Author Interview: Debut Author Dave S. Koster

dave koster author picture

Author Dave S. Koster

Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog! We also have a fabulous giveaway of a Kindle Fire tablet to celebrate his debut novel, Wine Bottles And Broomsticks! Click here to enter the giveway . . . . all we ask is you tweet about the interview and giveaway to help give Dave some exposure for his new book! Thank you so much for helping! 🙂 Enjoy the interview!

 


I’ve known you for a long time, though I can’t remember who introduced us, but for those new in the writing community, tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing since around 2002 – I picked it up when my wife and I moved back to Alaska from Maryland. I actually did a bit of writing when I was in High School, but I was mostly interested in video game storylines at the time. In any case, back in 2002, I was out of work and was sketching up ideas for a video game, but lacked the technical skills for game development, but story writing was something that seemed more attainable. I dabbled for ages, taking large breaks to build a house, learn how to make furniture, work briefly as a college teacher, and other various hobbies. Then in 2014 (I think?), I had a moment on my morning commute. It was one of those days that only an Alaskan commute can give you – loads of golden light spilling over the tops of snow-capped mountains. The moment amounted to: What the heck are you doing? Either you do this or you don’t do it. I concluded that I was entirely too stupid to know when I couldn’t do a thing, so I decided I was going to double-down and get serious about it. I finished the book I had been working on for about 10 years and later that summer started my second, Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, which was the one just published on the 5th of June.

I remember Wine Bottles and Broomsticks from way back when you tried to fund it using InkShares. Can you tell us about your experience? (To see his old campaign, look here!)

This was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had yet with the business. On the whole, it was good in that the system was easy to use making the technical bits of the process manageable. That said, I would never recommend this avenue to most writers. You have to have a following of readers or supporters first. If I were a ‘personality’ with fans, I might have made the goal, but I didn’t have that. I’m a new author from the perspective of readers even now after having done rather a lot of self-improvement and several (unpublished) books under my belt. I think it’s hard to convince readers to buy a book from an unknown that won’t be ready for weeks or months. The other part of the experience was just how much other writers tried to help.

In a blog post from a couple years ago, you said the book was going nowhere and ultimately, you chose to self-publish. It seems like this wasn’t as easy decision for you. How did you finally decide to publish your novel on your own? (To read that blog post of Dave’s, click here.)

Honestly, that post was from a pretty negative place. I’d queried 30 or 40 agents and failed the crowd-funding even after tons of help from other writers. At the time, I really wanted to get an agent and go traditional. I was hoping that I might be that rare unicorn who manages to become a full-time writer. I think this book was the first step realizing that it’s not going to happen. Anyhow, fast-forward to last fall. I decided that I wanted to self-publish the Dark Queen of Darkness. This was mostly because I’d realized that an agent won’t pick up my work, and in even if s/he did AND I got a publishing deal, I’ve got a full-time job that actually pays the bills and I couldn’t meet their deadlines or expectations. I need to keep things on my schedule and my time, so self-publishing suddenly was the only viable route. This spring, after working with an editor, and meeting with a cover designer, I started looking at nuts and bolts bits of publishing, I realized I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing. Even with all of the advice and what-not, I still don’t really ‘get it’. I decided, around that time, that I’d quietly release an already finished book in order to learn how to operate all of the software, navigate the platforms, and generally understand how all of these things work. The whole point of publishing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was to ensure a smooth launch for the Dark Queen of Darkness.

There is a lot to learn. Even after six books, I always make a mistake when I publish. Every time. It’s infuriating, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Luckily there is a lot of help out there, and you’ve been part of the online writing community for a long time now. Did you find they were a help to you during the publishing process? Did the networking pay off?

The writing community has been a huge help. Everyone I’ve engaged with has had something helpful to say or offered their time to read/comment or otherwise help me do a better job at the craft. Not to mention hours of encouragement. I think I pointed out your amazing help on cover design. I’d never have been able to work that out on my own. Actually, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried to self-publish without the confidence I got copying your notes. So, yes, the networking has paid off and given me the confidence I completely lack on my own. If it weren’t for the writers on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, I’d probably have given up.

Yeah, I don’t think the moderator of that group liked my how-to tutorial. She shut down comments not long after I posted the entire thing. To be fair, yeah, I should have posted on the other FB page they have for the how-to stuff for cover design, and not the feedback page. But I hoped it helped a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. Anyway, this is your first book! What would you say was the hardest part about the publishing process?

I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘hardest parts’ I could go on for days. I was very nearly in ugly man-tears mid-day Tuesday over it. By far, though, trying to get all of the accounts set up and stuff uploaded. I still don’t have my book uploaded to Ingram Spark yet, because it won’t save the title and I haven’t got the foggiest clue as to why. Runners-up include: paperback layout (InDesign is spendy for me, and Vellum doesn’t work on my computer). The third is the business side. I’m still absolutely mystified about what royalty plan I should be taking. I got spooked by 70%, so went with 35% because if I’m making less money it must mean I’ve got less liability? I don’t even know. Those are just the starting points.

Definitely take the 70%. What Amazon allows you to take depends on how much you’re pricing your book for. Grab whatever you can!

Indies talk a lot about going wide. Is your book in the Kindle Unlimited program? Or did you choose to publish on other platforms like Nook and Apple Books?

I plan to go wide, but it’s going to be step-by-step so I can figure it out. When I do The Dark Queen book, I’m hoping that all of the pieces will be in place and it’ll go relatively smoothly across all platforms at once so I don’t have any terrible delays. Essentially, the goal is to add a second book to an existing platform rather than try to get it all set-up and hope I don’t experience any unexpected snags on launch day.

A) How did you come to that decision?

The decision on Kindle Unlimited is based on the hugely restrictive nature of KU. Plus, it’s possible to be completely banned from Amazon’s platform if you violate their TOS, which is a lot more restrictive in KU. After I saw Adam Dreece’s situation a few years back, I don’t know if you remember that, but I concluded that it just wasn’t worth it. Plus it leaves me with questions on stuff like: Can I sell locally at book fairs and things? What’s more, I’m not really sure it’s any more lucrative for someone who isn’t particularly prolific.

