Editing The Rocky Point Wedding Series. Where I’m at cutting time and cutting the fat from my books.

These past two weeks have been not so much as hit and miss as totally miss when it comes to the blog. I apologize for that, but this week I’ll try to catch you up on what I’ve been doing!


a rocky point wedding social media graphicYou all know I’ve been writing my Rocky Point Wedding Series.

I tweeted the other day that I was finished the first sweep of editing Book One. I felt like I missed a few important things, so I’m in the middle of editing it again. I’ve lost another 200 words on top of the 2,000 that I lost the first time around, and my final word count for that book will be about 72,500. A far cry from the almost 75,000 words I ended it with, but I think it’s reading a lot better.


In the past my editing schedule has gone like this:

  • Edit on screen. Maybe I do this once, usually do it twice. Not sure. This is where I look for typos, but it’s also where I usually get a rid of a lot of filler that drags the story down. Of course, this is the place to do the biggest changes, and I usually lose a lot of words here.
  • Another sweep on the computer.
  • Print it out. This stage is where I added a lot of the words I took out the first time, only making it sound better. This is where I tackle some syntax issues as well. This is a time-consuming step because after editing on paper, you need to take the time to put them all in the computer file.
  • Have Word read it to me. This step is also very time-consuming, but in the past I felt it was worth it. You can hear how your book sounds, listen for clunky sentences, fix syntax issues and all get a feel for it spoken. I like this step because authors are putting their books into audio a lot more lately, and places like Find A Way Voices through Draft to Digital are scrambling for ways to make this affordable for every author. While Word’s robovoice isn’t 100%, you can still get an idea if a narrator is going to stumble over a paragraph with twenty sentences in it.
  • Then I would proof the paperback proof. This step is pretty awesome too, because your  book is a book then, and it’s easy to spot typos and words like peek, peak, and pique that aren’t caught during editing.
woman using laptop

Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

You might be saying that’s a hella lot of editing, and it is. You might also think a person could skip some of this if she hired someone, and you would be right again. I never have, and it’s not a secret I do all my own editing. Sometimes I catch stuff, sometimes I don’t, but I’ve read books that have been pro-edited that have had mistakes. We’re all human, and I do give myself a little slack.

But this kind of editing takes on a whole new meaning when you’re doing four books at the same time, or at least back to back. So I’ve decided to cut out a couple editing steps and I have a proofer lined up who will help me. I’ve decided to take out the printing step, because that’s just a lot of paper, and I’m debating on taking out the listening step. If I don’t, I have to figure out where I want to put it in my schedule. I don’t want to touch it after my proofer gets a hold of it. That’s just asking for trouble.

I don’t like skipping the proofing the proof part because it really is important to read through the book after you’ve gotten it. You catch more than spelling mistakes and typos. Even inconsistencies are easier to spot since you are reading your own book as a reader. How can you not when you’re holding it in your hands?

I went through all that because I did want to touch on one other thing in regards to editing. As you get better writing, plot construction, character arcs, and learning grammar and punctuation (or you should be! listen to your feedback!) your books won’t need as much editing. It feels WEIRD giving up an editing step or two, but as you write, your first drafts will be cleaner, and clinging to editing steps may just be a waste of time.

Be careful that you’re aren’t changing something just to change something. Change something to make it sound better, or you’re just wasting your time.

A great book to read on self-editing is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print Subsequent Edition by Renni Browne (Author), Dave King (Contributor). When I went to a writing conference in Santa Barbara a couple years ago, this book was recommended by nearly everyone.

Another good book that will help you edit is Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty. Even if you’re going to pay someone to edit or proofread for you, it’s always cheaper to do as much as you can by yourself, this includes knowing where commas go, what a comma splice is, how to correctly us a semi colon, that kind of thing. Little details like that are a KILLER on an editor’s time.


I was going to add a couple other topics to this, but I had no idea going through my editing process for these books would take so long. I’m at almost 1,000 words already, so I will say goodbye for now and fill you on in what I’ve been doing with Amazon Ads later on this week.

What kind of editing do you put your book through? Betas? Yeah. An editor? Proofreader? Nothing?  Let know!

 

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October is Prep for NaNoWriMo. Why I don’t participate.

Fall in Minnesota is my favorite time of year. The temperatures cool, the leaves start to fall, and the bugs die. The last is very important to my well-being. Haha. Seriously though, we get a couple sweet weeks of no bugs, and mild enough temperatures that you can still enjoy time outside.

