Plot Twist! Turning a standalone into a trilogy.

While I was writing, as I am wont to do for 30 hours a week because I don’t have a life, I stumbled upon something that was a surprise I honestly didn’t see it coming. It’s not entirely unwelcome, but it will put a wrench in my plans for this year. If you follow the blog at all, you’ll know I’m almost done with a rockstar standalone. At 94k at the moment of this writing, I know exactly what I need to finish up–how many words I’ll need is another thing, but no more than 20k, for sure. It’s a long book about a depressed and washed up rockstar whose manager hires a life coach to get him back on track to record another album. This rockstar has bandmates, and they’ve been kind of hanging out, literally and figuratively, and I had no plans whatsoever to give them their own stories…until I wrote this line on Thursday evening….

Brock sighs, and I understand all that sigh encompasses. An end of an era, but the start of a life they’re unsure of. They don’t have Liv in their corner, a future with a woman they love. Divorced and single, they’ve been drifting since Derrick’s death, the band the only thing anchoring them to the ground. If Ghost Town disappears, they’ll have nothing.

Twisted Lies and Alibis by VM Rheault

That made me sad… I don’t want to leave Brock and Eddie with nothing, even if I don’t know who they are, even if I haven’t invested in them one little bit and in my head they are completely interchangeable.

And so began the idea to turn this standalone into a trilogy….but it will require some work. Here’s what I’ll have to do:

Turn the secondary characters into people and write them into the story. Like I just said, I didn’t consider them anything more than prop characters and they barely have families much less backstories and almost no page time besides brief scenes here and there. Readers will need to get invested in their lives and who they are as people or they won’t care there are books about them. That may require some rewriting on my part and giving them more page time. Usually when I write a series, I plan them out first allowing me to foreshadow what will happen in the other books. They both have children and ex-wives, and that’s about as far as I got. Not a good foundation for two more books.

Who would their love interests be? This is a tough one because I had to sort out who I’ve already mentioned and how I could turn them into romantic partners for my characters. This book is about Sheppard Carpenter who is having an issue moving forward when one of his bandmates dies in a freak accident on stage and it triggers his depression. The bandmate, Derrick, who passed away, left a wife behind, and depending on why they were married and for how long, I think that could work. I don’t know anything about Clarissa, either (even her name is a placeholder because I’m not sure if she’s going to keep it), except she was filing for divorce at the time of her husband’s untimely death, and that could work in my favor. Olivia, the life coach who is helping Sheppard, wrote a self-help book some time ago and has an agent she’s still friends with who could potentially be the other love interest. I made her old…in her sixties, but that’s an easy fix. But book one is set in California, and Agatha’s based in Minnesota. How would they meet, and what’s her story? The possibilities are there, and that’s what counts.

What are their backstories? A good romance needs two people who have a lot to overcome to be together. Since I’m working with a primarily clean slate besides their names and a mention or two of their families, the sky’s the limit….but I’ll need to sit and brainstorm because I need to think of the tropes and emotional wounds I haven’t used before. The tropes aren’t so bad–they’re easy to change to differentiate one book from another, but unique tragic backstories, or front stories for that matter, need a bit more creative juice and in the best case scenario, I’ll figure them out soon so I can plant seeds in this first book. The best series string readers along so they have no choice but to read the next book and the next book. If I can’t even imply what book two will be about, you can forget read-through.

How long will these books be? I was thinking the standalone would be 110k, but if I kept up that pace, we’re looking at another 220,000 words. Sheppard’s and Olivia’s character arcs are long….they need space because they are both grappling with so much and they have so much to overcome mental health-wise for them to be together. I might be too close to my story, but for now, all my scenes seem to be needed for their character development, so we’ll see. I’m still writing it and I haven’t reread from the beginning. I also already have a couple betas lined up so maybe they can help me cut it down a little bit. I’m not opposed to longer stories, but if I have two more books in the works at 110k a piece, I’m looking at a minimum of another 6 months of writing. But, if I do keep the books that long, at 330,000 words, it will be my second biggest project (my 6-book series is over half a million words long, and my 4-book small town winter series is 288,000 words).

Covers. I already had a tentative cover if this was going to be a standalone, and quite honestly, I’m getting tired of doing my own. Doing standalones is a lot easier than coming up with a concept I can handle with my limited skills and finding stock images that I haven’t used before but accurately portray how old my male characters usually are is getting harder and harder. You can tease me all you want, but I’m not cutting their heads in half, no matter how much easier that would make my life. I’m also up against Amazon’s advertising guidelines, and I’m not popular enough to sell books by my name alone. I said a long time I don’t care if they reject my ads, but it’s a lie. Amazon ads are a big part of my marketing, and if I can’t advertise a trilogy, that’s page reads down the drain. So knowing I would have to do three covers instead of one is a small deterrent, but nothing that would keep me from the project.

Covers Update: As I wrote this blogpost on Thursday, I did some cover experimenting on Friday, flipping through stock photos for hours and hours. Literally, hours and hours. But, I think it might have paid off as I came up with a tentative concept for the trilogy. I was so pleased I found the cover models, I have already purchased them (do you know how difficult it is to find men that look like old rockstars???), and since I always let you in on my creative process, I’ll show you what I came up with. For some reason I don’t feel the doubt (and still feel, to be honest) that I did with the trilogy that’s releasing right now, but I still can’t say for sure if these will end up being the final thing. They kind of appear washed out and I may need to change the background, but I used screenshots and they’re grainy, so we’ll see what working with proper photos will do. It’s funny, while doing research for rockstar romances, that there isn’t one definite kind of cover. Of course, there are shirtless men galore, but I can’t go that way, and besides maybe a stage/audience in the background, there are no similar styles. A lot of times, like mine, the model isn’t even holding a guitar. That can be good for a designer in terms of flexibility, but bad for creating something that will for sure work to bring in sales. Anyway, I’ve never been one for a cover reveal, so here they are with tentative titles–those definitely are subject to change:


All in all, it sounds like I’m going to do it, especially since I have covers now, and it would be a nice addition to my backlist. It puts a glitch into my publishing schedule though, as I was going to put out two more standalones after my trilogy releases before I start publishing my 6-book series. I’m only pushing back my series because I really really really wanted some kind of audience already in place when I release these books. I honestly think they are going to either make or break my career (think Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series)… and I wanted to give them the best possible chance. I can only do that if I have some branding and a backlist in place already. I’m growing my newsletter, and I’ll be looking at promo opportunities through Bookfunnel as soon as THIS trilogy releases in full. The second book is out today, and I have had some good feedback on the first book. Releasing another trilogy before the series goes live would be great, but I need time to write. I have a standalone (billionaire’s fake fiancé trope) already queued up for April, and if I waited until July or even August, that gives me 7 months to finish this trilogy before I start needing something to release. That’s kind of pushing it, but as I have been dragging my feet with this book anyway, it would give me a deadline to work toward. Had I known this was going to happen, I would have strung out the Lost & Found Trilogy a little more, releasing two weeks apart instead of just one to buy me a more time, but that’s okay. That just means less time on Twitter, which is no big loss. I’ll miss touching base with some of my friends, but all the negativity is getting me down again. When authors have to drag other authors down so they feel good about themselves, that’s when I have to cut out. If you think you can write better, then go do that, publish, and market your bestseller. It’s obvious people like that think they have one, so prove it. Shut your mouth and go do that. Jealousy looks terrible and I hope one day their bitterness bites them in the butt.


If you want to read more about turning a standalone into a series, here are a couple of articles that helped me:

Writing A Series – And How to Grow A Series from a Standalone Book by Kate Frost

The Essential Guide for Writing a Series vs. a Standalone Novel
Written by Kyla Jo Magin in Fiction Writing


That is all I have for this post and I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Have a good week!

Happy New Year! Author Update and Buyer’s Remorse

Happy New Year! I hope all of you can look back at 2022 with few regrets. I’m sure there are things we all wish we would have done differently, but we can either let that hold us back or use it for inspiration for the coming year. We have 365 new days at our disposal–let’s make them count.

I started off the new year publishing my trilogy paperback to Amazon. I did them a little ahead of time only because KDP’s approval system is so arbitrary and I had no idea how long it would take for them to approve my paperbacks. It took them less than 12 hours, so the publication dates for them are officially December 28th, 2022, but that’s okay. Better early than late. I’m sticking to the ebook publication dates of January 16th, 23rd, and 30th. I usually don’t put my books on preorder, only because I don’t have an audience waiting for them, and since they’re going into KU, they won’t be available for a while yet, but this time I did and everything is ready to go. I published the paperbacks so they would be available on Booksprout for reviews, and I’m happy to say that in the first three hours half of all three were claimed. With the new plan I can post three books at a time for reviews, and I put up all three of them. I wanted honest reviews for the whole trilogy, so hopefully when/if they get to book three, their last review will reflect they liked the trilogy as a whole, as well as enjoying each individual book.

