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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Have a great week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Made in Canva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 / 49 = 32%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

made with Canva

Or maybe something not so fancy like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Musings and an Author Update

I don’t even know where to start this week. As much as I absolutely love doing every little bit for each and every book, these projects feel like they take so much work to get from my head and onto Amazon’s website.

Last week I finished listening to the last book of my trilogy. I can pick up 99.9% of typos that way, and it makes for a pretty clean final draft. I need to keep a list of words I like to lean on while I’m writing, as I discovered the word “just” in my 3rd book and went back to the first and second and realized I abused it there too. All told among three books, I think I edited out about 300. Some make sense, some can be deleted without changing the sentence, and sometimes a better word can replace it. It wasn’t a huge task, but it added an extra hour to my editing on Wednesday. But, I know the books are better for it, so I can’t be too annoyed. Last Friday I was able to format them all, much to my delight, and over the weekend I was able to create my covers.

I’m not going with the covers I talked about in my last blog post. Honesty is always the best policy (with yourself and others, but especially with yourself), and they were just not a good fit for the billionaire subgenre. It sucks, because they’re pretty and I like them, but they aren’t going to do the job. What really tripped me up was looking for models who are older. I have one MC who is 45 and another who is almost 50, and while I’m not one to care if a model matches the description inside, I can’t portray young men on the covers when there are not young men inside. There are very few older men models on DepositPhotos (that are model quality, anyway, sorry guys), and I happened to use the most popular one on Rescue Me. Luckily, my next couple of books are finished cover-wise, so I won’t be scrolling through stock sites again anytime soon. DepositPhotos seems to be kind of picked over at this point, and that will be a dilemma I’ll need to face down the road. Covers are super agonizing, but I’m confident what I finally came up with will work. They are better suited, and they still have their heads. I suppose if that’s the only thing I can’t bend on, I’m not doing too bad.


The problem I have, and will always have, is doing what you want vs. what you need to do to sell books. Someone in one of my author groups on FB posted the other day and said the best thing about being an indie is not having to appeal to everybody. I read that, and I was so confused. Of course you don’t want to appeal to everybody, but you want to appeal to SOMEBODY, preferably readers in your genre, and you can’t do that if your cover looks like Photoshop and DepositPhoto had a baby. I write this blog and publish my books in the POV of a single mom with a full-time job that doesn’t pay very much. I get it. You’re broke, I’m broke, and paying out for everything is just not possible. I have never ever said you shouldn’t publish if you can’t afford things like covers and editing. But I was listening to a Clubhouse room not long ago and one of the speakers said this: You’re gonna pay. You’re gonna pay at the beginning when you hire out for an editor and cover designer and a formatter if you don’t know a kind soul who has Vellum, and if you don’t pay there, you’re going to pay with readers after you publish your book. You won’t have any. If you don’t have money to spend, you have to spend the time, and I can’t tell you how many premade sites I perused, how many current top 100 romance lists I looked at trying to gauge what I needed compared to the skills I have that yes, I have tried to cultivate over the course of the six years I’ve been publishing (but I am not an expert by any means).

It’s easy to believe what you hear. I got a lot of good feedback from those sunset/city covers I posted on Twitter, but Twitter writers are not my readers and while I appreciate the compliments, it doesn’t matter if they liked them or not. What matters is my readers like them enough to buy my book and read it. That’s all I want. That’s the cover’s only job. It isn’t about pride or what you like, and you can look for validation on Twitter until the cows come home, but when you buy a promo and you don’t get your money back, that’s the real validation. Giving away 4,000 copies of my first in series during a Freebooksy and paying for that fee the first day with KU page reads is a high that will never, ever get old.

Anyway, that seems to be a theme lately, the them vs us. Indie vs. readers, indie vs. traditional publishing. There is no versus if you do things the way things are meant to be done. There is no line, and I keep trying to figure out who is drawing it. If you’re standing on one side of that line, why? You have to identify with being an indie so hard that you’re willing to sacrifice readers for the control? Who is really in control when a reader sees your book, doesn’t like the cover, doesn’t like the title, doesn’t like your blurb and decides not to buy? Your control is an illusion. The control is with the reader who bought a different book.


Ooof, I’m done with this part of it. There are too many negative emotions online lately. Fear and doubt and desperation. No sales and launches that sink. 965 words of you can do better and your books and readers will thank you.

Besides the painful realization my covers needed a third revamp (no one saw my first try besides my friend Sami-Jo) the rest of what I have going on should be okay. Vellum is a dream and I formatted pretty quickly. I need some blurb feedback that I’ll seek out while I get some other stuff done, and all in all, I’m excited to publish these. I still have to adjust my author name on the hardcover of Rescue Me and approve it, but otherwise there’s nothing I need to backtrack for unless I want to load it into IngramSpark too, but I’m not in a hurry to publish my paperback there. If you’re looking for a freebie upload, you can sign up for their blog. They’ll let you know promo codes every so often, and this one popped in my email yesterday:

6 Figure Authors Podcast did a catch up episode that I was excited to see. I thought it was old until Lindsay (on Twitter) said it was new, and you can listen to it here.

