M. Louisa Locke's Blog
March 22, 2016
Murder and Mayhem is a boxed set of four historical mysteries written by members of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative that will be only 99 cents between March 22-27.
These four mysteries range in time periods and settings from I. J. Parker’s The Hell Screen, set in Medieval Japan, to Anna Castle’s Murder and Misrule, set in Elizabethan England, to Libi Astaire’s Tempest in the Tea Room, set in Regency England, to M. Louisa Locke’s Maids of Misfortune, set in Victorian San Francisco.
M. Louisa Locke, March 22, 2016
March 16, 2016
St. Patrick’s Day Puppy Wearing green ribbon with clover coins around him.
The Pot o’ Gold Giveaway Hop is Coming – All Day on St. Patrick’s Day!
19 amazing authors have come together to give away $100 in gift cards to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, & Starbucks – plus eBooks, swag, and even more great prizes!
Just visit any of the following Facebook pages from midnight to midnight, Eastern time on Thursday, March 17th. Then hop to the next author on the list for more chances to WIN!
Don’t forget to give the pages a LIKE – and check out their books. You might find your next great read!
January 25, 2016
I turned sixty-six today, and I can’t help but think about my mother, who died when she was my age after a long illness. In that context, this particular milestone seems unusually significant. Both of my parents are gone…and yet daily I am reminded of the impact both of them had on my life.
Six years ago, I wrote a tribute to my father, Second Chances and Role Models, that talked about how his choices in life and his decision to write poetry in his retirement years influenced me in my decision to finally fulfill my dream of writing historical fiction by becoming a self-published author when I was sixty.
Today, however, I would like to talk about my mother and how I can see her influence in my journey as an independent author.
The two characteristics I associate most with my mother are friendship and service. When I remember her, I picture her on the phone, cup of coffee in hand and pad of paper next to her.
When the pen and paper weren’t being used, I knew she was listening patiently to her friends as they confided in her about their marriages, their children, their aging parents, their hopes and their fears. Friendship was important to her…and she spent quality time maintaining those relationships. Something she taught me to do as well.
But when the paper and pen were being used…I knew that my mother was organizing someone or something to be of service to others. She wasn’t just the normal 1950s mother volunteering as Girl Scout leader, Sunday school teacher, PTA president (although she did all those things.) But she organized vaccination drives in the inner city, was the first female elder in our church, helped found the first domestic violence hot line and shelter for battered woman in Pittsburgh, and became the volunteer Executive Director of Pennsylvania Common Cause—an organization committed to campaign reform that was started in the 1970s.
Friendship…and service to others. The twin pillars of her life.
So what does that have to do with my journey as an independent author?
When I worked as a college professor, I was part of a community, building friendships and actively serving that community. Following my mother’s example, in addition to my teaching responsibilities, I served on multiple committees, volunteered for faculty leadership positions, raised money for scholarships, and helped on the campaigns that got bonds passed to completely rebuild our campus. Hours and hours of time spent with paper and pen at my side, listening, talking, organizing, serving.
But I thought when I retired to focus on the solitary occupation of writing that it would be isolating. I told myself I would visit campus to keep up with old friends, maybe volunteer in the community.
But none of that happened because I found many of my new friends and opportunities for service among the growing indie author community. And I think that is because members of the indie community, by-in-large, do not see other authors as competitors, don’t see writing and publishing as a zero-sum game, and they are willing to share with each other, believing that our mutual goal is reaching readers not beating out each other for one of the few “contracts” doled out by traditional publishers each year.
As a result, on any given day, I check in with author friends scattered as widely as Australia, England, Canada, and practically every region of the U.S. We chat online about how our writing is going, share information on marketing initiatives, ask about the weather, commiserate over colds, and share funny cat pictures. Checking my Facebook to talk with both fans and other authors has become my reward when I hit my target of words written. And, over the past couple of years, I have actually gotten to hang out with some of these friends in the real world at conventions…turning what I have always seen as a chore into a delight.
