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!

 

 

 

Everyone in this business has a business–Be careful what you pay for!

When I was looking to hire out for my trilogy covers, I became overwhelmed. Very quickly. We all look for products and services that won’t break the bank, but will maintain some level of quality.

Finding that balance is harder than keeping a kid from screaming in a candy store after you tell him no.

Quality that won’t break the bank that is delivered in a reasonable amount of time. Ugh.

quality cost and time I’m a part of various groups on Facebook, and I’m not going to divulge any groups here. (I don’t want to embarrass anyone, nor do I want to get banned.) Not necessarily to look for products and services, but to keep my ear to the ground and learn tips, tricks, and obscure rules that may never occur to me know in the first place. Like, apparently it’s against Adobe Stock’s terms of service to use their stock photos on romance/erotica book covers. Who would ever think of that? (And who determines if it’s romance vs. women’s fiction?) When I went onto the Adobe Stock site, there was nothing that mentioned photos could not be used in this manner, but it seems to be common knowledge among the Facebook group I’m involved in. After a quick Google search, I did come across this discussion thread, and it appears the questions were answered by an Adobe Stock employee. Luckily, a lot of their pictures of kissing couples, after a quick perusal, seem to be available on other sites.

And that’s the point.

When you hire someone, you are hiring not only their skill, but their knowledge. It’s their job to know the rules, the guidelines, the terms of service.

skills-3371153_1920

Not long ago I was scrolling through my feed, and a post caught my eye. A woman was explaining that she and her husband were starting a premade book cover business. It turns out that they had used free photos from stock sites like Pixabay. I’ve only learned this recently myself that you shouldn’t use free photos on a book cover because the people in the photo may not have signed model release forms. Also, a lot of these photos have name brand items in the photo that cannot be used on a for-commercial-use item, like a book cover. So if you purchased a premade from someone who used a photo that shouldn’t be used–you’ll be the one to get into trouble, not the person who made the cover. I’ve heard other stories like designers on Fiverr who steal images to incorporate them into “original” covers.

Looking for someone I could trust made my head spin and my checkbook cry . . . and I gave up.

The indie publishing rush has opened up the arena for cheats and thieves, scam artists and simply people who think they can do something and charge you for it when their skills are less than adequate to get the job done.

In the case of the woman using free photos for her premades, that’s insulting anyway. Anyone can get their hands on a free photo and shove some text on it using Canva. Part of a designer’s fee should pay for a stock photo that hasn’t been around the world wide web a few thousand times. {Insert crass whore joke here.}

girl reading

We’ve all seen her before. Would you want her on your book’s cover? No matter how pretty her hair is.

But how do you know what you don’t know? Maybe I can help.

There are three major things an indie pays for:

  1. Covers for their books.
    Don’t simply pay and walk away; even if you’re extremely happy with what you’ve been given. Especially if you’re extremely happy and maybe want to make this person part of your publishing team.
    Ask where they purchased the photos. A cover could have quite a few elements that make up the whole. If you are in doubt if any image is okay to use, look at the terms of service and make sure the photos were used in a legitimate manner. It could take some digging but better to know now, than after your book is published. Copies of your paperback may never be recovered.
    Ask where they found the font. There’re plenty of places that offer free-for commercial-use fonts. Your designer could have purchased a font suite, or picked them up singly as the need for them arose. If you’ve hired someone to do your cover, it never hurts to be sure the font is okay to use.
  2. Editing.
    Someone really can’t, well I was going to say someone really can’t cheat you with editing, but of course they can. They can charge you for a shitty job. I’ve been a victim of that. Note to self: a writer does not an editor make.
    Editors are human–even traditionally published books are published with typos. But not all editors are created equal and some will be better than others. Always ask for a sample. Some will do it for free, some will charge you a small fee and then put that sum toward the total if you hire them.
    If they won’t give you a sample, steer clear. After the sample, take a look at it. Does it look like they ran it through Grammarly? Used the Hemingway App, or ProWritingAid? Does it look like an actual human read it and made real-life comments? And do those comments make sense? Did they maybe give you a link of proof to back up their edits? (I do this with my friends, especially if I had to look it up myself to make sure.)
    If this person’s rates are reasonable and you don’t have to wait five years to have your manuscript back, maybe it’s a good idea to get a second opinion on his or her work. Because you’re ultimately building a team to help you publish your future books. And someone who can do the work and charge a fair price is worth their weight in gold.
    You want people around you that you can trust to do a good job. If she gives off a good vibe, and the second opinion of her work pans out, you may have an editor you can trust for many years to come.
  3. Formatting.
    This one makes me mad. You know why? Because Vellum has made it super easy to format books–both ebook and paperback (they offer large print, too!). It will generate files for Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and a generic epub for places like Draft2Digital and Smashwords. They will also give you a fabulous interior for paperbacks with dropped caps for chapter starts, and options to have the name of the chapter in the headers, which will change with each new chapter title! Trying to do that in Word would make me an alcoholic! There is a small learning curve, and I had to Google a couple of questions that popped up when I did a friend’s book, but after a couple of books, you can get the hang of it pretty quickly and format a book in less than an hour. Especially if you have all of your front and back matter written, and your links are already gathered together into one place.
vellum formatting ad

