I don’t have a lot going on, but I thought I would update you with some of the things I’ve been working on lately.
For the past few weeks I’ve been editing. I went over my proof for My Biggest Mistake, put in the changes. I got my proof back and I just need to tweak the cover again and it should be ready to go for whenever I decide to hit that publish button. I still need to add the content warning to Faking Forever and add the author note I decided to add to the back of that book, but when I do those things, those two books should be 100% ready to go.
I finished reading through book one of my series and started on book two. I can tell where I found my 1st person POV voice toward the end of book one, and the first half or so will require a little more editing on my part, though I seem to smooth out my writing the best while I’m listening to it during that phase of edits. I’m not in a rush with these–consistency and avoiding/fixing plot holes are my main focus for now. When I wrote my trilogy, I thought dealing with three books at a time was tough, then I did my four book series and I said I would never work with more than that–ever. Now I’m dealing with six, and I have no idea how authors handle a series with so many books.
I guess not every author saves them up, but I have this thing with control and being able to go back and fix mistakes and inconsistencies, and if I published as I wrote them, I would feel trapped. Now I have the freedom to go back and change things if need be, and no matter how complicated or frustrating it is, I don’t think I could ever give that up.
Anyway, so only proofing and editing has made me a little squirrely for the writing part of it, and kind of a beauty and the beast retelling billionaire style plot landed in my lap this morning. After seeing so many tweets about castles because of a certain Netflix movie, I wanted to write about a beast in a castle, too.
Of course, grabbing onto a trope doesn’t mean you’re going to write something that everyone else has written, and because there aren’t any castles in Minnesota where all my books take place, my castle turned into a lighthouse on one of the Great Lakes pretty fast. But still. I’m excited to plot this book out and see where it takes me while I edit my series. My only issue is not being able to focus on more than one project at a time, but I think this would be a great opportunity to try.
In other, personal, news, we have to put one of our cats down this weekend. He’s old and barely hanging on. This is the first pet I’ve put down as an adult, and the first my kids will have to go through. It will be a tough weekend, but loving someone, or something, also means letting go when the time comes.
I’m feeling better with every passing day, so I am grateful for that. I have a follow up on the 19th, and I’m hoping I’ve turned a corner. The side effects of my infection are slowly fading, and I hope I won’t need anything further in that regard either. My son had his last wound checkup last week and was given the call clear. No more followups for him! I’m thankful he’s healed completely–but Pumpkin was his cat–picked him out of a farm cat’s litter almost 20 years ago in a small town not far from where we live. It will be hardest on him, I think, to say goodbye. Here’s a picture of the old man when he was feeling better.
As far as resources go, what I’m loving this week is 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to ANYONEby T. Taylor. I loved this book and I think it will be a great tool to help with blurb writing. She teaches you how to identify the universal fantasies, and gives you plenty of examples in books, movies, and TV shows. She explains why some books sell well and how to get your books to sell well too by identifying these fantasies and including them in your blurbs and ad copy. I’m glad I’m still tweaking Faking Forever and My Biggest Mistake because even though I asked for feedback and worked really hard on the blurbs, this book will help me take them to the next level.
Admittedly, I enjoyed this book because it seems to have been written with romance authors in mind. T. Taylor is a romance author and yes, this book skews toward that genre. As with all reference material, you can read the reviews and see if this book is for you.
Besides Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon Ads Challenge that comes around every three months, there’s nothing else that has caught my eye this week. His ad challenge starts on the 13th and you can sign up for it here. If you don’t like Facebook and don’t want to be part of the group, he has offered Slack as another alternative to participate (though he sends all the videos and “homework” to your email, so there’s no need for group participation at all if that’s not your thing). I always recommend it because there is no place else I have found that will give you so much information about Amazon ads for free. And it’s not just about Amazon ads. If you join the FB group, you can ask for cover critique (which is important because if your cover is bad you won’t get clicks) blurb help for your sales page, and ad copy help for your ads. It truly is the most comprehensive free course I have ever found and it is a must if you want to start Amazon ads.
That’s all I have for personal updates. For Monday I want to work on a blog post about promo sites that don’t have a minimum number of reviews needed to use them, but I’ll have to see how the weekend goes. I may not have the time or the emotional energy to write something. Keep my kiddos in your thoughts as we go through a rough weekend.
So, funny thing. I thought I already published this! Then I saw it in my drafts, and I must have forgotten I didn’t schedule it. Since I have more time sensitive material for a different post, this is going out three weeks later than I initially thought, and I’m sorry for the Monday I missed when I thought this went out!
There’s a lot of talk about video for book marketing these days, and if you’ve heard conversations about TikTok and the news that Instagram is going to be more video-focused to compete with the newish platform, then you’ve maybe thought that you should give it a go, too.
I haven’t jumped on the TikTok bandwagon for a variety of reasons, and not just because I don’t particularly care to be in front of a camera. I’m 46 years old and it took me 46 years just to be reasonably comfortable being filmed and having my picture taken. A lot of it comes down to not having any f*cks to give, and what completes that pie is knowing that I look better than I have most of my life because I’m happy with where I’m at and don’t care what other people have to say about me.
On the other hand, I know I could lose weight, my old, crying cat keeps me up at night and if I don’t want to look like a zombie, I need a full face of makeup, and my hair is a limp mess if I don’t do anything with it. That sounds like a lot of work for a sixty-second video, and while people say you don’t have to look your best when you’re in front of the camera, I wouldn’t NOT want to look my best–especially if I’m talking about my books or promoting someone else’s.
