There were a few memes/quotes around this year trying to bolster productivity and motivation like this:
I would imagine they came from places of good intentions, but really, all they did was make people who weren’t productive more ashamed of themselves. Even in this blog I tried to, maybe not bolster your spirits because I’m a little too blunt for something like that, but I didn’t want you to waste the year away either.
So whether you were able to write a book a month, or you’ve barely been existing, there’s only one more month left of 2020, and you have the chance to make the most of the last four weeks of the year.
What do I have planned for the next four weeks? I’m not calling it quits quite yet, and I have a book to finish up. I’m at 63,000 words, and I would love to write another 20k in the coming two weeks before Christmas. One of my big 2020 goals was to learn a newsletter aggregator, and I even went as far as to set up an email address for this website and to sign up to MailerLite. I haven’t watched any of the tutorials on how to use that product yet, and I do not have a newsletter sign up link yet. I still have four weeks to accomplish this, and I need to so I can put the link the back of this WIP when I publish it. I guess I’m balking because then I have to learn how to use Bookfunnel and StoryOrigin, and while I miss going to school, studying up on those platforms is not something I’m looking forward to. On the other hand, once I learn them I won’t have to do it again.
On Black Friday, Mark Dawson bundled three of his courses and I purchased them, including the one by Suzy K. Quinn on how to write a bestseller that I’d been drooling over for a little while. I don’t have a timeframe on when I want to get those classes done, but I have started Suzy’s course, and it will be very interesting as well. I like studying what goes into a bestseller–what makes books popular. I’m taking almost a scientific outlook to that course, picking apart the elements of a bestseller. Always keep learning. You never know what will help you later.
I’ll keep up writing this blog through the month of December (I’ve already seen some 2020 recaps, but I’m not there yet). I rarely go on Twitter after I announced my break, and I don’t miss it. I miss a couple of friends on there and in 2021 I may start a new and more intimate account. I’ll lose big followers like Jane Friedman, Lindsay Buroker, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, and Robin Cutler among others whom I have gotten to know over the past five years. Or I may just leave it alone as Twitter wasn’t giving me anything constructive anyway.
I did try to stay motivated during 2020, but like everyone else, I went through some rough patches. Not that my life changed all that much. I’m an essential worker, which means I never had to worry about my job or where rent was coming from. My only change there has been being able to work from home, an option that hadn’t ever been available to us before. I’m surprised by how much I like it, but it could have something to do with the cat company on my desk.
My sister and I used to have Tuesday movie night, but we had to change it up and we watched the Marvel Universe movies in order because I had never seen them before. That turned into a regular Sunday thing and it kept us occupied for a few months.
I’m decorated for Christmas and my cat loves to sleep under the tree:
This post does sound like a recap after all, but I’ll go into all my highs and lows at the end of the month.
There are four weeks of 2020 left. I’m going to make them count, and I hope you do too!
Marketing your book feels harder than actually writing the silly thing, and we’re all looking for inexpensive but effective ways to promote our books. I tried eBookSoda last week, hoping to promote His Frozen Heart because of the holiday season. Amazon is turning my ads down now because of their “suggestive pose” and I’m not going to swap out covers just to appease the Zon. I have to keep reader expectations in mind, and them showing a little skin clues readers in this is going to be a steamy read. Amazon tightening up their creative guidelines has more than just me in a pinch, and we’re all searching for ways to replace the ad platform.
Anyway, so while listening to a podcast, the interviewee, Sara Rosett, reminded me of the promotional site and I recalled they weren’t that expensive. For $29.00 you can buy a spot in their reader newsletter and get your book in front of new readers. Similar to eReader News Today, or Free- and BargainBooksy, this is a one-time fee for a one-time promotion.
Maybe in the case of promotions the saying, “You get what you pay for,” is accurate. eBookSoda didn’t do much for me.
Besides lack of sales, the biggest problem I had is they didn’t proofread my ad. This is totally my fault and take responsibility. I should have been more careful with my ad when I created it, but they didn’t proofread it, either, and this is the ad that showed up in the newsletter:
I know the title of the book is my fault–I’ve done this in the past, especially when typing quickly creating ads in the Amazon Ads platform. But I was saddened to see that they didn’t fix it when creating the newsletter. This is a good lesson to proof your own work, but if you expect eBookSoda to also proofread for you, don’t count on it.
As far as sales go, I only sold three books on the day it came out, and nothing afterward. Usually I get a good bump in KU reads when I do a promo, but I didn’t get that either.
You can see from the photos that on the day of the promo, I made $1.28, and the next day $1.41. I didn’t get a bump in KU reads, and those royalties are from a book set at $.99. Overall, for the month of November, I’ve made $12.33 for the first in my series, which definitely is not something to brag about. I don’t have any Amazon ads going right now, mainly because the ones I’ve submitted have been rejected by the AMS team. I was hoping turning to paid promos instead of ads would bolster sales, but it did not.
One of the few pros to the promo site is that there were only two other books with mine in the newsletter sent out that day. When you purchase a FreeBooksy or BargainBooksy through Written Word Media, your book is grouped with several, and it’s up to your book cover and ad copy to really hook a reader into clicking because there is much more to choose from.
I don’t know if eBookSoda’s claims are true–that they can reach 26,000 readers–but I didn’t go for the extras you can pay for with your promo: Twitter and Facebook. They ask if your cover is explicit to not choose the Facebook promo option, and I didn’t because I assumed they wouldn’t like my cover and didn’t want to give eBookSoda a hard time. Possibly if I had been able to choose the Twitter and Facebook ad-ons ($9.00/each) I could have had a more successful promo, or I could have spent another $18.00 on nothing.
At any rate, I won’t be trying eBookSoda again, and I will save my dollars for other promo sites even if they may be a little more expensive.
