Mid-August Check-in and What I’ve Been Doing

August 2019 blog photo

I usually have some writing-related blog post today, or commenting on something in the publishing or independent publishing space, but today I’ll just update you on what I’ve been doing, what I’m reading, and the things I’m going to try to do before the holidays hit. Christmas is in 128 days, if you can believe it!

It’s hard to believe summer is almost gone, and my daughter (maybe your kids already are) is going back to school in a couple weeks. I’ve done a bit of back to school shopping for her and ordered her pictures online.

I live in Minnesota, so I’m not looking forward to summer’s end. In fact, it’s always nice if the snow can hold off for as long as possible. Last year, we had a bad winter while I was recuperating from surgery and if we only get half the snow that we got last year, I’ll be happy. I’ll be figuring out my new writing rhythm when my daughter goes back to school, and that will take a little time to adjust to, but it shouldn’t be that bad. My work schedule won’t change, so that’s nice.


I changed All of Nothing‘s cover, blurb, and keywords. It’s still too soon to say if they made a difference.

But I am also doing the same for Wherever He Goes.

This is the old cover:

wherever he goes old cover jpg

Pretty and sweet. I have no qualms about it, but it also doesn’t give off the steamy contemporary vibe. So I changed it to this:

wherever he goes new cover jpg

They are both dressed, but I feel it ups the steam factor a bit. I also rewrote the blurb, but I won’t get into that, eventually I’ll get to the keywords. Looking for those will be interesting, as it’s a road trip romance, and that’s a sub-genre I know exists, but I haven’t seen the category for it on Amazon. I ordered a proof so I can see how it looks in print, but the ebook cover is already live. I’ve gotten great feedback on it, so for the skill I have and for the cost I paid ($7) I think it’s a nice change.

Of course, IngramSpark is giving me another pain in the ass about it. Since I published on Amazon, they are saying my ISBN is in use and not mine. I didn’t click on expanded distribution on KDP Print, so the ISBN should be (and is) available for other retailers. It’s just more going around in circles I’m going to have to do with them. Plus they keep insisting I didn’t build my cover within the correct guidelines, but I did. So, I think after I get this book straightened out with them, I won’t be using IS for expanded distribution anymore. Until they can become more indie-friendly, I’ll stick with Amazon.

I can honestly say that through all this wide business and going back and forth, I’ve learned what matters and what doesn’t.


Now that all my covers are how I want them to be for a while, I’ll be focusing on finished up my quartet. Officially called A Rocky Point Wedding (Books 1, 2, 3 and 4) I started book four a couple days ago, and I’m 10,000 words into it. At this point I’ll be trying to figure out covers and get a more concrete idea of what I want. I don’t know what I want yet, and when I don’t feel like writing I poke my eyes out look at stock photos. If I thought doing my trilogy was a pain, this quartet will be the death of me.

I am planning on a slow release . . . possibly one book a month, and while I’m releasing I’ll take a break write a new standalone that I’ve been planning for a while.

But first, book four. This book has its own plot to figure out, plus wrapping up wedding stuff. I do have a book 0 I could write if I ever feel like revisiting Rocky Point, or if I ever feel like starting a newsletter, I could write a prequel novella and offer that as a newsletter sign-up cookie. So there’s that potential, anyway.


I’m reading a really great book right now called Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living Paperback by Manjula Martin. It has a lot of great essays in there by authors like Cheryl Strayed. They talk about giving work away for exposure and opportunity, living in poverty while trying to make it big, what they do with their advances if they do. I’m enjoying it a lot so far, and I recommend it if you’re interested in the money/business side of writing.

If you like books like that, I also recommend The Business of Being a Writer (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) by Jane Friedman. She breaks down the publishing industry and what you can do to make money off your writing. Being that it’s always being said writers can’t make a living wage anymore, I like to hear other people’s opinions.


August 2019 podcasts graphic blog post

I listen to a lot of podcasts, too, and here are some of my favorites:

Joanna Penn. The Creative Penn Podcast

We know she’s a powerhouse in the indie space, and she has a lot of great guest interviews. I don’t listen to every episode, and I have to pick and choose what tips I jot down for my own use since she’s a big believer in being wide, but overall I her podcasts are very useful.

***

The Sell More Books Show hosted by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen

These guys used to talk about the news, and they still do, but they have started to pad their podcast with “news” of indies making money. They don’t get into the hows or the whys (not in great detail, anyway), and if you’re not a member of the 20booksto50k group on FB (where they cull these stories) you’re not able to dig out the nitty-gritty details for yourself. I understand there are slow news days, and I listen for the big stories like Dean Koontz moving to Amazon from a Big Five. They pull stories from other places like the Hot Sheet by Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson, and if you don’t subscribe to that newsletter, this is one way to hear about the stories they report.

***

Stark Reflections by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Mark’s a super nice guy, and I can’t wait to meet him at the Career Author Summit in Nashville in 2020. With so much history in the industry, his podcasts are very interesting to listen to, and he also has a bevy of author and publishing expert interviews. In the last podcast I just listened to, he interviewed Craig Martelle, who puts together the 20booksto50k conferences with Michael Anderle.  As with Joanna’s, I pick and choose what I want to listen to. Mark moved from Kobo to Draft2Digital, so it goes without saying he’s a big cheerleader of also being wide.

