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, 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?

cozy mystery

The Courtagonist: Cozy Mystery YouTube Channel

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(3)

I’m really excited to be featuring an interview with Courtny from The Courtagnoist, a super fun cozy mystery YouTube channel. When I’m in the mood to procrastinate, I like to check out what Courtny is up to and what cozies she’s been reading lately. I always walk away with a ton of new books to add to my TBR list and a smile on my face.

Courtny is a huge cozy mystery fan and a great resource for cozy community (both writers and readers). Settle back, grab a cookie or two, and see what Courtny has to say about starting your own YouTube channel, writing her own cozy mysteries, and the scoop on her favorite cookie.

The Courtagnoist Screen Shot

Interview with Courtny

1 – What are your favorite things about cozy mysteries?

I love so many things about cozies! Where to start!?!? I love that you really do get to know the characters. They are all about creating a small town cozy feel. Of course we have the murders and the mysteries but we also having our heroic sleuth. One of the reasons that I love reading them so much is because I become tied to the characters! I love watching Katie Lightfoot grow in her magical abilities and figure out the whodunit in the Magical Bakeshop Mystery Series! Or I love watching Jules from The Peridale Cafe series grow in her relationship with Jess her adoptive daughter. It’s not just about the mystery, it’s about the characters too!

2 – Have you ever thought about writing your own cozy mystery? If so, what would your sleuth be like? What hook would you have?

Oh my goodness! This is a loaded question! Ha! I have thought about writing my own cozy mystery! Who hasn’t?! They are so much fun to read! I have started two cozies one is called Graded in Red (A Teacher in Trouble Series). The main character’s name is Maggie and she is a young woman who has to move back to her small town in Broken Bow, Oklahoma after falling in love with her married boss and finding that she isn’t who she thought she was. She moved back to start life over as a history teacher. This one is very close to home. Not the falling in love with her married boss! Get that out of your head! Ha! But the small town, I live in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and being a history teacher. I have my Masters in American Studies and was a history teacher before my current job.

The second book that I started was called Premonitions on Paper, The Psychic Librarian Cozy Mystery series. Amelia Buchard is starting over after ending a nasty divorce and finishing her Masters Degree in Library Sciences. With the blessing and encouragement of her Aunt Rachel, Amelia packs up her bags and her Australian Shepard Wesley and moves to Astoria, Oregon. A small town of 20,000 people and becomes the Head Librarian.

I’m not sure how well I’ve written them. I have always been great at writing research papers and things of that sort. But when it comes to writing fiction, I’m a little lost and A LOT self conscious.

3 – What inspired you to start your own YouTube channel?

To be honest my fiancé actually encouraged me to start my own YouTube channel! It was my very first summer off that I wasn’t in school myself and I needed something to do. I am not very good at sitting still or not having something to do. I was watching a lot of booktube and Aaron suggested that I start my own since I loved to read so much. I was super excited and sort of dived in head first! I never looked back and I have loved every second of it. The people I’ve met. The books I’ve been introduced to. It has been wonderful.

4 – What advice would you give someone who is thinking of starting a YouTube channel?

I would tell them to stop thinking about it! Do it! You never know how much you’ll like it until you try! It is okay to not have perfect shelves, the best lighting, or camera. I filmed on my iPhone for the first year in a half. I edited everyone on iMovie. Don’t go spend tons of money on the top of the line items until you know that this is something that you are going to want to do for years as a hobby. I just purchased a good camera.

5 – What’s on your cozy mystery TBR list? What books would you recommend to someone who has never read a cozy before?

Oh!!!! There are soooo many books on my Cozy Mystery TBR list! Where to start?! I am excited to read Spell Booked by Joyce & Jim Lavene, A tale of Two Kitties by Sophie Kelly, and Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien this month! With my Cozyopoly helping me pick out my Cozy TBR every month I am loving it!

