Thursday Thoughts, Personal Updates, and what I need to finish by the end of the year

Last night I sat in on a wonderful Facebook Beginners Ads class by Mal Cooper. She was great! It was a bit of a surprise because of all the webinars and classes I’ve attended that use Zoom, I’ve always been a behind the scenes participant, but with Mal’s class, our cameras were on, and at the end she encouraged us to ask questions (something I did not do, letting my introvert insecurities get the best of me and now I need to email my question). I’d never participated in a Zoom class like that before, but it was fun and after a couple minutes of indecision, I turned my camera on. Luckily I had showered and done my hair and makeup for the day. I feel more productive when I do that, and these day with social media who knows when you’ll need to pop on somewhere and say hi. Anyway, I learned a lot and it was well worth the fee.

There are two more webinars scheduled for this week but I’ll be working and I’ll need to watch the replays. I could probably spend 24 hours a day consuming classes and information!

I’m stalled a bit with my latest novel. I thought of a couple of things that would make the book better, and I’ve paused writing to fix those. I liken changing a scene to pushing over a domino. It can change a lot more than just the scene and can affect the entire book. A lot of writing craft gurus say to keep going and not edit as you go along, but I prefer to have a pretty clean first draft when I’m finished so I do go back and edit and fix inconsistencies as they arise. I still can finish a book in a decent amount of time and I don’t need to get it all on the page in order to finish a book. Life being what it is, I haven’t been able to work on my book much this week at all, but I should have a quiet weekend and make some good headway and probably finish it next week some time. With my appointments for my girly bits and my son’s wound checkups and scheduled dental appointments for both kids, somehow September has grown quite busy. Still trying my best, but my best feels like trying to run a marathon in quicksand and the more I try to work, the more bogged down I get.

I work well with lists, and find I don’t feel so overwhelmed if I can write out what I need to do in the coming months. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Finish current WIP.
  2. Double check everything is how I want it in MailerLite for my newsletter landing page, welcome email, and unsubscribe page.
  3. Proof the proof of Faking Forever and make changes to the ebook and paperback interiors:
    a) add my newsletter sign up to the back matter
    b) add price to the back cover of paperback (check to see if I need a price increase for IngramSpark)*
    c) fix title name font size on spine
  4. Order another proof and check it over to be sure everything is the way I want it.
  5. Format the interior for My Biggest Mistake, (title not set in stone) the ugly duckling trope that is going to be my reader magnet.
  6. Create a cover for it, front and back because I’m going to upload it to KDP so I can proof a paperback proof of it. It can stay in KDP because after it grows stale as a reader magnet I’ll publish it.
  7. After I proof it and make sure there are no typos in it, create a Bookfunnel account and upload it. Ideally I would like to have 1,000 emails on my newsletter before I start to publish anything.
  8. And last, but not least, before November, create a box set of my Rocky Point Wedding series, and run a .99 promo on it for the holidays. I’ll probably do a couple of smaller promos like Ereader News Today or Robins Reads. I’ve never tried them before. I did a BargainBooksy through Written Word Media that didn’t do too well for a .99 promo of Wherever He Goes. Their FreeBooksy is always great, but not sure if I want to give away a complete 4-book boxed set. Even .99 is low, but my royalties will come from the page reads I’ll get in KU, so maybe I will do free. Not sure. The books are already over a year old and I don’t know if I’ll write anymore 3rd person books. I’m more than comfortable writing what I’m writing, but never say never.

*IngramSpark sent out an email saying they needed to up their pricing due to rising costs in the industry, and they are slowly going through everyone’s books to see if their pricing will stay on the positive after the price increase. If your book is set to go into negative royalties, they’re going to ask you to up your price. Which isn’t a big deal normally, but IngramSpark forces you to match your price to the cover if you put it on there, which I do, right above the ISBN box on the back. So if I have to raise the prices for any of my books, I’ll need to make the changes on the covers as well, and resubmit. I don’t care if my books make fewer royalties–I rarely sell paperbacks anyway–and if my books can stay in the black, I’ll leave my older books how they are and price higher any books I publish through them from now on. If you want to read their announcement, you can find it here.

It’s difficult to know what to do first. It makes sense to publish Faking Forever so I have a buy-link to put in the back of my reader magnet so when they finish reading a free book, there’s one available to purchase. On the other hand, publishing it without a newsletter in place to announce the launch and depending on paid newsletter mentions like BargainBooksy, ENT (Ereader News Today, Robins Reads, Fussy Librarian, etc) and ads may not be enough to give me a good launch as a new pen name without a backlist. Mal said something that I agreed with in the Facebook Ads class last night too, and she said it doesn’t make much sense to put a book that’s going to be in KU on preorder because KU subscribers will wait to read it anyway. I guess I’ll be trying to get newsletter signups and promoting my reader magnet without a book for sale, but I’ll have it all ready to go into KDP so when I do decide to publish it, all I’ll have to do is press publish and approve proof. The only good I can see of doing a preorder while you’re in KU is having the buy-link to post in places. Something to think about.

Probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in the past five years I’ve been publishing is for me, at least, it just is not working to publish as I get books done. There is no consistency in a publishing schedule when I’ve done that. There are a couple of indies who do well publishing as they finish books, but I think those are the exceptions that prove the rule. The indies who make consistent money are the ones who are a few books ahead in their schedules. It’s tough because I’ve talked about this before: you have to be okay with keeping books while you stock up, and then you have kind of a conveyor belt feel to the entire process. I don’t want to feel like that, but I also don’t need the pressure of writing and publishing a book every four months without a Plan B. I don’t know. All I know is that I need to get through some of my list and as I do hopefully I’ll find readers and starting an avalanche of readers, email subscribers, and releasing books won’t seem as daunting as it does right now.

What I’ve enjoyed this week:

The Six Figure Authors Podcast is back from their summer hiatus, and I enjoyed listening to their first episode! They talk about taking your writing from hobby to career level, and you can watch it here.

I also loved this episode of the Wish I’d Known Then podcast. Thomas Umstattd Jr. had a lot of interesting and possibly controversial things to say about treating your books like your business. There are so many writers and authors who don’t want to look at their books as a product to sell, but then when it comes to marketing, they don’t understand what to do. Give it a listen and tell me what you think. Do you agree with what he has to say?

Monday I’ll talk a little bit about writer’s block and why it seems I never suffer from it. Come back for those tips!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts: Claim your book on ACX and where I am right now.

I wanted to put this at the top of the blog post, because if you don’t read anything else, at least read this. There’s apparently a wave of scammers out there who are claiming books through ACX, hiring narrators for books that aren’t theirs, and trying to make some royalties off the audiobook. Even if you don’t plan to make an audiobook (I’m not–I can’t afford anything like that right now) I’ve read in various author FB groups that you should go on ACX and claim your books so no one else can. I did last night–it took me about twenty minutes. Here is how you do it:

Go to acx.com and create an account. It’s just your KDP/Amazon credentials.

After you create an account, select ADD YOUR TITLE in the upper right hand corner.

Then you can search for your books under your author name or by book title. ACX was glitching for me last night and when I tried to select a title under my author name, it wouldn’t let me, but it would let me select the title if I searched by title and author name.

Click this is my book. On the next page, even if you have absolutely no plans to make an audiobook of this novel, click I’m looking for someone to narrate or produce my audiobook. Don’t worry about this part of it–it’s not locking you into anything.

On the next page, scroll down to the bottom and click the User Agreement box and click Agree and Continue.

After that, your book is claimed and there is no other steps you need to take. If you have other books, click Add Your Title at the upper right corner of the screen and start the process over again. If you have successfully claimed a book, the option to claim it will be gone, otherwise you didn’t claim it correctly and you’ll have to do it again.

And that’s it. With box sets and single books, it took me a little bit, plus the website was glitching on me and it took a while to claim them all. I don’t have any plans to make audiobooks, and claiming them isn’t a sure-fire way to keep scammers from trying to make a few bucks off your books, but at least it’s a start. I found this out last night scrolling through my FB author groups. Indie publishing is rife with scammers, and it’s better to protect yourself–another reason to make sure you have copyright proof of your books available! I love Amazon and think they have given us some wonderful opportunities, but they are not perfect, nor is any business, and you can’t count on others to protect your work. Thanks to Julie C. Gilbert and her instructions on her website that walked me through the process.

With that out of the way….

