When Authors Act Out Online

Last week there was a bit of drama when an author lashed out on Twitter at readers for leaving less than a five star review. Of course everyone was offended, and in true form, went to her Goodreads book profile and slammed it with one star reviews in retaliation.

When stuff like this happens, it’s always a train wreck, and we can’t look away as the author goes down in flames.

This isn’t the first time an author has behaved badly on social media–I recall the author who had their book deal terminated because she tweeted a derogatory remark about a Black woman eating on a train.

We’ve probably all had our fair share of cutting it close on social media–pressing an opinion on someone who doesn’t want to hear it, posting about religion, politics, or a hot take about COVID. Lots of authors say they should be able to post whatever they like, and to a point, I believe that, too. My personal Facebook profile is public and I post memes that have the F word in them–a lot. I have a dry sense of humor, but I try not to share anything that would be offensive (I don’t spread racism or body-shaming and wouldn’t even if I wasn’t an author). I support a lot of wildlife rescues, and if you follow my feed long enough, you’ll see that I love bats and foxes. On Twitter I get into spats–someone called me a twat the other day because I defended Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series–and if you ask for an opinion, I’ll give you mine. If I hate your cover, yessir, I will let you know. It’s not my problem if you agree with it or not, but I’ll tell you straight.

One thing we don’t consider is the state of an author’s mental health when they lash out. When I read all the drama that author put on herself–slamming those reviewers for less than five star reviews–I didn’t automatically call her a bitch or entitled. I thought, what is that author going through she has to lash out because of a good review? What is that author’s life like? Does she see a therapist? Is she on medication? Did she just go through a breakup? Did the stress of launching of her book make her snap? If you comb through some tweets, someone reveals the author was high and tweeting in the middle of the night. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn’t be the first time an author, or anyone for that matter, has been drunk or high and posted something they later regretted. Drunk-texting an ex and begging him to come back isn’t the same as tweeting something so terrible it could ruin your career, but you get my meaning.

Authors are already a lonely bunch, and I haven’t met many writers who are actually in a good place mental-health wise. They’re only good at hiding that they aren’t. Even the woman who called me a twat defaulted to rage someone had the audacity to disagree with her. That’s a lot of anger built up to attack someone you don’t know for having a differing opinion. I would imagine this author has been querying for a while and hasn’t managed to grab a book deal and she’s furious someone like Stephenie could not only secure a book deal, but became an international bestseller and was offered a movie deal, too. Maybe anger isn’t a mental health issue, but anger management is in the behavioral health department, and this author should find some help.

Anyway, I got a little off track there. The whole point of this blog post is that things aren’t always what they seem, and I hope I wasn’t the only one to have given this author the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s misplaced and she does feel entitled to 5 star reviews, but I tend to think this last year has been hard on everyone, and not enough people are giving others grace. The world is a huge place, but when we are stuck in our little bubbles, it’s hard to walk a mile in someone’s shoes–especially if we’ve been under lockdown for the past 12 months.

I don’t know what this will do to her career. I Googled a bit, but at the time of this writing, there isn’t a blog post or article I can reference that even speculates. I don’t know what her publisher will do, or if she has a PR manager who can do damage control or if they’re interested in doing that. I do know she’s lucky in that something will take her place–I’ve already heard grumblings about the Vivian finalists that the RWA put out a couple days ago. I didn’t renew my membership so I don’t know what book title is evoking the anger (something about a serial killer romcom?), but #romancelandia will be interesting to watch coming up.

What can you do to keep your social media on track?

  • Pause before you tweet or post. I’m always taken with this poster in my clinic’s office when I check in. If what you’re going to to post isn’t any of those things, maybe you don’t need to put it out into the world.
Think before you speak: 
Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
  • Double check what you’re posting on social media is the message you want to convey to the people who follow you. A lot of authors don’t know what their brand is, and I’m not really any different. To the indie authors in the community, I want to be seen as helpful, kind, supportive. I don’t want to be known as someone who is willing to make a buck off iffy information, and trust me there is a lot of that out there. I’ll tell the truth. If you’re cover isn’t working for the genre, it’s not working. If it looks homemade, I’ll tell you. That may not be seen as kind if it’s not the feedback you’re looking for, but there is a huge gap between Writer Twitter and the professionals in the Facebook groups I’m a part of who are making a living wage with their books. I’m not looking to bridge that gap, but if I can help one person make one more sale than they would have, then speaking up is worth it.
  • What are your social media goals? I’m on social media to have fun, network, learn new things about the industry, and drive readers to my blog. I don’t have a reader group on FB (yet), I post what I want on IG without regard to trying to find readers. There is a strong romance community (that I have found, anyway) but it mostly consists of writers sharing the romance novels that they love to read when they aren’t writing. It takes a while to realize that social media (free book marketing) doesn’t work as well as it used to.

If you’re angry, you may not take that pause before lashing out, or maybe you need to vent and have no where to put it but a long FB post. Censoring yourself may be one the hardest things you can do if you feel passionately about something, but the last thing you want to do is lose out on a networking opportunity or a collaboration, or even a book deal if that’s what you want because of something you said in a moment of weakness online.

Mental health is a serious issue, but if you follow along with that author who lashed out and see what other writers and book bloggers did to her book on her Goodreads profile not everyone is willing to give the benefit of the doubt or a second chance. I realize you can’t live your life in fear, but you can think about what you’re projecting out into the world. That might actually help your mental health in the long run.

Do you want to read more about the mental health of writers? Look here.

The Writing Life: Writers and Mental Health

Shattering the Misery Myth: How to Nurture Your Mental Health as a Writer

Thursday Thoughts, Clubhouse, and Time to Think.

