Author Update, Thoughts on Getting BLOCKED, and Giveaways, are They Worth it?

Image by Mint Miller from Pixabay

Things around here are the same. I had a good Thanksgiving with my kids, sister, and ex-husband. The turkey came out well (which is always a gamble for me as I tend to over cook), all the sides were good, and I only peeled a little skin off my finger when I was peeling potatoes. The questions when we played Trivial Pursuit weren’t even that difficult, and though my sister won both times like she normally does, I didn’t feel stupid (like I normally do) so that was a win for me all by itself. I started editing for a friend of mine, and I’m excited to read something different for a change and keep my editing skills sharp. It’s been a long time since I’ve edited for someone and it’s a fun break from my own book. I’m 28k into my new WIP and I think at this point I have all the bits and pieces I need to finish it. I don’t know how long it’s going to be–I have a list of the plot points I haven’t hit yet, so I’m guessing I’ll need at least another 50k words before it’s done. Still no idea what I’m going to do with it, but I may just hire a proofer and publish it when it’s ready. I bought a 2023 calendar to keep track of all my releases and promo dates, and I’m going to force myself to use it next year. I always buy a cute planner (last year I even bought a calendar blotter though I have no idea why because the only desk I have is for work and I don’t write there) that I ignore, but I’m going to try my best to make 2023 more professional for me and my books.

I have this calendar for 2022, but I changed my release plan for several of my books, and didn’t end up using it. I wrote and packaged a duet and a trilogy instead and that used up a lot of this year. 2023 is a big year for me and I’ll be releasing quite a few books. My co-worker isn’t reading my series (she prefers watching Netflix and watching TikTok videos, SMH), so I’ll have to ask for those proofs back and figure something else out. I really wanted to have a second set of eyes on these, but even a proofreader at $70/ book (which totally isn’t bad for a proofreader, honestly) would still cost me almost 500 dollars for all six. It’s tough, it really is, and the last thing I want to do is read them again, but I may not have a choice. This series will butter my bread if they take off, and I want them perfect before I publish them.

Anyway, so one thing at a time, and I’m looking forward to publishing my trilogy in January. There doesn’t seem to be anything getting in the way of that, and I’m proud of these books so I won’t be pushing them back for any reason (unlike my series because they don’t feel ready and I don’t feel ready). What will come after them remains to be seen as I have a standalone ready to publish, but by then I might just do my rockstar romance and then figure out what I want to publish in the summer. Choices, choices, but it’s a good problem to have.


Saturday I got caught up in a squabble on Twitter about giveaways, and not to my surprise, she blocked me. It’s fine. What I said, and what I will stick to, is if your giveaway isn’t doing what you want–new readers, read-through, whatever the case may be as to why you hosted a giveaway, fix your book. Fix your cover, fix the copy that you used with the giveaway, fix your blurb (anywhere, everywhere), fix the look inside. What ruffled her feathers was when I said, free junk is still junk. She said it was harsh, but so what if it is? I’ve been on Twitter for a long time. A long time, and the most common theme that I’ve run into is when people complain their books don’t sell, but are unwilling to take advice on why. If I say I don’t like your cover because I don’t think it will meet reader expectations, I’m not insulting you. I WANT your book to sell. And YOU want your book to sell or you wouldn’t be asking for feedback. Anytime someone blocks me, my feelings are hurt, and I don’t like hurting other people’s feelings. The fact is though, I should stop offering my opinion. People truly don’t want it. Especially when they’ve already gotten ten tweets saying how wonderful their Canva cover is and I’m the only one who says it looks terrible and maybe you should be studying the Amazon top 100 in your genre to figure out where you went wrong. Staying in my own lane has always been difficult, but think of how much time I would have if I stayed off Twitter. My self-esteem levels would probably increase, considering there isn’t a week that goes by where someone doesn’t tell me, “Thanks for your input but fuck off. I like my cover how it is.” But I get the last laugh when a month later they’re complaining because their book didn’t take off like they wanted it to. Shrug. It is a pretty crappy merry-go-round that I’ve hitched myself to, an addiction that needs to be broken. That could be one of my 2023 New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never stayed where I’m not wanted, and that goes for friendships and romantic relationships as well.

If you’re thinking about a giveaway, I have some quick thoughts to make your giveaway go as smoothly as possible and hopefully you get out of it what you want.

Fix your book before your giveaway. When I did my promo for His Frozen Heart, I fixed the back matter of all four books, changed the covers back how they were before Amazon suspended my ads, edited the look insides of all of them and made sure the blurbs still held up. This is really important. If you’re buying a spot on in a Freebooksy promo or you were approved for a Bookbub Featured Deal, your book is still going to compete with other books. True, some readers load up their e-readers with every free book they come across, but if your book has a fabulous cover and a hooky blurb, readers may read your book first and if your book is solid, you may have found a life-long fan of your work. These were all the free books on November 17th when I ran my promo. Your book has to compete with others’. There is no getting around it. https://www.freebooksy.com/?s=november+17

Know why you’re giving your book away. This, too, is important or you’ll only disappointed yourself after the fact. As my friend Jeanne and I were talking about couple days ago, ROI doesn’t always mean sales. ROI could be exposure, a borrow though Kindle Unlimited, a newsletter sign up, or read-through to the next book, either through a sale or a borrow. I didn’t have a plan when I bought my Freebooksy for His Frozen Heart, and because I didn’t have a plan, my results weren’t optimal. I wanted to give it away because it’s the closest thing to a holiday novel I have, and it’s nearing Christmas. I wanted to give it away because I hadn’t done a promo for that series for a long time. But, I also don’t have plans to write 3rd person under that name anymore, so I wasn’t giving a book away to build that author name, and if you aren’t using your cement blocks to build a foundation, you’re wasting concrete.

Have realistic expectations. The woman arguing with me asked me if I saw immediate sales after my promo. I gave away 2,000 copies of His Frozen Heart, and in her mind, I should have sold 2,000 copies of other books to make up for that. It doesn’t work that way. Yes, I got read-through, and I have still gotten read-through of my other three books and will continue for a bit though those sales are trickling in now. I may not earn back my fee this month (I still stand a chance of that before the end of the year), and that’s fine. People need time to read and the holidays are busy. Some people may not have liked the first book and won’t read the others. That’s a risk when you publish any book. You can’t be all things to all people.

Ask yourself if this is the right time to do a giveaway or other promo. I was listening to Zoe York in a Clubhouse room and she said try to do some kind of promo every three months to keep sales moving. I agree and I’ve fallen dismally behind in that regard because I’ve been too busy writing to think about my backlist. Once I settle into my pen name, all my momentum going forward will be for those books, and like a car going down a steep hill, I hope I can keep up the speed even if my foot is off the gas. I said in my last blog post that had I really been thinking overall about my business, I shouldn’t have paid for that promo, and it’s still true. I should have saved that money to push my 1st person books next year. Now I have to take that loss. I spent $115.00 on the Freebooksy spot and as of this writing have spent $8.97 on Amazon ads for the month of November. I’ve only made $83.97 this month which puts me in hole $40.00. (Because of all the extras I pay for throughout the year, I’ve only finished out a couple of years in the black, so that’s the overall state of my publishing career up until now. It’s not a surprise though, and something I’m obviously trying to change.)

If you don’t want to give a book away, don’t. I’m not your mom telling you what to do. Return on investment will be different for everyone, but the main reason I see for authors not wanting to give their book away is because they think they should be paid for their time and what they think they are worth. It’s true that some people value the things they have to pay for, on the other hand, COVID is still a thing, there’s over six million people who are unemployed in the United States, and people are struggling to buy food and pay their rent. As someone who is fortunate enough to have a little money for ads but still stresses about monthly bills, I understand both sides. Yes, I want to be paid for all the work I put into my books, but I also pay for a KU subscription because I couldn’t read as much as I want without it–especially the indie authors who aren’t in libraries. So undersand that if you, under no circumstances, are never going to give your book away, you are limiting yourself to readers who can afford to pay for every book you publish. If you’re asking 4.99/book and you’re selling a 6 book series, that’s $30.00; not a little sum to many people. Wide authors can be extremely successful, but they do run promos on book ones all the time to draw in new readers. If you don’t want to do that, that’s a business decision that only you can make for yourself and your books.


