Monday Madness and Creating a Community Around Your Books

I had a huge post about how ticked off I was at Facebook for restricting my page and turning off the ad to my reader magnet (Bookfunnel link) because I wasn’t following community guidelines (with their bots and lack of communication, I still have no idea what I supposedly did), but during that 24 hours, I appealed and uploaded my photo ID like they requested, and they lifted the restriction on my page and turned my ad back on. It rendered the vent in my blog drafts completely useless, but I’d rather have a useless blog post than a restricted page. I need my page. I need to be able to run ads. So I will just say thank goodness that time was the only thing wasted.

I’m at 103 subscribers now, (squee!) and I’ve had 118 claims on my book so far (with 291 clicks, so a little less than half are taking action). Yes, I’m paying ($27.00 at the moment) and I think I’ll turn it off when I reach $50.00, maybe $40.00 depending on how things go). My click spend is only 9 cents which is pretty good as far as I can tell, but this was just a small thing to get the word out, and I’ll probably run another ad when Captivated by Her is live. Even though I have a tiny bit of money to play around with, I don’t want to blow through it too fast, and there are other ways to build my list without ads. Besides the welcome email they receive when they sign up, I haven’t sent out another, and I’m looking forward to that in the next week or so. I would like to send one before my release so they aren’t hit with a “buy my book” email as the second email they get from me.

But anyway, my anger wasn’t 100% warranted (I had no idea they would help me so fast), though when I set up my ads campaign at the beginning, it would have been nice if they’d asked me for my ID first. I’m running a business, using their business to help me, and I have no problem with providing them with what they need. I just wish they weren’t so heavy-handed with the way they do things.

In the meantime, I ordered two more proofs of Captivated by Her and Addicted to Her just to make sure the changes I made to the covers turned out okay. I flipped through both books and found just a couple of tiny things to change which required me to upload new interior files, too, but I think they are going to look as good as I can get them without going crazy. I should be able to put my pre-order up for book one sooner than I thought, though waiting for June sometime while my FB ad runs a little longer while I get as many newsletter signups as I can is also an option.

This ties in really well with what I’ve been thinking about lately. I don’t read a lot of romance–I’m busy writing it instead–but I realize that an author can’t be part of the {insert genre here} community unless you know what’s going on with your peers and in the industry. I realized this, and anyone who doesn’t know what kind of content they should put in their newsletter or on social media, realizes this, too. You can’t talk about or recommend other authors, other books, romance movies, or anything else if you aren’t consuming that content. If you don’t know what to post in your newsletter, you aren’t dialed in enough. A newsletter is for news. News about you and your books, for sure, but also news about what you’re reading, what you’re watching, information that you think your readers will appreciate because you’re building a community of friends around the genre you like to read and write.

I do this with this blog. If I didn’t keep up to date for my own personal knowledge, I would never have anything to share with you. I keep up to date because it helps me with my own publishing endeavors and then I pass along what I find useful to you.

There’s no reason not to be able to do this with fiction. When the second season of Bridgerton dropped on Netflix, every romance reader known to man, even if they didn’t read historical romance, stopped right in the middle of what they were doing and sat down and binged. Because you know what happened if you didn’t? You missed out on all of the conversations that sprang up on social media. You were in the dark. You didn’t understand the outrage caused by a more chaste season, and you couldn’t weigh in on what you thought about their on-screen chemistry.

Taken from: https://www.tvinsider.com/1041720/bridgerton-season-2-storms-to-the-top-of-streaming-rankings/

Another example of this is The Lost City, a movie that came out not long ago with Sandra Bullock. I couldn’t see it in the theatre because I was recuperating from my surgery (and my sister didn’t want to see it, but don’t tell her I told you).

I’ll have to wait and stream it when it’s available, and I’ll be so late to the party everyone will already be nursing a hangover by the time I crack open my first bottle of wine. Being late doesn’t matter so much, as you can always say… “OMG! I just saw… can you believe it?!” and get the conversational ball rolling that way.

Another example I have is when Netflix dropped 365, a movie, I guess, based off a steamy romance book. I should know this. This is my forte. The second I get my words in for the day, I should be gobbling this stuff up! I’m so late to this party, there’s already a part two!

There’s nothing more heady than being able to join in with a group of people who have the same likes you do and find friends to share those things with. (You know how a lot of authors say they find their beta readers and ARC reviewers through their reader groups? This is what I’m talking about. Your readers become more than your readers because you share the same interests and you grow close to each other over time.)

It probably won’t help when I say that building a platform is like making friends because to us introverts, making friends is the scariest thing in the world, and something we aren’t good at. It requires opening up a little bit, sharing things about ourselves, and there’s always a risk of rejection when we do that. On the other hand, maybe it’s not so scary if we can already approach people with things that we have in common. A lot of what making a friend entails is weeding through all the similarities and differences, and sometimes we find that the things that we don’t share in common outweigh what we do. Then the relationship fizzles out. When that happens, what’s the worst outcome? An unsubscribe? A potential reader won’t go on to buy your books? That’s okay. We don’t need fake friends in real life, and we don’t need to hang on to people who won’t read our books.

Trying to get a new pen name off the ground has required a lot of revelations and scrutiny into the past five years to see what I’ve been doing wrong, and figuring out what I’ve done right. That may be a different post. But anyway, how can you make friends through your newsletter and social media? More importantly, how can you make friends in your genre that will draw in readers who will stick with you throughout your career? What do you have to offer them? If you say not much, go read a book in your genre, go watch a movie you can recommend that has the same vibe as your book. See what happens.

Have a good week, everyone! Next week I’ll probably play with how to make a video and record doing one of my book covers. I’ve been getting a lot of requests on how to make a romance cover with only Canva and minimal skill, too. Here’s my latest one I did for the book I’m going to release in the fall. I may do a tutorial on how I did it.

Until next time!

Starting out with BookFunnel, and yeah, as always, Happy Monday!

Good morning! I don’t have any new goals except that I would like to finish listening to the second book in my Cedar Hill duet so I can format them and order the proofs from KDP. I’m going to take a break before proofing those and I probably will write the billionaire-wants-a-baby trope novel that’s been in my head for a little bit. I wasn’t going to, but I need something to do with my time. It was going to be a standalone, but my FMC has single friends, and I realized it would be a good start to a 5 book series, or so, though the rest of them will have to be put on the back burner for the time being. I’m still looking at an April release for book one of the duet, and I’m gathering information on launch plans and forming a tentative schedule for the first month of its release. Maybe I’ll blog about launch plan ideas for next week and give you some of the resources I’ve been checking out and my thoughts on them.

Today and I wanted to talk about BookFunnel. BookFunnel has been around for a long time as a book distributor and also a newsletter builder. I’ve heard a lot about BookFunnel in recent months, especially at the beginning of this year as we all look toward our new goals for the year and how we can better run our businesses. It’s not a secret that I’ve been talking about my newsletter on the blog, all the steps I’ve had to take to set up a newsletter through MailerLite, and my back and forth and back and forth with whether to offer a reader magnet or not. I did, in fact, decide to offer a newsletter magnet–one of my shorter (78k) standalones I was going to publish this year. Instead, I uploaded it to BookFunnel, and in my welcome email, I give readers the link they need to go to BookFunnel and download it.

When I was looking into setting up my account, I wanted to research how to do things on there before diving in. That’s just my way. Before I even opened Vellum (a formatting software) I watched hours of how-to videos so everything would look familiar. I hate stumbling around, not knowing what I’m doing. I watched this how-to video on Mark Dawson’s SPF channel on YouTube:

That was very helpful, and it talks you through initial set up. While I believe, like Elana Johnson, to begin as you wish to continue, I just signed up for the $20/year plan.

You can look here for what the plans offer. Ultimately, I’d like to go with the mid-list author plan as the $20.00 plan doesn’t collect email addresses if you send traffic directly to the download page. It creates an additional step for your reader as you have to send them to your newsletter sign up page and ask them to sign up before they have access to download your book. You can say it will weed out the freebie seekers, as if they do go through all the steps to sign up for your newsletter to have access to your free book, chances are they really like what you’re writing and will remain a lifelong fan. On the other hand, you want to make things as simple as possible, and well, extra clicks will always turn some people off.

