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.

Why I have an author website and the advantages of having one.

When I decided to publish my first person POV under a pen name, I was torn between starting a whole new website, or simply adding a page and listing my books on this one. I already knew my way around WordPress (this theme, anyway) and starting another and letting WordPress host my domain would be easy, if I chose to go that route. I don’t pay for an outside host, WordPress takes care of that for me, and I bought both of my domain names through them too. I’ve blogged for seven and a half years, I think, and I have never had a problem logging in, hackers taking over, or spam comments dirtying up my posts. I’ve always been very happy with WordPress and I like being part of the WordPress Reader. I think over the past seven and a half years I’ve found a lot of readers showing up in WordPress community, and that traffic is invaluable.

The main issue for me was keeping my nonfiction and writing community separate from my readers and my books. For a long time I put a graphic of my books and author page at the end of posts, and I realized that my audience isn’t here. You guys come to me for publishing news, indie information, and how-to posts like my how to do a full wrap in Canva instructions. You come here to read about my experiences, and I love sharing them. If I ever sold any books from having them at the end of my blogposts, it was few, and I decided instead of trying to cram two readerships together, I took my graphic down and stopped. It didn’t do anything to my sales, such as they were, and well, I think I made the right choice.

But, readers like somewhere to go, a place to look at your stuff, even if you don’t think they do. So, I decided to put up a website just for my first person books.

One of the first things I realized is that I needed a brand. My books are about Billionaires (kind of. I have a rockstar trilogy coming out at the end of the summer, and they’re rich, but in a different way LOL). Sexy men with gobs of money, wanting, needing, things money can’t buy. I needed graphics, fonts, that would carry across the website, my newsletter, and any other social media posts. Starting my website was a way to put everything I learned from five years of doing it wrong into practice, and I still made a lot of mistakes along the way.

The first thing I did was think about the font for my author name on my books. I got some flack in some feedback groups on FB for using Cinzel Decorative for my name.

This is the cover for the first in my rockstar trilogy I’m playing with. My name will look like this on all my first person POV books. Always. I wanted it to look similar to my name on the third person books, but with a little twist. I may go back to writing in third person. I don’t know. I still sell a few here and there, and I don’t want to completely write that name off.

That was the first thing I had to decide. Next I had to figure out what would denote sophistication, elegance, and money, but also sex as I have open-door sex scenes and I thought I should hint at that. The brand of a billionaire. I chose this photo as a header for my FB reader group page, my FB author page I rebranded instead of starting a new one, and it’s the header for my newsletter sign up landing page. It’s important to be consistent all over the web.

My home page header and tagline.
My landing page for my newsletter signup through MailerLite

I went through a lot of graphics and I changed a lot of things before settling on him.

The reason why I’m telling you all this is because when you decide to create and pay for a website, it’s more than just putting up a list of your books. It’s part of your marketing strategy. You’re giving your readers a look at what they’re going to be be getting buying and reading your books and signing up for your newsletter.

So, after I got all that up and running, I decided I didn’t want to blog. I wanted to do things differently than what I was doing for my non-fiction part of writing. Instead of blogging, I started a newsletter to reach readers, and it’s a lot easier writing a newsletter once or twice a month than it is thinking about relevant topics for this blog once a week. This is like a journal about my publishing journey, and readers don’t care about that. It’s fun to think of little things to tell my readers about my books, and now that I’ve gotten used to the MailerLite platform, it doesn’t take any time at all to knock out a newsletter and send it off.

My author website doesn’t have much to it. An about me page, how to contact me, my books, and a subscribe link to my newsletter. The only thing I keep up to date is the list of my books, and that doesn’t take much time at all. There are other things I could add, like a list of trigger warnings, or when I have more books published, I could list them by trope. There is always something to add, but for now my website is very simple.

I got the idea to write this blog post is because I wanted to give you some numbers. I don’t promote my website anywhere. I have the link on my Twitter bio (along with this one, too) and my subscribe link is at the back of all my books (www.vmrheault.com/subscribe). You would think I wouldn’t get any views, but I do. You may not believe readers will find you, that a website isn’t relevant, but it readers will find you. They really will.

I started my author website in September of 2021 and I published my first 1st person POV book in June of 2022. I already had a reader magnet written, and I started up my newsletter a few months after I published my website.

In 2021 I only had 33 views:

In 2022 I had 213 views.

So far, this year, I’ve had 266 views.

I don’t use attribution links, so I can’t tell you how many people have bought books using my Books page, but all those views could be readers, and I never would have had them if I hadn’t had a website.

I’ve had 44 newsletter signups that came from my landing page I have connected to my website. That may not seem like much, but that’s 44 people who may not have signed up. Every little bit helps when it comes to building your mailing list.

I call it my No Freebie List because I have a different way to collect email addresses through Bookfunnel when I have a little money to play with to run FB ads to my Bookfunnel link. They are still able to download a copy of my reader magnet–that was just how I differentiated them in my mind.

For as little time as keeping up website updated costs me, I think it is worth it to have one. When you’re building a readership, each reader counts and they want a consistent way to be able to find you. I don’t do much with any of my Facebook pages. Sometimes I’ll take a couple hours and schedule posts for a few weeks in advance, but I’m terrible at keeping those up to date. I like my newsletter for that, because I don’t send it out often, and I don’t have that much to share. I write a lot. That’s where my time goes.

If you’re on the fence about an author website, ask yourself why you wouldn’t want one. Would the lack of views get you down? You do have to write and put the links in the back and not be afraid to share it on social media. I admit, having a reader magnet goes a long way. I’ve given my reader magnet away 1,004 times, and that probably has brought traffic to my website, too. It all works together, and that’s part of your marketing strategy. All the wheels need to turn, and a vehicle stops moving if you have a flat tire. I’m happy with the stats of my website, and I’m glad I put one up.

pieces of marketing: website, consistency, newsletter, backmatter, and promos/ads.

Do you have any other reasons why you would have an author website? Let me know!

Have a great week!

How to start a beta reading service

Beta reading can be a great way to give back to the writing community and help out your fellow authors. Coincidentally, a couple of my friends have decided to go into the beta reading business. Turning something you do for someone for fun into something that you’re charging for might require a different way of doing things. For a friend, you can be more casual about it, but to trade your time for cash will call for a bit more professionalism. If I were to go into beta reading for a few bucks (and I never will because I’m not interested in that) this is what I would do.

