KU vs. Wide (Can you have your cake and eat it too?)

The answer is no.

I’ve ran into a couple of people on Twitter and in some Facebook author groups who are trying to use both KU and wide tactics, at the same time, to bring in readers. I love reading threads like this, not only because I’m curious what people are thinking and how they’re running their businesses, but sometimes I’ll chime in and try to help someone who seems to be genuinely floundering. I had a back and forth with this guy, and it made me think–can we play the Amazon KU vs. Wide game successfully, and if we can’t, who loses? The question the original tweeter asked is, Do you have your books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Splitting up your books is never going to work well because you’re going to alienate one set of readers somehow. Enrolling book one of a series in KU and publishing the rest of the books in that same series wide is a terrible idea, but they think:

a) the KU readers will buy the rest of the books in the series and
b) the wide readers will buy all the books anyway

Not only is this just plain old being a jerk and trying to game the system, but:

1) KU readers don’t buy. They already pay for a KU subscription–which is the whole point of paying the subscription fee, and
2) Not everyone reads on a Kindle or uses the Kindle app, which is the whole point of going wide, right? To reach the readers who read on a Nook or uses the Apple Books app. Or likes Kobo.

I wondered why these authors didn’t want to mark their first book at .99 or even free and ask Amazon to price match, but then I realized it’s because they would make more money on page reads (a 250 paged book brings in about $1.10 if a reader reads the whole thing) and more than what Amazon pays out for a .99 cent book. (KDP pays only a 35% royalty on a book priced that low.)

So they really are trying to game the system. The only thing is, it’s the readers they are trying to bring into their fanbase that are hurt. If you want to appeal to readers, you have to think like them. I have a KU subscription, and just the other day, I saw a Facebook ad from a wide author I was curious about who was giving away a first-in-series. I downloaded it and read it, and had I wanted to continue the series, I could have bought the others, but I didn’t. The book didn’t grab me enough that I wanted to continue. That’s another thing these authors don’t think about trying to game the system–your writing has to be TOP NOTCH to make a reader shell out money to keep reading. I mean, that’s a no-brainer anyway, but had her series been in KU, I would have read the next one even though the first book didn’t engage me all that much. But to buy them, there are three more in the series, each priced at $4.99, that would have been a costly stretch for me. Fifteen dollars to finish a series where the first book didn’t grab me… ah call me cheap like the guy in the tweet, but that’s just way too much. (And if I were to pay that for a book–I would go to Barnes and Noble and buy a beautiful hardcover by an author I know I’ll enjoy.)

You might be wondering where I’m going with this, and it’s this: I’m obviously not her reader. With her books having 1,500 reviews a piece, she knows who her readers are, and they are willing to pay for each book. True, giving away a free book can definitely bring in new readers, but you are taking the chance and if you don’t hit the mark, you’ll lose those new readers just as quickly as you brought them in.

When it comes to building a fanbase, you are much better off focusing your energy on doing things the right way than spending all your time scheming the best way to “pull one over on Amazon.” This could stem from a hatred of Amazon–no one likes having to be exclusive to gain the rewards of participating in KU. But while you think you’re being smart, what you’re doing is hurting readers who want to read your books. KU readers aren’t cheap–they just aren’t your readers.

What can you do if you’re wide? How can you reach the maximum number of readers? Well, if you’re going on the assumption that readers are, indeed, cheap, and don’t want to pay for books, yet you want those vile creatures as your readers (I’m kidding, kind of), Kobo does have a subscription service similar to KU, but your books do not have to be exclusive. The only problem with enrolling your books into that program is that to have access to it, you have to publish directly with Kobo, not let a distributor like Draft2Digital or Smashwords publish on your behalf. Kobo Plus is similar to KU in that readers pay $9.99 for access to a library of books and Kobo pays the author based time and pages read. (You can look at the full article about royalties here.) So while you may not like the idea of losing out on KU readers, nurture Kobo readers, enroll your book into Kobo Plus and use your marketing tactics to tell people that your book is enrolled there. Readers don’t need a Kobo device to read Kobo books, either. The Kobo app is free to download and will turn any tablet or phone into a reading device. (Although, if you like to read in the tub like I do, some Kobo Readers are waterproof, and you can find the list here.)

Instead of complaining because you think the grass is greener on the other side, pick a side and water that patch. It’s easy to let your Kobo readers know your books are available in the Kobo Plus library. For all the time I spend on Twitter, never ever have I seen a tweeted ad like this:

It took me longer to decide on the Kobo logo to use than it did to put that together. (I already had the fake cover mockup made–I’m assuming if you promote your books you’ll already have a few graphics made, too.)

I mean, I guess there’s no help for the people who think it’s funny to try to pull the wool over Amazon’s eyes enrolling their books in Kindle Select while their books are published on other platforms:

Truly lovely human being, there. (And I would love it if Amazon reached out to that author and asked to be reimbursed for all the KU royalties he earned while breaking their exclusivity policy.)

This Twitter thread showed the true colors of some indie authors, and I didn’t like what I saw. Most blamed Amazon for having to stoop to their underhanded ways or crappy attitudes, but, no one, not one person, ever said you have to sell on Amazon, exclusive or not. And then we wonder why indies have such a bad reputation as authors, business owners, and publishers. You know, I feel sorry for people who have to deal with us. I really do.

There are a ton of wide resources out there, and I’ve blogged about them before. Don’t like KU, don’t be in it. Want the page reads, enroll in it, and suck it up you can’t be anywhere else. Plenty of authors make a good living off of KU, and plenty of authors make a good living wide. I can list a number of things that enable them to do it, and if you can’t, it would help your business to figure it out. (I’m not making money yet because I’ve spent the past four years learning what’s on that list. I can only hope making changes to the way I run my own business will help.)

Stop trying to have your cake and eat it too. All it will do is give you a stomachache.

Good luck!

Resources:

Wide

Killing It on Kobo by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Wide for the Win by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Wide for the Win Facebook Group

Amazon

Amazon Ads Unleashed: Advanced Publishing and Marketing Strategies for Indie Authors by Robert J Ryan

Amazon Ads for Authors: Tips and Strategies to Sell Your Books by Deb Potter

Amazon Ads FREE course by Dave Chesson

And if you just want to get back to basics and start over, David Gaughran put together a free course on starting from day one:

David Gaughran, Starting from Zero

The 80/20 rule and how you can apply it to your writing and marketing (The Pareto Principle)

The 80/20 rule is pretty simple. You want 20% of your effort to bring in 80% of your results. If you did 80% of work for only a 20% ROI, you’d get burnt out pretty fast. So what does this rule really mean? When it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, you have to figure out what will require the least amount of effort that will give you the most return. That can be different for everyone. Here are some tips to getting ahead with 20% of effort because no one has time to work for nothing.