A picture of what using Vellum looks like. Taken from their site.

And this what drives me INSANE! People are charging for this. I realize that everyone deserves compensation for their time. And if you purchase a Mac so you can use Vellum, you’re investing 1500 dollars right off the top for your business. But holy cow, if you hire someone to format your book and you know they are going to use Vellum, maybe you can network a little bit and find someone else who will do it for trade. Or if you already have a Mac and you know you’ll be producing a lot of books in the future, buy it yourself. You can take a look at it here.
Another way you can format your book is to use Draft2Digital’s formatting tool. You don’t have to publish with them to use the tool, but you do have to create an account, which feels like they are locking you in to use them to publish, but they aren’t. They format both paperback and ebook and there is no charge to use their service.
If you like Word and have a little knowledge about how to make the page numbers and End Section features work for you (the template adds them, but inevitably you’ll have to add chapters), you can try the template KDP Print offers you. This used to be the way to do it when you didn’t want to pay for a formatter, but it’s no longer the best way. Still, if you’re stuck using this, it’s better than not having a paperback option at all. There are scammers I’ve run into on Twitter who charge to do for this for you. I don’t know if they still do being that Draft2Digital offers you a free way, and almost anyone can find someone who uses Vellum because it’s that good. Once I pinned a tweet cautioning against paying someone to copy and paste, and a woman who did indeed charge for this simple formatting thought I was singling her out. I wasn’t, but she retaliated by giving me a poor review on a book of mine on Goodreads. She also charges for website building through Wix, and Wix, I’ve heard, is one of the easiest websites for a beginner to use. My friend Aila has a blog post about it, and she made Wix sound so good, I was tempted to change!

So, just be careful who you pay and for what. If you’re paying someone simply so you don’t have to do the work, that’s one thing, because we’re all willing to pay for convenience in one way or another. But sometimes it’s just easier to learn how to do things on your own.


Everyone from huge vanity presses asking you  to “invest in your book” to the person charging to copy and paste your book into a template provided by KDP Print for free are happy to take your money.

Trust doesn’t come easily to me, and I’d rather learn what I don’t know to stay in control.

There’s nothing wrong with charging for a service, just as there is nothing wrong with paying a fair price for that service.

Just be sure that the price balances the skill and you both walk away happy. Maybe a lovely business relationship will develop.


As a silly side note, I used a photo from Pixabay in a blog post last year. I said in the post I found the photo there, and since Pixabay offers photos free for commercial use, I was safe in using it for my blog. But I found an email in my author email (I rarely check that account) and this gentleman had emailed me about a photo I had used.

Hi there, 

Thanks so much for including one of my pictures on your page. I love seeing my work featured around the web.

This is the image the page is on: https://vaniamargene.com/tag/fear/

And this my image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/158456412@N05/40174218953/
Could you please link to https://www.mytradingskills.com as per my attribution credit request on the image?
Thanks very much and have a great day!
XXXX

Name: XXX
Title: Creative Director
Website: www.XXX.com

Imagine my surprise when I found that in my box. Of course, I changed the attribution in my blog post, just to keep feathers from being ruffled (who knows if he’ll even check), but could you imagine if his email had held any weight? I was scared for a second. So always make sure that the photo is safe to use. And that is your job, whether you hire someone or not.

I always give attribution to the photographer and print the photo ID in my front matter of my books. That causes some extra work for me because I had to swap out my files when I redid the covers for my trilogy. But I feel it’s best. I also credit using Canva.com to make those covers.

Cover all your basis, guys and gals, because we are in BUSINESS, and other people are in business too. Never think for one moment that someone will give you a pass if you make a mistake.

Happy and SAFE publishing!

