Keywords for your books. What are they and how to find them.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know anything about keywords. People may have differing opinions on where to find them, or how to use them, but one thing everyone can agree on is that they are pretty important. They help readers find your books, and in this age of publishing, our books need all the help they can get.

In this last mini-series post about how I revamped All of Nothing, I’m going to explore keywords and if I change anything in regards to my book’s keywords.  For a quick recap, if you want to read about how I changed the cover, you can click on the picture of the full wrap. (I still think it’s lovely!)

all of nothing second coverjpg

I also rewrote the blurb, and that garnered some interesting discussion. If you want to take a look at my process and how I did that, you can click here to read about editing the blurb.

So, keywords.

Like I said, I know next to nothing about keywords, so what are they, exactly?

According to an article on IngramSpark, keywords are “One or more words used to indicate the content of your book.” How do we choose the right ones?

The easiest, and cheapest (read, free) is searching on Amazon in the Kindle store. When you publish a book on Amazon, KDP gives you seven slots. That doesn’t mean that you are limited to seven words, and I only just learned this not long ago. (Evidence that you always need to keep learning because you don’t know what you don’t know, and something you learn in passing could change your whole life business.)

You can add more than one word to a space by separating words with semi colons or commas.

kdp keyword screen

It looks pretty intimidating, and if you look at this not even having one idea what to put there, the first thing you need to do is revisit the genre you’re writing in. There should be at least a few words that pop out at you, even if they’re generic and not that specific.

Anyway, so like I said in a previous post, I didn’t know bully romance was thing until recently, and it turned around the way I’m going to approach keywords and marketing for this book moving forward.

When you go to the Kindle Store (Dave Chesson of Publisher Rocket suggests using an incognito window for this) you can plug in some keywords and/or phrases to see what comes up.

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You can see in this incognito window that I started searching enemies to lovers. But you can also see what comes up that could work as keywords as well. Enemies to lovers romance kindle books would be a good phrase to use. Add free if your book is wide and permafree. There might be other phrases in there that could work depending on what your story is about. Enemies with benefits doesn’t quite fit my book, so I’ll leave that alone. What else did I search for?

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I searched for alpha next thinking I could go into alpha romance, or alpha dark romance. Alpha male romance works, maybe if, it isn’t associated with shifter romance. When you click on it, what kind books do you find? Will your book fit in? When I click on Alpha Male Romance, some books that pop up that All of Nothing would fit in with, and that’s the goal, so we can add that to the list.

What else can we search for?

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I can go with the tried and true contemporary romance, but that is a generic term and using up a space in your keywords may not yield results. We can always keep it in mind though, and plug up a space if we happen to have room at the end of the experiment. Not to write off the list entirely, if you happen to have a new release, it might be worth adding.

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I went a bit further and added “rom” for romance, and nothing extraordinary popped up, but contemporary romance with sex was an interesting return. That seems to be quite specific considering Sweet/Clean romance is having it’s 15 minutes and doing well; this would set my book apart. The word “contemporary” takes up a lot of space though, so I’m going to try to narrow it down before resorting to using it.

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But if you look for kindle books, adding that your book is in Kindle Unlimited may not be a bad idea.

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But let’s keep trying to narrow it down. Jax in All of Nothing is a millionaire. I toned it down, didn’t make him a billionaire. Sorry, Jax. But looks like that search may have had a good return, and I could add millionaire romance, even millionaire romance alpha male. Lots of characters though, so we need to watch our words.

What else can we look for?

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Dark romance gives us some return. Bully romance dark romance pops out at me. But there are some that would be good to keep in mind for other standalone books down the road like mafia, books where the heroine has been kidnapped.  Jeez, these sub-sub-genres are something, aren’t they? What could I choose from the list? The bully romance dark romance for sure.

At this point I think I’m running out of search terms.

2019-08-13

Bully pulls up a lot of terms that don’t particularly fit my book either, like high school, college, or reverse harem. All of Nothing isn’t paranormal, so I think besides the top search term, there’s nothing we can take away from this list.

