What I learned from an author’s literal, overnight success

This month was a good month for Chelsea Banning who tweeted about her book signing. When Henry Winkler quote tweeted it, other high-profile authors in the writing community picked her up and offered her support as well. If that wasn’t enough, news outlets like CBS tweeted about her too, and as a result her book sold hundreds (maybe even thousands) of copies.

I could fill my entire blog post with tweets mentioning her, but instead, you can search Twitter for her name or follow her here.

Not every one was happy for her, and like Brandon Sanderson’s success with Kickstarter there were some people who, let’s just say, weren’t thrilled with her sudden luck. That’s fine. Some people think success isn’t due unless it’s earned through back-breaking hard work, like somehow how hard you hustle should be equated with the level of success you can achieve (which is a terrible American way of thinking, to be honest, and if it were true, I’d be a millionaire by now).

Instead of feeling sorry for myself and how few books I’ve sold in my lifetime (which I didn’t, but I know there were some who did), I thought I would use her luck and success as a learning experience. What did I learn watching her career explode right in front of my face? Let’s take a look.

Have a great product. One of the biggest lessons you can learn is to put out a quality product because you never know when or where that bump will come from. It’s much easier to share someone’s work if it’s good quality. While Henry Winkler, Margaret Atwood, and Stephen King didn’t personally endorse her book or share a tweet with her book cover in it, her momentum may have halted in its tracks if her cover was bad or if her book wasn’t good enough to share. Not long ago I blogged about an author whose TIkTok went viral. He sold hundreds of copies of his book, but it wasn’t well-edited and his reviews reflected that. I felt so sorry for him and his read-through. While you don’t know what you don’t know, and we’re always putting out the best quality product we can at the time, having your book at least looked over by betas who can spot typos or hiring a proofreader and getting an inexpensive cover from GetCovers can go a long way if you’re a broke DIYer.

Have a way to capture readers. Chelsea went viral on Twitter and her followers reflect that. She went from a small following to over 10k almost over night, but we’re told the best way to keep a reader is to start a newsletter and grab their email address. (Chelsea has one through MailChimp and you can sign up here.) With the uncertainty of any social media platform (Musk taking over Twitter evidence of just how shaky a platform can be) it’s better to keep your readers on land you own. When you start a newsletter, you can export your list regularly so if you ever need to change aggregators, you can and not lose any subscribers. Please don’t try to set up a newsletter through a personal email account or something like vaniarheaultauthor@gmail.com (that is a legit email for me but I don’t check it so email me there at your own risk), as it can be illegal to do so. For more information about making sure your newsletter is compliant, check here, and you can find another great resource here. I go through MailerLite, though I don’t have a double-opt in feature. When I run ads to my reader magnet, people can give me their email address voluntarily and at the end of the book, they have another chance to sign up if they didn’t before. My unsubscribe link is clear at the bottom of every email, and I do get some occasionally. I like it because I can create pretty newsletters with specially placed text boxes and images–nothing like what you can do with gmail.

Have something to offer your new (new) readers. I don’t know what Chelsea’s situation is, and of course you can’t predict when something like this will happen, but I hope she has another book coming soon! If not, she can use her newsletter to keep readers engaged between books–and maybe she already has a reader magnet she gives away to her subscribers. Like Brandon Sanderson before he started his Kickstarter, he already had the four books written and was able to capitalize on his hard work. It’s also a great marketing tool to be able to say all the work is already done. If Chelsea doesn’t have a second book in the works, maybe she has an idea and can put up a pre-order for the next book. That’s another reason why writing in a series is a good move, and having them look like they all belong together encourages sales and read-through.

Put yourself out there. That is probably the biggest takeaway I learned from Chelsea’s experience. She stepped out of her comfort zone and approached a bookstore to host a signing. If you were a little jealous of her success, look at what you’ve done to step outside your comfort zone. She tried, set up an event on social media, and when it didn’t go her way, she shared that, too. That alone is worth more than a pat on the back, and more than likely, that bookstore was happy to host her because, looking at number one, her book is professionally put together. I have an independent bookstore not far from me, but I have never asked them to carry my books on consignment or otherwise. I know they do, as I flip through the local authors section every now and then and there are always books with the KDP Print stamp in the backs. I just have never bothered as being on a bookshelf has never been my dream, and I know my readers are mostly in KU. But if all you’ve ever wanted is to see your book on a shelf, then what are you waiting for? Your courage could lead to bigger and better things like it did for Chelsea.

I’ll never resent anyone who puts in the work and reaps from that work. With the start of the new year upon us, how do you plan to create your own luck?


I don’t have much personal news for myself. We had a lot of snow last week, and I ran over something and now my car is leaking oil. I can’t get it in until Tuesday, so fingers crossed I can get my errands done without trouble before I can get it fixed. I wanted to be at least 50k into my rockstar romance by now, but it’s been slow going, and I’m only at 46k at the time of this writing. Hopefully when you read this I can be at 50k because I can write all weekend without much interruption. I have 30 days before my first book in my trilogy releases and I’m going to try to do a few things from the 30 pre-launch plan that came with Stephanie Burdett’s social media kit that I wrote about last week. If anything, at least I can get my FB author pages going so they don’t look so empty. After Christmas I’ll put all three paperbacks on Amazon and list them on Booksprout for reviews. And for a kick, I’m still going to put book one of my duet on a couple of free days and buy a promo or two bump up my pen name. Just a lot of waiting, but I have my WIP to keep me occupied, so it’s all good.