And then we get into voice modulation (who wants to sound like a cow, dying or otherwise?), the background (my space is extremely small without a bare wall to be had anywhere), and background noise (see cat above).
It all seems to take too much time away from writing. I have very little patience with that at is it. I’m doing the cover for my first billionaire standalone and waiting for cover critique and blurb feedback makes me restless. I haven’t written new material in weeks (that makes me twitchy), but I just can’t with the amount of books I have on my computer right now. I have to start putting out material or I’m going to be so overwhelmed with the work it will take to put them out I’ll suffer from analysis paralysis and won’t do anything.
You can’t get away from video talk, and I’ve listened to some useful rooms in Clubhouse about TikTok and using video to stay in the algorithm’s good graces on other platforms. Whether or not I’ll try video remains to be seen. It’s not only putting my pretty big nose face in front of a camera, it’s also learning the platform you’re going to post on, and if need be, learning editing software (internal or external) to make your videos look like you know what you’re doing.
I’m not on TikTok, and I get annoyed with people who post their videos other places. I know it’s a timesaver to repurpose your content, but I’ve complained for years about people posting the same content everywhere. There’s no point in me following you on IG, Twitter, FB, and anywhere else you are if you’re going to post the same stuff–practically at the same time. I might as well follow you one place and open my time up for other things. I’ve muted accounts that do that, and I’m sure others do it too. Videos can be shared a lot of places, and I have no idea how useful it is to share your TikTok video on YouTube, FB, and Instagram. If you’re going to go viral (which sounds like a goal for most people) it would make more sense to let/encourage OTHERS share your video other places otherwise you just look spammy. I’ve seen Dea Poirier’s tweets lots of places, and not because she puts them there. She’s had viral tweets of her own and not once that I’ve seen is because she’s shared on every platform she can find. The true test of popularity is when others start to share your content.
Anyway, I believe it’s better to find one or two platforms you enjoy (for me that would be this blog and Twitter) and focus your time and attention there instead of spreading yourself thin and offering mediocre content because your book is under deadline and you’re pressed for time. Maybe I gravitate toward my blog and Twitter because there isn’t much call for video on these platforms. I was talking with a friend the other day, and I told her I don’t like IG because of the toll it takes on my hands holding my phone. Holding my phone aggravates my carpal tunnel. I like things I can do on my computer and while I can post on IG on my laptop, I feel like I’m missing the point of the platform when I do that. You’re supposed to be experiencing the world and sharing those experiences with others–something I’m not very good at because when I’m out and about, besides taking a picture a drink or two when I’m with my sister, I try to stay off my phone.
I’m not good on social media–my Twitter engagement is abysmal, I haven’t posted to my FB author page in months, and on my personal FB page all I share are photos of raccoons. I don’t have much use for social media. I think I come across as prickly and hard to get to know. That’s me in real life as well. I’m a loner at heart and it takes a long time for me to warm up to someone. (Though the friends I have made on Twitter I’ve had since I joined in 2013.) It’s not an ideal way to be if you’re hoping to connect with thousands of readers, and I am trying to put myself out there more in my romance group and asking for feedback on my covers and blurbs. I’m also terrible at taking a hint. I have a few people on Twitter who RT everything, or like all my Tweets, and I never reciprocate. They want to interact because they like my content, and I need to be more mindful of the people who WANT to talk to me.
If you’re looking to get started in video, these tips I’ve gathered might be of use to you, too:
Look at what other people are doing. If you’re a romance writer, look at what other romance authors are doing. Study their viral videos. What made them pop? The music they chose? A new book they’re talking about? We don’t need to copy others, but pick up tips from other authors who are killing it. We do this with covers, with blurbs, even POV (switching from 3rd person to 1st) and we can learn from our peers in other ways, too.
Choose who you’re going to be. If you’re going to film yourself without makeup or your hair done, be okay with that, make your peace with it, and embrace it. I don’t know how beneficial it would be to look like a beauty queen for the first six months while you build and audience then all of a sudden “be yourself.” Be yourself from the start and then you can’t fall off that path.
Figure out what your platform is. Romance is easy–hunky cinnamon roll guys, swoony love stories. I’ve never been good with posting about romance, when it should be my number one go-to for any post. I should read it as much as I write it, and I should embrace all my book boyfriends–the ones I create and the ones I love to read about. How I would get that into videos that promote me as a romance author, I have no idea. I’ve kind of turned into a billionaire romance author, and if Jamie Dornan wants to come over and make out with me while I film it for TikTok, that would probably be a good start. He’s married though, so I doubt his wife would be on board.
Focus on one. If you want to do TikTok, make it a primary goal to build your platform there. Like any social media app, it takes interaction for some algorithm love, and not just by your fans. You have to comment, you have to reply to comments. That takes time and it will be easier to find the time if you just have one platform you need to worry about. If you already have a following on Instagram and want to start posting video there, then do that. But no matter where you post a video, remember it’s the books that are the most important. You don’t have anything to market if you’re not writing.
