amazon. Available in ebook and paperback.

About Liesbet Collaert

Liesbet Collaert is a bilingual freelance writer, translator, editor, and photographer from Belgium who has been writing and traveling her entire life. Her work is published internationally in anthologies and magazines, including Cruising World, Blue Water Sailing, Ocean Navigator, Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book, Islands, Yachting World, Sailing Today, All At Sea, Caribbean Compass, and Zeilen. She also created walking tours for Marigot and Philipsburg in St. Martin.

The author has been interviewed about her alternative lifestyle by Multihull Sailor, Modern Day Nomads, Ocean Navigator, The Wayward Home, The Professional Hobo, and Grey Globetrotters among others. She contributed to extensive cruising surveys for All At Sea and Caribbean Compass and became an assistant-editor for Caribbean Compass in January 2019.

Liesbet loves animals, nature, and the promise of adventure. A nomad since 2003, she calls herself a world citizen and currently lives “on the road” in North America with her husband and rescue dog. Find her stories and photos at It’s Irie and Roaming About. Plunge is her first book.

Connect with Liesbet on Facebook (Author Page) | Facebook (Roaming About Page) | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon

Do you like to read and/or write memoir? If so, what do you enjoy about it? If you’re a fiction writer, have you ever shared autobiographical details about yourself in your work?

cozy mystery, Crazy Cat Lady, IWSG, Writerly Nonsense

Writing Books that Make Me Giggle | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. You can see how I answered this question below.

So why do I write humorous cozy mysteries (and now rom-coms)? Cause I have all these silly ideas in my head that make me giggle. And if I don’t get them down on paper, I worry that my head might explode. Which would be gross. But an interesting way to die . . . an exploding head caused by an overabundance of silly ideas.

Hmm. Better jot that idea down in one of my notebooks.

Can you tell I write murder mysteries? I’m always looking for new and novel ways to kill people. I’ll have to figure out a way to work this whole exploding head thing into my next book.

One of the tricky things about trying to write funny books is that we don’t all have the same sense of humor. When you write a book and put it out there in the world {which is incredibly scary, by the way}, it’s also a chance to find like-minded people. Folks who get tickled by the same things you do. Like-minded goofballs. When they send you emails, leave blog comments, or message you on Facebook to tell you that your book made them laugh, it’s almost better than chocolate.

Almost, people, almost. We all know there’s nothing better than chocolate. Except kittens. I think we can all agree on that.

Anyway, that’s why I write. Why do you write and / or read?

Uncategorized

Life on the Road, Writing Update & IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

What do you think of the term “working writer”? What do you think that is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer, an aspiring one or a hobbyist? If the latter two, what does that look like?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted out of answering the question, instead sharing an update about what life has been like on the road for us lately.

THIS IS WHERE PRETTY PICTURES OF OUR CAMPING ADVENTURES WOULD BE, BUT THE INTERNET CONNECTION SUCKS RIGHT NOW. LOL!

Life on the road in our teeny-tiny camper is amazing, but it does have two major drawbacks – we don’t always have great internet connectivity and charging our computers and devices can be a challenge. This has a huge impact on me as a writer (hard to work on a book when your computer battery is dead) and staying connected to the writing world (when you have limited internet and charged devices, you have to prioritize what you do at online).

Did you notice that I missed last month’s IWSG post and that I’ve been terrible at visiting other people’s blogs? The whole internet / electric thing is part of the reason why. The other reason is, well . . . life. Life has a way of getting in the way sometimes.

So, what has been happening lately on the road, you might be wondering? Well, in September, we spent a good chunk of time in North Dakota – first visiting with my hubby’s family (so much good food!), then at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the Badlands are so stunning!).

After that it was a mad dash through South Dakota before spending some time in Nebraska at a wonderful city campground with electric hookups (ooh . . . electricity!) and good internet (yay for internet!) and a wildlife area (no electric or internet . . . boo). We stopped at Agate Fossil Bed National Monument on the way out of Nebraska, then had another mad dash, this time through Kansas and into Colorado.

