Yesterday on my podcast, I talked a bit about the strategy of a rapid release schedule and how often we ping our audiences for attention – and how Ed Sheeran got me thinking about this. Since not everyone likes listening to the podcast, I thought I’d discuss more here.
The strategy of rapid release comes from the self-publishing world. It’s based on the idea that releasing books in a series in rapid succession helps build an audience and also tickles the retailers’ algorithms to elevate the appearance of those books in frequency so readers are more likely to notice them. This is particularly true of Amazon, which is still the biggest retailer for most self-publishing authors, and even more so for the Kindle Unlimited program.
For those who don’t know, Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a subscription reading program on Amazon where readers pay a small fee each month – usually ~$10 – to read an unlimited number of books in that program. Authors have a choice whether or not to put their books in KU, but in most cases, if they do KU, then they have to keep their books exclusive to Amazon. The payout in KU is determined by numbers of pages read. There’s a big pot of money each month and Amazon divides that by the overall number of pages read (more or less – there’s some behind the curtain calculating that they won’t reveal), then authors are paid by their pages read. The authors that have the most pages read make the most money.
(One of the huge problems with KU is that this model is ripe for scams via bookstuffing. Authors add pages to their books via various means – putting several books into one, increasing font and decreasing margins to add pages, inserting blank pages, adding junk text, putting the table of contents at then end of the book, which encourages readers to go to the end multiple times, showing the book as “read” more often – which is unethical, against Amazon’s terms of service, and hurts other authors.)
So, a lot of authors, particularly in Romance, have conversations about learning to write faster, so they can release books more rapidly. Because the perception is that this is how an author can make more money.
However, is this really true?
I’m beginning to think NOT.
For example, when we negotiated my deal with St. Martins for the Forgotten Empires trilogy, they insisted on releasing the books one year apart. They said their research had shown this time span is ideal for building a new series and the audience for it. Also, Minerva Spencer and I have several times discussed a conversation we had last year with my former Kensington editor, Peter Senftleben, where Peter remarked on some authors releasing book after book after book. He said he kind of became exhausted and a bit resentful of those authors. “There are other authors I’d like to read, too,” he commented. I knew exactly what he meant.
This brings me to Ed Sheeran. Seriously.
So, I follow Ed Sheeran on Instagram because I love his music and his pics are entertaining. I don’t follow many celebrities – P!nk and Taylor Swift are the only other two – but I like seeing what these folks post. I’d call myself a big fan of Ed Sheeran’s music. I have all his albums, etc. I listen to them a lot. But there are other musicians I like to listen to, also. Lately, Ed has been working on this collaborations album. It’s all songs with other musicians – like Justin Bieber, DJ Khaled, Bruno Mars, and a bunch of others, many I’m not familiar with. I guess Ed has said he feels these songs don’t really fit on his own albums and I’m sure it’s fun to do the collaborations.
The thing is, I’m seeing his posts about this project on Instagram All The Fucking Time. For weeks now. He’s released the songs one by one, with sneak peeks, then bits, then the song, then the video, then the acoustic version. Then it starts all over again with the next song. Then the actual album went on sale through various stages.
At first I looked at the clips, listened to the new songs and watched the videos. Then I started to get tired of it. Then I got exhausted and annoyed. It got to the point that every time I saw yet another Ed Sheeran post or Story on Instagram, I’d roll my eyes. I finally unfollowed him. He has over 30 million followers, so I doubt anyone cares.
What’s relevant here is my exhaustion. He’s not the only artist to do this, ping repeatedly on social media for attention. I can see that this builds audience and raises profile in the short term, but what about the long term? This kind of practice affects the perception of the artist and their overall career.
Same with books and authors. Is it really worth it to go for that short-term (and possibly unethically acquired) wealth and exhaust your audience? I don’t think so. Not to mention that writing faster and releasing more leads to burnout. I know there are those out there insisting that doesn’t happen to them, but… I know too many authors who’ve burned out or nearly burned out to believe that some people are immune.
More and faster is a common war cry in this era, but it can lead to terrible places. Something to think about.
THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is taking shape! If you haven’t been under a rock these last two days – and if you have, hey, I don’t judge – then you’ve already seen the cover. So much gorgeousness! The incomparable Ravven did this for me. Many people (who haven’t been under a rock, but that’s okay, too) have asked if this is the same artist who did the covers for (RITA finalist!) THE PAGES OF THE MIND and THE EDGE OF THE BLADE.
The short answer is: no.
But Ravven did an AMAZING job of matching the look and feel of those previous covers. Those were done via my publisher, Kensington. They hired artist Cliff Nielsen to create the images and Kensington’s in-house cover designer, Kristine Mills, took it from there. Ravven did both jobs and managed to capture the same vibe while pinpointing everything about Zynda as I described her.
