It’s been 18 months since we first met Jacqueline Garlick in Episode #109, a month before Amazon imprint Skyscape was scheduled to launch the re-release of her first book Lumière, followed closely by the new release of its sequel Noir. This week Jacqueline returns to talk about her experience as an Amazon-published author and update us on her latest projects, including her non-fiction books for writers.
Previously on Rocking Self Publishing (Episode 109, to be exact), Jacqueline had sold the first two books in her steampunk fantasy series Illumination Paradox to Amazon imprint Skyscape. She had already published Book 1 of the series, Lumière, and had the second book Noirin edits and available on pre-order when Skyscape snapped them up. She also had her If Only series self-published on Amazon.
A month later, Skyscape released Lumière and Noir in a one-two punch two weeks apart, and Jacqueline was introduced to the Amazon mystery machine….
An Amazonian Mindset
Coming from a traditional publishing mindset, Jacqueline expected the first days and weeks of the launch to be filled with tons of promotional activity, but Amazon has a different way of doing things, she says. Instead of a flurry of activity at launch, the books were simply published and allowed to spend their first 30 days as new releases in their applicable categories (except in some categories due to the nature of Lumiere being a re-release). After the 30-day new-release period, the books entered into the second tier of automated visibility by Amazon algorithms for 60 to 90 days.
It is at this point that books will hit what authors lovingly refer to as “The Cliff.” Typically after 90 days, books drop from visibility unless sales, promotions, or a new release by the author gives them a boost back up. After Amazon exhausts the internal automated system that all books go through, they then slot their authors’ books into a promotional slot, running promos like Kindle Countdown deals and sending emails to readers they think will enjoy the books periodically.
Amazon are not concerned with getting a big song and dance out, Jacqueline says, and that really freaked her out. But once she was able to wrap her head around the new way they were doing things and that it was not the same approach or thinking as traditional publishing, she began to relax and focus her efforts on creatively supporting her Amazon promos to help get the word out.
Jacqueline had a great experience working with Skyscape. She feels they did a great job and the books were a good fit for them. Unfortunately, Skyscape didn’t pick up the third book in the series later on, but she calls that a gift. It’s not unusual for Amazon imprints to not pick up a third book in a series, she says, so she wasn’t shocked. And the benefits of having a third book in a series self-published at the 70% commission rate behind two books that are actively being promoted and kept visible by the Amazon machine is a pretty good position to be in, and she still actively supports Amazon’s promos of her first two books with her own ads and promos knowing she will earn back that expense in the long tail as new readers find and make their way through the series.
Book a Month Challenge
After things quieted down following her Skyscape releases, Jacqueline says she hit a funk. She was looking for a way to get back onto the writing wagon at the same time Chris Fox was embarking on his 21 Day Novel Challenge, so she decided to join him and attempt to write her third book Soleil in 30 days. Given that the rough drafts to previous novels had taken her six months to write, it was a tall order. But Chris upped his game, and so Jacqueline did too, ultimately writing the first draft of her next novel in 14 or 15 days.
The experience was eye-opening, she says, realizing that rough drafts don’t need to take a huge amount of time. Why spend so much time working on the first draft when it’s only going to be reworked and changed in later drafts? Better to get it all down and trust in the rewrite process.
She developed her own plotting system to help her write fast and efficiently, then set out to write a book a month for a year. Although she hoped to finish 13 books, she ended up with an impressive 10 new manuscripts: one major fantasy novel; four romance books (two of them under a pen name); and five non-fiction books for authors!
In order to accomplish so much in a year, even through a not-so-smooth moving of house, Jacqueline has had to carefully organize her day. Her first writing session is in the morning until noon, and that’s when she works on whatever is most pressing, either rough drafts or intense rewrites. At noon, she takes the time to get outside and go for a walk and FaceTime with her author friend Elise to talk shop. Afternoons are for pen name works, then family time. Finally, from 7:00 to 9:00, she spends time researching and marketing.
Jacqueline has invested heavily in her education as a writer. She’s traveled all over the U.S. attending every important conference she could find with the goal of learning from as many important people as she could find. She even attended the week-long Don Maass Breakout Novel Intensive three times (once on scholarship)! The experience has been invaluable.
“Each one of those people, and each one of those experiences, left me with a gift box of information about craft, about writing, about writing strong stories with beings and depths and layers and connective tissue that draw readers in….”
Taking the lessons she’s learned from various well known writing teachers such as Don Maass, Christopher Vogler, and James Scott Bell, to name a few, she developed her own plotting methodology called Tick-Tock plot. Most writers are intimately familiar with the climbing-a-mountain plot diagram, but Jacqueline always felt that a good story and plot is more circular in nature, and that’s how she taught her eighth graders to write stories when she was still teaching.
Jacqueline realized that the circular visualization lends itself well to a clock. Midnight to 1:00 is the first act, the first quarter of the book where you set your characters off into a special world. 3:00 to 9:00 is Act 2, with 6:00 being the midpoint of Act 2. 9:00 to 11:00 is the climax, where our heroes execute their mission, and 11:00 to 12:00 is the afterglow where readers get to see a little bit of how the world and the characters have changed as a result of the events of the story.
A lot of writers know their 1:oo to 3:00 plot point and their 9:oo to 12:00 plot point, Jacqueline says, but it’s the vague middle that gets them. Plotting things out on a clock allows the author to better visualize the shape of their story and actually see where the story is unbalanced and correct it before the drafting stage, saving loads of time. Jacqueline found she could put stories together so much clearer, faster, and better doing it this way, and it resulted in a much more balanced, more authentically correct story structure. She also found she was no longer struggling in the usual places in a story that she used to.
Jacqueline shares her “Tick Tock Plot” system in her new book for writers: Tick-Tock Plot: How To Speed-Write The Next Blockbuster eBook.
Next Big Thing
Jacqueline’s next two books due out this year are The Heartmenders Society (contemporary women’s romance) and Confessions of a Raging Bitch Queen (contemporary women’s fiction). She also will be releasing more books for writers in her Tick-Tock series and, of course, writing the next book. 🙂
Advice to New Authors:
“You are only as good as your editor.”
It’s a difficult task to find that great match with an editor, Jacqueline says, but it’s an important one. A good editor won’t just be thorough, but will have a good sense of your own stylistic approach and understand and respect what you’re trying to do as an author.
Jacqueline also has a great tip for setting up pre-orders. After a rough draft inadvertently got released instead of the final draft, she came up with a great solution. When you set up your pre-order on Amazon, assuming you don’t have the final draft ready, instead of uploading an entire rough draft, she suggests uploading a file that contains just the first few paragraphs followed by a message in bold: This is a draft copy. If you have received this in error, please contact the author to get a correct version immediately.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you get your final draft in by the deadline, but if there’s a problem, then doing this will certainly ensure that you can correct the problem with a minimal amount of irritation to readers and avoid needless one-star reviews due to typos and grammatical errors that were never meant to be seen.
“If you’re a creative soul, you need to employ it.” ~ Jacqueline, on pursuing your own path in self-publishing
“We may not fully understand what Amazon are up to, but they know what they’re doing. They have a very good idea of what works and what doesn’t.” ~ Simon, on trusting the Mystery that is Amazon
“It’s all out there. You’re just like naked, you know, walking the streets…” ~ Jacqueline, on what it feels like after a book goes live
“You don’t deserve to make any money if you don’t have anything to sell.” ~ Jacqueline, on the business of publishing
Jacqueline plots her book using the points on a clock. How do you plan your books?
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