There’s one more Monday where I’m going to post my end of the year recap, and unless I have something I want to say, I’m going to take Monday the 2nd of January off for a little break. I always say I’m going to take a break, but I never do, so we’ll see.

Have a great week!

Author Update: My Freebooksy results and knowing what you want

I’m only 19,400 words into my new WIP since starting it November 10th, and I’m having a difficult time getting into it. There are a couple of reasons, mainly I don’t know when I’ll publish it, and without that sense of urgency and anticipation, finding the motivation to write is difficult. I haven’t been wasting my time not writing–I read a book that some writers on Writer Twitter were bemoaning for the “stalkerish” tendencies of the male main character. I didn’t find it terrible, not in that way, but let’s just say, the book needed an editor and the possessiveness of the MMC was the least of that book’s problems.

I also reread Wherever He Goes, and talking about editing, that could use an edit. Not with any typos, though I did catch one “reign” where I meant “rein” and I had Kat driving West to make to Florida from Utah, but the instances of “had” when there didn’t need to be blew me away, and I think I probably should have edited it first before offering it for free and giving away 77 copies during my free promotion over the weekend. It’s a super cute book though, I still love the story very much, but if I ever wanted to go back and fix all those past perfect instances that don’t need to be there, I could also recover it with an illustrated cover that would be more fitting than what’s on it now. Back when I published it, illustrated covers weren’t popular, but it would be very fitting for the kind of plot it is. That is a project for another day, or maybe never as you can’t move forward if you keep looking back.


Speaking of looking back, I’ll give you the results I have for the Freebooksy deal I did on Thursday, November 17th. I took out a promo for that day, but I also extended my free days to the 18th and 19th. I don’t know why I decided to spend money on a Freebooksy for a pen name I’m not sure I’m going to write under anymore, except that I hadn’t ran a promo for those books in a long time, and I was just curious to see how they’d do. (Just a heads up–curiosity is not a good marketing strategy.) The problem with that mentality is, if you don’t have a plan or a desired outcome, it’s best not to spend the money. I’ll explain what I mean in a bit. The last time I did a Freebooksy on the first in my series, I earned my money back right away as it was a brand new series and I think I was still getting a lift from Amazon at the time. This time around, I gave away 2,583 copies of His Frozen Heart, the first in my four-book small-town holiday series. This is what the ad looked like in the Freebooksy newsletter:

I think the best it made in the free charts was number three in Contemporary Women’s Fiction.

I don’t think I even made the top 100 with the holiday category that I wanted, but to me, it doesn’t matter where I fell on the free categories, because anyone can give a book away (I am all about bank over rank). My read-through didn’t come as fast as before, but hundreds of readers could spend the next several weeks or even months getting through my books. I may eventually recoup the cost of my fee, but I spent 115.00 on that promo, and so far have only earned 69.00 this month, which isn’t fair because I had sales of my duet and Rescue Me before the free promo. BookReport did a good job of breaking the numbers down so far:

ASIN	Earnings 	Sales	Pages	Giveaways
Totals	$32.42	10	1,429	2,583
His Frozen Dreams: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$12.56	4	357	0Her Frozen Memories: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$8.67	3	108	0
Her Frozen Promises: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$8.10	3	1	0
His Frozen Heart: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$3.08	0	963	2,583
Series Stats for the month of November
Standalone Stats for the month of November

So this brings me to what I really wanted to talk about today, and it’s this: always have a plan or some kind of vision of the ROI you want when you schedule a promo or run a sale. What is your reason why? Obviously, I had pie-in-the-sky hopes and dreams for this series and this promo, and I was hoping I’d make a lot of money. I have a couple of ideas why that didn’t happen but I should have given this promo a lot more thought before forking over the cash.

What did I hope to achieve giving my books away? If I wanted the exposure, what for? I don’t have plans to write under Vania Rheault anytime soon because those books are written in 3rd person and I’m not writing that anymore (and I don’t think indie contemporary romance in 3rd person is selling anymore either). Did I just want to see what would happen? Well, I’ve gotten half my fee back, so I can’t say it was an expensive experiment, but that money, if I really think about my plans for my releases coming up next year, could have been better spent. Did I just to give them one last hurrah before I turned my back on them for good? I love my books too much to do that, especially since I was just talking about re-editing Wherever He Goes and recovering it with an updated cover. So, for me, if I can’t answer those questions, I probably didn’t need to be spending money on a promo, “just for the hell of it.” It’s never a good idea, or a cost-effective idea, to throw spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks. More than like it won’t, and all you end up with is a mess.

I didn’t have a concrete idea of what I wanted to achieve with this promo, and because money, especially this time of year, is in short supply, I kind of regret the ill-thought out spontaneity of my decision. I don’t regret all the copies I gave away, but I’m not nurturing that pen name anymore, and finding new readers for a limited supply of titles doesn’t make any sense.

So, before forking over the cash for a promo, or for any kind of marketing, really, think about what you want to get out of it. There are different kinds of return on investment after all, not just sales, and it’s okay to spend money for something other than that if you know what you want. Exposure is fine, and in these times, we do have to pay for that. Sales, how many do you want? How many sales or page reads would you need to break even or to reach your goals? Read-through? Is your first book strong enough to carry the read-through you’re hoping for? How many sales of books 2, 3, 4, etc do you want? What would make you happy? How old is your book, and have you had any new releases lately? Could you use a cover update before spending money? What about a fresh edit? Did you check your blurb to make sure it’s the best it can be before you pay for anything?

