I don’t have a lot to say at the moment. I’ve been writing my first person present books, and I’m 34k into the 5th book out of 6. I’m happy things are moving along and my alpha reader says that so far they are engaging and stuff keeps happening even if I feel some parts are a bit laggy in places. So, that’s good news! It’s going to be quite the task to edit them but because of consistency issues, I’ll do them all once book 6 is done and I take a bit of a breather. When I don’t feel like writing I’m looking through stock photos of couples I like. The covers will be a process, and you can’t start something like that too soon.
I’m happy that Canva has introduced some text effects and that will add some additional choices when making covers. It will be fun to play around with new combinations.
My Amazon ads are still doing well. I think the promo I did with Freebooksy is still working. I’m up almost a hundred dollars after ad expenses for the month, and it’s only the ninth. It would be really cool if I could make that and not spend, but paying for marketing is always going to be a necessary evil.
Not too many readers are leaving reviews on Amazon though, and I’m scared to look at Goodreads. People can be a little nastier there, and I just don’t need that kind of negativity. Being a writer and putting yourself out there is already hard enough. No need to torture yourself when you don’t have to.
I suppose that’s all I have for now. I’ve been writing a lot, working, and it feels like I’m always doing laundry. It’s been hotter than hell in MN this summer, and dealing with the heat, despite our air conditioning being fixed has been a real drain. And this week we’re supposed to find out what my daughter will be doing with her school year. She starts 9th grade next month! I can’t believe how time flies.
I hope you all are doing well, and looking forward to fall. The cooler weather will be welcome! Have a great week everyone!
Hello, and welcome to August! I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and sane. A lot of things are up in the air right now, but I did want to talk about one thing that’s been on my mind. I joined a Facebook Group for Amazon ads. Most of the members are holdovers from the Ad Profit Challenge that Bryan Cohen hosted last month. But I did notice a common theme.
Lots of us are starting at zero.
We all start at zero. Even Steven King started at zero, submitting stories through snail mail, hoping a magazine would publish his work. It’s a little hard to believe that huge writers like King and Nora Roberts, Neil Gaiman, and others started at a typewriter or computer, stared at a blank page, and started writing their books for no one but themselves.
These days starting at zero doesn’t seem so daunting. There are writing groups, publishing groups, publishing conferences, virtual conferences, Zoom rooms, Facebook rooms, and more. Writers have a million places to share links and drive traffic to their book, blog, or social media sites. But even if you have a hundred people starting from zero around you, you’re still in it yourself, and when you feel like you can’t make any traction, that journey seems very lonely.
What’s even worse is starting from zero means you’re probably making mistakes that you don’t know you’re making. Mistakes that could effect you and your business for years to come. Some things can be fixed like a bad cover, some might take longer, like re-editing a poorly written book. One of my biggest is no newsletter.
But there is a ton of information at your disposal, and David Gaughran has helped with that. In his new course, Staring From Zero, he talks you through what you need to do to get your book published, and published well so it sells. The course is free, and I’m half-way through it. It’s a great resource, even for those who have been around for a little while. Things change, and David provides information that’s relevant as of July 2020. I would sign up and watch the videos. He gives you two free ebooks also, and all you need is a little time to make your books better. He doesn’t even try to sell you anything!
I’m enjoying the course so far, and because of Bryan’s Amazon Ads Profit Challenge, I’ve done some of David’s suggestions already for some of my books. What I need to do is take a couple hours and do all the things so I can give my books the best chance of selling as I can.
If only selling your book were as easy as writing it!
Click on the photo for the website to get started! Tell me what you think
I did a Freebooksy on July 17 for the first book in my series to try to jumpstart some sales. Here are the results:
First I spent a little more time with the ad:
I really wanted to make sure that readers knew what they were getting. It’s a holiday romance, so it takes place in the winter. It’s got kind of a Beauty and the Beast type theme, and I wanted to bring that home because not every reader likes that kind of trope. Damaged heroes, yes, but damaged on the outside, not so much. Plus I wanted to highlight that it’s first in a series that’s complete because indies have burned too many readers with series that aren’t done or won’t be finished for many years. Readers are smart enough to know not to get invested. I’ve seen Chris Fox do this too, in his ad copy on Amazon. Plus it’s a great way to let readers know there is more than one book available.
I didn’t care so much about the ranking since potential read-through of the other books is more important. But I think I did okay in the free list in Small Town Romance:
Eleven was as high as I got, but I did go up to number 2 in Holiday Romance:
So that was fine. I don’t think it means much, to be honest–I kind of feel like anyone can give away a book. Especially if you’re paying to do it.
So the promo ran on July 17th, and the first day of the promo I gave away 3,866. I always give away the book the next day in case someone opens their email late and by chance looks to see if the book is still available. On July 18th I gave away 915. I did give away some on the 19th probably because of a time zone thing: 51. So in all total my promo gave away 4,832.
The first couple of days didn’t earn me any read-through, and that’s to be expected because a lot of people download a book but don’t/can’t read it right away. Twelve days later, I am getting some read-through and I’ve made back what spent on the promo.
Here are the stats for each book in the series this month. And if anyone wants to know, more than half of my royalties come from KU page reads.
