Mid-August Check-in and What I’ve Been Doing

August 2019 blog photo

I usually have some writing-related blog post today, or commenting on something in the publishing or independent publishing space, but today I’ll just update you on what I’ve been doing, what I’m reading, and the things I’m going to try to do before the holidays hit. Christmas is in 128 days, if you can believe it!

It’s hard to believe summer is almost gone, and my daughter (maybe your kids already are) is going back to school in a couple weeks. I’ve done a bit of back to school shopping for her and ordered her pictures online.

I live in Minnesota, so I’m not looking forward to summer’s end. In fact, it’s always nice if the snow can hold off for as long as possible. Last year, we had a bad winter while I was recuperating from surgery and if we only get half the snow that we got last year, I’ll be happy. I’ll be figuring out my new writing rhythm when my daughter goes back to school, and that will take a little time to adjust to, but it shouldn’t be that bad. My work schedule won’t change, so that’s nice.


I changed All of Nothing‘s cover, blurb, and keywords. It’s still too soon to say if they made a difference.

But I am also doing the same for Wherever He Goes.

This is the old cover:

wherever he goes old cover jpg

Pretty and sweet. I have no qualms about it, but it also doesn’t give off the steamy contemporary vibe. So I changed it to this:

wherever he goes new cover jpg

They are both dressed, but I feel it ups the steam factor a bit. I also rewrote the blurb, but I won’t get into that, eventually I’ll get to the keywords. Looking for those will be interesting, as it’s a road trip romance, and that’s a sub-genre I know exists, but I haven’t seen the category for it on Amazon. I ordered a proof so I can see how it looks in print, but the ebook cover is already live. I’ve gotten great feedback on it, so for the skill I have and for the cost I paid ($7) I think it’s a nice change.

Of course, IngramSpark is giving me another pain in the ass about it. Since I published on Amazon, they are saying my ISBN is in use and not mine. I didn’t click on expanded distribution on KDP Print, so the ISBN should be (and is) available for other retailers. It’s just more going around in circles I’m going to have to do with them. Plus they keep insisting I didn’t build my cover within the correct guidelines, but I did. So, I think after I get this book straightened out with them, I won’t be using IS for expanded distribution anymore. Until they can become more indie-friendly, I’ll stick with Amazon.

I can honestly say that through all this wide business and going back and forth, I’ve learned what matters and what doesn’t.


Now that all my covers are how I want them to be for a while, I’ll be focusing on finished up my quartet. Officially called A Rocky Point Wedding (Books 1, 2, 3 and 4) I started book four a couple days ago, and I’m 10,000 words into it. At this point I’ll be trying to figure out covers and get a more concrete idea of what I want. I don’t know what I want yet, and when I don’t feel like writing I poke my eyes out look at stock photos. If I thought doing my trilogy was a pain, this quartet will be the death of me.

I am planning on a slow release . . . possibly one book a month, and while I’m releasing I’ll take a break write a new standalone that I’ve been planning for a while.

But first, book four. This book has its own plot to figure out, plus wrapping up wedding stuff. I do have a book 0 I could write if I ever feel like revisiting Rocky Point, or if I ever feel like starting a newsletter, I could write a prequel novella and offer that as a newsletter sign-up cookie. So there’s that potential, anyway.


I’m reading a really great book right now called Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living Paperback by Manjula Martin. It has a lot of great essays in there by authors like Cheryl Strayed. They talk about giving work away for exposure and opportunity, living in poverty while trying to make it big, what they do with their advances if they do. I’m enjoying it a lot so far, and I recommend it if you’re interested in the money/business side of writing.

If you like books like that, I also recommend The Business of Being a Writer (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) by Jane Friedman. She breaks down the publishing industry and what you can do to make money off your writing. Being that it’s always being said writers can’t make a living wage anymore, I like to hear other people’s opinions.


August 2019 podcasts graphic blog post

I listen to a lot of podcasts, too, and here are some of my favorites:

Joanna Penn. The Creative Penn Podcast

We know she’s a powerhouse in the indie space, and she has a lot of great guest interviews. I don’t listen to every episode, and I have to pick and choose what tips I jot down for my own use since she’s a big believer in being wide, but overall I her podcasts are very useful.

***

The Sell More Books Show hosted by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen

These guys used to talk about the news, and they still do, but they have started to pad their podcast with “news” of indies making money. They don’t get into the hows or the whys (not in great detail, anyway), and if you’re not a member of the 20booksto50k group on FB (where they cull these stories) you’re not able to dig out the nitty-gritty details for yourself. I understand there are slow news days, and I listen for the big stories like Dean Koontz moving to Amazon from a Big Five. They pull stories from other places like the Hot Sheet by Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson, and if you don’t subscribe to that newsletter, this is one way to hear about the stories they report.

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Stark Reflections by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Mark’s a super nice guy, and I can’t wait to meet him at the Career Author Summit in Nashville in 2020. With so much history in the industry, his podcasts are very interesting to listen to, and he also has a bevy of author and publishing expert interviews. In the last podcast I just listened to, he interviewed Craig Martelle, who puts together the 20booksto50k conferences with Michael Anderle.  As with Joanna’s, I pick and choose what I want to listen to. Mark moved from Kobo to Draft2Digital, so it goes without saying he’s a big cheerleader of also being wide.

