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.

Happy Thursday! Author musings, and holy cow, why is it so hot outside?

Minnesota has been going through a heatwave, and I’ve never been more glad than when I emailed our property management last week and had them look at our air conditioner. The maintenance man cleaned it out and now we hold steady at about 71F in our apartment. I don’t mind the heat, and I’ll go walk in it or run errands without bitching, but only if I can find some relief when I’m tired of baking my brains out. Trying to sleep when your bedroom is 85F is tough. And trying to write without any sleep is tougher yet. Am I right? First world problems at their finest, I suppose.

Health Issues.

I had a scare last week when a new brand of coffee made me sick to my stomach, and I mean, SICK. I drink a lot of coffee, and for a handful of days I felt so terrible I thought I had stomach cancer. Luckily I put two and two together and after I switched back to an old brand, I felt a lot better. I’ve also started wearing my splints again. I wear my elbow compression sleeves off and on to keep the nerves in my elbows in check, but I forgot about my wrist splints, and wearing those again have helped my pain, too. For a little bit, between my back pain and my stomach issues, I was feeling pretty miserable. But I’m back up to 98%, and as a friend said, after you hit 40, 98% is about as well as you can hope for. I know I’ll always have carpal tunnel issues, and like anyone else with a chronic health problem, it’s easy to get lost in a mini pity-party. But I took a walk yesterday and a cyclist zoomed past me on the trail. This guy had a prosthetic arm that attached at his shoulder, and it shut me up real quick. I’m sure he’d trade a bit of carpal tunnel pain to have his body whole, and it’s always a gentle reminder to be thankful for what you have.

Back to the writing part of it.

In writing news, I finished the second read-through of the last book in my first person trilogy. I’m so happy with this trilogy, and the writing went very smoothly. Now I’m worried about how the second trilogy is going to go, but I want to start writing the first book soon. While I write, I’m going to go ahead and format the first three (and hahahaha, do their covers) and order the proofs. There’s no rush to get these done. While I was going to do a pen name for these books, I’ve decided that yes, I won’t publish under Vania Rheault, but I don’t want to distance myself using a whole different name like I was thinking about. So I’ll publish these under VM Rheault. It won’t be a secret I wrote these, but I do want to keep them separated from my 3rd person books. I’m thinking more about my brand this time around and every book under VM Rheault will be a lot more consistent with feel and sub-genre than my other books. Not sure if this will help sales, but I’ve been sniffing around my FB groups learning, and it’s time to apply what I’ve picked up and see if it helps me too.

Last month, I ran a handful of ads to my Tower City Romance Trilogy Box Set and I got a few nibbles but no sales, so I shut the ads off. It included the sequel novella I wrote a couple months ago when I re-edited the trilogy, but because I didn’t sell any of the box set, I published the novella separately this morning. There’s no point in keeping it exclusive material for a set that’s not selling. I can throw some low-bid ads at the first book and see if anything happens. I have it set up as a paperback too, but the cover needs tweaking. I’ll do that later this week, I suppose, though I doubt anyone is going to want to buy the paperback. It won’t be worth the price. It’s a substantial novella as far as they go (29,500 words), but it was still too slim to put text on the spine (at least, KDP couldn’t center it correctly and I finally just took it off rather than fight with the uploading system on KDP and the PDF). But it will be available, so I guess it doesn’t matter in the end.

This morning I also set up a freebooksy for book one of my Rocky Point Wedding series. I was thinking about doing a Christmas in July type thing, so I was able to tailor the ad copy in that general direction. Whether it will hit or miss remains to be seen, but I have that set up for the middle of July and my free promo days are already set up on Amazon. I actually did okay buying a freekbooksy a couple years ago for the first book in my Tower City Romance trilogy. I made back the cost of the promo and then some in KU page reads, and I can’t remember how many downloads my book got, but I made it quite high (in the top ten) in the free steamy contemporary romance category. I’m hoping I do better this time around with an extra book and better writing. I haven’t calculated read through for my series yet, since the last book has only been out two weeks, but people are buying it, so I’m hoping this series has better read-through potential. I just checked because I was curious, and I noticed that the last book in my series wasn’t enrolled in KU. Sigh. I can only blame myself for not checking, and I hate to think what that has done to potential page reads when the first three are in KU and the last wasn’t. Everything else is, but at least I figured it out before the promo went live next month. Live and learn, folks. Live and learn.

Newsletters.

I’m still looking into starting my newsletter. I’ve decided to go with MailChimp since Jane Friedman and Mark Dawson use it. That was probably one of the hardest decisions because there are so many newsletter providers out there and they all have their own sets of pros and cons. But if heavy-hitters like Jane and Mark use MailChimp, then it should be good enough for me. I did have a newsletter set up with them a couple years ago, but I never sent out anything, not even to myself as a tryout. I wasn’t as research-savvy as I am now though, and I’ll be watching plenty of tutorials on how to set up a newsletter effectively. And I’ll probably need to blow off the dust on my author email account. I’m not worried about content, just the over all learning the platform and setting things up so my emails are sent smoothly. Everything is a learning process. I’ll also be typing out a novelette that I wrote at work over the course of a few weeks, and though it’s got kind of an ambiguous ending, I’m considering using it as a reader magnet. I have to type it out though first–20 handwritten pages front and back. I think that equals about 15,000 words give or take. Not terrible, and written in first person present, so it’s a lead-in to my pen name. Now I’ll have to look into group promos to build my list but that’s more research and a post for another day.


How is everyone doing? Getting stuff done writing-wise? This is a great tip from my friends Petyon and Scarlett on Twitter:

I would definitely encourage you to follow these lovely ladies on Twitter! Until next time, everyone. 🙂


Writing with tropes in mind. What I learned from reading Zoe York’s Romance Your Brand

Last weekend I read Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series by Zoe York.

I love reading nonfiction by indie authors. It’s like being able to pick their brains without actually bothering them. An author shared a screenshot of the books on her Kindle in one of the Facebook groups I’m in, and Zoe’s book caught my eye. Zoe is a well-known in the indie publishing space as a contemporary romance writer. I first heard of her when she was a contributor of the now defunct podcast Self-Publishing Round Table, one of the first podcasts I listened to about self-publishing.

I was excited to see that she started writing nonfiction and I purchased her book right away.

I’ve written two series: one trilogy and another with four books. They don’t sell that great, but though to be fair, I don’t promote them much, either, and I thought Zoe could share some things that worked for her.

She goes through the reasons why a series is good–namely read-through and creating a world fans can fall in love with. I already know that, which is why I tortured myself all of 2019 writing one. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but there are things you have to consider like consistency and bringing other characters into the story of the main couple because they’re all friends and people simply don’t disappear when you don’t need them at the moment.

