What is an online Facebook party?

In Ye Olden Times authors used to have book signings as a way to launch a new book (back when there was a bookstore on every corner and three inside of a mall). Now it's not really a great way to do things. It's much easier to organize an online "book signing." A Facebook launch is hanging out with the author (and possibly other authors) online.

But what do I do/how do I participate?

The authors (or the hostess) will post some questions or give you a challenge, usually with some kind of prize incentive. Just like you post responses on your friends' Facebook posts - all you have to do here is follow the instructions given in a post.

Where is it?

You just follow the link to the event, and it will take you into a private group where you can interact with the authors and other readers.

I want you to know I was there. How do I do that?

At the top of the event there are buttons that say "Interested" "Going" or "Ignore." Click on the "Going" button (I always give away at least one gift card to people on the "Going" list!

I can't be there during the day/in the evening/in the morning.

Not a big deal. These parties last for one or two days (my current one will be three days long) and you can pop in at any time and say hello and enter the contests.

There's a contest to invite other people. How do I extend invitations?

Next to that "Going" button is a button that says "Share." There's a drop down menu. Select the "Invite Friends" option and you can invite specific friends and family on Facebook that you think might enjoy participating. There are also options to share the event in a private message or post it to your timeline.

It might seem intimidating, but after you hang around for a couple of minutes it becomes pretty easy to understand. I don't always have a lot of time to get online, so these launch parties are a good way for me to interact and chat with readers. Come over and say hi and enter to win some prizes - there are a lot, including a $50 Amazon gift card and a Kindle Fire!
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"I have this project, but I can't give you any details yet. Do you think you might be interested?"

Um, yes. If Amazon asks, my answer is most likely always going to be yes (I think they are the best people to be in a partnership with). Over a year ago this was how my editor at Montlake approached me. He said he would tell me more when he could and that period of time kept stretching and stretching until he finally sort of told me what it was about. It would be a new type of technology. It would be like having movie clips or GIFs inside my story.

Confession time – I love (LOVE) movies and TV. I'm always envious of how an actor can convey something with a single look or touch that it might take me paragraphs to describe (and even then the reader may not perceive it the way that I'm imagining it) and I've always wanted to write and sell a TV or movie script that actually got made. I could only imagine how powerful it would be to watch your words be acted out. So getting the chance to write something that would have visuals? It really was like a dream come true.

My editor wanted me to write a novella about a heroine who goes out with different men but is falling in love with one in particular. We batted some ideas around and I settled on the story that is currently the basis for ROYAL DESIGN.

I actually wrote this book pretty quickly. In about four days. I thought about it for a long time, outlined it, and then it all came together. Brevity is not my strong point, but I'd written a novella just prior to this (my very first time), which made it easier the second time (although it was a stretch to stay under the word limit).

Then the really fun part of this project started. I got on the phone with the director/producer, and this was her first time getting to film something like this for Amazon and to say we were both like giddy fangirls is underselling our level of excitement. She loved my characters the same way that I did. She asked how involved I wanted to be, and my answer was a lot, and so it began. (I actually got teased when they would send me something, because I would immediately go over it and read every part of it so that when we got on a conference call I had already practically memorized it).

I wrote up a character list, describing all of the characters physically. My favorite part was the celebrity comparisons (I imagined Enzo as a young Joe Manganiello crossed with Ryan Guzman and Bellamy as a Kristin Kreuk type, and Gray Porter as a lost Hemsworth brother). These bios were sent over to an agency, and we were sent back a massive document with all these different shots of various candidates (we were choosing one girl and four guys). Lots of expressions and poses for us to look over.

When I saw Francis Cadieux, I knew right away he was Enzo. Even though his physical description didn't match what I had initially envisioned for the character (Enzo started out with hazel eyes and black hair; Francis has dark brown hair and blue eyes), it was like I saw him and that was it. I had a similar reaction for the character of Bellamy – there was a girl who almost fit the vision I had in my head. I made up a list of about five finalists for each role and then compared those with my editor and director. We all seemed to have pretty similar lists.

On my finalist list I had Frances Cadieux (who did play Enzo), Adrian Amas (marked as my fave and he played James Cruz) and Becky Boggs for Bellamy (she didn't look how I had initially envisioned Bellamy, but there was something about her that made her stand out). I also thought Dane Johnson could play either Oliver Reynolds or Gray Porter (and he did play Gray!). The only one I didn't pick out from the initial group who made the final cut was Mark Conte (he played Oliver).

Then the director was off to New York to do screen tests with our finalists. She sat through auditions that made me very glad I am not an actor or a model. They had to do some embarrassing stuff, but I guess if you do it a lot you probably get used to it. She sent me all their clips and told me based on the screen tests who she thought the best ones would be. And she was a hundred percent right (apparently my initial selection for Bellamy was a total bust when it came to acting) and I loved her choices, and we managed to sign everyone we wanted for the shoot.

There were storyboards and schedules made up. A Pinterest board for lighting and mood. It was all so very cool. And then there were wardrobe fittings and locations and hair and makeup and all these technical crew people brought on. My director went back to New York to film. I jokingly said I wanted to hide in her suitcase and come along, but if she had said that I could come and watch, I seriously would have hopped on the next flight to New York just to sit quietly and see all this happening. (Thankfully throughout my director sent me pics of everything. Even though I didn't get to tag along to New York, she certainly made me feel like I was there!)

But the hardest part? I couldn't tell anyone. I wasn't allowed to post anything. I had to keep all of these amazing events to myself. When a Kindle in Motion debuted from another author with a different Amazon publishing line, and everyone was oohing and aahing over it, it was so hard to say nothing! And I really wanted to share. Like when I got this video from the cast that my director took for me the first morning of shooting. Do you know how badly I wanted to post this on Facebook and be like, "Look! Those are the people playing my characters saying hi to me! Ack!" I was so, so excited. I probably watched it like twenty times that first morning.