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Self-Publishing Formula hosted by Mark Dawson and James Blatch

I listen to this one off and on. He has great interviews with authors and industry professionals, too, and again, I just pick and choose what I like to listen to by reading the details of the podcast episode. Sometimes they can get a little heavy with advertising their courses, but they all sell something, so listening to them tout their wares is going to be part of listening to a podcast.

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Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo and Jeffrey M. Poole and Laura Kirwan.

These guys took a break this summer, and so far Lindsay hasn’t said when they are coming back. She alluded to them changing their format, so I’m looking forward to them doing more episodes. Even if you don’t write Fantasy or Sci-fi, this is a great podcast to listen to. Keep an eye out for new episodes.

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Print Run Podcast hosted by Erik Hane and Laura Zats

Erik and Laura are agents at a literary agency in Minneapolis, MN, and that was one of the primary reasons for listening. They talk about a lot of the literary stuff in the state, and if I had a more dependable car, I would go to some of them (the Twin Cities is a 4.5 hour drive away from where I live). But anyway, being that they are agents, they give an inside look at the traditional publishing industry. The last episode I listened to, though, they talked about Dean Koontz and his defection move from the traditional publishing marketing space to move to Amazon. They didn’t say very nice things about it, or about Amazon in general, and be aware, if you’re an indie making money off Amazon, that that is their stance. If you can look past their bias, their takes on books and publishing can be interesting at times, though they defend traditional publishing and an agent’s place in it (of course). Publishing is publishing though, and whether indie or trad, they all fit together, so keeping an ear to the ground isn’t a bad thing.


ku graphic

My books have been moved back to KU since the first of August. I boosted an announcement to that effect on from my FB author page and that grabbed a little attention. I used the audience I created for one of my ads for The Years Between Us that didn’t do anything because my ad copy was poor and the pictures I used weren’t the best. I ran two ads for three days a piece and I think I got one sale. But I blame the ad and the copy and the fact I was just messing around to get a feel for the platform. Anyway, so I already had an audience I’d created for that, so I used it and I think I got about 150 likes ad and a little engagement. It will take some time to let people know my books are in KU again, and I haven’t been very vigilant about it because I’ve been changing out covers.

Seeing page reads again is fun, I’ve made $21.00 since moving my books back to KU. You can look at my numbers in this blog post, but I can tell you that during my two months wide I made $66.00. So in a week with just a little boosted post on FB I’ve made 33% of what I made with wide while spending money on a Freebooksy ad. I feel better being in KU and I don’t check my numbers all the time like I was doing when I was wide. That is all KU reads though, not sales. I think I may need to research price more as maybe $4.99 is a bit too expensive for books by an unknown author. I said in a previous post that it was freeing being back on one platform and it is. I feel like I can focus more on the work instead of sales, and with a small backlist, writing is more important to me right now.


Well, that’s the personal update I’ve got for you. In my next blog post I’ll tell you about my experience with Booksprout, and if it’s useful or not.

Thanks for reading!

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Keywords for your books. What are they and how to find them.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know anything about keywords. People may have differing opinions on where to find them, or how to use them, but one thing everyone can agree on is that they are pretty important. They help readers find your books, and in this age of publishing, our books need all the help they can get.

In this last mini-series post about how I revamped All of Nothing, I’m going to explore keywords and if I change anything in regards to my book’s keywords.  For a quick recap, if you want to read about how I changed the cover, you can click on the picture of the full wrap. (I still think it’s lovely!)

all of nothing second coverjpg

I also rewrote the blurb, and that garnered some interesting discussion. If you want to take a look at my process and how I did that, you can click here to read about editing the blurb.

So, keywords.

Like I said, I know next to nothing about keywords, so what are they, exactly?

According to an article on IngramSpark, keywords are “One or more words used to indicate the content of your book.” How do we choose the right ones?

The easiest, and cheapest (read, free) is searching on Amazon in the Kindle store. When you publish a book on Amazon, KDP gives you seven slots. That doesn’t mean that you are limited to seven words, and I only just learned this not long ago. (Evidence that you always need to keep learning because you don’t know what you don’t know, and something you learn in passing could change your whole life business.)

You can add more than one word to a space by separating words with semi colons or commas.

kdp keyword screen

It looks pretty intimidating, and if you look at this not even having one idea what to put there, the first thing you need to do is revisit the genre you’re writing in. There should be at least a few words that pop out at you, even if they’re generic and not that specific.

Anyway, so like I said in a previous post, I didn’t know bully romance was thing until recently, and it turned around the way I’m going to approach keywords and marketing for this book moving forward.

When you go to the Kindle Store (Dave Chesson of Publisher Rocket suggests using an incognito window for this) you can plug in some keywords and/or phrases to see what comes up.

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You can see in this incognito window that I started searching enemies to lovers. But you can also see what comes up that could work as keywords as well. Enemies to lovers romance kindle books would be a good phrase to use. Add free if your book is wide and permafree. There might be other phrases in there that could work depending on what your story is about. Enemies with benefits doesn’t quite fit my book, so I’ll leave that alone. What else did I search for?

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I searched for alpha next thinking I could go into alpha romance, or alpha dark romance. Alpha male romance works, maybe if, it isn’t associated with shifter romance. When you click on it, what kind books do you find? Will your book fit in? When I click on Alpha Male Romance, some books that pop up that All of Nothing would fit in with, and that’s the goal, so we can add that to the list.

What else can we search for?

