Playing catchup and bending under pressure: a lesson in what not to do.

Hello, November!

Hello, everyone. Sorry I have been MIA. I think I did post last week, but I try to hit Mondays and this week was a fail. What have I been up to? Glad you asked!


Yesterday my proofer gave me back book one of series. He liked the story overall, and found some typos. I found some more running it through Grammarly, and I think it’s going to be as perfect as humans can make it. So, that’s book one down.

a rocky point wedding social media graphicWill I be able to start publishing near Thanksgiving like I hoped? Nope. I’ve decided I want him to read through all four and make sure they are consistent with details and plots. Waiting will make my life a lot easier if he finds anything. I could go ahead and start publishing because I’m hoping I would know if I left behind any giant plot holes, but I am not 100% confident in my abilities. I admire the authors who can publish books one by one in a series. I prefer to not chance it, but I should be able to start publishing before the end of the year, so I’m not that far off the mark. Editing always takes more time than I think.

Also, yesterday, I woke up in a lot of pain. My left shoulder blade and arm were hurting pretty badly. This could have been from all the typing I did on Monday since I transcribed the last of my SUPER SECRET PROJECT, and the final word count before editing came in at 80,500 words. Monday I transcribed to the tune of 6,000 words and that may have just been a little much.

But you know, I probably just slept funny. All those “after 40” memes are pretty accurate. Someone can look at me wrong, and my back will hurt the next day. Because aches and pains are going to be part of life from here on out, I try not to take too many pain meds and save them for the worst days. Yesterday was one of those days, and I took some before bed too, which gave me a decent night’s sleep. Except for the cats, of course.

I feel like my life is a box of clichés.


Anyway, this segues into something I’ve been thinking about.

We’re all under a lot of pressure. It’s something we don’t like to talk about. The pressure to create content, the pressure to publish. Especially in romance, the genre I write in. I haven’t published anything since May of this year, and that gap in a publishing schedule is practically unheard of (by authors who are making money). Never mind that in total this year, so far I have written four full-length novels and half of one that I started in December 2018.

We see authors cranking out content and we want to do that too. Sometimes we try. Sometimes we can, most times we can’t. This is a secret that I learned, and not that long ago.

You have no idea what is going on behind an author’s name. Or, more precisely, a pen name. You think, one name, one person. And a lot of time, I can’t say how many times because authors keep this secret pretty close, a prolific author name has two, three, or more writers behind it. It’s how they can crank out material so fast. We’re over here killing ourselves trying to keep up, and oh, look, a couple of top ten romance authors have two people writing the books.

I’m definitely not saying this is bad. If you can find someone who matches your style and you get along, hell yeah, collaborate. Why not? In fact, if you listen to any publishing prediction for any upcoming year, more collaboration is always one. Why? Because it’s smart. Why not share the work? Why not dominate in your genre if you can. Half of thousands in royalties is better than none, am I right?

But for those of us who write solo, it’s very deceptive. And it can be dangerous.

Another thing you have to watch out for if you’re comparing yourself to prolific writers is what the word count of their books is. Yes, they are writing full-length books, BUT, if you look closely, you’ll see that their catalog is peppered with novellas, novelettes, and even short stories. Lots of those are “add-ons” or “companions” to the full-length book, and it’s a fun way to give readers a little extra. But you do have to keep in mind that counting an author’s titles isn’t a fair way to compare how much time they spend writing versus how many books they have published.

I could publish two novellas a month if that how I wanted to build my backlist. For now I’d like to continue to offer my readers full-length novels of 70+ thousand words. You have to do what’s best for you and the readers you want to attract.

If you’re going to have comparisonitis, at least be smart about it.

Having passion and working hard at something doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When I used to run, I would run injured all the time. Anyone can tell you that’s bad, and it just sets you up for more injury. But whether it’s bad or not, it’s common. Runners even have memes about it:

runnign while injured

There are a lot more than this one, but it depicts how runners really feel about taking time off to relax and heal.

Writers can be the same way. I am very passionate about my SUPER SECRET PROJECT. It was fun to write, and I don’t feel like I was racing to get it done. It’s book one of a trilogy, and I probably won’t be able to release them until early next year when my series is out. Why was it so important I finish it so quickly?

zane and stella stats

 

 

Who knows, except, again, it was fun. But I could have afforded to go a bit slower, just to take better care of my health. Mental and physical.