It seems all anyone can talk about these days is Clubhouse, and I was lucky enough to be invited into the app exclusive for iPhone users (thanks Aidy!). If you haven’t heard of Clubhouse, it’s an app where you can drop in on any room of your choosing and be a fly on the wall. I’m a part of a couple of indie writing rooms and a publishing room. One of the rooms, or I guess “club”, is hosted by my Level Up Romance Group on Facebook. There I get to listen to the speakers “on stage” chat about whatever topic they’ve decided on (today it was Kindle’s new platform Vella, but that’s a different blog post). It’s not scripted, not like a podcast where the interviewer answers questions previously given to them by the hosts. It’s fashioned as more of a chat/discussion, or if you’ve ever been to a conference (not just a writing conference but any professional conference) I liken it to dropping into a breakout session and listening in. If you don’t get anything out of it, or you need to attend a different session, you can slip out the door, or in the app’s case, you can press on “leave quietly” and leave the room.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of this app–I’ve never spoken and haven’t been invited to. (My area of expertise is limited and I’m not making any money selling books so I doubt an invitation will be forthcoming in the near future.) I’m still learning how to move about the app (or hallways), and the first time I attended a room, I was scared to blow my nose because I wasn’t sure if I was muted or not. (Unless you’re invited to speak, you are, but it’s up to you to unmute yourself when it’s your turn to contribute.)

As you can imagine, there is a lot of information passed along these casual chats and it feeds right into my Fear Of Missing Out.

I present myself as a pretty stable individual mental-health wise, and for the most part, I am. But when it comes to the indie publishing industry and all the information out there, I have a desperate fear of missing out on the NEXT NEW THING. How are authors making money, what are they doing, what are they trying? I can get a bit obsessive when it comes to gathering information, and it’s only been in the past six months or so where I’ve tried, consciously tried, to loosen the reins and dump some Facebook groups. I don’t listen to nearly as many podcasts as I used to, either. I haven’t listened to Joanna Penn for quite some time, and it’s been while since I listened to the Wish I’d Known Then podcast hosted by Jami Albright and Sara Rosett, though that one should be at the top of my list since they both write romance and interview romance authors on the regular. I don’t listen to The Sell More Books Show since Jim Kukral left. I don’t care for the new format (no offense, Bryan!) and I don’t click with H. Claire Taylor, Bryan’s new cohost. The only podcast that I listen to every week is the 6 Figure Author podcast. I like Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea, though if it’s just the three of them talking, sometimes their information can get a bit repetitive, and I’m not always interested in their guests, though they are more business-minded than some podcasts I’ve listened to about publishing (recently they interviewed Joe Solari).

The reason why I stopped listening to so many podcasts is because if I listened to as many as I think I needed I wanted, or as many as are available, my mind would not rest. I need the time unplugged to think about my books. I need the time to mull over my plots, what my characters are doing, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. If I constantly have a voice yipping in my ear, my brain can’t wander, I can’t brainstorm, and my books will never get done.

There isn’t only one way to write a book, but this is my way. It helps me keep writer’s block at bay. There is no quicker way for me to shut down than if I sit at my computer and I don’t know what I need to write during that session. I call myself a planster, and I plot as I go along, and for me, that does mean knowing what I need to write that day even if I don’t know what I need tomorrow.

This applies to blog posts too. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say on the drive home from dropping my daughter off at school. I never would have had that time if I would have been listening to a Clubhouse meeting or a podcast. Sometimes even music takes away the space in my brain, and in the past I’ve been able to write with music in the background, but I’m moving away from that and writing in silence more and more.

So, enter Clubhouse and my need to know everything. So far the app is new, and there aren’t many rooms you can join, which is a good thing for me. To add to the urgency, rooms aren’t recorded. Either you can join and listen at that moment or you can’t. At least with a podcast, webinar (most offer replays though you can’t join in with a live Q & A session), or even a YouTube video, you can listen at your leisure. While Clubhouse could be a fabulous resource for authors down the road (especially once they are out of beta and you don’t need an invite to join) FOMO is real for a lot of people, and it will be interesting to see how others handle their time.

I don’t know everyone who is on stage most of the time, I know a few of the authors who speak, and they are all full-time authors. I mean, if you’re making ten grand a month on your books, I guess you can feel like you can make time to listen and join the rooms. I need all of my writing time still, because I work full time, have three cats (one of which is always needing something) two kids, and a social life. I need time to shut my brain off or my books won’t get written.

Time to think about your stories and blog posts and other content you share on social media is important, and I need to remind myself constantly that I don’t need to know everything. I like knowing what’s going on in the industry, especially romance. I probably wouldn’t have started writing in first person present had I not been keeping my ear to the ground. I wouldn’t have gone with MailerLite if it wasn’t the most recommended newsletter aggregator. Chances are if I wasn’t paying attention to the indie news in general, I wouldn’t have known to ask for a Clubhouse invite in the first place.

But I have to make sure I have space in my brain for books–which is doubly difficult if you’re already worried about something going on in your life. For me, it’s my health, but I’m slowly getting back to normal there, and eventually that space can be taken up with something else–hopefully nothing quite so serious. The next time I need an oil change, maybe, or when I need to make an appointment for a hair trim. It’s emotionally exhausting worrying about something, and when you can find quiet, it’s best to take it instead of cuing up a podcast or joining a room on Clubhouse.

It’s all about finding that elusive balance.

And that’s always easier said than done.

All stock photos supplied by Canva Pro.

First Person POV Blurbs: A debate?

Writer Twitter is always so interesting to me. Not because I like to stir up a debate (or sit back and watch), but I am honestly curious what people are passionate about in the writing and publishing community. Especially since most the opinions are coming from writers who are trying to read like readers but really read like writers. This one caught my eye just because it’s something I’ll be dealing with soon:

Does the POV of your blurb match the POV of your story?

At some point, people started complaining because blurbs were in 3rd while the book was in 1st and that was "misleading", so authors started matching the POV and I HATE IT.

BLURBS ARE WRITTEN IN THIRD PERSON.

This author (whom I didn’t identify so she didn’t feel called out) could even have taken it one step further: Blurbs are written in third person present, which is actually even more messed up if you think about it. I guess the present tense of a third person blurb is supposed to incite an urgency in the plot that encourages readers to buy the book to satisfy their curiosity.

It took me a long time to come around to any kind of first person POV thinking, especially when it came to romance. I wrote about the shift way back in July of 2019, and as I had predicted that it wasn’t going anywhere, most steamy romance now is written in dual first person present. I rebelled, and then last year I finally came around. Does third person past romance sell? Well, my abysmal sales aren’t the main reason why I changed (anyone can tell you correlation does not equal causation), but I’m thinking writing third person past when first person present is popular didn’t help any. Writing and publishing is hard enough as it is during the best of times, there’s no reason to make it any harder on yourself.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of first person billionaire romances for research (read: I’m not doing it right) and as a reader searching for her next book to read, I assume if the blurb is in third person, the book will be, too. Most first person billionaire romances have first person blurbs, and those are the ones I zero in on when searching for a new book to read.


