Monday Musings and Quick Author Update

Words: 1100
Time to read: 6 minutes

Happy Monday, if you like that kind of thing. Today, incidentally, is the first day of May, as well, which means everyone should probably check to see how their ads are doing and compare ad spend with royalties earned. Because my Amazon ads were running away with clicks but my royalties didn’t seem to be keeping up, I paused some of them. Sometimes that’s not the best idea, but until royalties catch up, I can only spend so much. I’ve made $219.62 this month in sales, spent $108.00 on Amazon Ads (my fault I wasn’t keeping track of them) and $39.96 on my Facebook ad for Rescue Me. Of course, that’s not great (an ROI of $71.66), and I take all the blame for my Amazon ads. I had one going for Rescue Me that didn’t make any sense, because those clicks were .34 which is what I earn on a .99 book. My FB ad is .13/click so I make a tiny something. Mostly I’m using it as a gateway to my other books, and just from Rescue Me this month I made $72.22 so at least the FB ad is paying for itself.

Over the weekend I put Faking Forever on Bookfunnel to offer a few ARCs to my newsletter subscribers and later this month I’ll need to put it on Booksprout for reviews. That is going to go live around the 17th sometime, and I need to book another promo for Give & Take. I wanted to for Captivated but that duet isn’t selling and as I have lamented before, there’s no point in trying to throw money at that duet anymore. If people find it with my low click bid ads, that’s cool, but as my backlist grows, it may just get lost in the shuffle.

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about why I give away a full novel as my reader magnet for my newsletter subscribers. You hear a lot of opinions on it. No one wants to put in that amount of work into something for nothing, or they want to make money off selling it instead. Maybe they can write something shorter that still gets the job done (but how you would measure that is debatable–maybe if no one signs up would be a hint). I can understand the reluctance, and I tried writing short for my reader magnet too. But when I realized it would be easier to just give away something longer, the idea wasn’t so painful. Mostly, I heard advice a long time ago that made sense: you want to give your readers a taste of what you write. I will never write a novella, nor do I write short stories. My Biggest Mistake is the perfect example of what I’m writing under my pen name. It’s 78k words long, is about a billionaire who finds love (and family), and it’s steamy. There really is nothing better I could give away, and if the readers who picked it up don’t like that, they sure as hell aren’t going to like what’s in my backlist I’m selling.

Someone in one of my writing groups said she read that people think their email is worth ten to twenty dollars. I tried to find the source, but after snooping around online for a bit, I gave up. What’s important here is that people don’t give their email addresses to just anyone and for just anything. Authors who don’t like newsletters and haven’t started one because of their own personal biases will probably believe this more than anyone. They protect their email and will only give it away if they know it’s worth it. A $4.99 ebook more than likely isn’t worth it unless the cover and blurb really pull them in, but perhaps the books you’ve already written add to the value, the books you’ll write, and the special offers you’ll only give newsletter subscribers might be enough to tip them over the edge. Since I started my newsletter last year around this time, I’ve given my reader magnet away 952 times. I collect email addresses through Bookfunnel and Bookfunnel sends them directly to my MailerLite account. I don’t force people to give me their address, so I’m 300 email addresses short in my MailerLite account. I was hoping to add people who really wanted to be there by giving them the choice.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is, you need to make sure you’re giving value to your subscribers, and not think you’re entitled to emails just because you have a newsletter. A little short story may not do it, though there are plenty of ways to entice readers, one way being writing bonus content for newsletter subscribers only. I’m too lazy to do this– and once a story’s done in my mind, it’s done. I had one reviewer for Rescue Me say she appreciated I didn’t dangle bonus content in front of her in the form of a newsletter sign up, and I don’t do that because I’m already giving away a book and don’t feel the need to give away anything more than that. It frees up a lot of headspace.

My novel took 3 months to write and I can use it for years to build my list. I think that’s a great return on investment. I can understand if it takes you longer to write a book, but you will have to decide what you want to offer instead. It may not be good enough to entice subscribers and it will take you a lot longer to build your list.

This is all I have for his week. I’m just trying like mad to get the last book of this trilogy written, and it’s been one of those books that are more fun to read than to write. I’m going to have to make a serious effort to finish up in the next couple of weeks. I’ve already went back and read this book from the beginning twice, so I don’t need to do it again. I know exactly what I need to get it done, I just need to stop letting things get in the way. I’ve enjoyed writing this trilogy very much, and like all the other books I’ve written, I’ll be sad when their stories are done and it’s time to move on. After these are good to go, I may be able to squeeze in a Christmas novel. I really want to write one and have some kind of holiday auction plot simmering in the back of my mind, but we’ll see. I need to finish the book I AM writing first and take it from there.

Have a great first week of May everyone! Make every day count!

Formulaic writing: What does that mean?

I’m lurking in writing groups and on social media way more than I should be, but there are days where you just need to sit with a cup of coffee and scroll. I admit, I like a little discourse with my coffee along with my chocolate creamer, and like the engagement questions thrown about on that bird app all the time, I like to ruffle feathers, too. My most recent, and I think most successful as it garnered more engagement than most of my tweets in the past was this one:

One of the most surprising things people said was that studying the market that way leads for formulaic writing. You can scroll through the replies yourself if you want: I’m not interested in calling anyone out because this actually is a common way of thinking.

So what is formulaic writing:

In popular culture, formula fiction is literature in which the storylines and plots have been reused to the extent that the narratives are predictable. It is similar to genre fiction, which identifies a number of specific settings that are frequently reused.

