Crazy Cat Lady, IWSG, Writing

Simon the Time Traveling Cat's Writing Advice

I have an imaginary gray cat named Simon who has the ability to travel through time. He’s a pretty grumpy cat who is always complaining about not getting enough saucers of full-fat milk in his life, having his naps interrupted, and the “stupid” books I write. Simon pops up quite frequently in vignettes that I often include in my monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) posts.

Until recently, I wrote my IWSG posts on The Cynical Sailor, a blog I started in 2013 when my husband and I bought our first sailboat in New Zealand. Now that I have this author blog, I’ve realized that my IWSG posts are a better fit over here. But I don’t want lose sight of all of the Simon-related posts that I’ve written over on The Cynical Sailor, so I’ve created an index of them here.

As I’ve pulled this index together, it’s been fascinating to see how my writing journey has evolved over time. Have a look at the list below and check out the posts. They’re good for a few giggles and you might find some useful writing advice along the way.

An Index of Simon the Time Traveling Posts on The Cynical Sailor Blog

The Time Traveling Cat (March 2017) – Simon makes his first appearance on the blog while I answer the question, “Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it?”

How’d You Get So Full of Yourself? (April 2017) – I make cookies and have a chat with Simon about how I worry that people are going to think I’m full of myself because of all the promotion I’m doing about my upcoming release.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Plays Monopoly (June 2017) – Simon complains about not getting to be the top hat in Monopoly while I answer the question, “Did you ever say I quit? What made you come back to writing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Goes for a Walk (July 2017) – Simon is less than impressed when I buy a leash and harness for him, and I answer the question, “What’s one valuable lesson you’ve learned since writing?”

Interstellar Voyages with Simon the Time Traveling Cat (Sept 2017) – Simon uses his time traveling powers to take us to another universe where I answer the question, “Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Gets a Visitor (Oct 2017) – Simon is rude to a visiting cat and I answer the question, “Have you ever slipped any of your own personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Coughs Up a Hairball (Nov 2017) – I explain to Simon what beta readers are when I answer the question, “Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNoWriMo project?” (Note: NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a month-long event where participants from around the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during November.)

Waking Up with Simon the Time Traveling Cat (Dec 2017) – Simon and I travel back to January 1st to answer the question, “As you look back at 2017, with all of its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Takes a Nap (Jan 2018) – Simon gets grumpy when I try to move him from his favorite napping spot while I answer the question, “What steps have you taken, or do you plan to take, to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Gets Evicted (Feb 2018) – Simon knocks stuff off the table (very annoying) while I while I answer the question, “What do you love the most about the genre you write in?”

Celebrating with Star Trek & Dead Lizards (March 2018) – Simon tries to convince me that leaving dead lizards on my pillow is how he pays rent while I answer the question, “How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal / finish a story?”

Why Don’t Cats Sweat? (May 2018) – I complain about the heat in Florida to Simon and answer the question, “It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others?”

Simon the Time Traveling Cat’s Dubious Advice (June 2018) – When I try to answer the question, “What’s harder for you to come up with – book titles or character names?” Simon suggests that I name all characters after him. Silly cat.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Freaks Out (July 2018) – The 4th of July fireworks scare Simon while I answer the question, “What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?”

Simon the Cat Travels through Time (Aug 2018) – Simon uses his powers to take us back to ancient Egypt. He likes it back then because cats were worshiped. While we’re there, I answer the question, “What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?”

Simon Goes Nuts for Catnip (Sept 2018) – Simon gets high on catnip while I answer the question, “What publishing path are you considering / did you take and why?” Wide, self-published

Simon the Time Traveling Cat’s Life Gets Disrupted (Oct 2018) – Simon freaks out when I serve him a new brand of cat food and I answer the question, “How do major life changes affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?”

Stop Being So Nosy! (Jan 2019) – Simon tries to find out how much money I make from writing when I answer the question, “What are your favorite and least favorite questions that people ask you about writing?”

What Cats Think about Heroes & Villains (March 2019) – Simon takes over the blog from me and answers the question, “What perspective do you like to write from the best – the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)?” It probably won’t surprise you, but Simon thinks all books should be written from a cat’s perspective.

Simon the Time Traveling Cat vs. Dewey Decimal the Talking Chameleon (June 2019) – I tell Simon all about the talking chameleon I have planned for my next cozy mystery series. He’s not impressed.

