Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Marcia James.She writes comic romantic mystery and suspense novels, as well as humorous contemporary romance.
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Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven Romance Writers of America contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command. Her latest releases are Sex & the Single Therapist (a comic romantic mystery), Heating Up the Holidays (a romantic Christmas novella), and Love Unleashed (a super sexy reunion romance). In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, she is enjoying "researching" and plotting her novels' steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
What do you have on the drawing board next? Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Southern Exposure. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Southern Exposure, a comic romantic mystery, is scheduled to be released next spring. Here's the blurb for the book:
The bare facts…
Who’s playing nasty practical jokes on the rich and famous at Eden Bay, the notorious clothing-optional Caribbean resort? Wanting out of her dead-end job, New Jersey tabloid reporter Piper Loring goes undercover to investigate. The chance to write for a respected newspaper is worth risking sunburn on previously unexposed body parts. But can she stay focused on the job when faced with a sexy mystery man?
The naked truth…
Miami private investigator Jack Kendall is hired to catch the Eden Bay Prankster. The pay’s great, but would Sam Spade wear a thong bathing suit? First on Jack’s list of suspects is the shy, intriguing blonde whose odd behavior marks her as a nude resort novice. Jack sticks to Piper like a sweaty thigh to a beach chair, but soon discovers his inability to carry a concealed weapon is the least of his worries.
Southern Exposure, where mystery and romance are hotter than the tropics!
My current project is three contemporary romance novellas featuring Klein's K-9s, a N.C. service dog training facility. The first one is titled, "Racing Hearts," and it will be one of ten sports-themed novellas in the Score One For Love boxed set (Release date: August 4th).
You do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances. When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I'm an extrovert, so I really enjoy book signings and other personal appearances, although I am a little shy when it comes to public speaking. So far this year, I've participated in three multi-author book signings and two writers' conferences. For several years now, I also participate in a West Chester, OH, Barnes & Noble Holiday Book signing in early December. So that might be my next book signing, due to my 2015 tight book deadlines. The best way for readers to keep up with my in-person events is to check my website's
"The Scoop" page. I always love meeting readers, both in-person and online!
You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?
Thank you! I've worked with several great book cover designers and always value their input. However, I pick the stock photos for the covers and the branded look for the font, colors, etc. Designers appreciate when an author comes to them with a clear vision of the cover because it saves them time -- they have to design fewer cover drafts. My contemporary romance covers (such as At Her Command) include a romantic couple in profile and a dog next to the title. (All of my books include a Chinese crested hairless dog, as well as other dogs and cats.) If I'm working for the first time with a cover designer, I email them examples of my other covers so they can see the branded look.
I wanted my "Dr. Ally Skye, Sex Therapist" comic romantic mystery series to have a different look than my contemporary romances, so I chose what some call "cartoon covers." Despite having a total lack of drawing skills, I mocked up the cover for the first in the series (Sex and the Single Therapist), scanned the drawing, and emailed it to the cover artist. I think he did a great job turning my idea into the cover.
I haven't yet involved readers in the cover design process, but I love hearing what readers think of my covers, which could influence future cover decisions.
You have written a couple short stories ("Love Unleashed," "Heating Up the Holidays," etc.). Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty's one of your styles of writing, or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?
"Love Unleashed" is my shortest story (12,000 words), and I wrote it originally for an American Heart Association fundraiser that asked for short stories. "Heating Up the Holidays" is a standard-sized novella (22,000 words). My upcoming Klein's K-9s trilogy of novellas will all be between 20,000 and 40,000 words. Writing short can be more challenging than writing a full-length book because you have to fit a lot of character development into a small word count. One thing I like to do is to have the hero and heroine know each other before the novella begins. This means, I can develop the romance along one of several plot themes -- reunited lovers, friends-to-lovers, and enemies-to-lovers, for example.
I enjoy the challenge of writing both books and novellas. And I do think that offering novellas for 99 cents is a way to introduce readers to one's writing. A reader might not be willing to pay for a book by an author they don't know, but they might try a 99-cent novella. As for sales impact, most indie authors believe it's important to have books or novellas come out every one-to-three months. Writing novellas helps authors have new releases more often than if they only wrote books. And hopefully, if a reader enjoys one of your stories, they will want to read them all.
I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a Romance novel collection called Spring Into Love.
(Showcased at HBS Author’s Spotlight)
What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other romance authors? How did you put something like that together?
I love participating in romance ebook anthologies (or boxed sets, as many people call them). Not only do I get to work with a great group of authors, but we each get one of our stories in front of the other authors' readers. This can and does lead to an increase in sales of our other books and novellas. So these boxed sets are a way of co-promoting with other authors. That saves time and money, since we're splitting the jobs (running a Facebook page, contacting advertisers, coordinating the cover and formatting, etc.) and the cost (paying for advertising, the cover, the formatting, etc.) And the boxed sets are a great deal for readers, too, since most of them include at least ten stories for 99 cents.
