Guest Blogger: Six Great Reasons to Write Short Fiction by Vera Brook

SIX GREAT REASONS TO WRITE SHORT FICTION

By Vera Brook

You may have glanced at the title of this post and shrugged. “I write novels and series. I’m not interested in short fiction.” Maybe you even rolled your eyes. “It’s just not worth my time.” 

But wait! Don’t go away yet. I promise there are great reasons to consider writing short fiction alongside your novels and series—both to hone your craft and to market your longer fiction and reach new readers. So let’s dive in and discuss six of these reasons, shall we? 

Actually, it might be helpful to first define short fiction. I dwell in the world of science fiction and fantasy, and in that world, we break down short fiction into four main lengths. Flash fiction is typically 250 to 1000 or 1500 words; a short story is between1500 and 7500 words (with 3000 to 5000 words considered a sweet spot); a novelette is 7500 to 17500 words; and a novella is 17500 to 40000 words. Anything longer than 40000 words is a novel. Other genres may use different definitions, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with some short fiction in your genre. 

I also want to mention from the start: if you want to write short fiction, you need to read short fiction first. Not a huge amount, but some. It will help a great deal. If you find a story that absolutely blows you away, you can study it for craft and apply what you learn in your own writing. And by searching for short fiction to read, you will also discover markets where you could submit and publish your own short fiction later on. 

How do you find short fiction to read? There is a rich plethora of short fiction magazines and anthologies out there, some in print, some digital, and many available in both formats. My favorite tool to search for magazines and anthologies (to submit to but also to read), and to track my submissions, is the Submission Grinder. You can search by genre and length, pay rate, response time, etc. And it’s absolutely free to use (although you could support the creator to help the good thing going). The Best of… anthologies are also a great choice, as long as they are pretty recent. 

Okay. Let’s first talk about the benefits of writing short fiction in terms of craft, and then about all the different ways to use short fiction to market your longer works and widen your readership.

Craft reason #1: Practice and improve your openings

sketch of woman sitting at desk. orange background text: craft reason 1: practice and improve your openings

The openings of novels are crucial. When a reader comes across your book on Kobo or Amazon, they’re very likely to open the ebook sample and read the first chapter or so. If the opening grabs them and pulls them in, they will get the book. The same happens in physical bookstores. The reader picks up a paperback and reads the first few pages. 

The opening is crucial! But how often do we get to practice writing the opening? If you write long novels, not very often. Just once per novel. Short fiction lets you practice writing different kinds of openings and get better and better at them. A super helpful skill that you can directly apply when writing your next novel.

Craft reason #2: Practice and improve your endings

sketch of woman sitting at desk, green background, text: craft reason 2: practice and improve your endings

If the opening sells your current book, the ending sells your next book (or so the saying goes, and I think it’s true). But as novelists, how many endings do we get to write? Not many. Again, just one per book. Short fiction lets us write lots of endings and different kinds of endings, and as with openings, practice makes perfect, and the improvement is directly applicable to novel writing. Stronger, more effective endings could also make a huge difference for the success of your series, where the read-through rate is critical and you want to do your best to compel the reader to jump directly to the next book in the series. 

Craft reason #3: Experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

sketch of woman sitting at desk: aqua background, text: craft reason 3: experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

Maybe you write crime mystery and want to try adding a speculative element, like a futuristic technology or a paranormal ability. Or vice verse: you write speculative fiction but want to venture into the psychological thriller territory. 

However, it can be daunting to jump straight into writing a novel in a new genre. Short fiction is a perfect playground to try it out and see what happens, without investing too much writing time and effort. In fact, even reading short fiction in a new genre is a great way to get the lay of the land, including popular tropes that you could play with and subvert as you wish—as long as that short fiction is current, published in the last decade or so. 

So far so good? Great. Onward to using short fiction for marketing!

Marketing reason #1: Put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

sketch of woman sitting at desk: orange background, text: Marketing reason 2: put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

Let me ask you this: What’s the biggest challenge for writers today? It’s discoverability, isn’t it? 

Whether you are self-published, with a small indie press, or with a traditional publisher, it is incredibly tough to get readers to find your book. I don’t know how many millions of books there are on Amazon, but it’s an astronomical number, and advertising is expensive. 

If only there was a way to reach the readers in your genre—the readers who are most likely to enjoy your writing—and introduce yourself to them… Well, there is! Short fiction magazines in that genre. If you can get your story published in a magazine like that, guess what will happen? Hundreds or thousands of readers who already love the genre will read your story and discover you, the author, and all your other books! I discovered some of my favorite authors that way—by reading their short story in a magazine first. 

If your flash fiction or short story or novelette gets published in a top tier market, you will also get paid a nice amount; and even better, if the contract is good, you will get paid for only for the first-publication rights and anthology rights, but you can republish your short fiction in your own collection later on. 

Imagine that! A terrific promotion—and you get paid for it, instead of the other way around. 

To be fair, the best magazines and anthologies are competitive. Don’t expect to send them your first story and get an acceptance email (although if you do, congrats!). Rather, think of short fiction as part of your writing journey. It will take time to write good short fiction; it will take time to get it published. But I truly believe it’s worth it. In fact, personally, I consider writing and submitting short fiction as important to my writing career as my novels or series, at least for now. 

One last idea: When you are done with a series, consider writing a short story in that world. In most magazines, if your story gets published, it would be accompanied by your short bio, and the bio could mention your series and encourage the readers to pick up book one. Be careful not to include spoilers in the short story. And just to be safe, you could center it on a minor character or event, rather than the major character or the main story arc. But if your story is compelling and intrigues the readers enough to want to know more, you could gain new fans for your entire series!

Marketing reason #2: Reader magnets to build your newsletter list

sketch of woman sitting at desk, mauve background, text: marketing reason 2: reader magnets to build your newsletter list

Short fiction also works great as a reader magnet (for new readers to sign up for your author newsletter). By definition, short fiction is short, and therefore takes less time and effort to write than a novel. This makes it easier to give it away for free than an entire novel, especially when you are just starting out and only have a few novels published (like I do). And a fun short story or novelette can still entertain the readers and, if they like it, bring them one step closer to becoming your fans. 

The last bit of advice on reader magnets: Use a strong, compelling short story. It should be as good as you can make it in terms of your writing craft, even if it’s short. Don’t forget that the goal is to woo and impress a new reader enough to read more of your work and become a loyal fan over time. A careless, poorly edited short story will not cut it, and you could actually lose a reader that way.   

Marketing reason #3: Gifts to reward your loyal fans and keep them engaged in between books in a series.

sketch of woman sitting at desk, yellow background, text: marketing reason 3: gift for fans to keep them engaged between books in a series

Another terrific way to use short fiction is as a gift for your loyal fans, already on your mailing list. And one time when such a gift might come in handy? When you are in between books in a series, and your fans are anxiously awaiting the next installment. Unlike with a short story that you would submit to a magazine, for new readers who are not familiar with the series, here you are writing primarily for fans who know the characters and the plot inside out. You may still want to be careful with major spoilers, just in case a few readers are behind in their reading. But you have more leeway in terms of what you could refer to in the short fiction, and it might be fine to assume quite a bit of knowledge of the series already. 

A quick mention, since this post is already getting long: Many authors use short fiction as Patreon rewards for their supporters. It’s a similar idea to gifting a short story to your fans through your newsletter. And the best part? Whenever you gift short stories to your fans, once you have enough stories, you could publish a collection of your short fiction! How cool is that? I adore individual-author collections. And it’s another book to your name, so helps with discoverability too. 

One last thing I wanted to mention: Nowadays, both reader magnets and gift copies are distributed electronically, and that’s especially true for short fiction, which may be too short to publish as a paperback. So basically, you would use an ebook version of your short story or novella to give away. You want to make sure that the ebook is correctly formatted, including epub and mobi files, but the distribution can get complicated pretty quickly because of all the reading devices out there. So my recommendation would be to use a service like BookFunnel where you can open an account (for about $20 a year currently), upload the files with your short story (you will need a cover!), set up a landing page for the readers to download the ebook, and then share the link. 

That’s all for now. I think I ran over the word limit a little bit. (Oops. Sorry, Vania. I hope that’s okay.)

Before I let you go, here are a few of my favorite resources on the craft and the marketing uses of short fiction. Best of luck with your writing!


Resources:

Writing Excuses podcast – a long-running podcast about writing and publishing fiction, with the focus on helping the listeners improve their craft and become better writers. 

Mary Robinette Kowal’s guest lecture on writing short stories – part of a series of lectures on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy directed by Brandon Sanderson.

Kristin Kathryn Rusch’s lecture “How to Write A Short Story: The Basics” – practical advice on crafting short fiction from an award-winning, multi-genre professional writer and editor.

The Submission Grinder – a free online tool to search for short fiction markets and track your own submissions. 

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)’s collection of model publishing contracts – includes anthology and magazine contracts. 


Vera Brook is a science fiction, fantasy, and romance writer, and the author of the SAND RUNNER SERIES. Her latest book, THE KISS, a paranormal love story, came out in November 2021. She’s working on two entirely new series, a standalone novel, and a whole lot of short fiction. You can learn more about her writing on her website at verabrook.com. She also tweets about her writing journey, books she loves, and things that interest her at @VeraBrook1.

Copyright © 2022 by Vera Brook

Guest Blogger: The Pitfalls and Perks of Being a Multi-Genre Author by Barbara Avon

The Pitfalls and Perks of Being a Multi-Genre Author

I’m going to speak from my heart in this blog post about the pitfalls and perks of being a Multi-genre Author. Who am I, if not honest and true to myself? In turn, I’m going to convey those feelings to you. Keep in mind that these are my personal thoughts on the subject. This article is not about trying to sway your opinion. It’s about my personal experience. 

The pitfalls – There are none. 

The perks – There are many.

I’ll start by elaborating on the fact that I don’t feel like there are any pitfalls (or roadblocks) to being an author who writes in various genres. I consider myself more of a “storyteller”. I’m like the grandmother who beckons the children to sit at her feet and asks them what kind of story they would like to hear. 

I never considered “boxing myself in” when it came to writing stories. There are infinite stories to tell, and so far, I have explored writing romance, horror (including paranormal and psychological), fantasy (time travel), literary fiction, thriller, and even children’s books. Compare writing in multiple genres to dreaming. Do you dream in only one colour? Do your dreams encapsulate only one type of scenario? Probably not. I let my mind take me where it wants to take me. I let my imagination flow freely. Being an Independent (or Indie) author, I am allowed that freedom of expression. I don’t report back to anyone (i.e., an agent, or publisher) to ensure that my story fits a trend. My name is not synonymous with any one genre; in fact, my name, and brand, are synonymous with being multi-genre. (Or that is my goal at least.) I don’t wish to be know as “Barbara Avon – Romance Author”. I wish to be known as “Barbara Avon – Author.”

I’m often asked this question: “Do you use your real name across genres?” 

Yes, I do. 

The inevitable follow up question to that is: “Does it hinder or help?”

So far, I have not had any reader tell me that they are put off by my choice to write in different genres. In fact, I had a very good friend honour me by saying that I inspired them to try their hand at writing different genres, which brings me to “the perks”. 

I can revel in different worlds. I allow myself to explore not just a romantic situation, but a horrific one, or one that will let me travel in time, or one where I thwart the evil villain. Is this a “perk”? Yes, because I’m going to put it simply: Life is too short for me to prohibit myself or allow myself to stifle my creativity. 

I started this journey later in life. I was 42 when I self-published my first book. Growing up, I used my imagination to escape the doldrums of daily life. I was a shy kid, and especially so when I switched schools and became the “new kid”. I was often alone, reading, listening to music, dreaming. I started writing angsty poetry in my teenage years. When I was awarded an A + for my short story in high school English Class, that was it. I caught the writing bug and knew that one day I would write a novel. What is my biggest regret? It’s that I didn’t start sooner. That’s what I mean about “life being too short”. I had a lot of time to make up for. My first three books are romantic suspense, but (inspired by the great Jack Finney), I thought to myself, “Why can’t I write time travel too? Why can’t I at least try?” They are merely words. Place them strategically one after and another, and eventually, you’ve created something out of nothing. I soon realized that I could write time travel, and then horror, and I even became a serial killer in a book or two. 

I have a box of all my books. It’s a time capsule, of sorts. I want it passed down to family throughout generations, and between the pages, they will catch glimpses of who I was. Because there are many facets to a person’s personality, there is so much to learn about me through my words. Yes, it’s fiction, but authors leave a piece of themselves on the page.

I want to state a very obvious perk: I have the chance to reach more readers. I have the chance to romance someone, or scare someone, or help someone skip through decades. When I started this journey, I had a group of loyal readers (who resided locally) who read each of my books, regardless of the genre. It was clear to me that I wasn’t chained by genre, and the creative freedom remains exhilarating to this day. As an Indie I also have control over cover design, marketing; everything that has to do with publishing a book, from start to finish. I am my own publisher, but let’s face it, readers don’t care if I’m Indie. They want a good story, period. As a reader myself, I want a good story, period. Fiction is our greatest escape, and it thrills me to know that I can help someone escape their life, if even for a few hours.

Here’s my advice if it’s advice that you seek. Do it. If you are a horror writer who has always wanted to delve into fantasy, do it. If you prefer to write under a pen name, do that too. When it comes to pursuing a desire, I’ve always said that I’d rather regret something I did, than regret never doing it at all. 

What’s next for me? After publishing a romance last November, I am currently working on a psychological horror. Later this year, I’ll be publishing another romance. After that, a Christmas story (as is my tradition every year). I’m also asked, “Is there any genre you won’t tackle?” Yes, I will never be able to write Science Fiction. (Side note – I leave science out of time travel stories.) I also would never be able to write Historical Fiction (1900s and earlier), or Regency Romances. (I’m in awe of my fellow authors who are able to expertly write in those genres.) However, I do want to try my hand at romantic comedy soon. I also love marrying genres! No one says that you can’t write a horror story with a romantic subplot. In fact, it’s my brand: “Love is the most remarkable magic – Even in horror.”

When will I stop writing? Never. Not as long as I have my senses and use of my hands. My books will last forever, but I will not. That is the greatest perk of being multi-genre. I’m immortal through my books. I was able to traverse multiple different worlds – and what a ride it was.  

Barbara Avon – Multi-Genre Author
Browse all my books here — Barbara Avon on Direct.me 

Barb’s new release, R E V I V E D is available now!
Check out R E V I V E D and other titles on her Amazon author page.
Happy Reading!

Lack of Productivity. What’s causing it, and how to fix it.

I’ve seen the topic of productivity a lot lately, maybe because we’re still in what’s considered the beginning of the new year and we’re all scrambling to keep up with New Year’s resolutions and tackle the goals we’ve set for ourselves. I haven’t specifically written about productivity, though I did write a blog post about writer’s block, which is akin to the weird uncle of the family when we talk about writing productivity.

I guess by now it’s a running joke that the hardest thing a writer can do is sit down and write. Butt in chair. Carving out that time. But I have never, in these six years I’ve been a part of the industry, understood this. I get writing is hard, and I’ve come to learn this about myself while writing and/or editing–If I hit a rough patch in dialogue, or say I’m echoing a word in a sentence and I want to rewrite the sentence to take out one of the words and I’m at a loss as to how to do it, instead of pushing through, I’ll flip over to Twitter. That’s avoidance. For now, I let myself do it because so far it hasn’t hampered my output. Normally, after I scroll for a second and see the same old drivel, I’ll flip back to my manuscript and keep going, but it can interrupt my flow.

I’ve seen a lot of tweets about productivity or lack thereof, and, unfortunately, if you’re writing to publish, and more importantly, if you’re writing to publish to build an author career, you kinda need it.

One of the hardest lessons you’ll ever learn in this industry is you don’t have nothing if you don’t have a book, and over time, you need several if you want to find any traction. If you’re writing a series, you have way more marketing power behind you if your series is done. You can’t accomplish that if you’re not writing.

What are some causes of lack of productivity? Here’s a short, though not comprehensive list, of what I’ve seen out in the writing community:

You’d rather do something else. This actually tells me a lot about how you feel about writing and publishing, and if you truly would rather watch TV, read a book, go for a drive, or make dinner, then honestly think about stepping back. Of course, it would help to know the reasons why you’d rather do something else. Maybe you’re not seeing the results you want, or you’ve lost interest. You started writing as a hobby and you’d rather pick up a different hobby like crocheting or knitting, or get back into exercise. If you’d choose to go to the dentist over sitting down and writing the next chapter, give yourself permission to stop writing. No one is forcing you, and if you hate what you’re writing, chances are, your readers will be able to feel that when they read your book. Move on. It’s okay.

You don’t like what you’re writing. Starting a new project is okay as long as you can finish something. If you lose interest in your WIP at the halfway point every time, something else is going on with more than just productivity. Maybe it’s a craft issue because you get bogged down in the saggy middle. Maybe finding an alpha reader who will read as you write, or a critique partner can help you stay motivated and give you tips and ideas on how to finish. The problem with learning craft is that you have to write to learn it. This is the same for characters, too. If you hate your characters, you have to figure out why. Is she a whiny snot? Doesn’t act her age? Is he an alphahole without any redeeming qualities? Are they not doing anything interesting? Find some feedback from somewhere, or refresh your creative well and read for a while. Start a new project, sure, but if you’re going to add to the 20+ WIPs you already have on your computer, you need to do some digging and figure out what the problem is and how you can fix it.

You have no idea what to do with it once you’re done. I’m reading Zoe York’s Romance Your Goals, and in it, of course she talks a lot about setting goals–setting realistic goals, and goals you have to work to reach. I have a lot of thoughts about goals, productivity, and strategies and tactics that will help you achieve those goals. If you have 10 finished books on your computer, they won’t do anything if you don’t know what you need to do with them. More than covering them with a good cover, writing a good blurb, and putting it up on Amazon. I mean, do you have a newsletter? Do you know an ads platform well enough you won’t lose money? Do you have a launch plan for what you’re going to do when your book is done? If you don’t, that could be causing you some productivity issues. If you have no idea what you’re going to do with it once your book is finished, there’s no real reason to finish it then, is there? That way of thinking was pretty much me for the past two years, but instead of lack of productivity, I think I had too much. That is a problem in itself because now I have lots of books and still no real actionable plan to maximize those books and pay myself for all the time it took me to write them.

Maybe you have an idea, but it’s too overwhelming to think about. We talk a lot about a five year plan, and sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what we’re eating for dinner in five hours, never mind where we want our careers to be in five years. If that look into the future terrifies you, ask yourself why. Writing and publishing is a long game, but if that look into the future bogs you down, shorten the timeframe. Maybe look to the next two years, plan out the books you want to write, be it three a year, two a year, whatever you can handle, and let yourself get excited about what’s coming in the immediate future.

You’re burnt out. I think I’ve mentioned this a lot on here, when I heard Jo Lallo say on the Six Figure Authors podcast that there is no faster way to get burnt out than when you work hard for little to no pay off. I’ve you’ve been working for a months, maybe years, and your career is in the same place as it was before, that can affect your productivity. You might wonder why you’re still trying to make a go of it, and you’re thinking about giving up. This conversation goes back to goals–what you want out of your writing and more importantly, how you’re going to get it.

You don’t have any writing friends to cheer you on or commiserate your failures. You’ve probably heard me mention this a time or two. A lot of my friends I made when I first joined the writing community are gone. They dropped off because they don’t write anymore, or we don’t talk for some reason or other. I was friends with a woman for a long time until I realized our friendship was all about her, and her writing, and her roadblocks, and whenever I would say something positive about me, or my books, she blatantly ignored it. I faded off from that friendship and a couple others. While I don’t recommend staying in a friendship (or any type of relationship!) that takes more than it gives, replace those friends with other people or you’ll look up from your laptop one day and see that you are alone. It’s tough to write and be proud of your successes if there is no one to share them with. Take that opportunity to reach out to other authors in your genre and make connections and friends there. Those relationships will be more meaningful because they’ll understand the ups and downs of writing and publishing in that genre. There are so many sprinting groups and people who are willing to be accountability partners. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel if you have people to reach out to when you want to share your goals and small successes.

At the core of productivity is passion. You have to have passion for what you do, and joy and the love of writing will keep you coming back to your laptop and your characters. Sometimes other things will get in the way, but ultimately, if writing matters to you, you’ll find a way to keep going.

Good luck!

End of the Year Wrap Up! Goodbye, 2021!

I always look forward to the end of the year wrap up! I love looking back to all that I accomplished over the year and making a mental note of what I can do better during the next year.

Here’s a look at what I did during 2021:

Books/Novels/WIPS

Number of books published: 0
I didn’t publish anything this year. In fact, I haven’t published anything since February of 2020 when the last of my Rocky Point Wedding series released. And even as I was releasing those, I had been writing my first person books, so in my head, I had essentially already moved on. I am planning to release in the spring of 2022, but we’ll see how that goes. I had every intention of publishing this year, but I got too caught up in writing to take the time to do any production or marketing of anything I’ve done.

Number of books written: 6.5
I’m 57k into the second book of the duet I plan to release in the spring, so I can’t count it as a full book I’ve written this year. I won’t finish it before December is over, but that’s fine. I’ve written approximately 560,000 words this year (which is 30,000 less than last year, ha!) and here is the list of couples and the month I started their book:
Finn and Juliet (book two of a series I haven’t completed. I wrote Colton and Elayna, book one, in November/December of 2020) January 2021
Fox and Posey (Faking Forever, standalone) April 2021 This book is loaded into KDP and all I need to do is hit publish
Dominic and Jemma (standalone) May 2021
Brady and Allie (My Biggest Mistake, standalone) July 2021 This book is also complete and loaded into KDP
Sam and Lily (standalone) August 2021
Rick and Devyn (Book one of Cedar Hill Duet) October 2021
Beau and Talia (Book two of Cedar Hill Duet) November 2021; will finish January 2022

I have a small gap between Finn and Juliet and Fox and Posey because this year I had a health thing with my girly parts. I’ve blogged about that a little bit–no one wants to hear about my health issues–but I can’t believe I’ve been dealing with consequences from using the wrong dryer sheets for 12 months. I had a reaction to Snuggle (and I only realized that was what it was after hours of reading through women’s online health forums) which gave me Bacterial Vaginosis, and I am still dealing with unbalanced vaginal pH even though my infection is gone. Suffering from that, getting it diagnosed, and trying to figure out treatment and a cure took up a bit of time (and headspace), but, let me tell you, I am very proud of myself for writing through it and not giving in to the crappy mindset dealing with this has put me in. Am I feeling better now? Yes and no. I’m feeling better than I did at the beginning of the year but not completely. I am in a better place mentally because at least I know what I’m dealing with and doing what I can to get back to normal. For three months I didn’t understand what was going on because I had no idea dryer sheets could do that. I’m hoping my body can right itself, and that 2022 will be better for me than just selling books.


I haven’t stopped running ads to my backlist. Even though I won’t write 3rd person again in the foreseeable future, running low cost-per-click ads doesn’t hurt as long as I keep an eye on them and don’t lose money.

Here are my stats for ads and royalties:

I didn’t quite make $1,000 this year, but what I did make was a surprise considering I haven’t published anything for a while, and I don’t promote that often. Ignore the 34 books. I have 10, but I have a couple of boxed sets, too.

As for Amazon ads, this is my year to date, and I’m actually pretty impressed that I made more than I spent in ads.

I stopped babysitting them, mainly because for a little while, Amazon didn’t mind the covers to my Rocky Point Wedding Series, and later they deemed them against their guidelines and my ads were suspended. That, as you can imagine, was a big disappointment, but by then, I was writing my 1st person billionaire stuff and I didn’t bother changing the covers. It was a huge lesson to keep Amazon’s guidelines in the back of your mind when designing your cover or hiring out. I was looking at premades not long ago, and some of the “billionaire” stock photo models were holding alcoholic drinks. (Rich guys sure like their aged whiskey, haha!) But those covers would never pass Amazon’s restrictions and you end up paying for a cover you can’t use to run ads. Anyway, so I stopped running a lot of ads to my books, which, in turn, didn’t translate well into sales. But, you live and learn and change your covers.

I spent another $25.00 on a promo when I created a boxed set to my Rocky Point series and ran it at the beginning of November. I didn’t earn the fee back. I did, but not on the boxed set, only sales overall, so I considered it a fail.

I used three free days for my Rocky Point boxed set just last weekend and gave away 41 boxed sets. Nothing to write home about, but I didn’t buy a promo for them. I usually grab a spot in a Freebooksy newsletter to promote my freebies, but I didn’t care enough, and I’ll be looking forward to something new in 2022.

That’s it for my books (and my health).

Website/Blog Stats

I blog every Monday and most Thursdays and since I’ve fallen into a schedule, I’m seeing growth little by little every year.

taken from my WordPress stats

A few days ago, WordPress just congratulated me on 6 years of blogging, and I can’t believe so much time has gone by. I truly enjoy blogging about my writing, publishing, and marketing experiences.

As you can see, even staying on topic and blogging consistently my growth is slow. Right now, I think I get about 30-50 visitors a day, and gain 1-2 new blog followers every time I post.

One thing I have learned this year is to have a goal to work toward, or you’re just ambling through the brush. I don’t have a plan for this blog except that I’ll keep writing and trying to help you all through the weeds of publishing and marketing by writing about my mistakes and what has worked for me. I have no plans to try to monetize it with ads or affiliate links. Writing a non-fiction book about indie publishing doesn’t interest me, nor does starting a podcast. I like blogging because if i don’t feel like writing fiction, I can come here and blog about whatever, and I’m still writing and keeping my fingers in the pie.

Probably one of the strangest things I’ve come across since publishing is how little indies care about what’s happening in the industry. It’s difficult (and time-consuming) to listen to podcasts, read other blog posts, and join in webinars, but I don’t understand how authors expect to make it in this business if they don’t know what’s happening. Maybe I’m the only one who enjoys it? I have no idea, but you can be sure I’ll always keep you posted!

What are my 2022 plans?

I will release next year. I said it this year, but I have to get over my fear of releasing to no one. I’m going to move forward with the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the past few years, and even if it takes another five, I’ll be in a better place in 2027 than I am right now. Nothing is a waste. You can’t succeed unless you fail, but as Jo Lallo said in an episode of the Six Figure Authors podcast, there is no greater reason for burnout than working hard without achieving some success.

One of the best podcast episodes I heard this year was when they talked about what they would do starting fresh if they had the knowledge they have now. It was really eye-opening and helped me plan out the next two years of releases. You can listen to it here:

Maybe they’ll give you some tips on how you can run your book business in 2022.


I’m not going to go into what I’m planning for next year. I’ve blogged about it quite a bit, and things change. What I have in place now might not work, but I am trying to make a writing and publishing schedule I can stick to without sucking the joy out of what I like to do most: write.

Probably the biggest lesson I learned about myself this year is that while I want to write for readers and start making money, I am afraid of turning something I love into something I have to do to pay bills. That might not happen, and even if I found moderate success, I like my day job and probably would never quit. There’s no point in worrying about something like that, but as I read books about writing and publishing systems, schedules, and all the talk about planners (HB90 is a popular one this year, y’all), it’s a concern that’s in the back of my mind I can’t quite pry loose. I guess we’ll see where this crazy business takes me.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s, and I’ll see you back here in 2022!

Until next time!

Monday Update and Editing a Series

Happy Monday!

It’s almost the end of October and there’s nothing better than fall weather in Minnesota! November is always fun because it’s my daughter’s birthday month (she’ll be 16!) and mine, too, but I won’t be sharing how old I am (haha!). I took Thursday off for Thanksgiving and I plan to make a turkey like I did last year–though I overcooked it and I’ll do better this time. There’s only two more months left of the year, but I don’t have any particular plan besides working on a new WIP because I miss writing. I could edit something, but I’m a little tired of that since I just read through and fixed some inconsistencies in my six-book King’s Crossing series and I need to cleanse my palette before more editing. I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo–I don’t need the motivation to get anything done, and the month is terrible for me all around. I do wish everyone who is participating very good luck, and I hope you all meet your goals!

Editing a Series

I didn’t have a plan for today’s blog post, but I did want to talk a little bit about how difficult it is to edit a series–especially if you don’t have help. You would think that after a few years of writing and publishing I would have enough coming in by now to afford an editor, but I don’t and the reality is, I’m not alone. Indies seem to make the same mistakes and that holds us back. Not always–some indies know exactly what to do to get to where they want to be–but others, such as myself, we flounder as we learn “the rules” of the publishing industry. What we don’t gain in royalties is made up in knowledge, but that’s small consolation when we were hoping our beloved hobby would help us pay a few bills here and there, or, at the very least, nudge us into the black after expenses.

Anyway, I have a beta reader who’s going to read them all for plot and consistency issues, and he’s a writer friend who will do it for free. He’s not a professional by any means, and all I can do is hope that I took care of everything on my end and that he catches the rest (if there is anything).

Because this blog is geared for the bootstrapping authors who pretty much do every little thing on their own like I do, I made a list of things that can make it easier on you if you’re editing a long series alone. No, it’s not optimal. I hope you have someone who can help you like I do (even if it’s just one person), but even if you do, you’re going to want to do the bulk of the work yourself to make it easier on the people who do take the time to help you.

Write them as quickly as you can. What was helpful was I didn’t spend a lot of time writing them, meaning, I didn’t leave a lot of time between books. I wrote them all in a smooth sequence that took about ten months because it’s all one gigantic story. There wasn’t time for me to forget anything, and if I had a question, I knew where to look because it hadn’t been that long ago I wrote it.

Use a series bible. I depend on my memory a lot more than I probably should. I remember eye color, hair color, features, pets. As I write, my characters become real people, and it’s easy to remember how they look if they are real to me. That doesn’t always mean things stay consistent, and during this last read through of my series I wrote down eye color, hair color, names, bits of background. You might already do this when you start a series or new book, and I do too, but this series was completed a while ago, and I’m not 100% sure where those notes are. I grabbed a new notebook and jotted down everything that was important. One of the saves I made this time around was thanks to my story bible. I had changed one of the character’s names from Alan to Nolan.

Give it a rest. I take huge chunks of time between each editing read. It’s how I can credit the two saves I found this time around. One save was at the beginning of book one when I mentioned the director of the FBI, but in later books I had demoted him to an agent. It was an easy fix, but I had already read these three times before I caught it. The other big save was when Zane, my MMC, knew something at the beginning of book three, but I didn’t reference in book two how he came into the knowledge. I had to reread almost the entire book to a) make sure I didn’t forget that someone told him what he knew and b) look for the perfect spot in which to write it in. Giving it a rest is probably the most helpful thing you can do, especially if you work on something else while you wait. If you can go back to the story with a clear head, it will feel like you’re reading it, maybe not for the first time, but the story won’t feel so tired.

Trust your reader. You may be tempted to repeat things, especially if your series is long, but all that does is give you opportunity to mess up details. I try not to repeat things, especially if I catch myself thinking it’s for the reader and doesn’t further the story along. Readers are smart–it’s why a lot of authors turn fans into beta readers. They have great memories. I remember one interview with Marie Force on the Self Publishing Show and she said she has betas who read her entire series over from book one whenever she writes a new book because they read for inconsistencies. If you have a beta reader who starts a 20 book series at book one to help you with plot issues, then you better believe she’s got a great memory. Readers picture your characters in their heads how they think they look. It’s not necessary to harp on the physical attributes of your characters. You don’t have to go over plot point after plot point, but if you do mention a gun in a drawer, you better remember to use it because your reader will remember you put it there. If you’re interested in listening to that interview with Marie, you can watch it here. She offers so much useful information, I loved it!

Proof your proofs. Lately I’ve also been listening to my books before I format them and create proof copies. Listening to your novel can point out syntax issues, typos (it’s funny when the voice says a word in a funky way), repeated words, etc. That’s a more micro editing step, and as you can tell, I’m more concerned with the bigger picture–especially when you’re dealing with so many books at once. I like listening to them, and I make the most changes when I take the time to listen. It’s a very time-consuming step.

Reading them in book form does something to my brain, and I find a lot of mistakes, both proofing-wise and content-wise. I binge them like a normal reader would, and since they feel like a book and smell like a book, they have a cover and all the back and front matter, it’s a different kind of reading experience. I used to print them out at Office Max, but that got to be too expensive and wasted paper. Creating a proof copy is cheaper, even if you pay for expedited shipping.


As far as using a software like ProWriting Aid, The Hemingway App, or Grammarly, I find those only work if you already know the rules and can decide for yourself if you’re going to take their suggestions or not. Not everyone has a degree in English, and I get that, but you should also learn the fundamentals or software like that will hurt more than they help. I don’t use any software, nor writing/plotting aids like Scrivener or Plottr. Among the edits I do on screen using plain old Word, listening to the manuscript, then proofing the proof, I hope I take care of most of the issues. At least, as far as I can tell. I don’t have any reviews indicating my books could use another edit (which is a terrible thing for a book–reviews won’t go away, even if you’ve done another editing sweep and your book is 100% better).

The biggest challenge I’ve had with editing these is boredom, and if your heart isn’t in it, that can make you miss things. I’m tired of reading them and taking time between edits helps. Not that I want to give anyone an impression I don’t like my own work. I doubt authors like EL James, Sylvia Day, or Stephenie Meyer are ever caught saying they’re tired of the characters that made them famous. I love them, but it will be nice to write something else while these breathe–again. I was hoping to start releasing them over the summer, but I don’t know how that will work out. I can only work as fast as I can work–especially alone.

Do I have any resources for editing a series? There’s nothing really out there that can help you edit alone. There’s no argument that a second set of eyes can go a long way–as long as that second set of eyes comes with a good memory and can remember inconsistencies and plot issues. The best you can do on your own is to remember your own work. Remember the plot points, remember your character arcs, write down plot twists so you can refer back to them later to keep details straight.

It’s tough not to have help, or be able to afford it. I have a couple of prolific readers in my real life who I know from work, and I maybe could ask them if they would be willing to proof the final copies before I hit Publish, but we’re talking six books here. I don’t know how long it would take to get through them all. It would probably be wise if one of them agrees, and I can afford to pay small fee, say $50 a book. That’s cheaper than you’ll find anyone to do it online. As I like to say, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I still have plenty to do before I reach that point. Until then, to give myself a break, I’ll write another stand alone. You can never go wrong writing another book!

I suppose that’s all I have for today! Have a great week everyone!

“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.” How true is that statement?

Do whatever you want, and don't worry about what everyone else is into. 

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Woman in purple camisole sitting on red chair looking away from the camera.

You guys know I consume a lot of content. Not as much fiction as I should be for a romance author, but I live and breathe non-fiction, especially anything having to do with market trends and industry (both indie and trad) news. I have a fascination with learning, not only to pass things on to you, but because you don’t know what you don’t know, and I like knowing it all. Or trying to. Picking through the weeds is difficult and time consuming, and even today because I have to work, I’m missing out on Clubhouse rooms (and you all know how much I agonize over that).

Anyway, so on one of my off days, I was listening to a Clubhouse room and after an hour of extolling the virtues of TikTok, she says, “But you don’t have to do any of this if you don’t want to.” I would imagine some of us felt relief, because sure, you DON’T have to be on TikTok to sell books. It’s a relatively new platform and it’s not like books didn’t sell before it’s invention. But. After an hour of hearing how wonderful and fun it was, being told that it was voluntary punched me in the gut. After listening to testimonies about how worthwhile it was, how people did manage to sell books on there, her comment didn’t sound true. It sure as hell sounded like we needed to be on TikTok.

It made me think about what we can use in the business and what we really don’t need. These opinions are coming from a place where I wish I would have done some of these things and where I have tried some and think they have merit, where I found some tractions with sales, and what I know I’m missing out on because I didn’t do them. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

You don’t have to . . . be on social media . . . if you don’t want to. You really don’t have to be on social media if you don’t want to. Twitter is a time suck of negativity, IG is going down in flames as TikTok runs miles ahead. No one likes Facebook. But if you don’t like social media, what does an author have left to sell books? You need something. Anyone who pushes Publish and walks away knows you need something or no one will know where your book is. Probably the hardest lesson I learned in the past five years of publishing is that without a newsletter, without a reader group on on Facebook, if someone wanted to be a real fan of my books, I didn’t give them a chance to be. There is no where for them to meet up or chat with me. Sure, I’m on social media, but I’m not active and anyone who finds my author page will see my last post was from almost a year ago. Why would they hit the like button? It’s not like they would get anything out of it. So if you don’t like Facebook, you still need someplace for your fans to meet up. I get it. As a newbie author, maybe you’re thinking you won’t ever have fans, at least not for a long time. This could be true, but you don’t need to make it any harder for them than it has to be, either. If you don’t want to be on social media, you need to replace it with something. I didn’t have a social media presence or a newsletter and after a reader read my book, there was no way for them to connect with me, or me to connect with them to let them know of sales and/or new releases.

You don’t have to . . . start a newsletter . . . if you don’t want to. For years I didn’t start a newsletter. I didn’t want to take the time to learn. The thought of cranking out a book to offer as a reader magnet didn’t bother me (yes it does), but there is so much that goes into a newsletter, and it still makes my head spin. It’s easy to say, “Start a newsletter,” but it’s the behind the scenes that makes me bitter. Learning the platform, learning BookFunnel (because it’s the best way to distribute any bonus material and gather email signups), or StoryOrigin, seemed like a giant waste of time to me when all I wanted was to write books. If you have an active reader group on Facebook, you might be able to get away without a newsletter, though you’re planting seeds in someone else’s garden and everyone says not to do that. You could blog for readers, and Anne R. Allen even has a book about that very thing: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors. It may be a bit outdated, but her content advice should still be relevant. The only problem with directing a reader to your website is that you lose the control to connect with them. They choose to visit your website or read your blog. If you can snag their email, you can contact them whenever you want. True, they still have to open the email, but they voluntarily signed up, so that makes it more likely they will at least peek at what you have to say. Do you need to start a newsletter? Nope. But as an author who has been writing and publishing–steadily, I might add–with no readership after all this time, it’s my biggest regret.

You don’t have to . . . learn an ad platform . . . if you don’t want to. Like the other two things on the list so far, you don’t have to learn an ad platform, but you do have to have something to replace it, be that a newsletter or using promos such as Freebooksy, BargainBooksy, Ereader News Today, Fussy Librarian, etc. If you want to get the word out about your book, and you don’t want to be on social media, start a newsletter, or learn an ad platform, that doesn’t leave you a lot of marketing choices. Because I haven’t had a newsletter and I’m not active on social media, learning an ad platform and using the promo method are the two things I’ve used to find readers. Not a lot of readers, but more than if I hadn’t used anything at all.

You don’t have to . . . write in a series . . . if you don’t want to. From the minute I started writing and publishing, all I heard was write in a series. There’s a lot of wisdom to this. Read-through (KU page reads and sales of individual books) is great if your first book is strong and you don’t take too long between releases. You have more marketing choices if you write in a series (like box sets and offering the first book for free to get readers hooked), and ad spend isn’t so bad if you pay for a little higher click because essentially you’re not only advertising one book, but many books (as many books is in your series, obviously). So what’s the problem? Writing is hard. Publishing is hard (so much to learn!) and costly. If your book one isn’t strong enough and readers drop off, every book you write after book one is a waste of time. Instead of figuring out how to do covers for one book at a time, all of a sudden you’re thinking about series branding and formatting. If you’re a new author, that’s intimidating. Not to mention if you don’t have friends to lend a hand with beta reading, editing a series can be very costly. I never advise anyone to publish without at least one more set of eyes besides yours on the book (I don’t care who that is). Writing standalones has always been more enticing to me, and I can write them quickly. They’re more manageable, and publishing one book is a lot faster because I have this weird thing with writing an entire series before publishing it. (Which has come in handy this time around as I did find a small little something from book 2 to book 3 that affects book 5 that I can fix now.) What can you do if you like to write standalones too? 1) Use your back matter. Advertise another standalone in the back. Use a buy-link, add the cover. Some ad copy. 2) Don’t let too much time go by between releases, or don’t market heavily until you have a backlist. If readers love you (and you want them to, right?) they will read all that you have. If that’s only one book, they might love it, but then they have nowhere else to go. (And this is especially true if you don’t have a newsletter or a group they can join to hook up with you while you write the next book.) But this also brings me to….

You don’t have to . . . write in one (sub)genre . . . if you don’t want to. You don’t, but it will make things easier if you do. For a few books, anyway. Or if you really want to, it can be wise to separate genres by pen name, but it will slow your productivity, depending on how fast you can write. I decided to use a pen name for my billionaire romance though I think they could have fit in with my contemporary romance okay. I like the idea of starting over, of having one specific subgenre under one name. Of course you can write whatever you want under one name, but marketing might be a little harder and the chance of finding readers who will read it all are slim. What can you do if you want to genre hop? The best advice I’ve heard is to try to not stray too far. Contemporary romance is all-encompassing, and I thought I could write whatever I wanted. It wasn’t true. If I ever get tired of writing billionaire, I could probably get away with writing Mafia, as they have similar tones. Not that I have plans for that as I have never even read a Mafia romance. Admittedly I don’t know much about other genres like Fantasy. An author could maybe get away with mixing RomCom and Women’s Fiction, especially if the WF has humorous elements in it. Domestic Thrillers could pair well with Mystery or Thriller. It will help your cause if they have similar elements and similar covers, so the books your Amazon author page look cohesive.

I could probably do a lot more of these; there are plenty of “rules” in the indie publishing space. The fact is, you can do whatever you want, but that leads to the indisputable fact that you may not achieve the results you want as quickly as you want them. I’ve been publishing for five years. I don’t have the audience I want because I didn’t give them a way to hook up with me, or a space for them to hang out with each other. No readers means no sales. What kills me is I did it my way for a long time, when I was more than willing to do what I needed to do it right the first time. I just didn’t know what that was. It wasn’t TikTok, and while I’m curious about the platform, I’m still wondering just how worth it it is. The whole idea of anything is to do what you enjoy so you can keep up the consistency of that thing. I don’t like my FB author page. I don’t like Instagram. I don’t want to learn how to use TikTok when I can put that time to use and write bonus material, a reader magnet, learn BookFunnel, network with others, and read more in my genre (and while doing that, join a billionaire readers’ group to help me stay on top of the hottest trends).

It’s all where you want to spend your time, how fast you want to put books out, and what you enjoy doing. You don’t have to do anything. You’re an adult. What do you want to do, and will it move your book business forward? That’s a question only you can answer.


What am I loving this week?

Alext Newton of K-Lytics did a comprehensive romance report for the fall of 2021. Being that I love keeping up with the industry, I bought it for $37. You can find out more about it and purchase it for yourself by clicking here. It’s not an affiliate link. I love Alex and the work his team does, but we aren’t affiliated. 😛

Another thing I loved is the interview James Blatch did with romance author Melanie Harlow on the Self Publishing Formula Podcast. She had some great advice, and I really related to what she had to say. I love it. You can listen to it here.

That’s it for me today! Have a wonderful week everyone!

Until next time!

Can You Follow Advice from Someone Who Isn’t Successful?

There is no shortage of advice. Everyone has an opinion on what to do and what not to do, and not many are afraid to shove it down your throat either, or take offense when you don’t follow what they say, or want you to drop down on your knees in gratitude they gave you five seconds of their time.

I think about this when I’m blogging and sharing my experiences, tweeting my own opinions, and especially when I’m scrolling through Twitter and my Facebook writing groups. I was poking around for motivational quotes for another blog post, and this one caught my eye:

I really like this because we’re all struggling writers, all trying to find that magic bullet that will catapult our book to bestseller status (with as little work and money as possible, if we’re being honest here), and we should be open to advice. We should be open to learning from other people’s experiences.

Probably one of my favorite topics to blog about is scammers–people offering a service they aren’t qualified to provide. The indie community is full of them, and how many indies finding ways to game the system or relieve you of your money knows no bounds. I got into a discussion with someone on Twitter the other day who is getting to the blurb-writing business. I asked politely, as I have never had a problem with this person before, if he had a refund policy in place for the blurbs that don’t convert to sales. He said that blurbs aren’t part of marketing that therefore he had no refund policy in place as it wasn’t his responsibility to market your book and that conversion on a new blurb wasn’t measurable. I said I wished him well and that I hoped his own sales success was proof that he could write a good blurb. He said he was doing just fine. I took a look at his book rankings, and unless he meant something other than book sales, no he wasn’t doing just fine.

So he 1) didn’t believe a blurb was part of marketing a book, 2) didn’t have a refund policy in place if you were unhappy with conversion 3) didn’t believe blurb conversion could be measured and 4) his own books weren’t doing well sales-wise. I hope people followed along our tweets because there is no way this person should be offering a blurb-writing business AT ALL. I did the best I could to call him out, but there’s only so much I can do, especially without looking like a big B. I think I already have a reputation on Twitter as being a bit aggressive, and I’m trying to soften up my look. It’s not working.

This goes for a lot of other advice too–writing advice, cover advice, marketing advice. I know one writer who loves to give writing advice, is always sharing excerpts of her work, but it’s all telling and she’s not selling books. People who don’t know what covers are hot in their genre love to give advice on what they like and don’t like. Maybe their advice is valid, maybe it’s not, but if you’re trying to ask for advice from a perspective that others don’t share (like writing to market, covers to market, writing commercial fiction, or the other way–if you want to write your own thing getting advice from someone who doesn’t share that viewpoint won’t help), it can be tough. You’ll be inundated with opinions that would never help.

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help whether the people those eyes belong to have had their own success or not. I feel like I know what goes into a bestseller, and I can say easily that depending on Twitter for sales will only go so far, or you need to learn an ad platform, or you need to change your cover, simply for the fact your cover is horrendous and I don’t need to be a bestselling author to know it.

I think that’s why I like Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon ad challenge so much. When he shares his screen/Amazon Ads dashboard during the videos, we can see that he’s selling books. We can see that he’s written books that people want to buy. Yes, he spends a lot of money on ads, but he also makes it all back and more. His ad challenge wouldn’t be worth much if he wasn’t selling books.

Just the other day in a group someone was asking about a different indie author who offers classes (that aren’t free) and one poster said, “I stopped taking his classes when he stopped selling books.” Like the blurb-writing guy, people forget that it doesn’t take much time to go onto a book’s product page and see the ranking in the Kindle store. You can go onto any of my books’ sales pages and see that I’m not selling many. I’m very transparent–in fact it’s practically the premise of my whole blog–I’m not selling books, this is why I think that is, how I’m changing that, and I hope what I try can help you. I’m not interested in making money off this blog. When I get a couple of readers who thank me for the resources or thank me for sharing my experiences, or tell me they tried something and it worked, I consider my job well done.

So what do I suggest you do when you might consider taking someone’s advice?

  1. Take a look at their success rate if at all possible. Look at their covers if they are going into business creating covers and see if they know market trends, what’s selling right now. Look at their books’ rankings and decide for yourself if they’re qualified to give the advice their giving.
  2. Ask yourself if what they’re saying makes sense. Trends change, and maybe someone isn’t up on the newest thing–like that lady who told me my first person blurb isn’t how everyone else is doing it, when actually most are now, at least where billionaire romance is concerned. But it could be that you missed the boat with something and their advice is legit. Check it out and see if it’s something you want to experiment with.
  3. Where else are they online? Sometimes Amazon sales rank won’t always be the greatest measure of success. LIke the guy who wants to write blurbs, maybe he is successful somewhere else (like writing ad copy for his day job), but if he doesn’t make that known, it reflects poorly on the business he wants to start. Some writers publish to Wattpad and have a large following there. Some write for blogs that have good traffic and they have a large following in that circle. Some submit to literary journals and are published in lit mags. Dig deeper. You might be surprised–and learn their opinion is steeped in more experience than you think.
  4. Do they have a good track record giving advice? Sales aren’t the end all be all, I know that. Sometimes questionable books do quite well and no one can figure out why. Maybe someone has a great marketing tip that didn’t work for themselves but worked really well for someone else. Maybe they know a secret ingredient and it turns out to be the last piece of your own puzzle that can bring your books to the next level, like a promo that didn’t do much for them but made another author’s book rank high in the charts. I edit on the side for friends who can’t afford it. Just because my sales aren’t great doesn’t meant I’m not a good writer or editor. I have a handful of people who could tell you that I’m good at what I do and that I’m qualified to give grammar, punctuation, and writing advice.
  5. Look at the viewpoint of the person giving the advice. I tweeted about this not long ago–taking the advice from one writer on Twitter when there are a million readers out there probably isn’t the best idea. Writers read differently, and what would bother a writer may not faze a reader. I catch myself doing that all the time–stressing while editing or writing about something a writer said they disliked. Why should I care if a writer says she doesn’t like the word moist (or whatever?) Chances are 99.99% that she will NEVER read any of my books. So why does it matter? All that matters is what readers think–and they will tell you.

I’ve taken advice (and my cover for Faking Forever is better for it), but I’ve ignored my fair share. I’ve also given a lot of advice, and usually in some way the people I’ve spoken with aren’t ready to hear it–even if they’ve asked for it. I’ve told plenty of people their covers aren’t working. I’ve looked inside a lot of books and said they need another editing pass. I’ve pointed out blurbs that aren’t written well, and I don’t think a day goes by where I haven’t told someone that they need to branch out from Twitter for marketing if they aren’t seeing the results they want. Usually my advice consists of either spending time or money (it’s work, y’all), but you have to invest something in your books if you want to find readers and nurture an audience. Just today someone on Twitter said he would take down his YouTube channel if he couldn’t get up to a certain number of followers by the New Year, but when I asked him what he did to drive traffic to his channel besides Twitter, he didn’t answer me. So in that non-answer I know the answer. Nothing. I don’t need to be a YouTube guru to tell him he needs to promote his channel to expand his audience and threatening to take his channel down won’t do anything to build his audience. The opposite, in fact, because why would someone invest time in something that may disappear?

At the very heart of your business, only you can make decisions for you, and only you can decide what to apply to your book business and what not to apply. If you’re not seeing the results you want in blog follows, sales, YouTube subscribers, whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, that will be the true test. Trying to achieve different results doing the same thing over and over again will not work, and you don’t need anyone to tell you that. (And if you can’t admit it, it won’t matter how many people tell you–you won’t believe them anyway.)

So, after all that, should you follow advice from someone who isn’t successful? I guess the murky answer is maybe. I certainly wouldn’t pay for anything if the person dispensing said advice couldn’t put his money where his mouth is, and in the indie publishing business, that usually means book sales. There are quite a few top-tier indies who do dispense advice through podcasts, non-fiction books, interviews, and various classes they’ve decided to teach. Some will do consulting, some blog and offer their advice for free. There is plenty of advice out there from indies who are making it, so maybe there’s no need to take advice from someone who isn’t. It could be that simple.

Do you give advice? Take it? Let me know!

Until next time!

When others ask for blurb feedback, how do YOU respond?

Blurb writing will get to the best of us. It’s difficult to separate yourself from the work and look at it as someone who’s never seen it before. Some say that’s almost impossible, and they are probably right. You know too much about the story, the characters, the ending, to write something that will effectively draw a new reader in without giving too much away.

It took me a long time to recognize this of myself, doing most of the work for the past ten books alone without much help, paid or otherwise. Because I’m starting this new pen name with the idea that I’m going to put all my knowledge I’ve learned in the past five years into practice, I’ve started doing things I’ve never done before, and that includes asking for feedback in the various Facebook groups I’ve joined. While I’ve gotten some really great advice I was able to use, there were some, I feel, who posted just to jab at me, listen to themselves talk, or, I don’t want to make assumptions, but really just wanted to say something nasty because they were probably jealous. You know the posters I’m talking about. They aren’t supportive because you’re doing something they want to do, and I’ve seen this behavior in more than just writing groups. You’re making progress, they aren’t, and it shows. But no matter what their reasons are for being nasty, it still hurts, and sometimes it gets to the point where you wish you never would have asked for feedback at all. The only thing is, being a writer/author isn’t a one-man ship, and you’ll sink if you try to do it all alone. Sinking will be different for everyone–no sales, burnout, a combination. We need help and finding your crew is easier said than done. It can take years to find a handful of friends you trust and who will always have your back, and bonus if they’re writing the genre you write in so you know their advice is solid.

Anyway, I posted the blurb to My Biggest Mistake, and while yes, there were some really great people who wanted to help, and did, there were a few nasty people, too, and here’s what I learned. I want to say, too, that I’ve been guilty of doing these things and being subjected to it will definitely shape how I help people in the future.

If you don’t have a real answer, then don’t answer. In one group, someone just threw up a “how to write a blurb link” and called it a day. While that might have been helpful, I wasn’t asking for resources, I was asking for help, advice, opinions. I didn’t expect anyone to rewrite my blurb (though there were a couple who did–more on that later) but throwing up a link to an article wasn’t helpful, and for the work he put into answering me, and the work I put into skimming by it, he could have just not posted at all.

If you have a criticism, offer a way to fix it. My blurb was too long, I knew that when I posted it, so when a couple people said, it’s too long, but didn’t offer a way to cut it down, that’s not helpful. I already knew it was, so if you’re going to say something obvious without offering a solution, you’re better off not saying anything at all.

If a romance writer is asking for help, be a romance writer if you want to answer. This goes for all genres. Sometimes writing is writing, so you can get away with helping someone that doesn’t write in your genre, but have something concrete to offer if you’re straying outside your lane. One woman was particular nasty, insulting my first person blurb saying it looked “homemade” and I need to do what others in my genre are doing because I need to fit in if I want readers. She obviously doesn’t read or write billionaire romance because almost 100% of the billionaire romances written in first person POV also have blurbs that are also written in first person. I told her this and thanked her for her input. She treated me like I was a first-time author who didn’t know what I was doing, and I really struggled with being the nice guy and not putting her in her place. If I had been just starting out and needed some true advice, she could have driven me to tears. Her comment was not helpful in the least and she could have kept her opinion to herself.

Be careful if you’re going to take the time to rewrite someone’s blurb. A couple of people in one group did this, and I really really appreciated the time they took to do that. Sometimes you can get a few great lines out of doing it their way. In the past I’ve rewritten blurbs (mostly chopping up what they already had and making it tighter) and I feel like they’ve always been positively received. But when you’re rewriting someone’s blurb, especially if the blurb is written in first person, that blurb is written in your voice, not theirs. One person rewrote my blurb and while her voice was strong, it sounded nothing like my characters. She gave me some ideas for what I could add to mine, but keep in mind doing this for someone may not reflect their voice so don’t be offended if they can’t/don’t use it, and when you’re on the receiving end of a rewritten blurb, be careful of taking it in its entirety. (Not to mention, you’re treading heavily on supposed copyright issues and some indie authors are really weird about that. You don’t want a cease and desist email hitting your inbox six months later because you used their blurb verbatim and it made them angry.) Your blurb needs to reflect you as the author and your characters as people your reader wants to get to know. The person who helped me made my characters sound young, and there definitely would have been a disconnect between the blurb and my book. I did grab some ideas though, and thanked her for her time.

Never offer unsolicited advice. This caught me a few weeks ago when I looked up someone’s blurb after she she sent me the cover to look at in a Twitter DM. I noticed her blurb was written in third person, but her book was written in first. I DM’d her back (I know–I deserved what I got) and said a lot of blurbs now are going the 1st person POV way if the book itself is in 1st person. I don’t want to say she went off on me, but she wasn’t pleased with the advice. I get it. She hates first person blurbs; she published her book the way she wanted it published, etc. I apologized for overstepping and I will never offer unsolicited advice again. It’s getting to the point where I rarely offer any advice at all (especially on that bird app). There are some people who are just so precious about their books that Stephen King could offer advice and they still wouldn’t take it.

In the end, I think I was able to rework the blurb so it sounds better, shorter, and there were a couple of things that confused the people who took the time to help me, and I was able to rewrite and clear those up. I think the blurb sounds good now, and if it doesn’t resonate, I can always change it on the book’s buy-page.

It would be nice if we didn’t need help; if we could do all this 100% on our own and come out with a successful product. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case with most books or authors and if you can find author friends who can help you in an honest and kind way, hold on to them. For some reason, I don’t have good luck posting things to FB for feedback. I might have cultivated an abrasive attitude over the years; stiff and know-it-all-y is the tone I present without meaning to. I’m trying to be better, and in the group where I received the most feedback, I’ve been posting with the intent of helping rather than getting back. Some people only post when they need something, and that’s fine if they can get the feedback they need without giving anything in return.

The fact is, I don’t want to do this alone, and my books are better for it if I don’t try. I hope when you post looking for feedback that you are able to find good people who are truly trying to help you and that you have the mental health needed to ignore the rest.

What are you tips and tricks for writing blurbs? Do you have a FB group you like, or do you tweet out for help on Twitter? Let me know!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts and Personal Update

I think it was two weeks ago I blogged a list of the things I needed to accomplish in the short term to get the ball rolling on publishing some books. I am happy to say that I’ve managed to check of quite a few of those.

I proofed the proof for Faking Forever, put the changes into Vellum, generated new files and corrected the mistakes on the cover/full wrap–more on that. I created a Large Print edition and ordered a new proof of the regular print and the proof of the large print. Since I never used to utilize the back matter of my 3rd person books, it was strange to add a sign up link to my newsletter to the back matter of these. I should add a buy link to the next book as well, but I’ll have to go back and edit those as I have books available. For now the back matter only has one call to action, and that’s to sign up for my newsletter. Organic sign-ups are the best though, so I will be happy if I get any from that.

To ease some of the pressure of learning Bookfunnel and how to segregate lists in MailerLite, I decide to forego offering a reader magnet for the moment. I can write something quickly, maybe after Christmas, but I was putting too much pressure on myself when really what I want to do for right now is publish a couple standalones and start getting my pen name out there. I don’t know how Bookfunnel works, and I need to figure that out and spend more time in the MailerLite dashboard to figure out who goes where when they sign up for what. It will help when I get some signups, and then I can see what happens. I don’t want anyone not to be offered a free book because I don’t know what I’m doing. Needless to say, I decided to sell the book I’d decided to use as a reader magnet, but once I get the ball rolling and familiarize myself with my newsletter I’ll write something else. It was a blow, but at the same time a ball of anxiety loosened in my chest. I know offering a reader magnet is the best way to entice people to sign up, and I will get to that eventually, but for now. I just want to focus on getting some books ready to publish.

I also formatted My Biggest Mistake and did the cover. I have another blog post coming about this, but I asked for feedback on the blurb in my various FB writing groups. Here is the cover for this ugly duckling standalone, and the interior I formatted with Vellum:

Probably I’m not going to be able to use a dark-haired sad guy looking down again, since he looks similar to the cover to Faking Forever:

Initially I had my name at the top, above his head, but since I’m trying to keep more of an idea of branding for my books and not having to go back and redo anything, I moved my name to the bottom. I think it looks nicer. The proofs I have coming will have my name at the top, but I won’t need to order proofs again for such a small change.

I have seen other photos of the two men, and they are two different gentlemen (with some stock photos, you never know), but I’ll have to keep this in the back of my mind and go for a different look for my next few books. That should be easy to do since after I proof the proof to My Biggest Mistake, I’ll be starting to (finally) edit and get my series ready that I wrote last year during the lockdown. I am really excited to take a look at those books with fresh eyes, and it will be a challenge to do six covers, a trilogy for Zane and Stella and a trilogy for Zarah and Gage, but have them all feel similar since the story reaches over all six books. I should do the smart thing and hire out, but I like the control, and with so many scammers out there, trust is hard to come by.

This week I’ve been taking a break–it’s hard not be writing anything, but the proof for My Biggest Mistake will come Saturday, and after that I’ll be jumping into a few months of non-stop work. I’m trying to enjoy the time off, but not actively writing anything, especially since I know what I want to write next, (and it isn’t a reader magnet) is a bit strange. I’ve been reading a domestic thriller I bought a few months ago and I need to format and do a cover for the box set of my wedding series. I think that is the biggest item on my list I haven’t crossed off yet. It’s not hard–just moving Vellum files over to create a large one, but it’s busy work. I need to make a mug of coffee one evening, put on some music and get it done. I don’t want to wait too long–the Christmas books are already starting to pop, and I think I could get some good KU page reads and sales, especially if I sell it at .99 from October until December.

They’re all in KU singly, but I haven’t gotten many reads on them in the past few months. In fact, I’ve stopped looking at my sales dashboard, and only keep an eye on my ads to the extent that they are breaking even. I was going to try to find a different couple for the front so I can run some ads to the box set, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. I tried looking for a different pose of the couple on the first book, but they are all in bed, or doing dopey things like being sad at a pregnancy test result. I could zoom in on their faces to take the “lying down” element out of it and see if that works, but as they are positioned right now, Amazon won’t let my ads go through, and it’s been very hurtful for the series as a whole.

That might actually work. It would be an easy fix to upload new ebook covers for books without having to change too much if the new cover could get through Amazon’s cover guidelines. All I can do is try to submit and see what happens. It would be nice to be able to advertise these this winter. I can add zooming in on their faces to my to-do list.

As far as health news goes, my infection is gone, but an ultrasound revealed an ovarian cyst that is making me feel not so great. So I have a follow up next month to see what’s going on with that. I’m not in pain, just a sense of discomfort most days and some bloating. I’m getting old though, so I suppose it’s to be expected.

I guess that’s all for now. Things are moving along, though this week slowly. It will be nice when things pick up. I didn’t want to start writing a book. Then I would be suck for six weeks while I finished it. I’m trying to convince myself that having a week off isn’t a bad thing, and today all I’ve done is take a walk and write this blog post.

Later I’ll be creating author interview questions for Nina Romano, and there will be a giveaway…I’m thinking for fall… so stay tuned for that in coming weeks.

