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.

Can Authors Write Characters They Dislike?

As readers, we read characters we dislike all the time. That’s what villains are for, after all. They are characters we love to hate. They create horrible problems for the characters we love.

We read characters we can’t identify with and that makes us dislike them. Or they make stupid choices we don’t understand. Whatever the reason, as readers, reading about characters we dislike is common. It makes it hard, sometimes, to get into the story because characters we don’t like or can’t understand pull us out of the story and leave us frustrated.

Sometimes this is because they aren’t written well and the author gives them negative character traits in an attempt to make them well-rounded. Other times we can’t identify with characters because they are too young or too old. Not many adults who read Twilight liked Bella Swan. She was a whiny, indecisive 17 year old girl.

So, as a reader, it can happen where you stumble upon a character who is too air-headed, too boring, or just all around unlikable.

As a writer, can this happen to a character in your own story?

Can you write a protagonist you don't like blog post

Usually, we love our characters. It’s why writers write series, so they don’t have to say goodbye. Or we edit the same piece over and over again because we don’t know how to let go. It’s common for sequels to be written without being planned because a secondary character steals every scene and demands their own story to be told.

When I was writing book one of my series, Callie Carter started off as any of my female characters. She needed a change. Her backstory wasn’t as horrible as some other characters I’ve created, but she still was unhappy and she was using the two week vacation in Rocky Point to not only be a bridesmaid, but also to take a break from life and figure things out. She’s in-your-face and assertive. She goes after what she wants (unless it has to do with her job and her dad).

When she meets Mitch Sinclair, she knows she wants him. And when she sees how Mitch lives because of something that happened years ago, she promises fix it. Even if he doesn’t want her help–even if he doesn’t want to fix it.

She knows best.

Or she thinks she does.

Mitch falls for her quickly. He falls for her effervescence. He falls for her joy of life. And he falls for her because when she looks at him, she sees him, not the accident that scarred him. He’ll do anything for her.

She asks a lot of him because she wants to help him live a better life, and she pushes him out of his comfort zone.

I hated her for it.

She knew Mitch needed a change, and change can hurt. Bad. While trying to help him, defend him, as no one else had, she hurt him. And I couldn’t make her stop.

I cried for Mitch and what Callie was putting him through. But the story demanded it. Because while I hated Callie for hurting Mitch over and over, she was right, too. He couldn’t keep living that way. And slowly, he realized it, too.

But Mitch and his parents went through a lot to come to that point.

All while I was writing her and what she was doing, I hated her. I kept telling her to leave him alone, that if he was happy with the way things were, why was she picking on him? Making things worse for him?

Their story is done, and they both learned valuable lessons in life and love, but I still don’t like her very much. And I still don’t think she treated Mitch very well, even though he fell in love with her, and she was right about a lot of things in the end.

It made me wonder if other writers are sometimes in the same situation. Writing protagonists they dislike.

And it also made me wonder how that affected my writing. Will it show through that I hated how she treated him? After all, she loved Mitch. She wanted to help him. Everything she did was to help give him the life she thought he deserved to live.

Does her love for him show through? I hope so.

It was a different experience for me, to not be totally enamored by one of my characters. Usually, I love them all.

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As a reader, it also made me wonder about the female characters I’ve read and disliked. I don’t normally like characters who are pig-headed and stubborn. Or make wrongful judgments about people. That seems to be a common trope in romance: female characters jumping to wrongful conclusions about the heroes, and it sets off a chain reaction that doesn’t get resolved until the heroine is proven incorrect about the man she fell in love with despite her attitude. The whole premise of books like that wouldn’t even exist if the heroine hadn’t been so blind in the first place. Plots like that are frustrating.  I also don’t identify with characters who won’t listen to other people’s opinions because I’m open-minded.

Callie was stubborn. She thought she knew best. Even when everyone around her was telling her that she didn’t understand the situation.

Maybe my readers won’t feel the negative emotions I felt writing her. Maybe they’ll understand more where she’s coming from.

We all have good intentions and even the best of us have trouble with the executions of our actions that come from kindness.

“You were only trying to help.” We’ve all heard that a time or two and by the end of the book, Callie has, too.

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Callie is my first character I’ve written I don’t identify with. It’s not a bad thing. Maybe it means as a writer I’m moving out of my comfort zone and that can only help me stretch my wings. All of us writers put pieces of ourselves into our characters and with Callie’s stubbornness and shortsightedness, she’s nothing like me.

I would never ask someone to do things they didn’t want to do. She wasn’t manipulative, though, and she wasn’t using Mitch’s love for her to make him do things he didn’t want to do. She truly cared for him. But she could have gone about helping  him in a different way. But then the story would have been different, and Callie wouldn’t have learned the lessons she learned to help her stand up to her dad. In the end she was finally able living the life she wanted.

I’d like to think my story worked out exactly how it should have.

And I hope that does mean I’m growing as a writer. Callie was who the story needed her to be. I let it happen. I had faith in my writing ability. I had faith Callie would be the character she needed to be. Who Mitch needed her to be.

Had I tried to push her into a mold, maybe she would have read insincere, or maybe she would have read flatter because I would have diluted her spark.

Callie made me uncomfortable, but I hope readers can see the good she was trying to do–the good she did do.

I hope readers love Callie as much as Mitch does.

I’ll keep writing characters I may not like or agree with.

Because it’s not my story I’m writing.