For those that have never picked up a cozy before I would suggest Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander, The Peridale Mystery series by Agatha Frost, and Port Danby series by London Lovett. I have a couple of Top 5 videos for Beginners into Cozies!

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Hahaha! YES! Cookies are the absolute best! I would have to say that my favorite cookie is actually a No Bake Cookie! There is just something perfect about oatmeal, chocolate, and peanut butter all mixed together! It is the perfect cookie!

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Merl waddles in with a sombrero on applying sunscreen to his beak, “Are you ready to go?!”

I look up from my book, right eyebrow cocked in annoyance , I have less than 10 pages left and he knows not to interrupt a reader in their natural habitat.

“Almost. Let me finish! I’m only ten pages away! I think I know who the killer is!”

Shaking his head and giggling, “You always figure it out! One day there will be a mystery you can’t solve!” Merl grabs my rolling suit case and heads out to the car for our week long cruise on the cruise ship Pearl.

“I doubt that! Plus this is just fiction! It’s not like I will ever have to figure out a real mystery!” I holler as I finished the last page, satisfied that I did indeed figure out the whodunit.

Little did I know that fiction was about to become reality.

8 – What else would you like us to know about you?

I would love to become your friend! I love getting to know people and getting to talk about books! Don’t be afraid of reaching out to me! I am nice! I promise! Not scary at all! I’m probably more afraid to talk to you then you are of me!

About Courtny

IMG_5840 (1024x1024)Hello! My name is Courtny! I am a booktuber, bookstagramer, blogger, and more -er words. Haha! I am a very awkward person when it comes to introducing myself! *waves awkwardly* I started my booktube channel about two years ago. I realized that there was this whole world out there full of people who loved books as much as me. There weren’t a lot of people in my life that I could geek out over books with. I focus mainly on Cozies! There is just something wholesome, loving, and safe about Cozy Mysteries. I can’t get enough of them! I’ve always loved the idea of being a sleuth! A detective! A PI! A Slewfoot! Oh you know! I blame Harriet the Spy! Sherlock Holmes! Ms. Marple! Jessica Fletcher!

You can connect with Courtny on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website | YouTube or reach her via email at courtagonist@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for being on the blog, Courtny! Your no bake cookies sound delicious. Oatmeal, chocolate, and peanut butter is a wonderful combination. Keep working on your cozy mystery books. They sound great and I can’t wait to read them, especially the one set in Astoria, Oregon as I lived there for a while.

 

cozy mystery, Cozy Mystery Publishing, Reading, Writing

Cozy Mystery Podcasts & YouTube Videos

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(4)

I have something to confess. Just give me a moment while I gather up my courage. Here we go . . . I’m a procrastinator.

Not with everything, mind you. When it comes to eating chocolate chip cookies, I don’t  procrastinate that particular activity at all. But when it comes to things like preparing our taxes or doing laundry, that’s when my talent for putting things off for yet another day come into play.

One of my favorite ways to procrastinate is by watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts. I figure if they’re related to cozy mysteries than it really isn’t procrastination, it’s research, right?

What does your To Do List look like today? Are there a few things on there that you’d rather not do? If so, check out the links below and avoid those unpleasant tasks for a little while longer.

Self-Publishing Authors Podcast

This podcast is hosted by four indie Kiwi authors who share tips, resources, and honest advice. I lived in New Zealand for five years, so I love hearing these ladies’ accents. Takes me right back to my days sipping on flat white coffee and exploring this wonderful country from the water on our sailboat.

You’ll want to check out this interview with Sara Rosett, author of several cozy series, as well as the non-fiction book, How to Outline a Cozy Mystery.

Plum Deluxe Teas Podcast

Seeing as Plum Deluxe sells teas, it’s no surprise that they have a podcast interview with Laura Childs, author of the Cozy Tea Shop Mysteries.