What are my qualifications? This is probably the most important, and something you might not consider. But charging for your services is different than reading for your friends for free. Authors who are giving you cash want expertise and experience in return. Simply being able to say that you’ve been a lifelong reader might be helpful, but may not be good enough. Do you have any formal education like a literature degree or an English degree? Do you know the genre conventions/reader expectations of the genre you’re going to read? Do you read the bestselling books in that genre? Do you know the tropes that make them bestselling books? Not every author you read for is going to be writing to market, that’s true, but just because it’s unsavory to some, there are authors who do want to know if they’re hitting the right beats, that the character arcs and plot arcs are in line with what’s selling, and that they’re nailing the end in a way readers are going to want. If you yourself are an author, how are your books selling? What are your reviews like? Beta reading is different from writing, that’s true, but you can’t expect to tell authors what they should be doing if you can’t do it with your own work. If I were going to answer these questions, I would say I have an English degree with a concentration in creative writing, I’ve been reading romance for years, have been writing romance for years, and finally am now making a little from the books I’ve published since I pivoted from 3rd to 1st person present and niched down. I would have to read more in my genre, though. I’ve said I don’t do it enough, and I don’t.

Decide what genre I would read. Let’s be honest here. If you go into beta reading, proofreading, or editing, you’re going to come across some stinkers. That’s just how it is, and probably why they’re asking for help in the first place–they know they need it. Reading something that needs work is tough enough; reading something that needs work written in a genre you don’t enjoy is even harder. Be firm with the genres you’ll read. If you choose romance, decide if you’re going to read open door sex scenes or not. I’m dirty and I’ll read it all. Some won’t. Same with swearing. I swear, my characters say Jesus Christ all day long, and I don’t mind reading it. Put together a set of wills and won’ts, and ask the person you’re beta reading for if their books contain those things.

How long are the books I read going to be? One thing that surprised me on Fiverr is how cheap inexpensive all the beta readers were–until I dug deeper and realized that betas charge on a tier system. 10 bucks for a short story, 25 bucks for a novelette, 50 bucks for a novella, 100 bucks for a novel 40-50k words long, 125 bucks for a novel 50-85k words, and 150 bucks or more for anything above 85k. (That’s just an example–I didn’t steal anyone’s prices.) They use the lowest fee to draw you in, and you’re massively disappointed when you can’t find a beta reader who charges 10 dollars for your enormous 160k word YA Fantasy. If you have limited time in your personal life you may want to limit how long those books are, or maybe you’re happy reading and charging for one book a month and digging into 150k words is your jam. But it’s helpful to know what length you like to read. I don’t read short stories, and I find novellas lacking in depth. I don’t buy novellas, but if the premise drew me in, then I would maybe beta read for a friend who needed it. Decide what you like and make sure your potential customers know.

What would I charge? This is icky for me since I beta for free at the moment. I’m selective and honest and only do it for my friends. If I’m busy, I say so. I don’t accept a project then get pissy because I don’t have the time (or don’t want to make time, for that matter). I read romance and I’ve made allowances, like reading a science fiction romance, because a friend asked me to take a look. That’s fine, and I’m happy to help. If I were charging, I’d be more strict with the genres I accept and probably put into practice a flat fee like I listed above. Some charge by the word, and some even by the hour, though I don’t now how you would keep track of (or prove) something like that. I’d enable a disclaimer and say I have the right to return a project if I can’t handle the first chapter. If the first chapter is badly written or just not my cup of tea, reading 50k plus more words wouldn’t be worth it. Life’s too short for that. Though, that could be feedback in and of itself. Starting out I would probably beta read at a discount until I had a few testimonials and could prove I make my customers happy. Maybe I would already have that if the friends I’ve helped gave a review of my work for my website. Like with anything else, you have to prove yourself before you can charge the maximum amount.

Decide if you’re going to proofread as you go. Some beta readers proof while they read–it isn’t all for plot and characterization. One beta reader I worked with couldn’t decide if she was going to proof for me or not. She marked some things, but for every one thing she found, she didn’t point out ten others. It was confusing. Don’t do that. Either be all in or be all out. If I proof for someone, they’re getting a line edit, too. I can’t overlook a mistake. I’d have to turn off my editor brain and I think unless they were close to publishing (the book had already gone through a critique group, for instance) I wouldn’t proofread as I went along. I’d read for plot, pacing, and characterization only. If they did ask for a proofread, that could be an extra fee. That would be up to you.

How would I give my feedback? Usually I just write up a separate Word doc and email it along with the manuscript I beta read (using Track Changes for short comments). I once proofed/beta read for someone using Google Docs, but since that’s live online, she read along with me and either fixed things or dismissed things while I was reading. That was creepy AF, and I will never beta read for someone using Google Docs again.

Can I give my readers resources in areas where they’re lacking? Probably the most satisfying part of beta reading for me is being able to point out resources for authors if they need some extra help. I read a lot of editing books, my favorite being Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing by Tiffany Yates Martin. Feedback is important, no doubt about it, but learning how to do a lot on your own before someone takes a look can save time and money down the road. I have a ton of editing resources, and if you want to take a look at my favorites, you can read this older blog post about publishing without an editor.

Where would I post about my business? It would make the most sense to add a page to this website, as being a paid beta reader would be a natural step after blogging for indies and publishing my own books. I already pay for the domain name, and I have to admit, when I see an editor, beta reader, or proofreader trying to sell their services and they don’t pay for a domain name, I write them off as unprofessional. http://www.sallyeditor.wordpress.com looks cheap and I can only assume, like readers assume a crappy cover indicates crappy insides, that if they aren’t willing to pay a few bucks a month for their domain name, that their services are on par.

How would I bill my clients? Creating an invoice in Canva would be the easiest, I think. You have to have a way to bill your customers because some authors write off their beta and editing expenses on their taxes, or at the very least, they keep track of their expenditures. And you as well, should keep track of how much you make so can report that income. The beta reader I worked with asked for half before she started and half when she finished. I didn’t mind that at all and would maybe follow something similar.

How would I accept payments? If you post your job listing on a website like Fiverr, they take care of that for you, and I’m assuming, take a small cut for helping you. I paid my beta through PayPal, but I’ve never accepted money through it, only sent it out. I would need to research that and figure out how people could pay me. PayPal seems to be popular still, but I would want to make paying me easy. Not sure how I would go about it, and I would definitely set that up beforehand so my clients knew the options available.

Beta reading for payment is a business choice, and like indie-publishing, it’s best to remain professional. Confidentiality is important. Not talking about your clients’ work to other people, maybe having a privacy clause on your website stating that their manuscripts are safe. When I beta read, I delete them from my computer after I send my feedback. Their stories and books don’t belong to me so I trash them when my work is done. It wouldn’t feel right keeping them, though technically I still “have” them in email because I don’t delete correspondence.

Beta reading is more than just reading–you’re helping an author put their books into the world. That’s nothing to take lightly. I’m always humbled when someone asks me for help. I think they value my opinion and respect my work. I offer that in kind, and I like to think I’ve added something to the writing community.

