The phenomenal Kim Linwood – Part Two

Last time I invited Kim Linwood over to talk about the spanking success of Rebel, her debut stepbrother romance (no blood-related MCs, big HEA) and her method, I ended up publishing one of the most read and widely shared posts on this blog (here is the interview if you missed it). Her second outing with Bossy in the same sub-genre was equally successful, proving that she’s here to stay. I’m super excited to have Kim back to give us the lowdown on how she repeated her feat of producing a book that topped Kindle categories and shot up the Kindle bestseller list.

Welcome back, Kim! Are you ready for another third degree? Your success is too good not to be shared. Let’s start with your writing process. Bossy was published four months after Rebel but still, having read both books, I felt you have grown as an author. What are the writing areas that you worked on more this time around?

Thank you! I feel like Bossy is a better book, but it’s really difficult to evaluate when you’re so close to the source. By the time you’ve read over the book for the millionth time, you’re convinced it’s terrible, completely unfunny and hopelessly unromantic.

This time I tried to work on character depth and story depth, without losing the humor and plain fun that I try to inject into my stories. Declan and Claire’s relationship builds more naturally in Bossy, I think, and there’s a subplot narrative beyond just “I love/hate you” that helps drive the story and their relationship forwards. Obviously, the readers will determine whether I succeeded or not, but that was at least what I was going for. 🙂

You target a commercial, trendy romance niche: the stepbrother romance. Do you adjust your story to fit a specific mold? Do you follow a specific recipe or do you go by instinct? 

This is a difficult question to answer. By writing to a niche, I suppose the answer is always going to be yes, since I keep the niche in mind while planning the book. On the other hand, it’s a type of book that I really enjoy writing, putting my personal touch to it. I think my books have a definite comedic aspect to them, and I try to make the characters bigger than life with a bunch of over the top antics, all while writing a solid romance with real emotions and a happy ending at the core of it. I think my style works pretty well for the stepbrother/bad boy tropes, so I guess the answer is yes and no. The niche guides my decisions when I plan the book, but they’re usually decisions I might’ve made anyway, so I’m not sure if those count as concessions or not.

You published Rebel in May with great results. What knowledge have you gained since in terms of marketing a book? What did you do differently this time?

To be honest, I’ll be following more or less the same plan. Rebel was #11 in the Amazon Kindle store at its best, and it’s impossible to not be very happy about that. Obviously, I was hoping for a repeat success, but while I was hopeful, it’d be crazy for me to expect it. It could be quite possible that Rebel was a fluke, or just happened to show up at the right place at the right time. It was my first novel, and with a sample size of one, it’s difficult to glean any meaningful data. So for now, I’ll keep going with what I know worked last time, and then in a month or two, I’ll look back at this launch and see if there’s anything I feel needs to change.

Do you see the stepbrother romance trend holding up? Is there another romance niche on the rise?

There are definitely fewer stepbrother novels hitting the top ranks these days, so the trend might be dying down, or there might just be a lull right now. That said, I still see authors doing well with them and I know there are more coming from authors I respect. I have a lot of fun with the trope, so I’ll probably keep at them while readers enjoy them. That said, bad boys and sassy heroines don’t really seem to go out of style, even if the specifics change. Whether they’re werewolves, bikers, stepbrothers, MMA fighters, or something else, I think they’ll be around in some form for a long time to come. Who knows, maybe I’ll even write a few with different tropes just to mix it up. 🙂

As for coming genres, I have hopes for science fiction romance. The new Star Wars movie comes out around Christmas, and authors like Ruby Lionsdrake and Mina Carter have had good luck with them. If they’re going to get to top 10 material, I don’t know, though. I think writing sci-fi would be a ton of fun, but contemporary romance does seem to be the vast majority of the bestsellers, but there was certainly periods for werewolves and vampires in the past, so maybe the fantastical will get another chance. There are many authors who are still doing really well in those categories.

I guess my answer is, I don’t know, but if it’s not stepbrothers, I think it’ll be difficult to go wrong with the bad boys in some format. 😉

I know you sent out over 300 ARCs which got you over 100 reviews on the first day of Bossy’s publication. With only one book out and a budding platform, how did you connect with such a large number of potential readers and got them to give up their email address?

