New Dragonfire Bundles

There are new Dragonfire Boxed Sets coming this year! Each one will contain three full-length books (or equivalent) and will be priced at $9.99 US (or equivalent). Like all of my boxed sets, when you buy two books, you get one free.

First up is Dragonfire Quest.

Dragonfire Quest, the first Dragonfire digital bundle including Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury and Kiss of Fate of the Dragonfire Novels series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke Dragonfire Quest is the first digital bundle in The Dragonfire Novels: The Complete Series and includes the three books that launch the Dragon’s Tail Wars between the Pyr, dragon shifters pledged to defend the treasures of the earth, and the evil Slayers, dragon shifters bent on destroying both the Pyr and the humans they protect.

Dragonfire Quest, the first Dragonfire digital bundle including Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury and Kiss of Fate of the Dragonfire Novels series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIncluded in this bundle are Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury and Kiss of Fate.

Coming February 26!

Buy Dragonfire Quest at
Books2Read Universal Link (for international stores and other Amazon stores)

A New Scottish Medieval Romance Boxed Set

Highland Heroes, a digital boxed set of Scottish medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

Given the success of our multi-author boxed set, Border Brotherhood, I thought I’d pull together another boxed set of my own Scottish medieval romances.

Be swept away by the romance and enchantment of the Scottish Highlands!

Three complete medieval Scottish romances from New York Times’ Bestselling Author Claire Delacroix. In The Beauty, part of Claire’s Bride Quest II trilogy, a maiden pledged to the convent heals the heart of a crusading knight returned home to find his legacy stolen. In The Rose Red Bride, part of Claire’s Jewels of Kinfairlie trilogy, a damsel seeking adventure and romance is abducted, but only she can see the valor her captor would hide from the world. In The Warrior, part of Claire’s Rogues of Ravensmuir trilogy, a daughter considered undesirable is chosen by a dangerous knight of dark repute to be his bride, only to be haunted by dreams of their shared past.

Three wounded champions, each more honorable than he believes, each destined to be healed by a lady who steals his shielded heart.

Highland Heroes will go on sale November 24, and is available for pre-order at Amazon and KOBO. It will be available at Apple for pre-order soon, too. The pre-order is discounted for this one, so don’t miss the special price!

March Madness II

Here are the digital books discounted to $2.99 this week. This week, we have BOXED SETS, so this is a really good deal – they’re 70% off!

The Jewels of Kinfairlie Boxed Set and the Time Travel Romance Boxed Set will both be on sale from March 10 through March 17 at Amazon, Apple, All Romance eBooks, B&N and Kobo.

The Jewels of Kinfairlie Boxed Set of Scottish medieval romances by Claire DelacroixThe Time Travel Romance Boxed Set by Claire Delacroix

Chicken Little and the Digital Book Market

This is the first Wild West Thursday post on my new blog. The old ones are still over at Alive & Knitting if you want to catch up on the discussion.

Remember Chicken Little? He was the one who ran around, certain that the sky was falling. (Turns out that this is a very old story about mass hysteria and its effects. Twenty-five centuries!) There has been a lot of chatter on author loops lately (well, on one loop in particular) about 99-cent boxed sets and how their prevalence is affecting the market for books. The notion here is that 99-cent boxed sets are destroying the market, because readers will become so accustomed to getting books cheap that they’ll stop paying for them at all. This is clearly a trend with huge implications for authors.

Or it would be, if it were true.

Spending time in the publishing industry means becoming familiar with its tropes and patterns. The fact is that there is always something or someone destroying the book market, at least if you believe what you read in the industry trades – yet the book market keeps on keeping on. This year, the guilty party might be seen to be 99-cent digital boxed sets. Last year, it was free digital books. In the years before that, it was self-published authors flooding the marketplace with unedited books. Before that, it was Amazon, or maybe Wal-mart, or big box stores, or other retailers whose roots weren’t in the business of selling books. For as long as I’ve been a published author (and probably before that), there’s been a big bad wolf out there (there I go, mixing my metaphors and folk tales!) gobbling up all the opportunity for writers and publishers to make a decent living.