Release of Poisoned by the Pier & Character Traits (July 2019) – Simon hacks up a hairball on my keyboard while I answer the question, “What personal trait(s) have you written into your characters?”

How to Read without Opposable Thumbs (Oct 2019) – Simon and I chat about whether you can be a writer if you’re not also a reader while Simon shows me how he reads without opposable thumbs.

If you’ve had enough of Simon, here are some other writing-related posts from The Cynical Sailor you might be interested in.

Read an excerpt from Mrs. Moto’s diary – Mrs. Moto’s Murder Meows & Bodies in the Boatyard (Nov 2018). If you’re not familiar with Mrs. Moto, she’s the feline star of my Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery series.

Finding Time in My Busy Day (Sept 2016) – I share the results of an MIT study which compared how writers and cats spend their days. No surprise – cats take more naps.

About the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

If you’re not familiar with the IWSG, it’s an online support group founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers with different levels of experience from folks who are just daydreaming about writing to those who have published bestselling books.

I’ve made wonderful connections with fellow writers through the IWSG and the support and encouragement I’ve received from the community are a huge part of why I’m now a published author.

Want to get involved in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG)? Just hop on over HERE to sign-up. We’d love to have you on board!

IWSG, Writing

My Writerly Journey | IWSG

Hello! If you’ve been directed here from The Cynical Sailor, welcome to my author site. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with that site moving forward, but, in the meantime, I’ve decided to move my Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog posts to this site. Thanks for following me over here!

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 started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher, coach, spouse, friend, parent? Did you just “know” suddenly that you wanted to 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 find out how I answered the question below.

It seems like a lot of folks were born with the writing bug. Me, not so much. All I was born with was a birthmark on my arm. Sure, it’s a pretty cool birthmark (if you squint just right in really poor light after a few vodka shots, it kind of looks like Elvis), but it’s not quite as cool as coming out of the womb ready to write the next Great American Novel.

I didn’t start any form of creative writing until 2013. That’s when I launced The Cynical Sailor, a blog originally dedicated to documenting the transition from moving out of a normal dwelling on land and onto our sailboat in New Zealand. Sure, there was a lot of boring boat stuff on there, but I also took the opportunity to inject some humor into writing about our adventures and misadventures. And, to my surprise, people responded positively to my wacky sense of humor.

I began to “fictionalize” some of my blog posts, even writing little Nancy Drew stories about how I was trying to investigate and track down the mysterious leak on our boat. That led me to taking my fan fiction to the next level by writing a full-blown Nancy Drew series of posts about “The Case of the Missing Anchor” as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in 2016.

People began to urge me to write a cozy mystery of my own. And by “people,” I mean my mom. And you can’t say no to your mom, can you?

So, with massive support from followers of The Cynical Sailor and members of the IWSG, I got cracking and started seriously writing. I cranked out a 50,000 word draft of what would later become Murder at the Marina during National Novel Writing Month in November 2016.

I also decided to try my hand at writing a fantasy short story which I submitted to the IWSG anthology contest. To my utter surprise, it was accepted. It was such a thrill to see my words in print! I think that’s the point when my writing journey kicked into high gear.

So, I guess I can’t point to one exact thing that started my writing journey, but rather people who supported me along at various points from the original followers of my Cynical Sailor blog, the people behind the IWSG anthology contest, my writing buddies, my family and friends, and everyone who reads my books and continues to encourage me to keep writing.

PS If you’re wondering where Simon the Cat is today, he’s too busy napping in a sunny spot by the window to be bothered with the blog today. He promises that he’ll be back soon.

What about you? What inspired you to start writing? If you’re not a writer and have another creative pursuit, what inspired you to start that?

Dead in the Dinghy is now available! Get your copy of the latest Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery at your favorite retailer and find out what happens when Mollie and Scooter participate in their first sailing regatta.

Spoiler alert: someone ends up dead in a dinghy & Mollie eats a lot of chocolate!

Ebook available at:

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

Also available in PAPERBACK and LARGE PRINT.

Find out more HERE.

IWSG, Writing

Imagining My Future Writing Self | IWSG

Hello! If you’ve been directed here from The Cynical Sailor, welcome to my author site. I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with that site moving forward, but, in the meantime, I’ve decided to move my Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog posts to this site. Thanks for following me over here!

