Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Make Yourself an Expert

Currently cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


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I know old-school marketing. I have been working to promote products, people, and services since I was about 15 years old. (And since I am old…)

  • Trade and Consumer campaigns (B2B, B2C)
  • Strategic and tactical planning
  • Design, copywriting, advertising, on- or off-line
  • Collateral material
  • Printing, publishing, distribution
  • Media relations
  • Event planning and management

Talking about any of the above makes no difference at all to sales of my books.

Where it does make a difference is in selling my services as a marketing consultant, business and technical writer/editor, designer, cover artist, and author PA. And, if I were to write a book about marketing—not outside the realm of possibility—my credentials would help sell it.

Because, after 25 years, there are very few promotion situations I haven’t faced. Because I can explain how to sell in plain English. Because when I talk about marketing a product, past results show it is not a bad idea to listen.

Because I am an expert.

As a writer trying to sell books, making yourself an expert is a great way to create brand recognition and a following. (This should go without saying, but I am not suggesting you can tout yourself as an expert with no expertise to back it up.)

Aside from pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing (or Master’s or PhD in another academic discipline), and looking for a university teaching position, there are any number of other options that will make you a person to take seriously about the business or craft of writing, or both.

Given enough experience, you can (like me) become a professional writer/editor. You could teach classes in less formal settings, like trade groups or online. Some people set up workshops or formal critique groups. Still others work in publishing or printing or distribution, lending value in traditional or indie publishing settings.

But beyond expertise in publishing, you can also sell books by becoming an expert in your subject area or genre. Historical fiction authors are great at this, using blogs to write up their research, or writing nonfiction about their time period. But history doesn’t have to be your subject matter.

Chefs sell cookbooks by feeding people great food. Self-help authors sell books by creating workshops that help people. Motivational speakers sell books by pumping people up at appearances.

Everyone seems to sell books by writing blog posts and articles in their subject area.

You can sell books by winning contests, being written up in your local paper, giving lectures at trade shows, or being interviewed on local television.

It takes, they say, 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. By the time you are finished writing a book, are you not an expert in—if nothing else—that book?


Mari ChristieMari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and business communications. She holds a BA in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude, and is a member of the Bluestocking Belles and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Under the pseudonym Mariana Gabrielle, her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014 and her second, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess will be available in June 2015.

Websites: www.MariChristie.info and  www.MarianaGabrielle.com
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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace – All for One and One for All

Between last week’s book launch and this week’s technical writing job, I am doing the unthinkable… reposting an earlier Bazillion Book Marketplace piece. Since I have a lot of new readers since August, it suspect it won’t be repetitive for everyone. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace, Pt. 2 – All for One and One for All.

New Title Tuesday! ME! – La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess
Genre: Regency Romance
Release Date: June 10, 2015
(Am I the only one who is this excited? No, wait. Don’t answer that.)

Please come celebrate with me at the Facebook Launch Party, June 10, noon – 8 EDT

PrintSired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

 Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
All Romance eBooks
Smashwords (After June 10)

Early reviews at Goodreads

Who first encouraged you to write, and how?
I don’t have a firm memory, but it had to be my mom. She was an artist, and spent a goodly portion of her time with me encouraging my creativity in myriad ways.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the idea of a female spy, but the final result only has the vaguest hint of spying now. Along the way, I was amazed as the sources of inspiration that popped up out of nowhere. The most notable: I had no sooner thought, “Indian courtesan,” than information about the tawaif caste of noble courtesans appeared.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Thicker skin and stronger backbone.

About the Author
MarianaGabrielle copyMariana Gabrielle is a pseudonym of Mari Christie, a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience. Published in dozens of nonfiction and poetry periodicals since 1989, she began writing mainstream historical fiction in 2009 and Regency romance in 2013. In all genres, she creates deeply scarred characters in uncommon circumstances who overcome self-imposed barriers to reach their full potential. She is a member of the Bluestocking Belles, the Writing Wenches, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014.

www.MarianaGabrielle.com   |   www.BluestockingBelles.com
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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Road to a Better Mousetrap, Part 1

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mSo you’ve written a book. You’ve done all the right things. You’ve learned your craft. The book has been edited, copyedited, proofread. It has a marvelous cover.

