COVID-19 Check in, what’s been going on, and still trying to get things done.

This is a hard time for everyone, and I just wanted to check in with my readers and ask how everyone is doing. How many of you are working from home? How many of you are not working at all because your workplace has closed? How many of you are considered essential personnel and still need to go in? If you’re still working, please be safe, and thank you for doing all you can during these trying times.

when-you-find-out-your-nomal-daily-lifestyle-is-called-quarantine-memeI’m considered essential personnel (I type for the deaf and hard of hearing) so I still go in for my shifts at the call center. For right now, things haven’t changed too much in my life. My daughter is no longer in school, and her teachers are preparing to start online learning soon. Tomorrow she has to go to school and clean out her lockers and bring everything home. Though they haven’t announced it for her school, I don’t think she’ll be going back to finish out the school year.

My son had a wound check last week, and we were screened by gowned and masked nurses before being allowed into the clinic. They pushed back his next appointment to the middle of next month, but I have a feeling that that appointment, too, will be pushed back. He’s healing well, though, so I give thanks for that. It would be hard to worry about him and feel like we don’t have access to his doctor and nurses. I know they are limiting people going in and out, and I’m thankful we’re not in a position to need them on a regular basis. I pray for those who do still need to attend the doctor regularly.

I go to the grocery store only when necessary, and I went yesterday for milk and a few things for dinners. I won’t have to go back for a while now.

I still try to have some motivation to get things done regarding my books. The secondkeep motivated during qurantine book in my series will release on March 31st. I’m working on my first person trilogy. I sent book one to my friend Sarah, and she proofed it and found some mistakes. She was also a bit taken aback because this trilogy is going to be more of a serial than a series, and book one ends on a massive cliffhanger. She did have one observation, so I’m going to take a look at the ending and see what I can do in regards to that, but otherwise, I think she liked it.

It’s hard to focus during a time like this, but I have to remind myself that if I let this time go by, once it passes, I’ll feel terrible that I didn’t get anything done. I know lots of people are panicked now, and a lot of us are just trying to get through one day at a time. But if you can, try do a little something for your writing every day. If you have the time to write a little, you should try to put some words down. If you can’t focus on the words, there are other things you can do to forward your career.

  1. Keep blogging. If you choose topics that don’t depend on current events, you can write evergreen posts that will always be part of your platform. Lots of us are reading more, so post reviews, recommend books in the genre you write in, or if you’re writing to writers, dissect books and explain what you liked about them as a writer, what you learned as a writer reading them, and how you can apply what you learned to your next book.
  2. Look back at your 2020 goals and see what you can check off the list with some of your new free time. Did you say you wanted to start a newsletter? Revamp your website? Trust me, after all this is over, if all you did was binge Netflix because you couldn’t wrap your mind getting something done, you’ll regret it later.
  3. Learn an ad platform.posted quite a few free resources that can help you learn ad platforms, and now is a great time to dip your toes into experimenting  with something. There’s been a lot of talk of stopping ads during this time, and authors are reluctant to promo because it seems self-serving. There are a lot of books out there, and I don’t see the harm in running ads and helping people who are stuck at home find good reading material. I haven’t turned off my ads, but I’m not making all that much anyway. I’m still coming out ahead, making about .50 a day in sales after subtracting ad cost. But learning is just that, learning, and it takes practice to figure out what will work for you.
  4. Practice something else that you wanted to master. Lots of authors do their own covers just because it’s difficult to afford editing, formatting, and cover services. There are lots of tutorials out there that will help you learn GIMP and Photoshop, and Canva has free online resources that teach you how why things look pleasing to the eye. The best thing you can do is practice. Look up the top 100 on Amazon in your genre and practice copying the elements that make the cover look good. This is one of those things where you’re going to have to take time over the course of months and maybe even years because developing an eye is just something that takes time.
    This is an example of doing your own cover and graphic just as practice for when you need to do the real thing. I took a look at the top 100 Contemporary Women’s Fiction books on Amazon right now.
    I liked this one. It’s doing pretty well. Number four in sister’s fiction in the Kindle store at the time of this blog post.
    515+yEzlUHL
    So I decided to try my own hand at it, and I came up with this:
    the forgotten bride
    It’s not exactly the same. I don’t like the swirly things on the other one, but I did like the concept of the blurry woman. Here’s my take on it. Us indies are held to a slightly different set of standards, and it’s frowned upon to have a review on the cover of our books, so I skipped that part, too. But you get the idea. The image was purchased on depositphoto.com and the cover was made entirely with Canva. The Font is an italicized Playfair Display, and the font for the author’s name is Raleway. And I do practice what I preach. I try my hand at fake covers a lot.
  5. Do some busy work. Is there a book that needs to be reformatted? Were you going to refresh a cover and didn’t want to make the time? Rewrite a blurb? If you can put on some music and lose yourself in an activity, you’re not wasting time, and you’re doing something that can have rewards later on. Even if you just sit in your email and unsubscribe from some pesky emails that you never look at and always delete, that can be helpful, too.
  6. Work on craft. If you can’t sit down and work on your book, try a short story, flash fiction, poem, or something else.
  7. Get outside. Social distancing and living in quarantine doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. In Minnesota, the weather is warming up, the snow is melting. I spent a lovely day yesterday at Buffalo River State Park getting air, hiking around. Take the opportunity to get away from the news and plot out a new book or work out a plot hole that you can’t resolve. Sometimes unplugging can be a stress reliever and exercise will give you a hit of endorphins that can ease anxiety.

