I thought I’d share this little snippet here from At Any Moment, the conclusion of Mia and Adam’s story.
There is no official release date yet but I will be announcing that and releasing some teaser pages soon in my newsletter, so sign up if you haven’t already! Also don’t forget to read the two Adam POV scenes from At Any Price if you haven’t had a chance to already.
What other scene from At Any Price would you like to see in Adam’s point of view? Let me know in the comments!
The winning scene was the one where Adam and Mia first meet. Below, as promised, is that scene in its entirety.
PLEASE BE AWARE that this scene is a MAJOR SPOILER for the book. Do NOT read it if you have not yet read At Any Price and are planning to do so. It is not a spoiler for At Any Turn, Book 2, so you are safe if you haven’t read that yet.
You have been warned!
The second most popular voted scene, with Adam and Mia on the yacht out under the stars from Adam’s point of view was sent out in my newsletter. You can still get that scene if yousign up here (**When you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll get a link in the confirmation letter that will take you right to that other alternate POV scene!) Also coming soon in the newsletter: Previews and teasers for AT ANY MOMENT.
———–SPOILERS BELOW——————————–SPOILERS BELOW—————-
When I first met my gaming friend, Eloisa, in person, it was a beautiful day in late April. A very normal sort of day. The circumstances of our meeting, however, were far from it.
I waited at the curb of the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel for my lawyer, Joseph Macy to arrive at the valet. I’d already been standing there for about ten minutes. It’s a good thing the coastal breeze coming in was cool or I might have been sweating. And I’d learned you never walk into an important business meeting when you’re sweating. Not a good way to start. It was never good to show the adversary your weakness or your emotions.
“Hey Joe,” I said, greeting him with an outstretched hand.
“Adam, good to see you.” He shot me a quizzical glance. “Mind sharing what this is all about?”
I shrugged. “I told you what it was about. You saw the paperwork.”
He frowned. “About this virginity auction…right. And…?” He raised his eyebrows. “Nothing else you want to share?” He obviously wanted the backstory on this weird situation. I’d already decided against telling him. Let him think I was some kind of perv who craved virgin sacrifices. Or maybe I’d sit down and explain it all out to him later if I really had to. For now, I just had to make it through this and chalk it off as one more mission accomplished.
Frankly, it was a bit too embarrassing to go into now. Too many people knew about this shit already. I’d already had my good friend Jordan on the case for me. He’d made plans to come to this sordid little meeting before having to deal with something that had cropped up at work.
“Let’s go,” I said glancing at my watch. “We’re late, I think.” Which was probably better. The longer she sat in there waiting for this meeting to start, the more nervous she probably got. That would all work perfectly for my plan.
We walked through the gold chrome glass doors into the huge lobby of the hotel, making our way to the back toward the conference rooms. I recalled that Heath had told me room 10 A.
“After you,” I said as I bent to pull open the frosted glass door. Joe glanced at me with a cocked eyebrow before stepping into the doorway and entering the room. Time to get this show on the road and set this plan in motion.
I quietly wondered how long it would take to offend the hell out of her.
Two people shot out of their seats on the opposite side of a long glass conference table.
I recognized Heath from when we’d met in person a few days before. I gave him a nod before turning to the woman standing beside him. I recognized her too. Our eyes met and I hesitated, feeling like I’d just stepped off a cliff and was free falling.
I’d seen her photos from the auction. The public photos had been shots of her in a bikini with her face obscured and I knew she had a nice body. I’d tried not to look at them too closely because the circumstances behind which they had been posted had turned my stomach. But after the bids had come in, Heath had sent head shots as well. I could see she had a beautiful face to match the rest of her—nice body and fun personality. A dangerous combo. It was hard to believe that men had managed to keep their hands off of her for so long and if I hadn’t known her better, I would have suspected a sham.
But there had to be a story behind why she’d never had sex. Too bad I wouldn’t be sticking around long enough to find out. I took in a long breath, wondering how long it had been since I’d drawn the last one. She was stunning.
She had long, medium brown hair and light brown eyes, widely set. She was slender and tall—though almost dwarfed by Heath, who towered over her. He towered over me, too and I was six-one. He loomed over her like a body guard and the way I’d heard him talk about her when we met, I was certain he was very protective of her.
However, like me, he hadn’t managed to talk her out of this crackpot auction. She was stubborn to a fault. I’d run up against that several times in the past.
She wore a white blouse and the most pathetic-looking rumpled skirt, which she self-consciously smoothed flat across her legs. She hadn’t taken her eyes off mine and I found it difficult to move. I had to mentally shake myself to remember why I was here—to be the most obnoxious jerk she had ever met and convince her to change her mind about this bullshit auction of hers.