If you want to read more about starting your beta reading business, look here:



Have a great week, everyone!

So…Much…Indie Publishing…News!

Words: 1431
Time to read: 8 minutes

There has been a lot going on in the past couple of weeks, and now that I’m done with my trilogy (!) I can poke my head out of my writing cave and weigh in! Most of it’s been happening over at Amazon, but when aren’t they making huge waves over little changes that leave all of us authors rolling around on the floor in a temper tantrum?

The first big thing was they raised the price of Kindle Unlimited. It used to be $9.99 a month and they raised it to $11.99 USD. I’m not sure why that gave every author I know a heart attack. Two dollars is nothing, especially since in the email they sent all their subscribers, they said their catalogue has grown to over four million titles.

Since the launch of Kindle Unlimited in 2014, we have grown our eBook catalog from 600,000 titles to over 4 million titles today, introduced digital magazine subscriptions, and improved selection quality across genres. Kindle Unlimited members have unparalleled access to read as much as they want from a rich catalog of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and comics. We continue to invest in making Kindle Unlimited even more valuable for members.

Taken from my Amazon Email

Guys, readers aren’t going to care. As a reader who uses KU, I don’t care. Have you priced ebooks lately? Anyone? These days your KU subscription fee will pay for two, mmmaaaayyybbbbeeee three ebooks, if they’re priced low enough. Everyone’s prices are rising, and KU for a reader is still a great deal. If you’ve been considering pulling your books out of Kindle Select because of this small price change, I would tell you to take a step back and breathe. You all are going to make a major business decision over two dollars a month? (And I’m especially staring at the people who are paying Musk $11.00/month to tweet.) I hope not. But if you are going to go wide, publish with Kobo directly and enroll your books in Kobo Plus. They don’t require the exclusivity Kindle Select does, and if you’re considering signing up as a reader to save money, understand that their catalogue isn’t nearly as large.

Graphic explaining Kobo Plus benefits for readers.  Text taken from their website:

After the free trial period, we'll charge you $7.99 a month for a Kobo Plus Read or Kobo Plus Listen subscription, or $9.99 a month for Kobo Plus Read & Listen, ...
Free delivery · ‎30-day returns

Evaluate for yourself if keeping your books enrolled in Kindle Select is the right thing for you and your business. Don’t blindly follow what people are doing on Twitter and in your author groups. A lot of the reaction is due to the fact that AMAZON made this change. Authors love to hate Amazon, always accusing them of undercutting and cheating us. They added value and upped their prices–like any company does. Like Canva is going to do with all their new toys. I’m waiting for the email to come from them too. It’s what happens.

Another nasty surprise we woke up to is Kindle Direct Publishing raising their printing costs. This caused a lot of anger and resentment too, but someone I trust analyzed how much that means for indie authors, and the fact is, KDP upped printing costs by .15 a paperback. You need to take a look at your business and decide if freaking out over .15 is a wise business decision. I don’t sell many paperbacks. It’s not where my focus is. I market to KU subscribers. Any time I run an FB ad or mention my book on Twitter or anywhere else, I say it’s available in Kindle Unlimited. That is where my readers are. That might not be true for everyone. Authors who write poetry, kids books, and middle grade focus on paperbacks, and if you’re buying author copies in bulk, you can always print through IngramSpark. I think again, people are angry because this is Amazon, but you have to take a look at the industry as a whole. For some reason, I follow a lot of agents, and when they are telling querying writers to adhere to a certain word count because printing is expensive and it’s easier for them to sell shorter books, then it’s an industry problem, not an Amazon problem. Amazon is part of the publishing business, and the publishing industry is global. We are caught in the middle of the pandemic aftermath, and it seems a lot of people forget that. Are you upset about fifteen cents? I’ll give you the quarter I found between my couch cushions.

IngramSpark is dropping their publishing and revision fees this month. That was actually a very nice surprise, and I will be taking advantage of it as I haven’t put my trilogy on IS yet. (I abhor busywork and adjusting the KDP cover template to the IS template is a boring pain the butt.)

We believe that all authors should be able to successfully print, globally distribute and Share Their Story With the World!  In our tenth anniversary year, we’re announcing exciting changes that will make publishing your book with IngramSpark even easier. 

No more book setup fees  (Coming May 1st)

We will no longer charge book setup fees. It’s that simple. Upload your books for free*.

FREE revisions on new books (Coming May 1st)

Make a mistake? No problem. Revise your book within 60 days of the book's first production date and you will not be charged a revision fee.

I wondered how they were going to recoup that loss, and they too, are going to be charging more. I can’t remember where I got this screenshot, but I shared with my friend Sami-Jo when we were talking about IS dropping their fees:

To balance the general 60-day waiving of fees, IngramSpark is introducing a higher percentage fee on the publishing side, a "market access" fee. We are currently seeking more clarification on both changes and will further update you as soon as we know the full details.

So while the free title set up and the free revisions are a good thing, they are going to make up that loss, and it will fall to us. I’ve never paid a fee; I’ve belonged to a group like IBPA or ALLi who includes codes as member benefits, or just waited until they had a promotion and used their promo days (a good time was always in December for their NaNoWriMo promo.) Amazon isn’t doing anything everyone else isn’t doing, so please breathe and conduct your book business accordingly.

So much talk about AI I’m going to scream. I’m never going to use AI to write my books. I’ve played with Chat-GPT and while it’s fun to chat with Al and bounce ideas off him from time to time, the last thing I’m going to do is give him a prompt and copy and paste it into a book that has my name on it that i’m going to sell. If other authors want to do that, that’s their choice, name, and reputation. My books come from my heart, and I pour a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and wine into my fiction. (Not so much the wine anymore. I’ve stopped drinking hoping to drop a few pounds this summer.) I enjoy writing. I love creating characters and putting them through a lot of crap before giving them their HEAs. Why would I outsource that? I get not everyone feels the same, and that’s fine, but I have started to include a disclosure on the copyright page of my books, and I did it with my newest release Faking Forever, which was out last week.

screenshot of kindle view on the formatting software Vellum
No part of this product was generated by AI. The entirety of this book was created solely by the author’s hard work, skill, talent, and imagination.