That’s about all I have for this week. I’ve decided to work on completing my series that I started over COVID lockdown. I have two done, four more to go, and last night I was trying to think of why I stalled out when I realized it was because I decided I needed a reader magnet for a newsletter that was a long time in coming, and I stopped my series to write a novella. Three full-length books later I realized I can’t write a novella and ended up using the shortest of the three (76k words) as a freebie for my newsletter. Now it’s time to get back into finishing that series because I want to tackle a long series about one couple like Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. I’m not sure on plot, though Lindsay Buroker was talking about psychics some time ago, and that idea has been rattling around in my brain for a long time now trying to tie a psychic in with the billionaire subgenre. And at some point I have three standalones I want to write, so I’m glad I won’t be running out of material for the next little while. But as always, I’m getting ahead of myself, and maybe I’ll take a couple days off after my trilogy is uploaded to Amazon and my proofs ordered. I’m on track to publish in January providing nothing strange happens. I won’t be participating in NaNo this year, though I rarely do. This November I’ll be rereading the first two books and making plans for the other four. I don’t have their plots laid out yet, and I can only blame the planster life for that. I know who the characters are for the most part, but not much more.

Next week I can write about my second try with Booksrpout and catch you up on how my Amazon ads are doing and how my Facebook Ad is doing with my reader magnet and my newsletter sign up.

Have a good week!

Monday Author Update: Spring is Here!

There isn’t a whole lot going on with me–I’m in surgery today and I have some great guest posts lined up for the next three weeks. Barbara Avon is writing about being a multi-genre author on April 4th. She’ll also have a new book out by then, so watch for that! Vera Brook will be blogging about the benefits of writing short fiction, and that will post on April 11th, and I interviewed Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy author SJ Cairns for the 18th. That interview will have a giveaway, as well, so make sure you pop in!


I’m still plugging away trying to rewrite sentences to “take” out take and make out of my manuscripts. Those are just two crutch words I fell back on when I switched to 1st person present and I didn’t notice. After this series, I’m going to read over my reader magnet again and buff that up. While I start to build my newsletter signups after I edit my reader magnet one more time, I’ll have to edit my duet again. I mean, those words aren’t crazy to the point where the books sound bad or I would have hopefully noticed a lot sooner, but I can’t deny that the sentences are stronger when they’re rewritten. It’s such a drag, especially since I probably used those words in ALL my books, and I have two more books in a series I started and four more standalones that I’ll need to re-edit.

If you want to know what I’m talking about, I’ll give you an example:

Zarah will have that same power. I see glimpses of it when she’s feeling good. It makes me proud of her, but her legacy isn’t something I can comprehend.

This is a sentence from the fourth book of my series. You can see the “makes me proud” part of that sentence. I do that…all the time. In this example, it’s easy to fix it from that to simply, I’m proud of her, but her legacy isn’t something I can comprehend.

You might not think it’s a big deal, but when I do this 250 times in an 80k novel, it’s a bit much.

Another example is something like this: She stands from the couch and takes the pill bottle I gave her off her desk.

Rewriting this is simple too: She stands from the couch and lifts the pill bottle I gave her off her desk.

I use “takes” a lot as a verb (I used the word on average 200 times per novel) and it’s as boring as “got” and “get.” (In the book I’m reading now–the author uses “get” 300 times, and “got” 164 times, which is really distracting. But she doesn’t have my problem, and she uses “takes” only 70 times. Haha. We all have our issues.)

It’s not difficult to find a better verb, and the sentence is stronger and reads better.

As I said, it’s not time consuming, but when my brain is stuck, figuring out a different way to say the same thing can be difficult.

That pushes back my launch of my duet even longer than I had anticipated, surgery aside, but I’m trying to convince myself that’s a good thing. I want to launch this pen name strong, start off with a solid foundation because I’m tired of doing things the wrong way and wondering why nothing is working. And the very last thing I want to do is publish a book and have to re-edit it. I hate that. Part of my process for this new pen name is to try like hell not to mess up a release so I don’t have to go back and fix anything.

So, that’s my life. Editing, trying to set things up so I can launch my duet. My best hope now is to have my duet out this summer sometime. I don’t need long to re-edit a book, but sometimes I feel like it I need a lot of brainpower to rewrite a sentence. It’s actually pretty easy, but when your brain is stuck on something, you need to jiggle it loose and figure out another way to say the same thing. I don’t aim to take out all of them–I believe you can edit so much you edit out your style and your voice and I don’t want to do that–but now that I see them, I can’t unsee them, and I can see where my brain would get stuck in that rhythm while I was writing.


There’s a lot of talk about writing conferences this year, but I’m not going anywhere. Not because of COVID, just because I have so much in virtual stuff both paid and free to get through that I don’t have time to go anywhere. As much as I would love to be able to network in person, I would like to have some books out too, so I’m focusing on editing, publishing, and building my newsletter through social media while trying to consume the content I’ve paid for.