Talking sense into her hadn’t worked so it was time to resort to plan B. Operation Asshole. I jerked my eyes away from her gaze—that gaze that was sucking me into her orbit—and gave her a callous once-over. As my eyes traveled down her legs and then back up to her face, I saw a touch of crimson rise to her cheeks. Perfect. I walked to the table.
I’d dressed the part today, too. When was the last time I’d even worn this suit, anyway? It was probably someone’s wedding—or maybe a funeral. I rarely ever wore a three-piece suit to work unless involved in some sort of power meeting where looking like a CEO was important. This was one of those meetings.
Heath leaned forward, offering me his hand and I smiled. “Good to see you again, Bowman,” I said, keeping with calling him by his last name to maintain the pretence that we didn’t actually know each other—that I hadn’t been his weekly gaming friend for almost fourteen months, now. He had no idea, of course, but because I’d never spoken on voice chat, he had very little to go on in order to suspect me. I just had to be careful and play this smart.
I sucked in a tight breath before bracing myself to turn back to her. Cold hard steel, I reminded myself. This was a business transaction, after all, and a revolting one at that. She was a stranger who was selling her virginity. She was not my friend. Not the woman who made me laugh my ass off on a regular basis while we were working through tedious quests or hacking hordes of monsters in the virtual world of Yondareth.
After I managed to offend her sensibilities today, I’d fade back into the woodwork. She’d abandon her crazy scheme and we could go on with our lives. She’d never have to know that I was FallenOne. There’d be no consequences. Things could remain comfortably the same.
Heath laid a hand on her shoulder. “This is our semi-famous blogger, Girl Geek.”
I studied her and she bit her lip. I tried not to swallow as I watched her worry it between her teeth. It was fucking sexy as hell. She had the most beautiful lips, puffy, dark pink. Kissable. Definitely very kissable. I wondered what they tasted like. This was not a good sign. Shit.
To cover for my unexpected reaction to her, I waved a hand toward her seat while I took mine. She cast a curious glance at Joe almost as if suddenly realizing he was there. I watched her closely, tried to frame my mind around her like a puzzle or a problem to solve. In many ways she was. If she had just listened to me or Heath in the first place, we wouldn’t have to be here going through this creepy farce.
She looked back at me and when her eyes met mine, she looked almost startled. I narrowed my gaze at her and tried my best to look intimidating. Thank God Jordan hadn’t made it here like we’d planned or he’d be laughing his ass off at me right now.
Heath began thumbing through a stack of papers on the table. I turned to watch as he pulled out what he was looking for.
I turned back to her. “So do I call you Girl Geek or do I get to know your name?” Yet another farce. I already knew her name, Emilia Kimberly Strong. I also knew a lot of other things about her, from gaming together and from other sources. What I hadn’t known until this moment was how mouth-watering she was in person.
And how fun it was to watch her get flustered as I scrutinized her. She blushed and cleared her throat. “My name is Mia.”
I scoffed. “Mia?”
Her hands fidgeted in her lap. My eyes were drawn to the movement. “Emilia. But everyone calls me Mia.”
I sent her a patronizing smile—one that I hoped would fire her up even more. She almost scowled at me in return. Oh, this was going better than I’d imagined… “I’m not everyone,” I said, watching her chest as her breathing appeared to quicken. It suddenly felt very hot in this conference room. “Emilia.”
Her fists clenched. Bingo, score one for Adam. Now to push it further…I flicked a glance at Heath’s papers. “So let’s go over the particulars of the contract. Is this just about the penetration of one organ by another or are there specifics laid out? What about touching, kissing? How many times? What about kink?”
Her mouth dropped open—I could see it in the periphery of my vision. I had to fight the smile. God this was hard. If there was one thing I was really good at—besides whipping up a badass line of code—it was being an asshole. Why was it so hard today?
I rubbed my bottom lip with my thumb to cover the smile tugging at my mouth. What was worse was that Heath looked like he was about to bust out laughing himself. Don’t give me away, man, I thought. Even though he had no idea he had anything to give away.
Heath cleared his throat. “That’s a lot to cover. And this is a strange venue to do it.”
I shrugged and looked back at Mia. “How about we just start with deal breakers, then?”
She turned to Heath and nodded as if she’d been expecting that question. Heath said, “I know of one that we can discuss right now. There will be no fellatio.”
Honest to God, I thought I’d misheard him. I leaned forward. “Excuse me?”
Mia leaned forward and said in almost too loud of a voice, “You heard him correctly. No cocksucking.”