There is pressure to publish, and to publish quickly. We scramble because it feels like other writers are gobbling up pieces of the reader pie and there won’t be any left by the time our book comes out.

The indie publishing space is drowning in books. But hurting yourself and making yourself burn out isn’t the way to make a grab for your piece.

Hello, November! (1)

I’m going to try to be more mindful of writing time. If I have twenty pages to transcribe, I have to remind myself it’s not a race to get them typed up.

Take care of yourself and don’t bow under the pressure. Especially with the holiday season coming. Sometimes you won’t have time to write, and that’s okay. Take a rest, tolerate enjoy your family, and eat a piece of pie while you watch TV. Just be mindful of what your goals are!

I’ll end with that for now. It’s early here yet, even though it’s pitch black outside. I have time to edit for a few more hours.

Just kidding!

No . . . I’m not. 😀

Have a great week everyone!


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Another try with Amazon Ads. Am I finally selling some books?

amazon advertising logo

If you don’t follow Bryan Cohen then you should. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and listen to the podcast he hosts with Jim Kukral.

This guy knows what he’s talking about with Amazon ads, and a lot of the stuff he puts out into social media is free. Don’t get me wrong, some of what he puts out there is a hook to get you to buy some of his courses, but he’s a businessman, and well, that’s what they do. But following him on social media for the free tidbits is totally worth it if you’re starting at zero.

I was starting at zero, and even though I had read Brian Meeks’ book on the subject, trying what he suggested didn’t move the needle. But to be fair, that was a while back and I didn’t have as many books published as I do now. They didn’t have the good covers they do now, and I didn’t know how to find keywords.

Bryan Cohen has a different approach, and I totally encourage you to try different things. We all publish different kinds of books, and lots of people get frustrated when something kills it for someone but then they try it and it does nothing, or even worse, it wastes money.

I took a free 5 day ad challenge Bryan hosted a couple weeks ago on Facebook. Of course, it was to sell an ad course that I didn’t buy because I couldn’t afford it (did you know scraping a cat’s bladder for stones cost 2,600 dollars? Yeah, Harley is fine now.), but during the five days I did his challenge, I learned a lot about ads, and more specifically, where to find keywords.

Keywords will make or break your ads. And I know you’re going to call me a cop-out writing this blog post and not telling you where to find them. But in a show of integrity and out of respect for Bryan, I’ll point you in his direction and let him tell you how (or you can use Publisher Rocket, or try Alex’s K-lytics and read his blog). After all, I wouldn’t know what I know without his help, and I’m all about attribution. I will feel comfortable saying this though: all my keywords are titles of bestselling books in my genre that are in KU. How you go about assembling this list will be up to you, but using a list comprised of titles that sell that are similar to yours works.

I started the challenge on September 20th, 2019. He told us to focus on one book, so I chose All of Nothing. That still proves to be my strongest book, and it’s made me the most money with the challenge. After the 5 day challenge was over, I did ads for my other two standalone books, and All of Nothing still blows it out of the water.

Since September 20th, on my three standalones I’ve had 110,709 impressions (impressions are free), 226 clicks, and $50.29 worth of ad spend. That might seem like a little bit of money to you, but remember that you’re hopefully earning most, if not all and beyond, that money back. Those stats are based on 42 ads. All of Nothing has the most, which may be why I’m selling more of that book, at 27 ads running right now. Some are from the challenge and some are ones I did on my own. Wherever He Goes has 7, and The Years Between Us has 8. I focused on keyword ads and I wrote a couple lines of my own ad copy for each ad. Bryan said to bid low, and while that’s up to you, I’m getting clicks and impressions with bids under 40 cents, which is really good considering my genre is contemporary romance, and that is a highly competitive genre. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily pay 40 cents just because you bid it. My cost per click average is .22 cents.

Now, I’ll tell you how much I’ve made since September 20, 2019, and learning ads is going to be a slow process. If you break even when you first start out, you should consider that a success.

To accurately know how much you’ve made, I suggest you use BookReport. It’s free until

bryan ad on instagram

These tips are a great reason to follow Bryan Cohen Blurbs on IG!

your monthly earnings exceed 1,000 dollars. That will tell you how much you’ve made with sales and KU READS. Your ads dashboard does not include KU reads, so if you’re in KU and you see you’ve spent 50 dollars on ads, but only made 13 dollars in sales, those are Kindle/paperback sales, and not KU reads. Bryan was very adamant about making sure we knew that. You could turn off a profitable ad not figuring in your KU page reads, so make sure you take those into consideration. After all, those are the main reason we’re in KU–so don’t forget to include them in your sales data.