Formula fiction - Wikipedia

Personally, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. We all know there are only seven plots out there, and we reuse those plots over and over.

Many academics, most notably author Christopher Booker, believe there are only seven basic narrative plots in all of storytelling – frameworks that are recycled again and again in fiction but populated by different settings, characters, and conflicts. Those seven types of story are:

Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return

Obviously there is a lot of room to twist these plots into your own story, and we all do as thousands of books are published every month. Having seven plots is very much like writing romance using tropes. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and as a writer, you are free to twist them in any way you want. Why Ali Hazelwood got so much flak for revealing in a Goodreads interview that she wrote one of her books with the tropes her agent suggested will never not make me speechless. If you want to read the article, you can look here.

Regardless of what her agent suggested, it’s still her book, her characters, her writing style, her voice. It’s not any different than a romance author digging into a fishbowl full of little slips of paper and pulling out a trope that they want to write their next book around. (I really should get on that only one bed.)

So why is there so much dislike when it comes to writing this kind of thing? Authors want to think of themselves as artists first–their books are works of art, and writing to market is like a painter using a paint-by-numbers kit. There’s no originality, no creative exploration at play. Which I think is a load of crap. People crotchet use patterns, so do people who sew quilts. People who make clothing can use patterns too–are they any less talented than the designers who create fashions and dress models who strut the catwalk?

We fear writing books that are predictable (read: boring), but if every romance author had that fear, we would never write anything. There is nothing more predictable than a 3rd act break up and a happily ever after. But in the romance genre, that’s the point. Romance readers want that and expect that, and there is hell to pay in nasty reviews if an author says their book is a romance but it doesn’t end happily (that’s a love story, by the way).

There’s a snobbishness about all of it, but there is value in not reinventing the wheel. Why build a graphic from scratch when you can use a Canva template? We see book covers all the time using a Canva template. We search newsletter and blog prompts for things to write about. We even ask ChatGPT for his ideas. There is no true originality out there anymore, and I guess that’s the point. Authors who think they are being original like to lord it over those who aren’t, but let me tell you. I’m lazy. You work your ass off for your mixed genre book with your ten points of view, and I’ll be over here having fun playing with tropes I know readers are going to want to read.

I tweeted that because it never will never cease to amaze me how much authors want their work read, how much authors want sales to show up on their sales dashboards, but whenever they ask how other authors do it, they shun the answer! The answer is right there, and it gets completely ignored, or worse, authors are written off as selling their souls or writing subpar work.

There’s a science in writing to market, to writing books with beats. That’s why there are books out there that tell you how to do it. Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes is popular, so is Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. You can read more about what makes a book a bestseller The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. Books written in this way give readers what they want: a feel good read. That’s why “they” say you shouldn’t genre hop when you’re trying to build an audience. You want to consistently deliver books your readers want, and what they know they’ll like.

For more on formulaic writing, you can look at this article–they did a better job explaining it than I did. Formulaic Books: Faulty or Fabulous?

I don’t think I’ll be spending much time on Twitter anymore if the changes Musk threatened us with takes place. I don’t have the money to pay for a checkmark–I’d rather save that money for ads and promos. My life will probably be better for it, and I’m slowly following more people on Instagram so I don’t entirely lose touch with all my friends. Maybe my blood pressure will go down when I’m not constantly bombarded with idiotic ideas or not-so-subtle insults about my writing.

Anyway, this third book is going well, but I’m not going to finish by the end of the month like I hoped. I’m not feeling good again. For just a little while I had a time where my girlie issues weren’t such a big deal, but I had a flare up last week that sent me to the clinic. All my test results came back negative, so it’s just my body not cooperating and there’s not much I can about it except try to ease the symptoms as there doesn’t seem to be a cure. I sympathize with anyone trying to write with a chronic issue, but it does give me something else to think about. I’ll just have to be a little more liberal with the pain meds–I try not to take them if I can help it, but there’s no point in playing the martyr either.

That is all I have for this post. I hope you had a good holiday if you celebrated and have a wonderful week!

The surprising ways signing up for a newsletter isn’t as helpful as you think.

Words: 1028
Time to read: 5 minutes

I see it a lot on social media in the writing community–people sign up for each other’s newsletters to be supportive, thinking they are doing a good thing. I would never want to discourage anyone from trying to help out another author. Support and encouragement are so important, and sometimes just a simple, “I’m here for you if you need me” can be the difference between an author opening their laptop and writing that next chapter or walking away from everything for good.

So when someone mentioned they sign up for newsletters to show support and I said unless you’re engaging with that content it’s not really that helpful, I felt bad. I felt bad for making her feel bad because she genuinely thought what she was doing was a good thing. She, and a few others, were surprised signing up for a newsletter wasn’t as supportive as they thought it was, but here’s why signing up for a newsletter and not opening that email and enjoying and engaging in that content can be a real downer for the author sending out that newsletter.

Most email aggregators are pay to play. Unless you send out your own newsletter, you probably don’t realize that authors usually pay for their newsletter aggregators. Some of them have a free threshold, such as MailChimp at 500 email subscribers, or MailerLite who will let you have 1,000 under their free plan. Some you pay for the second you sign up, so every email they collect counts. Successful indie authors can afford their lists, and having some dead weight probably doesn’t hurt them as much as smaller authors who stretch their marketing pennies. So keep in mind that the author you’re supporting might very well be paying for you to be on their list.