The fact is, we’re not sure when this will all be resolved. It could take months. I’m not planning to go to my book marketing summit in May. Even though they haven’t canceled it yet, it wouldn’t feel the same, and I think we’ll still be dealing with the aftermath of all that’s occurred. To be sure, it won’t have the same feeling as before the coronavirus outbreak, and it’s best to just stay home and look forward to a conference in 2021.

For right now I’m working on my trilogy and planning the second trilogy that will end the first. There will be six books in this series, and I hope to write these and be done with them by the end of the year. I wrote the first three very quickly but with summer coming, I do have plans, and may be a little slower with the second three.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.

I hope you all are doing as well as you can, and try to remember that even if you’re self-isolating, you’re not alone.

Until next time!

the forgotten bride graphic


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2020 Indie Publishing Predictions: Pay-to-Play and ad platform resources for indie authors

2020 indie publishing predictions

Thank you for staying with me through this blog series about Written Word Media’s predictions for 2020. I’m discussing these predictions as an Emerging Author who has less than 10 books published and making less than $60,000 a year (let’s be honest according to my 1099s I made less than $2000 in 2019).

In the last post we talked a little bit about author collaboration because there is power in numbers, though the group opportunities don’t mean much to me because I’m still building my own career in my own right. Just as I’m sure most readers of my blog are.

The next point WWM predicts is that running ads will become a requirement. This isn’t a prediction so much as it’s already a fact. You need to learn an ad platform and not be afraid to use it. Meaning, you can’t be afraid to spend a little money to make a little money.

Various people say that Amazon ads are the smartest way to go. You’re putting your ad in front of shoppers who’re already in the mood to buy books. I like Amazon ads, too, because you’re selling books to readers who do not have a KU subscription and your enticing readers to borrow your book if they do.

It shouldn’t need to be said that running successful ads means you’re advertising a quality product. Unfortunately you may waste a little money on clicks figuring this out. You may recall in a prior blog post of mine where I described losing some money in ads for The Years Between Us. My ad copy was good, my cover was good, but I was losing people at the blurb. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman novel, but it’s not naughty. I was marketing it as a older man/younger woman, when maybe my blurb should have emphasized the forbidden love aspect instead. At any rate, you may need to experiment. If your ad doesn’t get any clicks, but you are getting some impressions, maybe your ad copy isn’t hooky, or your cover looks too homemade or doesn’t reflect the genre clearly. In any case, the blurb cost me clicks. I should have turned my ads off a lot sooner than I did. I was optimistic and I paid the price.


Mark Coker has is own opinion on this prediction–it’s evident he hates that Amazon took this direction. He claims that being pay-to-play makes us compete against other authors. He also states that since Amazon took away the also-boughts at the bottom of the product pages and replaced those with sponsored ads, Amazon is pitting us against each other. (Amazon is always playing with their platform looking for ways to improve the customer experience. Just because they are gone today doesn’t mean they won’t be back tomorrow, or a variation of them.) My book, All of Nothing, does still have some also-boughts, and I’m happy to say that they seem to fit into the kind of book All of Nothing is.

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It’s true that when you search an author, their product pages can be peppered with ads. That’s business. It’s no different than driving down the main strip of the city and having your choice of Dairy Queen, Hardee’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, Sonic, Popeye’s, KFC, and a million other places. It’s up to their marketing team to make them stand out, just like it’s up to you to have a good cover, blurb, title, and look inside, so your potential reader isn’t lured away by a prettier cover and better ad copy.

The motto of the 20booksto50k group is a “A rising tide lifts all boats.” There’s no competition. Be the best you can be, put out the best quality product you can. If you write against the grain (the book of your heart), and/or can’t afford an editor and/or can’t find someone to trade with you, if you have to make your own cover, these are choices in situations you’re going to have to work with. Your book isn’t anyone else’s responsibility.

I don’t agree much with Mark Coker. We aren’t competing against each other. It helps to look at other authors as allies instead of competition. Make friends, not enemies, and stay in control of what you can–the quality of your own books.

I like Amazon ads. They don’t cost much money, and they are surprisingly easy to learn how to use. I haven’t ventured into the UK, or Germany territory. I advertise in the US store, and small sales I do have are because I run ads. But you may find better luck with Facebook or Bookbub ads. In my experience, they eat up money faster. We can blame, or try to blame, Amazon for a lot of things, but taking your money isn’t one of them. Except for when they do–but then that usually is due to operator error not the machine.

No matter where you advertise, you’ll need comp authors and their book titles. You need these because in Amazon’s case they’ll be your keywords, in Facebook’s case they will help you find an audience to target. That’s why it’s important to know what genre you’re writing in, and what books fit with yours. Always stay up-to-date with what’s happening in your genre. Keep an eye on authors who are doing well who write the same kinds of books you do.