  1. What are you writing? Bryan Cohen came up with an excellent analogy during the last webinar I listened to. He said, if you’re not selling books, take a look at what you’re writing. Is there a demand for it? He used underwater basket weaving memoirs as an example. If you’re writing a series about your experiences with underwater basket weaving but no one is into that, writing book after book isn’t going to help you find readers or increase sales. You’re just adding supply where there is no demand. You’re wasting a lot of effort for little return and eventually you’ll get burnt out and possibly give up. What can you do to fix that? Think about what you want to write. That is always important because you need to like what you’re writing. There are other genres I’m sure you like to write besides underwater basket weaving. If you can find what you enjoy writing and match that up with a genre that’s selling, you’ll be a lot closer to that 20% of effort because you won’t be spending so much time writing something that won’t sell.
  2. Find an ad platform that works for you. Beating your head against a wall trying to figure out Facebook ads and how to use them without going broke might be a huge waste of your time if Amazon’s auto placement ads bring in steady sales with a low cost-per-click. On the other hand, maybe your ads aren’t working at all because your cover isn’t on target for your genre and you’re getting plenty of impressions but no clicks. You’re wasting 80% of your effort trying to make ads work, and when you only gain maybe 20% in return, you’re either losing money on clicks that don’t generate sales or you’re wasting time fiddling with click cost, daily budget, and ad copy, which can be just as valuable, or even more so, if your life is packed and you have a limited amount of time in which to write. Amazon ads work well if your categories are set correctly, the keywords you chose when you published are accurate and relevant, and you have a good cover/title/blurb. Contrary to popular belief, if you show Amazon evidence you have a good book, they will help you promote it by showing your ad. Facebook ads work well if you can zero in on your target audience and can create a good ad–stock photo, headline, maybe an excerpt from your book. How you go about learning those platforms is up to you, as we all learn differently and click with different people teaching those classes.
  3. Choose your social media platforms wisely. If you’re on Twitter 80% of your “free” time and your engagement isn’t encouraging sales, maybe it’s time to rethink where you spend your time. It’s different if you’re on for social hour to relax or blow off steam, or if you’re wanting to make connections and network, or join in a chat, but tweeting promos all the time with no engagement (on your followers part) and no sales seems like a gigantic waste of time to me. You’d be better off creating a Facebook Author/Reader group and posting engaging content on there, or blogging about genre-specific topics to encourage your readers to buy your books. You could also start a newsletter and write a reader magnet, or if your reader magnet is old, create fresh content to spice things up. Whatever you do, if you’re not seeing a return for the investment of your time, it’s time to try something else.
  4. Make a list of what’s working… or not. If you’re like me, you haven’t been in the game long enough to know what works, or at it long enough to know what doesn’t. I’m not making much money. The five years I’ve been writing and publishing have been true lessons of what not to do. How can we make a list of the things that work if we don’t know them? Look to the pros. Everyone says newsletters are the key to a good launch and steady sales. I don’t have evidence to the contrary, so I started one. Writing without a niche didn’t give me very far, so I’m drilling down. Not networking in my genre has left me feeling lonely and I don’t have any opportunities for collaboration or newsletter swaps, so I’m joining in more. Those are all big mistakes, but if I correct those and experiment to see if those are things that will work for me, I can add them to the list.

Chances are, if you’re a writer, you can never go wrong with spending the most time writing your books. Building a back list can increase your overall sales, and consistently adding books to your front list will keep the algorithms at Amazon happy.

Ultimately, you want to work less but while doing so, achieve more. This is especially important if you’re like me and writing isn’t your day job. I have a lot of places for my time and attention to go, and doing things that won’t move my business forward will only be a waste of time in the end.

What are your 20% activities? What are some that are considered part of your 80% but still enjoy doing? Let me know!

Thoughts on video and why it’s not my go-to marketing tool.

So, funny thing. I thought I already published this! Then I saw it in my drafts, and I must have forgotten I didn’t schedule it. Since I have more time sensitive material for a different post, this is going out three weeks later than I initially thought, and I’m sorry for the Monday I missed when I thought this went out!


There’s a lot of talk about video for book marketing these days, and if you’ve heard conversations about TikTok and the news that Instagram is going to be more video-focused to compete with the newish platform, then you’ve maybe thought that you should give it a go, too.

I haven’t jumped on the TikTok bandwagon for a variety of reasons, and not just because I don’t particularly care to be in front of a camera. I’m 46 years old and it took me 46 years just to be reasonably comfortable being filmed and having my picture taken. A lot of it comes down to not having any f*cks to give, and what completes that pie is knowing that I look better than I have most of my life because I’m happy with where I’m at and don’t care what other people have to say about me.

On the other hand, I know I could lose weight, my old, crying cat keeps me up at night and if I don’t want to look like a zombie, I need a full face of makeup, and my hair is a limp mess if I don’t do anything with it. That sounds like a lot of work for a sixty-second video, and while people say you don’t have to look your best when you’re in front of the camera, I wouldn’t NOT want to look my best–especially if I’m talking about my books or promoting someone else’s.

And then we get into voice modulation (who wants to sound like a cow, dying or otherwise?), the background (my space is extremely small without a bare wall to be had anywhere), and background noise (see cat above).

It all seems to take too much time away from writing. I have very little patience with that at is it. I’m doing the cover for my first billionaire standalone and waiting for cover critique and blurb feedback makes me restless. I haven’t written new material in weeks (that makes me twitchy), but I just can’t with the amount of books I have on my computer right now. I have to start putting out material or I’m going to be so overwhelmed with the work it will take to put them out I’ll suffer from analysis paralysis and won’t do anything.

You can’t get away from video talk, and I’ve listened to some useful rooms in Clubhouse about TikTok and using video to stay in the algorithm’s good graces on other platforms. Whether or not I’ll try video remains to be seen. It’s not only putting my pretty big nose face in front of a camera, it’s also learning the platform you’re going to post on, and if need be, learning editing software (internal or external) to make your videos look like you know what you’re doing.

I’m not on TikTok, and I get annoyed with people who post their videos other places. I know it’s a timesaver to repurpose your content, but I’ve complained for years about people posting the same content everywhere. There’s no point in me following you on IG, Twitter, FB, and anywhere else you are if you’re going to post the same stuff–practically at the same time. I might as well follow you one place and open my time up for other things. I’ve muted accounts that do that, and I’m sure others do it too. Videos can be shared a lot of places, and I have no idea how useful it is to share your TikTok video on YouTube, FB, and Instagram. If you’re going to go viral (which sounds like a goal for most people) it would make more sense to let/encourage OTHERS share your video other places otherwise you just look spammy. I’ve seen Dea Poirier’s tweets lots of places, and not because she puts them there. She’s had viral tweets of her own and not once that I’ve seen is because she’s shared on every platform she can find. The true test of popularity is when others start to share your content.

This is one of Dea’s tweets I saw EVERYWHERE on FB after she tweeted it. In fact, it took me five seconds to find it searching murder recipe meme.

Anyway, I believe it’s better to find one or two platforms you enjoy (for me that would be this blog and Twitter) and focus your time and attention there instead of spreading yourself thin and offering mediocre content because your book is under deadline and you’re pressed for time. Maybe I gravitate toward my blog and Twitter because there isn’t much call for video on these platforms. I was talking with a friend the other day, and I told her I don’t like IG because of the toll it takes on my hands holding my phone. Holding my phone aggravates my carpal tunnel. I like things I can do on my computer and while I can post on IG on my laptop, I feel like I’m missing the point of the platform when I do that. You’re supposed to be experiencing the world and sharing those experiences with others–something I’m not very good at because when I’m out and about, besides taking a picture a drink or two when I’m with my sister, I try to stay off my phone.