Oh so now who was trying to be shocking? I tried that intimidating stare again and we held each other’s gaze for a long moment. I’d come in here with an agenda and it seemed to be getting off to a good start. What I hadn’t counted on, however, was how much fun it would be. I could probably sit here for another hour and think up new and even more mortifying ways to make her squirm.
Time to up the ante, then. “Are you on birth control?”
She rewarded me with a stunned blink. Nice. Called and raised, Ms. Strong.
Joe’s head jerked in my direction. Likely wondering why I was being so blunt. I probably should have tipped him off ahead of time. But he was probably still trying to wrap his head around the fact that I was paying a ridiculous amount of money to sleep with a virgin.
Another wave of revulsion washed over me at the thought and I was reminded of my mission… heh…Operation Save the Virgin?
Mia’s lips thinned. “All of that is delineated in the paperwork for the terms of the auction, Mr. Drake. Yes, I’ll be using birth control but there will also be condoms—”
Time to really gross her out. “If I’m going to lay down a fortune for the privilege of experiencing your quivering virgin flesh, I think it goes without saying that I expect to do it without a barrier.”
She sat back, shocked.
I tilted my head, watching her closely. “Why is that a problem? If we are both cleared by a physician—”
“Recent medical clearance is not sufficient for me. I’d require celibacy for at least the previous six months, so—”
“Then there isn’t a problem.” Yeah best not go into details there…I hadn’t gotten laid in almost eight months. I wasn’t really happy about that fact but when the hell had I had the time to rectify it lately? There just weren’t enough hours in the week and I’d been spending too many of my precious few spare hours gaming with these two and Persephone online.
Mia’s mouth opened as she leaned forward, about to do battle when Heath stopped her.
Joe cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable. “We can work all these details out later in mediation. Mr. Drake does have a plane to catch later today.”
I watched Heath and Mia interact. She was clearly pissed off at me. Good. She had no clue who I actually was. Just like I’d planned it. In a few more minutes, with a few more snide and suggestive remarks, this virgin would be running for the hills—and safety.
I cleared my throat. “Gentlemen, could you excuse us for a moment? You’re free to wait just outside the door. If, of course, that is okay with the lady?”
I darted a look of challenge at her, waiting to see if she’d contradict me. Would she allow me to seize control like this or would she show fear by refusing to allow us to meet alone? And what would that foreshadow for our supposed night together? It was a difficult choice for her. I knew it would be and I could see the struggle within her as she attempted to figure out what I was doing.
“Fine,” she said. She didn’t say, “If that’s what you want,” or anything like that. That would be ceding power to me. But really, in this power game, she had lost long before this moment.
It was hard to read her as the others got up and left. She relaxed her arms and folded them tightly in her lap and her beautiful brown eyes never left me. And she appeared very nervous. A wide-eyed innocent.
And God, she was lovely. I couldn’t stop noticing it. But with that daunting intelligence in her dark eyes, she was far more than a pretty face. I knew it well. Her wit was sharp and her mind quick. She’d had me in stitches for way too many late-night gaming sessions. I hadn’t been in her physical presence long enough to read her signals but I had a feeling I was about to get some of that tart wit aimed my way very soon.
I cleared my throat and began my prepared speech—designed, of course, to disturb her. Even so, I was a little reluctant to go this route. I wasn’t worried about what she’d think of me. But I was concerned about what such a discussion might do to her. As if with words I could violate that innocence I had so easily detected. A knot of emotion formed at the base of my throat. What was it? Sympathy? I knew she was desperate. I knew this was, in part, for altruistic reasons. But I couldn’t allow her to sacrifice herself like this. There was no way I’d stand for it. I would go out of my way to help my friends or prevent them from doing something stupid. And something about Mia in particular brought out the protectiveness in me. Or maybe she was just so bullheaded that I wanted to out-bullhead her. I always did like a good challenge.
And yet, that same pull I felt earlier returned again with force. She fascinated me. Powerfully attracted me. I cleared my throat and tried my best to ignore it.
I laid my hands on the table, lacing fingers together. “I’m sorry if my bluntness has offended you. I assumed that a woman who has placed herself on the block like you have would be comfortable with straight talk.”
She laughed. “Oh, is that what that was? I just thought you were being an asshat.”
Here we go. This sounded more like the Mia I knew. A little back and forth was always fun. I just refused to allow myself to enjoy it too much.
She sighed. “Mr. Drake. You are not leaving me with the best impression of yourself—”
I cut her off with a chuckle. “Do I need to? I thought my bank account did that for me.”
She tensed from head to toe. Good. “I am not a prostitute and I’ll thank you not to treat me like one.”