It thrills me I’m getting read-through. I was so full of doubt when the first few reviews of book one came in and they were bad. Now, hopefully with Amazon ads I can have long tail off this promo. And if the people reading the whole series would review, that would be fantastic too. I need a few good ones to wipe out the negative ones on Amazon and Goodreads.
So all in all, I had a positive experience with Freebooksy this time around. If I could give you advice it would be this:
Make your ad copy in the Freebooksy newsletter count. I tried to add as much information as I could so the reader knew exactly what they were getting.
You’ll get more bang for your buck if you’re promoting a series. If you’re not, at least fix your back matter and offer links to other books so if your reader likes your book they have something else they can immediately read when they’re done. Don’t make them hunt–make it easy to read your books. All my books in the series link to the next. That did mean going in and adding the buy-link after publishing the next book, but the extra effort is very much worth it.
Make sure you have a good cover that conveys your genre.
Make sure the blurb is well-written.
Make sure if you’re promoting a first in series, that all your books look like they belong together.
Obviously, I haven’t made what I could have if those 4,000+ giveaways had been sales. And I’m not really sure what’s going on with more books. The books I’m writing now are different from these, and I think I”m going to be publishing them under a pen name. Does that mean my next book is going to be in 3rd person past? Or do I want to write in first person present? If I’m going to keep promoting these, then I should eventually have something new readers can move on to. On the other hand, if I have to fight like a trout upstream for sales, then I need to stop beating my head against a brick wall. Writing first person present is fun, and if I can find a foothold writing that, I would be content to let my 3rd person past stuff rest for a while.
Lots of choices!
Tell me, have you done a pomo lately? Let me know!
A year or or two ago, indies started adding subtitles to their books. Not to say any subtitle that pertained to their book in a way we would think. Particularly in nonfiction like:
Something like that. You have to wonder what “well” means in this instance. He publishes beautifully put-together books? Or he’s making money? Or both? Not sure. But I am glad he’s not trying to sell fake advice. So many people are these days. (Cue laughter.)
If you think about it, a fiction novel doesn’t need a subtitle, especially when you publish on Amazon where they give you space for a series name and book number.
But indies started adding subtitles to their books, and I resisted for a long time. I thought it looked tacky and I always felt if you have a specific-to-genre cover, a good blurb, and the actual title of your book makes sense, a potential reader will know what your book is about.
“Oh you poor summer child!” you’re saying. And you’d be right!
Did you ever notice that if the majority starts something, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to make them stop?
Subtitles for fiction books aren’t going away and even though I don’t like the look of them, the consensus has turned into, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Some authors started doing it to improve the discoverability of their books, but adding a subtitle may not do as much as adding pertinent keywords to your books when you publish. What a subtitle does do is tells a potential reader what subgenre your book is in, or what tropes the book has inside.
Recently I added subtitles to some of my books like All of Nothing.
What I have also seen authors do as well is add if their book is a standalone–which is actually smart and something I could/should add, too, but then you run the risk of having a lot of gobbledy-gook at the top of your product page.
If we know anything about people, it’s that they are lazy and if they see a ton of words blaring at them, that could be a turn-off, too.
Long story short: I see the value in adding a subtitle to your book–just keep the adjectives to a minimum.
If I were looking for a mystery/thriller, should I buy the one that’s only enthralling, or is the totally enthralling book better? It has a stunning ending, but the one that’s slightly less enthralling is full of twists. It’s such a hard choice!
The subtitle can’t do the heavy-lifting of a well-written blurb, but when you’re writing in a genre that has plenty of tropes, it makes sense to use a subtitle to quickly indicate what’s inside your book.
It’s a bit wordy, and I wouldn’t want to add anymore to the subtitle. It’s also a holiday wedding romance, but HIS FROZEN HEART: A STEAMY, SMALL-TOWN HOLIDAY CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE seems a bit much. Besides, I don’t play up Christmas, don’t even play up the wedding, and I figured the small-town aspect of it holds the most weight in the plot. I do like that Amazon lets you add the word STEAMY to indicate that there’s going to be sex. I’ll never get a bad review from a reader who thought it was sweet or clean.
Whether you agree with something like this or not, and whether indies are to blame for this or not, this is an area where you don’t want to be left behind. We are training readers to expect the subtitle to reveal subgenre and tropes the book holds and if your doesn’t have it, you could be setting your book up for readers to pass by.
Not everyone is going to resist as strongly as I did at first, and some of you are probably heading to your KDP dashboard right now. But if you’re having second thoughts, maybe consider the fact that traditionally published books are starting to add subtitles too.
Lisa Jackson’s books are both riveting and heartbreaking. That’s good to know! (I’ve read some of her books, and they’re also a little wordy if you ask me.)
If you want to add a subtitle to your book, you can add it to your ebook only. To add it to your paperback you have to republish your book, so it’s not worth the time (or the expense if you buy your ISBNs.) I was able to add some subtitles to a few of my books without any hassle. I also assign ISBNs to my ebooks and that didn’t prevent me from doing this. If you happened to have protected your work that way and need to know. Keep in mind this is for KDP. I have no idea how you would add a subtitle if you fulfill your orders with IngramSpark and I don’t know if this craze has bled over into other platforms like Kobo and Nook. I don’t read on those platforms and I don’t publish there.
