Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Issue of Self-Publishing Control: Book Titles

Control: I believe that is the best aspect of self-publishing. Sure, in the discussions that rage endlessly across the internet about trad-publishing vs. self-publishing, the major issue always seems to revolve around money. Yes, we get better royalties when we self-pub. When my first book was published by a NY house, my royalty rate for the first 100,000 books sold was ten cents per book. You read that right: ten cents. After that, it “jumped” to twenty-five cents.
But that issue has been beaten to death. I believe people overlook the bigger picture of self-publishing, and that’s having control over the way the book is packaged and presented.
The number one issue is the title. The title gives our readers the very first glimpse of the story. In just a word or two or three, we have to convey some idea of the story line, the genre, and the overall feel of the book. That’s a tall order.
My first book was an historical romance. Not exactly high literature, but that’s what I was reading at the time — reading and having extreme disappointment in. With almost every other book I read, I found myself muttering, “I can do better than this.” So I did. My book was set in the American West of the 1800s and the protagonist was a half-breed, raised white in New York society, who ran away to Kansas to search for her Cheyenne family. I titled it The Rare Breed.
When I sold that book to the NY house, the first thing they did after I signed the contract was change the title. My book became Love’s Savage Destiny. Believe me, I was not pleased. My book was not a bodice-ripper, and I wasn’t too keen on it being presented as such, but all of this was now beyond my control. In my haste to hook up with a traditional publisher and have a credible house logo on the spine, I had given up any influence over the cover or title of the book. The cover, luckily, wasn’t bad – not overly titillating but still suggestive. My book was definitely on the sensual side, but although the sex was graphic in a flowery way, I always felt that the real story was the heroine’s growth through her journey. The title and cover implied no growth except perhaps in the leading male character’s anatomy.
I still remember the first time my husband and I went to a chain bookstore to see if my book was on the shelf. The store had one huge wall full of romance novels, and we both scanned the shelves looking for mine. No, no, no, no … After several minutes of fruitless search, my husband finally said to me, “There’s a lot of Savages up there.” And there were. Way too many.
Because my publisher had the option on my next book, I dutifully sent it to them. It, too, was a western romance, this time set in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. Again, the romance was strong but still secondary (I thought) to the heroine’s struggle to understand the father she never knew, the one that left her gold from the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. My title was Superstition Gold, alluding not only to the literal gold but also to the gold of her new-found romance and relationship. As before, I would never consider the book a bodice-ripper.
My publisher begged to differ. I received a letter from them announcing the new title of the book was Love’s Savage Embrace. They also hoped I would be as “thrilled” with the title as they were.
Yeah, no.
It was at that point that I swore one day I would write a romance novel and call it Love’s Savage Armpit. (Which I have now done!)
In any event, both books went through several iterations with my publisher and then finally were allowed to lapse out of print and the rights reverted back to me. Still uncomfortable with the bodice-ripper association, I republished them under my original titles and with less titillating covers, although I do reference the other titles on the publication page. (I’d hate to have readers think they were hoodwinked into buying the same book twice. “Hey, this sounds familiar….”) But I’m much happier with the books being presented in a more thoughtful, less scintillating way. Sure, I like sex as well as the next guy, but I’d still rather that my readers know my stories have more to them than that.
And now, being self-published, I can do just that.
Some of you might be wondering, did my books sell better with my titles, my covers, or with the publisher’s? It’s impossible to say; it’s apples and oranges. When the publisher put the books out, they were in drugstores and grocery stores, available in the turning wire racks where impulse buyers might see them. Now that I market my own books and the industry has changed so much, all my promotion is online or in person. The only thing I can tell you is that both books now embody the vision I had for them from the very beginning. They are my books: my stories, my titles, my covers, my packaging.
That’s the freedom of having total control.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on September 23, 2014.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stop the Chop: Writing Smooth Transitions


Have you ever read a book where the scene is progressing nicely, things are happening, people are talking and then … you’re somewhere else. From one paragraph to the next, you’ve gone from a moonlit beach to a crowded avenue. You were just starting to understand the relationship between John and Marsha and now suddenly you’re introduced to Tony.
“Marsha, hello,” John called brightly. He was obviously pleased to see her. His eyes shone at her with reflected moonlight.
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.
Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
Does this make you do a double-take? Do you have to go back and re-read just to make sure you didn’t miss something? In recent months I’ve read more than a few books that had trouble with transitions. Now I’ve yammered on before about how, when we write, we need to make sure the reader is flowing along with us effortlessly. Yes, there may be drama in the story and yes, there may be tension, but there shouldn’t be any of that in the reader’s efforts to follow the story. The reader may need to work at piecing out the story line in a thriller, may need to tease out the truth from the lies and misdirections in a mystery, but they should not have to work at following the writing. In my opinion, if the reader does have to work at that, we haven’t done our job well at all.
There are several ways to indicate a change of time or scene. A very simple way is to put an extra space between the paragraphs.
“Hello,” John called brightly. He was obviously pleased to see her. His eyes shone at her with reflected moonlight.
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.

Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
The space gives us a visual clue that something has changed, and it sets us up immediately — without reading another word — that something different is going on. Equate this to the “fade to black” in films. You know when the scene fades to black that you’re either going to a different time or a different place, even if it’s still a scene with the same characters.
I have to add a small caveat here. With the popularity of eBooks, we unfortunately often see formatting glitches, generally in the category of extra spaces where there shouldn’t be one (as well as indent anomalies). The single extra space between paragraphs is a simple, subtle way of indicating a shift, but with eBooks, it might be better to be more obvious, just in case. For that reason, I suggest the use of centered asterisks (either three or five) between paragraphs, like this:
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.
*****
Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
Another more direct way is to preface your next sentence with a reference to time or place. It might look like:
The next day, Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
Or:
In Times Square, Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
No, it’s not particularly elegant, but it’s unmistakable. The readers don’t have to wonder where or when they are. Those few words set them up immediately for the next scene.
If you don’t want to use anything as obvious as the above, there’s another way. That’s to put a period on the end of your paragraph. What I mean by this is that you can end your paragraph with a line that wraps up the scene, that gives it a final, definitive feel to it, even if it also promises there’s more to come. We see this often in soap operas (no, I don’t watch them, but I have surfed through enough of them from time to time). It might look like this:
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her. He folded his arms across his chest, forming a barrier between her and any escape she might consider. This time, he would make sure she wasn’t going anywhere until she explained where she’d been.
Or:
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.
Marsha sighed in tired resignation. She should have told him about the surgery a long time ago. She owed him that much, at least. “It’s a long story,” she said. “We’d better sit.”
I realize this is all subjective and can be very nebulous when we’re trying to tie it down, but it’s like the old definition of quality. You may not be able to define it, but you know it when you see it. And you also know when it’s not working. What do you think? What tools do you use to make good transitions?
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on August 26, 2014.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Release: Dream Walk

I'm happy to announce the release of my latest book, Dream Walk, the fourth book in the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery Series. 



As you may remember, Lacey and Sam are private investigators who investigate murders--by communicating with the victims. 

Private investigator Lacey Fitzpatrick and Navajo medium Sam Firecloud are usually called to clear haunted locations of their lingering ghosts using Sam’s unusual talent for communicating with the dead. This time, however, the dead—Sam’s former brother-in-law—comes to him… in a dream. Now Sam and Lacey head to Las Vegas to figure out how to find the body and uncover a murder plot before the murderers bury them forever.

Catch up on all the action. Follow Lacey and Sam through mysterious investigations in Los Angeles, the Navajo reservation in Arizona, and Hollywood. 


Ghost Walk         Skin Walk         Star Walk

To celebrate the new release, all books in the series are just 99 cents through July 31, 2017