All of Nothing’s blurb. How I rewrote it.

All of Nothing ebook cover

Click here to read All of Nothing! Available in paperback and Kindle Unlimited!

If you’re brave and take a look at your reviews from time to time, there may be some common themes that readers have picked out with your book. If you have a thick skin, sometimes this can be a benefit–readers can (and probably will) see things about your book that you didn’t realize yourself.

With All of Nothing, I knew Jax was a jerk, and I made him that way. An accident he was involved in damaged him beyond all comprehension. In the book he was cold and heartless because underneath the armor, that’s exactly what he wasn’t.

I had a lot of fun with his character arc, but some of the readers were put off by just how mean he really was.

So, when I rewrote the blurb, I knew I needed to make this clearer so his attitude and actions toward Raven weren’t such a shock.

Writing a blurb is difficult, and at the end of this blog post I’ll list a few resources you can look into that may help you on your own path to writing your blurbs.

***

This was the old blurb:

“I took a life, and when I did, he took mine.”

After his fiancée leaves him at the altar, cold-hearted millionaire Jaxon Brooks blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in as his bride.

When she accidentally signs her real name on the marriage certificate, Jax must find his wife to file for divorce.

Since the death of her brother, Raven Grey has been living a hard life on the streets.

When Jax offers his help in exchange for her signature, Raven agrees, hoping for a better future and to repair her relationship with her parents.

As Jax and Raven grow closer, his past haunts them, and the death of her brother threatens their new love in ways neither of them thought possible.

***

I’ve linked to the podcast before, but the Best Page Forward podcast took it apart. Abigail Dunard made some good points, and so did Jim Heskett, and when I rewrote it, I tried to keep their thoughts in mind. I wrote the original blurb with tips from Bryan Cohen’s book, How To Write a Sizzling Synopsis, but I must not have done that great of a job. Anyone who teaches blurb-writing will tell you to measure how good a blurb is by the number of conversions to your ads, but if you don’t run ads, it’s difficult to measure if the blurb is working or not. (Plus, if you use that reasoning, it may be your cover that isn’t doing it when your blurb could be perfectly fine.)

Anyway, I also read Brian D. Meeks’ book about writing Amazon descriptions. He goes about it in a completely different way. It’s a very pared down approach, and does not resemble Bryan’s more book summary style at all. I decided to give that a try.  And only time will tell if I hit the mark.

When writing the new blurb, I used Brian’s tips on copywriting, things I gleaned from the reviews, and tried to take out the confusing parts of the blurb the podcast hosts pointed out.

I ran it by a couple people who liked it, but until I start getting more reviews and more feedback, I still may not have made the right changes. The beauty of being an indie, though, is that you can make any kind of changes you want, nothing is locked in. Because I did do a cover update at the same time as rewriting the blurb, I went ahead and replaced the blurb on the back cover. But that isn’t always necessary, and if I tweak the blurb again, I’ll leave the paperback cover alone.

***

Jaxon Brooks is rich, sexy, and mean as a snake.

It’s no surprise when his fiancé leaves him at the altar. But now what is he going to do?

To save face, he blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in for his bride, and he fights an unwanted attraction as she walks down the aisle.

Raven Grey is homeless.

Jax terrifies her, and left with no choice, she does what he says.

But she has desperate demands of her own. She needs help getting back on her feet, and Jax has the resources to help her.

When Jax moves Raven into his mansion, playing house starts to feel like the real thing. But how long can it last?

Buried under Jax’s rough demeanor is a horrible secret that won’t stay hidden, and Raven’s painful past will come back to haunt them. Despite everything, can Jax be the man that Raven needs him to be? Can Raven forgive him for what he’s done?

Can Jax come to terms with the tragedy that blackened his heart and give himself one last chance at true love?

If you like enemies to lovers or a bully hero, All of Nothing is perfect for you! Read it today!

***

The one huge departure from the other blurb is the call to action (CTA) at the end. I hate telling people what to do. I leave my kids alone, I didn’t run my ex-husband’s life, I don’t even like to give advice unless it’s asked for, and then I’m fully prepared for anyone not to take it. My back matter doesn’t ask readers to sign up for a newsletter, give a review, or read the next book. So putting that last sentence at the bottom really threw me, but Brian swears by it, and well,  it’s way down at the bottom, so what did it hurt? (And I do realize I’m letting opportunity go by with no CTA in my back matter, at all, and I’ll try to think of something when my wedding series drops.)

Is it better? Is it worse? I have no idea.