Please remember you publish changes and you’ll be locked out of that book for about 48 hours. It has been taking KDP a little longer to process requests than it has in the past.
How do you feel about subtitles? Are you going to add them to your books? Let me know!
In Monday’s blog post I talked about relevancy and mentioned that the categories you put your book into when you publish should closely fit what’s inside your book as possible.
There are a lot of questions about categories, such as, is there a list to choose from and where do we find it?
Amazon hasn’t provided us a list of categories they offer their authors, but they do let you add categories to your book–up to ten. All you have to do is ask.
But how do we do that?
The first thing we need to do is find a book that is most like ours on Amazon. This can be a traditionally published book, or choose an indie who has been publishing for a while who knows what’s going on. Meaning, they have probably already done this process, and we’re just going to borrow their categories.
To show you, I’m going to do The Years Between Us. The categories that the book is in right now is what I chose when I published:
You can choose two, and I think I did choose Coming of Age Fiction and, well, let me look. It’s easy enough to remind yourself if you go into your Bookshelf on KDP and look at the ebook details.
Unfortunately, it made me save changes and republish, so if you plan on going in and doing any promotions or anything, don’t check on your categories until you’ve done what you need to do because while KDP publishes your “changes” they lock you out. Anyway, so you can see that Amazon stayed true to what I set when I first published, but those categories are not a complete representation of what that book is. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman novel, and I’m not sure if that’s actually a category, so we need to snoop around. I don’t think it is, but I do know that I can do better than the categories that book is in.
I’ll go to Amazon and search in the Kindle Store, Older Man/Younger Woman and see what comes up. It can be a naughty sub-genre, and mine isn’t dirty like that. So finding a comp book might take a little bit of time. We might need to click through a few books to find a close match.
I’m going to go with this book for the sake of this blog post, but once you know how to check a book’s categories, you can check as many books as you like and search for as many categories as you think will fit your book.
The cover doesn’t look that naughty, and it’s obviously an older man/younger woman romance. I haven’t read it, and never heard of Suzie before, but let’s see what categories she used for her book:
I can’t choose Billionaire Romance because The Years Between Us doesn’t follow that sub-genre, but this isn’t the only way we can see what categories this book is listed under. If you go to www.bklnk.com, you can use this website to insert the ASIN number for any book and we’ll hopefully see if there are more categories this book is in.
Click on Catfinder and enter the ASIN in the field provided.
After you click, Go Find! you’ll be presented with a list of categories that book is in on Amazon.
It doesn’t look like there are going to be any discoveries here, except I do see that it’s listed in Romantic Comedy. She may have asked for that category to be added. That’s not something I can use for my book because my book is all about drama and secrets.
Let’s try another book. After some hunting, I found Reckless Suit: A Hero Club Novel, by Alexia Chase.
You’ll remember The Years Between Us wasn’t even listed in contemporary romance, so that’s a category we can add right away. But looking at the categories for this book gives me a couple of ideas. City Life could be one, because the book does take place in a huge (albeit made up city), and I could add Women’s Romance Fiction. So there are three I could add. Contemporary Romance, City Life, and Women’s Romance.
If your book has a lot to do with families, you could probably add Family Life Fiction, but that might be more aimed at a women’s fiction book dealing with family issues. I would prefer to aim my book at readers who want more romance in their plots.
So now that we have the categories we want, how do we as Amazon to add those categories?
Go to your KDP Dashboard and click on HELP in the top right menu next to Sign Out.
Scroll to the bottom and click on Contact Us. That will be a yellow button on the bottom left of the page.
Click on Amazon Product page and Expanded Distribution.
Then click on Update Amazon Categories.
There it will even give you a template you can fill out, and from here all you have to do is give them your book’s ISBN and ASIN numbers and the exact categories you borrowed from the books like yours.
Here is my list for The Years Between Us that I found from searching Amazon for books similar to mine, and using www.bklnk.com for the string of categories that Amazon requires you to include:
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Contemporary Fiction » Contemporary Romance Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Genre Fiction » City Life Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Women’s Fiction » Women’s Romance Fiction
Books » Books » Literature & Fiction » Genre Literature & Fiction » City Life Fiction
Books » Books » Romance » Contemporary Romance
This is the exact text in the message I sent to Amazon through my KDP account:
Please add these categories to The Years Between Us in the .com store.
The ASIN number is: B07Q4143R1 and the ISBN number is: 978-0999677568
Categories to be added (list each category as a separate line item for all applicable titles)
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Contemporary Fiction » Contemporary Romance Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Genre Fiction » City Life Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Women’s Fiction » Women’s Romance Fiction
Books » Books » Literature & Fiction » Genre Literature & Fiction » City Life Fiction
Books » Books » Romance » Contemporary Romance
Thank you for adding these to my book! Your time is very much appreciated! Stay safe and healthy. 🙂
I’m always polite, and I’ve never had a problem asking them to do something. It takes about a day to get a response, and if you give them the entire string in the categories you need added, they shouldn’t have a problem fulfilling your request. Unfortunately if you want to add your book’s categories to the other stores like Canada (.ca) or the UK (.co.uk) then you have to send separate messages. (This is per Bryan Cohen and what he teaches in his ads course. I have never added categories in the other stores.)