Publish Safely!

photos taken from Pixabay and/or taken from and made in Canva.

 

The Sell More Books Show Summit 2019

sell more books show 2019

Two weekends ago I attended the Sell More Books Summit in Chicago. I’m still trying to catch up from being gone, writing-wise, but it was a wonderful experience.

It was hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral, hosts of the Sell More Books Show Podcast. I recommend listening to this as they go through the top indie publishing news of the week. While I was too shy to introduce myself, it was fun to see them in person.

There were a lot of speakers, and even though I stay in tune with the self-publishing industry, I picked up a few things I’ll pass on to you!

  1. Amazon Ads are only good if you’re in Kindle Unlimited.
    This actually might be a no-brainer to some of you, but I just pulled my books out of Select and all my thoughts had been focused on Amazon.
    When you  run ads on Amazon, you are going for the double-whammy: sales and page reads. If you are wide, you’re leaving out a big chunk of potential readers if your marketing strategy is centered on Amazon Advertising.
    It’s a mind shift, for sure, but something I didn’t realize until the summit. Now that I’m wide, I’ll forget Amazon Advertising ads and focus on other methods with a wider reach.

  2. You need to write a series.
    I always knew that, but it’s different when people who are actually making money off their books tell you that.
    A series is good for marketing (pricing a first in series permafree for instance) and a rapid release can keep your momentum going. I don’t like writing a series, but being I’m about 1/2 done with a four book series, I’m taking my own advice when I preach writing to market. I prefer writing standalones, but I understand where a series is beneficial, and after a couple standalones to cleanse my palate I’ll get back on the series horse.
  3. You  can make it wide, it will just take a mindset shift and a lot of patience.
    There was a wide panel that consisted of representatives from Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, and Kobo. During this panel, they did say you could make it wide, and that’s what I needed to hear at this point in my writing journey. I’m not making sales on the other platforms yet, and my KU pages reads have dried up, what few of them there were. It’s a scary place to be. So it was nice to hear that with patience, going wide won’t screw me over. Just the opposite in fact–going wide can double your income.
    (For a good read on being exclusive and going wide, read this article by PublishDrive. :))
  4. But you won’t make it with one book if you’re wide.
    If you’re all in with Amazon and you have one book, you may be able to make some money. Jami Albright spoke about her publishing journey. She writes romantic comedy, and she’s published a series. She didn’t do a rapid release though, and she bought ads for a single book and did very well. When asked what she would do differently, she said she would have had book two done and ready to go. She might have made more with momentum, but she was still able to sell book one when it was her only one. If you want to check out her books, click here for her Amazon page. She’s in KU and said she has made 65%+ of her income with KU page reads. (And yes, she is one of those 6-figure authors we all hear about but never meet!)
    Wide is a different story. You need to think of your book as a storefront. If you went into a store and saw only one item on a shelf, you’d think that store was going out of business and you would high-tail it out of there. It would be even worse if that item is old and covered in dust. Which is what your book looks like if it’s the only one you  have and it was published some time ago. You need to keep filling your store with stock or you won’t lure customers to shop there.
    This is also difficult if your book isn’t up to standards. Then not only are you trying to sell a single time, that item is broken. Thinking like a customer, do you want the choice of only one damaged item? No. You’ll go to another store–and to a reader, that other store is a different author.
  5. Readers are different.
    Readers in KU plow through books. These readers aren’t developing a relationship with you. They gobble up content and move on to the next book, and you don’t care because you were paid for the page reads and nothing else matters.
    The team on the wide panel said you are more apt to develop relationships with your readers because they shop for books and read in a different way than readers who borrow books in KU.
    I don’t know if that is true or not. Perhaps that is why the newsletter concept is so heavily pushed. I know plenty of KU authors with huge mailing lists, and maybe that is their way of connecting with readers when they are all in with KU.
    I know when they say readers are “voracious” they mean they are plowing through books, maybe even one a day. I used to read like that when I had the time. I used to read Harlequin Temptations and Desires by the armful when I could get my hands on them at the second-hand shop for twenty-five cents a piece. It didn’t matter who wrote it, I just consumed the story and went on to the next. I can tell you what I did do, though. I eventually learned who I didn’t like.
    Anyway, whether you believe this idea or not, you need more than one book if you’re wide. Giving readers more to gobble up will always be a smart idea, whether they remember your name or not.
  6. You need to offer more than a book. Coincidentally, I wrote just wrote a blog post about this very thing, and you can read it here. Chris Fox, during his talk, took it one step further. You need MORE. When you write in a series, you can offer a map and pinpoint where things take place in the story. You can offer pictures of what you envision their houses to look like, or the city they live in. Already authors add extra content to their back matter. Chris had special coins made in the currency of the world he writes in, and he is going to hide them around the city where he lives. Then he is going to create a geo-caching game that will allow readers to find them and keep them as a keepsake for his series. Not everyone has the funds or knowledge to do something like that, but his point was, going forward into 2020, you’re going to need more.

