Monday Musings and Author Update

Hi! It is so good to be back. It feels like forever since I’ve blogged, andI I thank my guest bloggers and my author interviewee for the the time they took out of their busy schedules to help me out while I recuperated from surgery. Four weeks post-op, I’m feeling better. I’m surprised, really, at how it knocked me off my feet and I was wondering if the surgery did what I wanted it to do. But four weeks isn’t that long, and I feel like over the weekend I turned a corner of sorts. Right now I’m just trying to take it easy and work as my body allows.

What am I working on now?

Despite being laid up, I finished listening to my 6 book series, again. Rewriting to “take” out the takes and makes, come and gives (two other words I found I like to use a lot) was worth it though it did set me back a few weeks. I did the same thing with my reader magnet and duet, and I just finished that up a few days ago. It seems I can’t merge my business brain with my creative brain, (which may spell trouble for me later on down the road) and I wasn’t able to set up my newsletter and get that going until I was done editing. But I do have my reader magnet set up in Bookfunnel, and I figured out how to integrate my Bookfunnel account with my Mailerlite account. When someone opts in to my newsletter after they download my book, they’ll receive a welcome and thank you email that I created as an autoresponder. It took a lot of figuring things out, but I was able to add two and two and actually get four (though I think it took me about four hours). A friend tested it for me as by then I had run out of email addresses to try, and it worked for her. But I’m going to ask a couple more people if they’ll test it for me before I start promoting it. All I have to say is, thank goodness for YouTube!

Now that that’s out of the way, I can start formatting my duet. I’ve been getting a little feedback from a couple people in an FB group about the blurbs, and Sami Jo (I did her author interview last week) and I have been trading back and forth. She gave me a couple suggestions, so at least the hard part of that is done. It’s looking like if I continue to feel better and nothing else comes up, I can put the first one on preorder sometime in June. I still need a couple of weeks to proof the paperback proofs, so I don’t want to rush. I need to put my first book on preorder for a week or so so I have time to claim my Amazon author page, my Goodreads author page, my Bookbub author page and start running some low cost Amazon ads. I don’t want to put the preorder up for longer than a week though, because preorders that don’t do anything can hurt you, and as a “new” author without one person waiting for my book, no one is going to preorder it. Dave Chesson has a great YouTube video explaining this, and you can watch it here:

Once I get all that done, it’s time for a break! Just kidding. I need to re-edit the fake fiancé standalone I’m going to release sometime in September or October, and once that’s done and the cover finalized (I think I’m going to swap it out though that will cause some extra work for me) I want to write a Christmas novel to release in November. I have some kind of an idea, a second chance trope, I think, but only a glimmer of a plot. So we’ll see what happens. That means four books this year squished together, but I’ll be releasing 6 in 2023 because I’m tired of looking at that series and just want it done. During that time I need to finish a series I started last year (2/6 done) and after THAT I think I can slow down and fall into a three books a year schedule since I can promote my backlist by then.

Craft Tip:

While I’ve been trying to recuperate I started watching the Marvel movies again. My sister and I watched them during lockdown when our movie theaters closed since I hadn’t seen them before and it gave us something to do. Since then, I’ve become obsessed with piecing together each movie into the whole. There is so much going on within each movie and the over-reaching arc of the entire plot. I have watched all the movies once, and my favorites ended up being the last two since I have a thing for post apoc, and l love when Scott pops out of the quantum realm not knowing what Thanos did. So the other night I watched Captain America and it struck me as Steve and Peggy were talking about finding the right dance partner, that the end scene of Endgame where Steve and Peggy are dancing circled back to that first movie and their conversation. I think that is a brilliant example of tying the beginning of a story to the end and wrapping things up. Much like my speech teacher told us to tie in the end of our speech to the thesis statement at the beginning, there’s a sense of closure when you reference the beginning in the end. I don’t know if I always do this, as I write romance and the ending is already laid out, but I’m going to keep this in mind going forward. If you haven’t watched the Marvel movies, I would give them a try if only to pick them apart story-wise. They drive me crazy, but in a good way.

What I’m loving right now:

I can’t say I’m really loving this, but the Six Figure Author podcast ended last week. I will miss them, but I’ve come to realize that you can listen to all the marketing advice out there but if you’re writing in a small niche or something “out of the box” you’ve already chosen a rough path for yourself. The book content needs to come first and then the marketing advice, and I’ve been working on the subgenre/story/tropes and studying the covers of the newest releases, so the technical part of marketing has kind of fallen to the wayside and when it comes to listening, I’m behind. Toward the end of the last podcast, each host gave their own advice and it was heartening to hear that they all thought that a new author could still make it in this business, though it may take longer than it would have ten years ago or even five years ago. Indies are getting savvy with content, covers, and blurbs and slapping something together isn’t going to work anymore, not if you want to compete. Quality is the number one factor when starting up an author career, and even if you think your book is up to par, it may not be. If you want to listen to their last podcast, you can do it here.

Another thing that I’ve been loving is this book, Titans Rising: Publishing in the 21st Century. The sub, subtitle says it’s about writing SFF and Horror, but the lessons can be applied to any genre. I’m half of the way through it, and while they do talk a lot about SSF and Horror, they also talk about the publishing industry as a whole, a conversation I’m always eager to listen in on.

That’s Blaze, and she’s rowdy.

By the way, I saw someone on Twitter charging 17 dollars for something like this. While her video was just a little longer and it had more elements, it’s not worth paying for. I made this in Canva in two minutes. You want one, I’ll do it for free. FFS.

That’s all I have for this week. Not much has changed in the past month, though I’m making progress. I’m excited to publish again and even more excited that I’m figuring out some of the technical stuff with my newsletter.

Enjoy your week, everyone!

Guest Blogger: Six Great Reasons to Write Short Fiction by Vera Brook

SIX GREAT REASONS TO WRITE SHORT FICTION

By Vera Brook

You may have glanced at the title of this post and shrugged. “I write novels and series. I’m not interested in short fiction.” Maybe you even rolled your eyes. “It’s just not worth my time.” 

But wait! Don’t go away yet. I promise there are great reasons to consider writing short fiction alongside your novels and series—both to hone your craft and to market your longer fiction and reach new readers. So let’s dive in and discuss six of these reasons, shall we? 

Actually, it might be helpful to first define short fiction. I dwell in the world of science fiction and fantasy, and in that world, we break down short fiction into four main lengths. Flash fiction is typically 250 to 1000 or 1500 words; a short story is between1500 and 7500 words (with 3000 to 5000 words considered a sweet spot); a novelette is 7500 to 17500 words; and a novella is 17500 to 40000 words. Anything longer than 40000 words is a novel. Other genres may use different definitions, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with some short fiction in your genre. 

I also want to mention from the start: if you want to write short fiction, you need to read short fiction first. Not a huge amount, but some. It will help a great deal. If you find a story that absolutely blows you away, you can study it for craft and apply what you learn in your own writing. And by searching for short fiction to read, you will also discover markets where you could submit and publish your own short fiction later on. 

How do you find short fiction to read? There is a rich plethora of short fiction magazines and anthologies out there, some in print, some digital, and many available in both formats. My favorite tool to search for magazines and anthologies (to submit to but also to read), and to track my submissions, is the Submission Grinder. You can search by genre and length, pay rate, response time, etc. And it’s absolutely free to use (although you could support the creator to help the good thing going). The Best of… anthologies are also a great choice, as long as they are pretty recent. 

Okay. Let’s first talk about the benefits of writing short fiction in terms of craft, and then about all the different ways to use short fiction to market your longer works and widen your readership.

Craft reason #1: Practice and improve your openings

sketch of woman sitting at desk. orange background text: craft reason 1: practice and improve your openings

The openings of novels are crucial. When a reader comes across your book on Kobo or Amazon, they’re very likely to open the ebook sample and read the first chapter or so. If the opening grabs them and pulls them in, they will get the book. The same happens in physical bookstores. The reader picks up a paperback and reads the first few pages. 

