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New Release! BROKEN PROMISES – A Trystan Scott Novel by HM Ward!

He’s here! He’s really, really here! BROKEN PROMISES, Trystan Scott’s follow up novel, is LIVE and IT’S HUGE!

A NEW ROMANCE NOVEL BY NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR H.M. WARD ABOUT SEX, SOUL MATES, AND DEADLY SECRETS.

When Celebrity Magazine declares rock star Trystan Scott the sexiest man alive, I’m not surprised. How can anyone claim otherwise about those blazing blue eyes, rock-hard abs, dark hair, and a totally lickable dimple?

Before the billionaire playboy rose to stardom, we were friends for a while and lovers for a night. Though that was nearly a decade ago, our connection burns brightly in my memory. We weren’t a one night stand, not to me.

I can admit it–I got played. To him, I was just another conquest. My beautiful best friend is long gone, and I’ve moved on. But when fate forces us to meet face to face, everything I felt for him comes rushing back.

Trystan is crashing and burning fast. The press flock like vultures, waiting for him to kill himself or worse. Either way, his mistakes earn them millions.
One night, one time, one word is all it takes to wash away a decade of reason and regret. One secret threatens to push him six feet under, and, when those beautiful eyes turn to me for help, how can I say no?

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Type: Novel, 410 pgs

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BROKEN PROMISES video teaser

Broken Promises by H.M. WardWhat other people are saying about BROKEN PROMISES:

“This has to be H.M. Ward’s best work yet!!!” – Sheri

“I have no words to describe how amazing, awesome, unbelievably sexy Trystan is.” – Cheryl

“Be ready to laugh, break, cry and rejoice.” – Stacy Hahn

“Holly’s writing in this fantastic story comes straight from the very depths of her heart.” – Andrea Sanders

“All I can say is that this book is a must-read!” – Ian

“Sometimes you come upon a story that touches you, that moves you deeply and it becomes more than just a story.” – Melanie

“very sweet loving and as always, addictive” – Sarah

Read a FREE Sample of BROKEN PROMISES by H.M. Ward

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Here it is! A free sample of BROKEN PROMISES by H.M. Ward!

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

~FROM BROKEN PROMISES BY H.M. WARD~

CHAPTER 1

~MARI~

Katie kicks me under the table, shooting me a WTF look when I meet her gaze. She picks up her wine glass, smiling at her little dinner party consisting of me, my boyfriend, his younger brother, and the new girl from next door. I think her name is Amy, but I’m not sure because she’s hardly spoken.

Katie lifts her glass. The red liquid sloshes within an inch of the rim. She grins and my stomach drops. I know that look. Crap. “To Mari and Derrick, the best boyfriend ever, with really awesome hair. May God bless you both with many years and lots of chubby babies for Auntie Katie to play with!”

They don’t know Katie the way I do and start to sip their drinks as she says those last few words. There are never enough napkins when Katie meets new people.

“Holy shit!” Jared chokes out the words and looks at his brother. “You got her knocked up?” Tact isn’t his thing.

Jared is tall and handsome like his brother, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a strong jaw. They both have lean bodies with hard muscles and broad shoulders. They’re confident, both aware they have the looks, but Jared is more boyish than Derrick. Jared tends to act the cocky male stereotype—as if to be anything else would let us women down. Unlike Derrick, Jared has no filters. It’s a trait he shares with someone else I know.

Katie is grinning.

I swipe my foot under the table trying to find her leg and miss.

Derrick and I start stammering explanations at the same time, “No, oh no. We’re not. I mean.” Our hands cross in front of us as if warding off evil spirits and our faces wear I-can’t-believe-we’re-talking-about-this expressions.

“Jesus, man! You scared me for a second.” Jared leans back in his chair and relaxes. He’s got Peter Pan syndrome up to his ears. Ever the lost boy, he’ll never grow up or settle down.

Not that I’m ready to settle down either. I’m on the anti-marriage side of the fence at the moment. I like to keep my options open, so I’m not ready to stick a fork in the concept, but marriage holds little appeal for me. I’ve seen things, and, while I don’t want those perceptions to guide my life, I understand how they’ve affected it.

Derrick is usually sweet and doting, but when his brother is around, their competing levels of testosterone frustrate me.

Derrick waves his hand at his brother, dismissing the fat baby fantasy. “Don’t be ridiculous. There’ll be a wedding before a baby.” He laughs, intending his comment to end the conversation on a joke, but New Girl perks up at the word wedding.

Amy smiles at me. “Are you two engaged?”

It’s one of the few times she’s spoken tonight. She seems a little shy. Katie probably pried her out of her apartment with the Jaws of Life. After an evening with us, she’ll never answer the door again.

Jared leans forward and slaps the table. “What! Why am I the last to hear about everything?” His reaction makes Derrick laugh.

I shake my head and look down to hide my face. Why am I blushing? “No, we’re not. There’s no engagement. There’s no baby.”

Katie idly swirls the wine in her glass. “And no sex. Got it.”

Leaning close to Katie, I whisper, “Remind me to kill you later.”

She holds up a second glass of wine and shoves it into my hands. Katie’s my age—closing in on thirty—with long, dark blonde hair streaked with pale gold and cleverly cut to frame her face. She’s about a head taller than me and speaks her mind without fail. “Will do. Seriously, though, you need to calm down. You know I’m kidding. And Jared, here, is going to have a heart attack soon.”

He lifts his glass of Jack and Coke, “Damn straight. A guy has to sow his wild seeds first. Am I right, Aims?” He leans in and bumps his elbow into Amy’s arm.

I make a face. First of all, I hate that expression. Secondly, Jared said it wrong—you sow wild oats. His use of the word seeds creates an unwanted mental image of Derrick spraying his stuff all over swooning co-eds in wet t-shirts. I shake the thought from my mind. I’ve spent too much time with Seth.

Amy slides down in her seat a little more, blushing fiercely. Her strawberry blonde hair and fair skin do nothing to hide that blush either. If she could discreetly jump out the window, she would.

“You don’t have to answer him,” I say, smiling kindly at Amy from across the little table. Everything in Katie’s apartment is small. It’s a rental on Long Island and costs a fortune, but she decided to stay put when Seth deployed. Her family is here, so I can’t blame her. Her compact living room bleeds into a galley kitchen and breakfast nook. Five people can barely cram into the small space. A light fixture hangs overhead. Katie beefed it up with crystals and pale ribbon. Everything she has is reclaimed, recycled, and repurposed in a kaleidoscope of pastels. It gives the apartment a shabby-chic meets New Yorker character, and feels more like home than anywhere I’ve ever lived.

“Okay,” Amy says, her voice an octave too high.

Jared laughs and swats a hand at us. “You two are no fun!”

“So, Playboy,” Katie says addressing Derrick, “Seriously now, how many kids do you guys want to have? Have you talked about these things? Or are you waiting for the stick to turn blue so you can wing it?” She’s smiling casually, her arm draped over the back of her chair.