***

Self-Publishing Formula hosted by Mark Dawson and James Blatch

I listen to this one off and on. He has great interviews with authors and industry professionals, too, and again, I just pick and choose what I like to listen to by reading the details of the podcast episode. Sometimes they can get a little heavy with advertising their courses, but they all sell something, so listening to them tout their wares is going to be part of listening to a podcast.

***

Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo and Jeffrey M. Poole and Laura Kirwan.

These guys took a break this summer, and so far Lindsay hasn’t said when they are coming back. She alluded to them changing their format, so I’m looking forward to them doing more episodes. Even if you don’t write Fantasy or Sci-fi, this is a great podcast to listen to. Keep an eye out for new episodes.

***

Print Run Podcast hosted by Erik Hane and Laura Zats

Erik and Laura are agents at a literary agency in Minneapolis, MN, and that was one of the primary reasons for listening. They talk about a lot of the literary stuff in the state, and if I had a more dependable car, I would go to some of them (the Twin Cities is a 4.5 hour drive away from where I live). But anyway, being that they are agents, they give an inside look at the traditional publishing industry. The last episode I listened to, though, they talked about Dean Koontz and his defection move from the traditional publishing marketing space to move to Amazon. They didn’t say very nice things about it, or about Amazon in general, and be aware, if you’re an indie making money off Amazon, that that is their stance. If you can look past their bias, their takes on books and publishing can be interesting at times, though they defend traditional publishing and an agent’s place in it (of course). Publishing is publishing though, and whether indie or trad, they all fit together, so keeping an ear to the ground isn’t a bad thing.


ku graphic

My books have been moved back to KU since the first of August. I boosted an announcement to that effect on from my FB author page and that grabbed a little attention. I used the audience I created for one of my ads for The Years Between Us that didn’t do anything because my ad copy was poor and the pictures I used weren’t the best. I ran two ads for three days a piece and I think I got one sale. But I blame the ad and the copy and the fact I was just messing around to get a feel for the platform. Anyway, so I already had an audience I’d created for that, so I used it and I think I got about 150 likes ad and a little engagement. It will take some time to let people know my books are in KU again, and I haven’t been very vigilant about it because I’ve been changing out covers.

Seeing page reads again is fun, I’ve made $21.00 since moving my books back to KU. You can look at my numbers in this blog post, but I can tell you that during my two months wide I made $66.00. So in a week with just a little boosted post on FB I’ve made 33% of what I made with wide while spending money on a Freebooksy ad. I feel better being in KU and I don’t check my numbers all the time like I was doing when I was wide. That is all KU reads though, not sales. I think I may need to research price more as maybe $4.99 is a bit too expensive for books by an unknown author. I said in a previous post that it was freeing being back on one platform and it is. I feel like I can focus more on the work instead of sales, and with a small backlist, writing is more important to me right now.


Well, that’s the personal update I’ve got for you. In my next blog post I’ll tell you about my experience with Booksprout, and if it’s useful or not.

Thanks for reading!

end of blog post graphic

Changing your Point of View: How you write, and thoughts on 1st, 3rd, past and present tense

change pov blog post

Change comes whether we want it to or not. Sometimes change happens so slowly you don’t know it’s happening. Sometimes you’re not paying attention and the old way you’ve taken for granted is suddenly gone.

This happened to me, though I think I was more in denial this was happening than embracing the change. Maybe I was hoping it would go away, or maybe I was hoping the old way would hang in there. The latter may still have a chance, but the former isn’t going to happen.

What am I talking about? The way fiction is being written. Not even by indies, as this change has been happening with the traditionally published books in the past couple of years as well.

To explain, let me go back.

Like all writers, I grew up reading. Nancy Drew, The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High. Slowly, I graduated to Sweet Dreams romances, VC Andrews and Harlequin Desires and Temptations.

And looking back, I realize there is one thing all those books have in common–they were written in third person past tense.

It stands to reason then, that when I began writing my own stories, I too, wrote in third person past since I grew up reading it. Never would I think this way would become outdated, but I’m afraid that it has.

Now books today are written in first person present, and that doesn’t seem like that’s going to change any time soon. Take a look at any new book, especially a romance in Kindle Unlimited, and you’ll see what I mean. I liken this to how Mike Campbell loses all is money in the The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

It seems as if first person snuck up on us, and then suddenly it was everywhere.

And as a writer who writes in third person past, this is troubling because this isn’t about catching a trend or even writing to market, it’s about adapting to change as not to be left behind.

It used to be first person, be it past or present, served one purpose–the sole reason why the writer chose to use first person when writing their novel: to tell the story of “I.”

change pov blog post2

Who was the “I?” A girl with magical powers? A young boy out to seek his fortune? The author chose that way as a device to tell that ONE person’s story through their eyes. Middle grade and YA were (are) written in that fashion so the young readers could more easily envision themselves in that role.

I can’t remember the first person book I ever read–and I must have read some; they weren’t non-existent as I was growing up, but they obviously didn’t make an impact on me. And when I was a young adult, and now a “real” adult myself, I don’t read much YA.

