Well, I finally finished my first rockstar romance–the book that turned into a trilogy. It topped out at 107,709 words, and I’m not sure how that happened, but it’s fine. That word count will change when I edit it, adding more foreshadowing to the next book (now that it is very loosely plotted out) and after some beta feedback, maybe there will be a scene or two that I can cut (though after reading that, a scene or two won’t help with the overall word count, haha).
It felt like it took me forever to write this book, when in reality, it wasn’t that long.
According to the file information, I created the file on November 10th, and I finished on January 28th. That’s 78 days, and 1,380 words per day. If you ever feel like a project of this scope is out of your reach, just remember, that’s fewer words per day than what’s required to win NaNoWriMo. I don’t write every day, and some days I’ll have a 0 word count and other days I’ll make up for it with a 5k day. You have to find a system that works for you, and if you have a problem with productivity, I recommend Elana Johnson’s book. It helps to know what kind of author you are as well, and she can help you figure it out.
I don’t have too much else to share. My third book in my trilogy should be live when you read this. The books on my VM Rheault Goodreads page are all messed up because subtitles on the ebooks don’t match the paperback and there are two entries for the same book. I asked in the librarians group to fix Rescue Me when that happened and the last time I checked, they hadn’t. When Safe & Sound is live and the ebook is posted over there, I’ll ask again to fix Rescue Me and the entire trilogy. I hate going over there, I hate inadvertently looking at my ratings. When you’re on your profile you practically have no choice, and I hate having to be there for anything at all.
Speaking of reviews, there was so much talk about them last week on Twitter and it drove me insane. One author complained about a 1 star review, and she received so much support. I don’t understand. I don’t understand complaining, and I don’t understand those people who say, “It’s says more about them than it says about your book.” Are you for real? I’m pissy enough right now to say, SOME BOOKS DESERVE ONE STAR REVIEWS! Not every book on the planet is going to be worth 5 stars, or even 4 stars, and her complaining got her called out on TikTok and grabbed her a couple more one stars on Goodreads. She said she wanted a supportive place to vent, but a public Twitter profile is not a supportive, or safe, place. There are no private places on the Internet. The only way you can be private on Twitter is if you lock your profile down, and if you’re on there to network and sell books you won’t cut off your reach that way. Blocking people won’t help–anyone can easily open an incognito window and search your name or create a fake account to stalk you with. There are crazies who screenshot everything because they have no life. She said she deleted that tweet, but I’m sure that tweet still lives on in many many computers and phones.
What bothers me the most though, and what authors can’t seem to understand, is that if you’re using Twitter as a promotional tool, you’re using it to find readers, and it’s no longer an author space for you but a reader space. You shouldn’t complain about reviews or sales because your READERS are seeing that. If you launch a book and you’re tweeting about it all day for weeks on end, but you only grabbed three or four sales out of all that promo, the last thing you should do is complain about it in the very space you were looking for readers. It’s disrespectful to the people who did buy your book. A reader space and an author space is NOT the same place, and I see this all the time. If I see you promo and then in the next breath complain you have no sales, that is a sure fire way for me not to want to buy any of your books. I’m on Twitter to network, share publishing news, and if I mention I published something, it’s to prove I walk my talk. I can’t tweet about writing, publishing, and marketing if I’m not doing those things. It’s silly, and I learned early on the very best thing I could do for my books was to separate what I do online into two areas: my nonfiction like this blog and Twitter, and my fiction like my newsletter and ads.
I’m only at 800 words right now, so let me tell you a little story–I have a friend who is a staunch MAGA supporter. Very vocal about it. (I’m not sorry to say I muted her.) Some people don’t like your political views thrown into their faces, and she kept saying she wasn’t going to hide who she was. Okay. You’re not hiding keeping something to yourself, but whatever. So she was supposed to be part of this anthology, and she was so vocal about her MAGA support that her editor had to cancel the anthology. No one wanted to work with her or the editor since the editor was affiliated with her. This caused her to apologize profusely, but the damage was already done. You don’t have to tell everybody everything about yourself, and you certainly don’t have to put every little thing online. Sometimes it pays off, like Chelsea Banning going viral, and sometimes it doesn’t. I guess only you can weigh the pros and cons of sharing something like that.
Surprisingly, that’s all I have to share. I hope you were able to accomplish a lot this first month of the new year!
While I was writing, as I am wont to do for 30 hours a week because I don’t have a life, I stumbled upon something that was a surprise I honestly didn’t see it coming. It’s not entirely unwelcome, but it will put a wrench in my plans for this year. If you follow the blog at all, you’ll know I’m almost done with a rockstar standalone. At 94k at the moment of this writing, I know exactly what I need to finish up–how many words I’ll need is another thing, but no more than 20k, for sure. It’s a long book about a depressed and washed up rockstar whose manager hires a life coach to get him back on track to record another album. This rockstar has bandmates, and they’ve been kind of hanging out, literally and figuratively, and I had no plans whatsoever to give them their own stories…until I wrote this line on Thursday evening….
Brock sighs, and I understand all that sigh encompasses. An end of an era, but the start of a life they’re unsure of. They don’t have Liv in their corner, a future with a woman they love. Divorced and single, they’ve been drifting since Derrick’s death, the band the only thing anchoring them to the ground. If Ghost Town disappears, they’ll have nothing.
Twisted Lies and Alibis by VM Rheault
That made me sad… I don’t want to leave Brock and Eddie with nothing, even if I don’t know who they are, even if I haven’t invested in them one little bit and in my head they are completely interchangeable.
And so began the idea to turn this standalone into a trilogy….but it will require some work. Here’s what I’ll have to do:
Turn the secondary characters into people and write them into the story. Like I just said, I didn’t consider them anything more than prop characters and they barely have families much less backstories and almost no page time besides brief scenes here and there. Readers will need to get invested in their lives and who they are as people or they won’t care there are books about them. That may require some rewriting on my part and giving them more page time. Usually when I write a series, I plan them out first allowing me to foreshadow what will happen in the other books. They both have children and ex-wives, and that’s about as far as I got. Not a good foundation for two more books.
Who would their love interests be? This is a tough one because I had to sort out who I’ve already mentioned and how I could turn them into romantic partners for my characters. This book is about Sheppard Carpenter who is having an issue moving forward when one of his bandmates dies in a freak accident on stage and it triggers his depression. The bandmate, Derrick, who passed away, left a wife behind, and depending on why they were married and for how long, I think that could work. I don’t know anything about Clarissa, either (even her name is a placeholder because I’m not sure if she’s going to keep it), except she was filing for divorce at the time of her husband’s untimely death, and that could work in my favor. Olivia, the life coach who is helping Sheppard, wrote a self-help book some time ago and has an agent she’s still friends with who could potentially be the other love interest. I made her old…in her sixties, but that’s an easy fix. But book one is set in California, and Agatha’s based in Minnesota. How would they meet, and what’s her story? The possibilities are there, and that’s what counts.
What are their backstories? A good romance needs two people who have a lot to overcome to be together. Since I’m working with a primarily clean slate besides their names and a mention or two of their families, the sky’s the limit….but I’ll need to sit and brainstorm because I need to think of the tropes and emotional wounds I haven’t used before. The tropes aren’t so bad–they’re easy to change to differentiate one book from another, but unique tragic backstories, or front stories for that matter, need a bit more creative juice and in the best case scenario, I’ll figure them out soon so I can plant seeds in this first book. The best series string readers along so they have no choice but to read the next book and the next book. If I can’t even imply what book two will be about, you can forget read-through.