Derrick nervously runs his fingers through his dark hair as he clears his throat. He’s taken this kind of abuse from Katie before, but she’s taunting him more than usual tonight.

Deciding to change tactics, he quickly asks, “Katie, how’s Seth doing? I heard his tour is almost over. What do you plan to do for his homecoming?”

Oh, God! He gave Katie free range to blab about her and Sexbot all night. The nickname we gave Seth in high school stuck. I manage to maintain the plastic smile on my face as Katie responds.

“I’m pretty sure he plans on doing me—over and over again, upside down and right side up—it’s been a while, you know?” Only Jared laughs. Katie stuffs a forkful of salad in her mouth and continues, her voice suddenly soft and sober. “I’m glad it’s almost over. It’s terrifying not knowing if he’s all right.” She looks around the room self-consciously, as if checking to see if anyone noticed the change in her voice.

Curious, Jared asks, “What does Seth do? Army?”

Katie shakes her head. “No, he wanted to go big or go home—he’s a Marine.”

“Wow, no kidding!” Jared seems impressed. I’m sure he’s wondering about the man that could take on Katie.

She goes on, “Seth turned into a good man, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. We hated each other when we first met. Mari was interested in his best friend, and you know how that—ow!” Katie’s eyes snap to mine, silently expressing her displeasure at my shoe’s collision with her shin.

I keep my voice calm, hiding the terror that’s climbing up my throat. “They don’t want to hear that story.”

Jared seems to sniff out juicy drama. He looks like a tiger ready to pounce on a tribe of naked women. “Of course we do! Was he good in bed? Better than Derrick?”

My jaw drops and Amy’s eyes turn to Ping-Pong balls bouncing right out of her head.

Derrick’s gaze narrows, and he turns to look at me. “Which boyfriend are we talking about?”

“Do tell. Based on your expression, I’m sure it’s a great story. Also, from the look on my brother’s face, he hasn’t heard it yet.” Jared smiles so wide that his dimples might pop off his face and kill someone.

Everyone looks at me, waiting. I want to disappear. I hate this story. I never tell it willingly, I never admit we were together. Not to myself, not to anyone else. Every time I think of him it’s like ripping open a half-healed wound. My stomach knots and I feel the words rising involuntarily up my throat.

But before anyone can say another word, Katie’s phone begins to play “I’m Too Sexy,” by Right Said Fred. She springs from her seat like a deranged Labradoodle. “It’s Seth! I’ll be right back.” Katie bounds through the bedroom door and shuts it behind her.

“Your friend seems nice.” Jared says it like he’s in love. He watches her bedroom door as if he’s hoping to hear an orgasm through the wall.

“She has her moments. She’s very excited Seth is coming home and forgets to filter her thoughts. All in all, Seth is a good guy. He’s been good to her. I suppose it is funny how things ended up.” I bite my tongue before anything else can spill out, but the thought continues in my head.

It’s funny how they stayed together, and Trystan and I broke up.

It’s funny that Seth’s promises meant something, while Trystan’s didn’t.

It’s funny that I’m still mad, even though things ended a long time ago.

“You okay?” Derrick whispers, leaning in to softly kiss my cheek.

I nod. “Yeah, just lost in thought.” I stand and start clearing the table, taking the dishes to the sink one by one, while Derrick and Jared talk.

I feel guilty whenever Katie mentions Trystan. I haven’t told Derrick about him yet. Guys react poorly when they discover I dated the sexiest man alive. Add in the rock star thing and they tend to jerk away from me, unable to compete with Trystan’s ghost.

I have a stack of dishes in my hands when I hear it—a shrill cry that’s equal parts terror and anguish. It’s a small burst of suffering, followed by the sound of something hard hitting the floor.

An icy chill races up my spine from deep within me. With trembling hands and shaky legs, I step toward the table and set the dishes down. All eyes are on the door to Katie’s room, but I’m the only one who can go in there.

Sensing the same thing I do, Amy stands and squeezes my hand. “Help her. I’ll finish cleaning up.”

The world around me freezes. Derrick’s voice is a dull buzz as I pad across the room. Each step feels heavier, like someone strapped anvils to my feet. My heart beats harder because I know what’s happened. I already know even though I’ve yet to hear the words.

I try to reassure myself that I don’t know anything for certain. It could be nothing. Maybe Katie dropped something. Maybe she stepped on a mouse.

Maybe it’s worse.

Dread licks the inside of my chest, freezing me in place. Time shatters and falls to pieces around me. What will I say? How can I help her? I don’t know. The door inches toward me until the knob is in my hand. I twist it and step inside.

Katie is lying facedown on their bed, her head turned toward the wall and resting on her arm. She’s utterly still, staring at the paint with glassy eyes. Her phone is on the floor alongside her lamp.

Swallowing hard, I step over those things and sit next to her on the bed. She doesn’t move when the mattress dips. She doesn’t speak. Katie remains suspended in shock.

I touch her shoulder gently. “What happened?”

It’s two words, two horrible words that won’t have a good answer. I feel cold, and the air is thicker than before.

Katie is quiet for a while. I don’t press her. I let her lie there, barely breathing, until she manages to speak. “Seth was there, talking to me, then the shouting began and the sounds of metal twisting and ripping apart drowned out his voice. Then there was nothing.” Her lower lip trembles as she sits up and looks into my eyes. “I’ve lost him, haven’t I?”

 

CHAPTER 2

 

I have no answer, but I’m afraid for her, with her. Seth’s my friend. I’ve known him since we were kids. My eyes fill with tears, but I hold them back, blink them away.

I find my voice. It’s too dry, too scratchy. “I don’t know.”

Katie leans against me, her body trembling as she tries not to cry. I wrap my arms around her and hold on tight. “He might be fine, Katie. There’s no way to know right now.”

She nods and sits up, pushing her long blonde hair out of her face. Wiping away the tears, she smiles at me. “Right. I shouldn’t do this yet. I should wait until I know for sure, one way or the other. I should find his mom. We can wait together.”

I nod. “I’ll take you there. Don’t worry about anything here. Amy is sweet. She’s cleaning up. And if it will make you happy, I’ll borrow a fat baby from the hospital for you.” I’m kidding, but she manages a boogery laugh.

“No, it only counts if you do it the right way.” She sniffles and grabs a tissue from her nightstand drawer. It seems as if she’s going to say more, but doesn’t.

“I know, get married. Like you.”

She laughs, “No, have sex. Get married? I know you’re against that. Proposing marriage is the fastest way for a guy to kill a relationship with you.” She laughs and shakes her head.

“I’m not against it. I’m just not eager.”

She dabs her face with the tissue and looks over at me. “I know you don’t want to tell him, but if you think you guys have a chance at a life together, he needs to know about Trystan.”

Normally I’d scold her for interfering, but I can’t right now. Her red-rimmed eyes are puffy, and the sheen of freshly shed tears glistens on her cheeks. I smile at her and nod. “I will. Soon, okay? Please let me do it.”

