The top 6 reasons listening to marketing advice is a pain in the A$$.

We all have marketing advice coming out our ears. I’m to the point where I don’t even care about marketing advice right now. I stopped listening to Clubhouse, I’m not an active participant in any Facebook group. All I’ve been doing is writing, writing, and more writing because let’s face it, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have product. But more than that, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have the right product. So here are my top six reasons why listening to marketing advice is a pain the you know what.

You don’t have the same backlist as the person dispensing the advice.
Frontlist drives backlist. Right? Maybe you’ve never heard it phrased like that. Maybe you’ve heard “writing the next book is the best marketing for the current book.” I like frontlist drives backlist better because sometimes we think that after a book is so many months old it will stop selling. Maybe in traditional publishing circles this is true–when bookstores yank your paperbacks off the shelves, but we’re digital now, and books on the digital shelf don’t get old. So when you have someone who’s been publishing for a while saying that their newest release earned them lots of money–you don’t know if it’s from the current release or if their new book bumped up all the books in their catalog. Listening to someone talk about how they are promoting their 20th book might not do much for you if you’re planning a second. They are 100 steps ahead of you. Take notes if you want, but chances are good what they are saying won’t apply to you. I’ve been in that position, too. Listening to big indies is discouraging. Rather than listening, I go write.

You’re not in the same genre/subgenre/novel length/platform.
If you write thrillers, what a romance author is doing may not help that much. Maybe you’ll get some ideas because a lot of marketing is universal, but for example, lots of romance authors are on TikTok right now. Whether that is beneficial for you, you would have to do your research and figure it out before you waste time learning how to make the videos. Marketing for wide isn’t going to be the same if you’re in KU, just like listening to a webinar on how to market a historical saga isn’t going to do much for you if you’re a children’s book author. Marketing advice isn’t created equal and it helps to figure out what you’re selling before listening to advice. Even marketing for historical romance would be different than marketing mafia romance. If you write short stories, chance are marketing those will be different than if you’re writing long novels.

They have money–you don’t.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, I bought a Freebooksy, put my first in series for free, and watched the royalties roll in through page reads.” That sounds like the answer to anyone’s prayers, except, then you rush to Written Word Media and see a Freebooksy spot is $40 to $175. If you’re trying to promote a standalone, there’s no way you’ll get that money back paying to give away a free book. Amazon ads aren’t nearly as expensive (I have six ads going and have only spent 4 dollars this month so far) but if you don’t know how to put together a Facebook ad, they are happy to take your money and run leaving you with no clicks and no sales. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do for free anymore, all the begging going on right now on Twitter is proof of that. So it would be in your best interest to find a couple of nickels to rub together, make sure your book is advertising ready, and hope that you can find some traction with a low cost-per-click ad. If you’re afraid of losing money, do what you can with your product so that doesn’t happen. The person who DOES make their money back and then some on ads and promos has a product that people want and all they’re doing is helping readers find it.

They have a newsletter. You don’t.
Ever listen to a 6-figure indie author talk about their marketing campaigns? They give you all the sales numbers, all the rank, and someone asks them how they did it and they say…. “I emailed my newsletter and told them I had a new book out.” Where are the melting face emojis when you need them?

courtesy of Canva

Here they are. There is nothing so disheartening as thinking you are going to hear a nugget of information that will take your author career to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, you need a mailing list. That bomb she dropped is proof of that. Only, her list was six years in the making and you’re stuck on MailerLite tutorials on YouTube. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen and write down her advice for later. She built up her newsletter somehow and she probably has a lot of tips on how she did that. Gave away a reader magnet, joined in Bookfunnel promotions (or StoryOrigin), she networked with other authors and they featured her in theirs to get the ball rolling. But you have to understand that she’s six years ahead of you. I’ve heard Lucy Score has 140,000 subscribers on her email list. You may never, ever, get there, and her marketing strategies will not be yours.

They write and publish faster than you.
I remember when I settled in for a good marketing talk with a big indie author. I had a notebook, a pen, a cup of coffee, and I was going to absorb all the knowledge. She was talking about ads and promos and the usual, and then she got to how many books she released a year.

calico cat grimacing

That really sums how how I felt. There’s no way I could do that. I write fast–I can crank out four books a year with no help. No editor, no beta reader, no formatter, no one to do my covers, just me. But she multiplied that by four, and my heart sank. Obviously, their marketing techniques are going to be way different than yours. They can put a first in series for free, buy a promo, and get a ton of read-through from the get-go. They can run ads to several books and create boxed sets. What they can do in a year, you might be able to do in five, so you need to adjust accordingly. It doesn’t mean you won’t be successful, it just means you won’t be successful as quickly. When listening to marketing advice from prolific authors who are doing this as their day jobs, keep your expectations realistic. Save up advice that you might be able to use later, but realize that you can’t do anything without product first.

They could just be a better writer than you (for now).
No one likes to talk about craft. We don’t. It’s messy and subjective and it’s easy to start talking about rules and editing and first person vs. third person, and before you know it, you’re not talking to anybody anymore because everyone is ticked off about the Oxford Comma. But the fact is, good books sell. You can run ads and sell a bad book once, but you’ll never build an audience or a loyal readership off a crappy book. People work hard for their money and they don’t like to waste it. Time is precious and trying to read a book that isn’t well written is a drain when they could be reading something better, catching up with a show they’re behind on, or spending time with a significant other or their kids. You can’t be cavalier about asking people to spend time with you. People who have writing careers write good books. So if you’re discouraged because the authors you’re listening to are telling you that they don’t lose money on ads, and/or they have a huge newsletter, it’s because their books are good. Do you think this author has readers who are invested for the long haul?

I’m not making fun of anybody–he obviously has readers–I would do a lot for 458 reviews–but when 41% of them are one and two stars, you’re not offering content readers will come back for. Imagine how this book could have taken off if it had been well-written. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I don’t have to tell you the other two books aren’t doing well. The loss of potential is devastating to me. I can’t even imagine how he feels. Maybe he doesn’t even understand his own self-sabotage and is happy with the instant gratification.


It’s really difficult to listen to marketing advice. We all write such different books. Our genres will be different, our covers. Our willingness to put ourselves out there for the sake of networking. Our author voices and style will be different. Before you try to follow any advice, your books have to be marketable or any marketing you do will be for nothing.

This is why writing about marketing is hard. It’s why it’s difficult to listen to advice. And really, what no one talks about is how much marketing you have to do before you even write that book. We try to find customers for our product, when really, it’s a hell of a lot easier to find product for already existing customers. Finding your comparison authors makes it easy to find readers–their readers are your readers. We don’t like to study the market because we’d prefer to write what we want to write. The authors with the most longevity meet in the middle between what the market wants and what they love to write. It’s easy to do market research these days–Alex Newton of K-lytics takes the work right out of it, and you can watch a short trend report that he made this month for free here. https://k-lytics.com/kindle-e-book-market-trends-2022-september/

Read on for more resources and have a great week!