It was weird, but I felt this sort of kinship to the actors playing these characters. I loved hearing fun, behind-the-scenes type stuff. Like how Becky didn't have her ears pierced, and I have several points in the story where I talk about Bellamy and her earrings as she gets ready for an event (I think they had to tape them on) and how adorable and sweet Becky was (much like Bellamy!) That Francis and Becky genuinely seemed to enjoy each other and had a fun time (like Enzo and Bellamy!). Dane was chatty on set. Adrian absolutely killed not only the comedy of his character, but the not-as-nice parts, too. Mark let them shave the sides of his head to better match Oliver's description (and while he hadn't played soccer, he had experience with a hacky sack and used those skills). Francis was very professional and committed to getting his scenes right, and during a sad one he had them play sad music so that he could get into that moment. (And can that boy smolder!)

Then...then the actual clips started pouring in. Some of them were still like rough drafts, but I could see where they were going and what would happen when they were done. Some I couldn't envision at all, and when I saw the final cuts, so many emotions! They were amazing. Some made me laugh out loud (I actually sat here and laughed, even though I had written the words and knew what was coming), some made me sigh with sappy romanticism, some made me react like a giggly little schoolgirl. It was surreal.

It was everything I wanted it to be. Everything that I could have possibly hoped for (insert thesaurus synonyms here – it was stupendous! Fabulous! Fantastic! etc., etc.). I think the only way it could have been any better is if they'd made a full-length movie out of it. Seeing the chemistry between the leads, their romantic moments, watching their facial expressions as they became these characters – it was incredible. Everyone (cast, crew, all the people at Montlake and Amazon) involved did such an amazing job.

TL;DR – Making a Kindle in Motion book was amazing and awesome.

You should definitely check it out.

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There is a Goodreads giveaway for Royal Games. They are giving away 100 digital copies! Which means your odds are pretty darn good.

You can enter here -

Royal Games Giveaway

Good luck, and if you win a copy, you'll have to let me know what you think!
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"Younger" is a show I started watching not too long ago. It's a cute premise – a 40-year-old recently divorced woman (Liza) tries to go back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for twenty years. She attempts to go back to publishing, specifically in marketing, because it's what she used to do. But no one will even talk to her. She's hopelessly out of date – not just with her experience, but with modern technologies (like social media). She's willing to take any job, at any level, just to get her foot in the door. The answer is still no.

Why? Because Liza's old. Way, way, way too old.

So a friend suggests that she pretend to be younger. She fixes her hair and changes her clothes and tells everyone that she's twenty-six. They believe her, and she gets an entry-level job! (Despite things like wrinkles, or what her hands look like – I've seen them, and there's no way anyone would ever believe her story, but we're suspending our disbelief.)

I've enjoyed the show's fairly unrealistic take on the publishing industry, up until this week's episode, entitled "Stick it to Achilles."

Kelsey, Liza's best work friend, who actually is twenty-six, has been given her own imprint. She's advanced $250,000 to an unknown author without a book (come back and keep reading when you finish laughing about that) who basically tells Kelsey that she's spent all the money and there is no book. Which is going to cause Kelsey's fledgling imprint to go bust.

Meanwhile, bosses Charles and Diana (did no one think about that particular name combination during the writing process?) start to talk about a potential author they're trying to recruit. They're very worried about "Achilles" snatching this author away from them.

At first you assume that it's just another publishing house. Until Diana drops this little tidbit – "They kill all the bookstores; now they have to come after the authors, too?"

It's then that I realized that Achilles was Amazon.

Now the Amazon hatred has spread even to television.

Because "Younger" repeatedly assures us in this episode that EVERY author HATES Amazon. Er, Achilles. That agents and authors are boycotting Achilles. Which has made Achilles so desperate, one editor is trolling bars, hoping to find authors to swipe from other poor, helpless publishers (he says he hasn't acquired anything in "months"). He's apparently so vile that he has a horrible nickname. (He doesn't actually do anything awful or underhanded in the episode. We're just supposed to accept that everyone at Achilles is inherently evil. There is a moment where he predicts that the boycott will end, because "money always wins." Liza immediately asks indignantly, "Money always wins? Who says that?" Um, people who want to make money? People who understand how capitalism works?)

While Diana, marketing director, is trying to sleep with their newest author, Kelsey comes up with a devious and unethical plan. She has Liza cobble together a chapter from the flaky author's online social media. They then leak this chapter online. Kelsey lures Achilles's editor out for drinks (under false pretenses to "celebrate" their success), and says that she's just being inundated with phone calls from other publishers who are offering to buy the book from her (complete and total lie). She's only willing to sell it for $500,000. Achilles's editor says, "Done." Kelsey demurs, saying she has to check with her boss, Charles, and in her text asks, "How badly do you want to stick it to Achilles?"

The deal is done, and Kelsey has saved her precious imprint (maybe she shouldn't have her own imprint given how badly she's run it so far). Achilles has lost half a million dollars by being stuck with an author who won't write her book (and who protests loudly that she "refuse[s]" to work with them!).

I don't get the Achilles/Amazon hatred. Logically, Empirical (the fictional publishing house on the show) makes the majority of their money from Achilles. It wouldn't be in their best interest to screw them over.

Achilles/Amazon did nothing bad in this episode. They didn't lie, scheme, manipulate, trick or behave completely unethically with their colleagues, professional rivals, or clients. The so-called heroes/heroines of the show did. Repeatedly. But AMAZON IS BAD AND AUTHORS HATE THEM!