As for my Amazon ads, I’m up $30.00 total for the month, but I have paused a few of my ads because they are spending more than they are making. Mostly I’ve been writing my next book, and for now I’m going to give up on pushing these books for the holiday season. Since I’m veering off in a new direction, I’m not sure how much time and money I want to invest in my 3rd person past novels anyway. I’m getting really bummed out Amazon is giving me a hard time with my covers, and I’m thinking about going wide with them and just kind of letting them go. I’m not giving up on them, exactly, but I may have found everyone in KU I’m going to find and perhaps wide now would be a better fit. I do remember I had some kind of weird anxiety with my books on other platforms, and I’m not sure what brought that on but it’s worth remembering. There’s something comforting about having all my books just in one place, but having all your eggs in one basket can also be anxiety-inducing for others.
There’s no one answer, unfortunately, and I don’t have a clear path for what I want to do in 2021.
When I try another promo site, I will let you know! Until then, have a wonderful conclusion to 2020, and I will talk to you again soon!
All of us go through slumps. It’s difficult to be creative when we’re stressed out and worried about things. I’ve heard a lot of stories on how writers just have not been able to get the words flowing since COVID. I can’t say as I blame anyone. If you don’t know where your rent is going to come from because you’ve been laid off and the government has stopped the extra funds from coming in, I wouldn’t be able to think about my next project either.
I’ve been stuck working on my book the past few days. I haven’t wanted to work on it, would rather binge Lucifer. But the problem with that is, I enjoy writing, and I also think of my books as a business. If I go through a slump, so does my business. My books aren’t great earners right now. Without any type of ads whatsoever, my books make pennies a day, but I’m definitely not going to make any money on books I don’t write.
My slump, fortunately, has nothing to do with COVID. If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know that I just came up for air after writing six books back to back. I started last year, in December of 2019, and finished them up about two weeks ago. I’m letting them breathe now, which is why I’m starting a different project. Almost 40k into it, I haven’t felt as excited or connected to this book as I have past projects. Wondering why, I came up with this list. If you’re having a problem with connecting your book and your characters give these ideas a try:
Get to know your characters again. When I started writing I only had a shadow of an idea who my characters are. When thinking up a new story, writers will come up with plot first, then characters, or characters, then plot. I try to think of both of them together. The characters, who they are and what they want, drives the plot. I didn’t plan out who they are as carefully as I usually do, and I need to go back over my character notes and familiarize myself with who they are as people. This would maybe be a good time to try to create an aesthetic and dig through stock photos to find models that would remind me of what my characters look like.
Remind yourself of the stakes. Sometimes if you’re struggling with a story, it helps to remind yourself what the stakes are. What do your characters want? How are they going to get it? And what is standing in their way? I write romance, so the characters want each other. But what is standing in their way? A lot of time it’s their own personal demons that prevent them from needing who they need to be to take what they want. It’s no different in my current WIP. Colt’s father abandoned them to live a life Colt doesn’t approve of. Ever since then he’s worked his butt off for what he wants. What he wants prevents him from seeing what he NEEDS. So going over what you have and reminding yourself what the stakes are and what is standing in their way if they can’t have it will help keep your story moving.
Keep your head in the game. Lately because I haven’t felt like writing, I’ve been binge-watching Lucifer on Netflix. It takes a lot to hold my attention (I can list a million TV shows I’ve stopped watching because I got bored) but so far Lucifer has kept me entertained. I suppose it helps that Tom Ellis is hot, and his accent is hotter. The only problem is, when I did take a break from watching Lucifer to write, it wasn’t an accident then that my character started to sound like him. Lucifer is catty, and my character, Colt Jameson, isn’t. So it felt very out of character for him to sound snarky after I watched five episodes of Lucifer. I know lots of people can watch and read books while writing their own work, and I never had a problem with doing that either. But this time around because I don’t know my characters very well, it was easy for me to turn them into people they aren’t supposed to be. That gave me a feeling of disconnect from my book, and in turn that made me wonder if what I’m writing is even any good.
After reacquainting yourself with your characters, reread what you have. It probably won’t be as bad as it seems, and if it is, take a very deep dive into your characters’ personalities and fix it. Whatever your views on editing during writing are, I know that if I don’t feel good about what I’ve written, I can’t write more. I do not like to rewrite. My first drafts, besides minor changes and proofreading, are usually my final drafts when it comes to story/plot, at least. I don’t have GREAT IDEAS I need to implement after my book is done. I don’t think, “THIS STORY WOULD SOUND SO MUCH BETTER IF THE ENDING WENT LIKE THIS!” No, no, and no. I write it how I like the first time around and then, the end. So I can go back and read what I have so far and reshape some of the scenes when the characters don’t sound like themselves, or if they sound like they have forgotten their own stakes.
Don’t worry about word count. This is a major one for me because I’m worried about word count the minute I open a new Word docx. Anyone will tell you that’s a terrible way to write, and I don’t make up scenes to reach a certain goal (and have never needed to). But for some reason I need my manuscripts to fall into the range of about 70-90,000 words. I always worried more when writing third person, and it seemed harder to reach that 70,000 word mark. First person is a lot easier to reach that 70k mark and my six books in my billionaire series, they all fell between 84,000 and 90,000 words. It is a terrible habit of mine to worry. And I shouldn’t. My WIP right now is at 39k, at least half of what this book will turn out to be, and I know every plot thread that needs to be wrapped up before the end.
I didn’t take a long enough break. Six books is a lot. The plot just came to me out of nowhere, and I wrote those books as fast as I could. They consumed me for almost a year, and all I did was live, breathe, and dream about Stella, Zane, Zarah and Gage. They were my entire world for a long time and the minute I finished the first set of edits on those books, I jumped into Colt and Elayna. I started a new project to let those other books breathe and I want to edit them again with fresh eyes in a few months. I should have taken more of a break. Taken some time to read a few books, or go for walks, since the weather right now is actually quite lovely. But I jumped in because it’s not my nature to take a break, and now with that disconnect I described, I am feeling a bit burnt out.