If you want to work on your craft, Tiffany Yates Martin has all her classes on sale for NaNoWriMo for $29.00/each. Check them out here! https://foxprinteditorial.teachable.com/


Monday update and thoughts on marketing and being an indie author

I’m writing this very late, Sunday night, in fact, because I spent all weekend putting in the edits to book four of my series. It took me a little longer than I thought it would just because I was starting to make changes that I didn’t enter into my proof. I guess since this is such a large project, it won’t be a simple wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-press-publish-and-hope-for-the-best type thing. You might say that no book should be like that, but if you’ve never written, edited, and packaged 540,000 words, it does feel just a little more serious than writing a 20k word novella and hitting publish the second you type “the end” at the end of the book. I’ve never had a problem editing and publishing with no regret, but I think, no matter how many times I go over these, they may never feel good enough, never feel ready. This will probably be the biggest project I’ll ever write, and while I know from the bottom of my heart I will never reach perfection, I’ll probably always have a little regret I didn’t do more. So for now, the plan is to edit the proofs for books five and six, put those edits in, tweak the covers because I think they could be better, and order more proofs. Then I’ll sit on them and read them all through again in February and pray to God I feel like they are good enough because I want book one ready to go by March 1st. By then the series will be two and a half years old. It’s time.


I got into another discussion the other day about the stigma of indie publishing. I really hate those conversations, but honestly, I think people use it as an excuse as to why their books don’t sell.

There are so many ways to publish now, and who can even accurately define what indie publishing is? There are huge independent publishers like Graywolf Press who are so successful that maybe authors don’t consider them independent anymore. Then we have publishers that are legit like Bookouture and Belt Publishing. Then we have the companies that aren’t vanity presses, but they aren’t exactly publishers, either, like BookBaby, Bublish, Lulu, and She Writes Press (Brooke Warner is great–you should check them out.) Then we have the smaller presses that pop up, and maybe they’re legit, maybe they aren’t. I mean, if you know how to edit, create a cover, or format a book, almost anyone can consider themselves a publisher. I’ve helped plenty of authors put together their books, but I would never consider myself a small press, nor would I want to. Then we have the vanity presses that walk the line of what’s legitimate and what’s not (like Austin McAuley, iUniverse, and Author Solutions). So when you think about the million different ways to publish, how can anyone say that readers don’t read indie? How in the heck are they even supposed to know?

I get cranky when I hear the theory there is still stigma against indie publishing, and my argument is that no reader is going to go out of their way to search who published your book. You know how a reader knows if your book is indie? If the cover is bad, if it’s not edited properly (by yourself or someone else), if the formatting is poor. That all screams unprofessionalism, and yes, self-publishing. All a reader wants is a good story in a nice package because they forked over their hard-earned cash to read your work. If you can’t give them quality, then you have no business publishing, and if you do publish, you have no right to be angry with poor reviews or returns. There are plenty of big-time indie authors who started out small, and yes, as they made more money their teams grew and some even go on to publish other people like Michele Anderle and his publishing company through LMBPN, and to me, that just blurs the line even more. Don’t push your failure on to other people. If my books don’t sell, it’s 100% my fault, not because I’m indie. WTF is wrong with people? (This is a rhetorical question, and I’m laughing.)


So, you know I went ahead and listed my book with Booksprout. I was hesitant because of the poor quality of reviews last time and since they did their overhaul, I was hoping for a better outcome. A couple reviews have come in, and it seems for the most part they’re at least reading the book. I got one sweet review and it’s always nice when a stranger can validate you’re putting out a good book:

I dislike for the cheapest plan reviewers have to include in the review that they received the book on Booksprout in exchange for a review. It seems dirty and just a little skeezy but there are plenty of review services so paying for a review I guess isn’t the end of the world. But when you give away 25 review copies, and all 25 have that at the bottom, and all the reviews are five stars, it doesn’t look honest or sincere and if a reader comes by and happens to see that, a review won’t make a bit of difference to them.

So you have to weigh the options here of publishing without reviews, which I did for my duet. I guess there’s not a right answer either way.


I really don’t have much else this week. I’ve been so busy proofing my proofs that between that and working, I don’t have much time for anything else. I thought briefly of doing NaNo in November, but I’m going to be way too busy getting my trilogy read to publish in January. I may not even be writing new stuff until next year which is sad, but I need to get my back list going. Sales for my duet have been so-so. I get a lot of impressions, but no clicks, which at first glance means my covers aren’t doing well. It could also mean my categories and targets are off, but I know they aren’t because I put a lot of time into my 7 keyword fields when I published and I emailed KDP and added more categories. Those are all on target. I knew but didn’t want to admit, through feedback on FB that the men chose weren’t sexy enough for covers. I just liked the look of them and went against my own advice which is to bend when you can because nothing is more important than doing what you need to do for your books to sell. Now that they’re on KDP in ebook, paperback, and soon hardcover, and I uploaded them to IngramSpark, changing them out won’t be easy. I’m going to wait for a while and see what happens, but learning from this, I do realize the covers for my trilogy I was playing around with won’t work. I need stronger, sexier men, even if they’ve been used on covers before. If you don’t know what my duet covers look like, here they are:

I still love them, but again, time will tell if they’ll do the job.

That’s all I have! Until next week!

Author Update (Yep, Again)

I wish I had more to write about this week, but the problem is, I just haven’t been into listening to podcasts or reading the non-fiction books that have accumulated in my TBR pile. If it’s not happening on Twitter then I probably don’t know much about it which is sad, but the state of my life at the moment.

King’s Crossing
I’m knee deep editing my King’s Crossing series and it’s slow going because all the “takes” and “makes” I thought I managed to get rid of before I formatted them and ordered the proofs. Well, I didn’t do as good as job as I thought. I probably got tired, and I can’t blame myself because holy God, there are a lot. If I didn’t have that to worry about, I think these books would actually sound pretty good. No typos, at least, still getting rid of some repetitive words, but after editing the first two books of my trilogy, I can definitely tell these are the first books I wrote writing in first person. I fell into a bad rhythm and editing it out, even after several passes, has been a lot of work. Still, seeing them in book form has been very helpful, and I’m confident after this final pass, they will be good enough to publish. I’m only on book two, and there are a lot of sentences I marked that I have to rewrite, but the story is good. The consistency (so far) is solid, and I’m very happy with that. I’m also happy with the logo I created using a DepositPhotos vector I found:

Made with a vector from DepositPhotos in Canva

The “Book One” changes obviously, but after several failed attempts to create a logo with an X myself, I was so happy to have stumbled upon an X with a crown already made. I seriously love it!

Booksprout
I went ahead and put Rescue Me on Booksprout. I did it over Labor Day weekend, which probably wasn’t the best time, but so far I’ve given away 24 out of the 25 copies they make available. The paperback is already on Amazon, no sales, of course, but that’s okay. I’ll put the ebook up on October 1 like I planned and hope there will be a few reviews when I do. I’ll offer a few copies to my newsletter, though last month I had 7 people unsubscribe. I don’t know yet if they are good subscribers or not. From what I’ve heard, the open rate is decent (40%) but I ran a giveaway and only one person entered. After hosting giveaways on here with little participation, that’s actually not surprising, but it’s too bad because it’s a really great prize! What I need to do is think about running my ad on Facebook again for my reader magnet and see if I can’t get some more subscribers, and also look into Bookfunnel promos since I’m already paying for that. If you want a copy of Rescue Me, a one-night stand, steamy billionaire romance with an HEA, then grab a copy. It’s offered through Bookfunnel and I limited it to the first 20 people who download. You don’t have to give me your email. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/z92k8x1a92. Here’s the blurb. I got a little help from S. J. Cairns, and I think it sounds pretty good:

Sam
When my wife passed away, I buried my life with her.
For two years, I lived like I was already dead.
Until one night, when I meet Lily. Lying in her arms, I’m reminded of what hope feels like.
But sometimes what could have been is stronger than what could be, and I have a difficult time letting my wife’s memory go.
As I get to know Lily, I realize it isn’t only my past standing in our way, and what I’ll have to do to stop hers from destroying her future may very well destroy mine instead.

