Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Happy Book Day: The Small Town P.I. Series bundle

Pretty simple, folks: As I explained Monday, I uploaded the Small Town P.I. Series ebook bundle on Sunday, and now it is fully published across the four major ebook chains this morning. Links for the book are below.

For those of you not familiar with the Small Town P.I., Alex Bourque, the series is a three-book adventure set in and around my hometown of Fitchburg, Mass. The last book, Beach Blanket Bloodshed, came out in June.

Here’s the kicker in all of this, everyone: I’m introducing this set to you at $2.99. Each book separately is priced beautifully at $2.99. Together? $2.99. Apart? $2.99 each.

See what I’m driving at? You can get an absolute steal—three books for less than the cost of a cup of coffee at any place that serves coffee—for three books instead of paying triple. But get it now before I jack the price up.

If you liked my Jaclyn Johnson series, you will like the Small Town P.I. series. If you like the first-person storytelling of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser character, you’ll definitely enjoy the Small Town P.I. series.

Thanks for giving it a shot.

The description:

Follow P.I. Alex Bourque through this fun and fast-paced three-book series based in author Sean Sweeney’s native Massachusetts!

In Cold Altar, Alex is fresh out of college and he has started his private investigative business. His first case: a cold case once investigated by his father. With ever-so-randy girlfriend Lauryn’s help, Alex digs deeper into the clues his old man missed.

In Voir Dire, Alex is on jury duty, and after being challenged by the prosecution, starts working for the defense attorney. His job: to get the attorney’s client cleared of a murder he obviously did not commit—but not everything is copacetic between the parties involved: the client is protecting something, and that’s the truth.

In Beach Blanket Bloodshed, Alex and Lauryn are enjoying a well-earned vacation on sunny Cape Cod when a body rolls up on the beach behind them. The widow soon gets Alex involved in the search for her husband’s killer—and along the way, Alex and Lauryn get involved in a sandy, sexual tryst neither saw coming.

Three quick whodunit stories that’ll have you flipping pages in search for the killer!

At the moment, it is only available in digital form, but that may change. Get your copy for only $2.99 at the links below!

Kindle US
Kindle UK


Monday, August 22, 2016

A Look at my post-Convention Progress

Three weeks ago, I posted a blog about my restructured goals for the next 11-plus months, and how it was just part in parcel of rebuilding my audience and all that good stuff.

Three weeks later, I’ve made considerable progress. Let’s take a quickie peek at all I’ve done in just 21-plus days.

Everything needs to be in print

This was first for a reason, as you read in that blog post. In the first few days after I typed it, I started formatting all of my work for paperback. It was tedious and time-consuming. I had to make sure every single book had the proper formatting, things that needed centering were centered, etc. Within three days or so, I had everything formatted.

I also needed wraparound covers. The first three Jaclyn novels all had Trish’s covers on their paperbacks, and as I’ve explained, the newer ones David created follows the branding from Spring 2014.

So how am I doing on this goal? So far, so good on this one: a week ago, I uploaded the following: Model Agent (new wraparound, second edition prose), Rogue Agent (new wraparound), Double Agent (new wraparound), Promises Given Promises Kept, as well as Zombie Showdown for print. All are now available on Amazon, and you can always access Amazon via my bookstore.

That being said: the entirety of the AGENT series is now available in print.

There are still a few wraparounds that need doing, but we’ll get to them in time: I need wraparound art for the Obloeron novels, which will cost a little bit of money. Not a lot, but more than I have right now. I’m waiting on a few others, but like I said I’m not too worried about this until late November and the start of the Christmas season.

More ebook bundles

I took care of one series recently. On Sunday, I uploaded the three-book Small Town P.I. series to Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks (the last through Draft2Digital), with a nifty cover that I did, with 3D work done by David. I’m just waiting on iBooks to publish before I make the formal release announcement.

(Quick aside: That is a hint. You can search for my name and the Small Town P.I. series at your favorite ebook retailer, unless your favorite ebook retailer is iBooks.)

As for a Jaclyn box set, I’m working on it. I’m thinking about penning a novella to throw on the front of it, with stuff that happens before Model Agent. Just to give readers bonus material.

