A Month in the Garden

This is a big year for me in terms of milestones. I had a big birthday, though we won’t specify which one. 🙂 I also celebrated thirty years since selling my first book to a publisher and ten years since going indie and becoming my own publisher. I usually rearrange my office and sort my research books in these moments of reassessment, but I knew this reset had to be bigger.

Some of these changes began last year. I enrolled all of my historical romances in KDP Select last fall, and then my paranormal romances earlier this year. I have mixed feelings about having all those eggs in one basket, so to speak, but there are benefits. When I have an update (like the change to my newsletter service) I only have to upload revised files to one portal instead of seven. That saves an enormous amount of time.

Going forward, the plan is to gradually move both suites of work to wide distribution again. Now that I’ve had a few months to catch my breath, I’ll update the interiors as they’re republished at the other portals. My historical romance backlist will start to go wide in September and my PNR will begin to leave KU at the end of October.

I’ve also amalgamated my websites and changed newsletter services this year. Once that was done, I took a hard look at my plans and began to prune them back. I love to do all of the things, but there was just too much on my plate. I cancelled some pre-orders and some contracts for subsidiary rights then headed out to the garden for the month of May. I still had publishing and promotion tasks to finish but I didn’t write for that month.

I needed to make a new plan.

I love my garden and it is extensive. In recent years, I’ve neglected it a bit, because I’ve been working so many hours. It was a delight to focus upon it for an entire month and just think. I made lists, because that’s what I do, of what I was happy about and unhappy about, what gave me stress and what triggered my stress. I listed what I cherished in my life and what I missed, what I wanted to do and accomplish, what was in need of more attention. I began to identify places where I could make changes about all of those things. I also weeded and moved plants, reorganizing the garden as I sorted my thoughts. It was a wonderful break, and one that was overdue.

As a result of my month in the garden, a lot of things are changing in my life right now and for the better. The garden looks better, too!

I made some choices about my work schedule. I want to enjoy my garden and my house. I want to have space in my schedule to craft and to cook. I won’t bore you with the personal choices I made, but I’m feeling much better and more positive than I was earlier this year. Again, as much as I want to write all the things, it makes sense to focus – algorithms favor strong branding and regular publication.

It was time to think like a publisher. If I’m going to write books, I should choose to write books that will perform best in the market and deliver the strongest results. Which of my brands would be the current best choice? A hard look at the market reveals that I’m not delivering content that fits what’s hot in any of my three favored subgenres. Contemporary romance is skewing to darker sexier romances, with the alternative being the other end of the spectrum, sweet often-small-town romances and/or romantic comedies. I don’t particularly want to write either, so it made no sense to launch a new contemporary romance series right now. (Sorry, Aidan.) Paranormal romance is also darker right now with more fantasy elements and a lot more sex. As much as I love my dragon shifter heroes, that isn’t where I want to take them. Arach and even Sebastian will have to wait.

Markets change all the time and the trick is to choose the project most likely to succeed in the foreseeable future. I’m lucky to be able to write in multiple sub-genres, but I knew I needed to choose one brand instead of trying to do it all.

The curious thing is that my historical romance alter-ego has the strongest SEO. This always surprises me since Claire Delacroix’s career ended in 2005 in traditional publishing (which was why I moved on to other sub-genres) but she was reborn with a vengeance in indie and digital just six years later. I decided several years ago to create a new medieval romance series, Blood Brothers, that I hoped would appeal to the current market of historical romance readers. Histrom has always skewed to sexy Regency romances and to Scottish settings – my first love is the Middle Ages but I’ve sent my knights to Scotland before and I knew I could do it again. That series is performing well, the best of all my current series. So, by the time I came out of the garden, I had decided to focus on Delacroix historical romances for the next year. That also gave me the room in my schedule to add a new Regency romance series so that Claire has new releases more often. We’ll see where a more consistent publication schedule takes that brand.

I’ll revisit all of this next May in the garden, but histrom for a year is the current plan. That means things will be quieter on this site.

I’ll post a partial schedule on Claire’s blog tomorrow. 🙂

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you and yours! I hope that 2022 is a healthy, happy and productive year!