I check my ad spend and sales every morning before I go into the writing, and today my ad spend is since I started the challenge, like I said, is $50.29.

What I’ve made so far since I started the challenge is 55.06. I’ve made 5 bucks. That might not seem like a lot, and it’s not. Not in the grand scheme of things. But I’m in it for more than the cash right now, so let’s look at what else we can glean from this data:

book report for ad challenge for blog

book report for ad challenge for blog 2

BookReport shows me that I’m getting sales as well as page reads. This is super since I wasn’t barely getting anything before the challenge, never mind when I was wide and trying to get traction spending money on promos.

All of Nothing has had 10 sales, and 7,894 page reads. All of Nothing is 420 KENPC, so if you divide 7894 by 420, you get the equivalent of 18.79 (almost 19) books read. For me, that’s pretty good for sales.

The Years Between Us is less at 420, so without doing the math, 603 is the equivalent of about 2 books read. Wherever He Goes, I can say just one book in KU page reads was read.

At this stage of the game, I’m happy with breaking even. Why?

  • Readers are seeing my ads. With a low bid, this is a big deal. Lots of people think they need to bid high to be seen, and clearly, that’s not the case. Bryan did not tell us to go after the big-named trad authors in our genre. He told us to target authors that are in KU in our genre that are doing well. Should I target Lauren Landish or Nora Roberts? Which obviously would be cheaper? Lauren is in KU and number one at the time of writing.
  • I’m getting clicks. This is also a big deal. Why? Because it tells me my covers are good and my ad copy is pulling readers in to click my ad and take a look at my product page.
  • I’m getting sales, though small ones. Part of ad maintenance is making sure your clicks convert to sales. If they aren’t, then something is wrong with your sales page. Maybe your blurb is bad, or your look inside doesn’t sound good. You’re losing readers between the click and the sale. Maybe your cover doesn’t hit the mark after all (or maybe you’re not in KU and readers were hoping you would be). Maybe based on your cover they thought it would be about one thing, but then they read your blurb and thought it was about something else. It could be anything, so make sure you keep up with clicks and if they are turning into sales.
  • Hopefully some of these sales and KU reads will turn into more reviews. I need reviews and if people enjoy my books, maybe down the road they’ll leave a review.

Ads aren’t always about making money. When you’re starting out you don’t want to lose money, but you’re also paying for exposure and hopefully reviews.

What am I going to do moving forward?

  • Keep an eye on my ads. Obviously a five dollar return can quickly go from plus to minus, so I will need to make sure I’m always earning or at least breaking even.
  • Work on my ad copy. Find a hook and reel in your readers.
  • Do more ads for All of Nothing. If that book is going to be my biggest earner, I need to exploit that.
  • Explore ads for my trilogy. Someone read Chasing You, so my trilogy has read-through potential. I always forget that they are decent books and people are reading all three of them. In my head I’ve kind of written them off as average, but maybe if I throw some ads at Don’t Run Away, the trilogy will make me some money. (I’ll need to rewrite the blurbs for those books and put in better keywords in my KDP dashboard before I try ads with those.)
  • Look for more keywords. New books pop up on the bestseller list all the time.  Keep adding titles to your keyword list.
  • Have patience. It’s easy to want to bid high, but Bryan has taught me that I can get impressions and clicks and not go broke. I’m going to follow his advice and keep my bids low.

I feel like that 5 day challenge was successful. His ad course digs a lot deeper into other things but I’ll take what I can for now. Learning ad copy and not being afraid to create more ads is what I’ll be focusing on for the next little while.

What do you need to do before you do ads?

  • Know your genre. If you don’t know your genre you don’t know what authors to target.
  • Make sure your cover is genre-appropriate. If you don’t run ads with ad copy, all your potential readers will see is your book cover. A picture is worth a thousand words, and it really is if that’s all your using to draw readers in.

    ads without ad copy

    The ad without ad copy sticks out, huh? But she’s got a hot cover, so it’s not so bad. 🙂

  • Make sure your blurb sounds good on your product page. Make it look good too with bold and spaces between paragraphs.
  • Make sure your price is genre-appropriate. Before the challenge, I lowered my prices from 4.99 to 2.99. Without testing I won’t know for sure if the lower price is helping people buy. That’s marketing strategy, and you’ll have to decide for yourself.
  • Fix the keywords in your KDP dashboard. I did a blog post about how to find real ones for your books. You can also search blurbs of books that are similar to yours and if the same words keep popping up (like action-packed) then include those too. You’re not limited to 7 just because there are seven spaces.