Now all you have to do is stick it up on Amazon, and wait to grow rich?

Right?

If only it were that easy.

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail

You need a good book. You need persistence. You need a healthy dose of luck. Above all, you need a plan.

In this post (and the next) in the Bazillion Book Marketplace series, Mari and I are going to talk about what needs to be in a marketing plan for a book. (You might also want a marketing plan for Brand You, but that’s another post.)

To write a plan, you need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, how much they’re prepared to pay, and where they expect to find it. (In marketing parlance, the 4 Ps–Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.)

This week’s post looks at your reader, your book, and your price. Next week, we’ll talk about where books are sold, where they are promoted, and what marketing materials you might need.

Know your reader

Your marketing plan should start with your reader. Can you describe your typical reader? Do you know how old they are? What sort of education they have? What they do when they’re not reading? What other genres they read?

Do you know what they like about the kind of book you write? What they don’t like? What will make them keep reading and what will cause them to shut the book and hurl it across the room?

What are their hobbies, interests, passions?

Where can you meet them (online or in person or both)?

The better you can describe your typical readers, the better you can put yourself (and your book) in front of them.

Know your book

No one knows your book better than you do, right? But can you capture the essence of your book in a couple of compelling sentences that grab that typical reader by the imagination and drag them to the bookstore?

In your marketing plan, describe what about your book will appeal to your reader, then write your compelling description–your story’s tagline (some call it a logline).

Know your price

What do your readers think they should pay for a book like yours? What are they prepared to pay? Do some research. Also think about the best price points to give you a good return. Pricing e-books is a contentious topic, and a post I wrote on this several weeks ago has been the most viewed and commented on more than any I’ve written since I started this blog.

Should you give one or more of your books away free (permanently or for a short period)? Should you put the book on a special price for a limited time? Will pricing low help you sell more books, or will it make them less valued? How does your genre affect your price? (For instance, novels are most often seen in the $2.99 – 3.99 price range, but self-help averages about $7.99.)

Next steps

Knowing who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend is a good start. In our next post, we’ll talk about putting that knowledge to good use when deciding where and how to promote your book.


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: How to Non-Market

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Currently cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mI’ve spent a large part of my career as a commercial writer in my own small business. Small business owners are responsible for everything. I was writer, peer reviewer, company book-keeper, chief executive, project manager, strategic planner, stores manager, cleaner of toilets, sales person and, of course, the big ‘M’ word. The one I feared. Marketing. So I learnt how to promote my business by non-marketing; marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing. Marketing that an introvert like me could do just by being myself.

It was good preparation for being a self-published writer. Again, I am running my own business. And again, I’m out in the world vigorously non-marketing.

Non-marketing is about being present

The first rule of non-marketing is to spend time with people who might want to read your book. Get to know them. Talk to them about the things that interest you. Find out what interests them. Be present.

In traditional non-marketing, writers joined Toastmasters, and Rotary, and the local bowling club. They went to book fairs and gardening clubs; talked at schools and writers’ workshops; went to dinner with agents and editors and book clubs. And we can still do all of those things.

Today, we can also spend time with people all over the world, using the Internet. You don’t have to be everywhere; choose two or more from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, blogging and all the others. Then go and meet people. Be present.

Non-marketing is about being genuine

If you want a friend, the old saying goes, you have to be a friend. The second rule of non-marketing is to offer others a helping hand. One of the things I really love about the romance writing community is the open-hearted, open-handed and genuine approach to helping others.

This isn’t about reciprocal arrangements: like my page and I’ll like yours, review my book and I’ll review yours. It isn’t about sucking up, either. Being genuine means giving because I can, because I know the answer to your question, or have the contact you need, or have a blog and would love you to be my guest.

The flashy insincere marketers might also be helpful, but always there’s an agenda. Sponsorships are often this kind of marketing. The support comes with strings attached, in the form of opportunities to sell their service or product. Sponsored by [insert name of famous soda drink here].

As non-marketers you’ll be helpful because you are genuinely interested. You want to know about the birth of a friend’s grandchild. You celebrate your friend’s acceptance letter from a publisher because you’re genuinely happy for them. You hunt your research database for an obscure fact someone has asked for. You send you a condolence message because someone’s troubles touch your heart.