Remember why you started. This sounds trite, but we all started writing for the sheer love of writing. I love to write, to tell my characters’ stories. We can get so swept up in the money, the marketing, our sales rank, what are ads are doing, the newest and best promo sites, and newsletter building that we forget it’s about telling a fabulous story! I want to tell Colt and Elayna’s story. I want them to find their HEA. That’s why I wanted to be a romance writer. I want my characters and their readers to fall in love again and again and again. My characters are my friends and I want to enjoy them.
So what I’m going to do is remember who my characters are and what their stakes are. What is the end game. I don’t have the ending scene in mind yet, and I should figure that out to give me something to write toward. Like I said, I know everything that needs to be included to wrap things up, it’s just a matter of getting it all down on paper. This book also has series potential, and I’ll need to figure that out before I publish if I want to keep going. Elayna’s suitors should each find their own happily ever after, but that would require at least four more books. Since I’ve already created this world, it would make sense to keep going, but that is a blog post for another time.
Do you ever lose momentum? How do you find it? Let me know!
Out of anything publishing a book can throw at you, I find titling your novel the most important and the most nerve-wracking. Considering I have a book named On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton, there’s evidence that I have failed miserably. It sounds like an address for a hooker meetup. Of course, it being my very first novel I ever published, there’s a lot more wrong with it than just the title.
I think the wrong title can hurt a book, mainly through sales if your potential reader can’t lift the genre or form some kind of expectation from it.
Though the book sells okay, I don’t think the title of All of Nothing helps it any. People and search engines ask if I mean All or Nothing, which how the phrase is supposed to go. No one knows, or probably cares, that I named that book after a song from The Birthday Massacre that I listened to relentlessly while writing the book. It fits, kind of, but could the title have been a little more title-to-market? Absolutely.
Naming my small town wedding series could have driven me toward a bender, and by the time I settled on the names for the four books, I never wanted to see them again. That’s a dangerous attitude, because I’ll be marketing these books for the rest of my life. Not seeing them again isn’t an option.
Coincidentally, the other day I was listening to the Wish I’d Known Then Podcast with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett and they had guest Robin Cutler on for an interview. Robin’s been the director of the POD part of IngramSpark for a while, and they asked her what she feels is the biggest mistake indies make. She said their book title. With everything that goes into publishing a book, it surprised me a bit that she said that, but then, on the other hand, a title is pretty important, and maybe authors are stymied by it just as much as I am.
I’m sure many of you have come across a book’s title and wondered what in the heck was going on with that author when they named their book. Just for fun I pulled a couple of books from a book promotions Facebook group. I’m not invading anyone’s privacy as that group is open to the public and this is a promotion of sorts. But I scroll through that group every so often and it’s evident that the authors weren’t thinking about marketing, branding, or overall reader impressions when naming their book.
It’s too bad those titles don’t do a good job of representing what’s inside. Some of those covers are nice and the authors put a little time in, or at least put out the money for a premade. But if you happened upon any of those, would you know what you’d be getting? Especially those couple whose covers don’t hit the mark, either? The only one I hesitated including was Perfekt Match. Obviously that book is about some sort of magick, hence the spelling. But I don’t know what there is to be gained by making a play with the spelling like that. To me, it makes the word look wonky, and if that’s the way the author spells it in the book itself, I wouldn’t put up with it long.
Now that I’m doing a rebranding of sorts in 2021 with 7 new releases, I’m going to be a lot more careful when naming my books. The titles need to match genre, content, cover, and blurb. This goes along with what Suzy K Quinn says in her interview with Joanna Penn. She says while you write your book, or even before that as you plan it (genre, tropes, if it will be a series, etc) if you can look at your book as a whole package, marketing that book will be a lot easier after it’s published. I’ve heard a lot of authors say they didn’t have a plan for their book before writing it, only after did they worry about audience and then they struggle to find a place for it with categories, sub-genres, and genres. It’s tough. It’s like being at a party and winning the white elephant gift. What’s inside? And do you really want it?
Titles are a pain but FB groups such as the Indie Cover Project are great for asking for opinions. Sometimes you have to have a thick skin–sometimes there isn’t a lot of handholding in groups like that, but when I was feeling out a title for the book I’m working on right now, they were very helpful.
The book I’m writing is a standalone and the premise goes something like this:
To earn fifty percent of the company he helped build, Colt Jameson needs to find a husband for his boss’s daughter and is given a short list of acceptable candidates. He turns bitter when he realizes he’s not on the list. Elayna Carmichael is beautiful, frivolous, and an alcoholic. He has no intention of falling in love–even if they were childhood best friends.
Billionaire heiressElayna Carmichael pretends to be a lush to anonymously volunteer at a women’s shelter. She’s been in love with Colt Jameson all her life. He’s a workaholic and she knows he would never loosen up to be with her.
When not one, but all of the candidates agree to marry Elayna, Colt will have to decide if his half of her father’s company means more to him than finding love and claiming her for himself.
I’m no good at writing blurbs–it takes me forever, but this is just a quick synopsis. Of course the book has more to it than just that–lots of backstory and damaged characters are my forte, but this will suffice. It’s not a funny book. I can’t write humor, and I’ll never try. So when coming up with a title, I was thinking something like The Husband List. I workshopped that, and the general consensus is that it sounds like a romcom.
The vector cover still popular these days and I would maybe go for that rather than real people. I would just expect to have to refresh the cover after a couple years if it falls out of style.
So possibly I could go for The Husband Contract. The title feels a little more weighty, not so funny and sweet. And of course, you want to look at what’s selling in the genre, so looking up Billionaire romance, this is the top ten right now:
It looks like we have some very serious men in suits–which looks to be exactly what I need for my serious/dark billionaire romance.
If you’re like me, you can play all day and as long as it’s clean and you have a guy in a suit (and maybe a city in the background for extra points) a cover won’t take long.
They give off a crisp look that I’ve admired on Willow Winters’ book covers.