What people are responding to here is change. Change is frightening. Change makes us angry. Chicken Little had his claw on a fundamental human trait.

The thing that’s not changing here is that there are readers who want to read books for free. This has always been the case. It could be that they believe books should be free. It could be that they’re avid readers and price becomes a concern when you consume a lot of any product. It could just be that they’re frugal. My point is simply that these readers have always been around and that’s just fine. Some are librarians. Some are enthusiasts who press books on other people. It’s not by any means a one-sided transaction or a simple issue. In the old days of print books, those readers went to libraries, used book stores, church sales and bought stripped books at flea markets. Their presence isn’t new. They might have e-readers now, but their tendencies are exactly the same as ever.

What is changing is the digital book market. It’s evolving rapidly, which is interesting in itself, and this year, there have been some very big changes. I believe that the market is maturing, which means that the traits that have characterized the digital book market for the last few years weren’t new standards but anomalies. Any changes in the market for popular fiction will be felt first and most strongly by those of us who write genre fiction.

Let’s look at a few big recent trends:
• a diminished market power of backlist
One very strange trait of the digital book market has been that backlist titles have dominated book sales so emphatically. It wasn’t uncommon for an author to have a backlist title that sold at consistently high levels for a long period of time. This isn’t characteristic of the book market as a whole. There are two big contributing factors here, one from supply and one from demand. On the supply side, many authors held reverted book rights and entered the digital book market themselves by creating new editions of those backlist titles. On the demand side, many readers were buying e-readers for the first time. What we tend to do when we commit to new technology is that we acquire our favorite content in the new format. It happened when music became available on CD’s. It happened when books became digital. That’s a finite curve, though – everyone has a list of older titles they want to have on the new device, and once they’ve bought that list, they will turn to new content. I suspect that the 99-cent digital boxed set (many of which are compiled of backlist titles) is the last hurrah of backlist books.

• more controls and filters by digital book portals
As algorithms become more sophisticated – which they do day by day – and digital portals filter against explicit content, it becomes less easy for authors to “game the system” – that’s Mark LeFebvre’s phase – or to use little tricks to propel a book into prominence. Not only is there a lot of more content available, but loopholes are being closed. This shifts the format to success back to the old combination of good content at a good price published on a consistent schedule.

• sexually explicit content is no longer an easy sell
There was a time – oh, until about March of 2013 – that it was comparatively easy to make a lot of money writing erotic romance and erotica. There was no need for promotion or advertising. Making the content available was enough. In a way, it seemed that digital book readers were hungry for this kind of content. Maybe that was the case, as much of it was edgy and might not have been published in a traditional market. But a lot of sorting has been added this year by digital book portals, particularly to niche sexually explicit content, probably to ensure that they aren’t found to be trafficking in pornography. It might also be because they want to ensure that such content is visible only to adults, not minors. This filtering echoes the decisions that used to be made by traditional publishers. It’s a lot harder to make big money selling explicit content online than it was even 10 months ago. It can still be done, but just the fact that it’s not simple will compel a number of authors to stop publishing.

• big publishers are learning better how to sell digital books
Finally! This not only provides more competition for books on a title by title basis, but it influences the options for self-published authors at a higher level. Big publishers make better partners in many cases for digital portals than individual authors ever could—such publishers control larger lists of titles and have more budget to spend on promotion. This means that the portals will likely skew their algorithms to be more favorable to digital books from traditional publishers – which means less visibility for indie-published books.

In the end, the digital book market looks more and more like the traditional book market every day. Earlier this year, I compared the sales patterns for two digital boxed sets of my medieval romances: one published by me and the other published by Random House. The sales curves were radically different, but given the lag in reporting times, I used sales numbers for the second half of 2012. By the time I wrote those posts in May 2013, the patterns were already changing. My next royalty report showed sales for the first half of 2013 as being very similar: the self-published boxed set was selling in a pattern very similar to the traditionally published boxed set.