That is part two in what I did to revamp All of Nothing. I’ve been getting good feedback so far on the cover, and I’ve been kind of messing around with Wherever He Goes. But I don’t want to get so caught up in busy work that I’m not working on my current books.  I’m still on track to put this quartet out by the holidays, and I’m going to keep my eyes on that prize.

In the next blog post, I’ll go over metadata and keywords!

Thanks for reading!


Need help with blurbs?

Check out Bryan Cohen’s book.

Check out Brian Meeks’ book.

Listen to Libby Hawker’s tips on YouTube. Her videos are cut into parts, just to let you know, and this link starts with part one. This was quite some time ago, and trends change, but sometimes if you can piecemeal advice from different sources, you can turn that advice into something relevant today.

Bryan Cohen and Chris Fox did a presentation about Blurb, Cover, and Title at the 20books Vegas conferences last November. This is such a great resource, and one of the conferences that I plan to go to! Take a listen to this video on how blurbs, titles, and covers work together to sell your book.

 


Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any blurb writing tips!

end of blog post graphic

All of Nothing’s make over.

I first blogged about All of Nothing getting a face lift last week, or was it the week before? I’m not sure, but you can look here, if you’d like to read the initial post. I said I was going to go over what I’m going to do to breathe a little life into the book.

The first thing I did is redo the cover. It went from this:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

To this:

all of nothing second coverjpg

I would say that’s an improvement. I don’t have the proof yet, and I suppose writing a blog post about the cover without the proof seems to be a bit too forward thinking, but that’s okay. I can post it when I get it. I know the title doesn’t seem to be centered, but uploading it into KDP Print proved to be one over-correction after another. The title may very well be too much to the left, but what’s what the proof is for.

At any rate, covers can go through a lot of revisions and just all around bad ideas before an epiphany is realized and you think of what you wanted to do all along, or you stumble upon the perfect couple at 2am when you shouldn’t have been awake anyway.

The first cover I came up with looked like this:

all of nothing second cover FULL TITLE

No one liked it. I put it on the Indie Book Cover FB group for feedback and while no one had anything BAD to say, no one liked it, either, and everyone agreed to take out A NOVEL at the bottom. I think I came up with a nice tagline to put in its place.

It left me a bit stymied because it has a grittier feel than what I had before, and gritty and kind of mean, more alpha, bad boy, asshole was what I was going for.

But I’m glad I posted it and listened to the feedback because one poster said she bought a premade using the same guy. She even gave me the name of the site. It’s a closed group, so out of respect I won’t post the cover, but I’ll give you the website and you can take a peek yourself if you want to see the cover she bought.

I played around with it some, putting into play some of the advice I received from the group; doing something different with the tint, but overall, I guess I felt it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do after all, I gave up for a little while.

all of nothing take two

That wasn’t even all that bad . . . but that’s okay. Trying out new things until you stumble upon something else that could be better is part of the creative process.

Going through DepositPhotos one day I came across this couple:

couple in elevator two

A lot of what goes through my head when I look at photos is, what is the steam level? That was one of the things I was aiming to up on this cover: fully clothed models weren’t depicting what my books were about. Where can I put my the title? Where can I put my name? With my limited skills, what can I do to it to make it stand out? This is important because my skills are LIMITED. I can only do so much in GIMP, and I need to know if the picture is decent as is, and if it’s not, what needs to change? A cluttered background? Can I get rid of that zooming in? The color? How real are the models. Do they look too model-y, or too human? A nice medium is what I shoot for. I probably looked at this couple while looking for others and I passed them by. Until almost a fully-formed cover with these two popped into my head, and I was able to create almost a perfect cover in half a hour.

I used what little skills I have in GIMP to fade the top and the bottom and using a few tips I learned from my friend Aila’s blog post about Canva, I was able to make the rest there.

Next week I’ll take you through how I rewrote the blurb and my process for doing it!

Plus, on Monday, I’m doing an author interview with my friend, Tom, whom I met at the Sell More Books Show Summit! His debut book will be live Monday, and I’m so happy to be part of his launch! Look for an awesome interview with him, and a $25 Amazon ecard giveaway, too!

Author Interview with tom willoughby


Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying your week! I haven’t made much progress on my 3rd book in my series, as these days off this week just have flown by (plus the weather is gorgeous and I’ve been spending time outside!) but I still plan to have it done by the weekend. 12-15,000 words left. We will see! Wish me luck. 🙂

thank you for your patince

 

All of Nothing is Getting a Makeover!

Anyone who has read my blog on a fairly consistent basis knows my motto, if I had one, would probably be “Onward and Upward” or “Never Look Back” or something along those lines. I’m not a fan of going back, especially if you’re fixing shoddy work to begin with. Do it right the first time or don’t publish until it’s ready.

rebranding all of nothing blog post

But with writing and publishing, there’s always going to be something bigger, something better, news, tools, software, maybe even someone you meet, something you learn, that can help you do something in a better way, or in a more efficient manner. And you’ll want to go back and fix something.