The opening is crucial! But how often do we get to practice writing the opening? If you write long novels, not very often. Just once per novel. Short fiction lets you practice writing different kinds of openings and get better and better at them. A super helpful skill that you can directly apply when writing your next novel.

Craft reason #2: Practice and improve your endings

sketch of woman sitting at desk, green background, text: craft reason 2: practice and improve your endings

If the opening sells your current book, the ending sells your next book (or so the saying goes, and I think it’s true). But as novelists, how many endings do we get to write? Not many. Again, just one per book. Short fiction lets us write lots of endings and different kinds of endings, and as with openings, practice makes perfect, and the improvement is directly applicable to novel writing. Stronger, more effective endings could also make a huge difference for the success of your series, where the read-through rate is critical and you want to do your best to compel the reader to jump directly to the next book in the series. 

Craft reason #3: Experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

sketch of woman sitting at desk: aqua background, text: craft reason 3: experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

Maybe you write crime mystery and want to try adding a speculative element, like a futuristic technology or a paranormal ability. Or vice verse: you write speculative fiction but want to venture into the psychological thriller territory. 

However, it can be daunting to jump straight into writing a novel in a new genre. Short fiction is a perfect playground to try it out and see what happens, without investing too much writing time and effort. In fact, even reading short fiction in a new genre is a great way to get the lay of the land, including popular tropes that you could play with and subvert as you wish—as long as that short fiction is current, published in the last decade or so. 

So far so good? Great. Onward to using short fiction for marketing!

Marketing reason #1: Put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

sketch of woman sitting at desk: orange background, text: Marketing reason 2: put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

Let me ask you this: What’s the biggest challenge for writers today? It’s discoverability, isn’t it? 

Whether you are self-published, with a small indie press, or with a traditional publisher, it is incredibly tough to get readers to find your book. I don’t know how many millions of books there are on Amazon, but it’s an astronomical number, and advertising is expensive. 

If only there was a way to reach the readers in your genre—the readers who are most likely to enjoy your writing—and introduce yourself to them… Well, there is! Short fiction magazines in that genre. If you can get your story published in a magazine like that, guess what will happen? Hundreds or thousands of readers who already love the genre will read your story and discover you, the author, and all your other books! I discovered some of my favorite authors that way—by reading their short story in a magazine first. 

If your flash fiction or short story or novelette gets published in a top tier market, you will also get paid a nice amount; and even better, if the contract is good, you will get paid for only for the first-publication rights and anthology rights, but you can republish your short fiction in your own collection later on. 

Imagine that! A terrific promotion—and you get paid for it, instead of the other way around. 

To be fair, the best magazines and anthologies are competitive. Don’t expect to send them your first story and get an acceptance email (although if you do, congrats!). Rather, think of short fiction as part of your writing journey. It will take time to write good short fiction; it will take time to get it published. But I truly believe it’s worth it. In fact, personally, I consider writing and submitting short fiction as important to my writing career as my novels or series, at least for now. 

One last idea: When you are done with a series, consider writing a short story in that world. In most magazines, if your story gets published, it would be accompanied by your short bio, and the bio could mention your series and encourage the readers to pick up book one. Be careful not to include spoilers in the short story. And just to be safe, you could center it on a minor character or event, rather than the major character or the main story arc. But if your story is compelling and intrigues the readers enough to want to know more, you could gain new fans for your entire series!

Marketing reason #2: Reader magnets to build your newsletter list

sketch of woman sitting at desk, mauve background, text: marketing reason 2: reader magnets to build your newsletter list

Short fiction also works great as a reader magnet (for new readers to sign up for your author newsletter). By definition, short fiction is short, and therefore takes less time and effort to write than a novel. This makes it easier to give it away for free than an entire novel, especially when you are just starting out and only have a few novels published (like I do). And a fun short story or novelette can still entertain the readers and, if they like it, bring them one step closer to becoming your fans. 

The last bit of advice on reader magnets: Use a strong, compelling short story. It should be as good as you can make it in terms of your writing craft, even if it’s short. Don’t forget that the goal is to woo and impress a new reader enough to read more of your work and become a loyal fan over time. A careless, poorly edited short story will not cut it, and you could actually lose a reader that way.   

Marketing reason #3: Gifts to reward your loyal fans and keep them engaged in between books in a series.

sketch of woman sitting at desk, yellow background, text: marketing reason 3: gift for fans to keep them engaged between books in a series

Another terrific way to use short fiction is as a gift for your loyal fans, already on your mailing list. And one time when such a gift might come in handy? When you are in between books in a series, and your fans are anxiously awaiting the next installment. Unlike with a short story that you would submit to a magazine, for new readers who are not familiar with the series, here you are writing primarily for fans who know the characters and the plot inside out. You may still want to be careful with major spoilers, just in case a few readers are behind in their reading. But you have more leeway in terms of what you could refer to in the short fiction, and it might be fine to assume quite a bit of knowledge of the series already. 

A quick mention, since this post is already getting long: Many authors use short fiction as Patreon rewards for their supporters. It’s a similar idea to gifting a short story to your fans through your newsletter. And the best part? Whenever you gift short stories to your fans, once you have enough stories, you could publish a collection of your short fiction! How cool is that? I adore individual-author collections. And it’s another book to your name, so helps with discoverability too. 

One last thing I wanted to mention: Nowadays, both reader magnets and gift copies are distributed electronically, and that’s especially true for short fiction, which may be too short to publish as a paperback. So basically, you would use an ebook version of your short story or novella to give away. You want to make sure that the ebook is correctly formatted, including epub and mobi files, but the distribution can get complicated pretty quickly because of all the reading devices out there. So my recommendation would be to use a service like BookFunnel where you can open an account (for about $20 a year currently), upload the files with your short story (you will need a cover!), set up a landing page for the readers to download the ebook, and then share the link. 

That’s all for now. I think I ran over the word limit a little bit. (Oops. Sorry, Vania. I hope that’s okay.)

Before I let you go, here are a few of my favorite resources on the craft and the marketing uses of short fiction. Best of luck with your writing!


Resources:

Writing Excuses podcast – a long-running podcast about writing and publishing fiction, with the focus on helping the listeners improve their craft and become better writers. 

Mary Robinette Kowal’s guest lecture on writing short stories – part of a series of lectures on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy directed by Brandon Sanderson.

Kristin Kathryn Rusch’s lecture “How to Write A Short Story: The Basics” – practical advice on crafting short fiction from an award-winning, multi-genre professional writer and editor.

The Submission Grinder – a free online tool to search for short fiction markets and track your own submissions. 

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)’s collection of model publishing contracts – includes anthology and magazine contracts. 


Vera Brook is a science fiction, fantasy, and romance writer, and the author of the SAND RUNNER SERIES. Her latest book, THE KISS, a paranormal love story, came out in November 2021. She’s working on two entirely new series, a standalone novel, and a whole lot of short fiction. You can learn more about her writing on her website at verabrook.com. She also tweets about her writing journey, books she loves, and things that interest her at @VeraBrook1.

Copyright © 2022 by Vera Brook

Monday Musings

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Happy Monday! laptop with red coffee mug, paperclips and scratch paper that says happy monday

Good morning, and Happy Monday! I think I’m always excited about Mondays because they are my Saturdays, and usually after a morning of errands and chores, I spend the rest of the day writing. I hope anyone who is facing a full workweek starts off with a productive day!