But I have a few characters left. What else can we look for? I tried bully sex, but those kinds of books I don’t need my book associated with, so we’ll skip that. (Yeah, it’s important to click, and find out what kinds of books are coming up in the search, too. Especially in romance there’s quality, and then there’s quality. I’m not going to call anything trashy as we all have our things.)

We haven’t tried the basic steamy romance and this is what we get:

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Not much comes up here, accept bully romance again, and that can’t be discounted. There are a few more genres that we’ll need to avoid, but the list is interesting, and it gives us something to play with.

This is the cheap and easy way to figure out a limited amount of keywords.

What’s important to note too, is that based on keywords, Amazon may slot your book into categories that are not available to choose from when you publish. If you have a category that you would like your book listed under, you can always email them. But that’s why it’s important to know what genre you’re writing in, even the sub, or sub-sub genres to help narrow down your audience.

It’s obvious that I didn’t have any of the correct keywords for All of Nothing, since Amazon has left it in the most boring and generic category of romance books. That doesn’t do me or sales any favors.

all of nothing rank

Pretty freaking embarrassing, if you ask me, and now that the cover, blurb, and keywords are fixed, I’m hoping that I’ll see some traction in the coming months.

What did I come up with for keywords then?

keywords KDP filled

I think I filled up the slots pretty well, and if my book starts selling, they give Amazon a few sub-genre categories to put my book into, too. I do have to warn you that even if you change your keywords, and you hit Publish thinking that they’ve been accepted, they may not be. I hit Publish after filling those spaces out, but I won’t know they’ve been approved for a little while. I may be able to edit this blog post to let you know if they have been, so I’ll keep my eye on my email to see if they publish the book or they flag any of these words.

Edited to add: They did accept all my keywords without a problem! 


What’s the deal with programs that will pull keywords for you if finding free keywords is so easy?

When you start using programs like Publisher Rocket (this isn’t an affiliate link–I get nothing for telling you about this program. All I know is Dave Chesson is a really nice guy and works hard keeping this software working and up to date) you’re looking for a lot of keywords . . . for ads. When you start looking for keywords for Amazon Ads keep in mind they give you room for 1,000 words. You need a lot of help coming up with that many words, and using a software that can scrape your words together for you can save you a lot of time.

Keywords can make a huge difference if your ad converts to clicks, and using keywords is a way to help with that. I barely dipped my toes in the water when it came to Amazon Ads way back when I was trying, and I wasn’t using a program like Publisher Rocket to choose keywords, either. You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not utilizing all the space Amazon gives you.


 

So there you have it. How I revamped my book All of Nothing.

For some of you, this would include an edit as well, and if you want to learn more about relaunching your book, either read Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist (Write Faster, Write Smarter Book 6) by Chris Fox, or Ads for Authors Who Hate Math: Write Faster, Write Smarter.  In the latter book he goes a little into how much you should do to revamp your books (time vs. cost) so the ads work, because if anyone has heard Chris talk he is always very clear you need to start with a good product. (These aren’t affiliate links either, but I have read both of those books, and they are worth your time.)

Will all this work? Only time will tell. The cover is better, the blurb an improvement (I think, but that remains to be seen) and we’ll see if KDP approves my keywords and go from there. Could the book use an edit? In terms of getting better as a author, any past book an author writes won’t be as good as the newest release. That’s how it is, and I’m not going to stress about it. It’s a solid book in terms of plot and story. I’m sure it has its share of filler words, or a garbage word slipped by me here and there that I didn’t find and delete. But I did run it through a couple of betas who didn’t have anything bad to say, so I’ll take that as a small win and keep on going.

If you want more information about keywords, Dave Chesson has his own channel on YouTube, as well as Chris Fox. Taking time to listen to what these guys have to say is never a waste.

Thanks for reading!


If you want to know more about Dave and his thoughts on keywords and categories, you can listen to his interview with Joanna Penn here.

Here’s another article by the Book Designer on KDP keywords. Words Gone Wild: KDP Keywords Revisited


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When is marketing too much marketing?

As authors, we are driven to connect with our readers. We use Pinterest, we post on Instagram, we tweet on Twitter, and we create our author pages on Facebook. We post excerpts of our books on our blogs. Some of us form book clubs. We want to connect with readers, let them know what we’re working on, and hope one day with all the book buzz we’ve been building that on launch day, everyone is excited to read our books!