I’m not good on social media–my Twitter engagement is abysmal, I haven’t posted to my FB author page in months, and on my personal FB page all I share are photos of raccoons. I don’t have much use for social media. I think I come across as prickly and hard to get to know. That’s me in real life as well. I’m a loner at heart and it takes a long time for me to warm up to someone. (Though the friends I have made on Twitter I’ve had since I joined in 2013.) It’s not an ideal way to be if you’re hoping to connect with thousands of readers, and I am trying to put myself out there more in my romance group and asking for feedback on my covers and blurbs. I’m also terrible at taking a hint. I have a few people on Twitter who RT everything, or like all my Tweets, and I never reciprocate. They want to interact because they like my content, and I need to be more mindful of the people who WANT to talk to me.

If you’re looking to get started in video, these tips I’ve gathered might be of use to you, too:

Look at what other people are doing. If you’re a romance writer, look at what other romance authors are doing. Study their viral videos. What made them pop? The music they chose? A new book they’re talking about? We don’t need to copy others, but pick up tips from other authors who are killing it. We do this with covers, with blurbs, even POV (switching from 3rd person to 1st) and we can learn from our peers in other ways, too.

Choose who you’re going to be. If you’re going to film yourself without makeup or your hair done, be okay with that, make your peace with it, and embrace it. I don’t know how beneficial it would be to look like a beauty queen for the first six months while you build and audience then all of a sudden “be yourself.” Be yourself from the start and then you can’t fall off that path.

Figure out what your platform is. Romance is easy–hunky cinnamon roll guys, swoony love stories. I’ve never been good with posting about romance, when it should be my number one go-to for any post. I should read it as much as I write it, and I should embrace all my book boyfriends–the ones I create and the ones I love to read about. How I would get that into videos that promote me as a romance author, I have no idea. I’ve kind of turned into a billionaire romance author, and if Jamie Dornan wants to come over and make out with me while I film it for TikTok, that would probably be a good start. He’s married though, so I doubt his wife would be on board.

Focus on one. If you want to do TikTok, make it a primary goal to build your platform there. Like any social media app, it takes interaction for some algorithm love, and not just by your fans. You have to comment, you have to reply to comments. That takes time and it will be easier to find the time if you just have one platform you need to worry about. If you already have a following on Instagram and want to start posting video there, then do that. But no matter where you post a video, remember it’s the books that are the most important. You don’t have anything to market if you’re not writing.

Look at your genre and where your audience is. TikTok feels younger, but is it? I don’t know. If you’re running Facebook Ads and they work for you, can you say your audience is older? A quick Google search says the average age of a Facebook user is 40 years old. Does that mean your audience is older? Maybe they aren’t on TikTok. If you write Young Adult, it might be a place to consider. If you’re writing “seasoned’ romance and your target audience is a divorced woman in her mid-fifties, it might not be the best place for you to spend your time. Doing some market research and figuring out where your audience is on social media will at least keep you from wasting time on a platform where your readers aren’t hanging out. Romance readers seem to be everywhere, which makes it hard for a romance author not to (want to be) be everywhere, too, but I can look up the top ten billionaire romance authors and if they aren’t on TikTok, that takes some of the pressure off.

Stay out of the author/writer community. For most authors, Twitter doesn’t sell books because we’re so deep into the #writingcommunity we can’t see straight. Unless you’re happy with a handful of sales for the lifespan of your book, other authors are not your readers. This is why Craig Martelle says it over and over again in the 20booksto50k group, it’s why in most FB author groups there is no self promo. Because the other members are not your readers. It’s going to be the same with TikTok and Instagram. Don’t tell other authors in your groups to follow you there, because your account will be following authors, and other authors will be following you. It’s really difficult to find that line in the sand and stay on the right side. Especially since we’re supposed to read in our genre, and I like to promote the romance books I’ve enjoyed. It will take more time to build a fanbase made up of readers, but it will be worth it in the end.


I don’t have many resources for this blog post. BookTok is still new and you will probably get the most out of joining the TikTok for Authors Facebook group. Clubhouse is now open to everyone (though I have 10 invites if you want to be personally invited into the app–DM me on Twitter), and there is a TikTok for Authors Club on there, too. You can join and listen in on conversations where they discuss what is working for them, and after a bit you might have a tip to share!

Search for the room in the app!

The last resource I have is a book I read a while ago when I was looking into getting video. Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss: How to Kill It Online with Video Blogging, has a lot of great advice when it comes to vlogging and those tips can help you at least feel comfortable in front of the camera.

Image taken from Amazon.

Getting comfortable and understanding your goals and the content you want to provide is half the battle when it comes to using video to promote your books. Consistency will help, and if you enjoy what you’re doing, that will come out in your videos too. I don’t know if I’ll ever get into video. It’s difficult not to jump into the next big thing when you want to market your books and feel like sales have stalled, but the one thing I can count on is writing the next book which is where you can always find me, no matter what kind of hot new platform comes along. Good luck!


I’ve been struggling with content for this blog for a little while–maybe that’s a good thing as it means the indie community is quiet. Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to still post four times a month, but my more informational blog posts on the first and third Monday of every month, and now that I’m back into publishing, a personal update on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. I think that will still provide my subscribers with the content they find helpful but it will take some of the pressure off me to keep my blog posts relevant. I still very much enjoy this blog and don’t plan to stop blogging, and who knows . . . maybe things will pick up once the summer is over and there will be more things to talk about again. Thanks for understanding!

6 Things I Learned While Creating my Newsletter through MailerLite

I did it. You can finally stop hearing about it . . . after this post. I took the time to watch a few YouTube tutorials and set up the sign up for my newsletter. As with anything when you’re diving into things you don’t know, you learn as you go and sometimes that means taking a step back before you can move forward. Here are a few things I had to figure out during the process. I hope maybe I can save you some headaches. Please check the resources at the end of this post–I’ll direct you to what helped me set this up.

Attach your name/pen name to the correct website. Way back when I was thinking about my newsletter, I didn’t have a pen name on the horizon, or maybe I did, but didn’t understand the technical side of creating a newsletter. When you set up an account through MailerLite you can’t run your newsletter through Gmail, Yahoo, etc and they ask for an email connected to a website. I bought an email account through this website vaniamargene.com and when I did that they assigned my email address as vania (at) vaniamargene.com. I thought that was fine and never thought any more about it. (If I had it to do over again, I would have used vaniarheaultauthor or something like that. I don’t know what possessed me to use my middle name, but here we are.) But now since I did decide to to use a pen name, VM Rheault, I noticed that since my MailerLite account is attached to this website, my emails are going to show up like this in the from field: VR Rheault from vania (at) vaniamargene.com. That’s not such a big deal because I’m not hiding who I am–I couldn’t put on a different persona full time, and I didn’t want to distance myself too much from my books because I’m proud of them and billionaire romance isn’t that different from the contemporary romance I used to write. This would have been a big setback had I chosen a completely different pen name. So if you’re looking to set up a newsletter, make sure the website and business email you choose is going to be connected to the newsletter and everything will be one name.

Think about branding before starting your newsletter. I didn’t think this was a big deal either until watching a couple YouTube videos and learning just what a landing page is and how you can customize it. Brand is such a vague concept to us authors anyway, but when I say brand in this context, you’ve already got the font down you’ll want to use for your author name, maybe a tagline. You know the genre you’re going to be writing under this name, and the images you choose will reflect that. This is my landing page and thank you page after they’ve signed up:

How my sign up page looks on a desktop.
How my sign up page looks on a cell phone.
The thank you page.