Lily
Billionaire Samuel Sharpe is beaten down and weary, and when we meet in a hotel bar, there’s no way I can say no when he asks me upstairs.
After a violent divorce, I’m struggling to find a fresh start, and a one night stand with the man who would turn out to be my boss isn’t part of the plan.
My ex-husband broke me, and until I met Sam, I didn’t think anyone could put me back together again.
I should have known my past wouldn’t leave me alone, and I can’t ask Sam to rescue me.
Compared to his wife’s memory, I’m not worth saving.

Hardbacks
With some persuading, I created hardcover versions for the two books in my duet. It didn’t take that long, and with some help from JP Garland, I was able to position the elements on the cover correctly, as the template is a bit different. I’ll write about it in full when I get my proof copies so I can post a picture. I placed the order today and it said they won’t come until the beginning of October, but I won’t forget.

IngramSpark
I approved my duet paperbacks on IngramSpark this morning. It took a little back and forth on the second book with the cover as they kept saying my spine was wrapping onto the front, but when I adjusted it, it still wasn’t correct. I overcorrected then they said my spine was too narrow, but that seemed to knock me out of a loop and when I moved my elements back to where they were before, the cover was accepted. I don’t use the Expanded Distribution option on KDP as I feel IngramSpark is more professional if I want to have my books in bookstores or if one day I ever drudge up the courage to ask the indie bookstore in downtown Fargo to carry my books. I’m always amused when authors bring in their author copies from Amazon, like they don’t understand that Amazon is every bookstore’s competitor and booksellers really don’t want the KDP POD stamp in the backs of the books they’re selling. It’s just proof to me that indies need to keep an eye on their own business and do things the professional way so they look like they know what they’re doing. Publishing is a business, after all, and booksellers don’t have to waste time with an indie who isn’t professional. There are plenty of authors who are.


That really is about all. Since my mind is a one-way track, I’ll be focusing on proofing the proofs of my series. I won’t be able to think about anything else until that’s done, but with as quickly as it’s going, I should be able to have them finished by the middle of October. Entering in the fixes takes longer than reading the proofs because for some reason, seeing a sentence that needs to be rewritten…i can’t wrap my mind around writing it in a different way. It’s just roadblock I need to overcome because of course there’s a different way to rewrite a sentence. There’s a million different ways to rewrite a sentence. After that’s completed, I will put all my attention on my trilogy because I want to get those out in January, and I have to still finalize covers and write my blurbs. With all that going on, I’m itching to get back to writing, but depending on how all the above goes, I may not be writing new material until next year. It’s just how my mind works. I’ve decided to go with it instead of fighting it. Besides, I like getting one project done and moving to the next. I feel more productive than having three or four things going on at once.

I hope you all have a good week! There’s not much of 2022 left. Do you have any goals you want to reach before then?

Until next time!

Author Update and Tropes in (Romance) Novels

Happy Monday! It’s Labor Day in the US, and most people have off work. I have Mondays and Tuesdays off, and today I’ll be catching up on chores. I finished editing my Bridgeport Trilogy (I don’t think that’s going to be the name of it, but I haven’t thought of anything better) and book three is off with a beta reader (S. J. Cairns, and I did an author interview with her earlier this year). I did more pantsing with that book than others in the past, so I just wanted to be sure the little mystery and plot twists made sense. After I get it back and put in any suggestions if she has any, I’ll listen to them and package them up. Book One is 76k, Book Two is 77k, and Book Three is 81k as it wraps up the trilogy. I’m happy with these and can’t wait to get them out in January!


Against my better judgement, I published the paperback of Rescue Me so I can list it with BookSprout for a couple of reviews. I paid the $9.00 to offer one book a month (which is fine–that’s all I’ll need anyway) and after KDP approves the paperback I’ll put it up for reviews. Per their help page, they don’t recommend having your ebook in KU while it’s listed for reviews, so I’m going to stick with the ebook publication date of October 1st. The readers who grab a copy shouldn’t need a whole month, but I know they’re reading more than just my book too, so I don’t want to rush anyone.

I probably should have done this with my duet, but I was hoping running ads and mentioning my book in my newsletter would help with reviews. I’ve been selling slowly primarily running Amazon ads. Since its publication in June, Captivated by Her has sold 5 ebooks, 3 paperbacks, and has had 10,736 page reads which is the equivalent of 26 Kindle books sold. Not extraordinary, but next month after the ebook version of Rescue Me releases, I’ll use a couple of free days in Select and buy a promo. I’ll have three books out by then and hopefully not only will I start to create a buzz, I’ll earn my fee back.

I understand it’s a very slow process, and I’m okay with that. I admit that I’d rather write than do anything else, and since June I’ve been busy writing my trilogy. I already know what I want to write next, it’s only a matter of how long I can hold off the urge to sit down and get to work. I am also very much wanting to write a duet that will go with these covers, but no plot means no writing, so we’ll see what happens.

But I also need to read my six-book series because I’ll start publishing them after my trilogy in January. I wrote them in 2020, so I need to stop stalling and just get them out there. I have the proofs for them, and reading them all in printed form for typos is the last thing I need to do before publishing.


There was lots and lots and lots of discourse when it came to Ali Hazelwood’s interview on the Goodreads site last week. Tropification of romance novels has been a sore subject for a long time, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Ali admitted that her agent suggested tropes and she wrote a book around those tropes. Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Ali’s background came from writing fanfic, where characters and their backstories already exist. She didn’t know how to write a novel from the ground up, and her agent, who discovered her through her fan fiction (not unlike EL James) kind of talked her through it. I’m still struggling to figure out what the big deal is. Her agent obviously saw her writing potential and that’s why she signed Ali in the first place, but apparently Ali not knowing how to craft a novel rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, since, I guess, there are thousands of writers out there who do know how to write a book without handholding.

I see there are two different issues here–1) Ali was signed without the blood sweat and tears that usually accompanies querying, and 2) not that she was told what tropes to write, but that romance books are more than the tropes they’re made of and being that she admitted she didn’t know how to write a book from scratch, this caused a lot of outcry.

We can tackle the first one easily enough, and boil that outrage down to plain old jealousy. I’d never resent someone success of that nature: Ali, EL, Brandon Sanderson and his KickerStarter triumph as examples, because there’s usually a lot of groundwork being laid that we don’t know about (it’s the same as being an “overnight success” which never happens overnight). I’ve never read Ali’s fan fiction but she must have been popular, EL James already had the buzz and the traffic she earned simply writing a story readers like to read, and for years Brandon has been writing and cultivating an audience that would pay for his books. How anyone can be jealous of that is beyond me. Put in the work, reap the rewards. It’s the same as these bigger indies who worked hard, put their books out, hustled for newsletter subscribers all so Montlake (Amazon’s romance imprint) could approach them and pick them up. Am I going to be jealous of that? No. Am I going to work hard so it happens to me? Damned straight.

The other point about the tropes, I guess I can see the concern. Romance books are more than the tropes they’re built around, and when you focus on tropes to describe your book, you’re not telling a potential reader anything more about the plot. Sure, your book could be enemies to lovers, but why are they enemies? Why do they turn into lovers?

While I have built my pen name around tropes because they are easier to sell and because let’s face it, knowing your tropes and the whys of your characters’ motivations makes it a lot easier to write a book (a fact Ali’s agent knew), twisting that trope is part of the fun. In the first book of my trilogy, the trope is a baby for the billionaire. He hires his personal assistant to surrogate, but in all of the 76 thousands words, she doesn’t get pregnant. I didn’t make that the focus of the book. The real focus is why he needed to hire someone (hello, backstory) and her signing on the dotted line to spend time sleeping with him hoping to get him to fall in love with her. It honestly didn’t occur to me to let her get pregnant. His family issues were a lot more important to me, and they carried over to his sister who has her own book.