I’m glad that over 2,000 people thought my books were good enough to download. At least that tells me my covers are still decent, and the blurbs are holding their own. It also tells me that a promo on one book can affect the others. I didn’t run promos on my standalones and didn’t promote them in any way besides telling my newsletter about the free books that weekend. I simply put them for free and hoped for the best. So that was actually a nice surprise.

What’s next for me? This week is American Thanksgiving, so I’m going to be busy. I don’t have anything going on today (Monday) but I have Tuesday evening dinner and a movie with my sister. Wednesday my sister is coming over and we’re going to Downtown Fargo to snoop around, Thursday I work, but Friday I’m cooking and my sister and my ex-husband are coming over for drunk Trivial Pursuit and turkey. There won’t be much writing happening this week, but I am still excited for the story, and though I haven’t bought the images yet, I think this will end up being the cover. It’s a departure from the billionaire stuff I’ve been doing, as this is a rockstar romance, but it’s still in first person, so I’m hoping that I’ll still find readers. I haven’t had a cover come together so fast (besides Rescue Me, which took me ten minutes and I loved it from the first mockup) and likely it will stay:

stock photo preview from 123rf.com, cover made in Canva

Not sure what I’ll do with it once I’m done–doing anything for the sake of doing it isn’t wise, and while I would love to just hit publish and walk away, that’s the fastest way for a book to sink. Plus, if this is really the guy I’m going with, likely Amazon Advertising will kill any attempt to run ads which means back to Facebook–but only after Christmas.

My second set of proofs for my trilogy are good, all the little things fixed, so those are still set to publish after the holidays. I opened up book one on Bookfunnel if you want to give it a peek. You don’t have to give me your email address to download it. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/ntb40bhai8

Besides that I’m just keeping on keeping on. My carpal tunnel has eased up since I’m not writing so much right now, but the girlie stuff that has been bothering me for the past couple of years still hasn’t abated no matter what I try. Some people have suggested that because of my age and hormones, yadda yadda that maybe that could be just something that will never go back to normal. That could be, but it’s a depressing thought. I’m not the only one dealing with something on a daily basis, but it’s a bummer to have to put up with something so annoying with no hope of cure or treatment.

I hope you have a good week, and a happy Thanksgiving if you’re in the US and you celebrate!

Marketing ideas for your books

We tend to confuse marketing and advertising when it comes to our books. Advertising is what you do when you’ve already written it and published it and you’re only looking for readers. That’s running ads, buying a promo, tweeting about it, or posting in FB groups. That’s not really marketing. That’s shoving your book under someone’s nose and hoping they like it enough to buy it.

Marketing encompasses a lot more than that, and it starts with your product, a fact many indie authors don’t like because they prefer writing the book of their heart and hoping someone likes it enough to read it. That’s fine; whatever floats your boat. And honestly, it’s what you should do when you first start out. But writing the book of your heart, or the books of your heart, won’t get you very far unless you can meet in the middle between what you want to write and what readers are looking for. As I’ve said in the past, authors who can meet in the middle find their longevity in this business. Or rather than compromising on every book, write something you love, then something you know will sell, and go back and forth. I was reading Bryan Cohen’s new Amazon Ads book Self-Publishing with Amazon Ads: The Author’s Guide to Lower Costs, Higher Royalties, and Greater Peace of Mind and in it he quoted John Cusack, who said something like, “I do one project for them and one project for me.” I can’t find attribution for that quote, but for the sake of this blog post, let’s go with it. That’s not what this blog post is about, as it is your choice what you want to write, but as Seth Godin said, and I quoted him not long ago, “Find products for your customer instead of trying to find customers for your product.”

(And if you’re interested, a really great talk by Kyla Stone is available here. She talks about writing to market, but she couldn’t get to where she is today if she wasn’t writing what she loved to write.)

I’ve spent six years publishing and learning from my mistakes. Here are some tips I picked up from other authors and what you can implement with your next books.

Make sure your series looks like a series.
If you look at any big indie’s backlist all their series look like they belong together. It doesn’t matter if they’re all standalones and readers don’t have to read them in order. If they fit together, create their covers so they look like they do. Not only does a reader glancing at your Amazon page know they belong in a series, they just look nicer when they’re all branded in the same way. That means a matching background, maybe, cover models who have the same vibe. Create a series logo and add that to the cover as another way to identify one series from the next. If you do your own covers but publish as you write, create all your covers at once. That way you’re not stuck with one cover that’s already out in the world you can’t duplicate. That shoves you into a corner you don’t want to be in. Book covers are more important than we want to believe, but trust me. Look at any of your comparison authors’ backlists and see for yourself how they brand their series. Also make sure if you’re going to run ads that they meet Amazon’s policies. I had to tweak my small town contemporary series because Amazon kept blocking my ads. I had to zoom in on their faces and it ruined the entire look. I’m much more careful now.

These are books under this name. It’s easy to see the trilogy belongs together, the three standalones and then the small town series. Amazon didn’t like they were in bed. Too bad. They did.