I went for a walk with my sister last night, and the latter half the walk was in the dark since the sun sets so early now. But we saw a couple deer, lots of rabbits, and generally had a nice coffee walk in about 48F degree temperatures.

nanowrimo logoOctober is also NaNoWriMo prep month. It’s the month when writers who are going to participate in National Novel Writing Month plot their books, do their research, make character sheets, anything they have to do to write their book as quickly as possible in the month of November.

I participated once. And while I was a newbie writer at the time and that was probably more of the reason why I wrote a crappy book, doing so on a timeline didn’t do me any favors, and I’ll never participate again.

But that’s not the only reason. Everyone needs to make their own choices with their writing schedule, their publishing schedule, and what they want to accomplish, but let’s take a moment to go over a couple reasons why NaNoWriMo may not be an answer to a writer’s prayers.

  1. Craft gets lost.
    If you have the motivation and skill to write 50,000 words in a month, you don’t need the the contest to spur you on. If you’ve got the craft thing down already, maybe craft doesn’t get lost when you write, and that’s great! But there’s always a question of quality when a writer who is new at this decides to participate. You don’t have time to think about how sentences sound, where your paragraphs are going, if your scenes are relevant to the story, what the theme of your novel is. Writing is already hard enough as it is, and putting a deadline on it makes it worse.
  2. Lots of writers will abandon a current project to start something new.
    This is a tough one because not everyone writes to publish or query. I’m not the type of person who likes to have three different projects open. I adhere to writing and publishing schedule. It’s the only way I can make any headway at all. Dropping everything to start a new project to write for NaNo would derail everything I’m trying to accomplish. I get distracted by new things, too, but I try to keep that under control and finish my current projects. I don’t think I’d have as many books out as I do if I let myself write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I understand not everyone is hardcore about this writing thing as I am, and that’s okay. But 30 days of writing something new is still 30 days of time, and in 30 days I can do a lot that will actually move me toward my goal.
  3. It makes us question what a “book” is.
    Let’s be honest. I mean, really and truly honest. 50,000 words, in most genres, is not a novel. It’s a good start to a novel, say, in high fantasy, or women’s fiction, but for the most part you can “win” and still not have a finished book.

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    Click on the graphic to read the corresponding article by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest.

    If you have trouble with subplots and character development while meeting the ideal word count, I don’t recommend trying to write under a deadline. Not always, but you can run the risk of having a full “novel” in word count, and it being incomplete in other ways. This is especially important if you ever want to query this book. Fully-developed plots, subplots without loose ends, full character arcs, and a spot-on beginning and ending are all things agents are going to require to sign you and your book.

  4. You’ll probably have a lot of editing to do afterward.
    This is a personal preference, of course, but I would rather spend a little more time writing and a less time editing after the fact. Editing is hard. Especially if you have to rip the book apart because you wrote yourself into a corner and there’s nothing that will fix it except scrapping the second half of your book, for example. Weaving character motivation and character growth into a book is hard enough as it is without having to go back and fix scenes.
  5. You shouldn’t have to depend on the NaNo energy to see you through a project.
    Most writers I know who participate, participate because they like the energy and the camaraderie. It’s why they do NaNoWriMo camp in July. They like to write with the buddy system, someone who will hold them accountable. The problem with this, though, is that NaNo is only once a year (besides the camp that’s held in the summer). What are you going to do during the other 11 months the contest is not going on? Writing is a solitary endeavor, and if you don’t get your butt in the chair and put the words down, if you can’t do that without a competition, well, I don’t have to tell you your productivity is going to tank. In my very humble opinion, striving for your own writing success, be that publishing yourself on Amazon or other platforms, querying, or whatever the case may be, that should be your fuel. Not a contest.
  6. What could your book be like if you hadn’t written it in November?
    We all have regrets when it comes to our writing. We write through sickness, or when we have a family emergency. Sometimes it’s what gets us through. I wrote through my divorce, I wrote (when I shouldn’t have probably) while I was healing from surgery. I wrote through one of the nastiest winters I have ever seen in Minnesota, and it happened to be the first winter I was a single mom. I have to admit, I write the best when I’m happy, when I’m not stressed out. When I can enjoy sitting at my laptop and not think about anything else but the story.
    We often say “let children be children” but sometimes we need to let our “books be books.” What I mean by that is, you may be doing your characters and story a disservice by rushing them. What could your book be if you write it organically? We meet word counts every day, but I’ve never preached you have to write every day. Sometimes that’s impossible. Sometimes you simply don’t feel like it. To reach 50,000 words in the month of November you need to write 1,666 words a day. That isn’t too bad, in all reality. But I know for me, November is a packed month: my daughter’s birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving. We may have snow by then. Then there’s Black Friday shopping if you’re inclined to get a head start on Christmas shopping. It’s not hard in November to realize you haven’t written for a few days, and you’re behind. What kind of book could you write on your own time? 