As with the relevancy post on Monday, you want to make sure you choose the most relevant categories for your book. The correct categories will only help Amazon sell your book by putting it in front of readers who most likely to want to read it.
I always give credit where credit is due, and I learned this tip doing the Amazon Ads Profit Challenge with Bryan Cohen. He’s going to leave the video up for a little bit, so if you want to watch him in action choosing categories for his book, you can check it out here. https://www.bestpageforward.net/july-2020-challenge-prep-work/ The talk about Categories starts about 25 minutes in, but the whole video is very useful! 🙂
Amazon got back to me before I published this post, and they added my categories without an issue:
Let me know if you’re going to add some categories, and what your thoughts are with adding the correct ones. I hope you found this useful! Until next time!
Every industry has their buzzwords. Some come and stick around forever, some go in the blink of an eye, some are adopted because they’re trendy, some because an industry leader comes out with a book or a TED talk and they introduce the word and everyone starts using it to sound cool.
If you’re clued in to the independent-publishing industry, you might have heard a new buzzword within those circles:
In a webinar with Mark Dawson and Janet Margot, Janet used the word several times while talking about Amazon Ads. This isn’t the webinar I’m referring to, as that replay has expired, but this is something similar with Janet, Mark, and Craig Martelle in a video they did for the 20booksto50k group.
Bryan Cohen also adopted the word in the new Amazon Ads profit challenge I’m participating in right now.
And David Gaughran, in an interview on the Six Figure Author podcast, bandied the word about as well.
It’s a good word. I try to keep my blog posts on this writing/publishing/marketing blog relevant to the audience I’m cultivating. Not many of my readers would appreciate it if all of a sudden I started blogging about the benefits of going barefoot, or why I love living in the Midwest. One too many and my subscribers would start dropping off.
But why is the word suddenly everywhere and how does it pertain to our books?
It starts with the book itself — maybe before you begin to write it. The tropes should be relevant to your genre. The elements such as world building, magical systems, setting, and character arcs should be relevant. I love this quote by someone in one of my Facebook groups:
No one likes to hear genre advice. People write whatever they want without regard to where their book would be placed on a bookshelf because for us indies, there rarely is a real bookshelf for us in a bookstore. But as I take ads course after ads course, the lack of genre bites a lot of people in the butt. They can’t find relevant categories in which to place their books. After you’ve written it, published it, and thrown money at it, it’s a little late to realize that, yeah?
Book cover needs to be relevant to the genre. Such as in romance. As an example, if the couple has all their clothes on, that could indicate the book is sweet romance instead of steamy. If your couple is fully-clothed but they have more sex than bunnies, you run the risk of angering a lot of readers and that could come through in poor reviews.
When you publish and you enter the seven keywords into your metadata (you can use more than that, separate them with a semicolon), those need to be relevant so Amazon knows what your book is about and they can properly steer the right readers toward it. (Trust me, they want to sell your book just as much as you do.)
The categories you choose should be relevant to your book. That makes it easier is for readers when they search books they’re in the mood for. Some scammers will place their books in far-off categories because it takes only a couple of sales to reach bestseller status. If I were to place All of Nothing in say, a self-help category, or gardening, because Jax happens to buy Raven a plant, would that help sales? Possibly gardeners read romance, but placing a book in a category that’s not relevant will eventually do more harm than good, and could make Amazon mad at you.
If you do all that, your book will be relevant to the audience you want to read your book and your ads will be a lot more successful when you’re advertising to the right readers.
If the keywords (for Amazon) and target audience (for Facebook) you choose for ads are relevant, clicks will be cheaper and sales will be higher. If you don’t set up your ads so they are shown to the right readers, it’s like Coke showing ads to a diabetic. It wastes add dollars and wastes both parties’ time. The sugary beverage isn’t relevant to a person who can’t drink it.
This isn’t new information and I know plenty of writers buck the system, and that’s fine. I find it amusing when authors taking ad classes say their book can fit into several genres and they don’t know which categories to choose for their ads. Your book can’t be all things to all readers. The more you drill down who your reader is, the easier time you’ll have marketing your book.
Make a list of relevant comp authors. Those authors are your squad. Those books would sit next to yours at the bookstore. Their readers are your readers.
I have an AS degree in Human Resources, and HR professionals love buzzwords so it was fun for me to all of a sudden hear this word tossed around over and over again in the indie community. It’s a new way of saying what we already know:
What are your thoughts on relevancy? How have you made your book relevant to your genre? How can you fix it if you haven’t? Change your keywords in KDP? Swap out covers? Maybe add a subtitle? Make a list of comp authors and titles for ads?
Sometimes I forget how much fun a writer can have with their characters. In the age of writing and publishing as quickly as possible, we forget that there is a lot we can do to help readers dive into the worlds we create and get to know the characters who live there.
I rarely do this because of the time it takes. Writing a character sheet or character interview isn’t too bad, but when you create an aesthetic you can drop down the rabbit hole of stock photos for days. There’s where I lose time, and eventually, if I can’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll give up and I’m angry about all the time wasted.