Write in a series, but also don’t tie things up –until the very last one.
Elana Johnson calls these loops. You can end each book with an HEA, but with the overall plot, don’t wrap things up! This encourages the reader to read through your entire series to see how things finally end. With my small town series, everyone is in town for a wedding, and there are wedding activities throughout. The last book ends with the couple’s ceremony. What’s fun, the couple getting married isn’t even one of the couples featured in the books. They are background characters that help with the subplot of each book. That’s it. That might be a flimsy piece of tape holding the books together, but it was a fun way for me to end the series–with the reason why everyone was together in the first place. When Elana talks about loops, she doesn’t mean ending books on a cliffhanger, though it is well within your right and another marketing strategy you can incorporate into your writing. Elana has a wonderful series for indie authors, and you can look at the books here. I’ve read them all, and this isn’t an affiliate link.

Use your back matter.
When you write in a series, and the books are available, your Kindle can help you out by prompting you to read the next one. That can be a boost, but also, you want to take matters into your own hands and add the link to the next book in the back matter of the one before it. If you don’t write in a series, add a different book. If a reader loves your book, they’ll want to read more from you, and you might as well make it easy for them. Too many calls to action may confuse a reader, so you don’t want pages and pages of back matter asking a reader to buy a million books, sign up for your newsletter, and follow you on Twitter and Facebook. Choose the one most important to you, add it immediately after the last word of your book while they are still experiencing that reader’s high, and ask them to buy your next book or sign up for your newsletter. I have also heard that graphics work wonders and adding the cover along with the link is a great way to prompt readers to buy.

Introduce your next book with a scene at the end of the previous book.
This is one I learned from the writers in my romance group on Facebook. Say your novel is about Travis and Amy, but the next book is going to be about Rafe and Emily. End Travis and Amy’s book with a short chapter/scene in Rafe’s POV to get them excited for the next book. I haven’t started doing this, but the writers in my group give it 10/10 stars, would recommend as a great way to get readers buying the next book. Also, if you’re writing romance, readers gravitate toward those hunky men, so if you can, write from his POV. I’m definitely doing this with the trilogy I’m publishing in January, and with the six books that are with my proofer now, the third book ends with an HEA for that couple, but I added a chapter from the heroine’s POV for the next three books. I suppose I could have done it from his POV, but hers felt more natural, and I hope it will be enough to get the readers invested in her story and how the series plays out. You can do this with any genre you write in–if he’s a detective, maybe he stumbles onto a new case, or maybe something serious happens in his personal life. Whatever the case may be, add something that will entice readers to click on the link you’re putting in the back.

Bonus scenes for newsletter subscribers only.
I haven’t started this up yet because 1) you have to write the bonus content 2) I don’t know my newsletter aggregator well enough to make something like this happen, and 3) with my newsletter signup link already in the back, I’m giving away a full-length novel. If you don’t have a reader magnet, writing a bonus scene that is only available if readers sign up for your newsletter is a great way to add to your list and hopefully, the more engaged your list is, the more readers you have.

Looking at your entire backlist as a whole–or what you’ll be writing in the future.
If you think of marketing as an umbrella for your entire career, then think of advertising on a book by book basis. Marketing involves all your books, who you are as an author, and what your message is. That’s why so many authors want a logo–but attach feelings, emotions, and what you’re giving your reader in your books to that logo so they think of those things when they see it. It’s why soda commercials are always happy. They want you to equate having a good time with drinking their product. What do you want your readers to get out of your books? If you’re a romance author, an HEA, for sure, but what else? Is your brand a damaged hero? Found family? If you write women’s fiction, do you want your readers to expect a woman on a journey, or maybe sisters repairing their relationship? Best friends who have grown apart only to be reunited for some reason? Of course, that sounds like all your books will be about the same thing, but that’s not really the case. What is your theme, what is your message you want your reader to get from your books?

Publish consistently.
Training your readers to expect a book at certain time will help you build buzz as your readers will get used to your schedule. Figure out a comfortable schedule and try to maintain it. Once every 3 months seems like a good practice if you can keep up with that as you’ll never fall off Amazon’s 90 cliff. Also, if you’re writing a series, keep in mind readers don’t like to wait and you’ll have your work cut out for you if you can only release one book a year. You might just have to be resigned to the fact you won’t get the number of readers you want until all the books are released.

It’s a bit older now, but Jamie Albright spoke at the 20books convention a few years ago. She shared some good tips if you can only write and release one book a year.

Tweeting incessantly about your books isn’t marketing. Doing research on your next book before you write it, figuring out your comp authors and comp titles, doing cover research, and writing a good blurb is marketing. Running ads and buying promos to that book once you’ve written it is advertising.

It took me a really long time to figure this out–ten failed books because I genre hopped and was only writing what came to me. I didn’t publish on a schedule, didn’t have a plan. I’m still not publishing on a schedule, though I am going to try to aim for one book a quarter after my COVID stockpile is out into the world.

I’m getting a hang of this marketing thing, but it’s nothing you can achieve over night. I spent five years making mistakes. I’ll spend the next five fixing them.

Thanks for reading!


If you want resources on planning your career, Zoe York has a wonderful series of books that talk about that. You can get them here. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75

Sara Rosette also has a wonderful book on how to write series, and you can find it here. https://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Structure-Troubleshooting-Marketing/dp/1950054322/

Monday Musings and What I’m Liking Right Now

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Have a good week, everyone!

Until next time!

Author Comparisonitis and leveling up.

Last week, there was a little kerfuffle online about Sky Warren’s RAM (Romance Author Mastermind) conference, and like a true gossip, I like nosing around and seeing what the issue is.

