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.

October and First Monday Update

Writing, publishing, and marketing is like running on a treadmill. You’re working your butt off and not getting anywhere.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. I finished my latest round of edits on my trilogy and now that that’s done, I’m going to dive into writing the blurbs and creating their covers. I need to do a little better on these than I did with my duet. I’ve complained that those covers just haven’t hit the way I wanted them to, but it could be a few things, not just the models I chose. With a new pen name it will take time to find traction and my Amazon ads haven’t run long enough for me to collect any data on if the covers are helping or hurting. Surprisingly, well, it’s not really as this issue has plagued me from the second I published the stupid thing, The Years Between Us has always performed well, meaning, I get a TON of clicks, but then no one goes on to buy. I know it’s because the cover is pretty but no one wants to read an age gap romance, and they’re turned off when they hit the product page. There’s not much I can do about that. But in September, I did sell a handful of my duet, and I’ve been playing with buying a promo soon. Now I think I’ll wait until January after the holidays are over and I’ll have six books under my name instead of just three. I might as well wait. I’ll keep running ads and hope for the best.

I started up my Facebook ad for my reader magnet again and we’ll see what happens there. Ads are so weird and there are so many variables as to why it wouldn’t work. The wrong graphic, the wrong headline, maybe your description wasn’t right on the money, or your target audience is off. Whatever it is, I did take my time putting it together so hopefully I can build up my newsletter some more. Despite paying for an ad for signups, my open rate was 36% last month (I’ve heard 40% is decent) and I only had four people unsubscribe. The person who won my giveaway never responded to the email I sent her, so as always, that giveaway was a wash and honestly I just don’t care about hosting them anymore. I also gave away more ARC copies of Rescue Me on Twitter than I did for my own newsletter which was surprising but whatever, I guess. I probably shouldn’t even have offered it there, but I made 20 available and gave away ten before I took the listing down when the book went into KU.

Reviews are still coming in from Booksprout and one sounds so ludicrous I think maybe an AI bot wrote it. I don’t want to offend anyone, especially since there has been some crossover between my blog and new readers under my pen name, but once again, it makes me wonder if paying for the service is worth it and if I should even bother to keep offering my books there.

I have three months to edit and package my trilogy but I’m not going to need that long so I’m at a crossroads for what I want to work on next. I have a standalone in mind that would probably work better in 3rd person under my name and it will need some research as it’s about a rockstar who suffers from depression and doesn’t want to perform anymore. His record label pays for a therapist to move in with him to convince him to do another album but she has her own backstory. I don’t know anything about being a rockstar and I’m looking forward to watching documentaries of that kind of life. I think will be just a little darker, like All of Nothing, and it will take me longer to write it. If I decide not to work on that, I have 2 books of a 6 book series completed and I should really write the last four and get those put out. The file information said I created the first one on November 2, 2020, so I think it’s about time to tackle those and get them off my plate. A standalone sounds welcome after working on a trilogy and my other six book series that will be going to a proofreader this week as the second set of proofs came yesterday, but getting that series done would be a load off my mind. I have my publishing schedule set until the middle of 2024, so I have plenty of time to do both and cleansing my palate with a standalone sounds like what I need to take a break but still write.

Because authors need someone in their corner, especially with how trigger-happy KDP has been lately with blocking author accounts and not accept copyright information, I decided to join the Alliance for Independent Authors. I’m familiar with Orna Ross and Joanna Penn and some of the others that are affiliated with the organization and at 119.00 USD annually, it’s a good investment. I do everything I can to ensure that my books meet copyright requirements–I buy my photos from DepositPhotos, make sure I have licensing for the fonts I use. I have my receipt from Vellum if there is ever a question on how I format my books. If they ever close my account for any reason, at least I have someone going to bat for me.

I suppose that’s all I have for this week. I have a few topics for blog posts planned and also something up my sleeve with a couple other authors I’ve met on Twitter. I need to reach out to them and hammer out a time we can collaborate.

I think the only thing left is mentioning that this month, Bryan Cohen is hosting his quarterly Amazon Ads Profit Challenge. Since I’m not actively writing right now, I think I’ll carve out the time to sit and listen to the videos and go through the steps. There are some things that have changed since the last time I sat down and went through all the material, so it will probably be beneficial this time around. I’ve been working with the info that I learned a couple years ago taking his challenge, and staying up to date is always a good thing. If you’re interested in joining, click here. It’s not an affiliate link; I don’t get anything if you sign up.

Thanks for hanging out with me, and Happy October!

The top 6 reasons listening to marketing advice is a pain in the A$$.

We all have marketing advice coming out our ears. I’m to the point where I don’t even care about marketing advice right now. I stopped listening to Clubhouse, I’m not an active participant in any Facebook group. All I’ve been doing is writing, writing, and more writing because let’s face it, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have product. But more than that, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have the right product. So here are my top six reasons why listening to marketing advice is a pain the you know what.

You don’t have the same backlist as the person dispensing the advice.
Frontlist drives backlist. Right? Maybe you’ve never heard it phrased like that. Maybe you’ve heard “writing the next book is the best marketing for the current book.” I like frontlist drives backlist better because sometimes we think that after a book is so many months old it will stop selling. Maybe in traditional publishing circles this is true–when bookstores yank your paperbacks off the shelves, but we’re digital now, and books on the digital shelf don’t get old. So when you have someone who’s been publishing for a while saying that their newest release earned them lots of money–you don’t know if it’s from the current release or if their new book bumped up all the books in their catalog. Listening to someone talk about how they are promoting their 20th book might not do much for you if you’re planning a second. They are 100 steps ahead of you. Take notes if you want, but chances are good what they are saying won’t apply to you. I’ve been in that position, too. Listening to big indies is discouraging. Rather than listening, I go write.

You’re not in the same genre/subgenre/novel length/platform.
If you write thrillers, what a romance author is doing may not help that much. Maybe you’ll get some ideas because a lot of marketing is universal, but for example, lots of romance authors are on TikTok right now. Whether that is beneficial for you, you would have to do your research and figure it out before you waste time learning how to make the videos. Marketing for wide isn’t going to be the same if you’re in KU, just like listening to a webinar on how to market a historical saga isn’t going to do much for you if you’re a children’s book author. Marketing advice isn’t created equal and it helps to figure out what you’re selling before listening to advice. Even marketing for historical romance would be different than marketing mafia romance. If you write short stories, chance are marketing those will be different than if you’re writing long novels.