This trope stuff is made even worse by the subtitles we’re pressured to add to our ebooks on Amazon and like I said before in a previous blog post, all the qualifiers we’re encouraged to add to a blurb to ensure the “right” reader buys our books so they don’t leave a bad, or even worse, lukewarm, review is simply maddening in a amusing and bemusing way, of course.

“Author’s Note: This book contains a billionaire possessive alpha-hole and steamy scenes.”
“Full-length enemies-to-lovers office romance with slow-burn sizzle. Witness one commanding single dad become so enchanted with the hellion he can’t stand that he’ll do everything to keep her forever.”
“Twisted Love is a contemporary brother’s best friend/grumpy sunshine romance. It’s book one in the Twisted series but can be read as a standalone.”
“Grumpy vs. sunshine on steroids. This book is packed with banter, red-hot heat, and lots of dog-sized bow ties.”

It didn’t take long to find books with the summarization sentence at the bottom of the blurbs for these books. They are written by popular authors, so they know what they’re doing. I don’t do this. I don’t do this! I always forget. Should I be? Probably! Is there a lesson here? Probably! It took me long enough to add a hooky line and put that at the top in bold, a marketing strategy that has been adopted by every author on the planet at this point.

But then I have some books that just don’t have a trope. I mean, friends to lovers can encompass any kind of romance book, really, and says absolutely nothing about anything. And that’s how the second book in my trilogy is. The third book is the same. Second chance. That also could mean anything.

So the takeaway I got from all this is, you still need a damned good blurb to sell books. If your blurb is too vague because you’re scared to give too much away, or it’s confusing because you didn’t ask for some feedback, you’re not going to sell book no matter how many tropes you cram into the subtitle field of your ebook when you publish. Your cover also needs to convey what genre you’re writing in and wanting your readers to buy, and Amazon’s ads guidelines make this damned difficult, let me tell you. That I add steamy anywhere I can to make it clear I have sex in my books is imperative because I can’t add sexy manchest to my covers and think I can run ads. I can’t. Until I start selling by name and reputation alone, I will need ads. Need them. The meagre sales I’ve gotten so far on my duet are solely from Amazon ads because I haven’t advertised my book anywhere else. And God forbid someone who hates sex in their books reads my billionaire romances because he’s fully dressed thinking I have sex off the page. That is the fastest way for any author to get bad reviews. So.

I understand how difficult it is to try to steer readers toward your book if you think they’ll like it, but also AWAY from your book if you think they won’t. Readers need more than tropes though. They need plot, fully rounded out characters. Natural dialogue. Juicy backstory. Throwing a bunch of tropes at them is only half the job.

Apparently this all started with BookTok, a place I haven’t visited. They’re going crazy over tropes, but that’s easy to explain. It’s the fastest way to describe a book. So, use a trope to grab a reader’s attention, but use your cover and blurb to reel them in the rest of the way.

Want to read some more articles about this:? Look here. Thanks for reading, and if you’re in the US, enjoy the holiday!

Book Tropes that Every BookToker Secretly Loves – BookTok Favorites

MY FAVORITE BOOKTOK BOOK TROPES by MARIANA BASTIAS

BookTok is feeling romantic by Meera Navlakha

THE TROPIFICATION OF MARKETING ROMANCE NOVELS

Monday Musings and What I’m Liking Right Now

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Have a good week, everyone!

Until next time!

Formatting your paperback book’s interior: tips and tools that can help!

I write a lot about covers but the fact is, formatting your paperback book’s interior is probably the most frustrating part of publishing your book. While there are tools out there to help, even super awesome tools such as Vellum that will format your book almost perfectly with just a few clicks, there are things that can trip you up.

I ordered a paperback the other day and it was double spaced. I usually look at the interior of a paperback on Amazon before I buy because I have said many times on this blog that I don’t read books that aren’t formatted properly, but this was a friend’s book and I purchased it out of faith. Like some readers who won’t buy books if the cover is bad, I don’t like buying books that are double spaced or not fully justified. They look bad and poor formatting pulls me out a story before I even start reading.

Here are my top two reasons to format properly:

Professionalism
Indies lament constantly about how difficult it is to get into bookstores and libraries. Part of the problem is their books don’t look professional. This goes beyond a bad cover. When a manager for an indie bookstore flips through your book, it needs to look like a book inside. Librarians also will be reluctant to spend their funds on books that do not look professional. Barnes and Noble won’t stock your book if it won’t fit in with the other books on their shelves. Your book takes up space–they want products that will sell. Not to mention, the product they stock reflects their reputation.

Cost
KDP and IngramSpark charges you for paper. You either eat that cost as a publisher or your make your readers eat it by charging for extra paper. When your book is double spaced and/or your gutters and margins are too wide or even if your indents are deeper than they need to be (.50 as opposed to .25) it all wastes space. Draft2Digital tweeted a calculator not that long ago, and we can run the numbers. Say you have a book with a 6×9 trim size, it’s 350 pages double spaced and wide margins. You price your book at $15.99 USD. This is what you get:

Your author copies will cost you $5.61 and you make $1.59 per book. But what if you formatted it with single spaces and narrowed the margins? Say you can decrease your pages by 30. This is what you get:

Your author copy price goes down to $5.23 and your royalty goes up to $1.97. If you wanted to price your book cheaper to give your readers a break, you could price your book at $14.99 and this is what happens:

Your royalty goes down to $1.52, but you’re saving your reader a dollar because you aren’t charging them for paper. I don’t know how many pages you would save single-spacing a manuscript, but saving paper will always be cost effective and kinder to trees. Plus, shipping cost goes down because your books aren’t so unnecessarily heavy.

I admit, I don’t do fancy formatting. I use Vellum and it’s fast and easy, but I’m also using version 2.6.7 when they’re on 3.3. They’re always adding bells whistles, but honestly, I just don’t care. There is something to be said for a fancy paperback though, and I do get tempted to play when I see books like Sienna Frost’s Obsidian. Here are some pictures of her paperback interior that I stole from this tweet. (With her permission. The ebook is on sale for .99 from today until August 28th, 2022.)

You don’t have to go all out like Sienna did, if that’s not your thing. I put my time elsewhere, but maybe one day I’ll create collector’s editions of some of my books. For now, I use plain vectors from DepositPhotos as chapter header images, like the wine and beer glasses from Rescue Me as they met in a bar. Beer for his chapters and wine for hers.

The IBPA lists the publishing standards that are needed for a book to be considered professionally published. You can download the list, but sometimes it’s easier to pull a book off your shelf and just look at it. Look a what the copyright page consists of, what that publisher and author used in the front and back matter. In all the excitement of putting out our books, sometimes we forget what a real book looks like and it helps to have the real thing as an example. The guidelines are a big help, though, a checklist of sorts, and you can find them here. https://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standards-checklist-download

It’s all fine and good to have a list and know what you’re supposed to do, but having the means and the tools is something else entirely. I was lucky and my ex-fiancé bought me a MacBook Air and Vellum. I knew I would be formatting a lot of books, and between my own books and the books I’ve formatted for friends, I’ve saved a lot of money, despite how much a Mac can cost.