Take time to learn how ads work. There are a lot of free resources out there. All they take is a little bit of time to listen to a podcast or to read a book a generous person (usually an indie author himself or herself) has taken time to write for the rest of us. Going in blind is silly and will cost you money. As a writer, you should be used to researching. This isn’t any different – you’re only researching wearing your businessperson’s hat and not your writer’s hat. I’ll list them at the bottom of the blog post.

When it comes to this prediction, the future is now. You won’t get far without some kind of paid advertising. You won’t have a launch, strong or otherwise, without ads, and they are especially important in keeping your book in front of readers if you’re going to take a while to release another. Jami Albright has said she wouldn’t make the money she does releasing one book a year without depending on ads.

They are a huge piece of the indie–publishing puzzle.


Resources

Amazon

Bryan Cohen hosts an Amazon ads challenge every once in a while. The next one is scheduled for April 2020. In this ad challenge, he teaches you the fundamentals of Amazon ads: where to find keywords, how much to bid, what to set your daily limit at. Ultimately, he wants you to buy his Amazon Ads course, but in the challenge, he’ll teach you beginning information for free and it’s enough to get you started. It runs for a week, then a week after that he closes down the information. If you miss participating, you have to wait until he does it again. Eventually he may stop doing the ad challenge and think of something else to advertise is Amazon Ad course.

Follow Bryan on Facebook. This is his Facebook group for his business, Selling for Authors. Join his group for lots of Amazon ad tips, blurb help, copywriting tips and more. This is where he’ll announce a new ads challenge. You can request to join the ads challenge group here. He may not approve your request until the ads challenge opens up again. He’s very generous with his time, and if you have a question, he’ll do his best to answer it. He posts a lot of info on Instagram, too. I would follow him there, as well.

Dave Chesson has made how-to-learn Amazon ad videos. You can access them for free and watch at your own pace. He teaches you the same as Bryan: how to find keywords, how much to bid, how much to set your daily limit. His way is a little different from Bryan’s methods. Though like Bryan, he wants to sell you something and Dave wants to sell you a Publisher Rocket, a software to analyze what the competition is doing, how much they’re making, how many books are selling. It’s also a keyword grabber, though both gentlemen kindly teach you how to find keywords for free. I have Publisher Rocket and it’s worth the money.

Reedsy also has a course that is delivered in chunks to your email. Taught by Ricardo Fayet, this course is free, and you can sign up for it here. 

Facebook

There is only one free way to learn Facebook ads, that I know of, that’s signing up for the email class by Reedsy. Otherwise, you need buy a book explaining how to do them, or take a paid class. I recommend you do something before diving in because Facebook loves to take your money, and if you don’t have the proper audience targeted, or your ad isn’t put together correctly (bad graphics, bad ad copy) you’ll be broke and your ads won’t attract any engagement, never mind convert to sales. Mal Cooper is the powerhouse here, and she has an updated Facebook ads book available (you can even download the ebook version for free though I would encourage you to throw her some coin for being so great!), and she was just interviewed about Facebook ads on the 6 Figure Authors podcast. You can watch it here.


Bookbub

41hhK-35Z0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_As with Facebook ads, free ways to learn the platform are scarce. To be clear, Bookbub ads are not the same as being approved for a featured deal. Those are expensive and you have to submit and be approved. Bookbub ads are what they sound like — ads you make yourself using Canva or BookBrush that are placed at the bottom of their newsletters they send out to their subscribers. The only authority I know of is David Gaughran. He wrote a book about them, and you can find it here. In partnership with Reedsy, he also did a course that is delivered in segments for free to your email address. You can sign up here.

He’s very generous with his time, and he includes links in the book to a forum where you can ask questions. He’ll answer or someone else will help out. The book is a year old, so if you have a question and you search the forum you might find your answer without having to ask. But Bookbub is good for discounted books only. That’s the basis of their whole platform and they’ve trained their readers to look to them for deals. Don’t advertise a full-priced book there. You’ll get plenty of clicks and no sales.

The pros say to choose one platform and get really good at it.

Good luck!

PS: Since I love throwing podcasts at you, this is one by Joanna Penn with Russell Blake and Michael Beverly. Michael founded Adwerks, a business that runs Amazon ads for indie authors who don’t have the time to manage them on their own. They are a wealth of information on how the Amazon ads work, and they give you a peek into the mysterious Amazon Algorithms. I highly recommend it!


The next prediction that Written Word Media talks about is the Big Five putting books into KU. See you there!


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2020 Indie Publishing Predictions: Indie Authors and Marketing Collaboration

2020 indie publishing predictionsThe third 2020 prediction offered by Written Word Media is that authors will collaborate on marketing. I don’t think this is a prediction so much as it is them saying, indies will do more of it, or they will be forced to do more of it because it’s harder than ever before to get anywhere on your own.