My copyright page is absurdly long because I give credit to everyone living and dead who in any way shape or form helped me with my books. Just kidding, but I add all the contributors for my stock images and chapter headers with DepositPhotos plus I give credit to my son and ex-fiancé for helping me with the imprint logo. And maybe one day I’ll update that too so I don’t have his name in my books anymore. Anyway, maybe no one reads copyright pages, but I like knowing that I’ve added it. I’m not going to write my books using it, but I can look at both sides and understand that there can be a place for it. Authors are going to have to do what they’ve always had to do: write good books and find a readership. I don’t think AI is going to disrupt this any more than COVID did when everyone was staying home and writing and publishing books because they didn’t have anything better to do. Publish good books, publish consistently, buy promos and invest in an ad platform. Start a newsletter and reach out to your readers. Let them get to know you as a person, and they’ll respond and connect with that.

Probably more went on, but this is going to be it for me this week, as far as commentary goes, anyway. While I “take a break” I’m going to re-edit The Years Between Us and reformat it using one of the newer styles that came with a Vellum upgrade. Depending on how I feel after that I would like to tackle my small town series and give them a facelift (especially covers because not being able to run Amazon ads is especially annoying), but I also want to stay on track with my rockstar trilogy to have that ready to rapid release by the end of August. There is always something to do!

I hope you all have a fantastic week!

Monday Musings and an Author Update!

Words: 1364
Time to read: 7 minutes

It’s another Monday, but not manic, sorry, Susanna Hoffs. I’m just tired AF. By way of author updates, I don’t have too much. A proof job fell into my lap last week, and I started and finished that before working on my own manuscript. I’m 91k into the last book of my rockstar trilogy, and I’m hoping to finish it ASAP. I want to dive into editing them and polishing them up for an August release. The week between books went really well for my other trilogy, so there’s no reason not to do that again if I work hard enough over the summer. It’s crazy how I’m already thinking about a Christmas novel, but we’ll see how much time I have when school starts. My daughter will be in her last year of high school this year, and September is always a little busy as we try to shake off the summer months. I am grateful I write clean first drafts, but my co-worker who read my series and proofed them for typos would like to read the rockstar trilogy before release, so if I take her up on that, I need to make time for it.

I have a book coming out on the 17th, and the first review on Booksprout put my mind at ease. I really wasn’t sure about Fox and Posey’s story, but I was honest in my author note to my reviewers and said as much. I have ARC copies available until it goes into KU on Wednesday, and you can download a copy from Bookfunnel if you’d like. There are eight left, but don’t download one unless you want to read it and leave a review: https://BookHip.com/PPSTKQF

I’ve been trying to shake off some doldrums and with the rain and my girl-stuff flaring up, it’s been difficult. I honestly wasn’t feeling a book launch, and it shows. I need to start Amazon ads to the preorder so they’re up and running when the ebook goes live, and I was going to schedule a promo for Give & Take on either ENT or Fussy Librarian to keep the ball rolling on my books. I haven’t done that either, and they book about a month out, so we’re looking at the middle of June before I can do anything now.

I guess this all kind of feeds into the discussions online lately about writers and their worth. I wrote a blog post about it a while back, which goes to show we’ll always have conversations about things like this. I sound bitter, frantic, almost, and what’s funny is my situation has changed very little. I’m selling more books because of the 1st person POV change, so that’s turning into a good move, but my fiancé and I broke up so I no longer have that “stream of income” I amusingly called it. (I did work for it, so it may be appropriate after all.) The blogpost I wrote in 2020 I could be writing now, except I’ve learned a lot over lockdown and actually put into practice those things as I started releasing new books last year. At any rate, it just goes to show some things will never change, and writers’ pay is one of them.

The conversation this time started over a tweet from an agent who said her agenting was a career and our writing was a passion. Let me dig it up so you can see it.

I honestly understand where she’s coming from (don’t come at me with pitchforks, please), and I often think of something similar myself when I see all the writers querying and complaining about all their rejection emails. Savannah probably could have been a little nicer about it, but agents have bills to pay and they can only pick up what they know will sell. It’s not rocket science. On the flip side, which is where my old blog post comes in, no one pays a writer for all the work that goes into writing a novel. All the months and years that we spend writing, there’s no pay for that, and sometimes, after we find an agent, get that book deal or self-publish, there’s still no pay for that. Certainly not a living wage.

It can be disheartening to keep writing, to keep producing for no little to no gain. And when we complain there’s no money in it, everyone piles on and says you shouldn’t be writing for the money. Which… is what Savannah did. It’s quite the conundrum, especially if you break down all the hours you work on your books for free. I work maybe 20-30 hours a week on my books. I have to if I want to write as quickly as I do. Part time wages compared to what I make full-time at my job would work out to be about 15k a year from just writing. I’ve said before how much easier my life would be if that were a reality. Of course I love it. Of course I love helping my friends publish their books. Of course I love the readership I’m building with my first person books. I don’t know how you can’t be a writer if writing calls to you. How do you shut it off simply because you’re not earning an income?

I listened to the latest Six-Figure Author podcast episode and could really feel Jo’s plight. He revealed he was getting a job for the first time in a long time, and that brought on a lot of emotions for him and the people listening. I doubt I will ever be able to quit some kind of a day job. I need the stability of a paycheck, and I would have to be earning a lot from my books to even think about it, even if my work barely pays me a living wage. If you want to listen to the episode, you can here. He starts talking about that 8:00 minutes into the video.

I guess I don’t know where I’m going with this post, except I can see both sides. There are ways to make your book enticing to agents before you query, just like there are ways to make your book more enticing to readers if you self-publish. Know what’s going on in your genre. Know who your comp authors are. Know what shelf your book is going to be in a bookstore. (It really is amazing how many authors say they wouldn’t know.) Work on your craft. Whenever I see a tweet that says they queried the perfect agent and still got a rejection, I just think the writing isn’t there. It’s a tough industry and you have no idea who’s right. Should you get an editor before you query? I don’t know. How strong is your writing? Should you get one before you self-publish? I don’t know. How strong is your writing? Either way, you have to know the industry. Read Publisher’s Weekly. Read Publisher’s Marketplace if you can afford it. Read Jane Friedman’s The Hot Sheet if you can afford it. Publishing is a business. Learn about the business you’re in. Someone DM’d me and asked me a question because she said I knew more about indie publishing than anyone else she knew. That’s not just from publishing books. That’s from listening to podcasts. Reading blog articles. That’s from listening to talks on YouTube like the 20books50k conference last year in Vegas. That’s from knowing the heavy-hitters in the industry and signing up for their newsletters. Sign up for workshops if you can. Anytime Melanie Harlow speaks, I’m on it. What do you do to stay on top of your industry? When you’re querying, what can you bring to the table? Everyone keeps saying the agent/writer relationship is a partnership. Okay, what’s in your half besides your book?

I don’t understand the helpless mentality online. You are not helpless. Your career is in your hands. You just have to decide how long you want to work for free, because it’s a lot longer than any of us realized it would be.

