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!

Author Comparisonitis and leveling up.

Last week, there was a little kerfuffle online about Sky Warren’s RAM (Romance Author Mastermind) conference, and like a true gossip, I like nosing around and seeing what the issue is.

I’m not writing this to call anyone out or judge any author, in fact, quite the opposite. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I blog to the new author, the one stumbling around trying to find his way in the industry where there are EIGHT MILLION books on Amazon with thousands more added every day.

This is a screenshot taken from a free webinar by Alex Newton of K-lytics. I screen-grabbed it in May of 2021, so the numbers are a bit outdated–and probably worse today.

I’m transparent in that I’ve written a few books, published them on my own–edited them with the help of a couple of beta readers, formatted them with Vellum, did my own covers. I haven’t found any real success–not the kind we really want when we publish a book. (We can all say we don’t want to make money or be a bestseller, but if you’re putting your book on Amazon, you’re hoping for an outcome such as that and there’s no point in lying to yourself. It will only bog your business down.)

So when conversation turns to leveling up, ad spend in the thousands, and launching to number one in the Kindle store and staying there for weeks on end, we have to realize that a conversation like this is like the difference between a janitor-in-training on his first day, and the CEO of that building conducting a billion-dollar meeting. It just isn’t the same.

I feel like these conversations come up every year, despite the information being proprietary to those conferences. You have to be making enough to be invited to attend RAM, and I am a long way off. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the information that comes out of it, but in reality, I’m not in any position to take it, either. I wrote about that before in a different blog post–we’re all at different stages in our journey and what one 6- or 7-figure author can do is not the same as what I can do with the resources that I have. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen to them talk, or take notes, or tuck away what works for them for later use, but is it going to help you with what you need help with NOW? Probably not.

I think the conflict came with the latest episode of the 6 Figure Authors podcast when Andrea Pearson recapped what she learned attending RAM. You can listen here. (Usually they post it on YouTube, but this episode is not available there. You can also listen to it on your podcast app of choice.) Because I write romance, it’s interesting to hear what the big authors are doing in regards to their business, but I know I’m not there yet. I’m not even in the black most months, so I listen with curiosity, a huge grain of salt, and a wish in the back of my mind that one day these lessons will apply to me.

How can we listen and not compare ourselves to these authors? Here are some things I take into consideration:

Are you doing the minimum first? This is a big one for me because if you’re not doing the 101 stuff, you’re not ready for the 301 level coursework. You know exactly what I mean, too. Are you writing in a series? Are you sticking to one genre to find a readership? Have you started a newsletter? Is your book GOOD? That is something we lose sight of–your book needs to be GOOD. Well-written with on-point grammar and punctuation, good story/genre appropriate/following the expected tropes and reader expectations, good cover, good blurb. If you don’t have the core quality of your product down, you’re never going to level up, or be in a position where that’s possible. It’s the difference between the crappy Frostee Freeze and the huge, brightly-colored popular Dairy Queen. Where would you rather buy your chocolate-dipped cone? (No offense to the Frostee Freezes out there, but ours is located in the ghetto and looks like the movie set of a Lifetime murder movie.)

What are your business goals? Everyone talks about this–what do you want out of your book business? But the fact is, if you don’t know, nothing you consume will help you get there. Why do you write? What do you want to get out of your business? A bestseller? Hit the top ten in your category? Do you want to have a huge launch? How many books do you have? How many books will you have by the end of the year? Are you writing a series? How fast are you going to release them? How long are you willing to do this before you see any success? This is part of the 101 stuff I was talking about above.

Find information that will help you NOW. This is probably why I like listening to the presentations from the 20booksto50k conferences in November. They are very generous and post most of the speakers on YouTube. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, unlike the mastermind classes where you already have to be at a certain level to get anything out of it. There are a lot of resources out there for newbies–podcasts and blogs, free ads courses, etc. Figure out what you need help with in regards to where you are at the present time. Are you working on craft? Looking for an editor? Exploring doing your own cover? Preparing for a launch? If you haven’t released your first book, listening to someone talk about how they’re spending 10,000 dollars on ads every month won’t matter to you, and it shouldn’t get you down. There’s no way you would (or probably could) spend that launching your first book. You’d never get that money back. Ever. There are so many resources for someone just starting out. My favorite is David Gaughran’s free course, Starting From Zero.