Katie stares blankly at the wall for a moment before fixing her eyes on mine. “I always thought we’d have more time—me and Seth. I thought we’d have kids. I wanted a super-cute baby girl with pudgy rolls, you know?”

“I know. No matter what, I’m here for you. During the good, the bad, and the ugly. Anytime.”

As if on cue, my phone chirps with a new text message. I breathe in slowly, calming myself as I brace for what’s coming. Please, not now. I glance at the sender and say a stream of mental curse words, before pinching the bridge of my nose.

“Is it work?”

“Yeah. I’ll call in sick. I’ll stay with you until you find out about Seth.” I have my phone in my hand, ready to dial when I see the message:

WORK: HIGH-PROFILE CAR CRASH. P4 CLEARANCE. NEED YOU NOW.

I press my eyes together and wish this wasn’t happening now. Dad will kill me if I don’t show up. It’s his emergency room. At the same time, I can’t walk away from Katie, not now. She takes my phone away from me and types a reply.

ME: COMING

She hands me back my phone. “It’s okay. I understand. You’re a doctor and emergencies happen. I’ll see you later, okay?”

My face crumples. I don’t want to leave her. “I promised Seth I’d be here for you.”

She rushes at me, throwing her arms around my neck. “You are. You are here right now. This was the worst part because I thought—” she gasps, trying not to cry, “But you’re right. I don’t know for certain.”

Stepping back, she releases me from her bear hug and says, “He’ll be all right.” She says it out loud almost as much to convince me as to convince herself. “He promised he’d make it back. Seth always keeps his promises. I’ll see him again.”

I swallow hard. “Okay, I’ll call after work and check on you.”

Her big eyes glisten in the dim light. Before I leave the room, I pick up her things from the floor, placing the lamp back on her dresser and gently pressing the cell phone into her palm. “It’ll be all right.”

Katie forces a big smile and nods.

 

CHAPTER 3

I’m in a mental fog as I make my way to the hospital. It’s a decent drive to the hospital from Katie and Seth’s apartment—plenty of time to think nothing good. My foot is heavy, pressing the gas pedal as far down as it goes. I stare ahead, my eyes darting between cars as I think about things.

Life is too short.

It’s too brief to be afraid to try.

The thing is, I did try—it was Trystan who walked away, and I still don’t understand why. Out of nowhere, he was done with me. It didn’t make any sense at the time, and I felt so hurt that I didn’t chase after him. I didn’t try to fix it. Shattered glass can’t be mended. No matter what I do, those fractures are still there. Pieces remain lost or missing. It’s not possible to regain what we once had, yet I still regret not attempting to mend things between us.

I wish things had ended differently, less anticlimactic. I wanted an explosion, a clear reason for the surprise end of our relationship. What I got was a pinhole in a balloon—a slow leak of air over weeks and weeks until there was nothing left—masking the cause of our destruction and hiding it from sight.

I blink and slam the heel of my hand on the horn. I’m flying down Sunrise Highway, trying to get to Montauk Highway. That’s the fastest route, but some nut in a junker cuts me off. I slam on the brake and swear.

“This can’t be happening,” I mutter to myself. I wasn’t even on call tonight, but I’ll get chewed out for being late.

I wail on the horn again. The jalopy moves back into the center lane. I floor it and don’t look back. A few moments later, I’m pulling into the hospital parking lot. As I press the brake and roll to a stop, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. News vans, reporters, and cops are crowding the ER entrance.

Crap. Some socialite totaled her car. The hospital is going to be a madhouse.

I pull straight up to the ER doors and jump out of my car. A cop starts to scold me. “You can’t park here. Hey! You can’t go inside!”

I text Mitchell, a friend I know is working the waiting room this evening.

ME: HELP. NO PARKING. LATE.

A moment later my phone buzzes.

MITCHELL: YOU OWE ME SO BIG.

ME: DONE. TY.

The police officer is scolding me. “You can’t park here. Get in your car and move it.”

I look up at him. “Do you know who runs this ER?”

“Not you.”

I ignore his response. “Dr. Jennings. He’s a bit of a hardass. I wasn’t on call tonight and yet here I am, responding to this emergency even though my best friend just heard her husband go missing in action over the phone. He’s probably dead. I need to be with her. I don’t want to be here. You don’t want to be here dealing with this rich brat either,” I jab my thumb toward the ER doors and whoever is causing this commotion. “Let me do my job so you can do yours.”

“I.D.” He barks. I hold it up. He reads it, and his jaw tightens. “Dr. Mari Jennings, as in the only daughter of Dr. Jennings, the hardass? As in the doctor who was in the paper last week for saving that kid at Yankee Stadium?”

“Yeah, that one,” I say as I toss my keys at him. “A hospital employee in brown scrubs will be outside any second. Give the keys to him. He’ll move it.”

The cop shakes his head. “I can’t do that, Dr. Jennings. Your car will be towed.”

“Then tow it!”

Everyone around me is buzzing. It’s that manic hushed whisper, the one that’s so full of tension you know something bad is happening. The hair on the back of my neck prickles. I smooth it with my hand as I shove through the door and run into a mob of people. Every inch of the waiting room is full. I can barely move. I push my elbows out, and start shoving. These people aren’t sick. They’re here to see the rich brat.

I hear them talk as I make my way through the sea of people.

“How do they know it’s him?” A woman with wide hips and clingy clothing leans toward her friend. They’re both wearing sweat suits. It looks like they rolled out of bed and ran here.

“I heard his car was totaled. He’s already dead. They just don’t want to say it.” They continue whispering as I pass.

A few people away from me, a tall, thin man with dark skin laughs, his voice carrying over the roar of the crowd. “There are too many people in here to tell the truth. Imagine the shitstorm that’ll follow that announcement!” He laughs and then shakes his head.

Who are they talking about? I need to get behind the doors and check in at the nurse’s station. Rose is up there. I can hear her stern voice. After over thirty years in this job, she doesn’t take shit from anyone. She snaps, “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you information on his condition.”

I’m too short to see what’s happening. A man steps on me.

“Hey!”

He doesn’t turn around. He’s an ogre of a guy—as tall as he is wide. He’s got rolls of fat down the back of his neck, clearly visible through the thinning black hair he slicked back and plastered to his scalp. He’s wearing sweatpants, a comic book t-shirt and a pair of flip-flops. “He totally smashed the car. There’s nothing left—and I mean NOTHING. They’re saying outside that the cops had to cut him out, and he wasn’t moving.”

“Holy shit.” The man he’s talking to is enthralled.

“HEY!” I yell, elbowing him to no effect. The guy he’s talking to looks around his wide friend and inclines his head toward me.

“Yeah I know, right? There is no way they can patch him up this time. Trystan’s a dead man.” He’s smiling as he turns toward me. “Hey, girlie. I didn’t see you there.”

My eyes are wide. Trystan? He said Trystan. I blink, unable to pull the right words from my brain to my mouth. My mind is racing in a million directions at once, trying to make a rational connection—trying to think of another socialite with the name Trystan.

There aren’t any.