A new series

I may have come up with an idea for a set of stories over the weekend. It would be a series of romances set in Colonial Boston (because of course it has to be Boston; why else wouldn’t it?) under the D.L. Boyd pen name. Of course, I’m thinking time travel, inspired by Outlander—but trying to not make it like Outlander. I don’t want it to be an Outlander rip-off (and if you think I’ve written the word Outlander three times and now a fourth for the Google hits, you know me too well). You get what I mean? I hope so.

A new action/adventure series is still up in the air for me, but I’m not stressing about it right now. I surpassed 12,511 words in The Long Crimson Line’s follow-up today, in the middle of chapter three.

Getting Furball and Feathers out with new cover art

I’m hoping to take care of that when I can breathe. It’s fourth on my to do list for a reason.

Convention prep

Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m not planning on doing any conventions until next year at the earliest, and convention season is starting to wind down. During free moments, I’m thinking about certain items, and what I want to accomplish. I have a whole list of things that I need to take care of.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Let's Change Cultural Norms: Have a Bookstore Singles Night

A few years ago, I wrote a nifty blog about dating in the e-reading world. It was a pretty solid blog on how I think dating would go when two like-minded people who both happen to own e-readers meet by chance, i.e. spying the opposite sex across an idyllic college campus while one has their ereader out. Any time I speak at a high school English class about writing, I always tell the boys: “Guys, you have a better chance of scoring a date by READING. Women love intelligent, well-read men.” You may remember it. If you don’t, here it is.

I only bring this up because I feel couples need to have at least one thing in common: Jen and I read, although our tastes in books differ greatly. She likes literary works, while I prefer action/adventure genre fiction. (Quick aside: When she and I first met, I said I would read East of Eden. And I did. In about seven weeks. And she's read a few of my books, too.) To each their own. We also have a love of horses and other small animals (our Inn is full, no vacancies), and cooking, and gardening. We are a pretty well-rounded, married couple.

But there are some who may not have the luck my wife and I had in meeting and getting together and falling in love over our shared interests. And that brings us to the subject of this diatribe.

A couple of months ago, there was a story about Barnes & Noble taking an idea out for a test drive: serving alcohol in four pilot stores, just to see how it would go. I refrained blogging about it; quickly highlighting it, I feel (and I'm probably unanimous in this) it should be a two-drink maximum, and you have to make a book purchase by the second drink order. A bookstore—or any book retailer—is not a damn library, and a bookstore is not a bar. I’m just saying.

With that said, I want to take that concept one further. How about a bookstore singles night?

Imagine this idea: you know you can already buy a girl a drink at a bar. It has been done countless times, ad nauseam. Shit, I've done it. Why can’t you buy her—or him; girls can buy guys a book, too; and a girl can do it for a girl, and a guy can do it for a guy—a book and forge a more interesting connection that way? Don’t you think if you were to strike up a conversation over a book, whether it be in the fantasy/sci-fi section or the romance/bodice ripper section, or whatever, you’d have a better chance of getting digits, or exchange email addresses or Facebook accounts and having a longer-lasting relationship than one started when you’re three sheets to the wind and more than likely will end with a drunken Walk of Shame?

Again, I’m just saying.

Someone, please organize a bookstore singles night. This should be the ultimate conversation starter, one which won’t end with the first flip of the page.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The goals for the year ahead

Usually around this time of year, I take a moment to breathe: I’ve cleared my desk of certain projects that have lingered for the time being, and I’m doing a bit of a cleanse, shall we say. I also take a moment to take stock in what I have accomplished in the year, and I also re-assess the goals I have set for the next 12 months or so.

(You can take a look at what I’ve said I would do in past years here and here. Some of it, I've followed through. Other stuff, not so much.)

We are slightly halfway through 2016. I’ve attended my first convention, and I’ve released two books so far. Through seven months, I’ve sold 459 books. Sixty-six books a month is a decent average, but not outstanding; to compare, my friend Daniel Arenson announced this morning that he sold “tens of thousands” of books in July. While I am incredibly happy for Daniel’s success, I want to have that success, too. I am desperate for that success.

