Monday Musings

Happy Labor Day! I want to take a second to honor those workers who have done so much to get us through these horrible coronavirus times. The first responders and the emergency room workers, all the nurses, doctors, people at the CDC, and the WHO, and teachers and parents, and everyone in between who has been doing what they can to make the world a better place while COVID has been sweeping through our country. As of this writing, 188,000 people have died of COVID and I don’t see this ending anytime soon. The way people don’t want to wear masks, still gather in public, and in general try to pretend nothing is going on because they are tired of having their own lives disrupted, I’ve never seen America in such turmoil. Please pray, and in November, go vote. Maybe if we all make our voices heard, we can make a change.


Anyway, I ran a giveaway with romance author Meka James, and the winner is Sandy! We will contact her so she can choose which format of Being Hospitable she wants to have, and where I should send her Amazon ecard. Meka has kindly decided to share another audiobook, and the runner up winner goes to Aila Stephens! We will be contacting her as well.

taken from Meka’s instagram account

Thanks to all the participants, and to those who read Meka’s interview! We’re fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community full of writers, authors, and friends who share our passion for all things books!


In other news I’m still working with Amazon ads, and I’m getting a little bit smarter this time month. While I came out ahead last month, I lost money on ads for The Years Between Us when I shouldn’t have. Just because you’re coming out ahead doesn’t mean you’re not wasting money. So lesson learned there. I’m keeping closer tabs on my ads, and I created a few new ones at the beginning of September. The ones I made for the first book in my wedding series just aren’t taking offing. That could be because I’m bidding too low. I’m selling books, but I think I’m still benefiting from the Freebooksy promo I did in July. And the sell-through to book four has been okay enough that it made up for the money I lost on The Years Between Us. I’m trying not to be too down on myself. I did come out ahead after all, and I am finding new readers. All you can do is keep tinkering and see if you can find that sweet spot among selling books, making money, and keep bids low.


I ran some ads for Wherever He Goes and I’m getting a few clicks but no sales. I redid the blurb today and it’s going through the publishing changes. I paused the ads while I did that, and I’ll start them up again when the changes are published. I like the cover, so the only thing left is for me to add some more categories. I published this book two years ago, and I bet I haven’t sold more than 50 books. I re-edited it along with all the other books I did back in April and May, I think, when we were all on lockdown and there wasn’t anything to do. So the insides and the cover are as good as I can make them now. A new blurb and cover did wonders for The Years Between Us, so I can only hope there’s a little magic left for this one too.


I don’t have too much else. I’m still working on book 5 of my series, and I’ll be done with it this week. I’ll probably move right on to book six and see how far I can get before the holiday stuff starts happening. November has always been a busy month for me with birthdays and Thanksgiving.

My daughter starts hybrid school on Tuesday and that should be interesting. I don’t feel anywhere prepared to help her get through the year. I also started working from home, which has been nice. Except for a few glitches getting going, I think it will be a nice change of pace and if it snows I won’t have to worry about missing work if I can’t get there. My daughter only goes to school 2-3 days a week, and those are the days I’m not scheduled to work. I think this fall will work out. Now if I can get my teeth in order, that would be great. Dental work always takes so much time though, so not even sure when I can get my mouth situated. I’ll be having a lot of consultations to see what the best course of action will be for the long-term. What I have done now I want to last until I die. Morbid, but I’ve been doing the bare minimum to my mouth for the past couple of decades and I’m too old to be putting up with this anymore.


I hope everyone who has kids back in school can find some safe normalcy, and keep writing those words! In a parting note, Jane Friedman is doing a class on how to choose an agent or publisher for your manuscript! Even though self-publishing is more of a thing than ever before, there are still a large number of writers who want to query. Knowing how to choose an agent to query that will be a good fit is super important. Her class is only $25 and it may save you a lot of work and heartache! Check it out here. If you can’t watch it live, there is always a replay, so don’t feel you can’t sign up if you’re busy. I’ve taken a few classes from her before, and you ALWAYS get what you pay for.

taken from Jane’s site.

