After finishing Knight of the Twin Moons (book #4 in the Twin Moons Saga), I started three new manuscripts:
I've only got one chapter—maybe two—to go on the third manuscript which will be titled Russian Revival.
Working Book Blurb
Here's a quick summary of the story. This is where I'm starting with the back cover blurb:
Former concert violinist Evelina lives under WITSEC protection because her testimony sent ex-boyfriend Carlos Farillo. Carlos wants revenge. Getting out of prision early gives him that opportunity sooner rather than later.
Inessa alerts her cousin to the danger and persuades her husband, Giovanni, to extend his protection. Giovanni dispatches his underboss, Ciro Mancini, to Cleveland, Tennessee with two assignments: expand the Maglione territory as the new capo of southern Tennessee and protect his wife's cousin from the Farillo cartel. Shortly after arriving, Ciro realizes the cartel already knows where Evelina has been hiding and has been keeping an eye on her for Carlos.
Attracted to the pretty violinist, Ciro decides that changing her identity once again by giving her the Mancini name will not only help to conceal her but will also cement the Maglione mob's protection over her. Not at all enthusiastic about the idea, Evelina agrees to his scheme after her apartment is invaded. And off they go to Las Vegas for a quick wedding.
The journey to Las Vegas puts Ciro in another mob boss' territory. That boss happens to be the father of Lorenzo Iscarus, a world renowned concert pianist. Lorenzo's father entertains ideas of having musical prodigies for grandchildren, which puts Ciro in danger and compounds Evelina's peril, assuming Lorenzo falls in line with his father's aspirations.
Evelina wavers between wanting to return to the stage and wanting to return to the relative obscurity of being a landscaper. She soon finds herself depending upon her husband and succumbs to her attraction to him. Ciro struggles with protecting the wife with whom he's quickly falling in love, saving his own skin, and building a business to expand his boss' empire.
Will they neutralize the threats against them without igniting a mob war?
The Process of Publishing
Writing the book is only completion of the first big step in the publishing process. Once I get that last chapter (or two) drafted, I go back to the beginning. I'll review the manuscript, self-edit, "machine" edit, and revise. Then the document will go off to my wonderful editor, Cindy Draughon.
When she has finished editing the manuscript, it's back to the beginning to address her recommended changes. That's something a lot of people don't realize: the editor suggests changes. Nothing the editor does is set in stone; however, since I'm paying for her professional expertise, I'd be remiss in not giving every suggestion thorough consideration. I generally accept anywhere between 75 to 95 percent of her changes. I truly appreciate her insight when she points out where my plot drops the proverbial ball or when what I've written makes no sense. I ask for candor: "Don't worry about hurting my feelings. Let's get this right."
In the meantime, I'll be getting a front cover professionally designed. With this book, I will likely have new covers for the entire series done, budget willing.
Of course, there's formatting: the interior pages of the book have to look good and read well, too. And, last but not least, there's marketing. Expect to see a lot more promotion of this book in the coming weeks. I will, of course, announce here, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter when it goes up for pre-order. The pre-order price will be discounted, so take advantage of that opportunity while you can!
There's nothing scientific about my observations and the conclusions I draw, but I've come to rely on these insights to inform decisions about which events work best for registering as a vendor.
My books (and paintings) do best with an eclectic crowd. I've noticed that at such events as the Beech Grove Artists' Collective Art Walk in Beech Grove, Indiana and the Clifton Gorge Arts & Music Festival. These are "country-style" arts and crafts events where it's okay to be a little different, but not necessarily avant garde. My work tends to be a little too traditional or tame for events that celebrate the outrageous and avante garde. This was made evident at Art on Vine where passersby praised the paintings as beautiful, but few were so persuaded by that appeal to purchase them. That doesn't mean I'm going to change what I write or what I paint, but it may help me focus on what to stock.
The economy also plays a huge role. The well-heeled shoppers at Art on Vine and those shoppers in lower tax brackets were equally choosy with their spending, many opting not to spend their money on what they could not consume. The coffee, tea, and other consumables vendors did pretty well. Vendors selling art had a much more difficult time. The two jewelry vendors near my table seemed to do a brisk business. Should I return to Art on Vine, I hope my sister-in-law who makes chain mail jewelry will join us. She'd be a welcome addition and would probably do quite well.
The type of crowd matters. Several attendees at the Northwestern Band Association Craft Show informed me that they either did not read for pleasure, read little, read only nonfiction, or read Christian fiction. That's all well and good. I have no objection to their reader preferences or non-reading preferences. It just shows that I ought to vary the type of books I bring to events of a similar caliber. At events like that one, readers expressed preferences for historical fiction and mysteries (preferably the clean and sweet kind) and young adult fiction. At Art on Vine, readers expressed more acceptance for grittier, more explicit fiction, even if they didn't buy it from me.