Billionaire romance is usually set in a huge city with penthouses, limos, elegant events, private planes, etc. This is where it’s important to know your genre and what readers are going to expect. Any reader who consumes billionaire romance is going to to be familiar and recognize the big city lights. (There is even a Big City fiction category on Amazon.) I make up all my big cities mainly because I’ve never been to New York and I would never be able to set my books there with any degree of believable detail. I’ve been to Chicago a handful of times and of course, Minneapolis/St. Paul and I can write the vibe of a big city but as far as landmarks and restaurants and famous hotels, not so much. It’s easier for me to make up cities and then I can do what I want. Anyway, I had to make this graphic on the fly, but luckily I had already decided what font I wanted for my author name (and it will go on the my book covers) and it didn’t take much searching through Deposit Photos for an appropriate skyline. This skyline will look nice on bookmarks if I ever wanted to make them, or magnets, business cards. I didn’t by the extended license, so I can’t sell anything, but swag I make using this graphic to give away will fit right into my brand.

You don’t need a website. I thought you needed at least a page on a website for sign ups, but that’s what your landing page through MailerLite is for. Once you create a landing page for your sign up, they give you a link that you post around social media and in the back matter of your books. The only reason you would need a website is if you wanted to add a pop up box for newsletter sign ups. This is good news for me as I didn’t really want to start a new website for my pen name, but I did add a page to this website where I’ll list all my books as I start to publish. To give credit where credit is due, a while back, Liz Durano told me I didn’t need to start a new website and because I had no idea what a landing page was, I didn’t understand what she meant. Now I do. You don’t need to spend time or money setting up a website, though if you’re going to write a lot of books under your name it may be better in the long run to have one. Eventually I’ll end up creating a new website for my VM Rheault books, but I won’t do it solely to have a pop up box for a newsletter.

Chances are you won’t need the business plan for your website, either. When I thought I needed to add the MailerLite plugin to my website, I upgraded my WordPress site for a whopping $200.00/year. That’s a lot of money to me, but I would have paid it out for the sake of my business. Then after I paid, I got a cute little notice saying that they would take away the follow button that allows people to follow me through the WordPress Reader. I’m going to be blogging on this website over anything else I do (I don’t try to sell my books on here anymore, not that I tried to do that so much anyway) and I wanted to keep the button. After I realized I didn’t need to integrate MailerLite with my WordPress website for sign ups, paying that was even harder to swallow. I contacted WordPress customer service through chat and they refunded me and put me back on the plan I had before–they give you 14 days to change your mind. When I get around to making another website for my books, I won’t pay for a business plan then, either. I’m so used to being directed to a landing page for email sign ups, that I’m sure everyone else is, too.

After you have the sign up link, it hits home that you need a reader magnet. When I created my sign up and the thank you page and created my welcome email they’ll receive upon signing up, I realized that you don’t have anywhere to put the link if you’re not giving anything away and you’re not publishing at the moment. Of course, I’ve heard the sign ups you want come from the links in the backs of your books, known as organic sign ups–your true fans. But you only get those when you’re publishing, and I’m working on my books right now. So I have the link but nowhere to put it, and no, I’m not giving it to you because chances are 99% you don’t read billionaire romance and don’t need to sign up for my newsletter. I need to work on my welcome email a little bit more, too. Make sure it sounds how I want it to sound and details what my books will be about and what readers can expect from me down the road. That being said, I need a reader magnet so I can at least put my link up on a site like BookFunnel and maybe join a promo or two for sign ups. Advertising your newsletter looks a lot more attractive if you can give something away, though I know you can be adding freebie seekers to your list. Maybe though, if they read your reader magnet, you will make them a fan. You won’t know until until you know. And by that I mean you won’t know until you release a book readers are expected to pay for.

The writing community is not your reader. You’ll figure this out when you tweet your newsletter link or put it in a post on Instagram. Other writers don’t care about your newsletter–at least if you’re writing fiction. I have subscribed to several non-fiction newsletters that pertain to indie publishing from authors like David Gaughran and Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur, but hey, guess what, I have never read any fiction by those authors. (Some indies are surprised to learn they write fiction at all.) Just like I consume anything Joanna Penn does for the indie author community, but I have never read one of her thrillers she writes under J. F. Penn. The only newsletter sign up link I would share here is if I wanted to start collecting emails for a potential non-fiction book. I don’t think I have anything to offer in way of a how-to book that you can’t find other places and I’m content to blog about my mistakes and successes. You’ll save yourself a lot of weeding down the road if you only give out your sign up link to readers of your genre. You may not grow your list as fast as if you gave out the link to everyone, but most newsletter aggregators charge you based on the number of sign ups you have, and if you’re paying for people to be on your list who are not going to buy your books, they are dead weight and will cost you money.

This begs the question though as to where you can put it, and here are my ideas:
Your Amazon Author Page. You can put the link in your bio.
Your Goodreads bio if they allow it. I tried to Google it but didn’t find any information. Never know until you try.
Add it to your FB author page and/or reader group.
Run ads from your FB author page for sign ups. This will probably only work if you have a reader magnet to give away and want to throw a little money at building your list. (Some advise against this so research for your own conclusions.)
Your books’ back matter.
Promo sites like BookFunnel and StoryOrigin if you use those services to build your list.


I didn’t realize how much I would need to know and while I was setting up my newsletter, it was one step forward and two steps back. Luckily, as I said, I already had an idea as to what I wanted to do with branding, and I was familiar with expectations of the billionaire genre. It’s probably not that big of a deal, you can always go back and change anything, but part of building a brand is brand awareness and for some subscribers, your landing page and thank you page will be their first impression of you.

There are other things I’m still going to have to learn as I begin to collect email addresses. Some authors split their lists between readers who signed up organically and readers who signed up for a freebie. Some have split their lists many different ways, and I don’t know if I’ll do that or how to, at this point. Curating my list and offering them content will be a continual learning process–at least until I’ve done it for a while. But even after publishing for four years, I don’t think you ever can really learn it all. Probably the one thing I can say I did right from the get-go is research the newsletter providers. I’ve heard good things about MailerLite and so fair their platform has been easy to navigate. Unless for some reason down the road I can’t afford them, and have to switch, I will probably always stay with them.

It might have been premature to do this now when I don’t have a reader magnet or book coming out, but I think the hard part is over–starting is always the scariest part.


Resources

I watched a few YouTube videos, and I learned quickly that there are a lot of differences between the paid and the free versions of MailerLite. I’m working with the free right now and this tutorial was the best I found. She uses a free plan and starts from the beginning:

MailerLite has their own academy but the tutorial starts with a paid plan–that’s not so helpful.

If you’re worried about the content part of it, Tammi Labrecque’s Newsletter Ninja gives you plenty of ideas. I already had the book, but Liz also recommended it in one of the comments here on the blog. It’s nice to know when something is helpful to more than one person. Tammi also runs a newsletter FB group, and you can find it here.

I made my graphic using Deposit Photos and a website template on Canva. The font I used for my author name is Cinzel and Cinzel Decorative. They are free and you can download it free for commercial use here. (They come in the same zip file so don’t worry if you can’t find the decorative part of the font. It’s included when you download the font.)

Okay, this blog post is super long. I’m going to call it, and see you next time!

Monday Musings: Is Publishing Your Book like Letting a Bird Fly Free?