They have money–you don’t.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, I bought a Freebooksy, put my first in series for free, and watched the royalties roll in through page reads.” That sounds like the answer to anyone’s prayers, except, then you rush to Written Word Media and see a Freebooksy spot is $40 to $175. If you’re trying to promote a standalone, there’s no way you’ll get that money back paying to give away a free book. Amazon ads aren’t nearly as expensive (I have six ads going and have only spent 4 dollars this month so far) but if you don’t know how to put together a Facebook ad, they are happy to take your money and run leaving you with no clicks and no sales. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do for free anymore, all the begging going on right now on Twitter is proof of that. So it would be in your best interest to find a couple of nickels to rub together, make sure your book is advertising ready, and hope that you can find some traction with a low cost-per-click ad. If you’re afraid of losing money, do what you can with your product so that doesn’t happen. The person who DOES make their money back and then some on ads and promos has a product that people want and all they’re doing is helping readers find it.

They have a newsletter. You don’t.
Ever listen to a 6-figure indie author talk about their marketing campaigns? They give you all the sales numbers, all the rank, and someone asks them how they did it and they say…. “I emailed my newsletter and told them I had a new book out.” Where are the melting face emojis when you need them?

courtesy of Canva

Here they are. There is nothing so disheartening as thinking you are going to hear a nugget of information that will take your author career to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, you need a mailing list. That bomb she dropped is proof of that. Only, her list was six years in the making and you’re stuck on MailerLite tutorials on YouTube. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen and write down her advice for later. She built up her newsletter somehow and she probably has a lot of tips on how she did that. Gave away a reader magnet, joined in Bookfunnel promotions (or StoryOrigin), she networked with other authors and they featured her in theirs to get the ball rolling. But you have to understand that she’s six years ahead of you. I’ve heard Lucy Score has 140,000 subscribers on her email list. You may never, ever, get there, and her marketing strategies will not be yours.

They write and publish faster than you.
I remember when I settled in for a good marketing talk with a big indie author. I had a notebook, a pen, a cup of coffee, and I was going to absorb all the knowledge. She was talking about ads and promos and the usual, and then she got to how many books she released a year.

calico cat grimacing

That really sums how how I felt. There’s no way I could do that. I write fast–I can crank out four books a year with no help. No editor, no beta reader, no formatter, no one to do my covers, just me. But she multiplied that by four, and my heart sank. Obviously, their marketing techniques are going to be way different than yours. They can put a first in series for free, buy a promo, and get a ton of read-through from the get-go. They can run ads to several books and create boxed sets. What they can do in a year, you might be able to do in five, so you need to adjust accordingly. It doesn’t mean you won’t be successful, it just means you won’t be successful as quickly. When listening to marketing advice from prolific authors who are doing this as their day jobs, keep your expectations realistic. Save up advice that you might be able to use later, but realize that you can’t do anything without product first.

They could just be a better writer than you (for now).
No one likes to talk about craft. We don’t. It’s messy and subjective and it’s easy to start talking about rules and editing and first person vs. third person, and before you know it, you’re not talking to anybody anymore because everyone is ticked off about the Oxford Comma. But the fact is, good books sell. You can run ads and sell a bad book once, but you’ll never build an audience or a loyal readership off a crappy book. People work hard for their money and they don’t like to waste it. Time is precious and trying to read a book that isn’t well written is a drain when they could be reading something better, catching up with a show they’re behind on, or spending time with a significant other or their kids. You can’t be cavalier about asking people to spend time with you. People who have writing careers write good books. So if you’re discouraged because the authors you’re listening to are telling you that they don’t lose money on ads, and/or they have a huge newsletter, it’s because their books are good. Do you think this author has readers who are invested for the long haul?

I’m not making fun of anybody–he obviously has readers–I would do a lot for 458 reviews–but when 41% of them are one and two stars, you’re not offering content readers will come back for. Imagine how this book could have taken off if it had been well-written. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I don’t have to tell you the other two books aren’t doing well. The loss of potential is devastating to me. I can’t even imagine how he feels. Maybe he doesn’t even understand his own self-sabotage and is happy with the instant gratification.


It’s really difficult to listen to marketing advice. We all write such different books. Our genres will be different, our covers. Our willingness to put ourselves out there for the sake of networking. Our author voices and style will be different. Before you try to follow any advice, your books have to be marketable or any marketing you do will be for nothing.

This is why writing about marketing is hard. It’s why it’s difficult to listen to advice. And really, what no one talks about is how much marketing you have to do before you even write that book. We try to find customers for our product, when really, it’s a hell of a lot easier to find product for already existing customers. Finding your comparison authors makes it easy to find readers–their readers are your readers. We don’t like to study the market because we’d prefer to write what we want to write. The authors with the most longevity meet in the middle between what the market wants and what they love to write. It’s easy to do market research these days–Alex Newton of K-lytics takes the work right out of it, and you can watch a short trend report that he made this month for free here. https://k-lytics.com/kindle-e-book-market-trends-2022-september/

Read on for more resources and have a great week!


If you want to work on your craft, Tiffany Yates Martin has all her classes on sale for NaNoWriMo for $29.00/each. Check them out here! https://foxprinteditorial.teachable.com/


Monday update and thoughts on marketing and being an indie author

I’m writing this very late, Sunday night, in fact, because I spent all weekend putting in the edits to book four of my series. It took me a little longer than I thought it would just because I was starting to make changes that I didn’t enter into my proof. I guess since this is such a large project, it won’t be a simple wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-press-publish-and-hope-for-the-best type thing. You might say that no book should be like that, but if you’ve never written, edited, and packaged 540,000 words, it does feel just a little more serious than writing a 20k word novella and hitting publish the second you type “the end” at the end of the book. I’ve never had a problem editing and publishing with no regret, but I think, no matter how many times I go over these, they may never feel good enough, never feel ready. This will probably be the biggest project I’ll ever write, and while I know from the bottom of my heart I will never reach perfection, I’ll probably always have a little regret I didn’t do more. So for now, the plan is to edit the proofs for books five and six, put those edits in, tweak the covers because I think they could be better, and order more proofs. Then I’ll sit on them and read them all through again in February and pray to God I feel like they are good enough because I want book one ready to go by March 1st. By then the series will be two and a half years old. It’s time.


