Stockpiling books. Pros and Cons.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I wasn’t thinking about stockpiling books. In fact, I wasn’t thinking much of anything but getting my four-book small town holiday series out and tinkering with an idea about a first person dual POV I wanted to try because even back at the end of 2019/the beginning of 2020, I knew romance was taking a turn in that direct and I wasn’t sure if I was missing a luxurious cruise ship by not following the trend.

I’d never written in first before, and I opened that file on March 18, 2020 at 11:03 PM. I didn’t know it would turn into a six-book series or the most complicated series as far as plot goes I would ever write, but it’s what I spent 2020 doing. (I created the file for the last book on Sep 7, 2020 at 10:34 AM.)

Then, since I knew I wanted to publish these under a pen name to help differentiate them from my 3rd person books, I decided to write a short reader magnet that I could give away as a newsletter sign up. The only problem with that was, I can’t write short, and I had one book that I realized would be better as the first in series, and three standalones I decided not to give away because they were too long. It was toward the end of last year when I realized that I better freaking start publishing because the number of books I had on my laptop was its own kind of anxiety-inducing mess. The amount of editing and production those books required simply made me shut my laptop, or worse yet, open a new Word document and just keep writing, ignoring all the books I had already written.

There are a lot of pros to stockpiling books, but there are some cons, too, and this tweet that’s part of a thread by Zoe York inspired this blog post:

What are some of the pros and cons to stockpiling books?

One of the pros is you have a steady release schedule for months, maybe even years. If I published my series with two months between each book, I would release 6 in 12 months. Not only do you not fall off Amazon’s ninety day cliff, but you also have a whole year to write new books. I also have a couple of standalones ready to go, so I could buy myself even more time by publishing one or two after my series, giving me potentially 18 months to write more books.

I big con and one that could be a dealbreaker for many is depending on how quickly you write, you’re not publishing anything for months, maybe even years. If you’re starting a new pen and don’t need the money from sales, then that might not matter to you. It didn’t matter to me. I don’t make much money with my 3rd person books, and I could afford the time to write. It was actually very helpful the pandemic came along when it did. Everyone was in lockdown doing their own thing, my daughter was learning from home, and I’ve always had the kind of job where I can get words down between busy times. I didn’t feel like I was “wasting” time. I was trying to get through a pandemic like everyone else.

Another pro is stockpiling can be fun. You write a book or a trilogy or a series and you type THE END and immediately open a new Word document. I’ve never been attracted to shiny things, but moving on from one book to the next without thinking about editing, cover, and formatting is kind of liberating in a way. I have a standalone that’s 97,000 words that I started on May 15, 2021 at 12:28 PM that I finished July 6, 2021 at 7:19 PM. And trust me, that is when I finished because I haven’t opened it since I typed the very last word and closed out the file.

A con to that is having a completed book, or books, on your laptop and not doing anything with them. That would drive some people crazy, and as Andrea Pearson used to say on the now defunct 6 Figure Author Podcast, a book on your laptop won’t make you money. (If I recall correctly, that was in response to a question about whether she writes a whole series before releasing the first book–she does not.) Does it bother me to have Dominic and Jemma just hanging out? Ummm, not really? I mean, I should go and edit them and package them up at some point, but as soon as my trilogy is done and packaged, I will be focusing on getting my King’s Crossing series out and I have a couple more ideas for standalones I want to write while the ideas are fresh. It’s good to have a back up book, in case my well ever runs dry, but I’ll edit it when there’s a lull, such as when I just finish something and need to let it breathe.

Another con to swiftly moving on from one book to the next is you don’t spend that much time with your couples. There are some romance authors who market their books like they are talking about their best friends. They write slowly and revel in their characters and plots. They create mood boards and aesthetics, write short stories and other extra bonus content. Depending on how your mind works, you can always go back and do this, but when you’re cranking out words and the minute you type THE END, that couple can be out of your mind making way for the new book.

A pro to stockpiling is that you are guaranteed to go back to an older book with fresh eyes to edit it. I was so proud of the first two books of a six book series (a different series, book one was going to be a standalone) but when I went back to reread, ugh, they sounded terrible. At least with fresh eyes (and lots more words behind me) I could edit them properly. Who knows? Dominic and Jemma could be in the same boat, but luckily, I’ve written a lot more words since last summer and my first person voice has gotten a lot smoother. Plus, while editing my King’s Crossing series, I stumbled upon many crutch words I started using that at least I know of now and can get rid of them.

A big con, and one that gave me anxiety, is you are setting yourself up for a lot of work. Depending on how you stockpile, you could end up with upward of a million words to edit and package. Breaking it down was imperative for me to get any work done, and I tackled three of my standalones first. Standalones are a lot easier to work with, finding stock photos is easier for covers, and the editing doesn’t seem to be so mountainous. In the end, I did turn one into a reader magnet I’m giving away on Bookfunnel, and I have two others in KDP ready to go. The next book I’m publishing is Rescue Me, and I’m really proud of it. I’ll be excited to release it in October.

The main reason authors stockpile is to create a consistent schedule and keep with it. Unless life forces me, I don’t plan to take a break writing because I have such a thick cushion. I love writing and will always work as hard as a I can as time allows. It also helps when it comes to marketing. You can plan the sales and the promos you’re going going to do ahead of time. When Rescue Me comes out in October, I plan to use a couple of free days for Captivated by Her and buy a promo or two to start getting the word out. I’ll have three books available and I hope to get a little read through with those promos.

One of the cons of stockpiling is you can grow bored if you don’t finish a series all at once. I guess you can grow bored if you’re publishing while you write but there is more incentive to finish since you don’t want to have an unfinished series on Amazon. The two I have that are part of a six-book series? I edited them so they don’t sound so terrible, but I’m not excited to finish. I know I should, as I have some of those books’ plots loosely figured out, but I lost my passion for that series and I don’t think waiting for it to come back will help get them done. I should have finished them while I was writing them but I don’t remember now why I stopped. Perhaps I tried to write another reader magnet and got distracted. I know how important offering one is for my newsletter, and that was something I was determined to start since I never had one before. I need to do their covers and get to know them again. I can’t waste two books.

I wasn’t thinking about stockpiling while i was writing. I was just having fun and trying to get through the pandemic. Whether or not I’ll reap any rewards remains to be seen, but there there are lots of pros to quickly building a backlist. I’m excited to see where I am around this time next year.


I’m still playing with covers. I could totally write a dark romance duet. What do you think?

Author update and depending on luck

There’s no doubt about that luck can play a crucial part of success, but it never makes up 100% of someone’s achievement of their goals. I see it a lot, especially among the unsuccessful: “They were just lucky.” “They knew someone.” “They wrote the right thing at the right time.” It’s hard not to be resentful of someone else’s success, especially if it appears they didn’t work all that hard for it.

There are people like that–their charisma is off the charts and it seems they get handed things without them even having to ask. There is privilege out there too–I’m not discounting that at all–but accusing someone for being successful simply because they were lucky insults the hard work people put into their dreams and gives the person saying it an excuse not to work as hard as required to get the results they want (even if they won’t admit it).

We have this conversation a lot about EL James and the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. She was an “overnight success” or she was just riding on Twilight’s coattails because Fifty Shades was originally fan fiction. But was she all that lucky? She posted her books on a fan fiction site, they were picked up because people were responding positively to what she’d written. Maybe it was just luck she wrote fan fiction to begin with, but she read Twilight, she wrote the books. Maybe it was luck that what she wrote hit at that particular time, or the publishers who approached her knew it was the right time, but with ways to monitor trends and study what’s selling, it’s not so hard to find a genre that already has hundreds of thousands of readers. If you’re interested in genre research, look up Alex Newton of K-Lytics.

What are some scenarios where it looks like luck could have played a bigger part than it really did?