I remember Adam’s situation; it happened to a couple other big-time authors around that time, too. That would be scary–especially if you’ve grown to rely on that income. Joanna Penn encourages first time authors to learn Amazon first and then after the dust settles, so to speak, learn the other platforms. Which makes sense. Adam Croft endorses going wide from the get-go. They are two different animals, for sure, but depending on the kind of publishing schedule you have to stick with because of personal obligations, learning Amazon first may be an easier task.

B) If you’re wide, what aggregator did you use, and how was that experience?

I haven’t set up with an Aggregator. This is 100% because still totally new to this and just learned about that right now. Even then, I’m a bit of a control freak and would likely prefer to release per-platform on my own, where possible –at least at first. I don’t know much about Kobo, but B&N is trying to put together a system similar to Amazon for authors. I’ll use Ingram Spark to publish the books outside of Amazon’s platforms and they seem to have services that’ll get me there. I’ll likely change my mind after I research aggregators more and start to understand all of this better.

There is a lot to learn. Some would argue that Barnes and Noble is sinking, and fast. It’s probably one of the reasons why authors stick with Amazon. I have good feelings about Kobo, and you should go direct with them so you have access to their promotions tab. You have to email them for it, but you can only access it if you go through them directly. I use Draft to Digital for places like Apple Books, and yeah, Nook. They upload my book to a few places I’ve never heard of, as well. IngramSpark will publish your ebook too, if you can get them to work for you.

You released the paperback after the ebook. What was the reason for that?

In a nutshell: Impatience. I hadn’t planned on saying much or letting folks know it was out there until everything was ready and I could see it myself. It seems that every time I press a new button in this world, I learn something, new, profound, and sometimes expensive. I’m the sort of person that has to do a thing before I can really learn it, and getting things all ‘set up’ but un-launched is like a task waiting for a problem that will take 2 weeks to sort out. The paperback is ready, I just haven’t seen the proof yet. I was having trouble with the gutters, so I’m not convinced the printed copy will turn out – plus I’m concerned about the cover quality. When I hit the button to publish, I was really thinking that once it’s available on Amazon, I have something to point to in setting things up for Goodreads and the Amazon author page. Plus, I thought it might help a bit in getting Ingram Spark going. There are so many things to do in launching a book and this is all my first time.

You mentioned once you thought self-publishing would be expensive. Was this true in your experience? How did you save money? What was the biggest expenditure in the process?

My experience is that it can go both ways. Wine Bottles and Broomsticks cost a couple of hundred dollars when all costs are taken into account, before advertising. I didn’t get an editor, and I did my own cover. I’m not convinced this was the right decision. Dark Queen of Darkness has been very expensive so far. The dollar figure is likely to be a few thousand to get professional editing, cover, layout, and other things. I’m 95% certain I’ll never make that money all the way back.

Do you have any plans to market?

Yes, but not until I get everything in place. I want to do some testing with Amazon promotions and advertising on other platforms. When I launch Dark Queen of Darkness, I’ll do local events as well and will try to launch with a bit more fanfare than a retweeted post from my wife. I want to see what sort of return on investment might be reasonable.

I understand. I’ve gotten grief for pushing publish and walking away. But the community on Twitter is fabulous–there is so much support there. Every seems genuinely happy for you and cheering for your success. I usually tweet out a little something, but as you write more and publish more, you’ll find you need to break out of writer social media and find that reader social media. Easier said than done!

Thank you for chatting with me! If you have any issues with anything, let me know how I can help!


Check out Dave’s book cover . . . isn’t it great?! You can click the cover and it will take you to Dave’s Amazon page. Give him a follow there, and at Goodreads! Dave blogs too, and you can follow his website here.

wind bottles and broomsticks book cover

Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Good luck!

 


My books are wide! Don’t Run Away is free forever. 🙂  Give my books a look!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

My messed up route to (non)success.

Mostly self-publishers self-publish because we want to make money. A lot of authors will deny this–art and commerce do not mix well. You can say all you want about self-satisfaction, fulfilling a dream, what have you, but when you list a book on Amazon, you want to make money. And maybe I’ll concede people reading your stuff might come first, but that royalty check comes in a very close second.

I want to make money. I want people to love my work. I want to make a list. The USA Today would do, thanks. I want to be able to quit my day job, sit in my pajamas with my cats, and write all day, every day, for the rest of my life.

And you do too. But not with my cats. Adopt your own.

But this blog post isn’t about the why, it’s about the how. success-what-people-think-it-looks-like

There are only two ways to publish a book. You either get a book deal or you self-publish. There are grey areas–smaller presses, crowdfunding, whatever, but essentially those are your choices.

I chose to self-publish.

You all know I went to the Sell More Books Show summit in Chicago last month, and I listened to Jami Albright talk about the (low) six figures she made on three books. When authors throw numbers around like that, there are a lot of feelings that run through the crowd. Awe. Surprise. Admiration. Respect.

Notice I didn’t add envy. Or jealousy.

I don’t envy Jami. I’m happy for her.

And I’m happy for every author who does the same.

What I want to chat about is how she got there.

Because she explained she made 65% to 80% of her income being enrolled in Kindle Select. That means her books are available in Kindle Unlimited. That means her books aren’t available for readers who read on a Kobo ereaders, Nook, or an Apple Books app.

Sorry for the mini lesson in going wide, but I just wanted to hit home how much Jami made having her books in KU. That’s a lot of page reads. That’s a lot of trust in one platform for so much money.

I’m so happy for her that she knew her path and was comfortable taking it.

It paid off for her. In a big way. And her talk came at a horrible time for me because the month before the summit, I had pulled all my books out of KU and put them wide.

Let’s be honest here. I wanted to cry.

I’m obviously still grappling with the decision.

But I’m grappling with it because I don’t know if her path is my path.

