Cozy Mystery Publishing, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Writing

Missing Deadlines & Eating Lots of Chocolate | 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:

The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

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.

So, how are you all doing in your neck of the woods? Feeling a little crazy? Stir crazy, perhaps?

I’m definitely feeling the crazy right now, especially the stir crazy. Do you remember my IWSG post from last month – the one where I said that by the time this month rolled around, I’d either be celebrating with chocolate for meeting my deadlines OR commiserating with chocolate because I didn’t meet them?

Well, I failed. I watched as the deadlines came and went while stuffing my face with some delicious dark chocolate Dove candies that a friend gave me. She knows me so well.

In my defense, we had a lot going on – selling our boat (done!), getting all our stuff of the boat (done!), moving the boat into storage for her new owner (done!), preparing our teeny-tiny camper to become our full-time home (done!), and temporarily moving our camper into the campground at the marina (done!).

We also were busy with something immensely more fun then dealing with campers and boats – we got to meet fellow IWSG member, Liesbet from Roaming About, along with her sweet hubby and their adorable dog! So much fun was had and we were super sad to see them leave.

We too had hoped to leave Indiantown Marina here in southern Florida and head out West, first with a stop at Disney Land. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. By the time we were ready to head out, it was apparent that COVID-19 was a pretty big deal. We couldn’t decide what to do – stay or go – so we kept ordering stuff from Amazon for our camper to delay having to make a decision.

Eventually, the pandemic made the decision for us, so here we sit at Indiantown Marina eating lots of chocolate.

In writing news, I obviously missed my deadline for finishing up my romantic comedy, Smitten with Ravioli, but I’m now back on track and hope to have it done this week.

In other news from the writing front, I had scheduled a bunch of price drop promos for Murder at the Marina, the first in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series, long before the pandemic. I wasn’t sure how it would go in this new reality of ours, but, so far, they’re going okay. I think people are looking for bargain books in the current economic climate. Whether they’ll go on to buy full-price books in the rest of the series remains to be seen. My guess is probably not so much given financial strains that folks are feeling. On a related note, I’ve been selling a bunch of my large print cozy mysteries – people sure are looking for something to do while cooped up inside.

Well, anyhoo, that’s how things are going here. We’re healthy, we have a place to stay, and we have lots of chocolate. It could be worse.

How are things going for you?

Murder at the Marina is on sale for 99c/99p! If you like quirky characters, adorable cats, and plenty of chocolate, you’ll love this cozy mystery! Grab your copy at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries

2019 in Review | Writing & Publishing Cozy Mysteries

It’s time for my annual “year in review” post where I share how things went on my writing and publishing journey during the past year.

Hang on a minute. Talking about my annual review posts sounds so grand. Truth of the matter is that I’ve only posted one of these so far. And that’s because I published my first book only a year and a half ago. So much has happened since then! I’ve gained a few pounds and lots more gray hairs, but I’ve also written a few more books.

So in honor of all the extra weight around my tummy and my gray hair (which has a mind of its own), I thought I’d continue my new tradition and let you know how it went for me in 2019. If you’d like to read my 2018 review first, you can find it HERE. Otherwise, let’s get started, shall we?

Writing & Publishing Accomplishments in 2019

I published a prequel novella (Robbery the Roller Derby) and two full-length books—Poisoned by the Pier (book #3) and Dead in the Dinghy (book #4)—in my Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series, as well as a box set of the first three books in the series. This series is inspired by my own adventures and misadventures living aboard a sailboat with my husband. Fortunately, I haven’t run across any dead bodies, unlike Mollie. For some reason, she seems to keep stumbling across them.

In terms of other writing projects I worked on during 2019, I started drafting the fifth book in the Mollie McGhie series (Shooting by the Sea) and sketched out the final two books I have planned in this series—Overboard in the Ocean (a full-length book) and Murder Aboard the Mistletoe (a Christmas novella)—all of which I hope to publish in 2020.

