About Vania Margene Rheault

Vania enjoys reading and writing. She's lived in Minnesota all her life, and with a cup of coffee in hand, enjoys the seasons with her two children and three cats.

“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.” How true is that statement?

Do whatever you want, and don't worry about what everyone else is into. 

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Woman in purple camisole sitting on red chair looking away from the camera.

You guys know I consume a lot of content. Not as much fiction as I should be for a romance author, but I live and breathe non-fiction, especially anything having to do with market trends and industry (both indie and trad) news. I have a fascination with learning, not only to pass things on to you, but because you don’t know what you don’t know, and I like knowing it all. Or trying to. Picking through the weeds is difficult and time consuming, and even today because I have to work, I’m missing out on Clubhouse rooms (and you all know how much I agonize over that).

Anyway, so on one of my off days, I was listening to a Clubhouse room and after an hour of extolling the virtues of TikTok, she says, “But you don’t have to do any of this if you don’t want to.” I would imagine some of us felt relief, because sure, you DON’T have to be on TikTok to sell books. It’s a relatively new platform and it’s not like books didn’t sell before it’s invention. But. After an hour of hearing how wonderful and fun it was, being told that it was voluntary punched me in the gut. After listening to testimonies about how worthwhile it was, how people did manage to sell books on there, her comment didn’t sound true. It sure as hell sounded like we needed to be on TikTok.

It made me think about what we can use in the business and what we really don’t need. These opinions are coming from a place where I wish I would have done some of these things and where I have tried some and think they have merit, where I found some tractions with sales, and what I know I’m missing out on because I didn’t do them. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

You don’t have to . . . be on social media . . . if you don’t want to. You really don’t have to be on social media if you don’t want to. Twitter is a time suck of negativity, IG is going down in flames as TikTok runs miles ahead. No one likes Facebook. But if you don’t like social media, what does an author have left to sell books? You need something. Anyone who pushes Publish and walks away knows you need something or no one will know where your book is. Probably the hardest lesson I learned in the past five years of publishing is that without a newsletter, without a reader group on on Facebook, if someone wanted to be a real fan of my books, I didn’t give them a chance to be. There is no where for them to meet up or chat with me. Sure, I’m on social media, but I’m not active and anyone who finds my author page will see my last post was from almost a year ago. Why would they hit the like button? It’s not like they would get anything out of it. So if you don’t like Facebook, you still need someplace for your fans to meet up. I get it. As a newbie author, maybe you’re thinking you won’t ever have fans, at least not for a long time. This could be true, but you don’t need to make it any harder for them than it has to be, either. If you don’t want to be on social media, you need to replace it with something. I didn’t have a social media presence or a newsletter and after a reader read my book, there was no way for them to connect with me, or me to connect with them to let them know of sales and/or new releases.

You don’t have to . . . start a newsletter . . . if you don’t want to. For years I didn’t start a newsletter. I didn’t want to take the time to learn. The thought of cranking out a book to offer as a reader magnet didn’t bother me (yes it does), but there is so much that goes into a newsletter, and it still makes my head spin. It’s easy to say, “Start a newsletter,” but it’s the behind the scenes that makes me bitter. Learning the platform, learning BookFunnel (because it’s the best way to distribute any bonus material and gather email signups), or StoryOrigin, seemed like a giant waste of time to me when all I wanted was to write books. If you have an active reader group on Facebook, you might be able to get away without a newsletter, though you’re planting seeds in someone else’s garden and everyone says not to do that. You could blog for readers, and Anne R. Allen even has a book about that very thing: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors. It may be a bit outdated, but her content advice should still be relevant. The only problem with directing a reader to your website is that you lose the control to connect with them. They choose to visit your website or read your blog. If you can snag their email, you can contact them whenever you want. True, they still have to open the email, but they voluntarily signed up, so that makes it more likely they will at least peek at what you have to say. Do you need to start a newsletter? Nope. But as an author who has been writing and publishing–steadily, I might add–with no readership after all this time, it’s my biggest regret.

You don’t have to . . . learn an ad platform . . . if you don’t want to. Like the other two things on the list so far, you don’t have to learn an ad platform, but you do have to have something to replace it, be that a newsletter or using promos such as Freebooksy, BargainBooksy, Ereader News Today, Fussy Librarian, etc. If you want to get the word out about your book, and you don’t want to be on social media, start a newsletter, or learn an ad platform, that doesn’t leave you a lot of marketing choices. Because I haven’t had a newsletter and I’m not active on social media, learning an ad platform and using the promo method are the two things I’ve used to find readers. Not a lot of readers, but more than if I hadn’t used anything at all.

You don’t have to . . . write in a series . . . if you don’t want to. From the minute I started writing and publishing, all I heard was write in a series. There’s a lot of wisdom to this. Read-through (KU page reads and sales of individual books) is great if your first book is strong and you don’t take too long between releases. You have more marketing choices if you write in a series (like box sets and offering the first book for free to get readers hooked), and ad spend isn’t so bad if you pay for a little higher click because essentially you’re not only advertising one book, but many books (as many books is in your series, obviously). So what’s the problem? Writing is hard. Publishing is hard (so much to learn!) and costly. If your book one isn’t strong enough and readers drop off, every book you write after book one is a waste of time. Instead of figuring out how to do covers for one book at a time, all of a sudden you’re thinking about series branding and formatting. If you’re a new author, that’s intimidating. Not to mention if you don’t have friends to lend a hand with beta reading, editing a series can be very costly. I never advise anyone to publish without at least one more set of eyes besides yours on the book (I don’t care who that is). Writing standalones has always been more enticing to me, and I can write them quickly. They’re more manageable, and publishing one book is a lot faster because I have this weird thing with writing an entire series before publishing it. (Which has come in handy this time around as I did find a small little something from book 2 to book 3 that affects book 5 that I can fix now.) What can you do if you like to write standalones too? 1) Use your back matter. Advertise another standalone in the back. Use a buy-link, add the cover. Some ad copy. 2) Don’t let too much time go by between releases, or don’t market heavily until you have a backlist. If readers love you (and you want them to, right?) they will read all that you have. If that’s only one book, they might love it, but then they have nowhere else to go. (And this is especially true if you don’t have a newsletter or a group they can join to hook up with you while you write the next book.) But this also brings me to….

You don’t have to . . . write in one (sub)genre . . . if you don’t want to. You don’t, but it will make things easier if you do. For a few books, anyway. Or if you really want to, it can be wise to separate genres by pen name, but it will slow your productivity, depending on how fast you can write. I decided to use a pen name for my billionaire romance though I think they could have fit in with my contemporary romance okay. I like the idea of starting over, of having one specific subgenre under one name. Of course you can write whatever you want under one name, but marketing might be a little harder and the chance of finding readers who will read it all are slim. What can you do if you want to genre hop? The best advice I’ve heard is to try to not stray too far. Contemporary romance is all-encompassing, and I thought I could write whatever I wanted. It wasn’t true. If I ever get tired of writing billionaire, I could probably get away with writing Mafia, as they have similar tones. Not that I have plans for that as I have never even read a Mafia romance. Admittedly I don’t know much about other genres like Fantasy. An author could maybe get away with mixing RomCom and Women’s Fiction, especially if the WF has humorous elements in it. Domestic Thrillers could pair well with Mystery or Thriller. It will help your cause if they have similar elements and similar covers, so the books your Amazon author page look cohesive.