I just pay so much for other writerly things right now that another $100.00/year on a pen name that I’m not sure will take off just seems a bit much. (My Office 365 subscription, Canva Pro, and my WordPress subscription come to mind off the top of my head.) I’m going to release a duet and a standalone this year (and possibly a Christmas novel in November/December if I can find some Christmas spirit) to get my feet wet, and I think that will be a good enough gauge to see if my books are going to resonate with readers. I can upgrade at any time. Probably the most inconvenient thing about choosing the cheaper plan is that you can’t run a Facebook ad to your reader magnet. A lot of authors I know will run FB ads to their BookFunnel download page and let BookFunnel collect the reader’s email address for the newsletter signup before they can download the free content. BookDoggy will also promote your BookFunnel download link. Paying for newsletter signups is a bit controversial, but I’ve heard good things about running Facebook ads to your BookFunnel link to grow your mailing list. I just want to test out my books first to see if there’s even an audience there before spending more money. I’ll have my newsletter sign up in the backs of my books, the cover of the reader magnet, and the blurb to entice readers to sign up.

The downloading page is beautiful. Here’s the page to my reader magnet:

The landing page displays the entire blurb, but this is what it looks like before you scroll down. I’m not going to share the link with you, but I do offer a short story, and I’ll share that link with you now.

I had an idea for what to do with a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago. It doesn’t have a happy ending, doesn’t fit in with the brand I’m trying to create for myself, and I had no idea what to do with it. It sat in a notebook for a long time, and when I was writing the second book of my duet, I had an idea of what to use it for. In my second book, Talia, my FMC, gives her email address to Beau, the MMC. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid and there was a phone number in the book I was reading, I dialed it. If only to hear the “That number is not in service, please check the number and dial again” recording. I’ve always been curious, always wanting to know what, where, when and why (and the name of the dog), and I’m still like that. It drives my kids and sister crazy. Anyway, when Talia gives her email address to Beau, I thought, what if someone emailed that address and what if Talia responded? It’s a fun Easter egg probably no one will ever figure out, but if you email her address, you’ll receive an autoresponder message that thanks the reader for emailing, apologizes that she can’t get back to you personally, but as a thank you for emailing, please download a short story she had to write for English class (she’s in college in the book). I created an email address for her– taliajeanscott(at)gmail(dot)com –and set up a vacation autoresponder with the BookFunnel link inside it. Was it a lot of work probably for nothing, yes. But I don’t think I would have bothered to do it if I hadn’t had the short story already written.

If you want to test out BookFunnel as a reader to see what your readers will get if you use it, you can download Talia’s short story as a demo. Be careful if you read it–it’s 5 chili peppers on the heat scale–which is another reason I felt I didn’t have anything to do with it. I write open-door sex scenes, but nothing like that short story that borders on erotica, I think. Anyway, here’s the link, and a picture of the landing page if you don’t care about downloading it: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/xwng7qjy2w

Yes, I had to format the short story with Vellum (another writerly purchase, but has earned back what I paid and much more), add the copyright page and author’s note in the back, and I created the book cover with Canva using a Deposit Photo stock photo. It probably was a whole lot of work for little gain, but it was something fun, so whatever. I’m not the first author to provide Easter eggs in their books, and these days, we’re all looking for a bit of an edge over the competition. Feel free to steal this from me, and if you do, I hope it works for you!


There are a lot of benefits to using BookFunnel, and I barely touched on any of them, mostly because I haven’t had the chance to try out everything they offer. I’ve heard a lot about how you should have your own newsletter built up before attempting to join any promos for building your list, and I”m not interested in using BF for that… yet. I would like to grow my list organically first, from the sign up link in the back of my books, though I know that could double or triple the time it will take for me to grow my list. But, that’s getting ahead of myself considering I don’t have even one person signed up for my newsletter yet. Hopefully that will change in April when I release my first book.

If you want to hear Damon Courtney talk about BookFunnel at the 20booksto50k Vegas conference last November, you can watch it here.


There’s not a whole lot going on for me besides just keeping on keeping on. I’m trying my best to remain optimistic, but with my impending release, that’s getting easier. I haven’t published for so long, it’s giving me something to look forward to. I didn’t remember how much work it is. No wonder I’ve spent the past two years burying my head in the sand and just writing.

I think that’s all I got for today. I hope you have a lovely week ahead!

Until next time!

Happy Monday! Creating a Logo for a Series and short author update.

Good morning and happy Monday! If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope you’re getting all your words down so you can take a (much needed) break around Thanksgiving if you celebrate!

I’d like to congratulate Barbara Avon for winning the fall gift basket I gave away in association with Nina Romano’s fabulous interview we did! Incidentally, I interviewed Barb last spring, and you can read her interview here.


I don’t have much going on for myself. My daughter’s birthday is this week (on the 18th) and we’ll be heading out to dinner to celebrate her turning the big sixteen. It makes me feel old to have a daughter that age, though I’ll be turning 47 on the 28th, and that really isn’t that bad. I haven’t spoken about it for a long time, but I’m still dealing with some girly issues. It’s been a long year. Luckily, I haven’t let how I’m feeling get in the way of writing, and I hit 78k on my latest novel. A friend asked me if I’m ever going to publish them, or if I’ll just hoard my books like a dragon guards his gold, but one day I’ll publish something. After the holidays, at least. I probably will be publishing without a reader magnet, but that’s a choice I’ll be making because I haven’t written anything I want to give away.


What I wanted talk about today is logos for series. I’ve been seeing so many of them lately, and I like looking at them and how they’re associated with the books. There are a few reasons why you would want to make a logo for your series, but you’d have to think about branding and how your covers are going to look before you publish book one. Indies are terrible at looking ahead (I know–I was one of them) but all it takes is a little pre-planning to make your series shine. Why do a logo?

It will make the reader aware the books are in the same series. If you have deep backlist, a logo will help separate one series from another. I say help, because your logo shouldn’t be the only thing to tie your series together. Take, for instance, Ivy Smoak’s gorgeous covers for her Empire High series. (Check them out here!) They all look similar, with the same font, stock photo model, and overall vibe.

Screen grab taken from Amazon

Here is a close up of her logo for the series. It might be a little pixelated–all I could do is take a screenshot of it and blow it up, but you get the idea.

It’s great for marketing purposes. It probably doesn’t need to be said that having a logo identifier is great for branding and marketing purposes. How? That’s the million dollar question everyone asks. How do you market? How do you promote your brand?

The first thing I thought of when doing this blog post was swag. Bookmarks are the go-to for authors and many of us turn our book covers into bookmarks to give away at events, or even just to leave in places like coffee shops. You never know who is going to pick up a bookmark and then go on to look up your book because of the hunky stock photo guy or book cover you used. But, I’m also thinking of using Dave Chesson’s QR code creator (it’s FREE). With his QR code creator, not only can you add a logo to to the code, but you can make the code go right to your Amazon series page or your Amazon Author page.

This is a poor and quick attempt to show you what I mean:

Of course, you can do better than this. It’s a very poor attempt to show you that you can match the logo on your book’s cover to the logo you can put in the center of the QR code. This is a cover I made up for one of my books while I was goofing around with concepts. It turns out it’s going to be book one of a six book series, and I only have two written right now. I’ll get back to those after I get all these standalones out of my system. But for now we’ll use the fake cover as an example. I made the bookmark in Canva (search bookmarks and they will give you a variety of templates), but VistaPrint is another great place to make bookmarks. I’ve seen their quality and they are a great resource for swag.

Another thing you can do with a logo is put it on all your graphics. Even if you don’t use ads, you can make graphics for your FB author page, Twitter, and Instagram. Here is something I whipped up for this blog post using Canva with my fake cover and the logo.

It can be clever identifier to what the books are about. The BBB for my logo isn’t a great example, but the ballet slippers that author Vivian Wood used is. We know right away her trilogy is going to be about dancers of some kind.

Taken from

It is a funny coincidence that our cover models are the same man–such is life in the life of a romance author with limited stock photos.

But this brings me to a really great point about logos. A lot of logos you will make for your covers are just going to be elements that you hunt up yourself unless your cover designer also makes them for you. Going on depositphoto.com and searching for vectors is probably the best way to find something you’re looking for, and I found a similar pair of ballet slippers Vivian used for her cover:

All it would take is a little know-how with GIMP or Photoshop to strip this pair of their sepia background and color the shoes gold to fit in with her color scheme. Like anything else you do with your cover, it’s best to buy your elements. In fact, this article from The Cover Counts says DepositPhotos is the ONLY place you should buy logo elements because different stock sites have different terms of service and vectors may not be allowed to be used a part of a logo.

When we talk about logos, we’re not talking about trademarking it as part of your official brand, author brand, or book brand. It’s more a part of your cover like the font you use than it is some of real legal value. Just like the guy above we both used as a cover model, there’s nothing that says an author can’t like your logo so much they want it as part of their own series and copy it. Indies are a pretty good group of people though, and I don’t hear of thievery like this very often, especially in romance author circles. But because we’re all limited by stock choices out there, one can only hope that an author’s or cover designer’s creativity will keep them from having to copy someone else.