Free trash is still trash, and if you can’t judge your product with honest skepticism, I can’t help you. Maybe my words were harsh, but I don’t think she needed to block me. Mute me if she didn’t want to hear my opinions anymore–we weren’t following each other, I would have disappeared from her Twitter feed forever. I rubbed her the wrong way, and maybe one day she’ll change her mind and think giveaways are the best marketing strategy for her books. I can’t say it doesn’t bother me because it hurts to be shunned for your beliefs and maybe I’m too thin-skinned for Twitter (or to acerbic for my followers which is probably closer to the truth). Honestly though, I need to keep my nose out of people’s business and actually stop trying to help people. It will save me a lot of hurt, and people are going to do what they want regardless of what my opinions are. We’re all struggling against the stigma of indie publishing, and you’d think people would try to do their very best to fight against it, instead they do what they want and just validate those people who think indies are trash. It is what it is. As one of my friends likes to say, not my circus not my monkeys, but I sure do like to buy tickets.

Thanks for reading! I hope you have a wonderful rest of the month!

Getting reviews and my second try with BookSprout

We all know how important book reviews are. Hell, any review has value. When you’re going to spend a lot of money on a TV, car, a large appliance, or if you want to see if a piece of clothing is made correctly and fits the way it should, the first thing you do as a consumer is look at the reviews. As often as I look at reviews to weigh whether or not a purchase is worth it, I rarely, if ever, leave a review on a product, including books. If I read a non-fiction book I have particularly enjoyed or I thought it was helpful for what I bought it for, I may leave a review, but more than likely, I’ll recommend it on Twitter or on this blog first. As an indie author, leaving reviews is a touchy subject, and when it comes to peers, it seems if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say it at all. Because if you leave a so-so or bad review, that’s opening the door for your peers to retaliate. Not everyone can take constructive criticism and there’s no point in self-sabotage when you run into someone like that. (And trust me, you will.)

But as an author and publisher of my own books, I know how important reviews can be and simply telling an author to put together an ARC team is one of those non-answers that drive me crazy. Yes, put together a review team. Duh. But how, exactly, do you do that?

I think a statistic that floats around is for every 100 sales count on one review coming from those sales. It’s less than that, I think, if you’re giving books away. From a Google search and people blogging about their own experiences, the numbers seem to depend on genre, if you already have an audience, etc. The unpredictability of the market doesn’t help. When you think a book will hit just right and it sinks no matter how much marketing you do, or a book you never thought would have one sale shoots to the top of the charts.

I never look at my reviews–I already know my ego and self-esteem are too fragile to read them, and like I said above, there are nasty people out there who love nothing more than to try to take their grievances out on you for expressing an opinion. Unfortunately, you can’t stop the bitter and jealous people from trying to get their licks in, and the best thing you can do there is write a good book and market it to the best of your ability as there is no greater revenge than success despite their attempts to hold you back.

Anyway, I didn’t try to get any reviews beforehand for Captivated by Her or Addicted to Her when I published my duet over the summer. That was my mistake and now their buy-pages look empty months after release. A kind woman and a troll gave star ratings for Captivated and I’m thinking of doing a promotion on that book soon just to find readers and bump up sales hoping that more ratings and/or reviews will cancel out the jerk who wanted to hurt me.

It’s tough to find reviewers who will give you time for free, and I turned to Booksprout for Rescue Me. I paid for the lowest package ($9.00/month) and gave away 23/25 copies. The founder of BookSprout said somewhere (I’m in so many groups, I apologize for the lack of citation) that they weeded out the reviewers who only wanted free books, and that persuaded me to give them a try.

I don’t want to insult any of the reviewers, so if you want to go to Rescue Me’s product page and take a look, the ones from Booksprout are labeled as such by the reviewer at the bottom of the review. Out of the 23 I gave away, 17 reviewed mostly on Amazon, though a couple found it on Goodreads and reviewed there too. (Now there’s a lava pit that’s not worth jumping into.) Can I say the quality is better than when I used them in the past (when they were free)? Not sure. Sometimes we have take our expectations down a notch, and I’m guessing that’s why Amazon started the star-only rating in the first place: to encourage readers to quickly rate the book as they must think that’s better than nothing. Professional book reviewers have a formula they follow when they write a review. Quick synopsis, their likes and dislikes. You can tell from perusing reviews of your favorite books on Goodreads that sometimes the people who write the reviews need just as much time as they did to actually read the book.

Not every review can be as in-depth as one that reads like a book report, and sometimes we take what we can get.

But one of the biggest questions indies ask is, how can we get reviews? These days the only way to get reviews is to put together an ARC team which can take years of nurturing and publishing regularly, sell a lot of books and hope for the best, or paying for them. Paying sounds shady but with everything pay to play these days (ads, beta reading, sensitivity reading, editing, formatting, etc) it’s really not a surprise that the only way to get reviews (especially just when you’re publishing) is to pay for them.

There are reputable review services out there. I’m not talking about the crappy ones that approach you through an unwanted DM on Instagram, or even the review-for-a-review offers from other indies. I’ve been asked to read and review and it’s nice I can honestly say I don’t review books. It’s too dangerous to say how you really feel about a book, and even if you have guidelines where you don’t review less than a three-star book, you have to keep close to your vest who you are reading at the time or there are plenty of hurt feelings down the road. (I take care of a lot of this by not promoting my books on Twitter or volunteering whom I’m reading, if I am.)

Here are some review services that I know about, but the only one I’ve used is BookSprout.

BookSprout
“Booksprout was started because of how time consuming it was for authors to manage their review team. Since then, it’s grown into a fantastic community of authors and readers focused on reviewing great books. Our goal is to create products that speed up or automate the non-writing tasks that every self-published author must do in order to be successful.”

NetGalley
“We help readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences. If you are a librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media, get started right now by signing in or joining for free. Welcome!”

HIddenGems
“The Hidden Gems ARC program sends your novel to our list of reviewers, doing our best to match your type/genre of book with readers that are most likely to enjoy it. We constantly do our best to clean our list, removing readers that typically ask for books but do not leave reviews and as such, we have an industry leading review rate of over 80%. This means that if we send your book out to 100 reviewers, on average you may end up with more than 80 reviews!

IndieReader
“We offer two different types of book reviews: editorial and reader. The editorial reviews come from IndieReader’s team of journalists, librarians and writers. The reviews are objective and truthful and appear in print with your consent. Once approved, reviews of your book are published on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieReader’s blog. If your book earns four- to five-star reviews, the review will also be featured on Huffington Post.”

Publisher’s Weekly/BookLife (Editorial Review)
“Both Publishers Weekly and BookLife Reviews treat self-published books as professional publications and hold them to professional standards. Before you submit your book, use BookLife’s free self-evaluations to help you make your book the best it can be. (These are for informational purposes only, and do not determine your review eligibility.) The best way to increase your odds of receiving a Publishers Weekly review, or of being reviewed positively, is to make sure your book is up to professional standards.”

Kirkus Reviews (Editorial Review)
“As an unpublished or self-published author, it can be a relentless struggle to attract a significant amount of attention to your book or manuscript. By purchasing a Kirkus indie review, authors can have the opportunity to build some name recognition and get noticed by agents, publishers and other industry influencers. Kirkus has been an industry-trusted source for honest and accessible reviews since 1933 and has helped countless authors build credibility in the publishing realm ever since. Browse through some of our author success stories, and get a glimpse of what exactly an indie review from Kirkus can do for you.
Our indie reviews are written by qualified professionals, such as librarians, nationally published journalists, creative executives and more. While we do not guarantee positive reviews, unfavorable reviews can be taken as valuable feedback for improvements and ultimately do not have to be published on our site.”

BookSirens (Book Bloggers)
“The book blog sites listed in our directory are vetted for quality: they are active, have clear review policies, and usually have a good following on social media. In fact, the ~1000 book blogs in our catalog have a cumulative following of over 1,000,000 readers. The most popular book review sites in our catalog have between 10,000 and 70,000 followers.
Many of these sites not only review books but also accept guest posts, do cover reveals, and participate in blog tours. While the top book blogs tend be YA book review blogs and romance book review blogs, we also feature less common genres like travel book review blogsbusiness book review blogscomic book blogs, and paranormal book blogs.”

Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (Book Bloggers)
“Published since 2009, The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages helps authors find book reviewers for indie and self-published books, and provides trusted advice for contacting them. It is the only comprehensive resource available in book format.
It is published by PartnerPress, a provider of publishing and imprint management services for authors and businesses. Together with AuthorImprints and BookReviewerYellowPages.com, it is part of Sellbox Inc., founded in 2002 by David Wogahn.
David Wogahn became editor and publisher in 2017. He previously wrote the foreword for the sixth edition, and contributed the guide to producing quality books included in the seventh edition.
We are members of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).”

What I”m hoping for using Booksprout is to cultivate a group of reviewers who like my books and will leave a review every time. Like any other platform, you have to use it consistently, meaning, you have to publish consistently. After a few books, maybe they’ll sign up for my newsletter and become part of my fan base that will also buy books. The only thing about BookSprout’s pay to play action is that I don’t see away to pause my subscription if I don’t have a book release that month. I pay for only one book a month, which is a bummer because under the free version, when I was ready to publish my small-town holiday series, I put them all up at once. I can’t do that now, so I’m not sure what that means for the trilogy I want to publish in January. I’m not going to bump up my plan, and I don’t know what it would do to my account if I canceled between books. I don’t want to delete my profile and have to start all over again–that’s no way to build a team of reviewers.

I’m a bit happier than before, and it seems as though the readers who reviewed Rescue Me actually did read it. I wouldn’t put my books on BookSprout while they are in KU, so that leaves my duet in the cold, but like I said, hopefully a couple of promos will get them to move. I’ve always had decent luck giving my books away, and while read-through drop is to be expected, I don’t think my series experienced any more than normal so I have decent hopes this time around.

I don’t have much else. This is a great thread by Zoe York on Twitter about getting reviews. Have a great week, and Happy Halloween!

The top 6 reasons listening to marketing advice is a pain in the A$$.

We all have marketing advice coming out our ears. I’m to the point where I don’t even care about marketing advice right now. I stopped listening to Clubhouse, I’m not an active participant in any Facebook group. All I’ve been doing is writing, writing, and more writing because let’s face it, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have product. But more than that, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have the right product. So here are my top six reasons why listening to marketing advice is a pain the you know what.

You don’t have the same backlist as the person dispensing the advice.
Frontlist drives backlist. Right? Maybe you’ve never heard it phrased like that. Maybe you’ve heard “writing the next book is the best marketing for the current book.” I like frontlist drives backlist better because sometimes we think that after a book is so many months old it will stop selling. Maybe in traditional publishing circles this is true–when bookstores yank your paperbacks off the shelves, but we’re digital now, and books on the digital shelf don’t get old. So when you have someone who’s been publishing for a while saying that their newest release earned them lots of money–you don’t know if it’s from the current release or if their new book bumped up all the books in their catalog. Listening to someone talk about how they are promoting their 20th book might not do much for you if you’re planning a second. They are 100 steps ahead of you. Take notes if you want, but chances are good what they are saying won’t apply to you. I’ve been in that position, too. Listening to big indies is discouraging. Rather than listening, I go write.

You’re not in the same genre/subgenre/novel length/platform.
If you write thrillers, what a romance author is doing may not help that much. Maybe you’ll get some ideas because a lot of marketing is universal, but for example, lots of romance authors are on TikTok right now. Whether that is beneficial for you, you would have to do your research and figure it out before you waste time learning how to make the videos. Marketing for wide isn’t going to be the same if you’re in KU, just like listening to a webinar on how to market a historical saga isn’t going to do much for you if you’re a children’s book author. Marketing advice isn’t created equal and it helps to figure out what you’re selling before listening to advice. Even marketing for historical romance would be different than marketing mafia romance. If you write short stories, chance are marketing those will be different than if you’re writing long novels.

They have money–you don’t.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, I bought a Freebooksy, put my first in series for free, and watched the royalties roll in through page reads.” That sounds like the answer to anyone’s prayers, except, then you rush to Written Word Media and see a Freebooksy spot is $40 to $175. If you’re trying to promote a standalone, there’s no way you’ll get that money back paying to give away a free book. Amazon ads aren’t nearly as expensive (I have six ads going and have only spent 4 dollars this month so far) but if you don’t know how to put together a Facebook ad, they are happy to take your money and run leaving you with no clicks and no sales. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do for free anymore, all the begging going on right now on Twitter is proof of that. So it would be in your best interest to find a couple of nickels to rub together, make sure your book is advertising ready, and hope that you can find some traction with a low cost-per-click ad. If you’re afraid of losing money, do what you can with your product so that doesn’t happen. The person who DOES make their money back and then some on ads and promos has a product that people want and all they’re doing is helping readers find it.

They have a newsletter. You don’t.
Ever listen to a 6-figure indie author talk about their marketing campaigns? They give you all the sales numbers, all the rank, and someone asks them how they did it and they say…. “I emailed my newsletter and told them I had a new book out.” Where are the melting face emojis when you need them?

courtesy of Canva

Here they are. There is nothing so disheartening as thinking you are going to hear a nugget of information that will take your author career to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, you need a mailing list. That bomb she dropped is proof of that. Only, her list was six years in the making and you’re stuck on MailerLite tutorials on YouTube. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen and write down her advice for later. She built up her newsletter somehow and she probably has a lot of tips on how she did that. Gave away a reader magnet, joined in Bookfunnel promotions (or StoryOrigin), she networked with other authors and they featured her in theirs to get the ball rolling. But you have to understand that she’s six years ahead of you. I’ve heard Lucy Score has 140,000 subscribers on her email list. You may never, ever, get there, and her marketing strategies will not be yours.

They write and publish faster than you.
I remember when I settled in for a good marketing talk with a big indie author. I had a notebook, a pen, a cup of coffee, and I was going to absorb all the knowledge. She was talking about ads and promos and the usual, and then she got to how many books she released a year.

calico cat grimacing

That really sums how how I felt. There’s no way I could do that. I write fast–I can crank out four books a year with no help. No editor, no beta reader, no formatter, no one to do my covers, just me. But she multiplied that by four, and my heart sank. Obviously, their marketing techniques are going to be way different than yours. They can put a first in series for free, buy a promo, and get a ton of read-through from the get-go. They can run ads to several books and create boxed sets. What they can do in a year, you might be able to do in five, so you need to adjust accordingly. It doesn’t mean you won’t be successful, it just means you won’t be successful as quickly. When listening to marketing advice from prolific authors who are doing this as their day jobs, keep your expectations realistic. Save up advice that you might be able to use later, but realize that you can’t do anything without product first.

They could just be a better writer than you (for now).
No one likes to talk about craft. We don’t. It’s messy and subjective and it’s easy to start talking about rules and editing and first person vs. third person, and before you know it, you’re not talking to anybody anymore because everyone is ticked off about the Oxford Comma. But the fact is, good books sell. You can run ads and sell a bad book once, but you’ll never build an audience or a loyal readership off a crappy book. People work hard for their money and they don’t like to waste it. Time is precious and trying to read a book that isn’t well written is a drain when they could be reading something better, catching up with a show they’re behind on, or spending time with a significant other or their kids. You can’t be cavalier about asking people to spend time with you. People who have writing careers write good books. So if you’re discouraged because the authors you’re listening to are telling you that they don’t lose money on ads, and/or they have a huge newsletter, it’s because their books are good. Do you think this author has readers who are invested for the long haul?

I’m not making fun of anybody–he obviously has readers–I would do a lot for 458 reviews–but when 41% of them are one and two stars, you’re not offering content readers will come back for. Imagine how this book could have taken off if it had been well-written. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I don’t have to tell you the other two books aren’t doing well. The loss of potential is devastating to me. I can’t even imagine how he feels. Maybe he doesn’t even understand his own self-sabotage and is happy with the instant gratification.


It’s really difficult to listen to marketing advice. We all write such different books. Our genres will be different, our covers. Our willingness to put ourselves out there for the sake of networking. Our author voices and style will be different. Before you try to follow any advice, your books have to be marketable or any marketing you do will be for nothing.