“You’ve sold yourself. You may not see yourself as one, but clearly…” I overtly leered at her to emphasize my point. It wouldn’t take much to mentally undress her. As my eyes skimmed down from her perfect cleavage, across her breasts, waist and down to her gorgeous legs. Heat rose under my collar. Yeah, I imagined her clothes coming off. It had been too long and I was now feeling incredibly horny, much to my shame.
She shook her head. “One night in my life and a bit of broken skin does not constitute prostitution.”
I couldn’t rip my gaze from her. There was some kind of strange energy in the room, like static electricity. “Sex for money is prostitution.”
She shrugged. “I prefer not to put a label on it. One night of my life does not define me.”
“A lot can happen in one night.”
She looked at me for a long moment, not saying a word. But she also looked as if she was about to run screaming from the room, a changed woman, ready to give up this incredibly crazy scheme of hers. So, I pressed my advantage. “It takes a curious type of morality to save one’s self for so long only to sell off that asset to the highest bidder.”
Her jaw tightened. Yeah, she was clearly pissed. “You didn’t pay to get inside my head, Mr. Drake.” Then she leaned forward and pushed Heath’s stack of papers across the table. “Here’s the fine print—everything that I could think of.”
I barely gave it a second’s attention. “I’m not going to read through that now, obviously. And, of course, I’ll have addendums of my own. Along with a nondisclosure agreement.”
One shapely brow rose. “You do know that I’m a blogger, right?”
“Of course. But, aside from your Manifesto, you blog exclusively about gaming, not your sex life. The document is pretty standard, with a little extra wording about our special situation”
She glanced over the paper, then her eyes flew to the top again, rereading it, brows tightening as she read. I took a moment to admire her skin, the way she pushed dark tendrils of stray hair behind a delicate ear. Frustrated with myself I looked away. It was high time I got laid—but not this way. Never this way.
She asked for a pen, signed it quickly with jerky movements of her right wrist. Then, she pushed it back to me. “I’m going to need a copy of that.”
I signed the paper as well. “Of course,” I murmured, pulling my smart phone from my jacket pocket to snap an image of the document. I promptly sent it to Heath’s e-mail account. “Heath Bowman now has a copy in his e-mail. He can forward it to you. I’ll have a physical copy mailed to you as soon as possible if you put your address on the back of the form.”
She complied. Then she straightened with a smirk hovering on her sexy lips. “It’s too bad, really, that I won’t be able to write about it. I could have made it sound so mind-blowing—I might even have thrown in a few ‘earth-shatterings’ for good measure.”
I couldn’t help but smile. She was making this really easy for me. “Oh, our encounters will be all that and more.”
Her eyes widened and she shook her head in obvious disbelief. “It’s one night, Mr. Drake. That ‘encounters’ should have a parentheses around the s.”
She had a lot to learn about sex, didn’t she? Damn shame. It would have been fun to be the one to teach her. “Encounters…no parentheses necessary.”
Then I grew more overt with my ogling. It wasn’t difficult. I honestly liked just about everything I saw—the way her firm, high breasts strained against the white shirt. An exquisite blush stained her cleavage. I swallowed. Any more staring and I was going to embarrass myself with my own arousal. I couldn’t do this for long and remain unaffected. I suddenly wondered if I’d kept Janine’s phone number. She might be pissed if I called after eight months but… maybe that would be worth it. Because—goddamn—I needed it more than I’d thought I did. Working myself exhausted every day all day wasn’t enough, apparently.
And if it wasn’t enough, she responded to my obvious leering. Her nipples grew taut and strained against the pale blouse. And—fuck—yep, suddenly her body parts weren’t the only ones that were responding.
I covered my embarrassment by shifting in my seat and sending her a cheeky grin. “This is going to be fun.”
And yes, I was regretting the fact that it wouldn’t ever amount to anything past this moment. Because it really would have been fun. In more ways than just the one.
She folded her arms to cover her breasts—thank God—and I finally tore my hungered eyes away. Clenching my jaw, I forced myself to think about something else besides her hot, lithe body and beautiful face. It was distracting as hell.
I was going to have to dig deep to find Adam the Asshole again to finish off this whole charade. “I’m sorry to make this brief, but I’m on the way to a business meeting. We can work out all the details so that we’re both satisfied. I’ll be reachable by e-mail, however. Or you can text me.”
Her relief was visible. I had to admit, mine probably was too. The sexual tension in here was crazy. So thick it could be cut with a chainsaw.
“My cell phone isn’t working.”
What? Who lived without their cell phone these days? Was it even safe for a woman to be roaming around without one? That situation would have to be rectified immediately. I’d find a way to get one to her anonymously. Maybe Heath could facilitate that for me once she backed out of the auction.