Since this blog is all about how to do things professionally but on a shoestring budget, here are some free or cheap ways to format your books:

Word
Word is crude tool for formatting these days, but there are ways to make it work for you. KDP offers templates that you can use–simply delete their sample content and copy and paste your own into it. This is how I used to format my books before I had Vellum. Download the template with the placeholder text–all the margins, gutters, and front and back matter are in place. You do have to have a little knowledge of Word as I doubt you’ll have the same number of chapters as the template, but it’s better than starting from scratch. My friend Joe Garland has tutorials on YouTube that can help you, and Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur also just blogged about formatting in Word. He offers templates as well, so you could give them a try.

Atticus
Dave Chesson’s baby, Atticus, is a low cost answer to Vellum, available for both PC and Macs. I’ve heard reports it’s glitchy, but their customer service is very helpful. You can check it out here. At 147.00 and a 30 day money back guarantee, there’s not a lot of risk trying it out. https://www.atticus.io/

Reedsy
Reedsy offers a free formatting tool. I tried it once a while ago, and there’s a small learning curve. Sometimes people just have a knack for learning new things and some people don’t. I don’t remember liking it all that much, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. Free to use and the files are eligible to be uploaded anywhere.

Network
Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to network. In some of my groups on Facebook there have been times an author has displayed frustration to the point of tears and there is always a kind soul who will help out. I’ve done covers for people when their ads aren’t working because of their covers, and I’ve edited and formatted for people too. The only problem with asking for a favor is that the file isn’t yours and any changes you make will make you feel guilty for asking. If you can find a way to format yourself, having control can be priceless. Anne Wheeler does book formatting using Vellum. She said I could post with her permission. Reach out to her if you have a book that needs simple formatting without a super short turnaround time. Carol Beth Anderson also does formatting using Vellum for $50.00/book. You can contact her as well. Nicole Scarano offers book formatting using Vellum. Unlike me, she updates hers and offers premium formatting. Join her Facebook group if you’re interested in learning more. (These women are friends of mine, but i haven’t used their services. My recommendation is not an endorsement and they are not affiliate links.)


The fact is, booksellers won’t take your book for their stock if it’s not formatted properly, libraries won’t want your book in their stacks, and readers won’t want to read. It’s not that difficult to properly format your interiors. It’s not being snobby to want the books you buy to look like books, because if an author doesn’t care about doing it properly, I shouldn’t care about reading it. I’m not going to make allowances and exceptions for an author who should know better, and neither do booksellers. There’s a tweet I responded to by my friend Anne I mentioned above, about the stigma self-publishing still faces, and there doesn’t have to be. (Though I know for a fact her books are beautiful!)

Authors can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Books are your business. Take pride in every aspect, and others will do the same.

Monday Madness and Author Update

Happy Monday! I haven’t started a blog post like that in a while, but I have been making the most of my summer, sleeping in whenever I can and writing whenever I have free time to do so. My daughter starts school (11th grade!) on the 29th, so we don’t have much summer left, especially since some of my free time now will be taken up getting her ready for school and bringing her to picture day and orientation, but after everyone gets settled with the new routine, things should calm down again.

I applied for a second job, as well, substitute teaching in the schools this year. I’m hoping to pick up a couple days a week, but I’m going to try to keep my momentum going with my books. I don’t like the idea of working 54 hour weeks, but you do what you gotta do. I need to crawl out of debt and maybe once I do that, my (financial) future won’t seem so bleak. It sucks being worried about money and if my books aren’t selling, the money has to come from somewhere. (And it’s what I get for trusting the wrong person, but that water is long under the bridge and there’s no point in crying about it now.)

I’ve been working my day job typing for the deaf and hard of hearing for Minnesota Relay for twenty years now, and I hadn’t needed to update my resume in some time. I did about seven years ago when I graduated with my HR degree (I can’t believe it’s been that long) but I never did get an HR job, choosing to start writing books instead (smart move? maybe not). I had to search for my resume in the black hole of my laptop and it was pretty thin, so I included all the books I’ve written and published, added that I did my own covers in Canva and that I’ve written a successful (to me it is) blog for the past six years. At first I wasn’t sure if I should include my books, but if I hadn’t it would have looked like I haven’t done anything professional for myself since I graduated with my HR degree, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know how difficult it is to write a book, edit it, format it, create a cover, and publish it. After I submitted my resume and my application, it occurred to me that it was smart I included my books, not only because it shows I haven’t been standing still, but also because it gave them a chance to decide if writing smut is something they would have a problem with. Apparently, they didn’t, as I had orientation last week, but looking back, I”m glad I added my books, and if you’re looking to bulk up your resume, you should add yours, too.


I’m 52k into the last book in my trilogy, so finishing it up won’t take long. I’ve read books one and two twice, and I’ve been editing book three as I write it but there will still be some additional editing needed. I wanted to make Roman, my MMC in book three, a nervous, trying-to-quit smoker, but he hasn’t turned out that way, so either I edit that in or I find a new guy for the book cover. I like the idea of him getting over, or trying to get over, a smoking habit, because that fits his personality and some of the shit he’s going through in the book. I’m not a natural smoker, though, and I haven’t written a character who is before, so it was difficult to remember to include it. In my mind, he’s trying to stop so it shouldn’t be too much work to write in the cravings and the fidgeting. In the end it depends on how much editing I want to do, and usually that answer is none.


I had an interesting back and forth with an author who was disappointed in sales for his debut. While that’s not unusual as we’re all fighting for space these days, his debut was also a first in a series. When I reached out and told him that more than likely he wasn’t going to sell anything until he had a few more books out in that series, he replied that he would be releasing books a year apart. While that might be the norm for trad authors, a book a year is mighty slow for indies. Readers won’t hang around for a year between books, but I recognize not everyone has the time to write more than that, especially if your series is a fantasy and your books can creep over 150k for words.

I stared to explore what authors can do to keep readers interested between books, and here’s what me, S J Cairns and Dareth Pray came up with:

Newsletter/Blog
There was a toss up between what’s better. There doesn’t seem to be much difference–they both require you create content to keep readers informed–but between the two I would choose building a newsletter. A newsletter you might send once or twice a month, but if you only blog once a month, your blog won’t grow. A lot of my traffic for this blog comes from internet searches, but in order to do that you have to create relevant content regularly, staying within a range of topics that you will eventually be “known” for. Building search engine optimization is a long road and you still have to put the word out somewhere that your blog is available (mostly I just tweet the link). Getting newsletter signups is hard in its own way, but giving out a reader magnet can help. Put the signup links in the back of your books for organic interest, and use the time to keep writing the next book. Another reason I choose to build a newsletter is those subscribers are yours. Your blog followers come and go, and true, newsletter subscribers can unsubscribe, but they chose to sign up so if you give them content they like they’ll hopefully stay on your list. It’s up to you what you offer, but no matter what you choose consistency and offering your readers what they want will keep them interested between books.

Social Media
This can mean anything from tweets to updating your Facebook author page. Reach is hard when you depend on free social media. On Twitter, you might be part of the writing community, and while we like to think so, tweeting to the #writingcommunity isn’t the same as reaching readers. Instagram is about the same. I see so many tweets that say, “Follow me on Instagram!” but I don’t know what good that does. On Instagram, you can try to find readers using hashtags, but trying to climb out of the writing community pit is difficult once you’ve falling into it. I think it’s like quicksand. You just won’t find enough readers there to move the needle. We’re all too busy writing the next Great American Novel to read. (You may argue with me, and that’s cool. It all depends on what success means to you. I’ve been on Twitter for a long time and tweeting about my books hasn’t done much for me at all, but if it has for you and you’re happy with it, I’m glad for you!)