This is why writing about marketing is hard. It’s why it’s difficult to listen to advice. And really, what no one talks about is how much marketing you have to do before you even write that book. We try to find customers for our product, when really, it’s a hell of a lot easier to find product for already existing customers. Finding your comparison authors makes it easy to find readers–their readers are your readers. We don’t like to study the market because we’d prefer to write what we want to write. The authors with the most longevity meet in the middle between what the market wants and what they love to write. It’s easy to do market research these days–Alex Newton of K-lytics takes the work right out of it, and you can watch a short trend report that he made this month for free here. https://k-lytics.com/kindle-e-book-market-trends-2022-september/

Read on for more resources and have a great week!


If you want to work on your craft, Tiffany Yates Martin has all her classes on sale for NaNoWriMo for $29.00/each. Check them out here! https://foxprinteditorial.teachable.com/


Author Update and Tropes in (Romance) Novels

Happy Monday! It’s Labor Day in the US, and most people have off work. I have Mondays and Tuesdays off, and today I’ll be catching up on chores. I finished editing my Bridgeport Trilogy (I don’t think that’s going to be the name of it, but I haven’t thought of anything better) and book three is off with a beta reader (S. J. Cairns, and I did an author interview with her earlier this year). I did more pantsing with that book than others in the past, so I just wanted to be sure the little mystery and plot twists made sense. After I get it back and put in any suggestions if she has any, I’ll listen to them and package them up. Book One is 76k, Book Two is 77k, and Book Three is 81k as it wraps up the trilogy. I’m happy with these and can’t wait to get them out in January!


Against my better judgement, I published the paperback of Rescue Me so I can list it with BookSprout for a couple of reviews. I paid the $9.00 to offer one book a month (which is fine–that’s all I’ll need anyway) and after KDP approves the paperback I’ll put it up for reviews. Per their help page, they don’t recommend having your ebook in KU while it’s listed for reviews, so I’m going to stick with the ebook publication date of October 1st. The readers who grab a copy shouldn’t need a whole month, but I know they’re reading more than just my book too, so I don’t want to rush anyone.

I probably should have done this with my duet, but I was hoping running ads and mentioning my book in my newsletter would help with reviews. I’ve been selling slowly primarily running Amazon ads. Since its publication in June, Captivated by Her has sold 5 ebooks, 3 paperbacks, and has had 10,736 page reads which is the equivalent of 26 Kindle books sold. Not extraordinary, but next month after the ebook version of Rescue Me releases, I’ll use a couple of free days in Select and buy a promo. I’ll have three books out by then and hopefully not only will I start to create a buzz, I’ll earn my fee back.

I understand it’s a very slow process, and I’m okay with that. I admit that I’d rather write than do anything else, and since June I’ve been busy writing my trilogy. I already know what I want to write next, it’s only a matter of how long I can hold off the urge to sit down and get to work. I am also very much wanting to write a duet that will go with these covers, but no plot means no writing, so we’ll see what happens.

But I also need to read my six-book series because I’ll start publishing them after my trilogy in January. I wrote them in 2020, so I need to stop stalling and just get them out there. I have the proofs for them, and reading them all in printed form for typos is the last thing I need to do before publishing.


There was lots and lots and lots of discourse when it came to Ali Hazelwood’s interview on the Goodreads site last week. Tropification of romance novels has been a sore subject for a long time, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Ali admitted that her agent suggested tropes and she wrote a book around those tropes. Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Ali’s background came from writing fanfic, where characters and their backstories already exist. She didn’t know how to write a novel from the ground up, and her agent, who discovered her through her fan fiction (not unlike EL James) kind of talked her through it. I’m still struggling to figure out what the big deal is. Her agent obviously saw her writing potential and that’s why she signed Ali in the first place, but apparently Ali not knowing how to craft a novel rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, since, I guess, there are thousands of writers out there who do know how to write a book without handholding.

I see there are two different issues here–1) Ali was signed without the blood sweat and tears that usually accompanies querying, and 2) not that she was told what tropes to write, but that romance books are more than the tropes they’re made of and being that she admitted she didn’t know how to write a book from scratch, this caused a lot of outcry.

We can tackle the first one easily enough, and boil that outrage down to plain old jealousy. I’d never resent someone success of that nature: Ali, EL, Brandon Sanderson and his KickerStarter triumph as examples, because there’s usually a lot of groundwork being laid that we don’t know about (it’s the same as being an “overnight success” which never happens overnight). I’ve never read Ali’s fan fiction but she must have been popular, EL James already had the buzz and the traffic she earned simply writing a story readers like to read, and for years Brandon has been writing and cultivating an audience that would pay for his books. How anyone can be jealous of that is beyond me. Put in the work, reap the rewards. It’s the same as these bigger indies who worked hard, put their books out, hustled for newsletter subscribers all so Montlake (Amazon’s romance imprint) could approach them and pick them up. Am I going to be jealous of that? No. Am I going to work hard so it happens to me? Damned straight.

The other point about the tropes, I guess I can see the concern. Romance books are more than the tropes they’re built around, and when you focus on tropes to describe your book, you’re not telling a potential reader anything more about the plot. Sure, your book could be enemies to lovers, but why are they enemies? Why do they turn into lovers?

While I have built my pen name around tropes because they are easier to sell and because let’s face it, knowing your tropes and the whys of your characters’ motivations makes it a lot easier to write a book (a fact Ali’s agent knew), twisting that trope is part of the fun. In the first book of my trilogy, the trope is a baby for the billionaire. He hires his personal assistant to surrogate, but in all of the 76 thousands words, she doesn’t get pregnant. I didn’t make that the focus of the book. The real focus is why he needed to hire someone (hello, backstory) and her signing on the dotted line to spend time sleeping with him hoping to get him to fall in love with her. It honestly didn’t occur to me to let her get pregnant. His family issues were a lot more important to me, and they carried over to his sister who has her own book.

This trope stuff is made even worse by the subtitles we’re pressured to add to our ebooks on Amazon and like I said before in a previous blog post, all the qualifiers we’re encouraged to add to a blurb to ensure the “right” reader buys our books so they don’t leave a bad, or even worse, lukewarm, review is simply maddening in a amusing and bemusing way, of course.

“Author’s Note: This book contains a billionaire possessive alpha-hole and steamy scenes.”
“Full-length enemies-to-lovers office romance with slow-burn sizzle. Witness one commanding single dad become so enchanted with the hellion he can’t stand that he’ll do everything to keep her forever.”
“Twisted Love is a contemporary brother’s best friend/grumpy sunshine romance. It’s book one in the Twisted series but can be read as a standalone.”
“Grumpy vs. sunshine on steroids. This book is packed with banter, red-hot heat, and lots of dog-sized bow ties.”

It didn’t take long to find books with the summarization sentence at the bottom of the blurbs for these books. They are written by popular authors, so they know what they’re doing. I don’t do this. I don’t do this! I always forget. Should I be? Probably! Is there a lesson here? Probably! It took me long enough to add a hooky line and put that at the top in bold, a marketing strategy that has been adopted by every author on the planet at this point.

But then I have some books that just don’t have a trope. I mean, friends to lovers can encompass any kind of romance book, really, and says absolutely nothing about anything. And that’s how the second book in my trilogy is. The third book is the same. Second chance. That also could mean anything.

So the takeaway I got from all this is, you still need a damned good blurb to sell books. If your blurb is too vague because you’re scared to give too much away, or it’s confusing because you didn’t ask for some feedback, you’re not going to sell book no matter how many tropes you cram into the subtitle field of your ebook when you publish. Your cover also needs to convey what genre you’re writing in and wanting your readers to buy, and Amazon’s ads guidelines make this damned difficult, let me tell you. That I add steamy anywhere I can to make it clear I have sex in my books is imperative because I can’t add sexy manchest to my covers and think I can run ads. I can’t. Until I start selling by name and reputation alone, I will need ads. Need them. The meagre sales I’ve gotten so far on my duet are solely from Amazon ads because I haven’t advertised my book anywhere else. And God forbid someone who hates sex in their books reads my billionaire romances because he’s fully dressed thinking I have sex off the page. That is the fastest way for any author to get bad reviews. So.

I understand how difficult it is to try to steer readers toward your book if you think they’ll like it, but also AWAY from your book if you think they won’t. Readers need more than tropes though. They need plot, fully rounded out characters. Natural dialogue. Juicy backstory. Throwing a bunch of tropes at them is only half the job.

Apparently this all started with BookTok, a place I haven’t visited. They’re going crazy over tropes, but that’s easy to explain. It’s the fastest way to describe a book. So, use a trope to grab a reader’s attention, but use your cover and blurb to reel them in the rest of the way.