This is where the evil networking comes in. A favorite marketing technique right now is newsletter swaps, but that comes with its own pitfalls. When you agree to recommend a book to your readers, you’re telling them, “I liked this book, and I think you’ll like it too.” You don’t want to lose trust of your readers because you swap with authors who may not be writing quality books. It takes time to read books by your fellow authors, and I would imagine it would be difficult for you to say, “I don’t want to swap with you. I don’t think your book is something my readers would enjoy.”

You also don’t want your book to be in a swap where the author has recommended a lot of books. Too many recommendations means fewer eyes on your book. Unfortunately, this advice is only good for authors who have a newsletter and you have hundreds to thousands of email sign-ups. Building a list takes a long time, and you may not be able to use this marketing technique for a few years.

2020 indie publishing predictions

That number seems extraordinary if you don’t have a newsletter yet!

The article also suggests that group giveaways will be popular marketing technique. I can tell you as an emerging author with no email list or audience that posting or tweeting about a giveaway to no audience is a huge waste of time. Group giveaways only work if every author in that group already has an audience who likes their work. And those are the authors who don’t necessarily need to market – they already have a solid readership. They are just rewarding their readers for being fans.

If you’re an emerging author, you can always network, and maybe one day you can be invited into a giveaway with other authors doing better than you. I know from experience banding together with other emerging authors won’t do much.

With my series, I have the potential to put together a really cute gift box of Minnesota Untitled design-2items and include my books. I haven’t because anytime I try to give something away, I hear crickets. But that’s my fault. I haven’t cultivated an audience, I genre-hop under my contemporary romance umbrella, and I haven’t made connections with other romance writers. I don’t have a newsletter or reader group to announce my giveaway to. I could put together the cutest giveaway and no one will care. And that is the danger of emerging authors coming together. As an emerging author, you have to cultivate your own audience before you can market with others.

Another thing the article points out is that not everyone is trustworthy. In the era of scammers both on the publishing and author sides, you have to be careful who you work with. Everyone needs to do their share (time-wise and money-wise) and you have to market with authors who write good books or your book will be labeled terrible by association.

If you want any hope of being asked to collaborate in any way, your book has to be well-written, your cover must be spot on, and your blurb on point or no author will want to work with you.

2020 indie publishing predictions-2

What can you do?

As an emerging author, don’t worry about this right now. Work on your own audience. Your loyal fans will be the most important thing to your writing career. Then start slow. Honestly recommend books you like without asking for anything in return. Build your relationship with your readers with trust and integrity. Keep writing and producing good books. All this marketing talk won’t matter if you don’t have good books in your back list and if you’re not producing regularly.

I’m at a place where I’d rather throw some money at ads than network, and that’s only half the problem. I’m an introvert and don’t like talking to people, but I believe that this prediction or some variation will eventually come true – especially since I’m writing romance. There’s huge potential in the romance genre for group projects, and I can’t let myself shy away from meeting people. I could let some really good opportunities pass me by.

This is one of my 2020 goals for myself – be more involved in my romance groups and start a newsletter. Have I done either? I’m researching newsletter aggregators and I have started to post more online. Not enough to help but it’s a start.

I’ve been busy writing books, and I’ll be releasing seven this year. But I do have to meet in the middle and find a balance among writing, marketing, and networking.

How do you feel about this prediction? Are you ready to collaborate with your fellow authors? Let me know, and thanks for reading!


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Indie Publishing Predictions for 2020: Audiobooks

If you read Mark Coker’s predictions back to back with Written Word Media’s, you’ll see they have two very different ideas about what audio is going to do this year for us indies. According to Mark Coker, audio for indies has come and gone. According to Written Word Media, audio will continue to grow and more indie authors will invest.

Which is it?

I guess the more important question is, do you have the money to care?

Audiobook creation is expensive, and there are a couple of things you need to weigh before choosing to spend thousands on an audiobook.

  1. Where? Amazons ACX will trap you in a seven-year contract, and you do not have control of your own pricing. Seven years is a long time. You can create an audiobook through ACX and opt out of exclusivity to Amazon, but your royalties are lower through Audible. Findaway Voices is another place for audiobook creation, but once again, if your audiobook is wide, you’re looking at lower royalties from Audible, though there are more places to sell audio than ever before.
  2. How much will it cost? Lots to consider here. How long is your book? I’ve heard you want to give listeners their bang for their buck. Credits on Audible will buy any book, so listeners are more inclined to spend their credits on longer books. But for indies, these are more expensive to produce. It makes no sense to pay a narrator to narrate your novella because production will be cheaper for you. Audible subscribers won’t waste a credit on it.
  3. Distribution and marketing. You decide to go wide with your audiobook and opt out of exclusivity with ACX (Audible). That’s cool, but if you’re strapped for cash and you were searching couch cushions to pay for your voice actor, you won’t have money to market your audiobook. If you can’t market it, no one will know about it. Kind a like your ebooks, huh?

Written Word Media predicts the audio market will grow. Mark Coker says the audio market will become saturated and indies just starting out have already missed the boat. What does that mean? Audio will likely remain out of your reach until you start making money on your e-books. If an average indie can’t make a regular income until they have 20+ books published, audio in the near future isn’t likely.