I don’t see NaNo as some evil thing that writers shouldn’t participate in. I think it can be fun and motivational if used correctly. The month of November can be used to celebrate writing and books in general. There is a camaraderie just being a writer. We’re all in this together, and one month designated to writing doesn’t change the fact that we all enjoy writing every day. We don’t need one month set aside to enjoy it.

I create all year round. I’m involved in a lot of Facebook groups. I edit for my friends; I help them with formatting. I celebrate the writing and creation of books all the time. I don’t think a month goes by when I haven’t bought a book or ten. What I suggest you to do is harness how you feel in November and keep that momentum going all year round.

How do agents feel about NaNo? Here are a couple articles about their opinions. (Hint: it’s not a coincidence agents close their slush piles to submissions in December and January.)

An Agent’s Take on Nanowrimo by Fuse Literary

Better yet, DON’T write that novel
Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy

Did You Win NaNoWriMo? Let Agent Eric Smith Guide You Through Your Next Steps!
Leah Schnelbach

How do you feel about NaNo? Are you going to participate? Let me know!


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Print Quality KDP Print vs IngramSpark. Spoiler alert–there isn’t a winner.

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I bought book stands for the event! I have to admit, this is a lovely cover!

I was invited to an author event that took place last week. I had several weeks to prepare for this, i.e. find my willpower/energy to face a crowd, figure out what I was going to wear, and the most important thing . . . order author copies.

I was in the middle of redoing the covers for Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing. I’ve worked with KDP long enough that doing a cover in Canva and submitting it is a piece of cake by now. IngramSpark is still taking some time to get used to, and when they flagged Wherever He Goes, I left it alone because I didn’t want to deal with it.

I happily accepted the invitation to sell my books at a librarian convention that took place in West Fargo, North Dakota. Admittedly, I should have ordered author copies the moment I was invited. But as I said, I was redoing my covers, and I thought, hell, I have plenty of time to order copies.

Note to self: don’t ever think that again.

I redid the covers submitted them to KDP, ordered my proofs and approved them.

The event was held on September 26th, and ordered my author copies August 26th. I thought a whole month would be enough time, because in the past it has been. Usually it takes about two and a half weeks. But not this time.

With two weeks left before the event, I received and email from KDP and they told me my order was being delayed. I fixed the file for Wherever He Goes in Ingram. The next day they approved the file, and in a panic, I rush ordered author copies from IngramSpark.

Now, I haven’t heard many stories, good or otherwise, about the quality of copies from IngramSpark. Mostly I’ve heard if you want better quality, you order from them. So needless to say, when my author copies came from them and they didn’t look good, I was crushed.

I received my author copies from Ingram a full week before I received them from KDP because not only did I pay for expedited shipping, I paid for expedited printing, too. You can argue that could be the reason for the poor quality, but in my opinion, you’re paying for the copies, so there should be no reason for poor quality books, period. Especially from a company who prides itself on quality.

If push had come to shove, I could have sold the books Ingram sent me. But I didn’t want to. They didn’t look professional. I could have said it was printing error, but that would still reflect bad on me as a professional author.

Luckily, my KDP Print books came, and they looked good. I realize that was also a gamble. Had those come in poor quality as well, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the book signing.

As it turns out, I didn’t sell any books anyway, but I did receive several compliments on my covers, so it was worth the crap I went through to get them.

Today I put in a request for a refund for my books from Ingram. Take a look a the pictures I submitted as proof they did not look good:

poor quality cover the years between us ingram spark

This is a copy of The Years Between Us from Ingram. Can you see the line through my name? At first I thought that was my fault because the template was showing through, but I checked the file, and even if the template was showing through (for some messed up reason) there is no line there. So it wasn’t that. The same thing happened to Wherever He Goes, but it’s more pronounced near my first name, so I only have the sliver to show you for emphasis:

poor quality cover ingram wherever he goes


All of Nothing
was the most messed up. Wherever He Goes wasn’t centered that well, but All of Nothing looked horrible:

poor quality cover all of nothing ingram spark

The title was almost cut off , and the couple is obviously not centered.