How long will these books be? I was thinking the standalone would be 110k, but if I kept up that pace, we’re looking at another 220,000 words. Sheppard’s and Olivia’s character arcs are long….they need space because they are both grappling with so much and they have so much to overcome mental health-wise for them to be together. I might be too close to my story, but for now, all my scenes seem to be needed for their character development, so we’ll see. I’m still writing it and I haven’t reread from the beginning. I also already have a couple betas lined up so maybe they can help me cut it down a little bit. I’m not opposed to longer stories, but if I have two more books in the works at 110k a piece, I’m looking at a minimum of another 6 months of writing. But, if I do keep the books that long, at 330,000 words, it will be my second biggest project (my 6-book series is over half a million words long, and my 4-book small town winter series is 288,000 words).
Covers. I already had a tentative cover if this was going to be a standalone, and quite honestly, I’m getting tired of doing my own. Doing standalones is a lot easier than coming up with a concept I can handle with my limited skills and finding stock images that I haven’t used before but accurately portray how old my male characters usually are is getting harder and harder. You can tease me all you want, but I’m not cutting their heads in half, no matter how much easier that would make my life. I’m also up against Amazon’s advertising guidelines, and I’m not popular enough to sell books by my name alone. I said a long time I don’t care if they reject my ads, but it’s a lie. Amazon ads are a big part of my marketing, and if I can’t advertise a trilogy, that’s page reads down the drain. So knowing I would have to do three covers instead of one is a small deterrent, but nothing that would keep me from the project.
CoversUpdate: As I wrote this blogpost on Thursday, I did some cover experimenting on Friday, flipping through stock photos for hours and hours. Literally, hours and hours. But, I think it might have paid off as I came up with a tentative concept for the trilogy. I was so pleased I found the cover models, I have already purchased them (do you know how difficult it is to find men that look like old rockstars???), and since I always let you in on my creative process, I’ll show you what I came up with. For some reason I don’t feel the doubt (and still feel, to be honest) that I did with the trilogy that’s releasing right now, but I still can’t say for sure if these will end up being the final thing. They kind of appear washed out and I may need to change the background, but I used screenshots and they’re grainy, so we’ll see what working with proper photos will do. It’s funny, while doing research for rockstar romances, that there isn’t one definite kind of cover. Of course, there are shirtless men galore, but I can’t go that way, and besides maybe a stage/audience in the background, there are no similar styles. A lot of times, like mine, the model isn’t even holding a guitar. That can be good for a designer in terms of flexibility, but bad for creating something that will for sure work to bring in sales. Anyway, I’ve never been one for a cover reveal, so here they are with tentative titles–those definitely are subject to change:
All in all, it sounds like I’m going to do it, especially since I have covers now, and it would be a nice addition to my backlist. It puts a glitch into my publishing schedule though, as I was going to put out two more standalones after my trilogy releases before I start publishing my 6-book series. I’m only pushing back my series because I really really really wanted some kind of audience already in place when I release these books. I honestly think they are going to either make or break my career (think Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series)… and I wanted to give them the best possible chance. I can only do that if I have some branding and a backlist in place already. I’m growing my newsletter, and I’ll be looking at promo opportunities through Bookfunnel as soon as THIS trilogy releases in full. The second book is out today, and I have had some good feedback on the first book. Releasing another trilogy before the series goes live would be great, but I need time to write. I have a standalone (billionaire’s fake fiancé trope) already queued up for April, and if I waited until July or even August, that gives me 7 months to finish this trilogy before I start needing something to release. That’s kind of pushing it, but as I have been dragging my feet with this book anyway, it would give me a deadline to work toward. Had I known this was going to happen, I would have strung out the Lost & Found Trilogy a little more, releasing two weeks apart instead of just one to buy me a more time, but that’s okay. That just means less time on Twitter, which is no big loss. I’ll miss touching base with some of my friends, but all the negativity is getting me down again. When authors have to drag other authors down so they feel good about themselves, that’s when I have to cut out. If you think you can write better, then go do that, publish, and market your bestseller. It’s obvious people like that think they have one, so prove it. Shut your mouth and go do that. Jealousy looks terrible and I hope one day their bitterness bites them in the butt.
If you want to read more about turning a standalone into a series, here are a couple of articles that helped me:
Believe it or not, I don’t have much to say this week. If things went correctly with KDP, the first in my trilogy should be live today. Over the weekend I set up some Amazon ads for the preorder hoping that the ads would have a little time to click in. Being I’m writing this post on Saturday afternoon, the ads are still in review, but I’m hoping they are moderated and approved with little fuss. I don’t know why they wouldn’t be–the men are clad in a suits from head to toe, after all. [Insert rolling eyes here]
If you remember from a previous blog post, I put all three up on Booksprout for reviews, and one kind reviewer read all of them and pointed out a couple of typos. Two real typos and a stylistic choice among three books is amazing, I think, and I was grateful she took the time to let me know. The typos appeared in books two and three, so I was able to find and correct them and upload new files before the preorders went live. I was happy.
I’m reluctant to schedule any promos yet because I want them all to release before I do. I haven’t had any unfortunate encounters with Amazon besides them blocking one of my Large Print books that I eventually gave up on, but I have heard of preorders being canceled for no reason and other glitches, so I’ll wait. I don’t know how busy the promo sites are in February, but hopefully I can get something lined up before the first in my trilogy drops off its 30 day cliff. I also want to set up a promo for Captivated at the same time using a different site and maybe the two promos will feed each other and I can get a nice lift on this pen name.
Otherwise, I spent a couple days beta reading for a friend and that put me behind a tiny bit, but I haven’t needed a reason to set my WIP aside. I’ve been dragging my heels from the start, and I have no idea why. At 80k I’m almost done, maybe 20-30k more, but I just need to sit with a notebook and write down every single scene that’s left so I don’t have plotting excuses. I had set the end of January as my original done-by date, so I guess we’ll be going with that despite my good intentions to finish faster.
Last week was pretty quiet, and surprisingly I don’t have any news or Twitter gripes. Like I said, my Booksprout reviews have started coming in, and sometimes I get a little annoyed when someone who says they aren’t the target audience reads it and doesn’t like it. I kind of feel that if you’re not the audience, don’t bother because you already know you won’t like it, but she complimented me anyway saying the concept was too good for her to pass up. (I’m hoping this means the blurb is good!) She gave me 2 stars because she didn’t like Jack, but what are you gonna do? She didn’t say my writing was bad or that I needed an editor, so I’ll take the good for what it is and move on. If you want to read it, she’s already posted it on the product page of Give & Take.In all honesty, I don’t mind. A book with all five-star reviews seems shady anyway. In private feedback I thanked her for her time and if she reads the other two books to let me know what she thought of the trilogy as a whole. We’ll see as she didn’t respond, but maybe my graciousness will lead her to read more of my books in the future. I will gladly take an honest and well-thought out review over a five-star lie. Though I will always love Jack no matter what anyone says. He’s just a little misguided.
I suppose you can have a heart attack now because that’s all I have for this week. Cross your fingers for me that my trilogy launch goes well, and that I make more progress on Twisted Lies and Alibis. We have two weeks left in the first months of 2023. Make them count!