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve had a catch-up post because all I’ve been doing is writing, writing, writing, but I have slowly been working toward getting my pen name set up. I created a website that isn’t live yet because I’m waiting to get a couple of my books and blurbs ready to post, and I had my sister take a few author photos of me at the local park not long ago. I know some people don’t want to reveal who they really are, but in these days of ghostwriting, AI, and scammers trying to make a buck off Amazon, one way you can stick out is be your real self on social media. People connect with people. It’s another reason I picked my initials with my real last name instead of a completely different name to write under. I will always be me on social media: all my grumpiness, attitude, helpfulness and cheerfulness. I could never be someone else and I would never try. That said, I’m happy we were able to take a few that I like, and even though the sun was setting and it made me look orange, they came out well. I think black and white makes me look classy (and gets rid of the orange!). Here are a few. I like the black and white for the headshot, and for the back matter I’m going to use the full body shot with the flowers in the background.

With that out of the way, I was able to order my proof for Faking Forever, but I’m going to wait a few days before proofing it. I’m trying to streamline my publishing process so I don’t have to go back and redo anything. I’m going to make a patient effort to do everything at one time. The cover for KDP, ebook and full wrap/the paperback cover for IngramSpark/the Large Print edition for KDP. If I want to go one step further, I could offer the Large Print edition on IngramSpark, too, it would just take an extra few minutes to create the cover for it. It is time consuming to be the one to do all of it yourself, and I wish there was a better free way. For now I’m a one-person show and if I want it done, I’ll just have to make the time. Here’s a picture of the proof. I think it turned out really nice, and I can’t wait to figure out my publishing schedule and put it up!

There are some tweaks I’m going to have to make, but otherwise I think it turned out great! If you want to know the process I went through to create it, let me know, and I’ll blog about it. I don’t want you all to get sick of my cover posts!

I’m relieved to finally be making some progress in regards to publishing, though I haven’t made much headway with my newsletter (meaning, no signups!). Without a reader magnet, I don’t have anywhere to put the link up that will draw in readers. I’m part of writer Twitter and I haven’t tweeted out my newsletter link there, the same as Instagram. That’s the biggest problem I see indies have–they align themselves with other writers, and then they wonder why they don’t sell books. You may sell a handful here and there to your writer friends, but it isn’t going to be enough to make a career. I don’t promo on Twitter and it’s going to be the same for my newsletter. So, I’m going to have to offer a reader magnet, and it could be the ugly duckling trope I’d written expressly for that purpose after all, or this new one I’m writing that I should be done with toward the middle of next month. It makes more sense for the ugly duckling book to be my reader magnet because it’s finished and pretty much ready to go and I could start building my list for my releases that much sooner, or I could just depend on organic signups and put my link the back matter of my books and not give away a reader magnet at all. It’s tempting to do that, but building my list will take more time.

The problem is i haven’t published for so long and I’m writing books that I’m not sure are any good, (and no one really does until strangers read and review, so I know that’s not my insecurities.) that it’s frozen me in place. I don’t want to building my list and I don’t want to release my books. Except, you have to take a chance if you want a career. I mean, I know exactly why people only promo on Twitter. They don’t want to run ads or buy promos. Twitter is safe. Selling to your friends is safe. It’s scary to put your work out there and present it to strangers to buy and review. It’s easy to hide behind the obscurity of Twitter and say, “This is the best I can do” when you know deep down you could be doing more. I’m at that place now, where it would be easy for me to launch my books with no plan but a pinned tweet and say, “this is the best I can do”, but I don’t want to cheat myself out of the chance to make something with my writing. So. I need a reader magnet, and I need to stop hiding behind the guise I’m writing. There’s no point in writing to keep it all on my computer.

In other (personal) news, my midwife said my infection is gone! I had an appointment at the beginning of the month hoping to discuss other treatments and she said the tests indicate it’s gone. I’m not sure what that means for me as I still don’t feel 100% right, though I admit I feel better than I have since I found out I had my infection way back in March. I’ll keep taking my probiotics and vitamin C and giving my body time to take care of itself. It will be really nice not to have to think about it anymore, and a negative test result is a good start.

I suppose that’s it for now. Monday I’m going to talk a little about Facebook Ads. I’ve got some resources to share with you, so I hope you check back.

Until next time!

Doing a Full Paperback Wrap in Canva for KDP Print (plus screen grabs)

I’ve come across this question a lot these days, mostly I think because a lot of authors use Canva for their ebook covers and graphics for promos. Some bloggers have compared Canva to Book Brush, and while Book Brush can do many things Canva can’t, I feel that Canva is more versatile and I prefer to use it over Book Brush. Especially since Book Brush is more expensive and if you already pay for Canva Pro, you’re not looking to plop down another $146 (for their popular package) a year on another program.

I’ve never made a full wrap in Book Brush, though it is a feature they have available in their paid plans. I made my first paperback wrap in Canva not even knowing if it was possible. It was the old cover for Wherever He Goes and it was a complete experiment applying what I knew from making covers in Word before I knew Canva existed. I ordered a proof not knowing what to expect, but the cover came out beautifully, and since then I’ve done all my wraps in Canva and for a couple other authors too.

These days if there is trouble with a cover, it’s probably a KDP Print glitch. Their POD printers are overworked and underpaid just like all of us these days and I’ve heard reports of covers not printing well, interiors that are crooked, pages falling out of the binding, and even text of other books inside yours. That is a KDP Print problem, not a Canva problem. The only issue I’ve ever encountered doing a paperback wrap in Canva is that IngramSpark requires a CMYK color file while Canva saves in RGB as does GIMP. IngramSpark will still accept your file, but they warn you the coloring in the cover might be off. If this is truly a concern of yours, don’t use Canva for a full wrap. Learn PhotoShop or hire out. I publish with IngramSpark and in a blog post from a couple years ago, I compared the books from IngramSpark and KDP Print. While everyone insists IngramSpark prints with better quality, I did not find that to be the case, and Canva had nothing to do with it.

That being said, there are a couple things you need to know before you do a full wrap in Canva.

Your stock photo must be in 300 dpi. I buy my photos from Deposit Photos, and lately when I download a photo, the image size is huge but the dpi is only 72. You have to fix this or your cover will come out pixelated and you won’t know why. You can download GIMP for free and use the SCALE IMAGE (under Image in the menu) to fix this, or if you already have Photoshop, adjust the dpi and save. That is the photo version you want to upload into Canva.

This is the screenshot from a photo I used to make a mock cover the other day. You can see that the dpi is only 72. And if you take a look at the width and height, sometimes that is too huge for Canva to accept and they’ll ask you to fix the size. The width and the height doesn’t matter so much, and you can change the width to a lower number. This is a horizontal photo and I chose 3000 for the width. Press Enter and it will automatically resize the height. With the DPI set to 300, export it as a jpg or png, it doesn’t matter, Canva accepts both. (If I’ve lost you on this step, you’ll have to do your own digging. I rarely use GIMP and this post is by no means a tutorial on how to use it, because yeah, I don’t know how to do very much.)

You have to have your interior already formatted for paperback. That includes the front and back matter, the font you chose, gutters and margins and all the rest. Unless you want to play, it’s helpful if this is the final version of your paperback interior. It’s already been through betas and your editor. It should be ready to publish. If it’s not, you can experiment with your cover for practice, but you need the final number of pages for your spine’s width. KDP Print gives you ten pages of wiggle room. That’s not much and more often than not, they’ll make you resize your cover using an updated template.

Choose the trim size you want and page color you want. I see this question all the time in the FB groups, and most say it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Though if you’re concerned with printing costs, the more pages you have–250+–the larger the trim size you want (6×9 is best) because more pages means higher printing cost. My novels run anywhere between 70k to 90k and the only thing that I use as a yardstick is this: My series books are 5×8. My standalones are 5.5×8.5. I don’t know why I do this, but it’s a system I’ve fallen into. If you write epic fantasy and your books are 400 pages, choose the 6×9.

This is one of Lindsay Buroker’s epic fantasies. Amazon makes it easy for you to check out what other authors in your genre are doing. You can see that this book is 528 printed pages and she chose a 6×9 trim size. Her spine is 1.32 inches. It’s a thick book. When you publish and set your prices, KDP Print will offer you a royalty calculator and you can price your book based on the royalties you’ll make when you sell a paperback. Price too high and you won’t get many takers. Price too low and you won’t make anything on the sale. Try to find a happy medium and fit in with what other authors in your genre are doing.

As for the color, I always choose cream for fiction. Seems the standard is cream for fiction, white for nonfiction. There may be exceptions, but that’s what I go with.

When you have the number of pages from the formatted file, know your trim size and page color, you can Google KDP paperback templates.

This is only for paperback. As of this writing, they are rolling out a hardcover option. It’s in beta right now, but offering a hardcover is what you’ll need to decide based on your business goals. I write romance and I focus my marketing on readers in Kindle Unlimited. A hardcover edition of my book doesn’t interest me, and if I ever wasted the time to create one, it would be for vanity purposes only.