That’s the frustrating thing about self-publishing. There is no one true path to success. There are too many variables:

  • Cover
  • Blurb
  • Editing
  • Genre
  • Your voice/writing style
  • Your connections
  • A newsletter or lack thereof
  • Social media presence

You could follow a successful author’s choices to the letter, and you still will never be able to duplicate someone’s success. You may have your own success following someone’s advice, but as they like to say in the groups I’m in, your mileage may vary. Success depends on several different factors, and these factors cannot be measured.

There is no way to know if my books would do as well as Jami’s. She writes rom com. I write serious contemporary romance. She has professional covers done. I don’t. I do them myself in Canva. She scrimped and saved for an editor. I edit my books with the help of beta readers. She went to an RWA conference and networked. I’ve never been.

Even if I did some of what she’s done, I may never stand a chance of doing as well as she.

And that’s what drives all of us crazy.

There are too many choices.

Jami used Amazon Advertising which worked for her because her books are in KU. But there are other ad platforms you can try: Facebook. BookBub. Instagram. Even Pinterest and Reddit.

Then there are newsletter swaps (I don’t have one) Facebook Author page take-overs, blog tours, etc.

There are a million little things that add up to a book’s success, also known as the author’s bottom line.

I mention the 20booksto50K group a lot because that group is known for authors sharing their successes. (And I love them for it!) They are very open about numbers and where that money comes from. (Also if you want to listen to author success stories, listen to the Sell More Books show podcast. They feature successes on their top five news stories every week.) I also mention them a lot because they are a fabulous group, and they’ll let anyone join as long as you promise not to be a jerk and not promo your own books (those posts are taken down almost as soon as they are posted, and you’ll get kicked out, too). They are very strict because they want the group to stay enjoyable and a place where an author can learn, and for a group that size, the moderators stay on top of it.

Anyway, Brian Meeks wrote an open letter of sorts saying people who hate on the authors posting big numbers could and should leave the group. And I’ve seen a little of the resentment and jealousy. Even Craig Martelle said Michael Anderle doesn’t post his numbers anymore because all it does is evoke a tsunami of hate.

I don’t hate those authors for making it. I’m not jealous either, or resent them, because I know how much work it takes to make that much money. People who hate on these authors know they’ll never be able to make that kind of money with their own writing. Their writing is sub-par, or they don’t want to spend the money to test ads. They can’t afford editing or professional covers.

I agree with Brian. They should leave the group if they are going to feel that way. They’re playing with the big kids, and they are getting trampled.

My problem with the people flashing their numbers? They are posting screenshots of their BookReport summaries. BookReport keeps track of Kindle sales and KENP page reads. So you know these authors are making big money on Amazon. I have yet to see anyone in that group post Kobo sales, or Nook. Or Apple Books. It’s all Amazon.

And that makes me question my own path to go wide.

How much money am I leaving on the table?

This is my BookReport from January first to now, just to show you what it looks like. If you have Chrome or Firefox and want to add the extension to your browser, look here. It’s free until you start earning a certain amount of royalties, and in the group, being asked to subscribe is a milestone of sorts.

book report graphic

No doubt about it, looking can get pretty addicting.

Because of course, when you see big numbers, you think, if they can do it, so can I.

And I can’t lie. I’m wondering how I’d really do if I put all my strength behind my books if they were in KU. How much money I would make had I TRIED.

I didn’t try before. I was too focused on building my backlist. I have six books out now. By the end of the year, I’ll have ten.

Authors have made a lot of money on less.

Thinking about all this is maddening.

But I also remind myself that publishing is a long game. Where will I be five years down the road? Ten? Do I want to trust only Amazon to pay me thousands forever and ever? I don’t know. My gut says no because I’ve heard of Amazon cutting off authors for no reason (though admittedly, those stories are a year or more older now) therefore turning off the spigot that has been spewing out thousands of dollars a month.

Then what?

One of the first rules of the 20books group is not to talk smack about Amazon. I get that. Amazon has created an opportunity for indies to publish their books when otherwise those authors wouldn’t be published at all.

And as an author, it is an individual choice whether or not to have all of your eggs in one basket. Sure, they might crack, but sometimes you can still end up with a tasty omelette. (I must be hungry when I blog; I’m always comparing Amazon to food.) There’s no denying it’s worked for many authors.

To say I wasn’t envious of the confidence of those authors’ decisions wouldn’t be true. I’m not envious of their success; I’m envious they found a path that worked for them, and they had the courage to follow through. Maybe you say it’s the same, but I feel there’s a distinction.

courage fish

I want to be confident in my choices and obviously, I’m not. Which is why I wrote this rambling blog post of thoughts. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m kind. I’m always giving back, offering to help in some way. I’m editing for someone for free right now. It isn’t the first time I’ve given my time away, and it won’t be last. I’m regularly interviewing new authors for my blog because I’m hoping the exposure will help. If I’m pointing a finger at someone, or giving someone the stink eye, it’s always going to be aimed at myself.

Was going wide the right choice?

I have no clue. You can see in my wide update that I haven’t gained much traction so far. And it’s hard to think about how much money I’m leaving on the table pulling my books out of KU.

The bottom line is I would never resent anyone for their success.

I’m just bumbling along like crazy trying to find mine.

I have fun writing. I enjoy trying new things to see if they will promote sales. I love blogging about it.

But that sure doesn’t pay the rent.

Let me know your thoughts!


Craig Martelle and Company give back too. They put on a wonderful 20books Vegas conference every year. You can read about it here. The conference for 2019 is sold out already, but this would be a good time to save up if you think you might want to try for 2020. To get a taste of what the speakers are like, look at this YouTube Channel of the speakers from November 2018.

I’m already committed to doing a different summit, though it is changing hands for the year 2020. Joanna Penn and Lindsay Buroker, two ladies I chat with on Twitter, will be speaking, and I wanted to meet them. (Other great speakers will be there too, like Mark Leslie Lefebvre.) At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, what with all the trouble I had networking last month, but I did have fun and learned a few things, so that has to count for something. They are already 75% sold out, so if you want to see me in Nashville of May 2020, act fast! Look here for the newly named Career Author Summit.