I could probably do a lot more of these; there are plenty of “rules” in the indie publishing space. The fact is, you can do whatever you want, but that leads to the indisputable fact that you may not achieve the results you want as quickly as you want them. I’ve been publishing for five years. I don’t have the audience I want because I didn’t give them a way to hook up with me, or a space for them to hang out with each other. No readers means no sales. What kills me is I did it my way for a long time, when I was more than willing to do what I needed to do it right the first time. I just didn’t know what that was. It wasn’t TikTok, and while I’m curious about the platform, I’m still wondering just how worth it it is. The whole idea of anything is to do what you enjoy so you can keep up the consistency of that thing. I don’t like my FB author page. I don’t like Instagram. I don’t want to learn how to use TikTok when I can put that time to use and write bonus material, a reader magnet, learn BookFunnel, network with others, and read more in my genre (and while doing that, join a billionaire readers’ group to help me stay on top of the hottest trends).

It’s all where you want to spend your time, how fast you want to put books out, and what you enjoy doing. You don’t have to do anything. You’re an adult. What do you want to do, and will it move your book business forward? That’s a question only you can answer.


What am I loving this week?

Alext Newton of K-Lytics did a comprehensive romance report for the fall of 2021. Being that I love keeping up with the industry, I bought it for $37. You can find out more about it and purchase it for yourself by clicking here. It’s not an affiliate link. I love Alex and the work his team does, but we aren’t affiliated. ๐Ÿ˜›

Another thing I loved is the interview James Blatch did with romance author Melanie Harlow on the Self Publishing Formula Podcast. She had some great advice, and I really related to what she had to say. I love it. You can listen to it here.

That’s it for me today! Have a wonderful week everyone!

Until next time!

Can You Follow Advice from Someone Who Isn’t Successful?

There is no shortage of advice. Everyone has an opinion on what to do and what not to do, and not many are afraid to shove it down your throat either, or take offense when you don’t follow what they say, or want you to drop down on your knees in gratitude they gave you five seconds of their time.

I think about this when I’m blogging and sharing my experiences, tweeting my own opinions, and especially when I’m scrolling through Twitter and my Facebook writing groups. I was poking around for motivational quotes for another blog post, and this one caught my eye:

I really like this because we’re all struggling writers, all trying to find that magic bullet that will catapult our book to bestseller status (with as little work and money as possible, if we’re being honest here), and we should be open to advice. We should be open to learning from other people’s experiences.

Probably one of my favorite topics to blog about is scammers–people offering a service they aren’t qualified to provide. The indie community is full of them, and how many indies finding ways to game the system or relieve you of your money knows no bounds. I got into a discussion with someone on Twitter the other day who is getting to the blurb-writing business. I asked politely, as I have never had a problem with this person before, if he had a refund policy in place for the blurbs that don’t convert to sales. He said that blurbs aren’t part of marketing that therefore he had no refund policy in place as it wasn’t his responsibility to market your book and that conversion on a new blurb wasn’t measurable. I said I wished him well and that I hoped his own sales success was proof that he could write a good blurb. He said he was doing just fine. I took a look at his book rankings, and unless he meant something other than book sales, no he wasn’t doing just fine.

So he 1) didn’t believe a blurb was part of marketing a book, 2) didn’t have a refund policy in place if you were unhappy with conversion 3) didn’t believe blurb conversion could be measured and 4) his own books weren’t doing well sales-wise. I hope people followed along our tweets because there is no way this person should be offering a blurb-writing business AT ALL. I did the best I could to call him out, but there’s only so much I can do, especially without looking like a big B. I think I already have a reputation on Twitter as being a bit aggressive, and I’m trying to soften up my look. It’s not working.

This goes for a lot of other advice too–writing advice, cover advice, marketing advice. I know one writer who loves to give writing advice, is always sharing excerpts of her work, but it’s all telling and she’s not selling books. People who don’t know what covers are hot in their genre love to give advice on what they like and don’t like. Maybe their advice is valid, maybe it’s not, but if you’re trying to ask for advice from a perspective that others don’t share (like writing to market, covers to market, writing commercial fiction, or the other way–if you want to write your own thing getting advice from someone who doesn’t share that viewpoint won’t help), it can be tough. You’ll be inundated with opinions that would never help.

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help whether the people those eyes belong to have had their own success or not. I feel like I know what goes into a bestseller, and I can say easily that depending on Twitter for sales will only go so far, or you need to learn an ad platform, or you need to change your cover, simply for the fact your cover is horrendous and I don’t need to be a bestselling author to know it.

I think that’s why I like Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon ad challenge so much. When he shares his screen/Amazon Ads dashboard during the videos, we can see that he’s selling books. We can see that he’s written books that people want to buy. Yes, he spends a lot of money on ads, but he also makes it all back and more. His ad challenge wouldn’t be worth much if he wasn’t selling books.

Just the other day in a group someone was asking about a different indie author who offers classes (that aren’t free) and one poster said, “I stopped taking his classes when he stopped selling books.” Like the blurb-writing guy, people forget that it doesn’t take much time to go onto a book’s product page and see the ranking in the Kindle store. You can go onto any of my books’ sales pages and see that I’m not selling many. I’m very transparent–in fact it’s practically the premise of my whole blog–I’m not selling books, this is why I think that is, how I’m changing that, and I hope what I try can help you. I’m not interested in making money off this blog. When I get a couple of readers who thank me for the resources or thank me for sharing my experiences, or tell me they tried something and it worked, I consider my job well done.

So what do I suggest you do when you might consider taking someone’s advice?

  1. Take a look at their success rate if at all possible. Look at their covers if they are going into business creating covers and see if they know market trends, what’s selling right now. Look at their books’ rankings and decide for yourself if they’re qualified to give the advice their giving.
  2. Ask yourself if what they’re saying makes sense. Trends change, and maybe someone isn’t up on the newest thing–like that lady who told me my first person blurb isn’t how everyone else is doing it, when actually most are now, at least where billionaire romance is concerned. But it could be that you missed the boat with something and their advice is legit. Check it out and see if it’s something you want to experiment with.
  3. Where else are they online? Sometimes Amazon sales rank won’t always be the greatest measure of success. LIke the guy who wants to write blurbs, maybe he is successful somewhere else (like writing ad copy for his day job), but if he doesn’t make that known, it reflects poorly on the business he wants to start. Some writers publish to Wattpad and have a large following there. Some write for blogs that have good traffic and they have a large following in that circle. Some submit to literary journals and are published in lit mags. Dig deeper. You might be surprised–and learn their opinion is steeped in more experience than you think.
  4. Do they have a good track record giving advice? Sales aren’t the end all be all, I know that. Sometimes questionable books do quite well and no one can figure out why. Maybe someone has a great marketing tip that didn’t work for themselves but worked really well for someone else. Maybe they know a secret ingredient and it turns out to be the last piece of your own puzzle that can bring your books to the next level, like a promo that didn’t do much for them but made another author’s book rank high in the charts. I edit on the side for friends who can’t afford it. Just because my sales aren’t great doesn’t meant I’m not a good writer or editor. I have a handful of people who could tell you that I’m good at what I do and that I’m qualified to give grammar, punctuation, and writing advice.
  5. Look at the viewpoint of the person giving the advice. I tweeted about this not long ago–taking the advice from one writer on Twitter when there are a million readers out there probably isn’t the best idea. Writers read differently, and what would bother a writer may not faze a reader. I catch myself doing that all the time–stressing while editing or writing about something a writer said they disliked. Why should I care if a writer says she doesn’t like the word moist (or whatever?) Chances are 99.99% that she will NEVER read any of my books. So why does it matter? All that matters is what readers think–and they will tell you.

I’ve taken advice (and my cover for Faking Forever is better for it), but I’ve ignored my fair share. I’ve also given a lot of advice, and usually in some way the people I’ve spoken with aren’t ready to hear it–even if they’ve asked for it. I’ve told plenty of people their covers aren’t working. I’ve looked inside a lot of books and said they need another editing pass. I’ve pointed out blurbs that aren’t written well, and I don’t think a day goes by where I haven’t told someone that they need to branch out from Twitter for marketing if they aren’t seeing the results they want. Usually my advice consists of either spending time or money (it’s work, y’all), but you have to invest something in your books if you want to find readers and nurture an audience. Just today someone on Twitter said he would take down his YouTube channel if he couldn’t get up to a certain number of followers by the New Year, but when I asked him what he did to drive traffic to his channel besides Twitter, he didn’t answer me. So in that non-answer I know the answer. Nothing. I don’t need to be a YouTube guru to tell him he needs to promote his channel to expand his audience and threatening to take his channel down won’t do anything to build his audience. The opposite, in fact, because why would someone invest time in something that may disappear?