I got into another discussion the other day about the stigma of indie publishing. I really hate those conversations, but honestly, I think people use it as an excuse as to why their books don’t sell.

There are so many ways to publish now, and who can even accurately define what indie publishing is? There are huge independent publishers like Graywolf Press who are so successful that maybe authors don’t consider them independent anymore. Then we have publishers that are legit like Bookouture and Belt Publishing. Then we have the companies that aren’t vanity presses, but they aren’t exactly publishers, either, like BookBaby, Bublish, Lulu, and She Writes Press (Brooke Warner is great–you should check them out.) Then we have the smaller presses that pop up, and maybe they’re legit, maybe they aren’t. I mean, if you know how to edit, create a cover, or format a book, almost anyone can consider themselves a publisher. I’ve helped plenty of authors put together their books, but I would never consider myself a small press, nor would I want to. Then we have the vanity presses that walk the line of what’s legitimate and what’s not (like Austin McAuley, iUniverse, and Author Solutions). So when you think about the million different ways to publish, how can anyone say that readers don’t read indie? How in the heck are they even supposed to know?

I get cranky when I hear the theory there is still stigma against indie publishing, and my argument is that no reader is going to go out of their way to search who published your book. You know how a reader knows if your book is indie? If the cover is bad, if it’s not edited properly (by yourself or someone else), if the formatting is poor. That all screams unprofessionalism, and yes, self-publishing. All a reader wants is a good story in a nice package because they forked over their hard-earned cash to read your work. If you can’t give them quality, then you have no business publishing, and if you do publish, you have no right to be angry with poor reviews or returns. There are plenty of big-time indie authors who started out small, and yes, as they made more money their teams grew and some even go on to publish other people like Michele Anderle and his publishing company through LMBPN, and to me, that just blurs the line even more. Don’t push your failure on to other people. If my books don’t sell, it’s 100% my fault, not because I’m indie. WTF is wrong with people? (This is a rhetorical question, and I’m laughing.)


So, you know I went ahead and listed my book with Booksprout. I was hesitant because of the poor quality of reviews last time and since they did their overhaul, I was hoping for a better outcome. A couple reviews have come in, and it seems for the most part they’re at least reading the book. I got one sweet review and it’s always nice when a stranger can validate you’re putting out a good book:

I dislike for the cheapest plan reviewers have to include in the review that they received the book on Booksprout in exchange for a review. It seems dirty and just a little skeezy but there are plenty of review services so paying for a review I guess isn’t the end of the world. But when you give away 25 review copies, and all 25 have that at the bottom, and all the reviews are five stars, it doesn’t look honest or sincere and if a reader comes by and happens to see that, a review won’t make a bit of difference to them.

So you have to weigh the options here of publishing without reviews, which I did for my duet. I guess there’s not a right answer either way.


I really don’t have much else this week. I’ve been so busy proofing my proofs that between that and working, I don’t have much time for anything else. I thought briefly of doing NaNo in November, but I’m going to be way too busy getting my trilogy read to publish in January. I may not even be writing new stuff until next year which is sad, but I need to get my back list going. Sales for my duet have been so-so. I get a lot of impressions, but no clicks, which at first glance means my covers aren’t doing well. It could also mean my categories and targets are off, but I know they aren’t because I put a lot of time into my 7 keyword fields when I published and I emailed KDP and added more categories. Those are all on target. I knew but didn’t want to admit, through feedback on FB that the men chose weren’t sexy enough for covers. I just liked the look of them and went against my own advice which is to bend when you can because nothing is more important than doing what you need to do for your books to sell. Now that they’re on KDP in ebook, paperback, and soon hardcover, and I uploaded them to IngramSpark, changing them out won’t be easy. I’m going to wait for a while and see what happens, but learning from this, I do realize the covers for my trilogy I was playing around with won’t work. I need stronger, sexier men, even if they’ve been used on covers before. If you don’t know what my duet covers look like, here they are:

I still love them, but again, time will tell if they’ll do the job.

That’s all I have! Until next week!

Author Update (Yep, Again)

I wish I had more to write about this week, but the problem is, I just haven’t been into listening to podcasts or reading the non-fiction books that have accumulated in my TBR pile. If it’s not happening on Twitter then I probably don’t know much about it which is sad, but the state of my life at the moment.

King’s Crossing
I’m knee deep editing my King’s Crossing series and it’s slow going because all the “takes” and “makes” I thought I managed to get rid of before I formatted them and ordered the proofs. Well, I didn’t do as good as job as I thought. I probably got tired, and I can’t blame myself because holy God, there are a lot. If I didn’t have that to worry about, I think these books would actually sound pretty good. No typos, at least, still getting rid of some repetitive words, but after editing the first two books of my trilogy, I can definitely tell these are the first books I wrote writing in first person. I fell into a bad rhythm and editing it out, even after several passes, has been a lot of work. Still, seeing them in book form has been very helpful, and I’m confident after this final pass, they will be good enough to publish. I’m only on book two, and there are a lot of sentences I marked that I have to rewrite, but the story is good. The consistency (so far) is solid, and I’m very happy with that. I’m also happy with the logo I created using a DepositPhotos vector I found:

Made with a vector from DepositPhotos in Canva

The “Book One” changes obviously, but after several failed attempts to create a logo with an X myself, I was so happy to have stumbled upon an X with a crown already made. I seriously love it!