It’s theirs, and I have to trust them to tell it.

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Tell me what you think! Have you written characters you haven’t necessarily identified with? How did it feel? How did you resist rewriting them to fit your preconceived mold?

Let me know!


My books are wide. Find them at your favorite retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

graphics made with canva.com

My Wedding Quartet Update

I haven’t been doing much with my series, so there’s not a lot to say about it (she says but after she’s finished typing she has a 1400 word blog post about it).  I have finished book two, which will now be book one. To stop having to give that convoluted explanation, I’ll just refer them by the order they will be published. I changed them because I realized the second book I wrote was stronger, and it would make for a better first book in the series. This will take a little rewriting, as I started the book thinking readers were already going in knowing who characters are, but that’s okay.

I finished the first read-through of book two, and after I finish the read-through of book one, I’ll print them both out and add to book two since I know more about what’s going on with the story.

What’s been dragging me down has been looking at stock photos for the covers. I briefly looked into hiring them out, and depending on how much hair I lose between now and when they are ready to publish, I still might. The problem is, and the problem most indies have, is figuring return on investment versus cost. I found a site that will do custom covers for 350 dollars a piece. Now, if I were only doing a standalone, that would be more than manageable. That also includes a full paperback wrap, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that, either. But being that I’ll have four, well, you can do that math. (In case you don’t want to, that’s $1400.) You can see how I would maybe balk at that. Now, I’m not saying I can do as well as that artist can, probably (most certainly) I can’t. But I’m poor, and I have no problem with saying so. I would have to work a lot of hours to cover that. And with the way my books are selling, I would never recoup that cost.

So, for the past few nights, instead of writing, I’ve been researching wedding covers, looking at stock photos, and slowly losing my mind.

To make matters worse is that yes, there is going to be a wedding in this story, but the bride and groom are not a featured couple in the any of the books, so does it make sense to put a bride and groom on any of the covers?

My books all end with some kind of a wedding proposal or a promise to love forever, so implying my couples will get married at some point isn’t a lie.

Another reason I have so much pause is something someone said in one of those FB book cover groups I keep talking about. Someone said that indies are held to a different standard than trad-pubbed authors are. And I guess they are right. Our covers better be pretty damned special to catch a reader’s eye because we can’t depend on our well-known names to make the sales for us.

nora roberts quartet

I think of Nora’s quartet when I’m looking at my own covers. If I thought I could get away with it, I would definitely do something similar. Look here for the article accompanying the image I borrowed.

If I go with this way of thinking, I most definitely need couples on my covers. Maybe not locked in a steamy embrace, because these books are the same as other books I’ve written. Not a lot of sex, but there is some.

What does that mean for me? Can I put bridesmaids and groomsmen on my covers? Singly? Because I’ve looked through a lot of photos and I can barely find one good couple that looks part of a wedding party, much less four.

Can I put a bride and groom on all my covers?

Items don’t seem to go over as well with indie authors, so choosing bridal bouquets or other wedding paraphernalia may not be enough to make a sale. (See the dreamy covers on Nora’s books above.)

If I take the wedding element away, that gives me more choices, but that still leaves me

Elegant couple posing together.

The plastic, vacant looks on their faces do not match how I feel my characters are portrayed in my books. (Photo purchased from depositphotos)

digging through photos of pretty girls with dorky-looking guys. I don’t know how that happens, but it’s weird. (Out of respect for the men, I won’t post an example here.)

Or I get too “plastic” and they look kind of fake. Definitely not the kind of book I’m writing.

I mean, you know the book covers this couple would end up on. Mega rich, lots of hot sex. And maybe one day I’ll write something like that, but I need down-to-earth couples, and sometimes that means the people look just a little too “real” for a book cover.

It’s a balancing act that makes me want to poke my eyes out.

And while it’s a necessary part of the creative process, to keeping trying, that is, it does make me feel like I’m wasting writing time. Anyone can tell you  that you don’t need book covers if there’s no books. But I’ve blogged about book covers before, and figuring out what looks good, and finding the right photos, takes a lot of time. Not only time, but practice. I have Canva open all the time, shoving photos into their templates, experimenting with font for the titles. I did find this beautiful photo and I thought right away she reminded me so much of Leah, the female main character of my second book. She looks so much like what I envisioned, she literally took my breath away. You might say that would be a sure sign to use her for the cover, because if she evoked that much feeling when I took a look at her, hopefully she would for other readers.

Wedding bouquet in girl's hands.

Leah! Isn’t she gorgeous? 

But, don’t forget she would only be one cover of four. And she is cover worthy, so it’s not that she wouldn’t be perfect. But is she perfect for a series, and more importantly, is she perfect for a contemporary romance cover? Unfortunately, she doesn’t pose with a man in the series of photos that were published on depositphotos with this one. But I have purchased her, (that’s why she doesn’t have a watermark) so I may decide to use her somehow.

Anyway, I have 6 pages of book 3 I have written out longhand that I’ll be transcribing after I finish out this blog post. I still hope to have all four books done by Halloween. Probably not fully edited, but close enough that I should still be able to start publishing them around Thanksgiving. I read Craig Martelle’s book on Rapid Releasing, and to be perfectly honest, what he wrote didn’t give me much hope for a good launch. I have no readers. No one waiting for these, so to tell you the God’s honest truth, it doesn’t matter when I publish. I do know that after they are done I’m going to take a short break because these are going to drive me nuts between now and the end of the year.