At the very heart of your business, only you can make decisions for you, and only you can decide what to apply to your book business and what not to apply. If you’re not seeing the results you want in blog follows, sales, YouTube subscribers, whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, that will be the true test. Trying to achieve different results doing the same thing over and over again will not work, and you don’t need anyone to tell you that. (And if you can’t admit it, it won’t matter how many people tell you–you won’t believe them anyway.)

So, after all that, should you follow advice from someone who isn’t successful? I guess the murky answer is maybe. I certainly wouldn’t pay for anything if the person dispensing said advice couldn’t put his money where his mouth is, and in the indie publishing business, that usually means book sales. There are quite a few top-tier indies who do dispense advice through podcasts, non-fiction books, interviews, and various classes they’ve decided to teach. Some will do consulting, some blog and offer their advice for free. There is plenty of advice out there from indies who are making it, so maybe there’s no need to take advice from someone who isn’t. It could be that simple.

Do you give advice? Take it? Let me know!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts and Author update

Made in Canva with one of their stock photos. I have no idea why happy is in quotes. LOL

Good morning and happy Thursday!

I don’t have a lot going on, but I thought I would update you with some of the things I’ve been working on lately.

For the past few weeks I’ve been editing. I went over my proof for My Biggest Mistake, put in the changes. I got my proof back and I just need to tweak the cover again and it should be ready to go for whenever I decide to hit that publish button. I still need to add the content warning to Faking Forever and add the author note I decided to add to the back of that book, but when I do those things, those two books should be 100% ready to go.

I finished reading through book one of my series and started on book two. I can tell where I found my 1st person POV voice toward the end of book one, and the first half or so will require a little more editing on my part, though I seem to smooth out my writing the best while I’m listening to it during that phase of edits. I’m not in a rush with these–consistency and avoiding/fixing plot holes are my main focus for now. When I wrote my trilogy, I thought dealing with three books at a time was tough, then I did my four book series and I said I would never work with more than that–ever. Now I’m dealing with six, and I have no idea how authors handle a series with so many books.

I guess not every author saves them up, but I have this thing with control and being able to go back and fix mistakes and inconsistencies, and if I published as I wrote them, I would feel trapped. Now I have the freedom to go back and change things if need be, and no matter how complicated or frustrating it is, I don’t think I could ever give that up.

Anyway, so only proofing and editing has made me a little squirrely for the writing part of it, and kind of a beauty and the beast retelling billionaire style plot landed in my lap this morning. After seeing so many tweets about castles because of a certain Netflix movie, I wanted to write about a beast in a castle, too.

Of course, grabbing onto a trope doesn’t mean you’re going to write something that everyone else has written, and because there aren’t any castles in Minnesota where all my books take place, my castle turned into a lighthouse on one of the Great Lakes pretty fast. But still. I’m excited to plot this book out and see where it takes me while I edit my series. My only issue is not being able to focus on more than one project at a time, but I think this would be a great opportunity to try.

In other, personal, news, we have to put one of our cats down this weekend. He’s old and barely hanging on. This is the first pet I’ve put down as an adult, and the first my kids will have to go through. It will be a tough weekend, but loving someone, or something, also means letting go when the time comes.

I’m feeling better with every passing day, so I am grateful for that. I have a follow up on the 19th, and I’m hoping I’ve turned a corner. The side effects of my infection are slowly fading, and I hope I won’t need anything further in that regard either. My son had his last wound checkup last week and was given the call clear. No more followups for him! I’m thankful he’s healed completely–but Pumpkin was his cat–picked him out of a farm cat’s litter almost 20 years ago in a small town not far from where we live. It will be hardest on him, I think, to say goodbye. Here’s a picture of the old man when he was feeling better.

As far as resources go, what I’m loving this week is 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to ANYONE by T. Taylor. I loved this book and I think it will be a great tool to help with blurb writing. She teaches you how to identify the universal fantasies, and gives you plenty of examples in books, movies, and TV shows. She explains why some books sell well and how to get your books to sell well too by identifying these fantasies and including them in your blurbs and ad copy. I’m glad I’m still tweaking Faking Forever and My Biggest Mistake because even though I asked for feedback and worked really hard on the blurbs, this book will help me take them to the next level.

Taken from Amazon.com

Admittedly, I enjoyed this book because it seems to have been written with romance authors in mind. T. Taylor is a romance author and yes, this book skews toward that genre. As with all reference material, you can read the reviews and see if this book is for you.

Besides Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon Ads Challenge that comes around every three months, there’s nothing else that has caught my eye this week. His ad challenge starts on the 13th and you can sign up for it here. If you don’t like Facebook and don’t want to be part of the group, he has offered Slack as another alternative to participate (though he sends all the videos and “homework” to your email, so there’s no need for group participation at all if that’s not your thing). I always recommend it because there is no place else I have found that will give you so much information about Amazon ads for free. And it’s not just about Amazon ads. If you join the FB group, you can ask for cover critique (which is important because if your cover is bad you won’t get clicks) blurb help for your sales page, and ad copy help for your ads. It truly is the most comprehensive free course I have ever found and it is a must if you want to start Amazon ads.

Amazon did a little writeup about him, and you can read it here.

If you missed the link, you can sign up for his free ads course here.

That’s all I have for personal updates. For Monday I want to work on a blog post about promo sites that don’t have a minimum number of reviews needed to use them, but I’ll have to see how the weekend goes. I may not have the time or the emotional energy to write something. Keep my kiddos in your thoughts as we go through a rough weekend.

Thank you!

Advertising Your Book–Categories, Targets, and Comp Authors

I was browsing through my social media writing groups the other day, and someone said something so profound that it has stuck with me ever since reading it. You know I’m a big fan of writing to market, a true believer in the idea that if you want to write a book that people want to read, write a book like the ones people are already reading.

We resist that idea because no one wants to write what someone else is writing or has already written, even going so far as to say they don’t want to write the same tropes because they have already been done before. This isn’t a blog post about that, per se, but along the same lines, I suppose.

When we write a book and publish it, that’s only half the work, something we don’t find out until the book sinks like a stone in the rankings because no one knows it exists. We might tweet about it, put it up on Facebook somewhere, create some pretty graphics and post on Instagram, or try our hand at some videos via TikTok, the new kid on the block. That bumps us up a little bit, but eventually we’ll run out of new people because free social media only goes so far (ask anyone who relies on Twitter for sales to tell you how far free social media can really take you).

So we turn to paid advertising, and what that author said blew my mind–write what you can advertise.

Just that simple thing. Write what you can advertise.

What does that mean, exactly? Can’t we advertise any book?

Yes. But can we advertise any book to success? Not necessarily.

You can advertise any book, say on Amazon, but if Amazon doesn’t know where to put your book, they won’t show your ad and you’ll get zero impressions and no clicks. That makes genre and categories really important. When you create an ad on Amazon, you have a few ad type choices: you can do an auto ad and let Amazon do the work in figuring out who to show your ad to, you can run a category targeted ad, or you can use comparison authors and comparison titles as keywords. You can also target ASIN’s of books like yours, which I have heard works better, but I can’t tell you from my own experience that it does. I’ve done all four, and I didn’t realize until just now why, but All of Nothing is a billionaire romance and one of the reasons why it has always done so well when I ran an ad is because there is actually a billionaire category to choose from when creating a category ad on Amazon:

taken from Amazon Advertising ads platform

If I choose that, and my metadata matches, Amazon knows exactly who to show my ads to–readers who want to read a billionaire romance.