She knew the right person.
It’s always easier to have an in–that’s with any aspect of life, not just publishing. But you have to network to make those connections, form relationships with people without the idea that sometime down the road those friendships will be beneficial to you. Going to conferences helps form relationships, joining author groups and participating in discussions, whatever you have time for, will help you be part of the community. What’s the theory, you’re only six people away from someone else? If one of those six people have something nice to say about you, that could be your “lucky” break.

He never gave up and wrote the right thing at the right time.
This does sound lucky, no two ways about about, but you have to keep writing, keep plugging away at your craft. A writer who thinks they don’t have anything to learn is in a dangerous situation. No one will truly max out on their creative potential. Keep writing, keep learning, and maybe you’ll be like Hugh Howey who wrote for several years before he struck it “lucky” with Wool.

She recognized what wasn’t working and changed.
This is probably the hardest part of being in charge of your own career. You do what you want to do for as long as you want to do it, but if what you’re doing isn’t giving you the success you want, then you need to change. It’s that simple. You DON’T need to change if you’re satisfied with what you’re doing and what you’re getting out of it. I’ll say that again. You don’t need to change if you’re happy with the success your actions are bringing you. It’s only when you don’t find the success you want that maybe you should look into something else. How do I know when authors are unhappy? When they complain about sales. When they blame their lack of success on outside factors like it being summer (what?) or general sales slumps. It’s easy to be bitter when you can look at someone’s career and say, “Well, she’s lucky. She stopped writing cozies and started writing reverse harem.” You don’t know all of what an author goes through to make a choice like that. Maybe she really loves cozies but what she writing wasn’t hitting right. Maybe she did a ton of market research and read a lot of books before she tried her hand at RH. Maybe she networked a lot and was able to ask for a few favors and fellow authors added her book to their newsletters. Pivoting and knowing when to do so is a personal choice, and not “lucky” by any means. And even then, changing direction doesn’t mean you’ll find success, but you’re more apt to find it if you’re flexible. This goes for covers, blurbs, and yes, genres. When do you pivot? That’s a choice you have to make and only you will know when you’re unsatisfied enough to try something new.

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on luck. Rarely do we know the whole story behind someone else’s success. Saying they have time, money, skill, acquaintances, what have you might make you feel better, but it won’t help you get to where you want to be.


In other news, I’ve started my last book in my trilogy. I’m trying to baby my hands a bit, as writing 77k words in 27 days didn’t do me any favors. I’m not sure why I write so fast, why I’m compelled to do so. I’m not on a timeline, I don’t have any deadlines looming over me. I just like to write, get that story out of my head and onto the screen as quickly as possible. I need to take a break or if I hurt myself irreparably, I’ll never write again, so I gave myself two months to get this done. This book is a wrap-up, and has a few more plot points than the other two. I think it will be a little longer than 77k (which is what the other two books are) but that’s fine. As long as my hands don’t fall off my body, I’m having fun.

Book Two in my duet releases today. I added some A+ content, emailed KDP and asked them to add a couple more categories to the ebook and book. I don’t know if I’ll run any promos until Rescue Me comes out in October. I want to wait for a long enough time period to go by so the handful of people who buy it full price aren’t mad when book one goes on sale. Marketing strategies are always confusing, and I’ve never had a big enough backlist to learn what to do and what works. I’m still fumbling in the dark, but when my trilogy is done and is released in January, I’ll have six books out and it will be interesting to play around.

I don’t have much else. I decided to not host giveaways on my blog anymore. I rarely get any takers, and if I’m going to spend money, I’ll offer giveaways to my newsletter subscribers. If you want to sign up for my newsletter you can do so here: www.vmrheault.com/subscribe. You’ll have access to my free novel through BookFunnel and you can enter the giveaways there. I have one coming up since both books in my duet are out and maybe I’ll put something together for Christmas. I don’t want to say my giveaways on here were a waste, because I don’t think they were, but interest has certainly waned, and there’s no point in offering if no one wants to enter.

I hope you’re having a great summer so far! Make the most of the last month!

Author Update, What I Like Right Now, and Kindle Vella

I had a whole blog post set up about the comp title thing that happened on Twitter last week. I decided not to post it since there is just too many hard feelings surrounding those tweets, and I didn’t want to step into the middle of it. I just want to say that I think comps are important, that comparison titles and comparison authors are needed for BookBub, Facebook, and Amazon ads, which can play a vital role in indie marketing. While Allison, the woman who tweeted, was primarily talking about querying, comps have a place and can be hard to find if your book is unconventional. Many marginalized authors and writers chimed in (we all know how white the publishing industry is, and they should be loud about it, we all should), and being I’m a white cis/het woman myself, I don’t feel I add anything to the conversation. So if you’d like, and have the time, to fall into this rabbit hole, start here:


I’m doing pretty good for the writing part as of right now. This week I’ll put my second book in duet up for a very short preorder, just so that I can get my links, add some A+ content, and add the link for book two in the back matter of book one (I also have to fix a typo, so thanks to SJ Cairns for pointing that out). I should have this all up and going so the ebook will launch on August 1st. Then I have a standalone I’m going to release in October (not Halloween related, I only picked that date for timing), and if all goes well, I should have a trilogy to release in January. That hadn’t been my original plan, but I wanted to experiment and see what releasing all three books at once would do. If I can get a promo going for book one, the read-through might take off.

As you can imagine, that’s going to take some planning, and nothing I would have tried three years ago, but this is what I’m thinking about:

1. Covers.
I can’t have all my covers look the same all across the board. I have a six book series almost ready to go (I just need to read the proofs or find someone who will do it for me to check for consistency and typos.) Those covers are set in stone as I purchased all the stock photos, and I realized I was going to run into to some trouble with a trilogy. Each series/trilogy/duet should look the same to go along with your author brand, but different enough to set them apart from other series/trilogies/duets in your catalogue. Standalones are a little easier since you only need one stock photo and you’re done. A series/trilogy/duet need to work together, have a consistent vibe, and searching for stock photos while keeping in mind Amazon Advertising guidelines (because Amazon ads ARE a big part of my marketing plan) is tougher than it sounds. Hot men who haven’t been used a million times or showing more skin than Amazon ads will allow is actually quite a big ask and requires a lot of scrolling.
I also feel like these books are a little softer, and they are 10,000 words shorter per book that I usually write (so far, I have one of three left to write) so I thought maybe I didn’t need such edgy and dark covers. This is what I have so far, but I’m sure they’ll go through a few changes before I hit publish:

There’s a lot of reasons why I won’t go with all of them: Guys one and three look similar, and guy three with the smoke in his hand will disqualify him from ads (though I really like the look of him and he feels real in my head). Guy two doesn’t 100% fit, but he’s a lot of what I picture when I think about the character. I’m also a little worried they’re too plain, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, so while I’m writing, I’m also thinking about covers, which for me, since I do my own, is almost the hardest part of the whole thing.

2. New Marketing Tactic.
I haven’t tried this yet, so this will be somewhat of a test to see if it works. We all know to put a little teaser at the end of a book to excite the reader for the next book. But, I’ve read about some authors taking it a step further, and actually using the last CHAPTER of a book to introduce the character of the next book. I would imagine this works really well if you already have the books ready to go and can even add a buy-link to that last chapter. I’m going to try this and see how it works. If you don’t understand what I mean, this is an example: Book One is about Jack and Emma. I write in 1st Person Present Dual POV and alternate between them giving them (approximate) equal screen time. So before trying this marketing tactic, Book One would end with either Emma’s or Jack’s POV, maybe an epilogue to wrap things up (I don’t hate epilogues but don’t use them very often. In fact, I’ve started labeling them as the last chapter instead of calling it an epilogue.) But instead, Book One ends with a very short chapter in the next book’s character’s POV. In this case, since I’m always going to go with the male POV because it’s been studied that romance readers prefer, and look forward to, the next hero, that would be Raff. I’m excited to see if this works or if I’ll be accused of money-grabbing. The books are standalones, in the true sense there is no over-reaching arch the readers need to finish, so I’m not sure how it will be received. It will be a while before I can tell you, but you can be sure I’ll blog about it!