In preparation for some promos I plan to buy when my trilogy is officially released, I re-edited my duet. I was looking for snippets for Instagram and found a couple of typos here and there. Maybe not many but annoying ones like DYI for Do It Yourself instead of DIY, so I reread both of them and made a few changes. They aren’t that old and I had the time to do it, so it is what it is. But I also decided that if I was going to do the insides, I was going to redo outsides. I have a problem with choosing male models, and I have terrible buyer’s remorse when it comes to that kind of thing. One of the great things about being indie is that we can change things that don’t work, but that’s also one of the terrible things. We’re constantly plagued by the idea that what we’re putting out there isn’t as good as it can be. Anyway, I my covers went from this:

to this:

Not a significant change, especially the first one since it’s the same guy, only a crisper photo with a better pose and coloring. I decided I didn’t like the second guy at all and went for a model that’s been used before, but I like the dangerous glint in his eyes and the undone tie speaks to his partying nature in the book. I’m hoping that this change will help with sales. It was a pain the ass to change the ebook, paperback, and hardcovers on KDP as well as update them on IngramSpark. Ingram is giving me a hard time with spine width again, but I think I have it figured out now, and with the fee I paid to join the Alliance of Independent Authors and discounts that go with it, my revision costs were nothing. It took me the better part of a day, and I hope all that work pans out.

Whenever I put together a cover and publish it, I always think I can do better. I think the only cover so far where I haven’t thought that was for Rescue Me. I still love it and I’ve never been able to see anything wrong with it. The guy is perfect, the fonts are perfect. Of course, this means I’m having doubts about the trilogy, even though they haven’t been published for even day. I went around and around and around with those stupid things. It would be easy to say to just hire out–Getcovers makes it incredibly affordable–but I think I would have the same problem. In fact, I might even be worse and never be happy with what they come up with.

The good news is I can stop messing around with my duet. The insides are as perfect as they are ever going to be, and the covers are fine now. I don’t know what I would do with my trilogy covers even if I did want to change them. I searched for hours for the background and the models I finally chose, and the covers went through several drafts. As I’ve said before, my characters are older–Jack is 45 and Roman is 50, and finding models to portray that realistically is difficult. I can always start cutting their heads off, but I’m not that desperate yet.

For now, as the trilogy releases, I’m going to focus on finishing up Twisted Lies and Alibis. The holidays have kind of slowed me down, and now that New Year’s is over, I don’t have anything standing in my way. When I started it, I said I would like to be done with it by the end of January, but I’d really like to get it done within the next two weeks. I’m 67k into it now, and I have no idea how much longer it needs. There is still a lot that needs to go into it, and I want to take my time with the ending and nail it just right.

Luckily, when indies have buyer’s remorse, we can act on it, but obsessing about something and wondering if it can be better can drag you down and hold you back. We always want to do better, and it’s tough when we think changes could somehow elevate sales. I loved my covers until I published, and now I’m not sure. That’s probably common. I can’t say I didn’t follow my heart with my duet, because I did. The covers I published at first weren’t a last resort scenario at all. I was thinking about my brand overall, how they would fit in with other covers, all of it. I haven’t been publishing for 7 years for nothing. I was determined to use all the lessons I’ve learned and start my pen name on the best foot I could. But I guess it doesn’t matter if you’ve been publishing for 7 years or 70, you’ll make judgments in error. You can hang in there and see how things turn out, panic at the first feeling something isn’t right and change immediately, or know that you might need to adjust and take your time with that adjustment so you don’t have to do it again. What’s funny is I love my covers for all my 3rd person books (though all of them are on their second covers except for my Rocky Point Wedding series). I wouldn’t change any of them. I was thinking an illustrated cover for Wherever He Goes would be a good fit since they’re popular now, but ultimately I decided to keep what I have. No, I think I’m putting pressure on myself because I really want this pen name to work out. I know one thing–if I’m going to change my covers, I’ll do it before I publish the hardcovers, and before I publish to IngramSpark, and before I push any promo dollars at them.

Anyway, so that’s all I have for this first blog post of 2023. I hope you all have a wonderful start to this new year!

“Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can.”
— Douglas Pagels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Have a great week!

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2022 and how I’m going to use in it 2023

Like a reader pointed out in her comment on my blog post last week, sometimes people have to learn things on their own and in their own time. That’s never been more true for publishing. There is so much information out there, and to consume it in some way (blog post, podcast, non-fiction book, reading a tweet) then applying it to your own circumstances can be a lot of work–and you need a healthy dose of self-awareness to even know you need the information in the first place. Not at easy feat when we’re told from the second we start writing our books that our novels are our babies and every baby is beautiful, not a product to sell.

https://quotefancy.com/quote/1139974/Jackie-Collins-I-have-written-20-books-and-each-one-is-like-having-a-baby-Writing-is-not

It’s important to know where you want your publishing to go (well it is for me–I’m done trying to tell people what to do), and you can think about these things if you’re unsatisfied with where your career is up to this point: Do you want to publish for fun and earn some pocket money, or do you want more? Do you want to make what you’d earn working part-time? Do you want to be a full-time writer and quit your day job? I think a lot of us, whether we really want to admit it nor not, would love to at least make a part-time income. Part-time, for me, would be about $10,000/year. Depending on where you live in the world and what you do as a profession, that’s either a lot or barely what you earn in a month at your day job. I work for a non-profit, I’m barely scraping by, and that’s half of what I make in a year. To say an extra $10,000 a year would turn my life around is an understatement. It would take care of a lot of worries for me. It’s not asking a lot, but that is the biggest thing I’ve learned this year–I have to write out a goal in black and white and figure out a plan on how to get there.

Changing what I’m writing was a good start (and something not a lot of people are willing to do). Most indie romances are written in first person now, and two years ago, I pivoted and that’s what I started writing in. It wasn’t that difficult–just a minor change in mindset and some feedback to put me on the right path since I’ve never written in it before and only read it without acknowledging it like the Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight series.

But I need to do more than that. Through the years I’ve gotten the basics down: that marketing pertains to your whole brand and what you’re offering readers across the board as apposed to advertising which is only buying promos and running ads to your books. It’s funny that when you start a pen name you get a fresh start when it comes to your brand. I had to figure out how I was going to present myself to readers. It helped that I already had a few books written (not published) and I caught on to some characteristics/themes that I can play with: my characters are older, some divorced, they’ve gone through a trauma which means a shitty backstory they have yet to overcome so they can find love. My covers are cohesive, even if they aren’t in the same series, and over time I want people to be able to catch a glimpse of a cover and say, “That’s a VM Rheault romance.” That’s branding, that’s marketing, and that’s something I’ve learned on my own over the past five years. That’s not anything anyone can explain to someone else–it has to click. (When you have 20 books and they all look different, maybe it will click or maybe it won’t, or maybe you just don’t care. And definitely, under no circumstance, will I tell you that you should.)

Made in Canva

So for 2023, I thought I’d do the math and figure out what I needed to make $10,000 a year. Having more books, of course, is helpful all around, and right now I only have three under my pen name, though All of Nothing, a standalone under my full name, has been my biggest earner since I published it and my small-town holiday series comes in second because of read-through. I’ll always run ads to those books, but as I figured out during my Freebooksy promo, I think I just want to focus on my first person books for now and see what I can do with them. I have three out, I’ll release three more in January, and a standalone in March.

What I’m thinking, and though I haven’t accomplished it, I know it’s achievable, is the idea taken from the 20booksto50k concept, being if you have 20 books published, you should be able to make $50,000 a year. Twenty books is a lot of books (and let’s assume we’re talking full-length novels, only based on the idea that I’m in Kindle Select, and the longer the book the more you earn from page reads.) Maybe then, you can halve that and say I want to make $25,000 off ten books. That’s nothing I’ve done with my ten that’s written in 3rd person, but I know where I went wrong, even if they are in 3rd person. I didn’t stick to one sub-genre, my covers were abysmal because I did them myself starting out, my trilogy wasn’t solid because my writing just wasn’t there yet. I could have hired a better editor than I had, though, I just hadn’t written enough to find my voice and my writing was the best it could be at the time. I definitely could have had better covers, but I hadn’t heard the secret of researching the top 100 in that genre and blending in with those books. I was all about the “vibe” and capturing it on the cover, and I definitely didn’t know about stock photo sites and used pictures from Pixabay which is a huge no-no. I didn’t know how to write good blurbs or good ad copy for ads, and I didn’t know how to use those platforms anyway. It’s not a surprise that I haven’t earned $25,000 a year off those books. I was doing too many things wrong. Even though they’re “fixed” too much time has gone by to do anything with them.

Now I’m on the right path, or at least a frontage road going in the right direction, having a concrete number to shoot for is probably best. There are some things you need to know, such as your ratio of read-through from book one to the others if you have a series, and how much you earn from page reads if you’re in KU. I’m actually kind of surprised to see how many authors don’t know how to calculate pages read when they’re in KU. I’ll show you quick in case you don’t know. To find how many KENPs (Kindle Edition Normalized Page) are in your book if it’s enrolled in Kindle Select so it’s available in Kindle Unlimited, you have to go to your bookshelf, click on the promote and advertise tab of the ebook and it’s at the very bottom of that page.

My KENP for Captivated by Her is 404. Now that we know that, we can divide the number of page reads with that number to find out how many total books have been read. When I look for the number of pages reads for Captivated by Her for this year I get 14,800. 14,800/404 is 36.63. So roughly 36 full books in page reads since I published in June. You should know the KENP of all your books. (If you want to know how much you earn, multiply the total number of page reads by .0045 [the average payout of a page read by KDP–this fluctuates and you can use .0044 or even .0043 if you want to assume a decrease] and in my case 14800*.0045 is $66.60).