Thanks for reading!


Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

My Wide Adventures AKA Sales so far

Almost two months ago I went wide. Has it paid off?

Not so much.

I put All of Nothing, and Wherever He Goes wide through Draft2Digital as soon as they dropped out of KU. I put The Years Between Us on all platforms as soon as it was finished–it never went into KU at all.

Because of an oversight, I missed one of my books in the trilogy, and I thought I would have to wait for them to drop out, but everyone encouraged me to just email Amazon and ask for them to be pulled out, and I did. They were polite about it, and the minute I had the email saying they were out of Select, I put them wide.

For simplicity’s sake, I can say all six of my contemporary romances have been wide since April first.

And well, nothing happened.

Actually, something did happen.

My KU reads dried up, but sales on other platforms didn’t make up that loss. I kind of knew that would happen, but it’s different seeing it. They even talked a little about it at the summit during the wide panel–that dip where page reads go from a waterfall to a trickle, and where no one knows your books are on other platforms.

It takes time, and seeing that money, no matter now small, disappear, makes you sick inside.

Also, listening to Jami Albright talk about her success at the summit in KU with only three books didn’t help me feel any less bitter when I had just pulled my own books out of KU and made them wide.

But like a life-style change to beat a sugar addiction that will make you feel better for the rest of your life, I feel going wide will be the same for my career. Is Amazon cake? I guess if you’re you in the 20booksto50k group on FB and see everyone’s earnings in KU, you can feel like Amazon is a giant piece of gooey cake with a huge scoop of ice cream, too.

amazon vs cake

Hello, type-2 diabetes!

I might have taken that too far.

But, as always, this isn’t about whether going wide is smart or not–always go back to your business plan and decide for yourself what you want out of your writing career.

As for sales: I put Don’t Run Away permafree the minute I could, and asked Amazon to price match when the free price on other platforms kicked in. This is supposed to help introduce a reader to my books. Being that Don’t Run Away isn’t as strong as the books I’m writing now, that’s a plan that may not pan out. But I’ll be publishing  a new series this year after I get them all written and edited, and eventually book one will be permafree, too.

For sales from April 1st to the day I’m writing this blog post, May 30th (rather, the 29th since that’s the way reporting goes).

Amazon:

Free:
Don’t Run Away: 125
Paid:
All of Nothing: 18
Wherever He Goes: 0
The Years Between Us: 1
Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3: 1
Summer Secrets Novellas 4-6: 1

Out of the 125 copies of Don’t Run Away, no one bothered to go on to books two or three of the trilogy. It takes time for people to read, so maybe they haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet. I don’t like to think they didn’t like the first book and don’t want to read the other two. (But when you’re writing a series, that’s always a possibility.)

amazon sales for blog post

So, sales aren’t all that great. Those two little spikes you see? Those are me fiddling around with BookBub ads. I’ll write another post about that later.

How about on Kobo?

On Kobo, I gave away 32 copies of Don’t Run Away. I had 0 organic sales of any of my other books on there. Meaning, I didn’t get any read through to my other books in the trilogy. Bummer.

kobo graphic for blog post

Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital publishes my books in a lot of places, but the top two are Apple and Nook. It’s easier to give you the charts. But I’m sure you can imagine that giving away Don’t Run Away dominated my “Sales.”

draft to digital chart for blog

I sold one copy of All of Nothing, Chasing You, Running Scared, and The Years Between Us. I liked the Chasing You and Running Scared. It means out of the 80 people who downloaded Don’t Run Away, ONE person read the other two. I mean, that’s progress, right?

draft to digital chart for blog 2

As you can see, I gave away the most copies of Don’t Run Away on Nook. I’m not sure why, but maybe one day those will turn into sales of my other books.

Here are the chart breakdowns:
Nook:

draft to digital chart for blog nook sales

And Apple Books:

draft to digital chart for blog apple sales

I feel like I got a little bit of something going everywhere, but not a lot of anything.

As I experiment with ads, and put more books out, maybe that will help. I mean, after all, I haven’t really done much marketing letting readers know my books are everywhere. I use my FB author and personal page to let people know as much as I can without sounding like a harpy.

I use the end of this blog post to let people know my books are wide, but let’s be honest. I’m writing for writers who probably won’t buy my books, and that’s okay. That was the path I chose when I decided to blog on these topics.

And it’s the same with Twitter. I have this as my pinned tweet, and it does absolutely nothing:

All of Nothing promo with goodreads review

I boosted this post on Facebook and it got me 3 new likes to my author page. One of them was my sister. Go me. But the ad is pretty, no? (If you want to make your graphics, use this website; Derek Murphy is so great for the writing community. Be sure to save it as a PNG though, so you have the transparent background. Otherwise, you’ll save it with the white background underneath. I did the rest in Canva. Search for [your color] bokeh if you like the background.)

I do have a Freebooksy scheduled for the middle of next month for Don’t Run Away since it’s permafree. That will be my first real ad aimed at all the platforms I’m on. We’ll see if it makes a difference.

To be honest, this was pretty much what I expected. I’m willing to experiment with ads for now while I’m working on my series. Maybe working with ads over the summer will help me grow a small audience and they’ll be willing to buy my quartet when it’s done.

Slow and steady wins the race, and all that, right?

Have you tried going wide? What has been your experience? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

May Goals :)

I didn’t have May Goals, so my title is a bit deceptive.

The only goal I really had was to finish book 2 of my series, and I did that. I’m taking a little breather before I start editing book one. I would like to edit books one and two, so when I finish book four, the editing won’t be such a massive undertaking. Book two finished out at 76,000 words, which is 6,000 more words than book one. But now that I know the characters better, when I edit book one, I could easily add a few more words to that, and write in some foreshadowing of other books since I failed to do that the first time around.