Look at your genre and where your audience is. TikTok feels younger, but is it? I don’t know. If you’re running Facebook Ads and they work for you, can you say your audience is older? A quick Google search says the average age of a Facebook user is 40 years old. Does that mean your audience is older? Maybe they aren’t on TikTok. If you write Young Adult, it might be a place to consider. If you’re writing “seasoned’ romance and your target audience is a divorced woman in her mid-fifties, it might not be the best place for you to spend your time. Doing some market research and figuring out where your audience is on social media will at least keep you from wasting time on a platform where your readers aren’t hanging out. Romance readers seem to be everywhere, which makes it hard for a romance author not to (want to be) be everywhere, too, but I can look up the top ten billionaire romance authors and if they aren’t on TikTok, that takes some of the pressure off.
Stay out of the author/writer community. For most authors, Twitter doesn’t sell books because we’re so deep into the #writingcommunity we can’t see straight. Unless you’re happy with a handful of sales for the lifespan of your book, other authors are not your readers. This is why Craig Martelle says it over and over again in the 20booksto50k group, it’s why in most FB author groups there is no self promo. Because the other members are not your readers. It’s going to be the same with TikTok and Instagram. Don’t tell other authors in your groups to follow you there, because your account will be following authors, and other authors will be following you. It’s really difficult to find that line in the sand and stay on the right side. Especially since we’re supposed to read in our genre, and I like to promote the romance books I’ve enjoyed. It will take more time to build a fanbase made up of readers, but it will be worth it in the end.
I don’t have many resources for this blog post. BookTok is still new and you will probably get the most out of joining the TikTok for Authors Facebook group. Clubhouse is now open to everyone (though I have 10 invites if you want to be personally invited into the app–DM me on Twitter), and there is a TikTok for Authors Club on there, too. You can join and listen in on conversations where they discuss what is working for them, and after a bit you might have a tip to share!
The last resource I have is a book I read a while ago when I was looking into getting video. Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss: How to Kill It Online with Video Blogging, has a lot of great advice when it comes to vlogging and those tips can help you at least feel comfortable in front of the camera.
Getting comfortable and understanding your goals and the content you want to provide is half the battle when it comes to using video to promote your books. Consistency will help, and if you enjoy what you’re doing, that will come out in your videos too. I don’t know if I’ll ever get into video. It’s difficult not to jump into the next big thing when you want to market your books and feel like sales have stalled, but the one thing I can count on is writing the next book which is where you can always find me, no matter what kind of hot new platform comes along. Good luck!
I’ve been struggling with content for this blog for a little while–maybe that’s a good thing as it means the indie community is quiet. Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to still post four times a month, but my more informational blog posts on the first and third Monday of every month, and now that I’m back into publishing, a personal update on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. I think that will still provide my subscribers with the content they find helpful but it will take some of the pressure off me to keep my blog posts relevant. I still very much enjoy this blog and don’t plan to stop blogging, and who knows . . . maybe things will pick up once the summer is over and there will be more things to talk about again. Thanks for understanding!
Happy Monday! This week is off to a great start! I finished my book yesterday, all 97,000 words of her. I know that will change in edits, and I’ll jump right into the first read through today! My characters have changed a little from the beginning to the end, and I want to clean up the discrepancies while they’re fresh in my head. After that I’ll let it sit, and go to work on the ugly duckling trope I got back from my beta reader/editor a couple weeks ago. While I jump into those edits I’ll get my MailerLite newsletter stuff up and going. It might take a couple of days to figure things out, but as Andrea Pearson says on the 6 Figure Author Podcast, once I take the time, I never have to do it again. Will I jump into a new book? Guys, I have 11 books on my laptop right now–all in various states of editing–from nearly-ready-to-publish to just-finished-yesterday. They include a six-book series I wrote last year during COVID, three standalones, and two books that will belong to another six-book series. Needless to say, all the standalones I’ve written, I’ve written with the intention of using one as a reader magnet, otherwise I never would have taken a break with the second series I’d started. But I NEED to start publishing these, so I’m going to try really really hard not to start writing another book, at least for a little while.
What else has been going on? There are a lot of webinars coming up in the following weeks, and one I’m really excited about is one hosted by Jane Friedman and Elizabeth Sims on writing dialogue. I love craft classes just as much as I love marketing classes and I’m looking forward to it. If you want to check it out, look here.
I came across this opinion the other day, and it kind of flummoxed me that a) someone could feel this way and 2) no one told her there are things you can do for your book and your business that won’t make you feel like you pressed publish and then walked away.
I’m an indie publisher, and never once have I felt like when I published a book it was like opening a bird’s cage and letting the little bird fly away, never to be seen again. Though I suppose that’s how it can feel to some authors when their book sinks in the charts and they don’t know what to do about it. My books may not be successful, and that’s my fault and my fault alone. Today I tweeted that you can learn just a good of a lesson from making a mistake as you can from making a choice that will bring you success. I know why my books aren’t doing well, and that’s why I’m starting a pen name and hoping to apply what I’ve learned these past five years into another five that are more successful.
What can this person do to make sure that when/if she ever self-publishes her book, it won’t feel like she’s letting a bird fly out her window? Here’s what I would tell her, and this is what I plan to do too.
Make sure your cover/blurb/title convey the genre you’ve written in, and make sure your story follows the genre guidelines that readers will expect when they pick up your book. This is more than just “writing to market.” If your book hits it out of the park with genre/plot/characters, readers of that genre will recommend your book to other readers. It all starts with the story and nothing else will get you word of mouth than a compelling story and characters your readers will care about.