As a reader who's been reading 1st person books to stay in the 1st person POV while I write, if I see a blurb written in 3rd person I'll skip it thinking the book is written in 3rd person. As more romance is being written in dual 1st person POV, I think blurbs will change too.


I guess I don’t understand this because blurbs are traditionally written in third person no matter the POV of the book. This thing where people are writing blurbs in any POV besides third is new.

I had a little back and forth with her as you can see, (and if you want to read the whole thread and others’ responses, you can click here) and I zeroed in on one word she used: traditionally. I think it’s safe to say that with indie publishing, a lot of what we used to know has gone out the window and publishing is changing. I used to gripe a lot about it, in a “Get off my lawn” kind of way, but while you can focus on the negatives that indie publishing created (lack of quality in books, poor covers, authors publishing novellas and short stories rather than full-length novels) there are a lot of positives too (no gatekeepers, flexibility to write and publish what you want). Traditional publishing will always lag behind whatever indies do, if they even choose to adopt whatever practice indies have picked up. One day traditional publishers might start using first person blurbs for first person books.

Like anything, a first person blurb has to be well-written. I’ve read lots of icky third person blurbs, and lots of icky first person blurbs–especially first person teasers on Facebook ads. (Ooof! If you don’t get your ad teaser right, you’ll never sell any books.) You have to write a good blurb, period, or you lose a potential reader no matter what POV you’ve written your book in.

To me, it makes sense to match your blurb’s POV to your book. It’s a smart marketing tactic since a lot of readers still prefer one over the other and you don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

Want more opinions?

Marketing Copy: The First- Versus Third-Person Debate by Jan O’Hara


As you can see, I’ve stopped posting my graphic with all my books on it that linked to my Amazon page author page. I don’t blog for readers, I don’t even blog about romance all that much, and I mainly posted my graphic as social proof that yes, I am part of the writing and publishing community because look I have written and published. But as I have veered off from my Vania Rheault author name and will focus on VM Rheault in the coming months (maybe years) I’ve stopped posting my books’ graphic. What will go here instead? I’m not sure. I’m exploring logos right now, futzing around in Canva looking to make my own that will identify my brand as a billionaire romance author. I don’t particularly want to hire out for this, and I’ve been looking up examples online and experimenting with what I like and what I want my brand to be going forward. I have come to realize, too, that if I want to use a website as a newsletter sign up vehicle, I’ll have to create a new website for my pen name, even if it is just a home page with a pop up box.

I may end up just writing out my name and begin to “sign” my blog posts as with this blog, I have nothing to sell. I can keep my Vania’s Books page up and I can keep it updated, though I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever write another 3rd person book. I did have a lovely idea for a 3rd person book I was going to write before the plot of my 6-book first person series plopped into my head last year and I wrote like a mad woman to get it all onto the page. The ideas are there–it’s the time and my general lack of direction right now that will hold me up. In the meantime, I’ll leave the end of my blog posts blank, and if you have an idea what I can put here, or if you want to see my books’ graphic come back, let me know.

Thursday Updates: Indie Publishing’s Reputation, and more.

Lately, I feel like I don’t have time to get anything done. I’ve been doing a lot of vet stuff for my cat–she ended up going to the animal ER because the antibiotics she was on a couple weeks ago didn’t work. She’ll need to be on special food for the rest of her life and that is going to be a long, hard road (especially since she’s only three years old). She’s on pain medication now and another round of antibiotics, but time will only tell if the special diet will take care of her bladder issues. It’s been a little time-consuming, and I haven’t gotten much done on my next project as I’d like.

Here’s a picture of her sleeping after a dose of pain medication. She matches our couch almost perfectly.


In other news, I did start a new project, and I chose the “fake fiancee” trope. He needs a fake fiancee to win a bet, and we’ll see what happens. I’m 10k into it. I wanted to try a fresh take on the trope and tried to think outside the box. I didn’t want my hero to need a fiancee to inherit a boat-load of money, or to appease a dying parent. A bet may not be that original, but with his backstory, and why my heroine needs the cash he’ll pay her, I’m hoping this story will be something new that readers will enjoy.

I’m still not sure if this will be the cover for my ugly duckling romance–I need to work shop it in a covers group on FB and see what people think. I like it, though it’s not exactly what’s out there right now. (Mostly a single guy in a suit looking ticked off with a bold font.) I’ve shown it off before on the blog, but this time I’ve zoomed in on the couple a little more. I love the font, but maybe going with something more easily read will be the end result. Or I could be trolling Deposit Photos and find a completely different couple. Who knows?

While I’m doing that, I sent it to my (paid) beta reader, and she’s going to do her thing. I’ll format it myself in Canva, and I still need to learn MailerLite. I know, I know.

If you want a list of fake relationship books, BookBub put one together, and you can find it here.


I finished reading another billionaire romance the other day, and I have noticed some things that bother me while I’ve been reading through the top 100 on Amazon. For one thing, the characters are really young, and I touched on that subject in a previous blog post. In the book I finished reading, the hero was 28 and the heroine was 21. The book takes place over the time span of a year and a half, which makes the heroine roughly 23 by the end of the book, and at the end, she’s having a baby. I don’t know about you, but at twenty-three, I wasn’t thinking about babies, and the end of the book felt false to me. A happily ever after doesn’t always have to include children. In fact, because of their histories, some of my couples have agreed not to have children, even though they are old enough to want them and afford them. I’ve been guilty of giving my couples pregnancies–she ends up pregnant at the end of The Years Between Us and All of Nothing. There is a lot of baby talk among my characters in my Rocky Point Wedding series, but for the most part, they are agreeing they don’t want (biological) children. I’m not saying couples who want kids at the end of romance books are not to my liking, but when the characters are that young, I’m almost wincing with dismay. Live a little first, figure out who you are as a couple without kids. Sound advice, even in real life. This is only an opinion, but if an author wants their characters to start a family right away, it would be simple to age them up to an appropriate age for that.