That’s about all I have for today. Thanks for stopping in, and again, congrats to the winners of the giveaway! Have a lovely September!

My Freebooksy Promo Results for His Frozen Heart (A Rocky Point Wedding Book 1)

I did a Freebooksy on July 17 for the first book in my series to try to jumpstart some sales. Here are the results:

First I spent a little more time with the ad:

I really wanted to make sure that readers knew what they were getting. It’s a holiday romance, so it takes place in the winter. It’s got kind of a Beauty and the Beast type theme, and I wanted to bring that home because not every reader likes that kind of trope. Damaged heroes, yes, but damaged on the outside, not so much. Plus I wanted to highlight that it’s first in a series that’s complete because indies have burned too many readers with series that aren’t done or won’t be finished for many years. Readers are smart enough to know not to get invested. I’ve seen Chris Fox do this too, in his ad copy on Amazon. Plus it’s a great way to let readers know there is more than one book available.

I didn’t care so much about the ranking since potential read-through of the other books is more important. But I think I did okay in the free list in Small Town Romance:

Eleven was as high as I got, but I did go up to number 2 in Holiday Romance:

So that was fine. I don’t think it means much, to be honest–I kind of feel like anyone can give away a book. Especially if you’re paying to do it.

So the promo ran on July 17th, and the first day of the promo I gave away 3,866. I always give away the book the next day in case someone opens their email late and by chance looks to see if the book is still available. On July 18th I gave away 915. I did give away some on the 19th probably because of a time zone thing: 51. So in all total my promo gave away 4,832.

The first couple of days didn’t earn me any read-through, and that’s to be expected because a lot of people download a book but don’t/can’t read it right away. Twelve days later, I am getting some read-through and I’ve made back what spent on the promo.

Here are the stats for each book in the series this month. And if anyone wants to know, more than half of my royalties come from KU page reads.

It thrills me I’m getting read-through. I was so full of doubt when the first few reviews of book one came in and they were bad. Now, hopefully with Amazon ads I can have long tail off this promo. And if the people reading the whole series would review, that would be fantastic too. I need a few good ones to wipe out the negative ones on Amazon and Goodreads.

So all in all, I had a positive experience with Freebooksy this time around. If I could give you advice it would be this:

  • Make your ad copy in the Freebooksy newsletter count. I tried to add as much information as I could so the reader knew exactly what they were getting.
  • You’ll get more bang for your buck if you’re promoting a series. If you’re not, at least fix your back matter and offer links to other books so if your reader likes your book they have something else they can immediately read when they’re done. Don’t make them hunt–make it easy to read your books. All my books in the series link to the next. That did mean going in and adding the buy-link after publishing the next book, but the extra effort is very much worth it.
  • Make sure you have a good cover that conveys your genre.
  • Make sure the blurb is well-written.
  • Make sure if you’re promoting a first in series, that all your books look like they belong together.

Obviously, I haven’t made what I could have if those 4,000+ giveaways had been sales. And I’m not really sure what’s going on with more books. The books I’m writing now are different from these, and I think I”m going to be publishing them under a pen name. Does that mean my next book is going to be in 3rd person past? Or do I want to write in first person present? If I’m going to keep promoting these, then I should eventually have something new readers can move on to. On the other hand, if I have to fight like a trout upstream for sales, then I need to stop beating my head against a brick wall. Writing first person present is fun, and if I can find a foothold writing that, I would be content to let my 3rd person past stuff rest for a while.

Lots of choices!

Tell me, have you done a pomo lately? Let me know!


Happy Thursday! Author musings, and holy cow, why is it so hot outside?

Minnesota has been going through a heatwave, and I’ve never been more glad than when I emailed our property management last week and had them look at our air conditioner. The maintenance man cleaned it out and now we hold steady at about 71F in our apartment. I don’t mind the heat, and I’ll go walk in it or run errands without bitching, but only if I can find some relief when I’m tired of baking my brains out. Trying to sleep when your bedroom is 85F is tough. And trying to write without any sleep is tougher yet. Am I right? First world problems at their finest, I suppose.