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:

Let’s play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

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 find out how I answered the question below.

Simon the cat getting ready to lay waste to the Christmas tree.

Simon the Cat Demands His Breakfast with Very Sharp Claws

Note: If you’re new to my IWSG posts, I often write stories about my imaginary cat, Simon, to answer the monthly questions. He’s rather a grumpy cat who loves full-fat milk, bashing my writing, and making a general nuisance of himself. The complete opposite of Mrs. Moto from my Mollie McGhie mysteries.

“Wake up, lady,” a low voice growled.

I groaned and pulled the covers over my head. “Leave me alone, Simon. I’m trying to sleep.” A paw snaked underneath my blanket, its sharp claws fully extended. “Ouch! That hurt.”

As I sat up in bed, my large gray cat glared at me. “Stop being so lazy and feed me breakfast.”

“You know, you’re much more pleasant in my dreams.” I stretched my arms over my head. “It was such a nice dream, too.”

“What did you dream about?” Simon asked as he rolled over on his back.

“My future writer self,” I said, as I rubbed his belly. “I’m doing really well in the future. I’ve written in some other genres like sci-fi and sweet romance. Plus, I have several cozy mystery series published including one with a talking chameleon who lives in a library in North Dakota.”

“Whoever heard of a talking chameleon? That’s a stupid idea, lady. Chameleons don’t talk. “

“And cats do?”

“Well, duh. You can hear me, can’t you?” Simon crawled onto my lap and kneaded my legs. “What are your other series about? Me?”

“You? No way,” I said. “Who would want to read about you?”

“You really aren’t very bright, are you? There’s people reading about me right now.”

I chewed on my lip. “Well, that’s different. This is a blog post, not a book.” Before he could interrupt with another smart aleck response, I added, “The other idea I have is a side series of novellas about a fortune teller who lives on Destiny Key.”

“Your new book is set there, isn’t it?” Simon asked.

“It is. Mollie and Scooter sail there during the Coconut Cove regatta.” I furrowed my brow. “How did you know that? Have you been reading my books?”

“Only when I have insomnia.” Simon yawned. “They’re so boring that they put me right to sleep.”

I lay back down and pulled the covers up to my chin. “If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go back to sleep and dream about my future writer self and my future cat. He’s really sweet.”

“Future cat?” Simon jabbed my face with this paw, then sat back on his haunches. “Oh, I get it. You’re going to travel into the future, use their cloning machine and come back with a dozen more Simons.”

“That sounds like a nightmare.” I grabbed a pad from my bedside table. “Note to self,” I said as I scribbled on the paper. “Do not engage in time travel. One Simon is plenty.”

What about you? When you dream about your future, what do you envision?

Dead in the Dinghy will be released on December 13th! Pre-order your copy of the latest Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery at your favorite retailer and find out what happens when Mollie and Scooter participate in their first sailing regatta.

Spoiler alert: someone ends up dead in a dinghy & Mollie eats a lot of chocolate!

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

Find out more HERE.

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, 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.

Writing

Chocolate, the Ultimate Writing Inspiration

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More than one person recently emailed me an article which says that chocolate fights coughs better than codeine. This is the kind of science I like! I feel a coughing fit coming on—quick, pass the M&M’S.

Of course, I’m not sure what it says about me that people know I’d be interested in this kind of study. I guess I’ve developed a little bit of a reputation as a chocoholic. Okay, maybe a big reputation.

Chocolate inspires my writing in a significant way. Not only do I eat it while I’m writing, but my main character, Mollie McGhie, eats a lot of it while solving mysteries. Chocolate does help you think better, right?

Do you ever find things happen for a reason? I had been working on the next book in the series—Poisoned by the Pier—which has a sub-plot that revolves around Mollie’s husband going on an extreme diet. I was trying to figure out a way to work in a chocolate reference that Mollie could use along the lines of “science says chocolate is good for you” when I got sent a link to this study. Perfect! I figured out what scene to plug it into and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Now, if I could just find a study that says that chocolate is good for weight loss and my life would be complete.

Are you a chocoholic? What’s your favorite chocolate treat?