In terms of writing over the past month, I’ve been plodding away on the second book in my rom-com series. I’m making some progress on it, but I’d really like to pick up the pace on this one and get it done by the end of the year. Life lately is way too serious. It’d be nice to close out the year with a light-hearted rom-com, don’t you think?

Anyhoo, that’s the latest update – nothing too exciting, nothing too productive, but that’s the way it goes sometimes, right?

What did you get up to last month? If you’re a writer, what have you been working on? And what kind of writer are you – a “working writer” or a hobbyist?

IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Writing

Life Lately on the Road & Writing Update | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted out of answering the question, instead sharing an update about what life has been like on the road for us lately.

Photo Credit: Duwan Dunn @ Make Like an Ape Man

Check out the picture above. That’s our teeny-tiny camper surrounded by bison. Crazy, huh? The friends we had been traveling with took it as we were driving through Yellowstone National Park. It perfectly sums up what life has been like lately on the road during the past month – travel, adventure, and lots of fun!

I was trying to remember what we got up to during July but it’s all a bit of a blur. We used to be really good about keeping a log previously on our sailboats and now in our camper, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside. We really should get that log going again because the older I get, the more help I need in remembering stuff!

I’ve now had a second cup of coffee. It’s amazing how caffeine helps jog the memory. Okay, so here’s where we’ve been and what we got up to in July:

We spent the first part of the month in Bismarck, North Dakota spending time with my hubby’s family. I spent a good chunk of that time on the couch working on Shooting by the Sea – the fifth book in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series. I also worked on release stuff for a multi-author cozy mystery anthology that my short story, Buried by the Beach is part of. And I read some books about Scandinavian-Americans as inspiration for the new cozy mystery series I’m planning which will be set in North Dakota.

It was such a relaxing spot to work. The fact that we had ice cream for dessert every night didn’t hurt either! We don’t have a freezer in our camper so I relished every bowl of salted caramel craze I could get my hands on.

Then we headed to a wonderful campground in Elgin, North Dakota for a few days so that I could finish Shooting by the Sea. There are two things I love about this particular campground – the views of the lake and the electricity. Yes, you heard that right – electricity! We often camp in places without it and have to run the generator when we want to charge things. To be able to have my computer constantly charged, not to mention being able to run the air conditioner, was heavenly.

After sending Shooting by the Sea to the editor it was time to go meet up with our friends from Make Like an Ape Man. They’re former boaters like us and now live full-time in their van. After a night in Buffalo, South Dakota, we hooked up with them in Montana, spent a night at Red Shale (a wonderful free National Forest campground), spent the next night at the Ten Sleep Brewery (you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving when your camper is a few feet away in the parking lot), then headed to Castle Gardens (a free Bureau of Land Management campground) for a night.

While at Castle Gardens, I got back the edits from my editor. Internet was patchy there so I had to download the manuscript by perching my computer on the hood of our vehicle and holding my phone in my hand. Such is the life of a writer on the road.

I finished that first round of edits, sent it back to the editor and then it was off to Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming for three days. Have you been there? If not, you should go. Absolutely gorgeous! I could have stayed there longer, but we had reservations at one of the campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park so off we went.

To be honest, I wondered if Yellowstone would live up to its reputation. Everyone talks about how amazing it is. Guess what? Turns out it is. In fact, it was so amazing that my hubby and I spent two weeks there. But all good thing must come to an end so that new good things can happen. And that new good thing is going to be Glacier National Park in Montana. We’re making our way up there today and tomorrow, so I may be offline for a while. But I will try to respond to comments and visit blogs when I can. I know, I know . . . I’m still behind from last month. {Sigh}

Anyway before I go, I wanted to thank everyone who offered to read and review ARCs (advance reader copies) of the cozy mystery anthology, Mystery Follows Her, and my latest Mollie McGhie book, Shooting by the Sea. It really means a lot to me and it helps immensely with the launches and attracting new readers!

By the way, if you’re interested in either of these books, Mystery Follows Her is promotionally priced at only 99c/99p right now. You can grab a copy at your favorite retailer HERE. Anthologies are a great way to try out new authors. Shooting by the Sea will be released on Friday, August 7th. You can pre-order a copy at your favorite retailer HERE.