This is the first year ever that I have sold a book or had page reads every day since January 1st. My craft is better, my brand stronger, and my focus clearer. I didn’t know what I wanted when I first started publishing. I do now. And until I have to be like Jo and cut back to find something else that will pay the bills, I’ll never stop trying.

Hopefully, you don’t either.

Have a great week!

Guest Blogger, Sarah Louise Dale: Best and Worst Experiences of Writing and How Publishing Changed Everything!

Words: 766
Time to read: 4 minutes

I want to thank Vania for allowing me to post on her blog today. I miss blogging but for now I mini blog over on my Facebook page The Sweet Tea Mama and not really about writing. You can visit me there, but for today I wanted to talk about the good and bad experiences of publishing.

Recently on Twitter, a question was asked about your good and bad experiences in publishing:

For the good I said that I actually published a book. As someone who loved my high school creative writing class twenty years ago (okay 23 yrs ago) I never thought I’d be a published author. Writing a book is a huge deal and despite what some people believe, not everyone can do it. (I hear this a lot from my family so no I’m not being conceited.) If you’ve taken on the task of publishing a good/readable book, praise yourself a bit, you deserve it.

What this post is really about the bad experience with publishing. It’s been over 5 years since I hit that publish button in CreateSpace (now KDP). Before I published, the Writing Community on Twitter was filled with fun and engaging chats that were held weekly, friendships were formed, and support was rampant.

I am still not 100% sure what happened when I hit that publish button but the world shifted. I was accused of being “big headed” and arrogant. Was I? I don’t know. Maybe? Maybe the pride got away from me and my excitement of actually publishing a book instead of sitting there saying I was going to publish made things shift? Like I said, I don’t know, and I can’t speak for anyone else’s thoughts, opinions, etc.

But for me…darkness engulfed me. I’ve always been aware of people talking about me behind my back (or believing they are because the reality is people don’t care that much haha).

I let the whispers and negativity get to me. The first 1 star review I got was a rant against the book and my skills as an author and I took it really hard.

Things like that, the grief from the death of my mom before I published and my own self-doubt that flared out of control led me to rewriting the book again and again. I changed pen names three times, titles twice, and covers four times now.

Shattered Yesterdays is my book baby and we’ve been through so much together. This book has taught me more about writing novels, publishing, and having a writing career than any college classes or self-help books ever could.

I don’t know how the writing community on Twitter these days is, as I’m just reentering the world again, but I’m hoping the old way is still there, in some sense. It was awesome!

Five Lessons I’ve Learned From My Experience:

  1. Be open to learning. There are so many resources available for new writers and most of it’s beneficial. Use it.
  2. Follow your heart. You’ll never be happy with your work if you don’t keep a part of you in it. The market is constantly changing, and it’s important to adapt to that, but stay true to yourself.
  3. People will HATE your work. Best part, those aren’t your readers so that’s okay. Believe in your work, your readers will come.
  4. Everything takes time. Patience in this lifestyle/career is a critical attribute to have.
  5. Stick around. I used to delete socials and posts any time things went dark. A negative comment, or whatever else may arise. Staying consistent and not shutting down just because life has bumps is so important in building a writing career.

I’m not a mean or arrogant person. It’s not in my blood. I have learned that it’s okay to take pride in my work and the accomplishments I make. Everyone should. But there’s a fine line and it’s important to not cross it.

I hope in the future to nurture lasting writerly relationships and put the past behind me. I’m not the same person I was five years ago and I’m ready to move forward with my career.

Final thoughts: We can let the past keep us from the future we’re meant to have or use it as a stepping stone to becoming the better versions of ourselves. I choose stepping stone, how about you?

I invite you to check out Shattered Yesterdays on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited. Please leave a kind review if you choose to read my story.

Interested in connecting outside of Twitter (@thesweetteamama) you can also find me at www.thesweetteamama.com

Happy Reading!

Monday Musings and Quick Author Update

Words: 1100
Time to read: 6 minutes

Happy Monday, if you like that kind of thing. Today, incidentally, is the first day of May, as well, which means everyone should probably check to see how their ads are doing and compare ad spend with royalties earned. Because my Amazon ads were running away with clicks but my royalties didn’t seem to be keeping up, I paused some of them. Sometimes that’s not the best idea, but until royalties catch up, I can only spend so much. I’ve made $219.62 this month in sales, spent $108.00 on Amazon Ads (my fault I wasn’t keeping track of them) and $39.96 on my Facebook ad for Rescue Me. Of course, that’s not great (an ROI of $71.66), and I take all the blame for my Amazon ads. I had one going for Rescue Me that didn’t make any sense, because those clicks were .34 which is what I earn on a .99 book. My FB ad is .13/click so I make a tiny something. Mostly I’m using it as a gateway to my other books, and just from Rescue Me this month I made $72.22 so at least the FB ad is paying for itself.

Over the weekend I put Faking Forever on Bookfunnel to offer a few ARCs to my newsletter subscribers and later this month I’ll need to put it on Booksprout for reviews. That is going to go live around the 17th sometime, and I need to book another promo for Give & Take. I wanted to for Captivated but that duet isn’t selling and as I have lamented before, there’s no point in trying to throw money at that duet anymore. If people find it with my low click bid ads, that’s cool, but as my backlist grows, it may just get lost in the shuffle.

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about why I give away a full novel as my reader magnet for my newsletter subscribers. You hear a lot of opinions on it. No one wants to put in that amount of work into something for nothing, or they want to make money off selling it instead. Maybe they can write something shorter that still gets the job done (but how you would measure that is debatable–maybe if no one signs up would be a hint). I can understand the reluctance, and I tried writing short for my reader magnet too. But when I realized it would be easier to just give away something longer, the idea wasn’t so painful. Mostly, I heard advice a long time ago that made sense: you want to give your readers a taste of what you write. I will never write a novella, nor do I write short stories. My Biggest Mistake is the perfect example of what I’m writing under my pen name. It’s 78k words long, is about a billionaire who finds love (and family), and it’s steamy. There really is nothing better I could give away, and if the readers who picked it up don’t like that, they sure as hell aren’t going to like what’s in my backlist I’m selling.