We know if you’re not opening our newsletters. With the built-in stats our aggregator provides, we know if you’re opening our newsletters or not. Maybe not YOU specifically, but MailerLite tells me my open rate for each newsletter I send out. You can sign up for a newsletter from every author friend you have, but how supportive are you if you’re not opening the emails sent to you? If you just automatically toss them into the trash? Like people who promote their books for no sales, authors get discouraged when they send out newsletters and no one bothers to look at them. Here are the stats from my newsletter I sent out in March:

A picture of my stats. The subject like of that newsletter was Blizzards, Sales, and Rockstars. The stats are 570 recipients, 33.69% open rate, and 1.23% of those clicked on the link inside the newsletter.

I have 570 email subscribers and only 33.69% of them opened my email. I included a link to something, I can’t remember what to now, but only 1.23% of that 33.69% bothered to click. Authors can cull their lists when they get too expensive and there’s not enough engagement for the cost, but it’s better all around if you’re signing up for newsletters from content creators that you’ll enjoy hearing from.

A low open-rate can affect our ability to join promotions. Authors who use newsletter builder sites and promotional sites such as StoryOrigin and Bookfunnel want to know what your open rate is before they’ll join in promos with you or ask you to join in theirs. That’s another reason why signing up for a newsletter but not opening and engaging with that content is hurtful. Tammi Labrecque who wrote Newsletter Ninja and runs the Newsletter Ninja: Author Think Tank Facebook group says a good open rate is about 40%. If you’re not opening the newsletters you sign up for, you’re hurting our chances of getting into these promotions. That’s the opposite of being supportive.

We start and offer newsletters to sell our product. The main reason we start a newsletter is to reach our customers. If you’re an author, you start a newsletter to hopefully sell your books to your subscribers. We want to build a community of readers who want to read our books and are willing to buy them. If you’re just signing up for a newsletter and not engaging with the content, you’re not going to want to buy our books. If you won’t give us your time, you definitely aren’t going to give us your money. Newsletters are an author’s strongest marketing tool–but only if their subscribers want to be on it and are happy to hear from us.

If you really want to support your author friends, the best thing you can do is read their books and talk about them. If they write in genres you don’t read, that’s not your fault and being truthful can go a long way. It’s an author’s job to promote their books, not yours, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do. I’ve turned down three people in the past couple of weeks who have asked me to read and review their books. I don’t read in those genres and I said no. With running this blog, sending out my newsletter, writing my books, and working full-time, I’m stretched thin, and that’s okay.

This wasn’t a blog post to tell you never to sign up for a newsletter, but be selective and sign up for newsletters from people you want to hear from because you enjoy their work. Of course we love it when we see new subscribers, but we want those subscribers to open our emails, enjoy the content, click on the links, and look forward to new releases. It’s difficult starting a newsletter and feeling like you’re not writing to anyone. It’s difficult to write a blog to no one, and it’s difficult to write a book when you have no readers. We all start somewhere, and little by little we grow our community. The writing community isn’t necessarily going to be your reading community, and that’s fine. We all write different genres and it’s one of the reasons I don’t share my newsletter link on Twitter–or on the blog for that matter. If anyone wants to sign up–they know how. The link is at the end of my books, and that’s the best way to gain subscribers.

How do you support your fellow authors and friends who write? Let me know, and have a great week!

Does it matter how long your (romance) book is?

Words: 2128
Time to read: 11 minutes

There was some romance discourse last week, well, maybe not discourse, as the topic was broached by people who weren’t fighting about it (sometimes respectful discussions can happen), but it is worth a look. They were talking about the length of a romance novel, and how long a romance novel really should be. It’s kind of a sticky subject because there are a lot of reasons why romance books are longer than they should be, or, for that matter, shorter than they could be.

In a time where attention spans are short and money is scarce, I can see how someone wouldn’t want to write long novels–and charge for them. People read in bite-sized chunks (Hello Kindle Vella and Amazon Short Reads) and move on to something else. Novellas appear popular these days (I’ll add a question mark because I don’t know that to be true from a reader standpoint) and if you’re a writer and can write two novellas a month, you can build a backlist and readership that much quicker.

My main concern is how people feel about longer novels. You can pat yourself on the back if you write 100k+ novel. It’s quite a feat to be able to pull that off. It’s more extraordinary if you can hold someone’s attention for that long, and that’s the rub. According to the discussion that I peeked in on, few authors can.

I remember when Lucy Score came out with Things We Never Got Over. There was much discussion about the fact that it’s 570 pages long, or over 140,000 words. Does a romance novel need to be that long? And since publishing that in January of 2022, she’s come out with two more in that series: Things We Hide from the Light (February of 2023) which is 592 pages long, and Things We Left Behind which will be out in September 2023. We can assume that book will be equal in length, and that means to read through the entire trilogy, you’re committing to 400,000 words. You can argue that if she’s a good a writer it doesn’t matter how long the books are. But, she also works with a professional editor who would (hopefully) tell her if her stories dragged.

More indies than we realize (or want to acknowledge) work without editors, especially developmental editors that can charge $1,000 dollars or more per manuscript. Indies aren’t getting the feedback they could to tighten up their books, and I get it. When you can’t find a beta reader who will help you for free or trade, many indies go without any kind of feedback before publishing. They don’t get opinions on that subplot, or how much crap they’ve thrown at their couple to extend the story. They don’t know how to pace themselves and bog their stories down with info dumps and add characters that don’t do anything to enrich their books. I’ve also read authors by Montlake (an Amazon imprint) whose reviews say similar things . . . the books were too long, the novel could have lost 100 pages and been a better read. So working with an editor doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up with a perfect product.