I’m not an expert at any of this. All I can tell you is what is working for me. Slow or otherwise. In the past 21 days I feel like I’ve finally found something that might work to get my books in front of readers. Hopefully it will help you too!

Thanks if you’ve made it this far. I’ll keep plugging away and I’ll start giving you guys monthly updates! Have a great weekend!

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Print Quality KDP Print vs IngramSpark. Spoiler alert–there isn’t a winner.

book signing picture5

I bought book stands for the event! I have to admit, this is a lovely cover!

I was invited to an author event that took place last week. I had several weeks to prepare for this, i.e. find my willpower/energy to face a crowd, figure out what I was going to wear, and the most important thing . . . order author copies.

I was in the middle of redoing the covers for Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing. I’ve worked with KDP long enough that doing a cover in Canva and submitting it is a piece of cake by now. IngramSpark is still taking some time to get used to, and when they flagged Wherever He Goes, I left it alone because I didn’t want to deal with it.

I happily accepted the invitation to sell my books at a librarian convention that took place in West Fargo, North Dakota. Admittedly, I should have ordered author copies the moment I was invited. But as I said, I was redoing my covers, and I thought, hell, I have plenty of time to order copies.

Note to self: don’t ever think that again.

I redid the covers submitted them to KDP, ordered my proofs and approved them.

The event was held on September 26th, and ordered my author copies August 26th. I thought a whole month would be enough time, because in the past it has been. Usually it takes about two and a half weeks. But not this time.

With two weeks left before the event, I received and email from KDP and they told me my order was being delayed. I fixed the file for Wherever He Goes in Ingram. The next day they approved the file, and in a panic, I rush ordered author copies from IngramSpark.

Now, I haven’t heard many stories, good or otherwise, about the quality of copies from IngramSpark. Mostly I’ve heard if you want better quality, you order from them. So needless to say, when my author copies came from them and they didn’t look good, I was crushed.

I received my author copies from Ingram a full week before I received them from KDP because not only did I pay for expedited shipping, I paid for expedited printing, too. You can argue that could be the reason for the poor quality, but in my opinion, you’re paying for the copies, so there should be no reason for poor quality books, period. Especially from a company who prides itself on quality.

If push had come to shove, I could have sold the books Ingram sent me. But I didn’t want to. They didn’t look professional. I could have said it was printing error, but that would still reflect bad on me as a professional author.

Luckily, my KDP Print books came, and they looked good. I realize that was also a gamble. Had those come in poor quality as well, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the book signing.

As it turns out, I didn’t sell any books anyway, but I did receive several compliments on my covers, so it was worth the crap I went through to get them.

Today I put in a request for a refund for my books from Ingram. Take a look a the pictures I submitted as proof they did not look good:

poor quality cover the years between us ingram spark

This is a copy of The Years Between Us from Ingram. Can you see the line through my name? At first I thought that was my fault because the template was showing through, but I checked the file, and even if the template was showing through (for some messed up reason) there is no line there. So it wasn’t that. The same thing happened to Wherever He Goes, but it’s more pronounced near my first name, so I only have the sliver to show you for emphasis:

poor quality cover ingram wherever he goes


All of Nothing
was the most messed up. Wherever He Goes wasn’t centered that well, but All of Nothing looked horrible:

poor quality cover all of nothing ingram spark

The title was almost cut off , and the couple is obviously not centered.

So I put in a request for credit to my account, and if you ever need to do that, you look under Orders, and under Submitted, click on Report an Issue for the order that needs to be refunded.

2019-10-01.png

I’ve never returned books to anywhere before, so I don’t know if they’ll want the books back, or if they’ll let me keep them or what. I’ll let you know. I can tell you that there was a spot for you to download pictures of the books, so be prepared to show them proof of the messed up author copies. I’ve heard KDP wants proof of quality/damage, so that’s not unusual.

The book signing went okay. I never sold any books, like I said, so all this hoopla with the author copies feels like a whole lot of work and money for nothing, but it was a fun experience, and it didn’t take me very long to realize I was the only author there who didn’t have a Square. That didn’t make any difference in the end, but next time I’ll be more prepared.