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

2018 in Review | Launching a Cozy Mystery Series

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2018 was a big year on the writing and publishing front for me. I launched my first cozy mystery series—The Mollie McGhie Sailing Mysteries—in June with the publication of my debut novel, Murder at the Marina. In November, I published the second book in the series, Bodies in the Boatyard. And, I made good progress on the third book, Poisoned by the Pier.

Now that the year has drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to share what my first year as a published author looked like in numbers. But, before we dive into that, if you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out this post where I talked about the launch of Murder at the Marina in numbers.

Please be aware that I won’t be sharing the 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.

{Note: Not all percentages add up to 100% and some items show up as 0% in the charts below due to rounding.}

Sales Peaks & Troughs

The chart below shows the peaks and troughs of my sales over the year. No surprise that I sold the greatest amount of books when I launched the first book in my series in June, followed by the second book in November.

After my initial release, sales slowed down quite a bit. I started to experiment with ads (more about that below) which led to a slight increase in sales. The release of my second book led to a spike in sales, but nowhere near the level of my debut book. That’s not all that surprising due to the fact that I didn’t do nearly as much marketing with the second book as I did with the first. I also assume that some people who bought the first book did so because they wanted to support me and not because they’re cozy mystery fans, then found that it really wasn’t their cup of tea and didn’t go on to buy the second.

I did have relatively strong sales during December which I think can be partially attributed to holiday gift buying (sales of large print books increased quite a bit during that period).

The other thing to note is that the majority of my sales are for my first book, Murder at the Marina, which isn’t really a surprise as it’s been out longer and I direct more advertising and promotional efforts toward it.

Sometimes people often focus on how many books they sold rather than how much they earned, which I think is an important distinction. Selling a lot of books at 99 cents may be less profitable than selling fewer books priced at $3.99. For example, although I sold more books in November than I did in December, my earnings were lower in November because I discounted Murder at the Marina as part of a promo.

2018 Review - Units Sales by Month Chart

Sales by Format

While the majority of my sales are in ebook format (67%), paperback and large print editions make up a substantial chunk of sales (21% of my sales are large print and 12% are paperback). I’m selling far more print books now than I did when I first launched Murder at the Marina due in a large part to Amazon ads. I’ve found that it’s definitely worth the extra time and expense involved in formatting and publishing print books and it’s something I’ll continue to do.

I use Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute large print and paperback books, however the majority of print books that I sell is via Amazon.

2018 Review - Sales by Format Chart

Ebook Sales by Retailer

Because I decided to go wide rather than be exclusive to Amazon, I was quite interested in seeing what proportion of sales came from non-Amazon retailers over the year. While the bulk of sales were on Amazon (86%), I had some sales on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, and Overdrive. I’d like to continue to see this percentage grow and will be focusing more efforts on advertising and promotions targeting non-Amazon retailers.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Retailer Chart

Ebook Sales by Geographic Region

It’s no surprise that I sell most of my ebooks in the States (81%), but it’s nice to see sales in other countries as well. It’s pretty cool to know that people are buying my books in places like Japan and Brazil.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Country Chart

Experimenting with Ads & Promos

As mentioned above, I started experimenting with advertising in September and October, which accounts for the gradual increase in sales during those months. During that time, I focused on Amazon Marketing Services sponsored ads (AMS), primarily for my large print edition of Murder at the Marina. I set pretty low daily budgets and bid levels and was pleasantly surprised to find that they worked pretty effectively. I think this is in part due to the fact that not many cozy mystery authors advertise large print editions so there isn’t a lot of competition for keywords such as “large print” and “large print mysteries.”

I also played around with a few ads for the ebook and paperback editions, but didn’t have much success with them. For ebooks and paperbacks, I can’t bid high enough for Amazon ads to be cost effective (people with several books in a series can bid higher on ads for the first book in their series and recoup their costs through read-through to subsequent books).

In December, I ramped up my spending on AMS ads for the large print editions of both Murder at the Marina and Bodies in the Boatyard in the hopes of driving some holiday-related sales. That strategy seemed to have worked. It is a bit scary to see the advertising costs escalate, so I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve crunched the numbers and that the ads are more than paying for themselves.

I also started experimenting with BookBub ads for the ebook edition of Murder at the Marina, primarily on non-Amazon retailers. (Note: These are the CPC ads, not the feature deals). It’s still early days, but so far they seem to be driving a few additional sales. Nothing to write home about though.