Is this opinion, or fact?

Does it matter?

The problem is, quality is subjective, and an author sure as hell can’t do anything about a reader’s attention span. Negative reviews can make it feel like it was the author’s fault they didn’t write a good book, when it actually could be the reader who had too much going on to settle in a read something that was more than 150 pages.

On the other hand, a book that’s only 150 pages that’s poorly written can feel like 1,000 pages and I’ve read first chapters that took me all day because I just couldn’t get through them. It doesn’t matter how long or short a book is if the writing is terrible or you don’t care about the characters.

I suppose the answer is you’ll find your readers if you deliver consistently. Over time, readers will come to know what you write, and if they’ve tried you and didn’t like you, for whatever reason, they’ll avoid new books.

I can’t write short. I have three full-length standalone novels that prove that when I was trying to write a novella-length reader magnet for my newsletter. I finally ended up offering the shortest one (77k words) and giving that away rather than keep trying to write something I can’t. This is worrisome in its own way–when you’re told a reader likes certain things and you can’t deliver. I can’t write a book that’s 40k words long, and that leaves me and other authors who like to write long or want to write long with a problem–how do we make sure we’re finding the right kind of readers for our books?

No one wants a review saying our book was “bloated” or bogged down, or even worse, be accused of writing filler for the KU page reads. Like Zoe York pointed out in a tweet thread about this very topic, you get paid the full amount only if a reader reads the entire book. They can “flip” for the good parts, and if they flip to the end you get paid for the book, but what are the chances of that going to be if you bore a reader? If the reader is bored enough, they’ll close out and return it.

A reader can look to see how many printed pages your book is in the product information. Readers who are looking for a certain length can avoid books that are too long or too short for their tastes. I don’t usually do that unless I know for sure it’s an indie book. Some indies overprice their books because they feel all the work they put into their product deserves the inflated price. I’m not going to pay 1.99 for a short story, or 3.99 for a novella. Not when I price my 75k-100k novels at 4.99. Price is a different subject all together and I’m not going to get into it here.

The trilogy I’m writing now is on the longer side and I didn’t intend for that to happen. I would need beta readers to tell me if there’s anything I could cut, if getting my 107k manuscript under 100k is important to me. It’s not–I’m more concerned with all the books being around the same length. I don’t want my first book to be 107k and my third to be 75k if you know what I mean. But since they are longer–not quite that different from other my books, but still longer by about 20k–I wonder if it would be worth adding page length to the blurb. I dislike all the qualifiers that some authors are now putting in their blurbs. There was one book by an author I won’t name who added a paragraph of trigger warnings. While this blog post isn’t about trigger warnings either, reading all those put me off reading it. Life is hard, and I wouldn’t expect fiction not to be. My characters can have very angsty backgrounds, and to add triggers to my books warning readers my characters have . . . lived hard lives? . . . doesn’t seem realistic to me. So adding page length when I don’t even like adding trigger warnings seems too precious. On the other hand, it would save readers from picking up a book they don’t want to invest time in, so it is an impasse, for sure.

If you like scrolling through Twitter, here are the tweets I saw over the weekend. I’m not picking on Zoe. I love her and she really makes me think about the publishing industry and more specifically, publishing romance.

I listened to a talk once, but I can’t find the video, so I don’t want to say who I think it was because I might be wrong. But even if I can’t remember who said it, it’s worth mentioning. In her talk, she talks about leveling up, and one of the simple things she did to make more money was to write longer books as all her books were in KU. Of course, she’s not encouraging you to book stuff or bloat your books with filler. We all want to make readers happy. We know you can’t create a fanbase without doing that. I just like exploring all sides of a conversation, and if you write 50k word novels and think you aren’t happy with how much you make from KU, I don’t see the harm in looking over your books and deciding to write 70k books instead. But, it is important to look at how you view success and how much time you have to work on your books. Maybe every month is NaNo for you, and 50k every 30 days is manageable and because of your day job and family life, 70k is not. Also, what kind of readership do you have now? Do they want a 70k book or would they be happier with two 35k books? If you don’t have a readership yet, it’s worth exploring what you want to write and what you have time for.

My brand will always be full-length novels. I’ve come to realize I like trilogies–both reading them and writing them. I have a soft spot for standalones but six books in a series will be my limit. If I had a team who could help me package the books, that might be something different, but editing them, formatting them, and doing their covers wears me out and I don’t have the patience to do that often. Eventually, as I publish, readers will know each new release is a full-length novel. For courtesy, since I’m still using Booksprout, I’ll tell potential reviewers this will be a long trilogy. I appreciate all the reviewers and the time they shared with me and my books, but there was one who said Give & Take was too long. At 77 words, it’s one of my shorter books and it just goes to show you’re not going to make everyone happy. So a length warning may be helpful if only to let them know that if they review the entire trilogy they’re signing up for some serious reading time.

That’s about all I have for this week. I started book three of my rockstar trilogy, and I’m so pleased I decided to turn this into a trilogy. It will be a fabulous addition to my library. I love the characters and the over-arching plot I’ve developed. The couples were made for each other, and I’m having a lot of fun pushing them together.

I’ll be working on that book for the next little while, trying to get these ready for an August release. I don’t know if I’ll publish them one week apart like I did before. I don’t have an audience yet, so a rapid release doesn’t do anything for me. I just prefer to have a series ready to go so at least readers know their next read isn’t that far off.