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I can go with the tried and true contemporary romance, but that is a generic term and using up a space in your keywords may not yield results. We can always keep it in mind though, and plug up a space if we happen to have room at the end of the experiment. Not to write off the list entirely, if you happen to have a new release, it might be worth adding.

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I went a bit further and added “rom” for romance, and nothing extraordinary popped up, but contemporary romance with sex was an interesting return. That seems to be quite specific considering Sweet/Clean romance is having it’s 15 minutes and doing well; this would set my book apart. The word “contemporary” takes up a lot of space though, so I’m going to try to narrow it down before resorting to using it.

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But if you look for kindle books, adding that your book is in Kindle Unlimited may not be a bad idea.

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But let’s keep trying to narrow it down. Jax in All of Nothing is a millionaire. I toned it down, didn’t make him a billionaire. Sorry, Jax. But looks like that search may have had a good return, and I could add millionaire romance, even millionaire romance alpha male. Lots of characters though, so we need to watch our words.

What else can we look for?

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Dark romance gives us some return. Bully romance dark romance pops out at me. But there are some that would be good to keep in mind for other standalone books down the road like mafia, books where the heroine has been kidnapped.  Jeez, these sub-sub-genres are something, aren’t they? What could I choose from the list? The bully romance dark romance for sure.

At this point I think I’m running out of search terms.

2019-08-13

Bully pulls up a lot of terms that don’t particularly fit my book either, like high school, college, or reverse harem. All of Nothing isn’t paranormal, so I think besides the top search term, there’s nothing we can take away from this list.

But I have a few characters left. What else can we look for? I tried bully sex, but those kinds of books I don’t need my book associated with, so we’ll skip that. (Yeah, it’s important to click, and find out what kinds of books are coming up in the search, too. Especially in romance there’s quality, and then there’s quality. I’m not going to call anything trashy as we all have our things.)

We haven’t tried the basic steamy romance and this is what we get:

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Not much comes up here, accept bully romance again, and that can’t be discounted. There are a few more genres that we’ll need to avoid, but the list is interesting, and it gives us something to play with.

This is the cheap and easy way to figure out a limited amount of keywords.

What’s important to note too, is that based on keywords, Amazon may slot your book into categories that are not available to choose from when you publish. If you have a category that you would like your book listed under, you can always email them. But that’s why it’s important to know what genre you’re writing in, even the sub, or sub-sub genres to help narrow down your audience.

It’s obvious that I didn’t have any of the correct keywords for All of Nothing, since Amazon has left it in the most boring and generic category of romance books. That doesn’t do me or sales any favors.

all of nothing rank

Pretty freaking embarrassing, if you ask me, and now that the cover, blurb, and keywords are fixed, I’m hoping that I’ll see some traction in the coming months.

What did I come up with for keywords then?

keywords KDP filled

I think I filled up the slots pretty well, and if my book starts selling, they give Amazon a few sub-genre categories to put my book into, too. I do have to warn you that even if you change your keywords, and you hit Publish thinking that they’ve been accepted, they may not be. I hit Publish after filling those spaces out, but I won’t know they’ve been approved for a little while. I may be able to edit this blog post to let you know if they have been, so I’ll keep my eye on my email to see if they publish the book or they flag any of these words.

Edited to add: They did accept all my keywords without a problem! 


What’s the deal with programs that will pull keywords for you if finding free keywords is so easy?

When you start using programs like Publisher Rocket (this isn’t an affiliate link–I get nothing for telling you about this program. All I know is Dave Chesson is a really nice guy and works hard keeping this software working and up to date) you’re looking for a lot of keywords . . . for ads. When you start looking for keywords for Amazon Ads keep in mind they give you room for 1,000 words. You need a lot of help coming up with that many words, and using a software that can scrape your words together for you can save you a lot of time.

Keywords can make a huge difference if your ad converts to clicks, and using keywords is a way to help with that. I barely dipped my toes in the water when it came to Amazon Ads way back when I was trying, and I wasn’t using a program like Publisher Rocket to choose keywords, either. You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not utilizing all the space Amazon gives you.


 

So there you have it. How I revamped my book All of Nothing.

For some of you, this would include an edit as well, and if you want to learn more about relaunching your book, either read Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist (Write Faster, Write Smarter Book 6) by Chris Fox, or Ads for Authors Who Hate Math: Write Faster, Write Smarter.  In the latter book he goes a little into how much you should do to revamp your books (time vs. cost) so the ads work, because if anyone has heard Chris talk he is always very clear you need to start with a good product. (These aren’t affiliate links either, but I have read both of those books, and they are worth your time.)

Will all this work? Only time will tell. The cover is better, the blurb an improvement (I think, but that remains to be seen) and we’ll see if KDP approves my keywords and go from there. Could the book use an edit? In terms of getting better as a author, any past book an author writes won’t be as good as the newest release. That’s how it is, and I’m not going to stress about it. It’s a solid book in terms of plot and story. I’m sure it has its share of filler words, or a garbage word slipped by me here and there that I didn’t find and delete. But I did run it through a couple of betas who didn’t have anything bad to say, so I’ll take that as a small win and keep on going.

If you want more information about keywords, Dave Chesson has his own channel on YouTube, as well as Chris Fox. Taking time to listen to what these guys have to say is never a waste.

Thanks for reading!


If you want to know more about Dave and his thoughts on keywords and categories, you can listen to his interview with Joanna Penn here.