My age-gap romance, The Years Between Us, doesn’t have its own category, and choosing Contemporary Romance gets me impressions, and even clicks, but if someone isn’t in the mood to read age-gap, or doesn’t like it for whatever reason, I lose that sale. The same goes for Coming of Age, which I have listed The Years Between Us under, but even though it can be considered Coming of Age as my FMC is 18, readers may not like the age gap element of the novel.

taken from Amazon Advertising ads platform
taken from the Amazon ads dashboard
taken from the Amazon Ads platform

There’s a lot more competition using an umbrella category like contemporary romance.

You can always use comp authors and comp book titles as keywords, but if you’re writing a very niche genre (like age gap, haha), or mashing together more than two, you’ll have trouble targeting the correct authors because there aren’t that many. Targeting authors is something you can do on Amazon Ads, Facebook Ads (if the author is available in the list and I’ve heard from several people that list is arbitrary), and on BookBub. If you’re one of few writers in that genre, ads may not work. Not because your book isn’t good, but because the platform doesn’t know who to show your ads to or the audience isn’t large enough.

Does this man you can’t write what you want? No. Does this mean you can’t still advertise? No. But you may not get the results you want. You may waste money figuring that out or come to the conclusion that ads don’t work which won’t be true. I stopped using Coming of Age completely because I lost a lot of money on clicks and I should probably take that book out of that category as it doesn’t honestly represent the book.

I still advertise The Years Between Us but when I do, I use the Contemporary Romance category on Amazon to mixed results. Readers like my ad copy (He’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe . . . even if that means breaking her heart), they like the cover, but once they read the blurb and realize it’s an age gap romance, sometimes I lose them. Not always, but until I started keeping track of the ads for that book and pausing them when the spending overtook the sales, I lost money on the readers who decided that book wasn’t for them.

I’ve only dabbled with Facebook ads, and I don’t understand enough to give you any kind of guidance steeped in experience. I know that targeting books isn’t as zeroed-in as Amazon, which can be better and can be worse depending on your point of view. Facebook seems to have more flexibility allowing you to cast a wider net, but that flexibility can also cost you money if people are clicking on your ad and deciding your book isn’t for them after all. There are plenty of billionaire romance authors out there, even if you discounted EL James and Sylvia Day. The idea is to drill down as narrowly as you possibly can so the ads platform you’re using shows your ads to only those readers who would want to buy it. But not so narrow that you don’t have anyone in your audience! Creating a viable audience is probably the trickiest thing about Facebook Ads but I’m willing to keep trying because so many authors say that it works for them.

So what does this mean for writing to market and writing to ad platform? Already lots of indie authors balk at writing to market. They want to write what they want to write, as did I when I thought writing “Contemporary Romance” would be enough to build a career on rather than focusing on subgenre. Marketing and targeting those books was expensive and some books I couldn’t get to sell no matter what, like my road trip romance because Road Trip Romance isn’t a category, nor is Close Proximity, and besides Contemporary Romance there isn’t another category I can try. (I experimented with Romantic Action and Adventure, but my cover didn’t fit and I got some impressions, but no clicks.)

Taken from the Amazon Ads platform

I did everything I could from swapping out covers to rewriting the blurb more times than I could count and still, I just can’t sell it. My Tower City trilogy doesn’t sell either, because while there is a sports romance category on Amazon, my covers aren’t made to the sports romance subgenre, and it turns our long distance running isn’t sexy and no one is interested in it. Who. Knew.

taken from the Amazon Ads platform

The best thing you can do is a little research before you start writing. Who are your comp authors? Are they writing what you write? How is your writing different? Is it too different?

You can use bklnk.com (click author tools and use the cat finder) and find all the categories that a book similar to yours is listed under by searching the ISBN or ASIN. Then you can email Amazon and have those categories added to your book. That way you can run auto placement ads and Amazon will know where to place your ad. I asked around to see if there’s a list of categories available in the Amazon Ads platform, but unfortunately there isn’t one.

Nobody likes to be told what to write, but everyone likes to find readers. Make finding readers easier on yourself and do a little market research before you begin to write. I wish I would have known this before I started publishing. I love all the books I’ve written so far–they are some really good stories and I’m proud of them–but I truly do love writing billionaire, and I think I’ve found a niche I can have fun with for a long time. And also as importantly as enjoying the subgenre, I know there is a market for them and I’ll be able to advertise them.

What do you think? Is thinking about how to advertise your book taking it a little too far? Too limiting? Let me know what you think!

Thursday Thoughts and Controversial Subjects in Novels

**This blog post contains a sensitive conversation about miscarriage. If this is a topic delicate for you, please continue with caution. Thank you.

Happy Thursday!

I was going to write about this topic for a Monday blog post, but all of my Thursday posts are more personal, so I thought the topic at hand would be better suited for today. Monday I’ll be blogging about advertising, comp titles, comp authors, and categories, so come back for that!

But first, a quick update on where I am:

I’m waiting for the proofs, the regular print and the large print, of My Biggest Mistake to come in the mail.

Made with Canva on a Twitter post template and a free 3d mock up generator https://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-3d-book-cover-generator/ by Derek Murphy

I’ve already proofed one paperback, so these are just to make sure the changes look right. I’m still unsure when I’m going to publish, and if I do, the books will go on a preorder for no longer than a week. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur said a longer preorder if you’re in KU can hurt you, that goes along with what Mal Cooper said in the FB ads Zoom class I took with her earlier this month. Because we’re heading toward the holiday season, I’m not going to bother with releasing books until after the new year. There really isn’t a point, and Amazon is going to be bogged down soon enough with people Christmas shopping. This seems to always up the cost per click when running ads, so I think it’s better to just wait until January before I try to do anything. I have plenty to do in the meantime, and my box set of my Rocky Point Wedding series is up for pre-order until October eighth for .99. I took a few minutes to zoom in on their faces to adjust the covers per Amazon’s guidelines, trying to take away the “in bed” look so I can run ads. The one ad I tried for the box set was approved, so I’ll create a few more Amazon ads and maybe even do a Facebook ad just to practice with the platform. These are steamy, small-town holiday, so this would be the perfect time to push them.

If you want to hear the Dave Chesson interview where he talks all things Amazon with Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea on the Six Figure Authors podcast, here it is. He knows SO MUCH about Amazon, and it’s really helpful to store away these tips!


The one thing I wanted to talk about today is writing about controversial things in your novels. There was an interesting article in the Guardian about Sally Rooney and people thinking she’s a racist because of some of the things her characters say. All authors put a little bit of themselves into their characters, but any writer knows that characters take on a life as their own, especially as the book develops and we get to know them better and better. None of us would be very good writers if we couldn’t separate ourselves from the people we create, and all of our characters would sound the same because eventually they would all be us.

Humans have a dark side, and it stands to reason that characters can have a dark side, too. If they didn’t we wouldn’t have novels about serial killers and the investigators who solves the crimes, or vigilantes looking for their own justice, or even male characters who treat women like crap, and women who do the same, honestly. Humans aren’t perfect, and I believe adding that layer, those flaws, can make a character feel real.

Romances aren’t always roses and champagne, there’s usually a “big bad” that breaks up the couple 3/4 of the way through the book, and the “will they or won’t they” keeps readers hooked until the end. There wouldn’t be a big bad breakup if the characters were rosy and sunny and treated everyone else in their lives in a decent manner.