But the indie author community has also provided me with opportunities for service. I know the common wisdom is that to be a successful indie author you need to treat it like a business…being focused, efficient, and subordinating everything to writing and marketing. And while I agree, my mother taught me that giving back to the community that sustains me is also important, making life rich and rewarding.
So I write blog posts on this website about my journey as an indie author…not as a marketing ploy…but as a way of giving back to a community of authors who have been generous with their own information.
For the past five years, I have helped serve the Historical Fiction Author Cooperative that I belong to (a group of 50 authors of quality historical fiction) by setting up author and book pages on the website (hfebooks.com) and organizing the weekly blog posts on Mondays, and putting together the Thursday posts that publicize when our books are discounted or newly published.
This year I helped found the Paradisi Chronicles, an open source science fiction world, which I hope will also become a vibrant community of science fiction authors committed to pushing the envelope of independent publishing. And I also had the wonderful chance to mentor a high school student as she self-published an anthology of her poetry and essays, entitled Tales of a Navy Brat.
And as I do these things…I think about my mother and smile. She might be puzzled by my use of a laptop instead of paper and pen or wonder how I was able to skype face to face with my mentee who lives in Singapore. But she would absolutely recognize that I am honoring her with the time I spend in friendship and service.
M. Louisa Locke, January 25, 2016
January 21, 2016
Yesterday, M. Ruth Myers and I posted Part One of our joint interview with our two female sleuths, Maggie Sullivan and Annie Fuller. Today, Part Two of the interview concludes over on Myers’ blog. Do go on over and read it, I think you will find that these two women end up having a lot in common.
Meanwhile, Uneasy Spirits, the second book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, is still free today and tomorrow (1/21-22) on Kindle.
January 20, 2016
When M. Ruth Myers and I discovered we were both promoting books in our respective historical mystery series at the same time, we thought how much fun it would be to compare the responses our female sleuths from different historical periods would make to the same questions.
On the surface, Mrs. Annie Fuller, the protagonist in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, is a rather typical 19th century widowed woman who supports herself by running a boarding house. The fact that she supplements her income as the pretend clairvoyant, Madam Sibyl, is a secret she must protect in order to preserve her reputation as a respectable lady.
In contrast, in M. Ruth Myer’s award winning series, her protagonist, Maggie Sullivan, is proud of her profession as private eye. Living in Depression-era Dayton, Ohio, Miss Sullivan drives a DeSoto, carries a .38, and isn’t ashamed to admit she likes an occasional nip of gin.
In short, you might imagine that Miss Maggie Sullivan couldn’t be more different than my genteel Mrs. Annie Fuller.
Well, let’s just see, as we ask them a series of questions.
Today’s post is Part One and tomorrow Part Two will continue over on Myers’ blog at http://galgumshoe.com
1. What got you interested in pursuing such an unusual profession for a woman?
ANNIE: Although I know that there are such things as female investigators who work for the Pinkerton Agency, I am strictly an amateur. In fact, it is my occupation as the clairvoyant Madam Sibyl, giving out financial advice to wealthy San Francisco businessmen, which got me involved in solving crimes. When one of my favorite clients died under suspicious circumstances, I decided to go undercover as a servant in his household to find out who killed him (and recover his missing assets.)
MAGGIE: My dad was a cop, so I grew up around cops from the time I knew how to toddle. I wanted to do what they did, but I wasn’t very good at following rules the way policemen had to. Then a woman in our neighborhood killed herself after her husband skipped out and she heard rumors he might have another family down in Cincinnati. My dad said if she’d been able to hire a detective and find out for sure, it might not have happened. I decided that’s what I wanted to do, to help people like that.
2. What is your relationship with local law enforcement like?
MAGGIE: Way too many of them try to mother hen me because they watched me grow up. Half the others, I went to school with. I get along fine with everyone on the force except two. One made a pass at me and I had to hurt him where it counted to convince him No meant No. The other’s the head of homicide, who clings to the notion I find things out by batting my eyes instead of using my brain. Nobody slips me information and I never ask for special favors – although I’ve been known to trick people into inadvertently letting a tidbit drop now and then.