Here’s another article by the Book Designer on KDP keywords. Words Gone Wild: KDP Keywords Revisited


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When is marketing too much marketing?

As authors, we are driven to connect with our readers. We use Pinterest, we post on Instagram, we tweet on Twitter, and we create our author pages on Facebook. We post excerpts of our books on our blogs. Some of us form book clubs. We want to connect with readers, let them know what we’re working on, and hope one day with all the book buzz we’ve been building that on launch day, everyone is excited to read our books!

This all can be a marketing trap. There is only so much time in a day–especially if you have a day job or have kids, pets, or all of the above. A blog post about your inspiration is great . . . but could that time have been better spent working on your book?

We all love to use Canva to create aesthetics. They help us picture our characters, put us in the mood to write. But how long do you flip through photos to use? Search for that special font that will tie it all in together? Is creating an aesthetic that useful that you need to participate in every #aestheticthursday on Twitter, or do post a weekly aesthetic to your Instagram feed?

Here’s an aesthetic I made up for this blog post for my new couple Ivy and Logan:

One. Last. Chance

It took me close to an hour to make this. Choosing pictures, looking at font, and waiting for Canva to stop dragging (it really slows down my Chrome browser for some reason) and apply the filters I wanted to the photos. Do you know how many words I can write in an hour? A thousand. When you are fledgling writer, or a person fighting for time to write, an hour is a valuable amount of time. And what will I do with this aesthetic? Post it on Instagram? Maybe Tweet it? (Most likely, leave it here for your eyes only. 🙂 ) You can be a million places online, but you can’t continually post the same things. So the hour I took to make this will equal into only a few minutes of media exposure for the graphic.

Not a very big return on investment, if you ask me.

But his future whispered “I love you” into his ear, and Logan knew things would be alright. The sun slowly came up over the horizon making Rocky Point sparkle. New day. New life. It was all he could ask for. Ivy an

You can make graphics to feature pretty lines from your WIP, you can play Instagram games and try to draw readers and writer friends to share the excitement of your book, but here’s the thing: Sooner or later you’re going to have to produce the book.

Otherwise, what are you building buzz for?

After a while, if you can’t come up with a publication date, if you can’t announce some kind of plan, all your marketing is going to do the opposite of what you’re trying to do. No one will listen to you anymore. Because everyone will think you’re full of crap. Anyone can pull a pretty sentence out of thin air and say it’s from the book their working on. But is it?

And you have to keep in mind that while you’re blogging about your character’s interests and hobbies, other writers in your genre are getting it done. They’re publishing regularly and the only social media they’re engaged in is creating ads for their books.

So, here’s the thing. You want readers. You’re marketing. Write the book. If you’re not writing, and only messing around, then be honest with yourself that no, you’re not going to produce a book, the lines and characters will never see the light of day, and be prepared for that eventual drop in traffic on your social media platforms.

Readers read. And they can only read books that are published.

It’s easy to get caught up in marketing and building your social media presence. It’s fun to play with website templates and creating covers for books not written yet. And I’m not saying it’s bad to do those things.

But if you have a limited amount of time to write, you should be writing. All those writing memes aren’t wrong.

You Should Be Writing

Mister, I’ll do whatever you say!

 

I’m not trying to be snarky, or make you feel bad if you happen to do more Canva creating than writing. But I am trying to tell you that the writing is on the wall. Independent writers are publishing three to four books a year. I know for myself I’ll be rapid releasing four books around the holidays, providing that nothing goes terribly wrong with my family or my job.

There’s a lot of debate about trying to keep up with your fellow authors or doing your own thing. But what if I told you that you don’t need to tell everyone all the time what your characters are eating, or what their favorite color is? Why not let them discover those things as they are reading your book?

Sometimes you need a reality check. Or sometimes you just have to tell yourself the truth: that you’d rather play than write. And that’s okay. We all have our things. I write a lot and surround myself with people who do the same. They write and they want to make money from their books. I hang out with like-minded people because I have a business ethic and feed off the energy of others.

Publish or get left behind. And that’s not me saying that to be mean, that’s the harsh reality of the fast-pace independent publishing industry. You can only stay relevant in the industry for so long if you aren’t going to produce content.

Sorry, folks. But you gotta pay to play.


What do you think? Is there a place for someone who will market for two years before producing a book? Let me know what you think!

Some other articles on marketing before your book is ready:

When should you start promoting your book?

BOOK MARKETING PLAN THE DEFINITIVE CHECKLIST
by Tim Grahl


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All of Nothing’s blurb. How I rewrote it.

All of Nothing ebook cover

Click here to read All of Nothing! Available in paperback and Kindle Unlimited!

If you’re brave and take a look at your reviews from time to time, there may be some common themes that readers have picked out with your book. If you have a thick skin, sometimes this can be a benefit–readers can (and probably will) see things about your book that you didn’t realize yourself.

With All of Nothing, I knew Jax was a jerk, and I made him that way. An accident he was involved in damaged him beyond all comprehension. In the book he was cold and heartless because underneath the armor, that’s exactly what he wasn’t.

I had a lot of fun with his character arc, but some of the readers were put off by just how mean he really was.

So, when I rewrote the blurb, I knew I needed to make this clearer so his attitude and actions toward Raven weren’t such a shock.

Writing a blurb is difficult, and at the end of this blog post I’ll list a few resources you can look into that may help you on your own path to writing your blurbs.