Happy Monday! This week is off to a great start! I finished my book yesterday, all 97,000 words of her. I know that will change in edits, and I’ll jump right into the first read through today! My characters have changed a little from the beginning to the end, and I want to clean up the discrepancies while they’re fresh in my head. After that I’ll let it sit, and go to work on the ugly duckling trope I got back from my beta reader/editor a couple weeks ago. While I jump into those edits I’ll get my MailerLite newsletter stuff up and going. It might take a couple of days to figure things out, but as Andrea Pearson says on the 6 Figure Author Podcast, once I take the time, I never have to do it again. Will I jump into a new book? Guys, I have 11 books on my laptop right now–all in various states of editing–from nearly-ready-to-publish to just-finished-yesterday. They include a six-book series I wrote last year during COVID, three standalones, and two books that will belong to another six-book series. Needless to say, all the standalones I’ve written, I’ve written with the intention of using one as a reader magnet, otherwise I never would have taken a break with the second series I’d started. But I NEED to start publishing these, so I’m going to try really really hard not to start writing another book, at least for a little while.


Taken from Jane’s website.

What else has been going on? There are a lot of webinars coming up in the following weeks, and one I’m really excited about is one hosted by Jane Friedman and Elizabeth Sims on writing dialogue. I love craft classes just as much as I love marketing classes and I’m looking forward to it. If you want to check it out, look here.


I came across this opinion the other day, and it kind of flummoxed me that a) someone could feel this way and 2) no one told her there are things you can do for your book and your business that won’t make you feel like you pressed publish and then walked away.

I’m an indie publisher, and never once have I felt like when I published a book it was like opening a bird’s cage and letting the little bird fly away, never to be seen again. Though I suppose that’s how it can feel to some authors when their book sinks in the charts and they don’t know what to do about it. My books may not be successful, and that’s my fault and my fault alone. Today I tweeted that you can learn just a good of a lesson from making a mistake as you can from making a choice that will bring you success. I know why my books aren’t doing well, and that’s why I’m starting a pen name and hoping to apply what I’ve learned these past five years into another five that are more successful.

What can this person do to make sure that when/if she ever self-publishes her book, it won’t feel like she’s letting a bird fly out her window? Here’s what I would tell her, and this is what I plan to do too.

Make sure your cover/blurb/title convey the genre you’ve written in, and make sure your story follows the genre guidelines that readers will expect when they pick up your book. This is more than just “writing to market.” If your book hits it out of the park with genre/plot/characters, readers of that genre will recommend your book to other readers. It all starts with the story and nothing else will get you word of mouth than a compelling story and characters your readers will care about.

Start a newsletter and put the link for sign ups in the back of your book. This was a big fail for me, and who knows where my career would be right now if I had started it years ago. Even if I had decided to go in an opposite direction, I could have asked my readers if they wanted to follow me in the new direction. Some may have, some might not have, but it’s better than starting at zero like I am right now.

Write the next book. Nothing sells your book like writing the next book. Don’t take a break (unless your burnt out, then take a vacation and celebrate all your hard work) and jump right into writing the next book, or if you’re like me and you’re stockpiling, get the next book ready to publish. I have found that rapid releasing doesn’t do much if you don’t already have readers hungry for your books. Until I find a fanbase, I probably won’t rapid release anymore. But writing the next book, or getting the next book ready, will keep your mind off your launch and it’s a much better use of your time than refreshing your sales dashboard every ten minutes.

Run promotions. I understand if you’re traditionally published this may not be something you can do or even something you’ll want to pay for with your own money (though rumor has it this is what your advance is for). You’ve given control to your publisher and what they will pay for is anyone’s guess. But if you’re an indie author, you can mark your book down to .99 or offer free days and buy promotion slots through Written Word Media like BargainBooksy or Freebooksy, or other promotional sites like Robin Reads and Ereader News Today. You can “stack” them (booking them at the same time) for a strong launch, or you can space them out and keep sales steady. Whatever you plan to do, booking promo sites is nothing like letting that bird go.

Learn ads. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can run low-budget, low-cost per click ads. While I don’t plan to write more 3rd person past contemporary romance anytime soon, I still run low-budget ads to my books. Without those ads I would sell nothing. Nothing. The two or three books I sell a day because of those ads are more than some authors sell in weeks because they don’t want to take a small risk to see what those ads can do for their book(s). If you’re confident in your cover/blurb/title/story, your ad spend will not be a waste.

Just to show you that I’m not spending a ton of money on ads here are my stats for June (as of the 23rd): I have ten ads going, a couple for each standalone and the one Amazon approved for His Frozen Heart. (That was a fluke and anytime I’ve tried to create more they always suspend them because of the cover.)

To date my royalties are:

I’ve made 7 dollars this month, but that’s 7 dollars more than I would have without ads and I’m finding readers. Maybe they’ll leave a review. Maybe they’ll tell a friend. Maybe the paperbacks I sold on the 21st will be passed around and a lot of people will read them. I could run more ads and I should refresh my ads with new keywords, but being that I won’t have a new title out under that name, I’ll just leave my ads how they are. That being said, if you’re actively promoting and writing, there’s no reason why you can’t learn an ad platofrm and see what happens. There are a lot of free resources out there and it won’t break the bank to do some testing. You never know. Your book could take off and your royalties will far exceed the cost of the ads. Which is the main goal anyway.

I don’t understand the mentality that once you publish your book is out of your hands. There are all sorts of things you can do to bring readers in. They may cost a little money, and some ideas, like starting a newsletter is a time investment as well. It’s why I’ve put off doing certain things–because the writing is always the fun part to me, and doing anything else is like going to the dentist. It’s a time suck but necessary evil.


Thank you for all the kind feedback regarding the Canva paperback wrap post I did last week. So many people found it helpful! If you know someone who could use the information, pass it along! I love to help!

I think that is all I’m going to post about for now. My carpal tunnel has flared up a bit, so a writing break will be welcome. I haven’t been sleeping well, either. Let’s say say three cats are two cats too many, but they are part of the family so there’s nothing I can do but take naps when I can.

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday, and let me know how you’re doing!

Until next time!

Guest Blogger Sarah Lou Dale: Choosing a Genre and Writing to Market

Special thanks to Vania for having me on the blog again. I’m going to dive right in and get to the heart of today’s post. When a writer enters this business, they are told to write to market and for some of us, that’s where we start to fail. I’m not being negative, I’m being honest. In light of honesty, I’ll say I hate the concept of writing to market, or what I viewed the term to mean which I’ll cover in a minute. When Vania told me to do this, I scrunched my nose up in distaste. It felt so cookie cutter to me.  

Until recently, I thought writing to market meant you write exactly in this mold all others write in. Take a trope and write a different take on it but still stay in the same mold.  For me, that’s boring. As a reader, I don’t read books like that at all. I haven’t been able to do a survey for readers to find out if this is in fact true. I hear it from writers all the time, but not readers outside of the writing community. So, is it true? Is that what readers really want? I believe that forcing yourself to write something you don’t want to, to fit into a mold you’re “supposed to” takes away who you are as a writer.

I believe I took the advice too literally and it gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Writing to a mold or formula ISN’T what writing to market means. I now believe writing to market is writing what the readers want because they are the ones who put food on your table. If you go about writing whatever the hell you want, you risk alienating your readers before they even become your readers. I fully believe this to happen. As I was brainstorming how to write this post where it wouldn’t completely piss people off, especially my host, I got to thinking about another angle: genres. 

I’m currently in this zone where I’m trying to pinpoint what genre or genres I should be writing. I have story ideas in at least 3-4 different genres. I’m too old and tired to be creating pen names and everything for each genre. So, this is where writing to market comes into play for me. THIS is what I believe in. As a writer, you want to first decide what genre or genres you want to write in and settle into it. Research the genre completely to make sure you know what is expected of that genre, because there ARE expectations and you have to respect that. No one wants to pick up a romance book and get a bloody murder scene, ya know?