Because, yes, that’s Zynda – the Tala cousin of the three princesses of the original Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. She’s a powerful shapeshifter, capable of taking many animal forms, and she’s also a sorceress. Just how much can she do? Well, we don’t know for sure! But, like her cousin Andromeda (Andi), she is of Salena’s potently magical line. Zynda has an interesting role to play in unraveling the riddles that plague their realms.
Oh, wait – you’re wondering why I’m doing this book on my own, when the previous five were with Kensington? Yeah, savvy readers will have picked out that THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE will be self-published rather than traditionally published. This partly by my choice, partly not.
See, this is how traditional publishing works, is that they might decide they no longer want to publish a series even though the author (and possibly readers!) think there’s more story to tell. In Kensington’s case, they were happy the books were so well received and have gotten great awards, but the sales weren’t what they wanted. Specifically the print sales. All of these books have sold great in ebook form – which is very typical for romance – and have sold through on the advances Kensington gave me. The print sales, however, weren’t as good as they wanted. What did they want? I don’t know. These decisions are rarely made clear to the authors. Instead, what they do – and did with THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE – is pass on the “option book,” which is the next book I’m contractually obligated to offer them.
Once they passed on SHIFT, which came as no surprise to me for a number of reasons – frankly, I was luckier than most to go that long as many authors get two books and that’s it – I had the freedom to self-publish the rest of the series. That’s pretty huge, by the way. Back in the Bad Old Days, I would not have had this option. The infrastructure to self-publish simply wasn’t there. You know how some of your favorite series suddenly seemed to just… stop? 95% of the time, that’s the reason why. (The other 5% being author going off the edge, burning out, or dying, pretty much in that order.)
So, I’m planning to do this book and at least one more. After that… it depends! I’ll have to see where the overall arc is and how you all are with it. I’ll have to make my own sales decision. For the time being, I’m *thrilled* that this cover continues the look of the series in grand style. In additional exciting news, my editor for the first five books is freelancing, so Peter Senftleben will be editing these also! I’m also fortunate to have my same production editor, Rebecca Cremonese, who makes sure all of my books are as perfect as my stubborn nature allows.
I’m shooting for August 15 release date on this. Amazon only allows a 90-day lead on setting a pre-order date, so by mid-May, when we can actually DO it, I’ll know for sure that I can commit.
This is the initial blurb. It will change as, you know, I write the actual story. If you want to learn something about how my process does (and doesn’t!) work, save this and compare it to the final. Could be entertaining!
Free from the hand of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. New allies appear–and enemies encroach–from all sides. To survive, they must adapt to this new reality without a moment of doubt…
Growing up in a country where magic was common as dust, Zynda never had to worry about her enchantments upsetting the balance of nature. But the land beyond the borders of the thirteenth kingdom calls to her. It may be foreign and ugly, but the strangeness is laced with an excitement she has never known. Outside her homeland, Zynda’s shapeshifting and sorcery are a potent advantage to nations grasping for dominance–and the thrill of power lures her even as she recognizes the threat she poses to these magic-buffeted realms.
A ruthless enemy stalks them, promising destruction if she does not fight with all her strength–but if she upsets the equilibrium of the land, all will pay, the common people most of all. And a man of this outside world fascinates her, a mossback with no scrap of magic in him. He knows nothing of the fears and temptations pulling at her. But in his steady embrace she learns she must choose well–for the consequences may reach farther than she ever imagined…
That’s right! I have ARCs (Advance Reader Copies, for those not in the know) of THE TALON OF THE HAWK, book 3 of THE TWELVE KINGDOMS. I’m really excited for you all to read this one. It gutted me to write and I’m still a more than a little obsessed with this one. (I may have faxed 94 pages of corrections on the galley proofs – my production editor actually called me “Nutbar,” which she insists it a term of affection. Fortunately she does love me and promised to make as many of the changes as seemed within the realm of sanity.)
So, I have ARCs! Want one? Let me know! Ping me in the comments or elsewhere. You all know where to find me. I’ve already got a growing list, so let me know soon! I don’t know if it’s up on NetGalley yet – can anyone tell?
I really thought I’d posted this already, at least as a news item, but when I found out I was focusing on the release of UNDER HIS TOUCH and so I guess I missed putting it here. All y’all who’ve written to ask about Dafne’s book??
YOU GET DAFNE’S BOOK!!
(Apparently this is all caps day at JeffeKennedy.com)
Here’s the official announcement, which is not easy to read, I know:
Jeffe Kennedy’s THE PAGES OF THE MIND, the first in a new series set in the world of THE MARK OF THE TALA, a woman finds herself trapped in a foreign land by a warrior king who cannot understand her clever words, to Peter Senftleben at Kensington, in a two-book deal, for publication in Summer 2016, by Connor Goldsmith at Fuse Literary (World). Dramatic rights: Brandy Rivers at ICM Partners.