And that isn’t a bad thing. We always want to keep learning, keep moving forward, keep honing our skills.

That’s why I decided to go back and fix All of Nothing. Not edit it or rewrite/revise it.  No, I think the insides are very strong, and I’m really proud of that book. I mean, the blurb, the cover, and looking up new keywords for the metadata for Amazon and ad targeting.

  1. Cover. I was super happy with the cover when I made it back in October of 2018, and I received good feedback, too, albeit from other author friends, not readers. Since then my skills have developed more, I know better places to find stock photos, I know to look at other covers in my genre so I know what is hot right now since trends change. This is why I redid the covers for my trilogy. They didn’t depict what genre it was (some were calling it “sweet” romance when it’s steamy), I didn’t research what was selling in Contemporary Romance for indie authors, and over all they looked homemade. This is All of Nothing‘s problem, too, and I need to rectify those issues so the book fits in and it entices readers to want to buy it or borrow it in KU when I enroll it next month.
    This is the worst thing I have to do with the revamping of the book. Not only do I have to replace it on KDP and order the proof, I have to replace it on IngramSpark, too. Either I need to join the Independent Book Publishers Association, or pay the fees. I’d rather join the IBPA because free file uploading at Ingram is covered in their yearly fees. That works for me since The Years Between Us is still not being offered there. Sigh.
  2. Blurb.  No one can write good blurbs.  No one except the staff at Best Page Forward, Bryan Cohen’s blurb writing business.  I offered All of Nothing‘s blurb for critique when their podcast started up, and naturally, the hosts shredded it. I didn’t know it was that bad. If you want to listen to the Best Page Forward’s critique of All of Nothing‘s blurb, click here. I recommend the podcast, but unfortunately, I can’t afford Bryan’s prices for a blurb. One of the FB groups I’m in offers blurb critique so I’m going to rework the blurb and see if I can’t find something that better explains what the book is about. I’ve been reading a lot of copyrighting books lately, so hopefully I can come up with something better suited with a little help from the critique group.
  3. Keywords. I’m going to be delving into this a little more. I came upon a new sub-genre called bully romance that I think Jax falls into quite well. Feedback indicates

    he’s not likable until the last part of the book (read, the ending) and if I can prepare readers for how harsh he is to Raven, that can only be a plus for me. This will help me target readers if I decide to do any ads. But for now I’ll focus on new keywords and phrases for the seven spaces KDP gives you when you publish. It’s a great idea to keep those keywords fresh. I bought Publisher Rocket, so I’ll be using that to help me, though I’m going to have to take some time to learn how to use it.

That’s what I’m going to be doing with this book. Covers take a lot of time, and I’ve already started playing with various ideas. I’ll blog about those next week.

Do you have a book that would benefit from any or all of the above? How are you going to go about it? Got a plan? A list? Let me know!


 

thank you for your patince

Differences Between Your Kindle Books and Your Paperbacks, and What the Heck is Kindle Unlimited?

There have been a few questions from people I’ve spoken with lately about the difference between ebooks and paperbacks with regards to Amazon and their Kindle Select Program.

Amazon is the number one ebook seller in the United States. Everybody who has published books will sell their book on Amazon, and they offer some benefits for authors who publish exclusively with them.

Let’s go back to basics first.

What is Kindle Direct Publishing?

KDP is the publishing arm of Amazon. This is confusing because Kindle Direct Publishing supports more than just the Kindle version of your book now. Since CreateSpace, the old platform for paperback creation, closed, KDP is where you publish both Kindle and paperback version of your book. Some refer to this part of KDP as KDP Print.

What is CreateSpace?

CreateSpace used to be the self-publishing arm of Amazon for paperback books. If an author used the free CreateSpace ISBN their book would be listed as published by CreateSpace in the product information of the book. Using CreateSpace is no longer an option.

createspace product info

What is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is a reader subscription service Amazon offers readers. Readers pay $9.99 a month to read as many books as they like. They are able to borrow ten books at a time. Readers can use a Kindle e-reader like a PaperWhite, a tablet like a Kindle Fire, or the Kindle App on their smartphone or iPad. If you like reading on a device and read several books a month, this is a good deal. Independent and traditionally published books are available.

What is Kindle Select?

Kindle Select is a program Amazon offers authors if they want their books available in Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon will let readers know if a book is available in Kindle Unlimited. I suppose it’s not a surprise that the top ten books in Contemporary Romance are in KU. (But let’s not get me started on that again.)

top ten contemporary romances on amazon

When you enroll your book in Kindle Select, you are giving Amazon exclusivity of your titles that you enroll.