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The moral of the story is this: always keep author copies on hand if you have regular opportunities to do this, either from KDP Print or IngramSpark. You need lots of time to receive them, and more importantly, you need time to return them and/or order replacements if necessary.


Special thanks to Tina Holland for inviting me to participate in this event. She’s a romance writer involved with the RWA and other writing groups in my area. You can follow her on twitter here @haveubeenaughty and her website tinaholland.com.


Thank you for reading, and may the month of October treat you well!

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A Rocky Point Wedding series update.

I haven’t posted an update for a while because well, there wasn’t much I could say besides, I’m writing.

But now I can at least announce I am done. I finished book four the other night, and while I did get a little teary-eyed, there is still much to do, and I’ll save the tears for when the last book is published. As authors, though, we know that we never really say goodbye to a book. There’s front and back matter updating, updating a cover if trends change or you decide you don’t like what you published, marketing, keyword updating, and all that other stuff you have to do to keep selling your babies. It’s not enough to hit publish, so while publishing them all will be a relief, I’ll hardly be slamming the door shut on them forever.

In total, I wrote 297,204 words. I started in December 2018, and tried to do as much as I could before the carpal tunnel surgery I had in January. I was out of commission for six weeks, but it should have been longer. My doctor gave me the okay to go back to work though, so did I make a mistake when I took that to mean “type my fingers off on this series”?  Probably. But the damage is done, and maybe I’ll always live with a little bit of pain in my left arm and hand. It is what it is.

I’m not going to add how many hours I spent on each file, it’s suffice enough to say that I plowed through four books in about 8 months.

I’ll be editing them now, starting with book one, taking notes making sure things stay consistent. I need to keep track of Autumn’s (my FMC in the last book) blog posts and write them . . . maybe as I edit since my mind will be in the story and I’ll have an easier time manufacturing those interviews.

I have a proofer/beta reader lined up as a fresh pair of eyes. He’s willing to read all four books, so that takes a load of worry off me. I don’t recommend publishing without some kind of feedback, and if you’re willing to beta any of my books, let me know!

I’ve been messing around with covers, and of course, they go through many many variations before I decide on the one I want to publish. I’m keeping my eyes on the top contemporary romances, but again, a lot of those romances are bad boy, tatted up dudes, and my small town romance series would not be a good fit for those types of covers. While All of Nothing has seen an uptick in KU reads since I changed the cover/blurb/keywords, an edgy cover only works if the book is . . . well, edgy.

This is what I have so far, and you can tell me if you like the concept:

a rocky point wedding book cover mock up for blog

The font is a placeholder font. Bad script font is bad, so I’ll be going through fonts. The titles for all four books are still up in the air, but it’s difficult to make up book covers without those elements.

Anyway, I just wanted to see if the overall effect works, and beside it not fitting in with the top 100 right now–which, I have to admit, is pretty important–I think it blends together. There are indie authors who do their covers like this. Melissa Foster and Zoe York are two that come to mind.

But I admit those are covers from books a few years ago, and both those authors have a backlist so extensive, I doubt they go back and redo covers to keep up with changing trends.

In that vein, I want to do mine right, so they have a bit of longevity as well, and I’ll get a few more opinions on the covers, too, before I decide anything. The point is, I’m working on them so I don’t get all cranky when my books are done and I have to pull four covers out of the air like magic.

Besides editing and working on the cover, there isn’t much else I can do with them. I’m hoping to start releasing them this winter, still in 2019, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m also 10,000 words into an experiment, and I’m excited. I’m not going to say anything more about it since the outcome of the experiment depends on me not divulging information about it. At any rate, it will give me something interesting to do on the days I need an editing break.


That is my update, and I can’t wait to share these books with you!

a rocky point wedding social media graphic

While you wait, look for my other books that are available in KU!

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Entering the RITAs. My full circle experience.

I’m not sure if I said anything about entering the RITAs, or the outcome of that contest.

The RITA award is a prestigious award given by the RWA (Romance Writers of America). I didn’t win, nor did I advance, and I did not attend the RWA conference this year that was held in New York City. I didn’t expect to win (though when you enter a contest, there’s a little bit of you that will hope you’ll at least advance.)  Anyway, I didn’t advance, didn’t win, and I didn’t expect to hear anything more about it.

All of Nothing ebook coverBut I received an unexpected email in my inbox today. The email contained my overall score of All of Nothing, something I didn’t know the RWA sent out.