Finding a narrator who will do a royalty split with you instead of being paid upfront is getting harder and harder. As Bryan Cohen, on a recent episode of the Sell More Books

woman inside studio

Voice actors have their own audience and have to take care of their own reputations.                     Photo by The Teens Network Daytime Show Studios on Pexels.com

Show says, voice actors are becoming savvy. They know they won’t earn their time/money back if they do a royalty share and will only do work paid upfront. Voice actors have their own wallets and reputations to look out for. If your e-books aren’t selling, you’ll have a difficult time finding a reputable narrator to work with you.

What does this mean for an indie starting out? For audio, at least for now, we feel rushed because we are. If the audiobook industry is saturated now, what will it look like in 2025? There’s no way to know, but you’d be better off writing than worrying about trying to find a foothold you can’t afford.

What if you really want to get in on the action? You don’t have to be completely left out, but even if it doesn’t cost money, it will cost you some time. As an emerging author, you have to decide if it’s worth it, or if you’d be better off writing.

  1. Do live recordings. Go on Facebook or YouTube. Save the recordings and post to your social media and blog. True, you’re not going to make money with free recordings, but at this point you’re building your back list and audience and/or hoping for a newsletter subscribers. My son is listening to free Witcher readings on YouTube. Sometimes it’s not all about sales but exposure, which at this point is what you want.
  2. Create your own. Joanna Penn used to narrate her non-fiction in a closet. Winter jackets can create a soundproof room. But you’ll still have to figure out some kind of editing software because a listener isn’t going to want to hear you flubbing every other line. (By the way, ACX and other platforms have quality control. Even if you happen to have the patience to read your whole book aloud, that doesn’t mean it’s good enough for sale.) Narrate your book in chapters and put it on Patreon, or hope for traffic on your blog. You don’t have to be left out of the audio loop, but you’ll be going about it in a different way.
  3. Explore AI. Audiobook distributors don’t accept text to audio files right now, but that’s not to say you still can’t create an AI file. Be careful using text to voice software because sometimes they aren’t available for commercial use unless you pay their fee. I tried to find something to link up to this blog, but the voices  sounded bad, or the fee was too much to bother with, usually both. Maybe you’ll find something if you decide to go this route.
  4. If you want to offer different mediums, publish your books in Large Print and hardcover. Find someone with Vellum; Large Print is a formatting option with that software. Adjust your cover to a larger spine, and you’re done. KDP has a Large Print box you can select when publishing, and your book will be labeled that way on your book’s product page. Pretty simple to offer your book in a different way. If you buy your ISBN numbers, you can publish your book with a hardcover on IngramSpark. Not necessarily a HARDCOVER that requires you also design a jacket, though that is an option, but you can publish your books with a harder cover like a children’s book. You don’t have to offer audio to sell your books in different ways.

I haven’t done anything with audio yet. Anyone who knows me knows my favorite part of all this is the actual writing and anything that takes my attention away from it I have no use for. The pragmatic side of me knows I need to explore more ways to sell books, but my stubborn side says screw it. I can’t afford audio, and even if I could, my books aren’t selling well enough to warrant it. Maybe in my case, Mark Coker is right – I missed the audiobook opportunity. Or maybe something else will come along. At some point AI text to audio will be acceptable. Us poor indies can wait for that day.

In the meantime, keep writing. You can only have an audiobook if you have a book in the first place. When it comes to this prediction, keep your eyes on your own paper and don’t worry what other indies are doing. As an emerging author, you can only do what your situation allows you to do.

As for me, I don’t care. I can’t afford audio. I listen to my book through Word’s text to voice during my editing process so I know how it will sound spoken aloud if I can ever afford it. At least lay the groundwork for a successful audiobook in case the opportunity ever presents itself.

For more resources on audiobooks, Joanna Penn is coming out with Audio for Authors, it’s on preorder right now, and you can take a look at it here.

She is also interviewed by Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea on the 6 Figure Author podcast, and you can listen to it here.

If you’re interested in tips on how to vlog, or do live videos, in the past I’ve recommend Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss. She gives you lots of practical tips for looking and sounding good on camera.

Next we will explore Written Word Media’s second prediction – indie authors and organic reach.

See you then!


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Formatting Your Book Descriptions on Amazon

When you add your book’s blurb to the description field on KDP while publishing your book, you may add spaces between the sentences/paragraphs only to find after your book is published they didn’t take on your Amazon’s product page.

Anytime you hear advice about your Amazon product page, you hear that a lump of text is not conducive to sales. Meaning, readers aren’t going to wade through a huge block of text to figure out what your book is about.

I didn’t use a generator for one of my paperback books, and this is how the description looks for the second book in my series:

Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.06.10 AM

That doesn’t look good. Maybe the first sentence is enough of a hook for potential customers to keep reading, or their eyes will glaze over before they even read the first word.

It’s also confusing because when you do the description for your KINDLE book, usually the spaces will stick. And that makes things weird, too, because now your descriptions for your KINDLE book and your PAPERBACK don’t match.

How do you want your description to look?