What does that mean?

It means your ebooks cannot be available anywhere else. Once your book is available through Kindle Unlimited, your ebook cannot be sold on other platforms like Apple Books, Kobo, or Nook. You cannot sell your ebooks on your website. You cannot blog huge portions of your book to build buzz. You cannot list your book on review services like Booksprout or Netgalley. You cannot give away your book on places like Bookfunnel as a reader magnet for a newsletter sign up.  You cannot give your book away on Instafreebie.

If you want to give away a large amount of copies or list your book on a review site, you need to do that before you enroll your book. So be sure you know what kind of marketing plan you want for your books and how you want to find reviews before you enroll.

But you can take your books out of Select, so don’t think you messed up on any promotional opportunities if you click enroll and want to change your mind. Select enrollment lasts in 90 day increments. Just remember to uncheck the enrollment box or KDP will automatically enroll you for another 90 day period when it runs out. If you really want out before your time is up, you can email them through your Author Central account, and they will take out your books. I asked them to do that for my trilogy, and they did the next day without any problems. I was polite, and so were they. Probably the reps answering your email don’t give a crap what you do–they just wanna go home like everyone else who’s at work.

There is some confusion now about your paperbacks because it used to be paperbacks were separated from your KDP account. Amazon doesn’t care what you do with your paperbacks. You can sell them at book conventions and farmers markets, sell signed copies from your website. You can publish them through IngramSpark to take advantage of expanded distribution. You don’t even have to offer a paperback. Amazon doesn’t care.

How do you get paid if your book is available in Kindle Unlimited?

Authors don’t get paid the same way as if someone buys a copy of your ebook. If your book is in KU, you get paid by the page read, and your page read royalties come out of the Global Fund. This is the banner at the bottom of the Kindle Select information page.

global fund banner

The page read rate can and will fluctuate, but the average is about .0045 cents per page. (If you ever want to know just do a Google search of Kindle Unlimited KENP rate plus the month and and year. For May of 2019 it’s .0046.) You need to do a little math if you want to know how much you make with page reads. You can see on your dashboard how many page reads you get per day/month/year.

For example, if you have 417 page reads like I did in this graph (someone was reading All of Nothing after I pulled it out of KU because they still had in their library) you multiply 417 by .0045 and you get 1.87.  So I made $1.87 for those page reads. page reads ku and koll

There’s a way to calculate how many actual book pages will equal KU page reads, but I can’t find it. Maybe someone reading this blog can post the formula in the comments. Because KU page reads aren’t the same as the actual book pages. There’s also ways to figure out how many page reads will equal one person reading your book all the way through, etc, etc, and if you want to know more and geek out on that data, you’ll have to do a little Googling to see what you can find. Because even thinking about it makes me wanna drink, and knowing how much I’m making is good enough for me.

If you write in a series and want to extrapolate read through and sales, there are ways to do this too, and Michael Cooper explains how to do it in Help! My Facebook Ads Suck!

It makes sense longer books do better (hence the popularity of bookstuffers)–the more pages read, the more you get paid.

But it’s also essential you write a good book–so readers read to the end and you are paid for the entire book. You are not going to make much in KU if your first couple of pages are boring. No matter how many people borrow your book, if they can’t get past the first couple pages, that means no page read royalties for you. That also means you want a good strong first book in a series, otherwise you’ll have no read-through and all the other books in that series will have been written for nothing.

Are there any perks for authors who enroll in KU?

There are perks, and I miss having my free days. I never did do a Kindle Countdown Deal, but those are two great ways to market your books when they are in KU. Every time I used a free day for one of my books, my KU reads always increased because of the exposure.

Anyway, that’s how Kindle Unlimited works for authors. If you read my post about Jami Albright, you can see there is potential to make a lot of money this way. It will always be up to you how you want to run your business. Many authors like Jami have no qualms about going all in with KU and reaping the rewards.  Here’s an article by Hugh Howey who did the same.

If you have a larger backlist, you can even have some books in KU and some out. I may put my Wedding Quartet into KU for the first three to six months to see how that works. I have heard of a few authors who will use KU as part of their launch strategy, and then when the page reads decrease pull their books out and offer them wide.

If you feel overwhelmed with the choices, it never hurts to just stay with Amazon. After all, it’s been proven time and again that you can make good money in KU, and I still struggle with going wide. (Which I have blathered on about enough.) Enroll in KU, enjoy the pages read. Get used to that platform before expanding your business.