Those were the main takeaways for me from the summit. Admittedly, I knew a lot of what they were talking about since I listen to their podcast, and if anyone follows self-publishing news, then you know releasing quality content on a regular basis is a must for any author, in wide or KU, and that is going to be the backbone of your author business. kindle unlimted1

There was an interesting juxtaposition that occurred to me while I attended the summit.  The summit was sponsored by Vellum, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, BookFunnel, and Kobo. It’s interesting to me that some of the bigger names of the summit who have made it with their books are in Kindle Unlimited.  Chris Fox, Jami Albright, Bryan Cohen. The writing duo J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon. Cecilia Mecca. Elise Kova. I wonder if anyone thought about the fact that the summit was sponsored by companies that help indies go wide, while the big-named authors who spoke at the summit are in KU.
I’m not suggesting anything, of course. There’s nothing to suggest. I find it unlikely that Amazon would sponsor a writing summit, and there were a few writers there who are wide. It just makes me think a little, that’s all. Like, if there is such good money to be had going wide, why aren’t they doing it? Sure, there are authors making lots of money being wide like Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Adam Croft–who is a big advocate of going wide. There are some that do a mix–have some books in KU and some wide. I would just keep my eye out and see if the top authors in your genre are wide or if they are in KU. If they are, and you want to try to copy their success, are you comfortable with allowing Amazon full control over your royalties? It’s food for thought. It makes me think about going wide, and if that was a good move. It’s tempting to want to exploit KU since it seems like good fast money if you have a decent backlist and a little money to play with for Amazon Advertising. We’ll see.


If you are interested in going to the summit next year, Bryan announced he would not be part of it (though he is speaking) and the summit is now going to be part of the Career Author with J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon.  It will be taking place in Nashville in 2020, and it looks like tickets are already on sale. You can click here to find out more information about the summit of 2020. I heard that Joanna Penn will be there, so if wanting to meet her is any incentive, sign up now!

Would I go to another summit? Maybe. I feel like it was more of a networking opportunity than anything else, and since I’m shy and very much an introvert, I didn’t meet as many people as I wanted to. That’s my own fault of course, but paying $399-499 to sit in a corner isn’t the best idea. I’d like to try to go to the 20booksto50k convention that’s held in Las Vegas hosted by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle. (But again, they are big supporters of KU.) But because of personal issues, a summit next year may be out of my reach anyway. It takes money and time to attend, and I’m still kicking myself for not making the most of my time at this event. Especially with the open bar.

You never know. But if YOU have an opportunity to attend, you should go! And say hi to Joanna for me!

Until next time!

 

Writing is a Bitter Business

I was talking to a friend the other day about blogging. I enjoy her blog posts and I asked her why she doesn’t blog more. She said, “I think I sound bitter.” I thought about that, and while I didn’t think that was true, I realized she had a point.

Writing is a bitter business.

When I say writing, I mean all aspects of it. Finding the time to write, the building of your writer’s platform, publishing, and finding readers.

Why is writing a bitter business?

Let’s explore:

  1. Writing is hard.
    No one appreciates what you go through on a daily basis. Writing words is hard, and lonely. And no one can make you do the work. It’s not like going to a real job where you get paid every two weeks, and you can get fired for not showing up. Sometimes it takes months to earn royalties; sometimes it takes years. Sometimes the only payment you receive for your writing is your own sense of of accomplishment. If that isn’t enough for you, how do you keep going? What makes you turn on your laptop or open that notebook or open that Google Docs app on your phone day after day after day? Besides raising children and being a faceless trash collector, I can’t think of a more thankless job.
  2. There’s no pay.
    I touched on this a bit in number one. Not only is writing hard, you’re not getting paid. I’m not getting paid for writing this blog post. I’m not getting paid for the books that are on sale on Amazon right now. I don’t get paid to tweet, update my Facebook author page, or write a long description to go with a photo on Instagram. If you feel bitter because money isn’t flowing to you, you need to think about what you can do about that.
    Do you not have books for sale? That should be your main priority. Do you offer helpful, evergreen content on your blog? Maybe sign up for Ko-fi and ask for consumers of your work to tip you for it, or start a Patreon account. The problem is, when you’re new and just starting out, getting paid is hard. No one knows who you are. But to be fair–this happens in every profession. They are called interns.