And maybe this is the point.

I’m outdated. At forty-four years old, I’m writing in a way that is being used less and less, except by the authors who have been writing for as long as I’ve been reading. Nora Roberts, Brenda Novak, Robin Carr.

When you read and enjoy first person books, that is what you’ll probably write. Books like the Hunger Games, Twilight, 50 Shades of Gray took the lead of a style of writing that is prominent now. You may be shaking your head, but think to when those books were written and how popular they were. The first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy was published in 2008. Twilight, 2005. Divergent, 2011.

I’m an old lady.

When thrillers and romances are now being written in first person (and present, too) where do you fit in if you like to write in 3rd person past tense, or even 3rd person omniscient?

I write contemporary romance, and when others who write in my genre use first person, it confuses me. There is no “I” in contemporary romance, there are two characters. His and hers. Or his and his. Or hers and hers. Depending on what you write. There is no single “I” on a journey to a happily ever after. Writing a two-sided romance using first person, to me, defeats the purpose of using first person.

Is this an old way of thinking?

Some of the greats still use 3rd person past, Nora Roberts holds true. So does Susan Mallery. Brenda Novak still does, and Robyn Carr as I mentioned above. The Harlequin lines, though they are going through some rearranging at the moment, still seem to publish 3rd person past romances, at least their little pocket romances like their Intrigue and Desire lines.

And to really confuse me, authors are starting to use a mix of points-of-view, and what’s even more mind-numbing is that it’s becoming popular, like The Mister by EL James. Maxim tells his story in first person present, but Alessia shares her story in third person present. I would love to ask Erica why she wrote it this way.

It seems like these days authors use POV as an artistic tool. Does it work, does it not? I have no idea. They say anything that takes your reader out of the story is bad. But what is bad is subjective.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn tells two stories. One story is present day and written in first person past, the other story took place while the female main character was a child and it’s told in third person past. She obviously choose this as a stylistic choice. Does being with the “I” character makes us feel more intimate with her? I don’t feel it would have changed the story much had she written the present day timeline in third person past. But with the popularity of her books, no one seems to mind what tense she chooses.

Have I had any complaints when it comes to my third person books? No, not that I’m aware, but nor would I know how many sales I’m either gaining or losing because of my choice.

So what is a writer to do? Keep writing in a style you like and are good at? Practice a different POV? I’ve tried writing first person present, and I liked writing it as much as I like reading it, and that’s to say, none.

And I will always believe writing a romance in first person POV when the author intends to show both sides of a relationship doesn’t make sense, and you can pry my opinion out of my cold, bloody fist.

change pov blog post3

But it’s obvious that what is coming out by younger romance writers that my viewpoint is not shared, and it’s not shared by their readers, either.

We need to adapt with change, though. When will my dislike turn into simple stubbornness? And when will that stubbornness keep me from reading books I may otherwise have enjoyed? I can’t be an old curmudgeon waving my cane hollering “3rd person past” at every writer I meet.

Point of view can bring on choices that you need to make besides just how you want to write your book. If there’s an “anything goes” with what’s between the covers, our blurbs and ads need to reflect that. Blurbs have always been written in third person present. Some unspoken, unwritten rule has ordained this since the beginning of time, and it didn’t matter if your books were written in first, third, or alien.

Now though, if your book is written in first person, blurbs are changing to reflect that. The first book I grabbed off Amazon that is self-published and in KU happens to be written in first person past and the blurb is also written in first person. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not. Is this how blurbs need to be written now? When did the rules change, and where do you read them in the updated Author Handbook?

What about ads? Ad copy isn’t the same as writing your book, though blurbs and ad copy are cousins, I guess. Ad copy is supposed to be snappy, hook your reader into buying the book. If you sell a book with snappy first person ad copy, but your book is written in third person, will that go over well with your reader?

I have no idea. You’ll hear it in reviews though, guaranteed. Or at the very least, wasted ad money for clicks that don’t turn into sales.

Looking at “how it always used to be done” may not help in these quickly changing publishing times. For another look at how to write blurbs and in what POV look at this blog post by Writer Unboxed. The author of the article mulled it over a lot more eloquently than I did. Marketing Copy: The First- Versus Third-Person Debate


I’ll keep writing in 3rd person past. It’s how I write best.

Write how you write at your best because after all, it doesn’t matter if you write in first, third, or alien, it comes down to giving your readers a good story.

But I caution you using POV as a stylistic choice to cover up lazy, or poor, writing. If you’re going to experiment, make sure you have plenty of betas on hand to tell you if it’s working or not.

You can do whatever you want to do with your book, but you still want people to read it too. Even aliens.

change pov blog post4

That was some really bad Sunday night humor. And with that I am going to bed. I hope you all have a lovely week of writing ahead!


thank you for your patince

graphics made with font and photos from canva.com

The age-old question, ‘what do you want from your writing?’ isn’t the real question at all. The REAL question? What can your writing GIVE YOU?

We’ve all been asked the $50,000 dollar question: Why do you write? Do you write for success? For the fame and fortune? Do you have a story that must come out no matter what? We all write for a reason, the reason that keeps us coming back to the laptop again and again.