Lots going on in the indie community last week, most of it centered around Brandon Sanderson and his 24 million dollar Kickstarter. Now, most of what I’ve seen on Twitter has been derogatory at best and downright nasty at worst, and it’s really sad that there is so much jealousy when an author finds so much success. I would never speak ill of any writer who has taken the time to build an audience, nurture loyal fans, and deliver on the promises he makes to those fans. Some people on Twitter confused Kickstarter with GoFundMe, which is incorrect. GoFundMe is a site for donations only. Kickstarter is an investment website, and those people support others monetarily in exchange for product after that product has been manufactured. I’ve seen Kickstarters for more than only books–video game developers use it as do board game creators are two off the top of my head that I’ve seen. I got a little crabby with Twitter when I didn’t see one person offer him any kind of congratulations at all. Of course, that’s Twitter, and when I moved on to Facebook where Brandon is doing a lot of what my peers are trying to do, over there the tone changed to awe, support, and viewing what he’s done as motivation for their own careers.

The thing to remember about what Brandon Sanderson did is this: we all have the power to do it. Brandon has been nurturing his career for many many years, and he’s known for writing science fiction and fantasy. You can look at his career as a case study for your own, and see that he was consistent with genre, consistent with output (I’ve heard people say he’s quite prolific), and consistent with quality. If you want to get down on him for treating his books like a business, then go ahead, but there is something to be learned by his success. Maybe a 24 million dollar Kickstarter propels him into outlier status, but it’s nothing he hasn’t earned, and nothing that you can’t aspire to with hard work and dedication to your business and craft. While they aren’t doing 24 million dollar Kickstarters, every genre has its own powerhouse authors, and in the romance that industry that’s LJ Shen, Melanie Harlow, Ava Harrison, Willow Winters, Tijan, Lucy Score, Skye Warren and many others. Some, like Skye, even share what they’ve learned (she’s the founder of Romance Author Mastermind). One of the best author interviews I ever heard was with Melanie Harlow and James Blatch on the SPF podcast. I’ve mentioned her interview on the blog before, and you can listen to it here:

Brandon, too, shares his secrets on YouTube, and you can watch his classes here:

There is no one more generous than a successful writer. They’re always willing to tell you how they did it, but the fact is, it won’t matter to you if you don’t work on your own craft and be flexible enough to change things that aren’t working. Just the other day I saw someone on Twitter say, I ignore all book marketing advice. Okay. Do what you want to do, but the thing is, two months from now, she’ll be whining she’s not selling books.

If you want to read an interesting article about Brandon on Slate, you can look here:

How Angry Should Other Writers Be About Brandon Sanderson’s $22 Million Kickstarter?
Parsing the reactions to the sci-fi/fantasy author’s record-setting campaign.
BY LAURA MILLER


I finally received the email that Booksprout is raising their prices and that there will be no free option for a review plan. It’s unfortunate, and I’m still struggling to decide if I want to pay or not. The decision would be easier if the quality of reviews was better. Some of the reviews from there were just a five star with a three sentence summary of the book. Readers won’t glean anything from a review like that, and when they say that their review was given freely in exchange for a free book, it looks fishy and spammy as hell. I know it’s better for reviewers to say they were gifted the book in exchange for a review, but since there isn’t a free plan on Booksprout anymore, we’re essentially buying reviews, and we’ve always been told that’s not a good idea. Some others in different groups mentioned Voracious Readers Only but that’s also pay to play at $20/month. It may be better to concentrate on my newsletter and build up my subscribers than to invest 240 dollars a year in a review service. At least those readers will be mine and they’ll be happy forever as long as they keep enjoying my books. If you’re interested in the new pricing for Booksprout you can find it here.

I guess that’s all I have for this week. I’ve been formatting my guest blogger posts for next month, and I still have to get Sami Jo her interview questions. Hopefully I’ll work on that today. Right now I’m focused on getting my series edited one more time since I know what I’m looking for now.

Here’s a funny meme that brings to mind all the times I’ve gone through these books courtesy of @AneAbraham on Twitter:

meme in three parts: first part, cartoon man riding bike, holding a stick with text: finished editing manuscript for the last time. 

middle panel: guy shoving stick through the spokes of front tire with text: wait, that doesn't look right.

last panel: guy lying on the ground with the bike tipped over next tot him with the text: it's not ready yet!

But as they say, comparison is the thief of all joy, and I just finished reading a 75k word Billionaire dual first person POV and I noticed that author, too, like to use the words “take” or “taking.” When I searched my Kindle for the word, she used it over 200 times. Many more than I did in my novel that has 11k more words in it. Do I regret going over my books again after discovering this? Not really. I’m not “taking” them all out–sometimes the sentence just makes sense with it in there, but the sentences I am rewriting sound better, stronger. It’s unfortunate I thought to look though, as the book, according to Publisher Rocket, is set to make $7,000 this month. It just goes to show that what will bother you won’t bother other people, and to write the best book you can and not compare your work to others.

That is all I have for this week!

Comparison is the thief of joy. Text typed over pink and white flower petals.

Thursday Thoughts and an Author Update.

Today was an unexpectedly busy day: I had to bring my cat, Harley to the vet. I noticed she would go into the litter box but not do anything, and I suspected she was constipated, which turned out to be the case. $400.00 and an enema later, she’s shaky but going to the bathroom. She’s snoozing on the floor next to me right now where I can keep an eye on her. The vet sent us home with some stool softener and some fiber-rich food. I hope this does the trick as it was a costly trip for me, but who can put a price on love?

calico female cat hidden by white blanket with face poking out

Anyway, I’m not feeling much better than she is, having taken another dose of ibuprofen today which is not like me at all. My hysterectomy is all set for the 28th of March, and I dropped off my FMLA paperwork at the clinic this afternoon.

flat desk with laptop and sharpened orange pencils. Guest blogger text

I didn’t want to leave the blog unattended, and I set up some pretty cool guest bloggers for the month of April while I force myself to relax and recuperate (haha). Barbara Avon will be writing about being a multi-genre author, and I asked Vera Brook to write something about writing short stories and submitting them for publication. I’m also going to interview Sami Jo Cairns about her experiences with small presses and her thoughts on going indie with her series for the first time. Since I always do a giveaway with my author interviews, I probably won’t post that until the end of the month when I can get to the post office if need be to mail out a prize. So I’m really l excited for some fresh blood on the blog as well as some exciting topics I’ve never written about because those aren’t my experiences. I may look for one more person to help me with the remaining Monday of the month, but we’ll see. I don’t think I’ll be incapacitated to the extent I can’t write or blog, but I was hoping to also launch a book in April, but I honestly don’t see that happening right now.

I am going through my six book series again. During the last sweep, I thought I was fixing everything that needed to be fixed, but then I was listening to book 6 and I started catching all my crutch words I didn’t notice with the other five books (why am I like this?). While I caught some discrepancies last time, this final read-through is rewording sentences to get rid of them. The books as a whole will sound stronger, but this edit requires ingenuity on my part. My crutch words in these books: take/taken/taking/took and making. I’ve never had a problem with those words before, but since these are the first books I wrote after I switch to first person present, it was how I was writing while I figured out my voice I’m just now recognizing. I am VERY happy with the way the first book is sounding since realizing I needed to weed out those words, and I shouldn’t need to read them again after I’m done.

But this does put me in a quandary as I don’t work on more than one WIP at a time (I consider my series one project) so if my beta reader finishes my duet in the near future, I may not be in a position to work on any fixes he brings to my attention. Which sucks, but because I’m working with a huge story arc, I’m reluctant to edit another project and break my momentum. I can listen to these pretty fast though, and I think I’ll only be a month before and I can publish in May instead of April. I’m nothing if not patient, so this isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I started rereading my series again from book one.

I did get some nasty news though, and MailerLite is revamping their interface which is a terrible terrible terrible idea, because I had just finally gotten used to dealing with the old one. I haven’t even logged on to see the changes. I might have my reader magnet set up on BookFunnel, but when my my tax refund dropped into my account, instead of saving it, I made a rash and too-positive-thinking-for-my-own-good decision to upgrade my BookFunnel account so I can just share the BookFunnel link to my reader magnet and BookFunnel will collect email addresses for me. It decreases the number of clicks a person has to do to sign up for my newsletter, and since I paid extra for MailerLite integration, my life should be a little easier. But I still have to figure out all that stuff, how it works, yada, yada, yada, so I’m not going to be flat on my back watching Netflix and eating ice cream while my body is trying to figure out where my uterus went. I have a crap-ton of stuff to do, and if I take three or four weeks off work, I can put 40 hours a week into my second job. Of course, that’s not me scamming my FMLA. I have plenty of paid time off they’re going to be more than happy to use first, which is fine. I can’t afford to take time off without getting paid for it somehow.