If you’re going to compare, at least be smart about it. I think a lot of what people don’t understand when they hear authors spending so much on their ads is that first, the authors have been writing for years and have a huge backlist (not to mention a huge readership), and second, a lot of their ad spend comes from savings of royalties already made. When you’ve been at this for years, you have savings. You’ve invested your money into CDs or high-yield savings accounts. When your interest accrued every year is as much as someone working a part-time job, you can afford to put some of that back into your ads. If you want to compare yourself to another author and base that comparison in reality, look at their genre. Is it the same as yours? Look at your backlist and how long it will take you to get to the same place. How is their book quality compared to yours? I could market my books the exact same way Janie Crouch does–but my books will never be like hers. Even if I copied the covers, genre, and tropes, our author voices and styles will never match. This is what they mean by “Your mileage may vary.” You are not another author and you never will be. How can you achieve your own kind of success?

I love this recap thread by Zoe York on Twitter. She’s so down to earth and pushes you to do what’s best for you and your books while giving you the encouragement to see that anything is possible if you work hard and don’t give up.

As far as I can see, there is no reason to get angry if someone wants to recap a high-end conference or be bitter they did. It’s the same as buying a marketing book from an author who is killing it. You can grab morsels of information but the likelihood you’re going to be able to apply 100% of what you’re consuming to your business that very second is slim.

Personally, I know why my publishing career is at a standstill. I made poor choices I didn’t know where poor choices. I know now through trial and error and listening to what mid-list authors have done to achieve their success. That’s why I did a 360 with my writing and started writing first person billionaire instead of the 3rd person contemporary romance. Will it help? I don’t know. I don’t know of my writing will resonate with readers. I may not know for a couple of years, and that’s something I’ll have to be okay with. Not everyone will make money in this business and I’ll have more choices to make if I’m not one of them. For now, I’m enjoying the process and I’m having fun writing. I’m not going to be condescending and say that’s all that matters, because it’s not. I want monetary compensation for the time I’ve spent writing and producing my books. Otherwise I would publish them on Wattpad or my own website and call it good enough.

You’ll have to decide what matters to you.

Your mileage may vary.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday Thoughts and Brief Update

Can I say I don’t know what I’m doing? Because that would probably best describe the state of my mind and author business at the moment. How to successfully launch a book, figure out a publishing plan, and start a successful book business. I know all that takes time, trial and error, and a healthy dose of luck. I can’t do anything about the luck, but I feel like I’ve put in my time, and learned a lot through trial and error. So this is what I’ve got going on right now:

Two books loaded into KDP. All I have to do is press publish. That’s not exactly true as I want to redo the blurbs again. After reading Theodora Taylor’s 7 FIGURE FICTION: How to Use Universal Fantasy to SELL Your Books to ANYONE, I grabbed some great ideas for pulling out the meat of a book and adding it to the blurb. I think one of the mistakes I was making when writing the blurbs to Faking Forever and My Biggest Mistake was that I was writing a 1st person blurb like I was still writing a 3rd person blurb. 1st person and 3rd person blurbs have a different vibe. 1st person blurbs are more personal, told in the voice of the characters. My blurbs were still sounding flat in 1st person because I was following the 3rd person blurb style that I’d adapted after reading Bryan Cohen’s How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good. I’m not saying his way is wrong–I loved the blurbs I’d written after reading his book, but all his examples are in 3rd person and I struggled to find a punchy way to write the blurb in the voice of my characters while trying to pull out what really mattered in the book. Theodora’s book really helped and I’m going to redo those and use her examples for other blurbs moving forward. She did a fun interview on the Six Figure Author Podcast, too, and you can watch it here:

Okay, so I have two books almost ready to go besides those tweaks, and right now I’m on a break editing my six book series. I read through the all again, and caught and fixed a few inconsistencies. I’m not going to rehash all that because I blogged about it on Monday and you can read it here. While I’m taking a break, I thought about editing another standalone. I have two that I could do: my brother’s-girlfriend-is-off-limits-trope, or the-one-night-stand-with-my-future-boss trope. The boyfriend one was the most likely candidate since I haven’t looked at it in a while and is 97k. The other one I’m excited about too, and I’ve gotten good feedback from a beta read, though the subject is a little touchy and I’m not sure how it’s going to go over with readers. It’s a little dark, but I’m hoping my readers can understand why he made the choices he made and not think too poorly of him. Those both need another editing sweep and listening to them both will take time. They need covers and blurbs and formatting and all that jazz, which means each book has at least another month a piece before they’re ready to publish.