How do you make a logo? It would be tempting to go into Canva and search logos and and alter one to suit your needs, but you should make your own with elements you purchase (please stay away from pixabay, unsplash, pexels, and other free sites) and use fonts that you have purchased or you know are free for commercial use. I’ve been thinking about the logo I’m going to make for the duet I’m currently writing, and my King’s Crossing 6-book series will definitely need one.

Canva is the easiest way to try a design, using their free elements, and then when you think you might have what you need, look to DepositPhotos and buy what you can find that will fit.

Most authors have an author logo, too, and I made one for my pen name. For now I’ve been placing the on the backs of my books in the empty bottom left hand corner of the cover. The cityscape theme matches the stock photo I use on my newsletter signup, and If I rebrand the author page on Facebook I have now, or start a new one, the cityscape can be part of the header too.

You can have a lot of fun with a logo for a series, and it’s great way to tie your books and covers together, and with splashing it everywhere, maybe you can build some brand awareness!


I don’t have much else today. It’s going to be a busy week, and I’m going to try to get this book done before Thanksgiving so I can rest a few days during the holiday. I still don’t have a plot for book two, but I left a lot of loose ends in book one (not for the couple, they’ll have their HEA) but book two is definitely needed now, and all I have to to do is figure out how to do it.

I’ll think of something.

Until next time!

Thoughts on video and why it’s not my go-to marketing tool.

So, funny thing. I thought I already published this! Then I saw it in my drafts, and I must have forgotten I didn’t schedule it. Since I have more time sensitive material for a different post, this is going out three weeks later than I initially thought, and I’m sorry for the Monday I missed when I thought this went out!


There’s a lot of talk about video for book marketing these days, and if you’ve heard conversations about TikTok and the news that Instagram is going to be more video-focused to compete with the newish platform, then you’ve maybe thought that you should give it a go, too.

I haven’t jumped on the TikTok bandwagon for a variety of reasons, and not just because I don’t particularly care to be in front of a camera. I’m 46 years old and it took me 46 years just to be reasonably comfortable being filmed and having my picture taken. A lot of it comes down to not having any f*cks to give, and what completes that pie is knowing that I look better than I have most of my life because I’m happy with where I’m at and don’t care what other people have to say about me.

On the other hand, I know I could lose weight, my old, crying cat keeps me up at night and if I don’t want to look like a zombie, I need a full face of makeup, and my hair is a limp mess if I don’t do anything with it. That sounds like a lot of work for a sixty-second video, and while people say you don’t have to look your best when you’re in front of the camera, I wouldn’t NOT want to look my best–especially if I’m talking about my books or promoting someone else’s.

And then we get into voice modulation (who wants to sound like a cow, dying or otherwise?), the background (my space is extremely small without a bare wall to be had anywhere), and background noise (see cat above).

It all seems to take too much time away from writing. I have very little patience with that at is it. I’m doing the cover for my first billionaire standalone and waiting for cover critique and blurb feedback makes me restless. I haven’t written new material in weeks (that makes me twitchy), but I just can’t with the amount of books I have on my computer right now. I have to start putting out material or I’m going to be so overwhelmed with the work it will take to put them out I’ll suffer from analysis paralysis and won’t do anything.

You can’t get away from video talk, and I’ve listened to some useful rooms in Clubhouse about TikTok and using video to stay in the algorithm’s good graces on other platforms. Whether or not I’ll try video remains to be seen. It’s not only putting my pretty big nose face in front of a camera, it’s also learning the platform you’re going to post on, and if need be, learning editing software (internal or external) to make your videos look like you know what you’re doing.

I’m not on TikTok, and I get annoyed with people who post their videos other places. I know it’s a timesaver to repurpose your content, but I’ve complained for years about people posting the same content everywhere. There’s no point in me following you on IG, Twitter, FB, and anywhere else you are if you’re going to post the same stuff–practically at the same time. I might as well follow you one place and open my time up for other things. I’ve muted accounts that do that, and I’m sure others do it too. Videos can be shared a lot of places, and I have no idea how useful it is to share your TikTok video on YouTube, FB, and Instagram. If you’re going to go viral (which sounds like a goal for most people) it would make more sense to let/encourage OTHERS share your video other places otherwise you just look spammy. I’ve seen Dea Poirier’s tweets lots of places, and not because she puts them there. She’s had viral tweets of her own and not once that I’ve seen is because she’s shared on every platform she can find. The true test of popularity is when others start to share your content.

This is one of Dea’s tweets I saw EVERYWHERE on FB after she tweeted it. In fact, it took me five seconds to find it searching murder recipe meme.

Anyway, I believe it’s better to find one or two platforms you enjoy (for me that would be this blog and Twitter) and focus your time and attention there instead of spreading yourself thin and offering mediocre content because your book is under deadline and you’re pressed for time. Maybe I gravitate toward my blog and Twitter because there isn’t much call for video on these platforms. I was talking with a friend the other day, and I told her I don’t like IG because of the toll it takes on my hands holding my phone. Holding my phone aggravates my carpal tunnel. I like things I can do on my computer and while I can post on IG on my laptop, I feel like I’m missing the point of the platform when I do that. You’re supposed to be experiencing the world and sharing those experiences with others–something I’m not very good at because when I’m out and about, besides taking a picture a drink or two when I’m with my sister, I try to stay off my phone.

I’m not good on social media–my Twitter engagement is abysmal, I haven’t posted to my FB author page in months, and on my personal FB page all I share are photos of raccoons. I don’t have much use for social media. I think I come across as prickly and hard to get to know. That’s me in real life as well. I’m a loner at heart and it takes a long time for me to warm up to someone. (Though the friends I have made on Twitter I’ve had since I joined in 2013.) It’s not an ideal way to be if you’re hoping to connect with thousands of readers, and I am trying to put myself out there more in my romance group and asking for feedback on my covers and blurbs. I’m also terrible at taking a hint. I have a few people on Twitter who RT everything, or like all my Tweets, and I never reciprocate. They want to interact because they like my content, and I need to be more mindful of the people who WANT to talk to me.

If you’re looking to get started in video, these tips I’ve gathered might be of use to you, too:

Look at what other people are doing. If you’re a romance writer, look at what other romance authors are doing. Study their viral videos. What made them pop? The music they chose? A new book they’re talking about? We don’t need to copy others, but pick up tips from other authors who are killing it. We do this with covers, with blurbs, even POV (switching from 3rd person to 1st) and we can learn from our peers in other ways, too.

Choose who you’re going to be. If you’re going to film yourself without makeup or your hair done, be okay with that, make your peace with it, and embrace it. I don’t know how beneficial it would be to look like a beauty queen for the first six months while you build and audience then all of a sudden “be yourself.” Be yourself from the start and then you can’t fall off that path.

Figure out what your platform is. Romance is easy–hunky cinnamon roll guys, swoony love stories. I’ve never been good with posting about romance, when it should be my number one go-to for any post. I should read it as much as I write it, and I should embrace all my book boyfriends–the ones I create and the ones I love to read about. How I would get that into videos that promote me as a romance author, I have no idea. I’ve kind of turned into a billionaire romance author, and if Jamie Dornan wants to come over and make out with me while I film it for TikTok, that would probably be a good start. He’s married though, so I doubt his wife would be on board.

Focus on one. If you want to do TikTok, make it a primary goal to build your platform there. Like any social media app, it takes interaction for some algorithm love, and not just by your fans. You have to comment, you have to reply to comments. That takes time and it will be easier to find the time if you just have one platform you need to worry about. If you already have a following on Instagram and want to start posting video there, then do that. But no matter where you post a video, remember it’s the books that are the most important. You don’t have anything to market if you’re not writing.

Look at your genre and where your audience is. TikTok feels younger, but is it? I don’t know. If you’re running Facebook Ads and they work for you, can you say your audience is older? A quick Google search says the average age of a Facebook user is 40 years old. Does that mean your audience is older? Maybe they aren’t on TikTok. If you write Young Adult, it might be a place to consider. If you’re writing “seasoned’ romance and your target audience is a divorced woman in her mid-fifties, it might not be the best place for you to spend your time. Doing some market research and figuring out where your audience is on social media will at least keep you from wasting time on a platform where your readers aren’t hanging out. Romance readers seem to be everywhere, which makes it hard for a romance author not to (want to be) be everywhere, too, but I can look up the top ten billionaire romance authors and if they aren’t on TikTok, that takes some of the pressure off.

Stay out of the author/writer community. For most authors, Twitter doesn’t sell books because we’re so deep into the #writingcommunity we can’t see straight. Unless you’re happy with a handful of sales for the lifespan of your book, other authors are not your readers. This is why Craig Martelle says it over and over again in the 20booksto50k group, it’s why in most FB author groups there is no self promo. Because the other members are not your readers. It’s going to be the same with TikTok and Instagram. Don’t tell other authors in your groups to follow you there, because your account will be following authors, and other authors will be following you. It’s really difficult to find that line in the sand and stay on the right side. Especially since we’re supposed to read in our genre, and I like to promote the romance books I’ve enjoyed. It will take more time to build a fanbase made up of readers, but it will be worth it in the end.