Someone in one of my writing groups said she read that people think their email is worth ten to twenty dollars. I tried to find the source, but after snooping around online for a bit, I gave up. What’s important here is that people don’t give their email addresses to just anyone and for just anything. Authors who don’t like newsletters and haven’t started one because of their own personal biases will probably believe this more than anyone. They protect their email and will only give it away if they know it’s worth it. A $4.99 ebook more than likely isn’t worth it unless the cover and blurb really pull them in, but perhaps the books you’ve already written add to the value, the books you’ll write, and the special offers you’ll only give newsletter subscribers might be enough to tip them over the edge. Since I started my newsletter last year around this time, I’ve given my reader magnet away 952 times. I collect email addresses through Bookfunnel and Bookfunnel sends them directly to my MailerLite account. I don’t force people to give me their address, so I’m 300 email addresses short in my MailerLite account. I was hoping to add people who really wanted to be there by giving them the choice.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is, you need to make sure you’re giving value to your subscribers, and not think you’re entitled to emails just because you have a newsletter. A little short story may not do it, though there are plenty of ways to entice readers, one way being writing bonus content for newsletter subscribers only. I’m too lazy to do this– and once a story’s done in my mind, it’s done. I had one reviewer for Rescue Me say she appreciated I didn’t dangle bonus content in front of her in the form of a newsletter sign up, and I don’t do that because I’m already giving away a book and don’t feel the need to give away anything more than that. It frees up a lot of headspace.

My novel took 3 months to write and I can use it for years to build my list. I think that’s a great return on investment. I can understand if it takes you longer to write a book, but you will have to decide what you want to offer instead. It may not be good enough to entice subscribers and it will take you a lot longer to build your list.

This is all I have for his week. I’m just trying like mad to get the last book of this trilogy written, and it’s been one of those books that are more fun to read than to write. I’m going to have to make a serious effort to finish up in the next couple of weeks. I’ve already went back and read this book from the beginning twice, so I don’t need to do it again. I know exactly what I need to get it done, I just need to stop letting things get in the way. I’ve enjoyed writing this trilogy very much, and like all the other books I’ve written, I’ll be sad when their stories are done and it’s time to move on. After these are good to go, I may be able to squeeze in a Christmas novel. I really want to write one and have some kind of holiday auction plot simmering in the back of my mind, but we’ll see. I need to finish the book I AM writing first and take it from there.

Have a great first week of May everyone! Make every day count!

Formulaic writing: What does that mean?

I’m lurking in writing groups and on social media way more than I should be, but there are days where you just need to sit with a cup of coffee and scroll. I admit, I like a little discourse with my coffee along with my chocolate creamer, and like the engagement questions thrown about on that bird app all the time, I like to ruffle feathers, too. My most recent, and I think most successful as it garnered more engagement than most of my tweets in the past was this one:

One of the most surprising things people said was that studying the market that way leads for formulaic writing. You can scroll through the replies yourself if you want: I’m not interested in calling anyone out because this actually is a common way of thinking.

So what is formulaic writing:

In popular culture, formula fiction is literature in which the storylines and plots have been reused to the extent that the narratives are predictable. It is similar to genre fiction, which identifies a number of specific settings that are frequently reused.

Formula fiction - Wikipedia

Personally, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. We all know there are only seven plots out there, and we reuse those plots over and over.

Many academics, most notably author Christopher Booker, believe there are only seven basic narrative plots in all of storytelling – frameworks that are recycled again and again in fiction but populated by different settings, characters, and conflicts. Those seven types of story are:

Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return

Obviously there is a lot of room to twist these plots into your own story, and we all do as thousands of books are published every month. Having seven plots is very much like writing romance using tropes. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and as a writer, you are free to twist them in any way you want. Why Ali Hazelwood got so much flak for revealing in a Goodreads interview that she wrote one of her books with the tropes her agent suggested will never not make me speechless. If you want to read the article, you can look here.

Regardless of what her agent suggested, it’s still her book, her characters, her writing style, her voice. It’s not any different than a romance author digging into a fishbowl full of little slips of paper and pulling out a trope that they want to write their next book around. (I really should get on that only one bed.)

So why is there so much dislike when it comes to writing this kind of thing? Authors want to think of themselves as artists first–their books are works of art, and writing to market is like a painter using a paint-by-numbers kit. There’s no originality, no creative exploration at play. Which I think is a load of crap. People crotchet use patterns, so do people who sew quilts. People who make clothing can use patterns too–are they any less talented than the designers who create fashions and dress models who strut the catwalk?

We fear writing books that are predictable (read: boring), but if every romance author had that fear, we would never write anything. There is nothing more predictable than a 3rd act break up and a happily ever after. But in the romance genre, that’s the point. Romance readers want that and expect that, and there is hell to pay in nasty reviews if an author says their book is a romance but it doesn’t end happily (that’s a love story, by the way).

There’s a snobbishness about all of it, but there is value in not reinventing the wheel. Why build a graphic from scratch when you can use a Canva template? We see book covers all the time using a Canva template. We search newsletter and blog prompts for things to write about. We even ask ChatGPT for his ideas. There is no true originality out there anymore, and I guess that’s the point. Authors who think they are being original like to lord it over those who aren’t, but let me tell you. I’m lazy. You work your ass off for your mixed genre book with your ten points of view, and I’ll be over here having fun playing with tropes I know readers are going to want to read.

I tweeted that because it never will never cease to amaze me how much authors want their work read, how much authors want sales to show up on their sales dashboards, but whenever they ask how other authors do it, they shun the answer! The answer is right there, and it gets completely ignored, or worse, authors are written off as selling their souls or writing subpar work.

There’s a science in writing to market, to writing books with beats. That’s why there are books out there that tell you how to do it. Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes is popular, so is Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. You can read more about what makes a book a bestseller The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. Books written in this way give readers what they want: a feel good read. That’s why “they” say you shouldn’t genre hop when you’re trying to build an audience. You want to consistently deliver books your readers want, and what they know they’ll like.

For more on formulaic writing, you can look at this article–they did a better job explaining it than I did. Formulaic Books: Faulty or Fabulous? https://gosparkpress.com/formulaic-books-faulty-or-fabulous/

I don’t think I’ll be spending much time on Twitter anymore if the changes Musk threatened us with takes place. I don’t have the money to pay for a checkmark–I’d rather save that money for ads and promos. My life will probably be better for it, and I’m slowly following more people on Instagram so I don’t entirely lose touch with all my friends. Maybe my blood pressure will go down when I’m not constantly bombarded with idiotic ideas or not-so-subtle insults about my writing.

Anyway, this third book is going well, but I’m not going to finish by the end of the month like I hoped. I’m not feeling good again. For just a little while I had a time where my girlie issues weren’t such a big deal, but I had a flare up last week that sent me to the clinic. All my test results came back negative, so it’s just my body not cooperating and there’s not much I can about it except try to ease the symptoms as there doesn’t seem to be a cure. I sympathize with anyone trying to write with a chronic issue, but it does give me something else to think about. I’ll just have to be a little more liberal with the pain meds–I try not to take them if I can help it, but there’s no point in playing the martyr either.

That is all I have for this post. I hope you had a good holiday if you celebrated and have a wonderful week!