So I put in a request for credit to my account, and if you ever need to do that, you look under Orders, and under Submitted, click on Report an Issue for the order that needs to be refunded.

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I’ve never returned books to anywhere before, so I don’t know if they’ll want the books back, or if they’ll let me keep them or what. I’ll let you know. I can tell you that there was a spot for you to download pictures of the books, so be prepared to show them proof of the messed up author copies. I’ve heard KDP wants proof of quality/damage, so that’s not unusual.

The book signing went okay. I never sold any books, like I said, so all this hoopla with the author copies feels like a whole lot of work and money for nothing, but it was a fun experience, and it didn’t take me very long to realize I was the only author there who didn’t have a Square. That didn’t make any difference in the end, but next time I’ll be more prepared.

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The moral of the story is this: always keep author copies on hand if you have regular opportunities to do this, either from KDP Print or IngramSpark. You need lots of time to receive them, and more importantly, you need time to return them and/or order replacements if necessary.


Special thanks to Tina Holland for inviting me to participate in this event. She’s a romance writer involved with the RWA and other writing groups in my area. You can follow her on twitter here @haveubeenaughty and her website tinaholland.com.


Thank you for reading, and may the month of October treat you well!

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Kindle Create: for Kindle and Paperbacks for KDP

kindle create for blog 1Formatting for an ereader and paperback grows easier and easier all the time with the tools that are continually created for indie authors. These days it’s easier than ever to pay someone for their time if they have Vellum, a formatting software available on Mac computers.

If you don’t have the connections or the cash to pay someone to do it for you, or you want to remain in control (it’s hard and maybe costly to approach your formatter every time you want to make a change your to your book; for instance if you want to update your back matter, or you swapped out your cover and need to change the attribution to the photographer and add a new photo id) Draft2Digital offers a free formatting on their website that also formats your book for paperback and ereader. Draft2Digital creates a .mobi file and an epub you can download so you can go wide with your files if you like.

But if you are only going to publish on Amazon, there is another software you can try. Kindle Create offers both Kindle and paperback formatting, and both files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard enabling you to publish quickly and easily.

There are drawbacks to the software however: the files can only be used on Amazon. Since the finished files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard, they are not “yours.” When you format with D2D, you download the files they generate for you, and you can use them wherever you please. With Kindle Create, that is not the case. Also if you make ANY changes to your document, those changes are stuck inside the software, but that might not matter to you if you’re only uploading changes to publish on Kindle. It is something to keep in mind, though.

How do you get started?

Download the Kindle Create software. Download how you would normally download new software. Sometimes that means finding the file in your Downloads and clicking on it to start the install process if it doesn’t install automatically. Accept terms and conditions. The install process only takes a few moments.

Then it will ask if you want to resume an existing project or start a new one,  but first you need to enable Early Access so you can create paperbacks with the software.

Click on Help in the upper left hand corner, then Settings. Check Enable Beta Features.

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Then you can import your Word File. It only takes a moment.

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Click Continue when you’re done.

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Your Word file for your book should have your Title Page, your Copyright Page, Dedication, Acknowledgements, and any back matter you want. The only thing Kindle Create will generate for you is the Table of Contents.  Click on Insert in the upper left hand corner and it will look like this:

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When you upload your file, what you see is very generic, and it’s up to you to design your manuscript how you want it to look. This is the first page of The Years Between Us.

Choose a Theme by clicking on the THEME in the upper right hand corner. Unfortunately, there are not many to choose from, but actually, there are not many to choose from when you format in Vellum, either, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you use Kindle Create.

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The rest is a bit time consuming as you have to go page by page and add the things you want. For example, changing one scene break does not change them all:

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So you may just want to stick with asterisks when you format, unless you are formatting something a little on the shorter side.

The same is true for the chapter start drop caps. You need to put your cursor at the beginning of every paragraph and then choose drop cap on the right under Formatting.

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Kindle Create will nudge you to save every so often, and it’s in your best interest, in any case. It also has a handy UNDO feature in case you mess up somehow.

Like any software, there’s a small learning curve, but it didn’t take me long to play around with it and begin formatting my manuscript how I want it to look.

Once you’re all done, there’s a Preview feature where you can take a look at your book page by page. This is a good idea while you’re still in the software and not in the online previewer on your KDP Dashboard.