ANNIE: Actually, I have tried very hard not to have my activities as an investigator come to the official attention of the San Francisco authorities, since any public recognition of my involvement would damage my reputation as a lady. All formal connections with the police have come through the San Francisco lawyer, Nathaniel Dawson, and Patrick McGee, a local patrolman, who happens to be my cook’s nephew. They have both proven to be invaluable collaborators in my investigations.
3. How do clients hear about your services?
ANNIE: Several of my first cases came from people who live in the boarding house I run who asked for my help, and Mr. Dawson has kindly brought me in to assist people that his law firm was hired to represent. Recently, it has been my growing reputation as an accountant who can ferret out financial wrong-doing that has led people to ask for my assistance.
MAGGIE: Many of my clients come to me through word of mouth. Some come because they’ve seen my number in the telephone directory. One even came to me because she found my business card in a library book.
4. Are there any ways in which being a woman gives you an edge over a man in pursuing your cases?
MAGGIE: Sure, several. It doesn’t occur to most people that a woman could be a private eye. That means I can blend in. Men, even when they find out what I do, tend to underestimate me. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to talk to me than they would a man. Sometimes I have to let them chatter on to sift out a tidbit or two. Men don’t have that kind of patience. Mostly they don’t even think of questioning the likes of manicurists and cigarette girls because such women are invisible to them.
ANNIE: I must say I agree with Miss Sullivan, that the fact that people tend to underestimate or over look me as a woman gives me an edge. It was amazing what I learned when I pretended to be a female domestic…people simply didn’t notice I was in the room. Women have to be observant to survive in a world dominated by men, so despite my relative youth, I have learned how to read the unspoken meanings behind a person’s clothing, the way they hold their bodies, and their facial expressions. And I can ask the kind of questions that would be seen as suspicious or rude, if I were a man, because I am perceived as just a gossipy woman.
The second book in my series, Uneasy Spirits, is free for the next three days (1/20-22) on Kindle
M. Louisa Locke, January 20, 2016
January 17, 2016
Maids of Misfortune is the first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, and I am pleased to say that six years after I first published it on Kindle, it is still selling quite nicely (one of the benefits of writing historical fiction is that these books never go out of date.). It has over 1100 four and five star reviews, and the whole series continues to attract readers who just want a light, fun, easy read (always my goal.) It will be 99 cents on Kindle for the next 3 days.
Next up is the second book in my series, Uneasy Spirits, which will be free on Kindle 1/20-22. This book is probably my most edgy, in that it deals with the question of whether or not spiritualism (which was a very popular belief in the 19th century) was real or not. So in addition to it being a fairly straight-forward mystery, it’s got a good deal of suspense going on as well.
Finally I want to report how happy I am with the sales of my novella, Violet Vanquishes a Villain, which comes chronologically right after the fourth book in this series, Deadly Proof. But I would also remind you that you can get this novella, and my collection of short stories, as a free download if you subscribe to my newsletter.
M. Louisa Locke
January 8, 2016
Apropos of one of my 2016 resolutions—to stay nimble when it comes to marketing—I have once again changed my primary marketing strategy for the first part of 2016.
In 2014, my main strategy rested on having my series of Victorian San Francisco mysteries in KDP Select and doing monthly 99 cent promotions of each book through the Kindle Countdown tool provided for books in KDP Select. With no new book out that year, this strategy did a great job at keeping the three books in my series visible and selling. Then, in the summer of 2014, when Amazon introduced the subscription service Kindle Unlimited, I found this strategy no longer served my books as well as it had.
That was when I decided to switch strategies for 2015. See Time for a Pivot: Kindle Unlimited and Marketing in 2015 for my reasons for shifting my books out of KDP Select to offer them in most major ebookstores while making the first book in the series perma-free and Pivot Post Update for details on the success of this change in strategy.