I don’t have many resources for this blog post. BookTok is still new and you will probably get the most out of joining the TikTok for Authors Facebook group. Clubhouse is now open to everyone (though I have 10 invites if you want to be personally invited into the app–DM me on Twitter), and there is a TikTok for Authors Club on there, too. You can join and listen in on conversations where they discuss what is working for them, and after a bit you might have a tip to share!

Search for the room in the app!

The last resource I have is a book I read a while ago when I was looking into getting video. Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss: How to Kill It Online with Video Blogging, has a lot of great advice when it comes to vlogging and those tips can help you at least feel comfortable in front of the camera.

Image taken from Amazon.

Getting comfortable and understanding your goals and the content you want to provide is half the battle when it comes to using video to promote your books. Consistency will help, and if you enjoy what you’re doing, that will come out in your videos too. I don’t know if I’ll ever get into video. It’s difficult not to jump into the next big thing when you want to market your books and feel like sales have stalled, but the one thing I can count on is writing the next book which is where you can always find me, no matter what kind of hot new platform comes along. Good luck!


I’ve been struggling with content for this blog for a little while–maybe that’s a good thing as it means the indie community is quiet. Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to still post four times a month, but my more informational blog posts on the first and third Monday of every month, and now that I’m back into publishing, a personal update on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. I think that will still provide my subscribers with the content they find helpful but it will take some of the pressure off me to keep my blog posts relevant. I still very much enjoy this blog and don’t plan to stop blogging, and who knows . . . maybe things will pick up once the summer is over and there will be more things to talk about again. Thanks for understanding!

It’s all about genre.

Happy Monday! It’s almost the end of July and then we have just a few more weeks of summer left! While fall is my favorite season (woodsmoke! crunching leaves! cooler weather!) I don’t like to rush my time along, and I’m going to make the most of August and the lazy days still ahead.


At any rate, I love being plugged into the indie industry, listening to what other top indies are doing, and where their heads are at right now. Mostly, at least last week while I was consuming information, it seemed the subject was choosing genre.

Choosing genre can be really hard for some writers, reluctant to settle on one thing for fear it will stifle their creativity, or they choose not to do it all together, claiming to be multi-genre authors with “something for everyone.” While I agree that we should write what we want to write so we never lose that spark of wanting to create, I’m still of a mindset that if we want readers to consume our work, then we need to figure out how to deliver that work into the hands of the people who will enjoy it most. A friend of mine writes in several genres, never publishes under a pen name and she spends a lot of time on Twitter directing readers to books she thinks they’ll enjoy. That’s great, and if she’s willing to network and “show people to their seats” like a theatre usher, then she should have at it. But while she’s curating her own library for her readers, when is she writing the next book? “Something for everyone” is hell on marketing.

I was listening to the Wish I’d Known Then Podcast for Authors with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett, and they interviewed guest Lee Strauss. I haven’t read any of Lee’s work (she doesn’t write a genre I read) but she had some great advice about choosing genre and figuring out what you like to write best through trial and error. (Hint: what you LOVE TO READ BEST is probably a good starting point for figuring out what you’d like to write best. And don’t @ me and say you read everything–I read widely as well, but if you take an honest survey of what you read, you’ll find a genre that tips the scales.) I commented on their FB page for their podcast that while this kind of information is great, the writers listening probably already know settling on a genre is the best way to go. Jami gentle corrected me and said you never know who will need to hear something like that. I agreed, but, on the other hand, a listener also has to be open to hearing the information, accepting it, and willing to apply it to their own careers.

Back when I started writing, if someone had told me to focus on one genre, I would have said, “But I am.” Little did I know that contemporary romance isn’t a genre. Contemporary romance is the ocean. Thriller is the ocean. Mystery is the ocean. Women’s fiction is the ocean. Drilled-down subgenre is a pond, a little pond where you can specialize in what you want to be known for to your readers. A duck can get lost in the ocean. Probably eaten by a shark. A duck is cute and safe in a pond. Lee’s interview proves my point–she settled into historical (1920s) cozy mystery. Can’t get any more drilled down than that.

If you want to listen to her interview here it is. She also goes a little bit into character attachment and what that means to a reader. I found it really interesting and may write a blog post about that another time.

I think talking about genre is interesting. There are so many people who think that choosing a genre will pigeon-hole them they refuse to do it, yet they try to query. Agents don’t want a book that’s a mix of three different genres. Your agent wants to see your book on a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble just as much as you do, and if you’ve ever gone into a bookstore, their shelves are still divided by genre. If you’ve got a romantic fantasy horror just waiting to get out, where is the manager of that Barnes and Noble going to stick your book? Romance? Fantasy? Horror? (Never mind what that cover is going to look like :P)

I like writing romance, I’m always shipping couples who don’t need to be shipped. I look for romance everywhere. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out that’s what I wanted to write, but when I say contemporary romance isn’t a genre, I mean it’s too big of a genre to write in, too many subgenres and tropes, and like my friend who writes everything, my readers have to pick through my books to figure out what they’re going to enjoy most. That’s not a way to keep readers and, while it isn’t difficult, doesn’t have the return on investment that it could.

I think we get a little confused because when we publish on Amazon, or Kobo, Nook, iBooks, Google Play, we no longer think of shelves. There aren’t any shelves in the Amazon store, no end caps featuring the latest deal or overstock stores want to get rid of. Because of this, browsing is a lot harder for a reader, and they need to search for what they like, such as Vigilante Justice, or Small Town Romance. Then, if you have your keywords and categories correct, your book will show up on the results page. But, you’re saying, you can genre-hop and this will still work.

It will. When someone wants small town romance, maybe my Rocky Point Wedding series will pop up. (Likely not since my books are old and they don’t have many reviews, rending me useless to Amazon.) But say they like your Women’s Divorce Fiction you wrote under the Women’s Fiction genre–and they want more Women’s Divorce Fiction. Oh, you only wrote the one book, too bad, and they move on. Chances are really really good that they might read another one of your books anyway, but if you had more Women’s Divorce Fiction for them to choose from, you just caught yourself a reader who will read your entire backlist. Think of your Amazon Author Page as a store, and your list of books as a shelf. Do they all fit on that shelf? My books fit in Contemporary Romance, but with a sports romance trilogy, enemies to lovers, age gap romance, close proximity, then a four-book small town romance series, you can kind of see why a reader would like to read my enemies to lovers then drop off from the rest of my backlist. They aren’t similar enough to hold a reader’s interest. I wanted to be like Nora Roberts–able to write everything. I’ll never be like her. Her career and mine will never be the same.

I can see why you’d be balking, even to me it sounds extremely limiting, but the secret is to choose a subgenre and then have fun with the tropes. I chose Billionaire Romance to start up my pen name, but I can do anything I want with tropes. Enemies to lovers, fake fiance, my brother’s girlfriend is off limits, even a little mystery suspense. I’ll grab every reader who wants billionaire and more importantly, keep them because they know that’s all I’ll offer them. Had I known that, maybe I would have focused all my other books on small town romance. I am from a small town, after all, but it actually wasn’t until recently that it occurred to me to even write to trope. After four years of writing, you’d think that would have clicked into my brain a long time ago, but like many new authors, I was just writing the stories as they came to me and assigning the genre/subgenre/trope after the book was written, if there was even a trope after all was said and done. My sports trilogy and my Rocky Point Wedding series don’t follow tropes very well. It’s no wonder the ten books I have out never really did anything. I didn’t have a direction. Maybe all those who wander are not lost, but my books now are out in the weeds and there’s no pulling them back.

As for readers of blog posts like this, and listeners of podcasts like Jami and Sara’s, and even writers and authors who watch YouTube videos by indie authors like Derek Murphy who extol the idea of writing to market and writing to trope, maybe you aren’t ready to do things this way. Maybe you never will be, content to be a theater usher using social media and marketing to direct readers to that one book in your backlist they’ll enjoy. That’s okay. I don’t think my friend will ever change how she does things–she says she enjoys writing whatever she wants. Maybe you enjoy the creative freedom so much that you’ll take worrying about where your readers will come from in exchange. Or maybe in a couple years you’ll think back on this post and realize you’re in the same spot you were in when you read this and you’ll be open to a new way of doing things. And maybe Jami is right after all–maybe there are writers out there who don’t know there’s a better way to do things.

If you want to watch Derek Murphy’s latest video, here it is:

For me, this kind of content is interesting. While I was listening to Lee, I kept nodding, smiling even, because what she found out, I too have found out the hard way by way of little traction and no audience.