The KENP for the second book in that duet is 397. We can do the same for Addicted to Her: I’ve had 4593 pages read, equalling 11 full books read. (Royalties–4593*.0045=$20.66.). We don’t have to do the math to see that there is a significant drop off from book one to book two. And thanks to Mal Cooper, this is how you figure that percentage. But first, KU reads are only part of the equation. I did have a couple sales, so let’s factor those in.

Captivated: KU page reads equalling 36 books. Sales 13 (9 ebook, 4 print) Total: 36+13 = 49
Addicted: KU page reads equalling 11 books. Sales 5 (3 ebook, 2 print) Total 11+5 = 16

According to Mal’s math, you divide the number of book 2 by the number of book 1 and it looks like this:

16 / 49 = 32%.

32% of the readers who read book one went on to read book two. Mal says you want read through from book one to book two to be about 50% and each book after that will likely drop even more. If you want to read more about read-through, I grabbed her formula from the post she did for Dave Chesson, and you can read it here. https://kindlepreneur.com/calculate-series-read-through/

Where were we again? Oh, yeah, so I want to know how many books I would have to sell if I want to make $10,000 from my books next year. My books are around the same length so we can assume I make $1.78 from every full book read in KU and $3.49 for every ebook sale. (Remember to give KDP or your other platforms their %–Amazon takes 30% if you choose the 70% royalty, and 70% of 4.99 is $3.49.)

If we just go by full sales and not page reads, I would have to sell 2,865 books in 2023 to earn $10,000. Considering in my lifetime of publishing, I’ve only sold 887 books (not counting page reads) that seems like a significant feat–on the other hand, it’s not as many as I thought it would be. $10,000 sounds like such a large sum, LOL. But that’s also 5,617 full books read in KU, which may or may not be easier. ($10,000/$1.78 = 5,617 books.)

The math seems like the easiest part–it’s the advertising and marketing that trips us up. So what am I planning to do to sell that many books?

Use my Bookfunnel subscription in a more productive way. I haven’t taken advantage of any promos or newsletter builder opportunities. I’ve been waiting until my newsletter looks like it has something to offer and also been waiting until I have a few more books in my backlist. I plan to snoop around after my trilogy is out. I’ll have six books published and that seems like a good number to see how things go.

Keep going with ads. After the holidays I’m going bump up my bid per click on my Amazon ads and create some new ones with updated keywords and see if that helps. Right now I’m doing conservative bidding per Bryan Cohen but romance is competitive and bumping up my bids might help with impressions and getting more clicks. Amazon ads are easy with category and keyword ads, but Facebook is a bit trickier when it comes to building your target audience. I’m going to research a little more into how to build that audience so I’m not wasting clicks.

Buy more promos. There are a few I haven’t tried like Ereader News Today, Robin’s Reads, and Fussy Librarian that will put books in front of readers who have never heard of me before.

Start posting regularly on my FB pages. I was sneaky and turned my Vania Margene Rheault Author page into my VM Rheault Author page so I don’t haven’t start from scratch there. I don’t have a significant following, but I connected that to my Instagram that I also rebranded. I’m going to try harder to post content on there rather than waste time on Twitter. I’m so disillusioned with my experience on Twitter lately that the best thing I can do is to spend that time in a place that will have a better return on investment. I also have my V’s Vixens reader page that I started that I run ads from. If I post content there regularly, I can pick up followers from my ads. Building a social media platform takes time, patience, and content. If I trade the hour I spend scrolling Twitter every day, I should be able to post content no problem and that should be better for me long-term.

Publish consistently. The best thing I can do is publish consistently. I have the next 18 months set out and hopefully, by the time those books run out, I’ll have 6 more (or another year’s worth). I don’t want to think of my books as widgets on a factory conveyor belt, but I have to admit, there isn’t so much pressure to write quickly when I know I have time. With how my mind works it’s difficult for me to write a new WIP and go back and promote older books, but I’m going to explore turning two days a week into marketing only and then the rest of the week into writing days. Maybe that will help. Focus is a good thing until it’s not. Then you have to figure out ways to work around it and make it work for you rather than against you.

Keep putting my books on Booksprout for reviews. Publishing without reviews is tough and my duet may never recover (which would be a crummy start to my pen name). All I can do promote it and hope readers who like it review it. Unless I pull them out of KU and put them up in Booksprout, there’s not much more I can do, but I’m not willing to do that. It was a mistake I’ll learn from and move on.


Will I get to $10k in 2023? I don’t know. I’ve never been in this place in my life with all that I know now. If all goes to plan, I’ll have 8 books for sure, maybe 10 with two of my six book series released toward the later part of the year. All I can do is my best, apply what I’ve learned, and hopefully I’ll find some readers who enjoy my books!

I have three more Mondays after today to post before the New Year. One will be my end of the year recap that I usually do, and the other two, I’m not sure. The last Monday is the day after Christmas, so I might take that Monday off. We’ll see. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Author Update: My Freebooksy results and knowing what you want

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion with indie authors A.K. Ritchie and Jeanne Roland

I asked indie authors Jeanne Roland and A.K. Ritchie to chat with me about writing a second book, publishing, and marketing. I think it’s fun to pick the brains of my writer friends. You never know when someone will share something that will elevate your career to the next level. While I don’t think our conversation will turn your book into a best seller, sometimes it’s just helpful to know we’re all struggling. I thought we would chat for half an hour, I’d ask a few questions then we’d log off. We ended up talking for over two hours, and this is the bulk of our chat. I hope you find it entertaining if not useful. Thanks for pulling up a seat at our table. If you want to follow them or check out their books, their links are posted at the end. Enjoy!


Vania: A.K. Can we start with you? How long have you been writing and what made you decide you wanted to publish?

A.K.: Sure! I’ve been writing since I was five! My first book was dictated to my teacher and she turned it into printed books for us to create the pictures to go with the story. That’s when I was hooked! In terms of publishing, I’ve always wanted to! I don’t know where it began. I went to a publishing conference in 2019. It was for traditional publishing and while it sounded really interesting, there were a few things that turned me off traditional publishing. That’s when I decided to learn as much as I could about self-publishing. I was hooked.

Jeanne: Can I ask what turned you off trad publishing, if you remember?

A.K.: Oh, quite a few things. One, I listened to agents talking about how something as simple as a name would turn them off a manuscript. Two, they said it could take a year or even up to five years to get a book on the shelves. It was discouraging to hear.

Jeanne: Yes, don’t even get me started on names! That was the first thing that I was going to have to “change” to get mine published, and I get it. The name of my book doesn’t “work,” if one thinks of the book as a commodity. It won’t “sell.” But it’s the name of my book!

Vania: That seems to be a vibe even now from agents. They’re looking for books that require almost no work to get from your computer to the shelves.

A.K.: Yes! I understand they need to market, but to not even have someone read past the first page because of it is disheartening!

Jeanne: It’s probably a volume issue. An easy way to weed down the stack. I’m sorry I keep interrupting! I’m just very chatty. I’ll try to rein it in.

A.K.: That’s what they said, that there’s just too many to read them all.

Jeanne: I hate to say it, but I also think that agents are looking for authors to sell, not books to sell, too. Are you as an author someone or someone with a story or angle that lends itself to marketing? If not, forget it. There has to be a “story” behind the book, not just the book itself.

A.K.: Agreed!

Vania: Any angle, to get ahead, but I think indies do the same thing. Looking for the next biggest and best thing to somehow get ahead and find readers. A.K., that’s really cool that your teacher fed your passion. I hear so many people who have been shut down by their teachers. I’m glad she had a positive impact on your life! Jeanne, can you tell us a little about how you started writing and why you decided to publish?

Jeanne: Glad to hear that about teachers, too. Sure, here goes … I’ve always loved literature and language, I’ve studied a lot of it and done a lot of nonfiction writing. I write all the time for my job. But … even though I always wanted to write something creative, I thought I had to have something important to say, to write great literature, and that held me back from trying. My father was a professor of American history, and he died rather youngish. When he was terribly ill, he realized he’d always wanted to write something creative and hadn’t done it and then he tried a bit to do it while he was dying. That didn’t work, and I thought I don’t want that to happen to me. If I want to write, I should try. Around that time I read Hunger Games … and I thought, hmm. On the one hand, this is brilliant. I could never write something as brilliant and as well-plotted, but on a sentence level, sure, I could write that! And maybe I could just write something fun and escapist, the romantic escapes I myself enjoy reading. So about 12 years ago, I sat down and started writing Journeys, just as a daydream on paper, to entertain myself. I thought it was terrible and I put it aside then I came back to it a year or two later, sat down, and it just flowed out of me! That’s my story.

Vania: I guess I only have Twitter to gauge, but that seems to be a common quality among
writers–wanting to convey a deeper meaning with their writing. How did you marry wanting to write something deep and deciding to write something fun?

A.K.: That’s so great! I’m glad you came back to it! Sometimes you need to step back from a project to really see it for what it is. And I felt much the same. In my 20s I thought it had to be this massive novel that could “change the world” basically. That goal can be paralyzing.

Jeanne: I guess I matured enough to realize that I just love a good story, and that maybe the meaning comes through the writing, not the other way around.