Want to read some more articles about this:? Look here. Thanks for reading, and if you’re in the US, enjoy the holiday!

Book Tropes that Every BookToker Secretly Loves – BookTok Favorites

MY FAVORITE BOOKTOK BOOK TROPES by MARIANA BASTIAS

BookTok is feeling romantic by Meera Navlakha

THE TROPIFICATION OF MARKETING ROMANCE NOVELS

Monday Madness and Author Update

Happy Monday! I haven’t started a blog post like that in a while, but I have been making the most of my summer, sleeping in whenever I can and writing whenever I have free time to do so. My daughter starts school (11th grade!) on the 29th, so we don’t have much summer left, especially since some of my free time now will be taken up getting her ready for school and bringing her to picture day and orientation, but after everyone gets settled with the new routine, things should calm down again.

I applied for a second job, as well, substitute teaching in the schools this year. I’m hoping to pick up a couple days a week, but I’m going to try to keep my momentum going with my books. I don’t like the idea of working 54 hour weeks, but you do what you gotta do. I need to crawl out of debt and maybe once I do that, my (financial) future won’t seem so bleak. It sucks being worried about money and if my books aren’t selling, the money has to come from somewhere. (And it’s what I get for trusting the wrong person, but that water is long under the bridge and there’s no point in crying about it now.)

I’ve been working my day job typing for the deaf and hard of hearing for Minnesota Relay for twenty years now, and I hadn’t needed to update my resume in some time. I did about seven years ago when I graduated with my HR degree (I can’t believe it’s been that long) but I never did get an HR job, choosing to start writing books instead (smart move? maybe not). I had to search for my resume in the black hole of my laptop and it was pretty thin, so I included all the books I’ve written and published, added that I did my own covers in Canva and that I’ve written a successful (to me it is) blog for the past six years. At first I wasn’t sure if I should include my books, but if I hadn’t it would have looked like I haven’t done anything professional for myself since I graduated with my HR degree, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know how difficult it is to write a book, edit it, format it, create a cover, and publish it. After I submitted my resume and my application, it occurred to me that it was smart I included my books, not only because it shows I haven’t been standing still, but also because it gave them a chance to decide if writing smut is something they would have a problem with. Apparently, they didn’t, as I had orientation last week, but looking back, I”m glad I added my books, and if you’re looking to bulk up your resume, you should add yours, too.


I’m 52k into the last book in my trilogy, so finishing it up won’t take long. I’ve read books one and two twice, and I’ve been editing book three as I write it but there will still be some additional editing needed. I wanted to make Roman, my MMC in book three, a nervous, trying-to-quit smoker, but he hasn’t turned out that way, so either I edit that in or I find a new guy for the book cover. I like the idea of him getting over, or trying to get over, a smoking habit, because that fits his personality and some of the shit he’s going through in the book. I’m not a natural smoker, though, and I haven’t written a character who is before, so it was difficult to remember to include it. In my mind, he’s trying to stop so it shouldn’t be too much work to write in the cravings and the fidgeting. In the end it depends on how much editing I want to do, and usually that answer is none.


I had an interesting back and forth with an author who was disappointed in sales for his debut. While that’s not unusual as we’re all fighting for space these days, his debut was also a first in a series. When I reached out and told him that more than likely he wasn’t going to sell anything until he had a few more books out in that series, he replied that he would be releasing books a year apart. While that might be the norm for trad authors, a book a year is mighty slow for indies. Readers won’t hang around for a year between books, but I recognize not everyone has the time to write more than that, especially if your series is a fantasy and your books can creep over 150k for words.

I stared to explore what authors can do to keep readers interested between books, and here’s what me, S J Cairns and Dareth Pray came up with:

Newsletter/Blog
There was a toss up between what’s better. There doesn’t seem to be much difference–they both require you create content to keep readers informed–but between the two I would choose building a newsletter. A newsletter you might send once or twice a month, but if you only blog once a month, your blog won’t grow. A lot of my traffic for this blog comes from internet searches, but in order to do that you have to create relevant content regularly, staying within a range of topics that you will eventually be “known” for. Building search engine optimization is a long road and you still have to put the word out somewhere that your blog is available (mostly I just tweet the link). Getting newsletter signups is hard in its own way, but giving out a reader magnet can help. Put the signup links in the back of your books for organic interest, and use the time to keep writing the next book. Another reason I choose to build a newsletter is those subscribers are yours. Your blog followers come and go, and true, newsletter subscribers can unsubscribe, but they chose to sign up so if you give them content they like they’ll hopefully stay on your list. It’s up to you what you offer, but no matter what you choose consistency and offering your readers what they want will keep them interested between books.

Social Media
This can mean anything from tweets to updating your Facebook author page. Reach is hard when you depend on free social media. On Twitter, you might be part of the writing community, and while we like to think so, tweeting to the #writingcommunity isn’t the same as reaching readers. Instagram is about the same. I see so many tweets that say, “Follow me on Instagram!” but I don’t know what good that does. On Instagram, you can try to find readers using hashtags, but trying to climb out of the writing community pit is difficult once you’ve falling into it. I think it’s like quicksand. You just won’t find enough readers there to move the needle. We’re all too busy writing the next Great American Novel to read. (You may argue with me, and that’s cool. It all depends on what success means to you. I’ve been on Twitter for a long time and tweeting about my books hasn’t done much for me at all, but if it has for you and you’re happy with it, I’m glad for you!)

Encourage readers to follow you on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, etc.
When you have a new release, they will email your readers, so if they somehow missed your updates, they will still hear about your next book. I have my newsletter sign up link in my Amazon bio and I changed my Twitter bio, and put my newsletter signup link there, too. I also added it to my Goodreads Author profile. Add your links wherever you can, such as your email address signature. Every little bit helps.

If you don’t have much time to write, creating content to tell readers that you’re still writing seems counterproductive, but if you ARE writing, sharing snippets and inspiration won’t take long. You have to find one way that you enjoy and stick with it. Consistency is key, no matter where you focus your energy. Keep your expectations in check and realize that if your series needs 6 books for it to be done, you are asking your readers to wait for 6 years before you conclude that story. That’s a big ask, and as far as marketing goes, you will have an easier time keeping readers the more books you have. Keep writing, and good luck!

Resources:

Author update and depending on luck

There’s no doubt about that luck can play a crucial part of success, but it never makes up 100% of someone’s achievement of their goals. I see it a lot, especially among the unsuccessful: “They were just lucky.” “They knew someone.” “They wrote the right thing at the right time.” It’s hard not to be resentful of someone else’s success, especially if it appears they didn’t work all that hard for it.

There are people like that–their charisma is off the charts and it seems they get handed things without them even having to ask. There is privilege out there too–I’m not discounting that at all–but accusing someone for being successful simply because they were lucky insults the hard work people put into their dreams and gives the person saying it an excuse not to work as hard as required to get the results they want (even if they won’t admit it).

We have this conversation a lot about EL James and the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. She was an “overnight success” or she was just riding on Twilight’s coattails because Fifty Shades was originally fan fiction. But was she all that lucky? She posted her books on a fan fiction site, they were picked up because people were responding positively to what she’d written. Maybe it was just luck she wrote fan fiction to begin with, but she read Twilight, she wrote the books. Maybe it was luck that what she wrote hit at that particular time, or the publishers who approached her knew it was the right time, but with ways to monitor trends and study what’s selling, it’s not so hard to find a genre that already has hundreds of thousands of readers. If you’re interested in genre research, look up Alex Newton of K-Lytics.

What are some scenarios where it looks like luck could have played a bigger part than it really did?

She knew the right person.
It’s always easier to have an in–that’s with any aspect of life, not just publishing. But you have to network to make those connections, form relationships with people without the idea that sometime down the road those friendships will be beneficial to you. Going to conferences helps form relationships, joining author groups and participating in discussions, whatever you have time for, will help you be part of the community. What’s the theory, you’re only six people away from someone else? If one of those six people have something nice to say about you, that could be your “lucky” break.

He never gave up and wrote the right thing at the right time.
This does sound lucky, no two ways about about, but you have to keep writing, keep plugging away at your craft. A writer who thinks they don’t have anything to learn is in a dangerous situation. No one will truly max out on their creative potential. Keep writing, keep learning, and maybe you’ll be like Hugh Howey who wrote for several years before he struck it “lucky” with Wool.