I may not go with that with the title at all. I don’t want to mislead my readers and usually with this kind of title, the contract would be between the characters, not the female MC and other men. I suppose it would depend on how well I write my blurb.
I’m only 32,000 words into this, about a third of the way through, so I have plenty of time. But this rebranding is important. I feel like while the past four years haven’t been a waste or a mistake, I finally know what to do to start my writing career on the right track. I’m choosing this standalone to publish first because by the time it’s ready, a year will have gone by, and I need to dip my toes back into the publishing waters. Plus, I’ll put the link to my newsletter in the back and maybe I can get a few organic sign ups while I edit and format my series I’ll release later next year.
Anyway, I’ll keep experimenting and thinking and see what I come up with. A lot of times I’ll think of a concept and then end up publishing a completely different idea. It’s fun to play.
What is the hardest part for you? Title? Cover? Blurb? Let me know!
**Some photos were taken from the Canva Pro collection. Some were taken from DepositPhotos.com. If I like a stock photo found in Canva, I look for the version in Deposit Photos and download it with one of my photo packs I purchased through AppSumo around Christmas last year. I never use a photo that I haven’t paid for.
Fonts are either from Canva Pro or my own personal collection I have purchased through PIxelo or Mightydeals. I also find some free for commercial use fonts here.
Lately my blog posts have been a hodgepodge of little things to make up a whole post. It’s tough when you don’t have a lot going on, and sometimes I feel like my blog posts are the blind leading the blind. I don’t have much to offer in way of advice, particularly because I haven’t found anything that is working for me sales-wise.
Anyway, like everyone else, I’m glad the election is over, though I”m sure we’re far from finding peace. Hopefully that won’t deter readers from reading like it has over the past few weeks. I can’t tell you the number of authors who have complained about sinking sales. It is what it is. I’m in the hole with my ads this month and I paused all of them and created a few new ones to target holiday romance for my series. What’s really nice is that Amazon now lets you run ads to your series page which allows a reader to pick up all the books with one click.
Remember, the number of KU pages read divided by the number of KENPC pages in your book will tell you how many books those page reads equal to.
Doing the math, I have sold 214 of the first book in my series between June 1st 2020 and October 31st. That total includes both sales and KU pages read.
I have sold 97 books (together with sales and KU pages read) of book two.
That’s a read-through of 40%. 40% of my readers who read book one went on to read book two.
A profitable series will have a strong read-through for all the books, and we can calculate read-through of book two to three doing the same math:
Book two’s sales and KU page reads was 97 books. Book three has a total of 76 books sold. (Together with sales and KU reads.) That makes read-through (76/97=) 78%
And read-through from book 3 to book 4 using all the same formulas: 88% read-through. Meaning 88% of people who read book three will finish the series and read book four.
According to Mal Cooper, my 40% read-through from book one to book two could indicate a problem. I already know from reviews that the reception of my male main character is lacklustre at best. As I’ve said in the past, a physically damaged character is neither sexy nor romantic. Besides trying to market the book as a beauty and the beast retelling, there’s not much I can really do. His injuries make the whole book. It’s nothing I can go and change to encourage read-through. My sales from book one to two will just have to be a lesson in the future. It’s also a reminder if you’re going to invest time in a series, you need to hit it out of the park or the other books won’t matter. Your book one won’t be good enough to entice readers to read them.
I will keep an eye on my ads, make sure they stay profitable. With the holiday season approaching, if I can grab a couple sales and come out ahead, it will be worth advertising.
In other news, IngramSpark has decided to give ISBNs away if you publish through them, like Kindle Direct Publishing has done all along. The only problem with that is if you publish on Amazon and use their free ISBNs, you can’t turn around and use those on Ingram. Then you take the free ISBNs from Ingram and all of a sudden your book is listed under many numbers, and that doesn’t sound good to me.
I realize buying ISBNs in the States is a big pain, not to mention very costly, but when people say you need to invest in your business, this is what they’re talking about. You need to protect your work. I buy my ISBNs from Bowker and use the same paperback ISBN on both Amazon and Ingram. That way my paperback is listed under one number. The one I paid for that belongs to me. That’s important to me. I also use an ISBN number for each of my ebooks. Some will say that’s a waste of money because Amazon will assign your book to an ASIN number, but then if you’re wide, you can’t use that ASIN number as that belongs in only Amazon’s system. So there again, you have different identifying numbers for every ebook platform you publish on.
You can have Ingram distribute to Amazon, but I’ve heard of people having trouble with their books being available (listed “out of stock” instead) and you don’t have access to your KDP dashboard and you can’t run ads if Ingram supplies your books to KDP. It’s always better to go direct where you can. It might take a little hassle, but then, we went indie to stay in control, didn’t we?
I’m 20k into my new project, about a man tasked to finding a husband for his boss’s daughter in exchange for a portion of the company he helped build. It’s going well, though I feel like no matter how much planning I’ve done with this book, I’m pantsing it. Maybe I’m just tired or maybe I’m still not used to writing in first person present, but it’s coming along, and if I keep up the slightly faster pace than a NaNo participant, I should be done with it by the end of the month. We’ll have to see if that happens. I have a lot coming up in the next couple of weeks, namely a longer work schedule, Thanksgiving, a couple of birthdays and possible jury duty. I write when I can, though, so if not by the end of the month, by the middle of December, for sure. Here’s a sneak peak of a sliver of a scene I wrote the other day. There is potential for spin-off books, but I still have my 6 book series I need to polish to release next year. I’m grateful there is so much to write about.
That’s going to be all for today! I hope you have a productive week! Good luck to those participating in NaNo!
Happy Thursday, everyone! We are all on pins and needles waiting for the election results. No matter who you voted for, I hope our president can make 2021 a great year for all of us!