Doing something like this is a lot of work. Sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I want to give up just like anyone else. I said something to someone last week I probably shouldn’t have. It’s none of my business how she chooses to run hers. I get frustrated when people don’t put in their time but think they deserve results. I’m not talking about a particular person now, I’m talking about anyone, anytime. I used to be like that. Maybe not entitled, but when I pushed Publish on my first book, I went to bed hoping like we all do that it would be a runaway bestseller. Of course it wasn’t. None of my books have been. I have 16 books out and make pennies a day. Not for lack of trying, and certainly not lack of hard work and willing to try new things. I think the one thing you can do for your business is know what you want and don’t be scared of it. Don’t be scared what other people think of it. If you want to make money, own it. If you want to win awards, don’t let people tell you awards don’t matter. Why you write and publish is no one’s business. Why you quit isn’t anyone’s business (but you can just leave. Stop announcing it every five minutes and just go). Why you keep pushing when year after year you keep seeing the same results isn’t anyone’s business.

I’ll keep writing and publishing and maybe I’ll luck out and have a runaway bestseller. I’ll never know if I quit.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday Musings–when your book won’t sell–and Author Update

Words: 1792
Time to read: 9 minutes

I’ll try to keep my musing short this week. I’m tired. I finished the second book in my rockstar trilogy. It came in at 92,633 which is shorter than the first one, but I didn’t expect them to be equal in length–not when the first turned out to be 107k. I created the file on February first, which makes no sense why I felt like I was working on this book forever, but I did.

Anyway, I’m proud of it and proud of the twists and turns that developed while I was writing it. I’ll have to take a break because while I know some of the backstory to both characters of the last book, I don’t know much else. I need to plot more before I start writing. In the meantime, I have a book coming out in May, and I’ll read that one more time and fix the back matter as I probably have the old covers to my duet there and maybe I’ll put the trilogy link there instead. They are better sellers no matter how much I push my duet, and there’s no point in beating a dead horse.

That’s part of my musings for today. Why some books sell practically by themselves and why some don’t. It seems every author has this issue. In fact, Joanna Penn said as much when I (finally) listened to her interview with Jane Friedman back in December. She said:

Because it explains why — like, I’ve got 35 books now, and most of my income comes from a handful of them. And, obviously, every single one I thought was going to sell, but it’s only a few.

JOanna Penn

It’s disheartening, in a way. Not because books are our babies and we love them all equally, but I put a lot of time into each and every book. I watched hours of construction accidents on YouTube to write Captivated by Her. Yes, I might have fudged on a few things because it’s a romance and not a crane operating manual, but I did a lot of research to write Rick’s accident and what caused it as realistically as possible.

Of course, I made two mistakes when I put them out: I didn’t offer them to Booksprout first for reviews, and I published them with covers I changed–wasting the bump Amazon gives new releases. With almost no reviews on either book, that time is nothing I’ll get back. What also didn’t help was that I waited two months between books, when really what I should have done is just released them together or a week apart like I did my trilogy. At the very least, I should have put the second one on pre-order so readers who read the first book would know the second is coming in a decent amount of time.

I can look back at those mistakes, but there’s no way to know that even if I had done those things it would have made a difference. I can always pull them out of KU and offer them to Booksprout reviewers, or take a chance with Amazon and put them on there anyway (I am definitely not comfortable doing that) or keep pushing them with promos and ads. Or, I can just let them go, which isn’t what I want to do, for obvious reasons. It doesn’t hurt to run low cost-per-click Amazon ads, impressions are free so you’re not necessarily wasting money setting them up, but looking at what a small backlist I have so far, it is a bummer that they aren’t doing better. Since their release last summer, they’ve made $214.62 together. To put that in perceptive, because I’m sure there are some of you who are saying that’s good, Rescue Me has made that on its own since its release in September.

I’ve moaned about this before, but actually, this is common. What’s depressing about it is when you have a very small backlist or if you only have one or two books out that aren’t doing well, you’ll have no sales or traction and you’ll have no idea why. Your book could have all the right things–good cover, good blurb, but just for some unknown reason it’s not “hitting” and the longer it’s out without sales, the faster it will sink. You can try to bump it up with a new cover, but if you’ve already spent money on a cover you’ll probably be reluctant to spend more–especially when positive results aren’t a sure thing.

When I re-edited Wherever He Goes, I thought about putting an illustrated cover on it instead of what it is now (it’s funnier than my other books and the content would have supported that change). I don’t have any experience with illustrated covers and I would have had to hire out. It’s not a gamble I took, one because the book is old, but two, an illustrated cover wouldn’t have fit in with the rest of the books in my backlist. I like the cover that’s on it now, and I think the blurb is a good one, but despite it being my favorite, no matter how many ads I set up, I can’t sell it.

What can you do when this happens to you?

*Realize that it happens to everyone. Not every author’s books are going to sell like gang-busters–probably not even Colleen Hoover sells all her books equally.

*Focus on the books that do sell–even if it hurts. The ad gurus tell you to throw your money at your books that do sell, and that’s good advice if you don’t have a money to gamble with. If your books already have a natural momentum or easily find traction with a little bit of help, no point in trying to push a rock up a mountain when it can tumble down on its own.

*In that vein, you can try different advertising strategies if you have a little money to play with. Maybe you can’t get any impressions or clicks on with Amazon ads, but with the freedom of a graphic, being able to choose a target audience, and being able to use as many words as you want in the description, maybe you get more interested eyes using FB ads.