And Achilles/Amazon didn't ruin the bookstores. That was a system set up for failure. When I first started out in publishing, our local RWA group had a bookstore manager as a member. She ran the closest Barnes & Noble. She told me once about how another Barnes & Noble store was moving across the street (the location across the street was much bigger). She offered to assist the manager in packing up their books and moving them.

But the second manager said it wasn't necessary. They were going to return all of the books to the publishers, and then reorder them. It was more cost-effective to return everything than it was to pack them up and move them. (!)

Think about that. How is a business like that supposed to succeed?

Why aren't there any complaints about what Barnes & Noble did to bookstores? They literally made a movie about it with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It happened. Even though we're supposed to pretend that it didn't.

The chain bookstores failed because of poor business decisions. Poor business decisions that they continue to make. They didn't want the digital revolution to happen. And instead of embracing it and finding a way to exist and prosper, they fought it with everything they had.

And became casualties.

But now we're supposed to champion and protect Barnes & Noble? What?

I don't hate Amazon. I love Amazon. I love their customer service, I love my Prime membership. I love my free two-day shipping. I love their prices. I love how they take care of everything for me. I love the freedom they've given me with my writing. I love the chance they've given to everyone in the world to be an author if they want to. I love that they've given the money and the power back to authors (the creators of the books).

And every author who does hate Amazon and wants to boycott them – check their author page on Amazon. They're not boycotting them. I'd have a lot more respect for them if they put their money where their mouths are. (I'm looking at you Douglas Preston and Richard Russo.) No agent is boycotting Amazon. Because they want to make money. And Amazon has it. And it has the marketing ability to make their authors successful.

If Amazon is, as Diana claimed, coming for the authors, you should welcome them with open arms. I promise you, they'll give you a much better deal and a much better contract than anyone in New York ever could.

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Book 3, Rafe's story, is on its way. You can even pre-order it from Amazon now!

Royal Games

It should debut on July 5, 2016!
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In honor of the debut of my Kindle World, and the launch of "Royal Chase" in five days, I'm giving away a heart-shaped ruby pendant, just like the one Nico gave to Kat for Christmas.

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Tonight is the debut of my Kindle World! (A Kindle World is allowable fan fiction. Anyone - even you! - can come and write a story set in Monterra and sell it on Amazon. It's very cool.) The authors who so graciously agreed to help me launch my World will be celebrating at a party tonight (1/26/16 from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM EST) with me giving away lots of prizes and goodies.

The Royals of Monterra Facebook Party

And you can check out all the new stories set in Monterra here -

Kindle Worlds

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I've never actually won a writing competition before. I've finaled a few times, but never won. I also don't make a big attempt to enter stuff - I just sort of write and do my own thing, and if it happens, it happens. Which makes it very cool when it does happen because it's so completely unexpected.

ROYAL DATE won as best New Adult Novel. It was also given "Kathy's Choice Award." Here's what Kathy of Bookworm Nation had to say about it:

It was super hard narrowing down my number one pick this year. I guess that's a good problem to have. I ended up choosing Royal Date, because I just really loved this book. The writing and characters grabbed me, I loved the setting and just everything about it. It's one of those books where you get a reader's high, you get sucked in and don't want the story to end. I read Sariah's YA novel awhile ago and when I heard she had a new book coming out I couldn't wait to read it. I am so happy she has more great books like this in store for us.

Thank you Swoonys! I'm always happy to be nominated, and it's a total shock to have won!

You can check out the other winners here: Swoony Awards
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And here is the cover for ROYAL CHASE, out 1/26/16 -

This model looks exactly the way I picture Lemon in my head.
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So "Royal Chase" is going to be Book #2 in "The Royals of Monterra" series. It is Lemon and Dante's story and is set to debut on January 26, 2016. I have an official back cover blurb, and it looks like it is available for pre-order on Amazon's site!

Booking her client, Prince Dante of Monterra, on reality show Marry Me is a royal coup for PR agent Lemon Beauchamp. But thanks to a last-minute glitch, Lemon must pretend to be one of the contestants vying to win the playboy prince's love and then live happily ever after—at least until the publicity tour ends.

Prince Dante agreed to go on the show to find a wife, even though he already has the perfect candidate in mind. She's smart, funny, sexy, and completely uninterested in wealth and fame. She's also absolutely determined to keep him at arm's length.

Even if Lemon weren't already engaged, she can't trust a notorious flirt like Dante. So she ignores the lingering looks. Those subtle, thrilling touches. That pulse-quickening kiss. Until suddenly, Lemon isn't playing for the cameras. She's lovestruck for real, and just maybe, the man behind the title is the one who's always been in her heart...

Royal Chase

I can't wait for everyone else to read it!
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I got mentioned in an Amazon press release, which is pretty freaking awesome. It's mostly about how the Kindle Scout program is going international, and here's the thing about me:

"After being selected by Kindle Scout, Sariah Wilson, author of Royal Date, and Jennifer Skutelsky, author of Grave of Hummingbirds, received publishing deals with Amazon Publishing's imprints."


I really love being in partnership with Amazon. :)

Author Andrea Pearson mentioned to me that she heard me being talked about on the "Sell More Books Show," and while Bryan defended me, Jim took a pretty negative outlook. It starts at about 18:35.


If I annoyed any of you, I truly apologize. I try pretty hard not to do stuff like that, because as I mentioned in the comments, I totally hate when people spam and annoy me.

There's a tentative release date for "Royal Chase" (Lemon and Dante's story) - January 26, 2016.

I also have a tentative release date for the debut of "The Royals of Monterra" Kindle World - January 19, 2016.
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I had been reading these romances where there were triangles with princes, and the princes kept losing out on the love interests. I was like, really? Princes? I love princes. What is the problem here?