I did manage to change the covers to my trilogy, on all the ereader platforms, and even Ingram, which was pretty cool. I won’t rehash any of that–I’ve written other blog posts about it so . . .

next

The problem is, there isn’t any next. I mean, nothing I wouldn’t be doing anyway.  Outlining books three and four, and just editing my life away, while try to stay on top of this blog.

Speaking of blogs, I need to type out some of Autumn’s blog posts. She’s a character in the series who writes a blog for the newspaper. I thought it would be fun extra content to type out the blog interviews of other characters that she talks about in the books. I don’t have a good place to post those. I thought about creating a free website for her using something like Wix, and trying to make that look like her newspaper’s website, but I don’t know how much time I want to take doing that. Especially since I have a standalone book brewing in the back of my mind already for when this series is complete. I could add a tab to my own website, but how long do I want to keep them up?  I’ll keep writing them and transcribing them, and after I get them all done, I’ll decide then.

I’ll continue to look at stock photos to see what i can come up with for covers. I hated doing my trilogy. Four books should be even more fun.

I did attend that Sell More Books Show Summit, and that put me behind a few days. The experience was wonderful though, and you can read about it here.

I edited for a friend, and that took a bit of time, but I like editing, and her story is sounding fantastic!

I guess that’s about all I have for my May goals. I always know what needs to be done if I want to propel my career forward. That usually means writing fast and writing good, quality work while still being anchored to the land of the living.

I bought a promo for Don’t Run Away for the middle of June. It’s permafree, and I purchased it from Freebooksy. I plan to mark down my other two books in the trilogy to .99 for the rest of the month to encourage read-through rates. My main goals while finishing this series and preparing it for release is pushing my books out there. I need reviews and exposure.

I got turned down again for another Kobo promotion, but I’ll keep trying. As a new author without reviews on that site for any of my books, it will be difficult to be approved, I think.

But, it is what it is.

mountain of success

I’ll share how my wide adventures are going in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

graphics made with photos and font from canva.com

Everyone in this business has a business–Be careful what you pay for!

When I was looking to hire out for my trilogy covers, I became overwhelmed. Very quickly. We all look for products and services that won’t break the bank, but will maintain some level of quality.

Finding that balance is harder than keeping a kid from screaming in a candy store after you tell him no.

Quality that won’t break the bank that is delivered in a reasonable amount of time. Ugh.

quality cost and time I’m a part of various groups on Facebook, and I’m not going to divulge any groups here. (I don’t want to embarrass anyone, nor do I want to get banned.) Not necessarily to look for products and services, but to keep my ear to the ground and learn tips, tricks, and obscure rules that may never occur to me know in the first place. Like, apparently it’s against Adobe Stock’s terms of service to use their stock photos on romance/erotica book covers. Who would ever think of that? (And who determines if it’s romance vs. women’s fiction?) When I went onto the Adobe Stock site, there was nothing that mentioned photos could not be used in this manner, but it seems to be common knowledge among the Facebook group I’m involved in. After a quick Google search, I did come across this discussion thread, and it appears the questions were answered by an Adobe Stock employee. Luckily, a lot of their pictures of kissing couples, after a quick perusal, seem to be available on other sites.

And that’s the point.

When you hire someone, you are hiring not only their skill, but their knowledge. It’s their job to know the rules, the guidelines, the terms of service.

skills-3371153_1920

Not long ago I was scrolling through my feed, and a post caught my eye. A woman was explaining that she and her husband were starting a premade book cover business. It turns out that they had used free photos from stock sites like Pixabay. I’ve only learned this recently myself that you shouldn’t use free photos on a book cover because the people in the photo may not have signed model release forms. Also, a lot of these photos have name brand items in the photo that cannot be used on a for-commercial-use item, like a book cover. So if you purchased a premade from someone who used a photo that shouldn’t be used–you’ll be the one to get into trouble, not the person who made the cover. I’ve heard other stories like designers on Fiverr who steal images to incorporate them into “original” covers.

Looking for someone I could trust made my head spin and my checkbook cry . . . and I gave up.

The indie publishing rush has opened up the arena for cheats and thieves, scam artists and simply people who think they can do something and charge you for it when their skills are less than adequate to get the job done.

In the case of the woman using free photos for her premades, that’s insulting anyway. Anyone can get their hands on a free photo and shove some text on it using Canva. Part of a designer’s fee should pay for a stock photo that hasn’t been around the world wide web a few thousand times. {Insert crass whore joke here.}

girl reading

We’ve all seen her before. Would you want her on your book’s cover? No matter how pretty her hair is.

But how do you know what you don’t know? Maybe I can help.

There are three major things an indie pays for:

  1. Covers for their books.
    Don’t simply pay and walk away; even if you’re extremely happy with what you’ve been given. Especially if you’re extremely happy and maybe want to make this person part of your publishing team.
    Ask where they purchased the photos. A cover could have quite a few elements that make up the whole. If you are in doubt if any image is okay to use, look at the terms of service and make sure the photos were used in a legitimate manner. It could take some digging but better to know now, than after your book is published. Copies of your paperback may never be recovered.
    Ask where they found the font. There’re plenty of places that offer free-for commercial-use fonts. Your designer could have purchased a font suite, or picked them up singly as the need for them arose. If you’ve hired someone to do your cover, it never hurts to be sure the font is okay to use.
  2. Editing.
    Someone really can’t, well I was going to say someone really can’t cheat you with editing, but of course they can. They can charge you for a shitty job. I’ve been a victim of that. Note to self: a writer does not an editor make.
    Editors are human–even traditionally published books are published with typos. But not all editors are created equal and some will be better than others. Always ask for a sample. Some will do it for free, some will charge you a small fee and then put that sum toward the total if you hire them.
    If they won’t give you a sample, steer clear. After the sample, take a look at it. Does it look like they ran it through Grammarly? Used the Hemingway App, or ProWritingAid? Does it look like an actual human read it and made real-life comments? And do those comments make sense? Did they maybe give you a link of proof to back up their edits? (I do this with my friends, especially if I had to look it up myself to make sure.)
    If this person’s rates are reasonable and you don’t have to wait five years to have your manuscript back, maybe it’s a good idea to get a second opinion on his or her work. Because you’re ultimately building a team to help you publish your future books. And someone who can do the work and charge a fair price is worth their weight in gold.
    You want people around you that you can trust to do a good job. If she gives off a good vibe, and the second opinion of her work pans out, you may have an editor you can trust for many years to come.
  3. Formatting.
    This one makes me mad. You know why? Because Vellum has made it super easy to format books–both ebook and paperback (they offer large print, too!). It will generate files for Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and a generic epub for places like Draft2Digital and Smashwords. They will also give you a fabulous interior for paperbacks with dropped caps for chapter starts, and options to have the name of the chapter in the headers, which will change with each new chapter title! Trying to do that in Word would make me an alcoholic! There is a small learning curve, and I had to Google a couple of questions that popped up when I did a friend’s book, but after a couple of books, you can get the hang of it pretty quickly and format a book in less than an hour. Especially if you have all of your front and back matter written, and your links are already gathered together into one place.
vellum formatting ad