She recognized what wasn’t working and changed.
This is probably the hardest part of being in charge of your own career. You do what you want to do for as long as you want to do it, but if what you’re doing isn’t giving you the success you want, then you need to change. It’s that simple. You DON’T need to change if you’re satisfied with what you’re doing and what you’re getting out of it. I’ll say that again. You don’t need to change if you’re happy with the success your actions are bringing you. It’s only when you don’t find the success you want that maybe you should look into something else. How do I know when authors are unhappy? When they complain about sales. When they blame their lack of success on outside factors like it being summer (what?) or general sales slumps. It’s easy to be bitter when you can look at someone’s career and say, “Well, she’s lucky. She stopped writing cozies and started writing reverse harem.” You don’t know all of what an author goes through to make a choice like that. Maybe she really loves cozies but what she writing wasn’t hitting right. Maybe she did a ton of market research and read a lot of books before she tried her hand at RH. Maybe she networked a lot and was able to ask for a few favors and fellow authors added her book to their newsletters. Pivoting and knowing when to do so is a personal choice, and not “lucky” by any means. And even then, changing direction doesn’t mean you’ll find success, but you’re more apt to find it if you’re flexible. This goes for covers, blurbs, and yes, genres. When do you pivot? That’s a choice you have to make and only you will know when you’re unsatisfied enough to try something new.

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on luck. Rarely do we know the whole story behind someone else’s success. Saying they have time, money, skill, acquaintances, what have you might make you feel better, but it won’t help you get to where you want to be.


In other news, I’ve started my last book in my trilogy. I’m trying to baby my hands a bit, as writing 77k words in 27 days didn’t do me any favors. I’m not sure why I write so fast, why I’m compelled to do so. I’m not on a timeline, I don’t have any deadlines looming over me. I just like to write, get that story out of my head and onto the screen as quickly as possible. I need to take a break or if I hurt myself irreparably, I’ll never write again, so I gave myself two months to get this done. This book is a wrap-up, and has a few more plot points than the other two. I think it will be a little longer than 77k (which is what the other two books are) but that’s fine. As long as my hands don’t fall off my body, I’m having fun.

Book Two in my duet releases today. I added some A+ content, emailed KDP and asked them to add a couple more categories to the ebook and book. I don’t know if I’ll run any promos until Rescue Me comes out in October. I want to wait for a long enough time period to go by so the handful of people who buy it full price aren’t mad when book one goes on sale. Marketing strategies are always confusing, and I’ve never had a big enough backlist to learn what to do and what works. I’m still fumbling in the dark, but when my trilogy is done and is released in January, I’ll have six books out and it will be interesting to play around.

I don’t have much else. I decided to not host giveaways on my blog anymore. I rarely get any takers, and if I’m going to spend money, I’ll offer giveaways to my newsletter subscribers. If you want to sign up for my newsletter you can do so here: www.vmrheault.com/subscribe. You’ll have access to my free novel through BookFunnel and you can enter the giveaways there. I have one coming up since both books in my duet are out and maybe I’ll put something together for Christmas. I don’t want to say my giveaways on here were a waste, because I don’t think they were, but interest has certainly waned, and there’s no point in offering if no one wants to enter.

I hope you’re having a great summer so far! Make the most of the last month!

Is sharing your sales dashboard helpful or tacky?

taken from getbookreport.com. Manchest sells, amirite? But good luck getting Amazon to approve an ad with that as your cover. :/

I compare Facebook authors and Twitter authors a lot. Facebook author groups seem more professional, always trying to do what they need to sell books, be it writing to market, covering their books to market (vs. putting whatever they want on the cover because they like it) using TikTok even if maybe that’s not what they would most like to be doing at the moment. While Twitter feels like it’s just this hodgepodge of writers shoving books onto Amazon hoping to find readers for their 6-genre mashup that’s either a 20k novella or so long no reader in their right mind would tackle it. I know it’s not fair, and not an accurate description of either platform, but there is one thing both platforms have in common: authors share their sales dashboards.

There are a lot of reasons why an author would screenshot their sales dashboard. They want to inspire others either by showing people that there is money to be made selling books, or showing people that they too, aren’t selling anything and to never give up.

On Facebook, I’ve seen the sales stats of 7 figure authors, 6 figure authors, authors who have made 5 figures off their debut book. I’ve seen lifetime stats, monthly stats, even weekly stats from authors launching books and detailing their launch plans. I’ve also seen authors who don’t make money, are thrilled with a 3 figure month, even a 2 figure month since we all have to start somewhere.

On Twitter, most of the sales dashboards I’ve seen are empty of sales and page reads, authors looking for solidarity in their lack of royalties–which they find because, as I’ve said, the vibe doesn’t necessarily scream professionalism and you can’t run a successful business doing whatever you want. Then there are the authors who don’t show their sales dashboards but complain of lack of sales, and that’s just as bad, maybe even worse, because complaining won’t find you readers, unless you want a pity-buy, and who wants to sell a book because someone feels sorry for you?

So, is showing off your dashboard classy or trashy?

I don’t share numbers on Twitter very often. I don’t think my sales or lack thereof is anyone’s business. I’ve blogged about my slow start in this business, and I feel the difference between tweeting your empty KU page reads graph and blogging is that while I share my numbers, I also try to figure out where I went wrong and what I can do to fix it. In a tweet, there isn’t much room for that, and no one particularly wants to discuss what they’re doing wrong (ie, genre-hopping, poor covers, no defined also-boughts on Amazon because all the readers you do find are your friends from Twitter). In a Facebook group, at least there’s room for discussion. Maybe a revamp of a cover, or a blurb rewrite. Maybe a price adjustment. Maybe the answer is simply just writing more because you started a series and you’re not that deep into it yet.

I think posting your dashboard can be a learning experience if you’re willing to look at your royalties or lack thereof in a critical manner and learn from the advice you’re probably going to get posting something like that to begin with. If you’re posting just to whine, I don’t see how that can benefit anyone, and if you want commiseration, try to find it in a more private way.

What I have found, and what authors are still struggling with, is that readers aren’t where authors hang out (which makes marketing on writer Twitter pretty much useless) but every once in a while a reader may stumble upon one of your Twitter grumps and could actually be offended at the type of content you’re putting out there. An author shouldn’t bring author business into a reader space. It’s not a reader’s responsibility to lift you up if you’re not having a good sales month, and information like that can harm your author reputation and your brand.

Romance readers don’t read this blog and I stopped posting a link to my books years ago. I post the blog links on Twitter and people find my posts using search engines when they are looking for information about independent publishing. I’m not worried about a reader finding this and being offended. I started a different website that I won’t blog on, that will just be a home for my romance books and newsletter signups and nothing more. It’s difficult to keep your writing community and reader space separate, and you may not think they’re separate at all if only your writing friends buy your books.

So, the next time you post your empty KDP dashboard, think about what you want to get out of it. Are you looking for support? Maybe find it in a more private way. Are you looking for an actionable plan? You’re not going to find that on Twitter with its 240 character limit. Do you want to show your followers that you’re having a bad month? #Indieapril over on Twitter seemed to be particularly harsh for many authors, though I’m not sure why you would put so much stock into one month when your aim should be selling books all year round. Do you want to lift people up, give them an idea of what you did to achieve the numbers that you did? If I had a great launch, I would definitely blog about it here and tell you all exactly what I did to help you find that kind of success.

As always, though, whether or not you approve of people sharing their numbers, it almost always never matters because chances are almost 100% they aren’t writing the books you are and vice versa. I could follow the advice of the top selling billionaire romance author in the business, but that doesn’t mean my type of billionaire romance will sell like hers. The covers won’t be the same, the writing style will be different, her backlist will definitely always be bigger than mine because she’s had years of a head start. So while I appreciate the authors who share their numbers and what they did, those numbers really boil down to just a few things:

  1. consistency in product quality (craft) and release dates
  2. quality covers and blurbs
  3. writing in one genre to create a foundation of readers
  4. building a newsletter
  5. mastering an ads platform be it Amazon, Facebook or Bookbub

And through the years of reading posts like that on Facebook, the authors who “make it” year one are always outliers. The authors who post big numbers have been at it for a while, and that is what I hope to achieve with my new billionaire direction. I do plan to be at this for years, and while I’m releasing my first book on June 1st, I know it won’t do anything–it’s a mere brick in the foundation I hope to build. I’ll have to work at it for a while, but maybe this time next year, I’ll have a sales dashboard worth showing off, and then I can tell you all about how I did it, if I’m tacky enough to show you.