This all can be a marketing trap. There is only so much time in a day–especially if you have a day job or have kids, pets, or all of the above. A blog post about your inspiration is great . . . but could that time have been better spent working on your book?

We all love to use Canva to create aesthetics. They help us picture our characters, put us in the mood to write. But how long do you flip through photos to use? Search for that special font that will tie it all in together? Is creating an aesthetic that useful that you need to participate in every #aestheticthursday on Twitter, or do post a weekly aesthetic to your Instagram feed?

Here’s an aesthetic I made up for this blog post for my new couple Ivy and Logan:

One. Last. Chance

It took me close to an hour to make this. Choosing pictures, looking at font, and waiting for Canva to stop dragging (it really slows down my Chrome browser for some reason) and apply the filters I wanted to the photos. Do you know how many words I can write in an hour? A thousand. When you are fledgling writer, or a person fighting for time to write, an hour is a valuable amount of time. And what will I do with this aesthetic? Post it on Instagram? Maybe Tweet it? (Most likely, leave it here for your eyes only. 🙂 ) You can be a million places online, but you can’t continually post the same things. So the hour I took to make this will equal into only a few minutes of media exposure for the graphic.

Not a very big return on investment, if you ask me.

But his future whispered “I love you” into his ear, and Logan knew things would be alright. The sun slowly came up over the horizon making Rocky Point sparkle. New day. New life. It was all he could ask for. Ivy an

You can make graphics to feature pretty lines from your WIP, you can play Instagram games and try to draw readers and writer friends to share the excitement of your book, but here’s the thing: Sooner or later you’re going to have to produce the book.

Otherwise, what are you building buzz for?

After a while, if you can’t come up with a publication date, if you can’t announce some kind of plan, all your marketing is going to do the opposite of what you’re trying to do. No one will listen to you anymore. Because everyone will think you’re full of crap. Anyone can pull a pretty sentence out of thin air and say it’s from the book their working on. But is it?

And you have to keep in mind that while you’re blogging about your character’s interests and hobbies, other writers in your genre are getting it done. They’re publishing regularly and the only social media they’re engaged in is creating ads for their books.

So, here’s the thing. You want readers. You’re marketing. Write the book. If you’re not writing, and only messing around, then be honest with yourself that no, you’re not going to produce a book, the lines and characters will never see the light of day, and be prepared for that eventual drop in traffic on your social media platforms.

Readers read. And they can only read books that are published.

It’s easy to get caught up in marketing and building your social media presence. It’s fun to play with website templates and creating covers for books not written yet. And I’m not saying it’s bad to do those things.

But if you have a limited amount of time to write, you should be writing. All those writing memes aren’t wrong.

You Should Be Writing

Mister, I’ll do whatever you say!

 

I’m not trying to be snarky, or make you feel bad if you happen to do more Canva creating than writing. But I am trying to tell you that the writing is on the wall. Independent writers are publishing three to four books a year. I know for myself I’ll be rapid releasing four books around the holidays, providing that nothing goes terribly wrong with my family or my job.

There’s a lot of debate about trying to keep up with your fellow authors or doing your own thing. But what if I told you that you don’t need to tell everyone all the time what your characters are eating, or what their favorite color is? Why not let them discover those things as they are reading your book?

Sometimes you need a reality check. Or sometimes you just have to tell yourself the truth: that you’d rather play than write. And that’s okay. We all have our things. I write a lot and surround myself with people who do the same. They write and they want to make money from their books. I hang out with like-minded people because I have a business ethic and feed off the energy of others.

Publish or get left behind. And that’s not me saying that to be mean, that’s the harsh reality of the fast-pace independent publishing industry. You can only stay relevant in the industry for so long if you aren’t going to produce content.

Sorry, folks. But you gotta pay to play.


What do you think? Is there a place for someone who will market for two years before producing a book? Let me know what you think!

Some other articles on marketing before your book is ready:

When should you start promoting your book?