But the fact is, after the writing is done, what can, what WILL, writing give us?

There are different kinds of writing, and each medium gives us different things:

  1. Blogging. Blogging gives us a place to vent, a place for our voice to be heard. Blogging lets us share information, be an authority. (That’s where the word AUTHOR comes from, don’tcha know?)  But blogging can only give you those things if you have an audience. Also known as, a reader who will read your blog post, maybe share it, maybe leave a comment. Your voice can only be heard if someone is listening. Will the blogger make a sound if no one is around to hear it? Yeah, and her voice sounds like this:
    wah wah wah
    You have to have good content, consistently, to find an audience who will enjoy your posts and keep coming back to you. And that’s difficult. I’ve blogged for the past few years, and finding consistent things I like to blog about and that I think others would enjoy hearing about, is downright hard. I’m not complaining, I love blogging. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. I put a lot of my heart, soul, and time into my website, and I blog to keep it current. That’s something I get out of blogging. Good SEO. Everyone once in a while someone will tell me they learned something on my blog. That’s great, too. But I understand when bloggers give up, because the time it takes, money (let’s get rid of that pesky .wordpress.com at the end of our domain addresses, okay?) and the pounding our heads into the walls to come up with ideas. Well. There’s not a lot of return on investment there, is there?
  2. Other social media. You’re writing when you post a picture on Instagram and tell your audience the story behind it. You’re writing when you update your Facebook Author page. You’re writing when you tweet. What kind of payback is there from spending time on social media? There is some. You find camaraderie, you find support. You can find people who will help you publish, both indie and traditionally. You network. You support the “big guys” by buying their books and promoting them. But besides being involved on social media for all those things, you hope one day you meet the right person who can introduce you to the next right person (hello agent!), you tweet something that goes viral, and that maybe, because you cultivated a social media following, you might sell some books. But realistically, the “might” is pretty big. Skyscraper big. Authors learn early on that joining social media and screaming
    BUY MY BOOK
    will annoy everyone very quickly, and eventually get you muted or blocked. Which, by the way, is the exact opposite of what you want to be doing. Just a little FYI in case you’re doing it wrong. Stop it!
  3. Writing books. If you ask any writer, they’ll tell you that they would still write even if no one were to ever read anything they’ve ever written ever again. And I believe that because there is something that keeps us writing. The innate human need to tell stories and to listen to stories. It’s how we learn, it’s how our cultures are passed down from generation to generation. Someone may not read our stories now, but maybe in 50 years? 60? You never know! Storytelling is in our blood. There is satisfaction in storytelling. There is happiness in typing THE END to a book or a short story or a novella. There is joy in it.
    cricket
    But anyone who has ever published a book to crickets will tell you that sometimes you better be happy with self-satisfaction because that’s all you’re going to get. I was reading my friend Dave’s blog post right before I wrote this, and he gave me the idea for this post. He went through a lot with his release. A lot of anxiety and lot of pushing through panic publishing his book. And I wonder, if you asked him, if he knew what the outcome would be, if he knew that after all he went through publishing his book, if he would do it again.
    Was the payoff big enough?
    What was the payoff? That’s different for different people. Maybe it’s simply holding it in your hand. Maybe it’s seeing it “out in the wild” when your friends and family buy it to show their support. Maybe it’s that first review. Maybe it’s that first review by someone you don’t know.

But this is what this whole post is about–this is what it took 791 words to say. Those small things, they better the hell get you through, because in this day of self-publishing, in this day when 50,000 new books are published on Amazon every month, THAT’S ALL YOU’RE GOING TO GET.

You might not believe me when I tell you this isn’t a bitter post. You probably won’t after all the whining I’ve done about sales these past few months, and the huffing and puffing I’ve done about Amazon and KU. Those days are gone because I’ve made some decisions that feel right, and come hell or high water, I’m going to stick with the choices I’ve made. (My publishing career isn’t a ball in a pinball machine–I need to stay steady to gain ANY traction.)

This isn’t a bitter post, but it is realistic. You’re not going to set the world on fire when you hit publish. Anywhere. Not on FB when you publish an updated author post, not in a Tweet, though you may get a few hundred likes, and good on you if you can. You’re not going to change the world with a blog post. Someone did that already, back in 2011.

This is a new age of publishing, and you HAVE TO find little things you love about it to keep going, or you might as well quit. You’re not going to strike it rich with a book, or two, or even six, as I can tell you. 50 might be the new 30, but it used to be you could make okay money if you had 6-10 books out, and you can’t do that anymore. Indies making any kind of money have 10+ books out. Sure there are outliers, like Jami Albright, but for us little people who don’t have the means to go to an RWA conference and rub elbows with big authors who will put us in their newsletter, success is going to come much slower. We’re talking years. And the slower you write, well . . . you don’t need me to do that math.

So the question of this blog post wasn’t what do you get out of writing? It was, what does writing and publishing give you? 

Besides bills from hiring editors and formatters and graphic designers to do your book covers, what DOES writing give you, and is it enough to keep you going until it finally gives you what you want?

And what is it you want?

Fame and fortune, of course. Fame and fortune.


thank you for your patince

My messed up route to (non)success.

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

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

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

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

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

I chose to self-publish.