I cleared my throat. “I have nothing but your best interests, health and safety in mind, Emilia. Both physically and legally.” Her wry look indicated that she did not believe me. “Well, I do have my own expectations of how this should go, of course.”
“Of course you do.”
We watched each other for a long moment and I don’t think either of us was breathing. I swallowed, thrown again. I needed the hell out of here before I either grabbed her and committed some lewd act by pushing her up against the wall and rumpling that pathetic skirt even more or just dropping to my knees and begging.
I stood up and waited for her to do the same. She came around from her side of the table towards me and I held out my hand, indicating that she should go in front of me. But it was too deliciously easy to imagine myself slipping an arm around her waist, pulling her against me, smelling her neck. I shook my head to rid myself of the image.
I reached for the door handle and paused, turning towards her. She looked at me, puzzled, but when she spoke, her voice was breathy with either anticipation or fear.
“Was there something else?”
Yes. Kiss me with those luscious lips of yours, I wanted to say. I wanted to know what they tasted like. I wanted to explore that mouth with my tongue, feel that silky brown hair twined in my fingers.
I smiled. I knew what I wanted—I always knew what I wanted. But this was off limits. For good. “No. I’d better not ask.”
“Adam,” I interrupted, my gaze focused on her with intensity. It was disconcerting how little I had to summon up. The intensity was already there, especially with her this close. I could smell the faint vanilla scent of her hair.
I had vowed not to touch her but I could hardly resist. I likely wouldn’t have the chance again. I reached up and took her chin in my hand, tracing that exquisitely-turned jaw line with my thumb. She shivered under my touch and every last bit of me hardened painfully. Surprisingly, she didn’t shrink from me—didn’t play the part of the quivering virgin. She just watched me with those mysterious brown eyes. I tilted her chin towards me as if I might kiss her lips. Lord knows, I wanted to.
“Call me Adam,” I said, brushing my thumb over her jaw again. I had to forcibly prevent myself from touching her lips. “It’s only fitting, given that we’ll be seeing each other naked soon.”
I swallowed as she sucked in air. It was actually far too close to the truth. I wanted my name on her lips while I touched her, made her come. I wanted it too damn much.
“This isn’t a done deal. I could always change my mind,” she said, with a trembling voice.
I nodded. “You could. And if you can’t bring yourself to hear it talked about, you probably shouldn’t go through with it.”
I leaned in close to get a whiff—vanilla and…peaches…and something else I couldn’t quite place. This would be the very last time I had the chance to savor that scent. Our faces were only inches from each other. My heart started pounding in my throat, hot arousal knotting in my gut. This wasn’t good for my asshole routine at all. “In the end, after all the legal talk, after all of the technical Latin terms we’ve been throwing around, this is going to be about two people. In bed—and probably other places. Fucking.”
She flushed scarlet and with that parting shot, I pulled the door open without removing my gaze from her.
She narrowed her eyes for a moment, then took her turn to leer at me. Oh no, she did not just do that. I was already sweating through the undershirt of this monkey suit and she was running her gaze slowly over me. My hand tightened on the heavy door handle to prevent me from tearing it away to grab her.
I grinned. “Yes, this is definitely going to be fun,” I said. Too bad I wouldn’t be around to actually enjoy it.
She cocked her head and clenched her jaw, clearly irritated. Her elegant eyebrows arched. “You’ll be paying enough for it.”
And there it was. The essence of why this must fail no matter how torn I was at the moment. She may have been the most intriguing woman I’d encountered in a long time. She may have the most kissable lips I’d ever laid eyes on, but I would never, ever pay her for sex.
Screw my raging hormones and this crazy attraction to her. This whole charade was about preventing her from doing a very stupid and self-destructive thing.
I sobered, my previous amusement evaporating like cigar smoke. This would not happen. Not if I had anything to do with it. I’d do whatever it took to prevent it.
“We’ll be in touch, Emilia.” My resolve firmed as we exited the room, her walking stiffly beside me as we made it back to where Bowman stood talking with Joe. I didn’t spare another look at her. I couldn’t afford it. I hoped the first class lounge at LAX had showers. Cold, cold showers.
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When Katie Harrington becomes engaged to Branson Stone she believes her life is right on track for all her dreams to come true.
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All publicity is good publicity, right? Unless you’re recent college grad Ellie Wagner and an embarrassing video of you and your boyfriend goes viral. Every man in your life abandons you, but who knew a one-minute clip of your latest doomed relationship would brand you a slut, prevent you from getting your perfect job, and force you to keep doing the one thing you swore you’d never do again…live with your mother.