The “woman” in question there is, naturally, our favorite librarian. This story is going to be SO fun! You see, Dafne is going to have to go on a quest, because of all the shiz that goes down at the end of TALON. Because of what Ursula – oh, wait. That’s right. You guys haven’t read it yet!
Hee hee hee.
~waves to Ericka~
The point is, you CAN! So let me know if you want an ARC to read and review! Happy Friday everyone! 🙂
So, I’m here in Las Vegas, downtown at the Plaza Hotel. The hotel website referred to the pool as “iconic.” David asked me what that meant and I said probably that we’ll recognize it from movies. We’ve now decided it means “old, but not neat enough to be historic, but you still can’t bitch about it being ugly.” We’ve also labelled the elevators iconic, the strange service and the decades-old cigarette smell. I noticed this morning that a casino hotel on the next block is labelled “legendary,” which suspect means the same this as “iconic.”
I met my Kensington editor, Peter Senftleben, last night. He’s just lovely in person. Agent Pam arrives this morning, so it should be a good time to be had by all. Now I need to work on my presentation for tomorrow!
Also, I’m guesting on the fabulous Suzanne Johnson’s Preternatura blog today, talking about worldbuilding as gardening. Comment to win a copy of either Pawn or Possession!
But first… You guys have to read the joint review Bookpushers gave Rogue’s Possession. Okay, you don’t HAVE to, but it’s the most wonderful, amazing review ever. Just to indulge myself, here are some quotes. You’re welcome.
This is one of the most imaginative, seductive and darkly sensual fantasy romances I’ve ever read.
There is a real emphasis on the characters and the plot as well as the world-building which is explored in much more depth but retains the surreal and dreamy tone with great touches of humour as well as darkness.
This was another great installment that was well worth waiting for. Now I can’t wait for the next one!
The tension between them which I thought was hot and sizzling in the first book, was an inferno for this one!
I stayed up into the wee hours of a workday morning because I was so hooked.
All right. Thank you for indulging me. You may now go on about your business.
Have a great weekend everyone!
My editor at Kensington, Peter Senftleben, asked me to draw a map of my world in the Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. This is what I plan to mail him tomorrow. In a poster tube, because it’s big! Though I hadn’t drawn anything in a really long time (20 years? More?), I enjoyed doing this more than I thought I would.
However, I also plan to tell him that, if they want to have a real illustrator redo it, my feelings won’t be at all hurt.
So, this week’s topic in the Word Whores bordello is – *rummages around in the purple pimp hat we store topics in* – Basing Characters on real-life people: the dangers and advantages. Hie on over yonder, to read more.
Another photo from the RT Convention. This is me (in the yellow hat, if you don’t know) going out for barbeque with the eKensington group. I’m standing next to Alexandra Nicolajsen, who is the Digital Content/Marketing Manager for Kensington. The rest are other authors, except for the lady kneeling by the pig’s snout. That’s Alicia Condon, Editorial Director of Kensington’s Brava line. Just in case any of you want to stalk her at a conference. 😉
I feel like I have a lot of news to catch up on. I’ve been posting things in dribs and drabs, but I’m not sure where I posted what or who I told which thing. So, it seems like a Fridayish, wrap-the-week up kind of thing to list it all here. Forgive me if this is stuff you all already know.
RUBY, Book 3 in the Facets of Passion series, releases on Monday!!!! There have been a lot of great reviews already, so I’m really excited for this one to hit the world. I’ve also been giving copies away on Twitter this week to people who sing back the songs to me when I post lyrics. Pretty fun! Maybe I should do it on Facebook, too?
Along those lines, Book 4 in Facets of Passion, ORO, will be in Carina Press’s erotic holiday anthology coming out in December that Angela James is editing. I’m just thrilled about that, especially about the stellar writers I’ll be keeping company with: Christine d’Abo, Jodie Griffin and newbie writers to Carina, Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis.
This weekend (starting today, in fact) is the Southwest Book Fiesta. I’ll be hanging at a booth with my local chapter, the gals from LERA. I’m the Featured Author at the booth from 11 to 12 Saturday, May 11, and again from 5 to 6. Also, at 2pm, I’ll be on a panel with some other romance authors, including the fabulously famous New York Times Bestselling Author Miss Darynda Jones. I fully intend to bask in any glory she happens to reflect.
By way of promoting the Book Fiesta, I was interviewed on local TV. It’s kind of fun to watch – and very brief!