Well, for Rebel, I sent out 113 ARCs, I think it was, so the first thing I did was to ask them to sign up if they wanted to do an ARC again. I do a new signup each time to keep the list fresh. I figure that’ll get rid of those who didn’t care for the previous book and probably aren’t a good match as an ARC reader anyway. Also, my mailing list had about 230 people on it at the time, so I offered all of them to sign up as ARC readers.

At the same time, I try to get to know other authors, especially ones who write in similar genres, and we’ll do newsletter exchanges, so several of my friends sent notes to their mailing lists asking for ARC signups. In addition, I used Facebook, but I do think the majority came from the newsletters and previous ARC reviewers.

Endorsement through newsletters. Awesome! I keep seeing indie authors adding a whole other book at the end of a new release (two even). You’ve also added Rebel in its entirety as a bonus novel in Bossy. Why an entire book when it’s already up on Amazon and not just the one chapter?

With the way Kindle Unlimited has changed to paying authors by the page, there’s really very little reason to not give the reader as much content as you can, with as low of a barrier as possible. If it’s as simple as flipping a page to start reading another of your books, the threshold is virtually zero, at least so long as the reader likes your writing to begin with. You still have to generate quality product, writing good stories well, or they’ll never get there. But so long as they do, it’s a win/win situation for author and reader.

That makes so much sense. So, readers, you see that writing well is just one of the talents a successful author possesses (although it’s the number one talent, and that will never change). But if sales matter to you, then you have to keep abreast of trends, pool resources with others, and keep those books coming out! (Maria, are you listening?)

Kim, thank you so much for allowing me to tap into your insights for the second time. Here’s to you coming over a third with another bestseller, equally jaw-dropping stats and more useful tips.

Thank you so much, and believe you me, I hope so too! 😉

Links used in this article:

Bossy: A Stepbrother Romance (with bonus novel Rebel)Amazon US–   Amazon UK

My review of Bossy

Rebel: A Stepbrother Romance)Amazon US– Amazon UK

My review of Rebel

Kim’s first Q&A on MM Jaye writes

Connect with Kim Linwood

Sitehttp://kimlinwood.com
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/kimlinwood
Facebook: http://facebook.com/kim.linwood

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Blurb Thursday #3 (Blurb critique): Bossy by Kim Linwood

This week, I’ll present a blurb that takes top marks. Writing a blurb can be a royal pain, but the number one rule is to, first, think about your audience and then about your book.

Kim Linwood writes naughty, sexy stepbrother romances. As not all of you are familiar with this sub-genre let me make clear that the hero and heroine are not blood related; their parents hitch, but the chemistry between the siblings is too much to resist. Bossy
is Kim’s second full-length novel, and it’s shooting up the Kindle charts as we speak—it’s already No.1 in Action & Adventure, No. 2 in New Adult & College and No. 3 in Romantic Comedy. Note that the author offers her previous book, Rebel, together with Bossy (two in one).

Bossy: A Stepbrother Romance: (With bonus novel Rebel!)

by Kim Linwood
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Purchase link: Amazon

Blurb

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do him.

One night only. No promises, no regrets. He was rich, ripped, inked up, and gone in the morning.

I didn’t even know his name. Not until I read it off the door on my first day at work.

See, I don’t do bad boys, I don’t do troublemakers and I sure as heck didn’t graduate college with a 3.9 GPA by screwing around.

I was never supposed to see him again, but now he’s my new boss, as sexy in a suit as he was between my sheets.

And my new stepbrother.

Having him was a slice of Heaven. Working for him could mean selling my soul. But if the devil looks like Declan Riordan, Hell might be worth the burn.

My take

Bossy 1

The title? Indispensable. The audience of New Adult contemporary romances have the attention span of sugar-deprived child in a loaded candy shop. If you don’t grab their attention in the first sentence, they’re off to the next half-naked-guy cover—and trust me, there are a lot! It is a crowded sub-genre. Here, Kim uses a pun that shows that the story will get down and dirty—no sweet-talking those readers!

Bossy 2

After the reader knows that the book means business, she’s got to know what kind of hero she’s dealing with. Gorgeous, tattooed with commitment issues fits the bad-boy bill.