Health Issues.

I had a scare last week when a new brand of coffee made me sick to my stomach, and I mean, SICK. I drink a lot of coffee, and for a handful of days I felt so terrible I thought I had stomach cancer. Luckily I put two and two together and after I switched back to an old brand, I felt a lot better. I’ve also started wearing my splints again. I wear my elbow compression sleeves off and on to keep the nerves in my elbows in check, but I forgot about my wrist splints, and wearing those again have helped my pain, too. For a little bit, between my back pain and my stomach issues, I was feeling pretty miserable. But I’m back up to 98%, and as a friend said, after you hit 40, 98% is about as well as you can hope for. I know I’ll always have carpal tunnel issues, and like anyone else with a chronic health problem, it’s easy to get lost in a mini pity-party. But I took a walk yesterday and a cyclist zoomed past me on the trail. This guy had a prosthetic arm that attached at his shoulder, and it shut me up real quick. I’m sure he’d trade a bit of carpal tunnel pain to have his body whole, and it’s always a gentle reminder to be thankful for what you have.

Back to the writing part of it.

In writing news, I finished the second read-through of the last book in my first person trilogy. I’m so happy with this trilogy, and the writing went very smoothly. Now I’m worried about how the second trilogy is going to go, but I want to start writing the first book soon. While I write, I’m going to go ahead and format the first three (and hahahaha, do their covers) and order the proofs. There’s no rush to get these done. While I was going to do a pen name for these books, I’ve decided that yes, I won’t publish under Vania Rheault, but I don’t want to distance myself using a whole different name like I was thinking about. So I’ll publish these under VM Rheault. It won’t be a secret I wrote these, but I do want to keep them separated from my 3rd person books. I’m thinking more about my brand this time around and every book under VM Rheault will be a lot more consistent with feel and sub-genre than my other books. Not sure if this will help sales, but I’ve been sniffing around my FB groups learning, and it’s time to apply what I’ve picked up and see if it helps me too.

Last month, I ran a handful of ads to my Tower City Romance Trilogy Box Set and I got a few nibbles but no sales, so I shut the ads off. It included the sequel novella I wrote a couple months ago when I re-edited the trilogy, but because I didn’t sell any of the box set, I published the novella separately this morning. There’s no point in keeping it exclusive material for a set that’s not selling. I can throw some low-bid ads at the first book and see if anything happens. I have it set up as a paperback too, but the cover needs tweaking. I’ll do that later this week, I suppose, though I doubt anyone is going to want to buy the paperback. It won’t be worth the price. It’s a substantial novella as far as they go (29,500 words), but it was still too slim to put text on the spine (at least, KDP couldn’t center it correctly and I finally just took it off rather than fight with the uploading system on KDP and the PDF). But it will be available, so I guess it doesn’t matter in the end.

This morning I also set up a freebooksy for book one of my Rocky Point Wedding series. I was thinking about doing a Christmas in July type thing, so I was able to tailor the ad copy in that general direction. Whether it will hit or miss remains to be seen, but I have that set up for the middle of July and my free promo days are already set up on Amazon. I actually did okay buying a freekbooksy a couple years ago for the first book in my Tower City Romance trilogy. I made back the cost of the promo and then some in KU page reads, and I can’t remember how many downloads my book got, but I made it quite high (in the top ten) in the free steamy contemporary romance category. I’m hoping I do better this time around with an extra book and better writing. I haven’t calculated read through for my series yet, since the last book has only been out two weeks, but people are buying it, so I’m hoping this series has better read-through potential. I just checked because I was curious, and I noticed that the last book in my series wasn’t enrolled in KU. Sigh. I can only blame myself for not checking, and I hate to think what that has done to potential page reads when the first three are in KU and the last wasn’t. Everything else is, but at least I figured it out before the promo went live next month. Live and learn, folks. Live and learn.