Happy Monday! We are now nine days into the new year, and I’ve always been a big fan of beginning how you wish to continue. Sometimes that’s not always possible as we learn new things along the way, but setting manageable goals and ways to get there instead of expecting too much of yourself and getting burnt out is a recipe for self-esteem issues, a hit to your confidence, and an overall sense of failure. Instead of trying to do all the things, tell yourself you’ll make one positive change this year that will help you get closer to your goals. That might be learning ONE ad platform, finding ONE podcast you like and going for a walk while you listen to it, or signing up for an informative newsletter (or starting your own!).
So my word for 2023 is INFORMATION. I’ve always been really surprised (shocked really) that more indies don’t care what’s going on in the industry. They’re an author, a publisher, a small business, yet they don’t care about learning what’s going on in the publishing world. It’s mystifying to me that when Draft2Digital bought Smashwords how many indies didn’t know what that was. Smashwords has only been around since the beginning of indie publishing and was one of the first distributors for authors if they wanted to sell their ebooks wide. That’s one example of how not keeping your fingers on the pulse of the publishing world can hurt you and your sales in the long run. They were missing out on one of the largest ebook sellers online! Not to mention Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has given a lot of great interviews over the years that I have enjoyed listening to. Take an interest in the industry that you made into your career (or at least an important hobby) and stay on top of news in the publishing world and your genre.
In the past year or so I’ve been lax with listening to podcasts and keeping up with my Clubhouse rooms. When all you want to do is write, it’s tough to find time, especially if you have a day job and kids or other responsibilities. But I have to remind myself I don’t need to listen to all the things or read all the newsletters and blog posts and I only have to listen to one or two every week or skim a couple of newsletters when I empty out my email box. You never know when you’ll hear a nugget of information that will elevate your career to the next level, or maybe you’ll hear something you can pass along to a fellow indie that will help them with their business.
In no particular order, here are my must-haves for 2023. While I don’t listen to every single podcast episode or read every newsletter, I like to subscribe and at least skim the subject lines in my email to make sure I’m not missing information I’m interested in.
Newsletters and blogs I’ve subscribed to:
Jane Friedman’s Electric Speed is great for publishing news. I love all things Jane, and recommend listening to her podcast appearances, reading her blog, and grabbing a copy of her book, The Business of Being a Writer. While you may not think traditional publishing news is worth knowing, what the Big 5 do and the choices they make do affect us. She gives equal time to both trad and indie publishing, and hosts many affordable writing/publishing/marketing classes. I’ve taken some of them, and if you’re not following Jane, you’re missing out. Sign up for her newsletter and blog here: https://www.janefriedman.com/free-newsletter/
Jeffrey Bruner/Fussy Librarian. Fussy Librarian is a paid promo newsletter and I while I haven’t used them yet (planning to next month when my trilogy is released) they have an excellent newsletter full of curated blog articles all in one place. I love skimming their articles and sharing bits on Twitter. You can subscribe here: https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/newswire/for-authors/subscribe. And I will definitely share how my promo does!
Written Word Media. Written Word Media is home to promo newsletters like Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, and Red Feather Romance. They host a yearly indie survey and blog about publishing trends in marketing. I’ve used their promos to great success (the Freebooksy I paid for in November moved almost 3,000 books and I’m still getting read-through). You may not care about trends, but they are my favorite thing. They tell you what readers are reading, what they’re interested in, and to an indie who wants to find readers, that can be invaluable. You can sign up here: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/sign-up/
Draft2Digital. I can’t mention them without suggesting you sign up for their blog! While Draft2Digital is used by authors going wide with their ebooks, they still offer lots of information to authors in KU. I love Dan Wood, Kevin Tumlinson and Mark Lefebvre, part of the D2D team. They are doing such great things for indies such as the free ebook/paperback formatting tool that is available even if you don’t use them to publish. What’s fun is both Kevin and Mark are indie authors so they know what indie author life is all about. If you don’t have an account with them, you can bookmark their blog here: https://www.draft2digital.com/blog/
BookBub. Even if you’ve never used their ads before or tried for a BookBub Featured Deal, you probably try to maintain a profile there, maybe even ask readers to follow you. Their author blog is full of marketing advice and if you like making graphics, they show you the best ways to make an impact on readers. I love their blog and I recommend their articles on Twitter frequently. You can sign up here: https://insights.bookbub.com/
Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur has a wealth of information on his blog, and reading all his tips and tricks and using his free tools feels almost illegal. I purchased Publisher Rocket years ago and have never regretted it, but there are a lot of free things he offers too, such as a QR code generator and barcode generator for paperback books. He stays on top of industry news and his blog is a great place to keep up to date. You can sign up here: https://kindlepreneur.com/
Getcovers. You may think this is an odd choice of a newsletter, but being that I create my own covers, their tips are actually a lot of fun to read. I love looking at the covers they create from stock photos and every once in a while I try to duplicate them. If I ever get tired of doing my own, this is where I’ll go, and you can sign up for their newsletter here: https://getcovers.com/blog/
But if you’re like me and like to get stuff done while listening, here are the podcasts and YouTube channels I can’t live without:
Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn. I love all her interviews and the sections she has at the beginning filling us in on what she’s been doing and her Futurist segment are favorites of mine. You can follow on YouTube, and she also will let you know when she has a new episode if you follow her blog. Here’s an interview between her and Jane Friedman I’ve been salivating to listen to. I just need to get my crap together and stop watching Turkish dramas.
Another podcast I love listening to is Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula. One of my most favorite interviews they’ve done is with Melanie Harlow. I think I mentioned her interview before, but if you’re a romance author, definitely devour anything she has to say about writing and craft. She’s phenomenal and you can learn a lot from her and the podcast as a whole.
The last is the Six Figure Authors podcast. While they don’t record regularly anymore, they did record one extra episode since they retired. Their backlist of episodes is evergreen, however, and you can still learn a lot. I refer these two episodes to Twitter people more than any other, though not sure it does much good. Haha.
I love consuming information about the publishing industry. I love being able to help other authors with that knowledge by passing it along via this blog and Twitter when I’m over there. I’m still trying to break the habit, but it’s so easy to scroll and when I clean out my email I schedule tweets with useful blog articles I pick out of all the newsletters I’m subscribed to. Not really sure if it helps anyone, but it doesn’t take long to share and maybe it can help someone, no matter how insignificant.
I have a few things I’ve been doing the past week. I re-edited my novelette I published back in 2016. It was all telling gibberish and it took me a day and a half to pretty much rewrite it. I’m not sure how many felts, saws, wondered, realized, and heards I took out of it, but it’s a lot tighter now and I won’t feel bad anymore if someone happens upon it. I also added two more short stories I had sitting on my laptop because I didn’t feel right charging .99 for 10,000 words. That would be something I would give away if I were wide, but the best I can do is sell it for as cheaply as I can. I had to rework the other two stories, too, but they sound better. I published one on here a few years ago, and I had to trash the blog post as they are in KU now. The other one I’m going to turn into a series at some point. It’s about an attorney who lives underground a huge city with a certain population who doesn’t mix with people who live above. It’s actually kind of a throwback to Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman’s Beauty and the Beast I grew up watching. There’s something romantic about it, living underground, and I’ve been thinking about a project like that for a very long time. To get the dark vibes I’ll need, toward the end of this year after my other series is finished I’ll read lots of mafia. I want it dark and dirty. I’m showing my age, but I should watch this again. It probably didn’t age well, but it would be interesting too.