I’ll keep you updated on progress though, and next week I’ll share a snippet or two of my favorite scenes so far. I’m glad that Autumn and Cole are the last couple because I’m very much looking forward to getting their story out, and as of right now, it’s what’s keeping me going. I love all my characters, but the sheer scope of writing four books and producing them all at once is daunting and I’m overwhelmed at times. But because of consistency issues, I’m glad I’m taking things slow and writing them all first before I publish.

As for Autumn’s blog posts, I need to get on with typing those out and writing more. As the stories go on, and she interviews more people, her list grows longer, and I’m falling behind. Still not sure what I’ll do with that extra content. It’s looking like more and more they’ll end up on the website to maybe drive some more traffic here. Not sure.

If you’ve stuck with me, thanks for reading! I’ll be visiting Tybee Island as you’re reading this, on a vacation with my sister. After I take a week to breathe and see the ocean, I’ll come back with a clear head and hit the ground running on the second half of my series.

I hope you all are having a great summer!


My books are wide! Check them out at your favorite retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

Going Wide: Resources. Killing it on Kobo by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Going wide is a struggle. #TheStruggleIsReal has never been truer than when you are trying to put your book in front of readers . . . all over the world.

I’ve documented my recent success failure, and I’ve decided to give this journey a year. I’m going to work at it, try my best, and see if I can’t really find some readers (and in doing so sell some books).

Of course, anyone who has tried and failed will tell you it’s not as easy as uploading your books to Draft2Digital, and watching the royalties roll in. If it were that easy, everyone would be rich and self-help books would be non-existent.

Not everyone has time to sit down and read a book. The free time a writer has could be filled with many things:

  • writing
  • beta reading for a friend or peer
  • reading to give a review
  • reading a book in your genre to keep up to date with what’s going on with the industry around you
  • sleeping

Sleeping wins a lot of the time, and it’s not a surprise that when I recommend a non-fiction book, that people rarely read it. Or they grab it, and it takes them a few months to read the whole thing. In this day and age, people need their information in short chunks like a blog post, or they want to listen to a podcast while they get their 10,000 steps in while walking their dog. 3 in 1!

But reading non-fiction is different. If someone has taken the time to write a book about it . . . then there is enough information about it to write the book!

That means information you need.

I’m lucky. I can read at work. That means I can read more than the average writer.

I’ve read books that that have no relevancy in today’s publishing landscape. I’ve read books where I could use the information that day. Indie authors who help us by writing non-fiction have the upper hand there. It doesn’t take a year for their book to come out. In that year, the industry moves so fast, their information could be close to irrelevant. If you’re self-publishing, reading indie non-fiction is the way to go.

If you are wide, it helps to know how the platforms work. No one has written how Nook works, or Apple Books. Maybe there’s nothing to know. Upload and wait.

That’s fine. Less reading for us.

killing it on koboBut there is a book about Kobo, and if you’re wide, you’re gonna wanna know how this publishing platform works, and how you can make it work to your advantage. (For numbers to prove my point, look at this article from Forbes.) Where Kindle supplies ebooks to the United States, Kobo supplies ebooks to the rest of the world.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre has more than enough experience to write Killing it on Kobo, and if you want to use Kobo as a vital part of your publishing plan, you should pick it up! He was on the ground floor of creating Kobo Writing Life (something he talks about in the book) and explains the various functions of the platform. Like how to gain access to the promotions tab for authors and what to do with it once you have it. He goes into detail about pricing, what Kobo Plus is all about, and how to make your ebook available in the public library system.

If anything, the book is an important navigational tool so you already have some idea of what your dashboard will look like when you choose to publish your book there.

I encourage you to buy the paperback . . . unless you are so handy at maneuvering with your ereader you won’t mind trying to find “that one paragraph that said . . .”

I beat up my paperbacks with highlighting, coffee stains, and dog ears, but they are very useful for marking the sections I think I’ll need the most.

At any rate, Kobo is striving to always be a relevant competition for Amazon’s Kindle, and you can’t ignore the deal they have with Walmart. If you’ve ever been in your local Walmart lately looking at books, you’ll find a complete section of Kobo devices and ebook gift cards!

And did you know that Kobo came out with the first water-resistant ereader? Awesome for the bath-takers in your life. Trust me, I’ve ruined a Kindle and two Nooks!

This isn’t a blog post to convince you to use Kobo to publish your book–as always going wide is a personal choice for you and your business.

Though, no doubt if you enjoy seeing your book everywhere, it’s a little thrilling to see your book being sold on Walmart’s e-book website:

2019-06-10 (2)2019-06-10 (3)

Don’t Run Away is missing because Walmart won’t/can’t “sell” a free book, and Don’t Run Away is permafree on all platforms as hopefully a way to encourage readers to give me a try without risking any money. I tried to find a couple of my other books, but as an unknown, they’re probably on page 60 of the search results, and I don’t have time to look. Searching my name didn’t help (no author pages that I could find), so I can only hope if/when my books become more popular, they will be closer to the front of the search results.

But Mark goes into every detail of the advantages of using Kobo and how you can utilize them to sell your books.

Reading non-fiction is a part of having your business hat on, not your writer’s hat.

I understand selling books is a lot harder than writing them . . . and that’s saying something! But, to keep selling, you have to keep learning!