Vania: I wonder if that’s why some authors look down on commercial fiction–they don’t think it’s deep enough or conveys enough feeling, yet, I think sometimes light and frothy is the perfect way to tackle darker themes.

Jeanne: I do a lot with ancient Greek literature, and it isn’t as moralizing or trying to send one message, and that’s why it is so compelling. It’s about exploring a situation and all its intricacies, and I’m certainly not saying I’m writing something like that, but I think particularly YA that is message-driven is just boring and dry. Don’t get me wrong. I think there are a lot of important things in my book, but they came in the back door.

A.K.: Yes. I think that applies to me too. I wrote a novel based on the music scene I loved and I turned into something more and focuses on healthy relationships, which hadn’t been my intention starting out. Haha.

Jeanne: Yes, I think themes develop in the writing!

Vania: If “lighter” books couldn’t talk about dark things, I think we’d all be in trouble. How could we write about anything worth reading?

Jeanne: For example, my heroine was kicked in the face by a mule and horribly scarred. It’s not “sexy,” and she appears to most to be ugly. That NEVER changes. No one ever finds her physically beautiful. But she is valued and even desired eventually for her character and actions. No “I think I’m not pretty but I am!” for me.

A.K.: I agree. I mean, there are definitely some books that don’t, but life has to be tough for everyone and fiction often reflects that.

Jeanne: And I think a great book doesn’t have to have messages. It can simply be a rip-roaring, well-written read. She also has dreams & goals and breaks herself trying to achieve them, and fails. I think it is so damaging, this lie that we can all get whatever we want if we just want it and work for it enough. That’s just not true! She adapts, and she has to get knocked down and get back up again.

Vania: I agree. I like exploring a person’s darker side. In one of The Years Between Us’ reviews, she says, how did anyone like this book? Everyone is nasty. Well, people can be! No one is perfect and there’s a million shades of gray when we talk about ethics and morality. A.K., you published your second book not long ago. How was that different from publishing your first?

A.K.: Yes! It’s hard to escape horrible people in real life too. Publishing my second book was way less stressful and much faster. Haha. Instead of being nervous to hit publish, I couldn’t wait to do it! Since I knew who I needed to hire and where to find these things, it was much smoother.

Vania: Did you run into any obstacles?

A.K.: I actually found it more difficult to find ARC readers for book two than my first one. As it wasn’t too long after my first book, I hadn’t established a pool of readers outside family and friends yet. I wanted ARC readers who were impartial. It didn’t result in the reviews I hoped for. Other than that, it was smooth.

Vania: That’s great!  Every time I publish, I seem to screw it up somehow. Jeanne, if I recall, you edit your own books? Do you use beta readers or ARC readers?

A.K.: I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty good at troubleshooting if you need help with something for any upcoming books 😊

Vania: A.K. for your next book, if you can afford the $9.00 fee, I suggest you put your book on Booksprout. It generated some good reviews for my standalone Rescue Me. I recommend it.

Jeanne: Yeah, I edit my own. I have one super good friend who reads my stuff and gives me advice/input as I write, and my sister and another friend or two have usually read my books before I publish them, but I do my own editing.

A.K.: Do you have a way of catching pesky typos that spell check and such doesn’t?

Jeanne: I should say that I actually had an agent for Journeys, who suggested some edits and did some proofreading. But I decided to self-publish rather than do what would have been necessary to get trad published, which was mostly to cut it waaay down, because it’s massively long.

Vania: Oh, that must be so helpful! Finding help is definitely one obstacle that we have to deal with. Especially since everything is pay to play now.

Jeanne: I wish I could help w/ the typos! But I’m sure there are many in my book b/c it is really long, but I have to rely on my handful of friends.

A.K.: Vania, do you self-edit as well?

Vania: I listen to my manuscripts before I upload them into KDP–you would be surprised at how much you find. Then I read the proof like I was a reader reading it for the first time, and I think that catches the rest. Yep! I do.

Jeanne: A word about editors, if I may …

A.K.: That’s great! I should start doing that as well.

Vania: I also edit on the side for other people, but they just pay what they can. Sliding-fee scale, I guess.

Jeanne: It isn’t because of either money or arrogance that I edit my own books … I’m sure I’d have caught more errors, etc. with a good one … but how in the world is a self-publisher supposed to know who is a good freelance editor? How are we supposed to trust someone else to edit our works? Any really really good editor is going to be massively expensive and/or not available to selfies. Some of the folks who offer their services … what are their credentials? Do they actually know grammar, even? There are so many people out there who scam indie authors. I trust my friends’ knowledge of grammar more than that of some people offering their services.

Vania: Oooooh, I know. Don’t get me started. Indie publishing has opened up a whole world to scammers who have no idea what they’re doing but are happy to charge you for it! Besides, some of it for me is arrogance. I write my books how I want them to be, and maybe suggestions could make them better, but maybe not?

Jeanne: Yes, this! You know, this idea that a book MUST have an editor … did Shakespeare have an editor? Aeschylus?

A.K.: I definitely agree with that. I picked an editor off Fiverr because it wasn’t expensive and I wanted someone who understood Canadian spellings. I really just wanted another set of eyes. I had no real way of knowing her credentials and while she did help with some things, it wasn’t the quality I hoped for.

Vania: Jeanne, was publishing your second book easier than the first?

Jeanne: It was sort of a unique situation, because it is a continuation of the story. You can read Journeys and end there, but you can’t really read the sequel without having read the first one which meant I knew I was going to have a small audience and there was little point doing any kind of launch … so I was SUPER stressed about putting it out. I was sure that I was going to be massively depressed. I thought no one would buy it and I’d be upset, but at the same time I thought, what if the people who read the first one and loved it are disappointed and hate it? I was really worried about that. Plus, I felt like I’d forgotten how to do it all. Vellum for formatting, uploading to KDP, getting the ISBNs. I’d only done it once, so I’d forgotten everything! It felt like I was supposed to know how to do my 2nd launch better, but I was worse at it, and I ended up super soft launching, no ARCS or advance copies at all, nothing.

A.K.: When you did launch it, did you find it brought any additional momentum to the first book?

Jeanne: All I did was announce it to my readers whose email addresses I had gathered, from asking them to ask for the 1st chapter of it at the end of the 1st book, a pretty short list. So this was the big surprise! YES! In fact, the moment that I put it up, the 1st one started getting interest again, particularly on KU.

A.K.: Amazing!

Jeanne: I had my biggest month of all time last month, b/c of that bump from the second one. 3x the number of KU reads. I think it “might” be because Amazon now lists them as 1 of 2 and 2 of 2, even though there are going to be 4 … so maybe KU readers think it’s a complete series. I feel bad about that, but besides that I say plainly in the blurb that there will be more, I’m not sure what to do about it. Yeah, I’ve started to think that all the effort I make means nothing. My book does ok when Amazon pushes it, for whatever reason then when they stop showing it, it dies. End of story.

A.K.: I don’t think you can change the number of books in the series unless you have pre-orders for them up at least. Mentioning in the blurb seems like a smart idea!

Jeanne: Yeah, I didn’t want people to think I was trying to fool them! But really, my books are Loooooong. If you get to the end of 2 of them, then probably you aren’t going to mind that there are more lol.

A.K.: Do either of you plot out and/or write your whole series before publishing the first?

Jeanne: So for me, I have the whole “main plot” plotted, I know how I’m going to tie up all the loose ends and all the main plot points, but it evolves, grows, and changes as I write. I like to think of it as knowing the destination and many of the big stops on the way, but leaving the exact route a little flexible. You? But mine are one continuous story, too, I should say that.

A.K.: I haven’t intentionally written in a series before, so I’m curious about other people’s processes!

Vania: Yeah, I couldn’t publish a series if I didn’t do that. Under this name I have a trilogy and a four-book series that I wrote, formatted, and did covers for all at once, and under my initials I did my duet at one time, and I’m releasing a trilogy in January with a week between books, and a co-worker is typo-hunting a six-book series that’s done. She’s reading the KDP proofs. I’m very afraid of consistency issues. My six-book series is all one story, too, and I’m afraid of how to market. Most of them end on cliffhangers and the only entry point to reading is book one.

Jeanne: I also have the issue that mine involves a big cast of characters, who keep doing things for x reason, which then seems to involve a y subplot! It’s hard! I’ve pretty much just been marketing book 1, b/c of that very reason.

Vania: I totally relate! My six books wasn’t supposed to be six books. It was supposed to be a trilogy, but then someone killed someone else, and bam! Three more books. LOL A.K, I would at least have a loose plot for most of the books, if only to be able to foreshadow to keep readers wanting the next book.

Jeanne: If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t publish the first one until I’d written them all, like you. In fact, I wasn’t planning to, but it’s a long story about how I ended up publishing Journeys. It grew out of depression over what happened w/ the agent, and the realization that I wasn’t willing to do what I had to do for her to sell it; even getting her was a result of something else, not of my making. Yes, I’m afraid that my 2 more books might be 3 more books … I have a few characters who WILL NOT behave! I’d wait myself until I was 100% done, if I were doing it over again, frankly.

A.K.: This is really interesting! Thank you for sharing this! The idea for my intentional series is forming. It’s intimidating a little. Haha.