Start a newsletter and put the link for sign ups in the back of your book. This was a big fail for me, and who knows where my career would be right now if I had started it years ago. Even if I had decided to go in an opposite direction, I could have asked my readers if they wanted to follow me in the new direction. Some may have, some might not have, but it’s better than starting at zero like I am right now.
Write the next book. Nothing sells your book like writing the next book. Don’t take a break (unless your burnt out, then take a vacation and celebrate all your hard work) and jump right into writing the next book, or if you’re like me and you’re stockpiling, get the next book ready to publish. I have found that rapid releasing doesn’t do much if you don’t already have readers hungry for your books. Until I find a fanbase, I probably won’t rapid release anymore. But writing the next book, or getting the next book ready, will keep your mind off your launch and it’s a much better use of your time than refreshing your sales dashboard every ten minutes.
Run promotions. I understand if you’re traditionally published this may not be something you can do or even something you’ll want to pay for with your own money (though rumor has it this is what your advance is for). You’ve given control to your publisher and what they will pay for is anyone’s guess. But if you’re an indie author, you can mark your book down to .99 or offer free days and buy promotion slots through Written Word Media like BargainBooksy or Freebooksy, or other promotional sites like Robin Reads and Ereader News Today. You can “stack” them (booking them at the same time) for a strong launch, or you can space them out and keep sales steady. Whatever you plan to do, booking promo sites is nothing like letting that bird go.
Learn ads. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can run low-budget, low-cost per click ads. While I don’t plan to write more 3rd person past contemporary romance anytime soon, I still run low-budget ads to my books. Without those ads I would sell nothing. Nothing. The two or three books I sell a day because of those ads are more than some authors sell in weeks because they don’t want to take a small risk to see what those ads can do for their book(s). If you’re confident in your cover/blurb/title/story, your ad spend will not be a waste.
Just to show you that I’m not spending a ton of money on ads here are my stats for June (as of the 23rd): I have ten ads going, a couple for each standalone and the one Amazon approved for His Frozen Heart. (That was a fluke and anytime I’ve tried to create more they always suspend them because of the cover.)
To date my royalties are:
I’ve made 7 dollars this month, but that’s 7 dollars more than I would have without ads and I’m finding readers. Maybe they’ll leave a review. Maybe they’ll tell a friend. Maybe the paperbacks I sold on the 21st will be passed around and a lot of people will read them. I could run more ads and I should refresh my ads with new keywords, but being that I won’t have a new title out under that name, I’ll just leave my ads how they are. That being said, if you’re actively promoting and writing, there’s no reason why you can’t learn an ad platofrm and see what happens. There are a lot of free resources out there and it won’t break the bank to do some testing. You never know. Your book could take off and your royalties will far exceed the cost of the ads. Which is the main goal anyway.
I don’t understand the mentality that once you publish your book is out of your hands. There are all sorts of things you can do to bring readers in. They may cost a little money, and some ideas, like starting a newsletter is a time investment as well. It’s why I’ve put off doing certain things–because the writing is always the fun part to me, and doing anything else is like going to the dentist. It’s a time suck but necessary evil.
Thank you for all the kind feedback regarding the Canva paperback wrap post I did last week. So many people found it helpful! If you know someone who could use the information, pass it along! I love to help!
I think that is all I’m going to post about for now. My carpal tunnel has flared up a bit, so a writing break will be welcome. I haven’t been sleeping well, either. Let’s say say three cats are two cats too many, but they are part of the family so there’s nothing I can do but take naps when I can.
I hope you all have a wonderful Monday, and let me know how you’re doing!
It seems all anyone can talk about these days is Clubhouse, and I was lucky enough to be invited into the app exclusive for iPhone users (thanks Aidy!). If you haven’t heard of Clubhouse, it’s an app where you can drop in on any room of your choosing and be a fly on the wall. I’m a part of a couple of indie writing rooms and a publishing room. One of the rooms, or I guess “club”, is hosted by my Level Up Romance Group on Facebook. There I get to listen to the speakers “on stage” chat about whatever topic they’ve decided on (today it was Kindle’s new platform Vella, but that’s a different blog post). It’s not scripted, not like a podcast where the interviewer answers questions previously given to them by the hosts. It’s fashioned as more of a chat/discussion, or if you’ve ever been to a conference (not just a writing conference but any professional conference) I liken it to dropping into a breakout session and listening in. If you don’t get anything out of it, or you need to attend a different session, you can slip out the door, or in the app’s case, you can press on “leave quietly” and leave the room.
I don’t know all the ins and outs of this app–I’ve never spoken and haven’t been invited to. (My area of expertise is limited and I’m not making any money selling books so I doubt an invitation will be forthcoming in the near future.) I’m still learning how to move about the app (or hallways), and the first time I attended a room, I was scared to blow my nose because I wasn’t sure if I was muted or not. (Unless you’re invited to speak, you are, but it’s up to you to unmute yourself when it’s your turn to contribute.)
As you can imagine, there is a lot of information passed along these casual chats and it feeds right into my Fear Of Missing Out.