BOOK MARKETING PLAN THE DEFINITIVE CHECKLIST
by Tim Grahl


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All of Nothing’s blurb. How I rewrote it.

All of Nothing ebook cover

Click here to read All of Nothing! Available in paperback and Kindle Unlimited!

If you’re brave and take a look at your reviews from time to time, there may be some common themes that readers have picked out with your book. If you have a thick skin, sometimes this can be a benefit–readers can (and probably will) see things about your book that you didn’t realize yourself.

With All of Nothing, I knew Jax was a jerk, and I made him that way. An accident he was involved in damaged him beyond all comprehension. In the book he was cold and heartless because underneath the armor, that’s exactly what he wasn’t.

I had a lot of fun with his character arc, but some of the readers were put off by just how mean he really was.

So, when I rewrote the blurb, I knew I needed to make this clearer so his attitude and actions toward Raven weren’t such a shock.

Writing a blurb is difficult, and at the end of this blog post I’ll list a few resources you can look into that may help you on your own path to writing your blurbs.

***

This was the old blurb:

“I took a life, and when I did, he took mine.”

After his fiancée leaves him at the altar, cold-hearted millionaire Jaxon Brooks blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in as his bride.

When she accidentally signs her real name on the marriage certificate, Jax must find his wife to file for divorce.

Since the death of her brother, Raven Grey has been living a hard life on the streets.

When Jax offers his help in exchange for her signature, Raven agrees, hoping for a better future and to repair her relationship with her parents.

As Jax and Raven grow closer, his past haunts them, and the death of her brother threatens their new love in ways neither of them thought possible.

***

I’ve linked to the podcast before, but the Best Page Forward podcast took it apart. Abigail Dunard made some good points, and so did Jim Heskett, and when I rewrote it, I tried to keep their thoughts in mind. I wrote the original blurb with tips from Bryan Cohen’s book, How To Write a Sizzling Synopsis, but I must not have done that great of a job. Anyone who teaches blurb-writing will tell you to measure how good a blurb is by the number of conversions to your ads, but if you don’t run ads, it’s difficult to measure if the blurb is working or not. (Plus, if you use that reasoning, it may be your cover that isn’t doing it when your blurb could be perfectly fine.)

Anyway, I also read Brian D. Meeks’ book about writing Amazon descriptions. He goes about it in a completely different way. It’s a very pared down approach, and does not resemble Bryan’s more book summary style at all. I decided to give that a try.  And only time will tell if I hit the mark.

When writing the new blurb, I used Brian’s tips on copywriting, things I gleaned from the reviews, and tried to take out the confusing parts of the blurb the podcast hosts pointed out.

I ran it by a couple people who liked it, but until I start getting more reviews and more feedback, I still may not have made the right changes. The beauty of being an indie, though, is that you can make any kind of changes you want, nothing is locked in. Because I did do a cover update at the same time as rewriting the blurb, I went ahead and replaced the blurb on the back cover. But that isn’t always necessary, and if I tweak the blurb again, I’ll leave the paperback cover alone.

***

Jaxon Brooks is rich, sexy, and mean as a snake.

It’s no surprise when his fiancé leaves him at the altar. But now what is he going to do?

To save face, he blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in for his bride, and he fights an unwanted attraction as she walks down the aisle.

Raven Grey is homeless.

Jax terrifies her, and left with no choice, she does what he says.

But she has desperate demands of her own. She needs help getting back on her feet, and Jax has the resources to help her.

When Jax moves Raven into his mansion, playing house starts to feel like the real thing. But how long can it last?

Buried under Jax’s rough demeanor is a horrible secret that won’t stay hidden, and Raven’s painful past will come back to haunt them. Despite everything, can Jax be the man that Raven needs him to be? Can Raven forgive him for what he’s done?

Can Jax come to terms with the tragedy that blackened his heart and give himself one last chance at true love?

If you like enemies to lovers or a bully hero, All of Nothing is perfect for you! Read it today!