A picture of what using Vellum looks like. Taken from their site.

And this what drives me INSANE! People are charging for this. I realize that everyone deserves compensation for their time. And if you purchase a Mac so you can use Vellum, you’re investing 1500 dollars right off the top for your business. But holy cow, if you hire someone to format your book and you know they are going to use Vellum, maybe you can network a little bit and find someone else who will do it for trade. Or if you already have a Mac and you know you’ll be producing a lot of books in the future, buy it yourself. You can take a look at it here.
Another way you can format your book is to use Draft2Digital’s formatting tool. You don’t have to publish with them to use the tool, but you do have to create an account, which feels like they are locking you in to use them to publish, but they aren’t. They format both paperback and ebook and there is no charge to use their service.
If you like Word and have a little knowledge about how to make the page numbers and End Section features work for you (the template adds them, but inevitably you’ll have to add chapters), you can try the template KDP Print offers you. This used to be the way to do it when you didn’t want to pay for a formatter, but it’s no longer the best way. Still, if you’re stuck using this, it’s better than not having a paperback option at all. There are scammers I’ve run into on Twitter who charge to do for this for you. I don’t know if they still do being that Draft2Digital offers you a free way, and almost anyone can find someone who uses Vellum because it’s that good. Once I pinned a tweet cautioning against paying someone to copy and paste, and a woman who did indeed charge for this simple formatting thought I was singling her out. I wasn’t, but she retaliated by giving me a poor review on a book of mine on Goodreads. She also charges for website building through Wix, and Wix, I’ve heard, is one of the easiest websites for a beginner to use. My friend Aila has a blog post about it, and she made Wix sound so good, I was tempted to change!

So, just be careful who you pay and for what. If you’re paying someone simply so you don’t have to do the work, that’s one thing, because we’re all willing to pay for convenience in one way or another. But sometimes it’s just easier to learn how to do things on your own.


Everyone from huge vanity presses asking you  to “invest in your book” to the person charging to copy and paste your book into a template provided by KDP Print for free are happy to take your money.

Trust doesn’t come easily to me, and I’d rather learn what I don’t know to stay in control.

There’s nothing wrong with charging for a service, just as there is nothing wrong with paying a fair price for that service.

Just be sure that the price balances the skill and you both walk away happy. Maybe a lovely business relationship will develop.


As a silly side note, I used a photo from Pixabay in a blog post last year. I said in the post I found the photo there, and since Pixabay offers photos free for commercial use, I was safe in using it for my blog. But I found an email in my author email (I rarely check that account) and this gentleman had emailed me about a photo I had used.

Hi there, 

Thanks so much for including one of my pictures on your page. I love seeing my work featured around the web.

This is the image the page is on: https://vaniamargene.com/tag/fear/

And this my image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/158456412@N05/40174218953/
Could you please link to https://www.mytradingskills.com as per my attribution credit request on the image?
Thanks very much and have a great day!
XXXX

Name: XXX
Title: Creative Director
Website: www.XXX.com

Imagine my surprise when I found that in my box. Of course, I changed the attribution in my blog post, just to keep feathers from being ruffled (who knows if he’ll even check), but could you imagine if his email had held any weight? I was scared for a second. So always make sure that the photo is safe to use. And that is your job, whether you hire someone or not.

I always give attribution to the photographer and print the photo ID in my front matter of my books. That causes some extra work for me because I had to swap out my files when I redid the covers for my trilogy. But I feel it’s best. I also credit using Canva.com to make those covers.

Cover all your basis, guys and gals, because we are in BUSINESS, and other people are in business too. Never think for one moment that someone will give you a pass if you make a mistake.

Happy and SAFE publishing!

Publish Safely!

photos taken from Pixabay and/or taken from and made in Canva.

 

The Sell More Books Show Summit 2019

sell more books show 2019

Two weekends ago I attended the Sell More Books Summit in Chicago. I’m still trying to catch up from being gone, writing-wise, but it was a wonderful experience.

It was hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral, hosts of the Sell More Books Show Podcast. I recommend listening to this as they go through the top indie publishing news of the week. While I was too shy to introduce myself, it was fun to see them in person.

There were a lot of speakers, and even though I stay in tune with the self-publishing industry, I picked up a few things I’ll pass on to you!

  1. Amazon Ads are only good if you’re in Kindle Unlimited.
    This actually might be a no-brainer to some of you, but I just pulled my books out of Select and all my thoughts had been focused on Amazon.
    When you  run ads on Amazon, you are going for the double-whammy: sales and page reads. If you are wide, you’re leaving out a big chunk of potential readers if your marketing strategy is centered on Amazon Advertising.
    It’s a mind shift, for sure, but something I didn’t realize until the summit. Now that I’m wide, I’ll forget Amazon Advertising ads and focus on other methods with a wider reach.