The surprising ways signing up for a newsletter isn’t as helpful as you think.

Words: 1028
Time to read: 5 minutes

I see it a lot on social media in the writing community–people sign up for each other’s newsletters to be supportive, thinking they are doing a good thing. I would never want to discourage anyone from trying to help out another author. Support and encouragement are so important, and sometimes just a simple, “I’m here for you if you need me” can be the difference between an author opening their laptop and writing that next chapter or walking away from everything for good.

So when someone mentioned they sign up for newsletters to show support and I said unless you’re engaging with that content it’s not really that helpful, I felt bad. I felt bad for making her feel bad because she genuinely thought what she was doing was a good thing. She, and a few others, were surprised signing up for a newsletter wasn’t as supportive as they thought it was, but here’s why signing up for a newsletter and not opening that email and enjoying and engaging in that content can be a real downer for the author sending out that newsletter.

Most email aggregators are pay to play. Unless you send out your own newsletter, you probably don’t realize that authors usually pay for their newsletter aggregators. Some of them have a free threshold, such as MailChimp at 500 email subscribers, or MailerLite who will let you have 1,000 under their free plan. Some you pay for the second you sign up, so every email they collect counts. Successful indie authors can afford their lists, and having some dead weight probably doesn’t hurt them as much as smaller authors who stretch their marketing pennies. So keep in mind that the author you’re supporting might very well be paying for you to be on their list.

We know if you’re not opening our newsletters. With the built-in stats our aggregator provides, we know if you’re opening our newsletters or not. Maybe not YOU specifically, but MailerLite tells me my open rate for each newsletter I send out. You can sign up for a newsletter from every author friend you have, but how supportive are you if you’re not opening the emails sent to you? If you just automatically toss them into the trash? Like people who promote their books for no sales, authors get discouraged when they send out newsletters and no one bothers to look at them. Here are the stats from my newsletter I sent out in March:

A picture of my stats. The subject like of that newsletter was Blizzards, Sales, and Rockstars. The stats are 570 recipients, 33.69% open rate, and 1.23% of those clicked on the link inside the newsletter.

I have 570 email subscribers and only 33.69% of them opened my email. I included a link to something, I can’t remember what to now, but only 1.23% of that 33.69% bothered to click. Authors can cull their lists when they get too expensive and there’s not enough engagement for the cost, but it’s better all around if you’re signing up for newsletters from content creators that you’ll enjoy hearing from.

A low open-rate can affect our ability to join promotions. Authors who use newsletter builder sites and promotional sites such as StoryOrigin and Bookfunnel want to know what your open rate is before they’ll join in promos with you or ask you to join in theirs. That’s another reason why signing up for a newsletter but not opening and engaging with that content is hurtful. Tammi Labrecque who wrote Newsletter Ninja and runs the Newsletter Ninja: Author Think Tank Facebook group says a good open rate is about 40%. If you’re not opening the newsletters you sign up for, you’re hurting our chances of getting into these promotions. That’s the opposite of being supportive.

We start and offer newsletters to sell our product. The main reason we start a newsletter is to reach our customers. If you’re an author, you start a newsletter to hopefully sell your books to your subscribers. We want to build a community of readers who want to read our books and are willing to buy them. If you’re just signing up for a newsletter and not engaging with the content, you’re not going to want to buy our books. If you won’t give us your time, you definitely aren’t going to give us your money. Newsletters are an author’s strongest marketing tool–but only if their subscribers want to be on it and are happy to hear from us.

If you really want to support your author friends, the best thing you can do is read their books and talk about them. If they write in genres you don’t read, that’s not your fault and being truthful can go a long way. It’s an author’s job to promote their books, not yours, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do. I’ve turned down three people in the past couple of weeks who have asked me to read and review their books. I don’t read in those genres and I said no. With running this blog, sending out my newsletter, writing my books, and working full-time, I’m stretched thin, and that’s okay.

This wasn’t a blog post to tell you never to sign up for a newsletter, but be selective and sign up for newsletters from people you want to hear from because you enjoy their work. Of course we love it when we see new subscribers, but we want those subscribers to open our emails, enjoy the content, click on the links, and look forward to new releases. It’s difficult starting a newsletter and feeling like you’re not writing to anyone. It’s difficult to write a blog to no one, and it’s difficult to write a book when you have no readers. We all start somewhere, and little by little we grow our community. The writing community isn’t necessarily going to be your reading community, and that’s fine. We all write different genres and it’s one of the reasons I don’t share my newsletter link on Twitter–or on the blog for that matter. If anyone wants to sign up–they know how. The link is at the end of my books, and that’s the best way to gain subscribers.

How do you support your fellow authors and friends who write? Let me know, and have a great week!

A short Monday author update!

Words: 418
Time to read: 2 minutes

I have a post I kind of worked on, but yesterday was a good writing day for me and I forgot to finish it and post it. I also wasn’t feeling good for a lot of last week. I feel like I have a urinary tract infection but the clinic said while my results were abnormal, they don’t indicate I have a UTI and didn’t prescribe me antibiotics. So, it’s been a long weekend for me health-wise and I have a message in to my doctor asking him what he wants me to do. I’m tired of dealing with my body.

Anyway, I wrote slightly over 6k words yesterday, and I’m up to 38 thousand words in total for the last book in my trilogy. I’m thinking that this book will be in the high 90s too, and I’ve got something in the works to keep my middle from sagging. I have an idea that would make sense, especially if I go back to book 2 and include some more foreshadowing. That’s one of the great things about keeping books until your series is done. If you need to change something, you can! So i’m happy with that, and looking forward to my next writing session.

Today I’m celebrating Easter and won’t be online much at all. Tomorrow I should be able to plan my next few scenes and how I want to get from where I am to the event that will save my middle. I should also be able to write most of Wednesday.

I don’t have much else to report. I read an interesting article on Jane Friedman’s blog about upmarket fiction and what it is by literary agent Carly Watters. It might be useful to those who are querying. Have a look at it here: https://www.janefriedman.com/what-is-upmarket-fiction/

taken from the article

I’m sorry this came out late. I had a weird week, but hopefully after the Easter holiday things will go back to normal. It’s finally warming up here, but we have a ton of snow that needs to melt. I still need to listen to a surprise episode of the Six Figure Author podcast that Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea recorded a few weeks ago. I’ve been so busy hammering out this trilogy for an August release I haven’t made the time, but now that the weather is warmer, I need to get outside and breathe. If you’ve been keeping up with them, you can listen to it here:

Have a great week, everyone!

Writing a taboo subject: is it worth it?