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Go through your book page by page. Make sure you didn’t miss any scene breaks, or anything else you’re going to want to change. Flipping through it will take some time, but remember that poor formatting can pull a reader from your story, so you want it to look its best.


Unfortunately, I cannot take you further than this. Pressing Publish will move the files to my KDP Dashboard, and The Years Between Us is already published. But KDP has several tutorials you can watch to see how the process is done. They have a fabulous help section, and you can find anything else out that you’ll need to know.

Look at a typed tutorial here.

Here is a tutorial by KDP on YouTube about Kindle Create. 

Here is another blog post by Just Publishing Advice on their blog. How To Use The Amazon Kindle Create App For Better Ebooks

There are a couple other tutorials that look okay to watch on YouTube, if you search Kindle Create tutorials. The best thing you can do though, is experiment, use the undo button if you do something you don’t like, and save often.

After you publish your files to your dashboard, they will give you options for your paperback such as trim size, and if you want cream or white paper. Your choices will determine the template size for your cover. And you can use the Kindle Cover Creator if you want, to generate a cover for both your Kindle book and paperback, too.

KDP is your one stop shop to formatting, cover creation, and publishing your book!

Have fun!


I wasn’t aware that Kindle Create generated a paperback file until I saw that Daniel Mattia was able to offer a paperback of his book, In Crows’ Claws. We went through some issues he had using Kindle Create in my interview with him a while back. So a big thank you to Daniel and his tips!

Check out his amazing work linked above, and he’s also the creator of an Indie book database called Indie book DB. Check out that site for your next awesome read!


There is a lot that goes into publishing a book, and I hope this can be a starting point if you are new and have no idea where to begin. If you have any questions drop them below, or my DMs on Twitter are open, though it can take me a day or two to get back to you–especially if I have to work that day. Thanks for reading, and good luck to you!


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Entering the RITAs. My full circle experience.

I’m not sure if I said anything about entering the RITAs, or the outcome of that contest.

The RITA award is a prestigious award given by the RWA (Romance Writers of America). I didn’t win, nor did I advance, and I did not attend the RWA conference this year that was held in New York City. I didn’t expect to win (though when you enter a contest, there’s a little bit of you that will hope you’ll at least advance.)  Anyway, I didn’t advance, didn’t win, and I didn’t expect to hear anything more about it.

All of Nothing ebook coverBut I received an unexpected email in my inbox today. The email contained my overall score of All of Nothing, something I didn’t know the RWA sent out.

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement, but when I thought about the score, and I mean, really thought about it (meaning, I put away my ego and my pride and honestly evaluated the kind of book All of Nothing is) the score made sense.

I knew a long time ago that All of Nothing didn’t advance to a finalist position. I figured since the contest is open to everyone who wanted to enter, traditional and indie, I had a slim to none chance. After all, when Kristin Higgins and Brenda Novak enter their books, you’re up against talent, several years in the industry, and name recognition. Heck, Nora Roberts has won 21 of them. I won’t disclose whose books I judged, but I will say I judged a big name, too.

I had thought, at least, even if my book didn’t advance, it had receive average scores.

It didn’t.

My book received a 4.33 out of a possible 10.

I don’t know how private the scoring is, so I won’t show you the email contents, but suffice to say, I didn’t make it into the top half, and I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t expect that one judge did not think my novel had a central love story, and a different judge didn’t think it concluded with an HEA. And that makes me wonder if she somehow missed the Epilogue, which clearly shows that they did have a happily ever after.

Anyway, so here’s what I learned entering the RITAs, how I felt, and what I will do differently if I should ever enter again.


What I learned:

  • Your book won’t resonate with everyone.
    You can use this as a way to shake off a bad book, (NO ONE is going to like a book full of plot holes and flat characters, so that reasoning only goes so far) but even a well-written book with amazing characters and the best plot twists known to man won’t appeal to everyone. This is okay, and as authors, something we all deal with. I know All of Nothing is dark. I know Jax is an asshole to the extreme. Maybe even too much. He doesn’t redeem himself until almost the end of the book, and that could have been too long for some readers. Even my reviews on Goodreads are split down the middle. Either readers are blown away or they hate it. There’s not a lot of middle ground in reviews, and I didn’t see any in my scores.
  • You’re forced to read, and that can put you off from the very beginning.
    The RWA has changed this policy for the next contest, but when I entered my book, you had to judge the preliminary round to submit. Being forced to read is akin to being in school and assigned War and Peace. Not everyone wants to read books they are told they must. Also, you were only able to opt out of one genre. My book was in the Contemporary Romance Long category, and it could have been readers didn’t like the genre. Maybe they preferred Romantic Comedy, or Romantic Suspense, or Paranormal. That’s not really an excuse, but it’s natural to not be excited about a genre you don’t care to read in the first place.
  • Have a professional cover.
    This might seem like a no-brainer, or something that you wouldn’t think of for a craft contest, but either way, I have a feeling that somehow the entire package is judged. When I judged and found the author’s name on the title page, you bet I looked on Amazon for the author and what else they had published, and who they were published by. I’m sure the judges did the same for me, and the overall look of my catalog and All of Nothing‘s cover maybe have influenced their feelings toward the book. This is a professional contest put on by a professional organization. Submit a book that is professional from cover to cover.

What I would do differently:

  • Enter something lighter.
    All of Nothing was dark, and it didn’t hit the right notes, obviously. Something lighter might fare better. When you’re reading at the end of the day, and you’re on a deadline to submit your scores, giving your reader something a little more light-hearted may be easier for them to enjoy. Is this playing the system? Nah. I can only think back to the books I particularly enjoyed while judging. I would also offer something with more . . . I don’t know. I don’t want to say chemistry because I think Jax and Raven had chemistry. But maybe a more steamier, sweeter, attraction? Not all of my heroes are jerks. But I would definitely try something not so dark.
  • In that vein, I would enter something shorter.
    All of Nothing was entered into the Contemporary Romance Long category. There’s nothing worse than being forced to read something you don’t like, and having so much of it. I would do the short category. Though I don’t tend to write novellas, so that category may always be out of my reach.
  • Take the contest more seriously.
    I’m a newbie writer. Without written feedback, I can only guess why my book didn’t resonate with readers. Had it been a debut, I would worry that my voice wasn’t strong enough. But I think my voice is strong–I’ve written enough words to find it, and I’ve received compliments on the book. In fact, a woman at my work read it. She’s a prolific reader, and she told me she enjoyed All of Nothing very much and that I was extremely talented. I didn’t know she read it, so I don’t think she said anything because she thought I was expecting it. She didn’t have to say anything at all. I went into that because I’m thinking it was the plot and characters the judges didn’t care for, and not the writing itself. (Which I feel is a very important distinction.) But, I have never worked with a developmental editor or a professional editor of any kind. And if I ever hope to advance in a contest like this, I may have to hire someone who knows the romance market, knows all the tropes involved, and can tell me if I’m on the right track with my writing. I have never queried, have never sent out any of my books on subs, so I don’t even have a line or two from an agent/editor saying I’m on the right track, either. All I have to go on is reviews from my books, and that’s not saying a whole lot because I haven’t put much into marketing preferring to use my time to write instead.

How I felt about the contest:

I don’t feel terrible about my score. You have to face rejection with a thick skin. Since All of Nothing I’ve written five more books. So maybe if my tone or voice missed the mark, at least I’m still working on my craft as it’s natural for every book to be a bit better than the last.

It was interesting being a part of the RITAs. I liked seeing how the process worked and the quality of books entered by my peers.

I may never enter again. Or I may enter a book I haven’t written yet. Something that takes my breath away. Who knows. I do know that if you’re going to compete with the best of the best, you have to take your craft seriously, and if you can do that year after year and get better year after year, then maybe, just maybe, one day, you’ll win.

Have a wonderful week!


Want to try your hand at a contest? Poets and Writers Magazine offers a long list of contests to enter. Everything from poetry to essays. Look here to find out more.

You don’t have to enter the RITAs to enter a contest hosted by the RWA. All the chapters offer some kind of contest, too, though they can be seasonal and not offered at the same time. For a list of contests and chapter events, look here.


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Writing to write, or Writing to Publish? Is there a difference?

I had another post planned for today, but while I was working an extra shift at my job on Saturday night, I finished Scratch: Writers on Money and the Art of Making a Living. This book is a collection of essays by writers about, yeah, money and writing.

scratch book coverAs an author, I love looking through paperbacks. How is the copyright page constructed? Who did the author dedicate the book to? I skim over the table of contents. Do they use a quote? And by whom? I also look at the Acknowledgements. I like to read who people thank. In the indie world, sometimes I know a person who is mentioned. I like seeing who has helped the writer turn author.