Download the template. It will come in a ZIP file. Open it up and save the PNG as a name you’ll be able to find later. You can’t upload a PDF into Canva, only download, so the PNG is the one you’ll want.

Now it’s time to do some math.

When you want to do a full wrap in Canva, you need to know the canvas size. This is where I think a lot of people get tripped up. How do you figure out the size of the canvas so your template will fit? Your canvas size has to be the size of your book’s trim, plus spine width, plus the bleed. These numbers will change based on the trim size you choose for your books and the spine size. You won’t be able to use the same canvas size over and over unless you choose the same trim size AND your book is the same number of pages every time. That’s going to be highly unlikely, so it’s best just to realize you’re going to need to learn how to do the math.

We’ll start with the template:

The template will tell you how wide your spine is. You need this for the math. There is another way to figure out spine if you don’t download the template first, but this is the easiest way so no use giving you more math.

Then this is how you figure out the size of the canvas:

For the width of the canvas: The width of the back cover plus bleed, plus spine, plus the width of the front cover plus bleed.

If we use the template above as an example, the template is 5.5 x 8.5. This is what we add together:

5.5 (back cover) + .125 (bleed) + .65 (spine) + 5.5 (front cover) + .125 (bleed) = 11.90 inches.

That is the inch width you put into the custom dimensions box in Canva. The default is pixels, you’ll need to change it to inches.

If you need to see it in a different way, I made this for a friend:

The height of the book is 8.5 + the bleed .25 = 8.75. This is the number you put into the height box in the custom dimensions.

Hit enter or click on Create New Design and you have the canvas for a 5.5x 8.5 sized book with a .65 spine. It might not look like much, but now you can upload the PNG of your template and put that into the canvas.

It will take a little moving around, but keep as much orange as possible because that’s your bleed line. Anything on the orange or beyond has a chance of getting cut off in printing. The spine guidelines keep your text from bring printed on the front or back covers. Make sure the template covers the entire canvas.

You might have noticed I didn’t tell you your template needs to be at 300 dpi, and it doesn’t. You’ll be building your cover on top of this template and you won’t see it at all when your book is printed.

When I say that you’ll be building your cover on top of this, I mean you’ll be putting the stock photo and all the text on top of the template. What you use for your front cover and the back cover is going to be up to you. Some authors use a horizontal photo like the woman on the dock above and use it to create a full wrap from the one photo, like this:

Woman in white dress sitting alone on the pier. Back view (purchased from Deposit Photos)

You can see I flipped her and used a filter, but I used the whole photo for a full cover wrap. I built it on top of the template using the transparency feature and it looks like this:

Using the bleed lines, you can put the font where it needs to go. It’s not perfect–the author name isn’t centered and can come down more. When you’re done with the bleed lines, change the transparency of the photo back to 0 and this is what you’ll download. Download the file in print-ready PDF for your KDP dashboard when you upload your files for publishing.

Lots of people say they don’t know what to put on the back of their covers. The sky is the limit, really, from just the blurb to reviews of the book to your author photo. I’ve only done my author photo once, and that was for the back of All of Nothing:

The only thing I would caution you on is you don’t need to make the blurb font huge. It was one of my mistakes first starting out. And if you don’t want to put a white box for the bar code, you don’t have to. KDP Print will add it when they print your cover. Google for more full wrap ideas.

For the woman on the dock, I blew up the part of the water giving the back cover a grainy texture that matched the photo but some authors like the full photo wrap. It keeps them from. having to worry about getting the bleed lines on the spine perfect for printing. POD printing isn’t an exact science anyway, so chances are even if your PDF is perfect, the spine will be a little off. No matter how centered my title and author name are, almost 100% of the time they won’t be centered on the spine when you order a copy. Now that I’ve done it both ways, I think I prefer the full photo wrap.

I added a white gradient (that you can find in Canva) to the bottom to white out the dock a little bit making Penny’s name more readable. When it comes to cover design you know your own abilities. I’ve often said I’m lucky I write romance and can find a cute couple and slap some text over them and call it good. It’s not that simple, obviously, but if I wrote in epic fantasy, or even thriller, I would have to hire out. I’m not interested in learning beyond what I know. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

Developing an eye for book covers takes time and a lot of practice. Sometimes what you think looks good on the screen won’t translate well to a printed cover at all and you’ll be back to the drawing board. If you’re tackling book covers for the first time, you may be investing in some proof copies just to see how your work looks printed. If your business model makes paperbacks important, then you’ll put a lot of time into learning how to make your paperbacks look amazing. Like I said before, my business model centers around KU readers and it’s more important to make sure my cover grabs attention at thumbnail size and indicates to readers the second they look at it what genre it is.

It might seem like I skimmed over the most important part: the math. We can do another book with a different trim size just for practice.

This is the template the first book in my Rocky Point Wedding series. The trim is 5×8 and the spine is .70 inches. If we do the math for the Canva canvas it would look like this:

5.0 (back cover) + .125 (bleed) + .70 (spine) + 5.0 (front cover) + .125 (bleed) = 10.95. That is the width you would need to put into the custom box.

The height would be 8.0 (cover) + .25 (bleed) = 8.25. That is the height you would put into the custom dimensions box.

This is the cover I did for the first book in the series:

I did most of it in Canva, though I added some transparent gradient in GIMP for blending the two photos. Everything I know I taught myself, and it’s not fair i’m trying to shove four years of practicing and learning into one blog post. You’ll have to do your own experimenting.

Some odds and ends I picked up on the way:

Don’t buy a bar code. You don’t need one. KDP Print and IngramSpark will generate one for you. I buy my own ISBNs though, and that will be a choice you need to make if you’re in the States and expected to pay god-awful prices.

Don’t use free photos from Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, et al. Cover your butt and secure your business and use photos that you pay for from trusted sites like Shutterstock or Deposit Photos. Same with fonts. Not everything is available for commercial use. Be careful.

Use caution when choosing the models on your covers if you write romance. Amazon has gotten very picky lately, and the cover for His Frozen Heart disqualifies me from being able to run ads on Amazon Advertising to that series. Needless to say, that sucks.

You can use the same canvas size for an IngramSpark template. The one difference between an IS template and a KDP Print template is the spine for IS is narrower. The only adjustment you’ll be making is your font size for your title and author name on the spine will be smaller.

Elements (font, symbols ) can shift when you download your PDF and they will look “off” when you upload to KDP. I haven’t found a solution for this except to overcorrect, save, and re-download so the elements are in the place they are supposed to be. When you download the PDF, check the file before uploading to KDP. You’ll see if anything has shifted and you can correct it. The KDP Print previewer will show you exactly how your book cover and interior will print. If you don’t like ANYTHING in the previewer, fix it because printing won’t change it.


There are videos on how to create a full cover wrap in Canva–and you might find them helpful–but the few I’ve watched leave out important steps like making sure your photo is 300 dpi. This is going to take some trial and error. I remember being soooo nervous waiting to see if the cover for Wherever He Goes was going to look good.

I think that’s all I have. I know it seems like a lot of information, but blogs and videos won’t take the place of practice. If you have any questions, leave me a comment. I’ll answer to the best of my ability. If you’re making covers with my tips, tweet me at @V_Rheault on Twitter. I want to see what you’re doing.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time!


Resources I’ve found helpful:

IngramSpark’s File Creation Guide

KDP Print’s template generator

IngramSpark’s template generator

Canva Book Cover Templates

Pricing Your Book: Who is your reader?

My local mall doesn’t have a lot to offer. You might think that’s crazy–why would the city mall in Fargo, ND be lacking? Joking aside, there aren’t many stores in the mall anymore. “Back in the day”, there used to be something for everyone: toy stores, candy stores, bookstores, clothing and shoe stores for every family income range. Back to school used to be an exciting day-long event.

Now, not so much.

The other day I noticed they are putting in a Sephora–that’s expensive makeup to anyone who doesn’t know.

Last month they opened an Athleta to replace Gap. That’s an expensive workout clothing store to anyone who doesn’t know.

I wondered why they put in an Athleta when we got a Lululemon last year. That’s more expensive workout clothes if you didn’t know. Pair those stores with a Dry Goods and a Francesca, and the only affordable place left is JC Penney with customer service so bad I don’t bother to shop there. I don’t want to go through the hassle of paying for something if I find something I want.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this, and my point is, if you’re financially challenged, you’re not shopping at my local mall. You’re going to bring your limited spending money to places like Kohl’s (don’t forget your coupon!), TJ Maxx, Old Navy, and Marshall’s.