Non-marketing is about offering a unique experience

If you’re present in a community who love the kind of books you write, one way you can be genuinely helpful is to offer them your book. Not in a ‘buy, buy, buy; me, me, me’ used car salesman way, but gently, as part of the conversation.

Let’s say people are talking about the kinds of protagonist they prefer. You may, if it fits in the conversation, use a description of your own protagonist to illustrate your point. Keep it short. Make it interesting.

It helps to be very clear about what you do that is different, and to have a few lines you can use. If someone asks what I write, I say ‘historical fiction with strong heroines, heroes who can appreciate them, and complex plots full of mystery and suspense’. It’s a tagline I’m working on, and constantly changing, but it’s getting there. My hero Rede is “a man driven by revenge who needs to move beyond his past before he can have a future”.

And there you have it. I’ve used my work to give two illustrations of my point. And I don’t need to belabour it until you’re bored, or sell you something today. Today, we have more important things to talk about, such as how you can turn a friend into a long-term reader.

Non-marketing is about being good at what you do

Insincere marketers rely on lots of noise to keep driving new customers to their product. Non-marketers know that the best customers of all are the ones who love your product so much that they will sell it for you, by telling all their friends.

So write a good book. No. Cancel that. Write the best book you can. And when you’ve finished, write a better one. Never stop learning; never stop improving. Your best marketing tool is your library of successful publications.

Non-marketing is about building long-term relationships

I don’t want readers. Or, at least, I don’t want just readers. I want to make friends who will stay with me for the journey.

Readers, yes. People who find I offer them a reading experience they can’t get from anyone else, so they wait for my next book and pounce on it as soon as it goes on pre-order. People who will contact me and tell me what they like, discuss my characters, adopt my heroes as book boyfriends and my heroines as BFFs, argue about the motivations of my villains, pick up some of my subtle jokes and codes.

And fellow writers. People who will laugh at the things I laugh at, tell stories about their craft that inspire, amuse, or dismay, help me out and accept my help, understand the journey — its costs and its rewards.

Above all, I want friends who care about books and about story telling, and who are happy to talk about them. And the heart of non-marketing is making friends.


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organisations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Early reviews are coming in…

La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess hasn’t even been released, but early readers are already loving it! Five five-star ratings and three great reviews so far! 🙂


Jennifer Senhaji‘s review
FIVE STARS

Captivating Exotic Regency Romance

More than a romance, this is the epic tale of a woman who uses the ways of a skilled tawaif, a courtesan trained in the seduction of the senses, to rise to power amongst some of the most influential men in England. She is not ruthless or power hungry. No. She uses dance, music, scents, and her beauty to survive in this world where politicians rule.

This story combined the exotic culture of India I gobbled up in other stories like the Taj Mahal Trilogy by Indu Sundaresan, and everything I love about Jane Austen’s classic regency romance novels. The author weaves beautiful prose to drag you smack dab in the center of Kali’s world.

Colorful. Inspiring. Romantic. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys classic literature.

Jude Knight‘s review
FIVE STARS

La Déesse Noire is one of those novels you keep thinking about long after you put it down. To me, the crux of the story is how the four main characters are defined and directed by the choices they make.

Kali Matai was born and raised a tawaif; one of the women entertainers who served those of the highest rank in the Murghal Empire of India. Her life was shaped by the choices made by her tawaif mother and the English peer to whom her mother was given. In England, she is the pawn of powerful men, but when all she loves is at risk, her choices give her a future she believed could never be.

Lord Birchbright once loved a tawaif and gave her two daughters. Given a choice between his forbidden family and the wealth and power waiting for him if he returns to England without them, he abandons them. His choice is to pursue power at all costs.

The book unusually has two male protagonists: Fitz and Rook. They, too, must choose between love and position. One chooses a lonely life and ultimately self-centered life. The other is prepared to abandon everything he knows for the woman he loves. I loved them both.

Kali is one of the most engaging heroines I’ve read. I loved her dignity, her self-respect, her quiet humour, and her sharp intelligence. And I loved how hard it was for her to let her armour down; to become vulnerable; so that she could reach for her dreams. Her happy ending gave me goosebumps. I also very much enjoyed the interesting and believable secondary characters, both the villains and the friends and allies of the heroine.