Newsletters.

I’m still looking into starting my newsletter. I’ve decided to go with MailChimp since Jane Friedman and Mark Dawson use it. That was probably one of the hardest decisions because there are so many newsletter providers out there and they all have their own sets of pros and cons. But if heavy-hitters like Jane and Mark use MailChimp, then it should be good enough for me. I did have a newsletter set up with them a couple years ago, but I never sent out anything, not even to myself as a tryout. I wasn’t as research-savvy as I am now though, and I’ll be watching plenty of tutorials on how to set up a newsletter effectively. And I’ll probably need to blow off the dust on my author email account. I’m not worried about content, just the over all learning the platform and setting things up so my emails are sent smoothly. Everything is a learning process. I’ll also be typing out a novelette that I wrote at work over the course of a few weeks, and though it’s got kind of an ambiguous ending, I’m considering using it as a reader magnet. I have to type it out though first–20 handwritten pages front and back. I think that equals about 15,000 words give or take. Not terrible, and written in first person present, so it’s a lead-in to my pen name. Now I’ll have to look into group promos to build my list but that’s more research and a post for another day.


How is everyone doing? Getting stuff done writing-wise? This is a great tip from my friends Petyon and Scarlett on Twitter:

I would definitely encourage you to follow these lovely ladies on Twitter! Until next time, everyone. 🙂


Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 7: Pricing

My Book

In this blog series, I’ve been going through results of a survey by Written Word Media conducted in September of 2019. In it, they surveyed Emerging Authors who make less than 60k a year and have 6 or less books in their catalog, 60kers who have 22 books in their catalog, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their catalog.

The last point in the survey is pricing.

In their findings, they discovered 20% of emerging authors have a book priced at $10.00 or more. I’ve come across this attitude many times, even from some of my writer friends. Their attitude is this: I spent a lot of time writing that book. I want to be compensated for it. The first book is always the hardest. Sometimes it takes the longest to write. But, unfortunately, a first book is usually the weakest of the collection as well.

Usually, after not selling a book for a while, or after more than a handful of people telling them that they’re crazy, those authors drop their prices to something a little more competitive. I mean, if you can sell an ebook for $9.99, would you rather sell one copy, or sell three copies at $2.99? The amount you earn is the same, but you have two more readers who may end up being lifelong fans.

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graphic taken by survey linked above

The survey also says that 50% of emerging authors think a free book is a good marketing technique, whereas 63% of 60kers and 100kers think giving away a free book is a good idea.

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graphic taken from survey linked above

Of course, that makes sense. The reasoning is the fewer books you have, the less likely you are to want to give them away.

Authors who are wide and have several series out are more likely to have a permafree first-in-series. If you’re exclusive with Amazon, if you want to do a free book, you can only do a promo with the free days KDP allots you.

Pricing low or free is helpful for a first in series, proving your first book is strong enough to entice your readers to read the rest.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that traditionally published books will have a higher ebook price because those publishers want you to buy the paperback or hardcover edition. Their whole business model is based on print. So if you’re looking at trad pubbed pricing, keep that in mind while pricing your book.

I would say the easiest way to price your book is to do what other successful indie authors in your genre are doing. A 100k word epic fantasy is going to be priced differently than a 25k word romance novella. Readers won’t show you any mercy, and they’ll be quick to give you a bad review if they feel like you’ve ripped them off.

What can you do?

  1. Price competitively. Do research and find the most popular price point in your genre, then stick with that.
  2. Realize readers don’t care what you went through while writing the book. They want a good read at a fair price.
  3. If you don’t want to give your book away, then don’t. No one’s forcing you. You may not like the idea of KU either, and that’s fine. Do what is best for you. It takes 24 hours for a price-change to take effect on KDP; you’re not bound to a decision.

As for what I do? I’ve learned giving my standalones away won’t do too much. The survey implied readers will read your other books, but that’s not always true. Especially a reader who has never read you before. They don’t feel a connection to you, or a loyalty to you yet.