Booksprout
I went ahead and put Rescue Me on Booksprout. I did it over Labor Day weekend, which probably wasn’t the best time, but so far I’ve given away 24 out of the 25 copies they make available. The paperback is already on Amazon, no sales, of course, but that’s okay. I’ll put the ebook up on October 1 like I planned and hope there will be a few reviews when I do. I’ll offer a few copies to my newsletter, though last month I had 7 people unsubscribe. I don’t know yet if they are good subscribers or not. From what I’ve heard, the open rate is decent (40%) but I ran a giveaway and only one person entered. After hosting giveaways on here with little participation, that’s actually not surprising, but it’s too bad because it’s a really great prize! What I need to do is think about running my ad on Facebook again for my reader magnet and see if I can’t get some more subscribers, and also look into Bookfunnel promos since I’m already paying for that. If you want a copy of Rescue Me, a one-night stand, steamy billionaire romance with an HEA, then grab a copy. It’s offered through Bookfunnel and I limited it to the first 20 people who download. You don’t have to give me your email. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/z92k8x1a92. Here’s the blurb. I got a little help from S. J. Cairns, and I think it sounds pretty good:

Sam
When my wife passed away, I buried my life with her.
For two years, I lived like I was already dead.
Until one night, when I meet Lily. Lying in her arms, I’m reminded of what hope feels like.
But sometimes what could have been is stronger than what could be, and I have a difficult time letting my wife’s memory go.
As I get to know Lily, I realize it isn’t only my past standing in our way, and what I’ll have to do to stop hers from destroying her future may very well destroy mine instead.

Lily
Billionaire Samuel Sharpe is beaten down and weary, and when we meet in a hotel bar, there’s no way I can say no when he asks me upstairs.
After a violent divorce, I’m struggling to find a fresh start, and a one night stand with the man who would turn out to be my boss isn’t part of the plan.
My ex-husband broke me, and until I met Sam, I didn’t think anyone could put me back together again.
I should have known my past wouldn’t leave me alone, and I can’t ask Sam to rescue me.
Compared to his wife’s memory, I’m not worth saving.

Hardbacks
With some persuading, I created hardcover versions for the two books in my duet. It didn’t take that long, and with some help from JP Garland, I was able to position the elements on the cover correctly, as the template is a bit different. I’ll write about it in full when I get my proof copies so I can post a picture. I placed the order today and it said they won’t come until the beginning of October, but I won’t forget.

IngramSpark
I approved my duet paperbacks on IngramSpark this morning. It took a little back and forth on the second book with the cover as they kept saying my spine was wrapping onto the front, but when I adjusted it, it still wasn’t correct. I overcorrected then they said my spine was too narrow, but that seemed to knock me out of a loop and when I moved my elements back to where they were before, the cover was accepted. I don’t use the Expanded Distribution option on KDP as I feel IngramSpark is more professional if I want to have my books in bookstores or if one day I ever drudge up the courage to ask the indie bookstore in downtown Fargo to carry my books. I’m always amused when authors bring in their author copies from Amazon, like they don’t understand that Amazon is every bookstore’s competitor and booksellers really don’t want the KDP POD stamp in the backs of the books they’re selling. It’s just proof to me that indies need to keep an eye on their own business and do things the professional way so they look like they know what they’re doing. Publishing is a business, after all, and booksellers don’t have to waste time with an indie who isn’t professional. There are plenty of authors who are.


That really is about all. Since my mind is a one-way track, I’ll be focusing on proofing the proofs of my series. I won’t be able to think about anything else until that’s done, but with as quickly as it’s going, I should be able to have them finished by the middle of October. Entering in the fixes takes longer than reading the proofs because for some reason, seeing a sentence that needs to be rewritten…i can’t wrap my mind around writing it in a different way. It’s just roadblock I need to overcome because of course there’s a different way to rewrite a sentence. There’s a million different ways to rewrite a sentence. After that’s completed, I will put all my attention on my trilogy because I want to get those out in January, and I have to still finalize covers and write my blurbs. With all that going on, I’m itching to get back to writing, but depending on how all the above goes, I may not be writing new material until next year. It’s just how my mind works. I’ve decided to go with it instead of fighting it. Besides, I like getting one project done and moving to the next. I feel more productive than having three or four things going on at once.

I hope you all have a good week! There’s not much of 2022 left. Do you have any goals you want to reach before then?

Until next time!

Author Update and Tropes in (Romance) Novels

Happy Monday! It’s Labor Day in the US, and most people have off work. I have Mondays and Tuesdays off, and today I’ll be catching up on chores. I finished editing my Bridgeport Trilogy (I don’t think that’s going to be the name of it, but I haven’t thought of anything better) and book three is off with a beta reader (S. J. Cairns, and I did an author interview with her earlier this year). I did more pantsing with that book than others in the past, so I just wanted to be sure the little mystery and plot twists made sense. After I get it back and put in any suggestions if she has any, I’ll listen to them and package them up. Book One is 76k, Book Two is 77k, and Book Three is 81k as it wraps up the trilogy. I’m happy with these and can’t wait to get them out in January!


Against my better judgement, I published the paperback of Rescue Me so I can list it with BookSprout for a couple of reviews. I paid the $9.00 to offer one book a month (which is fine–that’s all I’ll need anyway) and after KDP approves the paperback I’ll put it up for reviews. Per their help page, they don’t recommend having your ebook in KU while it’s listed for reviews, so I’m going to stick with the ebook publication date of October 1st. The readers who grab a copy shouldn’t need a whole month, but I know they’re reading more than just my book too, so I don’t want to rush anyone.

I probably should have done this with my duet, but I was hoping running ads and mentioning my book in my newsletter would help with reviews. I’ve been selling slowly primarily running Amazon ads. Since its publication in June, Captivated by Her has sold 5 ebooks, 3 paperbacks, and has had 10,736 page reads which is the equivalent of 26 Kindle books sold. Not extraordinary, but next month after the ebook version of Rescue Me releases, I’ll use a couple of free days in Select and buy a promo. I’ll have three books out by then and hopefully not only will I start to create a buzz, I’ll earn my fee back.

I understand it’s a very slow process, and I’m okay with that. I admit that I’d rather write than do anything else, and since June I’ve been busy writing my trilogy. I already know what I want to write next, it’s only a matter of how long I can hold off the urge to sit down and get to work. I am also very much wanting to write a duet that will go with these covers, but no plot means no writing, so we’ll see what happens.

But I also need to read my six-book series because I’ll start publishing them after my trilogy in January. I wrote them in 2020, so I need to stop stalling and just get them out there. I have the proofs for them, and reading them all in printed form for typos is the last thing I need to do before publishing.