Killing it on Kobo makes it easy . . . the Kobo part, anyway.


Every couple of weeks, I’ll try to highlight a non-fiction book that is helping me publish books wide.

Killing it on Kobo is a definite must if you are planning on using that platform in an effort to go wide.

You can find Killing it on Kobo here. Or you can click here if you want the paperback.

Follow Mark and his Stark Publishing blog here.

Or you can listen to his podcast. Find out more here.

I hope those links are useful to you.

He is no longer at Kobo Writing Life. He’s moved on to Draft2Digital and writes his own fiction books.

Christine Munroe is head of KWL now and you can follow her here on Twitter.

Kobo Writing Life also has a blog (Kobo Writing Life Blog)  for authors, and a podcast (Kobo Writing Life Podcast) too. Don’t miss out on these opportunities to grow your business!

It doesn’t work to publish your book and walk away. You have to be an active participant. And I don’t mean DMing a Buy My Book message to your Twitter followers like the one I received this morning. He promised he wouldn’t blow up my inbox, and he’s right. He won’t. He can’t since I unfollowed him.

There are better ways to put your book in front of people who actually want to read it.

Start here.


My books are wide! Find them wherever ebooks are sold. 🙂

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

Author Interview: Debut Author Dave S. Koster

dave koster author picture

Author Dave S. Koster

Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog to celebrate his new release! Enjoy the interview and we hope you learn something from his rocky path to publication. Because, you know, nothing can go smoothly.


I’ve known you for a long time, though I can’t remember who introduced us, but for those new in the writing community, tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing since around 2002 – I picked it up when my wife and I moved back to Alaska from Maryland. I actually did a bit of writing when I was in High School, but I was mostly interested in video game storylines at the time. In any case, back in 2002, I was out of work and was sketching up ideas for a video game, but lacked the technical skills for game development, but story writing was something that seemed more attainable. I dabbled for ages, taking large breaks to build a house, learn how to make furniture, work briefly as a college teacher, and other various hobbies. Then in 2014 (I think?), I had a moment on my morning commute. It was one of those days that only an Alaskan commute can give you – loads of golden light spilling over the tops of snow-capped mountains. The moment amounted to: What the heck are you doing? Either you do this or you don’t do it. I concluded that I was entirely too stupid to know when I couldn’t do a thing, so I decided I was going to double-down and get serious about it. I finished the book I had been working on for about 10 years and later that summer started my second, Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, which was the one just published on the 5th of June.

I remember Wine Bottles and Broomsticks from way back when you tried to fund it using InkShares. Can you tell us about your experience? (To see his old campaign, look here!)

This was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had yet with the business. On the whole, it was good in that the system was easy to use making the technical bits of the process manageable. That said, I would never recommend this avenue to most writers. You have to have a following of readers or supporters first. If I were a ‘personality’ with fans, I might have made the goal, but I didn’t have that. I’m a new author from the perspective of readers even now after having done rather a lot of self-improvement and several (unpublished) books under my belt. I think it’s hard to convince readers to buy a book from an unknown that won’t be ready for weeks or months. The other part of the experience was just how much other writers tried to help.

In a blog post from a couple years ago, you said the book was going nowhere and ultimately, you chose to self-publish. It seems like this wasn’t as easy decision for you. How did you finally decide to publish your novel on your own? (To read that blog post of Dave’s, click here.)

Honestly, that post was from a pretty negative place. I’d queried 30 or 40 agents and failed the crowd-funding even after tons of help from other writers. At the time, I really wanted to get an agent and go traditional. I was hoping that I might be that rare unicorn who manages to become a full-time writer. I think this book was the first step realizing that it’s not going to happen. Anyhow, fast-forward to last fall. I decided that I wanted to self-publish the Dark Queen of Darkness. This was mostly because I’d realized that an agent won’t pick up my work, and in even if s/he did AND I got a publishing deal, I’ve got a full-time job that actually pays the bills and I couldn’t meet their deadlines or expectations. I need to keep things on my schedule and my time, so self-publishing suddenly was the only viable route. This spring, after working with an editor, and meeting with a cover designer, I started looking at nuts and bolts bits of publishing, I realized I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing. Even with all of the advice and what-not, I still don’t really ‘get it’. I decided, around that time, that I’d quietly release an already finished book in order to learn how to operate all of the software, navigate the platforms, and generally understand how all of these things work. The whole point of publishing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was to ensure a smooth launch for the Dark Queen of Darkness.

There is a lot to learn. Even after six books, I always make a mistake when I publish. Every time. It’s infuriating, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Luckily there is a lot of help out there, and you’ve been part of the online writing community for a long time now. Did you find they were a help to you during the publishing process? Did the networking pay off?

The writing community has been a huge help. Everyone I’ve engaged with has had something helpful to say or offered their time to read/comment or otherwise help me do a better job at the craft. Not to mention hours of encouragement. I think I pointed out your amazing help on cover design. I’d never have been able to work that out on my own. Actually, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried to self-publish without the confidence I got copying your notes. So, yes, the networking has paid off and given me the confidence I completely lack on my own. If it weren’t for the writers on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, I’d probably have given up.

Yeah, I don’t think the moderator of that group liked my how-to tutorial. She shut down comments not long after I posted the entire thing. To be fair, I should have posted on the other FB page they have for the how-to stuff for cover design, and not the feedback page. But I hoped it helped a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. Anyway, this is your first book! What would you say was the hardest part about the publishing process?