Encourage readers to follow you on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, etc.
When you have a new release, they will email your readers, so if they somehow missed your updates, they will still hear about your next book. I have my newsletter sign up link in my Amazon bio and I changed my Twitter bio, and put my newsletter signup link there, too. I also added it to my Goodreads Author profile. Add your links wherever you can, such as your email address signature. Every little bit helps.

If you don’t have much time to write, creating content to tell readers that you’re still writing seems counterproductive, but if you ARE writing, sharing snippets and inspiration won’t take long. You have to find one way that you enjoy and stick with it. Consistency is key, no matter where you focus your energy. Keep your expectations in check and realize that if your series needs 6 books for it to be done, you are asking your readers to wait for 6 years before you conclude that story. That’s a big ask, and as far as marketing goes, you will have an easier time keeping readers the more books you have. Keep writing, and good luck!

Resources:

Author update and depending on luck

There’s no doubt about that luck can play a crucial part of success, but it never makes up 100% of someone’s achievement of their goals. I see it a lot, especially among the unsuccessful: “They were just lucky.” “They knew someone.” “They wrote the right thing at the right time.” It’s hard not to be resentful of someone else’s success, especially if it appears they didn’t work all that hard for it.

There are people like that–their charisma is off the charts and it seems they get handed things without them even having to ask. There is privilege out there too–I’m not discounting that at all–but accusing someone for being successful simply because they were lucky insults the hard work people put into their dreams and gives the person saying it an excuse not to work as hard as required to get the results they want (even if they won’t admit it).

We have this conversation a lot about EL James and the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. She was an “overnight success” or she was just riding on Twilight’s coattails because Fifty Shades was originally fan fiction. But was she all that lucky? She posted her books on a fan fiction site, they were picked up because people were responding positively to what she’d written. Maybe it was just luck she wrote fan fiction to begin with, but she read Twilight, she wrote the books. Maybe it was luck that what she wrote hit at that particular time, or the publishers who approached her knew it was the right time, but with ways to monitor trends and study what’s selling, it’s not so hard to find a genre that already has hundreds of thousands of readers. If you’re interested in genre research, look up Alex Newton of K-Lytics.

What are some scenarios where it looks like luck could have played a bigger part than it really did?

She knew the right person.
It’s always easier to have an in–that’s with any aspect of life, not just publishing. But you have to network to make those connections, form relationships with people without the idea that sometime down the road those friendships will be beneficial to you. Going to conferences helps form relationships, joining author groups and participating in discussions, whatever you have time for, will help you be part of the community. What’s the theory, you’re only six people away from someone else? If one of those six people have something nice to say about you, that could be your “lucky” break.

He never gave up and wrote the right thing at the right time.
This does sound lucky, no two ways about about, but you have to keep writing, keep plugging away at your craft. A writer who thinks they don’t have anything to learn is in a dangerous situation. No one will truly max out on their creative potential. Keep writing, keep learning, and maybe you’ll be like Hugh Howey who wrote for several years before he struck it “lucky” with Wool.

She recognized what wasn’t working and changed.
This is probably the hardest part of being in charge of your own career. You do what you want to do for as long as you want to do it, but if what you’re doing isn’t giving you the success you want, then you need to change. It’s that simple. You DON’T need to change if you’re satisfied with what you’re doing and what you’re getting out of it. I’ll say that again. You don’t need to change if you’re happy with the success your actions are bringing you. It’s only when you don’t find the success you want that maybe you should look into something else. How do I know when authors are unhappy? When they complain about sales. When they blame their lack of success on outside factors like it being summer (what?) or general sales slumps. It’s easy to be bitter when you can look at someone’s career and say, “Well, she’s lucky. She stopped writing cozies and started writing reverse harem.” You don’t know all of what an author goes through to make a choice like that. Maybe she really loves cozies but what she writing wasn’t hitting right. Maybe she did a ton of market research and read a lot of books before she tried her hand at RH. Maybe she networked a lot and was able to ask for a few favors and fellow authors added her book to their newsletters. Pivoting and knowing when to do so is a personal choice, and not “lucky” by any means. And even then, changing direction doesn’t mean you’ll find success, but you’re more apt to find it if you’re flexible. This goes for covers, blurbs, and yes, genres. When do you pivot? That’s a choice you have to make and only you will know when you’re unsatisfied enough to try something new.

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on luck. Rarely do we know the whole story behind someone else’s success. Saying they have time, money, skill, acquaintances, what have you might make you feel better, but it won’t help you get to where you want to be.


In other news, I’ve started my last book in my trilogy. I’m trying to baby my hands a bit, as writing 77k words in 27 days didn’t do me any favors. I’m not sure why I write so fast, why I’m compelled to do so. I’m not on a timeline, I don’t have any deadlines looming over me. I just like to write, get that story out of my head and onto the screen as quickly as possible. I need to take a break or if I hurt myself irreparably, I’ll never write again, so I gave myself two months to get this done. This book is a wrap-up, and has a few more plot points than the other two. I think it will be a little longer than 77k (which is what the other two books are) but that’s fine. As long as my hands don’t fall off my body, I’m having fun.

Book Two in my duet releases today. I added some A+ content, emailed KDP and asked them to add a couple more categories to the ebook and book. I don’t know if I’ll run any promos until Rescue Me comes out in October. I want to wait for a long enough time period to go by so the handful of people who buy it full price aren’t mad when book one goes on sale. Marketing strategies are always confusing, and I’ve never had a big enough backlist to learn what to do and what works. I’m still fumbling in the dark, but when my trilogy is done and is released in January, I’ll have six books out and it will be interesting to play around.

I don’t have much else. I decided to not host giveaways on my blog anymore. I rarely get any takers, and if I’m going to spend money, I’ll offer giveaways to my newsletter subscribers. If you want to sign up for my newsletter you can do so here: www.vmrheault.com/subscribe. You’ll have access to my free novel through BookFunnel and you can enter the giveaways there. I have one coming up since both books in my duet are out and maybe I’ll put something together for Christmas. I don’t want to say my giveaways on here were a waste, because I don’t think they were, but interest has certainly waned, and there’s no point in offering if no one wants to enter.

I hope you’re having a great summer so far! Make the most of the last month!

Author Update, What I Like Right Now, and Kindle Vella

I had a whole blog post set up about the comp title thing that happened on Twitter last week. I decided not to post it since there is just too many hard feelings surrounding those tweets, and I didn’t want to step into the middle of it. I just want to say that I think comps are important, that comparison titles and comparison authors are needed for BookBub, Facebook, and Amazon ads, which can play a vital role in indie marketing. While Allison, the woman who tweeted, was primarily talking about querying, comps have a place and can be hard to find if your book is unconventional. Many marginalized authors and writers chimed in (we all know how white the publishing industry is, and they should be loud about it, we all should), and being I’m a white cis/het woman myself, I don’t feel I add anything to the conversation. So if you’d like, and have the time, to fall into this rabbit hole, start here:


I’m doing pretty good for the writing part as of right now. This week I’ll put my second book in duet up for a very short preorder, just so that I can get my links, add some A+ content, and add the link for book two in the back matter of book one (I also have to fix a typo, so thanks to SJ Cairns for pointing that out). I should have this all up and going so the ebook will launch on August 1st. Then I have a standalone I’m going to release in October (not Halloween related, I only picked that date for timing), and if all goes well, I should have a trilogy to release in January. That hadn’t been my original plan, but I wanted to experiment and see what releasing all three books at once would do. If I can get a promo going for book one, the read-through might take off.