Probably the most successful time I’ve ever gave my book away is when I used a free day in Select and paid for a Freebooksy. Because the book I gave away was the first in a trilogy, I made the promo fee back with KU reads over all three books. I broke even which is better than losing money, and I got some reviews out of it, too.

In truth, set a book or two at 2.99 or 3.99 depending on genre and word count, then go write more books. Worrying about the price of one book isn’t going to do you any favors, and paying to give one book away if it’s your only one doesn’t make sense.

Save the strategy for when you have a few more books in your library.

In the next blog post, I’ll wrap up this series, and we’ll explore the extra data WWM supplied after the survey came out.

See you then!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 5 Marketing

Happy Monday! I hope the weekend treated you well!

If you just popped onto my blog, welcome! If you’ve visited before, welcome back!

We’ve been going through the Written Word Media Survey they conducted last year in October.

They broke down three types of authors–the ones who make less than 60k a year and have six books in their backlis, 60kers who have 22 books in their backlist, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their backlist. They broke those groups into sections on who pays how much for what.

My last blog post was a convoluted 2000 word monstrosity on how even though everyone advises authors to have a professional cover made, if you write in a genre that supports a simpler cover, there’s no reason why you can’t learn how to do them on your own. At any rate, you can read it here, and watch my rudimentary YouTube video on how to use Canva templates for an e-book cover so you don’t have to start from scratch. I hope to do a few more of those videos–if I can make a cover, anyone can.

The next installment of this blog series is marketing.

For fiction, marketing isn’t what it used to be. Even three years ago when the words “author platform” were the buzzwords in the author community, hardly anyone says those words now because nobody cares. (And this is for fiction. Memoir and nonfiction have their own rules and nothing I’m going to get into here.)

For fiction, author platform isn’t as important as a simple newsletter, and before, author platform meant your presence on everything from Twitter to Google Plus. That’s not true anymore.

If the author platform is falling by the wayside, how do you “market?” Marketing is simply finding out what kind of books people want and/or need to read and telling them about your book if your book fills that want or need. That’s it. Author platform used to do that. You would use your platform to draw readers to you and your content.

But as the survey points out, you can use promos and let them tell readers about your book. That’s a lot easier than tweeting into the void.

marketing promos

graphic taken from survey linked above

According to the chart, BookBub came in first for promos. Not everyone will be approved for a featured deal, and sometimes Amazon doesn’t like them. The too-swift uptick in sales flags their algorithms. I’ve heard from some authors that they’ve had their books frozen due to suspicious activity. They get it sorted out but it takes time and they lose sales. Also, featured deals are expensive. I know in some genres they can cost up to $600 so they aren’t an option for all authors. 

Promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy work better than ads. I have found that for my own books, anyway. And as the article points out, there is no learning curve. Set your sale, set your promo, and walk away. Let the promo platform deliver your book to their readers.

Marketing-Is-Hard-graph

graphic taken from survey linked above

But what the article doesn’t say is it makes the most sense to use a promo on a book one in a series. If you run a Freebooksy promo on a standalone, yeah, you’re paying to give your book away. And contrary to that poor delusional soul on Twitter who thought being on the top 10 list of free books on Amazon made her a bestseller, unfortunately that isn’t the case. A bestseller implies you are selling books. Nice try though.

If you’re in KU, sometimes you can get some page reads from a Freebooksy on top of giving your book away because instead of downloading it for free, a reader who has a membership with Kindle Unlimited will read your book there instead.

Ads aren’t bad, but they’re complicated and keeping tabs on them so they don’t lose money is time consuming.

If you’re in KU it makes the most sense to learn Amazon ads–then you’re advertising for sales and page reads. If you’re wide and are everywhere like Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, Nook, using Facebook and BookBub ads (not the featured deal) makes sense. Though there is a way when creating your Facebook ad to choose Facebook users who like the Kindle, and that would target only those who buy books from Amazon.

I have dabbled in all the ad platforms and lost money on all of them, too. Your ads will only work if you have a killer product (cover, blurb, title, and look-inside) and it’s only after you lose money when you find out that your cover may have missed the mark or your blurb sucks.

Promos also feature your book’s cover and promos like Freebooksy and BargainBooksy gives you 130 characters or so for a short piece of ad copy so it’s worth it to take the time to write a short hook for each of your books.

Of course, the saying that the best marking marketing for your book is writing another book will never be wrong, and a steadily growing backlist will ensure your readers that you’re going to be around for a while.

Which may also take the place of author platform. Why be everywhere when you could be writing?

What can you do?

  1. Write more books. Promos only work if you have a library to offer your readers. Unless you’re looking for reviews. Freebooksy is around $100 a pop. Not in the BookBub featured deal pricing, but still spendy. Know what your goals are and make the fee count.

  2. Make sure your book is solid. It’s all a waste if you don’t have a good book to offer.

  3. Don’t be scared to stagger promos or overlap them for a longer sales tail. If you put your book on sale for .99 schedule a BargainBooksy and an E -reader News Today (also known as ENT). Authors who are trying to get in on a list like the USA today bestseller list schedule a ton of promos for the same time.

If you want to learn an ad platform there are lots of resources out there:

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For Amazon ads, the best thing you can do is follow Bryan Cohen on Facebook. Ask to join his Selling for Authors Facebook group, and do the 5 day mini challenge he’s starting on January 13th. It’s free, and he will teach you how to use the platform correctly and not go broke. Oh, but I thought you said you lost money, you ask. Yes, yes I did. It wasn’t due to following his instructions, but because an ad for The Years Between Us took off, and no one liked the blurb. So I got plenty of clicks on that super awesome ad, but no sales. I should have killed the ad sooner, but I didn’t and that’s my fault.

BookBub. BookBub has a newsletter they send out to all their subscribers. At the bottom of every newsletter are sponsored books. You bid like you would on Amazon, and if you win, your book has a place at the bottom of the newsletter.

Readers click and it takes them to wherever you linked the ad. The best resource I can direct you to is David Gaughran’s book. He knows how to run that platform, and I would’t try to do any BookBub ads without reading that book cover to cover. When I was wide for two months, I tried BookBub ads. I wasted the money to test ads, to test the graphic, whatever. Don’t Run Away was permafree, and I got a lot of downloads. That didn’t lead to sales of the other two books in the trilogy, and only after two months I went back to KU.

412mZB5USRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Facebook ads. Mal and Jill Cooper came out with the second edition of their book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! They explain the platform, what works, how to target your audience. I wouldn’t do a Facebook ad without at least skimming this book so you know what kind of ad to choose, how to put it together, and what kind of graphic to use. I haven’t done much with FB ads. Sometimes I’ll boost a post off my FB Author page. I did that a few times to announce I was back in KU, and I got a small bump in page reads for a little while. I also am boosting posts from my pen name author page to start a little awareness of the books I’ll be releasing in the spring. But nothing too hardcore.

They do include a page about Instagram ads. Since IG is owned by FB, you can run Instagram ads from your FB ad account. I never tried it, so I can’t tell you anything about my experience.

It’s best to focus on one ad platform and learn it really well. I’ll stick with Amazon Ads. Bryan is really easy to understand, and what he teaches you works. But he can only hold your hand for so long. You need to have a viable product or it won’t matter if you choose ads or promos. Nothing will work.

As for a list of Promo sites–people are so generous with what they know. A round of applause to Dave Chesson for putting this list together. 


That’s all that I have on marketing. No two books are alike, so no two books are going to sell alike. Find your audience. Are they like you? Where you do you find your books? Market your books there. Sounds simple, but in the end, it’s enough to make you swear off writing forever.

Good luck!


My next post talks about exclusivity vs. going wide and what the Written Word Media survey has to say about that!  See you then!

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