However, towards the end of 2015, I began to see two new trends in terms of my sales on Amazon. The number of downloads of my perma-free book began to slow, even with a second BookBub promotion, and the sell through rate to the other books was weaker.
I agreed with the analysis put forward by other indies that the promotional opportunities for books in Kindle Unlimited had changed the playing field, making it more difficult for independently published books not in KU to compete for visibility—at least in my categories.
The majority consensus among indies currently appears to be that the only way to fight this trend is to keep your books wide (in numerous books stores) in order to compensate for the loss of income on Amazon.
However, those authors who swear by this “going wide” strategy tend to be authors who are putting out five or more books a year—often fairly short books—and are able to use these frequent launches and the pre-order system to keep their books visible in all bookstores.
They also seem to be authors who have been successful in establishing relationships with representatives from other bookstores. I know from my own on-going experience with a representative from KDP how invaluable that kind of personal relationship with—say a rep from Apple, or Kobo, or Nook––can be in getting promotional opportunities.
Yet, I noticed that a number of authors were saying (often quietly since they were usually in the minority on discussion threads) that the introduction of what was being dubbed KU2 (paying for pages read) was helping increase their Kindle income substantially…more than enough to compensate for having their books exclusive with Amazon (a condition for having a book in KDP Select—and therefore KU).
I was intrigued by this information, in part because I am lucky to get a book out every 2 years (so the frequent launches and pre-order strategy wasn’t going to work for me the way it was working for other authors who were keeping their books out of KDP Select. I also wasn’t looking forward to doing the networking I would need to do to get those special promotional opportunities that would expand my books’ visibility in non-Amazon bookstores. So, I began to think about switching strategies again.
This fall I decided that I would experiment by putting two of my books back into KDP Select (books three and four of the series) and shifting back to doing free rather than 99 cent Kindle countdown promotions of those books.
In October, with Bloody Lessons and Deadly Proof back in KDP Select, I had a BookBub free promotion for Deadly Proof . The result was I made the single highest monthly income from Kindle that I have made in years. The promotion increased my sales of all the books in the series , with the total income from Kindle sales going up four-fold over the previous month. Not insignificantly, over half of that income came from the “pages read” of Bloody Lessons and Deadly Proof in KU.
The very length of my books became an asset when they are borrowed through Kindle Unlimited. If a person reads the entire book, I earn nearly what I earn from an outright sale of the book, and the “borrow” boost’s the book visilibity. I found that my increase in income for these two books in KDP Select more than compensated for the income I lost by not having them in the other bookstores.
I subsequently put books one and two (Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits) back into KDP Select as well and I am having a free BookBub promotion of Uneasy Spirits January 20-22 that I hope will have a similar impact on my sales.
But this is not a permanent shift in strategies. Once Pilfered Promises, the fifth book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series is completed (spring or summer of 2016), I intend to shift back to having the series be available everywhere, with the first book perma free. This will permit fans of the series who do not use Kindles or the Kindle app to buy the new book (and any of the books that come before it that they haven’t bought yet).
As should be obvious by now (if you aren’t suffering from whiplash following my different pivots), I believe that when it comes to marketing there should be no hard and fast rules. What works in certain seasons, for certain books, at certain stages in the life cycle of a book can vary. And just when I think I have found what works, the publishing landscape can and will change, and my strategies change accordingly.
What stays the same is my commitment to writing the best books I can and doing the best job I can to help them get discovered by the readers I think will enjoy them.
What is the main marketing strategy you plan to purse in 2016? Is it any different than your strategies for 2015? Let me know. In sharing there is strength!
M. Louisa Locke, January 8, 2015
January 1, 2016
Spend a greater percentage of my time writing:
This seems to be a common theme among fiction writers this year. For me, this means putting the writing first, being more efficient with the time I spend marketing, and continuing to use the strategy I developed last year to increase my productivity. This strategy (which consists of alternating between my historical fiction and my new science fiction series so I am writing on one series during the times when I am researching, plotting, and publishing work in the other series) enabled me to actually double the number of words I wrote last year.