This is where you write to market. Your market is your genre and the readers OF that genre. But, how do you find the genre you want to write? I’m told to write what you like to read. That’s not good advice for someone like me because I read everything from space operas to paranormal, to romance to psychological thrillers. Writing what I like to read has me where I am at this point in time. Not knowing my chosen genres. 

But, there is a way to find out what genre you do enjoy. I’ll list them below:

Three Ways to Find Your Genre:

1) Write Short Stories: During my big move/transition from Hawaii to Mississippi, I am taking a small break from my crime fiction novel and working on a series of short stories. It’s easier to focus on a handful of 2,000-5,000 word short stories than a 70,000+ word novel right now. Plus, the practice is phenomenal to my growth. What am I doing exactly? I won’t dive into the whole project, but I’m writing 3-5 short stories in genres I know I have story ideas for. I just finished my first romance short story and already know it’s not likely I’ll be joining the romance club. I still enjoy reading it though. I call this strategy a process of elimination. Not only will you get a feel of the genre, but you’ll get the practice too. These don’t need to be published and can be used to practice the genre, editing, and formatting. 

2) Research: There are LOADS of articles online about each genre; including information about word count and the model in which to write as well as the must haves. Read in each genre you think you may like to write in and decide if you want to join those clubs. 

3) Listen To Your Heart: I know, it sounds cheesy but it’s true. Writing for me is such an emotional journey. At some point your genre will stick out to you and won’t let you go. Embrace it and guess what? It’s okay if it’s more than one. DON’T WRITE for a little bit and actually listen to your inner voice and see where it’s leading you. You’ll be surprised what you find out about yourself in the process. 

Regardless of what you choose to do, just know if you are a new author, it’s a good idea to figure this out before you start. One of my biggest mistakes was writing and publishing my debut novel before I really knew anything about genres. It’s a small part of what made that book a flop, which still breaks my heart today. 

Writing to market now has a new meaning to me and I believe in it 100%. Readers expect, when they find an author they want to read more of, a certain story, a specific genre. If you change course from writing domestic suspense to a contemporary romance without showing any indication that you’re a contemporary romance author, you’ll quickly lose readers. 

Writing is a gamble. You have to be careful how you run your business. Take risks…they are there to be taken, but be aware of your own abilities and really consider your readers or future readers when you start your writing business. Sometimes you’ll have to do things to readjust, but it’ll be so much easier if you know what you’re wanting for your business in the beginning. 

Jeff Elkins’ post on The Write Practice (https://thewritepractice.com/write-to-market/) gives some great advice on how to change your perspective when you hear the term “write to market”. It’s so good to know I am not the only one who heard that term and thought negatively about it. 

Jane Friedman is an author I respect and adore. Jane’s article (https://www.janefriedman.com/genre/) about genres and defining your genre is spot on and I didn’t realize we used the same term when it came to finding your genre: a club. It’s true. Once you find a genre you enjoy and write in well, the peers you encounter along the way will be just like being a part of the club. You’ll connect with other writers and together you will be able to navigate this crazy writing business. 

Special thanks again to Vania for having me on the blog today. Until next time, Happy Writing/Reading.

Thursday Thoughts and grabbing ideas from big-time indie authors.

Happy Thursday! I can’t believe it’s already June 10th. I have a feeling this summer is going to fly by. Last Tuesday night I went out for my usual dinner with my sister and the restaurants were packed! I think that with summer, the COVID vaccine, and most places lifting the mask mandate, more and more people are going to be to out and about. That’s not a bad thing, but our businesses here haven’t caught up with demand. So many restaurants need staff and have signs out front. Fargo, ND, is also getting an Amazon distribution center soon, and it’s going to take 500 jobs away from local businesses that look like they already need help. I’m not against Amazon and I think it’s great we have a distribution center coming here, but it will make for some interesting times ahead and the push/pull it will create in the job market. Maybe I still have a little human resources in me after all.


As for a personal update, I’m 57,500 words into this new book, and I should be done with it by the end of the month. It’s going to be longer that my other standalones. Usually I’m just about getting to the “big bad” or it’s already happened, and I still have a few more scenes to write before I get there. While that rests I’ll get working on my newsletter (no more about that or your eyes will start to bleed) and maybe look through my list of tropes to find something simple to offer as a newsletter magnet. You know, I like writing and can write 50,000 words in about three weeks (according to my document information, I created my current WIP on May 15th). So whether I want to or not I will write something to use as a magnet, and the fun part will be figuring out what that is.

I’ve been feeling okay lately, though I’m far from kicking the infection I’ve had since December. I’m writing a side project on how I’ve been dealing with it and what I’m doing on my own outside my doctor’s help to get rid of it. I’ve done quite a bit of research and let me say that in this area of women’s health, the advancements are sorely lacking. When it’s done I’ll put a link up to it so you can take a look if that’s what you really want, but this blog isn’t the place for that type of thing. I’ll probably put it up on Amazon and other platforms for free as I don’t want to make money off it–just offer awareness in all the places that I can. It will be about 10,000 words, and formatted that might be enough to put it into a hardcopy form but I’ll have to look up KDP Print’s minimum page number count.


You all know I’m on Clubhouse and over the weekend they had an Indie Author’s Conference. They had a variety of speakers, and one evening a 7-figure author spoke about how she launched her books. Of course the “room” was packed and I sat with a notebook and was prepared to take a million notes. I have launches come up too, and I am soaking up a lot of launch plan information right now. Quickly I learned that her launch plan was going to be very different from my launch plan and I left the room discouraged. This author has been publishing for years, has a giant newsletter following, has a lot of books across four pen names and the information, while great, didn’t contain much I was going to be able to use. I am so grateful to the indie authors who are making it who are willing to share their information, but when you’re starting from zero like me and my new pen name and the only information I have is what I’ve learned on my own publishing the last four years, the information they share you may just not be ready for. There were little things like the promo sites she uses (David Gaughran has a great list here) and of course, everything I hear these days is to start a newsletter to keep your readers engaged, and she does reiterate that your book has to be ready to launch. Edited, good cover, good blurb, back matter up to snuff with the call to action of your choice (preorder link for next book perhaps) otherwise it’s not going to matter how you launch, your book will be DOA. I understand all that, but it is still a shame that authors giving advice have to remind other authors of that. At any rate, I will keep scrounging for information first, second, third, or even fourth time launchers can use. Here are the top items in my launch plan that I will start using and keep using going forward:

  1. Start/keep up a newsletter, though I’m not going to be able to participate in swaps until I can get something going and have something to offer in return.
  2. Use promo sites like Freebooksy/Robins Reads/ENT. Every once in a while you hear of a name that hasn’t been shared before that I forget too, like Red Feather Romance, part of Written Word Media specifically for romance authors.
  3. Use Amazon ads. Once I get my pen name up and going I may try Facebook ads again. The few times I have they haven’t worked very well, sucking up my money with no conversion or sales on my end, but that could be an operator issue and not a machine issue. Also, I think that what I wrote in my last blog post is absolutely true: ads work when your book is already selling well. I’ve learned you can’t press publish and walk away. I dropped the ball many times when I should have been working harder than ever to use that new release energy.