As you can imagine, that’s going to take some planning, and nothing I would have tried three years ago, but this is what I’m thinking about:

1. Covers.
I can’t have all my covers look the same all across the board. I have a six book series almost ready to go (I just need to read the proofs or find someone who will do it for me to check for consistency and typos.) Those covers are set in stone as I purchased all the stock photos, and I realized I was going to run into to some trouble with a trilogy. Each series/trilogy/duet should look the same to go along with your author brand, but different enough to set them apart from other series/trilogies/duets in your catalogue. Standalones are a little easier since you only need one stock photo and you’re done. A series/trilogy/duet need to work together, have a consistent vibe, and searching for stock photos while keeping in mind Amazon Advertising guidelines (because Amazon ads ARE a big part of my marketing plan) is tougher than it sounds. Hot men who haven’t been used a million times or showing more skin than Amazon ads will allow is actually quite a big ask and requires a lot of scrolling.
I also feel like these books are a little softer, and they are 10,000 words shorter per book that I usually write (so far, I have one of three left to write) so I thought maybe I didn’t need such edgy and dark covers. This is what I have so far, but I’m sure they’ll go through a few changes before I hit publish:

There’s a lot of reasons why I won’t go with all of them: Guys one and three look similar, and guy three with the smoke in his hand will disqualify him from ads (though I really like the look of him and he feels real in my head). Guy two doesn’t 100% fit, but he’s a lot of what I picture when I think about the character. I’m also a little worried they’re too plain, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, so while I’m writing, I’m also thinking about covers, which for me, since I do my own, is almost the hardest part of the whole thing.

2. New Marketing Tactic.
I haven’t tried this yet, so this will be somewhat of a test to see if it works. We all know to put a little teaser at the end of a book to excite the reader for the next book. But, I’ve read about some authors taking it a step further, and actually using the last CHAPTER of a book to introduce the character of the next book. I would imagine this works really well if you already have the books ready to go and can even add a buy-link to that last chapter. I’m going to try this and see how it works. If you don’t understand what I mean, this is an example: Book One is about Jack and Emma. I write in 1st Person Present Dual POV and alternate between them giving them (approximate) equal screen time. So before trying this marketing tactic, Book One would end with either Emma’s or Jack’s POV, maybe an epilogue to wrap things up (I don’t hate epilogues but don’t use them very often. In fact, I’ve started labeling them as the last chapter instead of calling it an epilogue.) But instead, Book One ends with a very short chapter in the next book’s character’s POV. In this case, since I’m always going to go with the male POV because it’s been studied that romance readers prefer, and look forward to, the next hero, that would be Raff. I’m excited to see if this works or if I’ll be accused of money-grabbing. The books are standalones, in the true sense there is no over-reaching arch the readers need to finish, so I’m not sure how it will be received. It will be a while before I can tell you, but you can be sure I’ll blog about it!

3. Overall Consistency/Relevancy.
I’ll need to create a logo for the trilogy, write up my blurbs, and write a list of the keywords I’m going to use when I upload my files into KDP. It’s a lot of work to do them all at once, but everything will be the same for each book. Relevancy is important when you want ads to work. Categories and key words should help Amazon point your book to readers who will want to read it. Amazon rewards relevancy and the more on-point your book is, the easier it is for Amazon to sell.
I’ve already done this a couple of times, so I’m hoping my process is a lbit more streamlined and it won’t take so long to put these books together.

4. Reviews.
Not paying for Booksprout was a big mistake. Captivated by Her still doesn’t have any reviews, though since I published it, I’ve sold around twenty-five books (some sales mostly page reads in KU) and I don’t have one review on Amazon. While I haven’t ran a promo for that book since book two isn’t out yet, exposure hasn’t been the best. Only a few Amazon ads have brought me the sales that I’ve had, and my lack of reviews, not even one, is disheartening. So I think for the first in this trilogy, I’m going to pay the $9.00 on Booksprout and put Give & Take up for review. You can publish the paperback and let the reviewers leave a review for that. Then once all your reviews have come in, (or not, just delist the book from Booksprout and hope the reviewers lagging will pull through) you can publish the ebook, and the reviews will appear for both versions. You don’t have to delist at all if you’re wide and your book isn’t in KU. It takes a little planning, a little looking ahead, but if you want to publish your ebook with reviews, you need to be organized. I don’t have an ARC team, and my newsletter is primarily made up of readers who signed up for my reader magnet. I’m not saying they aren’t quality subscribers, but I haven’t earned their trust for them to want to do anything for me at this point, even leaving a review.

Even though it is a lot of work, I’m excited to be publishing again.


I also have a lot of housekeeping to get taken care of once I’ve written book two and can take a short break. I need to publish Captivated by Her to IngramSpark and fix VM’s website. I have large print listed there because in the past, Amazon didn’t give me a hard time publishing them, but this time they did, and Captivated was blocked as duplicate content. So either I’m going to publish my large print with IngramSpark (if I can do it in a way that won’t tick off Amazon) or at the very least, set it up on my website so I can sell direct. I can order author copies through IngramSpark without publishing, and I can keep a few on hand for website orders. I have All of Nothing and The Years Between Us available in large print and I sell one every once in a while. I would like to offer large print because 1) I want to be accessible, and 2) I already wasted an ISBN on the ones I have under VM Rheault. Why Amazon gives us the choice to publish large print and then blocks it as duplicate content is confusing to me, but I don’t want to mess with Amazon and I won’t try again. I wish there were a live person to talk to that had the authority to unblock my book because it is a legitimate large print book that they shouldn’t have blocked in the first place, but the one rep I did talk to couldn’t do anything. They told me they would remove it from my dashboard but they haven’t, and no one did answer my email when I sent a complaint to Jeff Bezos’s email address. This is still in the back of my mind because I don’t like arbitrary rules telling me no. I’ll find a way around it, I’m just not sure yet. I would like to actually publish to reach as wide of an audience as possible, and maybe since you can publish paperbacks on Draft2Digital and you can choose where, I could skip Amazon if they’re going to make a stink. But I’m already publishing my regular print on IngramSpark for expanded distribution (they skip Amazon when they see the ISBN is already in use there), and I don’t want to use different distribution channels if I don’t have to. So, we’ll see. I haven’t asked in any of the Facebook groups yet, but when the time comes, I’ll ask a few questions.


What I’m loving right now.

Janet Margot used to work for the Amazon ads team, and she wrote a book about using Amazon Ads to advertise your books. She released only an ebook, but when Amazon sent me an email and asked I was still interested in that book (those work, people! Never count out the Amazon algorithms) I clicked on it and saw she finally created a paperback. I picked it up right away. More than just creating an ad, she talks you through cover, metadata, keywords, comp titles and authors, etc so you can make sure your book is advertising-ready before you create your first ad. Here’s Blaze with the book, and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Ads-Indie-Authors-How/dp/1737476118/


Kindle Vella

Kindle Vella is taking off, it seems, as I see more and more people publishing on that platform. My friend Dareth started up a blog, and her first post is about her experience with Kindle Vella. You can check it out here if you’re interested in publishing your own serial to the platform. https://www.darethpray.com/post/publishing-on-kindle-vella

If you’re interested in running a promo to your Kindle Vella link, Bookdoggy is one of few promo newsletters that will promote your Vella link. You can look at other services they have for authors, too. https://bookdoggy.com/for-authors/. I’ve never used them before, but if you have a few dollars to throw at a promo, it never hurts to try.

Other articles about Kindle Vella:

Kindle Vella: Description, Features, and Tips for Authors by Jason Hamilton on Kindlepreneur

What is Kindle Vella? And Should You Join as an Author? on the Reedsy Blog


That’s all I have for today. Summer is two-thirds over! Make the most of it!

Until next time!