My characters fall between 35-45 years of age, for the most part. In The Years Between Us, she was younger, only because the trope was younger woman/older man. The first person present series I finished that I’ve been sitting on for the past few months, they are younger, but they don’t talk about babies. It’s been a bit of resting for me with that story, but if I remember correctly, they don’t talk about babies at all. I like babies, in real life, and in books, but I think it helps the relatability and realistic factors if the characters are actually old enough to want to have them. What do you think?


Just one last thing I’m going to touch on in this blog post. I was on Twitter the other day and came upon this Wall Street Journal article: An Epidemic of Memoir-Writing. The lockdowns have spread of virus of non-memorable life stories, by Peter Funt. It wasn’t that this is ground-breaking news. Even in the fiction community, output of authors rose exponentially during the pandemic and saturated indie publishing. But what I found interesting was this grab from the article: “Andy Ross, an Oakland, Calif., agent, says, ‘I get multiple proposals for memoirs every day of the year, including Christmas. Most of the stuff is terrible, so it ends up with Kindle.'”

Guys, we’re never going to get past the stigma of indie publishing if we don’t start putting some effort into the things we publish. Indie publishing will always look like a last resort for people who don’t take the time to polish what they have before publishing. This is really disheartening to read because most authors I know do put 110% of effort into everything they publish. Writing is hard, and you can’t do it alone. You need critique partners, beta readers, editors. You have be willing to ask for and process feedback, whether it’s negative or positive.

If you want to learn more about writing a memoir, you can look here. Reedsy just happened to pop something into my email today and I’ll share it with you: What is a Memoir? True Life Stories, Minus the Boring Parts.

That’s all I have for today! Enjoy the rest of your week, and have a wonderful weekend!

Keeping Your Focus: Shiny Object Syndrome

When there is so much you can (and should) be doing as an indie author, it’s difficult to keep your focus. Writing should come first, though sometimes it doesn’t, and when you let other things get in the way you can suddenly look up and see that several days have passed and you haven’t written a single thing. And by other things I don’t mean laundry or family activities. I mean making graphics for your Facebook ads, searching for keywords and making ads on Amazon, watching craft videos on YouTube and an assortment of other things that are important to your business but can take time away from your writing.

Another issue that plagues writers is the shiny object syndrome. Writing is hard, and it’s tempting to chuck a current project and start something new. Beginnings for some are a lot easier than finding your way through the murky middle of a book or you finished a project and don’t care to edit it because you ignored a couple of major problems you didn’t, and still don’t, know how to fix.

The problem is though that if you let your shiny object syndrome go on for too long, all you’ll have is a computer full of half finished projects and no clear idea of how to move forward.

Last year I realized a rather surprising cause of burnout–lack of progress, lack of moving forward and/or lack of success. When you feel like a hamster on a wheel, it’s no wonder you can get tired quickly.

So what can you do to start moving forward?

  1. Figure out your plan. If you’re writing to build an audience you need to publish consistently (in all ways, I’m learning, genre as well as time-wise) even if that’s a book a year. If you’re dabbling, maybe you don’t care as much about completing a project, but even dabblers and hobbyists need to complete projects now and then. Finishing something gives everyone a sense of purpose and satisfaction, and publishing on Amazon, your blog, or a place like Wattpad feeds our need to have readers read our work and supplies the feedback we crave.
  2. Make a list. What are all the projects you have going right now? What projects do you have simmering in the back of your mind? Make a list of the projects that are sitting on your computer in various stages of completion, then make a list of what you’d like to write in the future. Many authors have a file full of ideas to draw from when they are ready to start a new project. You won’t feel like you’re missing out on a great idea–you can always come back to it once your plate is clear.
  3. What is your closest project to completion? If you choose a project that’s almost done, finishing it will be that much faster. Then you can let a beta reader read it, workshop it with a critique partner, or post it on your blog.
  4. Create a cover for it. These days it doesn’t matter if it’s just an extra epilogue for a newsletter sign up, or a short story, everything needs a cover these days, and you can find motivation and inspiration to finish that project if you create a cover for it with the idea that one day soon you’ll publish it. Canva makes it easy to look at templates and experiment with font and font placement. Just be careful that you don’t spend too much time doing that. A project that will never get done doesn’t need a cover.

I have a lot of projects on my computer, almost 9 books in various stages of edits. I’ll get them done, but like in my blog post musing about publishing and launch plans, I need to figure some things out. I need to publish something soon, so I can find the high again. There is nothing, NOTHING, like holding the proof of your paperback book in your hands. I’m going to try to do a better job of putting my work out there on social media. Never been afraid to blow your own horn. Not many will do it for you!

I was trolling Twitter while I took a break writing this post, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Focusing your energy and your attention is hard–there is so much outside stimulation vying for it–but it will be worth it in the end when you can check off items one by one on your list.

That is a great feeling to propel you to finish even more things!

Good luck!

Want to read more about shiny object syndrome? Check these out!

Do You Have ‘Shiny Object’ Syndrome? What It Is and How to Beat It

5 Ways to Resist Bright Shiny Object Syndrome and Finish What You Start

Thursday Thoughts: Would you ever leave the writing community behind?

I woke up to a shock yesterday morning: a writing friend blogged a goodbye. She’s leaving the writing community for now and is focusing on other areas of her life. She said many predicted this, but even after all her troubles, I wasn’t one of them.

Why would anyone leave the writing community? She’s not the first friend I have who will disappear, nor will she be the last. I have a friend who wrote a dystopian YA novel and what happened when her publishing house sent out arcs is similar to what happened to Amélie Wen Zhao when she pulled her novel because of racist accusations. My friend isn’t writing anymore and I don’t know if she ever will again.

This industry isn’t for the weak or thin-skinned. It isn’t for the cowardly. I had to find my own courage when that high-profile author bullied me and I don’t think I would have been able to had I been an impressionable twenty-something scared to make enemies. (As a jaded forty-five year old woman who can separate her online life from her real life, it was still difficult for me. I can’t imagine the harm this author has done if she’s targeted other authors.) Even reading reviews from nasty readers can be a lesson in humility, or downright painful, feeling like a 100 lashes of a whip for simply trying to publish a good book.