I knew the hero in one of the books I was planning was an illegitimate offspring of a fake European royal family. I started thinking about that family and giving them their backstory, and then a very insistent American girl named Kat started piping up about her role in it all, and the story just fell into place. It was the easiest time I've ever had writing a book, and it took me a month to do the entire thing (and I should mention that I'm not a rewriter at the end – my first draft is my final draft with a little bit of tweaking and editing. I sort of outline, and then I write it the way I want it to be, and it would make me crazy if I had to rewrite the story over and over and over again).

The very day I finished the book, a member of Indie Author Hub (an online group I belong to) talked about an email she got about something called the Kindle Scout program. I read through it and got super excited, unlike the rest of the Internet. People were upset about the royalties, which is understandable when you're indie and you get to keep all the money.

My thinking was this – have you ever seen the TV Show "Shark Tank?" It's one my family and I enjoy watching (and even own some of the products!). The premise is somebody who has a small company or a great idea comes in and pitches to these extremely wealthy and successful entrepreneurs/millionaires. Those entrepreneurs then either pass or make a monetary offer in exchange for a percentage of the company. Many times those people say no to the offers, because they "don't want to give away that much of their company." At that point, I am usually throwing things at the television. Because by themselves, the people may be making like $100,000 a year (nothing to sneeze at!). But the Sharks can turn that into $10 million a year for like 40% of the company (they have to have skin in the game to care about it being successful, right?). Because as far as I can tell, $6 million dollars is much better than $100,000. I would take those deals in a heartbeat because I'd rather have a smaller piece of an enormous pie, than a tiny pie all to myself.

Not only that, but Amazon gives you back your copyright if they're not making you money. Who does that? Can you imagine the Sharks doing that? "I didn't make you money, so I'm giving you back your company." It would never happen. So I felt like there wasn't even any risk involved.

I knew I was supposed to enter Kindle Scout. I knew, in my gut, that I would be chosen, and that this could be a stepping stone for me into a much larger partnership with Amazon. So I hired a cover artist, had some beta readers go through it, and I submitted (no editing of any kind, at that point).

You have to get people to nominate your book, and they have a "Hot and Trending" list where the people getting the most votes are listed. I ran a sweepstakes and hit up everyone I knew to vote for me. I managed to stay on that "Hot and Trending" list the entire time. It was really hard work – for someone who hates marketing, that was pretty much all I did for a month straight.

And then my time slot was up and...I was chosen! I was among the first people chosen, and when the initial ten Kindle Scout books were released, I was one of those first ten. Which meant a lot of publicity as Amazon did a massive press release. It was pretty exciting to see my name in publications like "Business Week" and "The New York Times." I know it worked because when the book was on pre-order, the "Also Boughts" were my nine fellow Kindle Scout winners.

It was one of the reasons why I wanted to get it on the ground floor – I figured it would be like the first season of "American Idol" – where a Kelly Clarkson was launched. What was fun and exciting at the beginning might lose its shine as time went on.

Then the launch day...and in the first couple of weeks I got as low as #204 in the overall store. I had never been that high (low?) before, and I couldn't stop grinning. I was #1 on various subcategory lists, and I did very, very well. Even with the royalty share, it was still good money.

And even better? Sales of my one indie book skyrocketed. I can only imagine how much better I would have been doing if I had ten books for sale instead of two. For those asking whether Kindle Scout is worth it, my resounding answer is YES. I have found the people at Kindle Press (the publishing line for the Kindle Scout winners) to be amazing and intelligent and so helpful. I have nothing but good things to say about Amazon and Kindle Scout.

Caroline Carr, in particular, was phenomenal. Our first phone conversation I told her that I wanted someday to be published with Montlake and hoped this was a stepping stone. She asked me what I was working on. I told her in vague terms. Next thing I know, she's arranged a phone meeting with the acquiring editor at Montlake. I thought it was just like a "get to know this person" sort of situation, and I was so grateful for it. Foot firmly in door! So you can imagine my shock when she told me she wanted to offer me a two-book contract and would be getting back to me with the details. (I was in total shock, and she now thinks I'm a "tough nut to crack." More like I still can't believe this is happening to me and it blows me away every time I get on the phone with her.)

The day before my birthday she called again and extended that contract to me. My IP attorney said it was one of the most amazing publishing contracts he'd ever seen. I happily signed, excited to be finally living my dream as it was something I'd worked hard to attain, even though I initially had no idea how it would happen.

And then there was my first phone call with the marketing team, with all those years of RWA meetings about professionalism drilled into me, I asked what I could do to help with the marketing. Because as you know, every New York publisher expects you to do all the work. Their marketing money is reserved for the authors who don't need it. The answer was basically, "Nothing, really. We'll take care of it." Cue more giddy excitement from me.

Then something else amazing happened. Caroline arranged another meeting, this time with the person in charge of the Kindle Worlds program. Kindle Worlds is where you can write fanfiction based on a TV show or a book or comic book, and you split the money with the originator of the work. Fanfic writers don't normally get paid, so this seemed like a fun idea. There are about 47 Worlds right now – with things like "The Vampire Diaries" and "Veronica Mars" among them. They asked if *I* wanted "Royal Date" to become a World. Mind BLOWN. Um, yes please.

Amazon has made concerted marketing pushes for "Royal Date" at quarterly intervals, and as I said, my indie sales have gone up by several hundreds percent as a result. (And every promo push brings in money.) I wish I had more books up, and that is the goal now. I have finished the second book in the "Royals of Monterra" universe, and am currently working on the third. After that...who knows? I guess we'll have to see how my books perform.

And I owe it all to Kindle Scout.

(And I guess Joe was right about that cream stuff.)
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How I got involved – I had been published traditionally by a small niche publisher many moons ago. I found myself disenchanted by the entire process – not being allowed to write what I wanted, having my titles changed and some not-so-fun covers, in addition to the very small royalty checks twice a year – after three historical romances and two non-fiction books, I decided it wasn't for me. I left my groups, stopped reading blogs, and fell away from the industry. It helped that I had two babies right in a row (twenty-one months apart), and they took up all of my time, along with a cross-country move.