In other crappy news, too, with BookSprout also revamping, I’ve heard in an FB group or two that they are doing away with their free plans. If you don’t know what BookSprout is, it’s a website where readers request arcs of books that need reviews. You can put your book up and ask for reviews and where you want the readers to post them. I tried it, didn’t get too much of a response for my books, but it’s one of those things that only work if you’re writing to-market commercial fiction. My 3rd person stuff was okay, but still, like finding readers in general, I didn’t stick to a subgenre and it made it difficult to hook readers and reviewers alike. Still, I was going to try again with my launch this spring. So far, the free plan is still available, but I’ve heard nothing about being grandfathered in while they roll out the new update.

When I added up what I spend on my business for my accountant, it made me a little sick inside. I know you have to spend money to make money, and as indie-publishing evolves and it’s more difficult to compete with other authors, you may find you have no choice but to invest in some of these tools. I got into it with someone on Twitter today who said Twitter sells books, and when I asked how many (because I don’t believe it does) he didn’t have anything to say. When you depend on only one thing for marketing, and I don’t even care if you choose Twitter, or FB ads, or Bookbub ads, or you like TikTok, you have to realize that your reach will be limited. In his book, Nicholas Erik outlines many ways to market your book. It’s a very informative, and you should grab a copy.

And if you can’t resist some drama, here’s the thread on Twitter I’m referring to.

Have a great weekend, everyone! See you Monday!

Five reasons why taking advice from writers about what readers like is a (really) bad idea.

Writing, marketing, and publishing advice is plentiful online. There’s excellent advice that can take your business to the next level, good advice, mediocre advice, very very bad advice, and some advice that is straight up, literally, illegal.

But when it comes to writers giving other writers advice about what readers want, I have found that, depending on where you get it, a lot of that advice isn’t to be trusted. Here are some reasons why it’s probably not a good idea to apply advice from other writers when you’re trying to write, publish, and market to readers–especially to readers who don’t write.

Writers don’t read like readers do. This is a big one. I hate seeing writing advice online. I hate it. I try to avoid it on this blog unless a pet peeve like my “got” issue (and not Game of Thrones) crawls too deeply under my skin and I have no choice but to speak up. Writers don’t read like readers do. How may times have you heard an author say, “I couldn’t get into the book. I was too busy dissecting/editing/proofing it to enjoy it.” A mom hiding from her toddler in the tub with her Kindle and a glass of wine isn’t going to critique your book. She wants a good story, characters to fall in love with, maybe some sexytimes, and if you give her that, she’s not going to care about small issues like whether or not you used the Oxford comma. She actually probably won’t even care how many times you use the word, “got” if the story is engaging and she cares about the fate of your characters. Give your readers a good story, and forget about the writing advice you see online. Keep changes between you, your beta readers and your editor.

A related thing I dislike is hearing writers say, “I read everything, and I write for readers who read everything, too.” The fact is, there are very few people who will read “everything” and writing and marketing to people who read “everything” is like throwing a handful of gravel into the wind. The pebbles scatter, and the force behind your throw is wasted, but throw ONE rock as hard as you can and watch it fly, right? You can’t write for everyone, you want to write for readers of a particular sub-genre. It will make it much easier to find readers because you already know what they like. Whale readers devour everything they can get their hands on in the sub-genre they prefer to read. They don’t stray much outside of their lanes, which is why writers are also counseled to stay in one lane–at least for a while.

Other writers may not have the same audience goals as you. We all want to find readers, but that doesn’t mean we have the same goals. I want to make a living with my writing. That may not be someone else’s goal. Maybe they want to sell only a handful of copies to say they are a published author. If we don’t have the same goals, we aren’t going to run our business the same way, or even think of our books as a business at all. That means anything from being a multi-genre author instead of niching down, not putting their books in KU when yours would do well there, or writing whatever they want when you would prefer to follow what’s selling in the market.

This goes hand-in-hand with writers who will give you plain old harmful advice. The other day on Twitter there was a writer who asked if she should separate her different genres with a different pen name. I can’t tell you how many authors told her not to bother and my jaw dropped. I wanted to explode, but I kept scrolling. Unless your genres are closely related, (billionaire romance/mafia, paranormal romance/speculative women’s fiction with romantic elements, mystery/thriller/domestic thrillers) you’ll do better if you separate your genres with pen names. It will make marketing easier, your also-boughts on Amazon won’t get messed up, and you can cultivate two sets of readers. It’s work though, and that’s why the thought of pen names turns off a lot of writers. Readers will appreciate the separation. Even if you don’t keep your identities a secret, they’ll appreciate knowing which name you write under that they like best. Writers say they want to take credit for all their hard work. You can still take credit–inside on the copyright page. So many people told me that I didn’t need to separate my 3rd person contemporary romances from my 1st person billionaire books. I wanted to because they have different tones, though the subject matter (my characters’ personal problems) is largely the same. I felt validated when Zoe York mentioned in a Clubhouse room that she separates her 3rd person from her 1st person. It just made sense to me all around, though readers probably can switch from reading 3rd to 1st easier than I can writing it.

Writers don’t read enough to know what’s going on in their genres and the industry as a whole. For every rule there is an exception, and there are probably a lot of writers who read regularly. I’m not one of them, and I should be. I should be gobbling up every billionaire romance out there. I did read some, when I decided to make my switch, but I didn’t, and still don’t, read enough. I’m willing to bet that if writers read more in their genre, they wouldn’t be giving the advice they do. They would know what readers want, what they look for, what they’re willing to pay for. They would know the book cover trends, what kind of blurbs capture a reader’s attention. Advice steeped in ignorance is not advice you want to take. I have bemoaned on this blog so many times about how a lot of indies don’t understand the industry, and if you don’t understand the industry, you don’t know what’s selling, or why it is. That’s important.

“I don’t read newsletters, so that’s why I’m not offering one.” This is, by far, the craziest thing I have ever heard. You are a writer. We’ve already ascertained you more than likely don’t read enough, so saying you’re not subscribed to any newsletters isn’t surprising, but it’s not a reason why you shouldn’t offer one to your readers. Readers are not like us. You need a way to communicate with them. I haven’t offered a newsletter in the five years I published under Vania Rheault, and it’s my biggest mistake. If you don’t offer a newsletter, your readers have no way of staying in touch with you. I gobble up non-fiction content and I’m subscribed to many newsletters from big indie names like Dave Chesson, Derek Murphy, David Gaughran, Jane Friedman, Ricardo Fayet from Reedsy. I also get newsletters from Kobo Writing life, Reedsy, BookBub and more. Their information about publishing is valuable, and I subscribe, and, more importantly read, to stay in the know. Your readers, if they enjoy your books, will want to sign up for your newsletter to stay up to date on what you’re doing. This does mean that if you offer a newsletter, you have to send one out on occasion. Content wasn’t the issue with me. I’ve managed to regularly blog for 6 years and rarely do I run out of something to say. I didn’t offer a newsletter because I’m lazy. I didn’t want to learn how to use MailerLite. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to create a landing page, how to set up an autoresponder, the technical issues of signing up for a professional email, blah blah blah. But, I finally did it. Now I’m five years behind. Don’t offer a newsletter because you haven’t subscribed to any. You’re not a reader. You’re a writer.