As for paperbacks, I publish with KDP Print and let them fulfill to Amazon. Then I publish to IngramSpark and use their expanded distribution. I don’t mind warning you that messing with Ingram takes a little know-how, and you have to buy your own ISBN numbers to publish with them. If you don’t want to fork out for ISBN numbers (in the States) then going with KDP Print will be all that you will want to do anyway. There are days I wish I never would have started publishing with Ingram, and The Years Between Us is still not available there. Which is something I need to fix soon because I didn’t check the expanded distribution box when I published on KDP. You can read about my IngramSpark adventures here.

Indies have a lot of choices and sometimes it’s just nice to stick with one thing that you know so you won’t feel like your books are scattered all over the place like seeds on a dried out dandelion.

I hope this information was helpful to you! If you have any questions, KDP’s customer service is very nice and they are quick to help. You can also shoot me a question, either here in the comments, or my DMs are open on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Until next time!


My books are wide! Look for them at your favorite digital retailer!

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

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

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

Author Interview: Debut Author Dave S. Koster

dave koster author picture

Author Dave S. Koster

Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog to celebrate his new release! Enjoy the interview and we hope you learn something from his rocky path to publication. Because, you know, nothing can go smoothly.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A) How did you come to that decision?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any plans to market?

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

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

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


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

wind bottles and broomsticks book cover

Thanks for reading!


 

Mistakes I See New Authors Making

Indie books versus traditionally published books

I’ve been reading a little indie lately. I hate splitting up the two — indie vs. traditionally published. Books should be books no matter who has written them or how they were published and printed.

But I have been reading some books I’ve found on Writer Twitter and in some author Facebook groups.

Even though we shouldn’t separate books by who has written them or how they’ve been published, there is still a little issue of what does make them different.

Quality.

Indies say taste is subjective and that quality means different things to different people. I certainly say this when it comes to my own writing. But I’m not blind to the issues my books have–especially Don’t Run Away, my first “real” book I count toward my backlist. I’ve gotten good reviews and bad reviews. The bad reviews have a point. I didn’t know as much about plot as I do now. I didn’t have as much practice in character arc as I do now.

Indie books versus traditionally published books (1)

And that’s too bad because it’s the start of a trilogy, and I’ve said this before. If you don’t have a strong start to a series, no one will read the others because your readers will assume the other books are more of the same.

But I also have positive reviews suggesting the book isn’t a total train wreck and investing a little money in promos and a little time redoing the covers hopefully won’t be a total waste down the road.

I went into this blog post with the information about my own book to let you know I understand. I understand the mistakes new authors make because I have made them myself.

The problem is, we have to move beyond those mistakes if we hope to attract readers. With six books in my backlist, I’m hoping this is something I can start doing. And soon. Attracting readers that is.

What have I noticed in the indie books I’ve been reading? Here’s a short but important list:

Telling, not showing. I’ve seen this in 99% of the indies I’ve read. In fact, I’ve read it so much I’m willing to go out on a limb and say this is probably the biggest thing that sets indies apart from traditionally published authors. No matter how bad you (or I) think a traditionally published book is, it will never be bad because the culprit is telling.

Indie books versus traditionally published books (2)

Telling is 100% an indie problem because a book full of telling will never make it past an agent or an editor at a publishing house.

The book I just ordered has a letter to the reader in the front matter, and she even states she enjoyed being the narrator of her characters’ story. And her book reads exactly like that. Two hundred and fifty pages of her telling us what her characters are doing and feeling.

No thanks.

I’ve worked with some writers in an editing capacity and unfortunately telling is probably the hardest part of writing to stop doing. There are whole books written on showing vs. telling, and I have no interest in writing one. The best way you can stop telling is write a lot, find your voice, listen to feedback, know your telling words, and write more.

  1. Write a lot. Find your voice. James Scott Bell has a lovely book about finding your voice. He explains it so well it will turn your writing around. It really will.
  2. Know who your characters are. Who are they as people? Their likes, dislikes. How they react to certain situations. What are their tragic backstories? Characters are people, not puppets. Part of finding your voice is knowing how your characters sound when they think and talk and being able to translate that onto paper.
  3. Know your telling words. Think, thought, feel, felt, see, saw, know, knew, heard, could hear. Felt is horrible. Search for it. In lots of instances just deleting those words will take the telling away.
    She realized he was lying to her.
    He was lying to her. All this time she’d believed whatever he told her. Now she was paying the price.

    We’re already in her point of view. You don’t need to tell your reader she realized he was lying. Just say he was lying to her. We understand she realized it because we’re in her head and she thought it. When you use these words you slip out of your character’s POV.

