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Downton Abbey: Past Attraction Guest post by Shannon Donnelly

Please welcome Guest Blogger Shannon Donnelly!

* * * * *

There’s blood in the air—Downton Abbey’s latest season ended, and it did not end well. The fan-friends I have are all deep into disappointment. Which shows what the real attraction has been: we thought we were watching a romance.

Downton Abbey offered an escape from cell phones, job deadlines, traffic, and a way-too-busy world. That’s the great thing about the past—we know how it worked out (mostly). Of course, folks back then had problems—it wouldn’t be an interesting story if the characters didn’t have troubles galore. But they also had fabulous dinner parties, social whirls, servants, glamour and wit.

And let’s not forget the clothes.

And the houses, too. (Wouldn’t you just love to spend a few days wandering those beautiful rooms, and those gardens?)

Downton Abbey brings us an elegant world…and guys who look great dressed for dinner. There are jewels and gowns, and all of it can sweep us back to a time when who is going to marry whom really does seem like the most earth-shattering issue at hand.

But Downton Abbey failed (no, I’m not going to spoil it, but I recommend only watching the first couple of seasons…up to the wedding…if you want that mostly happy ending). But the Abbey opted out of the romance, which is why I’m heading back to my Regency England.

Like Downton Abbey, the stories I write set in Regency England have glamour…and great clothes. It’s about the wit, the style, the elegance. The setting, and all the details that go into that, is a huge part of any Regency—the elegant houses, the horses, the carriage rides, the candlelight, and guys who look great dressed for dinner.

Of course the also characters have troubles—it could be a rough world back then, particularly if you were a servant, or not one of the rich and titled. In the Regency, there was a war going on  (and on and on, since France went from a revolution to Bonaparte making trouble for everyone).  But the focus—in a Regency, and particularly in a romance—is on who is going to marry whom. And will it work out?

That’s where Downton Abbey failed—we wanted to see how will Matthew and Lady Mary (still not spoiling—go read a summary if you must), handle their marriage, or what’s going to happen to the servants as the world keeps changing.  Instead, the story shifted (as TV shows tend to do). And it was a disappointing shift for most of us. (And even more changes are coming to the series.)

So it’s back to Regency romances for me—I’m heading back to where I know I will not lose a favorite character (there are better ways of dealing with that, you know). After all, those glamorous clothes need to be filled, and I want those favorite characters to stick around.

Shannon Donnelly Bio

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

Her Regency romances can be found as ebooks on all formats, and include four novellas now out as a collection with Cool Gus Publishing.

Border Bride Silver Links stolen away Cat's Cradle

Compromising Situation A Much Compromised Lady A Dangerous Compromise

Kobo’s Writing Life: The Long Awaited Self-Publishing Portal

We’ve been publishing Cool Gus eBooks with Kobo for over two years. We applied for an account, signed the documents and began sending our eBooks via FileZila (an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program). We also set up tab-delineated spreadsheets to send our metadata over through the FTP. When I explained this process to Bob I gave him a killer headache.

It’s really not a difficult process. Once you set up the account on FileZila you simply connect. Once connected, you find the appropriate files and drag and drop them over to the Kobo side. You have to have your ePub file saved by ISBN and same goes with your jpeg. They have certain specs that are required, so it was important that I read through all the documentation they sent me. I create a separate eBook file for each platform, so it wasn’t really a big deal to make another one for Kobo and save it under the ISBN. To load to Kobo this way, it took me maybe 40 minutes. That doesn’t include creating the ePub file.

There are, however, some glitches in the old system with Kobo. The spreadsheet has to be just so, or it hangs up their system and your metadata does not get through. When I change metadata, I also have to send an email to their changes department. With this system, there is no dashboard, so I really can’t see what is going on with each book. And I have to wait a month or so before I know the sales numbers for al our author’s books.

But for us, it was better than using Smashwords. While I think Smashwords has an excellent system, they have their own set of faults that frankly out weigh the positives of finding ways to load eBooks myself to all platforms.

Back to Kobo. Last week I got to hang out with the staff at Kobo at BEA. See my post here. What a blast. Everyone was so much fun and energetic. The excitement was palpable. It was also contagious. I’ve been waiting a year for this portal. I’ve been hearing about it for a while and my first thought was, well, its about time! Perhaps a little late to the party. Better late than never.


I spoke with Mark Lefebvre, the Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at BEA and I loved what he had to say.
They are all about authors and readers. They understand that we want our books across as many platforms as possible and they respect an author’s decision to try different things. But they also knew it was hard for an author to get their books into Kobo and control their pricing, metadata, etc. That’s where Writing Life comes.

I got the email on Friday after BEA giving me access to the beta test of the new Kobo Portal. I had a book from an author to load, so I immediately said why not try it this way. The portal was very easy to use. I simply added my information and hit publish. It’s very much like some of the other dashboards, but it has a few neat things that I can access, like sales trends. I can also access hourly sales numbers. Something I couldn’t do before.

Click on image to buy at Kobo.com

Lick on image to buy at Kobo.com

There are 4 basic pages with information that needs to be filled out for your eBook. It took me 10 minutes to load the first book and it appeared in the bookstore less than a day later. I made a mistake in one of the books that I loaded and the change, after I fixed it, took only about an hour. So far, I have loaded two books via the new portal:  A Compromising Situation and a Dangerous Compromise by Shannon Donnelly. Check them out! I will be loading her third in the series when I’m done with this blog post.

There are a few things I’d like to see changed in the portal. There needs to be more category choices. For example, when loading one of my books the option for “Romantic Suspense” is not an option. There are actually only four options under Romance. This needs to be change. They do, however, let you choose 3 categories. I believe that is a good number. 3-5 is perfect. But just as a small piece of advice, if you book only fits in 3 categories on B&N where you get 5, don’t just go pick 2 more because you can. That will upset readers. And Readers Rule.

Writing Life is a work in progress, but I really do believe that once more authors are on there we will all see a spike in sales. Kobo has a strong reputation, especially in Canada, which for me is only an hour and half drive. Hockey anyone? Eh? Got to love Canada!

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