I’m still 72k into my rockstar romance. I was distracted by a Turkish drama that my friend Devika recommended on Twitter. It was good, and a craft lesson in writing a dual timeline if you’re interested in that kind of thing. The pacing was phenomenal, and while it didn’t end exactly as I wanted it to, I think all the characters had their HEAs in their own way. If you’re interested in 16 episodes of angst, and who isn’t, look up Love 101 on Netflix. It’s an Original Series, so you won’t find it anywhere else.
I’m going to finish my book this month. I started it in November, so I’m done messing around. My characters want their own HEA and I’m eager to finish a series I started two years ago. I have four books left and that will eat up the rest of my year.
Have a good week, everyone, and listen to Joanna’s interview with Jane! 🙂
Happy New Year! I hope all of you can look back at 2022 with few regrets. I’m sure there are things we all wish we would have done differently, but we can either let that hold us back or use it for inspiration for the coming year. We have 365 new days at our disposal–let’s make them count.
I started off the new year publishing my trilogy paperback to Amazon. I did them a little ahead of time only because KDP’s approval system is so arbitrary and I had no idea how long it would take for them to approve my paperbacks. It took them less than 12 hours, so the publication dates for them are officially December 28th, 2022, but that’s okay. Better early than late. I’m sticking to the ebook publication dates of January 16th, 23rd, and 30th. I usually don’t put my books on preorder, only because I don’t have an audience waiting for them, and since they’re going into KU, they won’t be available for a while yet, but this time I did and everything is ready to go. I published the paperbacks so they would be available on Booksprout for reviews, and I’m happy to say that in the first three hours half of all three were claimed. With the new plan I can post three books at a time for reviews, and I put up all three of them. I wanted honest reviews for the whole trilogy, so hopefully when/if they get to book three, their last review will reflect they liked the trilogy as a whole, as well as enjoying each individual book.
In preparation for some promos I plan to buy when my trilogy is officially released, I re-edited my duet. I was looking for snippets for Instagram and found a couple of typos here and there. Maybe not many but annoying ones like DYI for Do It Yourself instead of DIY, so I reread both of them and made a few changes. They aren’t that old and I had the time to do it, so it is what it is. But I also decided that if I was going to do the insides, I was going to redo outsides. I have a problem with choosing male models, and I have terrible buyer’s remorse when it comes to that kind of thing. One of the great things about being indie is that we can change things that don’t work, but that’s also one of the terrible things. We’re constantly plagued by the idea that what we’re putting out there isn’t as good as it can be. Anyway, I my covers went from this:
Not a significant change, especially the first one since it’s the same guy, only a crisper photo with a better pose and coloring. I decided I didn’t like the second guy at all and went for a model that’s been used before, but I like the dangerous glint in his eyes and the undone tie speaks to his partying nature in the book. I’m hoping that this change will help with sales. It was a pain the ass to change the ebook, paperback, and hardcovers on KDP as well as update them on IngramSpark. Ingram is giving me a hard time with spine width again, but I think I have it figured out now, and with the fee I paid to join the Alliance of Independent Authors and discounts that go with it, my revision costs were nothing. It took me the better part of a day, and I hope all that work pans out.
Whenever I put together a cover and publish it, I always think I can do better. I think the only cover so far where I haven’t thought that was for Rescue Me. I still love it and I’ve never been able to see anything wrong with it. The guy is perfect, the fonts are perfect. Of course, this means I’m having doubts about the trilogy, even though they haven’t been published for even day. I went around and around and around with those stupid things. It would be easy to say to just hire out–Getcovers makes it incredibly affordable–but I think I would have the same problem. In fact, I might even be worse and never be happy with what they come up with.
The good news is I can stop messing around with my duet. The insides are as perfect as they are ever going to be, and the covers are fine now. I don’t know what I would do with my trilogy covers even if I did want to change them. I searched for hours for the background and the models I finally chose, and the covers went through several drafts. As I’ve said before, my characters are older–Jack is 45 and Roman is 50, and finding models to portray that realistically is difficult. I can always start cutting their heads off, but I’m not that desperate yet.
For now, as the trilogy releases, I’m going to focus on finishing up Twisted Lies and Alibis. The holidays have kind of slowed me down, and now that New Year’s is over, I don’t have anything standing in my way. When I started it, I said I would like to be done with it by the end of January, but I’d really like to get it done within the next two weeks. I’m 67k into it now, and I have no idea how much longer it needs. There is still a lot that needs to go into it, and I want to take my time with the ending and nail it just right.
Luckily, when indies have buyer’s remorse, we can act on it, but obsessing about something and wondering if it can be better can drag you down and hold you back. We always want to do better, and it’s tough when we think changes could somehow elevate sales. I loved my covers until I published, and now I’m not sure. That’s probably common. I can’t say I didn’t follow my heart with my duet, because I did. The covers I published at first weren’t a last resort scenario at all. I was thinking about my brand overall, how they would fit in with other covers, all of it. I haven’t been publishing for 7 years for nothing. I was determined to use all the lessons I’ve learned and start my pen name on the best foot I could. But I guess it doesn’t matter if you’ve been publishing for 7 years or 70, you’ll make judgments in error. You can hang in there and see how things turn out, panic at the first feeling something isn’t right and change immediately, or know that you might need to adjust and take your time with that adjustment so you don’t have to do it again. What’s funny is I love my covers for all my 3rd person books (though all of them are on their second covers except for my Rocky Point Wedding series). I wouldn’t change any of them. I was thinking an illustrated cover for Wherever He Goes would be a good fit since they’re popular now, but ultimately I decided to keep what I have. No, I think I’m putting pressure on myself because I really want this pen name to work out. I know one thing–if I’m going to change my covers, I’ll do it before I publish the hardcovers, and before I publish to IngramSpark, and before I push any promo dollars at them.
Anyway, so that’s all I have for this first blog post of 2023. I hope you all have a wonderful start to this new year!
Number of books written: 3.5 In 2021, I wrote six and a half books. I only did half that this year, writing my Lost & Found Trilogy and 58k of Twisted Lies and Alibis for a total of about 286,000 words. I’m not sure why I was so slow this year, other than I must have gotten caught up editing and packaging other books.
Number of books published: 3 I didn’t publish anything last year, but it seems I was too busy writing to bother. I published my Cedar Hill Duet this year along with Rescue Me, a billionaire one-night stand standalone, which is probably why I didn’t write as much as last year. Editing, formatting, and doing covers can take a long time. Technically, My Biggest Mistake was completed and put out into the world as my newsletter reader magnet, but that’s not published, so I suppose we can’t count it, though it is accessible to readers when it wasn’t before.
Ignore the 43 books–Bookreport combines all the formats. At the time of writing this, I have 16 books published–13 under Vania Rheault and 3 under VM Rheault. Surprisingly, even with my new releases this year, I’m short $64.33. I can assume His Frozen Heart enjoyed a bump because of the promo I paid for in November, and I’m still getting read-through.
I’m disappointed my Cedar Hill Duet didn’t do better, but all I did was run some Amazon ads to it. I was on the fence on whether or not to put it up on Booksprout for reviews, and I never did, so that might be part of it. Books have a hard time selling without reviews, and I think even now, Addicted to Her doesn’t have any, even though it’s been out since August. I could still make up that $64 as the month isn’t over yet, but let’s just say, I hope in 2023 I can multiply that by ten.
I probably broke even with everything I pay for: Office 365, Canva Pro, Bookfunnel, website costs, promos and ads.