But as my life started to settle down, I wanted to write again. I had missed it. I belonged to a group of authors who had published with the same small niche publishers, and one of the members you may know as Passive Guy of The Passive Voice (back then I knew him as G.G's husband). He had a link to a blog post done by Joe Konrath about something called independent publishing.

I knew who Joe Konrath was. Back in my early days of trying to make it, I had heard a lot about him – about how he was a marketing genius and had sacrificed a lot of money and a lot of time to trying to get his work out there (something his publisher should have done, but didn't). His blog was one I used to read all the time, and I thought he was so smart in how he chose to do things – I specifically remember him saying he wished he could give a book away for free because he felt like that would be the best way to build an audience, something I wholeheartedly agreed with.

Now he was talking about publishing independently with Amazon. It was like I had been standing in a dark room and someone had turned all the lights on. I spent about three days in front of my computer devouring all his posts. For the next two weeks, it was all I wanted to talk about. The revolution was here. I could publish what I wanted how I wanted and when I wanted. To say I was excited would have been an understatement.

When I tried to share this excitement with other authors, I was categorically shut down. I was told only outliers would make any money, and that I was foolish to be doing this. It was a fad that wouldn't last. (I can't even tell you how many of those authors are now self-publishing. Probably like 90% of them). But I knew this was the future.

I got to work and put out a Young Adult romance called, "The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back." It was one of those books that came to me fully grown over the course of a few days, practically writing itself. I loved it, and I was so excited to share it with the world. Konrath often said that cream would rise to the top, and I thought that I would be one of those people.

So I put it up on Amazon and...nothing. I was lucky to sell maybe seven books a month. I tried marketing and advertising. I had some success doing a free giveaway (I was picked up by BookBub) and probably gave away close to 50,000 copies at a time when free was supposedly no longer working. I went from selling seven books a month to 100 copies a day after that promotion! That was totally thrilling to me.

Problem was, now I had to have money to do the editing and cover for the next book (and had to use the money coming in to cover the last one). Nobody mentioned that part. I know I should have had other books up and I would have been more successful, but I was just starting out and trying whatever I could to get noticed. The book obviously doesn't suck – I have nearly 800 reviews right now for it on Amazon, and I average a 4.5 out of 5 stars. The cream rose for a while, but then it plummeted right back down.

I knew I needed to put out more books, but I had some rather ugly real life situations that consumed everything, and we financially were not in position to put out more books. I also didn't want to end up where I had with the first book.

I'm not a big fan of doing my own marketing (I know, boo-hoo on me, I need to get over it). I have total admiration for those people who either have a talent for it and succeed naturally or are bad at it like me and do well anyway. When I heard some of the success stories of indie authors (not outliers, but regular people), many of them had done well because they had been "noticed" by Amazon. I wanted to be "noticed" by Amazon. They started their own publishing lines, and I realized that Amazon was who I wanted to be in business with. Who could do more advertising for me than the biggest bookseller in the entire world?

Their contracts were reputed to be extremely fair and honest, something lacking in regular publishing houses. Problem was, you had to have an agent to submit. And part of the point of going the indie route was never having to worry about agents or New York publishers ever again. I also didn't want to give someone 15% of my money forever for very little work (I know there are agents out there who earn their money and then some, but I didn't think this was a situation like that).

Since I had no hopes of getting a publishing contract with Montlake (Amazon's romance line) all I could do at that point was hope that somehow, somewhere, Amazon would notice me and I'd get picked up with the advertising. But how to get it done?

Hugh Howey (an indie superstar) started talking about something he called "The Liliana Nirvana Technique" – Liliana Hart is an author who was not traditionally published. But she became a bestselling author. How did she do it (other than writing great books)? She put out five books in one day and had another book to follow up a month later. This sounded like a good way to get started. I would buckle down, write five books, and put them all out on the same day. We'd come up with the money for editing and covers somehow, and hopefully I would start to gain some traction
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So yesterday I got a letter from Dorrance Publishing. Which surprised me, because I don't ever submit my work anywhere, so it's not like I'm accustomed to getting form letters from publishing companies. Imagine my surprise when I got this little gem (my thoughts in italics):


Dear Sariah:

One of our researchers has discovered Discovered! You are so special we DISCOVERED you! your manuscript registration with the Library of Congress and has forwarded your name to me as a possible candidate for publication with our company.

As an author, you are probably aware of (and perhaps have experienced) some of the problems of trying to get your work published by a commercial publisher. Just having your manuscript read by most commercial publishers is difficult and usually involves long delays. Publishing is haaarrddd. You don't want to do hard stuff, right? No worries – do we have a shortcut for you!!!

Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc. provides a practical and by practical we mean mind-blowingly expensive alternative for consideration by authors of book length fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, collections of poetry, collections of short stories, children's books, etc., who wish to see their works in print. Notice how we don't mention that you could see your work in print TOMORROW if you used CreateSpace through Amazon. For free. You don't have to pay CreateSpace $10,000. Free is better. Trust me on this one.

The Dorrance name has been associated with a tradition of quality by whose standards? Not the publishing industry's publishing services since 1920 as if this somehow legitimizes them. Ripping you off since 1920! Ninety-five years of screwing potential authors out of their hard-earned money! I would welcome the opportunity to discuss our services with you and to review your manuscript to determine whether it meets our requirements for publication, pretty sure their strict, standard of excellence to meet their requirements for publication is that you have some words on paper. But this is to make you feel even more oh-so-special when they call you to let you know that YOU'VE DONE IT! Your book is so, so, so good, and they just can't wait to publish you and take your money! and if so, if we can be of help. You may oh, may I? Really, may I? submit your completed, typewritten manuscript to me for a no-fee, no-obligation review. This is a free service offered by every other publishing agent and publishing company already. It shouldn't cost you anything. That they offer it up to you like they're doing you a huge favor is ridiculous.