When you’re absorbing info from other authors you have to decide what you can use and what you’re not ready for. There is no shame to admit that some of the information you’re hearing is over your head. I understand why organizers of these events ask the big-time authors to share what works for them because the info they provide is invaluable. Not only do they show us the technical/business side of the writing, they show us that it is actually possible to make a living, to create a reader following.This author has been writing and publishing for years and has built an audience and more importantly, keeps that audience fed with consistent releases. You may not be ready for the information for different reasons. You can’t release that fast, or you can’t afford all the things she’s doing, or maybe you don’t even know what genre you want to write in yet and you’re exploring your options. There’s no shame in admitting you aren’t at someone else’s level. In fact, it’s smart or you’ll get overwhelmed and you’ll just go crazy trying to keep up with someone you have no chance at keeping up with. And possibly spending money you don’t have. This isn’t comparisonitis, it’s simply taking what you can, if anything, and moving on to an author more your level who is killing it in their own way. I kind of came to this realization too, while listening to Mark Dawson’s launch plan mini-course I purchased from his SPF University. He’s so far from where I am, all I can do is take bits and pieces and hopefully twist what he does into what I can use for my own purposes.

I like listening to Clubhouse chats, and there are so many people out there who are willing to share what they know. Maybe one day I’ll be sharing what I know on Clubhouse too, but I’ll definitely be starting from zero.

What I’m liking now:

David Gaughran Starting from Zero course graphic. Blue with author photo.

Speaking of starting from zero, David Gaughran has a free course that takes you through exactly that. You can find it here. (Image taken from his website.)

The Six Figure Author podcast did an episode where the hosts talked about what they did wrong at the beginning of their careers. This episode is especially interesting to listen to if you haven’t published yet, and you can listen to it here.

That’s all I have for today! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Putting emphasis on marketing over writing: an indie author issue.

It’s probably not a secret by now that I find a lot of my blog post ideas on Twitter. Be that something i don’t agree with, or something I whole-heartedly stand behind, or even something going on that I have an opinion about and want to share with others who might find that event (for lack of a better word) interesting.

Writer Twitter is fascinating, to say the least. Lots of ideas ranging from “you can’t make a living writing” to “a book deal is the only way to go” make a unique experience when you’re scrolling through the #writingcommunity hashtag.

Obviously I have my own ideas when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, and I believe in a few things that not all indies agree with: writing to market, picking a genre and sticking with it to build an audience, not using Twitter as a place for successful promo. I could probably list a few more, but it’s not important.

Today I saw a tweet from Joanna Penn, and she had commented on Lindsay Buroker’s tweet about how many books she has published:

I’ve listened to Joanna’s podcast enough that I totally read her tweet in her voice and British accent! Joanna always exudes an enthusiasm with indie publishing and life in general that sometimes it wears me out listening to her. But her excitement is usually infectious and it makes me glad that I’m an indie author and part of her community.

This is a really long intro into what I wanted to talk about today. I think that Joanna’s right in that indies put a lot of emphasis on marketing and not enough (or as much as they should) on the actual writing and publishing side of things.

The saying is true that the best marketing is writing your next book but we get really caught up in the excitement that comes with a launch and we want to push that book as long and as hard as we can. I don’t want to take away the satisfaction that comes with writing and publishing a book–we should always celebrate that–but as another saying goes, this is a marathon not a sprint, and you can celebrate the first mile, but trust me I ran a half marathon (once a long time ago) and the first mile isn’t much when you think you have twenty five more to go.

Lindsay’s brilliant career aside, I made up a list of the real reasons why it’s better to publish consistently, even if that’s just two books a year.

The Amazon algorithms will favor your book around your launch period. Amazon wants to give you boost, and anyone who launches well in their categories without doing any work can tell you this. They give you a head start, so to speak, but it’s up to you what you do with it. Most indies drop the ball because they haven’t mastered ads, or they don’t have a newsletter, or they think they can keep ranking without doing anything. But a good launch ranking is more of an illusion than anything else and if you don’t use it, you’ll sink like a stone. Publishing consistently will at least keep the Amazon’s algorithms eyes on you and as you and your books build momentum, the little push Amazon gives you can turn into something useful. All it takes is a little spark to create a flame.

Here are the stats from an author I know who launched a book during the first week of August 2019:

A friend and I were chatting about how well he was ranking for a first time author without prior books released. We didn’t know then that it’s normal to rank higher during launch week. Those aren’t bad numbers for a new author with no backlist, newsletter, no ads running, and no audience. I can’t give you the exact date he published as he re-released his book in the summer of 2020, but it just goes to show that Amazon wants to help you. Use that to your advantage.

Your Amazon Ads will do better. There are a ton of things I could talk about with ads, but the most relevant one concerning this blog post is the fact that if you’re running ads to old books, it’s like pushing a boulder up a mountain. I think it was Robert J. Ryan in his book Amazon Unleashed that used the metaphor. You might make a little headway, but in the end it probably won’t work that well. I skimmed through the first part of his book trying to find it, but I can’t. I’m pretty sure I read it in his book though, and it’s a great resource if you’re looking for more information about running Amazon ads. It all comes down to relevancy. All my books are over a year old and I try like crazy with ads to sell them. It doesn’t matter how much I bid, how high my daily budgets are, Amazon knows they’re old, and to be fair, Amazon knows they didn’t launch well. It’s tough to make Amazon care about your book and if you waste your launch period, it’s even harder.

Your frontlist sells your backlist. That’s something I’ve heard many times, but it’s not applicable if your lone book is your backlist and no frontlist is forthcoming anytime soon. This is especially important if you’re writing in a series. I still see so many indie authors trying to push a book one, when they aren’t even writing book two. What is the point of that? All that work you’re doing right now to bring readers into your series, you’re going to have to do over and over every time you release a book. Yeah, you can get them onto your mailing list and keep them updated as you write more books, but honestly, I’ve only seen this work for established authors who have an audience and that audience trusts them to follow through with the series. I’m going to stop there because I’ve blogged about that many times. But here are a couple more articles on frontlist selling your backlist.

What is a Backlist?

We Need to Talk About the Backlist

You’re giving readers what they want. As your audience grows, you’ll be giving your readers what they want. Being prolific can add stress and pressure to your career, but when readers are looking forward to your next book, that’s a good problem to have. I feel sorry for George RR Martin. Readers really want the next GoT books, but he’s stated the pressure is so intense it’s given him writer’s block. Of course, we can all hope to have the problem the size of George’s, but as you grow an audience they will look forward to every new release and publishing consistently feeds them. Out of anything on this list, this reason is probably the most important in the argument for consistent publishing.

As indies we talk so much about marketing that we forget we need something to market. I’ll never forget the writer who started Bryan’s Amazon Ads Profit Challenge and asked after we started: Do we need a book published for this? I get we can be excited and sometimes that excitement is putting the cart before the horse. Writing is hard. Learning ads is easy compared to that. Writing is hard. Playing with Canva is a lot more fun. Writing is hard. Writing a blog post or updating your website is a more pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Writing is hard. It’s easier to read in your genre and call it research.

Not everyone can be like Lindsay and have several 10,000 word days a week, but she does, and it’s no secret how she can write a 150,000 word epic fantasy novel in just a few weeks’ time.

Being prolific helps with marketing. It’s a lot easier to market if you have a new launch every few months.