Zoe goes into some of the planning, encouraging you to draw a map of where your series is going to take place. She writes small-town romance, and my Rocky Point Wedding Series is placed in a small town, too. I knew my series wasn’t going to be very long — I don’t have an attention span for several books, so I trusted myself to keep Rocky Point’s details in my head without writing them down. But if you plan to write 5+ books, it may be advantageous to treat your setting like a character and write a detailed sheet to keep facts straight.

Other tips she offers are keywords, naming your series, and plotting out the books. This is where my ears perked up so to speak because Zoe is a genre fiction author. She subscribes to the Venn Diagram where you need to write to market while writing what you love and finding that sweet spot to sustain a lucrative, but happy and satisfying, career for yourself.

When I plotted my series, I started with setting first. For me that’s the easy part. I set the books in a fictional small town in Minnesota based on my hometown. I even gave my town the same attributes — along the Canadian border, a shut-down paper mill, and a similar Main Street. I’ll probably always set my stories in Minnesota. I love the seasons and the variety they can bring to the plots.

Then I move onto characters. I think this is where I dropped the ball and Zoe opened my eyes that actually when I plan out my books I don’t keep tropes in mind.

Every romance novel is based on a trope or two, and while you might scoff or want to deny it because your books are better than that drivel, I need to remind you readers love tropes. The kind of trope the book contains is why the reader chooses to read your book.

While plotting my series I forgot that, and it’s why my books aren’t as strong as they could and should be. Of course my books contain tropes, but I assign the tropes after the fact when I should be planning my stories around them. Knowing the tropes I want to include beforehand will give my books a stronger spine.

What are some romance tropes? These are from Zoe’s book:

  1. friends with with benefits
  2. married to the enemy
  3. marriage of convenience
  4. enemies to lovers
  5. fish out of water (new town, fresh start)
  6. forced proximity
  7. bad boy
  8. ugly duckling
  9. unrequited love
  10. friends to lovers
  11. strangers to lovers

There are more, these is only a sample. A Google search can come up with a couple more:

  1. forbidden love
  2. age gap
  3. secret baby
  4. fake date
  5. fake marriage

You can have a lot of fun with tropes. Take forced proximity. Maybe two strangers have to share a shelter during a tornado, or the elevator stalls (that’s pretty popular) or there’s only one bed (another that’s popular). Anything where the characters need to spend a lot of time together in a close space with no chance of escape. Like a cabin during a blizzard.

Zoe encourages you to list the tropes as you plan the books in your series and I’m going to start doing that with all my books. For now I can list the tropes that my books do contain (I can list them for marketing and ad copy purposes) and going forward use new tropes as I plot.

Knowing what tropes your books includes can help with blurb-writing and writing ad copy. As Jami Albright says, tropes sell. If you can make the tropes easy for readers to see, you’ll be more apt to make a sale.

Writing a series takes a bit of planning. At least the first few books so you can fit the pieces of each book together like a puzzle. Some series can go on for a while see (Robyn Carr) and there is no way to plan twenty books at one time. But if you can list the elements you want to include in the first few hopefully consistency won’t be too big of an issue and you (and your characters) can find a groove.

Zoe’s book gave me a new perspective and I feel there are things any genre writer could benefit from. I encourage you to pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.


A note about sub-genre and tropes.

Some writers blur the line between sub-genre and tropes. The easiest way to explain the two is to give an example.

Take Aidy Award’s books. She writes curvy-girl romance. That’s her sub-genre. You know when you grab one of her books the heroine will be voluptuous. But that can’t be the plot. The plot will contain tropes that pertain to genres that aren’t only curvy-girl. Like close proximity or enemies to lovers.

Billionaire romance is another example. Maybe every single male character an author writes will be a billionaire, but those characters will have their own plots that contain their own tropes.

I have noticed that some of the bigger in the writers like Aidy focus on one sub-genre. Then they have fun with the tropes. They have an easier time branding their books and that helps marketing and sales. It’s something to think about moving forward.


If you want to grab Zoe’s book, look here. She has another book related to this one, and I’m going to grab it as soon as it’s available.

To check out her Amazon author page, and take a peek at her contemporary romance books, look here.


Thanks for stopping by!

How important is social media if you’re a writer? A published author weighs in.

I have a friend who constantly struggles with social media. She hates it, but not for the idea it’s a time-suck. For now we can all agree that with the JK Rowling stuff, the #publishingpaidme hashtag that’s gone crazy on Twitter, police brutality, COVID-19, and our president, things on social media are more than just a dumpster fire. It’s a raging, out-of-control forest fire. Think Australia. Really, let’s think about Australia since we haven’t heard anything about their fires in quite some time, but they’ll be dealing with damage control for years.

As a writer and author, we can agree that social media is a necessity. BUT as a writer and author, social media isn’t necessary in the way we’re told it is at the beginning of our careers. Namely, we need to be on social media to sell books. This is only partly true, and in the part of it that is true, it takes a lot of scrambling on our end to make it happen. In my 2020 predictions blog post from a few months back, I quoted Mark Coker (the founder of Smashwords) as saying that Amazon ads have stolen the writers’ platform. Why work for reach when you can buy it? Why work for reach when it’s EASIER to buy it? I know for the books I’ve sold in the past year, it’s due to buying ads on Amazon.

And yet. Is social media worthless?

Let’s take a look at social media from an author’s standpoint. Just a quick one, since I’ll start off by saying I’m not doing this but I know I should be. One of the only ways to use social media as an author is to set up a Facebook Author Page. (Ads aside since you need an author page if you want to run FB ads for your book.) The idea is having someplace for your readers to find you. Like your page. Interact with you. Some authors form groups instead of pages, but the downside to a group is that you’re constantly moderating and making sure posters are behaving. That doesn’t sound like fun (and a true time-suck), but an author page is doable. Especially since FB offers a scheduling option for your posts. A downside to this is you’re building your castle on someone else’s property. We know Zuckerberg changes his policies all the time and we’re told it’s better to send your readers to your website or newsletter. The problem with those two options is it’s harder to interact with you. So an FB author page is probably going to be the best thing you can do to use social media to help sell your books. Recommend books in the genre you write in. Host giveaways and post about your books. I’ve seen lots of robust FB author pages with lots of engagement. I don’t give my author page enough love but I should start.

Twitter is bad for selling books and I don’t promo on there. I follow a few industry leaders and retweet the articles I find useful to me. That’s about all I do.

Instagram can be a fun place to hang out, but when you’re a writer, you get sucked into the social circle of other writers. So you’re not going to be selling books on there unless you can crack out of the writer/author bubble and find readers. I don’t post on Instagram with the idea I’m going to sell books. You can run ads on Instagram, but besides paying for exposure, I’ve never sold books buying ad space on Instagram. If you wanna see pictures of my cats, look me up.