What did you get up to in July? Did you read any good books? Get any writing done? Any fun adventures?

IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, USA, Writing

Writing Update & Travels in Our Teeny-Tiny Camper | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted out of answering the question, instead sharing a quick writing update. Check it out below.

This is going to be a short post as things are a bit frantic in my world. We hit the road in our teeny-tiny camper in the middle of May. Since then we’ve traveled from Florida up to North Dakota, spending time in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota along the way.

It’s been really hard to concentrate on writing and blogging while traveling, camping, and enjoying the great outdoors, but I’ve been trying my best. It was the same thing when we were traveling on our sailboat – the nomadic life can be a challenge when it comes to focusing on creative projects.

Despite the travel, I have been working on two projects. The first is a Mollie McGhie short story – Buried by the Beach – which will be published in the Mystery Follows Her cozy mystery multi-author anthology coming out on July 23rd. Many, many thanks to all of you who offered to read and review an ARC copy!

The other project is book #5 in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series – Shooting by the Sea – due out in August. I’m in the process of finishing it up right now before getting it to my editor. Deadlines are looming and the pressure is on, but I’m having a blast with this story.

I’m looking forward to catching my breath next month once Shooting by the Sea is wrapped up, then I’ll be diving into the next book in my Smitten with Travel rom-com series.

FYI – I may be a bit slower visiting blogs and returning comments, but hopefully things will get back to “normal” and I’ll have a bit more time and headspace next month.

In the meantime, a couple of pictures from our adventures in South Dakota – a bison in Custer State Park and our teeny-tiny camper (“Scamper”) in the Black Hills National Forest.

IWSG, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel, Writing

Writing in Present Tense, ARC Reader Request & An Adorable Cat | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the zone? Care to share?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted out of answering the question, instead sharing some of my insecurities about writing in present tense. Check it out below.

Which of these sentences do you prefer:

1 – I write in present tense, then worry that readers will hate it.

2 – I wrote in present tense, then worried that readers would hate it.

If you had asked me this in the not so distant past, I would have said without any hesitation that Option #2 was way better. Like many other people of a certain age, I grew up reading novels written in the past tense. That was just how it was done. I had no idea there was any other kind of book.

Then came The Hunger Games. Loved the story, but I found the use of present tense a bit jarring. I read a bunch of other YA books for a while and made my peace with present tense. I didn’t love it, but it was starting to grow on me.

As of late, I’ve been obsessed with reading romantic comedies / chick lit. And guess what? A bunch of them are written in present tense. And guess what else? I love it!

I know some of you are shaking your heads. Why, Ellen, why? Why have you gone to the dark side?

Well, here are a couple of the things I like about it:

1 – Everything feels way more intense.

And when you reading romance, that’s an awesome thing. Especially when the main character is kissing a really cute guy.

2 – It kind of feels like a movie.

You’re smack-dab in the middle of the action. It’s all happening right now. You’re experiencing things right along with the main character, like those kissing scenes.

So when I decided to try my own hand at writing a romantic comedy, guess what I did? Yep, that’s right, I decided to write it in present tense.

This may turn out to be a huge mistake.

Readers may hate it.

This may be an experiment gone bad.

Or it could be amazing.

Time will tell.

Wanna try out a present tense romantic comedy? I’m looking for ARC readers.

If present tense doesn’t scare you off and you’d like to read and review an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Smitten with Ravioli, let me know if the comments. Be sure to leave your email address.

I don’t have a firm publication date yet, but it will be out sometime toward the end of May. In terms of heat level, it’s on the clean & wholesome side of the scale. There’s kissing, but no sex scenes.

You can check out the blurb HERE.

Raise your hand if you like adorable cats!

This is Garfieldia, one of the cats that lives at the marina where we’re currently hanging out at in our teeny-tiny camper. She’s such a sweet cat – super affectionate and cuddly.

So what about you – any writing rituals you want to share? Do you like present tense? Interested in an ARC of Smitten with Ravioli?