What we’re seeing is that the sales anomalies that indie-published writers came to believe were typical of the digital market are disappearing. Just as in traditional publishing, a single book is increasingly unlikely to sell at the same high volume for a sustained period of time. Just as in traditional publishing, many many books will see a sales spike at or around their on sale date, then a drop in sales, and smaller spikes with the release of new frontlist titles by the same author. As indie authors are given the option of setting books up for pre-orders, this pattern is going to become even more pronounced.

There remain some differences, however, and they’re important ones. Digital publishing does still offer the opportunity for books to be “discovered” long after their on sale date and be catapulted into visibility. In such a crowded market, that may be a less frequent occurrence than was once the case. One excellent trait of the digital book market is that backlist is readily available for readers to discover a linked series that is already in progress. Another thing I really like about the digital book market is the immediacy of publication – it would be hard for me to go back to a one year production cycle, after the writing of a book is complete. In a changing market, I like the ability to make my work available sooner.

What do you think about the changes in the digital book market? Do you see 99-cent boxed sets as a sign of the end of the world? Did I miss any trends or changes that you see as influential? How about any advantages of the digital book market?

Making Alliances

I teach a workshop once in a while called the Business of Publishing. (Sometimes it ends up being called the Business of Writing, which isn’t that different.) I taught it again last month at Ottawa RWA. Inevitably, when I prepare for the workshop, I end up updating the market and industry material. I also re-do the exercises in the second portion of the workshop one more time for myself.

One of the exercises that is always well recieved is a variation of one in the Artist’s Way. I’ve modified it to mirror the juggling act of a working writer’s life. It’s called Six Tasks and I posted it here on the blog a while back – here are the links for Part I, Part II and Part III. (The links will open in a new window so you don’t lose your place in this post.) The basic idea is that a working writer has a number of responsibilities. You rank yourself in each area of expertise. Of course, we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that will show in the chart. There are two ways to improve your balance of skills: by learning or by forming alliances.

I thought I’d talk today about one particular kind of strategic alliance that I’ve been using this fall.

One of the challenges of our digital marketplace is discoverability, and the creation of links in the algorithms of the various online portals. I’ve noticed that when people buy my books, they tend to buy a number of them – which means they like them. They start a series and keep reading. The challenge is to get more people to try one and thus create more connections in the algorithm with the works of other authors. Every time that’s strengthened, the algorithm has more data to make suggestions to consumers.

Once upon a time, my reviewing of books could have helped that—because we tend to write what we read—but Amazon doesn’t support the notion of authors reviewing books. Many authors who are also avid readers and reviewers have had their reviews removed in the last year or so. (Will this happen on Goodreads, too, now that it’s owned by Amazon?) There’s a sense that authors aren’t objective in assessing the work of their friends and associates. This might be true in some cases, but I suspect authors are actually tougher critics. I know I am, and I’m toughest on my own books.

But the challenge remains to create those associations: “readers who like Author A will probably like Author B”. That’s why I’ve been participating in digital boxed sets this fall. These are promotional tools, available for a limited time at a special price. The idea is that the reader likes books by one author in the boxed set, so buys it and tries the others. What will appeal to one reader or another is entirely subjective—the point is the exposure.

Still, it makes sense to try to target a boxed set, as readers often read in a specific niche (maybe all the time, or maybe when they’re in a particular mood).

Five Unforgettable Knights, a digital boxed set of five medieval romances, available for a limited time and at a special priceThe first one I was invited to join was Five Unforgettable Knights, which includes five medieval romances.

Three Timeless Loves, a digital boxed set of Scottish Time Travel Romances by Claire Delacroix, Eliza Knight and Terri BrisbinThe second digital boxed set I was invited to join is Three Timeless Loves, which includes three Scottish time travel romances.

These digital boxed sets are alliances which IMO are win-win for everybody: all participating authors will be exposed to new readers, any number of whom may become fans, and readers get a deal, which can only be a good thing. Some authors sell better on different portals or in different markets, so we can all build audience together.

Do you like digital boxed sets? Do you buy them? Do you read all of the books in the boxed set once you’ve bought it? Do you prefer them in certain genres? They seem, for example, to be very popular in historical romance. Tell me what you think!