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

Notice I didn’t add envy. Or jealousy.

I don’t envy Jami. I’m happy for her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m obviously still grappling with the decision.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s what drives all of us crazy.

There are too many choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much money am I leaving on the table?

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

book report graphic

No doubt about it, looking can get pretty addicting.

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

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

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

Authors have made a lot of money on less.

Thinking about all this is maddening.

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

Then what?

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

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

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

courage fish

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

Was going wide the right choice?

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

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

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

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

But that sure doesn’t pay the rent.

Let me know your thoughts!


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

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

Thanks for reading!


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

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

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

The Wedding Party Series Update

If you follow me on social media at all, you’ll know that The Years Between Us is finally to a proofreader who will take a quick look for typos and inconsistencies.

Now that I can almost wash my hands of that book, I can put all my focus on my Wedding Party series.

Jared and Leah came in at about 67,000 words. I was a bit disappointed as I like my books to fall around 70-72,000 words. I always lose some during editing as well, so while I edit and try to plump up scenes that feel sparse, I’ll be keeping an eye on what I delete and make sure I add where appropriate.

I was able to open the file last night and I started reading from the beginning. I wrote half of it before my surgery and half of it after. My surgery was back in January and I stubbornly finished it while in recovery. So I know there’s room for improvement, especially to the second half when I was hurting, but I was too impatient to wait before writing more.

I don’t like writing in chunks, so I feel like this book isn’t “together” though that probably isn’t the case.

Anyway, as I go through this book, I’ll be looking for a few things:

  1. Consistency. I always look for this anyway, but it’s more important with this book as there is so much time between me writing the first half and the second half.
  2. Places I can pump up word count. I wrote this book in a hurry. While I don’t advocate filling your book full of fluff just to make a word count, I already know of three scenes I can add to that will make the book better. If that doesn’t bring me to my desired word count, so be it, but it will sound better, too, and that’s all that matters.
  3. Where the second books fits in. Call it poor planning or brilliance (I prefer brilliance) book one and book two are going to overlap. There’s nothing I can do about it. How am I going to pull that off? Luckily, I knew that was going to happen before I started writing book one.

The characters are in Rocky Point, Minnesota for a wedding. The bride and groom aren’t main characters because they are already together, but they do pop up now and then as strong secondary characters. Anyway, everyone is in town for two weeks. If I wanted all four books to take place within those two weeks, my couples would be falling in love and having their stories told in a couple of days. And while a countdown plot like that works for a thriller, it doesn’t make good sense for a romance because it’s hard to carry out a complete character arc. People need time to fall in love. I love the “love at first sight” trope, but to make the story realistic, characters need time and space.

Falling in love . . .

Book three will cover the week of the wedding and book four will cover time after.

James Fox Wedding Party

James Fox. Not 100% how I pictured him, but have you ever looked at stock photos of men in tuxes? Some of them are downright creepy!

I lucked out there because the two people who are featured in book four live in Rocky Point, and it won’t matter if the wedding is over to complete their story. And the way the books were plotted out, not everyone leaves Rocky Point after the wedding. That might have been luck or good planning, but either way, I feel good about how the rest of the series will go.

But for now, while I edit book one, I’ll just need to keep track of where everyone is so book two is accurate.

This isn’t unlike writing The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. Ben and Lila’s stories were split down the middle, and they only intersected a handful of times.

Marnie Zimmerman wedding photo

This is how I pictured Marnie Zimmerman, the bride. 

The bride’s time isn’t all accounted for, as the primary focus of book one is Leah and Jared, so Callie will get some bride-time in book two. I didn’t want it to feel weird to the reader that Leah was able to have bride time, but no one else does. But James, the groom won’t be spending time with Callie’s love interest because he isn’t in the wedding party.

I’m really excited to start book two, but I’ll finish plumping up book one first and getting that one almost ready to go, as I’m not thrilled to be working on two projects at once again.

So that’s a short update. I’ve been trying to keep everyone posted on how the series is going because I plan to rapid-release them, and I’m hoping to get them all written by the end of October or so so I can have time create covers and do the formatting. There won’t be a book released after The Years Between Us for a while, so it’s important to me that you all know I’m still writing!

Hopefully I can release Jared and Leah in the winter of this year, and release the rest of the books going into 2020.

We’ll see. You know what they say about good intentions.

Check back with me to see what else is going on in Rocky Point, Minnesota, release news with The Years Between Us, and my slow slow slow progress going wide!

Until next time!

 

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

When Friends Turn into Business Partners . . . Sometimes it doesn’t work out

friends to business parnters blog post

I’ve never met a community so full of people willing to help. I’ve met authors who will share anything and everything. How they use ads, how they write blurbs and the resources that taught them how. They share their favorite blogs, podcasts, promo sites, non-fiction books. There are even authors who will share how much they make in sales.

So many authors are helpful and generous. (And if you run into one who won’t share anything, well, keep an eye out. I’ve found those people are users, and you won’t get anything in return for the information you share with them.)

I’ve made a few friends on Twitter. Some are better friends than anyone I’ve met in real life. Some have come and gone. Some needed so much hand-holding it was physically draining to be friends with them. Some acted like their work was the only thing worth discussing, and I’ve faded away because I believe friendship should work both ways.