There was lots and lots and lots of discourse when it came to Ali Hazelwood’s interview on the Goodreads site last week. Tropification of romance novels has been a sore subject for a long time, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Ali admitted that her agent suggested tropes and she wrote a book around those tropes. Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Ali’s background came from writing fanfic, where characters and their backstories already exist. She didn’t know how to write a novel from the ground up, and her agent, who discovered her through her fan fiction (not unlike EL James) kind of talked her through it. I’m still struggling to figure out what the big deal is. Her agent obviously saw her writing potential and that’s why she signed Ali in the first place, but apparently Ali not knowing how to craft a novel rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, since, I guess, there are thousands of writers out there who do know how to write a book without handholding.

I see there are two different issues here–1) Ali was signed without the blood sweat and tears that usually accompanies querying, and 2) not that she was told what tropes to write, but that romance books are more than the tropes they’re made of and being that she admitted she didn’t know how to write a book from scratch, this caused a lot of outcry.

We can tackle the first one easily enough, and boil that outrage down to plain old jealousy. I’d never resent someone success of that nature: Ali, EL, Brandon Sanderson and his KickerStarter triumph as examples, because there’s usually a lot of groundwork being laid that we don’t know about (it’s the same as being an “overnight success” which never happens overnight). I’ve never read Ali’s fan fiction but she must have been popular, EL James already had the buzz and the traffic she earned simply writing a story readers like to read, and for years Brandon has been writing and cultivating an audience that would pay for his books. How anyone can be jealous of that is beyond me. Put in the work, reap the rewards. It’s the same as these bigger indies who worked hard, put their books out, hustled for newsletter subscribers all so Montlake (Amazon’s romance imprint) could approach them and pick them up. Am I going to be jealous of that? No. Am I going to work hard so it happens to me? Damned straight.

The other point about the tropes, I guess I can see the concern. Romance books are more than the tropes they’re built around, and when you focus on tropes to describe your book, you’re not telling a potential reader anything more about the plot. Sure, your book could be enemies to lovers, but why are they enemies? Why do they turn into lovers?

While I have built my pen name around tropes because they are easier to sell and because let’s face it, knowing your tropes and the whys of your characters’ motivations makes it a lot easier to write a book (a fact Ali’s agent knew), twisting that trope is part of the fun. In the first book of my trilogy, the trope is a baby for the billionaire. He hires his personal assistant to surrogate, but in all of the 76 thousands words, she doesn’t get pregnant. I didn’t make that the focus of the book. The real focus is why he needed to hire someone (hello, backstory) and her signing on the dotted line to spend time sleeping with him hoping to get him to fall in love with her. It honestly didn’t occur to me to let her get pregnant. His family issues were a lot more important to me, and they carried over to his sister who has her own book.

This trope stuff is made even worse by the subtitles we’re pressured to add to our ebooks on Amazon and like I said before in a previous blog post, all the qualifiers we’re encouraged to add to a blurb to ensure the “right” reader buys our books so they don’t leave a bad, or even worse, lukewarm, review is simply maddening in a amusing and bemusing way, of course.

“Author’s Note: This book contains a billionaire possessive alpha-hole and steamy scenes.”
“Full-length enemies-to-lovers office romance with slow-burn sizzle. Witness one commanding single dad become so enchanted with the hellion he can’t stand that he’ll do everything to keep her forever.”
“Twisted Love is a contemporary brother’s best friend/grumpy sunshine romance. It’s book one in the Twisted series but can be read as a standalone.”
“Grumpy vs. sunshine on steroids. This book is packed with banter, red-hot heat, and lots of dog-sized bow ties.”

It didn’t take long to find books with the summarization sentence at the bottom of the blurbs for these books. They are written by popular authors, so they know what they’re doing. I don’t do this. I don’t do this! I always forget. Should I be? Probably! Is there a lesson here? Probably! It took me long enough to add a hooky line and put that at the top in bold, a marketing strategy that has been adopted by every author on the planet at this point.

But then I have some books that just don’t have a trope. I mean, friends to lovers can encompass any kind of romance book, really, and says absolutely nothing about anything. And that’s how the second book in my trilogy is. The third book is the same. Second chance. That also could mean anything.

So the takeaway I got from all this is, you still need a damned good blurb to sell books. If your blurb is too vague because you’re scared to give too much away, or it’s confusing because you didn’t ask for some feedback, you’re not going to sell book no matter how many tropes you cram into the subtitle field of your ebook when you publish. Your cover also needs to convey what genre you’re writing in and wanting your readers to buy, and Amazon’s ads guidelines make this damned difficult, let me tell you. That I add steamy anywhere I can to make it clear I have sex in my books is imperative because I can’t add sexy manchest to my covers and think I can run ads. I can’t. Until I start selling by name and reputation alone, I will need ads. Need them. The meagre sales I’ve gotten so far on my duet are solely from Amazon ads because I haven’t advertised my book anywhere else. And God forbid someone who hates sex in their books reads my billionaire romances because he’s fully dressed thinking I have sex off the page. That is the fastest way for any author to get bad reviews. So.

I understand how difficult it is to try to steer readers toward your book if you think they’ll like it, but also AWAY from your book if you think they won’t. Readers need more than tropes though. They need plot, fully rounded out characters. Natural dialogue. Juicy backstory. Throwing a bunch of tropes at them is only half the job.

Apparently this all started with BookTok, a place I haven’t visited. They’re going crazy over tropes, but that’s easy to explain. It’s the fastest way to describe a book. So, use a trope to grab a reader’s attention, but use your cover and blurb to reel them in the rest of the way.

Want to read some more articles about this:? Look here. Thanks for reading, and if you’re in the US, enjoy the holiday!

Book Tropes that Every BookToker Secretly Loves – BookTok Favorites

MY FAVORITE BOOKTOK BOOK TROPES by MARIANA BASTIAS

BookTok is feeling romantic by Meera Navlakha

THE TROPIFICATION OF MARKETING ROMANCE NOVELS

Monday Musings and What I’m Liking Right Now

This is the last Monday of August, and I hope the month has treated you well. I got a lot done this month, including finishing the last book of my trilogy. It came in at a little over 80k and I’m pleased with how all the books turned out. They still need editing, but I’m on track to release them in January. I still don’t have a firm publishing schedule for them, maybe a week apart, but I do know that I’m not waiting between books like I did for my duet.