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement, but when I thought about the score, and I mean, really thought about it (meaning, I put away my ego and my pride and honestly evaluated the kind of book All of Nothing is) the score made sense.

I knew a long time ago that All of Nothing didn’t advance to a finalist position. I figured since the contest is open to everyone who wanted to enter, traditional and indie, I had a slim to none chance. After all, when Kristin Higgins and Brenda Novak enter their books, you’re up against talent, several years in the industry, and name recognition. Heck, Nora Roberts has won 21 of them. I won’t disclose whose books I judged, but I will say I judged a big name, too.

I had thought, at least, even if my book didn’t advance, it had receive average scores.

It didn’t.

My book received a 4.33 out of a possible 10.

I don’t know how private the scoring is, so I won’t show you the email contents, but suffice to say, I didn’t make it into the top half, and I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t expect that one judge did not think my novel had a central love story, and a different judge didn’t think it concluded with an HEA. And that makes me wonder if she somehow missed the Epilogue, which clearly shows that they did have a happily ever after.

Anyway, so here’s what I learned entering the RITAs, how I felt, and what I will do differently if I should ever enter again.


What I learned:

  • Your book won’t resonate with everyone.
    You can use this as a way to shake off a bad book, (NO ONE is going to like a book full of plot holes and flat characters, so that reasoning only goes so far) but even a well-written book with amazing characters and the best plot twists known to man won’t appeal to everyone. This is okay, and as authors, something we all deal with. I know All of Nothing is dark. I know Jax is an asshole to the extreme. Maybe even too much. He doesn’t redeem himself until almost the end of the book, and that could have been too long for some readers. Even my reviews on Goodreads are split down the middle. Either readers are blown away or they hate it. There’s not a lot of middle ground in reviews, and I didn’t see any in my scores.
  • You’re forced to read, and that can put you off from the very beginning.
    The RWA has changed this policy for the next contest, but when I entered my book, you had to judge the preliminary round to submit. Being forced to read is akin to being in school and assigned War and Peace. Not everyone wants to read books they are told they must. Also, you were only able to opt out of one genre. My book was in the Contemporary Romance Long category, and it could have been readers didn’t like the genre. Maybe they preferred Romantic Comedy, or Romantic Suspense, or Paranormal. That’s not really an excuse, but it’s natural to not be excited about a genre you don’t care to read in the first place.
  • Have a professional cover.
    This might seem like a no-brainer, or something that you wouldn’t think of for a craft contest, but either way, I have a feeling that somehow the entire package is judged. When I judged and found the author’s name on the title page, you bet I looked on Amazon for the author and what else they had published, and who they were published by. I’m sure the judges did the same for me, and the overall look of my catalog and All of Nothing‘s cover maybe have influenced their feelings toward the book. This is a professional contest put on by a professional organization. Submit a book that is professional from cover to cover.

What I would do differently:

  • Enter something lighter.
    All of Nothing was dark, and it didn’t hit the right notes, obviously. Something lighter might fare better. When you’re reading at the end of the day, and you’re on a deadline to submit your scores, giving your reader something a little more light-hearted may be easier for them to enjoy. Is this playing the system? Nah. I can only think back to the books I particularly enjoyed while judging. I would also offer something with more . . . I don’t know. I don’t want to say chemistry because I think Jax and Raven had chemistry. But maybe a more steamier, sweeter, attraction? Not all of my heroes are jerks. But I would definitely try something not so dark.
  • In that vein, I would enter something shorter.
    All of Nothing was entered into the Contemporary Romance Long category. There’s nothing worse than being forced to read something you don’t like, and having so much of it. I would do the short category. Though I don’t tend to write novellas, so that category may always be out of my reach.
  • Take the contest more seriously.
    I’m a newbie writer. Without written feedback, I can only guess why my book didn’t resonate with readers. Had it been a debut, I would worry that my voice wasn’t strong enough. But I think my voice is strong–I’ve written enough words to find it, and I’ve received compliments on the book. In fact, a woman at my work read it. She’s a prolific reader, and she told me she enjoyed All of Nothing very much and that I was extremely talented. I didn’t know she read it, so I don’t think she said anything because she thought I was expecting it. She didn’t have to say anything at all. I went into that because I’m thinking it was the plot and characters the judges didn’t care for, and not the writing itself. (Which I feel is a very important distinction.) But, I have never worked with a developmental editor or a professional editor of any kind. And if I ever hope to advance in a contest like this, I may have to hire someone who knows the romance market, knows all the tropes involved, and can tell me if I’m on the right track with my writing. I have never queried, have never sent out any of my books on subs, so I don’t even have a line or two from an agent/editor saying I’m on the right track, either. All I have to go on is reviews from my books, and that’s not saying a whole lot because I haven’t put much into marketing preferring to use my time to write instead.