I have bemoaned many a time about the circus this industry has become, and it’s easy to grow bitter thinking of all the fiery hoops you have to jump through just to find and keep readers these days. It’s not enough to publish a good book, buy some ads, and sit back and enjoy readers reading your story. Newsletters and swaps, reader magnets and websites, and not only do you have learn how to do all that, you have to pay for it too. Newsletter aggregators, and reader magnet aggregators, website hosting, website emails and so much more that it can take years of writing and publishing to break even much less make a small profit off your words.

Of course, you don’t have to do any of that. You can try to find a happy medium of writing and publishing for your own pleasure and if you can make a bit of money along the way and earn a few positive reviews, that’s enough for some people. Honestly, with the way the industry is, it should be enough for everyone.

I don’t plan to leave–like many writers, I’ve been writing in some way all my life, from writing my first short story in sixth grade or winning a voucher in ninth grade to a clothing boutique for an essay about patriotism to graduating with a bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing. Words are in my blood, but I am trying to balance my life just a little bit more. It’s not necessary to write six books a year (like I did in 2020) and I’m trying to spend more time with family and friends, read more books, and watch movies I haven’t made time to see.

I’m as scared to walk away from writing and the community I’ve built for myself over the years as I am to keep going.

Do writers walk away because they’re unsuccessful? Maybe. Do writers walk away because writing is hard and for the most part, lonely? Probably.

Craig Martelle posted this yesterday, and it seemed so fitting. Give a listen to him talk about The Unsuccessful. Do you think about giving up? If you do, why? Writing and publishing is hard, but you can potentially make it harder for yourself if you keep doing the wrong things over and over again. Learning from my mistakes has been the number one priority for this new year. Putting those lessons into practice will be easier said than done, and seeing the results won’t happen for months to come, even if I finally get it right.


In case you missed it, I had Reedsy’s Savannah Cordova on my blog Monday, and you can read it here.


Thanks for reading today and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! See you Monday!

Reedsy’s Savannah Cordova: How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations

I’d like to welcome Savannah Cordova from Reedsy to my blog today! I was so excited when she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in hosting a guest blog post. Of course I said yes! I love Reedsy and all they have to offer indie authors. If you like this post and are interested in others like it, Reedsy hosts its own blog, and you can find it here. Thanks for stopping by today!


How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations
by Savannah Cordova

Having enough acclaim to write a sequel to your book is every writer’s dream — but that doesn’t mean the process comes as easily as the butterflies when you get a crush. There are plenty of critically panned sequels out there, and the pressure can be nerve-wracking: you’re stressed about both living up to the first novel and coming up with something fresh and original.

The best romance novel sequels build on the success of their debuts, while also introducing new concepts, characters, and plot lines — which means that some beloved elements of the first novel might end up on the cutting room floor. A lot to juggle, right? Read on if you’re a romance author in need of some help; here are five tips to help your sequel shine.

1. Identify what your fans loved and focus on it
A great love story is a surefire way for a book to attract a following and take on a life beyond itself. With investment into a fictive world, and the growth of a fandom, come expectations. Expectations that need to be met or, dare I say, exceeded.

To do this successfully, it’s important to analyze what really made your first love story sing. Were people inspired by your fresh twist on that popular romance trope? Was the main love interest setting readers’ hearts aflutter? Did people enjoy the relatability of a certain character’s struggle to accept love? A stellar first romance novel normally has something special to distinguish it from other releases (if you’re feeling brave, reviews of your book might help you on this front). Zero in on this aspect and do your best to tease it out in the sequel.

That said, you shouldn’t be completely cowed by what you think your fans want — it’s your story, after all! Don’t be afraid to challenge their expectations and take the plot in unanticipated directions. It’s even advisable to drop some characters and subplots if they no longer serve a purpose. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as the old adage goes.

2. Introduce new plot threads
Writing a sequel doesn’t always mean picking up where you left off — this can fall into the trap of predictability and boring linearity. You may need to resolve cliffhangers left in your first book, but you should also take the opportunity to explore uncharted waters!

Many romance authors change the who of the story in their sequels (focusing on a new set of protagonists, often secondary characters of the previous book), but keep in mind that you might be better off simply changing the where and when. Great material can be found in illustrating your amorous protagonists adapting to unfamiliar settings and different life challenges, and can allow you to “test” the strength of their romantic relationship.

Another idea is to throw up some roadblocks that will put your characters through their paces, revitalize your narrative, and make space for character development. For example, in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget diverges from the original setting of London and, after a mishap on a vacation in Thailand, ends up in jail — definitely not what she (or readers!) were expecting. However, we learn about Bridget’s resilience, and this scene change also sets the stage for her two suitors to fight over her, in that iconic fountain fight scene.

3. Don’t hesitate to change the stakes
Beware of giving your readers another helping of the exact same dish. It’s fairly easy to change the more episodic events of a story, but what will really give your story fresh dynamism is changing your protagonist’s priorities or stakes. Better yet, doing this without betraying any key qualities of your characters, their principles, or the overall tone will mean the key change won’t seem gratuitous or excessive to the point of unbelievability.

Let’s take Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy as an example. In the second book, following the death of her lover Will, Louisa is dealing with her heartbreak and trying to move on as best she can. After an accident, she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group.

So what’s changed? For one, in grief, she’s a more world-wise, introspective character. She’s also adapting to a new social setting, where she is introduced to handsome and charming fireman, Sam — you can probably see where this is going. The stakes have been altered because of the events that have occurred. She’s recovering from an accident and therefore vulnerable, which no doubt factors into the risks she will take if she is to fall in love again.

4. Develop your characters in interesting ways
You may think you know a character, and then they respond to a situation in a way you never would have anticipated. Surprise is the essence of any great drama, right? Though introductory beats are usually where a good chunk of character information is found, any good novel will treat character development as a continuous process. To do so will give you room to interrogate and deconstruct your characters — and subvert expectations.

Though character development has been touched upon in point #2, consider also how you might want to accentuate a feature (or flaw) of a character that was not touched upon in your first story. This might come naturally if the character has aged, as well as with the general forward-thrust of your plot. Perhaps a softer, more sensitive side to a character is revealed when they become a parent — or a more daring, combative facet of another character comes to the fore when their relationship is threatened by a third party. The list is endless!