Sales of my duet have been slow, and no reviews on Amazon for either book as of yet. I’m running Amazon ads and actually just created a couple of fresh ones with a higher bid hoping to get more impressions and a few more clicks. I contacted the Librarian’s group on Goodreads and had my second book added to my pen name profile. The one thing I dislike about adding a subtitle to an ebook is that it looks like a different book from the paperback, and I have no idea why the paperback of Captivated was added but the ebook of Addicted was after that. It’s annoying, and though I don’t have any kind of OCD, I grind my teeth anyway.

Not that I should care, I guess, but it just looks funny to me. There have been discussions wondering if adding a keyword-stuffed subtitle is necessary or even helpful (though we all know that it’s against Amazon’s TOS) but there is still no arguing tropes in romance sell. It is getting to the point though where I have seen so many qualifiers attached to a blurb, I wonder if it does anything at all: A steamy small-town second chance standalone happily ever after with no cliffhangers full-length novel. Are readers that picky or are we just so marketing-focused we’re compelled to spell out every dirty detail before a reader buys? I don’t have the answer to that, but it’s interesting to think about nonetheless.

I finished proofing the proof of Rescue Me, and it’s all ready to go in KDP. I’m still on the fence if I should use Booksprout to find reviews–if I am, I should publish the paperback now so I have a link and ISBN as they ask that information when you set up your book for reviews. (At least they used to. I’m not sure if they still do–the platform went through an overhaul over the spring and I’m not familiar with it anymore.) There is no free plan for that service like there used to be, and the kinds of reviews I was getting almost doesn’t make it worth paying the $9.00 fee. I feel as though most readers use it as a vehicle of accessing free books and if they do leave a review it’s a synopsis of the book (if they’ve read it) or a copy and paste of the blurb (if they haven’t). Still not unsure, but a standalone would be a good book to try it out with, at least, so I’m still considering it. Here’s a little thing I made on Canva. I think my copywriting skills are getting better.

I have the large print version stuck in my KDP dashboard, but after going around and around with the large print version of Captivated, I’m not going to bother to try. It can just be stuck in there. I never did get an answer from anyone who answers Jeff Bezos’ email, so I’ve given up offering large print. I asked in the 20booksto50K group if anyone had a workaround, and the only thing that made sense to me was when someone said KDP doesn’t want you to have two paperback books available and if I was stubborn and wanted to offer large print, I would have to create a hardcover edition. Printing is already expensive enough as it is–a large print paperback costing about 16.99 to earn any royalties, and adding a hardcover on top of that isn’t worth it. I don’t give up on many things, but fighting with Amazon is one of them.


A tweet caught my eye this morning. Well, not this tweet as I answered her a couple of days ago when I saw it first, but I think the response I saw this morning was interesting.

I’m not 100% sure what he means–I asked for clarification but haven’t received a response as of writing this blog. To me, it can be taken two ways. 1) indies don’t know how to reach readers, which would be the natural assumption considering the original tweet, or 2) readers don’t like reading indie. When I first read the tweet, I thought that’s what he meant–that readers avoid indie for whatever reason. But then I read the tweet again after a couple cups of coffee, and he probably does mean indies don’t know how to reach readers. It’s interesting to me that he recognized it and lumped us all together and admitted it. I don’t know, I’m probably reading too much into it, it was just strange to see it in black and white. It’s also interesting to me because there is so much more to marketing your book and yourself as an author than just tweeting all the time. I’ve learned this creating my pen name and getting that going. Marketing begins with the products you want to sell so what is your product and what does it consist of?

*Genre/tropes
*Voice/writing style
*Cover
*Title
*Blurb
*How often you publish/how many books you have out and how many you plan to publish in the next year
*If you stick with one genre or if you genre-hop and/or sub-genre hop
*Metadata for your book such as categories and keywords

These are pretty important when you’re trying to market, and most authors don’t think about any of that until the book is published and they can’t find anyone interested in reading what they’ve written. If you don’t consider any of that, what you do after will be hit or miss. And what comes after that? Building a newsletter (though everyone says you should before you publish, and that’s a feat in and of itself) running ads, buying promotions in newsletters like Fussy Librarian and Ereader News Today. And after that, once you start to find some readers, you better be writing the next book or have one almost ready to go. That’s why indies don’t understand marketing. Marketing isn’t the same as advertising. https://www.outbrain.com/blog/marketing-vs-advertising-7-key-differences-you-need-to-know/

As far as the idea that readers don’t want to read indie–that’s a valid reason why there are some authors with no sales. They look indie. Their covers are only so-so and their books need editing. They only have one book out and it makes them look like a newbie (I am fully aware what my Amazon Author page looked like when I only had Captivated out and that’s why I’m going to publish my trilogy with little time between books). I don’t mean to insult indies. I am one, so why would I do that? But the less indie you look and your book sounds, the better your sales will be.

He answered me (real-time blogging is cool!) and I was actually kind of right on both counts:

I’m not going to argue with someone’s beliefs. I think in some way, shape, or form we all have to do a little marketing/advertising of our books. Tweeting isn’t going to get you very far.

Anyway, so that’s kind of what I’ve been thinking about today. I started my pen thinking years into the future. What my sub-genre would be, my voice/style of my books, the age of my characters and what that means for the ages of my readers. I research covers before I create mine, I try better to think of more relevant titles for my books–something I’m terrible at–but I know a title can make or break a book. Of course, I had to publish for five years before I figured out any of that, and I’ll have to publish for at least year before I know if that kind of preparation will pan out.

If you want to fall down the rabbit hole, I linked the picture of the original tweet to Twitter. I’m always interested to hear what others are saying about marketing and publishing.

September will be full of editing and playing with covers. I won’t start a new project until my trilogy is ready to go, but I do have loose plans what I want to write next. After tackling a trilogy, a standalone will be welcome. I had the idea when I was still writing in third person, but I think I can make it work in first just as well. There’s nothing stopping me from writing it in third and publishing it under my name and not my initials, but I rather like first person present and I might as well keep going with my pen name. We’ll see.


Oh, I forgot what I’m liking right now. Haha. Can’t be that great. Just kidding. When I have a bit of time, I’m going to listen to the roundtable talk moderated by Jane Friedman about the DOJ vs. PRH trial and what it means for authors and the book business. I didn’t follow the trial as it was happening, and if you didn’t either, but you’re curious, give it a listen.