How I felt about the contest:

I don’t feel terrible about my score. You have to face rejection with a thick skin. Since All of Nothing I’ve written five more books. So maybe if my tone or voice missed the mark, at least I’m still working on my craft as it’s natural for every book to be a bit better than the last.

It was interesting being a part of the RITAs. I liked seeing how the process worked and the quality of books entered by my peers.

I may never enter again. Or I may enter a book I haven’t written yet. Something that takes my breath away. Who knows. I do know that if you’re going to compete with the best of the best, you have to take your craft seriously, and if you can do that year after year and get better year after year, then maybe, just maybe, one day, you’ll win.

Have a wonderful week!


Want to try your hand at a contest? Poets and Writers Magazine offers a long list of contests to enter. Everything from poetry to essays. Look here to find out more.

You don’t have to enter the RITAs to enter a contest hosted by the RWA. All the chapters offer some kind of contest, too, though they can be seasonal and not offered at the same time. For a list of contests and chapter events, look here.


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Snow: A short story.

In the spirit of my blog post on Monday, about writing to write vs. writing to publish, I thought I would post a little something I wrote a while back. Four years ago, to be honest, as the properties said the creation date was December 17th, 2015. I gave it a little polish, deleting a word here and there and adding some commas. But I didn’t write this piece with anything in mind, and it hasn’t seen the light of day until now. Nothing more will be done with it, either.


Snow

The engine sputtered, the check engine light blinked on, and she carefully navigated the old car to the side of the gravel road, the vehicle coasting to a smooth stop as it died, she suspected, for good.

She rested her forehead against the steering wheel, the wind whining and whistling before slapping against the car and continuing on its way across the barren North Dakota plain.

There wasn’t much snow for this time of year, and squinting through the passenger’s side window, she could make out the brownish golden hue of the crop that had grown in the field over the summer as the remains poked from beneath a thin crust of dirty ice.

Sitting for a moment before pushing the heavy door open, she pulled on her red and grey gloves, cheerful fox faces grinning at her from the tops of her hands, and she took a sip of the now tepid coffee she had purchased at her last stop.

With nothing keeping her confined to the car, she stepped out, the wind biting into the delicate flesh of her cheeks, and with a loud creak, she slammed the door shut.

Knowing it was futile, but trying anyway, with unsteady hands she pulled her cellphone from the deep pocket of the emerald green coat he had bought for her so long ago saying the color matched her eyes.

The lack of bars proved to her what she already knew, and she slid the black rectangle into her pocket, resisting the overwhelming urge to hurl the device into the dead field with a throw containing all the strength she could muster.

Her fingertips were numb from the cold, the tip of her nose tingling, and she wondered, not for the first time, if dying from hypothermia was as pleasant as people made it sound, if she could lie in the field allowing her worries to drift away in a warm, yet frozen, haze.

Ignoring the wind that blew her black hair in an angry tangle around her head, she stepped off the road and into the crusty snow, her black scuffed boots breaking the grey layer of ice with a crunch, the sound carrying away on the points of snowflakes as they flew into the horizon.

The sky was a whitish-grey that blended into the field far into the distance, and she stared, pushing the hair from her eyes, from her lips coated with Passion Pink, the flavor he chose as his favorite, he said, because it would always remind him of their first kiss.

A rumbling caught her attention and for just one moment she allowed herself to hope he had come for her, but even before the beat-up truck passed her by, her shoulders hunched in disappointment and she pushed down the burning in her throat, blaming the sting in her eyes on the cold.

A single crow cawed overhead as it fought against the northern wind, and she focused on the bird, the solitary figure it made, cutting through the icy air, the black of its feathers in stark contrast to glaring brightness of the winter sky.

She stood in the empty field, the prairie void of life, shivering in the bright green coat that matched her eyes, her pink lips trembling, a useless cellphone sitting in her pocket, a worn out car parked behind her, alone.

dry grass on a background of snow in the winter


Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend planned!

I’ll see you Monday!


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Writing to write, or Writing to Publish? Is there a difference?