In addition, my mailing list, after a thorough cull of spam accounts earlier today, is at 37 subscribers. In all, those are not great numbers.

The crazy thing about this: I know I can do better.

I am determined to do better.

That said, here’s what I’m planning to do over the next year:

First, everything I’ve written needs to be in print, via the old fashioned ink-and-paper delivery system.

As I explained Sunday, I had hesitated in bringing a great variety of physical product to the convention, not knowing how much I would sell, for starters: I didn’t want to be burdened with loads of stock, and I didn’t want to feel like the old “self-publisher selling books out of the trunk of his car” adage. But when I was asked, “Where’s the rest?” by several attendees on realizing I have 24 novels out, it makes me look inward and say, “maybe I really should have had more of a variety with me.”

The problem is this: the first four AGENT novels have the old covers on them, not the newer covers from two years ago. Also, The Lone Bostonian and several other books are not in ink-and-paper. Why? For me, my thinking over time is that I’d make them available if there’s a demand for them. I’ve only sold 180ish ink-and-paper books, and only 16 ink-and-paper books in 2016; most of my sales come via ebook. Suffice to say, there hasn’t been much call for ink-and-paper books.

But if I want to do more conventions, if I want to get out and meet more people—more potential readers—I need to have the books on hand, and in order to do that, I need to dedicate time and energy to making sure the books are formatted for ink-and-paper, and are formatted properly. I also need to release single versions of the books in The Obloeron Saga in both digital and ink-and-paper, and those need covers. I also need second-edition AGENT paperbacks for the first four books, a second-edition for Zombie Showdown, and I need to put the novella in print, too. I need all of this done by November, in time for Christmas.

Secondly, I need more ebook bundles.

I’m seeing loads of authors having success with ebook bundles. Right now, the only ebook bundle I have is for The Obloeron Saga, and that is six novels with three short stories woven into the prose. I need to get the Small Town PI mystery series into an ebook bundle, as well as the first seven Jaclyn novels into an ebook bundle. That needs to be done ASAP.

Third, I need to write a new series.

At present, I just don’t know what that new series will be. My next book is a follow-up to a book I released last year, The Long Crimson Line (ebook and ink-and-paper, and hopefully we’ll be in audio soon), and I plan on starting to write that book next week or the week after. That will make TLCL a duology instead of just a standalone. I’m going to try and stay away from writing standalones for the foreseeable future; they just don’t sell, at least not for me. That gives me a few months to come up with something, another series, before I start plotting out JJ9.

I’m also considering writing that new series under a pen name. I did it with Jaclyn under my real name after sales under the John Fitch V name slumped.

Fourth, I need to get Furball and Feathers back out, with new cover art.

This one isn’t as imperative as the others, but one I need to exercise patience.

I’m not the best artist in the world. I admit that. I did sketch out and color the horse cover for the third book in that series, but it needs a massive overhaul, art-wise. I bought a sketch pad a few weeks ago, and I’m hoping to ferret some time away to design a whole new set of colorful covers. I miss that children’s world!

And finally, do better convention prep.

Better signage, a Square credit card reader, book stands… and more product. Yes. My next convention will be better.

Simply put, I as an author need to be better.

You as my readers deserve better.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Plastic City Comic Con--A Recap

A few months ago, one of my dear friends from high school, Kristen, had posted on Facebook about an event coming to the local area: Plastic City Comic Con. Leominster, Mass. is the Pioneer Plastics City--you know those pink flamingos in your yard? Yeah, those were made in Leominster--and with a character resembling Plasticman wearing Johnny Appleseed's steel pot cap on its signage, I thought it was a marvelous idea. There are some folks in our area who can't get to a "bigger con," i.e Boston, Connecticut, New York, and I also thought it was great for them to be able to experience a local show.

But for a small city, the Plastic City Comic Con was HUGE. Allow me a few graphs to explain.

Sensing opportunity--and knowing how well some of my NYT writer friends sell and sign at these types of shows--I contacted them to see if it was at all possible for a local author to get a table, shake some hands, and sell some books. And seeing as my breakout character is a comic book character residing in the pages of a thriller novel--my pitch was, "She's basically James Bond meets Lora Croft meets DareDevil."--I thought it was a good mix.