Have a good week, everyone!

Until next time!

Formatting your paperback book’s interior: tips and tools that can help!

I write a lot about covers but the fact is, formatting your paperback book’s interior is probably the most frustrating part of publishing your book. While there are tools out there to help, even super awesome tools such as Vellum that will format your book almost perfectly with just a few clicks, there are things that can trip you up.

I ordered a paperback the other day and it was double spaced. I usually look at the interior of a paperback on Amazon before I buy because I have said many times on this blog that I don’t read books that aren’t formatted properly, but this was a friend’s book and I purchased it out of faith. Like some readers who won’t buy books if the cover is bad, I don’t like buying books that are double spaced or not fully justified. They look bad and poor formatting pulls me out a story before I even start reading.

Here are my top two reasons to format properly:

Professionalism
Indies lament constantly about how difficult it is to get into bookstores and libraries. Part of the problem is their books don’t look professional. This goes beyond a bad cover. When a manager for an indie bookstore flips through your book, it needs to look like a book inside. Librarians also will be reluctant to spend their funds on books that do not look professional. Barnes and Noble won’t stock your book if it won’t fit in with the other books on their shelves. Your book takes up space–they want products that will sell. Not to mention, the product they stock reflects their reputation.

Cost
KDP and IngramSpark charges you for paper. You either eat that cost as a publisher or your make your readers eat it by charging for extra paper. When your book is double spaced and/or your gutters and margins are too wide or even if your indents are deeper than they need to be (.50 as opposed to .25) it all wastes space. Draft2Digital tweeted a calculator not that long ago, and we can run the numbers. Say you have a book with a 6×9 trim size, it’s 350 pages double spaced and wide margins. You price your book at $15.99 USD. This is what you get:

Your author copies will cost you $5.61 and you make $1.59 per book. But what if you formatted it with single spaces and narrowed the margins? Say you can decrease your pages by 30. This is what you get:

Your author copy price goes down to $5.23 and your royalty goes up to $1.97. If you wanted to price your book cheaper to give your readers a break, you could price your book at $14.99 and this is what happens:

Your royalty goes down to $1.52, but you’re saving your reader a dollar because you aren’t charging them for paper. I don’t know how many pages you would save single-spacing a manuscript, but saving paper will always be cost effective and kinder to trees. Plus, shipping cost goes down because your books aren’t so unnecessarily heavy.

I admit, I don’t do fancy formatting. I use Vellum and it’s fast and easy, but I’m also using version 2.6.7 when they’re on 3.3. They’re always adding bells whistles, but honestly, I just don’t care. There is something to be said for a fancy paperback though, and I do get tempted to play when I see books like Sienna Frost’s Obsidian. Here are some pictures of her paperback interior that I stole from this tweet. (With her permission. The ebook is on sale for .99 from today until August 28th, 2022.)

You don’t have to go all out like Sienna did, if that’s not your thing. I put my time elsewhere, but maybe one day I’ll create collector’s editions of some of my books. For now, I use plain vectors from DepositPhotos as chapter header images, like the wine and beer glasses from Rescue Me as they met in a bar. Beer for his chapters and wine for hers.

The IBPA lists the publishing standards that are needed for a book to be considered professionally published. You can download the list, but sometimes it’s easier to pull a book off your shelf and just look at it. Look a what the copyright page consists of, what that publisher and author used in the front and back matter. In all the excitement of putting out our books, sometimes we forget what a real book looks like and it helps to have the real thing as an example. The guidelines are a big help, though, a checklist of sorts, and you can find them here. https://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standards-checklist-download

It’s all fine and good to have a list and know what you’re supposed to do, but having the means and the tools is something else entirely. I was lucky and my ex-fiancé bought me a MacBook Air and Vellum. I knew I would be formatting a lot of books, and between my own books and the books I’ve formatted for friends, I’ve saved a lot of money, despite how much a Mac can cost.

Since this blog is all about how to do things professionally but on a shoestring budget, here are some free or cheap ways to format your books:

Word
Word is crude tool for formatting these days, but there are ways to make it work for you. KDP offers templates that you can use–simply delete their sample content and copy and paste your own into it. This is how I used to format my books before I had Vellum. Download the template with the placeholder text–all the margins, gutters, and front and back matter are in place. You do have to have a little knowledge of Word as I doubt you’ll have the same number of chapters as the template, but it’s better than starting from scratch. My friend Joe Garland has tutorials on YouTube that can help you, and Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur also just blogged about formatting in Word. He offers templates as well, so you could give them a try.

Atticus
Dave Chesson’s baby, Atticus, is a low cost answer to Vellum, available for both PC and Macs. I’ve heard reports it’s glitchy, but their customer service is very helpful. You can check it out here. At 147.00 and a 30 day money back guarantee, there’s not a lot of risk trying it out. https://www.atticus.io/

Reedsy
Reedsy offers a free formatting tool. I tried it once a while ago, and there’s a small learning curve. Sometimes people just have a knack for learning new things and some people don’t. I don’t remember liking it all that much, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. Free to use and the files are eligible to be uploaded anywhere.

Network
Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to network. In some of my groups on Facebook there have been times an author has displayed frustration to the point of tears and there is always a kind soul who will help out. I’ve done covers for people when their ads aren’t working because of their covers, and I’ve edited and formatted for people too. The only problem with asking for a favor is that the file isn’t yours and any changes you make will make you feel guilty for asking. If you can find a way to format yourself, having control can be priceless. Anne Wheeler does book formatting using Vellum. She said I could post with her permission. Reach out to her if you have a book that needs simple formatting without a super short turnaround time. Carol Beth Anderson also does formatting using Vellum for $50.00/book. You can contact her as well. Nicole Scarano offers book formatting using Vellum. Unlike me, she updates hers and offers premium formatting. Join her Facebook group if you’re interested in learning more. (These women are friends of mine, but i haven’t used their services. My recommendation is not an endorsement and they are not affiliate links.)


The fact is, booksellers won’t take your book for their stock if it’s not formatted properly, libraries won’t want your book in their stacks, and readers won’t want to read. It’s not that difficult to properly format your interiors. It’s not being snobby to want the books you buy to look like books, because if an author doesn’t care about doing it properly, I shouldn’t care about reading it. I’m not going to make allowances and exceptions for an author who should know better, and neither do booksellers. There’s a tweet I responded to by my friend Anne I mentioned above, about the stigma self-publishing still faces, and there doesn’t have to be. (Though I know for a fact her books are beautiful!)