Write more but shorter blog posts:
I have neglected my blog this year. On one hand, I felt increasingly like I had nothing new to say in the rapidly evolving self-publishing/ebook environment. On the other hand, my tendency to write long posts that took a week to finish seemed a waste of precious fiction writing time. The solution I am going to try this year is to write shorter posts, with more of them addressing readers than other writers.
During my long first career as a history professor, I would binge read fiction during my vacations (between semesters and at the start of the summer). However, since my so-called “retirement” (which in fact has turned out to be a second career), I have left little time for reading for recreation. I do read other authors’ manuscripts, and blog posts about the business, and historical monographs for research. But that is work, and I need to get back to reading just for fun. So I am going to try to read more during holidays and reserve one day a week for reading fiction for my own enjoyment.
Remain nimble when it comes to marketing:
I did not start my publishing career in the fall of 2009 with an established fan base, a backlist of previously published work, several manuscripts already written, or any marketing or tech experience. Once I started down the self-publishing path, I discovered that I was not a fast writer, in part because the research required for my genre was time consuming and because I was not willing to sacrifice my sleep, my wide circle of friends, or my service commitments to churn out four or five books a year (which seems to be one of the keys for financial success within self-publishing.)
What I had on the plus side was a fairly tech-savvy husband to help me master the skills needed to self-publish and a book I had worked on for three decades in a sub-genre (cozy historical mysteries) that turned out to have a large market. It also turned out that a career as a community college professor meant I knew how to tell engaging stories and had developed the analytical and organizational skills needed to market those stories.
I believe much of my subsequent success as a self-published writer has come from being willing to 1) stay in touch with changing marketing trends 2) experiment with new marketing tools 3) analyze the results of these experiments and 4) change my marketing strategies when needed.
In short, to stay nimble.
And, finally, my last resolution is to continue to be eternally grateful for the wonderful people I have met on-line over the past six years, readers and other authors alike.
I wish all of you the very best for the coming year.
M. Louisa Locke, January 1, 2016
December 12, 2015
I am delighted that I was able to finish the next installment in the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series in time to give it away for the holidays. Violet Vanquishes a Villain (which started out as a short story and grew into a 28,000 word novella) picks up where the fourth book in the series, Deadly Proof, left off. And it is now available as a FREE electronic download for anyone who has subscribed or wishes to subscribe to my newsletter. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE
Here’s the description:
In this novella, Annie and Nate Dawson, the amateur sleuths from M. Louisa Locke’s cozy Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, are visiting Nate’s family at their ranch near San Jose, California. What was supposed to be a pleasant romantic interlude for the two of them, plus a chance for Annie to get to know Nate’s family better, turns serious when a crime is uncovered. And, as in Locke’s short stories from this series, Annie gets help in resolving the crisis from a very unexpected quarter. Violet Vanquishes a Villain comes right after Deadly Proof, the fourth book in the series, although it can certainly be read as a stand-alone story.
Finally, a reminder that you can get the first three books in this series at a substantial discount if you buy the Boxed Set on Kindle. At $6.99, it is a 40% discount, and if you are a Kindle Unlimited Subscriber you can get it for FREE. Perfect as a gift for someone else as well.
M. Louisa Locke,
December 12, 2015
November 4, 2015
I am excited and proud to have 2 of my books as part of a Historical Fiction StoryBundle that is available, November 4-26.
In case you don’t know, StoryBundles offer readers a chance to discover quality books by independent authors in a particular theme. These bundles are put together and are available for a limited time. The reader can look at the basic bundle and decide how much they would like to pay, whether they would like to also obtain the bonus books, and whether they would like to donate some of the money raised to charity.
The Historical Fiction StoryBundle comprises a total of ten terrific titles by top-notch authors, together representing a breadth and variety of experience. These stories blend real-world historical settings with romance, adventure, fantasy and mystery to bring you whole worlds of fun! You’ll visit ancient Egypt, the Americas, the Caribbean, Great Britain and Japan; you’ll meet pirates and warriors, witches and princesses, detectives, time-travellers and more.