It's very important to network with other authors. Most of these boxed set opportunities come about when a group of author friends decides to join together to do a boxed set. The group comes up with a theme, like the sports-theme of this summer's Score One For Love. Each author in the group has to write a story (or have one already written) that fits the theme. All authors retain their copyrights and can also indie-publish their stories separately, as well as part of the set. One author has to be considered the "publisher" by the online bookstores (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc.), or the group can hire a company like IndieWrites to handle the publishing, royalties, and tax information in exchange for a small percentage of the royalties. I think all boxed sets are a win-win for both the authors and readers.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
So far I haven't made any of my books free in any online bookstore. However, I have participated in a number of promotional events that included giving away free ebooks. I've also made quite a few raffle baskets that include free print books of mine. The hope, of course, is that a reader will love his/her free ebook or print book and then buy all of your other books and novellas. So it's just one of many ways to self-promote.
The problems of giving away free books can include: 1. Getting a bad review for the book because the reader who received it doesn't like your genre/subgenre no matter how well-written the book. 2. Losing sales on a book because some people will sell a free ebook over and over or upload it to a pirate site.
Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
I send out a monthly enewsletter on Yahoo (although I plan to move the newsletter to MailChimp next year), and readers can sign up to receive it on my website's
Home and Contest pages. To encourage readers to subscribe to the enewsletter, I hold a monthly contest on my website, and the enewsletter includes contest updates. I also promote my contests on social media -- mostly
Twitter to get more subscribers. And when I do booksignings, I always have an enewsletter sign-up sheet on my table, in case readers want to subscribe.
I'm not yet on as many social media sites as a lot of other authors, but I do love Facebook and am slowly learning to use Twitter. On Facebook, I mostly post funny animal memes and videos (since I have pets in all of my books and my books are humorous), and I also post information about other authors' book releases, as well as my own releases. I sometimes will post personal information, but mostly my pro-animal Facebook friends just enjoy having fun, like I do.
I also like
Pinterest, where I create a board for each of my books and pin my research to those boards. For example, I can pin a photo of the car my hero drives or the Hawaiian shirt he wears. Or I can pin the music video of my heroine's favorite song or a photo of her perfume. Interestingly, the pin of mine that has been re-pinned most often by other Pinteresters is a photo of a Chinese puzzle box used by the At Her Command cop-heroine to hide her gun.
You have a great website and blog (The James Gang). You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and promoting other writers and their books. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels and maintain your blog?
Thank you for your kind words! ;-) I had a very clear vision of how I wanted my website
to look, because it needed to reinforce -- through images, text, fonts, and colors -- my brand of writing "Hot, Humorous Romances" featuring pets. Before I became a romance author, I worked as a writer: an advertising copywriter, a corporate scriptwriter, a nonfiction publication writer, etc. It was important to me that I be as professional as a fiction author as I was at my other writing careers. I want to write romances for the rest of my life -- stories that entertain readers and take them away from their worries for a while. I also want to make a good living writing romances. So that is my goal.
Interviewing other authors for my
James Gang page is a way to cross-promote with the authors. I'm promoting them, and they're promoting the interviews on my website. But I also try to promote other authors on my Facebook page and at my booksignings. I was at an event in June with urban fantasy author Darynda Jones. I love her books and talked them up to everyone I met. The flip side of this is I never put down an author's books or leave bad reviews. Whether or not a reader (myself included) likes a book can be very subjective.
As for time management, I'm not very good at it. My husband retired last year, which means he's available more to help with the chores of daily living. But I also want to spend more time off my computer with him. So I try to keep everything as simple as possible. For example, I only interview one author a month for the James Gang page. I couldn't blog daily and still get any writing done. I bought a tablet, so I can interact on Facebook while I watch TV with my husband at night, and that freed up some time during the day for writing. Some authors need very little sleep (not me!), so they have more time to write. Other authors will have one computer for writing and a second one in another room for email, so they won't be tempted to check email all of the time. Having a smart phone helps authors who like to tweet a lot. Other authors have virtual assistants (my dream someday) to help with promotion, mailings, etc. So finding time to write is a very individual thing.
What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?
My earlier books were published by traditional publishers or small press, and those were sent out for reviews to sites like Coffee Time Romance. Once another author and I bought a print ad in RT Book Reviews, which resulted in a good review for At Her Command. I use excerpts from these good reviews on my website and as part of the "back matter" in my books.
Now I primarily concern myself with reader reviews. At the end of each book and novella, I have a graphic that thanks readers who take the time to review a book or spread word-of-mouth about the book. One benefit of the boxed sets is that they garner more reviews than most individual books or novellas -- at least at first.
I think it is a great idea to use a caricature as a part of your author theme. I have to introduce Smokey, your Chinese Crested hairless dog author logo. How did you come up with the idea? Who creates your drawings?
My first book (At Her Command) featured a tiny Chinese crested hairless dog who was a DEA drug-sniffing dog. I chose the most incongruous breed to be a DEA dog, and I enjoyed the humor that came from pairing the tough, Alpha-male police detective hero with this tiny, goofy-looking dog. Since I'm a sucker for any book with a dog character, I decided my books would always feature pets -- and always at least one crested as my Alfred Hitchcock (who appeared in most of his films). So it made sense to have a crested as my author logo.