I suck in three little gulps of air. My eyes water and I blink rapidly, cocking my head to the side like I’m hard of hearing. “I’m sorry, did you say Trystan?”

He jabs his thumb back toward the ambulance bay and glances down at my badge. “You’re a nurse? Can you tell me if he’s dead? That’ll be news worth selling.”

Before I know what I’m doing, I have my finger in the guy’s lower ribs—he towers above me—and I’m poking him. I laugh like my brain turned to Jell-O and melted out my ears. My words come out broken, jumbled, my thoughts moving faster than my mouth. “That guy in the car wreck—what is his name?”

This can’t be happening. Not tonight. My heart slams into my chest, threatening to burst. I stab him with my finger again, and he steps back.

“Yeah, it’s the rocker—Trystan Scott. He got wasted and plastered his brand new Pagani Huayra into a tree. That’s a two million dollar car. It crumpled like toilet paper.” The man suddenly stops talking. He touches my shoulder a moment later. Our eyes meet. “Did you hear me?”

I shake my head. “That can’t be true. He doesn’t drink.”

The guy laughs and rolls his eyes. “A fan, true to the end.”

“No!” I shove my way past them as they laugh.

My breath freezes inside my body, and my lungs won’t move. My heart is afraid to beat, terrified it might be true. My elbows connect with my ribs, and I no longer finesse the crowd. I race through the people, using my body as best I can, jabbing my pointy elbows as needed until I reach Rose at the desk.

“Get your skinny ass in here! Your father’s going to tear us in half if you don’t get back there. Like right now.” She holds her hand under the desk and the door buzzes open. I push through, grab a clean pair of scrubs and shove myself into them in one continuous motion.

Another cop grabs me by my shoulders as he kicks the locking door closed. “Stop. I need to check your badge.” I lift it for him to see, noticing for the first time that I’m shaking.

It can’t be Trystan.

The cop scans my badge and lets me pass. “You can go. P4 rules, no pictures, no phones, no video. Talk to the press and you know the repercussions.”

“I know, thanks.”

I knew Trystan had a single drink after Tucker died. I saw him wrestle with one tumbler of whiskey for what seemed like forever before finally swallowing it. I don’t think he saw me that night. Everything happened so fast. One day Tucker was watching out for Trystan, managing his career. Then we blinked, and the young teacher was in a casket, disappearing into a grave.

I can’t do this again! I’ve already lowered two people I love into the ground. I can’t lose Trystan, too. Not like this.

My chest feels like it’s tearing in half as I race toward the board. Rose grabs me. “Room three, they’ve got him in there, and Dr. Jennings—“

As if bidden, Dad appears. “Mari, you took your time getting here.” He’s wearing an expression on his face that makes the rest of the staff wet themselves. I’m in for a verbal lashing.

“I wasn’t on call tonight.” It won’t matter, for some reason he wanted me here.

“And you took your time to enforce your point?” He snaps his fingers and points to the floor next to him, indicating he wants me to walk with him.

Rose’s eyes go wide, and she slams her mouth shut. She wants to tell Dad off like you wouldn’t believe. We all do, but he has a right to be this arrogant—he’s the best. That’s why he’s here. He never makes mistakes, and he runs a tight ship.

“I’m sorry, I—”

He flips through a chart that’s attached to a clipboard as he walks. His white coat billows behind his long legs. “I don’t care. When we have a crisis, and I want you here, you come. End of story.”

“Yes, sir.”

He scans the papers he’s holding and grunts. “This isn’t the correct report! Damn it, Rose! Where is it?” He rounds and slaps the clipboard down on the counter then keeps walking. He snaps his fingers in the air. “Get it. Now.”

He barks orders at people, as we pass. The janitor sees him and quickly walks the other way, taking his mop with him.

“Mari, I’m sure you’ve heard about your idiot ex-boyfriend by now. He’s lucky no one else was on that road. What he did was incredibly stupid.” Dad continues talking about Trystan, but I tune most of it out. I learned to do that a long time ago, but it doesn’t stop my stomach from churning like I’ve swallowed a bucket of acid. After everything that happened between us, it can’t end like this.

But it seems it already has.

**********************

READ MORE! ORDER BROKEN PROMISES NOW!

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Release date: DEC 14, 2015

Type: Contemporary Romance Novel

Pages: 437

Related Works: The Arrangement, The Secret Life of Trystan Scott, Stripped, and The Proposition

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Is THE ARRANGEMENT a Series? Tellz me! I need to know!

ARsize1*Recently updated – this post originally appeared in 2013. I updated it with current pics.*

To all the people out there who told me that you aren’t readers, I want to tell you that NOW YOU ARE! 🙂 You’ve read over 2,600 pages in THE ARRANGEMENT series alone. If you read the other Ferro books, you passed that!

Whoop! Whoop! Reading is fun when you enjoy what you’re reading. I’m so glad so many people love the Ferro family! To date we’ve sold over 10 MILLION copies worldwide. That is a lotta readers. Keep on reading!

IS THE ARRANGEMENT A SERIES?

I’ve been getting emails from awesome fans who are curious about THE ARRANGEMENT series. It has a huge fan base – hundreds of thousands of people – and lots of new readers. Many of you already noticed, but some haven’t so I wanted to make it clear.

Yes, THE ARRANGEMENT is a series. 

There’s some confusion over what that means. My serials are not one book slashed into pieces. I know some writers do that, but I don’t. I’ve actually been asked to speak about the construction of my serials at several writer’s conferences next year, because the way they’re written is unique. Quite frankly, if I took CURSED and slashed it into pieces, it would suck. But, that’s another topic, so I won’t go into that right now.

IS THE ARRANGEMENT ONE BOOK BROKEN INTO PARTS?

NO. Pictures help make it more obvious that THE ARRANGEMENT is not one book broken into volumes. For one, it’s too big. eBooks are amazing, but the tactile sense of reading is lost. If a book holds my attention and I love the story, the time taken to read it flies by and I have no idea how many pages I read. That doesn’t happen with paper. It’s easy to see how much I read and where the end is, so I took a few pics for the ereader fans.

ARsize2The stack of books on the left is the Arrangement series 1-20. The series is over 2,600 PAGES LONG (as of Aug 2015).

Cursed is on the right, and is one of my full length novels. It’s the 2nd book in the Demon Kissed series and is about the same size as Damaged and Stripped (both are novels). Some of my novels are a bit longer, some are shorter, but it’s average novel length for me (and most romances.)

So, if THE ARRANGEMENT series were presented in novel format, they’d be onto their 9th novel at this point in time. Every 2-2.5 volumes is about novel length. The Arrangement is a series the same way DEMON KISSED is a series. Multiple books tell the story, but these come out way faster.

WHY WAS THIS STORY WRITTEN AS A SERIES OF NOVELLAS?

(Uh, *raises hand* What’s a novella?) A novella is a short novel. It’s longer than a short story (think magazine), and mine are usually 100-130 pages in length.

This story was told as a series of novellas because there are readers who like this format, a lot. Plus, this format has perks that novels don’t have.