I have so many plans for this year – not resolutions, but plans and ideas abound. You can see some of that in my pre-orders which are already up for the year:

The Hunter & the Heiress, book two of the Blood Brothers series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix
The Hunter & the Heiress
The Hunter & the Heiress, book two of the Blood Brothers series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix, audio edition
The Hunter & the Heiress audio
An Most Inconvenient Earl, book four of the Brides of North Barrows series of Regency romance novellas by Claire Delacroix
A Most Inconvenient Earl
When Annika Met Thom, book ten of the Flatiron Five Fitness series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke
When Annika Met Thom
Dragon's Wolf, book five of the DragonFate novels paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke
Dragon’s Wolf
Flatiron Five Fitness Boxed Set 2, including books 4 to 6 of the contemporary romance series by Deborah Cooke
Flatiron Five Fitness Boxed Set 2
Just a Small Town Romance, book one of the Heroes of Harte's Harbor series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke
Just a Small Town Romance
The Brides of North Barrows Boxed Set, including four Regency romance novellas by Claire Delacroix
The Brides of North Barrows
The Dragon & the Damsel, book three of the Blood Brothers series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix
The Dragon & the Damsel

These books are planned for the last quarter of the year, although the pre-orders aren’t posted yet:

A multi-author Regency Holiday Romance Anthology

Heroes of Harte’s Harbor 2

Flatiron Five Fitness Boxed Set 3, including books 7 - 10 of the contemporary romance series by Deborah Cooke
Flatiron Five Fitness Boxed Set 3

I’m hoping to add some releases, but will share those with you when I know for sure.

On the back end of things, I’m making more changes to free up time to write and to improve efficiencies. After two years of being unable to attend writers’ conferences, I’m skeptical that I’ll add them back into my timeline again. They take a lot of time and are expensive – although each conference is usually 4 or 5 days at most, there are travel days on either end, plus preparation beforehand and getting back to routine afterwards. I usually lose 3 weeks of writing, and I don’t want to give that up anymore. Also, I always end up with ideas that often turn out to be distractions. It’s exciting to discover the fun things that other writers are doing with their work and to promote their work, but often these avenues don’t work out as well for me. I’ve decided to just write as much as possible instead. The same goes for teaching workshops and attending reader conferences—I’m officially becoming a unicorn author and will stay home to write (and write and write…)

I’m stepping back from translations, too, mostly in terms of Spanish editions. I had an opportunity to do a lot of them in 2021, but they were quite distracting. It is comparatively easy to publish translations through Babelcube and I’m lucky to be working with some great teams there, so that will continue.

I need to make some changes to the websites, too. My themes are no longer supported, which means it’s time to update them. (Ugh.) I’m thinking of adding some new plug-ins to simplify site management, even though that will likely mean updating the end matter in all of my ebooks, too. My current plan is to roll all three sites into this one this year, and I’m exploring other options for my newsletters, too.

I’ll also be doing more crafting. 🙂 I love knitting but am also enjoying my miniatures. All of the projects and progress will continue to live on my Alive & Knitting blog and website. I can’t wait to get out in the garden next spring either.

Phew. Big plans, considering I have no resolutions. LOL

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my first quarter ebook specials.

On Fresh Starts – and Bats

I used to blog more regularly than I have in recent years. A big reason for that has been a lack of time, but suddenly this year, I feel as if I can take a breath. This was such a novelty that I was suspicious of the impression and waited to see if it lasted. It did. 🙂 So, now I want to find my rhythm again or maybe figure out a new one. Writing a post five days a week is still out of the question. I’m going to try for a new blog post every Monday and see how that works out. It’s almost exactly the midpoint of the year – there are 22 more Mondays after this one in 2019 – so my plan is to write a blog post for each of these 23 Mondays.

We’ll start with work stuff first each Monday then something more personal. Today, that’s a fresh start and bats. 🙂

Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new editionWhy does it feel like a good time for a fresh start? Since I went indie in 2012, I’ve been doing several things simultaneously, each of which would be a job in itself. I’ve been pursuing rights reversions, then repackaging and republishing my previously published works in new editions. I sold 45 works to New York publishers between 1992 and 2012, and all of them have reverted to me (with the exception of English Commonwealth rights on two YA books but we’ll ignore that for now). I’ve re-edited, repackaged and republished 38 of them – although one was closer to a complete rewrite. (Writing a completely new story might actually have been faster.) #39 (Unicorn Bride) will be republished in August. That’s 39 books in 6.5 years, or six books per year, which is a good publication schedule in and of itself.