Last week I finished another round of edits for my King’s Crossing Billionaire Series. I wish I could afford to send them off to an editor and wash my hands of them (except for putting in the edits afterward, of course) but I have no idea how a prolific author can afford an editor, even paying for simple proofreading, if the money isn’t coming in yet. I’ve snooped around for pricing, but man. Editors charge a lot. I totally get that, but scraping up the money for project after project, I don’t get how indies can afford it. I mean sure, I understand that eventually you’re going to make money, but if you’re not quite doing that yet, it’s tough to afford editing. Everyone says it’s an investment, and it really is, but you shouldn’t have to choose between putting out a quality book and paying for food. It’s tough. So I’ll be taking a break from those 6 books and come back to them after the New Year with fresh eyes. I”ll listen to them and make more changes and then go ahead and put them out.
Until then, I’ve started a standalone in first person present POV about a man who is tasked to marrying off his boss’s daughter for a share in his boss’s company. He falls in love with her instead, naturally, forfeiting his share of the company for love. Tentatively titled The Contract, it was supposed to be a reader magnet for my newsletter I wanted to get up and going this year. I’m 12,000 words into it already, (I started it Monday of this week) have most of the book outlined, and to be honest, I don’t want to give it away. I think it would be a great first book under my new name for the first person books I’m going to start writing. (I still go back and forth with what that will be. Some derivative of my real name is all I know.) This leaves me in a real jam because I should have my newsletter set up for the back matter of TheContract. I don’t need a reader magnet for organic signups like that, but I should have something which means writing something else in the near future. I just need something simple that will be a novella-length book that I won’t feel bad about giving away. Maybe I can pull something out of a plot generator and take six days to write 30,000 words of…something.
My new project would qualify me to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I’ve never needed the motivation to write quickly. I enjoy the work for what it is, and have enough support on Facebook in some of my groups. I don’t know how long TheContract will turn out to be, but it would be nice if I could hit the 80,000 word mark or so. We’ll see. I always stress about word count–it seems it’s part of my process.
Speaking of processes, starting a new project while working from home is different. When I used to go to work, I only had a notebook and pen, and being I was attached to my call station, I didn’t have any distractions. Working from home is a lot different environment, and sitting with a pad and pen here feels weird. I still need to outline–I’ll never be a good pantser. I need to know where the story is going or I would never be able to write as fast as I do. But not going into work doesn’t give me the downtime that was forced upon me, and I have to actively make time to daydream about my characters, brainstorm plots, and generally imagine the pieces of my book to put them together on paper. It’s definitely a new way of doing things.
I’ve had to pause all my ads because I’m eight dollars in the hole already this month. It would be nice if I could keep my series moving as it’s a winter wedding setting and takes place a couple weeks before Christmas, but this is a bad time of year and I don’t want to pump money into ads if no one is the mood to read. I see lots of that in my FB groups now–how everyone’s ads are dead, no one is buying and is there anything they can do? The answer is no. If there’s no demand, there’s no need for product. If people are worried about the election results, stressing if it’s safe to gather for Thanksgiving, and if the answer is yes, then doing the grocery shopping, Christmas shopping, and whatever else people are busy with this time of year, you can’t make them sit down and read your book. You’re better off forgetting ad maintenance for now and writing something new so you have a new release set up for when all this craziness is over. I know it’s a different story when you depend on your royalties, and I’m not there yet. But spending time tinkering with ads, trying to get them to deliver impressions and clicks is a waste of time.
That’s all I have for you on this Thursday’s author musings. I’m excited to be writing something fresh, and I don’t think it will take me long to get this book done. Hopefully I’m looking at a February release, and then over next spring and summer I can get my 6 book series out. I’m not so down in the dumps as I was a couple of blog posts ago. Life happens, and all you can do is roll with it.
When we think of content marketing (and really, who doesn’t think about it at least once day) a lot of us probably have no idea what that is. We hear the phrase a lot, especially us authors who have a lot of content to sell and share. At least, we should have a lot of content to sell and share. After all, we’re creators, and we should be creating content on a regular basis.
I had a friend a while ago (we don’t talk anymore–she’s one of those people who have faded off) and she had this problem. She desperately wanted to be part of the writing community. Her debut novel flopped, and her self-esteem took a hit. She was never really the same after that, though she tried. The problem was, and still is, she’s not writing. So you can imagine the difficult time she has trying to fit herself into the writing community when she’s not writing. Or more specifically, she has no content to share on social media. I see her really struggle find her place on Instagram, create her Facebook Author Page, she hasn’t blogged for months, and nothing she has found works. She’ll post, delete her profile, lay low, come back, post, delete her profile, and I feel like I’m on some weird merry-go-round. I can’t imagine how she feels. And lest you think this is me just poking at her for something to blog about, let me be clear, when we were talking, I tried to tell her this. Many many times. You have no content if you’re not writing.
So what is content marketing? Content marketing is sharing content for free, to lead customers into paying for other content. Where does this content come from? See, this is my ex-friend’s problem. If you’re playing the writing and publishing game, I’m assuming you’re creating it. If you’re not, then you have nothing to share. Novels, novellas, short stories, even flash fiction. The best content can be repurposed. Blog a short story for feedback, then sell it. Give away novellas, then box them up and sell them. Take excerpts from your books and make pretty graphics. If you pay for Canva Pro, it now lets you schedule your graphics onto your FB author page and you don’t have to worry about remembering. Blog a first chapter then put the buy link at the bottom and encourage your readers to buy the book to read the rest. Newsletters too, are all about giving your readers something for free and then when you have something to purchase, they will.
What my ex-friend needs to do is stop worrying about social media and start writing.
What else can you post on social media?
*Share books you like. I’m assuming (lots of that going on here) that you write what you love to read. If you think of your FB author page as a community rather than something you have to do, it might help. Share the books you have loved, talk about why you liked them.
*Find a “calendar” of things to post. These are floating around social media–the challenges authors post for 30 days of content. Every day is something new. A selfie and five things no one knows about you. Your favorite writing spot, the pets that keep you company while you write. A favorite quote from a book. This is an example someone posted in an Amazon Ads group I’m in for Instagram. You can grab some of these ideas to help brainstorm. Some of these are more for fellow writers than readers, and you’ll have to be careful you don’t start posting more for your peers than your readers. A lot of us fall into that trap, but the writers I know aren’t the readers who will sustain my lifelong publishing career.