I present myself as a pretty stable individual mental-health wise, and for the most part, I am. But when it comes to the indie publishing industry and all the information out there, I have a desperate fear of missing out on the NEXT NEW THING. How are authors making money, what are they doing, what are they trying? I can get a bit obsessive when it comes to gathering information, and it’s only been in the past six months or so where I’ve tried, consciously tried, to loosen the reins and dump some Facebook groups. I don’t listen to nearly as many podcasts as I used to, either. I haven’t listened to Joanna Penn for quite some time, and it’s been while since I listened to the Wish I’d Known Then podcast hosted by Jami Albright and Sara Rosett, though that one should be at the top of my list since they both write romance and interview romance authors on the regular. I don’t listen to The Sell More Books Show since Jim Kukral left. I don’t care for the new format (no offense, Bryan!) and I don’t click with H. Claire Taylor, Bryan’s new cohost. The only podcast that I listen to every week is the 6 Figure Author podcast. I like Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea, though if it’s just the three of them talking, sometimes their information can get a bit repetitive, and I’m not always interested in their guests, though they are more business-minded than some podcasts I’ve listened to about publishing (recently they interviewed Joe Solari).
The reason why I stopped listening to so many podcasts is because if I listened to as many as I think I needed I wanted, or as many as are available, my mind would not rest. I need the time unplugged to think about my books. I need the time to mull over my plots, what my characters are doing, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. If I constantly have a voice yipping in my ear, my brain can’t wander, I can’t brainstorm, and my books will never get done.
There isn’t only one way to write a book, but this is my way. It helps me keep writer’s block at bay. There is no quicker way for me to shut down than if I sit at my computer and I don’t know what I need to write during that session. I call myself a planster, and I plot as I go along, and for me, that does mean knowing what I need to write that day even if I don’t know what I need tomorrow.
This applies to blog posts too. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say on the drive home from dropping my daughter off at school. I never would have had that time if I would have been listening to a Clubhouse meeting or a podcast. Sometimes even music takes away the space in my brain, and in the past I’ve been able to write with music in the background, but I’m moving away from that and writing in silence more and more.
So, enter Clubhouse and my need to know everything. So far the app is new, and there aren’t many rooms you can join, which is a good thing for me. To add to the urgency, rooms aren’t recorded. Either you can join and listen at that moment or you can’t. At least with a podcast, webinar (most offer replays though you can’t join in with a live Q & A session), or even a YouTube video, you can listen at your leisure. While Clubhouse could be a fabulous resource for authors down the road (especially once they are out of beta and you don’t need an invite to join) FOMO is real for a lot of people, and it will be interesting to see how others handle their time.
I don’t know everyone who is on stage most of the time, I know a few of the authors who speak, and they are all full-time authors. I mean, if you’re making ten grand a month on your books, I guess you can feel like you can make time to listen and join the rooms. I need all of my writing time still, because I work full time, have three cats (one of which is always needing something) two kids, and a social life. I need time to shut my brain off or my books won’t get written.
Time to think about your stories and blog posts and other content you share on social media is important, and I need to remind myself constantly that I don’t need to know everything. I like knowing what’s going on in the industry, especially romance. I probably wouldn’t have started writing in first person present had I not been keeping my ear to the ground. I wouldn’t have gone with MailerLite if it wasn’t the most recommended newsletter aggregator. Chances are if I wasn’t paying attention to the indie news in general, I wouldn’t have known to ask for a Clubhouse invite in the first place.
But I have to make sure I have space in my brain for books–which is doubly difficult if you’re already worried about something going on in your life. For me, it’s my health, but I’m slowly getting back to normal there, and eventually that space can be taken up with something else–hopefully nothing quite so serious. The next time I need an oil change, maybe, or when I need to make an appointment for a hair trim. It’s emotionally exhausting worrying about something, and when you can find quiet, it’s best to take it instead of cuing up a podcast or joining a room on Clubhouse.
Lately, I feel like I don’t have time to get anything done. I’ve been doing a lot of vet stuff for my cat–she ended up going to the animal ER because the antibiotics she was on a couple weeks ago didn’t work. She’ll need to be on special food for the rest of her life and that is going to be a long, hard road (especially since she’s only three years old). She’s on pain medication now and another round of antibiotics, but time will only tell if the special diet will take care of her bladder issues. It’s been a little time-consuming, and I haven’t gotten much done on my next project as I’d like.
Here’s a picture of her sleeping after a dose of pain medication. She matches our couch almost perfectly.
In other news, I did start a new project, and I chose the “fake fiancee” trope. He needs a fake fiancee to win a bet, and we’ll see what happens. I’m 10k into it. I wanted to try a fresh take on the trope and tried to think outside the box. I didn’t want my hero to need a fiancee to inherit a boat-load of money, or to appease a dying parent. A bet may not be that original, but with his backstory, and why my heroine needs the cash he’ll pay her, I’m hoping this story will be something new that readers will enjoy.
I’m still not sure if this will be the cover for my ugly duckling romance–I need to work shop it in a covers group on FB and see what people think. I like it, though it’s not exactly what’s out there right now. (Mostly a single guy in a suit looking ticked off with a bold font.) I’ve shown it off before on the blog, but this time I’ve zoomed in on the couple a little more. I love the font, but maybe going with something more easily read will be the end result. Or I could be trolling Deposit Photos and find a completely different couple. Who knows?
While I’m doing that, I sent it to my (paid) beta reader, and she’s going to do her thing. I’ll format it myself in Canva, and I still need to learn MailerLite. I know, I know.
I finished reading another billionaire romance the other day, and I have noticed some things that bother me while I’ve been reading through the top 100 on Amazon. For one thing, the characters are really young, and I touched on that subject in a previous blog post. In the book I finished reading, the hero was 28 and the heroine was 21. The book takes place over the time span of a year and a half, which makes the heroine roughly 23 by the end of the book, and at the end, she’s having a baby. I don’t know about you, but at twenty-three, I wasn’t thinking about babies, and the end of the book felt false to me. A happily ever after doesn’t always have to include children. In fact, because of their histories, some of my couples have agreed not to have children, even though they are old enough to want them and afford them. I’ve been guilty of giving my couples pregnancies–she ends up pregnant at the end of The Years Between Us and All of Nothing. There is a lot of baby talk among my characters in my Rocky Point Wedding series, but for the most part, they are agreeing they don’t want (biological) children. I’m not saying couples who want kids at the end of romance books are not to my liking, but when the characters are that young, I’m almost wincing with dismay. Live a little first, figure out who you are as a couple without kids. Sound advice, even in real life. This is only an opinion, but if an author wants their characters to start a family right away, it would be simple to age them up to an appropriate age for that.
My characters fall between 35-45 years of age, for the most part. In The Years Between Us, she was younger, only because the trope was younger woman/older man. The first person present series I finished that I’ve been sitting on for the past few months, they are younger, but they don’t talk about babies. It’s been a bit of resting for me with that story, but if I remember correctly, they don’t talk about babies at all. I like babies, in real life, and in books, but I think it helps the relatability and realistic factors if the characters are actually old enough to want to have them. What do you think?
Just one last thing I’m going to touch on in this blog post. I was on Twitter the other day and came upon this Wall Street Journal article: An Epidemic of Memoir-Writing. The lockdowns have spread of virus of non-memorable life stories, by Peter Funt. It wasn’t that this is ground-breaking news. Even in the fiction community, output of authors rose exponentially during the pandemic and saturated indie publishing. But what I found interesting was this grab from the article: “Andy Ross, an Oakland, Calif., agent, says, ‘I get multiple proposals for memoirs every day of the year, including Christmas. Most of the stuff is terrible, so it ends up with Kindle.'”
Guys, we’re never going to get past the stigma of indie publishing if we don’t start putting some effort into the things we publish. Indie publishing will always look like a last resort for people who don’t take the time to polish what they have before publishing. This is really disheartening to read because most authors I know do put 110% of effort into everything they publish. Writing is hard, and you can’t do it alone. You need critique partners, beta readers, editors. You have be willing to ask for and process feedback, whether it’s negative or positive.
I’d like to welcome Savannah Cordova from Reedsy to my blog today! I was so excited when she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in hosting a guest blog post. Of course I said yes! I love Reedsy and all they have to offer indie authors. If you like this post and are interested in others like it, Reedsy hosts its own blog, and you can find it here. Thanks for stopping by today!
How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations by Savannah Cordova
Having enough acclaim to write a sequel to your book is every writer’s dream — but that doesn’t mean the process comes as easily as the butterflies when you get a crush. There are plenty of critically panned sequels out there, and the pressure can be nerve-wracking: you’re stressed about both living up to the first novel and coming up with something fresh and original.
The best romance novel sequels build on the success of their debuts, while also introducing new concepts, characters, and plot lines — which means that some beloved elements of the first novel might end up on the cutting room floor. A lot to juggle, right? Read on if you’re a romance author in need of some help; here are five tips to help your sequel shine.
1. Identify what your fans loved and focus on it A great love story is a surefire way for a book to attract a following and take on a life beyond itself. With investment into a fictive world, and the growth of a fandom, come expectations. Expectations that need to be met or, dare I say, exceeded.
To do this successfully, it’s important to analyze what really made your first love story sing. Were people inspired by your fresh twist on that popular romance trope? Was the main love interest setting readers’ hearts aflutter? Did people enjoy the relatability of a certain character’s struggle to accept love? A stellar first romance novel normally has something special to distinguish it from other releases (if you’re feeling brave, reviews of your book might help you on this front). Zero in on this aspect and do your best to tease it out in the sequel.
That said, you shouldn’t be completely cowed by what you think your fans want — it’s your story, after all! Don’t be afraid to challenge their expectations and take the plot in unanticipated directions. It’s even advisable to drop some characters and subplots if they no longer serve a purpose. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as the old adage goes.
2. Introduce new plot threads Writing a sequel doesn’t always mean picking up where you left off — this can fall into the trap of predictability and boring linearity. You may need to resolve cliffhangers left in your first book, but you should also take the opportunity to explore uncharted waters!
Many romance authors change the who of the story in their sequels (focusing on a new set of protagonists, often secondary characters of the previous book), but keep in mind that you might be better off simply changing the where and when. Great material can be found in illustrating your amorous protagonists adapting to unfamiliar settings and different life challenges, and can allow you to “test” the strength of their romantic relationship.
Another idea is to throw up some roadblocks that will put your characters through their paces, revitalize your narrative, and make space for character development. For example, in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget diverges from the original setting of London and, after a mishap on a vacation in Thailand, ends up in jail — definitely not what she (or readers!) were expecting. However, we learn about Bridget’s resilience, and this scene change also sets the stage for her two suitors to fight over her, in that iconic fountain fight scene.
3. Don’t hesitate to change the stakes Beware of giving your readers another helping of the exact same dish. It’s fairly easy to change the more episodic events of a story, but what will really give your story fresh dynamism is changing your protagonist’s priorities or stakes. Better yet, doing this without betraying any key qualities of your characters, their principles, or the overall tone will mean the key change won’t seem gratuitous or excessive to the point of unbelievability.
Let’s take Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy as an example. In the second book, following the death of her lover Will, Louisa is dealing with her heartbreak and trying to move on as best she can. After an accident, she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group.
So what’s changed? For one, in grief, she’s a more world-wise, introspective character. She’s also adapting to a new social setting, where she is introduced to handsome and charming fireman, Sam — you can probably see where this is going. The stakes have been altered because of the events that have occurred. She’s recovering from an accident and therefore vulnerable, which no doubt factors into the risks she will take if she is to fall in love again.
4. Develop your characters in interesting ways You may think you know a character, and then they respond to a situation in a way you never would have anticipated. Surprise is the essence of any great drama, right? Though introductory beats are usually where a good chunk of character information is found, any good novel will treat character development as a continuous process. To do so will give you room to interrogate and deconstruct your characters — and subvert expectations.
Though character development has been touched upon in point #2, consider also how you might want to accentuate a feature (or flaw) of a character that was not touched upon in your first story. This might come naturally if the character has aged, as well as with the general forward-thrust of your plot. Perhaps a softer, more sensitive side to a character is revealed when they become a parent — or a more daring, combative facet of another character comes to the fore when their relationship is threatened by a third party. The list is endless!
5. Expand on the backstory Even as you’re in the process of driving your plot forward, why not throw in a bit of time traveling via flashbacks? There is more incentive to do this if you’re penning a sequel to the first part of a book that did well — your fans will be invested in your characters and hankering for juicy details on their backstories.
Moreover, elaborating on a character’s origins will give color to their actions, reactions, and decision-making in the present day. For example, in the Bridgerton books and Netflix series, we learn that the Duke of Hastings lost his mother at a young age and had a terrible relationship with his father. From this, we are better equipped to understand his reluctance to marry Daphne Bridgerton — the Duke has trust issues and feels unworthy of her love.
Throwing in some snapshots of life before the present day is often an effective way to understand characters’ psyches and how this factors into a romantic dynamic. In this instance, Daphne and the Duke’s love story is made even more powerful after we learn of the psychological hurdles the Duke has had to overcome to commit himself to their relationship.
And there you have it. Hopefully these ideas will aid your writing process and enhance the next act of your story, as it were. You might even have an entire series under your belt one day!
In one of my Facebook groups I’ve since left, there was a gal, let’s call her Ella. She was a traditionally published romance author, but she said due to burnout, she hasn’t written for quite some time. I know how real burnout can be–especially in romance where publishing three to four books a year is the norm.
But throughout some discussions that I lurked in on, I realized one thing. Burnout hasn’t kept her from writing. Snobbery has.
You see, Ella stopped writing when her book deals dried up and she refused to indie-publish further books.
When I made this realization (and maybe it’s a realization she herself hasn’t come to) I sat back, stunned.
Of course, I don’t speak to Ella and her real reasons are all my conjecture at this point, but it’s worth talking about.
Snobbery in the publishing industry is real. There’s snobbery against indie publishing, there’s snobbery against romance in general, which makes Ella’s reasons for not writing anymore all that more laughable because she’s writing in a genre that is looked down upon more than any other genre on the planet. If we gave in to snobbery, there wouldn’t be romance (considered fluff by many) erotica, for sure, or most genre fiction. We wouldn’t have comic books (considered a low form of “reading” by some). We wouldn’t have audiobooks (listening is not reading!) and so much more.
Ella’s bitter because she blames indie-publishing for stealing her book deals and won’t contribute to a system she feels is beneath her. But we all know the traditional publishing industry is broken–the mid-list didn’t disappear overnight, and it’s no one’s fault but the big houses’ that indie authors stepped up and filled that gap.
But let’s say Ella has a point. What can she do?
*She could pivot. Being capable of adjusting is vital with any career choice. (I have an HR degree, and I shudder when I think about all they have gone through with COVID and work-from-home protocols. Not once in any of my HR classes did we talk about a pandemic.) She could switch from romance and write literary fiction. She could spend the next five years writing the next great American novel. She could then query, obtain her precious book deal, and watch her book sell a thousand copies, maybe win an award, if she’s lucky.
*She could write women’s fiction which seems to have a little more meat than straight-up romance and grab a book deal and hope to become the next Jennifer Weiner. Or she could write women’s fiction, swallow her pride, and build a following like other women’s fiction indie authors (see: Jane Davis and Jessie Newton), and hope to gain a “respectable” and “sophisticated” audience.
*She could keep writing what she loves and indie-publish because after all, there is no better marketing than writing the next book and her front list would sell her backlist (the books she’s most proud of, I guess. Shrug.).
So instead of letting bitterness about something she has no control over dictate how she writes, Ella does have choices. Instead she chooses to let snobbery and resentment win.
Maybe she’s tired. The system can be disheartening at times, and in this business, it’s important to understand your WHY. Why was Ella writing in the first place? For the glory of the book deal? The validation (good reviews?)? To reach readers who love to read romance? She can still reach readers indie-publishing. More, in fact because she’ll have complete control of her books. She can run ads, host giveaways, build a newsletter, and she’ll share less royalties than if she were still traditionally-published.