I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘hardest parts’ I could go on for days. I was very nearly in ugly man-tears mid-day Tuesday over it. By far, though, trying to get all of the accounts set up and stuff uploaded. I still don’t have my book uploaded to Ingram Spark yet, because it won’t save the title and I haven’t got the foggiest clue as to why. Runners-up include: paperback layout (InDesign is spendy for me, and Vellum doesn’t work on my computer). The third is the business side. I’m still absolutely mystified about what royalty plan I should be taking. I got spooked by 70%, so went with 35% because if I’m making less money it must mean I’ve got less liability? I don’t even know. Those are just the starting points.

Definitely take the 70%. What Amazon allows you to take depends on how much you’re pricing your book for. Grab whatever you can!

Indies talk a lot about going wide. Is your book in the Kindle Unlimited program? Or did you choose to publish on other platforms like Nook and Apple Books?

I plan to go wide, but it’s going to be step-by-step so I can figure it out. When I do The Dark Queen book, I’m hoping that all of the pieces will be in place and it’ll go relatively smoothly across all platforms at once so I don’t have any terrible delays. Essentially, the goal is to add a second book to an existing platform rather than try to get it all set-up and hope I don’t experience any unexpected snags on launch day.

A) How did you come to that decision?

The decision on Kindle Unlimited is based on the hugely restrictive nature of KU. Plus, it’s possible to be completely banned from Amazon’s platform if you violate their TOS, which is a lot more restrictive in KU. After I saw Adam Dreece’s situation a few years back, I don’t know if you remember that, but I concluded that it just wasn’t worth it. Plus it leaves me with questions on stuff like: Can I sell locally at book fairs and things? What’s more, I’m not really sure it’s any more lucrative for someone who isn’t particularly prolific.

I remember Adam’s situation; it happened to a couple other big-time authors around that time, too. That would be scary–especially if you’ve grown to rely on that income. Joanna Penn encourages first time authors to learn Amazon first and then after the dust settles, so to speak, learn the other platforms. Which makes sense. Adam Croft endorses going wide from the get-go. They are two different animals, for sure, but depending on the kind of publishing schedule you have to stick with because of personal obligations, learning Amazon first may be an easier task.

B) If you’re wide, what aggregator did you use, and how was that experience?

I haven’t set up with an Aggregator. This is 100% because still totally new to this and just learned about that right now. Even then, I’m a bit of a control freak and would likely prefer to release per-platform on my own, where possible –at least at first. I don’t know much about Kobo, but B&N is trying to put together a system similar to Amazon for authors. I’ll use Ingram Spark to publish the books outside of Amazon’s platforms and they seem to have services that’ll get me there. I’ll likely change my mind after I research aggregators more and start to understand all of this better.

There is a lot to learn. Some would argue that Barnes and Noble is sinking, and fast. It’s probably one of the reasons why authors stick with Amazon. I have good feelings about Kobo, and you should go direct with them so you have access to their promotions tab. You have to email them for it, but you can only access it if you go through them directly. I use Draft to Digital for places like Apple Books, and yeah, Nook. They upload my book to a few places I’ve never heard of, as well. IngramSpark will publish your ebook too, if you can get them to work for you.

You released the paperback after the ebook. What was the reason for that?

In a nutshell: Impatience. I hadn’t planned on saying much or letting folks know it was out there until everything was ready and I could see it myself. It seems that every time I press a new button in this world, I learn something, new, profound, and sometimes expensive. I’m the sort of person that has to do a thing before I can really learn it, and getting things all ‘set up’ but un-launched is like a task waiting for a problem that will take 2 weeks to sort out. The paperback is ready, I just haven’t seen the proof yet. I was having trouble with the gutters, so I’m not convinced the printed copy will turn out – plus I’m concerned about the cover quality. When I hit the button to publish, I was really thinking that once it’s available on Amazon, I have something to point to in setting things up for Goodreads and the Amazon author page. Plus, I thought it might help a bit in getting Ingram Spark going. There are so many things to do in launching a book and this is all my first time.

You mentioned once you thought self-publishing would be expensive. Was this true in your experience? How did you save money? What was the biggest expenditure in the process?

My experience is that it can go both ways. Wine Bottles and Broomsticks cost a couple of hundred dollars when all costs are taken into account, before advertising. I didn’t get an editor, and I did my own cover. I’m not convinced this was the right decision. Dark Queen of Darkness has been very expensive so far. The dollar figure is likely to be a few thousand to get professional editing, cover, layout, and other things. I’m 95% certain I’ll never make that money all the way back.

Do you have any plans to market?

Yes, but not until I get everything in place. I want to do some testing with Amazon promotions and advertising on other platforms. When I launch Dark Queen of Darkness, I’ll do local events as well and will try to launch with a bit more fanfare than a retweeted post from my wife. I want to see what sort of return on investment might be reasonable.

I understand. I’ve gotten grief for pushing publish and walking away. But the community on Twitter is fabulous–there is so much support there. Every seems genuinely happy for you and cheering for your success. I usually tweet out a little something, but as you write more and publish more, you’ll find you need to break out of writer social media and find that reader social media. Easier said than done!

Thank you for chatting with me! If you have any issues with anything, let me know how I can help!