If you’re interested in trying it my way, and the way of other indies who have built and audience and are making a livable income off their books, how can you start?

  1. Pick an ocean genre. Contemporary romance, thriller, women’s fiction. The biggest umbrella you can find. Because while I said most readers don’t hop around, some do, and this wide net will catch a lot of fish. But then–
  2. Choose a subgenre. Subgenres are not tropes. Subgenres are niches within the larger genre such as billionaire romance, small town romance, vigilante justice, hard-boiled detective, family saga.
  3. Then choose your tropes. You might think that Billionaire Romance is limiting, but I’ve written 11 books so far, and I haven’t run out of ideas yet. It’s kind of like the idea “free as a bird in a cage.” You have boundaries and you know what they are so you have more fun playing. If you feel safe, you’re more secure in your story, and your confidence will come out in your writing.

Of course, coming from me, it would make more of an impact if I could say, see, my Billionaire Romance has made me $100,000 this year (God, that would help me with so many worries!). Of course, I can’t, but you can take a look at any indie author making it to see they stuck to a certain subgenre and used familiar tropes in their writing to see that I’m not wrong.

As far as genre and subgenre and tropes as buzzwords, I guess they’ll always be around. No matter how much you want to brush them off for the sake of your creative freedom, they are there for reasons that may we not understand let alone want to accept. That will have to be a choice you make, and I wish you the best!

Here is a good list of Genres and Subgenres from Writer’s Digest. I can’t help but note what the start of the article says. 114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers

I didn’t find a list of subgenres or tropes for Women’s Fiction. Indie publishing has drawn hard lines when it comes to romance, something it took me a lot of time to discover. Women’s fiction is blurrier, but if you look women’s fiction authors, they still tie their books together, like Pamela Kelley and her Nantucket series, or Elizabeth Bromke and her family sagas. I did find a list of themes, and I think the article explains women’s fiction well and worth a read if that’s what you’re looking to write: Themes in Women’s Fiction


This is it for me this week. You can think of this blog post as filler, if you’d like, because I’ve blogged about this before (I hope it will be the last because I’m even starting to bore myself), but I’m spending the week in Georgia and my mind is already on vacation. I think genre, subgenre, and tropes are important though, they are the core of each book we write whether we want to admit it or not. Something clicked with me when I decided to write to trope, and maybe it will for you, too. Have a great week ahead!

6 Things I Learned While Creating my Newsletter through MailerLite

I did it. You can finally stop hearing about it . . . after this post. I took the time to watch a few YouTube tutorials and set up the sign up for my newsletter. As with anything when you’re diving into things you don’t know, you learn as you go and sometimes that means taking a step back before you can move forward. Here are a few things I had to figure out during the process. I hope maybe I can save you some headaches. Please check the resources at the end of this post–I’ll direct you to what helped me set this up.

Attach your name/pen name to the correct website. Way back when I was thinking about my newsletter, I didn’t have a pen name on the horizon, or maybe I did, but didn’t understand the technical side of creating a newsletter. When you set up an account through MailerLite you can’t run your newsletter through Gmail, Yahoo, etc and they ask for an email connected to a website. I bought an email account through this website vaniamargene.com and when I did that they assigned my email address as vania (at) vaniamargene.com. I thought that was fine and never thought any more about it. (If I had it to do over again, I would have used vaniarheaultauthor or something like that. I don’t know what possessed me to use my middle name, but here we are.) But now since I did decide to to use a pen name, VM Rheault, I noticed that since my MailerLite account is attached to this website, my emails are going to show up like this in the from field: VR Rheault from vania (at) vaniamargene.com. That’s not such a big deal because I’m not hiding who I am–I couldn’t put on a different persona full time, and I didn’t want to distance myself too much from my books because I’m proud of them and billionaire romance isn’t that different from the contemporary romance I used to write. This would have been a big setback had I chosen a completely different pen name. So if you’re looking to set up a newsletter, make sure the website and business email you choose is going to be connected to the newsletter and everything will be one name.

Think about branding before starting your newsletter. I didn’t think this was a big deal either until watching a couple YouTube videos and learning just what a landing page is and how you can customize it. Brand is such a vague concept to us authors anyway, but when I say brand in this context, you’ve already got the font down you’ll want to use for your author name, maybe a tagline. You know the genre you’re going to be writing under this name, and the images you choose will reflect that. This is my landing page and thank you page after they’ve signed up:

How my sign up page looks on a desktop.
How my sign up page looks on a cell phone.
The thank you page.

Billionaire romance is usually set in a huge city with penthouses, limos, elegant events, private planes, etc. This is where it’s important to know your genre and what readers are going to expect. Any reader who consumes billionaire romance is going to to be familiar and recognize the big city lights. (There is even a Big City fiction category on Amazon.) I make up all my big cities mainly because I’ve never been to New York and I would never be able to set my books there with any degree of believable detail. I’ve been to Chicago a handful of times and of course, Minneapolis/St. Paul and I can write the vibe of a big city but as far as landmarks and restaurants and famous hotels, not so much. It’s easier for me to make up cities and then I can do what I want. Anyway, I had to make this graphic on the fly, but luckily I had already decided what font I wanted for my author name (and it will go on the my book covers) and it didn’t take much searching through Deposit Photos for an appropriate skyline. This skyline will look nice on bookmarks if I ever wanted to make them, or magnets, business cards. I didn’t by the extended license, so I can’t sell anything, but swag I make using this graphic to give away will fit right into my brand.

You don’t need a website. I thought you needed at least a page on a website for sign ups, but that’s what your landing page through MailerLite is for. Once you create a landing page for your sign up, they give you a link that you post around social media and in the back matter of your books. The only reason you would need a website is if you wanted to add a pop up box for newsletter sign ups. This is good news for me as I didn’t really want to start a new website for my pen name, but I did add a page to this website where I’ll list all my books as I start to publish. To give credit where credit is due, a while back, Liz Durano told me I didn’t need to start a new website and because I had no idea what a landing page was, I didn’t understand what she meant. Now I do. You don’t need to spend time or money setting up a website, though if you’re going to write a lot of books under your name it may be better in the long run to have one. Eventually I’ll end up creating a new website for my VM Rheault books, but I won’t do it solely to have a pop up box for a newsletter.

Chances are you won’t need the business plan for your website, either. When I thought I needed to add the MailerLite plugin to my website, I upgraded my WordPress site for a whopping $200.00/year. That’s a lot of money to me, but I would have paid it out for the sake of my business. Then after I paid, I got a cute little notice saying that they would take away the follow button that allows people to follow me through the WordPress Reader. I’m going to be blogging on this website over anything else I do (I don’t try to sell my books on here anymore, not that I tried to do that so much anyway) and I wanted to keep the button. After I realized I didn’t need to integrate MailerLite with my WordPress website for sign ups, paying that was even harder to swallow. I contacted WordPress customer service through chat and they refunded me and put me back on the plan I had before–they give you 14 days to change your mind. When I get around to making another website for my books, I won’t pay for a business plan then, either. I’m so used to being directed to a landing page for email sign ups, that I’m sure everyone else is, too.

After you have the sign up link, it hits home that you need a reader magnet. When I created my sign up and the thank you page and created my welcome email they’ll receive upon signing up, I realized that you don’t have anywhere to put the link if you’re not giving anything away and you’re not publishing at the moment. Of course, I’ve heard the sign ups you want come from the links in the backs of your books, known as organic sign ups–your true fans. But you only get those when you’re publishing, and I’m working on my books right now. So I have the link but nowhere to put it, and no, I’m not giving it to you because chances are 99% you don’t read billionaire romance and don’t need to sign up for my newsletter. I need to work on my welcome email a little bit more, too. Make sure it sounds how I want it to sound and details what my books will be about and what readers can expect from me down the road. That being said, I need a reader magnet so I can at least put my link up on a site like BookFunnel and maybe join a promo or two for sign ups. Advertising your newsletter looks a lot more attractive if you can give something away, though I know you can be adding freebie seekers to your list. Maybe though, if they read your reader magnet, you will make them a fan. You won’t know until until you know. And by that I mean you won’t know until you release a book readers are expected to pay for.

The writing community is not your reader. You’ll figure this out when you tweet your newsletter link or put it in a post on Instagram. Other writers don’t care about your newsletter–at least if you’re writing fiction. I have subscribed to several non-fiction newsletters that pertain to indie publishing from authors like David Gaughran and Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur, but hey, guess what, I have never read any fiction by those authors. (Some indies are surprised to learn they write fiction at all.) Just like I consume anything Joanna Penn does for the indie author community, but I have never read one of her thrillers she writes under J. F. Penn. The only newsletter sign up link I would share here is if I wanted to start collecting emails for a potential non-fiction book. I don’t think I have anything to offer in way of a how-to book that you can’t find other places and I’m content to blog about my mistakes and successes. You’ll save yourself a lot of weeding down the road if you only give out your sign up link to readers of your genre. You may not grow your list as fast as if you gave out the link to everyone, but most newsletter aggregators charge you based on the number of sign ups you have, and if you’re paying for people to be on your list who are not going to buy your books, they are dead weight and will cost you money.