Jeanne: I will say this, too. My books are super long. SUPER long. And that’s probably cost me some interest from readers, scared some off, sure – those who notice. BUT it’s mostly publishers who don’t want a long book. I think readers don’t care, as long as it is interesting and keeps their interest. Length is relative. A slow book that drags is longer than a long book that flies by!

Vania: Some people don’t have the patience, and that’s fine too. It’s not even impatience for me as it is I just need to be able to go back and change things if I have to. Being like this actually will keep me from doing anything longer than 4-6 books because how would I ever be able to save up 10+ books before I publish? A.K., you will never see me so scared as when I opened the file for book 4 knowing I needed to come up with 240k words to complete my series. I wondered how in the HELL I was going to do that. But I did. You just have to take a deep breath and not think about it too hard. Stay in THAT book, that moment, with those people, and it will all come together.

Jeanne: For me, it’s the stress of finishing. As chance would have it, those few who read my book 2 loved it more than the first one thought it was terrific. That’s great! But now I am SUPER STRESSED about not being able to follow that w/ a decent next book.

A.K.: When people are engrossed in the world they don’t want books to end! And yes, Vania, that’s a smart way of doing it. It seems like the most cohesive way too.

Vania: I agree. I don’t think they care either as long as the words have quality and it’s not all filler for page reads.

Jeanne: So this is all an argument for finishing before you publish!

A.K.: I wonder if it will always be like that, worried about not following what you’ve already done.

Jeanne: Yeah, I know that the next book just won’t be as good as the first two. That’s ok. But I worry about it being utter crap. I’d feel better if I’d written it all before publishing no. 1! What if I can’t pull it out of me AT ALL?!

A.K.: “About not living up to what you’ve already done” is what I meant.

Jeanne: Yea, so funny story. When I was writing the book in the first place, I wasn’t thinking about page numbers. I was writing for myself, single spaced, etc. It didn’t seem like it was longer than average …

Vania: Realllly, Jeanne? I’m always afraid my first book will be too weak to carry the rest.

Jeanne: I had no idea about word counts, etc. Then I found out. And I was like, hmmm. So I guess it’s too long! Everyone was shocked, too, b/c it’s a fast read. but it’s long. Well, if the first one is weak, then ppl won’t read it, no problem. But if they read the first one and loved it, then … there’s expectation. That’s what I’m worried about. Readers who love book 1, then thought 2 was even better … they are expecting 3 to be even better! But it is going to be so much worse, lol.

Vania: Yeah that’s a problem when you’ve already written them all!

A.K.: As a reader, even if the second or third book is weaker, it doesn’t stop me from committing to a series. I know what the author is capable of. And I’ll come back for more.

Jeanne: I’m hoping that will be the case for my little pool of readers. but there’s also something depressing about working on massively long books knowing that the number orf readers is just going to decrease over time, not grow, b/c you have to have read the others and some will stop the series. So it’s like you read all the time about people growing their fan base, but I feel like I am just shrinking it, lol. Let’s just say, if and when I ever finish this series, no more series for me! Standalones all the way, baby.

Vania: Yeah, but they grow their fanbase over multiple books and multiple series and multiple years. that’s why everyone says not to genre-hop.

Jeanne: Haha, considering that I have no genre, that won’t be a problem!

A.K.: I only planned on standalone, but a few people wanted more of my characters. It seems hard to avoid! I still try to write them as standalones in their own way.

Jeanne: That sounds like the ideal – a book that can stand alone, but then more for the hungry readers! Perfect.

Vania: That’s how most romances are. The couple has an HEA but there’s some kind of overreaching arch that finishes at the end of the series. I have to admit, I had a lot of fun writing the long story, but I’m really concerned with how it’s going to sell. A.K. do you have a book 3 in the works or are you writing something different? Is what you have a duet?

A.K.: I’m taking a step back from that series to work on something else. I didn’t intend to write a second book in that world so I need some time to figure out what needs to go next. There’s a large pool of characters so there’s potentially more.

Jeanne: Are you working on a different project, then?

A.K.: Right now just working on something random for NaNoWriMo to clear my head a bit. Yup! Just a standalone that may or may not be published in the future. Haha.

Vania: Weren’t you writing a Christmas thing? Is that it?

Jeanne: I’ve always been curious about NaNo but can’t do it.

Vania: I’ve never been that excited about it, though I’ve never needed the motivation or the camaraderie. I find that just by scrolling Twitter, though that may change.

A.K.: The Christmas story was supposed to be book 3 in the series but it wasn’t working out the way I wanted and I felt pressured to write it quickly. Decided after NaNoWriMo, when I’m in the Christmas spirit, I’ll make another attempt and maybe have a Christmas story for next year! I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for over 15 years. It was a good way to connect with writers back then! Not so necessary now, but I like the ceremony of it.

Jeanne: I’ll confess that I’ve been tempted to write some straight-up, short romance books under a different pen name, but my heart isn’t in it.

A.K.: For me, it seems to be the theme that makes it difficult to write. Haha no, I was writing a short story about a virus that took out the world and then… Covid happened. I love the end of the world fiction. Haha. It has to SAY something in that type of fiction. Not my forte.

Jeanne: Oh, man! I’m out, lol. I think I’ve already established that I have nothing to say.

Vania: Like, the characters have to learn something? Hahaha. I write romance. Out of the three of us, I’m pretty sure I’m the one who doesn’t say a damned thing 😛

A.K.: Hahaha. I love books that don’t say something.  Post-Apocalyptic fiction always seems to comment on the state of our current world. I don’t want to do a critique of our society. I think that’s why I don’t write it.

Jeanne: I don’t know. My series is about a 15-year-old (she’s probably 16 by now!), b/c I love this age – when you are still young enough for things to be firsts, when you are young enough to have big hopes & first loves, etc. I think I have some ideas of what it’s like to grow up. BUT …

A.K.: I prefer to write just about people coming together. That’s why I enjoy romance plots so much. The connection! ❤️

Jeanne: I don’t think my books are really very YA. So there’s a huge disconnect. I’m writing first person POV, present tense, about teens and there’s a TON of lusting after hot boys, but … it’s not really a young person’s book. All my readers pretty much are adult women. And I THOUGHT I was writing a romance, but lo and behold, it has to fit a very strict pattern to be that, and mine doesn’t fit it! So I don’t know what it is, lol.

A.K.: Romance does feel pretty rigid and my first doesn’t fit there either so I’m leaning into the women’s fiction label. As for your novel, there’s definitely a market for books about youth that can be enjoyed by adults. I always go back to YA books as comfort reading.

Jeanne: Yeah, I am calling it YA because I do think that it’s where adult women look for similar books (if there are any? Not sure there are!), and because there’s no sex in mine – just a lot of rather adult sensuality, but nothing that would satisfy most romance readers today, from what I can gather on Twitter!

A.K.: Makes sense! YA would give them the right expectation by the sounds of it. 😊

Jeanne: How about marketing? How do you guys do that? V, I know you do Amazon ads. Mine attempts at ‘zon ads all fail spectacularly, even though I think I’m doing them right. But my cover, title, and lack of clear genre mean that they don’t convert. Any other great ideas?

A.K.: This is likely Vania’s area. I haven’t gotten a grasp of it yet. However, I have found two awesome readers on TikTok. Haha.

Jeanne: Ah, are you conquering TikTok?

A.K.: I’m attempting TikTok. It’s not fruitful at this time. TikTok is very focused on spicy content. And the niche groups are harder to find (however not impossible, I hear).

Vania: Through trial and error, I’ve realized that Amazon Ads are very cover-dependent. (Who knew, right? 😵‍💫) I always show this as an example:

I had one cover for my age-gap romance, but it screamed women’s fiction. I was getting a ton of clicks because the cover was pretty, but once they read the blurb, they wanted nothing to do with it. I changed the cover and now at least when I get a click, I’ll sometimes get a sale. At least I’ve stopped wasting money.

Jeanne: That’s the problem for me. Besides that I don’t like the platform, mine just is not spicy.

A.K.: Ohhhhh. Yeah, those are totally different genres. Smart move!

Vania: But I don’t have enough books to scale. Under my name was sub-genre hopping, and now under my initials I don’t have enough books out to say either way. I make money off my ads, just not a lot.

Jeanne: Yeah, I think I had that same problem. At first I could get some clicks, but the cover looks more “grown up” historical fiction, and the blurb reads more juvenile lust fest, so the 2 don’t match up, so now Amazon just won’t show the ads. Why should it bother? Lol

Vania: I don’t wanna do TikTok. I have carpal tunnel, and the thought of being on my phone like that makes my skin crawl. I know there are ways of posting on my laptop, but ugh.

Jeanne: Hey, if you make money rather than lose it, you are ahead of the game!

Vania: To play with TikTok’s algos, don’t you also have to follow and comment on other people? That sounds like sensory overload to me.

A.K.: Making money from ads is great! My plan for the winter is learning Amazon ads. Yes, TikTok is all about engagement. You need to do a lot to get a little in return. As for marketing, I’m looking to redo the cover of my first novel. I think it’s holding me back. Just need to figure it out!