Stubborn indie writers are set in their ways and won’t change even if that behavior hinders finding readers. The two most stubborn groups of people in the world are runners who are injured and who should take a break from running to rest and heal…and indie writers. Taking advice from a writer who isn’t open to new ideas and bristles at constructive criticism is a terrible idea. Feedback and kind criticism are a necessity to grow in craft and in your business. I wish I could count how many times I see an agent say, NO PROLOGUES and a writer say, “I’m gonna write all the prologues” then cry when they can’t find an agent. Are you going to listen to someone who is intent to do it their own way damned the consequences, or are you going to listen to someone who knows what’s going on in the industry and is flexible enough to pivot and or try new things? (By the way, agents know the editors {who are the people who actually buy the books} who know readers and what they like. Just a thought.) As far as readers go, what’s expected in your genre? Fantasy uses prologues. Mystery/thrillers do too, often in the POV of the villain. If you want to write a prologue and your genre supports it (meaning your readers are used to them) write a prologue. If a prologue won’t enhance your story, maybe you don’t need it. I like epilogues. I like writing them, I like reading them, and they are often found in romance novels to tie up loose ends. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary writing an epilogue. Sometimes a story needs it, sometimes it doesn’t, but prologues and epilogues are not a hill you need to die on. What is best for YOU and your genre? Romances don’t do well with prologues. Readers want to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible. Introduce your heroine and hero ASAP. Writers have made too much of an issue about something that should be considered on a book by book, and genre by genre, basis.


Writers do their best to sabotage their own businesses–sometimes not thinking about their books as businesses at all is the first mistake they make. Everything you do should be geared toward finding and keeping readers. Writing what you want is only good advice if you know the genre you want to write in, the reader expectations of that genre, and if you enjoy writing that genre and those tropes readers expect. Many people have asked me if I feel boxed in writing billionaire romance, but I don’t. The same tropes (and yes, I structure my novels around tropes) apply to people who have money as to the characters who are broke. They handle problems differently, sure, but that’s fun, too. Make what you love to write meet in the middle with what readers want to read. You can’t listen to a writer who says a book cover doesn’t matter or tells you readers don’t read blurbs. Over on Twitter, I’ve heard it all, and it’s concerning because the writing community has thousands of members, and some of the information passed through those hashtags is harmful at best and toxic at worst. Think like a reader from start to finish and you’ll never go wrong with writing, publishing and marketing of your books.

Author Musings: Personal Update and Amazon’s Also-Boughts

Happy Thursday! Thursday’s aren’t so great for me because they’re actually my Mondays, and work has been super busy lately. But I have been able to get a lot of editing done on my days off and I might be able to publish a little sooner than the April release date I was aiming for. Anyway, so I missed my blog post for Monday–I was just so into editing last week I completely spaced on it. Not much is going on right now in the indie publishing world anyway, so probably a lot of my blog posts for the next little while will just be my writing updates as I finally publish after two years of not.

But I was perusing Twitter like I’m wont to do, and there have been many authors lamenting over their lack of sales, especially as the new year has rolled around, and lots of celebrating when they manage to cajole one of their followers into a purchase. I just want to caution anyone who begs for a sale by saying this: a sale isn’t just a sale.

When you’re an indie author going through a dry spell, you might not think that’s true. You celebrate every sale, and to an extent, you should. But on the other hand, if the readers who buy your book don’t regularly read in that genre (i. e. they bought your book as a favor or to do something nice or to “support” you) their sale isn’t helping you.

Amazon’s algorithms are stronger than we want to believe, and it’s IMPERATIVE that when you publish a book, Amazon knows exactly what genre it is and exactly who will read it. I’m sure you’ve all gotten those emails of recommended books. I’ve seen tweets from amused (and bemused) authors wondering why Amazon would email them about their own book. It’s really because you’re been looking at your own product page without using an incognito window and now Amazon thinks that’s the kind of book you’re interested in. This happens when you look up any of your friends’ books, too. I get emails for all kinds of books I would never actually buy–because I’m clicking on links from Twitter, looking at books mostly to see why the author is complaining they aren’t selling.

While this can be amusing, maybe even frustrating, it’s actually a demonstration of how you can use Amazon’s recommendation emails to your advantage. You want Amazon to email potential readers about your book, right? You do want Amazon to list and feature your book at the bottom of another author’s product page and encourage them to buy it because it’s similar to the book they’re already looking at?

This isn’t successfully done if you don’t train Amazon to understand who your book is for. When you receive an email about a book that doesn’t interest you, you simply delete. But what if Amazon emails you books you might actually like? You at least click over to the product page. I’ve purchased several non-fiction books this way because I’ve taught Amazon to know I love publishing industry books through my order history.

For example, I was looking at an author’s product page whom I know from Twitter, and the authors in the CUSTOMERS ALSO BOUGHT ITEMS BY section were all authors I recognized from Twitter. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Twitter authors were obviously supporting each other, but they all wrote in different genres. It’s obvious this author wasn’t finding readers in his genre. His friends were supporting him, and while that’s great, you can’t make a living like that, either.

So what can you do? In this case, a sale isn’t just a sale. A sale to the wrong reader can muddy your book’s sales history on Amazon and either Amazon will send emails to the wrong readers, or worse yet, not bother to promote you at all.

Amazon algorithms can help you sell books, but you have to help it help you.

How?

  1. Make sure your book’s categories are correct. You can add more than the two KDP allows you to choose when you publish if you email support
  2. Make sure your meta data is correct when you publish (the 7 spaces for keywords you fill in when you publish)
  3. Don’t promote to your #writingcommunity friends
  4. Run ads and target your category/comparison authors/comparison titles
  5. Use newsletter promos (choosing the right category) to attract new readers. David Gaughran has a great list here.

The more in alignment your book is to your genre, comp authors, and comp titles, the better chance you have of Amazon helping you sell your book.

If you want more information about also-boughts, David Gaughran has an in-depth blog post and you can read it here.

If you want to learn more about the Amazon algorithms, Reedsy has a great course they will email you for free. It will explain what the algorithm is and how you can make it work for you. You can sign up here.


I love keeping an eye on what’s going on in the industry, and I think another trend that’s coming is longer books. My first person books are naturally longer than my 3rd person, and when I made the switch, I was surprised I could consistently hit a 80-85k+ word count when before I was happy with 70-75k. But lately I’ve been seeing billionaire/bad boy/mafia romances coming in at 100k+ word counts. Are romance books getting longer? And if so, why? A lot of romance authors are in KU, and many romance authors also write in series which can up the word count because they are setting up the next book.

Will this affect my writing? Probably not. 85k is a sweet spot for me and unless I work harder at creating subplots, I think that word count works for the way I write my stories. It is interesting though, how it seems romances are getting longer and could be evidence that readers would prefer longer books over books half that size or even novellas. Longer books also give writers room to build that slow burn, and explore deeper and richer character arcs. I’ve read several books that are huge with including family and friends. When your characters explore relationships outside of their romance plot, that can also deepen your character arcs and add words. Ultimately, you do have to do what’s right for your book and the story you need to tell. But I’ve always been big with meeting reader expectations, and if a reader is expecting a 350 page book, and you give them half that, you could find yourself with unhappy reviews.

I think this kind of goes along with the pricing increase I’ve been seeing as well. A longer book does mean a higher paperback price due to printing and paper shortages, and indies are pricing their ebooks at 3.99, 4.99, 5.99, and even 6.99. If you’re going to price that high, you definitely want to give your readers what they are paying for. I, too, will probably raise my prices this year, though my marketing strategy isn’t focused on ebook sales (my books will be in KU) or paperback. I’ll leave my paperback prices as low as I possibly can make them and still earn a dollar a book. I love reading paperbacks, but unfortunately, I can’t afford 15.99 per paperback, even if I understand why authors need to price them that high.

If you want to check out the word counts of your favorite books, or keep an eye on what other authors in your genre are doing, you can use Word Counters, and you can find it here.