***

The one huge departure from the other blurb is the call to action (CTA) at the end. I hate telling people what to do. I leave my kids alone, I didn’t run my ex-husband’s life, I don’t even like to give advice unless it’s asked for, and then I’m fully prepared for anyone not to take it. My back matter doesn’t ask readers to sign up for a newsletter, give a review, or read the next book. So putting that last sentence at the bottom really threw me, but Brian swears by it, and well,  it’s way down at the bottom, so what did it hurt? (And I do realize I’m letting opportunity go by with no CTA in my back matter, at all, and I’ll try to think of something when my wedding series drops.)

Is it better? Is it worse? I have no idea.

That is part two in what I did to revamp All of Nothing. I’ve been getting good feedback so far on the cover, and I’ve been kind of messing around with Wherever He Goes. But I don’t want to get so caught up in busy work that I’m not working on my current books.  I’m still on track to put this quartet out by the holidays, and I’m going to keep my eyes on that prize.

In the next blog post, I’ll go over metadata and keywords!

Thanks for reading!


Need help with blurbs?

Check out Bryan Cohen’s book.

Check out Brian Meeks’ book.

Listen to Libby Hawker’s tips on YouTube. Her videos are cut into parts, just to let you know, and this link starts with part one. This was quite some time ago, and trends change, but sometimes if you can piecemeal advice from different sources, you can turn that advice into something relevant today.

Bryan Cohen and Chris Fox did a presentation about Blurb, Cover, and Title at the 20books Vegas conferences last November. This is such a great resource, and one of the conferences that I plan to go to! Take a listen to this video on how blurbs, titles, and covers work together to sell your book.

 


Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any blurb writing tips!

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All of Nothing’s make over.

I first blogged about All of Nothing getting a face lift last week, or was it the week before? I’m not sure, but you can look here, if you’d like to read the initial post. I said I was going to go over what I’m going to do to breathe a little life into the book.

The first thing I did is redo the cover. It went from this:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

To this:

all of nothing second coverjpg

I would say that’s an improvement. I don’t have the proof yet, and I suppose writing a blog post about the cover without the proof seems to be a bit too forward thinking, but that’s okay. I can post it when I get it. I know the title doesn’t seem to be centered, but uploading it into KDP Print proved to be one over-correction after another. The title may very well be too much to the left, but what’s what the proof is for.

At any rate, covers can go through a lot of revisions and just all around bad ideas before an epiphany is realized and you think of what you wanted to do all along, or you stumble upon the perfect couple at 2am when you shouldn’t have been awake anyway.

The first cover I came up with looked like this:

all of nothing second cover FULL TITLE

No one liked it. I put it on the Indie Book Cover FB group for feedback and while no one had anything BAD to say, no one liked it, either, and everyone agreed to take out A NOVEL at the bottom. I think I came up with a nice tagline to put in its place.

It left me a bit stymied because it has a grittier feel than what I had before, and gritty and kind of mean, more alpha, bad boy, asshole was what I was going for.

But I’m glad I posted it and listened to the feedback because one poster said she bought a premade using the same guy. She even gave me the name of the site. It’s a closed group, so out of respect I won’t post the cover, but I’ll give you the website and you can take a peek yourself if you want to see the cover she bought.

I played around with it some, putting into play some of the advice I received from the group; doing something different with the tint, but overall, I guess I felt it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do after all, I gave up for a little while.

all of nothing take two

That wasn’t even all that bad . . . but that’s okay. Trying out new things until you stumble upon something else that could be better is part of the creative process.

Going through DepositPhotos one day I came across this couple:

couple in elevator two

A lot of what goes through my head when I look at photos is, what is the steam level? That was one of the things I was aiming to up on this cover: fully clothed models weren’t depicting what my books were about. Where can I put my the title? Where can I put my name? With my limited skills, what can I do to it to make it stand out? This is important because my skills are LIMITED. I can only do so much in GIMP, and I need to know if the picture is decent as is, and if it’s not, what needs to change? A cluttered background? Can I get rid of that zooming in? The color? How real are the models. Do they look too model-y, or too human? A nice medium is what I shoot for. I probably looked at this couple while looking for others and I passed them by. Until almost a fully-formed cover with these two popped into my head, and I was able to create almost a perfect cover in half a hour.