This begs the question though as to where you can put it, and here are my ideas:
Your Amazon Author Page. You can put the link in your bio.
Your Goodreads bio if they allow it. I tried to Google it but didn’t find any information. Never know until you try.
Add it to your FB author page and/or reader group.
Run ads from your FB author page for sign ups. This will probably only work if you have a reader magnet to give away and want to throw a little money at building your list. (Some advise against this so research for your own conclusions.)
Your books’ back matter.
Promo sites like BookFunnel and StoryOrigin if you use those services to build your list.


I didn’t realize how much I would need to know and while I was setting up my newsletter, it was one step forward and two steps back. Luckily, as I said, I already had an idea as to what I wanted to do with branding, and I was familiar with expectations of the billionaire genre. It’s probably not that big of a deal, you can always go back and change anything, but part of building a brand is brand awareness and for some subscribers, your landing page and thank you page will be their first impression of you.

There are other things I’m still going to have to learn as I begin to collect email addresses. Some authors split their lists between readers who signed up organically and readers who signed up for a freebie. Some have split their lists many different ways, and I don’t know if I’ll do that or how to, at this point. Curating my list and offering them content will be a continual learning process–at least until I’ve done it for a while. But even after publishing for four years, I don’t think you ever can really learn it all. Probably the one thing I can say I did right from the get-go is research the newsletter providers. I’ve heard good things about MailerLite and so fair their platform has been easy to navigate. Unless for some reason down the road I can’t afford them, and have to switch, I will probably always stay with them.

It might have been premature to do this now when I don’t have a reader magnet or book coming out, but I think the hard part is over–starting is always the scariest part.


Resources

I watched a few YouTube videos, and I learned quickly that there are a lot of differences between the paid and the free versions of MailerLite. I’m working with the free right now and this tutorial was the best I found. She uses a free plan and starts from the beginning:

MailerLite has their own academy but the tutorial starts with a paid plan–that’s not so helpful.

If you’re worried about the content part of it, Tammi Labrecque’s Newsletter Ninja gives you plenty of ideas. I already had the book, but Liz also recommended it in one of the comments here on the blog. It’s nice to know when something is helpful to more than one person. Tammi also runs a newsletter FB group, and you can find it here.

I made my graphic using Deposit Photos and a website template on Canva. The font I used for my author name is Cinzel and Cinzel Decorative. They are free and you can download it free for commercial use here. (They come in the same zip file so don’t worry if you can’t find the decorative part of the font. It’s included when you download the font.)

Okay, this blog post is super long. I’m going to call it, and see you next time!

Writing Themes: What do you want your books to say?

teal background with quote: if theme is the soul of a story, then characters are its beating heart by karen azinger

This isn’t really a craft post, more like a, “let’s dig into the messages of your writing and explore where they come from” post.

I listened to Lyz Kelley speak on Clubhouse the other night and she gave a really great talk on finding the messages in your stories and how you can build your brand and market your books off those themes.

Sometimes we don’t even recognize the themes we’re putting into our books until we go through our backlist and can pinpoint the themes and messages that have come up over and over again. Recognizing themes can help us when we have writer’s block and show us the way to new stories, plots, and character arcs.

Where do those themes come from?

Usually we put a little bit of ourselves into every one of our books. Our characters have our flaws and our dislikes and likes, or we give them stories that we wish we could have experienced in our own lives. When it comes to crafting characters we dig deep into our own emotional wells and create characters that are just as injured and damaged as we are. Sometimes they get a happy ending, such as if you’re writing romance, or sometimes they learn a life lesson that maybe you learn with them as they go along, like women’s fiction, or the hero’s journey in an epic fantasy.

What Lyz pointed out though, is that a lot of times our themes come from a trauma that we experienced, usually in our early teens. Unconsciously, that trauma pops up in our writing. When that happens frequently over the course of many books, you are finding the “why” of why you write. Not the generic why, such as you want to make readers happy or forget their problems for a while or give them a good beach read, but more of a deeper “why.” For example, for most of your life you’ve felt unloved and you want readers to know it’s possible to find love despite the odds.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Anyone who’s read my books knows that my characters have issues with their parents. They were abandoned, or their parents passed away when the character was small, or their parents are demanding and my characters scramble for parental approval. No matter what happened in the past with their parents, it affects who they are today, in their story. I write contemporary romance, so my characters’ relationships with their parents almost always affects their romantic relationships. Maybe if they were abandoned they don’t feel good enough to be loved, and that’s part of their character arc–learning they deserve love. Or they want approval and will do anything to get it, and that includes betraying their love interest or choosing their parent over the person they’re falling in love with.

teal background with quote: a very powerful theme is that of loss by alexander mccall smith

It’s easy to pinpoint my why: When I was fifteen I knew my parents weren’t going to make it. They fought all the time. I was an only child and my mother experienced severe empty nest syndrome. She went on to have two more kids (sisters I’m very close to despite our age differences), but that didn’t save their marriage. In fact, it made things worse, and because of this, I have never touched the “a baby will save our relationship” trope. My father started having an affair with a woman he met at church and my mother took my sisters and moved to Florida, where she was originally from. She was very angry when she asked me to move with her and I said no. I’d met the man who would become my husband and didn’t want to leave Minnesota. She didn’t talk to me for over a year.

Because of other reasons that I don’t need to get into here, I haven’t been on good terms with my dad for many many years and my mother passed away from breast cancer eleven years ago this month. To say I had a poor relationship with my parents is an understatement and that comes out in my writing.

I can use those themes in marketing and branding my work. When I was writing my 3rd person books, my tag line was “Find Home.” My characters didn’t feel like they had a home a lot of time because of their relationships with their parents–in their past and in their present–and when they fell in love, they found the acceptance and love they were looking for that didn’t come from their mom and/or dad. I still carry those themes with me while I’m writing my billionaire romances. In the story I’m writing now, my male character, Dominic, has a very sticky relationship with his parents. His mother has never loved him, and it’s part of the plot as he finds out why. Because he grew up without his mother’s love, he’s strived to earn his father’s all his life, even doing things that are against his moral compass because he knows his father will approve of them. Most of Dominic’s character arc is going to be realizing that his father’s love shouldn’t have to come at a price–and that price is the woman he’s falling in love with.

Knowing what kinds of themes and messages you use in your books can help you from repeating plots and backstories. Not every character is going to have mommy and daddy issues, and I need to make sure I explore other areas for my characters’ development.

When you’re struggling with finding your themes or messages you want to convey in your writing, take Lyz’s advice and think back to when you were younger and what happened that molded you into the person you are today.

teal background with quote: the feeling of being an outsider, an the identity theme, are hardwired into me. If there's anything really autobiographical in my fiction, it's that feeling. I always feel that way by dan chaon

It’s funny because depression hit me when I was about thirteen. Mental health awareness wasn’t as prevalent as it is today and my mom didn’t know where to go to get me help (okay fine; she didn’t even acknowledge I had a problem). I cut for ten years and tried to commit suicide three times. I say it’s funny because even though depression affected my life for many years, my characters do not struggle with depression. My relationships with my parents have more weight in my writing than my mental health. I wonder if it’s because I’m no longer depressed, yet I still feel guilty for the way I treated my mother and for not moving with her when she asked. I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had moved with her and not stayed in Minnesota. I’ll never know, but I put that melancholy and wistfulness into my writing.

So when you’re looking for themes or messages that you want to convey, look at your childhood. Maybe you didn’t have friends and now all your characters grapple with a friendship issue: they struggle to keep friends or their “friends” betray them. Maybe you have a disability and an event shaped your life and now your characters share that same disability. In Lyz’s example, an author’s theme is all her characters are curvy and her tag line is “Curvy girls deserve love, too.” Maybe as a child one of her parents told her to lose weight, or a boyfriend broke up with her because she wasn’t skinny. Things have a way of simmering in the background and manifesting in our writing in ways we never thought possible.

What are your themes? Why do you write? What kind of messages do you want to send to your readers? That it’s okay to have a mental illness? That it’s okay to have one best friend than a hundred okay ones? That you don’t need your parents’ love to be a functioning human being and that you yourself can be a good parent despite how you were raised?