Mariana Gabrielle has written a book about people on the edges; people discriminated against and even persecuted because they are different. She has done so with skill, sensitivity, and wit. She left me wanting more. I thoroughly enjoyed her Royal Regard and gave it 5 stars. La Déesse Noire is better. I wish I could give it seven.

Disclaimer: I am a member of the same writer’s group as Mariana Gabrielle, and was proof-reader for La Déesse Noire. This did not influence my enjoyment of my book. But don’t believe me. Read it for yourself.

Kali is a famed Indian dancer and courtesan who finds herself controlled by vile men who seek political gain. Will she find a protector who will love her enough to help her and her family out of their clutches?

I have been excited to read this book since I had read the author’s other book Royal Regard and just loved her characters and writing. I can say that this book didn’t disappoint at all. I believe it is even better! Mari Christie’s writing is like poetry flowing over you, consuming your soul. She sparks your imagination and controls your heart as she takes you along with Kali in her journey.

Kali is so strong, I couldn’t even imagine facing her life as she lives for the whims of others. All of the secondary characters are complex and brought to life ,there are many that you will love, hate, and mourn.

Although this book is about a courtesan it is not heavy on the sex scenes.There is only one that goes into detail and Ohhh my it is steamy! You will also be totally seduced by Kali when she dances in the theater, the author makes you feel like you are right there with the audience filling with up with excitement waiting for every move.

I just can’t recommend this book enough! I will have this book in my physical library because I love it so much.

Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Word-of-Mouth

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Currently cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-m“Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep, Talk a Lot, Pick a Little More…”

I date myself with this reference to The Music Man (and finally publicly admit my long-time love of musical theatre), but I find it inexplicably accurate when discussing word-of-mouth marketing.

Most readers will not tell their friends how great you are. Sadly, your book is not their primary topic of conversation. However, word-of-mouth marketing is the best, and least expensive, tool you have.

Always has been. Always will be.

Further, this is the way people make buying decisions now—recommendations from friends and respected experts—which is why social media campaigns sell. Static advertising is no longer effective. (Let me say that again: Advertising no longer works.)

Now, the most effective forms of promotion involve conversation. This means review sites, blogs, co- and cross-promotion with other authors, book clubs, signings, and most important, two concepts with more meaning than you think: “Buzz” and “viral” marketing.

Buzz Marketing, as the name implies, is about people talking about your product. However, its specific meaning in the marketing world moves beyond organic discussion. In marketing parlance, buzz is generated by designing the conversations you want people to have. A great example is drug commercials: “talk to your doctor about [insert medication].” If you think lovers of Gone with the Wind will buy your book, tell them why your hero is like Rhett Butler. If they agree, they will tell friends who also love Southern historical fiction. (If they don’t agree, the strategy will backfire, so design your conversations carefully.)

Viral Marketing, like a cat video shared ten million times on YouTube, is created by giving someone an item to pass along. This might be a video trailer or coupon or a sample book or a rack card, but should always be designed to bring people back to your product. A bookmark is lovely, but without an easy link to a buy site (not just your website), its usefulness is limited. Likewise, a pass-along no one passes along is irrelevant.

To achieve these all-but-magical forms of promotion, back to my third-favorite musical of all time (before you ask, Camelot and My Fair Lady).

Pick a Little

Loglines, elevator speeches, and blurbs aren’t just for the back cover (or pitching an agent) anymore. Today, you are pitching everyone who might be interested, including people you will never meet.

Identify thought leaders: Since customers take their advice from friends and experts, pick your targets carefully. Street teams work because their friends probably have similar tastes and are more likely to listen to a friend’s recommendation than yours. Similarly, if a noted authority (like a bestselling author or well-known reviewer) supports your product, buyers will listen.

Keep it short: Loglines work better than blurbs for verbal and social media exchange. “[Book Title] is about [if you have to take a breath, your conversation is too long].”

Start smart: Choose a limited number of outlets and messages until you know what works, and track your results. Indiscriminate efforts are wasted. Begin small and only escalate what sells.

Create Meaningful Messages: Make much of milestones, like bestseller lists, publication anniversaries, or selling a certain number of copies, because these tidbits are easily shared by loyal fans. Promote great reviews, especially ones by thought leaders.