It’s a Mystery Podcast

Alexandra Amor features interviews with mystery writers, including some cozy authors such as Elizabeth Spann Craig, Ellen Byron, and Vicki Vass.

Reedsy Bestseller Podcast

Reedsy’s podcast is targeted at aspiring authors with the aim of demystifying the process of writing and self-publishing a book. The second season features cozy mystery author, Bella Falls who shares the writerly journey behind her Southern Charms series.

Courtagonist

Courtny is the cheerful, upbeat host of this YouTube channel which features all things cozy mystery including book reviews, book hauls, read-a-thons, and unboxings. You also get a peek at her daily life through her vlogs.

Create a Story You Love

On her YouTube channel, Lorna Faith shares author interviews and inspiration to help writers write, self-publish and market their fiction and non-fiction books. You’ll want to check out her interview on how to write cozy mystery novels with Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Diane Vallere

Cozy mystery author, Diane Vallere, shares info on writing cozy mysteries, her books, as well as a look at what goes on behind the scenes on her YouTube channel. I was particularly interested in this video, where she talks about the writing process behind The Pajama Frame, one of the books in her Madison Night Mystery series.

Ellie Alexander (aka Kate Dyer-Seeley)

Ellie Alexander’s You Tube channel features videos on her series and the research behind her books, as well as her fun 5 Things Friday videos. I laughed out loud during this video when she reads some of the worst reviews she’s received.

Meet the Thriller Author

Alan Peterson hosts the Meet the Thriller Author podcast featuring interviews with thriller, mystery, and suspense writers, including cozy mystery authors including CeeCee James and Carolyn L. Dean.

Comfy Cozy Podcast

Cozy novelist, Etta Welk, and her skeptical mom, Deb, explore cozy books, series, authors, origins, culture, and tropes in their weekly podcast.

Do you like to watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts? Please share any cozy mystery related links in the comments below, and I’ll add them to the list.

cozy mystery, Reading

What is a Cozy Mystery?

10 Reasons(2)

Once upon a time, I shared seven reasons why you should read cozy mysteries, but I realized that I hadn’t explained exactly what a cozy mystery is. And I probably should because it’s a question I’m frequently asked once someone finds out that I’m a writer.

Often the person asking will get a blank look on their face when I say, “cozy mysteries.” I then follow up with, “You know, like Murder She Wrote and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books.” They usually nod their head after that. Cozy mysteries might not be their cup of tea, but at least they now have an idea about what it is that I write.

If someone wants to dig deeper into what the cozy mystery genre is all about, I usually share some of the common themes or tropes:

1 – Cozies feature an amateur sleuth, as opposed to someone with professional credentials such as a law enforcement officer, medical examiner, lawyer, private detective etc.

2 – The sleuth often has a sidekick who helps her solve the murder. Notice how I said “her?” If you had to place a bet on whether the protagonist of a cozy you were about to pick up was male or female, I’d go with female. But, while the sleuths are often women, there are a number of great cozy series out there that feature male sleuths.

3 – One of my favorite things about cozy mysteries is the quirky supporting cast. I love getting to know the secondary characters over the course of a series.

4 – You’ll often find cozies have a small town or village setting. Everyone knows each other and everyone knows each other’s business. However, this isn’t always the case. I’ve read a few series set in large cities and I think it works just as well.

5 – One of the reasons I decided to write my own cozy mysteries was so that I could share them with my mother. And the only way I’d share my books with my mom is if they were clean and gentle reads. Otherwise, it’d just be too embarrassing. If there’s any sex, it’s usually implied and takes place behind closed doors. And violence is kept to a minimum. Sure, a murder usually takes place, but the author doesn’t dwell on the blood and gore of it all. You also won’t typically find naughty words.

6 – At their heart, cozy mysteries are puzzles with plenty of clues and red herrings for the reader to collect as they try to solve the mystery themselves.

7 – Cozy readers love series. They want to get drawn into the world the author has created, following the adventures (and misadventures) of the amateur sleuth and the supporting characters as they develop and grow over time.