I find self-exploration fascinating, but it’s difficult for some to face the demons of their past. Especially if they still affect you right now. I think though, that the more self-awareness you have the deeper you can explore your characters wants, needs, motivations, and in turn recognize what their stakes and consequences and rewards are. And knowing what ties your characters together will help you brand your books and market them to the readers who will want to read those messages.

Do you have any reoccurring themes? Let know!

Until next time!

When Authors Act Out Online

Last week there was a bit of drama when an author lashed out on Twitter at readers for leaving less than a five star review. Of course everyone was offended, and in true form, went to her Goodreads book profile and slammed it with one star reviews in retaliation.

When stuff like this happens, it’s always a train wreck, and we can’t look away as the author goes down in flames.

This isn’t the first time an author has behaved badly on social media–I recall the author who had their book deal terminated because she tweeted a derogatory remark about a Black woman eating on a train.

We’ve probably all had our fair share of cutting it close on social media–pressing an opinion on someone who doesn’t want to hear it, posting about religion, politics, or a hot take about COVID. Lots of authors say they should be able to post whatever they like, and to a point, I believe that, too. My personal Facebook profile is public and I post memes that have the F word in them–a lot. I have a dry sense of humor, but I try not to share anything that would be offensive (I don’t spread racism or body-shaming and wouldn’t even if I wasn’t an author). I support a lot of wildlife rescues, and if you follow my feed long enough, you’ll see that I love bats and foxes. On Twitter I get into spats–someone called me a twat the other day because I defended Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series–and if you ask for an opinion, I’ll give you mine. If I hate your cover, yessir, I will let you know. It’s not my problem if you agree with it or not, but I’ll tell you straight.

One thing we don’t consider is the state of an author’s mental health when they lash out. When I read all the drama that author put on herself–slamming those reviewers for less than five star reviews–I didn’t automatically call her a bitch or entitled. I thought, what is that author going through she has to lash out because of a good review? What is that author’s life like? Does she see a therapist? Is she on medication? Did she just go through a breakup? Did the stress of launching of her book make her snap? If you comb through some tweets, someone reveals the author was high and tweeting in the middle of the night. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn’t be the first time an author, or anyone for that matter, has been drunk or high and posted something they later regretted. Drunk-texting an ex and begging him to come back isn’t the same as tweeting something so terrible it could ruin your career, but you get my meaning.

Authors are already a lonely bunch, and I haven’t met many writers who are actually in a good place mental-health wise. They’re only good at hiding that they aren’t. Even the woman who called me a twat defaulted to rage someone had the audacity to disagree with her. That’s a lot of anger built up to attack someone you don’t know for having a differing opinion. I would imagine this author has been querying for a while and hasn’t managed to grab a book deal and she’s furious someone like Stephenie could not only secure a book deal, but became an international bestseller and was offered a movie deal, too. Maybe anger isn’t a mental health issue, but anger management is in the behavioral health department, and this author should find some help.

Anyway, I got a little off track there. The whole point of this blog post is that things aren’t always what they seem, and I hope I wasn’t the only one to have given this author the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s misplaced and she does feel entitled to 5 star reviews, but I tend to think this last year has been hard on everyone, and not enough people are giving others grace. The world is a huge place, but when we are stuck in our little bubbles, it’s hard to walk a mile in someone’s shoes–especially if we’ve been under lockdown for the past 12 months.

I don’t know what this will do to her career. I Googled a bit, but at the time of this writing, there isn’t a blog post or article I can reference that even speculates. I don’t know what her publisher will do, or if she has a PR manager who can do damage control or if they’re interested in doing that. I do know she’s lucky in that something will take her place–I’ve already heard grumblings about the Vivian finalists that the RWA put out a couple days ago. I didn’t renew my membership so I don’t know what book title is evoking the anger (something about a serial killer romcom?), but #romancelandia will be interesting to watch coming up.

What can you do to keep your social media on track?

  • Pause before you tweet or post. I’m always taken with this poster in my clinic’s office when I check in. If what you’re going to to post isn’t any of those things, maybe you don’t need to put it out into the world.
Think before you speak: 
Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
  • Double check what you’re posting on social media is the message you want to convey to the people who follow you. A lot of authors don’t know what their brand is, and I’m not really any different. To the indie authors in the community, I want to be seen as helpful, kind, supportive. I don’t want to be known as someone who is willing to make a buck off iffy information, and trust me there is a lot of that out there. I’ll tell the truth. If you’re cover isn’t working for the genre, it’s not working. If it looks homemade, I’ll tell you. That may not be seen as kind if it’s not the feedback you’re looking for, but there is a huge gap between Writer Twitter and the professionals in the Facebook groups I’m a part of who are making a living wage with their books. I’m not looking to bridge that gap, but if I can help one person make one more sale than they would have, then speaking up is worth it.
  • What are your social media goals? I’m on social media to have fun, network, learn new things about the industry, and drive readers to my blog. I don’t have a reader group on FB (yet), I post what I want on IG without regard to trying to find readers. There is a strong romance community (that I have found, anyway) but it mostly consists of writers sharing the romance novels that they love to read when they aren’t writing. It takes a while to realize that social media (free book marketing) doesn’t work as well as it used to.

If you’re angry, you may not take that pause before lashing out, or maybe you need to vent and have no where to put it but a long FB post. Censoring yourself may be one the hardest things you can do if you feel passionately about something, but the last thing you want to do is lose out on a networking opportunity or a collaboration, or even a book deal if that’s what you want because of something you said in a moment of weakness online.

Mental health is a serious issue, but if you follow along with that author who lashed out and see what other writers and book bloggers did to her book on her Goodreads profile not everyone is willing to give the benefit of the doubt or a second chance. I realize you can’t live your life in fear, but you can think about what you’re projecting out into the world. That might actually help your mental health in the long run.

Do you want to read more about the mental health of writers? Look here.

The Writing Life: Writers and Mental Health

Shattering the Misery Myth: How to Nurture Your Mental Health as a Writer

Giving your novel a title

Out of anything publishing a book can throw at you, I find titling your novel the most important and the most nerve-wracking. Considering I have a book named On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton, there’s evidence that I have failed miserably. It sounds like an address for a hooker meetup. Of course, it being my very first novel I ever published, there’s a lot more wrong with it than just the title.

I think the wrong title can hurt a book, mainly through sales if your potential reader can’t lift the genre or form some kind of expectation from it.

Though the book sells okay, I don’t think the title of All of Nothing helps it any. People and search engines ask if I mean All or Nothing, which how the phrase is supposed to go. No one knows, or probably cares, that I named that book after a song from The Birthday Massacre that I listened to relentlessly while writing the book. It fits, kind of, but could the title have been a little more title-to-market? Absolutely.

Naming my small town wedding series could have driven me toward a bender, and by the time I settled on the names for the four books, I never wanted to see them again. That’s a dangerous attitude, because I’ll be marketing these books for the rest of my life. Not seeing them again isn’t an option.

Coincidentally, the other day I was listening to the Wish I’d Known Then Podcast with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett and they had guest Robin Cutler on for an interview. Robin’s been the director of the POD part of IngramSpark for a while, and they asked her what she feels is the biggest mistake indies make. She said their book title. With everything that goes into publishing a book, it surprised me a bit that she said that, but then, on the other hand, a title is pretty important, and maybe authors are stymied by it just as much as I am.

I’m sure many of you have come across a book’s title and wondered what in the heck was going on with that author when they named their book. Just for fun I pulled a couple of books from a book promotions Facebook group. I’m not invading anyone’s privacy as that group is open to the public and this is a promotion of sorts. But I scroll through that group every so often and it’s evident that the authors weren’t thinking about marketing, branding, or overall reader impressions when naming their book.

It’s too bad those titles don’t do a good job of representing what’s inside. Some of those covers are nice and the authors put a little time in, or at least put out the money for a premade. But if you happened upon any of those, would you know what you’d be getting? Especially those couple whose covers don’t hit the mark, either? The only one I hesitated including was Perfekt Match. Obviously that book is about some sort of magick, hence the spelling. But I don’t know what there is to be gained by making a play with the spelling like that. To me, it makes the word look wonky, and if that’s the way the author spells it in the book itself, I wouldn’t put up with it long.

Now that I’m doing a rebranding of sorts in 2021 with 7 new releases, I’m going to be a lot more careful when naming my books. The titles need to match genre, content, cover, and blurb. This goes along with what Suzy K Quinn says in her interview with Joanna Penn. She says while you write your book, or even before that as you plan it (genre, tropes, if it will be a series, etc) if you can look at your book as a whole package, marketing that book will be a lot easier after it’s published. I’ve heard a lot of authors say they didn’t have a plan for their book before writing it, only after did they worry about audience and then they struggle to find a place for it with categories, sub-genres, and genres. It’s tough. It’s like being at a party and winning the white elephant gift. What’s inside? And do you really want it?