Jeanne: And to do it well, you have to be so purposeful. To be honest, I’m just not interested in being that purposeful about anything. It’s exhausting, and I’ve pretty much given up on the idea that I will ever actually be “successful.” I’m trying to get back to just having fun and enjoying it. The only thing I do wish is that I had more readers. I think my books are great, for the right people, and I think there are more ppl out there who would like them, so I would like to get them into those people’s hands. Same here. I KNOW my covers don’t help me. I just cannot figure out what they should be instead, and …

Vania: If Amazon doesn’t know where to put you, they will definitely bury you. On the bright side, if you run them and they do that, they don’t cost you any money LOL

Jeanne: I’ve been feeling perverse about it lately, like, “these are the covers, dammit! And I’ve gotten some ppl to read the book, even with unlike covers. My covers.” That’s so unhelpful to myself, but I’ve been feeling feisty. I’ll get over it!

A.K.: Covers are hard. I need outside opinions because I’m not certain of how to do visual expression.

Vania: I don’t want to use TikTok to sell my book. I want to use it because I enjoy being on it, you know? Posting mini book trailers all the time or “teasers” for the sole purpose of selling my book seems even more scammy than tweeting a link all the time.

A.K.: Hahahaha. TikTok is overwhelming that way. It feels scammy for sure.

Jeanne: Yeah, Amazon is definitely happy to bury me! Unpopular opinion here, but I have no issue spamming my book.

Vania: When I was doing my trilogy covers, I took it very personally. I wanted what I wanted, and I liked the models that chose the first time, and honestly, you just have to disconnect that part of yourself and say, I’ll put what I need to sell my books on them and be done. So I used some guys that have been used before and did a background that would blend in with other books, and I just hope it’s enough. I don’t mind buying ads, but when you’re on a social media platform and that’s all you use it for, or that’s all you go into it thinking that’s what you’re going to use it for, that’s hard for me. I have no interest in TikTok and that’s all it would be for me.

Jeanne: I know. And I’ve been *this* close to changing. But I don’t know what to change them to, or even if the covers are really the issue. Maybe it’s the blurb. Maybe it’s just the books – they are for a specific audience, and maybe that’s not a big audience anymore.

Vania: I do all my own covers, A.K. I’m happy to brainstorm with you anytime.

A.K.: For my second book, I had my friend read it and suggest a cover for me and I was like “thank you!” Because I never would have gotten there. Is it a marketable cover? Not sure, but I love it and it fits my book.

Jeanne: Oh yeah, I have no interest in TikTok. If my books were spicy, then sure. I’d pretty much have to, but then I’d have ready-made content and I’d be pretty sure eventually it would help me sell the books. As it is? I already find myself overselling the “sexiness” of my books, b/c that’s what people want, and there is a lot of lust and sensuality, but that’s not the essence of my books, and I feel sleazy afterward.

A.K.: Thank you, Vania!

Vania: Sex sells, but you can’t be too misleading either, or you’ll disappoint readers who are looking for that and then it’s not there.

A.K.: I like making videos sometimes, so I do it. TikTok though requires a schedule and a commitment, etc. I work full time so it’s not really possible.

Jeanne: To be honest, I hired someone to do my cover at the beginning. I was going to get a professional cover! Yay! And then I felt like even though it was supposedly super reputable and a great place for indies and yada yada yada, I felt like I got scammed. So I was still willing to pay again, but to whom? Who could I trust to give me a great cover and not rip off a defenseless nobody? That’s when I made my own.

A.K.: People get very upset if they go into a book they think is smutty and there’s no sex. I always tag mine #nospice on TikTok to avoid backlash. Haha. Yes, it’s hard to know who to pick!

Jeanne: Ah, yeah – mine’s YA so I think that should be at least clear that it’s not going to be smut! It’s probably a little spicy for YA, not b/c of what happens, but because of the adult sensibilities and sensuality, but hey. I had a reviewer call it “panty-melting PG,” lol.

A.K.: Some YA can get pretty spicy without crossing the line. Haha that’s an awesome review.

Jeanne: Yeah, also calls the MMC “Darcy on steroids” – love that, too.

A.K.: Sometimes reviewers know how to sum up our characters and plot better than we do. Haha. That’s great though.

Jeanne: For sure! Sometimes they remember what happened better than I do, too.

A.K.: Haha! I went to BookCon and apparently one author uses fan art or fan wikis to remember characters eye colours. I wish I could remember which author said that. Made me laugh.

Jeanne: Right now I’m doing an event on my author FB page that I’m calling “13 day of Journeys,” posting a series of posts w/ content and interactive stuff Journeys’ publication. It’s a lot of work but it’s very fun — just a really small little group of participants, but it’s great. That’s hilarious! I usually don’t mention my characters’ eye colors, so that’s helpful, ha!

A.K.: What? That’s so cool! Such an awesome idea.

Jeanne: Yeah, I wish I’d thought it out a little better so it had better content, but it’s been fun. If you’re bored and want to check it out to see what I’ve done, I put a hashtag on it so that ppl could mute it if it was too much for them & their feeds, but that also means you can search it. It’s #13daysofjourneys.

A.K.: I will!

Vania: I wish I was as creative as you, Jeanne! Even just what you tweet on Twitter is amazing!

Jeanne: It’s all pretty juvenile, but that’s me. If I have to be entirely professional about it all, what’s the point? I’ve already got a profession! Oh, gosh! Thanks! I think I have a really big advantage, and that’s that I don’t really have to care if I ever “make it” as a writer. I’m old, I have a full-time job. I’ve already accepted that I won’t support myself with it. So I can just have fun with it all. That’s very freeing. It means I don’t have to follow all of the “rules”.

Vania: If we can’t have fun writing, we might as well all stop. The second this becomes a chore, I’m out. I need to love what I’m doing, or I might as well get a second job. I could use the money LOL

Jeanne: Oh, sure–I could use money! But in fact I’m losing money on my book, so …!

A.K.: Yes! I would just like to work my day job a little less and write a little more. That’s my goal!

Vania: Are you guys winding down? We actually hit most of the questions unless you want to answer my last, and that is, what do you have planned for 2023 when it comes to your writing, publishing, and marketing? Seems so simple yet so far away, doesn’t it, A.K.?

Jeanne: Sure, I’ll answer. I have GOT to get book 3 out! I’ve already got readers who want it, and I want to finish it for myself, too. As for marketing, that’s the rub, isn’t it? It’s going to be a long time before I have a new book, and then it’s a number 3 in a continuous series, so … yeah, marketing is pretty dead for me. That’ll be interesting!

Vania: How long does it take you to write 600 pages?

A.K.: For 2023, I’m hoping to have at least one more book out in the world! I would like to learn more about marketing and the best way to reach ideal readers. It seems like a good next step with two books out. Looking forward to what 2023 holds for this journey. 😊

Jeanne: Ha ha! It’s all relative. That first book … when I came back to it and got on a roll, I wrote most of it in about 8 months or so …

A.K.: 600 in 8 months is wild! Awesome!

Jeanne: The second book (1273 KENP, so figure! It’s longer) took me a lot longer, b/c I didn’t have the same ability to stay in the flow and just write. It took me some years. And it all depends for me on the writer’s block/ inspiration. If I’m writing the right thing, then I can write fast. But if I’m not … if I’m thinking about it wrong or have the wrong things happening and I get stuck, well … I might never finish! This book 3 has been kicking my ass.

Vania: It’s the fortunate writer who actually has time for it.

Jeanne: Yeah, I have none. and it isn’t just time. It’s mental clarity/mental “time.” Last year was the worst of my whole life. It took all the momentum out of everything. It didn’t leave a lot of room for creativity. But I also care about these books. They don’t have to be great. Or masterpieces. Or anything. BUT it does matter to me that I can feel that I like them, love them, even, and that’s not always easy to achieve. Just writing down the words to tell the story isn’t enough for me for this series. I really need to feel like I’ve done a decent job of it, at least, and I’m not sure I can do that.

A.K.: Sometimes it’s hard to get that clarity. I have a lot of family things always on the go and it takes up a lot of my mental capacity. I try to squeeze it in, but it can sometimes be hard!

Jeanne: Yes, family and kiddos take up so much energy! And I’ve learned the hard way.

A.K.: For sure. I am child-free but I help my aging grandma and chronically ill mom. I’m lucky they’re more independent than children. But it’s still draining.

Jeanne: Writing when I’m not “feeling it” is detrimental. I end up with garbage on the page but after it gels for a while, it is hard for me to change. It’s like I’m a potter making a pot. While the clay is fresh, I can change it. But once it dries, it’s the pot. I can’t do anything but try to disguise the flaws with glaze. Oh yes! I’ve got an aging mother and I know how stressful that can be – even though she’s in a retirement apartment so I’m not doing the care myself.

A.K.: That makes sense! It’s good you know your limit or what you need at least. I, on the other hand, need to keep writing even if I don’t want to because getting out of a routine is bad for me. I just don’t force myself to write anything specific.

Vania: I am so sorry, A.K. that does sound like it would take a lot of time and energy. I’m sorry you’re going through that. I understand, Jeanne. I have never been a “write every day” kind of person. I need to want to write or else why bother. A.K. that’s why I blog–if I don’t feel like writing, at least I’m still putting words somewhere. it’s a different outlet for me that keeps my hand in.