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After all, fame and fortune aren’t always what they seem and not all publicity is good publicity…
#6: AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey “Everything was spinning around me and I-I was spinning too, delirious with want. Like a woman drowning in the middle of a stormy sea, in desperate need of a life raft. That sea was Adam Drake and he was pulling me adrift, stranding me in some strange and forgotten land.”
Achievement Unlocked: Geek Virgin When Mia Strong, proud geek-girl and popular gaming blogger, auctions off her virginity online, she knows she’ll make waves. But what she will not be making is a love connection. Her rules are set in stone: One night. No further contact.
It’s a desperate step, but it’s the only way she can go to medical school and pay her mother’s mounting hospital bills.
Difficulty Level: Millionaire CEO Adam Drake, the enigmatic auction winner, is a software prodigy who made his first million at seventeen. Now, in his mid-twenties, he’s sexy, driven and–as CEO of his own gaming company–he’s used to making the rules. Before Mia knows what’s happening, he’s found the loophole in the rules of her auction. Every stipulation she’s made to protect her heart gets tossed by the wayside.
She can’t tell if he’s playing her…or if he’s playing for keeps.
#7:BACK TO LIFE by Danielle Allen “Before you, I just existed. I didn’t really live. I didn’t really feel. I was going through the motions. And then I met you…” I stroked his face and gazed up at him. “And you brought me back to life.”
Sahara Lee has spent the last ten years living with the guilt of a tragic accident and its aftermath. That night irrevocably changed the outgoing, fun-loving college freshman into an introverted, workaholic with no social life. Sahara isolates herself from everyone and everything that reminds her of home in an effort to forget what happened. Using art as a substitute for love, Sahara throws herself into music and art as a way to feel something other than the guilt that haunts her. She accepts her lonely existence as penance for the role she played in the accident. That is, until she meets Tyree Barker, the good looking entrepreneur with baggage of his own.
Blindsided by a legal loophole, Sahara is suddenly forced to confront the past she’s been running from. Juggling the guilty feelings of her past and the unexpected feelings of her present, Sahara’s future becomes complicated as she heads down a path of forgiveness, love, and heartbreak…and not in that particular order.
Back to Life reminds you that living and existing are two completely different ways to go through life. Grief will break you but guilt, guilt will destroy you. And once that happens, what can bring you back to life?
#8: THE HIDDENby Kelley R. Martin “She was like quick-sand–the more I struggled to get out, the more I sank. So I’d decided to give up and embrace the sink down.”
On her first day of college, Emily meets a walking, talking god. With a gorgeous face, killer blue eyes, and a body to die for, it’s easy to see why Thomas Paige is the envy of every guy at Potomac Ridge University and why every girl within a fifty mile radius wants to get a piece of him.
Sounds great, right? Well, it would be if Emily didn’t think he was such an ass.
Since she’s not interested in becoming another notch on his bedpost, she tells him to shove it, and convinces herself that her novel use of the word “no” is what’s got him hounding her all over campus. But there are two sides to every story, and Thomas is determined to make Emily hear his. Even if it does sound crazy and impossible.
#9: DON’T LET GOby Michelle Lynn “I won’t give up. If you’re not going to fight for this…I’ll do it for the both of us.”
Sadie Miller is attempting to change her ways and hide somewhere no one knows her former self. She only wants to finish her final year of college, obtain her degree, and get out from the hold of her affluent parents. Then she meets Brady Carsen, the lead singer of The Invisibles, a popular local band in the college town. She tries to stay away but quickly realizes that, although he might not be what she’s used to, he’s exactly what she needs and more importantly, everything she could possibly want.
Unfortunately, Sadie’s troubled past left her with insecurities that make her question Brady’s true intentions. And while Brady is convinced that Sadie is the one for him, he has his own secrets that he fears will be their undoing. If they want to be together, they will have to stand united and fight the outside influences that are threatening to tear them apart. Can they put their pasts behind them for good in order to secure their future?
#10: THE PERFECT EMOTION (Book 2 of the Perfect Series) by Melissa Rolka “I’ve been waiting for you,” he whispers. “I never asked you to,” I say with little conviction.
“And yet, here I am.” I slowly turn myself into him and bury my face in his chest. Even through his coat I can smell that familiar pine and masculine scent.
The story of Kate, Kyle and Reed continues in this second novel of The Perfect Series.
Kate (Katherine) Monroe is finally coming to heads with the decisions she’s made in the past to keep herself distracted at any cost. Learning to move on and forward with the conflicts in her life is harder than she expects though. With Kyle continuing to attempt reconciliation and Kate’s mom back at home, avoiding and running are no longer an option.
All along Kate’s mind and heart are consumed with Reed, but she fights to push her feelings and desires to the side. Despite the obvious pull and connection she has with Reed she finds it difficult to let him in… and trust in herself. However, Reed’s perseverance and patience never wavers and eventually he uses the one thing that had always brought them together… tennis.