Titles are a pain but FB groups such as the Indie Cover Project are great for asking for opinions. Sometimes you have to have a thick skin–sometimes there isn’t a lot of handholding in groups like that, but when I was feeling out a title for the book I’m working on right now, they were very helpful.

The book I’m writing is a standalone and the premise goes something like this:

To earn fifty percent of the company he helped build, Colt Jameson needs to find a husband for his boss’s daughter and is given a short list of acceptable candidates. He turns bitter when he realizes he’s not on the list. Elayna Carmichael is beautiful, frivolous, and an alcoholic. He has no intention of falling in love–even if they were childhood best friends.

Billionaire heiress Elayna Carmichael pretends to be a lush to anonymously volunteer at a women’s shelter. She’s been in love with Colt Jameson all her life. He’s a workaholic and she knows he would never loosen up to be with her.

When not one, but all of the candidates agree to marry Elayna, Colt will have to decide if his half of her father’s company means more to him than finding love and claiming her for himself.

I’m no good at writing blurbs–it takes me forever, but this is just a quick synopsis. Of course the book has more to it than just that–lots of backstory and damaged characters are my forte, but this will suffice. It’s not a funny book. I can’t write humor, and I’ll never try. So when coming up with a title, I was thinking something like The Husband List. I workshopped that, and the general consensus is that it sounds like a romcom.

The vector cover still popular these days and I would maybe go for that rather than real people. I would just expect to have to refresh the cover after a couple years if it falls out of style.

So possibly I could go for The Husband Contract. The title feels a little more weighty, not so funny and sweet. And of course, you want to look at what’s selling in the genre, so looking up Billionaire romance, this is the top ten right now:

It looks like we have some very serious men in suits–which looks to be exactly what I need for my serious/dark billionaire romance.

If you’re like me, you can play all day and as long as it’s clean and you have a guy in a suit (and maybe a city in the background for extra points) a cover won’t take long.

They give off a crisp look that I’ve admired on Willow Winters’ book covers.

I may not go with that with the title at all. I don’t want to mislead my readers and usually with this kind of title, the contract would be between the characters, not the female MC and other men. I suppose it would depend on how well I write my blurb.

I’m only 32,000 words into this, about a third of the way through, so I have plenty of time. But this rebranding is important. I feel like while the past four years haven’t been a waste or a mistake, I finally know what to do to start my writing career on the right track. I’m choosing this standalone to publish first because by the time it’s ready, a year will have gone by, and I need to dip my toes back into the publishing waters. Plus, I’ll put the link to my newsletter in the back and maybe I can get a few organic sign ups while I edit and format my series I’ll release later next year.

Anyway, I’ll keep experimenting and thinking and see what I come up with. A lot of times I’ll think of a concept and then end up publishing a completely different idea. It’s fun to play.

What is the hardest part for you? Title? Cover? Blurb? Let me know!

**Some photos were taken from the Canva Pro collection. Some were taken from DepositPhotos.com. If I like a stock photo found in Canva, I look for the version in Deposit Photos and download it with one of my photo packs I purchased through AppSumo around Christmas last year. I never use a photo that I haven’t paid for.

Fonts are either from Canva Pro or my own personal collection I have purchased through PIxelo or Mightydeals. I also find some free for commercial use fonts here.


Content Marketing, easier said than done.

woman holding coffee cup quote:One of the best ways to sabotage content is to not tie it to your goals. Know why you’re creating content. 

– Ellen Gomes

When we think of content marketing (and really, who doesn’t think about it at least once day) a lot of us probably have no idea what that is. We hear the phrase a lot, especially us authors who have a lot of content to sell and share. At least, we should have a lot of content to sell and share. After all, we’re creators, and we should be creating content on a regular basis.

I had a friend a while ago (we don’t talk anymore–she’s one of those people who have faded off) and she had this problem. She desperately wanted to be part of the writing community. Her debut novel flopped, and her self-esteem took a hit. She was never really the same after that, though she tried. The problem was, and still is, she’s not writing. So you can imagine the difficult time she has trying to fit herself into the writing community when she’s not writing. Or more specifically, she has no content to share on social media. I see her really struggle find her place on Instagram, create her Facebook Author Page, she hasn’t blogged for months, and nothing she has found works. She’ll post, delete her profile, lay low, come back, post, delete her profile, and I feel like I’m on some weird merry-go-round. I can’t imagine how she feels. And lest you think this is me just poking at her for something to blog about, let me be clear, when we were talking, I tried to tell her this. Many many times. You have no content if you’re not writing.

So what is content marketing? Content marketing is sharing content for free, to lead customers into paying for other content. Where does this content come from? See, this is my ex-friend’s problem. If you’re playing the writing and publishing game, I’m assuming you’re creating it. If you’re not, then you have nothing to share. Novels, novellas, short stories, even flash fiction. The best content can be repurposed. Blog a short story for feedback, then sell it. Give away novellas, then box them up and sell them. Take excerpts from your books and make pretty graphics. If you pay for Canva Pro, it now lets you schedule your graphics onto your FB author page and you don’t have to worry about remembering. Blog a first chapter then put the buy link at the bottom and encourage your readers to buy the book to read the rest. Newsletters too, are all about giving your readers something for free and then when you have something to purchase, they will.

What my ex-friend needs to do is stop worrying about social media and start writing.

What else can you post on social media?

*Share books you like. I’m assuming (lots of that going on here) that you write what you love to read. If you think of your FB author page as a community rather than something you have to do, it might help. Share the books you have loved, talk about why you liked them.

*Find a “calendar” of things to post. These are floating around social media–the challenges authors post for 30 days of content. Every day is something new. A selfie and five things no one knows about you. Your favorite writing spot, the pets that keep you company while you write. A favorite quote from a book. This is an example someone posted in an Amazon Ads group I’m in for Instagram. You can grab some of these ideas to help brainstorm. Some of these are more for fellow writers than readers, and you’ll have to be careful you don’t start posting more for your peers than your readers. A lot of us fall into that trap, but the writers I know aren’t the readers who will sustain my lifelong publishing career.

#autumnauthorchallenge daily social media ideas

*And of course, you want to share your works in progress. Talk about your characters, what sparked that idea. Why you’re writing what you’re writing. You can give updates on release dates, ask for reviews, if you have two potential covers for a book, take a vote.

If you’re creating content, actually creating it regularly, you shouldn’t have a problem sharing, even if it’s raw, unedited. Sometimes readers like that content best. They get in on the ground floor of a building and can watch how it’s built, from the basement all the way up to the penthouse.


These are all ideas I need to start doing for myself. Trust me, I only have 128 people liking my FB author page, and for good reason. There’s nothing but tumbleweeds drifting by because I don’t think of my FB author page as a community where readers of romance can come together and chat about books. I feel it’s a time suck, just a place where I have to go to waste time instead of writing. Content marketing doesn’t have to take long, though, and that’s something I need to remember. As long as you are writing regularly, the hard part is already done. Making time to write consistently is difficult for a lot of people because they’ve hit a snag or they’ve lost faith in their abilities. Imposter syndrome can hit hard. I’m not going to say people run out of time, because in 24 hours in a day, if you really want to find time to write, you will. If you have time to watch a television show, you have time to write.

Deleting profiles and putting them back up only to take them down again has a lot of consequences, mainly people will lose faith in your ability to stick it out for the long haul. Every time you delete your profile, you have to start from zero. It’s hard enough doing it the first time. I remember posting my very first blog post and I had zero subscribers. I can’t imagine doing that willingly every couple of months. It also hits your SEO.

woman holding a coffee cup. quote: google only loves you when everyone else loves you first. wendy piersall

Search engines like Google favor websites and content that has been around a long time and that offers current and relevant information to the person using the search bar. Every time you start over, you’re starting you SEO from scratch too, and that’s not a smart thing to do. In a private window, I searched for Chance Carter. A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about the things he’d done to his readers scamming the indie community. If you search for Chance Carter now, my blog post is on the second page of results. He was so popular he still takes up the first page of his own search results, but I find it pretty fascinating that something I wrote about him is still so popular that I get hits on that post every day, and lands me on the second page of Google results. I never would have gotten there if my website didn’t have an online history.

I sincerely hope my ex-friend finds her place. We don’t talk anymore, mainly because like a drowning person struggling in the water, I didn’t want her to take me down with her. These past few months I’ve been trying to make connections with authors who have the same work ethic and visions for their writing careers as I do. Maybe one day she’ll find her path, and I hope she does. It’s hard for me to watch anyone hurting.

She will continue to struggle though, if she’s not creating. Write those books, those novellas and short stories and share them with your readers! Create your content, create your community, and you’ll find content marketing will be a lot easier when you have something, and someone, to share it with.