Check out Dave’s book cover . . . isn’t it great?! You can click the cover and it will take you to Dave’s Amazon page. Give him a follow there, and at Goodreads! Dave blogs too, and you can follow his website here.

wind bottles and broomsticks book cover

Thanks for reading!


 

My messed up route to (non)success.

Mostly self-publishers self-publish because we want to make money. A lot of authors will deny this–art and commerce do not mix well. You can say all you want about self-satisfaction, fulfilling a dream, what have you, but when you list a book on Amazon, you want to make money. And maybe I’ll concede people reading your stuff might come first, but that royalty check comes in a very close second.

I want to make money. I want people to love my work. I want to make a list. The USA Today would do, thanks. I want to be able to quit my day job, sit in my pajamas with my cats, and write all day, every day, for the rest of my life.

And you do too. But not with my cats. Adopt your own.

But this blog post isn’t about the why, it’s about the how. success-what-people-think-it-looks-like

There are only two ways to publish a book. You either get a book deal or you self-publish. There are grey areas–smaller presses, crowdfunding, whatever, but essentially those are your choices.

I chose to self-publish.

You all know I went to the Sell More Books Show summit in Chicago last month, and I listened to Jami Albright talk about the (low) six figures she made on three books. When authors throw numbers around like that, there are a lot of feelings that run through the crowd. Awe. Surprise. Admiration. Respect.

Notice I didn’t add envy. Or jealousy.

I don’t envy Jami. I’m happy for her.

And I’m happy for every author who does the same.

What I want to chat about is how she got there.

Because she explained she made 65% to 80% of her income being enrolled in Kindle Select. That means her books are available in Kindle Unlimited. That means her books aren’t available for readers who read on a Kobo ereaders, Nook, or an Apple Books app.

Sorry for the mini lesson in going wide, but I just wanted to hit home how much Jami made having her books in KU. That’s a lot of page reads. That’s a lot of trust in one platform for so much money.

I’m so happy for her that she knew her path and was comfortable taking it.

It paid off for her. In a big way. And her talk came at a horrible time for me because the month before the summit, I had pulled all my books out of KU and put them wide.

Let’s be honest here. I wanted to cry.

I’m obviously still grappling with the decision.

But I’m grappling with it because I don’t know if her path is my path.

That’s the frustrating thing about self-publishing. There is no one true path to success. There are too many variables:

  • Cover
  • Blurb
  • Editing
  • Genre
  • Your voice/writing style
  • Your connections
  • A newsletter or lack thereof
  • Social media presence

You could follow a successful author’s choices to the letter, and you still will never be able to duplicate someone’s success. You may have your own success following someone’s advice, but as they like to say in the groups I’m in, your mileage may vary. Success depends on several different factors, and these factors cannot be measured.

There is no way to know if my books would do as well as Jami’s. She writes rom com. I write serious contemporary romance. She has professional covers done. I don’t. I do them myself in Canva. She scrimped and saved for an editor. I edit my books with the help of beta readers. She went to an RWA conference and networked. I’ve never been.

Even if I did some of what she’s done, I may never stand a chance of doing as well as she.

And that’s what drives all of us crazy.

There are too many choices.

Jami used Amazon Advertising which worked for her because her books are in KU. But there are other ad platforms you can try: Facebook. BookBub. Instagram. Even Pinterest and Reddit.

Then there are newsletter swaps (I don’t have one) Facebook Author page take-overs, blog tours, etc.

There are a million little things that add up to a book’s success, also known as the author’s bottom line.

I mention the 20booksto50K group a lot because that group is known for authors sharing their successes. (And I love them for it!) They are very open about numbers and where that money comes from. (Also if you want to listen to author success stories, listen to the Sell More Books show podcast. They feature successes on their top five news stories every week.) I also mention them a lot because they are a fabulous group, and they’ll let anyone join as long as you promise not to be a jerk and not promo your own books (those posts are taken down almost as soon as they are posted, and you’ll get kicked out, too). They are very strict because they want the group to stay enjoyable and a place where an author can learn, and for a group that size, the moderators stay on top of it.

Anyway, Brian Meeks wrote an open letter of sorts saying people who hate on the authors posting big numbers could and should leave the group. And I’ve seen a little of the resentment and jealousy. Even Craig Martelle said Michael Anderle doesn’t post his numbers anymore because all it does is evoke a tsunami of hate.

I don’t hate those authors for making it. I’m not jealous either, or resent them, because I know how much work it takes to make that much money. People who hate on these authors know they’ll never be able to make that kind of money with their own writing. Their writing is sub-par, or they don’t want to spend the money to test ads. They can’t afford editing or professional covers.

I agree with Brian. They should leave the group if they are going to feel that way. They’re playing with the big kids, and they are getting trampled.

My problem with the people flashing their numbers? They are posting screenshots of their BookReport summaries. BookReport keeps track of Kindle sales and KENP page reads. So you know these authors are making big money on Amazon. I have yet to see anyone in that group post Kobo sales, or Nook. Or Apple Books. It’s all Amazon.

And that makes me question my own path to go wide.

How much money am I leaving on the table?

This is my BookReport from January first to now, just to show you what it looks like. If you have Chrome or Firefox and want to add the extension to your browser, look here. It’s free until you start earning a certain amount of royalties, and in the group, being asked to subscribe is a milestone of sorts.

book report graphic

No doubt about it, looking can get pretty addicting.

Because of course, when you see big numbers, you think, if they can do it, so can I.