Talk a Little

Begin with human interaction, not calculated conversation starters. Get to know your audience—and let them get to know you—by joining and participating in:

  • Writers’ groups. While the “author water cooler” is, in some ways, counter-intuitive, authors help each other and classes in craft will never hurt your chances of success. To make this most effective, remember that turnabout is fair play; giving back to the community is imperative, not optional.
  • Social groups related to your interest, online and otherwise, for instance, online research-sharing groups, a gardening society, or a historical reenactment troupe.
  • Relevant associations, like historical preservation societies, religious study groups, or scientific research consortiums.

When you have found a niche or two where you feel comfortable, attend meetings, volunteer, speak up in online forums, and generally make yourself known, not just as an author, but as a contributor. The chance to talk about your book will occur naturally, and your audience will be more receptive.

Cheep (or Rather, Cheap)

Word-of-mouth is the least expensive marketing option. When it begins to move on its own, it costs you nothing, and before it does, most of your outlay is in time, not cash. A couple of ideas to stimulate buzz and viral messaging:

Cheap

Giveaways: Sending an e-copy of your book to a potential reader is a great investment. That said, give away the book or directly related items, not “anything someone might want,” and don’t spend more than your sale is worth. Also, target your giveaway. It makes no sense to give a novel to someone who only reads nonfiction. Copies to reviewers are great, but don’t send a historical romance novel to Suspense Magazine.

Cheap

Sales: Judiciously lowering the price on your book is great way to get word-of mouth moving. If you watch social media, you will see that “This book I loved is only 99ȼ!” is shared far more often than, “I loved this book.” If you combine sales with similar authors, so much the better, because then you are sharing a larger pool of readers interested in your genre.

Talk a Lot

Once you know which conversations to have and with whom, spread them around! Every sentence can’t start with, “My book,” or the pass-along will be “boring and self-centered.” But as you find the balance between normal interaction and sales, you will naturally find opportunities for both.

Pick a Little More

As time goes on, expand your conversation starters, extend your reach to new thought leaders, and find new outlets for your message. But always—always—make sure the words you are putting in other people’s mouths are ones you want repeated.


Mari ChristieMari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and business communications. She holds a BA in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude, and is a member of the Bluestocking Belles and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Under the pseudonym Mariana Gabrielle, her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014 and her second, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess will be available in June 2015.

Websites: www.MariChristie.info and  www.MarianaGabrielle.com
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Blog Tour Schedule for La Déesse Noire

This tour is quite exciting, filled with interviews, excerpts, and a whole lot of original writing related to the book, which you may only ever see on these blogs.

Many thanks to all of the wonderful authors and bloggers who will host me on this tour. I hope you will go take a look at their sites and leave a comment while you are there. In most cases, you can be entered to win a free copy of the book just for commenting.

May 1
The Snarkology: Those Dastardly Villains

May 4 and 6
Karen’s Book Bench

May 16
Eileen Richards

May 18
Hello Romance
Sherry Ewing: Awakening the Soul One Heart at a Time

May 20
Reviews by Crystal

May 21
10 Minute Novelists
Christina Tetreault: Happily Ever After

May 22
Susan R. Hughes, Romance Author

May 23
Jill Hughey

May 26
Helena Fairfax

May 27
Jessica Cale

May 28
Coffee Time Romance

May 29
Jessie Clever

May 30
The Bluestocking Belles’ Teatime Tattler (Part 1)
Nicole Zoltack: Where Fantasy and Love Take Flight

May 30
Renee Reynolds: Obstinate Headstrong Girl

June 1
Janie Franz: Anasazi Dreams

June 2
Ute Carbone: Happiness is a Good Book

June 3
Susana’s Parlour

June 4
A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life

June 5
Sherry Ewing: Awakening the Soul One Heart at a Time

June 6
The Bluestocking Belles’ Teatime Tattler (Part 2)
Exquisite Quills
Caroline Warfield: Love is Worth the Risk

June 7
Jude Knight

June 8
Amy Rose Bennett

June 17
Anna Markland: Passionate about Historical Romance

July 2
Kryssie Fortune

July 9
Iris Blobel: Dare to Live your Dream

My own new title (even though it’s not Tuesday): La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess

Somehow, in my haste to promote to 31 (yes, 31) other blogs on the road to my new release on June 10, I have completely forgotten to say anything here. (Yeah, right?)