A.K.: Good call! Well, I do have to head out! Have some pre-bed time things to take care of around the house. I just want to thank you, Vania, for facilitating this! It was wonderful learning about your processes and your writing lives! Also, for allowing me to share about my own. ❤️

Vania: Thanks for taking the time, A.K.! I appreciate it very much.  Have a wonderful night!

A.K.: It was lovely chatty with you both. Have a good night!

Jeanne: Thanks for hosting this, V! Great chatting w/ you guys.

Vania: You’re welcome! It was fun sharing what we’ve been working on and what we find frustrating about the business.  Maybe we can do this again sometime. Goodnight!


If you want check out Jeanne’s and A.K.’s books or follow them on social media, here are the links:

Jeanne: Her books are available on Amazon, on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Paperback. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09L6KZ8D7
And you can also like her author Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/jeannerolandwrites

A.K.: You can find her books on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/A-K-Ritchie/e/B09HJX6R6P
And check out her author website: www.akritchie.com

Compassion Fatigue. What is it, and how does it affect your marketing?

Tired and sad woman sitting at desk with forehead resting on her hands.

Lots going on over on Twitter last week. Elon Musk reluctantly took over causing a tsunami of emotions. A lot of people talked about leaving (and still are), only to follow up that thought with, where else is there to go? Twitter is a unique experience, offering bite-sized content and opportunities to respond to other people in 280 characters or less. If you’ve read any of my prior blog posts, you’ll know I spend a lot of time over there, but I don’t use it as a promotional tool. Plenty of people do, and what started popping up in my feed after Musk took over surprised me. More than one person said, “If I have to leave Twitter, there goes my writing career.” As an example:

This is actually a common refrain, people depending on Twitter and nothing else because it’s free, and as long as you tweet regularly so the algorithms remember who you are, you can nurture a decent reach. But no matter how far you reach, after a while you will run out of people who will want to buy your books. Maybe that saturation point will take a while, especially if you’re new and you put a lot of effort into building your account, but anyone with a huge account can tell you that Twitter doesn’t sell books in the number they wish it did.

Where does compassion fatigue come in? Let’s first take a look at what it is. I hadn’t heard of it until I was chatting with my friend Sami-Jo about this very topic which led to this blog post. According to WebMD compassion fatigue is:

Compassion fatigue is a term that describes the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others — often through experiences of stress or trauma. Compassion fatigue is often mistaken for burnout, which is a cumulative sense of fatigue or dissatisfaction.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-compassion-fatigue

When you think of Twitter and marketing, you think of posting promotional material like this:

made with Canva

Or maybe something not so fancy like this:

Add a link, and there you go. Something quick and cute that can reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people in a few minutes. I can see why Twitter would be people’s first choice. Free and easy, it gives off the illusion you’re marketing. I say only the illusion of marketing because to truly market and advertise your books, you need to show those ads to readers who read your genre and want to buy. Writer Twitter is full of writers, and while, yes, we are readers, we don’t read nearly as much as a reader who doesn’t write. Also, there is a mish-mash of genres on Twitter, and even if your promo reaches 1,000 of your followers, only 10 of those could read the genre you’re writing in.

So, let’s take this a little farther. You’re promoting your books, chatting with other authors, sell a handful, but not as many as you think you should because you spend A LOT OF TIME on Twitter (and buying indie books, but let’s not go there because a buy for a buy is icky and we don’t do that, right?). Time that could be better spent writing, if you’re honest with yourself. And this is where compassion fatigue comes into play. You start complaining about sales. Tweeting screenshots of your empty sales dashboard, moaning that a new release didn’t take off. Then some of your friends buy one of your books to cheer you up, and for that customer, you’ve reached your saturation limit. Then you do it again and again for every new release, and you get more bitter and more bitter because your friends aren’t going to buy every book you write. They can’t. They can’t afford $4.99 a book every time you release. They have their own careers and family obligations to see to, and let’s face it, $4.99 is a gallon of milk, right? They have kids they need to feed, and times right now are tough. You get angry your books aren’t selling because you need money too, they get sad and not a little upset because they’ve helped you and can’t anymore.

Complaining about sales when you use Twitter to find readers will only tell the people who have bought your books that their purchases weren’t enough.

When you complain on Twitter and you garner some sales from tweeting your empty sales dashboard, those sales turn into pity buys, and that is not a good sustainable marketing strategy.

So when someone says, I don’t have a writing career without Twitter, I’m baffled because yes, while it’s free, there are several other ways to promote your books. Relying on only one way is a fool’s game and one you won’t win. I’ve blogged a lot over the past couple of years on ways you can market your book that’s not Twitter, and those are: buy a promo from places like Free/Bargainbooksy, E-reader News Today, Robin’s Reads, Fussy Librarian, and more. Buying a slot in one of those reader newsletters will grab you more readers than hours of tweeting into the void. Write a reader magnet, set up a newsletter, and build your reader list through platforms like Bookfunnel and StoryOrigin. Learn how to use Amazon ads and run a couple of low cost-per-click ads. I would rather run ads and sell a couple of books a day than spend hours on Twitter begging people to buy my book. Publish consistently, and that means the number of books a year as well as not genre-hopping for a bit to build an audience for that genre.

I get that authors are afraid to sink money into their books, but ads and promos are only expensive if your book isn’t advertising ready and it doesn’t sell (after all, you’re supposed to make more than you spend. That’s the point of an ad.). I’ve seen people say, I bought a promo and didn’t earn my fee back. That’s a you problem, not a promo problem (and definitely not a Twitter problem). Likely, your cover wasn’t good enough, or the ad copy they ask you to write to go along with a picture of your cover wasn’t hooky enough. Maybe you were trying to promote a standalone when a lot of earning a fee back consists of read-through or the purchases of other books in the series.

The good news is, if you’re losing money on promos, you can adjust. Write something new. Replace your cover with something from GetCovers (their prices are very inexpensive compared to some that are out there). Workshop your blurb and change it on your Amazon product page. But out of anything you can do, stop complaining on Twitter. Your friends and followers aren’t responsible for your writing career. They can’t carry you. They want to write and sell their own books. After a while, they’ll get sick of seeing your promos and hearing you beg. They’ll mute you out of bitterness and a feeling of worthlessness that their support wasn’t good enough for you.

If Elon Musk shuts down Twitter either by fault or design, how fucked would you be? Would you consider your writing career destroyed, or would you simply adjust your sails and chart a different course? I’d miss some friends I’ve met on Twitter and don’t know how to contact any other way, and maybe I wouldn’t see as much traffic on my blog as I do now, but Twitter closing up shop would have zero affect on my book sales. That’s a good thing. If you depend on Twitter and you’re telling yourself you have nowhere else to go, you’ve trapped yourself there out of fear. Don’t do that. You are in control of your writing career, not Elon Musk. Figure things out for yourself because not everything is forever.

As for the tweet above? She did end up with a few pity buys, and maybe that’s the way publishing works for her, but it’s not the way it works for me, and I hope it’s not the way it works for you.

At some point I’ll probably get beat up for this blog post, and I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad or embarrass anyone. Writing and publishing for me is pretty much my whole world, and if I depended on one unsteady platform for my longevity, I would quit writing and funnel my passion into something else. It truly is a lonely road, and isolating yourself only makes it worse. There’s talk now that everyone will need to be verified on Twitter if they want their tweets seen, and the cost will be $11.00 a month. Why sink further into the pit if you plan on paying that? If Twitter isn’t working for you now, it won’t work for you then.

With the holidays coming up and a shaky economy, I wish all of you good luck writing and publishing and hope 2023 is your best year ever.

Thursday Author Update

It’s been a while since I posted on a Thursday, mostly because I haven’t had that much to say and I’ve been using Mondays as my author update days. Since last Monday was about book reviews, I thought I would use today to update you on my trilogy and what I’m doing now.

My proofs for my trilogy came back, and they are lovely. There are always going to be some tweaks, and I think I’m going to sharpen the background pictures a little more so that they look like they are actually standing in front of a city. The blur above the models’ right shoulders is actually the two buildings on the lower left of the back covers. Otherwise, I think the background colors are rich and beautiful and I have no doubt (not like my duet) that these will hit the market okay. I’ve gotten a few compliments on the large ampersand on the backs, as well, and I’m going to make the changes upload the final files this week/weekend.

I was going back and forth on what to write next as I have three standalones I could write pretty quickly, but in the end, I decided to finish a series I started last year. I have two books done, and I need four more. The first book I started as a standalone but as I got into it, it made sense for me to turn it into a series. It’s about a woman who’s father decides she should settle down and marry. He devises a list of acceptable potential husbands and tells his business partner that if he wants 50% of the company he needs to see to it that his daughter marries one of the men on the list. His business partner is in love with his daughter, of course, and the twist is, he’s not on the list, forcing him to choose between love with and 50% of a company he worked all his life for. It was a fun book to write, but while I was writing it, I realized that the men on the list could use their own stories, and that’s how the whole project was born.

It’s a little unsettling to realize that committing to this series will tie up the next year of writing for me. I can write relatively quickly for all the stuff I have going on in my life… I can comfortably write 80k words in 6-8 weeks, but then there’s editing and formatting, and covers to consider. Not to mention these books aren’t plotted out yet, and figuring out the story and how it layers into the plot is the real work of writing something this big. I waited until the last minute to put together my trilogy covers, unease and uncertainty chasing me until I practically hit publish, and I’d like a more solid plan this time around. (I already played with covers and titles for the first book–before I realized it would launch a series, or be a part of a new billionaire brand under my pen name. It’s so funny how covers and concepts evolve.) (And headless models. FFS, no! LOL) These are covers attached to a blog post on titling your book, and you can read it here.

