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."

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2086457

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.

http://sellmorebooksshow.com/episode-75-walmart-tracking-and-judgey/

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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