Random side note: I originally wrote “intend to publish in 2020,” then changed it to “hope,” cause you know life doesn’t always go the way you want. “Hope” seems to have more wiggle room than “intend.”

Covers for the complete Mollie McGhie series. Books 1 & 2 published during 2018. Prequel novella and Books 3 & 4 published during 2019. Books 5 & 6 and a Christmas novella planned for 2020.

I also worked on a high-level outline for my next cozy mystery series (The Dewey Decimal Library Mysteries) which I’m planning to launch in 2021. And I toyed around with another bright, shiny idea—a Mollie McGhie spin-off series of novellas set on Destiny Key which will feature a psychic and her pet hamster.

Random side note #2: “Planning” is another vague term for something I “hope” might happen.

Covers for the Dewey Decimal Library Mystery series. Looking at them provided inspiration when I was working on the high-level series outline. They’re going to be set in North Dakota. Brr…I feel cold just thinking about the setting.

And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s the travel rom-com series I have a hankering to write. Sigh. . .too many ideas, not enough time.

But enough about what I hope/plan/intend to do in 2020. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details and numbers from 2019. Please note that I won’t be sharing the actual number of sales I made over the course of the year. Yes, I know, that’s the number some of you are quite interested in and I’m sorry to disappoint, but I just don’t feel comfortable disclosing that. However, there are lots of other numbers you may find fascinating below.

Random side note #3: Not all percentages add up to 100% and some items show up as 0% in the charts below due to rounding. Isn’t math fascinating? I’m kidding. It really isn’t. At least not to me. Now cookies, those are fascinating. Math, not so much.

Sales & Revenue

The chart below shows the peaks and troughs of my sales and revenue over the year. Note that I used the term revenue, not income. 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 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 with Facebook and Bookbub ads)
  • licenses for images used in marketing and book covers (DepositPhotos and 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)
  • printer ink and paper
  • 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)

Okay, enough talk about revenue vs. income and expense, let’s get back to the chart. You’ll note that I show both the number of units sold (blue) and the income (red). I like doing this 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.

See that peak in July? I did price drop promo of my first in series—Murder at the Marina—and sold a fair number of books. But because I was selling them for 99c (normally $3.99), I wasn’t making very much per sale (only 34c on Amazon). Contrast that with December. I sold less than half the number of books, but made more money because I was primarily selling full-price books.

Sales by Format

While the majority of my sales are ebooks (73%), I still sell a fair amount of large print (21%) and paperback (5%) editions. I’d be curious to know if this split between ebook and print books is the norm or not for indie-published cozy mysteries.

I have to confess that although I read mostly on my Kindle these days, I love the idea that people are out there reading my books the old-fashioned way by turning one paper page at a time.

I use both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark print-on-demand services for my large print and paperbacks, but I sell way more books through Amazon then Ingram Spark. This is due in large part to the fact that I run AMS (Amazon Advertising) ads. They were particularly effective in the run-up to the holidays as print books make lovely presents.

Random side note #4: When e-readers first came out way back in the dark ages, my hubby wanted to get me one as a present. I poo-pooed the whole idea, swearing that I’d never be happy reading books electronically. My how times have changed – I can’t imagine life without my Kindle.

Sales by Book

Now that I have five books out, I’ve started to pay attention to what percentage of my sales come from each book. No surprise here, my series starter—Murder at the Marina—outsells the rest of my books (71% of sales). That’s because: (a) it’s been out the longest; (b) because I focus my advertising/marketing/promo efforts on it; and (c) after reading Murder at the Marina, some folks decide my cozies aren’t their cup of tea and don’t continue with the rest of the series.

Some of you are probably wondering what my sell-thru rate its. Others of you have no idea what a sell-thru rate is which is fair enough. I had no idea what it was until I got into this whole writing thing. Basically, you summon all your mathematical powers to figure out what percentage of readers go on from the first book in your series to buy the next book, and then the next book, and so on.