I’m not writing this to call anyone out or judge any author, in fact, quite the opposite. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I blog to the new author, the one stumbling around trying to find his way in the industry where there are EIGHT MILLION books on Amazon with thousands more added every day.

This is a screenshot taken from a free webinar by Alex Newton of K-lytics. I screen-grabbed it in May of 2021, so the numbers are a bit outdated–and probably worse today.

I’m transparent in that I’ve written a few books, published them on my own–edited them with the help of a couple of beta readers, formatted them with Vellum, did my own covers. I haven’t found any real success–not the kind we really want when we publish a book. (We can all say we don’t want to make money or be a bestseller, but if you’re putting your book on Amazon, you’re hoping for an outcome such as that and there’s no point in lying to yourself. It will only bog your business down.)

So when conversation turns to leveling up, ad spend in the thousands, and launching to number one in the Kindle store and staying there for weeks on end, we have to realize that a conversation like this is like the difference between a janitor-in-training on his first day, and the CEO of that building conducting a billion-dollar meeting. It just isn’t the same.

I feel like these conversations come up every year, despite the information being proprietary to those conferences. You have to be making enough to be invited to attend RAM, and I am a long way off. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the information that comes out of it, but in reality, I’m not in any position to take it, either. I wrote about that before in a different blog post–we’re all at different stages in our journey and what one 6- or 7-figure author can do is not the same as what I can do with the resources that I have. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen to them talk, or take notes, or tuck away what works for them for later use, but is it going to help you with what you need help with NOW? Probably not.

I think the conflict came with the latest episode of the 6 Figure Authors podcast when Andrea Pearson recapped what she learned attending RAM. You can listen here. (Usually they post it on YouTube, but this episode is not available there. You can also listen to it on your podcast app of choice.) Because I write romance, it’s interesting to hear what the big authors are doing in regards to their business, but I know I’m not there yet. I’m not even in the black most months, so I listen with curiosity, a huge grain of salt, and a wish in the back of my mind that one day these lessons will apply to me.

How can we listen and not compare ourselves to these authors? Here are some things I take into consideration:

Are you doing the minimum first? This is a big one for me because if you’re not doing the 101 stuff, you’re not ready for the 301 level coursework. You know exactly what I mean, too. Are you writing in a series? Are you sticking to one genre to find a readership? Have you started a newsletter? Is your book GOOD? That is something we lose sight of–your book needs to be GOOD. Well-written with on-point grammar and punctuation, good story/genre appropriate/following the expected tropes and reader expectations, good cover, good blurb. If you don’t have the core quality of your product down, you’re never going to level up, or be in a position where that’s possible. It’s the difference between the crappy Frostee Freeze and the huge, brightly-colored popular Dairy Queen. Where would you rather buy your chocolate-dipped cone? (No offense to the Frostee Freezes out there, but ours is located in the ghetto and looks like the movie set of a Lifetime murder movie.)

What are your business goals? Everyone talks about this–what do you want out of your book business? But the fact is, if you don’t know, nothing you consume will help you get there. Why do you write? What do you want to get out of your business? A bestseller? Hit the top ten in your category? Do you want to have a huge launch? How many books do you have? How many books will you have by the end of the year? Are you writing a series? How fast are you going to release them? How long are you willing to do this before you see any success? This is part of the 101 stuff I was talking about above.

Find information that will help you NOW. This is probably why I like listening to the presentations from the 20booksto50k conferences in November. They are very generous and post most of the speakers on YouTube. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, unlike the mastermind classes where you already have to be at a certain level to get anything out of it. There are a lot of resources out there for newbies–podcasts and blogs, free ads courses, etc. Figure out what you need help with in regards to where you are at the present time. Are you working on craft? Looking for an editor? Exploring doing your own cover? Preparing for a launch? If you haven’t released your first book, listening to someone talk about how they’re spending 10,000 dollars on ads every month won’t matter to you, and it shouldn’t get you down. There’s no way you would (or probably could) spend that launching your first book. You’d never get that money back. Ever. There are so many resources for someone just starting out. My favorite is David Gaughran’s free course, Starting From Zero.

If you’re going to compare, at least be smart about it. I think a lot of what people don’t understand when they hear authors spending so much on their ads is that first, the authors have been writing for years and have a huge backlist (not to mention a huge readership), and second, a lot of their ad spend comes from savings of royalties already made. When you’ve been at this for years, you have savings. You’ve invested your money into CDs or high-yield savings accounts. When your interest accrued every year is as much as someone working a part-time job, you can afford to put some of that back into your ads. If you want to compare yourself to another author and base that comparison in reality, look at their genre. Is it the same as yours? Look at your backlist and how long it will take you to get to the same place. How is their book quality compared to yours? I could market my books the exact same way Janie Crouch does–but my books will never be like hers. Even if I copied the covers, genre, and tropes, our author voices and styles will never match. This is what they mean by “Your mileage may vary.” You are not another author and you never will be. How can you achieve your own kind of success?

I love this recap thread by Zoe York on Twitter. She’s so down to earth and pushes you to do what’s best for you and your books while giving you the encouragement to see that anything is possible if you work hard and don’t give up.

As far as I can see, there is no reason to get angry if someone wants to recap a high-end conference or be bitter they did. It’s the same as buying a marketing book from an author who is killing it. You can grab morsels of information but the likelihood you’re going to be able to apply 100% of what you’re consuming to your business that very second is slim.