***

This was the old blurb:

“I took a life, and when I did, he took mine.”

After his fiancée leaves him at the altar, cold-hearted millionaire Jaxon Brooks blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in as his bride.

When she accidentally signs her real name on the marriage certificate, Jax must find his wife to file for divorce.

Since the death of her brother, Raven Grey has been living a hard life on the streets.

When Jax offers his help in exchange for her signature, Raven agrees, hoping for a better future and to repair her relationship with her parents.

As Jax and Raven grow closer, his past haunts them, and the death of her brother threatens their new love in ways neither of them thought possible.

***

I’ve linked to the podcast before, but the Best Page Forward podcast took it apart. Abigail Dunard made some good points, and so did Jim Heskett, and when I rewrote it, I tried to keep their thoughts in mind. I wrote the original blurb with tips from Bryan Cohen’s book, How To Write a Sizzling Synopsis, but I must not have done that great of a job. Anyone who teaches blurb-writing will tell you to measure how good a blurb is by the number of conversions to your ads, but if you don’t run ads, it’s difficult to measure if the blurb is working or not. (Plus, if you use that reasoning, it may be your cover that isn’t doing it when your blurb could be perfectly fine.)

Anyway, I also read Brian D. Meeks’ book about writing Amazon descriptions. He goes about it in a completely different way. It’s a very pared down approach, and does not resemble Bryan’s more book summary style at all. I decided to give that a try.  And only time will tell if I hit the mark.

When writing the new blurb, I used Brian’s tips on copywriting, things I gleaned from the reviews, and tried to take out the confusing parts of the blurb the podcast hosts pointed out.

I ran it by a couple people who liked it, but until I start getting more reviews and more feedback, I still may not have made the right changes. The beauty of being an indie, though, is that you can make any kind of changes you want, nothing is locked in. Because I did do a cover update at the same time as rewriting the blurb, I went ahead and replaced the blurb on the back cover. But that isn’t always necessary, and if I tweak the blurb again, I’ll leave the paperback cover alone.

***

Jaxon Brooks is rich, sexy, and mean as a snake.

It’s no surprise when his fiancé leaves him at the altar. But now what is he going to do?

To save face, he blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in for his bride, and he fights an unwanted attraction as she walks down the aisle.

Raven Grey is homeless.

Jax terrifies her, and left with no choice, she does what he says.

But she has desperate demands of her own. She needs help getting back on her feet, and Jax has the resources to help her.

When Jax moves Raven into his mansion, playing house starts to feel like the real thing. But how long can it last?

Buried under Jax’s rough demeanor is a horrible secret that won’t stay hidden, and Raven’s painful past will come back to haunt them. Despite everything, can Jax be the man that Raven needs him to be? Can Raven forgive him for what he’s done?

Can Jax come to terms with the tragedy that blackened his heart and give himself one last chance at true love?

If you like enemies to lovers or a bully hero, All of Nothing is perfect for you! Read it today!

***

The one huge departure from the other blurb is the call to action (CTA) at the end. I hate telling people what to do. I leave my kids alone, I didn’t run my ex-husband’s life, I don’t even like to give advice unless it’s asked for, and then I’m fully prepared for anyone not to take it. My back matter doesn’t ask readers to sign up for a newsletter, give a review, or read the next book. So putting that last sentence at the bottom really threw me, but Brian swears by it, and well,  it’s way down at the bottom, so what did it hurt? (And I do realize I’m letting opportunity go by with no CTA in my back matter, at all, and I’ll try to think of something when my wedding series drops.)

Is it better? Is it worse? I have no idea.

That is part two in what I did to revamp All of Nothing. I’ve been getting good feedback so far on the cover, and I’ve been kind of messing around with Wherever He Goes. But I don’t want to get so caught up in busy work that I’m not working on my current books.  I’m still on track to put this quartet out by the holidays, and I’m going to keep my eyes on that prize.

In the next blog post, I’ll go over metadata and keywords!

Thanks for reading!


Need help with blurbs?

Check out Bryan Cohen’s book.

Check out Brian Meeks’ book.

Listen to Libby Hawker’s tips on YouTube. Her videos are cut into parts, just to let you know, and this link starts with part one. This was quite some time ago, and trends change, but sometimes if you can piecemeal advice from different sources, you can turn that advice into something relevant today.

Bryan Cohen and Chris Fox did a presentation about Blurb, Cover, and Title at the 20books Vegas conferences last November. This is such a great resource, and one of the conferences that I plan to go to! Take a listen to this video on how blurbs, titles, and covers work together to sell your book.

 


Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any blurb writing tips!

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Choosing Amazon to self-publish. What’s so bad about it? My answer? Nothing.

amazon love hateWarning! Lots of thoughts that are a bit scattered, but I try to keep them coherent at least. I’ll blame writer’s brain and the fact that I’m almost done with book three of my series. Yay!

Okay . . . carry on.

 

If you read my blog here in there, you’ll know my feelings toward Amazon are complicated, with a capital C.

But I’m not alone.

There are lots of people who think Amazon is either a devil or an angel, depending on who you talk to, and if it’s on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. (On Sunday you might find a select few in church praying for Jeff Bezos’s soul.)

Dean Koontz’s book deal with Amazon only added gasoline to this already wicked fire. Was he smart? Greedy? Some accused him of starting the toppling of the traditional publishing model, although a few other bigger-named authors have inked deals with Amazon too, like Sylvia Day, with less scrutiny.