I used what little skills I have in GIMP to fade the top and the bottom and using a few tips I learned from my friend Aila’s blog post about Canva, I was able to make the rest there.

Next week I’ll take you through how I rewrote the blurb and my process for doing it!

Plus, on Monday, I’m doing an author interview with my friend, Tom, whom I met at the Sell More Books Show Summit! His debut book will be live Monday, and I’m so happy to be part of his launch! Look for an awesome interview with him, and a $25 Amazon ecard giveaway, too!

Author Interview with tom willoughby


Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying your week! I haven’t made much progress on my 3rd book in my series, as these days off this week just have flown by (plus the weather is gorgeous and I’ve been spending time outside!) but I still plan to have it done by the weekend. 12-15,000 words left. We will see! Wish me luck. 🙂

thank you for your patince

 

All of Nothing is Getting a Makeover!

Anyone who has read my blog on a fairly consistent basis knows my motto, if I had one, would probably be “Onward and Upward” or “Never Look Back” or something along those lines. I’m not a fan of going back, especially if you’re fixing shoddy work to begin with. Do it right the first time or don’t publish until it’s ready.

rebranding all of nothing blog post

But with writing and publishing, there’s always going to be something bigger, something better, news, tools, software, maybe even someone you meet, something you learn, that can help you do something in a better way, or in a more efficient manner. And you’ll want to go back and fix something.

And that isn’t a bad thing. We always want to keep learning, keep moving forward, keep honing our skills.

That’s why I decided to go back and fix All of Nothing. Not edit it or rewrite/revise it.  No, I think the insides are very strong, and I’m really proud of that book. I mean, the blurb, the cover, and looking up new keywords for the metadata for Amazon and ad targeting.

  1. Cover. I was super happy with the cover when I made it back in October of 2018, and I received good feedback, too, albeit from other author friends, not readers. Since then my skills have developed more, I know better places to find stock photos, I know to look at other covers in my genre so I know what is hot right now since trends change. This is why I redid the covers for my trilogy. They didn’t depict what genre it was (some were calling it “sweet” romance when it’s steamy), I didn’t research what was selling in Contemporary Romance for indie authors, and over all they looked homemade. This is All of Nothing‘s problem, too, and I need to rectify those issues so the book fits in and it entices readers to want to buy it or borrow it in KU when I enroll it next month.
    This is the worst thing I have to do with the revamping of the book. Not only do I have to replace it on KDP and order the proof, I have to replace it on IngramSpark, too. Either I need to join the Independent Book Publishers Association, or pay the fees. I’d rather join the IBPA because free file uploading at Ingram is covered in their yearly fees. That works for me since The Years Between Us is still not being offered there. Sigh.
  2. Blurb.  No one can write good blurbs.  No one except the staff at Best Page Forward, Bryan Cohen’s blurb writing business.  I offered All of Nothing‘s blurb for critique when their podcast started up, and naturally, the hosts shredded it. I didn’t know it was that bad. If you want to listen to the Best Page Forward’s critique of All of Nothing‘s blurb, click here. I recommend the podcast, but unfortunately, I can’t afford Bryan’s prices for a blurb. One of the FB groups I’m in offers blurb critique so I’m going to rework the blurb and see if I can’t find something that better explains what the book is about. I’ve been reading a lot of copyrighting books lately, so hopefully I can come up with something better suited with a little help from the critique group.
  3. Keywords. I’m going to be delving into this a little more. I came upon a new sub-genre called bully romance that I think Jax falls into quite well. Feedback indicates

    he’s not likable until the last part of the book (read, the ending) and if I can prepare readers for how harsh he is to Raven, that can only be a plus for me. This will help me target readers if I decide to do any ads. But for now I’ll focus on new keywords and phrases for the seven spaces KDP gives you when you publish. It’s a great idea to keep those keywords fresh. I bought Publisher Rocket, so I’ll be using that to help me, though I’m going to have to take some time to learn how to use it.

That’s what I’m going to be doing with this book. Covers take a lot of time, and I’ve already started playing with various ideas. I’ll blog about those next week.

Do you have a book that would benefit from any or all of the above? How are you going to go about it? Got a plan? A list? Let me know!