*And of course, you want to share your works in progress. Talk about your characters, what sparked that idea. Why you’re writing what you’re writing. You can give updates on release dates, ask for reviews, if you have two potential covers for a book, take a vote.
If you’re creating content, actually creating it regularly, you shouldn’t have a problem sharing, even if it’s raw, unedited. Sometimes readers like that content best. They get in on the ground floor of a building and can watch how it’s built, from the basement all the way up to the penthouse.
These are all ideas I need to start doing for myself. Trust me, I only have 128 people liking my FB author page, and for good reason. There’s nothing but tumbleweeds drifting by because I don’t think of my FB author page as a community where readers of romance can come together and chat about books. I feel it’s a time suck, just a place where I have to go to waste time instead of writing. Content marketing doesn’t have to take long, though, and that’s something I need to remember. As long as you are writing regularly, the hard part is already done. Making time to write consistently is difficult for a lot of people because they’ve hit a snag or they’ve lost faith in their abilities. Imposter syndrome can hit hard. I’m not going to say people run out of time, because in 24 hours in a day, if you really want to find time to write, you will. If you have time to watch a television show, you have time to write.
Deleting profiles and putting them back up only to take them down again has a lot of consequences, mainly people will lose faith in your ability to stick it out for the long haul. Every time you delete your profile, you have to start from zero. It’s hard enough doing it the first time. I remember posting my very first blog post and I had zero subscribers. I can’t imagine doing that willingly every couple of months. It also hits your SEO.
Search engines like Google favor websites and content that has been around a long time and that offers current and relevant information to the person using the search bar. Every time you start over, you’re starting you SEO from scratch too, and that’s not a smart thing to do. In a private window, I searched for Chance Carter. A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about the things he’d done to his readers scamming the indie community. If you search for Chance Carter now, my blog post is on the second page of results. He was so popular he still takes up the first page of his own search results, but I find it pretty fascinating that something I wrote about him is still so popular that I get hits on that post every day, and lands me on the second page of Google results. I never would have gotten there if my website didn’t have an online history.
I sincerely hope my ex-friend finds her place. We don’t talk anymore, mainly because like a drowning person struggling in the water, I didn’t want her to take me down with her. These past few months I’ve been trying to make connections with authors who have the same work ethic and visions for their writing careers as I do. Maybe one day she’ll find her path, and I hope she does. It’s hard for me to watch anyone hurting.
She will continue to struggle though, if she’s not creating. Write those books, those novellas and short stories and share them with your readers! Create your content, create your community, and you’ll find content marketing will be a lot easier when you have something, and someone, to share it with.
Happy Monday from cold, chilly, and snowy Minnesota!! It’s not so happy for me since I had a hell of a week last week, and not in a good way. Unfortunately, I had a huge personal setback, and in the coming months I’ll be working a lot more hours at my day job. I don’t know what that’s going to mean for my writing. I type for the deaf and hearing impaired, and going from part-time to full-time may slow down my writing some. Not because I won’t have as much time, though that will be a factor, but I just can’t type that much without my arms and hands paying the price. Luckily, I’m in the editing phase of my books, but when it comes to future projects, they won’t be done as quickly.
That’s okay because I’m still trying to find my way in this business, and I’m wondering if I’m really going to make it or if I have the energy to even keep trying. Everyone knows that a book a year is too slow for indie publishing (unless you’re the exception that proves the rule like Jami Albright), and I’ve seen time and again those authors who are able to only release one book a year struggle to find success. On the other hand, for the past three years I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and all that has gotten me is a big case of burnout. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed writing this series, and I can’t wait to publish them. But I’ve never made it a secret that I hate all the stupid crap authors have to do to find readers–newsletters, giveaways, author promotions, things like that, that take time to learn and author promotions are only as good as the authors and their books. It doesn’t help your career at all to join with an author who isn’t writing quality books. And because I haven’t declared a niche, it’s difficult to partner with authors who write what I do. I’m a loner in life, and I guess I’m a loner in this business, too.
Maybe, in a small way, it will be a relief to give myself permission to slow down. I could start reading again without guilt. I could watch Netflix without feeling like I should be writing. I’ve always scoffed at people who have hobbies other than spending all their time writing, like baking. I always thought if you weren’t putting in 20 hours a week writing that you weren’t taking it seriously, and I admit, I had a lot of scorn for people who let their personal problems get in the way of their writing schedules. I mean, I wrote books through a divorce, through carpal tunnel surgery, through my precious cat’s bladder surgery, through my son’s surgery on his back in February of this year. (And he’s still healing.) None of that stopped me. I love to write, didn’t let anything get in the way of the career I was trying to build. I won’t say it’s for nothing, because I have a decent backlist and it didn’t take me long to write and publish them. But if you factor in ad spend, I only earn pennies a day, and I’m at the point where I’m wondering if it’s really worth it. Publishing is like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play, but cutting down my word count to a few thousand a week sounds pretty good right about now. Yeah, I’m writing this crying my eyes out. You don’t have to tell me I need to find balance, but in a world where there are 8,000 titles published every month, it’s a bit difficult to find anything meaningful in what I’ve chosen to do with my free time. Maybe the next book I write will go on wattpad. More people will likely read it if it’s free.
Anyway, I should start a weekly “Crazy Crap I read in a FB Writing Group” segment to the blog. To make matters worse, I just joined another group, this one is called Publishing with IngramSpark, and I already hate all the stupid questions they ask that they could find the answers to if they took a minute to Google instead of asking someone to waste their time. That’s not what I wanted to bitch about however.
[Insert grin here.]