We can write about delicate situations like divorce and miscarriage, death from things like cancer or suicide, and we should write about those things because that’s life. So when I wrote a character who’s ex-girlfriend lost their baby, and while he was devastated, he was also relieved because it gave him the out he was looking for in their relationship, it gave me pause. No one should be happy a miscarriage happened, and Fox wasn’t happy. I tried to make that clear he wasn’t happy about it, and I didn’t want him to come across as an asshole because he was anything other than completely destroyed. In the book he was about to break up with her when she announced her pregnancy and after she miscarried, they did break up, she ending it before he reconciled with the loss.

It’s a hard conversation to have–in the book and in real life. When I was in college, I was depressed, suicidal, and I drank a lot. I slept around and at 21, I got pregnant. I miscarried, and while I was sad, I too, was relieved. I wasn’t ready to be a mom, I didn’t have the mental health I needed to be a good mom, and that miscarriage saved me. I drew on a lot of my feelings from that time and a lot of what Fox feels, I felt too. Can you find something good in something so tragic? Should you? Are you allowed to?

This worries me, not because of how I’m going to be perceived–I was practically a kid who made bad choices and somehow I was saved from having to pay for the choice of sleeping around without protection. Anyone who wants to judge me has the right to do so, and I don’t care. But I’m not a male hero of a romance novel, and I know readers have limits of how far they are willing to go to give a character space to be themselves. I’ve read lots of asshole male characters in the billionaire/mafia/dark romance subgenres (reviewers going so far as to call some of them rapists in dubious consent novels), and maybe I shouldn’t be nervous that Fox was anything other than human. When I talk aloud about it, I can see how maybe I could be turning a molehill into a mountain, on the other hand, readers can be unforgiving.

So what can I do short of rewriting it? I don’t want to rewrite because it’s my truth, and it’s also Fox’s truth. His ex’s miscarriage saved him from going down a path he didn’t want to go down, living a life he didn’t want to live, and I made sure that she got the help she needed–as did I–because grief is real, mourning is real, even if you can see the good in something terrible.

I’m not one for trigger warnings, but I will add one to this book. The conversations ARE controversial. Some women will have been in a situation where a miscarriage has gotten them out of a sticky situation, while others will have lost babies that were 100% completely wanted. I went on to have three more miscarriages between my son and daughter after I was married to their father, so I have felt both sides of grief.

I may also write an author’s note for the back of the book, explaining why Fox felt the way he did. I can’t try to appease every reader who may read Faking Forever, but I want to try to explain why I wrote him the way I did. Maybe Fox’s feelings would have found a better home in a women’s fiction novel (perhaps something more serious than a billionaire romance book? Though that discredits romance as a “real” genre) but in the novel I tried to explain that all our feelings have validation and that he has a right to feel that way (and he also admitted and learned from the fact he never should have gotten her pregnant in the first place).

Anyway, it’s a touchy subject, and I don’t normally go that deep with my writing. Do you write about controversial subjects? How do your readers respond?


There isn’t much else that I wanted to update you on–just a few Clubhouse rooms and free classes if you’re interested in taking a peek.

ProWritingAid is hosting a Romance Writer’s online Conference in October, and you can look at all the information here (this isn’t an affiliate link): https://prowritingaid.com/romanceweek?utm_campaign=Romance.

And here is the at-a–glance list of speakers. Bookmark the ones that you are most interested in. The lineup can seem demanding, but you don’t have to attend live.

Another writing conference I want to tell you about is on the app Clubhouse, hosted by The Author Conference the weekend of October 15 & 16.

Clubhouse is now available to anyone using either an iPhone or Android. Download the free app, and create your profile. Search the rooms for the Author Conference and follow the club. There is so much information available and it’s all free–anything from Amazon Ads with Janet Margo, to book launches with Pamella Kelley and others. This is such a great resource–and you never have to speak! I’ve been listening to rooms for months now and I still have never spoken to ask a question or add a comment.

Join the Clubhouse Authors Facebook group for more information!

I guess that’s all I have for today! I need to put in a few hours of editing the first book in my series. Have a great weekend, everyone!

When others ask for blurb feedback, how do YOU respond?

Blurb writing will get to the best of us. It’s difficult to separate yourself from the work and look at it as someone who’s never seen it before. Some say that’s almost impossible, and they are probably right. You know too much about the story, the characters, the ending, to write something that will effectively draw a new reader in without giving too much away.

It took me a long time to recognize this of myself, doing most of the work for the past ten books alone without much help, paid or otherwise. Because I’m starting this new pen name with the idea that I’m going to put all my knowledge I’ve learned in the past five years into practice, I’ve started doing things I’ve never done before, and that includes asking for feedback in the various Facebook groups I’ve joined. While I’ve gotten some really great advice I was able to use, there were some, I feel, who posted just to jab at me, listen to themselves talk, or, I don’t want to make assumptions, but really just wanted to say something nasty because they were probably jealous. You know the posters I’m talking about. They aren’t supportive because you’re doing something they want to do, and I’ve seen this behavior in more than just writing groups. You’re making progress, they aren’t, and it shows. But no matter what their reasons are for being nasty, it still hurts, and sometimes it gets to the point where you wish you never would have asked for feedback at all. The only thing is, being a writer/author isn’t a one-man ship, and you’ll sink if you try to do it all alone. Sinking will be different for everyone–no sales, burnout, a combination. We need help and finding your crew is easier said than done. It can take years to find a handful of friends you trust and who will always have your back, and bonus if they’re writing the genre you write in so you know their advice is solid.

Anyway, I posted the blurb to My Biggest Mistake, and while yes, there were some really great people who wanted to help, and did, there were a few nasty people, too, and here’s what I learned. I want to say, too, that I’ve been guilty of doing these things and being subjected to it will definitely shape how I help people in the future.

If you don’t have a real answer, then don’t answer. In one group, someone just threw up a “how to write a blurb link” and called it a day. While that might have been helpful, I wasn’t asking for resources, I was asking for help, advice, opinions. I didn’t expect anyone to rewrite my blurb (though there were a couple who did–more on that later) but throwing up a link to an article wasn’t helpful, and for the work he put into answering me, and the work I put into skimming by it, he could have just not posted at all.

If you have a criticism, offer a way to fix it. My blurb was too long, I knew that when I posted it, so when a couple people said, it’s too long, but didn’t offer a way to cut it down, that’s not helpful. I already knew it was, so if you’re going to say something obvious without offering a solution, you’re better off not saying anything at all.

If a romance writer is asking for help, be a romance writer if you want to answer. This goes for all genres. Sometimes writing is writing, so you can get away with helping someone that doesn’t write in your genre, but have something concrete to offer if you’re straying outside your lane. One woman was particular nasty, insulting my first person blurb saying it looked “homemade” and I need to do what others in my genre are doing because I need to fit in if I want readers. She obviously doesn’t read or write billionaire romance because almost 100% of the billionaire romances written in first person POV also have blurbs that are also written in first person. I told her this and thanked her for her input. She treated me like I was a first-time author who didn’t know what I was doing, and I really struggled with being the nice guy and not putting her in her place. If I had been just starting out and needed some true advice, she could have driven me to tears. Her comment was not helpful in the least and she could have kept her opinion to herself.

Be careful if you’re going to take the time to rewrite someone’s blurb. A couple of people in one group did this, and I really really appreciated the time they took to do that. Sometimes you can get a few great lines out of doing it their way. In the past I’ve rewritten blurbs (mostly chopping up what they already had and making it tighter) and I feel like they’ve always been positively received. But when you’re rewriting someone’s blurb, especially if the blurb is written in first person, that blurb is written in your voice, not theirs. One person rewrote my blurb and while her voice was strong, it sounded nothing like my characters. She gave me some ideas for what I could add to mine, but keep in mind doing this for someone may not reflect their voice so don’t be offended if they can’t/don’t use it, and when you’re on the receiving end of a rewritten blurb, be careful of taking it in its entirety. (Not to mention, you’re treading heavily on supposed copyright issues and some indie authors are really weird about that. You don’t want a cease and desist email hitting your inbox six months later because you used their blurb verbatim and it made them angry.) Your blurb needs to reflect you as the author and your characters as people your reader wants to get to know. The person who helped me made my characters sound young, and there definitely would have been a disconnect between the blurb and my book. I did grab some ideas though, and thanked her for her time.