I’m also thinking of how to brand this series, and what it’s going to be called. I like the idea of calling the series The List, and titling every book after the male character featured in it. It’s a departure from what I normally do, and I won’t have to think of titles for six books (which, let’s be honest, is a real headache).

So yeah, the last time I had a whole year accounted for, we were in lockdown and things felt pretty isolated anyway. I’m going to have to settle in, fall in love with these characters, and keep in touch with online writing friends so I don’t get lonely. But these books will be a nice addition to my backlist and I’ll be proud of them once their done.

In the mean time, I’ll make the adjustments to my trilogy, but I don’t know if I want to put the first one on BookSprout only because book one with reviews and books two and three with none would look odd (and give the impression of no read-through). Maybe I’ll look into paying for the next package so I can put all three books up at the same time, and I’ve always offered free copies to Twitter and my newsletter hoping for more reviews (that never come). So I have side things to keep me busy.


I haven’t given any love to my 3rd person books in a long time, so I scheduled a Freebooksy for my small town holiday wedding series for November 17-19th. I’m not even sure why I bothered since I’m not nurturing that pen name anymore (meaning, I’m not writing new books for it) but if the promo does as well as it did before (and the first book has six times the reviews it had before) then there’s no money lost. If you want to read how it went the first time, you can find it here. For the hell of it, since I’m not moving books anyway, I also scheduled the same free days for All of Nothing, The Years Between Us, and Wherever He Goes. The best thing about free days is if a reader has a Kindle Unlimited subscription, they’ll usually borrow it in KU before downloading it for free (and a borrow has the same weight as a paid sale). That’s why free promos, if you’re in KU, pay for themselves. It will be an exciting weekend, to say the least. I’m going to go ahead and still do another promo in January when my trilogy releases and focus on my 1st person books. But it makes sense to promote holiday books around the holidays, so no harm done. And for some reason, my paperbacks are extremely cheap right now, so maybe this promo will move some paperbacks, too. Who knows.

That’s about all I have going on. Going on a road trip with my sister on Monday to Bismarck, ND to eat at their Cracker Barrel and roam their mall. I’m hoping by that Tuesday I’ll be done with trilogy stuff and can really hop into this series. I was doing a little planning on it last night, old school, with pen and paper, but I didn’t get too far into it with my trilogy proofs mocking me from my desk. I never really could work on more than one thing at a time, but at least I don’t have “Look! Squirrel!” syndrome and finish the projects I start.

For Monday’s blog I’ll talk about my hardcovers, and I have a chat coming up with Jeanne Roland and A. K. Ritchie about publishing a second book, marketing, and all the fun stuff in between.

Thanks for reading today, and have a great weekend!

Your book’s back cover.

It might be surprising to hear that your book’s back cover doesn’t have to be ugly. In fact, you can put as much time into the back that you do the front, and while your back cover may not get the love your front cover does, when a reader flips your paperback over, it’s a nice surprise to reveal a pretty back cover that they could potentially love just as much as the front.

Some authors may not put forth much effort or thought into their back cover as they are focused on ebook sales, and that’s something I think about too, since my books are in KU. No one cares about the back cover of a paperback they aren’t going to buy, and more than likely, if you’re in KU and catering to whale readers (let’s say, romance), unless you really knock their socks off, may not even remember your name once they’re done skimming, reading your book. I mean, that’s fine–I get page reads whether a reader devours and savors every word or they skim for the sex. But you know when a reader shells out POD prices for a paperback that they love you and your books, so why not reward them with something extra special? I don’t mean tucking a 20 between the pages, though that could be something fun to do at some point.

Here are some tips on how to make your book cover shine:

Don’t choose a solid color (and if you do, expect to add some embellishment or it will look plain [see below]).
This is difficult if the image you choose for your front is vertical and not horizontal. This is what was tripping me up when I was doing my most recent trilogy. For the first round of model picks, they were all vertical and didn’t share a similar background that would make a pretty wrap. It’s especially disheartening when you’re doing more than one book and you need to keep their covers similar. Most, if not all, of my covers use a horizontal image so the back cover is taken care of. I would recommend finding a horizontal photo that can be used for the back, spine, and front. If that’s not possible, or you have your heart set on a stock photo that’s vertical, you can use up all that blank space with your blurb, your author photo and bio, maybe an author logo, and the book’s title. My book, All of Nothing, used a vertical photo for the front cover, but I was lucky and turned it black and white and was able to use a black color for the back.

The blurb sucks (don’t read it LOL) and I would move the placement of my author bio to the right of the picture, but my blurb fills the space because I spaced it out. Now I usually add the title of the book to the back as well, but this book is four years old and revamping the back cover isn’t on the my list of priorities at the moment (especially since the paperback is with IngramSpark and I would have to pay $29 dollars to replace the file), though looking at how plain it is, I suppose it could be.

If you add an author picture, add your bio.
There’s no point in having your author photo on the back of your book if you don’t want to add a couple lines of bio to it. It will just be a floating head if you don’t. It’s not hard to say, Vania Rheault loves winter and lives with her two cats in Minnesota. When she’s not writing, she’s sleeping, and you can find her at vaniamargene.com. So many people agonize over what to put, but just think of two or three things that everyone knows about you. It doesn’t have to be interesting or insightful. If you balk at that, skip the photo. I also have an author photo and a longer bio in the backs of all my books. I remember when I was creating the back cover of All of Nothing I knew I needed to take up space, and one of my other standalones I wrote around that same time (Wherever he Goes) was easier to put together, though it had a vertical photo for its front cover too.)

You can tell I was working on my photo manipulation skills here, fading out the bottom for the title on the front and using the bottom of the photo for the blurb on the back. This is the original photo:

courtesy of depositphotos.com

I still love everything about this book and consider it one of my biggest achievements though it sells like crap. Meaning, I haven’t sold a copy since July of this year. Which is more recent than I expected, to be honest.

Have fun with how your blurb looks!
This might not be too big of a deal in person if you’re focused on digital sales, but if you ever do a book signing or a convention, the first thing a potential reader is going to do is flip your book over to read the blurb. If your blurb is a big block of text, no one is going to want to read that. As Bryan Cohen likes to say, confused shoppers don’t buy. Don’t intimidate them. Space out your blurb like the ones above, and keep your blurb down to 200 words or less. If you want tips on how to write one, look here. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-back-cover-blurb-that-sells (This is actually good advice for your book’s product page on Amazon, too. Make the most of the blurb formatter KDP has so generously updated when you publish your book.)
I don’t have any examples from my own books for this–dual POV takes up a lot of room if you want both sides for the blurb–some authors give both, some stick with the male, some stick with the female. I am trying something else out for my new trilogy that I’ll be publishing in January–columns for the POVs instead of long paragraphs. This is how my blurb for dual POV looks for Rescue Me, the book I just released:

For their names, I used the same font as the title, and really, it’s a pretty plain back cover, all things considered.
And these are the columns I’m going to try for the trilogy:

I’m especially proud of the ombre coloring of the text, and I’m excited to get these proofs. These are the prettiest book covers I’ve done in a long time, and though they may not be 100% billionaire, I’m hoping they convey the genre well enough they garner good sales. I won’t know until I release them, but I searched for “hotter” guys than what I put on my duet, so I hope it makes a difference.

Tell readers how to find you.
I have always referred to the bottom left-hand corner of a book’s back cover as the crap corner. It looks weird blank, and over the years I have changed what I put there. I used to have my social media icons there, now I mostly stick to my website. It still looks bare, but it’s better that nothing. At one point I created a logo to put there for my new pen name, but the cover looks clearer without it (in my opinion) and I always use the same font as the front cover.

The back of your book doesn’t have to be dull–and maybe it shouldn’t be. If you ever hope to go to an author signing or convention, or simply want to give your book away, it’s fun to have the back cover look just as pretty as the front. It tells your reader that you care about the final product of your book. If you want more ideas on back covers, here are a couple of articles I found on the subject.

Write a Book Back Cover They Can’t Ignore: Tips & Examples

Back Book Cover Design: Everything you need to know

A collection of front and back covers on Pinterest.

A couple more tips before I wrap up:
You don’t need to make your font huge. It’s tempting since you have all that space back there, but you don’t need the astronauts in space to be able to read it. Your back cover really will look funny once you hold your book in your hands, so add what you can to the back and keep your font size to a minimum. The font size for the columns on Give & Take is 10.6 in Playfair Display and you don’t need anything bigger than that.
Then two, if you publish through IngramSpark, they force you to match the price on the back with your list price, so you can’t suddenly decide to raise or lower your price without having to change the cover as well. I found that to be a huge PITA, so I stopped adding my prices to the back. If I were just publishing through KDP, maybe I would still since it looks professional to have the price back there (but I never buy the barcodes so I don’t have the price embedded into it anyway) but it’s not a big loss for the hassle it saves me.


Book covers from my friends that I like. All images taken from Amazon.com and these are not affiliate links.

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/