Definitions from Oxford Languages

noun: taboo; plural noun: taboos; noun: tabu; plural noun: tabus
a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.
"many taboos have developed around physical exposure"
a social practice that is prohibited or restricted.
"speaking about sex is a taboo in his country"

When you choose to write about a subject that people consider taboo, you’re setting yourself up from the get-go for readers not to like your work–at least, not that particular project. Incest is a big taboo subject (even today people still bring up VC Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic–a popular book wherein a brother and sister begin a sexual relationship), along with cannibalism, religion/rituals, bestiality, torture, necrophilia, among other things.

What people consider taboo will vary from person to person, and when you write about a sensitive topic, you’re taking a risk that the majority of your readers won’t mind or can get past the topic at least long enough to buy and finish the book.

Book covers take from Goodreads

I don’t find many topics off-putting. I read Flowers in the Attic when I was younger, and reading about a brother and sister having sex was wicked and thrilling (at the age I was, reading about any sex was thrilling, haha! [If you don’t know by that comment, yes, I am an GenXer]). Sometimes a book will catch me off-guard, like Nora Roberts’ Sundown where a character is kidnapped and raped repeatedly throughout her life. I love Nora Roberts and have never had a problem with any of her books. I enjoyed Sundown as well, but I don’t remember Nora being so violent on the page. Still, I wasn’t upset and finished the book, an angsty and quick read for the length it is. If you want an example of ritual animal sacrifice, you can check out her Divine Evil which opens with a little girl watching her father participate in the ritual. It’s a flashback and has to do with what the book is about when the little girl is an adult and goes back to her hometown. I had to Google for the name of it, as I read it a very long time ago. The paperback said it was published in 2009, but I wasn’t reading much then, so it may be a re-release. Yes, I looked and the original copyright is 1992–I’m not crazy after all! Good to know!

I have found while reading both indie and trad books, taboo subjects are best swallowed when they are written well and have a reason for existing. In some of the indie I’ve read, authors confuse violence and shock value with conflict and insert unnecessary violent scenes when, with better writing, they needn’t have added it at all. Alluding to and writing it explicitly on the page are two different things, and you have to decide for yourself if writing it out in gory detail will enhance the story. It may not, and referring to it can suit your purposes all the same.

I’ve only been thinking about this because my trilogy involves cheating, and that, too, is a taboo subject for some people. In doing a brief bit of research before I started my rockstar trilogy, cheating among band members is, perhaps not typical, but it can happen. I’m hoping that cheating in a rockstar romance is considered tropy and not unsavory.

What are some of the things you can do to set up your book to have a better chance sales- and review-wise?

*Warn your readers. I’ve said in the past I don’t need trigger warnings and for the most part, don’t include them in my blurbs. There are a couple reasons for that, one mainly, is the rumor that Amazon will bury your book’s discoverability if you include a trigger or content warning in your blurb. Some bigger authors can get away with that–they have a loyal fanbase and don’t depend on Amazon’s algorithms the way smaller authors do. Amazon can bury your book’s ad, too, so they get you twice if you run ads to your books. Simply saying your book includes sensitive themes may not be enough. What people consider sensitive can vary greatly and being vague in hopes of tricking Amazon may not help. What you can do is add all your triggers to your website and point your readers there in an author’s note at the beginning of all your books. That may be a better way to go.

I use Booksprout for reviews before launch, and I will definitely include a trigger for the trilogy. They are also long so I’ll add that as well.

*Have a reason for including the taboo. Most taboo subjects will have a plot reason for being in your book, but make sure that if you’re writing a rape scene or you’re going to get graphic with child violence or the inhumane treatment of animals, that there is a need for it. Is it a clue in a thriller/mystery? Does the act move the character development forward . . . or backward? Violent scenes are not filler and shouldn’t be used to manufacture conflict.

*Have your characters learn from it. Cheating is actually fun to write about. Characters feel guilty falling in love with a person who is “taken.” They can learn a lot about themselves and other characters when they explore doing something that would be considered off limits. If you’re going to write about something taboo, make sure your characters (and maybe your readers as well) learn from it. Why is it taboo, and how do they justify the act? When is it okay to do it, and when is it not okay? Where is there a line? I love a morally grey character. That’s life, and none of us are perfect. We cheat on our income taxes, don’t correct a cashier when she forgets to ring up an item, don’t return money we found on the ground. Little things that would cast someone in a bad light if someone else found out about it. It doesn’t make us bad people–we have a lot of different facets that make us who we are. A reader will have an easier time reading something like cheating if your characters learn from it, or if there is a really good reason for why it happened in the first place.

I finished watching Daisy Jones and The Six last night, and there is some cheating and some alleged cheating, in it. I don’t want to spoil the book or the show for you if you haven’t read or watched either, but at one point the question came up, if you’re married to someone but are in love with someone else, should you honor your vows? Do you stay in a relationship you don’t want to be in? You never want to be with someone if they think you’re an obligation, and Daisy Jones explored that. In book 2 of my trilogy, Eddie fell in love with his bandmate’s wife. It turns out Clarissa was being abused, and Eddie protected her. She was too scared to leave her husband, and Eddie took matters into his own hands, another piece of the plot.

I’m not sure how well my trilogy will be received, but all I can hope is I executed them well enough that while readers may not condone what my characters are doing, they can feel sympathy toward them.

I don’t have much else this week. I compared my royalties with my ad spend for March, and I came out ahead, whoo-hoo! You really gotta watch those ads. Sometimes they can take off and eat up your money faster than a kid can eat through a box of cookies. I would have to do more math, but I’m ahead by quite a bit this year already, my trilogy doing good things, and my one-night-stand standalone doing well at .99. I think I’m going to leave it at .99 for a while. The FB ad is running with some likes and shares (social proof is always a good thing) and I make page reads off it, too. It can be my “gateway” book into my library for those who aren’t Kindle Unlimited subscribers but want to try my books. People are risk-averse, especially with new-to-them authors. Even priced at $4.99 for a full-length novel, if you’re writing in a series, you’re asking a reader to spend a lot of money on you. So I’m comfortable leaving Rescue Me at .99 indefinitely, I just need to make sure my FB and Amazon ads are running at profit to that book since I only make 35% royalties off ninety-nine cents, or a 1.32 for a full read in KU.

The third book is going well. I’m 19k into it at the time of this writing, but will be farther along by the time the post publishes. I’m hoping to be done with it at the end of this month–I still have my eye on publishing the first one in August.

That’s about all I have! It’s April, and it doesn’t feel like spring, but it will be nice when the weather starts warming up. We have a lot of snow, so I’m praying that the river near our apartment building isn’t going to flood. Not like a terrible flood–it usually does a little every year, but the amount of snow we got in the past couple weeks alone is worrisome. I will keep you posted!

Have a great week, everyone!