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This is my description for All of Nothing. I used an HTML generator to make the spaces between the sentences and the paragraphs, and I also added bold which is eye-catching to a potential customer.

How can you do that?

Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur has a FREE Amazon Book Description Generator, and all you have to do is copy and paste your description into it, and generate the text with HTML code for spaces, bold, italics and more. Then you copy and paste the new generated code into your KDP dashboard under your book. KDP makes making changes a headache, and some authors get confused with the process because KDP calls making changes “publishing” but it only takes a day for the change to go into affect.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-book-description-generator/
  2. Paste your unformatted description into the box.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.29.07 AMAdd the spaces you want and the bold, italics, or other formatting to your text. This is where you make it look like what you want it to look like on your Amazon product page.

    Like you would in Word, highlight the text you want to change, then click on the Style and Structure to apply the formatting.

    Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.40.53 AM

  3. Then click GENERATE MY CODE. Your description will have a ton of HTML attached to it, but you want that. KDP will read it and put up your description the way you want it on your product page.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.44.07 AM
  4. Go to your KDP account, find your book in your BOOKSHELF, and click on edit book details. This generated code works Paperback only. If you try to use it for your Kindle book, you’ll receive an error message saying invisible characters cannot be accepted.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.36.04 AM
  5. Delete the description you already have there, and paste in the HTML code you generated from Dave’s description generator.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.36.47 AM
  6. Go through the steps to re-publish your book. The changes take affect in about 24-36 hours depending on how fast KDP gets around to it.

Then your description will have the spaces and bold that you want to catch a potential reader’s eye when they browse your product page.

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This is the description for the first book in the series. It looks like I missed some spaces between periods. But the bold and the spaces between lines and paragraphs look better than the block of text from book two.

Of course, the actual writing of the blurb is another headache that I won’t get into now, but with Dave Chesson’s Amazon Book Description Generator, at least it will look pretty!

Thanks for reading this tip, and I hope you can make it work for you!

Until next time!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Wrap Up!

In this blog series we’ve been going through a survey by Written Word Media, and what it takes to be a career author. They surveyed authors who are emerging authors, authors who make 60k and authors who make 100k from their writing.

I went through their points as an emerging author who has six books in her library and I make less than $2,000 a year from my books. They went through how much authors spend in editing and covers. It’s no surprise that they found authors who put out quality books make more money.

They went through how they marketed, with easy and affordable promo sites heading the list.

They surveyed authors about being wide or exclusive and found it didn’t matter – authors still need to take time to build a readership no matter where they publish.

They also went into the time authors write, which not surprisingly, revealed at 60kers and 100kers spent the most time writing. In that blog post I tried to hammer in to the emerging authors that to make the leap from emerging author to 60ker, you still need to put in the writing work, no matter how many hours you put into your day job or how tired you are. Career money requires career time.


There are some variables as to why some authors make more than others, and the bonus material revealed some of these differences.

But first if you were curious about the amount of money an Emerging Author makes, take a look:

The difference between the emerging author and the 60ker. It’s quite a leap to be sure. If you’re single, you don’t need to make 60k to support yourself. At least in my area, you can get by okay on $30,000 a year. You’re not living in the lap of luxury, but a nice two-bedroom apartment with its own washer and dryer runs about $700/month. As an emerging author, even if I made an extra $300 a month, that’s a car payment on a newer car I desperately need. You can take a look at the graphic to check how much an emerging author makes.

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Now for some of the reasons why one author would make more than another:

  1. Audiobooks. While audio is on the rise and it’s easier than ever to hire a narrator and get your audiobook out into the world, there’s no point in spending the money if the e-book isn’t selling. It makes sense to invest in audio if your book takes off, but if it doesn’t, there’s no point in spending the money to make an audio version. So while audio is a great supplement for 60kers and 100kers, they were already selling books and the audio is a complement to their library. Also, when audio finally fits into your publishing plan, indies now have their shit together and release the paperback, ebook, and audio all at the same time.

    Audiobook-s-768x560

  2. Genre differences. I’m surprised they didn’t add this to the original survey because the genre you choose to write in is really important. As you can see by the graphics, authors made the most writing commercial fiction. Romance took the lead, and mystery, science fiction, and fantasy follow closely behind.

    Genre-Differences-768x400Genre-non-Differences-768x400
    Children’s books are a hard sell as they depend heavily on print, bookstore and library sales.

    Young adult is broken into lots of sub genres like fantasy and romance, and broken down further into sub sub genres like coming of age, new adult, or college. I don’t see many indies right now writing plain YA like Five Feet Apart or The Fault in Our Stars. They tend to lean more toward dystopian or fantasy like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. At least, that’s what I get from seeing what others on Twitter are writing about. (Agents turned authors are the ones writing vanilla YA like Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments. Maybe because they have their fingers on the pulse of the market and they’ll write what sells. Who knows.) If you look at indie romance YA, they tend to lean toward paranormal or urban fantasy. Paranormal Academy is hot right now and that usually includes a younger MC. It’s difficult to completely separate the genres, especially since indies like to mash as many genres together as possible.

    And with Amazon allowing you to choose 10 categories for your books, there’s a lot of space to move around.