3. Overall Consistency/Relevancy.
I’ll need to create a logo for the trilogy, write up my blurbs, and write a list of the keywords I’m going to use when I upload my files into KDP. It’s a lot of work to do them all at once, but everything will be the same for each book. Relevancy is important when you want ads to work. Categories and key words should help Amazon point your book to readers who will want to read it. Amazon rewards relevancy and the more on-point your book is, the easier it is for Amazon to sell.
I’ve already done this a couple of times, so I’m hoping my process is a lbit more streamlined and it won’t take so long to put these books together.

4. Reviews.
Not paying for Booksprout was a big mistake. Captivated by Her still doesn’t have any reviews, though since I published it, I’ve sold around twenty-five books (some sales mostly page reads in KU) and I don’t have one review on Amazon. While I haven’t ran a promo for that book since book two isn’t out yet, exposure hasn’t been the best. Only a few Amazon ads have brought me the sales that I’ve had, and my lack of reviews, not even one, is disheartening. So I think for the first in this trilogy, I’m going to pay the $9.00 on Booksprout and put Give & Take up for review. You can publish the paperback and let the reviewers leave a review for that. Then once all your reviews have come in, (or not, just delist the book from Booksprout and hope the reviewers lagging will pull through) you can publish the ebook, and the reviews will appear for both versions. You don’t have to delist at all if you’re wide and your book isn’t in KU. It takes a little planning, a little looking ahead, but if you want to publish your ebook with reviews, you need to be organized. I don’t have an ARC team, and my newsletter is primarily made up of readers who signed up for my reader magnet. I’m not saying they aren’t quality subscribers, but I haven’t earned their trust for them to want to do anything for me at this point, even leaving a review.

Even though it is a lot of work, I’m excited to be publishing again.


I also have a lot of housekeeping to get taken care of once I’ve written book two and can take a short break. I need to publish Captivated by Her to IngramSpark and fix VM’s website. I have large print listed there because in the past, Amazon didn’t give me a hard time publishing them, but this time they did, and Captivated was blocked as duplicate content. So either I’m going to publish my large print with IngramSpark (if I can do it in a way that won’t tick off Amazon) or at the very least, set it up on my website so I can sell direct. I can order author copies through IngramSpark without publishing, and I can keep a few on hand for website orders. I have All of Nothing and The Years Between Us available in large print and I sell one every once in a while. I would like to offer large print because 1) I want to be accessible, and 2) I already wasted an ISBN on the ones I have under VM Rheault. Why Amazon gives us the choice to publish large print and then blocks it as duplicate content is confusing to me, but I don’t want to mess with Amazon and I won’t try again. I wish there were a live person to talk to that had the authority to unblock my book because it is a legitimate large print book that they shouldn’t have blocked in the first place, but the one rep I did talk to couldn’t do anything. They told me they would remove it from my dashboard but they haven’t, and no one did answer my email when I sent a complaint to Jeff Bezos’s email address. This is still in the back of my mind because I don’t like arbitrary rules telling me no. I’ll find a way around it, I’m just not sure yet. I would like to actually publish to reach as wide of an audience as possible, and maybe since you can publish paperbacks on Draft2Digital and you can choose where, I could skip Amazon if they’re going to make a stink. But I’m already publishing my regular print on IngramSpark for expanded distribution (they skip Amazon when they see the ISBN is already in use there), and I don’t want to use different distribution channels if I don’t have to. So, we’ll see. I haven’t asked in any of the Facebook groups yet, but when the time comes, I’ll ask a few questions.


What I’m loving right now.

Janet Margot used to work for the Amazon ads team, and she wrote a book about using Amazon Ads to advertise your books. She released only an ebook, but when Amazon sent me an email and asked I was still interested in that book (those work, people! Never count out the Amazon algorithms) I clicked on it and saw she finally created a paperback. I picked it up right away. More than just creating an ad, she talks you through cover, metadata, keywords, comp titles and authors, etc so you can make sure your book is advertising-ready before you create your first ad. Here’s Blaze with the book, and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Ads-Indie-Authors-How/dp/1737476118/


Kindle Vella

Kindle Vella is taking off, it seems, as I see more and more people publishing on that platform. My friend Dareth started up a blog, and her first post is about her experience with Kindle Vella. You can check it out here if you’re interested in publishing your own serial to the platform. https://www.darethpray.com/post/publishing-on-kindle-vella

If you’re interested in running a promo to your Kindle Vella link, Bookdoggy is one of few promo newsletters that will promote your Vella link. You can look at other services they have for authors, too. https://bookdoggy.com/for-authors/. I’ve never used them before, but if you have a few dollars to throw at a promo, it never hurts to try.

Other articles about Kindle Vella:

Kindle Vella: Description, Features, and Tips for Authors by Jason Hamilton on Kindlepreneur

What is Kindle Vella? And Should You Join as an Author? on the Reedsy Blog


That’s all I have for today. Summer is two-thirds over! Make the most of it!

Until next time!

Being an indie author means using what works for you, no matter the source.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. Not really a conversation I guess, because it’s long been established that we don’t see eye to eye on writing, publishing, and marketing, and that’s okay. Just looking at her back list and mine makes it clear we have different paths and different goals. She’s 100% indie, does her own thing when it comes to books, genres, writing craft, as well as covers and where she publishes her books. She’s happy, (I’m assuming she is as she has never told me otherwise) and wants to stay on that path.

I learned over the five years I’ve been writing and publishing romance is just because I want to do it the way I want to do it, it may not align with my business goals and what I want for my books. That’s an important distinction. Just because it’s the way I want to do it, it may not be the best way to make the dreams I have to come true. So, I’ve learned to niche down to a sub-genre and study what’s on the covers of the books doing well in that sub-genre. I create my covers not only with what I like (and what my skills will allow), but I also have to take into consideration what is selling, and what will meet Amazon’s guidelines when it comes to ads. Just because you’re indie doesn’t mean your books can’t look and read as professionally as they should, and this made me think: we can publish indie books while borrowing from the best of indie and trad worlds.

What do I mean?

Covers: Think like a trad author.
As an indie you can put whatever you want on your cover, but the fact is, after you publish, you aren’t competing with only indie authors. In fact, the line between indie and trad grows blurrier every day. Readers don’t care who publishes your book as long as they get a good read for a fair price. You’re in complete control of your cover, but once you start tweeting your book to generate interest, or you run any kind of ad, you’re going to compete against a lot of other authors. Authors who are traditionally published by the Big Four, authors who are published by a small press, authors who can afford to spend $500 dollars on a cover, authors who know a photo manipulation software backward and forward, and authors who put their cover together in the middle of the night high on caffeine using Microsoft Paint. This is an area where we can learn from traditional publishing. Create your cover to fit in with other books in your genre. People do judge books by their covers and who knows how many readers pass you by if your cover isn’t up to standards. Unfortunately, you may never know.