So, social media isn’t the best for authors. Unless you’re into content marketing and you’re constantly posting snippets of your books. That might not be a valid option if you’re a slow writer, because by the time you release your book, you’ll have posted every single line already. It’s good for non-fiction. But I’m not a non-fiction writer, and I’m not an authority on anything, nor do I want to be.


So, what is social media good for if you can’t sell books?

This is where my friend, I think, throws the baby out with the bathwater when she cuts herself off from social media.

As a PUBLISHER, there are a ton of benefits of being online. Facebook is where I learn 99.9% of marketing and keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to the industry. My friend says– and I’ve heard this from others too–is why would she need to know about marketing, publishing, or anything in-between if she doesn’t have books out? Isn’t writing the most important part of it?

Sure, you need to be writing to be a writer, to eventually be an author.

But.

What are you gonna do when you’re done with that book? How are you going to learn ads? How are you going to know where to promo your book? You’ve cut yourself off from marketing and publishing groups and now you don’t know what the current trends are. Best practices?

If you cut yourself off from author groups on FB, when you’re done with your book and you start up your social media again, you think you you’re just going to join these groups, guns blazing, demand answers to all your questions because you needed the answers yesterday because your book launches tomorrow and you don’t know what you’re doing? I’ve seen people do that in some of these groups. Some of them are met with kindness and people will walk these authors through what they’re doing to sell books. Many others, though, are ignored because it’s evident that they expect other people to do their work for them. Networking and keeping apprised of industry news is a process. It’s an ongoing process. I’ve said before that being an author/publisher is no different than other professions. Would you want to go to a doctor that didn’t keep up with the newest (and maybe better) treatments? Do you want your children to go to school and be taught by a teacher who doesn’t keep her certification up to date? Do you want to be represented by an attorney who doesn’t keep up with changes to the law? Maybe you don’t feel your publishing company is that important, but suddenly you’ll feel like it is when you want to buy promotions for your book and don’t know where to buy them. And even suckier, don’t know who to ask because you’ve taken yourself out of the game.

I LIKE knowing what’s going on with the publishing industry. I like keeping up with Amazon changes, new aggregators, what IngramSpark is doing. Even if I don’t need the information, I’ve been able to help others, and that’s what networking is all about. My blog would be pretty useless if I didn’t keep my head in the game and pass along information to you.


What are some of the best groups I’ve joined on Facebook?

  1. Six Figure Authors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/504063143655523/ It’s moderated by Lindsay Buroker, Andrea Pearson, and Jo Lallo. It accompanies their podcast by the same name, but you don’t have to listen to the podcast to benefit from the group. Though the podcast is awesome and a lot of the discussions are based on a podcast topic.
  2. Mark Dawson’s SPF Community. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPFsecretgroup/ I like this group because Mark Dawson is very protective of Amazon and won’t let anyone talk shit about them. Amazon did indie authors a great service with the Kindle, CreateSpace (back in the day) and KDP. I don’t know where indie publishing would be without them. I also just love the conversations on there about publishing and marketing.
  3. Level Up Romance Writers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LevelUpRomanceWriters/ Moderated by Dylann Crush, this group is for marketing romance. There are so many generous writers in that group, and it’s a place where I have started to post more and get to know people there.
  4. 20Booksto50k. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/ There are a lot of generous people here, too. They are more than happy to tell you how they are selling books. Craig Martelle is pretty strict with what is allowed and every post is moderated, but I mainly lurk and soak up information.
  5. Vellum Users. https://www.facebook.com/groups/VellumUsers/ I format my books (and sometimes for others) with Vellum. This group is for questions about the software if you run into an issue, or if you want to ask if something you want to do formatting-wise is available. Jody Skinner and Erica Alexander are in touch with Brad and Brad (the creators of Vellum) and they both know their stuff. I learn something new about software capability every day.
  6. Indie Cover Project. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20CoversTo50k/ I’ve gotten feedback about covers from here before. You can develop an eye just by looking at what other authors are doing with their covers and reading the suggestions and critiques. This is a great place for blurb help, too.
  7. Book Cover Design 101. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookcoverdesign101/ This is a great group if you want to learn tips on how to do your own covers. I find a lot of my fonts here when people post deals. There are wonderful people part of this group and very happy to help you if you have a technical question. Both this group and the Indie Cover Project can point you in the right direction if you want to order a premade or custom cover instead of doing your own.
  8. Launching Indie. https://www.facebook.com/groups/launchingindie/ Cecilia Mecca is amazing. She’s so generous and loves to know the best way to do anything with marketing. I heard her speak at the Sell More Books Show Summit last year.
  9. And no list is going to be complete without Bryan Cohen. Everything I learned about Amazon ads I learned from him. For free. I’m a member of The Five Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge and his other group, Selling for Authors.

There are other groups I’m a part of, about 40 if you want me to be honest, and not all of them have the same level of information as these do. I’m the most active in the ones listed above, when I’m on Facebook, at any rate.

My friend has told me she shies away from social media for mental health reasons. There’s not much I can say about that except I have told her in the past that if she’s having issues, to find help, like anyone should. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media because of my carpal tunnel. If I’m online I like to make my time worth it either by blogging or if I’m on the computer at all, writing and editing my books.

When it comes to social media and your business, they go hand in hand whether you want to admit it or not. The main trouble I see a lot of writers have these days is separating their writer self from their author/publisher self. Engaging with writers while at the same time hoping to find readers. It doesn’t work like that. We tend to join a clique and follow that clique from platform to platform, but that’s not going to sell books.

I take social media for what it is. A place where I can network and find resources for my business.

And I hope you can, too.

Do you have a Facebook group you benefit from? Let me know. Have a thriving Facebook Author Page? Link it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!


Amazon Ads Adventures: how did my May go?

Because I have nothing else to talk about, let’s see how my ads did for the month of May. Right now I’m running ads for four books: All of Nothing, Wherever He Goes, The Years Between Us, and His Frozen Heart. I actually came in ahead last month, making about $60.00 after ad spend. That’s not terrible–breaking even for me so more than acceptable at this point–and I’m aware that it’s more than what some people are making on their books right now.

Before I get into the numbers, I’ll tell you that my daily ad budget is always $5.00, and that my bid per click is always between .25-.35. I never EVER go with Amazon’s suggested bid. I know click bid can depend heavily on genre, and everyone always says how competitive romance is. But I’m not willing to up my bid on the off chance that it will make me more money. Right now all I’m concerned with is tweaking my covers, blurbs, and look inside so that my books are profitable, and my lower bid per click is working. I get impressions and I get clicks and that’s more than enough for now. There is plenty to worry about without hoping Amazon’s suggested bid won’t blow your grocery budget for the month.