I don’t have a system yet as to how I write and publish books. Publishing consistently gives the process almost an assembly line feel, but I try not to think of it that way. If you have a process, you’re much better off to think of it as being efficient with your time rather than typing The End, looking up from your laptop and yelling, Thank You, Next! a la Ariana Grande and shoving the manuscript on to your editor. Just because you publish frequently doesn’t mean you don’t care about your books or characters less than someone who has to take a year to write a book.

In a previous blog post I talked about taking time with your launches, enjoying your books, giving them room to breathe. I haven’t done that, not with the 13 books I have completed on my laptop because I enjoy the writing process so much. I jump from one finished book to the next without regard for how how I’m going to publish them or when. I may have gotten carried away with the writing part of it, but at least I’ve got the hardest part down pat.

As a friend likes to say, it’s all about the books. But you can’t market if you don’t have any. Create the product then worry about the rest later.

Until next time!

Giving your books room to launch and living with your characters: an author’s befuddled musings.

When writers finish a book there’s a lull. We’ve finished what we’ve been working on, maybe for months, sometimes years, and there’s a . . . silence after we type The End. There’s a strange letdown even as we’re excited to finally finish. Sometimes that can lead to confusion because we don’t know what to write next, or we get excited to start a new project while that one breathes, or we love editing and jump head first into reading and rewriting.

No matter what your plans are, chances are you go through a period where you just don’t know what to do, and that feeling is even worse once you publish and that project is done forever. Multiply this feeling by 100 if you wrap up a series.

But how done is it?

Do you really move on when you finish a book? Do the characters let you? If you’ve established a fanbase, do your readers? I’ve been thinking about this lately as I try to figure out some kind of publishing plan for my books. “They” say rapid release can be great to keep the Amazon algorithms going in your favor and to keep readers happy. But based on my experience when I rapid released my series last year, that only works if you already have an audience who is waiting for the next book. That isn’t me or anyone trying to start a new pen name.

One thing I heard on the Six Figure Author podcast not long ago is the idea to give your books room as you publish because that gives readers time to build a community around your books. This makes sense and takes some of the pressure off to publish quickly. Posting to a Facebook reader group and giving out extras to your newsletter subscribers will keep readers excited, and it will give you more time to run ads and build book buzz.

But then I think, well, how long is an author supposed to linger over a series or readers’ favorite characters?

Authors like E L James and Stephanie Meyer, J K Rowling, and Sylvia Day keep getting sucked back into their bestselling worlds. Do you think that Erika ever gets tired of thinking about Christian and Ana, or do you think she’s just grateful they made her the bestselling author she is today? I mean, what happens when your readers are hooked on one book or series, but your author mind has already moved on to something else?

Granted, it’s a nice problem to have, and if it ever happens to me, I won’t complain, but it doesn’t give an author room for something new. Maybe if you have fans clamoring over your books like that, it doesn’t matter if they want short stories and more books and/or the same books and scenes from different points POV–you’ll be happy to give that to them. It’s just hard for me to wrap my mind around giving your readers all these extras from books and worlds that you, as the author and creator, might have already moved away from.

That brings me back to the beginning of the post when I talk about downtime between books. Is there downtime? I suppose it all depends on your mindset and if you can keep up the excitement for all your characters and their worlds and if you can, or even want, to whip up a short story or novella (2.5 anyone?) here and there or an extra bonus scene for a series or novel that, in your mind, is old, because you’re excited about a new project. Lindsay Buroker seems she can do this easily enough, even though she’s very prolific and has several series that contain several books for sale.

Slowing down and taking time to smell the insides of my books will be an interesting concept.

One I will be tackling soon because I just can’t keep writing without stopping to edit and publish one of these days. I don’t know how much time I want to wait between releases. How much is not enough, or how much is too much because we can say take all the time you want and do things the way you want to do them, but consistency is important and staying relevant with Amazon can make a big difference when you need exposure and discoverability.

I’m taking a mini-course by Mark Dawson about his launches. He has an established audience, so his launches are going to look a lot different from mine, but he pads a lot of time before the launch. He posts to his author page on Facebook regularly, months before the launch. He offers giveaways and changes the banners to all his social media to graphics that feature that particular release. I have never done that. I don’t recall ever changing my banner for a release of any book. He also changes the text on the graphic from a pre order request to a buy it now order when it’s live. But while he’s doing all that, I’m assuming he’s writing the next book, and maybe it’s just how I’ve functioned for the past few years, but I’ve only ever thought about one book at a time. And maybe, if I’m fortunate enough, I may need to start thinking about past books for years.

E L James first published Fifty Shades of Grey in April of 2012. Let’s not go into the history of the book as it was when she self-published it. It’s not really important unless you want to add even more time to how long Erika has lived with these characters. Fast forward to now of 2021, and she’s still publishing in that world, the last book in Fifty Shades with Freed coming out in June, in Christian’s POV. That’s nine years of living with Christian and Ana. Some readers might not even remember she published The Mister in 2019. (I still think she ended that on a slight cliffhanger and I’m waiting to see if it’s the first in a trilogy I think it is or if she’s going to write something different.)

We can do the same with Stephenie Meyer. She published Twilight back in 2007 and she just published Midnight Sun, Twilight from Edward’s perspective this year. Not to mention she did a few other projects based off Twilight such as The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella (The Twilight Saga) and Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (The Twilight Saga). Someone in my NaNoWriMo group accused Stephenie of writing her own fan fiction, but I don’t know how that’s possible if she’s doing what the fans want. As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed the male POV more so than that of the female main character, especially when we’re talking romance, and it could just be both E L and Stephenie were giving fans what they wanted.

Sylvia Day didn’t have to write completely different novels in Gideon’s POV when she wrote the Crossfire series. She wrote three books in Eva’s POV only, then incorporated Gideon’s POV into the remaining books. I’m betting because fans wanted his POV and her publisher told her to start writing in his POV. Unless she started just to round out the remaining books, but I doubt I’ll never know the real answer. She, too, was unable to leave behind Gideon and Eva so easily when she wrote Butterfly in Frost, where the female main character is friends and co-workers with Eva. We get a glimpse of how, seven years later, Eva and Gideon are doing, and what happened to Cary, Trey, Tatiana, and the baby they were going to have together. The first Crossfire book was published in 2012 and she came out with Butterfly in Frost in 2019.

I’m only bringing this up because I can’t fathom still being interested in a world I created seven years later. I may need to get over that as backlist books are bread and butter to a lot of authors, both indie and traditionally published, and doing promotions on older books, particularly first in a completed series, can bring in a steady stream of sales. I’m not going to stop running ads to my 3rd person books, but I know that not taking a personal interest in them any longer won’t help sales. Don’t get me wrong, I love all my books and all my characters, but when I give them their happily ever afters, their stories are done in my mind. Bad thing? Good thing? I have no idea.

How do you feel about looking back? As readers, it’s natural to have a favorite book, I’ve read The Sun Also Rises several times, but I wonder how often Ernest Hemingway thought of it after his career took off and he was immersed in writing other books. I’ve read several of Nora Roberts’ books over and over again as well. Nora’s publicist is in charge of her social media, so it’s Laura (or her assistant) who pulls quotes and makes graphics from Nora’s backlist to keep the buzz going. Nora, with help, has her mind free to always be thinking forward. To me, and to many other authors who can’t afford a virtual assistant, that’s a luxury.

Anyway, you have sat through 1600 words of musing, and for that, I thank you. I was thinking of going into a personal update, but I’ll do that on Thursday. Have a great week everyone!

Until next time!

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!