Blurbs: Think like an indie.
Up until recently, and I mean, like the past couple of years (which is recent when you’re talking about publishing) blurbs (plot teasers on the product page, not one-sentence praise from your peers) were written in third person present tense. It was just the way things were done, and there are still indie authors who write their blurbs this way, despite that their book is written in first person/present/past. It took me a long time to wrap my mind around a romance that was written in first person, and it took me actually writing a romance in first person dual POV for me to fall in love with it (no pun intended). While this was going on, the savvy authors started writing their blurbs in first person, using the voice of their characters. If you look back, the authors who started that and bucked the system were GENIUS. Blurbs have always been, and always will be, a marketing tool. Because it’s a trad thing to write your blurb in 3rd person present, there have been some people who are reluctant to move away from that (and I blogged about that too.) Personally, I think blurbs written in first person makes sense (and only applies to authors who write in first) and you can have a lot of fun writing your blurb that way. This is time for a good reminder that you should always research what other authors are doing in your genre and what reader expectations are. Writing your blurb in third could lose you readers, or make readers unhappy when they read a 3rd person blurb and expected a book written in 3rd person as well. There are some readers who detest first person books and go out of their way to avoid them. If you like to troll Twitter (and I mean scroll, not be a jerk) you can read some more thoughts on 3rd person vs. 1st person blurbs using these Twitter search results:
https://twitter.com/search?q=1st%20person%20blurbs&src=typed_query

Release schedules: Think like an indie.
Being an indie when it comes to how often you can publish and when can help you build an audience quickly. Trad authors are stuck to once a year, maybe twice if they’re with a small press with a flexible schedule. It seems Amazon imprints like Thomas and Mercer or Montlake allow their authors to publish a little faster, but all in all, authors who can release a book quarterly (3-4 a year) have a better chance at building an audience so why not use that to your advantage? It hurts to save up books, but if you’re a slow writer, why not? Write, edit, and package three, then write more as you release. this can start a publishing schedule that you can maintain and after a while, your growing audience will know when to look for a new release. In the time a trad author publishes three, an indie could publish nine to twelve, and that just means more money in your pocket.

Series: Think like an indie and trad author.
Indies are getting better at this, but I’ve seen some books in a series that don’t look like they’re a series because their covers don’t look the same and don’t have a similar vibe. Trad has always been great with series branding, using the same fonts, backgrounds, and characters. For instance, the first book in the Flowers in the Attic series was published way back in 1979.

photo taken from https://thebookmelon.weebly.com/blog/flowers-in-the-attic

Series branding is important, but these days in the era of fickle attention spans, a trad house may pull the plug before a series is complete because it’s not selling. Sometimes an author gets a chance to wrap up, but sometimes not. Readers get angry, but like my friend Dea pointed out on Twitter the other day, it’s not up to an author if they have a book deal whether or not to continue a series:

This is where being an indie can make all the difference. IF YOU’RE AN INDIE AND YOU’RE WRITING A SERIES, FINISH IT, OR AT LEAST WRAP IT UP! Readers don’t like being left hanging, and when you’re publishing your own books, there’s no reason not to finish. The release consistency subject above also comes into play here. If you’re going to make use of a cliffhanger, you better have the next book ready to go (hopefully on very short preorder), or you’ll get bad reviews like this one:

Use your freedom to your advantage and keep your readers informed. I was tweeting with this author, trying to figure out the best way to let her readers know so this didn’t happen again. Is posting a publishing schedule in the first book’s blurb the way to go? Perhaps this would be a good reason to use A+ content? I’m publishing a six-book series next year, and yes, I do use cliffhangers. But unlike the author above, they are all written and I will be releasing all six in one year. When I read the Crossfire series by Sylvia Day, she did give the characters a happily for now ending just for the fact she’s a trad author, knew her readers would have to wait a year between books, and wanted to give her readers a bit of closure until the next book came out. When you’re indie and you need time, maybe that is the better way to go. Personally, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I will never not have all my books written in a series before I publish. Just for the fact avoiding small plot-holes and consistency issues will always be reason enough for me to wait to publish while I write.

The overall look of your book: think like a trad author.

A lot of authors don’t know this, but there is a set of guidelines you can (should) follow when you publish. The Independent Book Publisher’s Association lists them on their website and covers everything from what you should have in your copyright page to reminding you that your interior should be full-justified. It’s amazing that you can be a life-long reader, but when it comes to assembling your own book, how a book should look flies right out of your head. I’ve seen books that are left-justified only, no page numbers, spaces between paragraphs (this is okay for non-fiction, but I’m referring to fiction books), double spaced, no front matter except a title page, nothing in the back, not even an About the Author page. There’s no reason you can’t put out a professional product. To find the list of guidelines, look here:
https://www.ibpa online.org/page/standardschecklist

While I understand the disgust thinking about traditional publishing can evoke in an indie, there are lessons trad can teach us. Your book should look professionally put together, even if you’ve done it all yourself. When you’re asking a reader to pay for your product, it’s up to you to make sure they are paying for quality. It doesn’t matter how you reach that standard, it’s only important that you do. If that means hiring out every step of the way, then that’s what it means. Some may only need an editor, some can edit their own work and do just fine. Some indies are a one-stop shop and do every single thing for themselves, or use $50 dollar premades to cover their books that go on to make thousands of dollars. As indies, we have so much flexibility, but don’t use that as an excuse to do what you want. Once you put your book out into the world, you want readers and you want readers who will recommend your book to others. You want people to take photos of your books in their gardens, next to their cats, at the beach, and they won’t do that if your book has a crappy cover on it.

You CAN have your cake and eat it too. Just maybe scrape a little frosting off it first.

Until next time!

Editor Interview: Kimberly Hunt

I met Kimberly on Twitter some time back, and I’m a member of her Facebook group, Revision Division. We’re also members of Romance Editor Q & A since I do a little editing myself and keep up the skill not only for my own books but for those I edit for on the side. I appreciate Kimberly’s time, and I hope you enjoy the answers to all the questions she so graciously filled out for me.


Introduce yourself! How did you get into editing and what are your qualifications? What genres do you enjoy editing most?
C.S. Lewis said “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” This is exactly what I did. After twenty years in the corporate world, I took a sabbatical and it shook my world to realize how amazing it is to fill my day with activities I’m passionate about. I have always enjoyed my work and the companies that employed me, so it was jarring to realize I could be happier. Before I set off on a vacation volunteering in Peru, a friend of the family asked if I’d read a novel he’d written. The story was amazing, but I couldn’t get past the number of errors. This was my inspiration to look into copyediting. My natural ability to spot punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling errors lent itself well to copyediting, so I took courses to start there. My education introduced trusted resources like dictionaries and style guides and working with publishers taught me how to create and maintain a style sheet for consistency. The more advanced courses I took revealed my true passion is earlier in the process, with developmental editing. I love assessing the big picture elements like structure, plot, pace, point of view, and character development to help writers improve their stories. I love editing romance the most but I also enjoy editing women’s fiction, mystery, and psychological thrillers. I’ve edited all heat levels and time periods but prefer steamy contemporary.

There’s the saying that a writer needs to write a million words before they can write something publishable. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
Whoa, that’s a loaded question without a simple answer! On one hand I don’t agree with the limitations of hitting an exact word count and refraining from sharing your work until it’s perfect. We grow and learn from making mistakes. I definitely don’t think writers should wait for an arbitrary milestone to publish. On the other hand, I agree with the sentiment of the saying where putting in the hours and the work makes for a better quality product in the end. Have you read Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers? He has a point about it taking 10,000 hours to become exceptional at something.

What is the biggest mistake you see indie writers making right now? (For example, info dumps at the beginning of their book, not enough conflict, too much tell vs. show, etc.)
I’ll admit I had to give this question some thought because I see such a wide variety of manuscripts with different issues. Considering both the unpublished manuscripts I edit and the completed books I read for pleasure, I’d say the biggest challenge seems to be related to pace because conflict is tricky. Many authors struggle to create believable conflict that escalates. Each chapter needs a purpose where the complications grow and the consequences are impactful. Many of my developmental editing projects require suggesting solutions for improving chapters without clear purpose. It’s hard to move the plot forward if the reader doesn’t know what the character wants, why they want it, or what stands in their way.