ARsize3Here are the main serial novella perks:

  • They come out faster and the reader only has to wait 4-6 weeks instead of 8 months. Waiting 8 months for the next title from my favorite author sucks. Most of my fav authors put out 1 novel a year. I hate that. I want more. Now. Series like THE ARRANGEMENT offer that desire for new titles quickly.
  • Serials are less risky for the reader. If I like it, I keep reading and one book didn’t eat up a ton of time.
  • They give the reader the option to read something new between novel releases.
  • Serials are less daunting. If someone hands you a huge ass book, it can be intimidating. Novella length books don’t typically present that apprehension.
  • They’re fast and fun. This kind of book is supposed to be fun, and not take a lot of effort, which is why lots of people love them.

THE ARRANGEMENT series was originally written for fans to have something to read between novels. Then it became a fan-driven series where the fans’ comments are actually affecting the story line. It’s become an organic story, and is way cooler than anything I dreamed up when I started.

A note about it from a fan:

“It costs approximately the same price PER PAGE for an Arrangement serial (in e-format) as is does for a 50 shades novel (in e-format). Considering that you can fit about 4 Arrangement serials into one 50 Shades novel (page count and total $) and that 50 Shades was a trilogy, we can EASILY make it to 12 books and reach the same total price and page volume as 50 Shades!

If you think of books like the Crossfire series, which will probably go onto 5 books (and is more expensive per page), we could make it to 21 Arrangement serials and not go over the Crossfire budget!!! (At the time Crossfire was a trilogy, it has since been added to due to the popularity of the series).” –MelanieAnne

ARsize4WILL IT BE BUNDLED INTO ONE BOOK?

Right now there are no plans to bundle, but there are plans for the series to go on sale like the rest of my titles. At one point the entire series was in KU. The entire series was on sale for 99 cents each one Christmas.

All the titles go on sale at some point, so keep your eyes glued to the facebook page to make sure you don’t miss it. Massive sale alerts also go out via email, so make sure you’re on that list. (Text AWESOMEBOOKS – 1 word – to 22828 or click here to get on the list).

And, I know you’re all going to ask, so here it is: THE ARRANGEMENT Vol. 20 will be out on Monday! Yippie! No, it’s not the final book in the series. I’ll make a huge post when the final volume comes out.

DO I HAVE TO READ EVERY SINGLE FERRO SERIES TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON?

NO, you don’t. Each series is stand alone. That means you can read DAMAGED and skip STRIPPED and you won’t be lost if you pick up THE PROPOSITION (Bryan Ferro’s story) which is complete as of 2015.

It’s totally okay to know one brother better than the rest. 😉

If you hate cliffhangers, stay away from novella series in progress like THE ARRANGEMENT.

Series (novels & novellas) that are already completed include:

  1. DAMAGED
  2. THE PROPOSITION
  3. SECRETS
  4. THE SECRET LIFE OF TRYSTAN SCOTT
  5. DEMON KISSED
  6. THE WEDDING CONTRACT
  7. SCANDALOUS
  8. SECOND CHANCES
  9. SHADOWS OF THE PAST
  10. LIFE BEFORE DAMAGED (Peter Ferro’s back story)

And more! This list isn’t updated frequently and several series have concluded in the short time since this post was written.

DID YOU THINK THERE WOULD BE OVER 20 BOOKS IN THIS SERIES WHEN YOU STARTED IT?

No, not all. I’d planned a 4 book series originally. After book 3 came out, I offered the fans the opportunity to become involved in the flow of the storyline. Since there was still so much story to tell and you guys wanted more, I agreed.

One thing that I want to make clear is that at some point authors want to move onto other things. THE ARRANGEMENT was an experiment with messed up characters, an entire cast of them, and dealt with a topic that most people wouldn’t touch. Add in the fan driven element and it’s been a wild ride and completely amazing. But if I’m still writing this series in 4 years, I’ll poke my eyes out. True story. I’m not writing Sean and Avery into the ground where I can’t stand them anymore. Many authors are so sick of their characters by the time the end of a series comes around. I don’t want that to happen here.

As of ARRANGEMENT 20, it should be very clear we’re heading into the homestretch. 🙂 There will be a vote coming up soon, so make sure you’re on the email list. You’ll want to be in it!

Updated November 2015: 

THE ARRANGEMENT 23 will be the final book in this series. EEEeeeeep!

Disclaimer: Mr. Turkey and his likeness may not be reproduced cuz even if u try, u can’t pull off coolness like this! Fo’ shizzle!

Mr. Turkey’s Disclaimer: Just because you see me with my face in Sean’s book does not imply that I advocate the actions of said person in any shape or form. I was just really into the book. I may have swallowed a page, I’m not sure. In short, I still hate Sean Ferro. 

Pre-order THE ARRANGEMENT 21 by HM Ward Boo yah!

The Arrangement 21 by HM Ward THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES!

THE ARRANGEMENT

Volume 21 is available for pre-order.

Release date: DEC 28th, 2015

The final book in this series will be THE ARRANGEMENT 23. Eeep!

Thanks for reading! This has been an amazing series to write and having the fans along to help steer the story has been awesome!

Pre-order now at these retailers:

Amazon     Nook     Kobo     Apple

For more info on THE ARRANGEMENT series, click here.

**FREE FERRO ** Get it Today! Don’t miss out!

Get THE ARRANGEMENT vol. 1, FREE TODAY!

 THE SERIES WITH OVER A MILLION COPIES SOLD

Volume 1 in the bestselling Arrangement Serials
Genre: New Adult Romance Series

FML is becoming Avery’s motto. Just when she doesn’t think things could get any worse, they do. When her car stalls out at a busy intersection and she gets out to check under the hood, a guy steals her car. Armed with a dress and a pair of Chucks, Avery runs after the thief. When a hot stranger offers to help, she can’t say no. That’s how Avery meets Sean Ferro, the totally sexy, totally damaged guy with more secrets than she has time for.

THE ARRANGEMENT 1 by HM Ward is FREE Today! (Save $2.99)Avery doesn’t have time for anything anymore. Her is life falling apart and it’s not just the car. It’s everything, and it doesn’t matter how tightly she tries to hold on, there’s nothing left to hold on to. With the sudden death of her parents, it’s only a matter of months until Avery’s shot at college is gone, and she’s living in a cardboard box. Other students have their families to rely on when things get bad. Avery has no one.

But there’s one option, one incredibly sexy, morally devoid, option. If Avery takes a job as a call girl, one guy could save her. One client. One time. She just has to say yes.

Genre: New Adult Romance
This story unfolds over multiple volumes approx. 125 pages each.
~The Arrangement Vol 1-20 are on sale now.~

Get THE ARRANGEMENT 1 for FREE today at these retailers:

Amazon    Nook    Kobo    Apple

THE ARRANGEMENT VIDEO TEASER:

What Other People Are Saying About THE ARRANGEMENT:

“Best book I’ve ever read. Love the heat and so much more.” – Darrindeb555

“This is by far my favorite series in this genre!!!! The story has everything. The characters are believable and easy to get attached to. Every book leaves you wanting more.” – Aprilb1113

“The Arrangement Series will suck you in from the very beginning. The SUPER sexy Sean is dark, brooding, and full of mystery.” – Pages Abound

50% Off *SIGNED* Books & Crystal T Shirts!