  4. If you’re still having a problem, work with an editor or a beta reader. Lots of writers can’t see it in their own work, but they can see telling in other writer’s work. Choose betas and editors who won’t lie to you. The book full of telling I’m reading now? It has 17 4-5 star reviews. That means 17 people lied to her.

Speech tags. I made it to Chapter 4 of a different book. It popped up in my Twitter feed so often I decided to give it a chance. I ordered the paperback, and wow. By Chapter 4, I counted more than 35 speech tags. I couldn’t read any more. I think we’re all victims of speech tags at some point in our careers. I know I was when I wrote Summer Secrets. My editor helped me with a few–but she should have been much, much harder on me. Since I’ve written more and honed my dialogue skills, I rarely use speech tags anymore. If you find you use speech tags, work on stronger actions and better dialogue to evoke emotion. Don’t depend on speech tags for clarity.

Here’s a before and after. Tell me which kind of dialogue you’d like to read for an entire book:

“I did. Just not the way he thought. A couple of goons caught me outside the hospital—” Callie bit off.

“The hospital. Jesus Christ,” Brandon snapped. “Do I have to check myself out and drive up there?”

“No! Just listen to me,” Callie yelped, pulling over in the middle of a residential section. She should’ve driven with Mitch. She had no idea where the police department was and couldn’t use her phone’s GPS while she was talking on it.

“I defended Mitch on the ice a couple days ago,” she stated, “and I dumped one guy on his ass. Tonight he and two of his friends caught me outside the hospital. Mitch happened to be right behind me and stopped them before they could do anything. I’m on the way to the station to give my statement,” she explained.

“Are you hurt?” he asked urgently. “You beating up guys? Callie, you’re supposed to be having tea parties and watching strippers. What the fuck?” he growled.

There are seven speech tags in this little section. They don’t sound terrible, in fact, upon reading this, you might think they actually lend something to the scene. But this is just one small section of a book. When you have a book that’s heavy on dialogue like my books are, reading all those dialogue tags can be tiring.

Look at that section again. These two characters are talking on the phone having a heated discussion. How did the writer make the dialogue sound? Do they sound like real people? A brother and sister who care about each other? Do you need the tags? Most sections of dialogue don’t need tags if you write the characters well enough the readers don’t need to be told who is speaking. Read the same section without tags. Does what they are saying draw you closer in because there’s nothing taking you out of the moment?

“I did. Just not the way he thought. A couple of goons caught me outside the hospital—”

“The hospital. Jesus Christ. Do I have to check myself out and drive up there?”

“No! Just listen to me.” Callie pulled over in the middle of a residential second. She should have driven with Mitch. She had no idea where the police department was and couldn’t use her phone’s GPS while she was talking on it.

“I defended Mitch on the ice a couple days ago, and I dumped one guy on his ass. Tonight he and two of his friends caught me outside the hospital. Mitch happened to be right behind me and stopped them before they could do anything. I’m on the way to the station to give my statement.”

“Are you hurt? You beating up guys? Callie, you’re supposed to be having tea parties and watching strippers. What the fuck?”

Sound better? If not, that’s cool.

Exercise: Take a book you particularly enjoyed. Find a dialogue section (the longer the better) and count how many tags the author used. You might be surprised.

Nothing is happening, or the author tries to make a big deal out of nothing. I did this with Don’t Run Away, much to my sincere regret. I made Dane make a big deal about being married before and how nasty his divorce had been. And now I look back and think, who cares? Everyone goes through a divorce (or it seems like it, anyway), and yes, those divorces can be nasty. Especially when kids are involved. I understand small things can be a big deal, but they should still be only a small piece of the whole puzzle. And readers have called me out on it, calling Dane a weak character for not being able to move past his divorce. That’s what the book was about, but I still should have made him more ready to be in a relationship than I did. Or made Nikki smarter so she steered clear of him.

In the book where I only reached Chapter 4, all the characters had done up until that point was sit around and talk. And not about anything particularly interesting. Ask for feedback from someone who won’t lie to you. If the beginning of your book is boring, if there’s nothing happening, no one is going to get to the part where it finally does.

If you have a too slow of a start, people will bail before they get to the good stuff. If you want help with your first pages, read Your First Page by Peter Selgin. He walks you through what will make your first pages pop!

Bad formatting. I buy paperbacks because when it’s slow at work, I can read. We’re not allowed tablets, but I prefer paperbacks anyway. That being said, a lot of paperbacks I see are a mess inside, and all I can think is I hope to God they never host a book signing or do a giveaway on Goodreads. Maybe authors don’t put much time into their formatting because they don’t think they’ll sell many books. But the problem is, you will sell some at a convention, or you’ll want them for giveaways, or you may want to stock them at your indie bookstore. If the manager of that bookstore flipped open a poorly formatted book, he’d probably tell you to fix it first. Draft2Digital has a free paperback formatting tool. Or give someone a $25 gift card to Amazon and ask they do it on their Vellum software.