Last week there was a woman who posted that she took her book out of KU ten days after enrolling in KDP Select. Everyone told her that wasn’t enough time to make a decision like that, and I told her that a wide audience and a KU audience were different and you need time to cultivate both of them. Hopping back and forth isn’t the answer. She said her reason for going back to wide is she preferred having sales over KU borrows. Now, she wasn’t getting any borrows–if you’re not doing ads KU subscribers aren’t going to know your book even exists. So her sales dried up and weren’t replaced with KU reads. That’s common switching from wide to KU.
But it made me wonder: would you prefer a sale or a borrow? A sale gives you the royalty and the sales rank boost, a borrow will only boost your sales rank–you don’t get paid unless the customer starts reading, and even then you may only get partial royalties if they don’t finish. That’s information Amazon doesn’t share with us. It would be nice to know if out of 330 pages read, if that was one person who enjoyed the book, or several people who borrowed and couldn’t get past the first chapter then returned it unfinished.
An author who may not be confident in their book may not like being in KU. Is it safe to say only the “really good” books thrive in KU? The ones that are well-written and have a fantastic story that make the reader read until the very end? You can only reap the benefits of KU if your book is good enough for a reader to make it to the end. And forget it if you’ve written a series without a strong first book. No one will read the others, and the books will sit in KU without reads or sales. I looked up her books, and she had one book, and one on preorder. She’s searching for the brass ring, but she’s not going to find it with so few books and jumping around from platform to platform. I wish her all the best.
Being that this will be my last blog post of the month, and that November is one of the craziest months of the year for me (my daughter has a birthday, Thanksgiving, and my birthday not to mention any Christmas shopping I want to do happens in November because I refuse to go into a store in December) my blog posts for the rest of the year may be a little spotty. I’ll share my stats now, and then maybe do a year-end recap toward the end of December. And no, I’m not doing NaNo this year. I never do it. I’m never in a good place in my publishing schedule to do it, and I won’t set anything aside to work on something new. This is probably the only time my tunnel vision has helped me. I don’t like working on multiple projects–I won’t get anything done that way.
Anyway, so my ad spend, while not as fabulous as it was in August (still waiting for those royalties to dump into my account) I spent $48.36 as of this writing, the 25th of October. I’ll probably spend $50.00 maybe a little more, by the end of the month. This is over ten ads. I had to stop the ads for Wherever He Goes. I lost eight dollars before I paused them. I don’t know what’s wrong with that book, but I’m never going to make it move. Maybe it’s still the cover, maybe I can’t make the blurb work, but I’m tired of trying. I love the story, but it’s not going anywhere.
For sales, I’ve made $116.99. I’ll probably make it up to $120, maybe $125 by the end of the month.
After ad spend I’ll make about $75.00 in royalties. It’s not terrible, and my next books won’t be in third person past, so it is what it is. That goes back to the burnout thing and wondering where my writing career is going. Success is a great motivator, and if you don’t have any, it’s tough to keep going.
If you’re wondering how I’m doing without Twitter, I’m doing pretty great, actually. I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I’ve only popped on once to follow back and someone messaged me to ask for support during a virtual author interview over on FB. If I tweet anything new, I can do it from the platform I’m on, like the WordPress reader or the Bookbub blog, and that helps too. Maybe I’ll go back, maybe I won’t. For right now I don’t see the value in it. Hopefully, that will change.
Have a wonderful finish to October, and don’t forget to vote! Do it for my birthday (November 28th)–that would be the best birthday present a girl could ask for.
Hi, everyone! I know I usually post on Mondays, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been struggling with finding things to blog about lately. I go through that sometimes. I feel like anything I have to say has already been said a million times by someone else, and especially when it comes to writing and publishing, I don’t have much new to share.
I did decide to take a Twitter break, and if you follow me, you can either friend me on FB, or like my FB author page and we can touch base that way. I just couldn’t take the negativity anymore, and it was bringing out my own negativity toward other people. Twitter as a whole is very emotional, and I just can’t handle how sensitive (and insensitive) people can be and when they lash out because of it. I’m not a fragile flower, but geez, there are only so many times I can be “put in my place” without feeling it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like a whole lot of people are writing over there anyway, and it’s not such a great place to find supportive writers who want you to succeed. Last week, I made a graphic and congratulated an author on her release, and she never bothered to retweet it. I think that was the start of me being so discouraged I just wanted to leave. If you can’t support me supporting you, then why are you on there?
I didn’t delete my profile or deactivate my account, but I did pin a “see you next year” tweet to my profile and I deleted the app off my phone. I logged out on my laptop to remind myself when I go on there just to go on there that I’m trying to break the habit. I’m sure it’s one of those things where I’ll go through withdrawal for a few days and after it’s over I’ll feel better.
I blogged about doing large print for The Years Between Us, and I got the proof in the mail the other day. It looks great! I approved the proof and I didn’t have any problems with KDP flagging it as duplicate content. I may do some other books as time allows, though Amazon has stopped putting Large Print as a buying option on the book’s product page. So even though I know there are visually impaired people who would appreciate a Large Print book, I have to weigh time versus return on investment. In the scheme of things, doing the Large Print didn’t take very long, so I could do most of my backlist in the next year or so if I did one per month. We’ll see how it goes. I buy all my own ISBNs, and I have to keep in mind that expense as well. With the way Ingram has been glitching lately and not accepting Vellum files, this book is only available on Amazon, and I didn’t check the box for expanded distribution. I’m impressed that I could price it at 14.99 and still make a couple dollars. In expanded distribuion, I would have made fifty-six cents.
I’m still editing my series, and I suppose that’s going to be something you’ll hear from me for the next little while. I get discouraged when I think about needing to figure out newsletter stuff. I’ve looked around StoryOrigin, and I don’t think I’m going to be using it for right now. I feel like authors forget that cultivating a newsletter list is more than just getting people to sign up for it. You’re supposed to be collecting emails from readers who are going to be fans of your work and support you. I may get the newsletter stuff figured out so I can encourage them to sign up in the backs of my books and aim for as many organic signups as possible. I don’t want to lure readers with a free book to sign up. I know that’s the thing to do, but freebie seekers will cost money eventually because you’ll pay for them to be on your list but they won’t buy when you send out email blasts about a new release.