Never offer unsolicited advice. This caught me a few weeks ago when I looked up someone’s blurb after she she sent me the cover to look at in a Twitter DM. I noticed her blurb was written in third person, but her book was written in first. I DM’d her back (I know–I deserved what I got) and said a lot of blurbs now are going the 1st person POV way if the book itself is in 1st person. I don’t want to say she went off on me, but she wasn’t pleased with the advice. I get it. She hates first person blurbs; she published her book the way she wanted it published, etc. I apologized for overstepping and I will never offer unsolicited advice again. It’s getting to the point where I rarely offer any advice at all (especially on that bird app). There are some people who are just so precious about their books that Stephen King could offer advice and they still wouldn’t take it.

In the end, I think I was able to rework the blurb so it sounds better, shorter, and there were a couple of things that confused the people who took the time to help me, and I was able to rewrite and clear those up. I think the blurb sounds good now, and if it doesn’t resonate, I can always change it on the book’s buy-page.

It would be nice if we didn’t need help; if we could do all this 100% on our own and come out with a successful product. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case with most books or authors and if you can find author friends who can help you in an honest and kind way, hold on to them. For some reason, I don’t have good luck posting things to FB for feedback. I might have cultivated an abrasive attitude over the years; stiff and know-it-all-y is the tone I present without meaning to. I’m trying to be better, and in the group where I received the most feedback, I’ve been posting with the intent of helping rather than getting back. Some people only post when they need something, and that’s fine if they can get the feedback they need without giving anything in return.

The fact is, I don’t want to do this alone, and my books are better for it if I don’t try. I hope when you post looking for feedback that you are able to find good people who are truly trying to help you and that you have the mental health needed to ignore the rest.

What are you tips and tricks for writing blurbs? Do you have a FB group you like, or do you tweet out for help on Twitter? Let me know!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts and Personal Update

I think it was two weeks ago I blogged a list of the things I needed to accomplish in the short term to get the ball rolling on publishing some books. I am happy to say that I’ve managed to check of quite a few of those.

I proofed the proof for Faking Forever, put the changes into Vellum, generated new files and corrected the mistakes on the cover/full wrap–more on that. I created a Large Print edition and ordered a new proof of the regular print and the proof of the large print. Since I never used to utilize the back matter of my 3rd person books, it was strange to add a sign up link to my newsletter to the back matter of these. I should add a buy link to the next book as well, but I’ll have to go back and edit those as I have books available. For now the back matter only has one call to action, and that’s to sign up for my newsletter. Organic sign-ups are the best though, so I will be happy if I get any from that.

To ease some of the pressure of learning Bookfunnel and how to segregate lists in MailerLite, I decide to forego offering a reader magnet for the moment. I can write something quickly, maybe after Christmas, but I was putting too much pressure on myself when really what I want to do for right now is publish a couple standalones and start getting my pen name out there. I don’t know how Bookfunnel works, and I need to figure that out and spend more time in the MailerLite dashboard to figure out who goes where when they sign up for what. It will help when I get some signups, and then I can see what happens. I don’t want anyone not to be offered a free book because I don’t know what I’m doing. Needless to say, I decided to sell the book I’d decided to use as a reader magnet, but once I get the ball rolling and familiarize myself with my newsletter I’ll write something else. It was a blow, but at the same time a ball of anxiety loosened in my chest. I know offering a reader magnet is the best way to entice people to sign up, and I will get to that eventually, but for now. I just want to focus on getting some books ready to publish.

I also formatted My Biggest Mistake and did the cover. I have another blog post coming about this, but I asked for feedback on the blurb in my various FB writing groups. Here is the cover for this ugly duckling standalone, and the interior I formatted with Vellum:

Probably I’m not going to be able to use a dark-haired sad guy looking down again, since he looks similar to the cover to Faking Forever:

Initially I had my name at the top, above his head, but since I’m trying to keep more of an idea of branding for my books and not having to go back and redo anything, I moved my name to the bottom. I think it looks nicer. The proofs I have coming will have my name at the top, but I won’t need to order proofs again for such a small change.

I have seen other photos of the two men, and they are two different gentlemen (with some stock photos, you never know), but I’ll have to keep this in the back of my mind and go for a different look for my next few books. That should be easy to do since after I proof the proof to My Biggest Mistake, I’ll be starting to (finally) edit and get my series ready that I wrote last year during the lockdown. I am really excited to take a look at those books with fresh eyes, and it will be a challenge to do six covers, a trilogy for Zane and Stella and a trilogy for Zarah and Gage, but have them all feel similar since the story reaches over all six books. I should do the smart thing and hire out, but I like the control, and with so many scammers out there, trust is hard to come by.

This week I’ve been taking a break–it’s hard not be writing anything, but the proof for My Biggest Mistake will come Saturday, and after that I’ll be jumping into a few months of non-stop work. I’m trying to enjoy the time off, but not actively writing anything, especially since I know what I want to write next, (and it isn’t a reader magnet) is a bit strange. I’ve been reading a domestic thriller I bought a few months ago and I need to format and do a cover for the box set of my wedding series. I think that is the biggest item on my list I haven’t crossed off yet. It’s not hard–just moving Vellum files over to create a large one, but it’s busy work. I need to make a mug of coffee one evening, put on some music and get it done. I don’t want to wait too long–the Christmas books are already starting to pop, and I think I could get some good KU page reads and sales, especially if I sell it at .99 from October until December.

They’re all in KU singly, but I haven’t gotten many reads on them in the past few months. In fact, I’ve stopped looking at my sales dashboard, and only keep an eye on my ads to the extent that they are breaking even. I was going to try to find a different couple for the front so I can run some ads to the box set, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. I tried looking for a different pose of the couple on the first book, but they are all in bed, or doing dopey things like being sad at a pregnancy test result. I could zoom in on their faces to take the “lying down” element out of it and see if that works, but as they are positioned right now, Amazon won’t let my ads go through, and it’s been very hurtful for the series as a whole.

That might actually work. It would be an easy fix to upload new ebook covers for books without having to change too much if the new cover could get through Amazon’s cover guidelines. All I can do is try to submit and see what happens. It would be nice to be able to advertise these this winter. I can add zooming in on their faces to my to-do list.

As far as health news goes, my infection is gone, but an ultrasound revealed an ovarian cyst that is making me feel not so great. So I have a follow up next month to see what’s going on with that. I’m not in pain, just a sense of discomfort most days and some bloating. I’m getting old though, so I suppose it’s to be expected.

I guess that’s all for now. Things are moving along, though this week slowly. It will be nice when things pick up. I didn’t want to start writing a book. Then I would be suck for six weeks while I finished it. I’m trying to convince myself that having a week off isn’t a bad thing, and today all I’ve done is take a walk and write this blog post.

Later I’ll be creating author interview questions for Nina Romano, and there will be a giveaway…I’m thinking for fall… so stay tuned for that in coming weeks.

Thanks for checking in! Have a great rest of your week!

Looking at Books on Preorder: What it can do for you

There are many reasons why a writer or author would love to have a crystal ball. If we could predict trends or subgenres that are going to be seeing a lot of reader love in the coming months or even years, we could adjust our writing accordingly. We could write that dark romance vampire book, or the new YA with the talking pets as sidekicks. If we knew what readers are going to want in six months to a year, then we could hop on the query train or quickly write a series and get her ready to go just in time to ride that wave.

While we don’t have anything so magical, what we can do is look for what’s coming in the months ahead by using the Amazon advanced search and looking at what books are popping up on preorder in your genre.