It’s a sad fact that you could have the most entertaining story in the whole world but no one will want to read it if your book doesn’t look like a book inside. I struggled with this too, when I published 1700. I cried, literally, until someone reminded me about the KDP Print template. Back then it was CreateSpace, but they do offer a free interior template. There weren’t the easy and free tools available there are today. (It’s crazy how the industry has changed, even in three years.) Even if you don’t know how, there is no reason why your book should look like a mess. And if you really can’t find the means to format a paperback book, you’d be one step ahead not offering one at all.


These are only four things I’ve found in the latest indie books I did not finish (or DNF in shorthand), but they are doozies and enough to turn away any reader. In the case of the woman whose book is all telling–she’s putting herself in a tough spot. She wants to write a series, but she’s waiting to see if her first book takes off before working on a second. Her book will never take off, but not for the reasons she thinks. It’s too bad.

Reading indie is a valuable experience. I love to support my friends, and of course, there are some fabulous writers out there making a living off their books.

The issues I’ve outlined can be fixed over time by studying craft and writing a lot. It’s not a coincidence that a lot of indie books I find fault with are an author’s first book.

We all mess up our first book. Unfortunately it’s a really important book. You can’t build on a crumbling foundation.

What are some things that you’ve noticed in indie books? Anything that has turned you off?

Let me know!

Thanks for reading!


My books are available everywhere! Check them out!

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

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

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

all graphics made in canva. all photos taken from canva except for the horse meme that i don’t feel guilty grabbing online because it’s everywhere.

Tower City Romance Trilogy Cover Remake

I’ve always said never to look back, always move forward, but in this business, sometimes it’s not always feasible to keep your eyes straight ahead. As authors, we have a back list (or hope to write one) and as much as I hate to admit it, or put time into it, we do have to do a little maintenance from time to time.

My maintenance included redoing the covers for my trilogy. I needed to redo them for a couple of reasons.

  1. People were mis-categorizing them. Because the couples had all their clothes on, people were thinking the books were sweet romance. When I did my Freebooksy for Don’t Run Away, they even went so far as to email me and ask if I had selected the wrong category when I paid for my promo. Don’t Run Away‘s one star review on Amazon made it clear the woman was appalled at the swearing and the sexiness on the first page. At first I blamed her, but she judged my book by its cover and thought it would be a sweet romance. So, okay. I finally took responsibility for it and now my covers (hopefully) reflect a little more of what is inside the book covers . . . and bed covers!
  2. Kobo turned down a promo ask. I know this might not have anything to do with the cover of Don’t Run Away. I mean, it was my first ask, and Mark, in Killing It on Kobo, stresses the need to ask and ask and ask. And only when you get tired of asking maybe then reach out to the Kobo Writing Life team and say, hey, what’s up? Why am I never approved for a promotion? As I’ve said before, real people are behind Kobo Writing Life. A real person looks at the books submitted for promo, and a real person chooses what she thinks will fit inside the promo. I asked to be in a Free Contemporary Romance promo, and maybe my cover didn’t fit what she was looking for.
  3. But this will help with other areas of marketing, too. It’s not just at Kobo that I will see some benefit from changing my covers. I may snag more eyes on Amazon and the other marketplaces as well. I’ve killed all my Amazon ads right now, but it will be an interesting experiment to start them up again (if I do) with the new covers.
  4. My skills are better. I’ve said a million times it’s easy to slap text onto a cover using Canva.com and publish your book. That’s what I did with the trilogy. Found photos that kind of worked and found some font, and did the best I could. But since I made the covers two and a half years ago, I’ve learned GIMP better. I hadn’t heard about Canva. I did my original covers in Word, if you can believe it. So even just  learning about Canva’s existence helped tremendously. I pay for the Pro access, just because I love using it so much, and I figured it’s the least I can do for their team.
  5. I found other places to buy pictures. Lurking on Facebook groups aimed at helping indie authors helped me find other places for book cover photos. Using depositphotos.com helped me find the couples I ended up using for the trilogy, where before the only site I knew was safe was canstockphoto.com. Only the one for Don’t Run Away sticks out a little as it has a darker background and not a white one. While I could have snipped the couple out and pasted them onto a white background (because, yay, I have the skills to do that now), I didn’t think about it that much, and I don’t regret not doing it. The new covers are still 100 times better than what they were. So you lose a couple battles to win the war, and just be happy you won at all.
  6. I learned to experiment with font. Back then, Word didn’t have much choice, and font is like the photos–not everything is safe to use.
  7. I learned to really take a look at what is popular in my genre. Before I was publishing on a regular basis, and before I understood what indie publishing romance meant, I thought a cover was a cover, and that was it. But now I know that publishing romance is a whole different ballgame. Speaking of ballgame, want a series about baseball romance? Got it. Motorcycle club romance? Check. Billionaires? Check. Firefighters. Navy SEALS. And those are just the mainstream subgenres. Then we get into, um, dinosaur romance, Bigfoot romance, I’m-Going-To-Chain-You-Up-And-Make-You-My-Sex-Slave romance, reverse harem romance, and everything in between. So you better believe that your cover should at least *hint* at the sub-genre your book is in. And my fully-clothed happy couples didn’t depict any sexy-times. I don’t write sub-genre, though, so choosing couples that didn’t skew toward a certain sub-genre was tough. Too sexy and they’d look like erotica. If the men were too rough, the books would look like bad-boy romance, or alpha-romance. Study your book’s genre and make sure that your cover fits what is popular in your genre. Wolves on the cover equals shifter romance, and don’t forget it! 😛