Everyone is quick to point fingers, but the fact is, traditional publishing has been on a decline for years because they cling to an old model that is no longer working in the changing landscape.

Depending on huge bestsellers like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, and James Patterson is harmful. People who champion this say coddling the big authors funds the little authors. But I questioned this in two ways. The mid-list is shrinking. Who exactly are they funding? And more importantly, if new authors are not being sought out, their careers nurtured, who will replace these top authors? We can’t depend on all authors like Stephen King to have children who will take over their publishing empires.

One of the most frustrating things about traditional publishing is the lack of risk-taking. Yes, they are the gatekeepers of quality, but while they are busy keeping quality inside their walls, they are also keeping quality out, too. Only so many books are published every year—and those numbers include already established authors. There’s no room to grow.

Yes, they are the gatekeepers of quality, but while they are busy keeping quality inside their walls, they are also keeping quality out, too.

No one ever said if you want to be rich write a book. Some publishing houses or small presses won’t give an author an advance anymore, and if they do, it isn’t much.

Traditional publishing asks a lot of writers who want to be published:

  1. Query an agent. This could take months, if not years.
  2. Go through edits with said agent, if you’re lucky enough to follow the lengthy guidelines required to query each agent and have one sign you.
  3. Wait for your agent to sell your book. If she can. And that’s contingent on a few things: what kind of book you wrote, what’s selling, and what other agents are peddling. There are not many editors to go around.
  4. Then you might have to go through more edits with that editor.
  5. Wait a year for publication.
  6. Market your own book (with a cover you may not like and edits you don’t agree with, but you wanted to be traditionally published, right?).
  7. Make a fraction of book sales because your agent and publishing house take a percentage off the top.
  8. Hope your first book sells so maybe your agent and editor will take a look at another book.

Never mind that after you’ve gone through all of that, depending on what kind of contract you signed, your book isn’t yours anymore; your rights are gone.

To be honest, the more I learn about traditional publishing, the less it appeals to me. And to other writers. And where do writers turn when they want to publish, but don’t want to go the traditional route?

Amazon.

To be clear, publishing with an Amazon imprint is still considered being traditionally published. You can’t be considered without an agent. Which does make me a bit confused. If agents are so vocal about Amazon ruining traditional publishing, how will an author find an agent willing to submit their manuscript?

I listen to Print Run Podcast and the two agents who host make it clear how they feel about Amazon, Amazon’s view on books, and what they are doing to publishing as a whole. Take a listen to their latest episode where they discuss the Koontz defection, and cross them off your querying list if you want a deal with Thomas & Mercer or Montlake.

And that brings us back to what traditional publishing thinks we should do. As authors, we want our work read, not shoved under our bed because an agent’s intern was having a bad day and rejected our query.

We turn to Amazon as self-publishing authors.

But that isn’t what enrages the traditional publishing industry. What makes them so mad is that authors who publish on Amazon are making money, and there’s nothing they can say about it, or anything to defend themselves. I’ve seen proof of writers who can make good money publishing quality books. Consistently.

Living wage money.

In traditional publishing, where does the money go? To the CEOs of the huge corporations that own the publishing houses, and to the big authors who earned the gigantic advances. There is no mid-list in publishing anymore. We’re all over on Amazon earning 70% royalties and keeping our rights to our books.

Yet, somehow this is all Amazon’s fault. Mostly because Amazon is accused of not caring about books. It’s brought up time and again Jeff Bezos started moving books because they are compact and couldn’t break.

The traditional publishing houses, and anyone associated with them, holds on to the philosophy Amazon doesn’t care about books. I can say the same about the traditional publishing industry, too. If a book doesn’t sell, you’re out. Your career, too. There are no second chances, no molding of careers. Can an industry who doesn’t pay their authors, or help them sell their books, say they care about the writer or the book? They aren’t publishing for art, they’re publishing for money, and authors aren’t getting a piece of the pie. Caring about a book and caring about selling a book are two different things, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I love my books. I love selling them, too.

Maybe books are loss leader on Amazon, but that doesn’t change the fact that Amazon gives every writer something that an agent or traditional publisher won’t or can’t.

A chance.

A lot of authors take that chance and turn it into a four, five, or six figure career.

And Amazon is the bad guy?

I get Amazon lets too many things slide: book stuffers, plagiarism, letting indie authors publish crap that wastes customer dollars if they don’t look closely enough at the product. But the thing is, it doesn’t make them any different than any other company. Everyone has bought something brand new from a store that didn’t work when it should have. People buy cheap crap, because stores sell it, all the time. It doesn’t make it right, but Amazon isn’t doing anything new.

You can say they treat their employees like crap, but again how is that different from any other company? We all have not-so-nice things to say about where we work. Walmart is a huge culprit of this. Not long ago it came out that their workers were working off the clock to get all their work done.

Questionable ethics abound. Starbucks employees are racist. McDonald’s serves unhealthy food. Jimmy John’s founder trophy hunts. No one stops drinking coffee, and McDonald’s is still the number one fast food restaurant in the United States.

Authors don’t have a problem making money doing something they love. And if everyone else does, it’s time to do something about it.