Personally, I know why my publishing career is at a standstill. I made poor choices I didn’t know where poor choices. I know now through trial and error and listening to what mid-list authors have done to achieve their success. That’s why I did a 360 with my writing and started writing first person billionaire instead of the 3rd person contemporary romance. Will it help? I don’t know. I don’t know of my writing will resonate with readers. I may not know for a couple of years, and that’s something I’ll have to be okay with. Not everyone will make money in this business and I’ll have more choices to make if I’m not one of them. For now, I’m enjoying the process and I’m having fun writing. I’m not going to be condescending and say that’s all that matters, because it’s not. I want monetary compensation for the time I’ve spent writing and producing my books. Otherwise I would publish them on Wattpad or my own website and call it good enough.

You’ll have to decide what matters to you.

Your mileage may vary.

Thanks for reading!

“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.” How true is that statement?

Do whatever you want, and don't worry about what everyone else is into. 

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Woman in purple camisole sitting on red chair looking away from the camera.

You guys know I consume a lot of content. Not as much fiction as I should be for a romance author, but I live and breathe non-fiction, especially anything having to do with market trends and industry (both indie and trad) news. I have a fascination with learning, not only to pass things on to you, but because you don’t know what you don’t know, and I like knowing it all. Or trying to. Picking through the weeds is difficult and time consuming, and even today because I have to work, I’m missing out on Clubhouse rooms (and you all know how much I agonize over that).

Anyway, so on one of my off days, I was listening to a Clubhouse room and after an hour of extolling the virtues of TikTok, she says, “But you don’t have to do any of this if you don’t want to.” I would imagine some of us felt relief, because sure, you DON’T have to be on TikTok to sell books. It’s a relatively new platform and it’s not like books didn’t sell before it’s invention. But. After an hour of hearing how wonderful and fun it was, being told that it was voluntary punched me in the gut. After listening to testimonies about how worthwhile it was, how people did manage to sell books on there, her comment didn’t sound true. It sure as hell sounded like we needed to be on TikTok.

It made me think about what we can use in the business and what we really don’t need. These opinions are coming from a place where I wish I would have done some of these things and where I have tried some and think they have merit, where I found some tractions with sales, and what I know I’m missing out on because I didn’t do them. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

You don’t have to . . . be on social media . . . if you don’t want to. You really don’t have to be on social media if you don’t want to. Twitter is a time suck of negativity, IG is going down in flames as TikTok runs miles ahead. No one likes Facebook. But if you don’t like social media, what does an author have left to sell books? You need something. Anyone who pushes Publish and walks away knows you need something or no one will know where your book is. Probably the hardest lesson I learned in the past five years of publishing is that without a newsletter, without a reader group on on Facebook, if someone wanted to be a real fan of my books, I didn’t give them a chance to be. There is no where for them to meet up or chat with me. Sure, I’m on social media, but I’m not active and anyone who finds my author page will see my last post was from almost a year ago. Why would they hit the like button? It’s not like they would get anything out of it. So if you don’t like Facebook, you still need someplace for your fans to meet up. I get it. As a newbie author, maybe you’re thinking you won’t ever have fans, at least not for a long time. This could be true, but you don’t need to make it any harder for them than it has to be, either. If you don’t want to be on social media, you need to replace it with something. I didn’t have a social media presence or a newsletter and after a reader read my book, there was no way for them to connect with me, or me to connect with them to let them know of sales and/or new releases.

You don’t have to . . . start a newsletter . . . if you don’t want to. For years I didn’t start a newsletter. I didn’t want to take the time to learn. The thought of cranking out a book to offer as a reader magnet didn’t bother me (yes it does), but there is so much that goes into a newsletter, and it still makes my head spin. It’s easy to say, “Start a newsletter,” but it’s the behind the scenes that makes me bitter. Learning the platform, learning BookFunnel (because it’s the best way to distribute any bonus material and gather email signups), or StoryOrigin, seemed like a giant waste of time to me when all I wanted was to write books. If you have an active reader group on Facebook, you might be able to get away without a newsletter, though you’re planting seeds in someone else’s garden and everyone says not to do that. You could blog for readers, and Anne R. Allen even has a book about that very thing: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors. It may be a bit outdated, but her content advice should still be relevant. The only problem with directing a reader to your website is that you lose the control to connect with them. They choose to visit your website or read your blog. If you can snag their email, you can contact them whenever you want. True, they still have to open the email, but they voluntarily signed up, so that makes it more likely they will at least peek at what you have to say. Do you need to start a newsletter? Nope. But as an author who has been writing and publishing–steadily, I might add–with no readership after all this time, it’s my biggest regret.

You don’t have to . . . learn an ad platform . . . if you don’t want to. Like the other two things on the list so far, you don’t have to learn an ad platform, but you do have to have something to replace it, be that a newsletter or using promos such as Freebooksy, BargainBooksy, Ereader News Today, Fussy Librarian, etc. If you want to get the word out about your book, and you don’t want to be on social media, start a newsletter, or learn an ad platform, that doesn’t leave you a lot of marketing choices. Because I haven’t had a newsletter and I’m not active on social media, learning an ad platform and using the promo method are the two things I’ve used to find readers. Not a lot of readers, but more than if I hadn’t used anything at all.