I read Manjula Martin‘s acknowledgments, and something popped out at me. She said:

Thanks to the members of the Blood Moon writing group, who always reminded me that writing is more important than publishing.

She goes on to list names of people whom I don’t know, but I can appreciate their message.

writing is more important than publishing

In this modern time of CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT, that sentence is extremely powerful.

In this age of free books, blog posts, tweets, and author updates, how often we publish has turned more important than what we publish.

This has never been more true than the today with the market being saturated with bookstuffers to take advantage of KU page reads, or authors who team up to publish a book every two weeks, or authors who hire ghostwriters only to blame them when they are caught plagiarizing. There are even those who sell their previously published books to new authors who will strip the book of its title, repackage it, add a new author name, and put it up on Amazon for sale.

What happened to the quality of what we publish?

What has happened to the way we think about our content?

It’s a hard question for me, and I’ve been thinking about this while I’ve been writing my series. I have a different blog post about something similar already, in that I would like to try my hand at women’s fiction. I won’t get into that post now, but that quote does make me think about my publishing journey.

Sometimes publishing isn’t always what we should be doing with our work.

Sometimes we should be writing to practice. Sometimes we should be writing to learn. Sometimes we should write to give ourselves therapy, like writing in a journal or diary, or writing a poem.

Sometimes we should write for fun.

Sometimes we shouldn’t be writing at all. Too busy, burnout, nothing to say. There’s no harm in not writing–even if it feels like there is.

Though indie publishing is becoming more widely accepted (even some of the big-name authors use POD–especially for their non-fiction titles) it may always carry the stigma of people publishing crap.

There are legitimate reasons to write to publish: you’re on a deadline, or you freelance to pay the bills and if you don’t hustle, you can’t eat. But that doesn’t feel like the majority of my writing peers. We write to be published as any of our debut novels can attest.

This not only impacts our own writing careers–who wants to start a lifetime writing career on a cracked foundation?–but if affects all of us a whole.

Write to write, and then publish.

writing is more important than publishing (1)

Lots of people ask writers, “If you were never read, would you still write?” Of course most writers say yes. Writing is a passion, and they would write even if they never had another reader as long as they put words on the page. To be honest, if someone told me from here on out I wouldn’t have a single reader ever again, I would stop writing. There are other ways for me to communicate my passion. I would start running again, or I would volunteer. I would do what I set aside because writing takes up so much of my time. Because I love it. But an audience fuels my love of it, if that makes sense.

Now, if I were told I would still have readers, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t make any money, I would still write. If I was locked into only blogging, or publishing my work on Wattpad, I would still publish my stories. Being read means more to me than making money.

Seeing your book on Amazon is a crazy wonderful thing, and I don’t fault anyone who is damned proud of it.

But sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves why we write. What fuels us? What do we get out of publishing our work? Would we be just as happy, just as proud, if we posted that novel for free, or even more mind-numbing, shoving that novel under your bed?

If we began every project without thinking of the cover art, or who is going to format for us, or when our publishing date is (Hello, Amazon and your one year pre-order deadline now) how would that change our perception of the project? Would we take our time? Put more of our hearts into the piece? Would we dive deeper into the truths of what we want to put down on paper?

Maybe if we wrote to write, writer’s block would be obliterated. After all, if we only wrote for ourselves, we wouldn’t fear criticism or disappointment and the blank page wouldn’t scare us so much.

When indie-publishing is so easy now, we have to stay aware of why we’re writing and what we’re trying to say to our reader.

Open a new document and put words on the page just to write. No agenda. No deadline.

You may find you’ll write something worth publishing.


I loved reading Scratch. There were great essays by some of the top authors. I particularly enjoyed Manjula’s interview with Cheryl Strayed (she talks about her book deal for Wild), and Jennifer Weiner’s essay on earning respect for your work vs. earning money and if you can have both.


Jeff Goins also has a blog post about this topic. You can find it here.


Until next time, lovelies! Have a wonderful writing week!

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Booksprout Review Service

 

book sprout logo

We all need reviews, and finding a platform that can deliver for a low cost or free is like a goldmine to an author. Reviews are social proof our books are good. They show potential readers that others have enjoyed it. They help us create ads either by being able to pull out the review itself for a graphic, or using keywords in all the reviews for our ad keywords.

For an example, here’s the graphic I made in Canva for Bookbub:

bookbub don't run away ad fourth try

There’s a lot of controversy around reviews. Some indie writers/readers insist on leaving poor reviews when reading books to “warn” other readers what a piece of crap it is.