I spent $112.55 on Amazon ads, only five dollars more than I spent last year. It’s nice to see I’m not wasting money overall, though I would have dive deeper into if my ads are really cost-effective or if I’m losing money on a book-by-book basis. For the most part, I don’t care if I break even on ads, so long as I’m not wasting money, but that’s not a strategy everyone can agree with. If you’re running an ad to a book and it’s not a good return on investment, either you need to reconsider the ad (maybe your bidding is too high or your target audience is off) or figure out what’s wrong with your book (maybe the cover isn’t meeting reader expectations). Since I’m in KU, I look at the big picture. I’m always reluctant to pause an ad that’s doing well just in case I’m getting borrows (you can keep an eye on your rank if you really want to know). Page reads (and royalties) can come later, so it pays to have patience because reporting can lag and readers sometimes don’t read right away, either.
I still feel like crap, and a friend of mine suggested maybe I always will due to hormones and the fact that I’m staring menopause right in the face, something I kind of forget because in my head I’m stuck at 45 years old when I actually turned 48 last month. Maybe my girlie parts will never feel normal again, and if I let myself, I can get pretty depressed over that. I try to take one day at a time, but I’ve been dealing with this for two years now and there’s no end in sight. It’s not even the physical part of it at this point, it’s just a mental drag I have to try to keep from interfering with my writing. But enough about that. I just included it since I did last year, but nothing, unfortunately, has changed.
I blog every Monday and some Thursdays. My visitors dropped off this year, I think because I didn’t blog as much as I did last year.
I’m 20k words shorter than I was last year, but I didn’t post on Thursdays as much. There were a few weeks I struggled to come up with anything at all, mostly because I didn’t have much to say, some because I was having my health issues and I had a hysterectomy in March that took up a lot of headspace. My fiancé and I also broke up, so if I didn’t give my blog as much love as I did last year, I’ll just blame it on some personal problems. My WordPress stats added a new statistic, and it shows me where people have shared my posts:
It’s fun that people are sharing my posts on LinkedIn and Pinterest. I have accounts at both of those places, but I don’t hang out there. That could explain some spikes in reads for some of my posts, but the most popular one of all time is still my instructions on how to do a full paperback cover wrap on Canva with 4,081 views.
I’m only going to guess people are looking at the page for my imprint to see if I publish other authors. I don’t and don’t intend to. If you need help with anything, email me (I have my personal email listed in the contact me section of this website) and either I can help you or point you in the direction of someone who can.
I don’t intend to stop blogging, but looking back over my topics, there is only so much content I can share. I blog a lot about marketing, but if authors aren’t willing to change then there’s no point in beating a dead horse. Your book title is important (I’ve seen some weird ones over the years). Covers are important. Formatting is important. Being able to write a good blurb and come up with a catchy hook is important. Your marketing tactics won’t work if those aren’t good enough. There is so much pushback when it comes to finding your comp authors and doing even just a small amount of market research before you begin writing that sometimes I just feel like giving up. I know I’ve helped people with this blog, and sharing my experiences will help someone with their journey. WordPress recently congratulated me for blogging for 7 years and if you think writing a book to no audience is like screaming into the void, that’s nothing like blogging every week and hoping someone can take something away from your words, no matter how small.
What’s Next for 2023?
I’m not sure. More the of the same. 2023 will actually be a big publishing year for me, as I’m planning 5 releases right off the bat with my trilogy in January, and two standalones in March/April and July/August, depending on when I feel like putting them out. This is a tentative schedule, but I’m already tinkering with the release dates of my standalones because I want to have time in 2023 to write what I’ll publish in 2024. I put off the four books left in a series I started, and once Twisted Lies and Alibis is finished, I’m going to dive right in and make those books a huge release event for 2024.
I’ve done a lot of the hard work, and now I can sit back a tiny bit, drink some wine, and enjoy my releases in the coming year.
I always share this quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger. You have to stay hungry. You have to always think there is something better and never lose your drive to find it. Indie authors can make hundreds of thousands of dollars with their books. My $670.00 is only a very tiny drop of water compared to the potential of what can be. Keep going, or you’ll never find it, but in that, you have to, you have to be flexible. Find new ways of doing things, or you’ll be stuck with the same results. Not happy on Twitter, find a different way to market. Not finding the number of readers you want with what you’re writing? Write something else. You aren’t powerless, but hanging out on Twitter over the past five years, so many people act like they are. Your career is in your own hands, and the only thing that traps you are the choices you do or do not make. People blame summertime, Christmastime, the economy, Elon Musk, for their lack of sales, when really, it’s you. How will you make 2023 different for yourself and your business? Stay hungry. Try new things. You won’t regret it.
Because Monday is my year-end recap, I can use today’s post to update you on the progress I’ve made this week.
I’m 56k into my new WIP. The book goes in fits and starts, but I’m getting there and should have it done by the middle of January if I can keep up a consistent pace. The longest book I’ve written is a standalone still on my computer in third draft stages that’s 97k words (and I have no idea when I’ll publish it). I don’t know how long this book is going to be, as they haven’t touched on a couple of bigger plot points and they still haven’t had sexytimes. They also haven’t had the 3rd act break up yet, but as a planster, I at least know what that is going to entail, just not how they’re going to get there.
I had a great idea to offer a Goodreads giveaway on the first book in my trilogy. I had a question if you’re allowed to participate in a giveaway while your book is enrolled in Kindle Select, and a Goodreads employee said it was allowed as you aren’t selling books on a different platform, only giving them away.
Under any other circumstance I would question this as even the FAQ at Booksprout said they recommend your book is not enrolled when it’s available for reviews, but since Amazon bought Goodreads and they’re connected, I’ll take it with a grain of salt and hope it’s true. If I get into trouble, it will be Tiana’s fault. LOL But we’ll see if my level of organizational skills is up to the challenge. I suspect not. I also have to figure out what my advertising budget is going to be for this trilogy. I want to give away the first in my duet to at least create some buzz for this pen name as well, but I was looking through the Vellum file for excerpts for graphics for my FB author page and found a couple of typos (of course I did) I should fix before I run any kind of promotion.
I sent out my newsletter for December, but I didn’t get the open rate or downloads I usually get in the past. I only had 8 downloads of the first in my trilogy (I opened it up to 30 downloads) and I had 5 people unsubscribe. I guess the unsubscribers aren’t totally uncommon, but I was hoping for more of a response to the ARC copies I made available through Bookfunnel. (If you want an ARC, you can click here.) I’ll go ahead and put it on my FB author page and see what happens. It’s been stagnant for a long time, and the only people who like my page now are friends and family.
I submitted Rescue Me to IngramSpark, and of course I didn’t do the cover correctly. There’s always something I’m doing wrong, and it usually takes a bit of moving the cover elements around because either they’re too far away from the spine or too close. KDP will publish you no matter if you have your cover bleeding onto the spine or not (in my case the spine is usually bleeding onto the front cover), and again, I wish Ingram had a visual for you to see when you upload your files instead of waiting for the review process for them to tell you that you messed up. I’ll fix it and resubmit. When I was doing Addicted to Her, I went around and around with them a couple of times before I got it right. Canva is great, but it’s too easy not to lay the template over the cover properly to determine where the spine boundaries are.