Monday Madness and Creating a Community Around Your Books

I had a huge post about how ticked off I was at Facebook for restricting my page and turning off the ad to my reader magnet (Bookfunnel link) because I wasn’t following community guidelines (with their bots and lack of communication, I still have no idea what I supposedly did), but during that 24 hours, I appealed and uploaded my photo ID like they requested, and they lifted the restriction on my page and turned my ad back on. It rendered the vent in my blog drafts completely useless, but I’d rather have a useless blog post than a restricted page. I need my page. I need to be able to run ads. So I will just say thank goodness that time was the only thing wasted.

I’m at 103 subscribers now, (squee!) and I’ve had 118 claims on my book so far (with 291 clicks, so a little less than half are taking action). Yes, I’m paying ($27.00 at the moment) and I think I’ll turn it off when I reach $50.00, maybe $40.00 depending on how things go). My click spend is only 9 cents which is pretty good as far as I can tell, but this was just a small thing to get the word out, and I’ll probably run another ad when Captivated by Her is live. Even though I have a tiny bit of money to play around with, I don’t want to blow through it too fast, and there are other ways to build my list without ads. Besides the welcome email they receive when they sign up, I haven’t sent out another, and I’m looking forward to that in the next week or so. I would like to send one before my release so they aren’t hit with a “buy my book” email as the second email they get from me.

But anyway, my anger wasn’t 100% warranted (I had no idea they would help me so fast), though when I set up my ads campaign at the beginning, it would have been nice if they’d asked me for my ID first. I’m running a business, using their business to help me, and I have no problem with providing them with what they need. I just wish they weren’t so heavy-handed with the way they do things.

In the meantime, I ordered two more proofs of Captivated by Her and Addicted to Her just to make sure the changes I made to the covers turned out okay. I flipped through both books and found just a couple of tiny things to change which required me to upload new interior files, too, but I think they are going to look as good as I can get them without going crazy. I should be able to put my pre-order up for book one sooner than I thought, though waiting for June sometime while my FB ad runs a little longer while I get as many newsletter signups as I can is also an option.

This ties in really well with what I’ve been thinking about lately. I don’t read a lot of romance–I’m busy writing it instead–but I realize that an author can’t be part of the {insert genre here} community unless you know what’s going on with your peers and in the industry. I realized this, and anyone who doesn’t know what kind of content they should put in their newsletter or on social media, realizes this, too. You can’t talk about or recommend other authors, other books, romance movies, or anything else if you aren’t consuming that content. If you don’t know what to post in your newsletter, you aren’t dialed in enough. A newsletter is for news. News about you and your books, for sure, but also news about what you’re reading, what you’re watching, information that you think your readers will appreciate because you’re building a community of friends around the genre you like to read and write.

I do this with this blog. If I didn’t keep up to date for my own personal knowledge, I would never have anything to share with you. I keep up to date because it helps me with my own publishing endeavors and then I pass along what I find useful to you.

There’s no reason not to be able to do this with fiction. When the second season of Bridgerton dropped on Netflix, every romance reader known to man, even if they didn’t read historical romance, stopped right in the middle of what they were doing and sat down and binged. Because you know what happened if you didn’t? You missed out on all of the conversations that sprang up on social media. You were in the dark. You didn’t understand the outrage caused by a more chaste season, and you couldn’t weigh in on what you thought about their on-screen chemistry.

Taken from: https://www.tvinsider.com/1041720/bridgerton-season-2-storms-to-the-top-of-streaming-rankings/

Another example of this is The Lost City, a movie that came out not long ago with Sandra Bullock. I couldn’t see it in the theatre because I was recuperating from my surgery (and my sister didn’t want to see it, but don’t tell her I told you).

I’ll have to wait and stream it when it’s available, and I’ll be so late to the party everyone will already be nursing a hangover by the time I crack open my first bottle of wine. Being late doesn’t matter so much, as you can always say… “OMG! I just saw… can you believe it?!” and get the conversational ball rolling that way.

Another example I have is when Netflix dropped 365, a movie, I guess, based off a steamy romance book. I should know this. This is my forte. The second I get my words in for the day, I should be gobbling this stuff up! I’m so late to this party, there’s already a part two!

There’s nothing more heady than being able to join in with a group of people who have the same likes you do and find friends to share those things with. (You know how a lot of authors say they find their beta readers and ARC reviewers through their reader groups? This is what I’m talking about. Your readers become more than your readers because you share the same interests and you grow close to each other over time.)

It probably won’t help when I say that building a platform is like making friends because to us introverts, making friends is the scariest thing in the world, and something we aren’t good at. It requires opening up a little bit, sharing things about ourselves, and there’s always a risk of rejection when we do that. On the other hand, maybe it’s not so scary if we can already approach people with things that we have in common. A lot of what making a friend entails is weeding through all the similarities and differences, and sometimes we find that the things that we don’t share in common outweigh what we do. Then the relationship fizzles out. When that happens, what’s the worst outcome? An unsubscribe? A potential reader won’t go on to buy your books? That’s okay. We don’t need fake friends in real life, and we don’t need to hang on to people who won’t read our books.

Trying to get a new pen name off the ground has required a lot of revelations and scrutiny into the past five years to see what I’ve been doing wrong, and figuring out what I’ve done right. That may be a different post. But anyway, how can you make friends through your newsletter and social media? More importantly, how can you make friends in your genre that will draw in readers who will stick with you throughout your career? What do you have to offer them? If you say not much, go read a book in your genre, go watch a movie you can recommend that has the same vibe as your book. See what happens.

Have a good week, everyone! Next week I’ll probably play with how to make a video and record doing one of my book covers. I’ve been getting a lot of requests on how to make a romance cover with only Canva and minimal skill, too. Here’s my latest one I did for the book I’m going to release in the fall. I may do a tutorial on how I did it.

Until next time!

Knowing when to pivot. (What does that mean?)

a picture of zoe york's three books about writing and marketing romance.  look here to buy:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75
To check out the series, look here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75

I just finished Zoe York’s Publishing How To series, and I really enjoyed the books, her thoughts and experiences on publishing romance, goal setting for your author career, and so much more. She’s been writing and publishing for years now, is a full-time author, and has made a bestselling list or two.

What I’m about to say doesn’t have anything to do with these books–I’ll circle around to them–but lately I’ve realized that when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, you can consume all the marketing advice in the whole world, but you won’t get anywhere unless you have a good product, and more importantly, a good product people want to buy. That’s part of the reason why I haven’t purchased Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course (comes in at close to 1,000 dollars, and SPF offers it twice a year). If you don’t have the books to back up your ads, your ads aren’t going to do anything.

When I take a look at my publishing history, I was writing good books. I received the odd 1-2 stars most authors do, but on the whole, I’m writing good books. That’s important to me because I do most of the editing and production alone. But something was still off because over the past few years, I didn’t find any traction. One mistake was my newsletter, or lack of one, I should say, and the other was my lack of direction with the books themselves. (I also didn’t understand author brand, but that’s an old discussion we can have on another day.)

It was just this morning when a woman in a writing FB group was talking about this very thing. She was sub-genre hopping and couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t getting any traction. Maybe she’ll believe me, maybe she won’t, but I told her I had the same problems with my own books and decided to niche down.

desk with laptop, plant, and coffee.

be stubborn about your goals but flexible about your methods.

My issue with pivoting is that it took me a long time to realize I had to do it. Some writers who struggle may never understand that it’s not their marketing chops, or their covers, or their blurbs, but simply what they are writing in the first place. Depending on how fast you can write, that can take years. Years that can feel wasted because if you had been writing the right thing in the first place, you wouldn’t still be at ground zero wondering where it all went wrong. But that’s like a chicken and egg scenario–how do you know what’s right or wrong until you put it out there? And what are the metrics you’ve decided to pin that on? Sales? Reviews? I’m nowhere near making a full-time author’s salary–I checked my dashboard yesterday and made 2 cents. (That tells me someone borrowed the book in KU and opened it to make sure it borrowed properly, then went off to do something else. Or they read the first page, didn’t like it, and returned it. If I think to check back, I’ll see if that person read it or not, but that micro-level of caring is not in me and never will be.) Admittedly, those books are old now, and even dropping 10 cents a click in ad spend to those books is probably a waste of money because as we’ve determined, Amazon loves consistency and relevancy, and I won’t be writing any more of those books for the foreseeable future.