There’s a lot of talk about whether or not it’s necessary to have a manuscript edited before querying. What are your thoughts?
Most of my clients are independent authors, but I have helped several writers improve their story and polish with a copyedit prior to querying. I have more than one data point for authors gaining representation and eventually signing publishing contracts, but I can’t take credit for those achievements. Their storytelling talent far outshines my knowledge of where a comma goes. But as a businessperson who has reviewed cover letters and resumes before hiring someone, that first impression needs to be solid, so editing before querying could be beneficial even if it’s not required.

How do you keep the author’s voice intact while also guiding them with suggestions on how to make their book the best it can be?
Great question! My job is to point out both what works well and areas for improvement. I give suggested solutions in comments or in a revision letter for the more lengthy explanations. Changes made directly in the manuscript are usually corrections to indisputable errors. I reference Merriam-Webster dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style to support the corrections I propose. When line editing, I tread carefully to make sure I’m respecting the author’s voice while keeping concision and clarity a priority.

Is there ever a time when a book would require too much work? What do you tell a writer whose book isn’t ready for a professional edit? What resources do you refer them to?
This has happened a few times. Sometimes an eager writer finishes that first draft and jumps to the editing stage too soon. Revision and self-editing are recommended in these cases and I often provide resources for finding critique partners or offer to take on the project as a writing coach instead if the manuscript isn’t ready for editing yet.

What advice can you offer an author who can’t afford a professional edit? Are there things they can do to sharpen their own self-editing skills?
Definitely! These tips don’t replace the value of working with a professional editor, but they do offer some cost-savings if you can self-edit as much as possible first. I have a bunch of videos and blog posts on this subject on https://revisiondivision.com/tips but here is my best advice: read aloud to yourself, others, or have Word read it aloud to you. You’d be amazed by how much this trick catches. It will highlight awkward flow and bring attention to missed words and sneaky errors.

As an editor, it’s important you’re honest and give critical and actionable feedback. How do you offer this feedback so a writer doesn’t take it personally?
Diplomacy. I aim to provide valuable feedback through constructive criticism AND praise. By pointing out a writer’s strengths and showing in their manuscript where something works well, they learn and grow. On a scale of one to ten, with one being a Positive Pollyanna and ten being brutally honest, I’m probably a moderate four. I’m a professional and my training emphasized how to provide actionable feedback tactfully.

Are there any other tips or thoughts you would like to add about editing or publishing?
Adding on to that last question, I’d like to encourage writers to expect good and bad feedback. But they shouldn’t react right away in order to avoid an emotionally defensive response. Edits can be overwhelming. After initially receiving feedback, it’s a good idea to set it aside and digest. See what resonates and come back to it later to make a plan for revisions. Most importantly, do not give up.

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about something I’m so passionate about. 😊


Thank you, Kimberly, for your time!

How to find Kimberly:

Website: https://revisiondivision.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RevisionDiv
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/revisiondivkimberly/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2376033425801031

Short Author Update and June Recap

There isn’t a whole lot going on right now. Working a little extra because my money is flying away faster than a snowflake in a blizzard, but everyone is experiencing a little financial crunch, so that’s nothing new. I’ve turned off both ads on Facebook, one for Captivated that was eating up money with no sales, and the other for my newsletter signup/reader magnet. That was a tough one to turn off, mostly because it was working. I have a newsletter list of 220 people–25 having unsubscribed since I started running the ad. But it was working, maybe too well, and it was eating up money through lots of clicks. I’ll turn it back on again when my bills are caught up.

Now that July is upon us, in two weeks I can put my pre-order up for the second book in my duet. Book one isn’t doing so hot, but that’s okay. I’ll figure out a promo next month and see what happens.

I’m 13k into the second book of my trilogy. Yesterday’s words were hard won, and when that happens, I need to close my laptop and do more plotting. When I start a book I have most of the major plot points figured out, but I’m having trouble with this book filling in the muscle to my skeleton as I have often compared my plotting process. So I have to drill down and remember and refine my characters’ stakes, motivations, and consequences and figure out some scenes. The writing will come easier then.

I’m also, for some reason, more sensitive to word count with these books. Book one ended up at 77k, which is fine. I’m panicking for no reason, really, but when I have a tough time getting the words out, thinking of the total word count is always quick in my mind. I can skim through what needs to happen and in my brain and I count 5k or so, which is ridiculous. Everything takes more space when writing everything out than it does thinking about what needs to happen next.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who worries about word count. Audrey has word count anxiety (https://audreydriscoll.com/2019/12/01/word-count-anxiety/) and Karena has some great tips on meeting word count–the outlining tip is the one I rely on most (https://www.spalmorum.com/how-to-stop-worrying-about-word-count-but-here-are-5-ways-of-hitting-your-word-count-goals-every-time/). Terry has a process that sounds a lot like mine–(https://terryodell.com/dont-obsess-about-word-count/), and some people, given that if you indie-pub, just write until the story’s done. Sarra Cannon, creator of the HB90 planning system, also has thoughts on word count that you can read here (https://heartbreathings.com/long-self-published-book/). It’s nice to know I’m not the only neurotic writer out there.

After today, I’m going to start an editing series for indies, and the first guest editor is Kimberly Hunt. Due to poor time management skills (not really, when I start writing a new book, that’s all I care about) I don’t have anymore lined up (but I have reached out to potential editors who were interested in doing the interview) and that is something I’ll be working on after finishing up here. Despite dragging my feet, I am looking forward to the series and helping indies through their answers to my questions polish their novels for submissions and publication. I’ll still be posting updates, but that will take up the rest of the rest of the summer if I’m lucky.

So, I am off to do some more writerly things, some of which may or may not involve wine, since it is a holiday. I hope all enjoy the day, make it productive, and have some fun.

Until next time!

Author Update: Summer Plans

Housekeeping before I jump into the post: There is still time to read Jeeves Reads Romance’s interview and enter the giveaway. The last time I looked at the entries, there weren’t that many, so there is a good chance of winning! I’ll ship to the US and Canada and the giveaway goes on until July 4th, 2022.


Sometimes it’s great not to have anything to report. Kind of makes for a boring blog, but I’d almost rather have nothing to say than too much to grouse about because my luck went sour (who am I kidding–it’s been sour for a long time and only now just starting to turn around). I’m hoping those days are over for a little bit as for now, nothing is going on with my health (feeling better with the girly issues that have been plaguing me for the past year and a half) and I’m slowly getting over my breakup. I think it will hurt for a long time, but it’s not as heart-shattering as it used to be. The next couple of weeks are all about finishing up my adulting with a mammogram, eye doctor appointment, and a dental cleaning scheduled. But once I get those checked off my list, I won’t have much more to do and I can enjoy the rest of the summer. I’m loving the heat and I spend as much time outside as my schedule allows.


It’s been 27 days since the launch of my first book in my duet and the first book under my initials as a pen name. I’ve gotten a sale and some page reads, but I expected that. Book ones (in my experience) never do well because readers wait for the other books to release. When the second comes out, I’ll use a couple of free days in Kindle Select for book one and buy a cheaper promo. I’ve always gone with Freebooksy which is $120 for a steamy romance, but I’ll try something new like Ereader News Today or Fussy Librarian, maybe even Mark Dawson’s Hello Books. Authors are saying they don’t see the return on investment they used to, but I’ve never used any of those before and if the readers see a new name maybe they’ll take a chance on a free book. It still has 0 reviews and I wonder if I made a mistake not using Booksprout. There is just something about a book that doesn’t have any reviews. The product page looks like something’s missing. I’d even settle for a four-star a this point. At least it would tell potential readers it’s an honest review.

Wha’t I’m probably more excited about is I’m 73k into a new book that will be book one of a trilogy. I think I’ll work on them through the summer and into the fall, and just drop them all at once after Christmas. I need more books on my author page and if I do that, I’ll have six by the end of January. Then I can slowly release my 6 book series like I planned and have 12 by the beginning of 2023. I’ll have a good gauge if my books will resonate with readers by then. Right now the reads I’ve gotten from KU for Captivated are slow and spread out enough I know the people who have borrowed it read until the end, so that’s good news, at least, and probably the only perk to a snail’s pace start.