  2. You need to write a series.
    I always knew that, but it’s different when people who are actually making money off their books tell you that.
    A series is good for marketing (pricing a first in series permafree for instance) and a rapid release can keep your momentum going. I don’t like writing a series, but being I’m about 1/2 done with a four book series, I’m taking my own advice when I preach writing to market. I prefer writing standalones, but I understand where a series is beneficial, and after a couple standalones to cleanse my palate I’ll get back on the series horse.
  3. You  can make it wide, it will just take a mindset shift and a lot of patience.
    There was a wide panel that consisted of representatives from Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, and Kobo. During this panel, they did say you could make it wide, and that’s what I needed to hear at this point in my writing journey. I’m not making sales on the other platforms yet, and my KU pages reads have dried up, what few of them there were. It’s a scary place to be. So it was nice to hear that with patience, going wide won’t screw me over. Just the opposite in fact–going wide can double your income.
    (For a good read on being exclusive and going wide, read this article by PublishDrive. :))
  4. But you won’t make it with one book if you’re wide.
    If you’re all in with Amazon and you have one book, you may be able to make some money. Jami Albright spoke about her publishing journey. She writes romantic comedy, and she’s published a series. She didn’t do a rapid release though, and she bought ads for a single book and did very well. When asked what she would do differently, she said she would have had book two done and ready to go. She might have made more with momentum, but she was still able to sell book one when it was her only one. If you want to check out her books, click here for her Amazon page. She’s in KU and said she has made 65%+ of her income with KU page reads. (And yes, she is one of those 6-figure authors we all hear about but never meet!)
    Wide is a different story. You need to think of your book as a storefront. If you went into a store and saw only one item on a shelf, you’d think that store was going out of business and you would high-tail it out of there. It would be even worse if that item is old and covered in dust. Which is what your book looks like if it’s the only one you  have and it was published some time ago. You need to keep filling your store with stock or you won’t lure customers to shop there.
    This is also difficult if your book isn’t up to standards. Then not only are you trying to sell a single time, that item is broken. Thinking like a customer, do you want the choice of only one damaged item? No. You’ll go to another store–and to a reader, that other store is a different author.
  5. Readers are different.
    Readers in KU plow through books. These readers aren’t developing a relationship with you. They gobble up content and move on to the next book, and you don’t care because you were paid for the page reads and nothing else matters.
    The team on the wide panel said you are more apt to develop relationships with your readers because they shop for books and read in a different way than readers who borrow books in KU.
    I don’t know if that is true or not. Perhaps that is why the newsletter concept is so heavily pushed. I know plenty of KU authors with huge mailing lists, and maybe that is their way of connecting with readers when they are all in with KU.
    I know when they say readers are “voracious” they mean they are plowing through books, maybe even one a day. I used to read like that when I had the time. I used to read Harlequin Temptations and Desires by the armful when I could get my hands on them at the second-hand shop for twenty-five cents a piece. It didn’t matter who wrote it, I just consumed the story and went on to the next. I can tell you what I did do, though. I eventually learned who I didn’t like.
    Anyway, whether you believe this idea or not, you need more than one book if you’re wide. Giving readers more to gobble up will always be a smart idea, whether they remember your name or not.
  6. You need to offer more than a book. Coincidentally, I wrote just wrote a blog post about this very thing, and you can read it here. Chris Fox, during his talk, took it one step further. You need MORE. When you write in a series, you can offer a map and pinpoint where things take place in the story. You can offer pictures of what you envision their houses to look like, or the city they live in. Already authors add extra content to their back matter. Chris had special coins made in the currency of the world he writes in, and he is going to hide them around the city where he lives. Then he is going to create a geo-caching game that will allow readers to find them and keep them as a keepsake for his series. Not everyone has the funds or knowledge to do something like that, but his point was, going forward into 2020, you’re going to need more.

Those were the main takeaways for me from the summit. Admittedly, I knew a lot of what they were talking about since I listen to their podcast, and if anyone follows self-publishing news, then you know releasing quality content on a regular basis is a must for any author, in wide or KU, and that is going to be the backbone of your author business. kindle unlimted1

There was an interesting juxtaposition that occurred to me while I attended the summit.  The summit was sponsored by Vellum, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, BookFunnel, and Kobo. It’s interesting to me that some of the bigger names of the summit who have made it with their books are in Kindle Unlimited.  Chris Fox, Jami Albright, Bryan Cohen. The writing duo J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon. Cecilia Mecca. Elise Kova. I wonder if anyone thought about the fact that the summit was sponsored by companies that help indies go wide, while the big-named authors who spoke at the summit are in KU.
I’m not suggesting anything, of course. There’s nothing to suggest. I find it unlikely that Amazon would sponsor a writing summit, and there were a few writers there who are wide. It just makes me think a little, that’s all. Like, if there is such good money to be had going wide, why aren’t they doing it? Sure, there are authors making lots of money being wide like Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Adam Croft–who is a big advocate of going wide. There are some that do a mix–have some books in KU and some wide. I would just keep my eye out and see if the top authors in your genre are wide or if they are in KU. If they are, and you want to try to copy their success, are you comfortable with allowing Amazon full control over your royalties? It’s food for thought. It makes me think about going wide, and if that was a good move. It’s tempting to want to exploit KU since it seems like good fast money if you have a decent backlist and a little money to play with for Amazon Advertising. We’ll see.


If you are interested in going to the summit next year, Bryan announced he would not be part of it (though he is speaking) and the summit is now going to be part of the Career Author with J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon.  It will be taking place in Nashville in 2020, and it looks like tickets are already on sale. You can click here to find out more information about the summit of 2020. I heard that Joanna Penn will be there, so if wanting to meet her is any incentive, sign up now!

Would I go to another summit? Maybe. I feel like it was more of a networking opportunity than anything else, and since I’m shy and very much an introvert, I didn’t meet as many people as I wanted to. That’s my own fault of course, but paying $399-499 to sit in a corner isn’t the best idea. I’d like to try to go to the 20booksto50k convention that’s held in Las Vegas hosted by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle. (But again, they are big supporters of KU.) But because of personal issues, a summit next year may be out of my reach anyway. It takes money and time to attend, and I’m still kicking myself for not making the most of my time at this event. Especially with the open bar.