First fo all, how do we do this? Go to an incognito window and head over to Amazon. Click on Books and use the Advanced Search.

There you’ll find the search fields and you can enter in the genre and preorder dates you want to search for. I’ll search for Billionaire Romance because that’s what I’ll be releasing in the next few months:

After you click Search, you can also click on Kindle Unlimited books to narrow your search further, if you’re planning on releasing into KU:

You can look at any date, any genre, wide or in KU and see what’s going to be released. Why would we want to do that? Here’s a few ideas:

  1. If you’re planning on making a genre switch you can see by the results if the genre is glutted or if there will be room for you. Billionaire romance looks crowded, but that’s a good and bad thing. Good because billionaire romance hasn’t lost its popularity, but bad because I know I’ll be doing a lot of advertising to compete. On the other hand, there will be a lot of authors and book titles for Amazon Ads keywords, but because of the competition, cost per click might go up.
  2. You can take a look at what authors are doing for covers. Cover trends change, but it looks like billionaire romance is still going to be dominated by a single rich-looking guy probably showing some abs. Knowing what is working for covers in your genre is important because you want your cover to fit in. I’ve heard the best way to see if your cover is going to fit in is to screenshot the top 20 and put your cover next to them. If your book doesn’t look like it belongs, a reader will pass you by. A quick scroll through the search results tells me a dark cover with a title in neon green, teal, or red still indicates a dark romance, or a man in muted color without much background can signify a billionaire romance though not necessarily dark.
  3. You can research titles. Titles are an important part of your book, and often overlooked. When you look ahead using the advanced search, you can find what authors are using as titles, and in billionaire romance, the word billionaire is still a popular part of the subtitle.
  4. You can find the categories these books are listed under and you can add them to your own book. Some of the books are too far out for the ranking and categories to be listed under their product information, but some do, and you can make note of the categories authors are listing their books under.

Searching preorders to find out what’s coming in your genre will probably be the closest thing you’ll get to telling the future. If you want a deeper look at what authors in your genre are doing, you can look at their Amazon author pages and see if they have any preorders that may have not shown up in the search. When I experimented with the keywords and dates, etc, the preorder results changed, so do your due diligence with your comp authors.

Alex Newton of K-lytics talks about this a lot better than I can, and he has a free webinar hosted by Jane Friedman on her YouTube channel (I link it below). I like diving into anything that has to do with the publishing industry, genres, trends, writing-to-market and what books are selling and why. Staunch traditionally published authors say there is no way to predict a trend and that by writing to trend you’re already behind because by the time you query and are possibly published, that trend is over. Well, when traditional publishing is two years behind (seriously, I have friends on Twitter with book deals and books that won’t be coming out until 2023) they are guessing just as much as we are. Maybe more so because if an author can write and publish a book in six months, that’s a far cry from waiting two years and they have a better chance of riding the wave of what’s selling right now. But as Alex says in his webinar, even in indie publishing things don’t change overnight.

I will definitely be doing more looking into preorders as I do more with my books.

Here is the webinar with Jane and Alex. Let me know what you think!

Conquering Writer’s Block

A lot of people ask me how I write books so quickly. I always say I love writing, and that’s true. I couldn’t spend 20+ hours a week doing something I didn’t like. I guess there is a running joke that writers hate writing, but if that were really true, there would be a lot fewer of us out there. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, in fact, I think I may suffer from the opposite. I have so many ideas for novels in my head that I could write for the next year and a half (at my pace) and not run out of books to write. What is my secret? I’m not sure, but I can pass along some tips that I use to keep myself fresh and ready to write.

Use your time wisely. That means if you have time to write, write, so when you don’t, you’re not beating yourself up about it. I’ve never written every day. My life doesn’t play nice and there are days I simply can’t. Sometimes I’m so busy that by the time I can steal an hour to myself I’m drained and don’t feel like it. I know there are people who say to write anyway, and sometimes I’ll read what I had written during a previous session and that helps boost my spirits enough to get a few words down. Usually, if I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. It doesn’t happen often, as I said before I enjoy writing and not much keeps me from it. But because I used my time wisely in the past, I don’t feel guilty when I can’t write and I’m not forcing myself to get words down because I haven’t written all week. Don’t force yourself to write out of guilt or shame. Write when you feel good and have time, then give yourself a pass when you don’t.

You’re stressed out. There are plenty of writers and authors out there who haven’t been able to write because of the pandemic. They are so worried about themselves and loved ones there is no room for anything else. I don’t know how to fix that. If you live with a lot of stress and that’s preventing you from writing anything, you’ll have to take a look at your own life and figure things out. There are some things I’ve been stressed with–my health for one that has only now turned around with working with my doctor for the past seven months. While I wasn’t feeling well, I took refuge in my stories and characters and used my writing time to think about something else other than my next doctor’s appointment. Not everyone can do that, and I completely get it. Not everyone can write after a day at a crappy job (I’m lucky I like mine), not everyone can write when they have sick children. Some stressors can’t be fixed, and you may have no choice but to put writing away for a little while and take a break. It could do your mental health good not to worry about the next book.

You’re tired. I have an old cat who cries a lot at night. There’s not much we can do for him. He’s on thyroid medication. Sometimes when he’s hungry he doesn’t like the food we give him and he’ll walk away still hungry and that makes him cry (and trust me, I’ve tried a lot of brands and flavors to no avail). (He reminds me of me when I was suffering from morning sickness–I was hungry but nothing sounded good.) He’s just old and our vet is reluctant to medicate him, so he wanders around the apartment at night and cries. I love the old coot, but he doesn’t make getting rest easy. I take naps when I can, go to bed early if my schedule allows it, and generally I work around him because one day he’s going to be too old to keep going and our vet will recommend putting him down. Sometimes getting enough sleep means being responsible and going to bed at a decent hour, and not staying up late reading or watching TV. I’m not your mom (I have two kids and don’t need any more) so you’ll make the choices you make, and if your writing suffers, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. I can’t write when I’m tired. I don’t believe in the old adage “bad words are better than no words.” Not to me they aren’t, and if I’m tired I won’t bother to try and write.

You haven’t spent enough time with your novel in your head.

If you sit down and have no idea what to write, you haven’t spent enough time with your characters. There are plenty of memes out there that say writing is so much more than putting words down on paper, and this is true for me. I’m thinking about my book all the time. Plot points, character arcs, running dialogue like I’m an actress in a play. I spend more time with my characters inside my head than I do writing, but that makes writing much easier. In these days of social media, we are bombarded by information. There are podcasts to listen to, webinars to participate in, YouTube videos to watch, and Clubhouse rooms to listen in on. There is so much out there that takes up brain space that sometimes if you don’t give yourself time to THINK, you won’t be able to spend the time you need with your book. I don’t think we give enough emphasis to the thinking part of writing–time to unplug and daydream is more important than we like to believe. That’s why so many people have great ideas in the shower, or while they’re driving. It’s only when they are forced to take a moment to themselves that their brains are able to think about something else. This is really hard for me as I have a big fear of missing out. I’m always worried I’m going to miss the next big thing in marketing if I don’t listen to that webinar, or sit on on that room, or sign up for that class, but when it comes right down to it, there’s no reason to know any information about anything if you don’t have a book written. I take baths without a book, I go outside and sit without my phone. I snuggle my cats and doze and daydream about my book. Turn your brain off and see what happens.