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BLACK FRIDAY SALE STARTS NOW! 

Everything in the HM Ward store, including the coveted crystal T shirts and the collector’s edition of DAMAGED is on sale. How much of a sale is it? It needed to be a sale of kickassery proportions, so it’s killer.

50% OFF ALL IN STOCK ITEMS.

That means you can get that hardcover you’ve been dreaming about for $25. Booh yah!

The sale ends on November 28th, or when we sell out. If the item you’re wanting has sold out, that’s it babe. No rain checks. This sale is first come, first served. So, if you want something, GRAB IT NOW!

Pinterest Black Friday Ferro Crest

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The Roses are Dead (Too Much Manure in Publishing)

The Roses are Dead (too much manure in publishing)These are the things people will tell you that you’re passing up if you don’t sign on the traditional line, and I’m calling it. It’s bullshit. Seriously stinky stuff, and a lot of people don’t know, so here’s my post.

This is the stuff that’s been spread far and wide by the publishing industry for years and most of it is BS. I’m gonna be blunt, b/c you’re assuming the grass is greener on the other side, but they don’t even have grass over there. Things are that messed up.

An advance against royalties – Have you heard how many of our peers didn’t get paid? They entered into a multi book deal like you were offered and well, the pub didn’t think book 1 went very well, so books 2 & 3 were cancelled. No money for you.
There’s the appearance of stability when working with a publisher, but they cannot offer you job security. All of a sudden, your 3 book, 6-figure deal ends up earning you $30K over 2 years and you want to poke your eye out with a fork. True story – just not mine, thank god. Ask around.

Passing up Print distribution.
PRINT IS DEAD. There’s no money in print. Why do you think the big 5.5 are buying up Indie ebooks? Why don’t we see the stores stocked with these titles? Where’d they go? I know for a fact that one publisher’s plan was to acquire enough Indies to release 70+ new titles in one season and NOT PRINT A THING. But that’s not what they told me. Print is dead and the pubs are noticing that isn’t where the money is. Which is also why you’re getting any guarantee of a print run when you sign that six figure deal.

My books will not be in bookstores.
Mine are and have been since day 1. If enough ppl ask for your book, they will order your book.

My books are likely never to be found in a library.
Also, not true. If enough ppl (usually 6 or so) ask for your book, they will buy your book, Indie or not.

I will never have an editor who will work with me to develop the book and the follow-ups because she loved it enough to acquire it for her house.
Bwuahahhaha! I’m sorry, but you’re assuming that they know better than you. Dude, they’re part of a dying breed, and they’re dying b/c they don’t want to change. No one jumps up and down and screams, “oooh, ooooh! pick me!” to be the next casualty of the publishing industry.

I gave up the chance to grow as an author under their (NY editor’s) tutelage.
Again, they can’t tell their ass from their elbow and you’re gonna look really weird at parties trying to sit on the wrong one.

A team of marketing and publicity experts with contacts.
FAKE! Guess what? The experts are few and far between. If the market has shifted to primarily selling intangible goods and you have a panel of ppl who rock at selling paper, then you have a serious problem. The experts aren’t there. They’ll put you on a mailing list with 2K subscribers that’s WAY past it’s heyday, and then tell you to buy a bookbub ad (on your dime.)

Authors are expected to market themselves, traditionally published or Indie. If you fail, even after being picked up by one of the big boys, it’s your fault. It’s never their fault. That’s not the kind of people you want to work with. Ever read an article where the publisher goes, “Our marketing effort just didn’t connect with readers.” It’s always the author under-performed, or the title couldn’t cross over to print.

The branding a big name publisher can provide.
They have no idea how to do this. The authors who have brands sold scads of books and the pubs rode coattails. You make your brand. You ARE your brand. This is one of those shiny things they dangle to get you to sign, and then you find out it was never there. How do you market intangible goods (goods you can’t touch)? I know, and I’m very aware that they do not.

I gave up the opportunity to learn from marketing and publicity experts as well.
No, you didn’t. When a big publisher did research on serials, guess who they looked at? When the publishers want to check the market to see what unexpected stuff is going on, do you really think they’re looking at each other? No, they’re looking at us – Indies. Why? Because we take more risks, and understand the market better b/c we have to. They still get paid even if they’re sitting on their elbows. We don’t eat if we don’t sell our stuff. Poverty is a motivator–it’s a bonus really.

I gave up being branded alongside bestselling authors who have been publishing for many years and have many readers.
I’ve had the big 5 come to me (after refusing over $1.5 million in contracts) to ask me to blurb their book. I’m 100% Indie and pretty much told them that they have no idea how to do anything when I turned them down. They still came asking. You are in good company, and we tend to be more forthright and supportive.

I am less likely to ever make a national bestseller list.
Everyone says that. Statistically, this is inaccurate as the list has been taken over by Indies. As an Indie, you’re more likely to make a list IMHO. You have complete control.

I am less likely to sell my other rights, such as audio and foreign translation. Some might counter that I can self-publish my books in audio form, but this is now much more difficult due to recent changes in royalties provided the primary providers of indie Audiobooks, ACX.
Don’t even get me started on ACX, but to counter your point – you WILL get audio offers for your book. They’ll be around $1K, b/c ‘audio just isn’t worth that much.’ Which is BS. Take it if you want or do it yourself and use a different platform. There’s more than just ACX out there. You will get offers on foreign too. Take it if you want. They will find you.

I have most likely lost the chance to sell movie rights.
Not true. Several indies sold film rights.

I may have damaged my chances to become a hybrid author.
Hybrid is a term that the industry made up so they won’t get left behind. They want you to think they’re relevant and still have something to offer. They don’t.

When I walked away from my auction offers, I was told, point-blank, that I would be a “hard sell” to any New York editor after this.
That’s bullshit. Money talks. See above reference of me blowing them off and then being asked to blurb a book 2 weeks later. That was a pressure tactic and it’s BS.

The cachet of being associated with a big publisher. Being invited to publisher parties at big writers conferences. Networking with industry professionals in a concentrated setting and with a common goal in mind. Being sent on book tours or participating in book signings.
You can still do that and laugh at them as you walk by b/c you’re making more money and have more freedom. Ta ta!

If I ever accept a NY contract, I’ll never be marketed as a “debut author.”
They wanted to mark me as a ‘debut’ author after publishing 40+ books. I don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s the newB stamp.

I have lost the opportunity for a traditional publishing house to establish a brand for me.
You said this twice. THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THEY INTENDED ON MAKING A BRAND FOR YOU. Branding things is difficult, branding people is even harder. That’s not what they do. They know how to print paper and they’re abandoning that in an attempt to remain relevant.