This made me start thinking about where the mall finds their customers, and how indie authors find their readers.

Whether my mall has intended to do so or not, they are shutting out the little shoppers. Shoppers who can’t afford $100 dollars for workout leggings. Shoppers who could spend $100 at Kohl’s and buy three or four pieces of clothing–maybe more.

When you price your book at launch and you choose if your book is going to be in Kindle Select to take part in the Kindle Unlimited program, or wide (on other platforms like Books and Nook) you are consciously deciding where your readers are coming from and how much money they have.

In KU, readers pay $9.99 a month to read an unlimited number of books. Granted, not all books are in KU–a lot of traditionally published books are not, so a reader is sacrificing selection for value (though with the number of books published every year, month, and day that’s not much of a sacrifice if you ask me).

Anyway, so KU readers are one type of readership. They may be whale readers and read a book a day, or every two days, and their subscription fee pays for itself in a week and the rest of the month really is “free” for them. They may love indie authors and binge every book that author has written before they move on to another author. No matter how or what they read, they have limited income and $9.99 a month is a bargain.

Being wide cultivates a different readership, though you do have more flexibility with your prices and sales–if you choose to use them and many indies do not. When indies are wide they expect readers to pay for their books (duh). They can’t be borrowed like the KU model (unless you’ve enrolled your book in the program Kobo offers, but if I’m not mistaken you have to publish directly to Kobo instead of using an aggregator for the option to join).

Readers on other platforms may have more disposable cash and will buy your $2.99 book if they really want to read it. They won’t blink an eye at spending $11.97 for a four-book series at $2.99/each. Sometimes indies will do a permafree book, meaning it’s free everywhere, usually the first book in a long series to draw readers in, or they’ll run a .99 cent sale, but when you’re wide, you have to figure out your marketing strategy or no one will know you’re having a sale.

I’ll scroll through Twitter and see a book promo that makes me interested enough to click on it. Sometimes I’ll click on that link and see the book isn’t in KU, but the author hasn’t added any other store links to the tweet to indicate they are selling on other platforms, too. That ends up wasting my time, and other readers’ time when they have a KU subscription and are looking for books to read in KU. What’s the point of going wide if all you’re going to do is promote your Amazon buy-link?

This isn’t a blog post about enrolling into KU versus selling your books wide. There are plenty of those, and I don’t need to add my voice to the noise. But what this blog post is about is knowing who your reader is and guesstimating how much money they have to spend on books. With all the free content out there, and sales, too, a reader with a KU subscription or limited funds isn’t likely to spend $4.99 on an ebook. Especially if that ebook is only 50k words like a lot of romances out there. My opinion may be unpopular, especially with indies being told these days to “know your worth.” I know my worth, and I also respect my readers’ pocketbooks.

So what exactly am I proposing?

*If you’re wide, promote your books and all their platforms. You can use Books 2 Read, a universal link creator that will create a link to your book that will point your reader in the direction of their favorite retailer.

*Make your reader aware of sales. You can use social media for this, and your newsletter, but also use promo sites that let readers know your book is on sale. Some readers who like you when your books aren’t in KU or Kobo Plus have to wait until your book is on sale, and that’s the choice you’re making not enrolling into one of these programs.

*Read Wide for the Win by Mark Leslie Lefebvre. This is a great resources for reaching all the readers you can while publishing wide. Which is why you went wide in the first place, right?
Joanna Penn interviewed him recently on her podcast, and you can listen to it here:

*Research how to sell books at regular price. More often than not you’re asking readers to buy a book at full price. Some readers still have a hard time swallowing the idea of parting with money for something they can’t hold in their hands–like an ebook. Check out David Gaughran’s video on how to sell your book at full price:

*Research how to reach wide readers with ads specifically for wide books. David Gaughran also has a really awesome book on how to use BookBub ads, and you can find it here. Mal and Jill Cooper has a fabulous book out on how to use FB ads, and you can find it here.

*Make your books available in the library system. This is one of the sad things about having to be exclusive with Amazon while my books are in KU. I can’t add my ebooks to the library system. When you are wide, aggregators like Draft2Digital will enroll your books in library systems like Overdrive and bibliotheca. Ask readers to request your book from their local libraries.

*Go wide with your paperbacks too. Clicking expanded distribution on Amazon with your paperbacks is limiting and earns you less royalties than if you publish with IngramSpark. IngramSpark will distribute your paperbacks to all the online book retailers and also enroll your book into the library system.

My local mall has lost sight of who its customer is. Unfortunately because of what they offer (or don’t) I can no longer be one of them. I can’t afford to shop at most of their stores, and the one or two that interest me aren’t worth the hassle of finding a parking spot, navigating down the corridors to the store and then leaving again. Customers with money can browse the high-end selection from Lululemon or buy games and other computer/gaming equipment from Best Buy–an anchor store that replaced Sears when the chain went out of business.

When you sell anything, you have to know who your customer is so you can tell them about the products you have. Probably the most profound piece of marketing advice I ever heard was this: Don’t force customers come to you, you go to your customer. I don’t know who said it first, I think Craig Martelle said it in one of his YouTube videos–it could have been anyone in indie marketing space, honestly–and it’s true. “Build it and they will come” doesn’t apply to books. My mall needs to show me they want my business by offering me stores I can afford to shop at. Since they aren’t, they’re telling me they don’t care about my business, that the customers who can afford to shop there are enough for them.

When you’re wide and you only put your Amazon link in a tweet, you’re telling a potential customer that a) you don’t care if they have a KU subscription or you’re hoping they don’t and b) you don’t care if they like to read on a different platform.

I don’t care if you’re wide or not, your business plans are not any of my concern, but if you are, I can’t buy your book, not unless you somehow let me know your book is on sale. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of reader my income has turned me into and there are a lot of readers like me out there.

What’s really interesting is that just this morning I was listening to Andrea, Lindsay, and Jo on their newest podcast episode of Six Figure Author, and Andrea polled her newsletter subscribers. She asked them why her newest series hasn’t done so well, and the resounding answer was that readers lost a lot of disposal income due to COVID. Also a lot of people just weren’t in the mood to read because the past year has been so stressful. If you want to listen to the podcast you can listen here:

Find your reader, market to them.


Coming up, I’m going to have an author interview with Barbara Avon and maybe a giveaway too! Have a good week, everyone!

Publishing Plan & Launch Plan: How they’re different and why you need both.

I’m struggling. I’m struggling for a myriad of reasons (some not related to writing–anyone know how to quiet an old cat at night?!), but the prevalent one for me right now is my publishing plan for the books I have written, and the launch plan I’m going to need to find readers for those books.

It’s tough because when you press publish, you aren’t guaranteed readers. It would be nice if we were, if we became overnight sensations, but that rarely happens and if it does, there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes.

The difference between a publishing plan and a launch plan to me is when we talk about a publishing plan, I think about how many books am I going to be able to publish in a given year, two years, three? How far out am I looking when I plan how many books I’m going to be capable of writing? That’s different for everyone. How fast you can write depends on your living situation, if you have kids, if you have a full-time job. Obviously, if you’re single with no kids and you’re already a full-time author, you’re going to be able to write quicker than a woman with a husband and children, a job, and maybe a sick pet. It also depends on where you are with your craft. If you can write your first draft so that you consider it practically your last draft, you can publish books faster than someone who needs a few months of editing. It’s important not to over-extend yourself, especially since Amazon allows year-long preorders. Due to COVID they are giving you grace if you have to move your preorder date, or cancel altogether, but that might not always be the case. Before COVID, if you missed your preorder date, you were suspended from creating preorders for a year, and I would imagine that at some point, they will go back to those guidelines.

A launch plan for the release of a book can consist of a Goodreads giveaway, stacked promotions, newsletter swaps, and everything in between.

How to optimize those things will be different for everyone, and while you can grab tips for a great launch, genre, how well your book is written, cover, the size of your newsletter and the authors you swap with, your backlist, how much you can afford to pay in ad spend, even what’s going on in the world, and I have no idea how many other factors, can influence how well your book does on launch day.

Planning your publishing schedule while optimizing your launch can be a nightmare. When you look at your launch plan/publishing plan it’s important to know your strengths and your weaknesses.

Newsletter. This is definitely a weakness of mine. I don’t have one . . . yet. Not even one for my 3rd person books I can hit up on the off chance there would be some crossover readers. Some authors have a large enough newsletter their whole launch plan consists of sending out an email to their newsletter and that’s it. It’s enough to make them sticky in the stores and their loyal readers will leave reviews.