I don’t have that much else going on. I’m trying to promote more on my FB author page and my reader page. I just discovered that I DID set up a reader group and a reader page. I had to set up the page so I could run ads and I guess I set up the reader group so my readers would have a place to find me on Facebook if they wanted. I was scheduling posts on Canva and they were posting to my reader page and I was wondering why my reader group looked so bare. Now that I know I have both, I can choose which one when I use their scheduler. Though now that I’m posting to Instagram, my FB author page, and a reader group and page, I feel like my content is a bit thin. I know people do cross-post, but putting the same content four places seems a bit much, so I’m going to have to pick and choose where I want content to go, especially since right now my reader page and group don’t have any followers and my FB author page, like I said, only has family and friends following it right now. The last thing I want to do is get caught up in all that, or I’ll never write again.
After Christmas I’ll publish my trilogy paperbacks so I have links for Booksprout, and I can probably put my ebooks on preorder so their buy pages look complete. Doing covers for the hardbacks is the last thing I have to do for them besides publishing them to IngramSpark, but I’ll do that this summer when they’re well established on Amazon first. I’ll probably wait to hunt for typos in my duet (again) until after I finish writing Twisted Lies and Alibis. I’ve written on this book long enough (I started at the beginning of November, and I’m usually done with a book by now) and I want to get the first draft finished and let it breathe while I do other things.
A writer’s work is never done, and I probably will write all day Thursday and jump in on Sunday after my family and I celebrate Christmas. My daughter will be on winter break, and if I buckle in, I can get a lot written between Christmas as New Year’s Day. My 2023 looks bright, and I hope I can level up this year with my releases.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas if you celebrate and bring in the new year safely and with much love and happiness!
This month was a good month for Chelsea Banning who tweeted about her book signing. When Henry Winkler quote tweeted it, other high-profile authors in the writing community picked her up and offered her support as well. If that wasn’t enough, news outlets like CBS tweeted about her too, and as a result her book sold hundreds (maybe even thousands) of copies.
I could fill my entire blog post with tweets mentioning her, but instead, you can search Twitter for her name or follow her here.
Not every one was happy for her, and like Brandon Sanderson’s success with Kickstarter there were some people who, let’s just say, weren’t thrilled with her sudden luck. That’s fine. Some people think success isn’t due unless it’s earned through back-breaking hard work, like somehow how hard you hustle should be equated with the level of success you can achieve (which is a terrible American way of thinking, to be honest, and if it were true, I’d be a millionaire by now).
Instead of feeling sorry for myself and how few books I’ve sold in my lifetime (which I didn’t, but I know there were some who did), I thought I would use her luck and success as a learning experience. What did I learn watching her career explode right in front of my face? Let’s take a look.
Have a great product. One of the biggest lessons you can learn is to put out a quality product because you never know when or where that bump will come from. It’s much easier to share someone’s work if it’s good quality. While Henry Winkler, Margaret Atwood, and Stephen King didn’t personally endorse her book or share a tweet with her book cover in it, her momentum may have halted in its tracks if her cover was bad or if her book wasn’t good enough to share. Not long ago I blogged about an author whose TIkTok went viral. He sold hundreds of copies of his book, but it wasn’t well-edited and his reviews reflected that. I felt so sorry for him and his read-through. While you don’t know what you don’t know, and we’re always putting out the best quality product we can at the time, having your book at least looked over by betas who can spot typos or hiring a proofreader and getting an inexpensive cover from GetCovers can go a long way if you’re a broke DIYer.
Have a way to capture readers. Chelsea went viral on Twitter and her followers reflect that. She went from a small following to over 10k almost over night, but we’re told the best way to keep a reader is to start a newsletter and grab their email address. (Chelsea has one through MailChimp and you can sign up here.) With the uncertainty of any social media platform (Musk taking over Twitter evidence of just how shaky a platform can be) it’s better to keep your readers on land you own. When you start a newsletter, you can export your list regularly so if you ever need to change aggregators, you can and not lose any subscribers. Please don’t try to set up a newsletter through a personal email account or something like firstname.lastname@example.org (that is a legit email for me but I don’t check it so email me there at your own risk), as it can be illegal to do so. For more information about making sure your newsletter is compliant, check here, and you can find another great resource here. I go through MailerLite, though I don’t have a double-opt in feature. When I run ads to my reader magnet, people can give me their email address voluntarily and at the end of the book, they have another chance to sign up if they didn’t before. My unsubscribe link is clear at the bottom of every email, and I do get some occasionally. I like it because I can create pretty newsletters with specially placed text boxes and images–nothing like what you can do with gmail.
Have something to offer your new (new) readers. I don’t know what Chelsea’s situation is, and of course you can’t predict when something like this will happen, but I hope she has another book coming soon! If not, she can use her newsletter to keep readers engaged between books–and maybe she already has a reader magnet she gives away to her subscribers. Like Brandon Sanderson before he started his Kickstarter, he already had the four books written and was able to capitalize on his hard work. It’s also a great marketing tool to be able to say all the work is already done. If Chelsea doesn’t have a second book in the works, maybe she has an idea and can put up a pre-order for the next book. That’s another reason why writing in a series is a good move, and having them look like they all belong together encourages sales and read-through.
Put yourself out there. That is probably the biggest takeaway I learned from Chelsea’s experience. She stepped out of her comfort zone and approached a bookstore to host a signing. If you were a little jealous of her success, look at what you’ve done to step outside your comfort zone. She tried, set up an event on social media, and when it didn’t go her way, she shared that, too. That alone is worth more than a pat on the back, and more than likely, that bookstore was happy to host her because, looking at number one, her book is professionally put together. I have an independent bookstore not far from me, but I have never asked them to carry my books on consignment or otherwise. I know they do, as I flip through the local authors section every now and then and there are always books with the KDP Print stamp in the backs. I just have never bothered as being on a bookshelf has never been my dream, and I know my readers are mostly in KU. But if all you’ve ever wanted is to see your book on a shelf, then what are you waiting for? Your courage could lead to bigger and better things like it did for Chelsea.
I’ll never resent anyone who puts in the work and reaps from that work. With the start of the new year upon us, how do you plan to create your own luck?
I don’t have much personal news for myself. We had a lot of snow last week, and I ran over something and now my car is leaking oil. I can’t get it in until Tuesday, so fingers crossed I can get my errands done without trouble before I can get it fixed. I wanted to be at least 50k into my rockstar romance by now, but it’s been slow going, and I’m only at 46k at the time of this writing. Hopefully when you read this I can be at 50k because I can write all weekend without much interruption. I have 30 days before my first book in my trilogy releases and I’m going to try to do a few things from the 30 pre-launch plan that came with Stephanie Burdett’s social media kit that I wrote about last week. If anything, at least I can get my FB author pages going so they don’t look so empty. After Christmas I’ll put all three paperbacks on Amazon and list them on Booksprout for reviews. And for a kick, I’m still going to put book one of my duet on a couple of free days and buy a promo or two bump up my pen name. Just a lot of waiting, but I have my WIP to keep me occupied, so it’s all good.
There’s one more Monday where I’m going to post my end of the year recap, and unless I have something I want to say, I’m going to take Monday the 2nd of January off for a little break. I always say I’m going to take a break, but I never do, so we’ll see.