Being an indie author means using what works for you, no matter the source.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. Not really a conversation I guess, because it’s long been established that we don’t see eye to eye on writing, publishing, and marketing, and that’s okay. Just looking at her back list and mine makes it clear we have different paths and different goals. She’s 100% indie, does her own thing when it comes to books, genres, writing craft, as well as covers and where she publishes her books. She’s happy, (I’m assuming she is as she has never told me otherwise) and wants to stay on that path.

I learned over the five years I’ve been writing and publishing romance is just because I want to do it the way I want to do it, it may not align with my business goals and what I want for my books. That’s an important distinction. Just because it’s the way I want to do it, it may not be the best way to make the dreams I have to come true. So, I’ve learned to niche down to a sub-genre and study what’s on the covers of the books doing well in that sub-genre. I create my covers not only with what I like (and what my skills will allow), but I also have to take into consideration what is selling, and what will meet Amazon’s guidelines when it comes to ads. Just because you’re indie doesn’t mean your books can’t look and read as professionally as they should, and this made me think: we can publish indie books while borrowing from the best of indie and trad worlds.

What do I mean?

Covers: Think like a trad author.
As an indie you can put whatever you want on your cover, but the fact is, after you publish, you aren’t competing with only indie authors. In fact, the line between indie and trad grows blurrier every day. Readers don’t care who publishes your book as long as they get a good read for a fair price. You’re in complete control of your cover, but once you start tweeting your book to generate interest, or you run any kind of ad, you’re going to compete against a lot of other authors. Authors who are traditionally published by the Big Four, authors who are published by a small press, authors who can afford to spend $500 dollars on a cover, authors who know a photo manipulation software backward and forward, and authors who put their cover together in the middle of the night high on caffeine using Microsoft Paint. This is an area where we can learn from traditional publishing. Create your cover to fit in with other books in your genre. People do judge books by their covers and who knows how many readers pass you by if your cover isn’t up to standards. Unfortunately, you may never know.

Blurbs: Think like an indie.
Up until recently, and I mean, like the past couple of years (which is recent when you’re talking about publishing) blurbs (plot teasers on the product page, not one-sentence praise from your peers) were written in third person present tense. It was just the way things were done, and there are still indie authors who write their blurbs this way, despite that their book is written in first person/present/past. It took me a long time to wrap my mind around a romance that was written in first person, and it took me actually writing a romance in first person dual POV for me to fall in love with it (no pun intended). While this was going on, the savvy authors started writing their blurbs in first person, using the voice of their characters. If you look back, the authors who started that and bucked the system were GENIUS. Blurbs have always been, and always will be, a marketing tool. Because it’s a trad thing to write your blurb in 3rd person present, there have been some people who are reluctant to move away from that (and I blogged about that too.) Personally, I think blurbs written in first person makes sense (and only applies to authors who write in first) and you can have a lot of fun writing your blurb that way. This is time for a good reminder that you should always research what other authors are doing in your genre and what reader expectations are. Writing your blurb in third could lose you readers, or make readers unhappy when they read a 3rd person blurb and expected a book written in 3rd person as well. There are some readers who detest first person books and go out of their way to avoid them. If you like to troll Twitter (and I mean scroll, not be a jerk) you can read some more thoughts on 3rd person vs. 1st person blurbs using these Twitter search results:
https://twitter.com/search?q=1st%20person%20blurbs&src=typed_query

Release schedules: Think like an indie.
Being an indie when it comes to how often you can publish and when can help you build an audience quickly. Trad authors are stuck to once a year, maybe twice if they’re with a small press with a flexible schedule. It seems Amazon imprints like Thomas and Mercer or Montlake allow their authors to publish a little faster, but all in all, authors who can release a book quarterly (3-4 a year) have a better chance at building an audience so why not use that to your advantage? It hurts to save up books, but if you’re a slow writer, why not? Write, edit, and package three, then write more as you release. this can start a publishing schedule that you can maintain and after a while, your growing audience will know when to look for a new release. In the time a trad author publishes three, an indie could publish nine to twelve, and that just means more money in your pocket.

Series: Think like an indie and trad author.
Indies are getting better at this, but I’ve seen some books in a series that don’t look like they’re a series because their covers don’t look the same and don’t have a similar vibe. Trad has always been great with series branding, using the same fonts, backgrounds, and characters. For instance, the first book in the Flowers in the Attic series was published way back in 1979.

photo taken from https://thebookmelon.weebly.com/blog/flowers-in-the-attic

Series branding is important, but these days in the era of fickle attention spans, a trad house may pull the plug before a series is complete because it’s not selling. Sometimes an author gets a chance to wrap up, but sometimes not. Readers get angry, but like my friend Dea pointed out on Twitter the other day, it’s not up to an author if they have a book deal whether or not to continue a series:

This is where being an indie can make all the difference. IF YOU’RE AN INDIE AND YOU’RE WRITING A SERIES, FINISH IT, OR AT LEAST WRAP IT UP! Readers don’t like being left hanging, and when you’re publishing your own books, there’s no reason not to finish. The release consistency subject above also comes into play here. If you’re going to make use of a cliffhanger, you better have the next book ready to go (hopefully on very short preorder), or you’ll get bad reviews like this one:

Use your freedom to your advantage and keep your readers informed. I was tweeting with this author, trying to figure out the best way to let her readers know so this didn’t happen again. Is posting a publishing schedule in the first book’s blurb the way to go? Perhaps this would be a good reason to use A+ content? I’m publishing a six-book series next year, and yes, I do use cliffhangers. But unlike the author above, they are all written and I will be releasing all six in one year. When I read the Crossfire series by Sylvia Day, she did give the characters a happily for now ending just for the fact she’s a trad author, knew her readers would have to wait a year between books, and wanted to give her readers a bit of closure until the next book came out. When you’re indie and you need time, maybe that is the better way to go. Personally, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I will never not have all my books written in a series before I publish. Just for the fact avoiding small plot-holes and consistency issues will always be reason enough for me to wait to publish while I write.

The overall look of your book: think like a trad author.

A lot of authors don’t know this, but there is a set of guidelines you can (should) follow when you publish. The Independent Book Publisher’s Association lists them on their website and covers everything from what you should have in your copyright page to reminding you that your interior should be full-justified. It’s amazing that you can be a life-long reader, but when it comes to assembling your own book, how a book should look flies right out of your head. I’ve seen books that are left-justified only, no page numbers, spaces between paragraphs (this is okay for non-fiction, but I’m referring to fiction books), double spaced, no front matter except a title page, nothing in the back, not even an About the Author page. There’s no reason you can’t put out a professional product. To find the list of guidelines, look here:
https://www.ibpa online.org/page/standardschecklist

While I understand the disgust thinking about traditional publishing can evoke in an indie, there are lessons trad can teach us. Your book should look professionally put together, even if you’ve done it all yourself. When you’re asking a reader to pay for your product, it’s up to you to make sure they are paying for quality. It doesn’t matter how you reach that standard, it’s only important that you do. If that means hiring out every step of the way, then that’s what it means. Some may only need an editor, some can edit their own work and do just fine. Some indies are a one-stop shop and do every single thing for themselves, or use $50 dollar premades to cover their books that go on to make thousands of dollars. As indies, we have so much flexibility, but don’t use that as an excuse to do what you want. Once you put your book out into the world, you want readers and you want readers who will recommend your book to others. You want people to take photos of your books in their gardens, next to their cats, at the beach, and they won’t do that if your book has a crappy cover on it.

You CAN have your cake and eat it too. Just maybe scrape a little frosting off it first.

Until next time!