Your completed manuscript may also be sent to me on disk or as an e-mail attachment at jnovak@dorrancepublishing.com in ONE, CONTINUOUS FILE. If you choose to submit your manuscript in either of these formats, please seave it in a common word process program such as Microsoft Word for Windows. Basically we're assuming that if you're supid enough to fall for this, that logically you won't have any technical knowhow or capabilities because real writers know how to submit their work. Hopefuls may not. Also, if your completed, typewritten manuscript is less than 50 pages, you may fax it to my attention at 1-412-338-0427.

You're invited to call me, toll-free, at 866-387-8539, Monday through Friday. When writing or sending a manuscript, please address all correspondence to Jamie Novak and include your name, address, and phone number.

By all means, call and/or send a copy of your completed manuscript as soon as possible to reserve a place on our busy review schedule.
Sounds a bit like an informercial, right? ACT NOW!!! I'm fairly certain their busy review schedule is always open for somebody willing to pay. I look forward to hearing from you. You'll see in a bit that she did not, in fact, look forward to hearing from me.

Jamie Novak
Publishing Services Consultant


I was already in a bit of a mood when this letter arrived, and it just sort of set me off. I think vanity presses are amongst some of the absolute worst kind of professional predators out there. They promise you the moon (as long as you're willing to pay for the very expensive trip), and then leave you stranded.

Because in professional, traditional publishing, money ALWAYS flows TO the author.

Think about it this way – you want to be an actor. You move to Hollywood and you do everything you can to get noticed and to have someone see your talent. Your parents don't think you're an actor. Your friends mock you behind your back. But deep down, you know you're an actor and that you could be successful if someone would just give you a chance.

You take a part in some small production written by a freshman at UCLA who hopes to become a playwright.

After the show, an agent approaches you. You're amazing. You have talent oozing out of you. You're the next Meryl Streep. You're going to be a STAR. All you have to do is sign immediately with this agent, give him $10,000 to cover his expenses as he starts looking for work for you, pay another $5,000 to get new headshots, and an additional $10,000 to join his acting classes to brush up on your technique (not that you really need it, you're going to be a star, after all). He explains that this is an investment. You're investing in your future by going with him.

A second agent approaches you after the first. She thinks you have real, raw talent. You might need to work a little to refine the edges, but she can see your potential. She wants to represent you. She will take 15% of whatever job she gets you. If you don't get paid, she doesn't get paid.

Which agent do you think will find you a real, actual job? Which agent has the incentive to do so?

If you said the second, ding, ding, ding! You win a prize. Because Agent 1 already got all his money from you and from every other hopeful in Hollywood desperate enough to do and pay whatever it takes to get noticed. Why would he find you work? The second agent doesn't make any money unless you make money, so she will hustle to find you a job.

The same is true in publishing. If a publishing company is offering you the "opportunity" or "privilege" to get published and it will only cost you a small fortune, RUN. They make their money off of every naïve and unaware person who falls into their trap. They don't need to promote you or advertise you or make any effort at all. They've already made their money. A publisher who gives you an advance and won't make any other money until your book makes money has an incentive to really push you and get you out there. Much as I dislike the Big 5 in New York, at least they still do this part of it correctly (although they take too much of the money, which is a post for another day).

I wrote her back. This made me mad. They're using people's inexperience and lack of knowledge against them.


You sent me a letter dated August 3 inviting me to submit to your company for possible publication. Unfortunately for you, I am an informed author and I know that your company is nothing but a vanity press and a scam. I make thousands of dollars a month publishing independently and with one of Amazon's publishing imprints. They - get this - pay ME money and then they market my book to thousands of readers! You, on the other hand, take tens of thousands of dollars for nothing. So you create a printed copy. So what? I can do that through CreateSpace for free. Why would I use your "services?"

I think it's disgusting that you're using the copyright registry to troll for unsuspecting and naive authors who want so badly to be published they'll do anything to get it, including paying ripoff organizations like yours thousands of dollars.

You are a disgusting bottom-feeder to prey on the hopes and dreams and finances of others, and I hope your company goes bankrupt and puts all of you out of business.

Don't contact me back - there's nothing you can do or say that would ever change my mind (although I suppose it is possible for you to lessen my opinion of you by trying to still sell your sham services). I just wonder how it is that you sleep at night knowing the harm that you do on a daily basis.

Sariah Wilson


Like I said, it makes me mad.

She actually responded. I'm not going to fisk this one, because you'll be able to see for yourself all the lies, half-truths and misrepresentations she makes in trying to defend her company


Well, Sariah, I appreciate you taking the time to state your concerns so respectfully and articulately. Not only am I a proud employee of this company, but I'm also an informed author myself. In fact, I owned my own writing services business (editor, literary agent, tutor – you name it, I have years of experience doing it) before transitioning into my position here. So I would like to make a few things clear. At least then, as you move forward with what I hope is an illustrious publishing career, maybe you won't continue to badmouth us all over town.

A "scam" is some kind of subterfuge, some kind of trick – a dishonest company that says one thing and does another, that steals from people. We are absolutely no such thing. We're incredibly upfront about the fact that authors must pay to publish their work here. Had you taken the time to call me and speak to me in person before berating me with an email, I would've happily told you that you had to pay for publishing with us during our very first conversation. I'm very aware how all facets of the publishing industry work. I know there are companies that pay authors to publish. Unfortunately, given the shifting nature of the publishing industry and the heavy influx of books into the market these days, most new authors go completely unnoticed, even when – get this – their authors don't have to pay anything upfront. But as I have also worked for a commercial (i.e. traditional) publishing company, I know that those companies also take 30-40% royalties, they rarely if ever promote their books, and they usually produce books that are of substandard quality (because they have to crank through books to stay afloat). True, we do have publishing options that run thousands of dollars, but the only people taking advantage of those sort of options are people like Paula Dean, who recently published one of her cookbooks with us and has the ability and desire to invest that kind of money.