Instead of working on those, I had another idea pop into my head and I’m writing kind of a beauty and the beast retelling, but I can’t even call it that anymore because he’s not grumpy, and she’s not trapped there–at least not in the way Belle was trapped in Beast’s castle. He’s scarred from an accident, she’s snowed in during a blizzard, and he has a ton of books but that’s where the similarities end. The idea pretty much came out of nowhere and I wanted to write it before I forgot it. I outlined what i knew of the story, but it wasn’t enough to keep it on the back burner and I’m 27k into it right now after only four days. I think I’ll hit about 80k with this one, maybe shorter, as not much is going on right now but them talking and falling in love and knowing that because of what they have going on they can’t be together after the blizzard stops (that’s not true, of course, all my books have an HEA). It’s fun, and I had to do a lot more research than I normally have to. There could be potential for another book with her sister and his business partner, but so far I would have the characters and no plot so we’ll have to see how that goes.

What I’m trying to do is line these up and figure out a publishing schedule where I can make the most of the work I’ve put into these books for the past two years. I didn’t have any business starting a new book, but I couldn’t resist, besides, it’s a good filler for the next couple months with the holidays.

As far as anything else goes, I have a promo with a new site I haven’t tried yet for my holiday box set I have selling for .99. The promo cost $25 so I should make that back KU reads at least if they have the reach they say they do. I’ll let you know how it goes and who it’s with if I have good results. For right now my ads were in the hole and I had to turn off one for The Years Between Us. It was eating up click money and no sales coming in. Those books are old and I don’t have anything new coming in 3rd person so I’ll keep the low bid ads running, but I don’t have much hope for those books anymore.

What am I loving right now?

I’m going to read through Elana Johnson’s nonfiction books. I’ve heard her speak enough that I think her books could be valuable. I’ve blogged in the past about how difficult it is to take information from top indies because they have so many more books, resources, money, connections than we do. I’m hoping that her books are geared toward anyone no matter where they are on their journey, and I can find some tips to help me as I start publishing next year. This is the link for book one in her non-fiction series if you want to check it out. Writing and Releasing Rapidly (Indie Inspiration for Self-Publishers Book 1)

Another thing I’m loving right now is Alex Newton of K-lytics has shared some info for romance writers for free this holiday season! This is taken from his Facebook page (I recommend you liking it on FB!).


I don’t have plans to release anything Christmassy, not anything new, anyway. My Rocky Point Wedding box set takes place in the winter around Christmas, but it’s not a solid Christmas story, or stories. It would be fun to play around with the idea and maybe next summer I can write a billionaire Christmas story for Christmas 2022 and see how it goes. BUT I love industry news, and if you love it too, here is the link to download his free report! FREE RESEARCH REPORT | CHRISTMAS ROMANCE

If you don’t write romance, Alex was an angel and did another report for Mystery, Thriller Suspense, and you can find it here. Christmas mysteries sound like cozies, but you just never know! I plan to watch it as well and see just want kind of mystery sells during the holidays.


That’s about all I have going on at the moment. Now that I’ve started a new book, that will be what I’ll focus on until it’s done. It would be nice to say I’m taking December off, but that will never happen. I honestly don’t know what I would do with myself, and as hard as I work on my books, I enjoy it, too.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday Thoughts and Author update

Made in Canva with one of their stock photos. I have no idea why happy is in quotes. LOL

Good morning and happy Thursday!

I don’t have a lot going on, but I thought I would update you with some of the things I’ve been working on lately.

For the past few weeks I’ve been editing. I went over my proof for My Biggest Mistake, put in the changes. I got my proof back and I just need to tweak the cover again and it should be ready to go for whenever I decide to hit that publish button. I still need to add the content warning to Faking Forever and add the author note I decided to add to the back of that book, but when I do those things, those two books should be 100% ready to go.

I finished reading through book one of my series and started on book two. I can tell where I found my 1st person POV voice toward the end of book one, and the first half or so will require a little more editing on my part, though I seem to smooth out my writing the best while I’m listening to it during that phase of edits. I’m not in a rush with these–consistency and avoiding/fixing plot holes are my main focus for now. When I wrote my trilogy, I thought dealing with three books at a time was tough, then I did my four book series and I said I would never work with more than that–ever. Now I’m dealing with six, and I have no idea how authors handle a series with so many books.

I guess not every author saves them up, but I have this thing with control and being able to go back and fix mistakes and inconsistencies, and if I published as I wrote them, I would feel trapped. Now I have the freedom to go back and change things if need be, and no matter how complicated or frustrating it is, I don’t think I could ever give that up.

Anyway, so only proofing and editing has made me a little squirrely for the writing part of it, and kind of a beauty and the beast retelling billionaire style plot landed in my lap this morning. After seeing so many tweets about castles because of a certain Netflix movie, I wanted to write about a beast in a castle, too.

Of course, grabbing onto a trope doesn’t mean you’re going to write something that everyone else has written, and because there aren’t any castles in Minnesota where all my books take place, my castle turned into a lighthouse on one of the Great Lakes pretty fast. But still. I’m excited to plot this book out and see where it takes me while I edit my series. My only issue is not being able to focus on more than one project at a time, but I think this would be a great opportunity to try.