I’m going back and forth with writing a Christmas novel for this year, and it’s hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit three weeks after the fact. I can not offer one, and publish three books this year, or I can write it later this year. The problem with writing it later is that I’m going to spend the rest of 2022 getting my six book series ready to publish in 2023. I probably will need all year because these books still need a bit of an edit, formatting, covers, and a beta reader/proofer if I can find one who is willing to do it cheaply and be time efficient. (A big ask, I know.) I don’t want to stop my editing and production momentum to take a break writing something for Christmas. So either I do it after my duet is done and before I start editing my series, or I skip it all together. I have another standalone hanging around I could prepare and publish, but I don’t know how well a non-holiday book would do with a December release.

Anyway, that’s about all I have for an update. Monday, and I will get to a blog post, will be about BookFunnel, my reader magnet, and my experience with setting up my account.

Have a great weekend!

Tentative launch plan for my duet: thinking aloud and plans for the next three months

It’s a nice thought!

Happy first Monday of 2022! I hope the start of the new year has gone well for all of you!

Two days ago I was thinking about writing another book. It would be a reader magnet for my newsletter, but in the end, I talked myself out of it. I’ve been saying for a while now that I want to start launching some of my books, and I can’t do that if I’m writing. In 2022 I’ve decided to play to my strengths, or at the very least, try to co-exist with them and I can’t write one book while writing or editing another. It will be easier for me to accept it and postpone something new because I’d never get any of my older books off the ground. So I gave myself a pat on the back, even though this book is all plotted out and I even played with covers. I’ll write it after my duet is set and ready to go, and not a minute before.

So, now that that crisis has been averted, I can start to drill down on what I need to get done for these two books. I’m still going to try to launch in April. Being that I still have to listen to both books to make sure I don’t have any typos and I still proofread the paperback proofs no matter what, a mid-April release day for the first book should be doable.

So here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. This week I’m going to look at comparison authors and titles for ad keywords. I already have been doing this a little when I was doing cover research. Billionaire is all over the place now with everything from models in color, to black and white, to objects. I can’t get a bead on anything that’s trending definitely, except it seems a single male still graces more covers than a couple. I have a small list of the big-named authors that dominate the top 100 on Amazon, but I’m also going to dig deeper and make a list of mid-list authors that I may not have heard of that are still doing well. Publisher Rocket is great for finding out info on the “competition” and that software will let me know if it’s worth my time to add them to my comp author list.
  2. This week I’m also going to write my blurbs and try for feedback in the romance groups I’m most active in. I read T. Taylor’s 7 FIGURE FICTION: How to Use Universal Fantasy to SELL Your Books to ANYONE and pulling out the universal fantasies from my books and building blurbs around them makes a lot of sense. You can grab the book, and also join the Facebook group here. Asking for feedback has always been iffy for me a) because I’m not always as active as I should be and you should never ask for a favor unless you’ve already give one and b) a lot of what I’ve been told just hasn’t been helpful. I wrote a blog post about asking for blurb feedback and you can read it here.
  3. I’ve said for months I’m going to create a list of newsletter promos that don’t require a minimum number of reviews. I’ve been sitting on this for months because I haven’t needed it, but it will be a great resources for people, so what I need to do is settle in with a snack, put on some music, and just get it done. I have list after list of promo sites, I just need to go onto each website and break them down. Starting up a new pen name without any reader group/newsletter/ARC giveaways pretty much guarantees me to releasing with 0 reviews. But even though I didn’t get the best results with Booksprout, I wasn’t writing to market as well as I could have been, so giving that site a try with my new books might be something I’ll consider. I have come to realize that if you use Booksprout correctly and publish frequently, it’s a place on its own where you can build a community of readers who will snap up every book you put up for reviews. Changing my mindset may be helpful considering it will take a while to build my own reader group, and nurturing a community on Booksprout may be faster, at least for this year’s releases. If you want to read about my Booksprout experience, you can look here. If you’re curious about the review site, you can look here.

So that’s what I have going on this week–mostly a lot of busy work while I give the books time to rest. During the last two passes I made some changes to the breadcrumbs I had to leave for the characters to solve the mystery part of the plot, and I want to give myself space so the next time I read them through I can see if the changes make sense.

In the meantime, I can nail down the covers I’ve been playing with. Because of the feedback, I switched out both of the models and changed up the background, so it was helpful. The covers for these two books hold a lot of weight because not only are they setting the tone for what’s inside, but they’re also setting the tone for my entire catalogue of books going forward and my author brand. There was no point in niching down if my branding isn’t consistent. That’s another reason why making a list of comp authors by hand instead of letting Publisher Rocket pull a list for me is really important. I need to make sure I’m aligning myself with the correct authors. Here’s what I have so far:

Part of the problem with asking for feedback is that people will throw out solutions like you know how to do those things. When you have limited capabilities like I do, it can be tough to follow everyone’s advice. I asked for feedback for the guy on Addicted‘s cover because I’m not 100% I like the shadow on his forehead, but when everyone told me how to “fix” it, I had no clue, so watch out for that. I can’t use photo manipulation software in a way a lot of authors and graphic designers can, I can usually only look for a different stock photo or try my best with what I know in GIMP. Chances are I’m making a big deal over nothing because both models have shadows. It’s probably more important that they look cohesive and that they belong together as a set.


Finally? A reader magnet? I’ve only been talking about it for months….

Talking with my significant other, he gave me the idea to go ahead and use My Biggest Mistake as a reader magnet. It’s a 74k standalone, and with the way I have my publishing schedule set up, I won’t be publishing it for a while. It’s already edited, formatted and has a cover. What this means is I would have to figure out BookFunnel in a hurry. I have the barebones of my newsletter signup worked out, though I do have a MailerLite course by Holly Darling that purchased on Black Friday for my birthday that I haven’t started yet, either. I have a landing page set up with the welcome email. I think all I would need to do is create an account with BookFunnel and download the book files and add the BookFunnel link to my welcome email for the download. I probably do have time to do all that, but it’s my nature to watch tutorials and see how others do it before trying to do anything myself. Considering that it’s my shortest standalone and that I don’t have plans to publish it anytime soon, I think it makes sense to use it as a reader magnet for the next little while. It doesn’t change too much for me, just adds more to my to-do list that needs to be completed by April because I’ll need to have it all in place for the duet’s back matter.

It really is no wonder why indies have it so tough these days. So much jumping through hoops to play the game.

My inspiration quote for you for 2022 🙂

The last thing I’ll need to do is get all my files ready and submit a preorder for book two so I have have the link available to put in the back matter of book one. It’s not that I like preorders or think they’re beneficial, especially since my audience will be in KU and they don’t preorder books, but in this case, I need them up so I can claim my Amazon Author page and my Goodreads profile. It’s been so long since I’ve done either of those that it’s going to take me a couple days to figure it out again. I can also start running low cost-per-click ads to the preorder and test my keywords to see if I get any impressions and clicks. I’m going to release at full price, though I’m not sure what that will be. Prices are rising, and $2.99 books are considered on the lower-end of pricing. I may bump up to $3.99, maybe even $4.99 since I’m not targeting people who will buy my books, though if they wanted to, I wouldn’t argue. No, my target audience is the whale readers who devour books in KU. I’ll have to up my prices on paperbacks, too, because the of the paper shortages. It’s really too bad because I’ve always tried to keep my paperback books affordable, but IngramSpark is raising the cost of their fees. Between that and the cost of paper, it’s expensive to publish through IS these days. I know one thing, if you put your price on your back cover, IngramSpark makes you match the price in your account, so if you don’t want to keep tweaking your cover, don’t put the price on the back. I’m not even sure if I’m going to publish with Ingram with this new pen name. I probably will, but I just don’t know if the effort is worth it.


So, I have a lot to keep me busy, and of course I’ll keep you guys updated! I’ll have a lot of new experiences to write about in the coming weeks. I hope you all had a fantastic start to the new year!

Until next time!