*Another thing you can do is write and publish more. I don’t want to say eventually you’ll write something that will sell, because that just sounds dreary and after a while you’re writing for money and sales instead of writing what you love. Wherever He Goes is a road trip/close proximity contemporary romance. There’s nothing unconventional about it. I loved writing it, and that will have to be satisfaction on its own.

*Think about the risks you want to take. Series are great for read-through, if your book one is solid and hits the market in the right way. A book one that sinks won’t get read-through to the other books. It’s a conundrum I see on Twitter a lot. Authors love to release books as they write them (find some patience, y’all), and then they’re faced with the question of, Is my book not selling because it’s not hitting the market in the right way, or is it not selling because it’s a book in a series and the series isn’t done yet. Then they have to decide if they want to keep going. It’s difficult to find motivation to keep writing a series when the evidence, misleading or not, points to the fact no one wants to read it. That’s a lot of work for no foreseeable gain. For better or for worse, I write all the books at once and only release when they’re done. I put my trilogy up on Booksprout and let reviewers download all of them so they could read the books separately but also review the trilogy as a whole (many did in the review of the last book). You can say that I take my risk ahead of time, and I do. Wasted time is wasted time, but at least I’m not constantly worried about finishing a series if I’m not finding any readers. Had I done that, I would have been in the same predicament many are. Captivated by Her is half of a duet, but I could never let myself not finish the story. Even if you only have one or two readers, I feel you owe it to them to give them closure. Don’t make them waste their time…or their money.

What am I going to do next? I haven’t run a promo on Captivated by Her, and I’ll plan one soon. I wanted to run a couple of free days when I paid for my Freebooksy for Give & Take, hoping to piggyback off that sale (and promo fee), but its time in Kindle Select was about to renew and KDP wouldn’t let me. So I can buy a promo somewhere I haven’t before if they don’t take the number of reviews into consideration when they vet the books for approval. Otherwise, I’ll just have to keep running ads and hope for the best. I can throw myself at my readers’ mercy and beg for reviews in the back matter, but this where you have decide where you want to put your energy. It’s not that I want to let those go, exactly, but the trilogy I’m working on now needs my attention or I”ll never get them done by the time I want to publish them.

That’s all I have for this week. Besides writing and watching my Freebooksy sale results fade on my trilogy, I’m not doing much else. My coworker finished hunting for typos with my King’s Crossing series, and she loved it! That’s a relief, but even bigger is she didn’t find any plot holes, which would have been a bear to fix at this point. After my rockstar trilogy is finished, I’ll be getting those ready for release–I need to fix what she found and tweak the covers. I have a standalone plotted out that I’ll write next as kind of a palette cleanser, and then on to another 6 books series. I have two written and don’t want them to go to waste, so I’ll work on those for a 2025 release. That is too far into the future for me, and I can only focus on getting through each day and hoping it doesn’t freaking snow anymore. By the middle of March in Minnesota, we are all waiting for spring to come.

Anyway, have a great week, and if you have a book that’s not selling or ideas on how to fix that, let me know in the comments! Until next time!

Monday Author Update: What I’m up to this week

Happy Monday! It’s President’s Day in the United States, and hopefully you have the day off to sit and relax and enjoy a slow, easy Monday! If not, I hope the holiday slows your workload down and it’s not such a hectic day for you.

I don’t have a lot of news this week. I’ve had some personal stuff going on–I think a lot of you know I lost my cat three weeks ago to old age and colon issues. Then the week after that my car battery died and that cost me a lot of money I didn’t have on top of Harley’s vet bill. It was a blow to my wallet and I’ll need a long time to recover. But, as the saying goes, just keep on keeping on because it’s all you can do.

I”m 40k into the second book of my trilogy as of this writing, and I’m excited I turned what was supposed to be a standalone into more books. This might be the first time with any of my series where I actually like all the characters equally. Does this happen to you? Maybe that might be getting ahead of myself as I haven’t written the third book yet, but I’m actually eager to start their stories. Bits and pieces of who are they’re going to be are already flitting to the surface of my brain, and that is the best feeling in the world.

I added up all my book spending and subtracted that with the royalties I made in 2022, leaving me in the red by 268 dollars. I did my year-end summary in December, but didn’t do a full tally like I have to for my accountant. In my blog post I approximated that I broke even, and I really would have, but last year I had two new things I paid for: Bookfunnel and my Alli membership. Two very important things that will aid my writing business, but my royalties did not cover everything I spent on my books last year. On the bright side, I’ve already made 34% of what I made for the entire year last year, so I’m hoping that trend continues.

I’m very excited about my Freebooksy Promo coming up on Thursday. I have two free days scheduled Thursday, February 23rd and Friday, February 24th. I have my promo booked on Thursday and I add an extra free day because not everyone opens their emails on that day and I would hate for anyone to miss out. I’m giving away Give & Take, the first in the trilogy I published last month. This promo will be different than the ones in the past and I’m hoping this promo will bump up sales overall. Here’s why I think it’s different than the ones I’ve done for my 3rd person books:

All my books are billionaire (I have 6 under my pen name right now). Unlike my 3rd person books, my billionaire books are the same sub-genre–though I do have a lot of fun with tropes. Hopefully that will make it easier for readers to want to read more of my books after the promo if they like Give & Take and hopefully the rest of the trilogy. When I bought a promo for my small town holiday series, those were the only small town holiday books I had. We like to fool ourselves and think readers will read anything if they like us, but you have to have a very large audience for that to actually work. When you’re just starting out, genre-hopping is hard and you’ll lose readers if the rest of your books aren’t what they like.