I had another post planned for today, but while I was working an extra shift at my job on Saturday night, I finished Scratch: Writers on Money and the Art of Making a Living. This book is a collection of essays by writers about, yeah, money and writing.

scratch book coverAs an author, I love looking through paperbacks. How is the copyright page constructed? Who did the author dedicate the book to? I skim over the table of contents. Do they use a quote? And by whom? I also look at the Acknowledgements. I like to read who people thank. In the indie world, sometimes I know a person who is mentioned. I like seeing who has helped the writer turn author.

I read Manjula Martin‘s acknowledgments, and something popped out at me. She said:

Thanks to the members of the Blood Moon writing group, who always reminded me that writing is more important than publishing.

She goes on to list names of people whom I don’t know, but I can appreciate their message.

writing is more important than publishing

In this modern time of CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT, that sentence is extremely powerful.

In this age of free books, blog posts, tweets, and author updates, how often we publish has turned more important than what we publish.

This has never been more true than the today with the market being saturated with bookstuffers to take advantage of KU page reads, or authors who team up to publish a book every two weeks, or authors who hire ghostwriters only to blame them when they are caught plagiarizing. There are even those who sell their previously published books to new authors who will strip the book of its title, repackage it, add a new author name, and put it up on Amazon for sale.

What happened to the quality of what we publish?

What has happened to the way we think about our content?

It’s a hard question for me, and I’ve been thinking about this while I’ve been writing my series. I have a different blog post about something similar already, in that I would like to try my hand at women’s fiction. I won’t get into that post now, but that quote does make me think about my publishing journey.

Sometimes publishing isn’t always what we should be doing with our work.

Sometimes we should be writing to practice. Sometimes we should be writing to learn. Sometimes we should write to give ourselves therapy, like writing in a journal or diary, or writing a poem.

Sometimes we should write for fun.

Sometimes we shouldn’t be writing at all. Too busy, burnout, nothing to say. There’s no harm in not writing–even if it feels like there is.

Though indie publishing is becoming more widely accepted (even some of the big-name authors use POD–especially for their non-fiction titles) it may always carry the stigma of people publishing crap.

There are legitimate reasons to write to publish: you’re on a deadline, or you freelance to pay the bills and if you don’t hustle, you can’t eat. But that doesn’t feel like the majority of my writing peers. We write to be published as any of our debut novels can attest.

This not only impacts our own writing careers–who wants to start a lifetime writing career on a cracked foundation?–but if affects all of us a whole.

Write to write, and then publish.

writing is more important than publishing (1)

Lots of people ask writers, “If you were never read, would you still write?” Of course most writers say yes. Writing is a passion, and they would write even if they never had another reader as long as they put words on the page. To be honest, if someone told me from here on out I wouldn’t have a single reader ever again, I would stop writing. There are other ways for me to communicate my passion. I would start running again, or I would volunteer. I would do what I set aside because writing takes up so much of my time. Because I love it. But an audience fuels my love of it, if that makes sense.

Now, if I were told I would still have readers, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t make any money, I would still write. If I was locked into only blogging, or publishing my work on Wattpad, I would still publish my stories. Being read means more to me than making money.

Seeing your book on Amazon is a crazy wonderful thing, and I don’t fault anyone who is damned proud of it.

But sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves why we write. What fuels us? What do we get out of publishing our work? Would we be just as happy, just as proud, if we posted that novel for free, or even more mind-numbing, shoving that novel under your bed?

If we began every project without thinking of the cover art, or who is going to format for us, or when our publishing date is (Hello, Amazon and your one year pre-order deadline now) how would that change our perception of the project? Would we take our time? Put more of our hearts into the piece? Would we dive deeper into the truths of what we want to put down on paper?

Maybe if we wrote to write, writer’s block would be obliterated. After all, if we only wrote for ourselves, we wouldn’t fear criticism or disappointment and the blank page wouldn’t scare us so much.

When indie-publishing is so easy now, we have to stay aware of why we’re writing and what we’re trying to say to our reader.

Open a new document and put words on the page just to write. No agenda. No deadline.

You may find you’ll write something worth publishing.


I loved reading Scratch. There were great essays by some of the top authors. I particularly enjoyed Manjula’s interview with Cheryl Strayed (she talks about her book deal for Wild), and Jennifer Weiner’s essay on earning respect for your work vs. earning money and if you can have both.


Jeff Goins also has a blog post about this topic. You can find it here.


Until next time, lovelies! Have a wonderful writing week!

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