I’d written blog posts about that before, and it’s one reason why I don’t promo my books on Twitter. Writer Twitter is full of people who think they write better than you and they are not shy letting you know about it.

There is even a review of Don’t Run Away by someone I gave a free copy to with a Starbucks gift card. I was getting rid of author copies that had a significant typo in it. Two years later her review pops up on Goodreads. Three stars, and her review starts “This normally isn’t my genre…”

I know they say that a mix of reviews is actually better for your book, but those kinds of reviews I can do without.

You’re probably in the same situation I am. You need reviews beyond family and friends, and the odd Twitter person who wants more than anything to say something bad about your book.

Real, helpful reviews are hard to come by. A reader’s first thought usually isn’t to leave a review of a book unless they were blown away. All they care about is what they’re going to read next.

I’m a member of quite a few groups on Facebook, and one group was talking about Booksprout. I always thought Booksprout was a tool to deliver books and arcs to readers from a list you provided, but Booksprout actually provides their own reader list. You can give away up to twenty arcs with the free option, fifty with one tier option, or unlimited with the second tier option.

booksprout pricing plans

Anyway, 20 out of 20 arcs were claimed for Don’t Run Away in 13 of 20 arcs were claimed for The Years Between Us.

You can choose how long to give your readers to read the book before a review is due, and I gave my readers a couple of months, just to be realistic. Then the reviews near that date started rolling in. Around this time, I was having huge doubts about being wide, and I gave my readers a few extra days to leave a review before deleting the arcs. I put my books back into KU because the quality of the reviews wasn’t worth waiting for. Meaning, I didn’t get all twenty for Don’t Run Away, and I didn’t get all thirteen for The Years Between Us.

The reviewers who did review my books gave them favorable stars, and maybe that’s all that matters to you. But the actual review was just a quick summary of the book. And I don’t mean one or two reviewers did that—most of them did it. At the end of each review was the sentence, “I was given a free copy of this book through books proud in exchange for an honest review.”

Here’s a sample:

booksprout review one

I mean, that’s not a bad thing. Honest transparency. But too many of those on all your books make you look like you’re buying reviews—which is exactly what you’re doing, free service or not.

I didn’t keep an eye on my reviews, and this one popped at me while taking screenshots:

booksprout review two

There are people on there who read the books, it seems, not just skim them. And I thank this reviewer from the bottom of my heart to see she got what I was trying to do with The Years Between Us. 

But overall, the quality of the reviews may not matter to you. If your book has zero you’re trying to gain some traction, you might think a review is a review, even a cardboard-sounding one. And that would be your choice.

I’m not against using Booksprout in the future. Put your arc out there ahead of time, have reviewers leave the review on the day the paperback comes out, wait a week for the reviews to populate, delete your arcs from Booksprout, and then announce your Kindle version is live. You’ll already have reviews for your book. (Thank you to Jami Albright for this release tip. One I’m going to try for the first book in my new series coming this winter.)

I don’t know if you really need to pull your arcs, but I prefer not to give Amazon a reason to give me the stinkeye.

If you have a book that doesn’t have many, if any reviews, give Booksprout a try. You never know if it will work for you.


What are some other ways to get reviews?

  1. Write a good book first. Most readers prefer to review good books. Give them thought-provoking material, or give them a good laugh, or information that will change their lives. The product always comes first.
  2. Ask. Authors are terrible at asking. Put a request in your back matter. If you enjoyed this book, please leave a review. That’s it. Don’t squish it in there with other calls to action. If you want reviews, ask, and leave it at that.
  3. If you have the cash, use a service like NetGalley. Make sure the services reputable otherwise you’re wasting money. You can take a look at my review of the Happy Book Reviews service here.
  4. Create an arc team. This can take some time, but it might be worth it in the long run. Start a Facebook group of readers in your genre and ask them to review your book when it comes out. Building a team can take a long time and lot of work.
  5. Start a newsletter. Build a newsletter following. Your fans will be the first in line to buy and review your book.

Not all reviews are created equal. I have more reviews on Goodreads than I do on Amazon. Maybe readers are more comfortable leaving reviews there, or maybe that’s their preferred platform because they feel they can be more honest. (Or just leaving a star review, something Amazon won’t let reviewers do.) Whatever the reason, a review is a review, so we should celebrate when our readers take the time to tell us what they think.

Let me know your experience with Booksprout, or if you think you’ll give it a try!


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