I have no idea who got under your skin, but most of these concerns are BS fed to Indies by agents and editors. It’s a sales technique called ‘fear of loss’ – look at everything you gave up by leaving us. Meanwhile, they’re telling you about the Indie side of things and they have no clue. A dog can’t say what it’s like to live as a cat, you get me?

Pay attention to where you hear things. This is part of them tainting the market and making us afraid so we’ll sign away our rights for a song. They’re taking advantage of people and it’s wrong.

It’s hard to make an ‘informed’ decision when the trads are blowing so much smoke up our butts. Seriously.

To those who trad-pubbed and signed on the line, I’m not slamming you. People have to do what they have to do, but please be aware that the industry is crumbling and there are so many false concepts and things that will be offered if you only ‘sign here! Sign now! Don’t wait!’ If anyone treats you like that, run the other way. Fast.

(Originally posted on 3/10/14 on my old blog)

How to Make a Kickass Teen Book Cover by HM Ward

It’s been drawn to my attention that I have an unusual perspective when it comes to being a writer.  Not only do I write and market all my books, but I also create the covers–from scratch.  And not stock photography, pre-fabby, template kinda scratch.  I’m talking non-Betty Crocker insta-cover, going-the-full-mile kinda scratch.  The kind of covers that truly start with nothing but a camera and an idea.

Here’s what I got to work with.  (Yes, I am speaking in my muppet urban vernacular in this post, because it’s fun and trendy, so you’ll have to deal).

You see this?  I got a regular girl, a camera, and my brain.  That’s it.  That’s all I start with.  (Want to see everything bigger?  Click the image and it’ll open full size).

We usually shoot a few different outfits, something plain–but who likes plain?  I mean, why not pull out all the stops and throw on a ball gown?  These are Young Adult book covers after all.  (And once you own a ballgown, I’m convinced you’ll wear it everywhere.  Because they are that much fun!  It’s only a matter of time until ballgowns become street clothes).  Anyway, a big dress with lots of folds in the fabric adds texture, depth, and interest–in other words it photographs really fricken awesome!

Next, I find stuff that will help the flow of the final image and tie into the story.  In this shoot, the model is wearing Collin’s ring and holding Shannon’s dagger.  The images were shot (usually) with one large soft box and fill light.  I wanted high contrast between the skin and the background and dress, so I made sure this series had more evenly lit skin in the shots for the TORN cover below.  On the Demon Kissed cover (jacket pictured below), things are much more shadowy.  The short lighting gives that tense ominous feeling that I <3.

After the model is set up, we start shooting.  The shoot runs 2-3 hours depending on what we are doing.  Going into a new shoot, I usually have an idea of the kind of feelings I want from the final image and then try to figure out the poses that match.  So its like reverse-engineering a little bit.  The entire series will have all the covers shot on the same day at the studio.

Most images tend to be low-key (dark images with a lot of black) since that reflects the mood of the Demon Kissed series. When I shoot romance covers next week for more Ella Steele’s upcoming releases, they’ll be brighter to match the moods of those books.  (YES!  I’m writing more romance under the name Ella Steele.  I’ll talk more about that in another post).

I can’t tell you how important it is to make sure the mood of the book matches the mood of the cover.  If you have happy hearts, bright colors, and unicorns–then read Demon Kissed–you’ll have a wtf moment and your brain will explode.  Okay, maybe not explode, but if you were looking for something fun and light, and got something dark and sexy, you might not be too happy with me.  The cover is one of the things that worried me about going the traditional publication route, since I’d have no control.

So, if you remember one thing from this post it should be this: MOOD MATTERS.

After the shoot, we look through the images.  You might be thinking, FUN!  Well, in a way it is, but what is actually happening is that I am looking at a series of sister shots (a bunch of shots that look nearly identical).  It’s like looking at a filmstrip, and playing spot-the-diff. After going through each and every image, I’ll chose the one that I like best for the cover.

The 4 images above are unedited and uncropped.  They’re straight out of camera – which I NEVER show to anyone cuz it’s like walking around the mall in nothing but underpants, and I’m not that kinda girl.  But for the sake of art, I decided to post them today, so you can see the process that goes into making the book cover.  Parts of making the cover are fun.  Parts are tedious.  I mean, do you see the difference b/t #1 and #3?  Imagine looking at 30 shots of those, where the differences are so minor most people can’t see them.  This is where being a freaky OCD perfectionist helps.  I can use my super-critical skills for good instead of evil, and all while not donning a cape.  (Although capes are really fun, right?)

So I chose an image.  We hold a huge ceremony and bust open champagne and… well, no.  Not yet.  But keep your cape on.  We’re almost done and you’ll want to fly and show all your friends.

howto make a KICKASS teen book coverThe next thing is editing the image.  My models wear stage make-up when we’re shooting. It makes editing go a lot faster.  The thick make-up hides skin issues and makes certain that the model still has color on her face after the cover is fully processed.  During the final stages of making the cover, the image’s brightness is pushed, and it’s possible to lose skin tones, so the edited image above is actually intentionally underexposed.

The next step is pulling her off the background and starting the cover design.  If you purchase stock to make your covers, this is where your cover begins.  If you’re a control freak like me, look at all the things you didn’t get to control!  Sometimes it pays to use stock, but if you are writing a series, promoting the hell out of it, and then have the same cover models as everyone else–well, it’s not very good branding.  Dude, I’ve seen at least 17 covers, all by different authors, who have the same exact couple on the cover.  The images were being used by the Big 6 and Indie authors.

It makes your branding moot when other people have access to the same images.

Business brains might be thinking, Yes, but is a photo shoot cost-effective?  The answer:  Hell yes!  Stock images are expensive and now Indie authors can’t buy the little images because the pixel dimensions are too small for Amazon’s new requirements (they are asking 2500px on the longest side for ideal viewing).  You want ideal viewing.  That’s the whole purpose of the cover – to lure in readers.  Having it showing like crap won’t help you.  So, your covers suddenly shot up in price if you are using stock.  Price a photoshoot.  You can find anything from $30, which can include the disc, and up.  Photographers’ rates are all over the place.  In other words, it’s worth looking into.

So I chose the shot I want to use, but it’s not perfect.  It’s not EXACTLY what I want.  It has the feeling, and she looks pretty, but it needs something.  I can see Shan’s blade and Collin’s ring, but I want the dress to pop more.  Although I LOVE purple, the Demon Kissed cover is purple, I want this cover to be different.

So, for TORN, I decided to make her gown red to match her lips.

As soon as I change her gown to red, I can see everything.  I know I want the gothic-ish overlay.  The entire series uses those to help tie them together.  I need to add her Martis mark to her forehead, the violet mark Ivy has in the book.  I change her eye color and make them rimming violet, like in the book.  And I brightened her hair.  It was getting lost a little bit after applying the layers of the overlay.

So, now my image has about 35 layers.  Here is a screen shot of what things look like at this point.  (And I’m working in CMYK for print.  I’ll convert it later to RGB for computer screens.  I’ve found it’s easier to maintain rich colors that way).