You don’t have to . . . write in a series . . . if you don’t want to. From the minute I started writing and publishing, all I heard was write in a series. There’s a lot of wisdom to this. Read-through (KU page reads and sales of individual books) is great if your first book is strong and you don’t take too long between releases. You have more marketing choices if you write in a series (like box sets and offering the first book for free to get readers hooked), and ad spend isn’t so bad if you pay for a little higher click because essentially you’re not only advertising one book, but many books (as many books is in your series, obviously). So what’s the problem? Writing is hard. Publishing is hard (so much to learn!) and costly. If your book one isn’t strong enough and readers drop off, every book you write after book one is a waste of time. Instead of figuring out how to do covers for one book at a time, all of a sudden you’re thinking about series branding and formatting. If you’re a new author, that’s intimidating. Not to mention if you don’t have friends to lend a hand with beta reading, editing a series can be very costly. I never advise anyone to publish without at least one more set of eyes besides yours on the book (I don’t care who that is). Writing standalones has always been more enticing to me, and I can write them quickly. They’re more manageable, and publishing one book is a lot faster because I have this weird thing with writing an entire series before publishing it. (Which has come in handy this time around as I did find a small little something from book 2 to book 3 that affects book 5 that I can fix now.) What can you do if you like to write standalones too? 1) Use your back matter. Advertise another standalone in the back. Use a buy-link, add the cover. Some ad copy. 2) Don’t let too much time go by between releases, or don’t market heavily until you have a backlist. If readers love you (and you want them to, right?) they will read all that you have. If that’s only one book, they might love it, but then they have nowhere else to go. (And this is especially true if you don’t have a newsletter or a group they can join to hook up with you while you write the next book.) But this also brings me to….

You don’t have to . . . write in one (sub)genre . . . if you don’t want to. You don’t, but it will make things easier if you do. For a few books, anyway. Or if you really want to, it can be wise to separate genres by pen name, but it will slow your productivity, depending on how fast you can write. I decided to use a pen name for my billionaire romance though I think they could have fit in with my contemporary romance okay. I like the idea of starting over, of having one specific subgenre under one name. Of course you can write whatever you want under one name, but marketing might be a little harder and the chance of finding readers who will read it all are slim. What can you do if you want to genre hop? The best advice I’ve heard is to try to not stray too far. Contemporary romance is all-encompassing, and I thought I could write whatever I wanted. It wasn’t true. If I ever get tired of writing billionaire, I could probably get away with writing Mafia, as they have similar tones. Not that I have plans for that as I have never even read a Mafia romance. Admittedly I don’t know much about other genres like Fantasy. An author could maybe get away with mixing RomCom and Women’s Fiction, especially if the WF has humorous elements in it. Domestic Thrillers could pair well with Mystery or Thriller. It will help your cause if they have similar elements and similar covers, so the books your Amazon author page look cohesive.

I could probably do a lot more of these; there are plenty of “rules” in the indie publishing space. The fact is, you can do whatever you want, but that leads to the indisputable fact that you may not achieve the results you want as quickly as you want them. I’ve been publishing for five years. I don’t have the audience I want because I didn’t give them a way to hook up with me, or a space for them to hang out with each other. No readers means no sales. What kills me is I did it my way for a long time, when I was more than willing to do what I needed to do it right the first time. I just didn’t know what that was. It wasn’t TikTok, and while I’m curious about the platform, I’m still wondering just how worth it it is. The whole idea of anything is to do what you enjoy so you can keep up the consistency of that thing. I don’t like my FB author page. I don’t like Instagram. I don’t want to learn how to use TikTok when I can put that time to use and write bonus material, a reader magnet, learn BookFunnel, network with others, and read more in my genre (and while doing that, join a billionaire readers’ group to help me stay on top of the hottest trends).

It’s all where you want to spend your time, how fast you want to put books out, and what you enjoy doing. You don’t have to do anything. You’re an adult. What do you want to do, and will it move your book business forward? That’s a question only you can answer.


What am I loving this week?

Alext Newton of K-Lytics did a comprehensive romance report for the fall of 2021. Being that I love keeping up with the industry, I bought it for $37. You can find out more about it and purchase it for yourself by clicking here. It’s not an affiliate link. I love Alex and the work his team does, but we aren’t affiliated. 😛

Another thing I loved is the interview James Blatch did with romance author Melanie Harlow on the Self Publishing Formula Podcast. She had some great advice, and I really related to what she had to say. I love it. You can listen to it here.

That’s it for me today! Have a wonderful week everyone!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts, Personal Updates, and what I need to finish by the end of the year

Last night I sat in on a wonderful Facebook Beginners Ads class by Mal Cooper. She was great! It was a bit of a surprise because of all the webinars and classes I’ve attended that use Zoom, I’ve always been a behind the scenes participant, but with Mal’s class, our cameras were on, and at the end she encouraged us to ask questions (something I did not do, letting my introvert insecurities get the best of me and now I need to email my question). I’d never participated in a Zoom class like that before, but it was fun and after a couple minutes of indecision, I turned my camera on. Luckily I had showered and done my hair and makeup for the day. I feel more productive when I do that, and these day with social media who knows when you’ll need to pop on somewhere and say hi. Anyway, I learned a lot and it was well worth the fee.

There are two more webinars scheduled for this week but I’ll be working and I’ll need to watch the replays. I could probably spend 24 hours a day consuming classes and information!