8 – Most of all, cozy mysteries are fun reads. They’re a chance to escape for a little while from the realities of life. Why not ignore that pile of clothes that needs to be folded and those dishes that need to be washed for a little while. Run a bubble bath, pour a glass of wine, and relax over a good mystery.

Now, having said all that, I’ve been seeing some really interesting discussions as of late on some Facebook writing groups about the definition of cozy mysteries.

Is it okay to have some swearing? Can you have a little bit of steamier romance? Is there such a thing as an “edgy cozy”? Does your protagonist have to be an amateur? Do you have to feature a pet, hobby, craft, and/or cooking? Does there have to be a murder? And so on and so on.

It’s been really fascinating to consider what the boundaries of the cozy mystery genre are and how it has evolved over time.

What do you think? What are the do’s and don’ts of cozy mysteries for you?

cozy mystery, Reading

7 Reasons to Read Cozy Mysteries

10 Reasons

People often ask me why I write cozy mysteries and I tell them it’s because I love to read them. I’ve been reading them in one form or another since I was a girl, if you count Nancy Drew as cozy mysteries, and continue to devour them to this day.

If you’ve never read a cozy mystery and you’re wondering why you should, here are seven reasons why I love cozies.

1 – They’re fast reads.

Cozy mysteries are generally shorter books. A typical novel-length cozy might be anywhere between 60,000 – 75,000 words. Cozy novellas are quite popular these days as well and they’re much shorter (perhaps between 20,000 – 30,000 words). Compare that to an epic fantasy which usually comes in well over 100,000 words and you can see the appeal when you’re looking for a fast read.

2 – It’s a chance to escape.

The world is crazy these days. The news is scary. Life can be downright depressing at times. Sometimes, you just need to escape into another world with a good book. Cozies are typically fun, clean reads—no gruesome violence, generally no swearing, and sex is just hinted at (if it takes place at all). When you pick up a cozy mystery, you know what you’re getting. Light some candles, run a bubble bath, pour a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate, relax, and enjoy your escape from the real world for a while.

3 – You get to solve a puzzle.

Cozy mysteries are just that—mysteries. Which means you get to try to figure out who did it along with the sleuth. You might not always guess correctly, but it’s fun to note the clues and red herrings, consider the various suspects, and think about motives and alibis.

4 – Learning about new things and places.

The amateur sleuths in cozies often have an interesting hobby or occupation, something you may have no experience with, or live someplace you’ve never visited. For example, I share my experiences living on a boat in my cozy series. I love learning about new things and places, especially from the comfort of my armchair. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll take up llama husbandry or glass-blowing.

5 – A satisfying ending.

Everyone likes to see the bad guy get caught, right? When you pick up a cozy, you know that justice will be served. Finishing one of these books is always so satisfying—the mystery is solved, good triumphs over evil and all of the loose ends are tied up.

6 – Characters you want to spend more time with.

Cozy mysteries are usually part of series, not stand-alone books. And there’s a good reason for this—you end up loving the characters and can’t wait to read the next book and see what happens to them. Personally, I love cozies that are chock-full of quirky characters that make me laugh out loud. It’s fun to see how they develop over the course of the series.

7 – They go well with chocolate.

I’m assuming everyone knows this already, but just in case, let’s just talk about how well reading a cozy mystery goes with nibbling on some chocolate. Or nibbling on some cookies, or candy, or a piece of cake, or two pieces of cake, or the whole darn cake because no one is around to see you. . .well, you get the idea.

So go on, if you haven’t read a cozy mystery before, now’s the time to grab one and try it out. Just make sure you stock up on some chocolate first.

If you’re interested in checking out my cozy series—the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries—check out the links below.

Murder at the Marina Cover 1000 x 1400Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon (US) |Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask you library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Cover 1000 x 1400 (2)

Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask your library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.