My ad spend for the month of May:

Don’t let the spend versus sales fool you. If your books are in KU, the sales don’t include KU page reads. Sales are readers who buy the ebook/paperback. And in this case, I didn’t sell any paperbacks.

Here are the royalties:

Using the royalties estimator from the KDP reports dashboard is the easiest way to look at your royalties. Some people use BookReport, a Google Chrome extension, but I haven’t put Chrome on my Mac.

I took screenshots of the royalties vs. ads for each book individually. I don’t normally look at that–so long as I’m not wasting money, I don’t mind which book is making more than the others. You can see All of Nothing made the most–and also spent the most. Wherever He Goes is the unpopular one of the group, and maybe a new blurb could help. But I’ve already rewritten it, and at this point I’m done going back.





My numbers might not add up 100% just because I do make a couple cents here and there on other books, but these are the main four I run ads for. You can see that All of Nothing is the leader in sales. Sales for that book allows me to lose money on ads for the others. Is that smart? Probably not–all your ads should run in the black, but I’m just playing around and experimenting.

I’m happy to see that The Years Between Us is doing better with the new cover and blurb. People are actually reading it and in the past few days I have been selling the ebook; people aren’t only reading it in KU. I wish they’d buy the paperback because the new cover looks gorgeous in print.

Anyway, so that’s how I’ve done for the month of May. So far for June I’m in the black, but just by a few dollars. I may not be making a ton of money, but I’m picking up new readers, and that feels good. The last book in my series launched at the end of May, so I don’t have any reports yet on how my read-through is for the four books. I think next month I may plan a Christmas-in-July promotion and buy a BargainBooksy promo and see if I put His Frozen Heart on sale for .99 if I can get some read-through for that series. I’ll be playing around with ads for the next little while because I won’t have anything coming out for a few months.


What I know I learned from Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenge that he does every once in a while. He gives out such useful information, and he’s even usually around to answer questions. I can’t say enough good things about the guy, and I really encourage you to sign up for his challenge in July. It makes a big difference if you know how to use an ad platform before plunking down the money on experimentation. Trust me, there’s a lot to experiment with (like ad copy) without worrying about wasting money on ad spend because you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to sign up for the challenge next month, you can find Bryan’s sign up link here. I don’t get anything if you sign up. I learned a lot from his classes and homework, and I know you will too!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re all having a wonderful June so far!

Letting go: stopping the search for perfect.

By the time you read this, I’ll be done going through my backlist. The loss of some of my Vellum files spurred me on to the idea that if I was going to reformat them to get my files back, I might as well re-edit them too.

While I haven’t written anything fresh in quite some time, I’ve re-edited and reconstructed the Vellum files of seven books. It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I took the time. I found tiny inconsistencies, typos, and in some earlier books, hammered out telling, and for some reason in On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton, lots of passive voice. (That is a weird speculative fiction kind of book, and I’m not sure where my mindset was when I wrote it. The other day someone borrowed it in KU, read one page earning me .01 cent, and returned it [I’m assuming they returned it because they didn’t read anymore.] I can’t say that I blame them any.)

I can see how I’ve grown as a writer and where I can still improve.

But probably the hardest thing for me is finally letting these books go. They are the best they are going to be. It’s a little scary because no writer wants to put subpar work out into the world, and when we put out books with spelling errors, typos, or plot holes that’s what we do.

My anxiety comes from thinking my books have them (even though they could be 100% clean) and I need to let that worry go. I had a moment of panic when I was fixing something in Wherever He Goes. I thought I fixed it and moved on. Later, I went back to reread what I had edited and I discovered autocorrect had changed a word I misspelled to something completely different than what I had intended. Even the word misspelled would have been better than what autocorrect inserted instead.

Suddenly, my life flash before my eyes and I envisioned my whole book full of autocorrected words rendering my pages to a book full of gibberish.

That isn’t likely to happen, but it’s enough to give any author hives. But no matter how many times we go over our books with a fine-tooth comb, chances of putting out a 100% error-free book are slim to none.

There will always be something to change and you get to the point where it’s not a change for the better–it’s only different.

There is a certain peace in knowing these books are as good as I can make them for the skills I have right at this minute. I fully believe that as writers we will never stop growing. We’ll try for twistier plots, more points of view, we’ll get better at breadcrumbing backstory and clues, and we won’t info dump at the beginning of stories. Our eyes will get sharper and we’ll catch more of our own mistakes and we’ll realize we have crutch words and weed them out before handing off our stuff to an editor.

We’ll refine our editing process and grow more efficient. Our first drafts will be cleaner.

When I was editing my Tower City trilogy, I came to two realizations: my writing from two years ago wasn’t as bad as I had thought, but my story (particularly the first book) was just as lackluster as I’d try to deny myself.

To be kind, you can call these books “quiet.” Internal conflict, some stuff going on, but not a lot of character growth, if you know what I mean, and if you don’t, in editor-speak that means not completely formed character arcs. I didn’t understand how to tie in past demons with the present story. What I did know came from instinct and a lifetime of reading romances. Sometimes the “beats” are ingrained and you know by feel what needs to go where. Some might say that’s skill, or talent, but I call it luck and it’s what made Don’t Run Away a half-way decent read as my first contemporary romance book.

In the second book, I had “Let’s meet an ex in a public place” scene like in the first book, and I don’t know if it was bad memory, or if I didn’t care, but at least I stopped that in my other books.

Part of the reformatting included doing a new box set for the trilogy and I wrote a “Where are they now” novella for the end. It was easy to write because I was fortunate to have written what I did in the original books. The novella practically wrote itself.

Now, even though the novella won’t make up for the slow start of book one, at least I can confidently brush my hands of that whole thing. They are re-edited, I changed the covers last year, and all the couples have a new happily ever after. There’s nothing more that I can, or even want, to do with those characters.

They are finally on their own.

Chasing perfect will never end well. Sometimes you’re at a point in your writing life where you can’t give it to yourself no matter how hard you try. Sure, I could write a better book one now, but what is the point when I could use my developing skills to write an entirely new book? If it were part of a ten-book series it might be worth it for the read-through, and if that’s you, then maybe it would be worth your time.

Like anything, your mileage may vary.

Some may see the time I took as a waste, but I disagree. If I found peace of mind in these two and a half months of going back and making sure my books were the best I can do as of Spring 2020, then it was worth it to me, but the trick now is to leave them alone and focus on the new.

My books aren’t dumpster fires. Maybe they aren’t 100% perfect, but no book is. I need to accept that, let my anxiety go that there are things that could be fixed. There probably are, but I need to forget about that and market my books with confidence.

Chasing perfect is an unattainable goal.

Maybe there are tiny fires in the form of an errant apostrophe, or a number I typed out that didn’t need to be, but I need to shrug those little things off, pull up a log, and grab my marshmallows.

A little fire doesn’t have to be a bad thing.