So what will make you decide that it’s time to pivot?

At the beginning of the post, I brought up Zoe’s book because in it she says knowing when to pivot and niche down is a personal choice, and it is. You have to look back at your books, where you are, and decide if it’s enough for you. I see indies making money. I want that, too. It’s not a driving force, but financial security is important to me, and who doesn’t want to get paid for doing what they love?

When we talk about pivoting, what does that even mean? It means taking a look at what you’ve been writing, looking at that lack of success those books are bringing in, and deciding to try something new. It can be as simple as what I did–turning from writing “Contemporary Romance” to Billionaire, or doing a full 360 and changing from Christian Romance to Horror. But then that begs the question too–will the pivot be in the right direction? I have no idea. I can’t even say if these new books will resonate with readers until I put them out. I THINK I’ve taken a step in the right direction: billionaire, first person POV. According to Alex Newton of K-Lytics, Billionaires are like vampires and will never die. So, that’s a good thing. But there are a lot of other things that can turn against me: writing style, the tropes I chose to write about, the issues (backstories) I’ve given my characters and decided to tackle in my writing. Changing from Contemporary Romance to Billionaire might not be the magic bullet I hope it is, and right now, I don’t have a plan C. I’m not even sure how long I’m going to give this pivot a go before I decide this writing business isn’t meant to be. I have enough books saved up to publish 4 a year for the next 3 years, so at least until then (because why not publish them since they’re written), but I’ve been skating financially since my divorce, piecemealing paying my bills with scraps of income from various places while giving my writing career a chance to do something, and I can’t do that indefinitely. As Kristine Kathryn Rusch says, there are easier ways to make money. Less stressful too, I bet.

desk with laptop plant and coffee

a pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision. eric ries

So, if you’ve been banging your head against your laptop trying to figure out why you’re just not seeing the success you want, maybe it’s time to pivot. What is selling right now that’s close to what you’re already writing so you don’t go out of your mind? I’m not saying be a slave to the market, or to trend, though I’ve seen Alex Newton’s indie reports, and trends don’t change nearly as quickly as we like to say they do. I’m saying find something different to write that’s hotter, more niche than what you’ve been writing and see if that works.

All those who wander are not lost, but sometimes you think you know where you’re going and end up not knowing where in the hell you are. That was me before looking at my backlist and choosing to write Billionaire. All of Nothing has made more than all my other books combined, so I feel this pivot was a good choice. Now all I have to do is publish, wait and see.

Fingers crossed.

Thursday Thoughts and Author Update

I haven’t give you an author update for a while, but mainly I’ve been listening to my series and slowly getting that ready for my 2023 release. I just started book 3, and I’ve been tweaking, checking consistency with the other books, making sure there aren’t any discrepancies with what the characters say and the information they find out from book to book. You might wonder how I can do this, and let’s just say, I have 75% of my 480,000 words memorized. Haha. I’m kind of kidding, but kind of not and it definitely helps that I’ve already read through this series about five times and let months go by between reads (I wrote these in 2020). Also, listening to these books is a different way of consuming them, and I’m finding things I wouldn’t catch by reading only.

I am very satisfied with how these are coming along, and despite a mini-breakdown I had a few weeks ago about finding beta readers and proofers, I feel good about them all as a whole. I’ve come to the painful realization that I won’t have any betas or proofers, mostly because now isn’t the time to test proofers and betas. I should have set up a system and formed my “team” long before this, and it’s just too big of a project to be trying people out now to see if they are a good fit. While it’s always is a good idea to have more than one set of eyes on your books–especially for newbie authors–sometimes that just isn’t possible for one reason or another and while no one likes to admit it, there are indies out there who publish with the barest of editing and do just fine. In a perfect world, I would love to have some feedback on the overall story and to make sure all the details are consistent, but with my English degree and my firm grasp of grammar and punctuation, I’m not worried about the technical side of things, at least. I’ve been sifting through stock photos too and marking the ones I like but I won’t be able to do the covers until closer to the end of the year when I can get a better look at what will be trending. Who knows what will be hot for Billionaire covers a year from now? There’s no use getting set on a couple or anything else if I’m going to have to redo them later. Cover-to-market is really important, especially in romance, and getting impatient will just create more work for myself.

I’ve already had to redo my covers for my duet, as black and white covers with a pop of color for the title are slowly starting to slip away. I revamped the covers for my Cedar Hill duet, making them color instead of black and white. Excuse the rough shape they’re in. They aren’t set in stone, and I haven’t purchased the stock photos yet. Tell me which ones you like the best:

Anyway, so I won’t be doing the covers for the series, but I can do everything else, and I’m hoping I’m finished with them by the summer as I still think I want to write a Christmas novel for release at the beginning of November. Listening to these isn’t taking as long as I anticipated it would, so I should have plenty of time to write it while doing everything else to get my duet ready for release thing spring and my series ready for next year.


This is a topic that would probably better fit a Monday post, but I just want to complain a little bit about it here. The other day, an agent on Twitter tweeted this advice:

Twitter tweet snapshot:

It breaks my heart when I get a great pitch for a book somewhere between 50 and 70k. It's almost always a no. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, adult fiction is between 80k and 120k. 60k is just too short to fit comfortably on the shelf.

12:03AM 2/6/22 Twitter Web App

81 Retweets 264 Quote Tweets 714 likes

Writer Twitter blew up. This agent was attacked on so many levels, and so many people who had to weigh in on this agent’s advice and opinion. She eventually locked her account down and I wasn’t privy to most of the horrid aftermath. I’m appalled at the way the writing community treated her, and I feel terrible she was subjected to such aggressive behavior for simply offering a guideline to help querying writers.

No one wants to hear there are rules, and there’s not a day goes by on Twitter when I don’t see “I’m an indie so I don’t have to follow the rules,” or “Rules are made to be broken.” There are rules, and break them at your own detriment. If you want to query, follow the agent’s guidelines. That includes the genre they rep and the length of the book they prefer. If you want to indie publish, go for it, but there are industry standards. You need to format your book correctly, and include all the correct parts. You can’t use any photo you want for the cover. You can’t use song lyrics in your book unless you write to that artist’s record label and ask permission and probably pay a fee. (If you want more legal advice, Helen Sedwick’s book, Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, Second Edition: Updated Guide to Protecting Your Rights and Wallet is invaluable.) There are a gazillion “rules” we must follow every time we publish a book. To say there are no rules is destructive. Not following the rules can prevent you from finding readers at best and can land you legal hot water at the worst. I don’t understand why writers and authors continue to beat a dead horse, but there are rules.

Here is a tweet threads to scroll through if you want. I thought I saved more, but I can’t find the other one where I stole the screenshot of the tweet to begin with. The agent’s tweet and thread is gone–it disappeared for me when she locked her account down, but there’s plenty of fodder if you want to scroll through on your lunch break.

If you want to read another agent’s thread about word count and guidelines, here’s Laura Zatz’s thread:

When it comes to word count, I have found that reaching a higher count can be difficult for newbie writers because 1) they don’t understand how to twist a subplot into the main plot, 2) don’t develop their characters well enough to explore full character arcs 3) don’t know how to write engaging conflict and/or 4) they tell, not show, which always takes fewer words–showing takes a lot more room on the page. Also, some, but not all, indies have gotten into the habit of writing shorter because it helps them publish faster keeping them on top of Amazon’s algorithms.

If you’re a romance author, and like writing novellas, look at Carina Press–the digital arm of Harlequin. They take agent-free submissions, and they publish novellas that are 35k words and up.

Anyway, I’m going back to listening to my book–which is 91k, by the way. Every book in this series is between 85-93k, but they are as long as they need to be for that section of the story.

Be kind to each other, y’all. How you present yourself online will stick with you, and may come back to bite you in ways you never would have dreamed possible.

Until next time!