I also must further amend your gross generalization: We also have publishing options that are merely a few hundred dollars. For less than the cost of a mediocre washing machine (being in the market for one myself, sigh), we would not only edit, format, create a cover, and yes, print a hard copy, but we would do things like make an e-book, obtain a copyright, post your book on major book distribution websites, boost Google sales, create and disseminate ads online and in print, arrange book signings, recruit published authors to write reviews....and the list goes on and on. We don't force people into buying anything; we don't trick authors. We say, hey, here's a list of everything we can do for you in straightforward terms, and here's the price...interested? Given that we publish hundreds of authors per year, that we've been in business for almost a century, and that we only have a tiny handful (albeit vocal) number of critics, well, I'd say we're doing something right. And for the record, not only do we actively distribute and promote authors' books (which generally results in a tangible boost in sales), we take considerably less of those sales. You publish through CreateSpace, so based on my research, I'm assuming they take 40% of your sales through Amazon? We take a fraction of that. So not only are we helping authors sell more copies, but they also make more money back on each copy sold! It's a fantastic return on investment. And that's what it is ¬– an investment. If an author is willing to invest in their own work, then you better believe that we will pour our hearts and hard work into making sure his/her book does well.

We're a business. Period. In terms of your view that we "troll" for authors on the copyright registry, to be frank, I find it quite ridiculous. Do you think the copyright office would give us these leads if we weren't a reputable company? We're accredited with the Better Business Bureau, and we have no "claims" or "cases" open against us. We offer publishing, book promotion, ghostwriting...we help people achieve their publishing dreams on a DAILY BASIS. I'm actually angry at myself for even bothering to answer this email, because that's 15 minutes that I could've spent helping someone else. You ask how I sleep at night? I'm a person, Sariah. I'm a person with my own life outside of work, and my own passions and hobbies and people I love. I also have a job that affords me the opportunity to help writers each and every single day. I have a group of coworkers that are consistently making me laugh and smile. And yesterday, I helped a man realize his publishing dream of writing a book about his late wife. He and I cried together over the phone after I told him we'd love to help him write his book. You ask how I sleep at night? I sleep like a baby.

I apologize that I didn't listen when you said "Don't contact me back," but sometimes, it's worth it to speak out. Had I said nothing, I would've felt like I substantiated what you said. In this case, I could not let that happen. But don't worry, Sariah, I put you on our unsubscribe list and I marked your account as dead. You will not hear from us ever again.

I hope you feel better getting that off your chest. I know I do.

All the best,
Jamie Novak
Publishing Services Consultant


(As one aside, I'm not sure Paula Deen is your best bet for "look how great we are!" because I'd bet that Ms. Deen is not able to get a traditional contract right now given the publicity surrounding her.}

What kills me in this letter is the "it's not a scam if I tell everyone about all the various fees up front." I'm pretty sure that if a robber walks into a bank and announced he's robbing them, he will still go to prison for theft. Just because you inform someone about the crime you're going to commit against them doesn't make it not a crime.

Of course I responded because I'm me, and because this kind of lowlife, scummy behavior gets my dander up.


I'm so glad you feel better. Lying and rationalization will do that for a person. Defend it all you want, but your company (and all your various subsidiary publishing companies you hide behind, i.e., Whitmore Publishing, Rose Dog Publishing, etc.) is listed as a vanity press that no actual author would use, which is why you have to go to the copyright registry (which is public information, by the way, so I find it hilarious that you justify having that information as a sign that you're a reputable business) to find fresh victims. I think it says a lot about what kind of person you are that you "sleep like a baby" after scamming tens of thousands of dollars from desperate people. People so caught up in fulfilling their dream that they sob when you extend them the unbelievable offer of putting their book into print for the low, low price of $10,000!!!

If you were truly a publishing professional, you would know the number one rule of publishing. Money ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS flows TO the author, not away from them. ALWAYS. If an author has to pay anything at all ever to a publishing company, it's not actual publishing. It's, like you, a vanity press preying on people's hopes and dreams to keep itself afloat. You're actually ruining the chances of these people to ever get legitimately published, because nobody in the industry works with an author who uses a vanity press.

I would say that I hope someday you're able to get a legitimate job again, where you really help authors instead of stealing from them, but you obviously enjoy scamming people and are deluded enough to believe the lie.

Since you replied with lies, justifications and excuses, I'll be sure to badmouth you every place and every chance that I get. It'll be fun to get this online and see what the writing community thinks about it. Thanks for that!

And I'll be sure to put @dorrancepublishing.com on my auto delete list because you have no idea just how uninterested I am in your pathetic attempts to justify what you do for a living.


Predators like this just infuriate me. I hate when people who know better use their knowledge and position to prey on those who are unaware or uninformed.

When I tell people I'm an author, 95% of the time what they say to me is, "I always wanted to write a book." It's an interesting phenomenon, because I'm guessing that when people meet singers or painters they don't say the same sort of thing. It seems to be true only with writing, and I think it's because we're drawn to storytelling. We just know we have a book inside us. And there are some people for whom it will always be a pipe dream and never come to fruition. There are others who decide they want to do it, and will spend the time joining professional organizations and researching online how to do things right.

And then there are those people who will wander in blindly, who don't know what they don't know, and will get a letter like this, and will be so thrilled that they will be a Real Writer that they will throw away thousands of dollars for the privilege of having their unedited, unsellable books rotting away in their garage/basement. It doesn't matter what a vanity press promises you, they will not deliver and you'll be left feeling like a fool.