So, without further ado, I have a new book coming out June 10, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, which is already getting great reviews from ARC readers. To celebrate, I will be having a Facebook party, which everyone is invited to attend, June 10, 12 noon-8pm EST, with a bunch of great authors, including the Bluestocking Belles.

LDN CoverSired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

You can pre-order at a special price of $0.99 at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
iBooks
Kobo
All Romance eBooks

Add it to your Goodreads To-Read Shelf

I’ve also set up a Rafflecopter Giveaway, where you can win some cool prizes that might have been worn by the heroine while she danced for the gentlemen of England.

You can also enter to win a signed print copy of the book at Goodreads.

Hope to see you all at the release party!

Royal Regard meets Encouraging Prudence

Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.


10959826_424216954394543_9016208317182697592_n

“Lord Aldridge”

The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.

“The Duke of Wellbridge”

“I don’t fancy hanging so much, myself.” Lord Nicholas Northope observes, rubbing his fingertips along his throat, the iron chains at his wrist clanking as he considered the length of his neck. “I always thought if Prinny ordered it, I’d be drawn and quartered or boiled in oil. I seem to bring out his bloodlust.”

Nick looks out the window. They have been imprisoned in an old Norman tower at the home of the local baron. Fortunately. With the entire town of Fickleton Wells on the rampage, the local gaol would not have been safe. Even from this place of relative safety, he can see angry townspeople keeping watch from beyond the gate.

The two young noblemen are sitting, cramped and freezing, in torn, grimy clothes, awaiting the Prince of Wales’ pleasure after rather an uproar in one of his royal townships. Wrist and ankle shackles clank at each gesture, chains long enough to allow considered movement, but short enough to impede them if they run.

Back to the wall on the cold stone floor, Lord Aldridge, the Merry Marquis, tosses out, casually, “I don’t qualify for silk myself, you know. I’m just using my father’s second title. Hemp for me, same as you,” Nick thinks Aldridge is taking rather a ghoulish interest in the possible mechanics of his death. “Though I did rather fancy Madame La Guillotine if I were ever put to death. There is something so divinely aristocratic about it.”

“It seems one can only play so many pranks on a monarch,” Nick opines, “before one’s neck is stretched.”

“It wasn’t our fault. Those women…” Aldridge shudders. “I can’t have swived more than three or four, surely? We only had them to ourselves for one evening, after all.”

“I can’t possibly have swived all of them. Though perhaps half… There were… how many? Fifteen? Surely not.”

“I don’t remember much after the dancing. They danced beautifully, didn’t they? The rector’s daughters?”

Both men fell into rather a trance for a few minutes, remembering the plump thighs and comely smiles of the rector’s twelve lovely, lonely daughters.

“Nick, we didn’t do anything… dishonorable… Did we? They won’t really hang us? And the prince—he wouldn’t… Hell, Nick, I played with his little brothers and sisters from the time I could toddle.”

Nick shrugged, “And I might have married Sophia. You will do best not to remind him you might have touched his younger sisters with the same hands you used to defile the rector’s daughters. In fact, Aldridge, speaking as a man six years older and wiser, you will not want to mention the princesses—or defiling—at all.”

He can’t keep his chained hands away from his neck.

“My head feels very fuzzy,” Aldridge complains. “Nick, how many hands am I holding up? And what is that elephant doing in the corner?”

“Prinny won’t be fooled by false deliria. I’ve tried it once already and he caught me out by calling a physician.”

Aldridge subsides, grumbling. “Is it not worth trying? And how very like you to steal a man’s alibi before he even has the chance to use it.”

Perhaps Aldridge has a point. “The gin did have rather a sharp taste, to be sure, though. Did you not think?”

Aldridge straightens, clearly prepared to synchronize their stories. “Yes, of course. Assuredly. Quite sharp indeed.”