Since, as I mentioned, I can't draw a straight line, I hired a caricaturist to create my logo. I showed him a photo of a crested and he exaggerated it into my logo. I typed up an artist release form, which he signed, so I owned the image and could use it as I like. That signed form is in my safe deposit box. The logo is on my website and social media pages, as well as all of my promotional items from my business card to my excerpt booklets.
Author's Book List
At Her Command
DEA agent Domino Petracelli is chasing a career-making promotion and nothing will keep her from getting her man. Okay, so she’d rather infiltrate a Columbian drug cartel than go undercover as a dominatrix at Washington, D.C.’s Xecutive Branch sex club. But she’s up to the task. As the leather-clad Mistress Bella, Domino investigates the club’s drug ring while juggling a surreal roster of kinky submissives—and resisting one sexy client who’s not what he seems.
Police detective Dalton Cutter is a man with a mission—avenging his partner, who was murdered investigating the Xecutive Branch. Retracing his partner’s steps, he goes undercover as a club client. Dalton’s handled killers, junkies and pimps, but can the Alpha-male cop act submissive long enough to fool Mistress Bella? And will their sexual chemistry, crackling louder than Bella’s whip, derail Dalton’s investigation?
This R-rated romantic suspense pokes fun at the alphabet soup of Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, famous for their lack of interdepartmental cooperation. Imagine what could happen if several agencies unknowingly put operatives undercover at the same location. Let the sparks fly!
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His best laid plans...
DJ “Rabid Ron” Hart has a grand scheme to win back the woman he loves. It involves an animal adoption fair, a goofy hairless dog named Charlie and an offer she can’t refuse.
Her hidden desires...
Cara Wilson has fantasies she’s never admitted, and her ex-boyfriend still features in her erotic dreams. If only he didn’t keep his bad-boy urges so tightly leashed.
Tonight they’ll learn that winning sometimes takes losing control.
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Heating Up the Holidays
Nicky Paxton is up to her pointed elf ears in work—filling in for a sick Santa’s helper, corralling kittens in a mechanical winter wonderland and running her family’s department store chain. With only 14 shopping days until Christmas, the last thing she needs is the return of her high school heart-breaker.
Lawyer and single dad Chris Spencer leaves the Los Angeles rat race to raise his five-year-old daughter, Holly, in his sleepy Virginia hometown. His first goal is to make sure Holly has a Christmas to remember. His carefully laid plans don’t include a second chance with his first love.
When Holly asks the store Santa for a “fairy pony puppy”, Chris enlists Nicky’s help to track down the elusive item. Despite Nicky’s resolve not to re-gift her heart to Chris, their sexual attraction could power the town’s holiday light display. With the help of mistletoe, a hairless dog and a lonely child, Chris and Nicky just might get their Christmas desires.
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Barnes and Noble
Sex & the Single Therapis
- Dr. Ally Skye, Sex Therapist romantic mystery series Book 1
A CRIME OF PASSION…
To clear an innocent friend, Las Vegas sex therapist Dr. Ally Skye launches her own investigation into a patient’s murder. The last thing she expects is to find herself trading heated words and hot kisses with a sexy cop. Can this free-spirited amateur sleuth and her posse of Vegas insiders solve the crime before the killer targets her?
A SEXY COMPLICATION…
Cynical homicide detective Zack Crawford has the murder of a tom-catting cad to solve and a grieving widow to investigate. The last thing he needs is the interference of a red-hot sex therapist who haunts his dreams. Ally is trouble, and he’s determined not to risk his bachelor freedom for any woman. Besides, given her job, would she grade his performance in bed?
A DYNAMIC DUO…
In their search for the truth, Zack and Ally form an uneasy and sexually charged alliance. Murderers, extortionists and psychos are no match for these reluctant partners. Crime-solving was never this sexy or this fun!
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Barnes and Noble
Tails of Love
- SBC Fighters Book 6
Ten all-new stories that celebrate our animal friends, by bestselling and award-winning authors.
From Seeing Eye dogs to the cat who cuddles in your lap, animals are there for us in more ways than we can count. Helping us get through the day with a wag of the tail and a tilt of the head, they let us know that someone is on our side-no matter what. They also have an amazing ability to break down barriers between people; bringing families and loved ones closer, and giving strangers an excuse to strike up a conversation. In Tails of Love, each writer draws from her own unique perspective on our loyal friends--exploring the many mysterious ways they bring love into our lives.
Featuring stories from New York Times bestselling authors Lori Foster and Stella Cameron, and Ann Christopher, Kate Angell, Marcia James, Dianne Castell, Donna MacMeans, Sarah McCarty, Patricia Sargeant, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder.
A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS FROM TAILS OF LOVE GOES TO THE ANIMAL ADOPTION FOUNDATION OF OHIO.
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