I’m looking forward to starting an editing series on the blog, and I’ll be interviewing up to 5 editors who edit for indie authors. I’ll start posting those after the 4th of July. I think craft and quality go a long way to how well you can market your book. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a cover, ads, or if you pay to get your blurb written for you. If the inside is disappointing, you won’t turn your readers into repeat customers. I (hopefully) geared the questions as something indie writers can learn from, so whether you’re writing your first book, indie publishing and looking for writing tips, or querying, you can read advice from editors who have seen it all.


I’ve been a little disappointed with the quality of covers on Twitter these days, and to keep my hand in with my own cover skills, sometimes I’ll redo them (for my own satisfaction). I would never approach an author and say their cover is bad and offer to replace it, so mostly they stay in Canva. I like this one, and maybe one day I’ll even write a book for it. The cover I redid also had a snowy cabin at the bottom and a couple up top, but I wanted to see if I could mesh the colors in a more cohesive manner and find a way to position the title better. This is not the name of the book nor the author who published the original. Actually, I think it’s one of my better covers, and I’m pleased with the stock photos I found. I didn’t buy the photos since I didn’t think it was worth it for now, and I used a combination of Canva and GIMP.

Speaking of Canva for book covers, the updated instructions I published this month have been viewed 94 times, so it’s it’s still a popular topic. The older post gets the most hits, but the information is still good and I pointed them to the updated post if they want to read that instead.

I’m eagerly anticipating what the rest of the summer will bring. More writing and more blogging, for sure, and book 2 of my Cedar Hill duet will release August 1st.

Enjoy the rest of the month!

Interview: Romance Novel Reviewer Jeeves Reads Romance

I was thrilled when Jeeves, from Jeeves Reads Romance, said I could interview her for this blog! As a romance writer, I’m always interested in why some books work for some people and not others. I like knowing what weighs more heavily with a reader and what, as a writer, I don’t have to stress so much about. I hope any romance author out there can learn a little something about crafting their own novels, and if you’re a romance reader, follow her blog, and bookmark her website and other social media. She completely takes the work out of finding your next read!

Let’s dive it!


Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! Let’s start with you telling us a little about yourself. How did you get into reviewing romance novels and how long have you been doing it?
No problem, it’s kind of fun to take the time to step back and reflect once in a while! I started reading romance back when I was young, probably 13 or 14. My mom would have her Nora Roberts novels around the house, or I’d sneak off with one of my older sister’s historical romances to see what she was reading at the time. That love of romance stuck with me, even after I (temporarily) ditched the books when I got a real life boyfriend. For several years, I consumed my romance via rom com movies, sitcoms, and Hallmark movies, until I got a Kindle for my birthday one year – and that love of romance novels came rushing back. I haven’t stopped reading them since! I started reading books by the authors I was familiar with growing up, and then I discovered Kindle Unlimited… and it was like a whole new world opened up. Once I started reading more indie authors, I realized how important reviews are – and one thing lead to another. I’ve had my blog since 2019.

How many books do you read a month? And please count all the audiobooks you listen to, as well!
I was reading about a book a day when I started my blog, but now I get busy with everything else related to blogging, so it’s more like 4 a week. And I’m listening to them about 75% of the time, whether it’s true audiobooks or just having Siri read text aloud to me. I love having the option to switch back and forth between text and audio, which enables me to fit a LOT more reading into my schedule.

What do you need for a book to be “unputdownable?”
That’s a tricky one! There’s no tried and true formula that works, but a book needs to grab me right away, or I make assumptions about how the story will go and I lose interest. I’m a true romance reader, so I really prefer for the characters to spend most of the book on the page together. Building the chemistry is essential, and sexual tension is a definite plus. I read everything from rom coms to mafia to angsty stories (at all steam levels), so I always love it when I’m left guessing about how things will play out. I’m much more forgiving of minor issues if I’m entertained and surprised!

For various (marketing) reasons, romance authors are encouraged to write in series. Do you like reading series or can you dig into a standalone just as well?
Standalone or series, I’ll read either. If an author has a unique idea that doesn’t work in a series, then I’m happy to dig in. There’s something to be said for interconnected standalones though – I love getting to know side characters and trying to predict which tropes will be used in their stories. It just makes the anticipation of the next love story that much stronger. I vastly prefer when a couple’s love story is contained to one book though. I’ll read duets from authors on my one-click list, but I’m done with trilogies. There always seems to be either too much time in between book releases or the middle book is dramatic filler, so if I see that a book is in a trilogy, I (almost) always pass. Don’t give me an unexpected cliffhanger though, that’s a surefire way to anger readers, lol.

Do you have a preference over 3rd person POV over 1st?
I greatly prefer 1st person, with dual perspectives unless there’s a good reason why the second shouldn’t be included. It makes me feel like I’m a part of the story, not like I’m an outsider looking in. That makes the experience more immersive. I read 3rd person occasionally, but it’s definitely not something I seek out and it has been the reason why some books haven’t resonated with me in the past.

Does the cover matter when you’re choosing what book to read?
100%. Covers typically indicate what kind of story you’re in for – something light and fun, something dark and twisty, something sporty. I read different types of romances when I’m in different moods or settings, so even if it’s a one-click author for me, I want to make sure the vibe will match. If I’m trying out a new-to-me author, then I will also be turned off by a cover that doesn’t look professional. A poorly designed cover usually means the author hasn’t taken the time to get the book properly edited, which is never an encouraging sign. Also, if I’m scrolling on social media or Amazon, then the cover is what will lead me to check out the blurb of a book I’m unfamiliar with. Covers are important.

What are some of your favorite tropes?
Tropes are more popular than ever right now! My trope-focused recommendation lists (https://jeevesreads.com/best-of-lists/themed-recommendations/) are by far the most popular pages on my blog. For example, my list of Brother’s Best Friend Romances (https://jeevesreads.com/2020/10/10/15-brothers-best-friend-romances/#more-5826) has been viewed over 40,000 times in the last two years – and that’s not even the most popular one. Readers love tropes because they usually give an indication of the type of obstacles a couple will need to overcome. I struggle with secret baby and second chance romances, but I always seem to be in the mood for a fake relationship romance or enemies to lovers friction. I’ve also been loving marriage of convenience and mafia romances lately, which can play out in a variety of ways. Grumpy/sunshine is also one of my personal favorites.

Earlier you did a blog post on books you did not finish (DNF). We’ll link to that, but can you explain a little about why you would not finish a book? What is a pet peeve or mistake an author can make that will cause you to DNF?
Yeah, talking about why books didn’t work for me can be as helpful to other readers as talking about why they DID work. Occasionally, I post a DNF Report (https://jeevesreads.com/2022/05/16/tossed-off-the-tbr-the-dnf-report-2/) that goes over why I set certain books aside. I’m a mood reader who knows what will irritate me while reading, so it’s usually pretty obvious if the experience isn’t going to go well, lol. Other readers may have different preferences, so what irritates me might be a win for them. I’m not a fan of excessive miscommunication or other woman drama, which is the fastest way to make me DNF a book. Sometimes a character’s personality isn’t a good fit for me either, it can be as simple as that. Or maybe the blurb led me astray, and the tone is not at all what I was expecting. Not all DNFs reflect poorly on the book.