Very few people overall will admit aloud to a preference for explicit romance. There's still a stigma attached to the genre. Interestingly, a lot of people will answer "mysteries" when I ask them what they like to read. That response has led to my book FOCUS being my bestselling book at events.
The organization of events means a lot. Event planners who are organized and current on the details are surely underpaid and underappreciated. When the planner makes things easier for the vendor, the vendor—at least this one—is more willing to return the following year. I was glad to have printed my receipt for vendor registration and brought it to Art on Vine, because the organizer questioned my presence after he'd assured me that he believed me when I stated I'd paid for it. That left a bad taste in my mouth, but I was glad to have had that proof of purchase and not be forced to move my display and merchandise. (I was also glad we brought chairs, because the venue provided a table, but no chairs.)
Hours of operation influence an event's success. Strong attendance was cut in half on Saturday's craft show, because people left to go home and watch the OSU football game. At Art on Vine, the crowd thinned after 4:00 PM. I think event hours could be trimmed accordingly.
All in all, I appreciate the various opportunities to bring my books and paintings to the public and am deeply grateful to those who purchase them. Their support is immensely gratifying.
I'm finished with events this year. The next may be as early as March, pending approval as a vendor. I will continue to seek appropriate venues that offer a good mix of pedestrian traffic and opportunity. If you know of any such event coming up in the next 12 months that's within a 5-hour drive of Springfield, Ohio, please let me know. Send me the URL so I can check it out.
I'll be seeing you in person next year!
Sales. Revenue. Profit. These terms make the world go 'round, because business cannot sustain itself without them. Because of that, currency is the simplest and typically the only metric used to determine success. When it comes to participating in events, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking "I spent $X on this event and I earned $Y." If $X exceeds $Y, was the event a failure?
When it comes to business, determining the return on investment on marketing activities is tricky. Sales don't normally happen right away. Oftentimes, potential customers need repeated "touching" to build awareness and stimulate demand. Then, once a potential customer opens the wallet and buys, the vendor must do well enough to satisfy that customer's expectations for the customer to both justify a second purchase and to recommend others to purchase, too.
I have read that an authors's main focus in participating at event should not be sales, but marketing. I can see why folks would say that, but I cannot entirely agree. Sales must factor into the decision to return to an event.
If I participate as a vendor at an event and there's no traffic and/or few potential customers, then the excursion is a waste. A roomful of vendors trying to sell to one another is no fun. There must be opportunity to recoup costs if not make an actual profit. If I participate as vendor and there's no traffic and/or few potential customers, it indicates that:
In either case, that's not an event I care to lose money on again.
Some events change. One, the Imaginarium in Louisville, Kentucky, completed its turn of focus from being a gaming event with readers to a writers conference. Writers (or aspiring authors) are not my target audience; therefore, that is not an event to which I'll return.
Because my modest budget cannot sustain repeated losses, I do factor in cost and revenue. Some events are free, thereby incurring little in the day of direct costs beyond mileage, inventory, and time. Especially when I have a cheap (or free—thanks, brother!) place to stay, these events make sense. I can build my brand and fan base while minimizing the financial stress. (At the last Beech Grove Artists Collective Art Walk, one woman ran across the street to tell me she'd loved my book, FOCUS. What a giddy feeling!)
With some events that are young, meaning they are first-time events or recently begun events, I often give them more than one chance to mature into profitable venues for me. The Monday Creek Publishing Book Festival held in Nelsonville, Ohio is one of those events with lots of potential. My costs were time, mileage, and inventory. I did better than anticipated and will be happy to return in 2023. The organizer is working hard to make this the premier literary event of southeastern Ohio. I just returned from Lust in the City, a brand new event focused on the romance genre and taking a different tack by soliciting committed attendees through advance ticket sales. I didn't come close to breaking even, but I can see the immense potential of this event. It, too, has an extremely dedicated organizer who I believe will make this an extraordinary book fair as it matures. I want to be there as both events grow and mature.
Other events that oftentimes work out well are not book-related at all. I've gone to various art shows where I sold no paintings, but did sell books. The lack of similar competition makes my wares memorable and stand out from the other vendors' offerings. I'll be taking advantage of that uniqueness next weekend at the Northwestern Band Association Fall Craft Show in Springfield, Ohio and Art on Vine at the Rheingeist Brewery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Although I've been doing this for several years now, each event adds to my experience and helps to adjust my expectations and manage my hopes. I like to think I'm getting better an judging which events will prove profitable from both financial and marketing standpoints.