Abyss, #4 of the Prometheus Project of urban fantasy romances by Deborah CookeAt the same time, I’ve finished series that were abandoned by publishers, adding Abyss to the Prometheus Project, three novellas and two books to the Dragonfire Novels, as well as the True Love Brides and the Brides of Inverfyre to the Ravensmuir and Kinfairlie cycle. That’s four novellas, a short novel, six regular length novels and one double-length novel, all new work in existing worlds. Call it 8.5 books in 6.5 years – that’s another 1.3 books per year.

I’ve also been writing and publishing completely new works. The Champions of St. Euphemia is a medieval romance series with a structure I wanted to explore for a long time. I participated in a group project of Regency romances, which was a lot of fun – the Brides of North Barrows are the result of that collaboration. I began a different paranormal romance series featuring dragon shifter princesses from space – the Dragons of Incendium – and, of course, I wrote the Flatiron Five and the spin-off Secret Heart Ink series of contemporary romances. That’s ten full-length novels, eight short ones, two novellas and five short stories. Call it 15 more books – another 2.3 books a year.

Some Like It Hot, book #7 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeThe interesting thing about this summary is that when I was traditionally published, I published two to four books a year and those were all new work. Since going indie, I’ve averaged 3.6 new books per year, plus the republication of another 6.5 per year. I’ve been publisher as well as writer, too, so was responsible for more of the publication process. (All of it!) I haven’t even talked about audiobooks, of which we produced 13 in 2014, or foreign translations, several of which are currently in the works.

In addition, the ebook market was rapidly changing in those first few years, which meant that things had to be done over and over (and over) to accommodate changes, mostly in the format of ebook interiors. Now, the industry and its protocols seem to have settled, my backlist is available, and the various series I wanted to finish are completed. Even the new series I began in indie are coming to their completion.

This is an excellent moment for a fresh start. Where do I go from here? I’ve been thinking about that a lot this year, and have made some decisions, and will talk more about that each Monday with you.

Romancing the Capital 2019This week, I’m off to Romancing the Capital, Eve Langlais’ reader conference in Ottawa, and looking forward to that. I’ve packed all the books and swag etc. and stacked it all in the living room so Mr. Math has a few days to figure out how to get it all into the car. The advantage of driving to a conference is that I can take more; the disadvantage is that it’s easy to take too much. I’m teaching a workshop as well as participating in panel discussions, and there’s a big booksigning on Saturday to wrap up the event. The booksigning is open to the public if you’re in or around Kanata, Ontario. It sounds as if this will be the last RTC – it’s such a lot of work that I’m amazed Eve has done it four times, but I will miss this event, and seeing the readers who regularly attend it.

It is almost August, and the bats are back. (I’ve blogged about this a few times before: Guests in 2009 and If it’s August in 2012. Notice that they’re both August posts.) Actually, this is huge news this year – bats have been in short supply and I haven’t seen any for a few years. There was an epidemic that killed many of them (white nose syndrome) and they’ve been very scarce since 2015 or so. This year, they seem to be making a comeback – or maybe a fresh start of their own. I saw two bats Saturday night when I was watching the fireflies. I was happy to see them flying figure-8’s over the garden. The bats are back! Last night, driving home from my mom’s, we spotted ten – and we were driving – before getting home to find one doing laps over our garden again. Although I don’t want to get up close and personal with bats, they’re good to have around to keep the mosquito population under control. Plus they’re kind of mesmerizing to watch.

Mr. Math always says “Eat up” when he sees the bats, because the mosquitoes adore him. Back when there were more bats, if we went for a walk in the evening, they’d follow him, because there was always a buffet for them in his vicinity. Of course, if he goes out to sit and watch the bats, he’ll see a lot – they swoop around him for the same reason.

I’m happy the bats are back (but they can stay outside). It’s a week for fresh starts. Have you made a fresh start lately?

Plans for 2019

A new year is always an excellent opportunity to review. I took some time off in December because I felt due for a break. During that time, I thought about what was working for me—in terms of writing, publishing, and life in general—and what wasn’t working so well. From that, I made a plan for the new year. Some things are new and some are changing.