But these days there are plenty of opportunities for you to share a character sheet/character interview/aesthetic/mood board, and I’m changing my mind about investing some time in doing this.
I also think that this can help me as a writer: dig deeper into character motivation, what drives them to do what they do, why they fight for what they fight for and get to know them for the simple pleasure that they are my creations.
You can share a character aesthetic on your FB author page, your blog, newsletter, bonus material for newsletter signups, or Instagram. Anyplace really, where readers may find joy in getting to know a bit more about the characters in their favorite books.
Using Canva, (look under elements and search grids) you can find an aesthetic grid where all you have to do is plug in the pictures. Save room in a box for a quote from your book that showcases your character’s true personality, or book’s release date, or other information you want to showcase.
You can also use Canva to make a character sheet and save it as a PNG or PDF but for today I’ll write into my blog post and use Canva to make Gage Davenport’s aesthetic.
Gage is my main male character in the second trilogy of my King’s Crossing Serial. Books 1-3 are for Zane and Stella, Books 4-6 are centered around Zane’s sister, Zarah, and her love interest, Gage. I love writing Gage. He’s mouthy, but so kind, and he loves Zarah from the second he sees her. Zarah has a lot of issues, though, and some baddies are after her, but there’s no better man to save her than Gage, a private investigator in business with his dad.
Age: 37 Occupation: PI in business with my dad Lives in: King’s Crossing, Minnesota Apartment or house: Apartment near the industrial park Pets: A Husky/German Shepard named Baby Favorite food: Anything that doesn’t give me heartburn Vehicle: A brand-new truck that’s almost paid off Love Interest: Don’t ask Family: My parents are divorced. My half brother is deceased. My mother remarried to a guy who’s okay, but I’m not interested in forming much of a relationship with him.
Look, I only have time for a few words. I have to take Zarah back to her place, and you know how long of a drive that is. Two full hours on the road. The way there, I don’t mind so much, on the way back, I miss her like crazy, the pull of it stronger as the miles go by. Are we going to end up together? Doubtful. You know she’s rich, right? And I’m not. That usually doesn’t mix well. You’d look at me and think I don’t have any insecurities, but that’s a big one. That and I hate thinking about Pop not being around anymore. I got a lot of time before that happens, but Pop, Zarah, my dog, Baby, those are the big three in my life. Sorry, Mom. I know you miss me, but you’re only on my case because of what happened two years ago. Like I said, I gotta get going. These late nights are killing me. Ciao.
This didn’t take me as long as it could have. I used all Canva pictures because I’m not looking to make money off this aesthetic. Technically, they’re promoting my books, but I’m not using them for book covers. Like I’ve said in the past, I will always buy all my photos for my covers.
With this serial, I’m going to try to have more fun with it, take the time to post quotes and excerpts of all six books while I’m writing them, formatting them, etc. I don’t know if it will help with sales, but I’m going to do it because I love these characters, and I’m tired of writing book after book without taking the time to smell the roses, so to speak.
Do you make aesthetics for your books and characters? What do you do with them, and where do you share? Let me know!
We talk a lot about burnout, and in these times, it’s even a more important topic. We need to take care of ourselves because this is our passion, our calling, our gift to be able to give our stories to the world, and we don’t ever want to have to stop.
I listened to a podcast episode of The Six-Figure Authors, and they talked about burnout. We all know what it is, but what causes it? I’ve written about it before, but I never thought to look at the reasons why a writer would have burnout besides the simple explanation of working too hard. Jo Lallo, Lindsay Buroker, and Andrea Pearson gave a few of their reasons why burn out occurs and it gives me a new perspective, and also, new ways to combat it.
One of Jo’s reasons for burnout is not seeing results. I didn’t realize how much I related to this until he said it. I jumped headfirst into the publishing industry, and sometimes I feel like I jumped into the wrong end of the pool. Instead of an easy dive into the water, my head met concrete and I’m flailing. This isn’t uncommon for a lot of first-time authors. They think they’re going to make a huge splash with their first book, or they put out a series to the sound of crickets. So they do it again, and again and again all to achieve the same meagre results. I feel that way, especially when I know I can’t sell books unless I buy ads, and then I only sell in books what I spend in ads. If you don’t see some kind of progress, that can create burnout.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is also the definition of insanity. We all think writers have to be a little bit insane to take on a career like this, but I don’t think that’s what we have in mind when we call ourselves crazy.
What can you do?
I have to remind myself that this is a long game. A very long game. I mean so long I want to do this for the rest of my life. Success may not have found me yet, but one day it will. Reward yourself for small accomplishments. I’m always on to the next book and I don’t give myself credit for finished projects. I published 300,000 words this year and didn’t do anything special. When book four released, I was already knee-deep in the next book. That’s an awesome mindset, but also consider that writing and publishing a book is no small feat. You should celebrate it – even if it doesn’t sell.
Also realize that things can change and a promo that worked really well last year may not get you the same results now. Indies need to be flexible. We need to try new things. Frustratingly, this may result in losing a bit of money. No one wants to do that, but when you run a business it’s always a risk.