Nick laughs and shakes his finger. “Do not lie to your sovereign, Aldridge, and if you must, never so poorly as that. The mayor, the rector, and the squire have truth on their side. There can be no doubt of our guilt. I did visit the squire’s wife, and you did enjoy the mayor’s younger sister, no matter what we might or might not remember about the rector’s daughters. We both knew the town was on the prince’s estate—is that not why we were there? To avoid our fathers’ holdings? No, my friend, we’ve been well and truly served up for His Royal Highness’s supper.”

Aldridge utters an expletive, and sinks his head in his hands.

A sound outside the tower room brings them both to their feet. A key turns in the lock.

The Duke of Haverford brushes past the burly guard who opens the door. “Out!” he barks.

Lord Nicholas Northope is no stranger to the ducal disposition and backs into a corner first thing, a tactical error he started making in childhood and has never outgrown. Aldridge, the son of this particular angry duke, stays at rigid attention, which does not avert the ducal fire.

“You miserable, self-indulgent, beef-witted nodcocks! What on earth possessed you? What were you thinking? Don’t answer that. You were not thinking!” Nick and Aldridge shrink, inch by inch, to the size of ten-year-olds. “Northope, I blame you for this mess. Show the boy the town, I said. Give him a good time. Keep him out of trouble. What the hell do you mean by it, eh?”

If Aldridge thinks Nick will step forward to do the honorable thing and admit his part, he has lost his bloody mind.

“Aldridge,” the duke barks as his heir begins to edge to one side. “Stand, boy. I’ll get to you.” The last is uttered in a low steady monotone.

Nick sinks ever-deeper into the corner he should have abandoned when he had the chance.

“Listen to me, and listen well, you buffle-brained nincompoops. You have been banned from Fickleton Wells! Banned! The sons of two of the greatest men in the Commonwealth banned from an English town. How on earth did this happen?”

Nick clears his throat and still manages to squeak, “Patent medicine, Sir, I swear it!” He shoulders his way out of the corner, determined to give his lies confidence. “In the… in the gin… we were… we were poisoned! The brandy, too, I’ll wager. Lucky to be alive… Surely cannot be held responsible for…”

“Rubbish, Northope. Rubbish! I’ll tell you how it happened. You let a pack of women lead you by your willies. Yes, you did. Your father and I have talked to them. And paid them off, the bitches. Because…” he walks right up and taps Nick’s chest as he makes his point. “You. Let. Them. Fool. You.”

Nick’s hand runs around his neck again.

“Your Grace,” Aldridge has suddenly realized that they wouldn’t be banned if they were to be hanged. This has given him an altogether overly optimistic sense of confidence. “They say they are pregnant, Your Grace.” Haverford’s head swivels dangerously in Aldridge’s direction. “It can’t be us, Your Grace. It’s only been a week since we arrived, and surely, virile as we are, we cannot each have impregnated a dozen women in a week? Surely, not even Your Grace could—”

Nick suddenly realizes the benefit of being six years wiser.

Haverford turns all his attention on his son and heir, and Aldridge’s confidence shrinks to a needle point.

“They claim you have been visiting them for months,” Haverford explains, his suddenly gentle tones a sure sign that Aldridge is about to be very, very sorry. And then even sorrier than that.

While Aldridge tries to duck out of sight, Nick moves to a position well away from any more corners. He is a grown man, for heaven’s sake. And there are plenty of places to stand.

“I haven’t finished with you, Northope.”

“Months?” Nick responds, shaking his head, straightening his cuffs. “You’ve been coming here months, Aldridge?”

“Not I, Your Grace. It’s a lie.” Aldridge squeaks.

“I, on the other hand,” Nick offers, “just came to Fickleton Wells for a prize fight. At least that is why your son told me he was bringing me here. If he had another purpose… well… I cannot speak to that…”

Haverford casts his eyes to heaven. “No honor among thieves or scoundrels. Did the Duke of Wellbridge’s wife play him false with the village idiot? Aldridge, if your mother weren’t a saint I would swear you couldn’t be mine.”

Aldridge is casting Nick a look of deep betrayal. “Nick, how could you?”

Nick relents. There is no need to leave all the blame on Aldridge. “Admittedly, Your Grace, we had a bit more gin than two gentlemen should… But I would swear Aldridge and I were both unknown to them. And the gin had quite a sharp taste, rather like… patent medicine. I can’t help but think they are lying.”