In other, personal, news, we have to put one of our cats down this weekend. He’s old and barely hanging on. This is the first pet I’ve put down as an adult, and the first my kids will have to go through. It will be a tough weekend, but loving someone, or something, also means letting go when the time comes.

I’m feeling better with every passing day, so I am grateful for that. I have a follow up on the 19th, and I’m hoping I’ve turned a corner. The side effects of my infection are slowly fading, and I hope I won’t need anything further in that regard either. My son had his last wound checkup last week and was given the call clear. No more followups for him! I’m thankful he’s healed completely–but Pumpkin was his cat–picked him out of a farm cat’s litter almost 20 years ago in a small town not far from where we live. It will be hardest on him, I think, to say goodbye. Here’s a picture of the old man when he was feeling better.

As far as resources go, what I’m loving this week is 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to ANYONE by T. Taylor. I loved this book and I think it will be a great tool to help with blurb writing. She teaches you how to identify the universal fantasies, and gives you plenty of examples in books, movies, and TV shows. She explains why some books sell well and how to get your books to sell well too by identifying these fantasies and including them in your blurbs and ad copy. I’m glad I’m still tweaking Faking Forever and My Biggest Mistake because even though I asked for feedback and worked really hard on the blurbs, this book will help me take them to the next level.

Taken from Amazon.com

Admittedly, I enjoyed this book because it seems to have been written with romance authors in mind. T. Taylor is a romance author and yes, this book skews toward that genre. As with all reference material, you can read the reviews and see if this book is for you.

Besides Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon Ads Challenge that comes around every three months, there’s nothing else that has caught my eye this week. His ad challenge starts on the 13th and you can sign up for it here. If you don’t like Facebook and don’t want to be part of the group, he has offered Slack as another alternative to participate (though he sends all the videos and “homework” to your email, so there’s no need for group participation at all if that’s not your thing). I always recommend it because there is no place else I have found that will give you so much information about Amazon ads for free. And it’s not just about Amazon ads. If you join the FB group, you can ask for cover critique (which is important because if your cover is bad you won’t get clicks) blurb help for your sales page, and ad copy help for your ads. It truly is the most comprehensive free course I have ever found and it is a must if you want to start Amazon ads.

Amazon did a little writeup about him, and you can read it here.

If you missed the link, you can sign up for his free ads course here.

That’s all I have for personal updates. For Monday I want to work on a blog post about promo sites that don’t have a minimum number of reviews needed to use them, but I’ll have to see how the weekend goes. I may not have the time or the emotional energy to write something. Keep my kiddos in your thoughts as we go through a rough weekend.

Thank you!

Advertising Your Book–Categories, Targets, and Comp Authors

I was browsing through my social media writing groups the other day, and someone said something so profound that it has stuck with me ever since reading it. You know I’m a big fan of writing to market, a true believer in the idea that if you want to write a book that people want to read, write a book like the ones people are already reading.

We resist that idea because no one wants to write what someone else is writing or has already written, even going so far as to say they don’t want to write the same tropes because they have already been done before. This isn’t a blog post about that, per se, but along the same lines, I suppose.

When we write a book and publish it, that’s only half the work, something we don’t find out until the book sinks like a stone in the rankings because no one knows it exists. We might tweet about it, put it up on Facebook somewhere, create some pretty graphics and post on Instagram, or try our hand at some videos via TikTok, the new kid on the block. That bumps us up a little bit, but eventually we’ll run out of new people because free social media only goes so far (ask anyone who relies on Twitter for sales to tell you how far free social media can really take you).

So we turn to paid advertising, and what that author said blew my mind–write what you can advertise.

Just that simple thing. Write what you can advertise.

What does that mean, exactly? Can’t we advertise any book?

Yes. But can we advertise any book to success? Not necessarily.

You can advertise any book, say on Amazon, but if Amazon doesn’t know where to put your book, they won’t show your ad and you’ll get zero impressions and no clicks. That makes genre and categories really important. When you create an ad on Amazon, you have a few ad type choices: you can do an auto ad and let Amazon do the work in figuring out who to show your ad to, you can run a category targeted ad, or you can use comparison authors and comparison titles as keywords. You can also target ASIN’s of books like yours, which I have heard works better, but I can’t tell you from my own experience that it does. I’ve done all four, and I didn’t realize until just now why, but All of Nothing is a billionaire romance and one of the reasons why it has always done so well when I ran an ad is because there is actually a billionaire category to choose from when creating a category ad on Amazon:

taken from Amazon Advertising ads platform

If I choose that, and my metadata matches, Amazon knows exactly who to show my ads to–readers who want to read a billionaire romance.