I’ve sliced and diced the sell-thru data in a variety of ways (by format and by retailer and by time span). Because the fourth book in my series—Dead in the Dinghy—was published mid-December 2020, I’m not paying much attention to the sell-thru rate from book #3 to book #4 right now, but I’m super interested in how many people go from book #1 to book #2 and book #2 to book #3.

Curious what I found out when I crunched the numbers? Here’s the sell-thru stats for my ebooks on Amazon for all of 2019—13% of readers went on from book #1 to book #2 and close to 100% went on from book #2 to book #3.

The 13% from book #1 to book #2 seems disappointing at first blush, but it’s not all that surprising given the big 99c promo campaign I did for my first in series in July/August 2019. Lots of people bought book #1 because it was a bargain. Who passes up a bargain?

So what happened with those bargain hunters? Some of those people probably never even read it (ask me how many unread 99c books I have on my Kindle), so of course they wouldn’t have gone onto the next one. Others might have started it but decided it wasn’t their cup of tea and gave the rest of the series a miss. And some folks might have read it and enjoyed it but didn’t love it enough to buy the next book in the series at full price.

As a writer you have to embrace the fact that not everyone is going to like what you write. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

It’s interesting to note that if I calculate sell-thru based solely on the last three months of 2019 (when Murder at the Marina was full price), around 40% went on from book #1 to book #2. The read-thru during that period for book #2 to book #3 remained consistent at close to 100%.

On a positive note, the nearly 100% read-thru from book #2 to book #3 is encouraging. Those are the folks who like my quirky sense of humor. Those people are my tribe. I just need to figure out how to find more of those types of readers and introduce them to Mollie McGhie.

Random side note #5: I love spreadsheets! It’s so much fun to track sales and then make groovy charts from the data. I know this makes me a big weirdo.

Ebook Sales by Retailer

I’m wide—and I’m not just talking about my hips. When I first started out I decided not to be exclusive to Amazon. Instead, I publish widely, i.e., on Amazon as well as on other retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and Google Play.

Given its market dominance, it really isn’t surprising that the majority of my ebook sales were on Amazon (57%). But I am pleased that I sold almost half as much on other retailers. This is a huge increase from last year when Amazon accounted for 86% of my ebook sales.

After Amazon, I did best on Barnes & Noble last year (31%), in large part due to a 99c promo they invited me to take part in. Kobo came in third (8%), followed by Apple Books (3%). I sold some books on Google Play, Scribd, Biblioteca, and Overdrive, but nothing to write home about.

Random side note #6: For those of you not in the know, Biblioteca and Overdrive are two systems libraries use for ebooks. I love seeing my books in libraries, both print and ebook editions! If you’d like to ask your library to acquire my books, you can find a handy-dandy info sheet HERE.

Well, I think that about sums it up. Overall, 2019 was a good year for me in terms of writing and publishing and I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2020!

How did 2019 go for you? What are you looking forward to in 2020?

Are you interested in learning more about my cozy mystery publishing journey? If so, check out these posts:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries

Poisoned by the Pier Now Available & Murder at the Marina on Sale!

Poisoned by the Pier Now Available!

Poisoned by the Pier, the third book in the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series, is now available in ebook, paperback, and large print.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play

Poisoned by the Pier Cozy Mystery

When Mollie’s husband signs the two of them up for an extreme diet, she’s not amused. When someone ends up poisoned by a cake, things get even worse.

While she tries to identify the killer, Coconut Cove’s annual boating festival is in full swing. In between getting ready for her first sailing race and cheating on her diet, Mollie and her cat, Mrs. Moto, uncover clues, interview suspects, and do their best to avoid rutabagas.

Can Mollie nab the killer before someone else is poisoned?

If you like quirky characters, adorable cats, and plenty of chocolate, you’ll love this cozy mystery. Pick up a copy of Poisoned by the Pier and laugh out loud from the first page to the last.