On a happier note, I looked at MailerLite’s emails, and they aren’t getting rid of their classic design. I don’t need to redo or relearn anything when it comes to my newsletter, so that was welcome news. But since I upgraded to a BookFunnel’s integration I’ll need to figure that out before I start promoting my reader magnet.


The Six Figure Author Podcast with Lindsay Buroker, Jo Lallo, and Andrea Pearson is ending soon. I was pretty bummed when they announced it during their last episode, but I can see where the podcast would be time consuming. Jo said in the comments of this episode they’re leaving their FB group up, so that’s nice. It’s a great resource for indie authors, and maybe they’ll post their career updates there instead of sharing on their podcast. If you want to listen to their latest episode, you can find it here:

I will try to update you all when I’m feeling better, probably on a Thursday since Mondays are booked for the next three weeks (which takes a lot off my mind) and I’m thankful I have friends willing to help me when I’m in a tight spot.

I hope you enjoy the guest posts and enjoy the warming temperatures! I know I will.

Hustle Culture in the Indie Community

I didn’t even know what I was going to write about today, until I saw Kim Kardashian trending (when isn’t she) for telling people to get off their asses and get to work.

This comes at a great, or maybe not so great, time when several assistant editors in large publishing houses recently quit their jobs. It’s not a secret editors are underpaid and overworked, and houses cutting the positions due to budget cuts, something that’s evident when you pick up a traditionally published book and wonder why there are so many typos. (It wasn’t that long ago I read a book where the author kept using the word “sallow” as complimentary adjective. The word does not mean what she think it meant–an easy catch for an editor–and I wondered why no one told her to fix it.)

With gas prices soaring while the pandemic is still around (yeah, it really is), sometimes it’s difficult think of how someone could work harder than they already are. Cost of living has gone up (the price of meat is out of this world) but pay rates stay the same (my last raise was .25/hr–I’ll be sure not to spend it all one place), and there doesn’t seem to be a solution…especially when the overall sentiment these days is, if you don’t have money to pay your bills, you’re not working hard enough.

The same holds true for indies in the indie publishing industry. If you can’t crank out a book a month, you’re not working hard enough. Two of these tweets popped in my feed this morning, so it’s on people’s minds:

A lot has to do with the industry and the way it’s evolved since Jeff Bezos created the Kindle. Expectations changed, more authors than ever are publishing books. Thousands of new titles a month are published on Amazon, and while it’s easy to say a rising tide lifts all boats, it’s a lot easier to feel like your boat has a hole in it when you’re comparing your career to other people’s.

What it took me time to understand is that you can burn out doing what you love, and you can burn out doing what you love if you don’t see any small measure of success while you’re doing it. For the most part I love all that goes into indie publishing: learning how to do covers, watching ad platform workshops–I”m watching a craft workshop with Melanie Harlow later today. I love it all, but I resent it too, because how hard do I have to work to move the needle, how much money do I have to spend (which seems counterproductive to what I’m trying to do), and how long is my “overnight success” going to take?

The last thing I want is to let the industry drag me down so much that I don’t enjoy writing, on the other hand, my finances are taking a beating right now, like many who have found themselves in tight spots when the pandemic hit, and it’s really difficult to hang in there when I don’t know where my rent is coming from.

I agree with Kim to a point. You do have to work for what you want. You have to put in the work. You have to write the words, work on your craft. Before worrying about marketing or ads, or starting a newsletter, you have to learn how to write good books, and that’s a never-ending process. But after that, then what? When Amazon feeds into the hustle culture by rewarding your books with a new release bump that will fade after 30 days…. It’s why authors aim to publish so quickly–they’re trying to feed Amazon’s algorithm the best they can. Relevancy is rewarded with ad performance and rank, and you have to do a different kind of hustle if you can’t publish four times a year.

I understand what it’s like to feel guilty for taking a break–it wasn’t that long ago on my blog I was outlining the ways I could make my surgery recovery work for me, instead of, you know, resting. And even if I want to just lie in bed and “rest” I have plenty of webinars, both paid and free to watch, and hours of podcasts I’ve fallen behind listening to, that would maybe keep me from feeling like I was wasting my time. But what I won’t do, and probably a lot of people in my position wouldn’t do either, is flip on Netflix and watch TV all day.

The most insulting thing I find about what Kim said is that there are plenty of people who put in the time, they just don’t have anything to show for it…yet. She wasn’t always rich and famous. At some point, way at the beginning of her “career,” she was a personal shopper/dresser hanging around Paris Hilton making sex tapes, and it’s easy for her now to stand on her pedestal and preach about how hard she worked to get where she is.

I mean, I get what she’s trying to say. I see a lot of writers, especially on Twitter who say they don’t have time to write, yet in the next tweet (ahem) they’re talking about video games, or watching a new show, or what they’re baking, what they’re knitting. I can appreciate filling the creative well. I did replace my Kindle and renewed my KU subscription, so I’m all about reading for fun. But you are making a choice when you’d rather play on TikTok than sit down and write. That is a choice, but then I guess if you’re making that choice, the hustle culture conversation doesn’t apply to you because you already know how to relax (haha!).