As Reed and Kate begin to embark on a new relationship they face the past and the present head on. Along the way, new challenges and emotions arise testing the direction of their future together.
Can Kate forgive herself and trust Reed in order to latch onto the one emotion she needs most… love?
“I’ve fought this battle from her side. Pat Powers, he wanted the mouse and I didn’t have a bean back then. He was this big terrifying New York producer and I was just a kid from Missouri with a sketch of Mickey, but it would’ve killed me to give him up. Honest to God, killed me. That mouse, he’s family.” ~Walt Disney discussing P.L. Travers, Saving Mr. Banks
Around the time At Any Price released, my husband and I got a rare chance to go on a date for our wedding anniversary. We went out to dinner and to see Saving Mr. Banks. I was surprised at how emotional I grew over the decision Ms. Travers faced to sell the Mary Poppins film rights to Walt Disney. I’d just released my debut novel and had no idea whether it would sink or swim. In turning down a “sure thing” advance, I’d taken a big risk.
Reality is a bit distant from the happy ending depicted in the movie. P.L. Travers, it is said, was quite upset with how Disney produced the film. Ultimately, she had little to no control over the final product, despite what she’d been promised. However, there’s no questioning the renown that Mary Poppins achieved due to Disney’s treatment of it.
But as I watched, I couldn’t stop equating P.L. Travers’ situation to mine and that’s what got me teary-eyed, especially when Walt Disney, as portrayed by Tom Hanks, delivered the line I quoted above.
If you haven’t followed my story before, then you should start here:
Last month I wrote a post in which I took an honest look at the road not taken. I’m afraid that some interpreted that post as an expression of regret. Rather, I wanted to explore the options fairly. In this current publishing environment, every aspiring author will, having their finished manuscript in hand, ask themselves: Do I look for an agent or do I go the indie route? Do I get my agent to shop it or do I start looking for my own editor? Do I take the offer on the table or publish it myself?
Both choices are valid. And there is also the third option—hybrid. There are so many factors that should be weighed: the genre of the book; the book’s length; whether or not there’s an existing readership for this author; whether or not the author is ready to also be a publisher; whether or not the author is comfortable with the risk of refusing an advance in favor of unrealized royalties as an indie.
The only wrong choice to make, in my opinion, is an uninformed one.
So again, I take up this discussion not to beat a dead horse (yes we already know how I feel about non-compete clauses and e-book pricing! I’m not about to belabor it). Instead I’d like discuss this milestone in my journey because people have contacted me privately, on my blog and in other forums to thank me for being open about it. I hope a few have benefited and were able to make informed choices with the help of my posts.
So here’s another blog post to add to that list. Because I’ve been asked to blog when I hit this particular milestone and it is a pretty exciting one. I hope you’ll feel the same way.
Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much…Let me sum up. As a result of an editorial auction, I was offered a three-book deal, $40,000 advance against royalties per book and $120,000 in total to be delivered upon publication of the third book (likely late 2015). The first book would have been published in fall of 2014.
Upon publication (approximately October 2014) I would have received the balance of 85% of $40,000 for At Any Price (the full sum minus the agent’s fee). This amounts to $34,000.
The book released on December 9, 2013. By the end of the day on April 15, 2014, I’d sold 16,331 books with a total earned of $36,031. Subtracting the costs involved in production of the book, $1,827 (which I detailed in this blog post), this amounts to a net of $34,204.
Four months after publication, I hit the milestone of “selling through” what my advance would have been had I published traditionally.
The interesting thing here would be to examine how many books it would have taken to sell through had I signed the deal.
There are a ton of factors that prevent me from doing anything but making an educated guess. I don’t know what the print run or placement would have been in physical bookstores. I don’t know what the e-book pricing would have been and I don’t know what price the trade paperback would have been offered at.
But I can compare royalty rates and make some estimates. Hopefully you’ll forgive my bad math.
Using the figures above of my actual sales, my indie royalty rate averages out to be $2.21 per e-book sold (I do have print sales that have not been figured in, as the royalty and sales numbers are comparatively negligible). This royalty rate per e-book as an indie author averages out to be 63%.