You always have such awesome, up-to-date lists! How do you find the books you read? If a romance author was interested in you reviewing their book, do you accept requests? And if so, how do they contact you?
Thank you! As a reader, one of the most frustrating things for me has always been trying to figure out what to read next, or keeping track of the never-ending new releases. It can be an overwhelming experience, especially when there are so many books I’d love to check out. That’s really been the focus of my blog (http://www.JeevesReads.com) – helping other readers take the frustration out of managing their TBR and making it a more relaxing experience. In putting together my release calendar and new releases lists, I discover a lot of books I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I also follow many authors on social media, or take recommendations from fellow bloggers. Every time I see something interesting, I put it on my TBR and keep it in mind for later. Of course, my TBR is never-ending like everyone else, lol. That’s why I don’t take requests, I’ve always got something on my TBR to satisfy whatever vibe I’m looking for that day.

I’m always happy to interact on social media! I’m most active on Twitter and Instagram.


Jeeves, thank you so much for giving us your time! I really appreciate your opinions. If you want to follow Jeeves for book recs, here are all her links. Also, keep reading to enter the giveaway!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jeevesreads/

Website: http://www.JeevesReads.com

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@jeevesreads

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeevesReads

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/crzyjeeves

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jeeves-Reads-Romance-107218497418106/?view_public_for=107218497418106


Because Jeeves is a romance novel reviewer, it’s only fitting I have a romantic giveaway! This giveaway includes a $25 dollar Amazon gift card (fill up your Kindles!) two champagne glasses I purchased in a gallery/gift shop in Fargo, ND, and a trinket dish that says, Happily Ever After, for a combined total of $90 dollars. I hope you enter, and good luck to those who do!

Raflecopter collects email addresses but I only use them to inform the winner they have won the giveaway.(US and Canadian residents only.) Click here to enter!

Updated! Creating a full wrap paperback book cover using Canva (plus more screenshots!)

Quick note: I use Canva Pro, and some of the features I talk about are not available in their free plan. Before Canva added those features, I taught myself a few things in GIMP, a free version of Photoshop. (Find it here: https://www.gimp.org/downloads/) It will be up to you to learn the things you don’t know. And as always, there are no affiliate links in this post.


Because of the changes KDP made to their template generator and the updates Canva added to their software, the blog post I wrote last summer on how to use Canva to create a full wrap paperback cover is basically obsolete. The good news is KDP took away the need to do any math, and I think that will make a lot of people happy. Oh, and the CMYK vs. RGB issue if you want to publish on IngramSpark is gone as well, since Canva (on the Pro Plan) added the option to download your PDF in either.

While there are some things that still pertain to doing your cover in Canva such as making sure your stock photos are 300 dpi so your cover isn’t pixelated, there is a lot that has changed, too, so let’s dive in.


Before you start, you’ll want to make sure you have a formatted manuscript. This includes all your front matter and back matter, your dedication page, acknowledgments, about the author, etc. If you do it yourself with Word, Vellum or Atticus, InDesign or other, you can make changes whenever you want (and you probably will). KDP gives you a 10 page grace, so don’t go crazy. If you hire out, you’ll need the total number of pages of the formatted manuscript that you’ll upload into KDP or IngramSpark and the trim size you’ve chosen for your book.

Once you have that, you can download the cover template that will show you the bleed areas to stay away from when creating your cover. Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/cover-calculator and enter in all the information they want.


1. Paperback or hardback That’s your choice, and I would imagine the instructions on how to do the cover are the same. I’ve never done a hardback so I don’t know if it’s worth the time or not.

2. Because you’re not creating a coffee table book or a cook book that requires colored pages (those projects are beyond the scope of this blog post) choose a black and white interior.

3. Cream pages for fiction, white for non-fiction is usually the norm. Your page color is attached to your ISBN number, so you can’t change your mind after you publish.

4. Page turn direction is left to right, but if you choose the wrong one, the template will show you a cover with the back on what would normally be the front. Just go back and change it.

This is what your template will look like if you choose the wrong page turn direction.

5. I choose inches.

6. Choose your trim size. Trim size is also attached to your ISBN so you can’t change the size of your book unless you republish. If you have a very long book, you may want to go with 6×9 due to printing costs in KDP. Look at what other authors in your genre are doing. Amazon makes it easy to find the product information of any paperback book. I used to go with 5×8, but under my new pen name I’m going with 5.5×8.5 for all my books. You’ll need to tell your interior formatter which size you’re going with as well.

7. Enter the page count. This determines the thickness of your spine. (Press Enter if the yellow button doesn’t light up.)

8. Click Calculate Dimensions.

With the new way KDP offers you the template, all you need for the canvas size in Canva are the numbers for the full cover. The width is 12.045 and the height is 8.75. Before, you used to have to do the math (adding the front and back covers and spine and bleed) to figure out this number, but not anymore.

Click download template on the lower left. It will come in a ZIP file. Open the file and save the PNG under a name you’ll remember so you can find it to upload it into Canva.

The template will have all the information you entered into the template creator and will remind you of the canvas size: 12.045 (width) x 8.75 (height).

In Canva, on the home page, you’ll want to do Custom Size:

There, you’ll enter in the numbers that the KDP template gave you:

Click Create New Design.

When you do that, you will have the exact sized canvas you need to fit the template you downloaded.

Adjust it like you would any picture or element you use in Canva.

And really, it’s that easy. No more math. No more guessing the canvas size. This is my template for the first book in my King’s Crossing Series. I’m using a 5.5×8.5 trim size, the pages of the book are 318 and I print on cream paper.

In my other blog post, I took you through the steps on how to use the template, and I can do that here. I’ll keep going with the first book’s cover.

Using the transparency, you can see the bleed lines I’ll need to stay away from when adding text. It’s why I build on top of the template, but you can always guess, and then using transparency, put the template on top of your finished cover and see if you stayed away. That’s a lot of adjusting if you’re not used to making covers, especially text sizing on the spine, but you’ll do what works for you.

Next I darken the image and add the guy. I pay for Pro, so I’m not sure what all the special features are available in the free plan but I think the background remover is worth the price alone.

Remove his background and darken him up. I play with the brightness and contrast until I like how he looks against the background.

Canva has a lot of cool elements that I’ve started using, and I don’t need GIMP as nearly as often as I used to. Because I like his size, but the photo is cut off toward the bottom, I needed something that would hide that and make the title font and my author name pop. So I found a black gradient element that I use and put it at the bottom.

This black gradient is perfect for what I need it to do:

Now I have space for the title and my author name. Canva Pro offers a lot of font options, too, and while I try to buy my own just for my own peace of mind, sometimes I do use theirs, but I always give attribution on my copyright page at the front of my books.

The font I’m using for the title is Better Saturday and Playfair Display.

This is why I build on top of the template. So I can see where to place the text so it’s a safe distance from the bleed marks.

When you’re doing the spine text, you can zoom in to see the bleed lines clearly.

Print on Demand is iffy at best, and I’m cutting it close with CRUEL. I’ll make that a bit smaller to give the printers some wiggle room. There’s always someone on Facebook complaining their spine text isn’t centered, but I’ve given up worrying about it. It’s nothing you can control. Just give the printer enough space to mess up so your text doesn’t bleed onto the back or front cover.

Add your name and imprint to the spine if you want and then do the blurb or whatever else you’re going to put on the back cover. I’ve only added my author photo with my bio one time. I also skip putting the barcode white box on the back. KDP will add it for you if you leave that space blank.

Keeping the transparency low on the background lets you see that the text for the blurb isn’t too close to the edges.

You’ll want to tweak it, of course, but when you change the transparency to 0 you can see how it will look when all the pieces are in place. (Oops, almost forgot the series logo.)

In the bottom left of the back cover, I call that the crap corner. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what to put there because there’s not a lot of room for anything, and with the barcode in place, the corner just looks empty. I’ve started putting my author website there for lack of anything better and I think it works okay. Like I said, I leave the barcode box blank. Both KDP and IngramSpark will add it if you don’t buy or make your own barcode. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur has a free barcode creator if you want to create your own barcode. You can find it here. Barcode Creator. (Okay, I lied. I added it so you can see what it looks like.)