Kobo promotions was the other area that I dabbled in. If you publish directly with Kobo, they have a handy tab on the author dashboard where you can sign up for promotional opportunities. During 2018, I participated in four promos. I didn’t see a huge amount of sales as result, but it was more sales than I would have made on Kobo otherwise.

How did 2018 go for you? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

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

Murder at the Marina Cover 1000 x 1400

Murder 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Large Print Books | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Large Print Cozy Mysteries

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked with you about ARCs (advance reader copies). Today, I’m going to tell you about my experiences publishing large print editions of my cozy mysteries.

What is a large print edition?

This seems like a simple question, but when I did some research on large print books I found varying answers.

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn uses 16-point font for her large print editions which is consistent with Amazon’s criteria and the Royal National Institute for Blind People. I’ve heard other people say that 14-point font is considered large print. However, both the American Council for the Blind and the American Federation for the Blind suggest a minimum of 18-point font. And what some organizations and readers consider to be “large print” is what others consider to be “giant print.”

Font size isn’t the only consideration—line spacing (increasing the space between lines can improve readability) and type of font (sans serif may be easier to read for some) are also important. As with font size, I found varying advice on the ideal line spacing and type of font for large print editions.

Formatting my large print editions

When I decided to create a large print edition of my first cozy mystery, Murder at the Marina, I found Joanna Penn’s tips to be really good starting point. I also went and looked at large print editions of novels at my local library to get a feel for what readers might expect in terms of font size and spacing.

First off, I decided to go with a larger trim size (6×9 inches for my large print edition vs. 5.5×8.5 inches for my paperback edition). Next, I took my paperback document and reformatted it using a larger font (17-point compared to 11-point in my paperback edition) and increased the line spacing. {You can read more about how I formatted my paperback and ebooks here.} Finally, I adapted my paperback book cover by increasing the trim size and adding a “Large Print” sticker to the front to differentiate it from the paperback version.

Then I uploaded my files and hit the publish button. Everything went smoothly after that. . .well, that is, until it didn’t.

Yikes! Negative feedback

A few weeks after I published the large print edition of Murder at the Marina, I received a negative comment on Amazon saying that it wasn’t comparable to Reader’s Digest large print editions. Remember what I said above about varying definitions of large print? Well, I ran smack-dab into that.

I felt absolutely horrible that this poor man bought something that didn’t live up to his expectations. I really wished I could have contacted him, but I had no way of doing so. I can only hope he was able to return it and get a refund.

Despite the negative feedback, it was a great learning experience. I updated my book descriptions to indicate what size font and type of font I was using in my large print editions. For the Amazon description, I also added in a section letting potential buyers know they can use the “Look Inside” feature to see if the font size would meet their needs

When it came time to format my second cozy mystery, Bodies in the Boatyard, I went with an even larger font (18-point this time) and used a sans-serif font (Arial vs. Gentium Book Basic in the paperback) to improve readability.

Large print editions make up a good chunk of my sales

When I first set out to make a large print edition, I thought I might sell a few copies and I liked the idea of having a version that would be easier for some folks to read. Little did I know that my large print books would end up being 17% of my sales. So, although it takes some effort to produce a large print version (not to mention the cost of an additional ISBN), it’s been quite worthwhile.

For another perspective on formatting and publishing large print cozy mysteries, check out this informative post over at The Ninja Librarian.

What are your thoughts and experiences with large print editions?

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

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

Large Print Front Cover

The large print edition of Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo. If you would like to request that your local library order a copy of  Murder at the Marina, you can find the necessary information here.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Large Print Front Cover

The large print edition of Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble. If you would like to request that your local library order a copy of Bodies in the Boatyard, you can find the necessary information here.

Writing

Bodies in the Boatyard Now Available

BB Now Available

I’m excited to announce that Bodies in the Boatyard is now available. This is the second book in the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series which features a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth.

Selling your house and moving onto a rundown sailboat—not a dream come true. Finding dead bodies in the boatyard—a total nightmare.

Things aren’t looking great when Mollie and her husband, Scooter, discover that their sailboat is leaking. Next Scooter announces that he wants to sell their house, downsize, and move on board. Mollie is less than impressed with her husband’s latest hare-brained scheme. Then, just when things couldn’t get worse, Mollie discovers a dead body in the boatyard. With her feline companion, Mrs. Moto, at her side, Mollie sets out to investigate. But can she catch the killer in time before someone else ends up dead?