Thanks for checking in! Have a great rest of your week!

What makes a quitter?

taken from Google search for quitter definition

There’s been a lot of talk about quitting lately, and it’s not just Simone Biles who withdrew from Olympic competition citing mental health reasons.

In the writing community, I’ve seen writers quit querying, quit writing on a certain WIP that wasn’t working, quit Twitter, quit blogging. Quitting has negative connotations, and it’s a terrible thing to be called a quitter. But what if that thing you’re trying is hard? What if it takes too much time, or you don’t have the energy to spare after a long day? Quitting is akin to giving up and giving up implies that you’re weak. When is it okay to give up? When is it okay to say that you can’t handle the thing you’re trying to do anymore and walk away? Is it brave to know your limitations or are you a coward for not finding strength to keep going?

My friend Gareth posted an interesting think piece on his FB Author page, and I’ll quote it here (with his permission) because I think it’s something worth talking about:

The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude is constantly leveled at people who are struggling. The general concept being: you struggle because you don’t work hard enough. This suggestion is often given unironically by people in privileged positions.

I don’t doubt there was a time when the opportunities were more readily available for a few hard-working souls to make enough money, not just to live on, but to be considered a successful person. Nowadays, I’d argue those opportunities are fewer and further between. People who become successful, often require luck, good timing, or a little help. This is even true of artists and creators.

As a sometimes writer, the whole landscape has changed in the world of writing and the belief is you just have to be talented, lucky… and teach yourself the skillsets of three or four jobs that used to be done by three or four different people. It’s a lot. To become a successful writer is very difficult, especially if you’re doing it alone. At which point JK Rowling is usually brought up. lol. No, it’s not impossible, just much harder than people think.

Beyond the obvious Trumps and Kardashians there are plenty of examples in the artistic and entertainment fields of those who perhaps had their bootstraps yanked up before they got started: Bradley Cooper, Taylor Swift, Paul Giammati, Emma Stone, Rashida Jones, Lady Gaga, Carly Simon, Nick Kroll, Rooney Mara & Kate Mara, Lana Del Rey, Robin Thicke, Kyra Sedgwick, Armie Hammer, Julie Louis-Dreyfus, Salma Hayek, Adam Levine, Edward Norton, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Tori Spelling, Bryce Dallas Howard, Balthazar Getty, Chevy Chase… the list is long.

There’s no doubt that talent and hard work is important, but the bootstraps mantra is a poisonous misrepresentation of the real world. I doff my cap to those writers who have found some success; to all who achieve their goals, and wish good fortune to those who are still working towards them.

taken from Gareth’s FB post

I see this a lot in the writing community, and even have been a part of it myself. The unrelenting Go! Go! Go! attitude can get exhausting, and I take responsibility for my part in it. You don’t get anywhere without hard work, and that can be said with just about any profession out there, some more demanding than others, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers. But along with that hard work is the need for a little luck. You networked with the right person who featured your book in their newsletter, or you courted the right book blogger at just the right time, or you applied for a BookBub featured deal, and the guy going over the submissions was in a good mood that day and approved yours. Of course, this brings to mind the preparedness+opportunity=success equation, or as Christian Grey told Anastasia during their interview, “I’ve always found that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

When it comes to publishing, or in Simone’s case, gymnastics, you do need to do the work. You can’t publish a book that hasn’t been written, and jokes aside that marketing is harder than finishing a book, finishing a book to some is the most daunting task. Then you hear that you shouldn’t publish until you’ve written a million words and who wouldn’t be discouraged? Gareth is correct in his author post, too. We do wear many hats–editor, graphic designer, copywriter. If we don’t excel in any of these areas, and we can’t afford to hire out to fill in the gaps of our own skillset, our books can fail. I may have spent as many hours learning what makes a good cover as I have writing because I can’t afford (don’t want to, and there is a lack of trust there, too) to hire out, and after watching tutorials and practicing I realize there’s potential for others to simply not be able to grasp those concepts. I’ve said many times before, if I didn’t write romance I’d have no choice but to hire a cover designer because my time is more valuable than learning how to do a to-market cover for any genre that requires more than what I’ve taught myself to do.

We can say that Simone Biles is a coward for dropping out of competition, but think of the hours of hard work she put into her practices just to make it there. If she had given up at any point in her career, did one hour less practice, slept in every morning she wanted to, she might not have made it as far as she did. Online, I’ve seen people use her withdrawal as an excuse to give up their own endeavors saying it’s brave to know your limits, and it is. But knowing what will break you mentally or physically is a lot different from stepping outside your comfort zone, something, it seems, few people are willing to do anymore. How can you find your best, move your career to that next level, if you’re not willing to push your boundaries? Giving ourselves permission to not do what we don’t want to do because it’s uncomfortable sets a dangerous precedence.

So how much bootstrapping do we need to do? I guess that’s up to you and your personal barriers. I’ve written through a divorce (I wrote All of Nothing during that time), I’ve written during carpal tunnel surgery (and I’ve admitted I probably didn’t give myself as much time to heal as I should have) and since December of 2020 when I contracted a disgusting, persistent, and painful case of bacterial vaginosis from dryer sheets, I’ve written three and a half books. If I had let ANY of that hinder me in any way, I wouldn’t be where I am right now–with a healthy backlist of 3rd person POV contemporary romance books, and a splendid start to a 1st person billionaire romance career.

I’ve worked my day job for twenty years, typing for the deaf and hard of hearing. When you think of your writing like a career–something you plan on doing and enjoying for the rest of your life–you make time for it. You show up whether you feel good or not, much like a regular job you count on to pay your bills. If you’re lucky, you like your day job. I like knowing I make a difference in someone’s life on a daily basis. I like my co-workers, and I like my supervisors. I’d have to, to show up 4-5 days a week for almost half my life. I also like writing, and I love every aspect of publishing–from editing my own books to doing the cover to writing the blurb. Loving what you do makes it easy to show up, and if you love what you do, the energy and the time you put into improving your business isn’t a task. I won’t say writing and publishing isn’t work even if you adore it because it is. It’s work to craft likable characters, it’s work to make sure they have a satisfying character arc. It’s work to nail your grammar and punctuation to give your reader an enjoyable experience.

Part of the problem with bootstrapping, especially in the indie writing community, is no one can tell you how long it takes to make it, how long you have to struggle (two years, five years, ten years?). In other professions, you can have a timetable at least. Night school will eventually lead to graduation, an internship will eventually lead to a paid position. No one can tell you when you’ll “make it” off your books, or what “making it” even entails these days. A living wage? Part-time earnings? $500 a month in royalties would get some authors I know into better living situations, or make it easier to put food on the table, or the vet bills for our cats easier to pay.

But I do know one thing, and it’s this: success won’t come if you quit. Simone didn’t get to where she was because she was a quitter, and the last thing she’d want is for you to use her choices as an excuse to quit. Simone isn’t a quitter, and if you want to see your book out into the world, you can’t be a quitter, either. It’s tough. I know how tough it is. Five years in the industry and all I’ve managed to do is spend money. I’ve learned a lot along the way–and knowledge is priceless–but it’s hard when I see authors who have been writing for less time than I have and are making it. They found a niche, they had their strike of luck, and they’re going gangbusters, making thousands a month on their books. I’m happy for them, but I wouldn’t be honest if I don’t say I’m waiting in line for my turn. That’s what Gareth’s post was getting at: success may never come my way, no matter how hard I work. Working hard without success is a quick way to find burnout, something I’ve been dealing with the past year–especially while I’ve been dealing with my infection.

Does it make me discouraged? Yes.

Does it make me work that much harder because I know it’s possible? Also yes.

The list of artists that Gareth shared all had one thing in common. They believed in their art and they didn’t give up. They kept producing, they kept putting themselves out there. I come from a generation where pop stars made their start at the local mall. I’ve seen videos of Britney Spears, Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson all performing in mall foodcourts, Other artists sing in dive bars and in the streets, anything to get out there. We do the same with our books. We buy ads, we share snippets on Twitter and on our blogs. We do what we can to get noticed.

Bootstrapping isn’t easy, but Taylor Swift still wrote her songs, Simone Biles still practiced, and you still need to write your words. Maybe that means writing through life’s turmoils, and we all have them, some more serious than others, but no one said this was easy. There are days where I haven’t felt good enough to write, in a mental or physical capacity, but I never stopped. I took a break, but I never stopped.

It’s funny because everyone is looking for the magic bullet, not wanting to admit the only magic bullet there is consistent hard work and tenacity, and yes, a lucky break.

So what makes a quitter? I don’t know. I’ve quit some things in my life. You can say I quit my marriage rather than hanging in there. I’ve quit running in favor of writing. I’ve quit friendships that took more than they gave. In doing so, my ex-husband and I will never get back together. It would be impossible for me to run a half marathon anytime soon, and if I wanted to repair those friendships, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to. Go ahead and quit, burn those bridges if that’s what quitting entails, but be sure to measure the rewards and consequences because sometimes there is no going back.

Until next time!