You never know. But if YOU have an opportunity to attend, you should go! And say hi to Joanna for me!

Until next time!

 

The Years Between Us is Available!

It’s May 1st, and The Years Between Us dropped out of pre-order and it’s available! I just approved the paperback so that should pop up on Amazon shortly.

The book has been in pre-order for so long that I forgot it was out there. Since I finished it up and listed it, I’ve written the first book in my Wedding Party series and close to finishing the second book with about 15,000 more words to go.

I’ll chat with you about a couple things, and then I am off for the Sell More Books Show Summit in Chicago for the weekend, hopefully to learn how to market my books and put them in the hands of eager readers. I’ll recap that when I get back.

For now, I’ll let you know I only did pre-order to give myself some time to write. I released All of Nothing in October, and everyone says that six months between books is way too long. I agree. For most indie romance writers, three months is probably the maximum they leave between books, some even publishing 50,000 words every month. I still think I write pretty fast considering I have two children, three cats, and I work a day job to pay bills. I also see my sister once a week, I try to walk and catch up on podcasts, and I write this blog. So it’s not like when I’m not writing I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs. But even if I could sweep all that aside, I don’t think I could produce more than three books a year, and that’s okay. I don’t want to write less than 70,000 word books (now that my novella streak is over) and sometimes that means plotting a little more and taking time with character development.

At any rate, the pre-order I did wasn’t to gain sales during the pre-order period, and that’s a good thing since I only had ONE pre-order on Amazon. I actually clicked the wrong button on Draft2Digital, so I didn’t know until a couple days ago my book was already available through them since April 17th. I would have been upset had I been trying to do a proper launch, but in my way of doing quiet, (AKA not telling anyone) launches, no one probably knew about my mistake.

As my 13 year old daughter likes to say, Whatevs.


May Goals

I have a few May goals.

  1. One is that I need to redo my trilogy covers.
    They are okay as far as being homemade, but I’ve gotten better at my skills, and well, trends have changed since the two and a half years since I published them.  Last night I took a look at the top 100 in contemporary romance on Amazon to get a feel of what’s out there. I’ve been looking at www.depositphotos.com to find new couples. For the amount of open door sex scenes in my books, my couples have too many clothes on. I’ve come to realize this through reader feedback and the fact that Freebooksy, when I did a promo for Don’t Run Away, wanted to put it in the sweet romance category. So I’ll be looking for couples who have a playful, sexy, fun vibe about them. As always, this took some doing because I needed to find couples that looked like they belonged together since’s it’s a trilogy. I’ve also been studying font and the color of the titles. A hot pink/fuchsia is in, along with a hot aquamarine in a handwritten font. I think I got it, but now I have to go through the trouble of creating them, and swapping them out with all the other vendors. Including Ingram Spark if I decide to keep my books listed there. Is it time for a drink yet?
  2. Finish book two of my Wedding Party Series.
    I have book two almost done, and I probably could have finished it if I wasn’t going out of town this weekend. I also realized that book two is stronger than book one, and since the stories parallel the same timeline, I can move book two to into book one position without too much rewriting. Jared and Leah are going to need a bit of rewriting anyway. I wrote on half before my surgery, the second half after, and I feel the ending isn’t as strong as it could be. I’m being very careful how all these are written and published because I want good read-through. To read more of my thoughts about writing a series click here. 
  3. Start book three. 
    I should  be able to start book three. I have the characters and their backstories mapped out. I have an inkling of some things that will happen, but I still need to sit down plot out the BIG BAD and of course, make sure I add some wedding stuff in there. Like, I don’t know, Marnie and James’s actual wedding. They aren’t going to be a premiere couple, but they are the reason this series is in creation, so I better get them married off.
  4. Start and finish an editing project.
    I’m helping a friend of mine edit the sequel to one of her books. I’ve already done one sweep, and she sent it to me again. It shouldn’t take me long to get through it, so I can’t even count this as a goal, just something that I’ll be working on the first week in May. I’m excited for her, and I love helping her. I’m proud of the work she’s done on her books because like you and me, we have a lot going on but she doesn’t let that stop her.

May looks to be shaping up into a busy month, but now that the weather has finally cleared up, my cat isn’t sick anymore, I’m healing from surgery just fine, and whatever else little things I was going through seems to have tapered off for now (knock on wood for me) I should be able to to cruise through writing this series and being able to publish them toward the end of fall/beginning winter of this year, into the rest of winter of 2020. All the while, of course, writing another book, which will be a new standalone that I’m already quietly plotting out.

A writer's work is never done. There is always a new story to tell.


It’s also not lost on me that I’ll be needing to look at promos here soon, and what exactly I can do to bump up sales. The new covers to my trilogy will be a start. To be honest, I’ll probably need to redo the cover to All of Nothing, too. I’ve gotten some reader feedback that Jax is so much of an ass that readers didn’t care for him all that much. Rewriting the blurb and redoing the cover to better prepare readers for his unlikable personality may head off more negative reviews. While I try not read reviews, when opinions make it to me, I try to listen. All of Nothing is very love it or hate it, and if I can prepare my readers by changing the cover to more of a bad-boy type, and rewriting the blurb to focus on how damaged he is, that would be a win for me.

By the beginning of 2020 I’ll have ten contemporary romance books out in my genre. They will be good, solid books, and there’s no reason why I can’t start making some money. I’ve been waiting to build a backlist, which I am doing, quite well, if I do say so myself. Now I just have to put my books to use because there’s no point in writing them if no one is going to be reading them. AmIright? 


If you want to take a look at The Years Between Us, it is live on all platforms. Zia Bishop is in love with an older man, and you’ll have to read to see how that turns out! Click the photo to be directed to your favorite retailer! If you’re waiting for the paperback, that should be available soon. There’s no reason why KDP Print should find anything wrong with it.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend!

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover