Friday, March 4, 2011

New Covers and Pen Names

I know I have mentioned before on this blog about the new e-book craze and self-publishing and I am a huge fan of J.A. Konrath who has basically pioneered this trend and done an amazing job doing so. A few years ago I would have never suggested to anyone out there to go this route. However, things in the publishing world are changing and that much is obvious. I decided that I would jump on this ride and see where it would take me. I am still publishing some titles traditionally and that is because I have found an amazing publisher who has a different attitude than most (at least from my experience). This boutique house (ZOVA) runs on the premise that they are not simply selling books (units), but more importantly it is the relationship they build with their authors in the hopes and goal of building careers. I like that attitude a lot. There are real people behind the books that get written and their books mean something to them. So, I am grateful to have inked a deal with this fantastic group of individuals.

I am also doing some self-pubbing these days as rights are reverted back to me from my back lists and also with books that I want to write that may not fit the "Michele Scott" brand. I realize that I have built a decent readership with my mysteries and that readership has come to expect a certain type of book from me. I write books under my real name that are light and funny with a few twists and some romance thrown in for good measure. I like a little romance, so I like to include in my mysteries and of course into my women's fiction.

One of the things that I have learned from reading Konrath's blog is that covers make a huge difference as to what readers will spend their money on. I have always known this but when I decided to try out this process of making my back list available myself, I didn't put much credence into it. I thought that I would put them out there and maybe earn some coffee money here and there. Then in the last month something started to happen--the books started selling quite a bit more on a daily basis. I thought at that time that maybe I shouldn't change what doesn't seem to be broken. However, I wasn't doing the types of sales that I read about some of these success stories on Konrath's blog. The kind that allows writers to quit their day job. I made the decision to go for it and redo the covers AND write a few of the books under a couple of different pen names. I started out with my Michaela Bancroft Mysteries (AKA The Horse Lover's Mysteries). One of the reasons that I am coining them the Michaela Bancroft Mysteries now has to do with the fact that so many readers out there seem to have the impression that one must love horses to enjoy these mysteries. On the contrary, I assure you! So far, I have "Saddled with Trouble," redone and would love you feedback. 

As mentioned, I am using a couple of pen names. One of them is A.K. Alexander for my thrillers that tend to be WAY different from my mysteries. They have bad ass heroines (not that Michaela and Nikki aren't) who are out to get some very evil killers. When I chose the pen name I used my kids' initials. I didn't see the AKA until my oldest pointed it out. DUH, Mom. Kinda cool though, huh? So here is the new cover for the first thriller. The second one is being worked on now, and I have just come up with a new idea for another thriller that I am plotting out and super excited to write. Again, feedback is more than welcome and you can't hurt my feeelings too much if you don't like it. Writers must grow hard callouses on their hearts and egos or we won't stay in the writing business long.

And, finally my third new cover and yet another pen name--and a change in the title. "Now, why go to all that trouble?" You may be asking me. It is a legit question and hopefully my answer doesn't sound dumb. First, let me tell you what I did and then why. My book that I titled "El Patron," (accent over the e, but I am techno and computer inept so just visualize it here) was not selling. Everything else I was putting out there has been selling but not this book. I scratched my head because I have to be honest, "I LOVE this book." And the people who have read it also seem to enjoy it. I believe in the book and always have. I am not ready to give up on it by any stretch of the imagination. I thought that if I put a really hot guy on the cover that it would sell. You know that old adage that sex sells? Yeah well,  not so much with this book. I took a hard look and asked some questions of others and myself. First off, is this book a romance, which is what the cover implies? No. It has romance in it, but in reality it is a family saga and one that has some Godfather undertones, thus the original title El Patron. That title is a problem I discovered. It seems to make readers think of tequila. I don't see how that is a problem, but in this case it is. Sure the characters do a few tequila shots in the book, but it definitely is not about tequila. I asked myself what is this book about? Yes--it's a family saga but who are the main guys and what is their story? Hmmm...duh (yet again, only this time from myself). This book is about The Cartel. It's gritty, it's violent, and it has some main characters who are not so nice. I changed the title to tah-dah: "The Cartel." I changed "my name" to Sofia Cruz. Don't ask me why, I just liked the sound of it. My mom is like, "Why Sofia Cruz?" I said, "Cuz it kinda sounds good." She gave me an odd look. Whatever, I'm going with it and hopefully this time around, I see some sales with this book--because I like the book! So there you go. Nothing like reinventing oneself.

I'd love your thoughts, comments, questions, answers, whatever. And as an incentive--I have a dozen "Toast to Murders," to give away. Post a comment and you get one. :) And, by the way--all three of these books are on Kindle for .99 cents!



Gayle Carline said...

I was once told that pen-names, while useful, require you to get an official "AKA" document, but it sounds like that's not true, especially if you're self-pubbing? Love the new covers, and the re-title of El Patron sounds smart. I actually thought it sounded like a family saga (title reminded me of a patriarch), but the previous cover made it look like romance.

Btw, did you get my email?

michele said...

I didn't get your e-mail. When did you send it? Just resend. Thanks for the comment. I will definitely get you your "Toast" copy!

Ann H. said...

Let me start by saying I LOVE your Wine Lover's Mystery series - I have them all - and I also really like their covers. I need something to get me out of my comfortable cozy reading - which is always my main focus when choosing books - but then I'll go to the extreme and get something about people being killed in mental institutions ("Saving Max" is actualy an awesome book.) While I like the idea of your horse mysteries - if I were going by covers alone - I think I'd pick up "Daddy's Home" - Is this available as an actual book or just as an e-book? (I'm still the paper-in-my-hands reader). I think you're a wonderful writer and enjoy your books - and your blog - and wish you luck with this new publishing adventure!

runner10 said...

I love your books. I think my fav has been Happy Hour.
You and your family have been in my thoughts lately. I thought your NYT article was well written. Many families can relate to what you are experiencing. Thanks for sharing.
Keep writing and riding!