JB Schroeder: A New Cover for Runaway!

Runaway has a New Cover, and I’m super excited to reveal it here! But I’m sure you are wondering why I would redesign a book that’s been on the market barely a year?Runaway_Redesign_Crop_r4_150dpi

It’s hard to get tangible feedback in this business, but recently, I ran an ad for Runaway. I got a decent click through rate—except once folks hit Amazon, very few purchased. I’ve got great reviews (thanks you fab readers!), some darn good quotes called out, readers asking for more stories featuring Charlie and Mitch (which I am planning, but it’ll take a while!), a reasonable price point, and I think the cover copy sounds pretty enticing…What’s left? The cover.

My gut had already been telling me that between the young model I chose and the implication of youth the word ‘runaway’ implies that the cover was coming off as a Young Adult book. And therefore perhaps not jiving with the ads, the copy, or what all those excellent reviews say about the book. As you all probably know, I’m a graphic designer specializing in the book biz. So yeah—I kinda messed up. It’s awfully hard to be objective about your own book, I was seriously pressed for time, and let’s face it: stock art is limited. A model with a serious expression? She’s a needle in the haystack of happy smiles and sexy come hither lips, let me tell you. And unfortunately in this case, the side effect of serious was: too young. (See the old version in the side bar at right).

Beyond simply improving Runaway’s appeal, I think it’s smarter in the long run (and less confusing for new JB readers) to have a bigger delineation between my two series (Retrieval, Inc. versus the Unlikely Series).

The good news though: I am a designer. I’m also indie published—meaning I am not at the mercy of a publisher’s decision or their timetable. I can change things up as often as I need to until I find what works….wish me luck! And write and tell me what you think! I’d love to hear! ~JB

www.jbschroederauthor.com

Runaway

Unhinged

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New Release: RUNAWAY

JB Schroeder Runaway_150dpiDrumroll please….JB Schroeder’s debut novel RUNAWAY has hit retailers! Early reviews call it “a page turner,” an “edge of the seat” read, and a “gritty thriller” that is “smart, riveting, and sexy!” Best of all, quite a few wrote that they “couldn’t put it down” or “stayed up all night to finish!”

So yes, it’s my Big News Three Months Late! Because I’m a dork and didn’t manage to post everywhere I should, like, hello, my own group blog! And because guess what? Indie pubbing is even harder and more time consuming than I imagined. And I’d promised part two of another post I owed you, and I felt oddly linear about that. And then there’s summer with everyone underfoot, and… I’m going with the better late than never motto, okay? ; )

In a way it’s kinda good I’m so behind, because I can squee a bit and tell you HOW EXCITING it was to release a book. The enthusiasm and support I got from family, friends, and my writing community was amazing. The texts and emails from friends saying “OMG” throughout as they read were so fun! Reviews are showing up with four and five stars! And now, there are even reviews from People That Don’t Know Me Personally! Someone Recommended it to them! How cool is that?! Let me tell you, it is all THRILLING!

I know you readers have been privy to my ups and downs over the last few years, so I’m doubly pleased to share this big “up” moment with you! Despite the blog’s semi-hiatus, I will try to be better at keeping up. If you are so inclined there’s also my newsletter, via my website. Brief excerpt and blurb follow, as well as all links. Heartfelt thanks for sharing this journey with me! ~JB

_______________________

Henrietta flapped both hands in exasperation and her generous bosom heaved. “You deserve more.”

Charlie shook her head. “Please, Henry. This is the only way for me.” Tears threatened, so she clenched her jaw. “I promise you, I’m content. It might not seem like much from the outside looking in, but this life is a blessing.”

_______________________

Sixteen-year-old Laura Macnamara walked out her backdoor and disappeared without a trace.

Six years later, while looking for his missing teenage sister, Detective Mitch Saunders uncovers a disturbing link between the two cases. His search leads straight to Laura—all grown up and posing as Charlie Hart. Despite their instant attraction and the ever-present danger to his sister, Charlie refuses to help him. Still terrified and guarding secrets, she cannot afford to face the past. Yet Mitch will stop at nothing to bring his sister home—and that includes exposing Charlie to a truly sinister evil.

If she can’t stay hidden, she must run—again.

Runaway is available in eBook at the following retailers (and print book is also available at Amazon or B&N):

Amazon | Apple | B&N | Kobo

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No More Spinning My Wheels: The Decision to Self-Publish

When I started my author page on facebook, I promised to keep updating folks on my path to publication. I shared when I landed an agent, finaled in contests, submitted manuscripts, and received rejections (of which there’ve been many). Lately, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the status of my manuscript submissions—which means it’s time to do a serious update. Picture flashing signs, exit looming, blinker on… ready?

©karenroach via BigStock

©karenroach via BigStock

In August I asked my agent to pull the submission of my second book from the last two editors who had it. I also told her that she and I should part ways. She was incredibly gracious, said she’d do the same in my position, and wished me well. A bold move from a newbie author who’s been trying hard to get published for years, right? Yes and no.

Let me preface by saying that I still believe in the traditional path. There are benefits, and I’m not ruling it out in future. (Heck, I spent twenty years working for or with traditional publishers as a designer. In truth, I feel quite a bit of loyalty in that direction.) But as time dragged on, I realized that path had me rather stuck in the road. I was hitting the accelerator, but my wheels kept spinning in the mud. Worse, I started to suspect that even if a tow truck came along, I wouldn’t like the driver’s plan to get me rolling, let alone his price. I began to fret: what if I did get an offer—something I’ve waited so long for—and I felt I had to decline? And while I waited, I daydreamed: What if I could make this happen myself—without paying into his big tow-truck conglomerate or signing his long-term contract?

Because I’ve been watching, carefully, ever since self-publishing got rolling. I’ve been noting the signposts. Do’s and don’ts. Possibilities. Warnings. Failures. And most of all success stories—especially the quiet ones…

I began submitting to editors via the agent in mid-April of 2012. In that time, my skills as a writer have grown. So has my confidence. The rejections I received are positive. The agent and I have exhausted the houses I was really gung ho about. The others, I feel, are not worth pursuing as they are unlikely to take a chance on my cross-genre books. The self-publishing world has grown and soared. Not just in scope, but in quality. And, as some surprise standouts have shown, the internet is often the perfect place for unusual books or new trends to find an audience.

I’m tired of waiting on a winch and a ramp and somebody else’s wheels. I’m ready to roll forward. Okay, maybe I’m not ready to drag race, but I’m certainly ready to leave the safety of the neighborhood. Because let’s face it. I’ve got to actually make money off this gig. I need to make a living, or I can’t keep spending my time writing. I don’t count on being some zillionaire. I just want steady income from my writing. I want my stories out in the world, touching somebody. And more and more, I find I want to be in control of how they get there. It’s bound to be a steep hill, especially at the beginning. I don’t have a built-in audience. I’ve got a helluva lot to do and to learn.
I will have to scrape and scrounge to afford to hire out those pieces I can’t do myself, like editing. I will have to keep writing even as I run a business. I fully expect to work harder than I ever have before.

But you know what? I only need to do better than the small newbie advance and set royalty percentage I might have eventually gotten from a traditional house. I only, at first, need to cover the costs of self-publishing. And then, to make a better income than what I’m making design-wise. Those are the baselines. If I hit them, I will consider myself successful. If I reach those marks sooner rather than later, I’ll be thrilled. I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities and, regardless of the level of success I achieve, I don’t doubt for a second that this is the right course for me. But it’s going to take time. And the road is long.

Am I terrified? Hell, yes. I could totally eat these words. I could be a dismal failure. I could end up hanging my head in shame—mortified because I shared all this and then blew it.

But then again, maybe not.

~JB

© JB Schroeder LLC

Identity Crisis: Changing Pen Names

©Igor Borodin, via Bigstock

©Igor Borodin, via Bigstock

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while know that I’ve recently changed my pen name despite the fact that I’ve spent the last few years trying to make Jenna Blue mine… Crazy, right?

Oh, it is, though I didn’t take the decision lightly. First, beyond the practicalities of switching everything over, and the extra effort to re-build a brand, if you will, I chose Jenna Blue for a good reason. It had meaning to me. Unfortunately, it meant something entirely different to most everyone else hearing it for the first time. I can’t tell you how many people respond “that sounds like a porn star name.” Uh, really? Why? Crystal or Amber, it is not. I brushed off that same reaction over and over, thinking hey, all stage names and pseudonyms sound weird, until suddenly they don’t. If you manage to become successful enough, the name loses any other connotation but yours, right? Still, concern took root. My stories aren’t exactly sweet, but if readers are expecting erotica, they will be disappointed.

In the meanwhile, I’ve become friends with a fantastic suspense author named AJ Scudiere (ReadAJS.com) who, after an accidental experiment, discovered that a less feminine-sounding name got a far better response from agents representing her genre. No kidding—in this day and age. Lesson learned, however: perceptions do matter in this business. We talk and talk about branding, right? From book covers to your online platform, you need a consistent message. Readers want to know what to expect…and you guessed it, the first clue you give them is your name.

Currently, I write romantic suspense (RS), although my stories don’t fit into the tidy corners of that genre’s usual box. Also, my writing has been repeatedly called out as gritty. That word isn’t, perhaps, quite right, but there is a weight or a heft—maybe a gash torn from that expected cube—that speaks to both my voice and my subject matter. I am, I feel, writing RS with some women’s fiction in the mix. But even my contemporary romances—when I get to them—will still have my voice. Hmmnn. Jenna Blue was feeling more and more wrong.

Two other practical problems presented themselves in the meanwhile. First, another author has come onto the scene in other romance: Jenna Black. Yep, dang my slow start, her name is a little too similar for comfort—both for her sake and mine. Even more important, however, is my day job. I design as Julie Schroeder. But I’m not on social media that way—only Linked In, which I prefer to reserve solely for graphic design work. Nearly everything else was under Jenna Blue. Pleased authors who wanted to say thanks had to tweet with my Jenna Blue handle…uh, oh. How to grow a business when you aren’t easily findable, when you’ve made your multiple identities rather too separate? Yet, doubling my social media obligations simply wasn’t an option either.

I considered just using my real name for everything, as I’m sure anybody who really wants to find you, can, but while I was debating, someone close to me plastered a picture of me—one I hate, and not remotely recent (yes, I’d rather look current than young)—on facebook. And I realized by my swift, horrified, and somewhat unreasonable reaction, that retaining control of my online author persona, was important. I needed, for myself and my family, a level of separation, no matter how sheer. And yet, my names needed to be close enough, to allow both halves of my life to work together.

After much thought, I settled on JB Schroeder. Beyond the sense that it has a more appropriate feel for what I write (yes, audience?), I also thought I just might be able to answer to it. I still don’t even blink when someone says Jenna. There are a few people who do occasionally call me JB (my initials once upon a time), so it’s not like it doesn’t have meaning and history for me.

Still—submissions pending, contests entered—I had to wait. What if I wiped out Jenna Blue and one of those editors or judges decided to check out my presence online? Finally, when I made a decision to switch tracks on my writing career, the time was right to bring JB Schroeder to life. My apologies for the confusion in the meanwhile. And if you’ve got a pseudonym story of your own, we Femmes would love to hear it.

JB Schroeder
JulieSchroederDesigns.com

Review of the OUTLANDER Premier on Starz

Property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. Outlander @2014 Sony Pictures Television, Inc.

Property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. Outlander @2014 Sony Pictures Television, Inc.

Alright, so I can’t resist. I can’t even claim for this to be a “what do series adaptations teach us about our writing” post (or maybe I can).

There are folks who can’t quite get into (or through) the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon series, someone, even a couple of people on this blog (ahem, I’m not naming names). But those of us who do love the series, LOVE the series. We’re talking totally obsessed, fan-girl-type obsession.

Because, oh, the deeply-drawn characters, the vivid descriptions, the unexpected twists, the rich setting, not to mention drama, history, politics, adventure, and of course the love story that spans decades!!! See? And I’m telling you, I am not one who has time to obsess over anything. But I’ve been excited about both Gabaldon’s newest release Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Bk 8), and the Starz series. And so, intending to tell my daughter where the good stuff really started, I re-read the beginning of Outlander (Bk 1), and determined to reread An Echo in the Bone (Bk 7) in order to fully enjoy the new one. Except, oops, my “browse” of A Breathe of Snow and Ashes (Bk 6), turned into a full read… Meanwhile, the power of promotion was hard at work. A fellow restaurant patron overheard the cashier ask what I was reading and commented “yeah, they are making a series.” I gushed, of course. Then, wow, when I saw that there was a YouTube video of the cast on a Comic Con panel. I saw Diana Gabaldon, Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie) on CBS morning news. So, when—eeek!—Starz offered the first episode free on demand a whole week ahead of the official premiere? Well, I finally took time for me, and did something completely out of character—I sat myself down in front of the tube in the middle of the afternoon! I can’t tell you how psyched I was as I hit play, and again, at each new scene.

[To access the Starz episode: http://www.starz.com%5D

And man, did Starz and Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore deliver! All the leads are cast perfectly. The only supporting character who might not have been (IMHO) was Murtagh, and that had nothing to do with acting. It’s only that Murtagh is supposed to be quite ugly…and this actor was certainly not. (Murtagh is not named in the episode but he’s the one who saves Claire from Black Jack Randall and delivers her to the Scottish outlaws.)

Truly, Balfe was brilliant, it was so cool to see the actor Tobias Menzies switch between Frank Randall and Black Jack Randall, and seriously, five lines from Sam Heughan and I was in love with Jaime all over again. The Scottish brogue, the teasing glint in his eye, his wise words. And, yeah, there’s the fact that he’s smokin’ HOT. The adaptation is very close to the beginning of the book. As far as I noticed, the only thing left out was the pub scene where Claire meets the elderly plant collector who then takes her out looking for specimens. Hardly important. But even the little things were thrilling, like hearing the correct pronunciation of “Sassenach.” I will say, I never pictured the highlanders in those cute little caps. What I wonder are they called? Truly, my only disappointment was that there were no preview scenes for the next episode! Because I wanted more.

So—yes, I can relate this to writing—why is it that, optioned for the big screen or no—readers so love a book series? Is it the chance to dive deep into character and stay there? Learn more about a certain world in each subsequent story? Watch a relationship flare, steady, and thrive? Is it the comfort of returning to a setting we love, like coming home? To embrace again characters that feel as familiar as family?

Tell me, why it is you love series? Which are your favorites? And, most importantly, are you writing them?

[As a sidenote: yes, I’ve changed my pen name, from Jenna Blue to JB Schroeder. Expect a future post about it…]

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