 

thank you for your patince

My messed up route to (non)success.

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

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

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

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

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

I chose to self-publish.

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

Notice I didn’t add envy. Or jealousy.

I don’t envy Jami. I’m happy for her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m obviously still grappling with the decision.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s what drives all of us crazy.

There are too many choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much money am I leaving on the table?

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

book report graphic

No doubt about it, looking can get pretty addicting.

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

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

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

Authors have made a lot of money on less.

Thinking about all this is maddening.

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

Then what?

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

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

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

courage fish

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

Was going wide the right choice?

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

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

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

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

But that sure doesn’t pay the rent.

Let me know your thoughts!


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

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

Thanks for reading!


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

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

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

Tower City Romance Trilogy Cover Remake

I’ve always said never to look back, always move forward, but in this business, sometimes it’s not always feasible to keep your eyes straight ahead. As authors, we have a back list (or hope to write one) and as much as I hate to admit it, or put time into it, we do have to do a little maintenance from time to time.

My maintenance included redoing the covers for my trilogy. I needed to redo them for a couple of reasons.

  1. People were mis-categorizing them. Because the couples had all their clothes on, people were thinking the books were sweet romance. When I did my Freebooksy for Don’t Run Away, they even went so far as to email me and ask if I had selected the wrong category when I paid for my promo. Don’t Run Away‘s one star review on Amazon made it clear the woman was appalled at the swearing and the sexiness on the first page. At first I blamed her, but she judged my book by its cover and thought it would be a sweet romance. So, okay. I finally took responsibility for it and now my covers (hopefully) reflect a little more of what is inside the book covers . . . and bed covers!
  2. Kobo turned down a promo ask. I know this might not have anything to do with the cover of Don’t Run Away. I mean, it was my first ask, and Mark, in Killing It on Kobo, stresses the need to ask and ask and ask. And only when you get tired of asking maybe then reach out to the Kobo Writing Life team and say, hey, what’s up? Why am I never approved for a promotion? As I’ve said before, real people are behind Kobo Writing Life. A real person looks at the books submitted for promo, and a real person chooses what she thinks will fit inside the promo. I asked to be in a Free Contemporary Romance promo, and maybe my cover didn’t fit what she was looking for.
  3. But this will help with other areas of marketing, too. It’s not just at Kobo that I will see some benefit from changing my covers. I may snag more eyes on Amazon and the other marketplaces as well. I’ve killed all my Amazon ads right now, but it will be an interesting experiment to start them up again (if I do) with the new covers.
  4. My skills are better. I’ve said a million times it’s easy to slap text onto a cover using Canva.com and publish your book. That’s what I did with the trilogy. Found photos that kind of worked and found some font, and did the best I could. But since I made the covers two and a half years ago, I’ve learned GIMP better. I hadn’t heard about Canva. I did my original covers in Word, if you can believe it. So even just  learning about Canva’s existence helped tremendously. I pay for the Pro access, just because I love using it so much, and I figured it’s the least I can do for their team.
  5. I found other places to buy pictures. Lurking on Facebook groups aimed at helping indie authors helped me find other places for book cover photos. Using depositphotos.com helped me find the couples I ended up using for the trilogy, where before the only site I knew was safe was canstockphoto.com. Only the one for Don’t Run Away sticks out a little as it has a darker background and not a white one. While I could have snipped the couple out and pasted them onto a white background (because, yay, I have the skills to do that now), I didn’t think about it that much, and I don’t regret not doing it. The new covers are still 100 times better than what they were. So you lose a couple battles to win the war, and just be happy you won at all.
  6. I learned to experiment with font. Back then, Word didn’t have much choice, and font is like the photos–not everything is safe to use.
  7. I learned to really take a look at what is popular in my genre. Before I was publishing on a regular basis, and before I understood what indie publishing romance meant, I thought a cover was a cover, and that was it. But now I know that publishing romance is a whole different ballgame. Speaking of ballgame, want a series about baseball romance? Got it. Motorcycle club romance? Check. Billionaires? Check. Firefighters. Navy SEALS. And those are just the mainstream subgenres. Then we get into, um, dinosaur romance, Bigfoot romance, I’m-Going-To-Chain-You-Up-And-Make-You-My-Sex-Slave romance, reverse harem romance, and everything in between. So you better believe that your cover should at least *hint* at the sub-genre your book is in. And my fully-clothed happy couples didn’t depict any sexy-times. I don’t write sub-genre, though, so choosing couples that didn’t skew toward a certain sub-genre was tough. Too sexy and they’d look like erotica. If the men were too rough, the books would look like bad-boy romance, or alpha-romance. Study your book’s genre and make sure that your cover fits what is popular in your genre. Wolves on the cover equals shifter romance, and don’t forget it! 😛