You guys, I know the rules, but I’m tired of playing this game. I just wanna write and make money doing it. Yep.
Well, I don’t have much else. I did Bryan Cohen’s ad profit challenge, but he didn’t offer anything new from what he showed us in his last challenge. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more of those, though I have met some nice people doing them.
I’m always on the look out for new non-fiction to read, but I haven’t been reading much since I’ve started working from home. It’s a lot easier to get words down now that I am, and I’m reading less. Which is probably why I’m all dried up when it comes to blogging. That said, I’m still listening to podcasts, and the Six Figure Authors podcast has Sara Rosett on this week. She wrote a non-fiction book about writing a series. Since that is one thing I’ve managed to make myself bend for (I prefer standalones) I figure anything that could make the process more tolerable (and profitable!) I need to look into. I ordered How to Write a Series, and I will tell you how I like it. I didn’t realize there is also a workbook that goes with it until I accidentally clicked on it trying to grab the link for you all. Check them out!
If you want to listen to her interview on the podcast, you can find it here:
I’m sorry I didn’t post on Monday! There hasn’t been a lot going on and I didn’t have any updates. I finished the last book in my series, and I’ve already read through it, fixing typos and deleting repetition. Since then I’ve started at the beginning, and I’m in the middle of my second editing pass of book one. I can tell I was still getting to know my characters and getting used to writing in first person present. Hopefully I won’t have to do this much editing for the other books. As I said in a different blog post, I’m not going to edit the hell out of these. I want to clean them up, but I don’t want my writing to sound cardboard, either. It’s a balancing act, for sure.
Just to see how easy it is to make a Large Print version of my books, I did The Years Between Us, and I ordered a proof that should be here Saturday. Vellum has a crazy easy way to change your file into large print (just check the box!) and adjusting the spine to my cover in Canva was pretty easy too. The only thing I’m worried about now is that someone in one of the FB groups I’m in said Amazon blocked her Large Print book because the content was too similar to another book she published. Of course it’s similar, its the same one! While there are a lot of authors who have successfully published large print versions of their books, I’m worried now that when I look over my proof and approve it, Amazon’s quality content team will reject it. I buy my own ISBNs from Bowker, and this person uses the free ISBNs from KDP print, so I’m hoping that my own ISBN will help. She’s appealing their decision to block her book, and I hope I don’t have to go through the same process. It’s tough because I’ve heard that Amazon is just swamped and to get any real help can take days if not weeks.
I’m doing Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Profit Challenge, though right now he’s going over information that I’ve heard many times before in his other challenges. He always puts new information into every challenge, so it’s worth it to take the time to watch all his videos, even if they feel repetitious. His FB group is very busy (with 11k members!) and I scroll through it a lot more than I should. It’s interesting to see how freaked out people get about putting up an ad and then not seeing impressions or getting any clicks. If you’re doing the challenge, or even if you’re not and you’re not seeing any activity on your ads dashboard, you have to remember a couple things:
Ads sometimes never turn on. Your dashboard may say they are delivering, but they never do deliver impressions or clicks. You can turn them off if you want, but there’s no harm in keeping them going. They aren’t costing you money, and you never know if one day they’ll start to deliver.
Make sure if you’re running category ads or automatic placement ads your categories are relevant to your book. What people don’t understand is Amazon won’t show your ad no matter how much you bid if they don’t find your book relevant to the audience you’ve chosen. You can add new categories to your book (besides the two that you chose when you published) by emailing KDP or Author Central and asking. This also means if your book is a new release and you don’t have any also-boughts associated with your book yet, it may take a while for Amazon to understand what kind of book you’re selling.
Sales have dropped for everyone. People are dismissing the election, COVID, and the holidays that are coming up. You know, people only read when they feel like reading. Run all the ads you want, but if people are busy, stressed out, or have other books in their TBR piles, your sales are going to slow down (I’m looking at you, Sept 2020 book-dump).
Your book isn’t the best out there. As I’ve said in the past, 2,000 books are published every month since COVID has come along and obliterated life as we know it. You may think your book is special and that people can’t wait to get their hands on it, but come on. You have to be realistic. You’re fighting against a tsunami of books, a handful of ads isn’t going to cut through all that noise. Be patient, create more ads, make sure your metadata is relevant to your book, and try to get some reviews.
I can sound a little callous, but all I can do is shake my head at the frenzied posts people write after they’ve created an ad. We all want our books to sell, but sometimes we forget that we are selling books, and the most important thing is the story. There was even one person who started the challenge, and then she was like, “Do you have to have a book published to do this?” Ummm. Yes? Otherwise what you running ads to?
I can understand being excited to market your books, but you gotta keep in mind you have to have a product people want to buy or your marketing efforts will be for nothing.
I really don’t have much else. I try not to get too involved with the FB groups. I’m slowly realizing that a lot of people ask for advice, but they are not in the mindset to take that advice. They’re going to go their own way no matter what you, or anyone else, tells them. They already have it in their head that they’re going to do what they are going to do, and that’s it. You can point out their cover isn’t good, or won’t fit in with the genre, you can tell them the blurb they spent hours working on still isn’t good enough, you can tell them anything, but if they aren’t ready to accept what you’re telling them, it’s a dead end and a waste of time for you. It goes against my nature to give up on people because I’m a helper, but I’ve wasted a lot of time in the past helping people who didn’t really want it, and the only loser in those scenarios was me. People definitely need to learn from their own mistakes, and that might mean losing out on sales and wasting money on ads because they were too attached to their cover to change it. Not my circus, not my monkeys.
The weeks are flying by, and I didn’t have anything to write about last Monday, and I have no idea if I’ll have anything to share this Monday. I think a lot of people now are just trying to get through the election and the end of the year. If you have a question or want my thoughts on anything, give me a comment and I’ll blog about it. I’ll do what I can to help!