Buzzword: Consistency

When you follow any type of industry, Human Resources, Business, Publishing, lots of buzzwords get thrown around. They’re trendy you know? No one does more “reaching out” or “approaching” than an HR rep. Every profession has their own language, and it’s been interesting to me to hear some of what publishing’s words and phrases are. (A while back I did a post on relevancy, and you can read it here.)

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about consistency. In HR, consistency means a lot of things. As an employee, one of the biggest ones you probably appreciate is when management treats everyone the same. Transgressions are punished equally, it doesn’t matter who the employee is. One of the best (or worst) examples of inconsistency I’ve seen in the workplace is preferential treatment given to smokers. They need their smoke breaks and are allotted time others aren’t to be away from their desks. I’ve seen employees come and go because of inconsistent training, inconsistent treatment, inconsistent guidelines, and inconsistent pay. (Ever work for a company where a new hire makes more than someone who’s been there for years because they didn’t adjust the pay of the other employees? Sucks, right?)

In indie publishing, consistency is almost a naughty word, but if you think about your life outside of writing and publishing, I can’t think of an instance where consistency is bad. Your body likes it when you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. It appreciates it when you consistently feed it nutritious food and consistently exercise. Sometimes consistency can be a matter of health: who reading this needs to take medication at the same time every day? Who goes to the doctor every month? Every six months? The dentist? And you visit the same doctor right? You have a family practitioner you’ve developed a rapport with, someone who knows your medical history.

Here are other instances where consistency is good:

*You pay your rent/mortgage on the first of every month, you renew your lease at the same time every year.
*You go to work and leave at the same time every day.
*Probably you park in the same parking spot, too.
*Your work pays you at the same times every month. Wouldn’t it suck for you if they decided to pay you whenever they wanted?
*You train your pets to expect food at the same time every day. They don’t appreciate it when you forget.
*You pick up your kids from school at the same time very day. They don’t appreciate it when you forget, either. (Haha!)
*You bring your car in for an oil change every three months because you can’t afford the potential repairs if you don’t.

There are so many more ways in which consistency helps you or when/where you depend on it. In fact, we love consistency and routine so much that we fight change. (Who ignores their computer and phone updates?) We hate it, we can’t cope with it, and it causes us anxiety. There’s a reason why we say, “Jump before you’re pushed”– because we need the control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation.

So why then is consistency such a nasty word when we apply it to our books and our book business?

For one, I think we fear it will stifle our creativity. When we hear the advice to “stay in our own lane” or to “niche down and find a subgenre you like and stay there” we automatically think we won’t be able to be as creative, but that is actually the opposite of how our brains respond. Humans find freedom in boundaries. Take little kids–they thrive on schedules. They need to know what is happening because they find safety in routine. They have a difficult time coping being shuttled from parent to parent in a divorce, and not knowing where they’re going to sleep from one night to the next causes them anxiety and fear. Routine for children and adults is conducive to good mental health.

You can apply that to what you write. If you choose a niche instead of being a multi-genre author, your readers will have an easier time finding something in your catalogue to enjoy (hopefully everything!). I can use myself as an example. Under Vania Rheault, I wrote in all the subgenres: billionaire, age gap, small town. I thought I was writing “contemporary romance” but publishing has changed and while I was writing that, I was technically genre hopping and it didn’t help with sales. I had a difficult time marketing. I decided to write billionaire under VM Rheault, and I have been writing and hoarding books for the past two years. I’ve written 13 books plus the one I’m writing now. That might not be much, not when we’re talking about a career, but I already have plans for four more books to round out a series I’m not done with, and I’m rereading the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day and making notes to write another long billionaire series.

Rather than think that I’ll eventually run out of things to write about billionaires, I think the opposite. I can take any trope I want and make it a challenge. How can I take this trope, apply it to the billionaire subgenre and write a book or series readers of that subgenre will fall in love with? Giving yourself too much freedom can actually cause writer’s block. We wonder how prolific writers can write so fast, and it’s because they thrive with the boundaries they write in.

Covers are the same. You need your cover to convey your genre and fit in with the other books in that genre. I didn’t understand that, and in romance, steam level also dictates how much clothing a couple on the cover is wearing. Amazon’s new guidelines haven’t helped with this and has made covering our books that Amazon will approve for ads a little more trickier. Billionaires are pretty easy–you have a suave, handsome man in a suit, or a bad boy in a black and white photo glaring into the camera. Readers are used to what they want, and if you’re too different, they’ll think they won’t like what you have to offer. Do you ever see packaging for a favorite product change? The first thing they do is put on the front in bold letters NEW LOOK! SAME GREAT TASTE! They don’t want to scare you off when they decide to rebrand. We are automatically repelled by the change, and companies know that.

Being that there is no room on a book cover to comfort potential readers and assure them that even though your cover is different there is still a story in there they will enjoy, just give the audience you’re trying to reach what they’re used to. Why fight it when the cover is only a small thing to compromise on. You want readers right? Yeah, you do.

Be consistent with a publishing schedule. This is a big one with me, and something I struggled with. The indie authors I know who are making it publish on certain days every month, every year. I would like to publish three-four books a year, though I’m not 100% sure what those days and months will be. I want readers to know, for example, in April I’ll have a book out, and then July, and then October, and then December if I happen to have something for Christmas. I know a lot of indies have an issue with this because they write when they have time to write and publish when the book is done. Then they do it over and over again without any real schedule. It can take a couple of years to figure out how fast you can write a novel, how fast your editor will give it back to you (if you have one), how fast you can put those changes in, how fast it will take you to secure a cover. We don’t like to think of books as products, but there is a “production” process very book goes through before it’s ready to be sold. In Elana Johnson’s book, Writing and Releasing Rapidly, she encourages you to figure this out. It takes me six weeks to write a 80k word novel, but because I don’t have a “team” to help me, I do a lot of the editing/proofing myself and that takes time. Going through stock photos and playing with how the cover will look takes more time than ordering a premade or hiring a designer. Formatting might not take that long with Vellum, but it’s still time you have to put aside.

If all that sounds crazy and unattainable because you have little kids and a day job, of course you won’t be releasing ten books a year, unless you write novellas and you can write one in two weeks. It’s a process to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are and work with them instead of letting them work against you. Begin how you wish to continue. Under-promise and over-deliver, so during good years if you can crank out an extra novel, your readers will be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed because you overtaxed yourself and can’t meet a deadline.

Be consistent in the length of your novels. We don’t talk about length of a novel very often. If you’re in KU you are paid by the page read, and obviously the longer the book is, the more you’re paid. Some authors write with this in mind, and only offer full-length novels. I don’t write novellas. Not only for that reason, but because I can’t plot a novella. I always have too much going on, and when you’re writing in 1st person, I have found (for me, at least) that it takes up a lot more space on the page. Readers like to know what they’re getting. They don’t want to pay $3.99 for a novella when they think they are buying a full-length novel. That’s not to say you can’t disperse a novella here and there as extra content, for example extra content between books in a series. Plenty of authors do that, but I think it would be very difficult to find a readership when you write full-length novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories. Write a consistent word count so your readers don’t have to guess what they’re buying when you release a new “book.”


Consistency is anything but boring. In a world where chaos reigns, consistency is a comfort. If you can change your mindset and give consistency a chance instead of eschewing it because you think you’ll be bored, you may be pleasantly surprised. I love writing billionaire. They are people too, and they suffer the same problems everyone else does. Do they have different ways of solving problems? Sure, but all of my characters, (and most I’ve read by other authors, too) learn that money can’t buy happiness, and by the end of the book would happily throw their fortunes away for true love.

Maybe this makes sense and it will encourage you to take a look at your business in a new way. Maybe you think I’m full of crap and you’ll continue to write and publish whatever whenever you want, but the next time the road you take to work is closed and you’re forced to take a detour, think about how you feel, how utterly inconvenienced you feel. Suddenly your morning routine is gone and the rest of your day is messed up. Your readers like consistency, they like knowing exactly what they are paying for when you release a new book.