If you want to hear a talk about chasing perfection, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch has a great one she gave at 20booksto50k Vegas last year in 2019.


Also, just by chance, my friend Sarah also wrote a post on her blog a few days ago about her own struggles with perfection, and you can find it here: https://sarahkrewis.com/survivingperfectionisminwriting/


Using the pandemic to sell books: a short discussion.

The Six Figure Authors podcast interviewed Alex Newton of K-lytics for their most recent podcast. I love Alex and his data. I’ve talked about him before on the blog. He scrapes Amazon and publishes his findings on genre trends for indies. He sells a lot of his studies, but he also gives out a lot of free information during his talks.

His talk on the podcast was about reading habits during COVID-19. Knowing what is selling is good for us indies because if we have books in those categories, we can amp up our ads, right?

A lot of people question the ethics of this practice. Taking advantage of the pandemic to sell books. But are we?

I think using an ad like this:

might be a little tasteless because while people are at home because they have to be, they might not be in the right mindset to settle in with a book. We can’t ignore the real issues of people on unemployment, or the people with anxiety who have to go to work and are worried that they’re going to bring home the virus to their loved ones.

On the other hand, you could argue that since people ARE staying home, that supplying the demand isn’t unethical, it’s just good business.

When the pandemic first started and we were ordered to shelter in place, a lot of my FB groups discussed this. Some authors even turned off their ads because they didn’t want to be viewed as taking advantage of the situation.

But the fact is, with people staying home, if they really are reading more ebooks because Barnes and Noble is closed, or Amazon wasn’t/isn’t prioritizing shipping on physical books, who is it going to hurt to keep your ads going? You aren’t raising your prices, you aren’t ripping people off, or trying to, anyway. Doing a promotion on a book in a genre that’s selling I feel is just good business sense.

Now, you might write in a genre that has fallen to the wayside and maybe you don’t feel that marketing your books would do much good right now, and you may be right. But you don’t necessarily have to blame the pandemic, either. All genres, subgenres, tropes, and trends have their day in the spotlight, pandemic or not, and those books might always take a little more push to make sales.

Anyway, I haven’t done anything to my ads outside of turning off the ones that were losing money. The pandemic doesn’t seem like it has done much to my marketing attempts. One of the best things I ever did was swap out my cover for The Years Between Us and that had nothing to do with the pandemic.

At any rate, if you want to watch Alex’s talk (and I recommend you watch it as he throws up a graph or two once in a while) you can watch it here and come to your own conclusions. For me, I’ve been too busy to put up more ads, trying to get through my backlist checklist and start on my first person books again. But it might be advantageous for me to do so.

Let me know your thoughts!

Pointing fingers: Who’s fault is a bad book?

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Taken from Stephenie’s website, stepheniemeyer.com

There was a lot of hoopla on writer Twitter last week when Stephenie Meyer announced that she would be finally releasing Midnight SunTwilight only from Edward’s point of view. Twelve years ago, halfway through writing it, someone leaked it, and heartbroken, Stephanie didn’t finish it letting the half-done manuscript sit on her website.

The vitriol on Writer Twitter started immediately. I even saw someone make a parody of the cover of Midnight Sun which features a pomegranate. In the parody, the designer used a peeled banana. It didn’t take me long to get sick of the scathing remarks.

Coincidence, or maybe not, I saw on Instagram that E L James is starting to write the last 50 Shades book from Christian’s point of view.

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And a few days ago, someone on Twitter posted a poll: Who is the worst best-selling author among Ken Follett, Nicholas Sparks, and Dan Brown. It was an unnecessary and meaningless post. I told her so, and we got into a little catfight until ultimately she told me to grow up. I found that funny because I wasn’t the one tearing down best-selling authors in public.

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But all this mud opinion slinging, all these disparaging remarks, begs a question: whose fault is a bad book?

It’s easy to pin in it on the author. Readers take passages from a book to make fun of it, they make gagging noises when reading the Look Inside of a book on Amazon, they live tweet their reactions to books hoping to start a mob of dislike. (Public Twitter shaming is big in YA, especially if the topic of racism/race is involved.)

Is it always the author’s fault when a bad book is published?

In the indie world, it sure is. Whether indies don’t hire an editor because they can’t afford it, or don’t think they need one, or they hire one then ignore everything that editor says because it’s “their book and they can do what they want,” when an indie self-publishes, everything from cover to cover is their responsibility.

Some say it’s not really fair. Finding resources, resources that are affordable and trustworthy, is hard. I totally get that and it’s why I’ve stopped reviewing indie books. Sometimes no matter how hard an author tries, their book isn’t going to be good enough. When it comes to Stephenie Meyer or E L James, their best obviously wasn’t good enough for some people, either.

Though, when an author gets picked up by an agent, when that agent sells work to a publishing house who employs several editors, when does the responsibility shift from author to publishing house? Is there no differentiation? When you publish a book, your name is on it. It belongs to you. You’re responsible for the outcome, good or bad, and I guess when you’re a reader, you don’t stop to consider that a “bad,” traditionally-published book has been looked at by probably close to five sets of eyes–one belonging to an agent who deemed it sellable in the first place. Twilight was actually found a slush pile by agent assistant at Writers House who passed it along to a senior agent, Jodie Reamer.

If you get picked up by an agent, and she sells it, and an editor edits it, the house publishes it and puts a few thousand dollars at marketing it, are you that remiss in thinking that your book is good or that you’re a decent writer? Agents are gatekeepers after all, and it’s why some writers still query and never self-publish even if they never find an agent. They need the validation. They need to be told their writing is good.

And all these musings beg another question: When an agent, editor, publishing house says an author is a great writer, but the readers say she is not, who is correct? The house who pays the author an advance, or the readers on Twitter who tweets live what a piece of shit it is?

Is it the author’s fault they believe the agent, the editor, and the publishing house? Of course not. Is it the author’s fault the editor skimped on edits and pushed the book out to meet reader demand and take advantage of social media momentum like in the case of 50 Shades of Grey? I don’t think so.

So why all the finger pointing at the author when the book is taken out of their hands?

I mean, do you think E L James’s editor pulled her aside and told her to join a writing critique group? Probably not. Erika didn’t have time anyway, she was too busy rolling in money and watching Jamie Dornan strip on set.

The thing is, as writers, we’re bound to get better. I read The Mister and it was definitely a change from 50 Shades. She got better. Now, we’ll probably never know if she took some creative writing classes or read some craft books, or if that time around her editor took more time with her and The Mister went through more rounds of edits than 50 Shades.

I tell indies on my blog and on Twitter all the time–it’s not your editor’s responsibility to teach you how to write. If you get a 1,000 dollar editing bill from a copy editor, you’d be better off investing in two English/creative writing classes. Which do you think is the better investment? The classes that could help you for your entire career, or the edits from one book?