    intern joke

    taken from pinterest

    And they work for free. Sometimes if the internship is a part of their university curriculum, they PAY to intern for credit toward their diploma. I pay to blog. I pay for my domain name, and I’ve upgraded my WordPress plan.
    I’m doing the opposite of getting paid, and probably so are you.

  3. No one cares.
    This is a big one, and the one that trips up my friend. In a sea of writers and free content, no one cares what you’re doing. I feel this myself when I release a new book. I press Publish and get on with my day. There is no big cover reveal, there’s no blog tour, there’s no FB author page takeover or FB party. There are a couple reasons why I do this. One, I’m building a back list; I’m always writing the next book. And two, I know on certain platforms like Twitter, that’s not where my readers are, and announcing it won’t do anything for me. Sure, there might be a couple of people who will congratulate me, and that’s nice. But anyone cultivating their social media accounts hoping for sales will come away bitter. So I publish and keep writing.
  4. You feel like you’re screaming into the void.
    Let’s be real–that’s what blogging is at first. You blog to no one. You have zero followers, and when you check your analytics, you have zero visits.
    But that happens to absolutely everyone who starts a new blog. Everyone. It’s made even worse when you don’t have a solid social media presence to announce your blog on. Blogging is hard for writers. Do we blog for other writers? Do we blog for our readers? How do we do that if we don’t have a book out yet? What do we blog about that hasn’t been said a million times? You put in a couple of hours writing, making graphics in Canva, push Publish . . . all for nothing. It’s very easy to become bitter. To read my thoughts on starting a blog, look here.
  5. You don’t have support at home.
    Your significant other says you’re not making money, so you’re better off investing your time somewhere else. Like at a real job. Your kids want you to play. Your husband won’t help with chores. No one wants to walk the dog or scoop litter. You get accused of wasting time online when you’re trying to build a social media platform and/or write through a sticky scene in your story. Laundry needs to be done. You feel like a trout swimming upstream and some days you feel like there’s no point in fighting all this resistance.
    The problem with this is everyone needs their own life outside of who other people perceive them to be. You’re more than just a partner, a mom, a dad, a daughter or a son. People can’t see you writing, or rather, they can’t see the results. When you relax in the bath, you’re taking an hour to yourself. When you go for a run, you are doing something for your health. When you spend an hour doing almost anything else, people can see that. Appreciate it. Why is writing different? You spend an hour in front of the computer for months, sometimes years, and you walk away with your hands empty. Never mind that during that time you might have published two books digitally on Amazon. It still looks like you’ve wasted all that time. And if you don’t have sales, it’s easy to agree with the crabby husband who wants you to get a job, already. Yeah, it feels like all that work was for nothing, and bitterness takes hold.
  6. There are too many of us.
    Holy cow–the writing community has exploded on Twitter in the past couple of months. There are more writers online than lice on a kid’s head during an outbreak at school. It’s easy to feel invisible. What’s worse is we all want the same thing. We want agents and book deals and readers. And it hurts when we see other writers

    candle quote

    picturequotes.com

    earn those things. (I do say earn, because querying is hard work!) We’re told over and over again there’s only so much shelf space at the bookstore, there are only so many agents, so many publishers. While Writer Twitter is supportive, no one can deny there’s a current of competitiveness underneath the goodwill. We’re competing against each other. The saying is true–lighting someone else’s candle won’t put out your own flame–but it’s hard to watch someone get what you want. Especially if you are really trying your best.


What can we do to shake the bitterness?