Authors can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Books are your business. Take pride in every aspect, and others will do the same.

Monday Madness and Author Update

Happy Monday! I haven’t started a blog post like that in a while, but I have been making the most of my summer, sleeping in whenever I can and writing whenever I have free time to do so. My daughter starts school (11th grade!) on the 29th, so we don’t have much summer left, especially since some of my free time now will be taken up getting her ready for school and bringing her to picture day and orientation, but after everyone gets settled with the new routine, things should calm down again.

I applied for a second job, as well, substitute teaching in the schools this year. I’m hoping to pick up a couple days a week, but I’m going to try to keep my momentum going with my books. I don’t like the idea of working 54 hour weeks, but you do what you gotta do. I need to crawl out of debt and maybe once I do that, my (financial) future won’t seem so bleak. It sucks being worried about money and if my books aren’t selling, the money has to come from somewhere. (And it’s what I get for trusting the wrong person, but that water is long under the bridge and there’s no point in crying about it now.)

I’ve been working my day job typing for the deaf and hard of hearing for Minnesota Relay for twenty years now, and I hadn’t needed to update my resume in some time. I did about seven years ago when I graduated with my HR degree (I can’t believe it’s been that long) but I never did get an HR job, choosing to start writing books instead (smart move? maybe not). I had to search for my resume in the black hole of my laptop and it was pretty thin, so I included all the books I’ve written and published, added that I did my own covers in Canva and that I’ve written a successful (to me it is) blog for the past six years. At first I wasn’t sure if I should include my books, but if I hadn’t it would have looked like I haven’t done anything professional for myself since I graduated with my HR degree, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know how difficult it is to write a book, edit it, format it, create a cover, and publish it. After I submitted my resume and my application, it occurred to me that it was smart I included my books, not only because it shows I haven’t been standing still, but also because it gave them a chance to decide if writing smut is something they would have a problem with. Apparently, they didn’t, as I had orientation last week, but looking back, I”m glad I added my books, and if you’re looking to bulk up your resume, you should add yours, too.


I’m 52k into the last book in my trilogy, so finishing it up won’t take long. I’ve read books one and two twice, and I’ve been editing book three as I write it but there will still be some additional editing needed. I wanted to make Roman, my MMC in book three, a nervous, trying-to-quit smoker, but he hasn’t turned out that way, so either I edit that in or I find a new guy for the book cover. I like the idea of him getting over, or trying to get over, a smoking habit, because that fits his personality and some of the shit he’s going through in the book. I’m not a natural smoker, though, and I haven’t written a character who is before, so it was difficult to remember to include it. In my mind, he’s trying to stop so it shouldn’t be too much work to write in the cravings and the fidgeting. In the end it depends on how much editing I want to do, and usually that answer is none.


I had an interesting back and forth with an author who was disappointed in sales for his debut. While that’s not unusual as we’re all fighting for space these days, his debut was also a first in a series. When I reached out and told him that more than likely he wasn’t going to sell anything until he had a few more books out in that series, he replied that he would be releasing books a year apart. While that might be the norm for trad authors, a book a year is mighty slow for indies. Readers won’t hang around for a year between books, but I recognize not everyone has the time to write more than that, especially if your series is a fantasy and your books can creep over 150k for words.

I stared to explore what authors can do to keep readers interested between books, and here’s what me, S J Cairns and Dareth Pray came up with:

Newsletter/Blog
There was a toss up between what’s better. There doesn’t seem to be much difference–they both require you create content to keep readers informed–but between the two I would choose building a newsletter. A newsletter you might send once or twice a month, but if you only blog once a month, your blog won’t grow. A lot of my traffic for this blog comes from internet searches, but in order to do that you have to create relevant content regularly, staying within a range of topics that you will eventually be “known” for. Building search engine optimization is a long road and you still have to put the word out somewhere that your blog is available (mostly I just tweet the link). Getting newsletter signups is hard in its own way, but giving out a reader magnet can help. Put the signup links in the back of your books for organic interest, and use the time to keep writing the next book. Another reason I choose to build a newsletter is those subscribers are yours. Your blog followers come and go, and true, newsletter subscribers can unsubscribe, but they chose to sign up so if you give them content they like they’ll hopefully stay on your list. It’s up to you what you offer, but no matter what you choose consistency and offering your readers what they want will keep them interested between books.

Social Media
This can mean anything from tweets to updating your Facebook author page. Reach is hard when you depend on free social media. On Twitter, you might be part of the writing community, and while we like to think so, tweeting to the #writingcommunity isn’t the same as reaching readers. Instagram is about the same. I see so many tweets that say, “Follow me on Instagram!” but I don’t know what good that does. On Instagram, you can try to find readers using hashtags, but trying to climb out of the writing community pit is difficult once you’ve falling into it. I think it’s like quicksand. You just won’t find enough readers there to move the needle. We’re all too busy writing the next Great American Novel to read. (You may argue with me, and that’s cool. It all depends on what success means to you. I’ve been on Twitter for a long time and tweeting about my books hasn’t done much for me at all, but if it has for you and you’re happy with it, I’m glad for you!)

Encourage readers to follow you on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, etc.
When you have a new release, they will email your readers, so if they somehow missed your updates, they will still hear about your next book. I have my newsletter sign up link in my Amazon bio and I changed my Twitter bio, and put my newsletter signup link there, too. I also added it to my Goodreads Author profile. Add your links wherever you can, such as your email address signature. Every little bit helps.

If you don’t have much time to write, creating content to tell readers that you’re still writing seems counterproductive, but if you ARE writing, sharing snippets and inspiration won’t take long. You have to find one way that you enjoy and stick with it. Consistency is key, no matter where you focus your energy. Keep your expectations in check and realize that if your series needs 6 books for it to be done, you are asking your readers to wait for 6 years before you conclude that story. That’s a big ask, and as far as marketing goes, you will have an easier time keeping readers the more books you have. Keep writing, and good luck!

Resources:

Stockpiling books. Pros and Cons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Author update and depending on luck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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