If you’re an indie and your editor highlights every single sentence because of grammar, punctuation, or it simply doesn’t make sense, you need to take the future of your writing into your own hands. Not every writer is going to have an MFA, but if you don’t understand tension, conflict, stakes, plot, and character arcs, you best figure it out or you’re always going to have problems and your books will never sell.

That’s a big difference between bestselling authors who use too many adverbs and an indie who doesn’t know how to plot–story. Stephenie’s and Erika’s agents knew a good story when they read one, and so did their publishing houses, and most importantly, so did their readers.

Maybe it’s not fair of me to blame an indie for their weaknesses and not a traditionally published author. In the case of a “bad” book, though, it’s not an author’s fault if their agent and editor tell them that their book is good. Those people are supposed to be in the know–and they didn’t end up wrong–numbers of copies sold proves that.

As Grace Metalious said of her runaway bestseller Peyton Place, “If I’m a lousy writer, a hell of a lot of people have lousy taste.” A sentiment I’m sure E L James shares, and a sentiment that brings the literary versus commercial fiction argument full circle.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily

If books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are so offensive because of sparkling vampires, horny main characters, and typos so abundant that even the free version of Grammarly would meet its match, why do so many people read them? In one of my tweets to the writer with the poll, I told her she can read who she likes. No one is forcing her to read Nicholas Sparks.

There are a lot of ways a book can be “bad.” The story can be well-written but more boring than hell. The author may not know her grammar and punctuation, or subject-verb agreement, or maybe she has a crutch word issue like the girl from Tik Tok pointed out making fun of Stephenie’s use of the word “chuckled.” (An editing failure, in my opinion.)

We all aspire to write “good” well-written novels and we chafe when we do so (or we think we have) and we’re not recognized. That’s luck and what’s hitting the market at any particular time, and you’e not proving anything to anyone showing off sour grapes because an author you deemed “not worthy” has found that luck and niche in the market.

What can you do besides wasting time with useless polls?

Work on your craft. Read books that won’t offend your high-society taste. Query your heart out or learn marketing because, honey, that’s the only way your book will see the light of day.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily-2

So, who’s fault is a bad book? I suppose after such a long blog post hashing out the question, we can determine there are no bad books written, only bad matches between book and reader. The only difference is some readers are more vocal about their unhappiness and some aren’t.

I wish Writer Twitter weren’t so vocal about it. It’s not like a lot of those writers have anything to brag about. Sometimes I find the reader who complains the loudest is only making themselves feel better because their books fall into the same camp they’re trashing online.

I wish Stephenie all the success in the world with Midnight Sun. And I hope Erika’s critics never stop her from writing.

There are books out there for everyone. Read what you like and leave the rest of us alone.


Resources I used for this blog post:

The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers


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Thursday musings: What I’ve completed, what’s next, and a small pet peeve.

Brown Photo Independence Day Twitter Post

Happy Thursday! It’s a rainy day here and I thought the picture was apt. I’m not having as much fun as they are, but that’s okay. Rainy days are good for writing, or in this case, catching you up on all that I’ve been doing.

I’m going to start with a something that has been bothering me a lot in the past couple days. All the writing groups on Facebook can provide an endless stream of fodder for any blogger, and the other day I took particular offense to one post. I won’t mention the group because I don’t to get kicked out, and I don’t want to mention the poster because maybe she didn’t know what she was doing (though I’m sure she did). At any rate, she posted something to the effect of, “Whew! I wrote two books this month! Now it’s time to relax and celebrate!”

Of course she got the obligatory congratulations, and there were some people who were a little down, because, hey, that announcement really sounds like something good. Who doesn’t want to be able to write two books a month?

The problem is, and I’m sure you know where I’m going with this is, what really is a “book?” How many words is that? You know me and my big mouth and my nosiness couldn’t leave it be and I asked her how many words she’d managed to write in a month’s time.

You know what? She didn’t answer me. It could be that she missed it. It could be she never checked that post again, because the whole point was to a brag in the guise of, “If I can do it, you can do it, too!” Or it could be she didn’t want to admit that she wrote two novellas that were about 25,000 words a piece.

Even if she did do that, it’s an accomplishment and I don’t want to take that away from her. But I think it shows complete lack of courtesy for the writers and authors in that group who struggle just to write a couple thousand words a week. Be proud of yourself, share your victories, but come on, be honest about it too. You’ll get more appreciation that way.

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This is why comparisonitis is a bad thing. You don’t know the real story. You don’t know what is really being accomplished. It could be she “wrote” 100,000 words–in dictation, and hired someone to transcribe it all. That sounds pretty cool, too, but not how the majority of us write. Be careful who you compare yourselves to. Get the real story, then mine their experiences for the real-life tips that can help you achieve your own level of success.


I took the feedback from comments on a different blog post, and I found a different photo for The Years Between Us. I think there were a few photographers who uploaded new stock photos on depositphotos.com because I had never seen this couple before, but they hit the nail on the head when it came to my characters.

After I changed out the cover and ordered a proof to make sure it looked good in print, too, I started running some ads using keywords from Publisher Rocket. The ads haven’t turned on yet, so I’m getting some impressions but not many. As I said in a previous blog post, a new cover, a fresh editing sweep, and a new blurb is the best I can do for this book. It could just be that I didn’t hit the mark, and it will never sell. That’s something I’m going to have to come to terms with, but at least I can say I gave this book my all.

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I’m not going to write it off just yet. I can bid very low and continuously run ads to it, as impressions are free and running ads as long as they don’t cost you money without return never hurts. I’ll keep you posted.


I am using COVID-19 and the #stayathome order to still go back and get some messy housekeeping done.

Yesterday I went on IngramsSpark and uploaded new insides and uploaded new covers for some of my books. I have this thing where my books need to be the same everywhere, and even though dealing with IngramSpark can be a pain, and I did three out of six books. I’ll wait to make sure they go through then do the other three. They do not have the online previewer that KDP does, so you can upload your files, but you won’t know if they pass until someone from Ingram looks them over. At least with the KDP previewer you have an idea if the file is going to be approved, or if you see a mistake you can fix it before submitting. Ingram did make some changes to their website and it’s more user friendly, but it still doesn’t work the way I wish it did.

I did my standalones, next I’ll do my Tower City trilogy. When those are all uploaded and approved, I’ll publish my Rocky Point Wedding Series there. I haven’t done that yet, though I did not select expanded distribution on Amazon. I do like seeing my paperbacks other places even if they’re not selling.