We don’t have to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, even if that’s what society is telling us we need to do. You have to take a break, and if you’re working two jobs, maybe that means writing falls to the wayside, and at this time in your life, there’s not much you can do about that except hope things turn around for the better. If you’re able to put in the time without getting burnt out, why not? But if you can’t, don’t let people make you feel bad. You’re doing the best you can.

I just wish my best paid off a little bit more.


My thoughts were kind of scattered today. I have a lot going on, and my energy has been focused on other worries lately. I hope after my surgery I can feel more like normal and things won’t look so bad. It really is amazing how things can perk up when you feel better. If you want to read more about the hustle culture or thoughts on assistant editors leaving their jobs, you can find the articles below. Thanks for reading today, happy Daylight Savings Time if you celebrate!

The Amazon Cliff by Limelight Publishing

Why are so many editors leaving publishing?
And how does it impact authors?

by Kern Carter via Medium

Letting go of hustle culture is harder than it seems by Serena Smith

The End of Editing
An author argues that editors have become too hands-off

By Sadie Hoagland

Trever Noah’s Reaction to Kim’s statement. He makes a lot of great points and worth a listen.

Knowing when to pivot. (What does that mean?)

a picture of zoe york's three books about writing and marketing romance.  look here to buy:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75
To check out the series, look here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75

I just finished Zoe York’s Publishing How To series, and I really enjoyed the books, her thoughts and experiences on publishing romance, goal setting for your author career, and so much more. She’s been writing and publishing for years now, is a full-time author, and has made a bestselling list or two.

What I’m about to say doesn’t have anything to do with these books–I’ll circle around to them–but lately I’ve realized that when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, you can consume all the marketing advice in the whole world, but you won’t get anywhere unless you have a good product, and more importantly, a good product people want to buy. That’s part of the reason why I haven’t purchased Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course (comes in at close to 1,000 dollars, and SPF offers it twice a year). If you don’t have the books to back up your ads, your ads aren’t going to do anything.

When I take a look at my publishing history, I was writing good books. I received the odd 1-2 stars most authors do, but on the whole, I’m writing good books. That’s important to me because I do most of the editing and production alone. But something was still off because over the past few years, I didn’t find any traction. One mistake was my newsletter, or lack of one, I should say, and the other was my lack of direction with the books themselves. (I also didn’t understand author brand, but that’s an old discussion we can have on another day.)

It was just this morning when a woman in a writing FB group was talking about this very thing. She was sub-genre hopping and couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t getting any traction. Maybe she’ll believe me, maybe she won’t, but I told her I had the same problems with my own books and decided to niche down.

desk with laptop, plant, and coffee.

be stubborn about your goals but flexible about your methods.

My issue with pivoting is that it took me a long time to realize I had to do it. Some writers who struggle may never understand that it’s not their marketing chops, or their covers, or their blurbs, but simply what they are writing in the first place. Depending on how fast you can write, that can take years. Years that can feel wasted because if you had been writing the right thing in the first place, you wouldn’t still be at ground zero wondering where it all went wrong. But that’s like a chicken and egg scenario–how do you know what’s right or wrong until you put it out there? And what are the metrics you’ve decided to pin that on? Sales? Reviews? I’m nowhere near making a full-time author’s salary–I checked my dashboard yesterday and made 2 cents. (That tells me someone borrowed the book in KU and opened it to make sure it borrowed properly, then went off to do something else. Or they read the first page, didn’t like it, and returned it. If I think to check back, I’ll see if that person read it or not, but that micro-level of caring is not in me and never will be.) Admittedly, those books are old now, and even dropping 10 cents a click in ad spend to those books is probably a waste of money because as we’ve determined, Amazon loves consistency and relevancy, and I won’t be writing any more of those books for the foreseeable future.

So what will make you decide that it’s time to pivot?

At the beginning of the post, I brought up Zoe’s book because in it she says knowing when to pivot and niche down is a personal choice, and it is. You have to look back at your books, where you are, and decide if it’s enough for you. I see indies making money. I want that, too. It’s not a driving force, but financial security is important to me, and who doesn’t want to get paid for doing what they love?

When we talk about pivoting, what does that even mean? It means taking a look at what you’ve been writing, looking at that lack of success those books are bringing in, and deciding to try something new. It can be as simple as what I did–turning from writing “Contemporary Romance” to Billionaire, or doing a full 360 and changing from Christian Romance to Horror. But then that begs the question too–will the pivot be in the right direction? I have no idea. I can’t even say if these new books will resonate with readers until I put them out. I THINK I’ve taken a step in the right direction: billionaire, first person POV. According to Alex Newton of K-Lytics, Billionaires are like vampires and will never die. So, that’s a good thing. But there are a lot of other things that can turn against me: writing style, the tropes I chose to write about, the issues (backstories) I’ve given my characters and decided to tackle in my writing. Changing from Contemporary Romance to Billionaire might not be the magic bullet I hope it is, and right now, I don’t have a plan C. I’m not even sure how long I’m going to give this pivot a go before I decide this writing business isn’t meant to be. I have enough books saved up to publish 4 a year for the next 3 years, so at least until then (because why not publish them since they’re written), but I’ve been skating financially since my divorce, piecemealing paying my bills with scraps of income from various places while giving my writing career a chance to do something, and I can’t do that indefinitely. As Kristine Kathryn Rusch says, there are easier ways to make money. Less stressful too, I bet.