And I can’t lie. I’m wondering how I’d really do if I put all my strength behind my books if they were in KU. How much money I would make had I TRIED.

I didn’t try before. I was too focused on building my backlist. I have six books out now. By the end of the year, I’ll have ten.

Authors have made a lot of money on less.

Thinking about all this is maddening.

But I also remind myself that publishing is a long game. Where will I be five years down the road? Ten? Do I want to trust only Amazon to pay me thousands forever and ever? I don’t know. My gut says no because I’ve heard of Amazon cutting off authors for no reason (though admittedly, those stories are a year or more older now) therefore turning off the spigot that has been spewing out thousands of dollars a month.

Then what?

One of the first rules of the 20books group is not to talk smack about Amazon. I get that. Amazon has created an opportunity for indies to publish their books when otherwise those authors wouldn’t be published at all.

And as an author, it is an individual choice whether or not to have all of your eggs in one basket. Sure, they might crack, but sometimes you can still end up with a tasty omelette. (I must be hungry when I blog; I’m always comparing Amazon to food.) There’s no denying it’s worked for many authors.

To say I wasn’t envious of the confidence of those authors’ decisions wouldn’t be true. I’m not envious of their success; I’m envious they found a path that worked for them, and they had the courage to follow through. Maybe you say it’s the same, but I feel there’s a distinction.

courage fish

I want to be confident in my choices and obviously, I’m not. Which is why I wrote this rambling blog post of thoughts. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m kind. I’m always giving back, offering to help in some way. I’m editing for someone for free right now. It isn’t the first time I’ve given my time away, and it won’t be last. I’m regularly interviewing new authors for my blog because I’m hoping the exposure will help. If I’m pointing a finger at someone, or giving someone the stink eye, it’s always going to be aimed at myself.

Was going wide the right choice?

I have no clue. You can see in my wide update that I haven’t gained much traction so far. And it’s hard to think about how much money I’m leaving on the table pulling my books out of KU.

The bottom line is I would never resent anyone for their success.

I’m just bumbling along like crazy trying to find mine.

I have fun writing. I enjoy trying new things to see if they will promote sales. I love blogging about it.

But that sure doesn’t pay the rent.

Let me know your thoughts!


Craig Martelle and Company give back too. They put on a wonderful 20books Vegas conference every year. You can read about it here. The conference for 2019 is sold out already, but this would be a good time to save up if you think you might want to try for 2020. To get a taste of what the speakers are like, look at this YouTube Channel of the speakers from November 2018.

I’m already committed to doing a different summit, though it is changing hands for the year 2020. Joanna Penn and Lindsay Buroker, two ladies I chat with on Twitter, will be speaking, and I wanted to meet them. (Other great speakers will be there too, like Mark Leslie Lefebvre.) At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, what with all the trouble I had networking last month, but I did have fun and learned a few things, so that has to count for something. They are already 75% sold out, so if you want to see me in Nashville of May 2020, act fast! Look here for the newly named Career Author Summit.

Thanks for reading!


Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

My Wide Adventures AKA Sales so far

Almost two months ago I went wide. Has it paid off?

Not so much.

I put All of Nothing, and Wherever He Goes wide through Draft2Digital as soon as they dropped out of KU. I put The Years Between Us on all platforms as soon as it was finished–it never went into KU at all.

Because of an oversight, I missed one of my books in the trilogy, and I thought I would have to wait for them to drop out, but everyone encouraged me to just email Amazon and ask for them to be pulled out, and I did. They were polite about it, and the minute I had the email saying they were out of Select, I put them wide.

For simplicity’s sake, I can say all six of my contemporary romances have been wide since April first.

And well, nothing happened.

Actually, something did happen.

My KU reads dried up, but sales on other platforms didn’t make up that loss. I kind of knew that would happen, but it’s different seeing it. They even talked a little about it at the summit during the wide panel–that dip where page reads go from a waterfall to a trickle, and where no one knows your books are on other platforms.

It takes time, and seeing that money, no matter now small, disappear, makes you sick inside.

Also, listening to Jami Albright talk about her success at the summit in KU with only three books didn’t help me feel any less bitter when I had just pulled my own books out of KU and made them wide.

But like a life-style change to beat a sugar addiction that will make you feel better for the rest of your life, I feel going wide will be the same for my career. Is Amazon cake? I guess if you’re you in the 20booksto50k group on FB and see everyone’s earnings in KU, you can feel like Amazon is a giant piece of gooey cake with a huge scoop of ice cream, too.

amazon vs cake

Hello, type-2 diabetes!

I might have taken that too far.

But, as always, this isn’t about whether going wide is smart or not–always go back to your business plan and decide for yourself what you want out of your writing career.

As for sales: I put Don’t Run Away permafree the minute I could, and asked Amazon to price match when the free price on other platforms kicked in. This is supposed to help introduce a reader to my books. Being that Don’t Run Away isn’t as strong as the books I’m writing now, that’s a plan that may not pan out. But I’ll be publishing  a new series this year after I get them all written and edited, and eventually book one will be permafree, too.

For sales from April 1st to the day I’m writing this blog post, May 30th (rather, the 29th since that’s the way reporting goes).