    We can all agree that while you can make money writing nonfiction, it’s a lot different than writing fiction and it takes a different set of skills to market it. Authors like Bryan Cohen who wrote How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis, Mark Leslie Lefebvre who wrote Killing it on Kobo, and Brian Meeks who wrote Mastering Amazon Descriptions, all have solid foothold in the indie community and pretty much have a built-in audience. They’ve been a part of the indie community for many many years, and they have the platform required to succeed.

    In my experience many indies who venture into non-fiction write creative nonfiction also called memoir. Let’s face it. Everyone’s life is hard. I could write a book about how I survived my divorce, but that wasn’t anything special. I just joined the 50% of other American couples who also have divorced. Hardly book worthy. Unless you have something super special to say, it will be difficult to be the next Michelle Obama.

    Most emerging authors have no platform, and that’s what you need to get a nonfiction book off the ground.

    When you’re an indie, it makes a difference what you choose to write, and, not only that, what you keep writing. Genre-hopping has never done an emerging author any favors, either, something I am finding out subgenre-hopping under my Coming soon!-2contemporary romance umbrella. From what I can see, the most successful indies stay within the same sub-genre like Aidy Award and her curvy girls or Alex Lidell’s academy books. Even Jami Albright writes romcoms and makes a killing with her Runaway Bride trope.

    Mystery, too, is seeing more segregation with subgenres, and authors who choose to write run-of-the-mill detectives might always want to stay with that, only moving the setting to other states, different police departments, and other tragic backstories.

    Indies do like to go their own way, though, and I like to write the stories I like to write as well. Hopefully we can all find a happy medium between writing what we want in writing what sells.

  3. The last point they went into was if the authors had a job outside of their writing. It’s not surprising emerging authors worked. Bills need to be paid somehow. The problem with needing to work is that sometimes your day job is so emotionally draining you don’t have any emotional energy left to write. I’m lucky that I can write and read at my job and that it isn’t emotionally draining. But I do trade that luxury with a lower wage and only because I have help paying bills can I continue to do so. I’m working hard to write as fast as I can to build my backlist so I can eventually hop from emerging author to 60ker. Eventually the sacrifices I’m making to put so much time into my writing will pay off. I’ll make sure it does.

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Even though they did add some additional data, they did leave out some other variables that I find are important in making an author successful.

  • Newsletter. The survey mentions newletter swaps saying that swaps aren’t an effective marketing tool. But that’s only swaps. Swapping implies an author has one to begin with, and I’m willing to bet there is a large gap between emerging authors who don’t have a newsletter and the 100kers that do.
  • The cost of ads. While the survey did go into how authors promoted their books, it’s not often authors reveal how much they’re spending on ads. If you make $50,000 a year but you’re spending $10,000 in ads you’re still doing well obviously, but the amount that author is claiming to have made is a bit deceiving. Bryan Cohen, when he does his mini ads courses, says any profit is good profit. At the core that is true. But if you have to babysit your ads so you make $2.00 for every $1.75 you spend, at some point you have to decide if you’d be better off writing. Ad creation takes time, especially when you need to take the time to write (or learn how to write) catchy ad copy. If you start a newsletter and add the link and call to action in the back of your books and pay for a promotion now and then, you may find that a bit easier, and a little less terrifying, than learning an ad platform and watching your ads like a hawk so overnight you suddenly aren’t $50 in the hole because people hated your blurb.
  • Writing in a series. I hate to keep harping on this, but this is also another component that the survey didn’t go into. Readers like series. They get invested in the outcome. They fall in love with the characters they follow through all the books. 60kers and 100kers know that and they capitalize on it. Emerging authors write what they want, and that isn’t always a series. But I would’ve liked the survey to ask its authors how many emerging authors versus how many 100kers write series. I doubt I would be surprised by the answer.
  • Frequent publishing. The survey didn’t go into how often authors publish. It stands to reason that the faster you put out books, the faster you can make money. But emerging authors have a hard time with timely output. They have their jobs. They are probably still learning craft and the critique partner/beta-reading stages they go through slow them down. Besides Jami Albright, I haven’t heard of an author who is not prolific making $60-$100,000 a year. And she admits she has to rely heavily on ads and other marketing techniques between releases. She knows her limits and embraces them. But you have to wonder if she could write more than one book a year, what that would do for her bottom line. I write as fast as I can, but I am not 100% confident in my ability. So the beta-reading stage slows me down as well, as does making sure of consistency and wanting no potholes in my stories. Maybe one day I won’t need so much reassurance. But I’d rather do it right the first time than pay for my haste with bad reviews.

In conclusion, the money is out there. There are different paths to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But whether anyone wants to admit it or not, some paths are easier than others. Write commercial genres. Publish quality work. Publish often. Start a newsletter. Use promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy to promote your work.

If you’re not doing these things, success may take longer to come. We all make mistakes and maybe telling your story the way you want to tell it is more important to you than money. That’s cool too, but be honest. Writing the story you want, with no editing, using a cover that’s not professional, and tweeting it out day after day won’t earn you any sales. So no whining when it doesn’t.