  1. Define your success.
    What does success mean to you? For some people that simply means finishing a book. For others, it’s pushing the Publish button. Still for others, it’s their first five-star review. The thing with success is you need to be realistic. We all know EL James didn’t become famous over night, nor did Hugh Howey. We all start somewhere, so you need to start small and celebrate the small successes, no matter how tiny they are. That might mean buying a bottle of Prosecco for your first ten blog followers, or going out for a night of dinner and dancing with friends when you finish the first draft of your book.
  2. What do you want from social media?
    I know a few people with a love/hate relationship with Twitter, and I understand the struggle. I do. You put all this time in engaging with other people, tweeting, connecting, networking–and for what? That depends on why you’re on there. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. It will show in your lack of engagement and lackluster content. If you don’t like Twitter, focus on a Facebook Author page or cultivate a following on Instagram. Because the fact is, you may hate social media, but even if you do the bare minimum and only have a website for an author landing page, you still need somewhere to announce you have one. This is especially true if you’re not publishing and you don’t have back matter in a book to use to direct your readers to your website or newsletter sign up.
    So what do you want from your social media platform? Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers. A Facebook Author page can give your readers a place to find you. Start a Facebook reader’s GROUP and form a book club or place to talk about books. If you live in a cool place like my friend who lives in Hawaii, or you have lots of pets–whatever you think will interest an audience–if you’re more visual, maybe post pictures on Instagram. But the sooner you realize that social media is more for being social and networking than selling whatever you’re peddling, you may form a truce with start to enjoy yourself. I like Twitter. I keep up care about other peoplewith industry news that way. A ton of agents and book bloggers hang out on Twitter. If you ever plan to query, befriending agents and creating a professional connection can’t steer you wrong. Social media is about caring about other people. Think of the 80/20 rule. 80% of your content needs to be about other people. If you care about other people, other people will care about you.
  3. Realize that writing is a long game.
    No one got famous overnight for writing. It just feels like they did. That debut that turns into a blockbuster is few and far between and usually has a team of people behind the launch. This year will be my third year in indie publishing. I don’t make much in sales. I only have 226 people subscribed to my blog. I have barely 100 likes on my FB author page. I have 14.7 followers on Twitter, but when I tweet something I’m lucky if I can get five likes. I could get bitter about it, but why?

    In fact, in a delicious piece of irony, on Twitter I asked writers what made them bitter about the writing/publishing industry. No one answered.

    I love to write and all of the stuff I mentioned would just be a bonus. But I’ll get there. Three years might seem like a long time for someone who wants instant gratification, but guess what? Publishing doesn’t work that way. I’m still a baby in this industry and I’m smart enough to realize it. If you’ve been writing for a year with nothing to show for it, realize this is common. People have wildly exaggerated expectations when it comes to self-publishing and while 12 years ago it could have made you rich like Amanda Hocking, it’s not true anymore. There are too many of us and times have changed. It doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel, but it does mean you have to change your way of thinking.
    If it helps, think of the intern. She might be an intern now, but in ten years she could be CEO of the company. But she’ll never make it that far if she quits.
    Or lets all those coffee runs make her bitter.

  4. Remember this is about craft.
    Sure, those people who are selling crappy books might have a sales bump every once in a while, but are they are selling to new people all the time, or are they cultivating a loyal readership with well-written stories and lovable characters? It’s easy to get caught up in the other stuff–Facebook, blogging, Twitter likes, but the fact is, none of that matters if you aren’t working on your craft. Build a foundation on good stories.
  5. People may be cheering for you without telling you.
    You could have fans without knowing it! People who want to see you succeed. They follow your blog, look for your tweets. They’re disappointed when you don’t update your author page on Facebook. You can’t assume you’re in this alone, because that probably isn’t true. Snowstorms begin with a single snowflake. Your core readership will begin with one reader. Don’t disappoint her by being bitter.

In closing, I know it’s hard. I’m right there with you. I entered All of Nothing into the RITAs, and it didn’t advance. I tried not to be bitter. Especially since I think All of Nothing is my strongest book so far. And especially since I compared it to the books I had to judge as part of my entry, and especially when I read the list of finalists.

This isn’t anything a writer wants to admit. We should all be supporting each other and be happy for one another. And I’m delighted for the finalists. But I wish I had been one.

women helping women

It doesn’t mean I’ll never have the chance to enter again, and that doesn’t mean I won’t advance in a different contest some day.

But if I let my bitterness win out, then no, there will never be other contests in my future, or other books, either. So I need to keep my focus on why I write.

Because I love it. Simple as that.

And that may not be the case for you. There’s no judgment here. If you can’t write without the support of a loved one, if you can’t blog because no one has subscribed to it, if you don’t want to finish your book because when you tweet about it no one encourages you, then don’t.

Writing isn’t for everyone. Circle back around in a couple of years when circumstances in your life change. Circle back around when your priorities have shifted. Circle back around when you’re ready to put in the time and the work.

Writing is between you and your readers. That’s it.

And there’s nothing bitter about that.

bitterness