I emailed Keith Gleason, the promoter behind this convention, and I must say Keith was incredibly amenable to me coming to the show. He said it would be mainly comic books, getting back to the feel of the older cons--i.e. San Diego--which have just morphed into springboards for certain properties to show off their newest ideas, movie trailers, products, etc. Again, very cool idea. Keith has, as I understand it, been in the trenches, so to speak, at cons. He's been in the business for a long time. He welcomed me.

Seeing as this would be my first convention, I really didn't know what to expect. I certainly wasn't expecting a line from my table going out the door. I ordered 25 copies of CHEMICAL AGENT, my newest Jaclyn Johnson novel. I wanted to make sure I had enough. I didn't want to have too few for an eight-hour show. Jen had asked me if I wanted to do a few other books, and I hesitated... no, I had said, I just want to do CHEMICAL... just to get my feet wet. I didn't want to break the bank on product that wouldn't sell. More on that in a second.

And speaking of getting my feet wet....

I wanted to do as professional a job as I could on my meager budget. I needed a banner explaining who I was; I thought they would be too expensive, and I managed to get a good one at Staples the day before the convention. I wanted to do bookmarks, just as a giveaway to folks; J.A. Konrath always gave away drink coasters at signings. I ended up giving away a sheet with my bibliography on it, all 24 novels plus the next two coming up. As the event went on yesterday, I had more ideas on how to liven up my POP area for future cons.

When Jen and I got to the Leominster Veterans Center, the convention site, just before 9 a.m., we were led to our area in the basement hall, and we quickly set up:

My home for eight hours. Excuse the masking tape. 
The upstairs portion of the convention.

The downstairs.

Vermont Comic Con was there, with Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy.
When the doors opened at 10 a.m., we were flooded with people, and I sold a book right away to an old friend of the family who just happened to be with the first group through. People came, potential readers came up--"You've written 24? Where are the others?!?" one gentleman asked; Keith had said collectors will want them all, and this is where Jen looked to me and said, "You should have listened to me."--and some took my bibliography. Some passed us by.

I wasn't the only author there: I met Scott Goudward, who was right next to me; he runs the New England Horror Writers Association. Also met Jim Dyer, who sells his late grandfather's work. Erik Radvon was across the way. Some of the things they had--Scott had the Square credit card swiper for iPhone, which I immediately typed into my iPhone as a must have for my next event, and he had book stands (I just stood the book up in front of my stacks), too; Erik had his name into his tablecloth, which would have been a whole heckuva lot easier--would have made my displays better, I think. Hindsight. Again, first con. Next year, more product--I'll have three new books by then, plus some of the back list--better POP, etc.

There were periods where no one came up to my table (Jen played on her phone, while I tried to start conversations; some didn't say anything in return). This is where panic sets in; I have all these books, no one's coming over to buy them, I'm a failure, I shouldn't be doing this... but I remained calm and looked to the positive: people were glancing at my banner, they did take in my website; these are all people who had never heard of me before today.

Of course, there were cosplayers up the wazoo: a couple of Doctor Whos--Fourth and Eleven--a Pikachu (there were loads of phone-wielding folks looking for Pokemon), not to forget a 1960's era Penguin, a Dark Knight, and a Michelle Pfieffer-esque Catwoman. My cousin Camryn was a Gryffindor. And there were a few Harley Quinns, too.

We also had a visit from the one and only Bob "R.A." Salvatore:

Bob has been a great supporter of my work for years. He came right through the basement exhibitor door with a buddy of his and came straight to my table. Gave him a big hug, thanked him for coming out, and we got to talking about the business for quite a few minutes. Always a wealth of knowledge, Bob is.

I also guesstimated that we had a massive amount of people going through the aisles; I told Bob around 1:30 p.m. or so that there had to have been well over a thousand people come through by then. Many vendors went home happy.

All in all, I sold nine books, which Keith said was an amazing amount of books for a con this size. Winning? Winning. Also, it was an invaluable learning experience.