When I was at the World Fantasy Convention last fall, I met this Australian gal, Em Craven, who has a popular website called the E-book Revolution. She later interviewed me via Skype and posted the podcast recently. It’s about an hour long, but we had a really interesting conversation. She comes at things from a more fantasy/science-fiction perspective, a group of readers who’ve been oddly slow in embracing eBooks, especially as compared to the romance community.
In other news, I have confirmation now that my modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera will officially be called MASTER OF THE OPERA. It will come out in January 2014, in six digital episodes, releasing every two weeks. SO interested to see how it’s received. I’m working on edits for it now and having a great time with my new Kensington editor, Peter Senftleben.
After that, Book 1 of The Twelve Kingdoms will come out in trade paperback in June 2014, with Book 2 in December. Book 1 is the one I called The Middle Princess, but that title will change. The spin-off story Negotiation, a prequel to the trilogy, will be out in an anthology, THUNDER ON THE BATTLEFIELD, Volume II, in June – eBook first, followed by mass-market paperback.
I’m auctioning off two things in Brenda Novak’s big online auction to benefit diabetes research. One is a one-on-one mentorship with me, for you aspiring writers out there. The other is the opportunity to have a meal (your choice, as schedules allow) at the RWA convention in Atlanta with me and the fabulous Carolyn Crane. We’ll treat and you can bring one friend along – or keep us all to yourself! – and dish with you on any topic you like.
Finally – and this is funny – I’ve been talked into having a Street Team. For those who don’t know, this is just a loose association of readers who want to pimp my books to the world. Because this concept always makes me think of Westside Story, the team is officially the Jeffe Jets. Yes, you can absolutely sing the theme song and I think we *have* to get the jackets at some point. At any rate, if you want to play, let me know. If you want to coordinate, even better because I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
Whew! I think that’s everything. A lot, right?
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Because, as excited as I am about doing the Phantom e-serial – and wow, I can’t believe I announced that exactly two weeks ago, it feels much longer – this is even bigger and better.
Like three-book contract bigger.
Like I get money up front better.
Like PRINT, beyotches!!!
Ha! I may be running around giggling like a madwoman. When my mom asked me if this is what I’d been working toward all these years, I had to say, why, yes. Yes it is. All those Christmases when my family asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told them “a lucrative multi-book contract” – well Santa finally delivered. (And yes, my family does love me – most of the time – even though I’m a smart ass.)
So, here’s the blurb from Publisher’s Marketplace:
December 17, 2012
Jeffe Kennedy’s The TWELVE KINGDOMS Series, three books in which the three daughters of a failing kingdom find their own magic and use that to help heal their lands and people while finding love along the way, to Peter Sentfleben at Kensington, in a nice deal, for publication in 2014, by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg at Larsen/Pomada Literary Agents (World).
This is the same editor who acquired the Phantom story. He read and loved The Middle Princess, which faithful readers of this blog will likely remember me writing. I’ll be doing some revising on that (though not much, Peter thinks – yay!) and turn that in by May 1. Then book 2 is due 11/1 and book 3 is due 5/1/2014.
Let me tell you, it feels really weird to have a 2014 deadline. “Hey, Jeffe, do you have plans for April, 2104?” “As a matter of fact…”
Please also note that these books will be classified as Fantasy. I am officially a Fantasy Author as well as a romance author. I’m all pleased with myself. Also, the books will be trade paperback (and will be available in digital, too), which is extra fancy. They don’t love my title (alas!), so that will change. We’re just kind of calling the series “The Twelve Kingdoms” for now. Which is probably for the best, because when I get emails from Peter with the subject line “Princesses,” it kind of cracks me up.
Of course, that just fits in with the whole giggling-like-a-madwoman thing.
I am beyond lucky.
I’m excited, thrilled and delighted to announce that the fabulous Agent Pam has sold a project to Kensington Books for me!!
Here’s the blurb from Publisher’s Marketplace:
Digital: Fiction: Women’s/Romance
Jeffe Kennedy’s MASTER OF THE MASKS, an update on the Phantom of the Opera set in Santa Fe with BDSM, to Peter Senftleben at eKensington, in a three-book deal, for publication in 2013, by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg at Larsen/Pomada Literary Agents (World).
The title will likely change, but it will be a very fun and sexy update of the Phantom legend. The story will be told in six installments and will launch Kensington’s e-serial line. (The very witty Carolyn Crane thinks I should ask for a t-shirt in my contract that says “Flagship Author.”)
I talked to Peter on the phone yesterday while we thrashed out details and ideas. I think he’s going to be great to work with – he also loves spreadsheets and New Orleans. (He went to Tulane, Mom!)
So, I’m just all giddy and excited and I’m probably forgetting to tell you half of it! Ask me questions!