My age-gap romance, The Years Between Us, doesn’t have its own category, and choosing Contemporary Romance gets me impressions, and even clicks, but if someone isn’t in the mood to read age-gap, or doesn’t like it for whatever reason, I lose that sale. The same goes for Coming of Age, which I have listed The Years Between Us under, but even though it can be considered Coming of Age as my FMC is 18, readers may not like the age gap element of the novel.

taken from Amazon Advertising ads platform
taken from the Amazon ads dashboard
taken from the Amazon Ads platform

There’s a lot more competition using an umbrella category like contemporary romance.

You can always use comp authors and comp book titles as keywords, but if you’re writing a very niche genre (like age gap, haha), or mashing together more than two, you’ll have trouble targeting the correct authors because there aren’t that many. Targeting authors is something you can do on Amazon Ads, Facebook Ads (if the author is available in the list and I’ve heard from several people that list is arbitrary), and on BookBub. If you’re one of few writers in that genre, ads may not work. Not because your book isn’t good, but because the platform doesn’t know who to show your ads to or the audience isn’t large enough.

Does this man you can’t write what you want? No. Does this mean you can’t still advertise? No. But you may not get the results you want. You may waste money figuring that out or come to the conclusion that ads don’t work which won’t be true. I stopped using Coming of Age completely because I lost a lot of money on clicks and I should probably take that book out of that category as it doesn’t honestly represent the book.

I still advertise The Years Between Us but when I do, I use the Contemporary Romance category on Amazon to mixed results. Readers like my ad copy (He’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe . . . even if that means breaking her heart), they like the cover, but once they read the blurb and realize it’s an age gap romance, sometimes I lose them. Not always, but until I started keeping track of the ads for that book and pausing them when the spending overtook the sales, I lost money on the readers who decided that book wasn’t for them.

I’ve only dabbled with Facebook ads, and I don’t understand enough to give you any kind of guidance steeped in experience. I know that targeting books isn’t as zeroed-in as Amazon, which can be better and can be worse depending on your point of view. Facebook seems to have more flexibility allowing you to cast a wider net, but that flexibility can also cost you money if people are clicking on your ad and deciding your book isn’t for them after all. There are plenty of billionaire romance authors out there, even if you discounted EL James and Sylvia Day. The idea is to drill down as narrowly as you possibly can so the ads platform you’re using shows your ads to only those readers who would want to buy it. But not so narrow that you don’t have anyone in your audience! Creating a viable audience is probably the trickiest thing about Facebook Ads but I’m willing to keep trying because so many authors say that it works for them.

So what does this mean for writing to market and writing to ad platform? Already lots of indie authors balk at writing to market. They want to write what they want to write, as did I when I thought writing “Contemporary Romance” would be enough to build a career on rather than focusing on subgenre. Marketing and targeting those books was expensive and some books I couldn’t get to sell no matter what, like my road trip romance because Road Trip Romance isn’t a category, nor is Close Proximity, and besides Contemporary Romance there isn’t another category I can try. (I experimented with Romantic Action and Adventure, but my cover didn’t fit and I got some impressions, but no clicks.)

Taken from the Amazon Ads platform

I did everything I could from swapping out covers to rewriting the blurb more times than I could count and still, I just can’t sell it. My Tower City trilogy doesn’t sell either, because while there is a sports romance category on Amazon, my covers aren’t made to the sports romance subgenre, and it turns our long distance running isn’t sexy and no one is interested in it. Who. Knew.

taken from the Amazon Ads platform

The best thing you can do is a little research before you start writing. Who are your comp authors? Are they writing what you write? How is your writing different? Is it too different?

You can use bklnk.com (click author tools and use the cat finder) and find all the categories that a book similar to yours is listed under by searching the ISBN or ASIN. Then you can email Amazon and have those categories added to your book. That way you can run auto placement ads and Amazon will know where to place your ad. I asked around to see if there’s a list of categories available in the Amazon Ads platform, but unfortunately there isn’t one.

Nobody likes to be told what to write, but everyone likes to find readers. Make finding readers easier on yourself and do a little market research before you begin to write. I wish I would have known this before I started publishing. I love all the books I’ve written so far–they are some really good stories and I’m proud of them–but I truly do love writing billionaire, and I think I’ve found a niche I can have fun with for a long time. And also as importantly as enjoying the subgenre, I know there is a market for them and I’ll be able to advertise them.

What do you think? Is thinking about how to advertise your book taking it a little too far? Too limiting? Let me know what you think!