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And please keep in mind for anyone who does not know, you have to be listed in the IngramSpark catalogue for someone to walk into Barnes and Noble and ask them to order your paperback. They will not purchase a book from Amazon. You may approach the manager of your local Barnes and Noble and see if they will carry your book on consignment and then bring in your author copies from Amazon, but you’ll look more professional if you say your book is available through the IngramSpark catalogue. It is a pain dealing with them, but they will list your paperback book on all the marketplaces. You do have to buy your own ISBN though. IngramSpark won’t take the free one Amazon gives you if you go that route.

Robin Cutler is the director of the indie side of Ingram, and she did a wonderful interview with Craig Martelle in the 20booksto50k group! Take a few minutes to give it a listen. There’s some really great advice there if you’re interested.


I wanted to add a little bonus content to my Tower City trilogy. After I edited the books again (took out some telling, smoothed out the writing) I wanted to add a little something to the boxed set. I intended to write a novelette, but it turned into a 29k novella. I’ve been writing that for the past few days (ten to be exact, ahem) and I’ll spend the weekend cleaning it up and putting together a new boxed set with extra novella. Then I’ll run some ads to it and see if I can’t get some page reads. I said in a previous blog post I didn’t think my books were worth selling, and I feel better now that I’ve given them a read through and corrected a few typos and small inconsistencies. I haven’t looked at those books since I published them, and going at them with a fresh eye was beneficial.


That is all the news I have to share–unless you want a quick update on my ads.

I lost 14 dollars for the month of April with a spend of $180.97 and royalties across all my books of $166.92.  I turned off my big spenders to see if my KU page reads would eat up the difference. Not so much, but I’ve operated in the red before. Obviously the main goal is making money, but at this point I’ll be happy to break even. It’s cool. Still learning, still playing. Going forward I won’t bid so much and hopefully lower cost per click.

I’m up for the month of May, with an ad spend so far of $41.16 and estimated royalties of $78.73. I only have two ads going right now for All of Nothing, still my biggest earner. I put up some fresh ones for The Years Between Us, but nothing to write home about yet, and Wherever He Goes is DOA. Not sure what I can do to revive that either. His Frozen Heart is going okay, and I’ll run a promo later after the last book in the series releases at the end of this month. As I said, it was an ill-timed release, so maybe a Christmas in July type thing. We’ll see.

I really will shut up now since I talked your ears off. I hope all of you are having productive days and weeks, as it seems this may not get back to normal until the fall, and maybe not even then. It’s hard to keep your head in the game, but every little bit helps!

Until next time!

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Ebook explosion 2020

2020 indie publishing predictions

We’ve reached the end of Written Word Media’s 2020 predictions. So far we’ve talked about audiobooks, author collaboration on marketing and writing projects, the organic reach that is diminishing and ways to find it again, and the necessity of running ads. We’ve explored what would happen if the big five started using KU.

I’ll be ending the series now as the COVID-19 virus has a lot of us on edge (and frankly, tired of being at home), and some writers aren’t writing much now, instead focusing on the day to day just to stay sane. It’s difficult to write when you’re worried, so I’ll hit on one more point to round out the prediction series and wrap it up until the next wave in 2021.

The next prediction that WWM goes into is that the e-book market will grow even more

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

in 2020.

When you think that over 2,000 books are published every month, it’s crazy to think that it could grow even more than that. As publishing a book gets easier and easier, and faster and faster, the number may rise, but the quality probably won’t. This presents two problems: one, you have to fight to be seen and two, you have to fight to be seen through crap.

The article goes on to say that e-book readers are younger, which is a good thing for authors who write YA and coming of age/college fiction. It used to be a struggle for authors of those genres to be seen in an online presence only able to only reach those readers through a traditional publishing channel (paperbacks and brick and mortar stores), but when teens are reading on their phones it gives authors of those genres a reachable audience.

But like all the rest of the predictions indicate, writing good books and publishing frequently will help you find readers.

There’s not much to this prediction – it’s almost a given — but it does make discoverability harder, no matter what genre you write in. The article suggests not getting distracted by shiny objects, but hopefully a writer with his or her eye on the prize has been avoiding temptation already.

In that vein, you have to think of publishing as a lifelong endeavor. I’ve listened to podcasts and read articles about 2020 predictions and discussions looking back at the past 10 years.

A good one is Joanna Penn talking with Orna Ross from the Alliance of Independent Authors, and you can watch/listen to it here:

One thing that has kept popping up was how many authors have disappeared. The indie “gold rush” such as it was started with the invention of the Kindle in 2010 and writers like Lindsay Buroker and Joanna Penn were there at the start. Both have commented that quite a few writers they knew 10 years ago have dropped out and have never been seen again. I’ve only been publishing for four years, and even in that short amount of time people have come and people have gone.

You can take a couple things from this. Of the 2,000 to 3,000 books published every month, some, maybe most, of those authors are one and done. Of course you don’t want to feel good because of another’s misfortune or bad luck, but let’s say those authors only had one book in them, or they thought publishing would be a different experience from what they had. Maybe they thought they would get rich quick and slunk away when their booked debuted at 300,000 in the Kindle Store and was buried, never to be seen again. Those authors aren’t competition for long, but unfortunately, there will always be more to take their place.

If you can publish a few times a year, build a backlist a potential reader can see looking your author page, you’ll be ahead of the curve just by sticking around.

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Photo by Malte luk on Pexels.com

2020 started a new decade and we don’t know what the next 10 years in publishing will bring. What does your next 10 years look like? Five years? Are you still in the game or did you come in like a sparkler only to fizzle and die out?

My goal is to make it. I want to work on discoverability; writing and publishing isn’t a problem. If you read my blog on a semi-regular basis you know I’d rather write with my free time over anything else. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Twenty-five years ago I majored in English and creative writing. Books are in my blood.

The e-book market will grow and continue to do so beyond this year. It’s the easiest way to publish a book. But it will be the ones who stick around that will cut through the noise.

What will this new decade bring to you?

Thanks for sticking with me through these predictions. I’ve always been interested in the evolution of the publishing industry. If you want to read a good book about the industry, and how Amazon has impacted it, more specifically, read  The Book Business: What Everyone Needs to Know by Mike Shatzkin and Robert Paris Riger.

And you can listen to Mike’s podcast interview with Joanna Penn, here:

Thanks for reading and stay safe and healthy!


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Scammers Gonna Scam

 

2020 indie publishing predictionsI’ve fallen a bit behind with the 2020 predictions published by Written Word Media at the beginning of this year. I try to always finish what I start and I wanted to at least end this series even if half the year has already gone by and maybe no one really cares what’s going on because we’re dealing with bigger things right now.

I’ve forgotten where we are when it comes to the numbering of this series, but we’ll keep going.

Another prediction that Written Word Media predicts is that scammers are going to become even more prevalent as the the industry grows.

There will always be scammers. From the big guys who ask $10,000 to publish your book to the jerk who charges $25 to use a free photo and slap some text on it to make a book cover, someone is always looking to take advantage of someone else.