Take a break and assess why you aren’t making any headway. Is the genre you chose to write in not having a moment and therefore there’re no readers? Maybe your covers are off. Maybe you skimped on editing and reviews show that. Maybe you need reviews, period. Running on a hamster wheel won’t encourage you to keep writing. Jump off and try a new path.
Andrea mentioned her health. You can burn out quickly if you don’t feel good. Maybe you don’t want to take a nap because in two hours you can write 2000 or 3000 words. But remember, if you’re exhausted, if you can’t think straight, how good are those words going to be?
Even though you can’t see it by looking at someone, a lot of people have chronic pain they’re dealing with. Back pain, carpal tunnel. Auto-immune disorders and fibromyalgia. Some have depression, some have so much stress in their personal lives it manifests physically.
What you can do?
Keeping up your health is important. A lot of people are high risk if they catch Covid. A lot of us are sedentary — sitting at our desks 10 hours a day, and it might be even fair to say a lot of us could stand to lose a couple pounds. Burnout can happen if you’re writing when you aren’t feeling well enough to write. Take care of yourself. Eat well, go for walks, stretch your arms to prevent carpal tunnel. Meditate. Your writing will sound better if you feel better.
If you have a chronic illness, know your boundaries. Andrea says she needs lots of sleep, and we know that’s always easier said than done, especially if we have children or pets to take care of. She has to work out to keep her weight at a manageable level to help a condition she has from getting out of control, and we know even if you don’t have a health issue that exercise can help; it’s good for you regardless.
Use adaptive equipment. I use voice-to-text a lot more than I have in the past. Stand while you type instead of sitting if you can. Take frequent breaks and drink lots of water. We don’t talk a lot about ergonomics, but if you have a bad back or neck pain, sitting properly can make a difference between getting those words down, or having to stop. I know as a woman without a room of her own in which to write, it’s a constant struggle to find a comfortable way to type every day.
I’ve mentioned Aidy Award a few times in my blog posts. She’s a successful romance writer, and she posts in the romance group I’m in. Recently she shared a video of carpal tunnel stretches that have helped me. Since I’ve had surgery on my left arm, I may not ever feel 100% because I’m of the mind that getting cut open can do more harm than good. So far while it hasn’t taken all of my pain away, I feel better now than before but not perfect. But I do these stretches every day, and maybe you can make them part of your routine too. They help!
Lindsay brought up one reason for burnout that I never thought of before — doing parts of the writing business you don’t want to do. Not everyone can afford a virtual assistant and we’re stuck doing things we don’t want to do. Writing a blurb, formatting books, running promos, setting up ads. It’s drudge work and nothing turns an offer author off faster than knowing you have back matter to change. It’s a bore checking and answering email or keeping up with social media when you’re just not feeling it.
What can you do?
Take a day and get it all done. Lindsay call these admin days. Know you aren’t going to write. Make a list, make a cup of coffee, turn on some music and just get it done. We love to procrastinate and bury our heads in the sand, but that won’t get that blurb written or a Facebook ad set up. Sometimes you have to set aside a couple of hours to go through stock photos, because not every indie can afford to hire out for covers, or if you can, you want to give your designer an idea of what you like.
I haven’t updated my website in a while, and I haven’t added my new books to my Books page. I have over 600 emails sitting in my inbox. It’s such a drag. But reward yourself when you’re done. Dig into that new book. Order your dinner in. Take a bath. Go for a walk.
Having to do admin work over and over again comes with the territory, but there will always be days when there is more to do than others, like a book launch. Sometimes when I blog I’ll do two or three at a time and that will free up my week. Scheduling tools can be a big help, and when I go heavy with Twitter, I use Hootsuite. Sometimes you do have to pick and choose where you want to put your energy and just add what you’re putting off to the next to-do list.
Listening to the podcast was eye-opening and interesting. When we think of burnout we automatically think we’re working too hard, but that’s not always the case. Being able to pinpoint what’s going on can help us take care of the issue, or go about it in a different way. Try a promo site you haven’t tried before or kill your ads and cleanse your palate. Find new keywords and try again.
There are aspects to being an indie writer we just are not going to like. Recognizing the cause of burnout is one step in the right direction.
What causes your burnout? Let me know!
If you want to watch the podcast for other ideas and tips to keep burnout at bay, you can watch it here. Thanks for checking in!
Well, it’s July and saying the world is crumbling around us is an understatement to say the least. COVID-19 is going crazy, we have a president who doesn’t seem to care, and the whole thing is really scary. My fiancé was supposed to move up from Georgia this summer, but he can’t if he can’t get a job up here. He has something steady where he’s at, and we’re thinking he won’t move until this coronavirus stuff is under control. And who knows how long that will take? I try not to be political on this blog–there are authors who will say anything they want and if you don’t like it, deal with it. I’ve never been that kind of author to treat my social media that way. It’s always more fun to share pictures of baby skunks anyway. But this COVID stuff is . . . people are dying, people don’t have jobs, people don’t know where their next rent payment is coming from. It’s terrifying, and it feels almost petty to go on and talk about books. But I keep trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. When all this is over (and “over” means different things for different people) I don’t want to look back and realize that I didn’t get anything done. I’m trying to press through the best way I know how, and that’s keeping my mindset in the publishing game.