I mean, this whole blog post is only my opinion, though I do have a list of resources below that back me up. If you’re writing whatever and publishing whenever, and you don’t have a problem with the results that brings your business, don’t change; this blog post isn’t for you. But if you’ve been publishing for a while and not finding the results you want, it never hurts to take stock and figure out where you can do better.

That’s what I did, and I will let you know how it works for me!

Until next time!


Resources:

Finding that middle ground between your daily routine and new opportunities will get you the best of both worlds and make for a happy, fulfilling life

Do You Need More Restrictions on Your Writing?

The Paralyzing Effect of Freedom

The Psychology of Limitations: How and Why Constraints Can Make You More Creative

How to break out of the writing community bubble and sell books to READERS

One of the biggest epiphanies I’ve had since I published my first book in 2015 is how to sell my books.

When we join social media and begin to build our platforms, we think that we’re building a base for readers to come together and talk about our books. The only problem with that is, we identify so strongly with being writers that we forget that we need to identify with being authors.

What do I mean by that?

When we’re writers, we’re writing, and we love to talk about writerly things. What tropes are trending, trading craft secrets, sharing blog posts and favorite craft books about showing vs. telling, how to build 3d characters, how to create conflict with stakes, goals, and consequences. And, of course, our wonderful notebook collection. We like to cheer each other on, beta read for each other, and support each other by retweeting snippets of our work. And most importantly, supporting each other on every platform. All that sounds really good, and it is.

It is until we want to sell books, and I mean, not to the handful of people we know on Twitter, or to the five writers we’ve gotten close to on Instagram. All of a sudden then, being a part of the writing community isn’t so great. We have thousands of followers but when we launch a book, no one cares. We might get a congratulations, or we might get a few compliments on our cover, but launch day comes and goes and the shine wears off rather quickly.

I don’t know how many books I launched before I realized all my followers on Twitter didn’t care. They were busy doing, or trying to do, the exact same thing I was.

And like a fish caught in a net, we struggle. How do we break out of our writer circles to sell books?

*Stop promoting your books to the writing community. Probably one of the very first things I did after realizing this is I stopped tweeting about my books. No one cared. Now I use my Twitter account for what I had been using it for before I published. I tweet about articles I find useful, congratulate authors on their finished WIPs, and point writers and authors to this blog. That’s it. I chit chat, but very very rarely I tweet about my books on there. My experience has improved, and I’ve gotten more hits on this website for my blog than I ever sold books.

I have a friend on Twitter who has almost 38,000 followers. I’m sure it hits her at times that if only 15% of her followers (5,700 readers) bought her book during launch week, she could make the USA Today bestseller list. When you have that many followers, it doesn’t seem so out of reach–until she tweets about her launch and not much happens.

As of this writing, I have 14.5k followers on Twitter. Lately, say in the past two years or so, I’ve been focusing more on writing books than networking, probably because of my realizations. I’m in KU and not eligible to reach the USA Today bestseller list, but it would take about 35% of my followers for me to reach 5,000 sales.

If you want to read more about making the USA Today bestseller list, read a really neat article by Nicholas Erik here.

Take a look at your accounts. Are most of your followers writers like mine are? That is not going to help you. You can start over, but if you don’t know how to connect with readers, you’ll fall into the same trap. I’ve been in the writing community bubble for so long, at this point, I have no idea how to use social media to find readers. Last month, I gave myself permission to stop posting on Instagram. I have 373 followers, and I would guess that at least 75% of them follow me on Twitter and or are actual friends with me on Facebook. I never knew what to post, and it was a weight off my shoulders when I stopped. My Facebook personal profile and my Instagram account are linked, so whatever photo I post on Facebook will post on Instagram, but what does it matter? I don’t post about my books on my personal Facebook page. I don’t want my friends and family reading my books. They aren’t my readers and spamming them is pointless.

*Use promos to reach reachers. Unfortunately, a lot of what I’m going to say now may require a little money. You won’t hear too many authors say that they can find readers for free. You have to learn an ad platform, or buy newsletter promos, pay for a Goodreads giveaway, join BookFunnel promotions, and/or start a newsletter. All of those will cost a little bit, depending on what you choose and what you have going on at the same time. As far as promos go, buying a spot in newsletters like Freebooksy or Robins Reads or E-reader News Today will bring in new readers and you won’t be bothering your writer followers with unwanted promos about your book. For a great list of promos, David Gaughran created a list. I’m going to work on my own list because some of them have a review minimum, and I want the ones who don’t handy when I start releasing books next year. Not all of them are expensive. The one I used to promote my holiday boxed set of A Rocky Point Wedding was $25 dollars. It will be up to you and your prices and marketing strategy to choose the promos that will give you the most bang for your buck.

*Publish regularly and add a link to the next book in your back matter. This is probably the best way to keep readers engaged and reading your books. No spamming required.

Bookbub did a blog post about using back matter to sell more books, and you can read it here.

*Learn an ad platform. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on ads. Just because you set a five dollar a day budget on Amazon Ads doesn’t mean Amazon is going to spend your five dollars a day. Plus, even if you set your bid at .30/click, that doesn’t mean every time someone clicks you’ll actually pay .30. If you choose dynamic bids down, sometimes clicks can come in a lot cheaper. The only way I have ever seen authors spend more money than they had intended was when their book wasn’t ready for advertising. When your “look inside” has typos, your cover isn’t to market, your title is off, and your blurb needs feedback–that is the only time I have ever seen an author lose money. Now, you may think all that is great and say ads don’t work, but more often than not, it’s going to be your cover or your blurb that wastes your money. If you want a free way to learn Amazon Ads, Dave Chesson has a free course through his website Kindlepreneur.

*Create an FB author page, or group, but don’t tell anyone. Yeah, that’s right. Don’t tell anyone. Add a request into the back matter of your books asking them to like your page or join your group. Add a request to your newsletter…and that’s it. I didn’t realize until I was writing this blog post the whole reason I’m disinterested in my own FB author page is because most, if not all, of my likes are by other authors who don’t care if I publish another book. Why am I going to waste time updating my FB author page when I’m not going to get any engagement? We do this with all our social media: Twitter, TikTok, FB author pages/groups, Instagram, and our newsletters. Stop it. You may want to follow other authors who write in your genre on TikTok to see how they are promoting their books, but otherwise, don’t invite other writers/authors to like your stuff. It will get you nowhere fast. It may even cost you money. See newsletters.

*Start a newsletter, but only put the link in the backs of your books and use BookFunnel and StoryOrigin to promote your reader magnet and accumulate signups. When you reach your free limit with your newsletter aggregator (if you’re using MailChimp or MailerLite), you want the people on your list to be buying your books. Deadweight costs you money, and I’m sorry if you don’t want to hear that. Your friends aren’t deadweight, and okay, they aren’t. But if they don’t open your emails, if they sink your open rate, if they don’t click on the links, if they aren’t buying your books, why are they subscribed and why do you want them to be? They aren’t supporting you, and if you’re doing that to your friends, you aren’t supporting them. Stop it.


Breaking out your writer bubble on social media is hard, but if you’re happy with the results, then you don’t need to change. If you’re unhappy with sales, are disillusioned with social media and all the time you put into networking with “readers,” it’s time to try something different. I am a lot happier on Twitter now that I stopped trying to sell books on there. I get a lot of clicks to this blog if I have an interesting topic, but mostly I use it to connect with other writers so I don’t feel so alone in this endeavor.

Writers like to hide behind social media because writing/publishing/reaching out to readers is hard. Publishing consistently is hard. A lot of writers like to write in all genres and that makes finding readers difficult so they tweet into the void and hope for the best. This is fine if this is your business model and it meets your needs, but if you need more than what you’re getting out of your current situation, you need to change.

A new year is coming–how are you going to find readers in 2022?

Until next time!