Traditional publishing isn’t letting more authors in. Every year they keep more out.
Barnes and Noble is still in shambles, though it would be great if the new owners could give Amazon a run for their money. Apple Books doesn’t seem to be a contender, and you have to jump through more hoops than a circus tiger to publish with Google Play. When I was wide, Draft2Digital wasn’t able to publish my books there.

Everyone can complain about Amazon, but no one is stepping up to compete. Shouldn’t that be what the traditional publishing industry’s job?

Dean Koontz obviously felt that his publishing house wasn’t going to give him what he wanted or needed for the next handful of books in his career.

That’s not Amazon’s fault.

Amazon may not love books, but they are forward-thinking and are willing to pay authors for their work.

What do you have to say, traditional publishing industry?

Seems like all you can do is point fingers when you’re the only one in the room who can do something.

Untitled design

All this paper is good for something. I’d rather write another book for my backlist than take the time to query agents who will reject me.

I may have vented some frustration with Amazon in the past, but the truth is, writers should go where the money is, and for now that’s KU for the page reads and a 70% royalty  for self-publishers (or an imprint if you can get it). With no one else willing to give authors competitive alternatives, I’ll take my chances.

And instead of writing 500 query letters, I’ll take that time to write another book.


It’s important to note that in some genres it makes more sense to query. I write Contemporary Romance. That’s one of the top genres that does well in the self-publishing space. YA fantasy, middle grade, and picture books do better when you can take the time to query. I’m not saying you can’t self-publish, but those kinds of books require a different kind of marketing, and you’ll need to do your research and make sure you understand how you’re going to reach your audience once your book is self-published. Always research the best way to publish your books.


There’s a lot of opinion on the state of publishing and whether or not querying is a viable option. Amazon is accused of not caring about books, and training readers to want free things. Traditional publishing is accused of not moving forward and staying in the past. It’s interesting to take a look at all angles and read different sides to different stories. For more reading look here:

You can read another opinion piece from the New Yorker, here.

This is a great read on both sides. PUBLISHING INDUSTRY NEWS
Amazon’s Influence on Authors & the Publishing Industry

Stay Away From Traditional Book Publishing by Dean Wesley Smith

All of Nothing’s make over.

I first blogged about All of Nothing getting a face lift last week, or was it the week before? I’m not sure, but you can look here, if you’d like to read the initial post. I said I was going to go over what I’m going to do to breathe a little life into the book.

The first thing I did is redo the cover. It went from this:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

To this:

all of nothing second coverjpg

I would say that’s an improvement. I don’t have the proof yet, and I suppose writing a blog post about the cover without the proof seems to be a bit too forward thinking, but that’s okay. I can post it when I get it. I know the title doesn’t seem to be centered, but uploading it into KDP Print proved to be one over-correction after another. The title may very well be too much to the left, but what’s what the proof is for.

At any rate, covers can go through a lot of revisions and just all around bad ideas before an epiphany is realized and you think of what you wanted to do all along, or you stumble upon the perfect couple at 2am when you shouldn’t have been awake anyway.

The first cover I came up with looked like this:

all of nothing second cover FULL TITLE

No one liked it. I put it on the Indie Book Cover FB group for feedback and while no one had anything BAD to say, no one liked it, either, and everyone agreed to take out A NOVEL at the bottom. I think I came up with a nice tagline to put in its place.

It left me a bit stymied because it has a grittier feel than what I had before, and gritty and kind of mean, more alpha, bad boy, asshole was what I was going for.

But I’m glad I posted it and listened to the feedback because one poster said she bought a premade using the same guy. She even gave me the name of the site. It’s a closed group, so out of respect I won’t post the cover, but I’ll give you the website and you can take a peek yourself if you want to see the cover she bought.

I played around with it some, putting into play some of the advice I received from the group; doing something different with the tint, but overall, I guess I felt it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do after all, I gave up for a little while.

all of nothing take two

That wasn’t even all that bad . . . but that’s okay. Trying out new things until you stumble upon something else that could be better is part of the creative process.

Going through DepositPhotos one day I came across this couple:

couple in elevator two

A lot of what goes through my head when I look at photos is, what is the steam level? That was one of the things I was aiming to up on this cover: fully clothed models weren’t depicting what my books were about. Where can I put my the title? Where can I put my name? With my limited skills, what can I do to it to make it stand out? This is important because my skills are LIMITED. I can only do so much in GIMP, and I need to know if the picture is decent as is, and if it’s not, what needs to change? A cluttered background? Can I get rid of that zooming in? The color? How real are the models. Do they look too model-y, or too human? A nice medium is what I shoot for. I probably looked at this couple while looking for others and I passed them by. Until almost a fully-formed cover with these two popped into my head, and I was able to create almost a perfect cover in half a hour.

I used what little skills I have in GIMP to fade the top and the bottom and using a few tips I learned from my friend Aila’s blog post about Canva, I was able to make the rest there.

Next week I’ll take you through how I rewrote the blurb and my process for doing it!

Plus, on Monday, I’m doing an author interview with my friend, Tom, whom I met at the Sell More Books Show Summit! His debut book will be live Monday, and I’m so happy to be part of his launch! Look for an awesome interview with him, and a $25 Amazon ecard giveaway, too!

Author Interview with tom willoughby


Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying your week! I haven’t made much progress on my 3rd book in my series, as these days off this week just have flown by (plus the weather is gorgeous and I’ve been spending time outside!) but I still plan to have it done by the weekend. 12-15,000 words left. We will see! Wish me luck. 🙂

thank you for your patince

 

Downtime. Not doing a damn thing.