They’re written in first person present. I haven’t done a survey for the past couple of years, mostly because I drank the Kool-Aid and gave in, so the number of books written in first vs. third on the Amazon bestseller lists didn’t mean that much to me. But when I was promoting my small town holiday series, they were written in third person past which, for romance, has fallen to the wayside when it comes to popularity. We can take a quick look at what’s selling right now–not to prove myself right, but out of sheer curiosity now that I brought it up. The top five Billionaire Romances are:

1. The Temporary Wife by Catharina Maura: First Person Present, KU
2. Final Offer by Lauren Asher: First Person Present, KU
3. Black Ties & White Lies by Kat Singleton: First Person Present, KU
4. The Auction by Maggie Cole, First Person Present, KU
5. The Vow by Maggie Cole, First Person Present, KU

I could do that with other subgenres or Contemporary Romance in general, but it’s part of market research and just with that quick of a glance, I think any billionaire books written in 3rd person might be a tough sell. I get where authors would say, your book is going to sound the same as everyone else’s, but readers like familiar, they like similar, and in my case, I said, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” If I don’t have to work so hard to find readers, sign me the hell up!

Because I’m more curious than a cat, I looked at the top five of Contemporary Romance on Amazon, and three are the same. The two changes are The Wrong Bride by Catharina Maura (First Person Present, KU) bumped The Auction, and a new title coming in at Number 2 is Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne MacLean (First Person Past, KU). This is a very small sampling, of course, and when I was debating switching over from 3rd to 1st I spent hours pouring over the lists to see where exactly the shift was taking place, when it did, and I guess more importantly, why. Maybe I never found out, but it still interests me nonetheless.

They’re in KU. My books always have been, but doing a free promo will usually lead to page reads. When a KU subscriber sees that it’s in KU, they will more than likely borrow it rather than download the free book. The promo brought our book to their attention, and we get paid for the page reads. When I did my free promo for my series back in November, it earned me page reads for the entire series.

I said in previous blog posts that my promo earned out, and it did. I gave away three other books at the same time, bumping me over the fee cost. I counted them because without the promo, those books never would have gotten the attention they did.

Anyway, that was an “oh well” kind of promotion because I’m not writing under 3rd person anymore and I don’t have a newsletter signup for that name, either. It was just something fun I did, but I also regretted spending the money and trying to garner attention for books that don’t really need it. That will probably be my last promo for those books I’ll do for a while. I can’t split my focus and my marketing budget anymore.

I’m doing my own version of “promo stacking.” Promo stacking is when you pay for more than one promo and you spread out your advertising to other promotional services. While I’m paying for a Freebooksy, I’m also running Amazon ads and paying for a Facebook ad to Rescue Me, which has sold 55 books this month (at .99 that’s only 17.99) and has netted me $46.36 in page reads. With the promo, I hope even more people see the .99 cent sticker on Rescue Me and go on to buy that too, or borrow it in KU.

Depending on how this promo does, I probably will do something with Captivated by Her when my next standalone is set to release in May. I’ll use the bump the new release of Faking Forever will give me and hopefully get some sales and reviews for Captivated and Addicted. What little feedback I’ve heard about those books is favorable, so I just need to push those books out there. I didn’t put them on Booksprout first, so the reviews are lacking. I had an FB ad running to Captivated, but something was off. I was getting clicks, but no sales, so my ad wasn’t giving readers the right idea and they were bailing when they reached my Amazon product page. I’ll have to think about what I can do to fix that.

Anyway, if you want some quick tips on how to make promos work for you, here’s what I’ve tried and what others advise:
1. Promo a first in series. You’ll earn your royalties with read-through.
2. Make sure your series look like a series. Amazon does a good job of letting a reader know what the next in series is, but make it easy for your reader, too. Make your covers cohesive.
3. Keep in mind your price. As you can see from my small-town holiday series above, a few people actually bought the other books instead of reading them in KU. At $4.99 that’s 15 dollars!) Make sure your price is competitive and in line with what others are doing in your genre. Readers won’t overpay for your book. There is too many choices out there for them to do that.
4. Don’t forget a call to action in your back matter. Add a newsletter sign up link, or the link to another book you really want them to read. All my back matter now has my newsletter signup link that offers a free full-length novel. Always give your reader somewhere new to go if they like your stuff.

While it won’t be a full picture of what my promo did (I’m hoping for a long tail), I will write about my initial first couple of days for my blog next week. Wish me luck, and I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Playing with ChatGPT (An AI writer)

Last night I was playing around with the ChatGPT that everyone is talking about ( You have to create an account, but that’s not a big deal. I was curious about it, since I’ve seen references to it everywhere, and you probably have, too. No matter your thoughts on using AI generated artwork for book covers or books written exclusively from AI generated text, AI is here to stay, and in some ways, it can make your life a bit easier.

When I was playing with it, I was trying to brainstorm the next two books in my rockstar trilogy. Al, as I will call him now since AI in certain fonts looks like Al to me anyway, won’t talk about death, and that was a big problem. The whole trilogy centers around the tragic death of a bandmate, and brainstorming with someone who won’t/can’t/refuses to talk about death and dying ended our conversation before it even began. So that was one reason why chatting with Al was unhelpful. Another reason I found it hard to talk to him is while he must have all the information in the whole world at his fingertips, his responses were generic and filled with qualifications. Al isn’t allowed to have real thoughts and opinions, so if you ask him something like, “Do you think Martha is a pretty woman’s name?” he’ll say:

“As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions. However, the perception of names, including Martha, as pretty or not is subjective and can vary depending on cultural and individual preferences.”