Please don't do this. A vanity press cannot get your book reviewed by a major publication. They can't get you in bookstores. They can't get you in libraries. No one will take you seriously because there is a stigma with vanity publishing, and that stigma is that you're not good enough to be published. Don't be drawn in by their flattery or sales pitches.

If you've always wanted to write a book, drop me an email and I'll point you in the right direction. Don't let a company like Dorrance Publishing take your money.

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There's some advice that more established authors give to newer writers - don't read your reviews, and once your book is out, move on.

Easier said than done, especially when you have a vivid imagination and wild curiosity. Of course you want to see what people thought about the book you've worked so hard on! The problem is, as Joe Konrath recently put it, it's a bit like walking through a line of people, shaking hands. 100 of those people think you're great and like you, and they tell you so. The 101st girl punches you in the mouth, knocking out all your teeth. It's so wonderful to have a hundred people saying nice things, but is it worth it if in the end you wind up toothless?

Especially when they start to have complaints that you feel like are addressed in the book (maybe too subtly?). Take Nico, for example. I've seen some reviews that he's too perfect/good/unbelievable. Nico is not perfect. Nico has a bit of a past that he's trying to overcome, so that he can get ready to be the someday king he has to be. He doesn't do commitment. He's very jealous and has a bit of a temper. He's not perfect. Is he trying to be a better man? Absolutely. Is he taking things slow with Kat because he understands her and her situation and is willing to be patient and woo her? Yes. Is he gorgeous, charming, fun, intelligent and kind? Yes. But those people exist in real life too. I know they do, because I married a man who is gorgeous, charming, fun, intelligent and kind. :)

But not everyone wants a good guy hero. There are lots of stories with lots of fans who like dark, bitter bad boys. And awesome for them, and for a market that lets everyone find the kind of story they want to read! But I like nice guys. I like heroic guys. I like charming, fun guys who have to work a bit to get what they want. I don't want to focus solely on people's flaws in real life, and I don't want to do that in my books, either. People are more than their mistakes or bad choices or vices. That isn't to say that I won't ever write a moodier hero, but I like fun stories. I like reading them, and I like writing them.

I'm also not worried about giving a reader every single little detail. Like, I'm not going to tell you about the heroine using the bathroom. But just because I'm not giving you the details about every bowel movement, that doesn't mean it isn't happening for her. I mean, she's not spending weeks in the story constipated and miserable! Kat, while unconscious, did have a catheter and an IV. It was something Lemon did without her knowledge. So Kat wouldn't bring it up because 1) she's never been unconscious before and doesn't know what happened and 2) Lemon hasn't told her. Since the story is being told solely from Kat's viewpoint, how is she supposed to talk about it?

But you can't say anything or respond, because to do so often makes an author look crazypants and gives you an eternal reputation as a deranged person (google authors behaving badly).

I write the way I write. And hopefully, I have a voice/style that people will either LOVE or HATE. I don't want someone to read a book I've written and say, "Meh. It was okay." I'd much rather move people all the way to either end of the scale, than to have them being lukewarm in the middle. Problem is, when people hate you, it hurts your writerly feelings and you want to curl up in a ball and eat chocolates all day (which sounds awesome, but is really not productive). It's a process to learn to let go once it's out in the world. If people think my baby is ugly, there's really nothing I can do about it.

So I'm resolving to not read any negative reviews, and to focus on what I like doing and hope that readers who like what I'm doing will find me.
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So, I am pleased to announce that I have signed a two-book contract with Montlake Romance, which is Amazon Publishing's romance line. I have wanted to work with Amazon for a while now, and I am very happy and excited to have this opportunity. I haven't had the easiest time with publicity and marketing, so I'm glad to be in a partnership with a company that is so good at it.

For everyone that's been wondering when a sequel to Royal Date would come out - there's a tentative release date of January 2016, and it will be about Lemon and Dante's time together on a reality show that's designed to make them fall in love -- but there's just one problem.

Lemon's already engaged. :)
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I've received a couple of emails from people who say that they didn't get their Kindle Scout free copy even though they voted for my book. My suggestion is this -

Go to the Kindle Scout website.


Check the top right corner to make sure you're logged in. If you aren't logged in, then log in (should be the same as your Amazon.com log-in).

Once you're logged in, on the top right corner there is a link that says "Your Nominations." Click on that. It will pop up a box, and at the bottom of that box there is a button that says "Past Nominations." Click on that.

My book should appear on that screen, and there should be a button underneath that says something like "get your free copy." Click on that, and it should take you to Amazon where you can get your free copy of "Royal Date!"

If you're still having trouble, you may want to contact Amazon's customer service and I know that they will help you.
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Swoonys are a reader's choice award over on Goodreads. If you have a Goodreads account (and if you loved "Royal Date," which, let's be honest here, you loved more than Kat loves Battlestar Galactica, right? ;) ), you can go to this site:

Swoony Awards

and vote for my book. You may have to do a search or scroll looking for it. Right now I'm #21, I think.

You can also nominate me for a Whitney Award (this one's more labor intensive).

Whitney Awards

I don't think I've ever actually won a writing award. I've been nominated and finaled a few times, but never a win. I'm afraid I'll become Susan Lucci. (Daytime soap actress who was nominated for a Best Actress Daytime Emmy NINETEEN TIMES before she won. Can you even imagine how depressing it must have been every year to get dressed up and go to a ceremony feeling like you'd never, ever win?)

My website designer (AKA my husband) keeps promising he'll create comments on these blog posts sometime soon so that it isn't just me talking to myself. (Although, let's be honest, even with comments on here it will still probably just be me talking to myself. Which I'm surprisingly okay with.)
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