Why isn’t my book selling?
This question bothers me so much because it’s usually obvious. There’s someone on Twitter and he constantly laments that no one is buying his book. But his book doesn’t meet industry standards. The trim size is wrong, his book doesn’t have a professional cover–to the point the book’s title and his author name aren’t even on it! The insides are a mess. I don’t understand this because I have told him what he needs to do to fix it, and he says it’s his first book and didn’t expect anything from it. THEN STOP TRYING TO SELL IT. He seems to have plenty of people on Twitter who would be willing to help him, for free, even, if he would just ask for a little help. His tweets are a bore. Put in the work, or don’t bother.
But I like it this way.
I ran into someone else in a FB group who said she doesn’t full-justify her paperbacks because she doesn’t like how it looks. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that since first of all, it shouldn’t matter what you like or don’t like–full-justification is industry standard for a paperback. When an indie won’t follow industry standards (like the person on Twitter up above as well) it makes them look petty and immature. Are you really running your business while being so trite? And then we still wonder why there are people who won’t buy indie. It’s rather ridiculous to me that a person chooses to go indie for the creative freedom, and that’s what they’re going to do with it. I’ve read lots of indie books and their paperback books look AMAZING. Why not strive for that instead of cutting corners then complaining about it? Just a thought.
In other news, because this isn’t going to be a bitch session, I’m 35k into the 4th book of my series. I was scared to start this book, and I took me a week to hunker in, do some outlining, and actually start. But now that I have, it’s going well, and as always, I didn’t need to worry about word count. I usually do, but first person takes up a lot of room, if you know what I mean, and it’s a lot easier to meet word count. I understand the appeal of indies writing first person. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s not complicated. I’ve even gotten some feedback that says my first person sounds better than my third person books. What? I’m flattered, and I like writing in it, but I started this first person stuff on a whim and I’m not sure if it’s what I want to keep writing. It’s interesting, though.
June Amazon Ads
I turned my ads off on June 26th because I was in the red four dollars. I wanted to see if I could catch up with page reads and I did:
My ad spend was $79.85. I am selling some books, which is fun, but you can see that most of my royalties are from KU, which is fine; that’s why I’m in the program.
And I have to say, changing out the cover to The Years Between Us was probably the smartest thing I ever did. I never would be selling so many books with the old cover. Just a lesson to never be so set in your ways or what you think should be working when it’s easy to try something else.
I’m interested in seeing that people are reading the last book in my series, so I decided to look at my KU read-through for A Rocky Point Wedding for the month of June.
For His Frozen Heart, the first in the series had 1,557 pages read.
His Frozen Dreams had 361.
Her Frozen Memories had 355, and Her Frozen Promises had 5.
Lots of people have told me that it’s too soon to decide if the series is a wash. Especially since the last book has only been out a month, and I haven’t done much promo for the series as a whole. But while I was finishing it up, I knew books one and two weren’t as strong as books three and four, and that’s such a bummer. I’ve heard it’s common, though. As you get to know your characters the writing is deeper and richer and the plots get a little more involved since the readers know the characters better and you are more comfortable as a writer to draw them into the conflict. It’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind if I write another series. The first person one feels different and I can’t explain how. Maybe because the first three books follow the same couple and I don’t have to worry about introducing new characters.
Anyway, if you’re going to fumble along, you can expect to scrape your knees.
I think I’ll end here and get some writing in. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend ahead!
So if any of you follow Mark Dawson or you’re concerned about marketing strategies, or you were thinking about taking an ads course, or if you’re in any writing groups at all on Facebook, you know that Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course closed last week. Whenever Mark opens up his course, I have a huge case of the nerves. Why? Because everyone raves about this course. How helpful it is. How it’s a lifetime pass to ads and all your questions and all of the answers until you die. You can’t be an author and learn how to sell your books without it. After hearing it’s God’s gift to sales, you’ll run out and sign up, right? Well, the next time it opens is in the winter, and you’ll need that time to save up the fee, because you know why I haven’t signed up? It’s $849.00. You read that correctly. It’s almost a $1,000. And if you take the cheapest payment plan, it does cost over $1,000 dollars payable over two years’ time.
You know how indies say, “I can’t afford a cover, or a professional edit, etc, etc, etc, because I’ll never earn my money back?” Yeah. That. How many books would I have to sell to earn back $849? That’s the whole point of the ads course, right? To learn how to make that kind of money? Sure.
So how about this one? In Mark’s SPF University, there’s a course on how to write a bestseller by Suzy K. Quinn. People have raved over this, and I’m always wanting to work on the craft part of being an author. Some would say working on craft is the most important part of being a writer because it always starts with a good book. But her class is a whopping $297.00. People say they learn so much from that class. But hey, that’s two car payments for me. Or half a month’s rent.
And I’m not picking on Mark Dawson. John Truby also has a writing class. He gave a intro talk about it at the 20booksto50k conference in November last year. And you can watch it here.
And that’s just classes. We haven’t talked tools yet.