5. Expand on the backstory
Even as you’re in the process of driving your plot forward, why not throw in a bit of time traveling via flashbacks? There is more incentive to do this if you’re penning a sequel to the first part of a book that did well — your fans will be invested in your characters and hankering for juicy details on their backstories.

Moreover, elaborating on a character’s origins will give color to their actions, reactions, and decision-making in the present day. For example, in the Bridgerton books and Netflix series, we learn that the Duke of Hastings lost his mother at a young age and had a terrible relationship with his father. From this, we are better equipped to understand his reluctance to marry Daphne Bridgerton — the Duke has trust issues and feels unworthy of her love.

Throwing in some snapshots of life before the present day is often an effective way to understand characters’ psyches and how this factors into a romantic dynamic. In this instance, Daphne and the Duke’s love story is made even more powerful after we learn of the psychological hurdles the Duke has had to overcome to commit himself to their relationship.

And there you have it. Hopefully these ideas will aid your writing process and enhance the next act of your story, as it were. You might even have an entire series under your belt one day!


Thank you, Savannah! Reedsy offers a ton of writing/publishing/marketing resources for indie authors. Check out Ricardo Fayet’s free marketing book here. Reedsy also hosts their own YouTube channel, and you can find it here.

And my favorite part of Reedsy is their straight-to-inbox free courses! Check out all they have to offer here.

Thanks again, Savannah, and have a great week, everyone! Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts: Keeping daily word counts and other bits and pieces.

Keeping a Daily Word Count.

A couple months ago, a romance writer offered a Google spreadsheet to anyone in our romance group on FB. We could add our name and enter our daily word counts. This isn’t a private total–anyone who added their name can see (and be motivated by) others’ word counts, and they can see yours. I’ve never needed the motivation, but I’d never kept visual track of my daily word counts either, and I thought, what the heck.

It was addicting, to say the least.

I love(d) (the challenge isn’t over yet) adding my daily word counts and watching as other did the same. One author in a column close to mine does high numbers too, and subconsciously, or maybe not so “sub”, I tried to keep up with her. It was fun.

But keeping track in a public way like that was also hard. Here’s why:

  1. You are keeping score. You’re not supposed to compare yourself to others, or if you do, you’re supposed to do it in a positive manner. That doesn’t always happen.
  2. It can make you feel bad on the days you can’t write and you have to put in 0. That’s tough when the person next you logged in 5,000 that day. The problem is, you don’t know how another person’s life is. They can be a full-time author where 5,000 words a day is the norm for them and a 0 day means they had an emergency. Sometimes a 500 word day for someone else is a great day because they work a full-time job and have kids. I didn’t like my 0 days. Especially when I had a week of them between books.
  3. Added pressure. It’s addicting to enter in a number at the end of the day. This can make it so you don’t give yourself enough grace if you have a bad day. Some say bad words are better than no words, but I don’t agree with that. If something else is taking up headspace and I know I can’t sit down and write something decent, I won’t bother. I know I can make it up later. Because I do. Giving yourself grace only works as far as you putting in the work later.
  4. There wasn’t a way to claim editing words. I wanted to log in the new words I wrote for that challenge. There were a few days I put in 0 because I was rereading and smoothing out the first third of my book. I was working, but I couldn’t log in any numbers. Entering in that 0 made me feel like I hadn’t worked that day.
  5. Writing and publishing isn’t always about writing new words. We couldn’t modify the spreadsheet because there’s a formula that tallies up our words and entering anything else in the field makes the formula not work. But if I were to make my own spreadsheet, I would make room for days that I did something else so I could still feel productive.
  6. Seeing the words add up is a great motivator. There are some negatives when doing a challenge like this, but I like seeing my words add up. Right now since January 4th when she offered us the spreadsheet, to March 20th, I’ve written 141,826 words, and I’ll have more before the challenge is over (April 13th) because I have a book to finish. But I won’t be starting another project, so as soon as this book is done, I’ll be entering in zeros for the rest of the challenge. That will be hard for me, but i’ll just have to make peace with it because I know I’ll still be working.

Would I recommend doing this? Yes, if you can keep yourself from getting carried away and playing the comparison game in a negative way. Your fellow writers’ successes should bolster your own, not drag you down.


In other news, I’m still going through my infection issues. Eventually I’ll get better, but it may take another round of antibiotics (I’m on my third and I can’t drink while on them which is a real bummer!). I need to make another appointment but I’m going to take a small break so I can have a glass of champagne over the weekend. I want to celebrate the completion of my second book of 2021. I may already be done with it by the time you read this post, I’m not sure. I’m 61k into it right now, and I tend to drag my feet toward the end because no matter how eager I am to move on to the next, I’m still attached to my characters and hate to say goodbye.


I’m not the only one with medical issues, and I had to bring my cat in to the vet. She kept going to the litter box, and I’m glad I trusted my instincts–it turns out she had a UTI. They gave her an antibiotics shot and I think it made her feel not that great. She sleeps a lot and doesn’t have her usual spunk. I’m hoping once the antibiotics do their job she’ll be back to her old self, but I’ll probably need to make her a follow-up appointment just to be sure. I know all about lingering infections and I don’t want to her to suffer. Here’s a picture of her if you don’t follow me on IG or you’re not friends with me on FB.

Blaze is a two-year-old Siamese Ragdoll mix.

One more thing I’m excited to share with you–Savannah Cordova from Reedsy is going to guest blog on Monday, March 29th! When she first reached out to me, I didn’t think it was real! I’m happy she thought my writing and publishing blog was relevant enough to contribute, and I hope you get a lot out of what she’s going to be sharing with us.

If you don’t know what Reedsy is, they are a team writing/marketing/publishing experts and professionals that help you with your journey. They offer lists of vetted freelance editors and book cover designers. They offer a FREE book formatting feature on their website (similar to Draft2Digital’s) and I’ve often blogged about the free classes they offer right to your email inbox that allow you to complete them at your own pace along with a short quiz at the end of each course. They really are amazing, and Ricardo Fayet, founder of Reedsy, wrote and is offering his book How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market (Reedsy Marketing Guides Book 1) free on Kindle right now. I’m so honored to host Savannah on my blog!