One of the updates that surprised me was when Canva added the choice (for Pro Plan) to download in RBG or CMYK. IngramSpark prefers the CMYK and KDP, I don’t think, cares. I’ve always uploaded an RBG because that’s all Canva has offered in the past.

This takes some of the worry off using IngramSpark because I hated seeing their error messages even though I knew what I was doing was okay. My covers always came out fine (POD mistakes aside) so I never worried about it either way, but it’s nice to have the choice.

You can use this cover for IngramSpark, too, but make the text on the spine smaller. Their spines are narrower because of the kind of paper they use. IngramSpark also has a cover template generator, and if you want to make sure you’re in the bleed lines, you can download it and lay it on top your cover. If you want to keep both, duplicate your KDP cover and name them, indicating their appropriate platforms. Using your transparency, you can adjust the font and then delete it when you’re done.

As you can see, I would want to adjust the title on the spine because it’s narrower than KDP’s template. I haven’t found there to be any other difference.

Adjust the text so they are still centered, and you’re done with covers for both templates and platforms.

What I really love doing for a series is saving the first book as a jpg or png, and then laying that over the other books in the series so all the elements are in the same place. I was actually really lucky with the pages in my books, and I was able to use the same template for 4 of the 6 books.

That was convenient because I could duplicate the cover and then swap out the guy and change the titles, and I knew everything would be the same size and in the same exact place. I don’t always expect to be that lucky, though.

Here’s what the finished product looks like. The cover looks a bit washed out, but that’s the photo and I don’t think it needs adjusting in real life. I can move the black gradient over a bit though, closer to the spine, but otherwise, I think it’s pretty good.

I think I covered everything there is to know with the updates. If you have a cover from a designer and you need to resize it, entering the numbers and generating your own template for the numbers and plopping them into Canva is easy. Another update Canva Pro added recently is you’re able to upload PDFs, not just PNGs, JPGs, and JPEGs. I haven’t needed to try it yet, but I was excited about the new things Canva is adding for us! Canva Pro also has a resize option that I’ve used for my large print books and it works pretty well.

I hope the new instructions are helpful!

Let me know and thanks for reading. 🙂


Quick Resource Links:

KDP Cover Calculator/Template Generator

IngramSpark Cover Template Generator

GIMP

DepositPhotos is where I buy all my stock photos for covers.

Atticus is a new interior formatting software created by Dave Chesson and his team at Kindlepreneur. Atticus is available for all computers, not only for Mac like Vellum is. You can find Atticus here. If you have a Mac and want to play with Vellum, you can try it for free. They’ll charge you only if you want to generate files. Find Vellum here. If you don’t have the cash for either, but still want to do it yourself, KDP also supplies interior templates with bleeds and gutters and front matter in place. Download the template with sample content. Delete theirs and copy and past your own into the template. You can find info about the interior templates here. (That is actually how I formatted my books before I bought Vellum.)

Canva Pro lets you upload fonts into your toolkit. I find lots of cheap fonts at Creative Fabrica, and there are some free for commercial use fonts at 1001 Fonts.
There’s a great gal in the Design Resources Hub group on FB who posts whenever Creative Fabrica has free or discounted bundles. You can join the group here.

Developing your eye takes time and practice. Looking at Canva templates and the top 100 in your genre on Amazon can teach you a lot. You can look up Canva Templates here.

GetCovers is a cheap place (popular and trustworthy, they are based in Ukraine) to find covers for your books if you don’t want to make your own. (They also have a very informative marketing newsletter if you want to sign up.) I’ve started looking through them for practice. This cover was in one of their Tweets; I follow them on Twitter. I thought it looked easy enough to duplicate so I tried using only Canva tools. I could probably do better if I took more time, but I think I did a good job. Because of the elements that you’ll have at your disposal, you won’t be able to get everything right, but the practice is invaluable.

Author Update: Emailing Jeff Bezos and what I’m working on now.

I’m writing a quick Thursday author update because on Monday I’m posting updated instructions on how to do a full wrap for a paperback in Canva. Both Canva and KDP made changes that have made my post from last year basically obsolete, and anyone who reads it now will be like, what? because the site where you can download your cover template has changed. So, you gotta stay with the times. (But no video as of yet. I know I promised, but making a video is nerve-wracking and I’m not excited to jump into it.)


I emailed Jeff Bezos’s email address this morning about my large print book. I submitted Captivated by Her in a large print edition, but KDP blocked it as duplicate content. I was a little pissy since I was able to publish two other large print books without an issue. So I wrote to his email address asking if large print was going to be blocked as duplicate content (which doesn’t make any sense to me anyway because it is) then why give us the option? There’s even a little box when you’re publishing asking if it’s large print. You can check it, and I assumed that publishing a regular print book along with a large print was a no-brainer. I guess not. In the email, I didn’t even ask them to unblock my book. I don’t care about that so much because I can publish them through IngramSpark (which is a hassle, but you do what you gotta do). I know on Amazon that can be hit and miss with availability, but it’s better than not publishing at all. I just wanted an explanation, and if they really don’t want us to publish large print, take the option away and force us to use IngramSpark. I hate seeing my blocked book on my dashboard, and I don’t want to do anything that will cause KDP to close my publishing account. I’ve always been on the up and up with them, and treat my books as a business. I just get mad when things don’t go how they should go. Anyway, I don’t expect a response. I’m sure Large Print books are not on their list of priorities, but at least i can say I tried.


I’m 30k into a new first book in a trilogy. I’ve got loose plots for all three books, and I’m having fun writing it. I was going to write the remaining four books in a different series I started last year, but the characters in this book wouldn’t leave me alone, so they’ll get slotted into my publishing schedule in 2024, and then I’ll have the other series to release in 2025. It’s a bit crazy that I’m that far ahead, but I don’t have to be.

The books I’ll publish between now (Captivated came out June 1st) and the beginning of 2024. I’ll release them 2 months apart.

I could release as quickly as I want, but there’s no point in turning on the faucet in a gush if there’s no one around to appreciate the water. I’ll slowly release while I gather email subscribers and hopefully readers. My launch (though I haven’t reached the 30 day cliff on Amazon yet) hasn’t done anything but with one book and it being half of a duet, I kept my expectations low. My plea to my newsletter subscribers who downloaded it as an ARC for a review went unanswered, and it doesn’t even have one to make the product page look nice. Maybe I should have gone with Booksprout after all. Oh well. We’ll see where I am next year at this time, though I don’t know if I’ll be doing much better. It takes so long now to build a readership, I may not be looking at any kind of momentum until 2024. But that’s par for the course in these times. I just have to work harder on building my list and learning how to take advantage of promos on Bookfunnel. Earning a reader’s trust takes time and lots of consistency. I’ll get there, I just hope I don’t burn out before I do.

My Facebook ad for my newsletter sign up is going well, and I have 218 subscribers. I’ll need to shut my ad off in a couple of days though since I’ll have reached a 100 dollar ad spend, and I don’t want to spend any more than that. I’m already paying for Bookfunnel, so I should explore that more. And I think I’ll turn off my FB ad for Captivated as well. I’m getting a few clicks but they are really expensive (26 cent a click), and my sales dashboard is a big goose egg for that book. I knew this was going to be an uphill battle, but I want to save a little money to push the book when the second comes out. Pacing in a book is important, but it’s also important when you’re blowing your budget. My Amazon ads are also dead in the water, probably because I’m not bidding high enough for them to be shown to anyone. For right now, I’m using Bryan Cohen’s method of a thirty cent click bid, and that is not enough for a romance genre, especially one as popular as billionaire. After I shut my Facebook ads off I can create a few more on Amazon with a higher bid and see if that helps. In the words of almost every professional marketer out there: Test, test, test!

That’s about all I have for today. I’m happy to be writing again, and I’ll be busy with this trilogy until the end of the year.

I hope you’re having a great month so far!