I don’t have much to share this week. I finished my edits for All of Nothing and Wherever He Goes. I uploaded the new interiors to KDP just fine, and the books are already live. IngramSpark is another matter entirely. The small edits created a page number change, and and I didn’t know this, but apparently no matter how many pages your interior changes, they make you adjust your cover. In All of Nothing, my interior changed by 200 words. That’s it. Not a significant change by any means, but they are still forcing me to tweak the cover. Same with Wherever He Goes. It’s insane, and I wish their uploading system was more like KDP in that you know right away if your cover is going to fit and you can adjust before your book even sees human eyes. It’s just a total pain the butt, and I swear, once those changes are approved, I am NEVER touching those books again. After I finish my rockstar romance I’ll have a bit of time and maybe I’ll go through The Years Between Us, maybe even my Rocky Point series, just for kicks because I really do like rereading my own books, and then I can walk away from those. I know you can’t keep going forward if you keep looking backward, but rereading my older books is fun and a break for me, so if I can edit them so they sound better, then it’s a win-win anyway.
I have been writing lately, and I’m 34k into my rockstar romance now. (I was at 28k when I was “stuck.”) I write my blogposts ahead of time, so I’m hoping by the time you read this I’ll actually be at 50k and planning the last 3rd of the book. I keep changing how I want it to end–do I want to go with a cliche and knock her up, or do I want to end it in a different way? I’ve never written an airport scene before, and I’m kind of in love with the idea of her going home and him chasing her to the airport and begging her to stay. I like both, so we’ll see what they decide to do when I get there. I also have to write the song he’s going to write in the book that sets his singing career back on track. That will be fun and I’m looking forward to it.
I wrote my newsletter for December yesterday and announced my trilogy release dates. I also gave them access to download the first book (the first 25 who want it, anyway) so those dates are set. I have to wait a couple more weeks before I put them up on Booksprout because when I do that, I have to publish the paperbacks so they can leave reviews on Amazon, and I don’t want the paperbacks up any longer than necessary when I’m holding the ebooks back.
I was also looking at promo sites, thinking I might try Ereader News Today and Fussy Librarian and do a free couple of days for Captivated by Her when the trilogy releases. But, I was actually forward-thinking for once, and decided not to book a promo until all the books in the trilogy are out for read-through. (I’m releasing them a week apart.) This old dog can be taught new tricks. Then I’ll put the first free in April when I have a new launch and hopefully a new book will boost me and a promo will give me attention. Ereader News Today looks kind of hardcore–they ask you for your book’s star rating, and with Captivated having hardly any reviews or ratings, I’m actually prepared for them to turn me down. There are other places I can try, like Robin Reads, so that’s not really a big deal, it’s scheduling my free days around the promo dates they have available that takes some organization, and you can’t wait too long because dates fill up. Anyway, so I just need some patience, just a couple more weeks of sitting on these books. Made up these cute graphics for my newsletter:
If you count sales from other books, and why not, because selling a book is selling a book, last week I earned back my fee from my Freebooksy promo. Not from the series, but all combined, and while I’m disappointed, at least I got my money back. If we’re only looking at sales of my series, I’m halfway to earning my fee back, but my promo isn’t even a month old yet, so that could still be possible. I would have been extremely disappointed if I hadn’t yet at all because I don’t like the idea of wasting money, but I knew I had a chance since I have in the past. I’ll keep an eye on it. I was surprised to see Ereader News Today was $76 dollars for a free romance feature. Fussy Librarian is $50. Robin Reads is $75 for a free steamy romance slot. These prices can be spendy so you want to make absolutely sure that your book is advertising ready. If you’re interested in buying a promo from any of these, here are the links: Robin Reads: https://robinreads.com/genre-divide/ Ereader News Today: http://www.ereadernewstoday.com/bargain-and-free-book-submissions/ Fussy Librarian: https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/advertising
Because it’s the end of the year, we’re thinking of 2023 and all the ways we can do better. I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. Either you want to do those things or you don’t and promising yourself you’ll do them won’t get you very far if you don’t want to. But, I understand the need for goals (a dream is only a wish without a plan, blah blah blah) and one of the things I said I wanted to work on next year is my social media activity. I don’t mean hanging out on Twitter picking fights about giving away books, either (though it is fun and degrading at the same time like bad drunk sex). I saw in an FB group where they were recommending social media planners and kits to help with posts and ideas for engagement, and I bought the one from Stephanie Burdett (my bank did not like her, either, and flagged the purchase as fraud that I had to approve). She has a lot of prompts for both social media and blog/newsletter ideas, so the $27 was worth it to me. I don’t have to wrack my brain to think up something every day and I’m hoping it will alleviate the stress of posting. I’m not going to use these prompts on Twitter (I’ll drunk tweet on there instead), I’m going to focus on my Facebook Author page (that I rebranded as VM Rheault) and my V’s Vixens Read Romance page, at least so when I run ads if I get a follower or a like there the page won’t seem so empty. If you want to take a look at it, you can find it here: https://stephanieburdett.com/sm-calendar-fiction-authors/
That’s all I have for today. If I want to make it to 50k by the end of the weekend, I better get writing on my book. Coming up is my end-of-the-year recap and my 2023 plan and goals. Thanks for reading!
Like a reader pointed out in her comment on my blog post last week, sometimes people have to learn things on their own and in their own time. That’s never been more true for publishing. There is so much information out there, and to consume it in some way (blog post, podcast, non-fiction book, reading a tweet) then applying it to your own circumstances can be a lot of work–and you need a healthy dose of self-awareness to even know you need the information in the first place. Not at easy feat when we’re told from the second we start writing our books that our novels are our babies and every baby is beautiful, not a product to sell.
It’s important to know where you want your publishing to go (well it is for me–I’m done trying to tell people what to do), and you can think about these things if you’re unsatisfied with where your career is up to this point: Do you want to publish for fun and earn some pocket money, or do you want more? Do you want to make what you’d earn working part-time? Do you want to be a full-time writer and quit your day job? I think a lot of us, whether we really want to admit it nor not, would love to at least make a part-time income. Part-time, for me, would be about $10,000/year. Depending on where you live in the world and what you do as a profession, that’s either a lot or barely what you earn in a month at your day job. I work for a non-profit, I’m barely scraping by, and that’s half of what I make in a year. To say an extra $10,000 a year would turn my life around is an understatement. It would take care of a lot of worries for me. It’s not asking a lot, but that is the biggest thing I’ve learned this year–I have to write out a goal in black and white and figure out a plan on how to get there.
Changing what I’m writing was a good start (and something not a lot of people are willing to do). Most indie romances are written in first person now, and two years ago, I pivoted and that’s what I started writing in. It wasn’t that difficult–just a minor change in mindset and some feedback to put me on the right path since I’ve never written in it before and only read it without acknowledging it like the Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight series.
But I need to do more than that. Through the years I’ve gotten the basics down: that marketing pertains to your whole brand and what you’re offering readers across the board as apposed to advertising which is only buying promos and running ads to your books. It’s funny that when you start a pen name you get a fresh start when it comes to your brand. I had to figure out how I was going to present myself to readers. It helped that I already had a few books written (not published) and I caught on to some characteristics/themes that I can play with: my characters are older, some divorced, they’ve gone through a trauma which means a shitty backstory they have yet to overcome so they can find love. My covers are cohesive, even if they aren’t in the same series, and over time I want people to be able to catch a glimpse of a cover and say, “That’s a VM Rheault romance.” That’s branding, that’s marketing, and that’s something I’ve learned on my own over the past five years. That’s not anything anyone can explain to someone else–it has to click. (When you have 20 books and they all look different, maybe it will click or maybe it won’t, or maybe you just don’t care. And definitely, under no circumstance, will I tell you that you should.)