I’ve had some small successes as an author, and I like to share, too. It’s a horrible feeling to be snubbed when sharing something you’re proud of.

friends or enemies

But there are those who stick around–you feel a kinship, support goes both ways, and you settle into an online routine of touching base, reading each other’s blogs, retweeting news and book cover reveals, and helping with book launches.

Inevitably this will lead to your friendship moving more into a business relationship.

You’ll be asked to edit for someone or do a cover. Maybe she needs a critique partner or he needs a beta reader. It could even be as simple as doing an author interview for a blog.

Friendships can easily blur into business and while the transition feels easy and breezy, if you don’t treat that relationship with the respect it deserves, not only are you risking your business relationship with that person, your friendship will be broken as well.

The culprit of all this is the nonchalance and the cavalier attitude of writers. They aren’t treating their business with the respect it deserves, so they see no harm in treating you the same way.

I treat my books as a business. I always have and I always will. When I do something for you, I do it in a decent amount of time, and to the best of my ability. And that’s always what I’ve done.

business peers

But I haven’t always been treated with the same courtesy.

I paid someone to edit for me, and one day she told me she was editing my book while she was having her hair done at the salon. I guess it was too much to ask that she edit my book in a quiet place where she could focus. I paid another, and she waited months before even starting to edit my book. I have patience–I have two children, three cats, and an ex-husband. I have patience. But when you pay someone for a service, even if she’s a friend, you expect them to treat you with professionalism.

Those people were my friends. Circumstances being what they were at the time . . . they aren’t anymore.

What’s funny is recently one of them asked me for a favor. I guess it wasn’t so funny when I didn’t respond.

Most of the time I can separate friendship from business. (I treat my Twitter account as part of my business, and I rarely unfollow anyone for crappy behavior. Most times the only thing that will earn you an unfollow is if you do it to me first.) And I can stay in touch with someone friendship-wise even if we don’t/didn’t work together so well in the business aspect of things.

I edited for someone, and that didn’t work out like I had expected. We’re still friends because I expressed how I felt, and she apologized. I don’t hold grudges, but just like anyone else, I remember how people treat me.

When you treat someone like crap, you’re burning bridges, plain and simple. The author so quick to help you? They may not be so quick to pull through for you next time.

So what can you do to keep your friendships intact if it moves into business territory?

  1. Set boundaries and expectations.
    Before work exchanges hands, hammer out what expectations are. Does she expect to get paid? Is she doing it for free? Are you sure? Is there an expectation you’re going to help her down the road? Is there a deadline? Can your friend meet it? If she can’t, can you change it? If you’re too rigid with what you need, it’s better for your friend to pass. Which brings me to:
  2. Don’t be angry if your friend can’t meet your needs.
    A lot of indie business is trade and favors. Money doesn’t always exchange hands. That’s common when indies operate in the red–especially when just starting out. You may feel desperate because if this particular friend can’t help you, who will? People who know what they are doing, and willing to do it for free or on the cheap are few. If you need her, it’s YOUR job to bend, not hers. If you can’t, understand where she’s coming from, take a deep breath, and move on. While writing is a business, it will always come in secondary to children, jobs that pay the bills, and maybe even an evening of self-care if she’s had a bad day. If your needs are more important than that, hire out and pay for the priority. Your friend helping you isn’t a right–it’s a privilege.
  3. Keep communication open.
    Maybe you think she’s not working fast enough. Or you haven’t heard from her in a couple of days. Or worse yet, you haven’t heard from her, yet she’s posting on social media. It’s easy to go from simmering to boiling if you expect her to be working on your project but she’s posting a new blog post every day. It’s easy to get annoyed–trust me, I know. Maybe she already had them scheduled, and she IS working on your stuff. You won’t know unless you ask. If you need constant reassurance like daily updates, request it before you give her the project. That way you can remind her you asked.
  4. Keep social media in mind.
    When I edited for my friend, she never stopped posting her publication date. She was building buzz–I get that. But her manuscript needed work, and the more she posted and the more I edited, the angrier I became until eventually I felt like I was doing it for nothing. So remember–you are friends and she can see what you tweet, post on your Facebook author page, blog, and anything snarky by way of a bitchy meme on Instagram. But the same goes for her. If she’s tweeting she’s editing a pile of garbage, or the person she’s editing for is dumber than a box of rocks . . . you may need to rethink if you want her working on your project. A good friend doesn’t necessarily translate into a good business partner. (I would rethink my friendship with anyone who would put something like that out into the world, anyway.)
  5. Know when to quit.
    Ideally, you want to work things out before this step. If you can’t, the next best thing is to back out before your business relationship destroys your friendship. Be clear why you don’t want to work with him anymore. Try not to let hurt feelings muddy the water. He may have hurt your feelings, but that is only as a bi-product of unprofessional behavior that may not have been intentional. And don’t flip out if he has to back out on you. Maybe it has nothing to do with professionalism. His private issues are none of your business unless he wants to divulge them. That depends on how good of friends you are. But if it is due to not being able to work together, learn from the experience and move on. Having a truthful “We make better friends than business partners” talk can salvage a friendship. Don’t be defensive.