For my participation in the Historical Fiction StoreBundle, Maids of Misfortune, the first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series has been made available to those people who subscribe to the StoryBundle Newsletter, while the second book in the series, Uneasy Spirits, is part of the basic bundle.
My Victorian San Francisco Mystery series features Annie Fuller, a young widow who supports herself by running a boarding house and supplements this income by giving business and domestic advice as the clairvoyant, Madam Sibyl. While no one would think twice about Annie Fuller’s occupation as boarding house keeper (one of the most common jobs held by married or widowed women in this period), her second occupation, as the clairvoyant, Madam Sibyl, was not so ordinary.
However, in 1880, spiritualism was very popular, and on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle were listed at least a dozen clairvoyants of one type or another, mostly women. In fact, in the 1870s a famous woman, Victoria Woodhull, had gained national notice when she and her sister set up the first known female brokerage firm. Like Madam Sibyl, they suggested that they got their stock tips through supernatural means.
Spiritualism, as a religious movement, took off in the United States in 1848 when the young Fox sisters began to communicate with the dead through a series of mysterious rapping sounds. Spiritualists believed in universal salvation and that spirits could communicate with the living. Mediums began to appear throughout the United States, and they professed to have the ability to speak with the dead through a variety of mechanisms, including spirit guides, celestial music, alphabetical codes, and slate writing. These mediums went into trances and spoke before large audiences in public halls, and they held séances and private “sittings” where the spirits gave advice and foretold the future.
Women found Spiritualism a particularly welcoming movement. Based on the belief that the individual could communicate directly with the divine through spirits, Spiritualism challenged the authority of established churches and permitted women an unprecedented degree of power. As Spiritualists, women spoke in public, formed and led organizations, wrote newspaper articles, and made money as mediums.
However, this movement also became a perfect haven for fraudulent activities as men and women used rigged tables, tricks with the new medium of photography, and the general gullibility of human beings to extract money…often from grieving individuals who desperately wanted to contact a departed love one.
In Maids of Misfortune, one of Madam Sibyl’s clients dies in mysterious circumstance, and Annie goes undercover as a domestic servant to discover what really happened. In Uneasy Spirits, one of her boarders decides that because of her experience as a pretend clairvoyant that she would be the perfect person to investigate and expose a fraudulent trance medium. Her investigation takes Annie into the intriguing world of 19th century spiritualism, encountering true believers and naïve dupes, clever frauds and unexplained supernatural phenomena.
But the historical Fiction StoryBundle doesn’t just offer you my two books, but you will also be able to take a walk through ancient Egypt with Libbie Hawker’s House of Rejoicing, the first part of a captivating series featuring the famous Nefertiti. Travis Heermann will spirit you away to 13th-century Japan in Sword of the Ronin, an intricate novel blending the tale of a lone warrior with myth and fantasy. You’ll go on a thrilling pirate adventure with Helen Hollick in Sea Witch! Here be pirates! And magic, and romance, and combat upon the high seas! And I’ll introduce you to a re-imagined Regency England in Miss Landon and Aubranael, which mixes a refined tale of life among the gentry with fairytales, magic and folklore.
And that’s just the basic bundle! You’ll get all of that for just $3. For $12 or more, you’ll receive four more terrific titles including the second part to Libbie Hawker’s saga of pharaohs and queens, Storm in the Sky. The further adventures of Helen Hollick’s pirate hero Jesamiah Acorne will also be yours in Pirate Code. In Mercenary, David Gaughran tells the thrilling (and true!) story of Lee Christmas, an American embroiled in revolution in nineteenth-century Latin America. And on top of all of that, Sarah Woodbury will take you time-travelling back to medieval Wales in Footsteps in Time, an enthralling tale of romance, fantasy and adventure.
To find out how to buy the Historical Fiction StoryBundle, just click here and enter a world of romance, mystery, fantasy, and adventure all in an historical setting.