Looking at typical e-book pricing for my genre by the Big 5 publishers, they range anywhere from $3.99 to $7.99. I’m going to optimistically guess that they would have offered my book at around $5.99, a happy medium. Vendor sites may or may not have discounted, but the terms of my contract would have been 25% royalty off the net. This averages out to about 12-13% of the full e-book price. So I would have made $0.78 per e-book sold. Had all my sales been e-book only (or e-book heavy), it would have taken 51,282 copies sold to “sell through” to my share of the advance for that book [i.e. 51,282 x $0.78 = $40,000 – $6,000 = $34,000 (my net minus agent commission)]
Trade paperback prices in this genre vary anywhere from $8.00 to $12.00. Again, I’ll pick the middle, $10.00 (also because I suck at math and 10 is an easy number). For print, I was offered a 7.5% royalty per trade paperback sold, which would have amounted to $0.75. This means 53,333 print books sold. [i.e. 53,333 x $0.75 = $40,000 – $6,000 = $34,000]
Could the publisher move more copies of my book than I could? It’s likely, but not definite. Do I need to move as many e-books on my own as a traditional publisher would have in order to make that same sell-through amount? No. Not even close.
Would I have made this same choice if my book had been that Historical Romance manuscript that I’d originally shopped to editors? Or a mystery? Or a Young Adult fiction? I have no idea.
Again, it’s not always about the bottom line. Some genres move better in e-books than others do. I happened to be putting out a book in a very hot genre that had a strong, marketable hook with readers who, for the most part, absolutely love reading on their e-readers. These factors and others went into the decision.
Would someone else crunching the numbers for their own book have had similar results? I can’t tell you. I honestly wonder if my situation is reproducible—even by me. I did get a lot of publicity with that first blog post. I did get a lot of help from some very amazing authors. And luck was a factor too. But it wasn’t just about luck, any more than being offered a six-figure deal for print was just about luck.
Nevertheless, please don’t interpret this post to mean that because I got X results from the decision I made, you will too. Some debut indie authors have done far better than I have, in fact. I have no idea of what I did “right” and I have made some mistakes along the way.
And a lot of the time I feel like this:
Self-publishing is hard work. There is a constant and steep learning curve. There’s so much more that goes into it than just producing the words and making them pretty. You have to be your own art director for both the cover and any promotional materials you use. You have to be your own time manager (I completely suck at this part by the way, and have to get better at it soon or I’ll be in trouble!) You have to know how long each stage of the production of your novel will take, schedule cover art, content editing, copy editing, formatting and proofreading, all before you can set a publication date. And if you do any sort of promotion before your book is due out, you need to know that approximate release date at least a month or two in advance. If you publish across all outlets, posting the book up so that it is available at roughly the same time everywhere becomes a complicated set of maneuvers and machinations much like a game of Quidditch. All this and more. Pricing? Fuggedaboutit. Self-publishing really isn’t for everybody.
But it’s definitely for me. At least at this point in time. Having the complete control is addictive and I won’t give that up easily.
I can say to my cover artist (the amazingly talented Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations) “This looks awesome, but no, I want my name down here, and much bigger. Okay, that placement is great but make my name BIGGER so it can be read in a thumbnail…
Or, I LOVE this cover but I don’t like that color. How about something different? Okay, red is a great idea but not that shade of red… Ohh, that’s PERFECT!
A successful novel is rarely a one-man show. And I need to work with pros to make a nice finished product. Finding talented, flexible editors was hard. But now that I’ve found them, I’m hanging on for dear life!
Sharing results and learning from the results of other authors is a time-consuming task but it’s also very fun. The general camaraderie in the online independent publishing community is heartening. Most authors lift each other up and generally treat one another as a team rather than viewing everyone else as the competition.
There’s no denying that I’m glad I did what I did. I was able to earn out what my advance would have been on At Any Price six months before the novel would have seen the light of day. It’s like beginning the job early, with a six months head start. Yes, there are things I missed out on by not going that other route. These things mean less to me than they might to someone else. Everyone has different priorities and goals for what they want out of this business.
We’re all in this together and it doesn’t matter how we’ve chosen to get our stories out into the world. For me the bottom line, beyond just the earnings, is ultimately the connections I’ve made with readers through my works. I’ll never really know how my story may have affected most of them, but I treasure the messages of those who have reached out to me.
Walt Disney chose to keep his rights and from that decision and that one little mouse, he built an empire. P.L. Travers chose to sell her rights and her work achieved iconic status for the following generations.
This week, with the release of AT ANY TURN, I’ll be waiting to see if lightning can strike twice. Maybe this one will hit the same milestone as quickly, or maybe it will take much longer. The figures aren’t as important to me as how the readers will receive the continuation of Adam and Mia’s story. It’s a scary, stressful thing to release a story out into the world because once that happens, it will belong to the readers, not just me.
If there’s one thing I would hope an author would take away from this blog post, it would be this: To believe in your work. Never sell yourself short. Give your project the best that you are capable of giving it, then sit down and make the right choice for finding a vehicle that will send that work out into the world.
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