You don’t like what you’re writing. Maybe you’ve been working on it for too long, or you’ve written yourself into a corner and you have no idea of how to fix it. Maybe this was supposed to be a standalone book and you decided to turn it into a series and now you regret it. There could be any number of things that make you loath to sit down and work on your work in progress. I had a friend who started something new whenever her current project got too hard, or she wrote herself into a corner, or she had no idea where the plot was going and decided it would be easier to start something new than figure out the book she was working on. That resulted in a lot of unfinished novels, burn out, and she hasn’t published anything in five years. If your characters aren’t playing nice, or you’ve written yourself in corner, or your character said something that changed everything, well, chin up because writing can be hard. I had a great idea for the book I’m working on now, but that required me rewriting a sex scene toward the beginning of the book. I know it will make the book a lot better, but I’m going to have to force myself to sit down rewrite it, and make it fit with the rest of what I have. If you’re hating writing your current project think about why, and be honest. If you’re just avoiding the real work of writing, then push through it. If you’re tired because you’ve been working on it for a long time, write something else and mix it up for a while. If you’re bored because you’ve lost interest, give yourself permission to write something different. No one should hate what they’re working on. On the other hand, you’re a professional and you have to show up and do the work.

I think the overall consensus is there is no such thing as writer’s block–only circumstances and situations that make it harder for us to write. Some of these we can control through better choices, some we can’t and we have to push through if we can. A change of mindset can help. If you’re a hobbiest and you don’t mind if you go days, weeks, or months without writing, then that’s great! If you’re trying to turn your writing into a day job so you can make a living doing what you enjoy, there isn’t going to be a lot of room for “writer’s block.” We’re all in different places in our writing careers with different goals. Whatever your plans are for your writing, I wish you the best!

And if you’re tired, a nap. I know I love mine.

Until next time!

found on Pinterest

Resources:


How to Overcome Writerโ€™s Block: 14 Tricks That Work

How to Overcome Writer’s Block: 20 Helpful Tips

Thursday Thoughts, Personal Updates, and what I need to finish by the end of the year

Last night I sat in on a wonderful Facebook Beginners Ads class by Mal Cooper. She was great! It was a bit of a surprise because of all the webinars and classes I’ve attended that use Zoom, I’ve always been a behind the scenes participant, but with Mal’s class, our cameras were on, and at the end she encouraged us to ask questions (something I did not do, letting my introvert insecurities get the best of me and now I need to email my question). I’d never participated in a Zoom class like that before, but it was fun and after a couple minutes of indecision, I turned my camera on. Luckily I had showered and done my hair and makeup for the day. I feel more productive when I do that, and these day with social media who knows when you’ll need to pop on somewhere and say hi. Anyway, I learned a lot and it was well worth the fee.

There are two more webinars scheduled for this week but I’ll be working and I’ll need to watch the replays. I could probably spend 24 hours a day consuming classes and information!

I’m stalled a bit with my latest novel. I thought of a couple of things that would make the book better, and I’ve paused writing to fix those. I liken changing a scene to pushing over a domino. It can change a lot more than just the scene and can affect the entire book. A lot of writing craft gurus say to keep going and not edit as you go along, but I prefer to have a pretty clean first draft when I’m finished so I do go back and edit and fix inconsistencies as they arise. I still can finish a book in a decent amount of time and I don’t need to get it all on the page in order to finish a book. Life being what it is, I haven’t been able to work on my book much this week at all, but I should have a quiet weekend and make some good headway and probably finish it next week some time. With my appointments for my girly bits and my son’s wound checkups and scheduled dental appointments for both kids, somehow September has grown quite busy. Still trying my best, but my best feels like trying to run a marathon in quicksand and the more I try to work, the more bogged down I get.

I work well with lists, and find I don’t feel so overwhelmed if I can write out what I need to do in the coming months. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Finish current WIP.
  2. Double check everything is how I want it in MailerLite for my newsletter landing page, welcome email, and unsubscribe page.
  3. Proof the proof of Faking Forever and make changes to the ebook and paperback interiors:
    a) add my newsletter sign up to the back matter
    b) add price to the back cover of paperback (check to see if I need a price increase for IngramSpark)*
    c) fix title name font size on spine
  4. Order another proof and check it over to be sure everything is the way I want it.
  5. Format the interior for My Biggest Mistake, (title not set in stone) the ugly duckling trope that is going to be my reader magnet.
  6. Create a cover for it, front and back because I’m going to upload it to KDP so I can proof a paperback proof of it. It can stay in KDP because after it grows stale as a reader magnet I’ll publish it.
  7. After I proof it and make sure there are no typos in it, create a Bookfunnel account and upload it. Ideally I would like to have 1,000 emails on my newsletter before I start to publish anything.
  8. And last, but not least, before November, create a box set of my Rocky Point Wedding series, and run a .99 promo on it for the holidays. I’ll probably do a couple of smaller promos like Ereader News Today or Robins Reads. I’ve never tried them before. I did a BargainBooksy through Written Word Media that didn’t do too well for a .99 promo of Wherever He Goes. Their FreeBooksy is always great, but not sure if I want to give away a complete 4-book boxed set. Even .99 is low, but my royalties will come from the page reads I’ll get in KU, so maybe I will do free. Not sure. The books are already over a year old and I don’t know if I’ll write anymore 3rd person books. I’m more than comfortable writing what I’m writing, but never say never.

*IngramSpark sent out an email saying they needed to up their pricing due to rising costs in the industry, and they are slowly going through everyone’s books to see if their pricing will stay on the positive after the price increase. If your book is set to go into negative royalties, they’re going to ask you to up your price. Which isn’t a big deal normally, but IngramSpark forces you to match your price to the cover if you put it on there, which I do, right above the ISBN box on the back. So if I have to raise the prices for any of my books, I’ll need to make the changes on the covers as well, and resubmit. I don’t care if my books make fewer royalties–I rarely sell paperbacks anyway–and if my books can stay in the black, I’ll leave my older books how they are and price higher any books I publish through them from now on. If you want to read their announcement, you can find it here.

It’s difficult to know what to do first. It makes sense to publish Faking Forever so I have a buy-link to put in the back of my reader magnet so when they finish reading a free book, there’s one available to purchase. On the other hand, publishing it without a newsletter in place to announce the launch and depending on paid newsletter mentions like BargainBooksy, ENT (Ereader News Today, Robins Reads, Fussy Librarian, etc) and ads may not be enough to give me a good launch as a new pen name without a backlist. Mal said something that I agreed with in the Facebook Ads class last night too, and she said it doesn’t make much sense to put a book that’s going to be in KU on preorder because KU subscribers will wait to read it anyway. I guess I’ll be trying to get newsletter signups and promoting my reader magnet without a book for sale, but I’ll have it all ready to go into KDP so when I do decide to publish it, all I’ll have to do is press publish and approve proof. The only good I can see of doing a preorder while you’re in KU is having the buy-link to post in places. Something to think about.

Probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in the past five years I’ve been publishing is for me, at least, it just is not working to publish as I get books done. There is no consistency in a publishing schedule when I’ve done that. There are a couple of indies who do well publishing as they finish books, but I think those are the exceptions that prove the rule. The indies who make consistent money are the ones who are a few books ahead in their schedules. It’s tough because I’ve talked about this before: you have to be okay with keeping books while you stock up, and then you have kind of a conveyor belt feel to the entire process. I don’t want to feel like that, but I also don’t need the pressure of writing and publishing a book every four months without a Plan B. I don’t know. All I know is that I need to get through some of my list and as I do hopefully I’ll find readers and starting an avalanche of readers, email subscribers, and releasing books won’t seem as daunting as it does right now.

What I’ve enjoyed this week:

The Six Figure Authors Podcast is back from their summer hiatus, and I enjoyed listening to their first episode! They talk about taking your writing from hobby to career level, and you can watch it here.

I also loved this episode of the Wish I’d Known Then podcast. Thomas Umstattd Jr. had a lot of interesting and possibly controversial things to say about treating your books like your business. There are so many writers and authors who don’t want to look at their books as a product to sell, but then when it comes to marketing, they don’t understand what to do. Give it a listen and tell me what you think. Do you agree with what he has to say?

Monday I’ll talk a little bit about writer’s block and why it seems I never suffer from it. Come back for those tips!

Until next time!