Bad Case of Loving You, book #6 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke• My main goal for 2019 is to add time into my publication schedule. This will reduce my stress. 🙂 Once upon a time, when I was traditionally published, my books had to be delivered to the publisher one year in advance of publication. The editorial process consumed the next eight months or so, then the book was formatted, packaged and ready to go by 90 days before publication. Paper editions were printed and shipped, and digital editions were uploaded to the portals. Although I’ll never have that prolonged of an editorial process again, my goal is to have each book uploaded 90 days before publication. It will probably take me most of this year to catch up and achieve that. This will be pretty much invisible to you, but it’s a huge change for me.

Right now, my only pre-order is for Bad Case of Loving You, which is coming out in March. Job #1 is to get that book file ready and uploaded.

• I’ll also be closing my online store. I’ve had the store for four (maybe five) years. When I opened it, there were few options for authors to sell their work directly, but gradually other services have added functionality. I don’t need a second storefront because my websites are essentially storefronts. You’ll still be able to buy directly from me, but the new buy links will look like this one, on the Champions of St. Euphemia Boxed Set page – the prices will be in US dollars, the transaction will be managed by Paypal, and the ebooks will continue to be delivered by BookFunnel.

Simply Irresistible, a contemporary romance by Deborah Cooke and first in the Flatiron Five series.• I’ll be running fewer free and 99-cent price promotions
Scheduling and managing promotions is a job in itself, and the tail or halo (the sales that result from people buying the other linked books) from those promotions is much shorter than it used to be. I think this is because the ebook market is maturing. Those specials were great for people who had just bought their first e-reader, but have become a less reliable way of ensuring discoverability. Right now, Simply Irresistible is free so is The Beauty Bride. That may change. I have my sights set on creating more front-list instead of marketing back-list.

Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion by Deborah Cooke• I’ll be doing MORE writing (YAY!)
This market skews in favor of frequent publication. I want to focus more on writing and publishing new content in 2019. (2018 was the year of republishing Dragonfire; 2017 was the year of republishing the Bride Quest.) I’m excited about adding to my existing story worlds and creating some new ones.

• I’ll be offering exclusive discounts to newsletter subscribers
I’ve had good luck with this mechanism in the past so it’s a strategy to keep. These sales will be promoted to my newsletter subscribers instead of to the world at large. If you haven’t subscribed to one of my lists, you might want to do that. I only send newsletters when I have a sale or a new release to announce. I’d also like to make some new content available exclusively to subscribers this year, too, and you’ll find out about that in my newsletters. My newsletters are:

Dragons & Angels for my paranormal romances
Knights and Rogues for my historical romances
Heroes & Bad Boys for my contemporary romances

If you don’t like to subscribe to newsletters, you could also follow my blogs:

DeborahCooke.com/blog is mostly about my contemporary romances
DragonfireNovels.com/blog is for my Dragonfire series
DragonsofIncendium.com/blog is for that PNR series
Delacroix.net/blog is for my historical romances

Wyvern's Wizard, book 11 of the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeYou can also follow me at Amazon and BookBub to receive new release announcements from those portals. Be aware that Amazon doesn’t always send new release announcements on (or even that close to) the publication date. Sometimes they don’t send them at all. Also, BookBub now offers a new release announcement that authors have to pay for, so I’m not sure if their free version will be retired.

follow Deborah Cooke at Amazon
follow Claire Delacroix at Amazon
follow Deborah Cooke at BookBub
follow Claire Delacroix at BookBub

• I’ll be creating more free guided tours
These are newsletter automations that take subscribers through the works set in one of my fictional realms. Each week, subscribers get a newsletter featuring the next book set in that world, along with a peek behind the scenes and some notes about my research. There are special offers in these tours, too. I like these tours as they’re fun ways to integrate my research and Pinterest boards, then share that with you.

Right now, there’s a virtual tour available for Ravensmuir and Kinfairlie medieval romances. I’ll be adding new ones in 2019 for the Champions of St. Euphemia, the Sayerne medieval romances Rogues & Angels and the Dragonfire Novels. You can sign up for any (or all! LOL) of these now: the Ravensmuir one will start right away and the others will launch when I have them compiled. Your email will just be saved until then.