Networking/Swaps. This is another area where in the four years I’ve been publishing I have failed. I have writer friends, sure. But I had no idea how important it is to network with other authors in your genre. Without a strong newsletter I can use for reciprocation and without romance author friends who are willing feature my books in their newsletter, I’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers until I can pay those favors back with my own list.

Number of Books. This is one strength of mine, at least. Your launch plan will definitely look different if you haven’t banked some books, or if you don’t have a backlist written in your chosen genre. If you’re launching a new first in series, it’s better to have another book or two written so your readers know that more books will eventually come. Putting book two on preorder and linking the preorder to the back matter of book one can help. Fickle indie authors aren’t the only ones teaching consumers to be wary. Streaming platforms like Netflix can pull the plug on a new series before wrapping it up, and a lot of consumers now won’t try something new unless all the seasons (or books) are available. I know for me as a consumer, I was really disappointed when Amazon Prime released the first season of Carnival Row, but maybe because of COVID I haven’t heard of another season in the works. BUT as I have found out, rapid releasing when no one knows about you or your books doesn’t do anything and when I released my Rocky Point Wedding series last year, it didn’t matter how fast I released them–I didn’t have readers. I have this weird thing where I need to write a whole series first before I can even think about publishing. I many need to change my way of doing things to streamline my publishing schedule.

Ad spend. I’m fortunate that I have a little money for some ad spend. I can afford to book a promo with Freebooksy or BargainBooksy, ENT, etc. So far, if I put my first in series for free and pay for a Freebooksy with Written Word Media, I gain back my fee with sales and page reads. But that has never elevated my status or made my book “sticky” in the charts. I also play with Amazon Ads, but I’ve never worked with them to create second or third generation ads because I’d rather write more books than spend time playing with ads. Also, keep in mind that if you do plan to run ads at some point, your cover can’t be too racy. With stricter guidelines in place, Amazon has determined my Rocky Point covers are too sexy and they won’t let me run ads which could be a problem for you if you’re counting on an ads boost.


So, here’s my dilemma. First of all, I’m banking books as is my usual custom. I have six books in a series (serial, meaning no entry point except book one) that are completed. They’ve gone through a couple editing sweeps by me, and unless I’ve missed something, they sound strong: no plot holes, complete character arcs, etc. I spent the majority of 2020 writing and editing those. I needed a break, so I…

…wrote what I thought would be a standalone novel just to publish for the sake of hitting that publish button, but then I realized it could be a really cool book one of a series and while a paid beta reader read it and made her notes, I wrote book two of what will be another six-book series. That one has since been edited by me a couple of times, and is just sitting on my computer while I…

…thought I was writing a reader magnet for this newsletter I need to get going this year. The problem is, it’s a good book. It’s going to be a really good book, and I don’t know if I want to “waste” it by offering it up as a freebie. Obviously building up a newsletter is not a waste, and offering a full 85k book will be a good incentive to sign up for my newsletter. But, even though eventually I can put it up for sale, I would then need a new magnet anyway. So what difference will it make if I sell it now or later?

I’m at a loss, and while having 8.5 books on my computer almost ready to go (besides covers, formatting, and blurbs) is a good problem to have, I’m tired of publishing to crickets. I’m rebranding, writing new books under my initials instead of my first name, and if I can’t figure out how to make things better than the last four years, all I’m going to be doing is releasing books to no one. And let me tell you, I’m getting real tired of that.

Y’all, I’m tired of starting from zero. At some point, an author shouldn’t have to do that.

Another problem I’m having is that this is a new direction for me, and stockpiling books before I know if my style and voice are going to resonate with readers is ill-advised at best. Because now I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I can’t find readers, then ALL the books I have on my computer I may not have a use for. I doubt that will happen–I don’t write in a vacuum and someone has looked at all the books in some way, shape or form–but it’s something to think about (like there isn’t enough to worry about, right?)

That’s why I’m interested in releasing one standalone just to see how readers react. While it wouldn’t be a huge release, I know a little bit to at least get a few readers and if I add a cookie to the back, it might not be a bad way to start building my list with organic signups. On the other hand, if it makes more of a dent than I expect, I would want something to publish next in the not so distant future.

The uncertainty is enough to give me a headache, but I appreciate you listening to me brainstorm. I mean, there are things I can do. Hire a consultant for one. There are a few indie authors out there who will chat for an hour for a fee. I can ask for opinions in my FB groups, and I think I will be doing that. Maybe an experienced indie author can give me a few pointers.

I know one thing–I need to publish something, soon. I need the high. But like a drug hit, it may not be the best thing for me. Or it could change my life. You just never know.

Here are a couple things that can help you with a publishing plan:

This is printable! Save it and print it for your own use.

A Book Production Schedule for Indie Authors: IngramSpark Blog

As for a launch, I’ve never had a successful one. I’ve never put the time and the effort to set up blog tours, newsletter swaps, promo stacking, the list goes on with what you can do. Normally I press publish, run some ads, and then feel sad when my book doesn’t make the splash I was hoping for.

Since I’m starting at zero, this is worth another peek:

Screen grab taken from his website.

David’s course is free, and if you want to sign up, click here.

He also has an updated list of Promo Sites and you can find that here.

As for what else you can do for a launch, the resources can be it’s own blog post, and this is already a lot longer than I wanted it to be. I hope you find this useful, and thanks for tagging along on this journey with me!

Until next time!

Happy Monday! Catching up and leaving FB groups.

Good morning, dear readers. I hope you had a restful weekend!

Congratulations to Avalon Greene for winning Derek Murphy’s book! Unfortunately she can’t claim her prize because of her location, but I wanted to thank her for commenting on last week’s blog post!


Last week I started book 2 of a new series while my other series breathes and I can take a step back and give those books another edit with a fresh eye to look for inconsistencies. It’s a huge interconnecting story with a handful of plot threads and before I pass it on I need to take one more look at it. I’m not sure how long I’ll wait before I open those files again, but I’m enjoying working on this new series and I’m not in any rush to publish. 2021 is the year to do things a new way, a better way, and realize how I’ve been publishing isn’t helping me gain readers or make a foothold for myself in the publishing industry. I’m 17,000 words into this new book and my soft deadline is for Valentine’s Day. We’ll see how it goes.

In other news, I’ve culled a few more FB writing/marketing groups from my list. Here are three I dropped and why:

  1. An Amazon Ads group. This group was created by a participant in the Bryan Cohen Ads Profit Challenge last year. It was a group that was supposed to help each other by sharing information and tips and tricks to keep our Amazon ads successful. While it’s smart to know the basics when starting to use Amazon Advertising for the first time, there is only so much Bryan can help you with (especially if you don’t want to pay to join his ad school). The members of this group didn’t understand (or stubbornly didn’t want to understand) that ads are only part of the puzzle when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing. Many were trying to sell only one book, some had not so great covers, some weren’t consistently publishing, and I began to feel like I didn’t fit in there. There is always going to be more to sales and building a readership than tweaking your bid pennies here and pennies there. The Amazon algorithms favor new releases, which is why publishing consistently helps Amazon help you. (Not such great news for me since I sit on books, but there may come a day where I’m confident in my abilities and can publish as I write.) I’m not the ads police, and watching these people over and over debate on what a “good” ad consists of when they’re trying to sell a mediocre book made me clench my jaw too many times. I’m not going state the name of the group because I made some friends there and I wish them the best.
  2. An IngramSpark publishing group. I’m not sure what I thought I was going to get out of this group. I use IngramSpark to publish my paperbacks wide. It didn’t take me long to realize that while authors are smart for using Ingram to get into the bookseller’s catalogue, you should upload your paperback directly to Amazon. I thought it was a well-known fact that Amazon doesn’t play nice with others and if you use IS to distribute to Amazon, your book will frequently show not available. There isn’t a day that goes by when someone wasn’t posting about that in the group and it’s a newbie mistake I was tired of seeing. Use KDP Print to fulfill to Amazon. Use IngramSpark for everywhere else. For your ebook, use KDP to fulfill to Amazon, and try to go direct to Apple (ibooks), Nook, Google Play, and Kobo. The more direct you can go, the less you’ll split your royalties. When you use an aggregator like Draft2Digital, they take a cut distributing your book, then the platform, like Apple, takes another cut for selling it. When you’re trying to make money off a .99 book, there’s not a lot left for you. Use D2D or PublishDrive or even Smashwords to publish to the obscure platforms, but go direct where you can. At least Kobo so you have access to the promotions tab where you can apply for promotional advertising opportunities. Anyway, so many of these groups have members who post questions that can be simply answered by a Google search, and in this new year I’m too busy for that, and my patience wears thin rather quickly these days.
  3. A Book Promotions group. I must have joined this group when I thought it would be a good way to advertise my book. After listening to podcast after podcast explain how (they think) the Amazon algorithms work, and how important your also-boughts are, I would never post my book in a generic group like that. A sale isn’t just a sale–who buys your book and their reading/purchasing history is just as important. That’s something that took me a long time to learn, and authors, even in my Amazon Ads group that I left this morning, don’t want to see it. That’s okay. I’m patient. I’d rather not sell to the wrong people and wait for the right readers to purchase my books. If you think a sale is a sale, and a handful a month is your version of success, then I have nothing to say about it. That is your journey, but we are definitely not taking the same path.

I’m sure I’ll cull more in the coming months. Working full time takes more of my time than I remembered, and my main priority these days will be just getting words on the page. I’m going to turn the Level Up Romance Writers group into my main hub and network and learn from those amazing authors. Going forward, I’m going to make sure the groups I’m involved in align with how I’m running my business and that they aren’t a time-suck or put me in a bad mood. I can’t control what people do or think or feel, I can only control my reactions to those things. I’ve been really good about muting/unfollowing “friends” who condone the violence our president seems to revel in, and though a vaccine is on its way, we are still in a pandemic, most of us hanging in there with our fingernails.

I used to have a huge fear of missing out, but this pandemic has made me see that my bubble is my safe place and that there is no place I’d rather be right now.

I’m being a little more active on Instagram this month, taking part in a #newyearnewwip challenge, which is fun for me since I just started book two. If you want in on the challenge or want to follow me there for the prompts and the snippets I’ll be sharing, look here.

It might be strange to tell you about the groups I’m not in any longer, but there’s also no need to join groups that will do nothing for you. If you’re still kind of new to publishing, join Self Publishing Formula hosted by Mark Dawson. I see newbie questions there as well, but that’s a group that I don’t want to drop so I grin and bear it.

Do you have a favorite writing/marketing/publishing Facebook group? Let me know!


Thursday Musings: Why are people so cranky (toward Amazon)?

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

There’s a lot of animosity for Amazon (and IngramSpark for that matter) online in the author groups these days. Authors are angry because they aren’t getting their author copies and proofs in a reasonable amount of time. One woman was experiencing a glitch on the KDP website while trying to figure out a pre-order (which is pretty common all year round, not just December) and there was so much rage in her post my laptop started smoking.

Indies have a really weird love/hate relationship with Amazon. We love them for the opportunity they gave us to bypass gatekeepers (agents) and publish our own work. We hate them for what? Spotty customer service, perhaps. Locking us into KDP Select when authors want the benefits of KU but the flexibility of still publishing wherever they like. We hate the lagging in reports on our ads dashboard, and I don’t know what else. That’s all that I can think of trying to remember what some people have complained about. We easily forget that with the invention of the Kindle and their self-publishing platform that indie publishing is what it is today. There are lots of other factors involved like other platforms coming into play (Nook, Apple, Google Play) and other distributors jumping on the bandwagon (Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, among others like Lulu and Bookbaby) and business/industry dealings I have no interest in following (pricing wars of ebooks, the big publishing houses consolidating) that have affected how indies can publish their books.

You can hate Jeff Bezos for his billions, but Amazon has made several indie author careers. Ask Mark Dawson, or Bella Andre, or Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, or any of the other huge indie authors who found their start publishing a single ebook to KDP. Many, (actually, I think all) of them have gone on to some form of traditional publishing be it in the form of new book deals or paperback only deals, or translations, what have you. Everyone knows The Martian made it to the big screen. Plus, with Amazon’s own publishing imprints, Amazon is luring away big trad authors like Dean Koontz, Sylvia Day, and Patricia Cornwall. They drank the Kool-Aid and are happier for it.

Of course, Amazon played a small role in those things–the authors can take the most credit by having a solid product that people wanted.

I see that as another reason for authors’ rage against Amazon. Amazon Advertising is blamed for taking money but not selling books. They feel ripped off, they feel like Amazon is double dipping–taking royalty money and charging for ad spend. Authors feel like they’re being played. But take a look at some of those books, and you can see why they feel that way. Their books are sub-par, they don’t follow industry standard, their covers are bad, and their books are full of telling not showing.

It’s a lot easier to blame someone else for your mistakes, isn’t it?

I experience the same glitches as everyone else. I hate when they ask you to fix the highlighted mistake, but there is no highlighted mistake. I’ve published enough books, and spoken with support, to figure out what I did wrong. My last problem was a price change that made my royalties in India 0. Amazon won’t let you do that. That section wasn’t highlighted, and it took a call to support for her to quickly look through my book’s profile and tell me what the issue was. One of the mistakes that threw me for a loop was when they stopped taking my imprint as my publisher name. I had to call and ask them why when they had in the past. They said I could list my imprint as my publisher name if I wanted to screen shot my ISBN numbers on the Bowker website and prove that my imprint name is attached to my ISBN numbers. No thanks. That was a battle I had no intention of fighting. I dislike they’re tightening their creative guidelines and I can’t run ads to my series because the covers are too steamy. It’s irritating because I don’t think the covers, in relation to other contemporary romance steamy cover, are that racy. But my ads get declined over and over and I stopped trying to slip past their moderators. It’s not worth making them mad at me.

Those are the types of things that can make a person angry, right? But the thing is, you’re running a business, and there’s no business on the face of this planet that doesn’t have some kind of issue every day. Be it employees calling in sick, or the internet is down, or a water pipe burst and your store is flooded. You’re running a small business. Things happen, and as a responsible business owner, if you’re planning a release and something happens, that’s for you to take care of, it doesn’t matter who is to blame.

The pandemic doesn’t make things any better. I don’t know how KDP sets up their support. Depending on who answers my call, it sounds like they sometimes outsource their calls. I don’t call enough to figure out when–I speak with both people with Asian accents as well as American accents. During the global pandemic, we don’t know how COVID is affecting Amazon’s employees. Maybe KDP support is working from home, or maybe they work in call centers and they are short-staffed. Their POD printers must be pumping books out like crazy, but Amazon workers oversee those and box up the copies for shipping.

Sometimes authors forget that Jeff Bezos isn’t all of Amazon. Behind Amazon’s logo are thousands of workers. They have lives. They have families. They get sick.

Your entitlement doesn’t look good on you.

Keep it out of the groups.

The bottom line is, you don’t have to publish with Amazon. You can take all your energy and ad money and use it to build a readership on other platforms. There are indie authors who do very well wide. Lindsay Buroker publishes wide and she makes a million dollars a year. Not all of that comes from Amazon. She once said that Google Play had been trying to contact her to update her banking information. When she finally got around to it, she said she had enough royalties built up there she went out and paid cash for a brand new truck. You can make other platforms work for you. Kindle Select isn’t the end-all, be-all of your publishing business. You can make money if your books aren’t in KU. You have to work for it. Just like any business owner.

Kindness and politeness are not overrated at all. They're underused. Tommy Lee Jones

Being in some of the author groups is such a drag right now. It’s all complain, complain, complain. I love being in the 20booksto50k group. Every single post is moderated and they don’t allow any negativity. That takes a lot of work. There’s a lot of negativity out there aimed at both KDP and IngramSpark. From the complaints I’ve read online, IngramSpark might be doing even more poorly than KDP. Personally, I’ve never liked IngramSpark’s website. Uploading books there is a bear and it’s the last thing I do when I publish because I hate it so much. I only do that so my paperbacks are available everywhere just in case. From my own experience, their POD quality isn’t any better than KDP Print. I use it for the distribution and that’s all. But we have to remember that IngramSpark services thousands of authors, and those authors are publishing books every day. You are not a special snowflake and you have to stop acting like you are.

You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force. Pubilius Syrus

I’ve worked in customer service all my life in one way or other. Going off on a customer service agent is the best way to ensure you don’t get the service and results you want. We remember you. We make notes. The second your name pops up, we cringe inside. Who knows if the customer service reps at KDP have access to a notes portion of your profile. Do you want them to say “Nice author to work with. :)” Or do you want them to say, “Angry. Yelled at me and used expletives.” The next time you call, what kind of treatment do you think you’ll receive?

Craig Martelle likes to remind us that you, as an indie author, are part of a whole. We make up that whole. You represent us. Every shitty thing you say to an Amazon rep is reflected back on indie authors. When I need to call or email, I am pleasant, I wish them a nice day. I chit chat and tell them to stay safe and healthy. I thank them for being there. They are at work to earn a paycheck to feed their families. Show some kindness. At the end of they day when they log off, they don’t care about your book. Remember that.

Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. Scott Adams

I’m not quite sure what I wanted to do with this post. It’s the holiday season, people are cranky because of the pandemic. Lots of us don’t have jobs, can’t buy presents for our kids this year. I’m not without my own issues this month. But it is never okay to take your anger out on someone else. If you have that much rage built up inside you that you have to go off on an Amazon rep because something happened to your pre-order, find a therapist.

There’s not much left of 2020. Make the most of it!


Catching up with what I’m doing and Bits and Pieces of Publishing News.

Lately my blog posts have been a hodgepodge of little things to make up a whole post. It’s tough when you don’t have a lot going on, and sometimes I feel like my blog posts are the blind leading the blind. I don’t have much to offer in way of advice, particularly because I haven’t found anything that is working for me sales-wise.

Anyway, like everyone else, I’m glad the election is over, though I”m sure we’re far from finding peace. Hopefully that won’t deter readers from reading like it has over the past few weeks. I can’t tell you the number of authors who have complained about sinking sales. It is what it is. I’m in the hole with my ads this month and I paused all of them and created a few new ones to target holiday romance for my series. What’s really nice is that Amazon now lets you run ads to your series page which allows a reader to pick up all the books with one click.

We’ll see how that goes. I haven’t done the math to look at read-through for all my books, but I can do that now, out of curiosity. The last book was published in May of this year, so I only have five month’s of data too interpret. Using the read-through instructions and formula by Malorie Cooper on Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur website, read-through is dividing the copies of the second book sold by the copies of the first book sold. You have to do a little math if you’re in KU.

Remember, the number of KU pages read divided by the number of KENPC pages in your book will tell you how many books those page reads equal to.

Doing the math, I have sold 214 of the first book in my series between June 1st 2020 and October 31st. That total includes both sales and KU pages read.

I have sold 97 books (together with sales and KU pages read) of book two.

That’s a read-through of 40%. 40% of my readers who read book one went on to read book two.

A profitable series will have a strong read-through for all the books, and we can calculate read-through of book two to three doing the same math:

Book two’s sales and KU page reads was 97 books. Book three has a total of 76 books sold. (Together with sales and KU reads.) That makes read-through (76/97=) 78%

And read-through from book 3 to book 4 using all the same formulas: 88% read-through. Meaning 88% of people who read book three will finish the series and read book four.

According to Mal Cooper, my 40% read-through from book one to book two could indicate a problem. I already know from reviews that the reception of my male main character is lacklustre at best. As I’ve said in the past, a physically damaged character is neither sexy nor romantic. Besides trying to market the book as a beauty and the beast retelling, there’s not much I can really do. His injuries make the whole book. It’s nothing I can go and change to encourage read-through. My sales from book one to two will just have to be a lesson in the future. It’s also a reminder if you’re going to invest time in a series, you need to hit it out of the park or the other books won’t matter. Your book one won’t be good enough to entice readers to read them.

I will keep an eye on my ads, make sure they stay profitable. With the holiday season approaching, if I can grab a couple sales and come out ahead, it will be worth advertising.


photo taken from their website

In other news, IngramSpark has decided to give ISBNs away if you publish through them, like Kindle Direct Publishing has done all along. The only problem with that is if you publish on Amazon and use their free ISBNs, you can’t turn around and use those on Ingram. Then you take the free ISBNs from Ingram and all of a sudden your book is listed under many numbers, and that doesn’t sound good to me.

I realize buying ISBNs in the States is a big pain, not to mention very costly, but when people say you need to invest in your business, this is what they’re talking about. You need to protect your work. I buy my ISBNs from Bowker and use the same paperback ISBN on both Amazon and Ingram. That way my paperback is listed under one number. The one I paid for that belongs to me. That’s important to me. I also use an ISBN number for each of my ebooks. Some will say that’s a waste of money because Amazon will assign your book to an ASIN number, but then if you’re wide, you can’t use that ASIN number as that belongs in only Amazon’s system. So there again, you have different identifying numbers for every ebook platform you publish on.

There is has been argument in the past that you can’t use the same ISBN number for a .MOBI file and an ePub because they are different formats. Then you have people who say that a digital file is a digital file. When I went wide, I used the same ISBN number for my ebooks across all platforms and nothing bad happened. I can’t imagine this would even be an issue now that Amazon asks you to upload an ePub to their platform instead of a .MOBI file.

You can have Ingram distribute to Amazon, but I’ve heard of people having trouble with their books being available (listed “out of stock” instead) and you don’t have access to your KDP dashboard and you can’t run ads if Ingram supplies your books to KDP. It’s always better to go direct where you can. It might take a little hassle, but then, we went indie to stay in control, didn’t we?


I’m 20k into my new project, about a man tasked to finding a husband for his boss’s daughter in exchange for a portion of the company he helped build. It’s going well, though I feel like no matter how much planning I’ve done with this book, I’m pantsing it. Maybe I’m just tired or maybe I’m still not used to writing in first person present, but it’s coming along, and if I keep up the slightly faster pace than a NaNo participant, I should be done with it by the end of the month. We’ll have to see if that happens. I have a lot coming up in the next couple of weeks, namely a longer work schedule, Thanksgiving, a couple of birthdays and possible jury duty. I write when I can, though, so if not by the end of the month, by the middle of December, for sure. Here’s a sneak peak of a sliver of a scene I wrote the other day. There is potential for spin-off books, but I still have my 6 book series I need to polish to release next year. I’m grateful there is so much to write about.

Man in suit leaning against a grey stone wall. Text:
I meet his eyes. They’re hard, bits of frosted green glass. “We’re beyond that now, don’t you think?”

We aren’t talking about sex, we aren’t talking about love. We’re back to his fucking fifty percent and what he’ll do to get it.

“I—”

“I’ll fulfill my end of Dad’s bargain. Sit back and collect.”

He nods, turns to go.

“Don’t come back, Colt. There’s nothing between us anymore.”

“Don’t fool yourself, Elayna. There never was.”
created with Canva Pro. Photo purchased on depositphotos.com

That’s going to be all for today! I hope you have a productive week! Good luck to those participating in NaNo!

Formatting your book with Vellum: Why I love it and why haters gotta stop hating.

taken from vellum.pub

Vellum is expensive–$250.00 for unlimited ebook and paperback capability–and I never recommend it because I’m sensitive to people not being able to afford it. Also, it only runs on a Mac and if you don’t want to pay to use MacinCloud on a PC, Vellum won’t be an option for you anyway.

But for those authors who can afford it, or hire a formatter who uses it, it can be a wonderful software that can generate book files in just a couple of hours. (Some authors say minutes, but I’ve found it can take a little longer than that–especially if you have to create the front and back matter from scratch.) I’ve formatted all my books with Vellum–even backlist titles got a facelift when my fiancé purchased a Mac and Vellum for me.

It’s amazing, and I absolutely have no argument with it.

But some authors do. They say they are disappointed in the limited capabilities and I’ve heard the familiar refrain a few times. Enough to make me mad. I take offense when someone feels the need to nitpick this software. Brad West and Brad Andalman did the indie community a huge service designing this software and continually updating it and adding new features. Still, this isn’t enough for some authors.

When I’m feeling particularly spunky, I’ll challenge them with this: a reader might appreciate the little extras you can deliver, but the real reason readers buy your book is for the story. Have you written a good book? That should be your main priority, not moaning because you can’t add color chapter headings, or fancy maps, or any other crazy stuff you want to add in a lame attempt to hide a mediocre story.

That might seem a little harsh, but it seems to me the writers who complain the loudest are the first time authors who haven’t understood that they are going to have to fight tooth and nail to sell their book and formatting is the least of their worries. (During COVID a whopping 88,000 books are being published very MONTH! — source, Alex Newton from K-lytics.)

Of course you want the inside of your book to look professional and in my mind you only need four things:

  1. Full Justification
  2. Drop Cap for Chapter Starts
  3. Professional Chapter Heading
  4. Appropriate page numbers and author name/title in headers and footers

That’s it.

Readers aren’t going to care if the chapter headers are colored images, or if they take the whole page. What they’re going to care about is if the story grabs them from the first sentence, or if there are typos or other mistakes that will pull them out of the story. They care if your story will engage them to the very last line.

Can you guarentee your readers that?

I bought a Jodi Ellen Malpas book on Amazon and I was surprised to see it came from Ingram Spark’s print on demand. She self-published this book. She’s a New York Times best-selling author. She can afford a team that can put together a beautiful book. And the formatting inside is plain. As plain as you can make the inside of a book. Because she knows her fans are not buying the book for how it looks, but for the story inside.

Here are my list of reasons why I do the minimum formatting in my books:

  1. Kindles can only handle so much. Not everyone reads on a tablet. Some people really do read on a Kindle Paperwhite, or a Voyage (that has been discontinued), Kindle Oasis, or other e-readers with limited functions. Readers can set the font so who cares if you’re bitching Vellum has a short list to choose from? Some e-readers are black and white so what does it matter if you insist on inserting colored chapter headers? E-readers strip a book of almost everything but the actual text that makes the story. If your story isn’t engaging they’ll return your book and read some thing else.
  2. Fancy formatting is a paperback perk. How many of those do you sell? Unless you write non-fiction or children’s books, then that’s something different. If you want to write in commercial, mainstream fiction, your e-books will far outsell your paperbacks. If you’re going to a convention, fine. But your cover is going to be on display more prominently than your formatting.
  3. Fancy formatting takes time. Pay for it if you insist on having it. There’s no reason to gripe in Facebook groups about how Vellum won’t suits your needs. There are other programs that will, like InDesign. If you don’t know how to use it, either learn or hire someone who does. You don’t need to complain in forums about a software you’re unhappy with. Deal with it because for every person it disappoints, it makes twenty others happier than hell.
  4. Story will always come first. Yes it’s exciting to publish and you want your book to be perfect. But your story should be the most perfect thing about your book followed by the cover. Readers will appreciate a cleanly formatted book. I know I have tossed books aside that are not formatted properly. I appreciate a plain format and a compelling story much more than a boring story with pretty chapter headers. I’ll know what the author cared more about and I won’t be impressed.

I’ll defend Brad and Brad. They did the indie community a huge courtesy developing a software that makes book formatting easy. The software produces a .mobi, epub, and generic epub for Nook, Google Play and Apple Books. It produces a PDF for the paperback. Vellum creates a beautiful book and when you’ve written a beautiful story, what it offers should be enough.


Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time!


The authorpreneur I am versus where I was five years ago.

It’s never fair to compare yourself to where you were five years ago, or more precisely, four and a half years ago, unless you haven’t changed and you can’t see in your rearview mirror through all the regret of wasted time.

16114241When I joined Writer Twitter, I was writing a huge epic fantasy and I thought I needed to be on social media to sell those books. Independent publishing was always a no-brainer, even when I didn’t know exactly what it was, and how I’d heard of it, I have no idea. Probably the one thing that pushed me along was a friend from work who was majoring in publishing at our local university. She gave me one of her textbooks, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, by Shawn Welch and Guy Kawasaki. It was my first taste of independent publishing, and being independently published fed into my control-freak nature. (I try to keep that under wraps, so don’t be surprised if it’s the first you’ve heard of it.) I don’t recommend the book now–this industry moves too fast for a book that’s eight years old to hold much relevance.

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These are delightfully naughty stories, and I highly recommend them!

Back then, I was a wide-eyed, starry-eyed girl. People were publishing, they knew a helluva a lot more than I did, and they made the industry sound exciting. I wanted in. I read indie. Lots of indie. Bought lots of indie paperbacks, some from people who don’t write anymore or who have dropped off the grid because other things got in the way. I held books in my hands from people I knew, actually talked to online, and I wanted to hold my books too. One of the very first books I read was by Jewel E. Leonard, Rays of Sunshine. She did everything herself. Her husband helped her with the cover, but she wrote it and edited it, formatted the insides. She was my inspiration, and I started 1700 to publish like she did. (And can you read a blog post I wrote about writing to write and writing to publish here.)

Except, I had no idea how much work it would be to be let in. Because if it’s something that I’ve repeated on this blog for as long as I’ve been blogging, is that behind the cover designers and editors, the huge Twitter accounts, behind the shop talk, and Twitter chats, and blog tours and cover reveals, is this very one important thing. None of that matters if you haven’t written a good book. 

And this isn’t going to be another one of those blog posts. Everyone is going to publish crap. No one is immune from it, and very few are exempt. I’m no exception.

But the thing that probably saved me was the fact that I didn’t know it was crap. I went on my merry way, writing and writing and writing, and publishing and publishing and publishing and blogging about it, too! It was cool. I was a loser who didn’t know I was a loser.

Eventually, I got better. It’s just something that happens if you write enough words. You get better. Since I’ve started publishing, not including the fantasy still on a memory stick that I go back and forth between deciding to edit or not, I’ve written 1,227,000 words. Some of those aren’t published yet, as they belong to a first person trilogy that I haven’t edited. I’m going to write the sister trilogy to that before I release them. But they are written, and I’ll include them in my word count.

That figure isn’t to brag. I know I have a lot of time, and I do use the time I’m given.

But I think back to almost five years ago and how much the industry has changed. I did my book covers in Word. I used a free photo for The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, which I learned is a huge no-no. I formatted my documents myself using the templates KDP still has available though Vellum is so easy to get your hands on these days.

Besides the few people I had help me in the beginning, once I got the hang of writing again, I started editing my own books and for others.

There is something to be said for going back to basics. I learned a lot. I learned what a cover consists of, what bleed means. I can spot extra spaces between words in sentences in a manuscript and how not to put two spaces after a period. I know how terribly a Tab can screw up formatting, and even still today, I’m still learning how important it is to back up files (thanks disappearing Vellum files).

I’ve always moved forward, never gone back too often. Dean Wesley Smith calls this “overwhelming” your book. I call it burying it. But that’s hard to do if you want all your books to count. I say The Corner of 1700 Hamilton and my erotica novellas don’t count toward my backlist, but they have my name on them. They count. Even if I’ll never promote them. I put them out there, they are mine, and I own them.

For me, the glitz and glamour of being an independent author has gone away. You can scroll through writer twitter and maybe see some of those writers who haven’t published yet interacting with other writers with the same wide-eyed look. It’s not that I’ve become jaded–I still get teary-eyed whenever I finish a book and press publish–but it’s not long after that I’m on to the next thing, because there will always be another story.

What is this blog post about? It was supposed to be about how I revamped The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, but I’ll save it for another day.

I guess being quarantined has made me a bit nostalgic. I’ve come a long way in four and a half years. I’ve cried over lost files and bad reviews, I’ve virtually high-fived other authors and shared in their successes. I’ve shaken my head at others who keep making the same mistakes, and I feel bad for them because I don’t see their careers going anywhere. I know authors who are still working on the same story as the one when we met. This isn’t the career for those who can’t be tenacious, who can’t look ahead, who can’t see what they want in ten years and put in the work now. This industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Or for the weak.

I’ve come a long way in the almost five years I published 1700, and I plan to go even further in the next five. I WILL have a bestseller. Just wait and see.

What have you accomplished in the last five years? How has the industry changed since you’ve joined the writing community?

Let me know!


I read more than just Jewel’s book when I first joined Writer Twitter. Take a peek at the books I read that I very much enjoyed, and that I still recommend today. If you’re interested, click on the cover and it will bring you to Amazon. Some of them are in KU if you have a subscription. Some of the publishing dates reflect earlier dates, and I can only take that to mean that the authors have gone in, made changes, and republished. That’s one of the perks of being your own publisher. 🙂

I can’t link you to What Boys Are Made Of and the other books in the series because I think Stephanie is redoing them. It’s too bad she unpublished while relaunching them though, because they were really good. Probably some of the best indie work I’ve ever read. I hope she gets them put back up really soon. They deserve to be out in the world.

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Entropy is the first in a trilogy, and I’ve read them all. I’ve mentioned before Joshua helped me by beta-reading Don’t Run Away, and we formed a friendship after meeting on Twitter. He has quite a few books in his backlist now, and if you want to read his next book, Perplexity, he’s blogging the scenes for a little entertainment due to COVID-19. You can find his blog, Perplexitybook.com, here.

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I love Aila with all my heart, and she knows her stuff. She introduced me to Canva, knows her way around IngramSpark, and is all around a fantastic writer. Sex, Love, and Technicalities is the first in a duet, and I helped her edit the second (which is why I’m attached to it, not because I helped her write it). Aila and I have been friends for a really long time.

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One of the first indie books I read was David’s Lonely Deceptions. Originally published as a novella trilogy, Austin Macauley squished them together and published them as a whole. Not that I would recommend going with a vanity press, David was fortunate and they paid him, not the other way around. Just recently he wrote the sequel and sent it off to Austin so the books would be consistent (they gave him an advance for that book also). Right now he’s working on something new that will be published under a pen name because he says he’s tired of people thinking he’s a doctor. LOL

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Tom is another writer who kind of fell off the grid, though I think he’s active on Goodreads. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but I’ve read all of his books, and he was one of my first Writer Twitter friends. I think Jewel introduced us. His books are hilarious, but dark, and I recommend empathetic all the time. It’s laugh-out-loud good.

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