desk with laptop plant and coffee

a pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision. eric ries

So, if you’ve been banging your head against your laptop trying to figure out why you’re just not seeing the success you want, maybe it’s time to pivot. What is selling right now that’s close to what you’re already writing so you don’t go out of your mind? I’m not saying be a slave to the market, or to trend, though I’ve seen Alex Newton’s indie reports, and trends don’t change nearly as quickly as we like to say they do. I’m saying find something different to write that’s hotter, more niche than what you’ve been writing and see if that works.

All those who wander are not lost, but sometimes you think you know where you’re going and end up not knowing where in the hell you are. That was me before looking at my backlist and choosing to write Billionaire. All of Nothing has made more than all my other books combined, so I feel this pivot was a good choice. Now all I have to do is publish, wait and see.

Fingers crossed.

Thursday Thoughts and Author Update

I haven’t give you an author update for a while, but mainly I’ve been listening to my series and slowly getting that ready for my 2023 release. I just started book 3, and I’ve been tweaking, checking consistency with the other books, making sure there aren’t any discrepancies with what the characters say and the information they find out from book to book. You might wonder how I can do this, and let’s just say, I have 75% of my 480,000 words memorized. Haha. I’m kind of kidding, but kind of not and it definitely helps that I’ve already read through this series about five times and let months go by between reads (I wrote these in 2020). Also, listening to these books is a different way of consuming them, and I’m finding things I wouldn’t catch by reading only.

I am very satisfied with how these are coming along, and despite a mini-breakdown I had a few weeks ago about finding beta readers and proofers, I feel good about them all as a whole. I’ve come to the painful realization that I won’t have any betas or proofers, mostly because now isn’t the time to test proofers and betas. I should have set up a system and formed my “team” long before this, and it’s just too big of a project to be trying people out now to see if they are a good fit. While it’s always is a good idea to have more than one set of eyes on your books–especially for newbie authors–sometimes that just isn’t possible for one reason or another and while no one likes to admit it, there are indies out there who publish with the barest of editing and do just fine. In a perfect world, I would love to have some feedback on the overall story and to make sure all the details are consistent, but with my English degree and my firm grasp of grammar and punctuation, I’m not worried about the technical side of things, at least. I’ve been sifting through stock photos too and marking the ones I like but I won’t be able to do the covers until closer to the end of the year when I can get a better look at what will be trending. Who knows what will be hot for Billionaire covers a year from now? There’s no use getting set on a couple or anything else if I’m going to have to redo them later. Cover-to-market is really important, especially in romance, and getting impatient will just create more work for myself.

I’ve already had to redo my covers for my duet, as black and white covers with a pop of color for the title are slowly starting to slip away. I revamped the covers for my Cedar Hill duet, making them color instead of black and white. Excuse the rough shape they’re in. They aren’t set in stone, and I haven’t purchased the stock photos yet. Tell me which ones you like the best:

Anyway, so I won’t be doing the covers for the series, but I can do everything else, and I’m hoping I’m finished with them by the summer as I still think I want to write a Christmas novel for release at the beginning of November. Listening to these isn’t taking as long as I anticipated it would, so I should have plenty of time to write it while doing everything else to get my duet ready for release thing spring and my series ready for next year.


This is a topic that would probably better fit a Monday post, but I just want to complain a little bit about it here. The other day, an agent on Twitter tweeted this advice:

Twitter tweet snapshot:

It breaks my heart when I get a great pitch for a book somewhere between 50 and 70k. It's almost always a no. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, adult fiction is between 80k and 120k. 60k is just too short to fit comfortably on the shelf.

12:03AM 2/6/22 Twitter Web App

81 Retweets 264 Quote Tweets 714 likes

Writer Twitter blew up. This agent was attacked on so many levels, and so many people who had to weigh in on this agent’s advice and opinion. She eventually locked her account down and I wasn’t privy to most of the horrid aftermath. I’m appalled at the way the writing community treated her, and I feel terrible she was subjected to such aggressive behavior for simply offering a guideline to help querying writers.

No one wants to hear there are rules, and there’s not a day goes by on Twitter when I don’t see “I’m an indie so I don’t have to follow the rules,” or “Rules are made to be broken.” There are rules, and break them at your own detriment. If you want to query, follow the agent’s guidelines. That includes the genre they rep and the length of the book they prefer. If you want to indie publish, go for it, but there are industry standards. You need to format your book correctly, and include all the correct parts. You can’t use any photo you want for the cover. You can’t use song lyrics in your book unless you write to that artist’s record label and ask permission and probably pay a fee. (If you want more legal advice, Helen Sedwick’s book, Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, Second Edition: Updated Guide to Protecting Your Rights and Wallet is invaluable.) There are a gazillion “rules” we must follow every time we publish a book. To say there are no rules is destructive. Not following the rules can prevent you from finding readers at best and can land you legal hot water at the worst. I don’t understand why writers and authors continue to beat a dead horse, but there are rules.

Here is a tweet threads to scroll through if you want. I thought I saved more, but I can’t find the other one where I stole the screenshot of the tweet to begin with. The agent’s tweet and thread is gone–it disappeared for me when she locked her account down, but there’s plenty of fodder if you want to scroll through on your lunch break.

If you want to read another agent’s thread about word count and guidelines, here’s Laura Zatz’s thread:

When it comes to word count, I have found that reaching a higher count can be difficult for newbie writers because 1) they don’t understand how to twist a subplot into the main plot, 2) don’t develop their characters well enough to explore full character arcs 3) don’t know how to write engaging conflict and/or 4) they tell, not show, which always takes fewer words–showing takes a lot more room on the page. Also, some, but not all, indies have gotten into the habit of writing shorter because it helps them publish faster keeping them on top of Amazon’s algorithms.

If you’re a romance author, and like writing novellas, look at Carina Press–the digital arm of Harlequin. They take agent-free submissions, and they publish novellas that are 35k words and up.

Anyway, I’m going back to listening to my book–which is 91k, by the way. Every book in this series is between 85-93k, but they are as long as they need to be for that section of the story.

Be kind to each other, y’all. How you present yourself online will stick with you, and may come back to bite you in ways you never would have dreamed possible.

Until next time!

Author Musings: Personal Update and Amazon’s Also-Boughts

Happy Thursday! Thursday’s aren’t so great for me because they’re actually my Mondays, and work has been super busy lately. But I have been able to get a lot of editing done on my days off and I might be able to publish a little sooner than the April release date I was aiming for. Anyway, so I missed my blog post for Monday–I was just so into editing last week I completely spaced on it. Not much is going on right now in the indie publishing world anyway, so probably a lot of my blog posts for the next little while will just be my writing updates as I finally publish after two years of not.

But I was perusing Twitter like I’m wont to do, and there have been many authors lamenting over their lack of sales, especially as the new year has rolled around, and lots of celebrating when they manage to cajole one of their followers into a purchase. I just want to caution anyone who begs for a sale by saying this: a sale isn’t just a sale.

When you’re an indie author going through a dry spell, you might not think that’s true. You celebrate every sale, and to an extent, you should. But on the other hand, if the readers who buy your book don’t regularly read in that genre (i. e. they bought your book as a favor or to do something nice or to “support” you) their sale isn’t helping you.

Amazon’s algorithms are stronger than we want to believe, and it’s IMPERATIVE that when you publish a book, Amazon knows exactly what genre it is and exactly who will read it. I’m sure you’ve all gotten those emails of recommended books. I’ve seen tweets from amused (and bemused) authors wondering why Amazon would email them about their own book. It’s really because you’re been looking at your own product page without using an incognito window and now Amazon thinks that’s the kind of book you’re interested in. This happens when you look up any of your friends’ books, too. I get emails for all kinds of books I would never actually buy–because I’m clicking on links from Twitter, looking at books mostly to see why the author is complaining they aren’t selling.

While this can be amusing, maybe even frustrating, it’s actually a demonstration of how you can use Amazon’s recommendation emails to your advantage. You want Amazon to email potential readers about your book, right? You do want Amazon to list and feature your book at the bottom of another author’s product page and encourage them to buy it because it’s similar to the book they’re already looking at?

This isn’t successfully done if you don’t train Amazon to understand who your book is for. When you receive an email about a book that doesn’t interest you, you simply delete. But what if Amazon emails you books you might actually like? You at least click over to the product page. I’ve purchased several non-fiction books this way because I’ve taught Amazon to know I love publishing industry books through my order history.

For example, I was looking at an author’s product page whom I know from Twitter, and the authors in the CUSTOMERS ALSO BOUGHT ITEMS BY section were all authors I recognized from Twitter. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Twitter authors were obviously supporting each other, but they all wrote in different genres. It’s obvious this author wasn’t finding readers in his genre. His friends were supporting him, and while that’s great, you can’t make a living like that, either.

So what can you do? In this case, a sale isn’t just a sale. A sale to the wrong reader can muddy your book’s sales history on Amazon and either Amazon will send emails to the wrong readers, or worse yet, not bother to promote you at all.

Amazon algorithms can help you sell books, but you have to help it help you.

How?

  1. Make sure your book’s categories are correct. You can add more than the two KDP allows you to choose when you publish if you email support
  2. Make sure your meta data is correct when you publish (the 7 spaces for keywords you fill in when you publish)
  3. Don’t promote to your #writingcommunity friends
  4. Run ads and target your category/comparison authors/comparison titles
  5. Use newsletter promos (choosing the right category) to attract new readers. David Gaughran has a great list here.

The more in alignment your book is to your genre, comp authors, and comp titles, the better chance you have of Amazon helping you sell your book.

If you want more information about also-boughts, David Gaughran has an in-depth blog post and you can read it here.

If you want to learn more about the Amazon algorithms, Reedsy has a great course they will email you for free. It will explain what the algorithm is and how you can make it work for you. You can sign up here.


I love keeping an eye on what’s going on in the industry, and I think another trend that’s coming is longer books. My first person books are naturally longer than my 3rd person, and when I made the switch, I was surprised I could consistently hit a 80-85k+ word count when before I was happy with 70-75k. But lately I’ve been seeing billionaire/bad boy/mafia romances coming in at 100k+ word counts. Are romance books getting longer? And if so, why? A lot of romance authors are in KU, and many romance authors also write in series which can up the word count because they are setting up the next book.

Will this affect my writing? Probably not. 85k is a sweet spot for me and unless I work harder at creating subplots, I think that word count works for the way I write my stories. It is interesting though, how it seems romances are getting longer and could be evidence that readers would prefer longer books over books half that size or even novellas. Longer books also give writers room to build that slow burn, and explore deeper and richer character arcs. I’ve read several books that are huge with including family and friends. When your characters explore relationships outside of their romance plot, that can also deepen your character arcs and add words. Ultimately, you do have to do what’s right for your book and the story you need to tell. But I’ve always been big with meeting reader expectations, and if a reader is expecting a 350 page book, and you give them half that, you could find yourself with unhappy reviews.

I think this kind of goes along with the pricing increase I’ve been seeing as well. A longer book does mean a higher paperback price due to printing and paper shortages, and indies are pricing their ebooks at 3.99, 4.99, 5.99, and even 6.99. If you’re going to price that high, you definitely want to give your readers what they are paying for. I, too, will probably raise my prices this year, though my marketing strategy isn’t focused on ebook sales (my books will be in KU) or paperback. I’ll leave my paperback prices as low as I possibly can make them and still earn a dollar a book. I love reading paperbacks, but unfortunately, I can’t afford 15.99 per paperback, even if I understand why authors need to price them that high.

If you want to check out the word counts of your favorite books, or keep an eye on what other authors in your genre are doing, you can use Word Counters, and you can find it here.


I’m going back and forth with writing a Christmas novel for this year, and it’s hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit three weeks after the fact. I can not offer one, and publish three books this year, or I can write it later this year. The problem with writing it later is that I’m going to spend the rest of 2022 getting my six book series ready to publish in 2023. I probably will need all year because these books still need a bit of an edit, formatting, covers, and a beta reader/proofer if I can find one who is willing to do it cheaply and be time efficient. (A big ask, I know.) I don’t want to stop my editing and production momentum to take a break writing something for Christmas. So either I do it after my duet is done and before I start editing my series, or I skip it all together. I have another standalone hanging around I could prepare and publish, but I don’t know how well a non-holiday book would do with a December release.

Anyway, that’s about all I have for an update. Monday, and I will get to a blog post, will be about BookFunnel, my reader magnet, and my experience with setting up my account.

Have a great weekend!

Tentative launch plan for my duet: thinking aloud and plans for the next three months

It’s a nice thought!

Happy first Monday of 2022! I hope the start of the new year has gone well for all of you!

Two days ago I was thinking about writing another book. It would be a reader magnet for my newsletter, but in the end, I talked myself out of it. I’ve been saying for a while now that I want to start launching some of my books, and I can’t do that if I’m writing. In 2022 I’ve decided to play to my strengths, or at the very least, try to co-exist with them and I can’t write one book while writing or editing another. It will be easier for me to accept it and postpone something new because I’d never get any of my older books off the ground. So I gave myself a pat on the back, even though this book is all plotted out and I even played with covers. I’ll write it after my duet is set and ready to go, and not a minute before.

So, now that that crisis has been averted, I can start to drill down on what I need to get done for these two books. I’m still going to try to launch in April. Being that I still have to listen to both books to make sure I don’t have any typos and I still proofread the paperback proofs no matter what, a mid-April release day for the first book should be doable.

So here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. This week I’m going to look at comparison authors and titles for ad keywords. I already have been doing this a little when I was doing cover research. Billionaire is all over the place now with everything from models in color, to black and white, to objects. I can’t get a bead on anything that’s trending definitely, except it seems a single male still graces more covers than a couple. I have a small list of the big-named authors that dominate the top 100 on Amazon, but I’m also going to dig deeper and make a list of mid-list authors that I may not have heard of that are still doing well. Publisher Rocket is great for finding out info on the “competition” and that software will let me know if it’s worth my time to add them to my comp author list.
  2. This week I’m also going to write my blurbs and try for feedback in the romance groups I’m most active in. I read T. Taylor’s 7 FIGURE FICTION: How to Use Universal Fantasy to SELL Your Books to ANYONE and pulling out the universal fantasies from my books and building blurbs around them makes a lot of sense. You can grab the book, and also join the Facebook group here. Asking for feedback has always been iffy for me a) because I’m not always as active as I should be and you should never ask for a favor unless you’ve already give one and b) a lot of what I’ve been told just hasn’t been helpful. I wrote a blog post about asking for blurb feedback and you can read it here.
  3. I’ve said for months I’m going to create a list of newsletter promos that don’t require a minimum number of reviews. I’ve been sitting on this for months because I haven’t needed it, but it will be a great resources for people, so what I need to do is settle in with a snack, put on some music, and just get it done. I have list after list of promo sites, I just need to go onto each website and break them down. Starting up a new pen name without any reader group/newsletter/ARC giveaways pretty much guarantees me to releasing with 0 reviews. But even though I didn’t get the best results with Booksprout, I wasn’t writing to market as well as I could have been, so giving that site a try with my new books might be something I’ll consider. I have come to realize that if you use Booksprout correctly and publish frequently, it’s a place on its own where you can build a community of readers who will snap up every book you put up for reviews. Changing my mindset may be helpful considering it will take a while to build my own reader group, and nurturing a community on Booksprout may be faster, at least for this year’s releases. If you want to read about my Booksprout experience, you can look here. If you’re curious about the review site, you can look here.

So that’s what I have going on this week–mostly a lot of busy work while I give the books time to rest. During the last two passes I made some changes to the breadcrumbs I had to leave for the characters to solve the mystery part of the plot, and I want to give myself space so the next time I read them through I can see if the changes make sense.

In the meantime, I can nail down the covers I’ve been playing with. Because of the feedback, I switched out both of the models and changed up the background, so it was helpful. The covers for these two books hold a lot of weight because not only are they setting the tone for what’s inside, but they’re also setting the tone for my entire catalogue of books going forward and my author brand. There was no point in niching down if my branding isn’t consistent. That’s another reason why making a list of comp authors by hand instead of letting Publisher Rocket pull a list for me is really important. I need to make sure I’m aligning myself with the correct authors. Here’s what I have so far:

Part of the problem with asking for feedback is that people will throw out solutions like you know how to do those things. When you have limited capabilities like I do, it can be tough to follow everyone’s advice. I asked for feedback for the guy on Addicted‘s cover because I’m not 100% I like the shadow on his forehead, but when everyone told me how to “fix” it, I had no clue, so watch out for that. I can’t use photo manipulation software in a way a lot of authors and graphic designers can, I can usually only look for a different stock photo or try my best with what I know in GIMP. Chances are I’m making a big deal over nothing because both models have shadows. It’s probably more important that they look cohesive and that they belong together as a set.


Finally? A reader magnet? I’ve only been talking about it for months….

Talking with my significant other, he gave me the idea to go ahead and use My Biggest Mistake as a reader magnet. It’s a 74k standalone, and with the way I have my publishing schedule set up, I won’t be publishing it for a while. It’s already edited, formatted and has a cover. What this means is I would have to figure out BookFunnel in a hurry. I have the barebones of my newsletter signup worked out, though I do have a MailerLite course by Holly Darling that purchased on Black Friday for my birthday that I haven’t started yet, either. I have a landing page set up with the welcome email. I think all I would need to do is create an account with BookFunnel and download the book files and add the BookFunnel link to my welcome email for the download. I probably do have time to do all that, but it’s my nature to watch tutorials and see how others do it before trying to do anything myself. Considering that it’s my shortest standalone and that I don’t have plans to publish it anytime soon, I think it makes sense to use it as a reader magnet for the next little while. It doesn’t change too much for me, just adds more to my to-do list that needs to be completed by April because I’ll need to have it all in place for the duet’s back matter.

It really is no wonder why indies have it so tough these days. So much jumping through hoops to play the game.

My inspiration quote for you for 2022 🙂

The last thing I’ll need to do is get all my files ready and submit a preorder for book two so I have have the link available to put in the back matter of book one. It’s not that I like preorders or think they’re beneficial, especially since my audience will be in KU and they don’t preorder books, but in this case, I need them up so I can claim my Amazon Author page and my Goodreads profile. It’s been so long since I’ve done either of those that it’s going to take me a couple days to figure it out again. I can also start running low cost-per-click ads to the preorder and test my keywords to see if I get any impressions and clicks. I’m going to release at full price, though I’m not sure what that will be. Prices are rising, and $2.99 books are considered on the lower-end of pricing. I may bump up to $3.99, maybe even $4.99 since I’m not targeting people who will buy my books, though if they wanted to, I wouldn’t argue. No, my target audience is the whale readers who devour books in KU. I’ll have to up my prices on paperbacks, too, because the of the paper shortages. It’s really too bad because I’ve always tried to keep my paperback books affordable, but IngramSpark is raising the cost of their fees. Between that and the cost of paper, it’s expensive to publish through IS these days. I know one thing, if you put your price on your back cover, IngramSpark makes you match the price in your account, so if you don’t want to keep tweaking your cover, don’t put the price on the back. I’m not even sure if I’m going to publish with Ingram with this new pen name. I probably will, but I just don’t know if the effort is worth it.


So, I have a lot to keep me busy, and of course I’ll keep you guys updated! I’ll have a lot of new experiences to write about in the coming weeks. I hope you all had a fantastic start to the new year!

Until next time!