“Of course they are lying.” Haverford throws up his hands in despair. “And of course they set out to trap you. And of course they drugged you. And of course you would drink anything put in front of you! Do you think I’m as big a fool as the two of you? But they have the whole town believing them, and the prince half believes them, too.”

“The prince,” Nick gulps. “What is Wales going to do to us?”

Haverford ignores him to continue his version of a fatherly sermon. “I have told you before, Aldridge. And you should listen, too, Northope. Never, ever, indulge yourself with the lower gentry or the middle sort. Servants, yes. Farmers’ wives and such. But never with people who can embarrass me… you. Keep a mistress. Keep ten; your allowance is large enough. Just don’t let your mother know, and stay away from the middle sort. One of our own, if you must, and if she has done her duty by her Lord. But never the middle sort. You have embarrassed me. You have embarrassed Wellbridge. And you have embarrassed the Prince of Wales.”

“On the topic of, er… Wellbridge… Sir?” Nick’s tentative voice demonstrated not an ounce of the Eton/Oxford poise he was so fond of displaying. “Did my, er… father… say what he would do? And Wales? What has he decided?”

“If it were up to me, and if Aldridge weren’t—God help the Haverford name—my heir, you’d both hang. But Prinny is inclined to be generous. I have no idea why.” He fixes Aldridge with another glare. “Your mother may have spoken to him.”

That brought up a very good point.

“Sir, Your Grace,” Nick asks, “might it be possible to bring this up with the Duchess of Wellbridge, not the duke?”

“There will be no discussion of anything with you, Northope. The king discussed it with Prinny, who discussed it with me and Wellbridge; we discussed it with your mothers, and the petty provincials in Fickleton Wells discussed it the length and breadth of England! You are asked not to find yourselves in the royal presence until such time as you are requested. You are further banned, until the general sense of noble fury is abated, from all of Prinny’s estates, his father’s, your father’s, and mine.

“Which. Will. Not. Be. Difficult.” Haverford’s finger drives the point home, “as you are both leaving England. Northope, your father has booked passage and suggests your long-delayed Grand Tour commence immediately on conclusion of this interview. Aldridge will be going to my estate in Outer Strathclyde, to study the wool trade. It is time he took a hand in estate business.”

“But Your Grace, isn’t Outer Strathclyde… didn’t you complain that you can’t seem to keep anyone there under the age of sixty?”

“Outer Strathclyde,” Nick snickers.

Aldridge looks hunted. “Outer Strathclyde,” he whimpers.

“Live to a ripe old age, they do in those parts. Something to do with the fine crisp air. Of course, all the young people have long since gone. But you could learn a lot there, Aldridge.”

“But Your Grace. You said you would never go there because you couldn’t get a woman to…” Aldridge’s voice trails off. Nick thinks he would have been better not to have opened his mouth.

Haverford, though, just smirks. “Precisely. And so the estate is neglected. But now I have no need to go. My ungrateful son—who could clearly do with fewer women—will represent me instead. And you, Northope…”

Nick knows exactly where he will be going, and if he can go without the ducal blessing, so much the better.

“Hanover, I presume?” he shrugs.

Nick has been recently considering a visit to his old friend, Adolphus, the viceroy, and Prinny will have no objection to Nick causing trouble in his brother’s viceregal Court. Northope second sons have a tradition of travel; it is how the French and Italian titles were acquired, and Nick will be more than delighted to continue the custom. Unexpected, given his brother’s infirmity, but not at all unwelcome. He does hope his father allows him a valet and enough money to eat well.

“Aldridge, you will not disappoint me,” Haverford’s mere tone of voice is a threat to both men… er, boys, who thus comply with the two burly servants come to escort the young lords to their respective transports.

“This is so unfair,” Aldridge hisses to Nick as they are separated. “You are being given the freedom of the globe, while I am being sent into celibate exile in a community of geriatric woollen weavers.”

Nick cannot help but grin. Aldridge is bearing the real punishment for their prank, and Nick is being rewarded with a merry jaunt across the Continent and no way for his father to object to it.

“I’ll remember this day, Northope,” Aldridge calls, as his keepers escort him away. “And I vow my exile will be a short one.”

Nick vows his might last forever.

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