Lastly, even though I haven’t been feeling 100% and I’ve been dealing with a sick cat and I’m always going to the grocery store for milk, I am trying to spend time outside and this is the pretty picture I captured the other day on a walk. With spring coming almost a full month early, this has been beautiful, cool, crisp weather to walk in. These are the golden days in Minnesota–when the weather is warming up but the bugs haven’t caught on yet. I love an evening walk in weather like this.

Enjoy your weekend! May it be productive! Check in with Savannah on Monday…. hope to see you there! 🙂


Snobbery in the publishing industry.

In one of my Facebook groups I’ve since left, there was a gal, let’s call her Ella. She was a traditionally published romance author, but she said due to burnout, she hasn’t written for quite some time. I know how real burnout can be–especially in romance where publishing three to four books a year is the norm.

But throughout some discussions that I lurked in on, I realized one thing. Burnout hasn’t kept her from writing. Snobbery has.

You see, Ella stopped writing when her book deals dried up and she refused to indie-publish further books.

When I made this realization (and maybe it’s a realization she herself hasn’t come to) I sat back, stunned.

Of course, I don’t speak to Ella and her real reasons are all my conjecture at this point, but it’s worth talking about.

Snobbery in the publishing industry is real. There’s snobbery against indie publishing, there’s snobbery against romance in general, which makes Ella’s reasons for not writing anymore all that more laughable because she’s writing in a genre that is looked down upon more than any other genre on the planet. If we gave in to snobbery, there wouldn’t be romance (considered fluff by many) erotica, for sure, or most genre fiction. We wouldn’t have comic books (considered a low form of “reading” by some). We wouldn’t have audiobooks (listening is not reading!) and so much more.

Ella’s bitter because she blames indie-publishing for stealing her book deals and won’t contribute to a system she feels is beneath her. But we all know the traditional publishing industry is broken–the mid-list didn’t disappear overnight, and it’s no one’s fault but the big houses’ that indie authors stepped up and filled that gap.

But let’s say Ella has a point. What can she do?

*She could pivot. Being capable of adjusting is vital with any career choice. (I have an HR degree, and I shudder when I think about all they have gone through with COVID and work-from-home protocols. Not once in any of my HR classes did we talk about a pandemic.) She could switch from romance and write literary fiction. She could spend the next five years writing the next great American novel. She could then query, obtain her precious book deal, and watch her book sell a thousand copies, maybe win an award, if she’s lucky.

*She could write women’s fiction which seems to have a little more meat than straight-up romance and grab a book deal and hope to become the next Jennifer Weiner. Or she could write women’s fiction, swallow her pride, and build a following like other women’s fiction indie authors (see: Jane Davis and Jessie Newton), and hope to gain a “respectable” and “sophisticated” audience.

*She could keep writing what she loves and indie-publish because after all, there is no better marketing than writing the next book and her front list would sell her backlist (the books she’s most proud of, I guess. Shrug.).

So instead of letting bitterness about something she has no control over dictate how she writes, Ella does have choices. Instead she chooses to let snobbery and resentment win.

Maybe she’s tired. The system can be disheartening at times, and in this business, it’s important to understand your WHY. Why was Ella writing in the first place? For the glory of the book deal? The validation (good reviews?)? To reach readers who love to read romance? She can still reach readers indie-publishing. More, in fact because she’ll have complete control of her books. She can run ads, host giveaways, build a newsletter, and she’ll share less royalties than if she were still traditionally-published.

I’m not a snob, though sometimes I may sound like I am. I believe there is room for every genre, every story. My problem is I wish authors would take a little more pride in their work, and maybe in the end, that’s all Ella’s problem is too. Books that are unedited or poorly written because the author published before her skills were up to snuff. We’ve all read that one book that had potential but just wasn’t quite there. I mean, there’s snobbery and then just wanting to see a bit more quality in the industry. That’s nothing to feel bad about–as authors, we shouldn’t be asking readers to part with their money unless what you’re giving in return is a good, enjoyable read.

I feel sorry for Ella, that her snobbery, resentment and bitterness keeps her from doing something she loves. If I’ve learned anything about the industry in the last four years I’ve been writing and publishing is that anger and resentment have no place here.

A couple years ago, I heard something funny. When we talk about quality in the inde-publishing space a saying that you might often hear is, “Cream floats to the top.” Meaning, the best books will rise to the top despite what everyone is publishing. Then I heard something I hadn’t heard before, the rejoiner: “Yeah, and so does sh*t.” It made me laugh. You can say books like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight are the sh*tty books that have floated to the top, but it just goes to show that there is space in this industry for everyone.

I hope Ella finds hers.


Another article about the midlist from The Guardian: ‘There’s no safety net’: the plight of the midlist author

If you’re interested in hearing an interview with Jane Davis, Joanna Penn interviewed her a little while ago, and you can listen to it here:

Publishing Plan & Launch Plan: How they’re different and why you need both.

I’m struggling. I’m struggling for a myriad of reasons (some not related to writing–anyone know how to quiet an old cat at night?!), but the prevalent one for me right now is my publishing plan for the books I have written, and the launch plan I’m going to need to find readers for those books.

It’s tough because when you press publish, you aren’t guaranteed readers. It would be nice if we were, if we became overnight sensations, but that rarely happens and if it does, there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes.

The difference between a publishing plan and a launch plan to me is when we talk about a publishing plan, I think about how many books am I going to be able to publish in a given year, two years, three? How far out am I looking when I plan how many books I’m going to be capable of writing? That’s different for everyone. How fast you can write depends on your living situation, if you have kids, if you have a full-time job. Obviously, if you’re single with no kids and you’re already a full-time author, you’re going to be able to write quicker than a woman with a husband and children, a job, and maybe a sick pet. It also depends on where you are with your craft. If you can write your first draft so that you consider it practically your last draft, you can publish books faster than someone who needs a few months of editing. It’s important not to over-extend yourself, especially since Amazon allows year-long preorders. Due to COVID they are giving you grace if you have to move your preorder date, or cancel altogether, but that might not always be the case. Before COVID, if you missed your preorder date, you were suspended from creating preorders for a year, and I would imagine that at some point, they will go back to those guidelines.