Amazon:

Free:
Don’t Run Away: 125
Paid:
All of Nothing: 18
Wherever He Goes: 0
The Years Between Us: 1
Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3: 1
Summer Secrets Novellas 4-6: 1

Out of the 125 copies of Don’t Run Away, no one bothered to go on to books two or three of the trilogy. It takes time for people to read, so maybe they haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet. I don’t like to think they didn’t like the first book and don’t want to read the other two. (But when you’re writing a series, that’s always a possibility.)

amazon sales for blog post

So, sales aren’t all that great. Those two little spikes you see? Those are me fiddling around with BookBub ads. I’ll write another post about that later.

How about on Kobo?

On Kobo, I gave away 32 copies of Don’t Run Away. I had 0 organic sales of any of my other books on there. Meaning, I didn’t get any read through to my other books in the trilogy. Bummer.

kobo graphic for blog post

Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital publishes my books in a lot of places, but the top two are Apple and Nook. It’s easier to give you the charts. But I’m sure you can imagine that giving away Don’t Run Away dominated my “Sales.”

draft to digital chart for blog

I sold one copy of All of Nothing, Chasing You, Running Scared, and The Years Between Us. I liked the Chasing You and Running Scared. It means out of the 80 people who downloaded Don’t Run Away, ONE person read the other two. I mean, that’s progress, right?

draft to digital chart for blog 2

As you can see, I gave away the most copies of Don’t Run Away on Nook. I’m not sure why, but maybe one day those will turn into sales of my other books.

Here are the chart breakdowns:
Nook:

draft to digital chart for blog nook sales

And Apple Books:

draft to digital chart for blog apple sales

I feel like I got a little bit of something going everywhere, but not a lot of anything.

As I experiment with ads, and put more books out, maybe that will help. I mean, after all, I haven’t really done much marketing letting readers know my books are everywhere. I use my FB author and personal page to let people know as much as I can without sounding like a harpy.

I use the end of this blog post to let people know my books are wide, but let’s be honest. I’m writing for writers who probably won’t buy my books, and that’s okay. That was the path I chose when I decided to blog on these topics.

And it’s the same with Twitter. I have this as my pinned tweet, and it does absolutely nothing:

All of Nothing promo with goodreads review

I boosted this post on Facebook and it got me 3 new likes to my author page. One of them was my sister. Go me. But the ad is pretty, no? (If you want to make your graphics, use this website; Derek Murphy is so great for the writing community. Be sure to save it as a PNG though, so you have the transparent background. Otherwise, you’ll save it with the white background underneath. I did the rest in Canva. Search for [your color] bokeh if you like the background.)

I do have a Freebooksy scheduled for the middle of next month for Don’t Run Away since it’s permafree. That will be my first real ad aimed at all the platforms I’m on. We’ll see if it makes a difference.

To be honest, this was pretty much what I expected. I’m willing to experiment with ads for now while I’m working on my series. Maybe working with ads over the summer will help me grow a small audience and they’ll be willing to buy my quartet when it’s done.

Slow and steady wins the race, and all that, right?

Have you tried going wide? What has been your experience? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

May Goals :)

I didn’t have May Goals, so my title is a bit deceptive.

The only goal I really had was to finish book 2 of my series, and I did that. I’m taking a little breather before I start editing book one. I would like to edit books one and two, so when I finish book four, the editing won’t be such a massive undertaking. Book two finished out at 76,000 words, which is 6,000 more words than book one. But now that I know the characters better, when I edit book one, I could easily add a few more words to that, and write in some foreshadowing of other books since I failed to do that the first time around.

I did manage to change the covers to my trilogy, on all the ereader platforms, and even Ingram, which was pretty cool. I won’t rehash any of that–I’ve written other blog posts about it so . . .

next

The problem is, there isn’t any next. I mean, nothing I wouldn’t be doing anyway.  Outlining books three and four, and just editing my life away, while try to stay on top of this blog.

Speaking of blogs, I need to type out some of Autumn’s blog posts. She’s a character in the series who writes a blog for the newspaper. I thought it would be fun extra content to type out the blog interviews of other characters that she talks about in the books. I don’t have a good place to post those. I thought about creating a free website for her using something like Wix, and trying to make that look like her newspaper’s website, but I don’t know how much time I want to take doing that. Especially since I have a standalone book brewing in the back of my mind already for when this series is complete. I could add a tab to my own website, but how long do I want to keep them up?  I’ll keep writing them and transcribing them, and after I get them all done, I’ll decide then.

I’ll continue to look at stock photos to see what i can come up with for covers. I hated doing my trilogy. Four books should be even more fun.

I did attend that Sell More Books Show Summit, and that put me behind a few days. The experience was wonderful though, and you can read about it here.

I edited for a friend, and that took a bit of time, but I like editing, and her story is sounding fantastic!

I guess that’s about all I have for my May goals. I always know what needs to be done if I want to propel my career forward. That usually means writing fast and writing good, quality work while still being anchored to the land of the living.

I bought a promo for Don’t Run Away for the middle of June. It’s permafree, and I purchased it from Freebooksy. I plan to mark down my other two books in the trilogy to .99 for the rest of the month to encourage read-through rates. My main goals while finishing this series and preparing it for release is pushing my books out there. I need reviews and exposure.

I got turned down again for another Kobo promotion, but I’ll keep trying. As a new author without reviews on that site for any of my books, it will be difficult to be approved, I think.

But, it is what it is.

mountain of success

I’ll share how my wide adventures are going in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

graphics made with photos and font from canva.com