Next, I take my cover image (minus the words) flatten it and drop it onto the print template.  I check my gutters and crop lines (the little blue/ green rulers) to make sure everything lines up How to Make a Kickass Teen Book Cover by HM Wardcorrectly so that it will print right.  My books are printed at a standard trade paperback size, in this case 5″x8″.  If I just made the template at 5×8, when the book is printed, it won’t look right.  You have to leave extra room so the cover can be cut before it’s bound to the rest of the book. You also need to leave a place for the barcode.  Your printer can give you the margins so you can place guidelines on your cover to make sure everything lines up correctly.  If you can do the interior margins, this is the same kind of thing.

Next, the text is added.  All my covers have large text on the back.  It’s the hook from the first book in the Demon Kissed series, then they go into their own description.  Then I add my other book covers from this series to the back of the book.  Again, images lend to mood.  The more images you have, the better.  There’s a jewel pic on the spine, a little glimpse of the cover pic.  And the number in the series, author, publisher, etc.  I also put on the back cover a new series that is coming out next.

And this is what it looks like when the jacket is complete and ready to print.

It’s kind of cool to see the process from start to finish.  It has that awesome-esk feeling of seeing a before and after shot.  Below is another completed book jacket.  It’s for the first book in the Demon Kissed series.  Remember how I told you that I LOVE purple?  Yeah, well, I have to make a consious effort not to make every single cover purple.  That also means my favorite cover in the entire series is this one… cuz it’s PURPLE!

That’s the evolution of a book cover.  It starts as a hunched-over, slobbering hairy guy, and ends with a pretty girl in a dress holding a dagger.  Tah-dah!

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H.M. Ward is the bestselling author of the Demon Kissed series, and an award winning photographer.  To see all of her covers, click here.

Cover Suckage, Bad Branding, & Other Indie Marketing Oopsies I’ve Made on My Way to Selling 1.5 (now 10+) Million Books (A Post for Self Published Authors)

Was that blog title long enough? 🙂 So, some of you know that I make my own covers. I even shoot some of the YA one’s myself. Anyway, I posted the info below for people who ask what were some of the major factors in my recent accomplishments, which include 6 New York Times bestsellers since January, TWO #1 Amazon bestsellers, and over 1.5 million books sold.

I’m 100% Indie and never went the traditional publication route (my control freak article in FORBES sheds a little light on why I self-published), and the stuff below played a huge factor in my success.

Thought I’d share for all my author friends out there.

***

Okay, my all time fav covers are YA PNR. Angel wings, demon eyes, and fluffy skirts on kick ass young women. *swoon* So, when I go to make an NA cover, my brain is like, “But it needs a dragon…” Technically, dragons make it fantasy, but dude – dragons are awesome! What romance cover wouldn’t look awesome with a dragon in the background with its wings sprawled?

So as you can see, my creative self is conflicted when I make new covers. I’ve posted some of these before, but I wanted to do it again, and include a final cover that had a branding issue. This kind of stuff is visual and I don’t know about you guys, but it helps me to actually see the difference, which usually results in a face palm.

SECRETS was the second book I wrote in the romance genre.

ORIGINAL COVER:

NEW COVER:

This one was the biggest oops: I wanted the cover to reflect the artistic stuff in the book. Problem: No one could identify the genre of this book based on the original cover art. Someone mentioned they thought it was going to be a thriller when it first came out. I was like, you’re cray cray, dude. And I was totally wrong.

What I learned: COVERS ARE STOP SIGNS. They should quickly reveal as much info about your book to the reader as possible and this did not. As soon as I changed the covers to the current version, sales shot up. By Christmas 2012 (book 1 in this series appeared last summer) the series was selling better than I’d ever hoped.

You’ll also notice that I had a pen name, which I stopped using late last year. Even though the pen name wasn’t a secret, people didn’t buy the books. It could have been the covers, or it could have been a lack of fans for Ella. By last summer, I had a small, loyal fan base for HM Ward. Ella had around 5. I could have branded both names, but time is an issue so I didn’t go that route. I used the name that already had the following – mine. 🙂

Here’s another example of stupid cover mistakes–SCANDALOUS. This book was my debut romance novel, and it was a sleeper. It did nothing for 9 months and then shot up and landed on the NYT bestseller list. In Jan of this year, I changed the cover and pulled it back under my name just before running an ad. People saw it, could tell what it was, and tried it. Plus, the ppl who read it when it first came out really liked it, so they pimped me out – all 5 of them! Seriously, those people are awesome and I can’t thank them enough. Don’t be stupid like I was. I had a serious cover crush on the old version and did NOT want to change it. The painting on the cover is IN the book. Short version: I was really stupid. Don’t wait 9 months to change covers or descriptions on books that aren’t preforming.

OLD COVER:

NEW COVER:

Okay, and here’s the last cover screw up I’ll show you for today–STRIPPED. 🙂 This is my next novel (no dragons 🙁 ) and it needed to be tied to the DAMAGED series. I did something stupid, in terms of branding. I have a series within a series. People weren’t getting it, so I’m trying to go back and brand the covers better.

This book was giving me all sorts of grief. The tone was a little off and the type-font was bugging me. Yes, I made it, but sometime I don’t see the issues until later. I think the mismatched branding was bugging me. I changed the cover last night and by this morning, the preorder ranking shot up quite a bit.

OLD COVER:

NEW COVER:

The new cover has that somber thing that DAMAGED has, plus matching fonts which should help connect the series. Now, instead, of comments like ‘LOOK! ITS SUPERMAN!’ the fans are saying ‘Awh, what’s the matter with Peter’s brother?’ which is way closer to the reaction I want.

Making my name legible was also a face palm. Ah dher.

And then when this book was on preorder, everyone and their dog started using the cover image. So I had to change it again. This is the current cover & follow up book:

 

Anyway, I have more examples of me being stupid, but the point of this post is to actually see the issues and not be afraid to change them and try something new. If you have a solid story and it isn’t selling, go back to the trifecta of awesomeness: COVER, TITLE, BLURB. Those things combined make a little stool, and all three legs need to be functioning to get ppl to look at your sample. If one is off, it knocks over your whole thingamadobie. Mine have been off and that’s okay. We’re not locked into keeping a crappy cover (meaning it doesn’t sell) b/c we’re indie. Change it as many times as it takes.

Examine what works and what doesn’t. Change things one at a time to see what the issue is. I totally thought it was my books last year. I was slamming my head into the wall b/c I wrote SEVEN new romance titles, all of which were sucking up the charts and doing nothing. It’s amazing how tweaking a few things can change EVERYTHING. Since Jan of this year, I’ve had 6 titles on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s like, SHUT UP! I know! And if I kept my artsy covers it would have never happened.

I’m supposed to be in the writing cave… gots to go. Hope this helps someone see the things that took me nearly a year to figure out. 🙂

*Update: This post is a few years old. Current sales exceed 12 million books total.