Not all friendships cum business relationships are going to fail. I’ve heard of several people who have worked together for years. There relationships are based on respect and a mutual admiration of each other’s work.

It’s up to you how much you can take–and it’s up to your friend what her limits are if you’re the one behaving badly. Publishing is scary and stressful, but alienating people who want to help you makes it more so. And it won’t do your career any good if someone labels you as difficult to work with. You may be passed up for opportunities and you won’t even realize it.

stressed out

If you’re the one slighted, do your best to move on. If that means you’re no longer talking to that person, so be it. Publishing IS stressful, writing, emotionally draining. You need to protect your mental health, too.

Friendships can come and go, but it’s difficult to repair a business connection.

Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’ll have to circle back.


To be clear, I didn’t mention any of my experiences to throw my friends and acquaintances under the bus. I mentioned them to demonstrate I know how it feels to be treated in a manner that is hurtful and unprofessional. I have other examples of people using my generous nature against me–to the point of a friend of mine saying I should stop helping people.

I couldn’t do that, though. For every one person who ignores what I offer, five people appreciate any information I can give them. Be it my favorite stock photo sites, or a reminder that KDP Print offers templates to format the interiors of paperback books.

For every one person who ignores my edits, another person’s writing is brought to the next level.

I’ll probably never stop helping people. I enjoy it too much. But neither am I a doormat, and if you treat me poorly, that’s on you, not me.

If you treat anyone without respect and kindness, you need to look inside yourself and figure out why. But the secret is no one has to be friends with you, no one has to do business with you, and one day you may very well find yourself alone.

being helpful

If you enjoy helping and being part of the writing community, don’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel. There are lots of people out there who need help–and one day you’ll find yourself in a group of friends you can trust to help you in return.

That’s what the writing community is all about.

photos taken from pixabay or canva. graphics made in canva.com

jared and leah for end of blog posts

Book launches, book anniversaries and other musings about three years of hard work.

This morning I was reading a blog post my by friend, Sarah. It’s her book baby’s birthday today, and she’s celebrating her book turning one! And while I admit I’ve never celebrated a book’s birthday–hell, I rarely announce a launch–her blog post encouraged me to take a look back at my publishing milestones.

I don’t have my publishing dates memorized or anything like that, so I’ll need to go on to Amazon and take a look:


Under lock and key

I thought The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book I published, but according to the dates, I actually published Under Lock and Key a week before on July 7th, 2016. It’s a novelette that I wrote from a writing prompt a dear friend of mind, Liz, tweeted one day. I haven’t read it for a long time, and no doubt it needs another edit. When I go wide, I’ll put it everywhere for free. It’s gotten some so-so reviews, but I can’t expect anything too great as it was the first thing I published.

 


the_corner_of_1700_h_cover_for_kindle

A week later, I published The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. This is a trainwreck of a book, as first books are wont to be. The original cover was horrible, and even with a beta reader and an editor, it still wasn’t up to par. Recently I went through one of my old paperbacks and edited both novellas, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever put them in. Even the “new” cover needs work,  but my mantra has always been “always look forward.” Having a sub-par book for sale doesn’t make me want to celebrate, however. So I may try to find time one day to fix it up.

 


I was still in novella mode when I decided to try my hand at erotica, and I wrote six novellas back to back for a total of (approximately) 155,000 words. I wrote all of them at once, hired an editor and published them together. Summer Secrets is about a group of friends who have sex, party, fight, and make up at a small lakeside resort during their summer vacation. For what they are, I’m actually quite proud of these; I had found my voice, and the interconnecting plots stand even without the sex.

Summer Secrets was a lot of work, but they made me a better writer. While I won’t be writing any more erotica, I don’t have any regrets taking the time to write these. They were published in August, 2017. I guess I didn’t realize I took a whole year to write them, edit them, format them, and do the covers, but at 155,000 words, I guess that’s not so bad, either. I redid the covers not long ago, and reformatted the insides using Vellum. I was even able to add the embellishments I tried for the first time around. They are pretty, and it’s too bad they aren’t in a genre I want to write anymore. I don’t consider them part of my backlist, but I won’t bury them the way I kind of blur over 1700 when asked about my backlist.

The covers look better, and the paperback covers look a lot nicer. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, and I think it shows.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

summer secrets new cover 4-6

 

summer secrets chapter starts


I had Don’t Run Away done while I was doing these, and I can’t even say when exactly I fixed it up and decided to make it a trilogy.  I published the first on November 17th, 2017. I do remember while Summer Secrets was being edited, I wrote the second book of the trilogy. Later that became Chasing You which was published on December 14th, 2017. Running Scared was published in January of 2018. All I can say is when I look at those dates is holy crap. It helped I had Don’t Run Away done, and that was one tough book. It went through a lot of edits. I added POVs, took them out. Rewrote large sections. This was before I started listening to my novels as part of my editing routine, and I have no idea after the first one was beta read/edited, what I did with the others. I think by then I was confident in my own editing skills, but I doubt I was at the point I am today.