So for 2023, I thought I’d do the math and figure out what I needed to make $10,000 a year. Having more books, of course, is helpful all around, and right now I only have three under my pen name, though All of Nothing, a standalone under my full name, has been my biggest earner since I published it and my small-town holiday series comes in second because of read-through. I’ll always run ads to those books, but as I figured out during my Freebooksy promo, I think I just want to focus on my first person books for now and see what I can do with them. I have three out, I’ll release three more in January, and a standalone in March.
What I’m thinking, and though I haven’t accomplished it, I know it’s achievable, is the idea taken from the 20booksto50k concept, being if you have 20 books published, you should be able to make $50,000 a year. Twenty books is a lot of books (and let’s assume we’re talking full-length novels, only based on the idea that I’m in Kindle Select, and the longer the book the more you earn from page reads.) Maybe then, you can halve that and say I want to make $25,000 off ten books. That’s nothing I’ve done with my ten that’s written in 3rd person, but I know where I went wrong, even if they are in 3rd person. I didn’t stick to one sub-genre, my covers were abysmal because I did them myself starting out, my trilogy wasn’t solid because my writing just wasn’t there yet. I could have hired a better editor than I had, though, I just hadn’t written enough to find my voice and my writing was the best it could be at the time. I definitely could have had better covers, but I hadn’t heard the secret of researching the top 100 in that genre and blending in with those books. I was all about the “vibe” and capturing it on the cover, and I definitely didn’t know about stock photo sites and used pictures from Pixabay which is a huge no-no. I didn’t know how to write good blurbs or good ad copy for ads, and I didn’t know how to use those platforms anyway. It’s not a surprise that I haven’t earned $25,000 a year off those books. I was doing too many things wrong. Even though they’re “fixed” too much time has gone by to do anything with them.
Now I’m on the right path, or at least a frontage road going in the right direction, having a concrete number to shoot for is probably best. There are some things you need to know, such as your ratio of read-through from book one to the others if you have a series, and how much you earn from page reads if you’re in KU. I’m actually kind of surprised to see how many authors don’t know how to calculate pages read when they’re in KU. I’ll show you quick in case you don’t know. To find how many KENPs (Kindle Edition Normalized Page) are in your book if it’s enrolled in Kindle Select so it’s available in Kindle Unlimited, you have to go to your bookshelf, click on the promote and advertise tab of the ebook and it’s at the very bottom of that page.
My KENP for Captivated by Her is 404. Now that we know that, we can divide the number of page reads with that number to find out how many total books have been read. When I look for the number of pages reads for Captivated by Her for this year I get 14,800. 14,800/404 is 36.63. So roughly 36 full books in page reads since I published in June. You should know the KENP of all your books. (If you want to know how much you earn, multiply the total number of page reads by .0045 [the average payout of a page read by KDP–this fluctuates and you can use .0044 or even .0043 if you want to assume a decrease] and in my case 14800*.0045 is $66.60).
The KENP for the second book in that duet is 397. We can do the same for Addicted to Her: I’ve had 4593 pages read, equalling 11 full books read. (Royalties–4593*.0045=$20.66.). We don’t have to do the math to see that there is a significant drop off from book one to book two. And thanks to Mal Cooper, this is how you figure that percentage. But first, KU reads are only part of the equation. I did have a couple sales, so let’s factor those in.
According to Mal’s math, you divide the number of book 2 by the number of book 1 and it looks like this:
16 / 49 = 32%.
32% of the readers who read book one went on to read book two. Mal says you want read through from book one to book two to be about 50% and each book after that will likely drop even more. If you want to read more about read-through, I grabbed her formula from the post she did for Dave Chesson, and you can read it here. https://kindlepreneur.com/calculate-series-read-through/
Where were we again? Oh, yeah, so I want to know how many books I would have to sell if I want to make $10,000 from my books next year. My books are around the same length so we can assume I make $1.78 from every full book read in KU and $3.49 for every ebook sale. (Remember to give KDP or your other platforms their %–Amazon takes 30% if you choose the 70% royalty, and 70% of 4.99 is $3.49.)
If we just go by full sales and not page reads, I would have to sell 2,865 books in 2023 to earn $10,000. Considering in my lifetime of publishing, I’ve only sold 887 books (not counting page reads) that seems like a significant feat–on the other hand, it’s not as many as I thought it would be. $10,000 sounds like such a large sum, LOL. But that’s also 5,617 full books read in KU, which may or may not be easier. ($10,000/$1.78 = 5,617 books.)
The math seems like the easiest part–it’s the advertising and marketing that trips us up. So what am I planning to do to sell that many books?
Use my Bookfunnel subscription in a more productive way. I haven’t taken advantage of any promos or newsletter builder opportunities. I’ve been waiting until my newsletter looks like it has something to offer and also been waiting until I have a few more books in my backlist. I plan to snoop around after my trilogy is out. I’ll have six books published and that seems like a good number to see how things go.
Keep going with ads. After the holidays I’m going bump up my bid per click on my Amazon ads and create some new ones with updated keywords and see if that helps. Right now I’m doing conservative bidding per Bryan Cohen but romance is competitive and bumping up my bids might help with impressions and getting more clicks. Amazon ads are easy with category and keyword ads, but Facebook is a bit trickier when it comes to building your target audience. I’m going to research a little more into how to build that audience so I’m not wasting clicks.
Buy more promos. There are a few I haven’t tried like Ereader News Today, Robin’s Reads, and Fussy Librarian that will put books in front of readers who have never heard of me before.
Start posting regularly on my FB pages. I was sneaky and turned my Vania Margene Rheault Author page into my VM Rheault Author page so I don’t haven’t start from scratch there. I don’t have a significant following, but I connected that to my Instagram that I also rebranded. I’m going to try harder to post content on there rather than waste time on Twitter. I’m so disillusioned with my experience on Twitter lately that the best thing I can do is to spend that time in a place that will have a better return on investment. I also have my V’s Vixens reader page that I started that I run ads from. If I post content there regularly, I can pick up followers from my ads. Building a social media platform takes time, patience, and content. If I trade the hour I spend scrolling Twitter every day, I should be able to post content no problem and that should be better for me long-term.
Publish consistently. The best thing I can do is publish consistently. I have the next 18 months set out and hopefully, by the time those books run out, I’ll have 6 more (or another year’s worth). I don’t want to think of my books as widgets on a factory conveyor belt, but I have to admit, there isn’t so much pressure to write quickly when I know I have time. With how my mind works it’s difficult for me to write a new WIP and go back and promote older books, but I’m going to explore turning two days a week into marketing only and then the rest of the week into writing days. Maybe that will help. Focus is a good thing until it’s not. Then you have to figure out ways to work around it and make it work for you rather than against you.
Keep putting my books on Booksprout for reviews. Publishing without reviews is tough and my duet may never recover (which would be a crummy start to my pen name). All I can do promote it and hope readers who like it review it. Unless I pull them out of KU and put them up in Booksprout, there’s not much more I can do, but I’m not willing to do that. It was a mistake I’ll learn from and move on.
Will I get to $10k in 2023? I don’t know. I’ve never been in this place in my life with all that I know now. If all goes to plan, I’ll have 8 books for sure, maybe 10 with two of my six book series released toward the later part of the year. All I can do is my best, apply what I’ve learned, and hopefully I’ll find some readers who enjoy my books!
I have three more Mondays after today to post before the New Year. One will be my end of the year recap that I usually do, and the other two, I’m not sure. The last Monday is the day after Christmas, so I might take that Monday off. We’ll see. I hope you all have a wonderful week!