Find out more HERE.

Murder at the Marina Cozy Mystery Sale

New to the Series?

If you’re new to the series, you might want to start with Murder at the Marina. Now is the perfect opportunity to grab a copy as the ebook is ON SALE FOR FOR 99c/99p for a limited time.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play

Find out more HERE.

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Click here to sign up for my newsletter and stay in touch. You can expect updates from me once or twice a month about life aboard our sailboat, my current projects, new releases, sales and promotions, and other fun stuff.

Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, New Zealand, Writerly Nonsense, Writing

Writerly Nonsense

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(9)

Why do writers write? They have stories bubbling away inside them that need to get out. Sometimes, the writing process is a lot of fun. The words ooze out of you effortlessly. Other times, well, it can be torturous. You know what you want to say, but all you end up with is a blank computer screen or a page full of nonsense words.

I’ve been working on Dead in the Dinghy, the fourth book in my cozy mystery series for the past few days and it’s been a struggle at times.

Naturally, I turned to my favorite way to break through that writer’s block—procrastination. How did we procrastinate before the advent of the internet?

Sure, I watched a lot of cat videos, but I also did some serious writing “research.” I learned about grammar.

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(10)

I researched what causes writer’s block.

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(11)

I figured out how to explain to my friends and family what a writer actually does.

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(12)

Then I got serious, closed the internet browser, and wrote a scene where my characters debated a really important question about dolphins.

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(13)

My cozy mysteries are set at a marina in Florida and my main character and her hubby own a sailboat, so dolphins are kind of a thing. Because I live on a sailboat with my husband, I often draw on my own experiences when I’m writing my books. The dolphin snot vs. dolphin spit is one of those.

When we were sailing in New Zealand, a dolphin came alongside our boat and sprayed something on us. We had a long discussion about whether it was snot or spit. What do you think—is the stuff that comes out of a dolphin’s blowhole snot or spit?

{If you want to know more about the subject, you can read the blog post I wrote about it here.}

Well, that’s probably enough writerly nonsense for now. Time to get back to the actual writing!

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries

Writing Update: The Science of Legwarmers & Poisoned by the Pier

Poisoned by the Pier - Legwarmers

It’s time for a glass of wine. Or some cookies. Or some wine and some cookies.

I’ve finally finished writing the third book in my cozy mystery series—Poisoned by the Pier! It’s off to beta readers, then to the editor, with the aim of publishing it sometime this summer assuming all goes well.

Writing this one was a bit of a hard slog. I ended up deleting pretty much everything I had written in my first draft, then started rewriting from scratch. I envy those folks who are fast writers and can churn out a new cozy mystery every month or two. My process takes quite a bit longer.

I’m really liking how things have taken shape in my latest draft. I find myself chuckling out loud when I read certain sections. I know that talking to yourself isn’t a good sign. Does that hold true for laughing to yourself as well?

Mollie is up to her usual tricks in this latest installment—discovering dead bodies and sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. Mrs. Moto is also along for the ride as well. After all, she’s the best clue-finding cat in the business. And Scooter. . .well, let’s just say he has another hare-brained scheme in the works, one that involves legwarmers.

When we got to the main stage, there were hardly any chairs left. Wow, maybe Scooter had been right and marine products really were scintillating stuff. We snagged the last two seats, sitting next to Louise in the back row.

She was wearing a Trixie Tremblay inspired outfit. “Aren’t you hot in those legwarmers?” I asked. It was an unseasonably warm day for March and I was already regretting wearing jeans.

“Well, a little,” Louise admitted. “But, you can speed up your metabolism if you keep your ankles warm. It has something to do with the detoxification of your energy follicles. I don’t really understand how it all works, but science was never my strong suit.”

Wow, the science of legwarmers. And I thought I had heard everything.

I’ll keep you posted on when Poisoned by the Pier will be out. In the meantime, make sure to wear your legwarmers and keep your energy follicles detoxified.