Phew! That’s my plan for 2019!

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah CookeWhere do we stand right now?
I didn’t stop working completely in December, but I certainly wrote less. This means that Chynna’s story, Under the Mistletoe, wasn’t written and published in December. On the other hand, I felt more like revising than writing, so I’ve been updating One Knight’s Return to prepare it for publication. It’ll be out in April and there will be pre-order links soon.

Right now, I’m working on the Dragonfire companion, Here Be Dragons, which will be published as soon as it’s done, and Theo’s book, Bad Case of Loving You, which will be published in March. I expect to fit Chynna’s book in there, too. (The timeline entangles with Theo’s book, so that isn’t as crazy a plan as it might seem.)

One Knight's Return, book #2 of the Sayerne series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixAfter that, well, I have a bunch of ideas. 🙂 I’ll be at a bit of a crossroads as many series will be finished up. The Dragons of Incendium series is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, and the rest of the series will be published there, too. Wyvern’s Wizard is next in that series, which is Peri and Nero’s book. I expect the next few books in that series to entangle a bit as the sisters set out on their quests. DragonFate is high on my list, but again, I want it all written before I launch the first book. There will be more Coxwell books – I think Annette is next – and more medievals – I’d like to publish the third Rogues & Angels book this year as well as The Stolen Bride, the third Brides of Inverfyre book.

I’m excited to dive into 2019. Do you have plans for 2019?

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year to you! I hope you had a wonderful holiday break and are entering the new year with lots of good energy. We’ve had some sunshine here, which is just about the best option in a snowy January.

Wyvern's Warrior, #3 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeDo you make resolutions for the new year? I was interviewed about this a few weeks ago, and have to admit that I do. I always have writing plans—for example, this year, I’ll publish Wyvern’s Warrior and the next Incendium short story, I’ll finish up and publish The Crusader’s Vow, and I’ll write Addicted to Love and publish it, too. I’ll also finish editing the Rose Legacy and publish those stories in new editions this year. I’m excited to be working on so many new series this year and exploring new worlds.

The schedule gets a bit squishy after the middle of the year, not because I don’t have ideas of what to do next, but because I like to leave a little space for surprises and synchronicity. Last year, the Haunting of Castle Keyvnor was one of those projects that slipped onto my schedule in the spring. I like to remain open to opportunities like that. Oh, I’ll need to publish Something Wicked This Way Comes in its own edition in April, too.

The Crusader's Vow by Claire Delacroix, book #4 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances.I’m always striving to be better organized. In December, I actually sorted out my knitting yarn stash and (sit down for this) am passing some of it along to other knitters and their needles. Since I’ve started to sew again, I’ve realized what a chaotic mess my sewing supplies are in. I sorted out the material last fall, but will have to get into the notions this winter, too. I have an idea that I’ll finish more projects than I start, and maybe finish up a lot of the ones in progress, but am not too hard core about that. Part of what happens with wool and fabric for me is just creative play. I don’t want to put too many rules on that adventure and risk spoiling the fun. I’m going to look for workshops this winter and maybe learn some new fibre tricks. 🙂

Addicted to Love, a contemporary romance by Deborah CookeMy big challenge for 2017 is to better manage my time. I have this perennial fantasy of becoming more efficient, and oddly enough, there’s always room for improvement. My big time sink is social media—it’s so easy to hop onto Facebook to make one post and get lost for an hour or two. I need to stay on top of that, and that will likely mean that you see less of me there. I want to get more exercise, so have been pretty strict about taking my daily walk with the New Girl. We walk about 4 km together each day, regardless of the weather, and she walks fast. I’d like to start swimming again—I stopped when we moved out of the city because there wasn’t a pool I liked nearby. I’ve found one I really like (saline, not chlorine!!) but it’s about a 30-minute drive away. For some reason, lap swimming is always scheduled at meal times, so I need to figure out how to make that work. I might end up going to yoga instead. This year, I did do a better job of getting out to the garden on a regular basis in the summertime—the weeds still won, but it wasn’t a landslide victory last year. This year, they’d better look out!

How about you? Did you make resolutions for 2017? What were they?