What a wishy-washy response! I asked him to help me with names for my characters and asked him what secrets would tear up a couple. His answers were flat and unimaginative. I decided to flip from fiction to nonfiction, which is where people say it helps the most with blogging, copywriting, etc, and I asked Al, how do you market a book? He said:

“Marketing a book can be a complex and multi-faceted process, but there are several strategies that can be effective in promoting your book and reaching your target audience. Some of these strategies include:

  1. Building an author platform: This can involve creating a website, social media presence, and email list to engage with fans and promote your book.
  2. Networking with other authors and industry professionals: Attend book fairs, join writing organizations, and connect with others in the publishing industry to build relationships and gain exposure.
  3. Utilizing book review sites and blogs: Reach out to book bloggers and review sites to request reviews of your book. Positive reviews can help increase visibility and credibility.
  4. Hosting events and book signings: Consider hosting a launch party, book signing, or other event to generate buzz and connect with fans.
  5. Offering special promotions and deals: Offer limited-time discounts or giveaways to incentivize people to purchase your book.
  6. Leveraging traditional media: Consider reaching out to local newspapers, radio stations, or TV shows to secure media coverage and promote your book.
  7. Paid advertising: Consider investing in paid advertising, such as online ads, Facebook ads, or Goodreads ads, to reach a larger audience and drive sales.

Marketing a book is a continuous process, and success will often require a combination of these strategies, as well as creativity and persistence. The key is to have a clear understanding of your target audience and what will resonate with them, and to continually test and refine your approach over time.”

That actually doesn’t sound too bad, and in reality, does offer some advice that you can follow, but marketing a book is pretty cut and dried and Al didn’t say anything I didn’t already know. I asked him how important a book cover is, and he said:

“Book covers play a crucial role in book marketing, as they are often the first thing a potential reader sees and can impact their decision to purchase the book. A well-designed book cover can convey the tone and theme of the book, grab the reader’s attention, and create a memorable visual representation of the book. However, a poorly designed cover may discourage readers from purchasing the book, even if its content is of high quality. It’s important for publishers and authors to invest in a well-designed book cover as it can have a significant impact on the book’s overall success.”

That’s not really a surprise either, and I guess where I’m going with this is, Al isn’t going to give you any out of the box answers to black and white questions. He lacks the creativity to do so. I asked him how to build a newsletter, and he said:

“Building a successful newsletter requires careful planning and a strong understanding of your target audience. Here are some steps to help you build a successful newsletter:

  1. Define your goals: What do you want to achieve with your newsletter? Do you want to promote your business, share industry news, or build relationships with your subscribers?
  2. Determine your target audience: Who do you want to reach with your newsletter? What are their interests and needs? This will help you tailor your content to them and ensure that your newsletter is relevant and engaging.
  3. Choose a platform: There are many email marketing platforms available, such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or Aweber, that make it easy to create and manage a newsletter. Choose a platform that fits your needs and budget.
  4. Create compelling content: The content of your newsletter is critical to its success. Make sure it’s relevant, valuable, and engaging to your target audience. Use a mix of text, images, and multimedia to keep things interesting.
  5. Optimize for mobile: Many people read emails on their smartphones, so make sure your newsletter is optimized for mobile devices. Keep your layout simple, use large font sizes, and include clear call-to-actions.
  6. Build your subscriber list: Encourage people to sign up for your newsletter by offering incentives, such as exclusive content or special offers. Make it easy for people to subscribe by including clear sign-up forms on your website and in your email signature.
  7. Test and refine: Continuously test and refine your newsletter to ensure that it’s meeting your goals and resonating with your target audience. Pay attention to metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to gauge its success.

Building a successful newsletter takes time and effort, but it can be a powerful way to build relationships with your audience and promote your business or brand. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a newsletter that resonates with your audience and achieves your goals.”

It was a fun experiment, but don’t be afraid I’m going to turn this blog into AI generated content. Al isn’t publishing, he isn’t writing newsletters, he’s not trying to sell books running FB and Amazon ads. One of the best ways to connect with your readers, be it a blog post, a tweet, or a whole damned book, is to offer experiences, feelings, and emotions. Al isn’t experiencing anything and can’t connect with anyone that way.

I could use Al for inspiration, maybe ask him to help me come up with lyrics for a couple of songs that are expected to go with a rockstar romance, but at this point, copyright and legalities of using AI generated content is fuzzy and I don’t want to land in hot water by using and selling something that isn’t technically “mine.” I would never feed Al my blurb and ask him to come up with ad copy or hooks. I prefer to keep my own IP to myself for now, even that means I look like an untrusting idiot.

Al might be great at coming up with a plot–a billionaire moves to his hometown after a personal tragedy and he falls in love with a florist, but because Al doesn’t have feelings, he’ll never be able to help with the story–the real reason why a couple can’t be together. That was what I was trying to get at last night, but he’ll never be able to give me that. I’ll have to figure out my own characters’ backstories and their emotional wounds keeping them from being together.

Can Al come in handy? Maybe if you’re pressed for time and just want to copy and paste content into a blog post. The samples above aren’t empty–they provide actionable steps that an author can follow to build a newsletter or market your book, but it’s the personal experiences of authors who share what works for them and what doesn’t that will build a real audience full of real humans looking to connect with who you are as a person and what you have to share that can help them with their own endeavors.

If you try it, let me know what you think! Thanks for reading today and have a great week!

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 (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!