    A friend pointed out that my trilogy was about running, and it is. But running isn’t sexy, and the photos of couples I found running were even less sexy, and not cover-worthy by a long shot.

    Here are a few covers from the top 50 contemporary romance right now. Guess what sub-genre they’re in.

    Lots of skin, some tats. A couple menages, if you look at the top 100 full list. Tell Me to Stay by Willow Winters seems to be the couple with the most fully-clothed. And even they are in a provocative pose. I did some homework for my covers and I’m happy with what I came up with.


I’m hoping I don’t have to go back and redo those for a long time. If ever. I redid the paperbacks for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. And in turn, I needed to update the insides. Replacing all those files is a lot of fun, said no one ever.

On the bright side, I’m getting better at handling IngramSpark, and yes, I did the full covers in Canva for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. Thanks, Canva!

Here are my old covers:

One thing you can probably notice is Nikki and Dane are a bit back. Then Alyssa and Brett are a little closer, and then Marta and Ian are in your face. LOL  When you’re doing a series and you don’t have much skill, it’s extremely difficult to make your covers look like they belong together. It’s why I wanted to hire out this time around. It would have made things so much easier if I could have just shoved this onto someone else.

While I was looking at the top 100 in contemporary romance, I began to notice a trend and I started playing with photos and text. Keeping in mind that every second I was “playing around” I wasn’t writing my current series. Blah! But I came up with some mock-ups of how I wanted the trilogy to kind of look:

These were just concept, and I didn’t notice right away that it looked like the same guy. Not a terrible thing if the trilogy was about so gigolo or something. Also, the backgrounds are a little cluttered with items like the faucet and sink, and items like that don’t make the covers look clean. I really like the couple I found for Chasing You, but in the end I didn’t use them either. You can see what I was trying to get at, anyway, and this first attempt brought me a little closer to what I was looking for. And they are far from what I had originally.

This is what I ended up with:

They look like they belong together. The men are shirtless, and the women all have long-sleeved white shirts on. That was very lucky for me. They give off a sexier vibe, and the font fits in. Do they look 100% like what is on the Amazon top 100? No. But they don’t look as if they belong on the Amazon Top 100 of Sweet and Clean Contemporary, either. I paid for the photos from depositphotos.com and I was lucky enough to find the sexy font free for commercial use. I never realized before how brunet men with scruff could look the same, but I’m hoping people can tell they are a different guy (at least, I hope he is!). Doing these has really made me wonder what I’m going to do with the four-book series I’m writing right now. It’s enough to give me hives, that’s for sure!


I guess what you really want to know is if I’m making any sales off the new covers. The answer to that would be no. Not any measurable improvement. Don’t Run Away is permafree on all platforms, and I consistently give away 1-4 copies every day on Amazon, and a handful here and there on ibooks, Nook, and Kobo. So far that hasn’t led to actual sales for the other two books in the trilogy on Amazon, or for the others in my backlist for that matter, but the first book isn’t as strongly written as the other two, so that’s to be expected, I guess.

I’ll throw some money at them and see what happens.

At some point, I’ll be redoing the cover for All of Nothing, too. Though I have gotten GREAT feedback, it doesn’t fit in with what’s hot right now, and that’s the name of the game. Fitting in while standing out!

Tell me what you think!

If you want to try Don’t Run Away, it’s free on all platforms, and you can find it by clicking this link. It will redirect you to any platform where you buy ebooks.

Thanks for reading!

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!