I can't wait for next year.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Book Day, folks--BEACH BLANKET BLOODSHED is here!

It is my great pleasure to announce that today, the First Day of Summer 2016, is Book Day around these parts.

Yes, friends. Beach Blanket Bloodshed: An Alex Bourque Mystery has arrived and is available on all ebook retailers. Links are below.

I had been thinking of this one for a couple of years, ever since Jen and I returned from one of our joint trips to Truro, Mass., where her grandmother lives. Remember that she has been done there plenty of times, while I've only been going down there since August 2012. The idea hit me in 2013, intensified in 2014, and finally, in August 2015, with some time on the writing calendar, the story spilled onto the screen.

Of the three Small Town PI books, I feel this one is the best: it has the best writing, and by far has the most consistent storyline of the three. I'm not bad-mouthing the first two, but this one... this one I'm truly proud about.

Hope you enjoy it.

P.S.--If you're interested in a paperback version.... shoot me an email. I need some interest in them before I create them.

Here are the links: US Kindle, UK Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks

And remember: the other two books, which I revised and tightened last summer, are now re-branded to connect the series together. They are all available in my bookstore. Hope you enjoy them.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

An Alex Bourque Re-Branding

You'll recall that in Spring 2014, I underwent a massive re-branding of my Jaclyn Johnson series. With the help of author pal David Wood, we managed to create a distinct brand and a direction for future books in that particular series. David has it down to a science now: He has his template for me, which includes my name as well as the AGENT title du book, and he just slips the background image in depending on the city in which I'm writing. I suspect he'll have the TICKET AGENT cover for me soon.

You'll also recall that in Summer 2015, I underwent a massive re-edit of some of my books; I aptly called it the Summer of Edit. In that exercise, I took books that weren't exactly my best and spruced them up, polish-wise, getting rid of passive voice and making the books stronger. Two of those books were Cold Altar and Voir Dire, the first two stories in my Small Town PI series, set in my hometown of Fitchburg, Mass. Doing that led into the book I was about to write, Beach Blanket Bloodshed, the third book in that series.

Even though I had accomplished the Summer of Edit and felt happy with those fixes, I still had a quandary on my hands regarding the covers of the Small Town PI books. They didn't match up together, the branding non-existent. While Voir Dire's cover had actually looked something close to what you'd see on the dust jacket of a New York-published hardcover, Cold Altar's cover... wasn't. It was pretty bland: I recall it was actually hard to manipulate the image enough in order for me to do what I had to do to get my name on the thing.

The original two covers. Not exactly a match. This was on account of me not exactly knowing what to do; I had branding in mind, but I also had getting the book out at any cost in mind, too.

So when I wrote Beach Blanket Bloodshed last August, I had this quandary in mind as I let my fingers fly: How would I fix this re-branding issue, knowing I had already re-branded Jaclyn (and saw a nice sales bump in exchange) and had to create three new covers and make them all the same once I had BBB ready for publishing. I also realized I couldn't exactly break the bank on this, either. I had to do it on the cheap, but couldn't make them look cheap.

I went through a couple of drafts on these covers, but with the help of author pal Elizabeth Ann West, I managed to concoct a simple cover which conveys the overall arc of these stories: they are campy mysteries that aren't supposed to strain one's mind, but they needed the edge of my Jaclyn thrillers in order for me to see a return. Cold Altar is a good first story: it introduces the characters of Alex Bourque and his girlfriend, Lauryn Kennedy, but like I said, you're not supposed to strain your brain in finding out who the killer is with this book. Voir Dire follows it up nicely. Beach Blanket Bloodshed gives a new wrinkle in their relationship, and is a solid beach read for Summer 2016. In fact, all three are.

As a result, we've come up with these new covers:

Not too bad, if I say so myself, and better than some New York-published novels. Everything is tied together, the branding the same. We've uploaded these covers to their respective placements across all platforms (We ran into a problem with Voir Dire on Nook; Nook users can go to Smashwords to get the epub file; it's in my bookstore on my website).

Expect a newsletter to announce Beach Blanket Bloodshed's release soon; sign up for the mailing list at the top of the blog to be among the first to know of its availability!