At any rate, they do okay, and during a Freebooksy ad, I gave away over 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away. That promo led to the first wave of readers whom I hadn’t met via social media (AKA strangers), and I’m happy to have done it. I also proved that even though it feels like a quilt, all patched together, the book was strong enough to get decent read-through to the others. If you want to read about my Freebooksy promo results, look here. If you want to read some of my reviews on Goodreads, look here.

The best lesson I learned from writing the trilogy is to MAKE THE FIRST BOOK STRONG TO ENSURE READ-THROUGH. It won’t matter how many books you have in a series if your first book won’t carry them.

I’ve redone the covers, though they aren’t a drastic change, and I reformatted the insides using Vellum.

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I can tell you I was done with those characters by the time I finished Running Scared, and I didn’t think I’d ever do another series. I don’t want to say I was bored, because what would that say about my writing? But I will admit it’s nice to move on.

Wherever He Goes was published on June 1, 2018. It was the first stand alone novel I’d ever written–up to that point, even my novellas had been connected stories. I haven’t done much promo for that, though I did do a paid Bargainbooksy that didn’t do anything. Looking back at stats, I don’t even think the sales paid for the promo. If you want to look at my blog post about my results, look here.

There were a few firsts with this one: I had more beta readers, and I did the entire paperback cover in Canva. It looks amazing, and is still one of my favorite covers to date. I’ve had good feedback about the novel, and I enjoyed writing it. I need to do more promo for it, as I think it’s an enjoyable contemporary romance that should have more readers than it does.

Wherever He Goes (1)


All of Nothing, I feel, is my strongest book to date, and I believe in it so strongly, I entered it into the RWA RITA awards contest. It can more than hold its own against some of the traditionally published books out there, and when I did a Freebooksy promo for it, I gave away over 6,000 books. (If you want to read about those results, click here.) I love the way my ad for it looked in their newsletter, and bless them for making it the first book!

freebooksyadallofnothing

It didn’t place as high as Don’t Run Away on the free lists, simply because they are in separate categories. (Don’t Run Away is a sports romance.) But the book has more reviews than any other of my books. Published on October 16, 2018, it took me four and a half months to write it, edit it, format it, and release it. I had it beta read and proofed, and I’m very proud of how it turned out–from cover to cover.

All of Nothing Paperback Cover


The Years Between UsI don’t have any more published work out right now, though The Years Between Us is finished. I could have had it published already, but I’m working on a series that I won’t release until they are all done. I’ve been taking my time editing The Years Between Us, but at 74,000 words, it is a complete and finished novel. I don’t have the full cover completed, nor has it been fully edited, but I do plan to have it out into the world maybe by the end of March, or early April. There is no rush, as I don’t see my series being released until Christmas of this year. The first draft of the first book is finished, however, though I admit getting out of my recovery rut has been harder than I expected.


Anyway, so looking at those dates, seeing how hard I’ve worked . . . what have I learned through these two and a half years of publishing?

  1. Not many people care. Sure I may have a lot of followers on Twitter, may be a part of a lot of writing groups on Facebook, but unless your books are actually doing well, and you can prove it through sales, no one cares what you’re doing. Only a handful of my friends have patted my back, and that’s fine. My progress is for myself. I know I’m working hard, and I hope I can be an inspiration to others, whether my books are selling or not.
  2. You have to keep moving forward, or you’ll feel like you’re on a going down escalator trying run upstairs. With indie publishing, everyone is faster, quicker, doing more than you. Some are doing this in a legit way, and some are not. But for you, yourself, if you want to make any headway in the industry, always be moving forward. Don’t get caught in a rut because days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Just like my friend Sarah says in the blog post I linked to at the beginning, all of a sudden a year had gone by and she has nothing to show for it. 500 words a day over the course of 365 days in a year can net you 182,500 words in a year.
  3. Even when you’re doing the work, it will feel like you’re in quicksand. The harder you struggle, the faster you sink. I’ve done a lot of work these past couple of years, and if I kept track of my hours worked versus the time and expense, I would be negative in return on investment. You can’t let this get you down, or you’ll stop. Write for the joy of it first, so you always keep working at your dreams. And let success be a secondary motivator. My success will come–I’ll make sure it does. But I can’t guarantee when it will. All I know is if I stop working for it, I definitely won’t have it.
  4. It might be your baby, but after you publish it, it’s not your baby anymore. MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU. This reasoning is probably why I don’t celebrate my book birthdays. I don’t think of my books as babies. I think of them as products to be sold to help me make money. I do enjoy writing, or I wouldn’t do it. But I also want to make a profit so I can keep doing this, for the long-term. While I’ve stated I like my job, and yeah, my free time at work as helped me with my publishing speed, I would love to earn a living on my writing only. I can’t be precious with my work. I’m always learning about craft, always keeping up with the latest thing about publishing. Even if you’re persistent and want to keep comparing your books to babies, eventually you expect your children to go out into the world on their own and make their own money. Even real-life children grow up.

Thanks for sticking with me–this is probably one of the longest blog posts to date. I doubt I’ll do a recap again; as my backlist grows, it will just get too time consuming. But the look back was fun, and thank you again for joining me!

If you  want to read any of my books, you can check out my Amazon author page, here.

Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing have recently been added to Kobo, and you can find them here and here.

Thanks for reading!