If you like light-hearted cozy mysteries with quirky characters, you’ll love Bodies in the Boatyard.

EBOOK: Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play

Paperback available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Large print available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

New to the series? Start with Murder at the Marina. Find out more here.

STAY UP-TO-DATE WITH MY FREE NEWSLETTER: Click here to sign up and stay in touch. You can expect occasional updates from me, typically about new releases and projects I’m currently working on, as well as snippets about life aboard our sailboat.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Getting Advance Reviews |Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Advance Reviews

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked with you about blog tours. Today, I’m discussing ARCs (advance reader copy) and getting advance reviews for Murder at the Marina.

What is an ARC?

ARCs are free copies of a book (ebook and/or print) that is going to be published but hasn’t been released yet. While they are fully formatted, they’re not necessarily the final version of the book. Through the ARC process, readers and the publisher may find typos or other errors that need to be fixed before the release.

ARCs are used not only to get advance reviews, but also to build excitement about the release (some people give out ARCs as part of giveaways) and, in the case of traditional publishers, to advertise to libraries and bookstores.

How I used ARCs

For Murder at the Marina, I touched base with three main groups of potential readers: (1) cozy mystery book bloggers; (2) friends within the writing community; and (3) members of the boating community.

For the first group, I sent emails asking if they would be interested in reviewing Murder at the Marina and included a link to BookFunnel where they could download a copy of the ebook. Because this was my debut novel, I didn’t expect that many established book bloggers would be willing or able to review my cozy mystery, but I figured it was worth a shot. I was pleasantly surprised that a few agreed to help out.

For the second and third groups, I put out a call on my other blog (The Cynical Sailor) asking if anyone would be interested in helping out. I had a fantastic response which was so encouraging.

In the end, I ended up sending ARCs to over 60 people (including my beta readers) and about half of those people left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. (A few people also left reviews on the other major eretailers.)

In my initial email to my advance readers, I explained why reviews are important—they make your book more visible to potential readers and provide social proof and credibility (i.e., people are going to be more willing to read your book if they see other people have read it and enjoyed it).

I also explained what’s involved in writing a review (they can be short, a sentence or two is fine) and suggested that they might want to include a disclaimer in their review such as: “I received an ARC of this book and voluntarily chose to leave an honest review.”

The other thing I mentioned was Amazon’s review restrictions—you need to have spent $50 in the last twelve months to be eligible to review.

When the book was released, I sent through a follow-up email letting them know that they could now go ahead and leave reviews.

After my book launch, I sent an email to everyone who had left a review to thank them and ask if they would be interested in being on my ARC team for the next book in the series (Bodies in the Boatyard). Most people said yes leaving me with around 30 people on the list (not including beta readers).

Using BookFunnel to distribute ARCs

I chose to use an online solution, BookFunnel, to distribute ARCs. While I could have just emailed files to my advance readers, BookFunnel takes the hassle out of everything by making it simple for users to download the file that best suits their device and providing support if they have any technical issues.

I signed up for the First Time Author plan which allows me to store five books and have up to 500 downloads a month. It costs $20 a year and is more than adequate for my needs. BookFunnel has other plans which allow for more than one pen name and more monthly downloads, as well as collect email addresses (useful for building your newsletter lists).

I also use BookFunnel to distribute draft manuscripts to my beta readers and final manuscripts to family, friends, giveaway winners etc.

What about reviews going forward?

Advance reviews are great, but you also want people to leave reviews once your book is published. The easiest way to do this is to ask your readers to help out. I add in a request for reviews in the Author’s Note & Acknowledgements section at the end of my book, as well as mention it on social media (Facebook and Twitter).

FB Review Post

Want to know more?

Bookworks discusses tools you can use to share your ARCs (including BookFunnel) with readers.

Check out Jenna Moreci’s video on how to get advance reviews (warning—she uses strong language at times).

The Author Learning Center has a good overview of ARCs and how they’re used.

Alex O’Connel discusses ARC dos and don’ts for self-publishers.

If you’re interested in distributing print ARCs, Ingram Spark has a useful article on how to create them.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

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

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook, paperback, and large print), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.