This is the part of the in the industry that I despise. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not online getting bent out of shape about something. I’m a member of lots of groups on Facebook and every day there’s someone who posts, “My client asked for XYZ for their book and I don’t know how to do that.”

This bothers me on two levels: 1) these guys are charging for a service they don’t know how to provide. If you don’t know how to do something like hell you should be charging for it. And 2) they’re asking the group to do the work. You have the audacity to charge for a service you are not qualified to provide then you ask someone else for the answer.

A case in point: Lots of people have started a formatting service using Vellum. Fine. Whatever you want to do, but if you are going to charge for your time and “expertise” the least you could do is look up answers for yourself. I’m not the one getting paid to answer your questions.

Another thing I can’t stand is all the crappy book covers for sale. Buying a book cover from a shady designer will get you into trouble. If they steal artwork, or use photos not available for commercial use, or they use fonts not available for commercial use, that is all on you – your name is on that book.

There are scammers out there who have whole premade cover businesses made entirely on free images off Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay, put some text on it in Canva and sell it for $50 or $100 for paperback. Some of these people don’t know any better. They think anything online is fair game, but some just want to make a quick buck off a new indie author who is excited they wrote a book and want to publish it.

These guys are dangerous. Trusting them is stupid, and with a couple of hours of practice in Canva you can do for free what they are charging for.

Another place where scamming has become popular is editing. You need an editor to proof or edit your book and you have a ton of offers when you ask around on Twitter. A lot of people who edit charge way more than their experience allows, or they shouldn’t be editing at all.

There’s a guy on Twitter who wanted to edit for me, for a fee, and I’m glad I never took him up on it. He published a book and it’s complete trash. If you’re going to solicit at least put out some quality work on your own or you’re going to look like a complete ass–not to mention look like an asshole–charging for a service you have no business telling people you can provide.

At any rate, those are only my pet peeves. The predictions article is a bit more encompassing.

Don’t pay someone to publish your book. Watch out for “small presses” where it’s just a guy living in his mom’s basement eating Cheetos and charging you to upload your book into KDP.

Learn how to do things on your own. Or network and develop a couple friendships and add them to your publishing team. Always ask for a sample and/or reviews and testimonials from other authors. Be responsible or you’ll pay $500 for an edit and your book will come back with typos and a million other things wrong with it.

There are legitimate people out there. Take your time in luck. And seriously, if you aren’t happy with what you get as a finished product, say something. If you find out you’ve been scammed, maybe you can file a claim with PayPal if that’s how you paid or ask your bank for a stop payment.

You can contact Writer Beware if you feel you have been scammed. There are resources to take assist you in legal action, and perhaps add the person who scammed to a list so they can’t scam anyone else. This is a wonderful resource provided by SFWA and you can  look at it here. Also, you can, and should, look at the list before you hire someone and make sure some else hasn’t reported them.

Your books are your business and responsibility. Take care and be careful. On the same token, don’t charge for a service you don’t have the skill or expertise to provide.


The article didn’t go into this kind of scammer but they are out there. One type are the writers who take advantage of Kindle Unlimited. Scammers like Chance Carter, who used to bookstuff and offer prizes to readers who would review the most.

Or the authors who will put blank spaces between paragraphs (making their book “longer”) to up their page read. In fact, I just read the look inside of a book like that a couple days ago. Sometimes this is ignorance–authors don’t know how to properly format a book. Most times it’s

intentional, trying to scam Amazon out of page reads. And hurts us. Kindle Unlimited Authors are paid out of a giant fund, and if those funds go to authors who haven’t earned the page reads, then they are stealing our royalties.

Another type of author scammer is the kind that uses click farms to get page reads. It was rumored that the writing duo/trio Alexa Riley used click farms for page reads to catapult them to the top of the charts. That was what I had heard in a romance group I’m in on Facebook. Upon looking up an article to link to this post, it seems they were banned from Amazon for bookstuffing, but it could be they were also using click farms for page reads.

Another author said they were plagiarizing and using ghostwriters to publish their books faster. Whatever is true, and whatever is not, Amazon took their books down for violating terms of service and/or using their account illegally.

David Gaughran likes to keep track of these “black hat” authors as he calls them, but he doesn’t publicly denounce them. Lots of us want to know who they are so we can avoid them, not work with them, etc. But as he states, there does come a risk when pointing fingers and sometimes it’s best just not to say anything at all.

The point I’m trying to make is that scammers can be on both sides of publishing. Yes there are people who offer services and charge exorbitant prices for those services, when they do not have the skills required to offer any type of services at all. And then there are the authors who think they can make a quick buck or two scamming Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, and therefore, their fellow authors.

It’s too bad that an industry can be so riddled with people who would do anything to make a bit of cash. (And sometimes it’s a lot more than a bit. A top selling book on Amazon has the potential to make thousands of dollars a month.)

The one thing you can remember is that authors like Chance Carter and Alexa Riley, even Faleena Hopkins, do end up getting theirs. I’ve heard that Chance has tried to come back under different pen names such as Abby Weeks, and Amazon has blocked those as well. Alexa Riley may end up coming back too. She could already be out there writing books under a different pen name. It’s difficult keeping track of these authors when you are trying to build your own business.

Scams will continue to pop up as the article suggests. They aren’t going to go away.

As an author who requires services, be careful who you hire.

If you’re an author who needs to supplement their income by offering services, make sure you know what you’re doing and that you’re earning your fees ethically.

And for the love of God, don’t try to earn a quick buck with your books. Even a simple question like “Can I publish a book in KU but put a different version wide?” will put you into scammer territory. (This is a real question I’ve seen posted to try to take advantage of being in KU but also being able to sell her books wide. The answer is no.)

I fell down the rabbit hole looking up what Chance Carter, Faleena Hopkins, Alexa Riley, Cassandra Dee and others have done. There’s not much recent, a lot of it comes between 2015-2019, but it’s interesting reading all the same. I’ll add some links below if you, too, don’t have anything else to do today besides read what kinds of things authors will do to make it to the top of the charts.

It’s fun, y’all. 

This isn’t going away. Keep your eyes open, and your white hat on.

Want to read more about Chance, Alexa, Faleena, Madison Faye? Here are some links I skimmed to write this post:

#BOOKSTUFFING AND WHY IT MATTERS

Kindle Unlimited – A Cheater Magnet

An interesting Twitter thread from two years ago:
https://twitter.com/CAlmeidaAuthor/status/1002942665019846656

More by David Gaughran: https://davidgaughran.com/2018/06/10/cassandra-dee-mosaic-book-stuffing/

Reactions to the Amazon Clickfarming Scandal

BAD ROMANCE To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm


We have one or two more blog posts to finish up this series. Next up, a prediction that ebooks will continue to be grow and be the top way indies make their money.

See you there!