Bookbrush. A platinum yearly fee with them is $250.00. Canva. A yearly membership with them is $120.00 a year. But if you compare the two, you get quite a lot more with Bookbrush, as you should since it’s double the cost. There there’s Vellum, and if you don’t have a Mac you have to run it through Macincloud, and if you do want a Mac, well, everyone knows how much they cost.
Never mind paying for clicks on Amazon Advertising, and the same goes for running Facebook ads and Bookbub ads. (Don’t bother with running ads on a platform you don’t understand. You might as well give me your money. I’ll use it to buy promos.)
Can we add newsletter providers too?
Oh, I forgot about website hosting and a domain name. Maybe a business upgrade on WordPress.
A yearly subscription to Microsoft Office 365.
Forgot coffee. And booze. Are you even a writer if you’re not drinking something like a fish?
Let’s just say that indies have a lot of resources and not all of them cheap, ah, budget-friendly.
How much does it cost to be a writer? Well, nothing. I mean, literally 0 dollars. It takes no money to be a writer. Maybe two dollars. Grab a pen and notebook from the dollar store. Or scrounge your kids’ school supplies for things they didn’t use after everything moved to online learning because of COVID-19.
There’s a joke in the running world that running is the most expensive free sport there is. Shoes, race fees, GPS watches, the rest of the gear. The list is almost as long as what a writer needs to be an author. Being an author is the most expensive free thing you can do right? Tell that to my $150.00/pair Brooks running shoes so I don’t get tendonitis in my ankles.
But how much money does it really take to invest in your business?
The problem is, not anyone is going to know but you.
I had a friend step back from writing. She’s focusing on her family. That’s great; she has to do what’s best for her. And while she’s never said she won’t come back into the writing/indie space, what she did invest in will just sit while she decides what she wants to do. She bought a Mac, she purchased Vellum. She bought a yearly subscription to Canva Pro. Granted, that can run out, but I don’t know how much of her paid year will go to waste while she’s not using it. She purchased her domain name for a blog she took down. I gave her a free developmental edit of her book, so there’s something, but she paid for a cover for a book that will sink in the Amazon store because she won’t be promoting it (and by promoting it, I really mean writing the next book) while she takes a break.
So how much money should you spend? Start small. I pay for Word. I don’t use a writing software like Scrivner. But you don’t have to purchase Word, either, though the .docx is compatible with Vellum and other conversion websites as well as KDP. There are free options like Open Office or Google Docs.
There are some things indie professionals say you can’t skimp on like a professional edit, or a decent book cover. And that’s true. You don’t have anything if you don’t have a good book. That’s why there’re craft classes out there. But you don’t have to pay $300.00 for a class. There are a ton of craft books, and all you need is to invest some time into reading them. In fact, there are a lot of free resources on YouTube if you learn better listening to a speaker. Brian Sanderson has a set of lectures on Youtube people say are really good, and you can get started here. And over the years John Truby has spoken about craft and you can watch those YouTube videos for free. I’ve shared several talks I’ve enjoyed from the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. The group puts those on YouTube for free too. Chris Fox’s channel is valuable, as is David Gaughran’s new channel.
I suggest narrowing down what you need at the moment you need it. If you only have one book out, probably you don’t need an $800.00 ads course. If you only have one book chances are working on craft would suit where you are in your career a lot better than learning an ad platform or any kind of marketing strategy.
I have fear of missing out, and a lot of writers I know do too. It’s tough not to want the newest brightest thing. Especially when all your groups on Facebook are raving about it. I can’t afford Mark Dawson’s class, and if you can’t either, there’s no point in feeling bad about it. It is what it is. I’ve learned a lot taking Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenges, and he doesn’t push you to pay for his class. I break even with my ads, and that’s okay. I’m not losing money and I’m picking up new readers. At this stage in my career, that’s a win for me.
Having all the tools and technology won’t make you a writer and I have a feeling that was what my friend was aiming for. She was collecting the tools of the trade, but in two years wrote only 60,000 words. For some indies, that’s a word total per month.
Think about what your goals are, what you want out of your career and when you want them. My fiancé bought me a Mac and purchased Vellum for me. I format a lot of books, and pay my fiancé’s kindness forward and will format free for others. Like I said, I pay for Word. It’s my main (umm, only) writing software and I use it every day. I pay for Canva. I bought Publisher Rocket because I do experiment with ads (and right now those small ads are my main source of sales). I’m ashamed to say I threw $40.00 at something I don’t even know what it is or how it will help me. All I know is she said it was her final offer because she wasn’t going to sell it anymore, and I swallowed it hook, line, and, sinker. Some kind of author toolbox website that I probably will never be able to find because I was too busy throwing money at her to pay attention to what I was buying.
It happens, and probably more frequently than we want to admit. The panic sucks. The fear of missing out on something that will make us a bestseller. And we especially panic when we think everyone else but us has the magic bullet.
A good rule of thumb is to exhaust all the free possibilities before going to paid. Newsetter providers have tutorials. So do lots of people on YouTube wanting to help you. Podcasts have been a great way to learn things, and I like to multi-task. Listen while you’re doing chores, or running errands, or taking a walk. I use my phone to take notes if they mention something of interest I don’t want to forget.
No matter how you learn what you learn, probably the one thing you’re going to need to invest is time, and in a lot of cases, that time is better spent writing.