    A friend pointed out that my trilogy was about running, and it is. But running isn’t sexy, and the photos of couples I found running were even less sexy, and not cover-worthy by a long shot.

    Here are a few covers from the top 50 contemporary romance right now. Guess what sub-genre they’re in.

    Lots of skin, some tats. A couple menages, if you look at the top 100 full list. Tell Me to Stay by Willow Winters seems to be the couple with the most fully-clothed. And even they are in a provocative pose. I did some homework for my covers and I’m happy with what I came up with.


I’m hoping I don’t have to go back and redo those for a long time. If ever. I redid the paperbacks for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. And in turn, I needed to update the insides. Replacing all those files is a lot of fun, said no one ever.

On the bright side, I’m getting better at handling IngramSpark, and yes, I did the full covers in Canva for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. Thanks, Canva!

Here are my old covers:

One thing you can probably notice is Nikki and Dane are a bit back. Then Alyssa and Brett are a little closer, and then Marta and Ian are in your face. LOL  When you’re doing a series and you don’t have much skill, it’s extremely difficult to make your covers look like they belong together. It’s why I wanted to hire out this time around. It would have made things so much easier if I could have just shoved this onto someone else.

While I was looking at the top 100 in contemporary romance, I began to notice a trend and I started playing with photos and text. Keeping in mind that every second I was “playing around” I wasn’t writing my current series. Blah! But I came up with some mock-ups of how I wanted the trilogy to kind of look:

These were just concept, and I didn’t notice right away that it looked like the same guy. Not a terrible thing if the trilogy was about so gigolo or something. Also, the backgrounds are a little cluttered with items like the faucet and sink, and items like that don’t make the covers look clean. I really like the couple I found for Chasing You, but in the end I didn’t use them either. You can see what I was trying to get at, anyway, and this first attempt brought me a little closer to what I was looking for. And they are far from what I had originally.

This is what I ended up with:

They look like they belong together. The men are shirtless, and the women all have long-sleeved white shirts on. That was very lucky for me. They give off a sexier vibe, and the font fits in. Do they look 100% like what is on the Amazon top 100? No. But they don’t look as if they belong on the Amazon Top 100 of Sweet and Clean Contemporary, either. I paid for the photos from depositphotos.com and I was lucky enough to find the sexy font free for commercial use. I never realized before how brunet men with scruff could look the same, but I’m hoping people can tell they are a different guy (at least, I hope he is!). Doing these has really made me wonder what I’m going to do with the four-book series I’m writing right now. It’s enough to give me hives, that’s for sure!


I guess what you really want to know is if I’m making any sales off the new covers. The answer to that would be no. Not any measurable improvement. Don’t Run Away is permafree on all platforms, and I consistently give away 1-4 copies every day on Amazon, and a handful here and there on ibooks, Nook, and Kobo. So far that hasn’t led to actual sales for the other two books in the trilogy on Amazon, or for the others in my backlist for that matter, but the first book isn’t as strongly written as the other two, so that’s to be expected, I guess.

I’ll throw some money at them and see what happens.

At some point, I’ll be redoing the cover for All of Nothing, too. Though I have gotten GREAT feedback, it doesn’t fit in with what’s hot right now, and that’s the name of the game. Fitting in while standing out!

Tell me what you think!

If you want to try Don’t Run Away, it’s free on all platforms, and you can find it by clicking this link. It will redirect you to any platform where you buy ebooks.

Thanks for reading!

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!