Bossy 3

Next step is to define the hero and heroine’s relationship. The first complication is their forced professional relationship. Kim here “shows” it instead of telling it.

Bossy 4

Now, the conflict has to be founded. The conflict initially stems from the heroine’s personality which has to be at odds with that of the hero for the explosive relationship dynamics to work. Here, our heroine is a good girl, a good student who stays out of trouble apart from that one fated night—but she won’t mince her words.

Bossy 5

Conflict fully presented. Not only is the relationship professional, it’s personal as well. And there’s also emotional conflict as the heroine’s heart and logic go their separate ways.

Bossy 6

This type of blurb has to end with a bang. In this case, the big dilemma. Kim does an awesome job with heaven and hell puns–good girl vs bad boy–that work like a charm. The good girl is seriously considering allowing herself to burn in the bad boy’s hell.

There’s absolutely no way readers of this sub-genre won’t one-click this title—and its success after just two weeks since it was published proves it.

Kudos to Kim Linwood for a blurb job awesomely done.

MM Jaye

First-time author creates a bestseller in two months: the phenomenal Kim Linwood

Yes, you read that right. Today, I have invited a self-published author who has achieved a feat. In March, she was outlining her first book, and at the end of May, she had sold over 12,000 copies, reaching No. 11 in the Kindle bestsellers list. The paid one. Are you okay? Need a glass of water? I’ll wait.

Rebel is a stepbrother romance—the scorching hot trend right now. Still, 9 out of 10 bestselling authors of that sub-genre have a long backlist of books and a strong author platform (trust me, I checked). Today, I brought to you the other … one.

When I checked out Rebel by Kim Linwood and saw that she’s a first-time author just starting her author platform, I had to connect with her. Kim is very sweet and approachable, and it turns out that this is her first interview! Well, we’ll take advantage of that now, won’t we? 😉 Read on for probably the most interesting interview you’ve read in a while.

Rebel

by Kim Linwood
Publication Date: May 13, 2015
Genres: New Adult
Heat Level: 3 (Explicit)
Purchase Link: Amazon

Read an excerpt  |   Read my review

Kim, I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to get to know you better. Your success is every indie author’s dream, and tapping into your approach to self-publishing is an opportunity not to be missed. Before we get down to talking shop, what else can we know about you?

Thank you. I’m so excited to do this interview. It’s my very first one, so be nice to me! 😉

I’ve always loved reading and writing, even though for most of my life I haven’t worked with it explicitly. I love to read widely, and while I think writing bad boy romance is a ton of fun, I’d love to make some forays into other genres at some point, like science fiction or horror. I might have a bit too much fun with my writing for good horror, though. 😉 I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to make the leap to try to make this my full time job. I’m blissfully married, and have two healthy, talented and bright grade-school age boys who keep me busy when I’m not writing. There’s always something to do!

Rebel is your first full-length novel. Did you have any prior publishing experience?

I’ve written a bunch of short stories, with the goal of honing my craft and learning the publishing process. It’s given me practice in making engaging covers and blurbs, and understanding how to get the process running. It’s also taught me a bit about what I need to outsource. Launching Rebel was a lot of firsts for me, though. First full-length, first paperback (lots of special formatting), first attempts at larger scale promotion and advertising, first ARC team, and so on. It was a lot of new things to learn.

Stepbrother romances are the hot trend right now, but it might not be so in six months, which makes me wonder. Did you set out to jump on that particular bandwagon? When you were testing waters with your short stories, was Rebel already written or conceptualized?

Until I was ready to start writing the novel, I really didn’t know that I’d write a stepbrother book, but I really enjoy bad boys and sassy girls, and love the love/hate dynamic between them, so it seemed like a natural choice. I wanted to create a story with sparks flying everywhere, hopefully with a couple of fun surprises and with a satisfying Happily Ever After ending.

Within that framework, I looked at the Amazon top 10 to see what was selling. I really want to make writing my full-time business, and so there is a balance between finding your stories and writing what sells. I’m lucky enough that I discovered a trend that I found really entertaining and that engaged me, so after reading some of the top books at the time for inspiration, like Prick by Sabrina Paige or Blackbird by Abigail Graham, I set to putting together my own bad boy stepbrother story. I had a ton of fun building the plot and writing the characters of Gavin and Angie, and I hope that shows in the final book.

Most definitely. I read Rebel in almost one sitting. (You can read an excerpt here and my review here.) Confession time: I read the book because I had to establish that it’s quality work before inviting Kim over. Indeed, it is very professional in every aspect. What stands out is the great editing—the weak spot of many new self-published authors. What aspects of Rebel did you outsource to professionals?

I’m very lucky in that I’m close with a fantastic editor who looks at everything from typos and simple proofreading to plot inconsistencies, logic, character consistency and flow. We have a process that puts the book through several iterations, to hopefully achieve a great final product. I’ll give an example of our process here.

First I self-edit the book, doing what I can to get rid of awkward phrasing, inconsistencies, slow points, and anything at all that I’m not happy with. While I write, I’ll usually leave comments to myself for editing as I think of them, so I address all of those as well. Then my editor reads through the book quickly, like a reader, and then gives me big picture feedback. The book’s slow here, or a guy like Gavin would never do something like this, or whatever. I fix those if I agree, then pass it back for a more in-depth pass. This is where it’s important to be humble, because my editor is merciless. Whole passages are cut, rewritten, adjusted and added, all in the name of making a better book. Once I’ve responded to those edits, there’s a final read-over to make sure nothing got broken in the edit process.

Finally, I send the book out to a handful of beta readers who read the book and give their own feedback. Once I’ve responded to those, the book is ready for ARCs and publishing.

What about the cover? The cheeky “what” gesture of the guy makes it stand out from the mass of almost identical covers. Who gets the credit?

cut

I commissioned the cover from Cormar Covers. I do alright with Photoshop, but not making a cover for a bestseller alright. 😉 The image is stock, but she’s really good at taking a basic stock photo and making it look unique. The credit for the cover is all with my cover designer.

How long did it take you from outlining the book to launching it? (Readers, brace yourselves.)

About a month and a half. It took a couple of days of outlining, about three weeks to get the actual text written, and then a couple of weeks of editing, including betas. Finally the ARC readers got the book a little early, and then the book went live soon after that.

Three weeks to write a full-length novel?  (Rebel is at 61K words.) To most of us, this timeframe is, well, unrealistic. Especially if you include working with an editor. Can you get more specific about how you managed that?

April was easily my most productive month ever, at right around 70,000 words, and May was nowhere near it. Sometimes the words flow quickly and other times there’s too much going on or I’m just not inspired enough. That said (and it was probably a couple more days than three weeks), that’s still a little less than 3,000 words a day on average. It’s fairly quick, but far from superhuman if you put the hours in. I do have an online circle of author friends and we track our word counts on a shared spreadsheet. A few of them routinely put out 100-150,000 words per month. I feel very much in the middle of the pack there. I think Stephen King’s writing advice is to write at least 2000 words a day, and I try to stick to that when I can.

My editor and I are very close, and she isn’t on the market so I get to monopolize her time. I do all my writing in Google Docs, and then I just share the document with her, giving her commenting rights. I split the book into smaller parts, so as soon as she was done with a part, I could jump on that one while she started the next. That gave us a very quick rapport while going through the edit process as a team. I was making corrections almost as quickly as she made comments and suggestions.

For actual writing productivity, I use the Pomodoro Technique, which is using focused time boxes of work. Basically, I start a timer and concentrate on writing for 30 minutes, then a 5-10 minute break, and then back in. It’s a very nice way of keeping focus, since I won’t allow myself to check email, Facebook, etc. while the timer is running. I can usually produce about 4-600 words in a 30 minute sprint, so getting to 2-3000 words in a day is only 3-4 hours of writing. My best day was around 7500 words while I was writing Rebel.

That is amazing. I’m linking to the Pomodoro Windows app, in case anyone (everyone) is interested. You’re truly dedicated. And what does that incredibly productive workspace of yours look like?

authorspace

We live in a fairly small apartment, so I don’t have a dedicated writing space. Instead I’ll carry my Chromebook with me (my writing tool of choice) and rotate between the living room couches, the bedroom or the kitchen. Sometimes I go out to write, at a café, for example. I included a shot from our kitchen for your work space collection.

Now your workspace picture is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace board on Pinterest. Having prepared a highly professional manuscript that draws on a hot trend, how come you didn’t submit it to an agent? Would you consider traditional publishing?

I thought about it, and I’ve spoken with several authors about it, some of whom are fully or partially traditionally published. In the end, publishers seem too slow and cumbersome, at least for now. Hot trends like the stepbrother one come and go quickly enough that by the time a traditional publisher is ready to publish your book, the trend has passed. They work with horizons of months to years, while I work with a horizon of a few months, if not weeks. How many traditionally published stepbrother romances do you see out there?

So in the end, I was too eager to get my work out there, and confident enough in my abilities to pull the self-publishing off that I decided to rule out traditional publishers for now. I may revisit that at a later time when I have a more established catalog and hopefully a more attractive potential author for a publishing house, but right now I’m just eager to get my next novel written and released to the world. I’m having way too much fun!

You have found the perfect recipe for fun and profit, Kim. Good for you! You have undoubtedly worked very hard on your first book, but not as much on creating an author platform prior to publishing. In fact, it seems that you’ve launched both the book and your platform at about the same time. How did you market Rebel? 

I launched my Facebook presence a couple of weeks before the book launched and mostly promoted there. I made posts, connected with other authors, and some of them were nice enough to share my cover and blurb reveals. I tried to engage potential readers where I found them, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not any sort of social media expert.

However, I do feel like I had a solid book with a catchy hook and a great cover, and I think that helped build a lot of interest. Once the book launched, I submitted it to tons of free promotion sites and review blogs, and I’ve run ads on Facebook and some paid promotions, like My Romance Reads, for example. Those definitely help spark interest.

At this point, I have to congratulate you on your blurb. From where I stand—an avid romance reader who knows trends and has read all sub-genres—I think that readers looking for a new stepbrother romance need only read the first line (“I married my stepbrother”) to one-click Rebel. That was wickedly clever! Giving out something absurdly illicit yet tempting. Apart from the enticing blurb, what else do you attribute Rebel’s huge success to?

Thank you! I worked hard to come up with a blurb that was catchy. I spent nearly a week on the blurb alone, refining it and getting feedback from other authors and readers. Presentation is so important to get someone to click the buy button. I know it is for me, at least, so I made sure both the blurb and the cover were well done.

Beyond those, I do believe in delivering quality, and I think that’s rewarded when the reviews come in and word of mouth starts to build. Still, I’m learning, and this book has succeeded beyond my wildest imagination when I hit the publish button. I have to admit that I’m really nervous about my next book now. 😉

Anything you would have done differently? A faux pas you don’t intend to repeat?

The most common piece of negative feedback I’ve gotten is that the beginning of the book was a bit slow and maybe not as engaging as it should be to draw in readers. In hindsight, I think it could definitely be tightened up a bit and that’s something I’ll be working on for the next book. I think a lot of readers like to check out the Look Inside feature, and if that doesn’t grab her, it might be a lost opportunity. I’m really proud of this book, and I want to share it with everyone! 🙂

By the way, thank you for offering an ebook to one lucky reader. Guys, leave a comment, and one of you will get to read the super successful Rebel. So what’s next?

For now, I’m intending to stick with the stepbrother theme. I had so much fun writing the first one, and I’ve gotten a new idea that I think will be perfect for it, with lots of opportunities for sass, crazy hijinks and hopefully a compelling love story in the end. I’m in the outlining phase now, figuring out how to put it together, and then I will start writing as quickly as my fingers and brain will let me!

Kim, I can’t thank you enough for giving us valuable insight into your success. Many might think you were lucky. To me, luck is preparation meeting opportunity (actually Seneca said that, not me 😉) and in that aspect, you are truly golden. Best of luck with your future projects.

Thank you so much, and thank you for the chat. I really enjoyed it!

_______________________

Well, how about that, ladies and gents? Was Kim’s process shocking? Not so much? Is there an aspect that intrigued you? Kim’s success comes as a backup to my growing conviction that newbie writers like me not only overwrite (guilty) but also overdo everything. But that’s material for another post. Again, if you want a taste of Rebel, here’s an excerpt, and here’s my review. Also, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Connect with the phenomenal Kim Linwood

Site: http://kimlinwood.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimlinwood
Facebook: http://facebook.com/kim.linwood