You know how it is. You have a long list of things you could be doing. As writer, publisher, and entrepreneur, that list is long. There’s always something, and writing new words is right on top.

What’s after writing?

  • Writing a blurb.
  • Looking at hot guys stock photos
  • Reading a non-fiction book
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Beta reading
  • Reading  a book in your genre
  • Creating an ad (after you’ve read the book about it, of course)
  • Blogging, reading and commenting on other people’s blogs

But sometimes you turn on your laptop, a cat crawls into your lap, and boom. You’re tired, and you’d rather watch the next episode of Outlander than see if your blurb is converting (if you don’t know what that means, you need to read Mastering Amazon Descriptions: An Author’s Guide: Copywriting for Authors by Brian D. Meeks. Another thing you can add to your list! Yay!)  I’m sure Diana Gabaldon thanks you. But I probably should point out that without her writing the words, there would be no show. Maybe Outlander was a bad example.

I’m in that predicament tonight. The things that I could be doing right now? Working on the new cover for All of Nothing. Working on the blurb. Writing more words for the third book in my Wedding Party series.

Instead I’m sitting with a fan blowing on me. I’m a little nauseated from sipping too much Prosecco on an empty stomach. I was grinding my teeth in my sleep last night so I have a toothache on the left side of my jaw, top and bottom, that feels a little more than mild, and all in all, I’m just tired.

And feeling like this is always a conundrum. Do you give in, or push through? Give in and practice a little #selfcare, or do you, in fact, get some shit done?

I suppose it depends on where you are in your schedule. Don’t have one? Well, nothing gets done simply by dreaming, and if you give yourself a pass too many times, you’ll end up with a handful of days where nothing got accomplished. A schedule isn’t a bad thing.You need to be a self starter and self motivator if you want to keep getting your stuff done. It can keep you on track. A schedule or a plan can at least be a guide in that if you do start letting too many days go by, you can tap yourself on the back and ask yourself what the heck is going on.

Taking a break to breathe is advisable, but if you want books to publish, you have to write them, too.

I could put on some coffee and at least get one or two small things done. Work on my blurb. Look over what I have for my cover. I’d like to swap them out so the book is ready to go when I put all my books back into KU next month. The cover is going well, and I’ll update you on that probably Thursday. I’ll be swapping out the cover for IngramSpark, too, so that will be lovely, though I’m getting used to the IS user interface and dealing with the cover template isn’t so hard anymore.

I had a soft deadline of getting book three done by the end of the month. I’ll be close, but maybe not finished. But that’s okay. Without the deadline I probably wouldn’t have made as much progress as I did. I’m proud the book is almost done. It’s a good book with a strong plot and relateable characters. It seems crazy to say that I’ll have finished three books this year.

But I guess that’s the point of this blog post. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that had I given myself too much downtime.

For tonight I’ll try to calm my stomach down, make some coffee, and see if I can check one thing off the list before going to bed.

I’m going to a writer’s meeting tomorrow, so that should be interesting. I’m not a joiner, and while I know the value of networking, I can’t lie. More than a little bit of me wants to skip it.

When you decided to be a writer, did you know how many people would be involved?

I didn’t either.

I feel like I should offer you something since you made it this far and have given me 15 minutes of your time or so, so I’ll end my blog post with this.

I recently read Make Money on Medium: Build Your Audience and Grow Your Income with Medium.com. I’m always open to new things, but after reading the book I realized I don’t want to write for Medium–I like blogging for the audience I already have. But whether you’re a blogger or a Medium writer, Nicole gives some good tips for what to write, how to write, and headlines. I’ll share one little tip that she tells her readers about, and that is a blog title, or headline evaluator.

Headlines or titles are important in that you don’t want your readers guessing what your content is about. You could have a GREAT blog post, but no one will read it if you title it something weird. (That goes for book titles too, but that would be a different blog post.)

There are a few headline generators, and you can Google them.

Coschedule.com will analyze your title (if you give them a few pieces of info about yourself and your business) and tell you if it’s too weak. It didn’t like the title I came up with for this blog post:

blogtitle analyzer

Nicole suggests that you want your book to be at 80 or better. She even admits that she might spend more time thinking up a good headline or title than actually writing the post. That seems crazy, but on the other hand, no one is going to read what’s inside if the title isn’t appropriate, so she isn’t that far off the mark. Being she’s a HUGELY popular writer on Medium, I would take her word for it.

You can plug in titles forever, but just to see what I could do, I changed my title:

blogtitle analyzer2

That’s actually a vast improvement, but a lie. That’s not what this post is about. Mainly it’s about not feeling guilty if you don’t feel like doing anything, but also keeping those feelings under control so your to-do list doesn’t look like Mount Kilimanjaro by the end of the week/month/year. Everyone knows how fast time goes.

Anyway, if you’re interested in writing for Medium.com I suggest you take a look at Nicole’s book. She offers you some great tips on how to get started, how to follow and pick up followers, and how to write for a pub. If you’re on the fence about blogging, but feel you should be giving out content in some way to get your name out there, writing for Medium could be a good way to do that.

What am I going to do now? I still haven’t shaken off my blahs, but I did take some Aleve for my mouth and made a cup of coffee.  I could work on my blurb or watch another episode of Outlander.

I’ll let you guess which one.

Have a great week!

thank you for your patince