Thank you for joining me in this blog series where we broke down the Written Word Media Survey and the bonus material they later released. I hope the information given can steer you in the right direction to a productive and lucrative writing career.

Thanks for reading!


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Happy Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday!

I usually don’t blog without something to say, but today finds me in a good mood, and I’m just going to ramble for a bit about what’s been going on with me.

We’re 21 days into 2020. How is that going for you? Have you started a new project? Wrapped up something you were working on? Or in some cases, just trying to get through day by day because work is a drag, or your spouse is in a bad mood all the time, or you have a sick pet, or a continually sick kid. There always seems to be something, and if you can find an hour to yourself to sip a cup of coffee and do something productive, that’s going to be a win. I’ve blogged before about winter putting me into a slump, but this week we’re supposed to have mild temps–20-30 degrees F, and in January in Minnesota, that’s pretty great. So I’m going to bundle up and make the most of it.

Coming soon!As far as writing news, my quartet is almost done. I’m waiting for book 4 to come so I can proof the proof. My “second set of eyes” finished with the last book as well, and I’ll be incorporating his findings as I proof.

Even though my response to the Booksprout Review Service was lukewarm and lackluster, it did make me think about what a book launch looks like without reviews. So, I published the paperbacks of the first three books in the series, (I’ll do the same with book four as soon as I’m done proofing it for typos one last time) and put up those books onto the service for reviews upon the ebook publication. Will it make a difference? I have no idea. There is a section for a message from you to the reviewer, so I did ask them to be honest with their overall impression, how they like the stories from one to the next, how they all fit together. I’m not sure if it will do any good–from what I hear, a lot of people who read ARCs for Booksprout are only in it for the free books, but it never hurts to ask.

Here are the four completed covers:

Do you know all brunet men with beards look the same?  There is one male model who gets around, and it’s tough finding men who look different. But I think these will be okay for small town, contemporary romance. I looked covers for the top 100 small town contemporary romances and there is no one “set” way those covers look. My books also have older characters, so having a hot 20-something couple on the cover wouldn’t suit, but I can’t have them all fully clothed either, because then they look too “sweet.” When I had clothed couples on my trilogy, they sent a lot of mixed messages, so I’ve learned to keep my men half naked to readers know to expect a little sex. It’s such a strange, weird balancing act when it comes to romance, genres, and the covers.

But I will be glad these are out and then I won’t have to bother you with my griping anymore. LOL

If you want ARCs of any or all the books, let me know. I have them in pdf, generic epub, and mobi. 


In other news, I finally started working on the third book of my first person present trilogy. I’m excited to launch that pen name, and if first person present stays hot, then I might be writing under that name for a while. These have younger characters, are grittier (Think 50 Shades of Grey or the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day but with a little less sex), and features a hot billionaire. The books take place in a fictional huge city that’s a cross among Savannah, Georgia, the Twin Cities in Minnesota and New York. Not as big as New York, and not detailed enough since I have never been there, but I wanted the vibe and the energy, at least.

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This is one of the posts that I did for my pen name’s author page on Facebook. I’ve been sharing pieces of the books along with a relevant stock photo and boosting those to get a little attention. I was careful when I picked out my targeting audience, and while my FB author page doesn’t have a lot of attention yet, I can shift my focus when my quartet is done.

I’ve been thinking about what I want my pen name’s “brand” to be. Not with logos, or colors, or what her website looks like, but what she writes. Listening to author panels and getting feedback from my backlist under my own name has made me realize I need to stick with a theme. So my pen name’s theme is probably always going to be the big-city, rich lifestyle. And have the glitz and glamour of that life be the tie that binds my books.

Also, in taking a look at my other plots and characters’ backstories, I do know that a lot of the time a message I send to my readers is you need to be happy for yourself and with yourself before you can be happy with someone else. And another thing my characters find is when they fall in love, they find “family.” I try not to let that be too prominent, in the way falling in love with the perfect man saves the woman from a bleak and unhappy future, but as for the guy, too, finding a woman who will love him despite his flaws, or if he’s hurt her in the past, and building a foundation despite that hurt. How to turn those themes and feelings into marketing will be a different matter all together, but if a reader reads your books and the themes are similar they’ll connect the dots themselves and hopefully leave the reviews to reflect that, too.

I’ll be paying special attention to these covers to make sure that the feeling will travel across everything my pen name writes.

As for what I’m doing for the rest of my day, I wrote 7,000 words yesterday, and usually after a creative spurt like that I don’t get much done the next day.  I would still like to get a couple thousand in later, but I need to run to the grocery store, and tonight is movie night with my sister. We saw Uncut Gems–my pick–a couple weeks ago, and it was not to our liking, so it’s her pick now. I don’t know what we’ll see. Have you watched any good movies lately? I’ve been watching The Witcher at night, one episode, or half an episode, ever evening (I don’t have tolerance for much more TV than that). I tried reading the books a while back, but didn’t care for the 3rd person omniscient they’re written in. I might go back and try again, since I’m enjoying the show.

I hope you all are having a fantastic 2020 so far!


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