I’m stalled a bit with my latest novel. I thought of a couple of things that would make the book better, and I’ve paused writing to fix those. I liken changing a scene to pushing over a domino. It can change a lot more than just the scene and can affect the entire book. A lot of writing craft gurus say to keep going and not edit as you go along, but I prefer to have a pretty clean first draft when I’m finished so I do go back and edit and fix inconsistencies as they arise. I still can finish a book in a decent amount of time and I don’t need to get it all on the page in order to finish a book. Life being what it is, I haven’t been able to work on my book much this week at all, but I should have a quiet weekend and make some good headway and probably finish it next week some time. With my appointments for my girly bits and my son’s wound checkups and scheduled dental appointments for both kids, somehow September has grown quite busy. Still trying my best, but my best feels like trying to run a marathon in quicksand and the more I try to work, the more bogged down I get.

I work well with lists, and find I don’t feel so overwhelmed if I can write out what I need to do in the coming months. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Finish current WIP.
  2. Double check everything is how I want it in MailerLite for my newsletter landing page, welcome email, and unsubscribe page.
  3. Proof the proof of Faking Forever and make changes to the ebook and paperback interiors:
    a) add my newsletter sign up to the back matter
    b) add price to the back cover of paperback (check to see if I need a price increase for IngramSpark)*
    c) fix title name font size on spine
  4. Order another proof and check it over to be sure everything is the way I want it.
  5. Format the interior for My Biggest Mistake, (title not set in stone) the ugly duckling trope that is going to be my reader magnet.
  6. Create a cover for it, front and back because I’m going to upload it to KDP so I can proof a paperback proof of it. It can stay in KDP because after it grows stale as a reader magnet I’ll publish it.
  7. After I proof it and make sure there are no typos in it, create a Bookfunnel account and upload it. Ideally I would like to have 1,000 emails on my newsletter before I start to publish anything.
  8. And last, but not least, before November, create a box set of my Rocky Point Wedding series, and run a .99 promo on it for the holidays. I’ll probably do a couple of smaller promos like Ereader News Today or Robins Reads. I’ve never tried them before. I did a BargainBooksy through Written Word Media that didn’t do too well for a .99 promo of Wherever He Goes. Their FreeBooksy is always great, but not sure if I want to give away a complete 4-book boxed set. Even .99 is low, but my royalties will come from the page reads I’ll get in KU, so maybe I will do free. Not sure. The books are already over a year old and I don’t know if I’ll write anymore 3rd person books. I’m more than comfortable writing what I’m writing, but never say never.

*IngramSpark sent out an email saying they needed to up their pricing due to rising costs in the industry, and they are slowly going through everyone’s books to see if their pricing will stay on the positive after the price increase. If your book is set to go into negative royalties, they’re going to ask you to up your price. Which isn’t a big deal normally, but IngramSpark forces you to match your price to the cover if you put it on there, which I do, right above the ISBN box on the back. So if I have to raise the prices for any of my books, I’ll need to make the changes on the covers as well, and resubmit. I don’t care if my books make fewer royalties–I rarely sell paperbacks anyway–and if my books can stay in the black, I’ll leave my older books how they are and price higher any books I publish through them from now on. If you want to read their announcement, you can find it here.

It’s difficult to know what to do first. It makes sense to publish Faking Forever so I have a buy-link to put in the back of my reader magnet so when they finish reading a free book, there’s one available to purchase. On the other hand, publishing it without a newsletter in place to announce the launch and depending on paid newsletter mentions like BargainBooksy, ENT (Ereader News Today, Robins Reads, Fussy Librarian, etc) and ads may not be enough to give me a good launch as a new pen name without a backlist. Mal said something that I agreed with in the Facebook Ads class last night too, and she said it doesn’t make much sense to put a book that’s going to be in KU on preorder because KU subscribers will wait to read it anyway. I guess I’ll be trying to get newsletter signups and promoting my reader magnet without a book for sale, but I’ll have it all ready to go into KDP so when I do decide to publish it, all I’ll have to do is press publish and approve proof. The only good I can see of doing a preorder while you’re in KU is having the buy-link to post in places. Something to think about.

Probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in the past five years I’ve been publishing is for me, at least, it just is not working to publish as I get books done. There is no consistency in a publishing schedule when I’ve done that. There are a couple of indies who do well publishing as they finish books, but I think those are the exceptions that prove the rule. The indies who make consistent money are the ones who are a few books ahead in their schedules. It’s tough because I’ve talked about this before: you have to be okay with keeping books while you stock up, and then you have kind of a conveyor belt feel to the entire process. I don’t want to feel like that, but I also don’t need the pressure of writing and publishing a book every four months without a Plan B. I don’t know. All I know is that I need to get through some of my list and as I do hopefully I’ll find readers and starting an avalanche of readers, email subscribers, and releasing books won’t seem as daunting as it does right now.

What I’ve enjoyed this week:

The Six Figure Authors Podcast is back from their summer hiatus, and I enjoyed listening to their first episode! They talk about taking your writing from hobby to career level, and you can watch it here.

I also loved this episode of the Wish I’d Known Then podcast. Thomas Umstattd Jr. had a lot of interesting and possibly controversial things to say about treating your books like your business. There are so many writers and authors who don’t want to look at their books as a product to sell, but then when it comes to marketing, they don’t understand what to do. Give it a listen and tell me what you think. Do you agree with what he has to say?

Monday I’ll talk a little bit about writer’s block and why it seems I never suffer from it. Come back for those tips!

Until next time!