A launch plan for the release of a book can consist of a Goodreads giveaway, stacked promotions, newsletter swaps, and everything in between.

How to optimize those things will be different for everyone, and while you can grab tips for a great launch, genre, how well your book is written, cover, the size of your newsletter and the authors you swap with, your backlist, how much you can afford to pay in ad spend, even what’s going on in the world, and I have no idea how many other factors, can influence how well your book does on launch day.

Planning your publishing schedule while optimizing your launch can be a nightmare. When you look at your launch plan/publishing plan it’s important to know your strengths and your weaknesses.

Newsletter. This is definitely a weakness of mine. I don’t have one . . . yet. Not even one for my 3rd person books I can hit up on the off chance there would be some crossover readers. Some authors have a large enough newsletter their whole launch plan consists of sending out an email to their newsletter and that’s it. It’s enough to make them sticky in the stores and their loyal readers will leave reviews.

Networking/Swaps. This is another area where in the four years I’ve been publishing I have failed. I have writer friends, sure. But I had no idea how important it is to network with other authors in your genre. Without a strong newsletter I can use for reciprocation and without romance author friends who are willing feature my books in their newsletter, I’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers until I can pay those favors back with my own list.

Number of Books. This is one strength of mine, at least. Your launch plan will definitely look different if you haven’t banked some books, or if you don’t have a backlist written in your chosen genre. If you’re launching a new first in series, it’s better to have another book or two written so your readers know that more books will eventually come. Putting book two on preorder and linking the preorder to the back matter of book one can help. Fickle indie authors aren’t the only ones teaching consumers to be wary. Streaming platforms like Netflix can pull the plug on a new series before wrapping it up, and a lot of consumers now won’t try something new unless all the seasons (or books) are available. I know for me as a consumer, I was really disappointed when Amazon Prime released the first season of Carnival Row, but maybe because of COVID I haven’t heard of another season in the works. BUT as I have found out, rapid releasing when no one knows about you or your books doesn’t do anything and when I released my Rocky Point Wedding series last year, it didn’t matter how fast I released them–I didn’t have readers. I have this weird thing where I need to write a whole series first before I can even think about publishing. I many need to change my way of doing things to streamline my publishing schedule.

Ad spend. I’m fortunate that I have a little money for some ad spend. I can afford to book a promo with Freebooksy or BargainBooksy, ENT, etc. So far, if I put my first in series for free and pay for a Freebooksy with Written Word Media, I gain back my fee with sales and page reads. But that has never elevated my status or made my book “sticky” in the charts. I also play with Amazon Ads, but I’ve never worked with them to create second or third generation ads because I’d rather write more books than spend time playing with ads. Also, keep in mind that if you do plan to run ads at some point, your cover can’t be too racy. With stricter guidelines in place, Amazon has determined my Rocky Point covers are too sexy and they won’t let me run ads which could be a problem for you if you’re counting on an ads boost.


So, here’s my dilemma. First of all, I’m banking books as is my usual custom. I have six books in a series (serial, meaning no entry point except book one) that are completed. They’ve gone through a couple editing sweeps by me, and unless I’ve missed something, they sound strong: no plot holes, complete character arcs, etc. I spent the majority of 2020 writing and editing those. I needed a break, so I…

…wrote what I thought would be a standalone novel just to publish for the sake of hitting that publish button, but then I realized it could be a really cool book one of a series and while a paid beta reader read it and made her notes, I wrote book two of what will be another six-book series. That one has since been edited by me a couple of times, and is just sitting on my computer while I…

…thought I was writing a reader magnet for this newsletter I need to get going this year. The problem is, it’s a good book. It’s going to be a really good book, and I don’t know if I want to “waste” it by offering it up as a freebie. Obviously building up a newsletter is not a waste, and offering a full 85k book will be a good incentive to sign up for my newsletter. But, even though eventually I can put it up for sale, I would then need a new magnet anyway. So what difference will it make if I sell it now or later?

I’m at a loss, and while having 8.5 books on my computer almost ready to go (besides covers, formatting, and blurbs) is a good problem to have, I’m tired of publishing to crickets. I’m rebranding, writing new books under my initials instead of my first name, and if I can’t figure out how to make things better than the last four years, all I’m going to be doing is releasing books to no one. And let me tell you, I’m getting real tired of that.

Y’all, I’m tired of starting from zero. At some point, an author shouldn’t have to do that.

Another problem I’m having is that this is a new direction for me, and stockpiling books before I know if my style and voice are going to resonate with readers is ill-advised at best. Because now I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I can’t find readers, then ALL the books I have on my computer I may not have a use for. I doubt that will happen–I don’t write in a vacuum and someone has looked at all the books in some way, shape or form–but it’s something to think about (like there isn’t enough to worry about, right?)

That’s why I’m interested in releasing one standalone just to see how readers react. While it wouldn’t be a huge release, I know a little bit to at least get a few readers and if I add a cookie to the back, it might not be a bad way to start building my list with organic signups. On the other hand, if it makes more of a dent than I expect, I would want something to publish next in the not so distant future.

The uncertainty is enough to give me a headache, but I appreciate you listening to me brainstorm. I mean, there are things I can do. Hire a consultant for one. There are a few indie authors out there who will chat for an hour for a fee. I can ask for opinions in my FB groups, and I think I will be doing that. Maybe an experienced indie author can give me a few pointers.

I know one thing–I need to publish something, soon. I need the high. But like a drug hit, it may not be the best thing for me. Or it could change my life. You just never know.

Here are a couple things that can help you with a publishing plan:

This is printable! Save it and print it for your own use.

A Book Production Schedule for Indie Authors: IngramSpark Blog

As for a launch, I’ve never had a successful one. I’ve never put the time and the effort to set up blog tours, newsletter swaps, promo stacking, the list goes on with what you can do. Normally I press publish, run some ads, and then feel sad when my book doesn’t make the splash I was hoping for.

Since I’m starting at zero, this is worth another peek:

Screen grab taken from his website.

David’s course is free, and if you want to sign up, click here.

He also has an updated list of Promo Sites and you can find that here.

As for what else you can do for a launch, the resources can be it’s own blog post, and this is already a lot longer than I wanted it to be. I hope you find this useful, and thanks for tagging along on this journey with me!

Until next time!