I’m not a snob, though sometimes I may sound like I am. I believe there is room for every genre, every story. My problem is I wish authors would take a little more pride in their work, and maybe in the end, that’s all Ella’s problem is too. Books that are unedited or poorly written because the author published before her skills were up to snuff. We’ve all read that one book that had potential but just wasn’t quite there. I mean, there’s snobbery and then just wanting to see a bit more quality in the industry. That’s nothing to feel bad about–as authors, we shouldn’t be asking readers to part with their money unless what you’re giving in return is a good, enjoyable read.
I feel sorry for Ella, that her snobbery, resentment and bitterness keeps her from doing something she loves. If I’ve learned anything about the industry in the last four years I’ve been writing and publishing is that anger and resentment have no place here.
A couple years ago, I heard something funny. When we talk about quality in the inde-publishing space a saying that you might often hear is, “Cream floats to the top.” Meaning, the best books will rise to the top despite what everyone is publishing. Then I heard something I hadn’t heard before, the rejoiner: “Yeah, and so does sh*t.” It made me laugh. You can say books like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight are the sh*tty books that have floated to the top, but it just goes to show that there is space in this industry for everyone.
I’d like to welcome Brickley Jules to the blog today. I’ve known Brickley for years, and it’s one of those friendships where I can’t remember where we met (probably Twitter) because she’s been a friend since I started writing. She has a new release coming out that I was happy to edit for her last year. With so little time, every launch is a victory, and I’m happy to be a part of her launch and the rebranding of her series. I asked Brickley a few questions about writing and publishing around such a busy schedule. Thanks for tuning in!
You published Her Unexpected Life in 2016. How has indie publishing changed since then? Anything stand out to you as better? Worse?
The two publishing entities [CreateSpace and KDP] I used in the past have combined meaning I only have one place to go to get my work out to the public which is easier. But I’m a creature of habit so I’m not as fond of the changes as others might be.
More books are published than ever before. Can you share what you plan to do in terms of marketing after your launches?
I plan to do some more research on marketing to stay up to date and I’m going to utilize every free source of marketing I can.
Facebook for example has many different free options like Facebook Live, Groups, Author Pages, Cover pictures and videos, and Events. These can be used together to do Release Parties and Anniversary Release Parties etc.
Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google, and several other social media outlets can be utilized to get the word out for free about my releases without costing a thing.
If you could go back to 2016 and tell yourself one thing that you know now, what would it be?
If you get burnt out writing, editing, or after your computer crashes step away for a bit but don’t completely quit. Don’t allow yourself to make and use excuses to justify not working on your book or educating yourself on your craft. Take a break, pick up a friend’s novel, and do some relaxing studying.
Brickley Jules is a pen name. Do you have any tips for an author thinking about publishing using one? How did you choose yours?
Brickley Jules to me has a science fiction feel and the original manuscript, Out of the Blue, I was intending on publishing, was a spicy mermaid romance but it has overall arc problems, plot holes, and needed a lot of work so I didn’t publish it. I had already done all the leg work though of establishing Brickley Jules on social media so instead of starting over with another pen name that fits my Women’s Fiction book, Her Unexpected Life, I stuck with Brickley. I do think Brickley Jules works with my erotic motorcycle romance, Vested in Her.
My advice would be to look at other works in your genre and see what vibe the names give off. Maybe do some research on the matter but ultimately you have the choice to use whatever name you want to.
A long time ago we were talking about publishing and how difficult it is when you don’t know what you don’t know. How have you gone about filling in those knowledge gaps?
I have a great group of writer friends who have helped me fill in the gaps and lots of other great writers have published blog posts on their experiences along their writing journey I read those. Otherwise I’m a trial and error girl.
You have a family and work full time. How do you carve out writing time?
It’s hard to find extra time but recently I busted up my ankle and had eight weeks to work on finishing the revamping of the interior vibe of Her Unexpected Life and updating its cover.
I also took some time to work on something new for my readers. More to come on that later.
Normally I have to carry my laptop around in my mom taxi and work on my books while my daughters are at their practices.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Brickley!
She recently revamped her book, Her Unexpected Life, and is publishing the next in series, Her Ordinary Life. You can find both of these and her erotic Motorcycle Romance, Vested in Her on all your favorite retailers!
As indie authors we have a lot of flexibility. Blurb not working? Change it. Cover not working? Change it. Didn’t edit your novel well enough the first time, give it another editing sweep and upload the new file. We have a lot of flexibility when treating our writing like a business. We can pivot faster than any traditionally published author, chasing trends if we’re fast enough writers, or researching sub-genres and hopping onto a hugely-demanded but underserved niche.
This quote jumped out at me this morning as I scrolled all my social media feeds while I sipped on my much-needed first cup of coffee. I like it because as indies, we’re able to search out new ways if something we’re doing isn’t working. The problem is, there is such variety out there that it’s difficult knowing when to give up and try something new or sticking with what we’re doing and hoping that our tenacity will be rewarded. We need to give something ample time to see if it’s going to work, and bailing too quickly before something can stick could cut off something that could be really viable to your business. On the other hand, sticking with something that’s not working out of fear of the unknown won’t get us very far, either.
Knowing when to keep trying and when to throw in the towel is something that needs to be taken as case by case basis and perhaps the thing you’ve moved on from could work for you later. With all the information available to indies right now, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices.
Here’s a not-so-quick list of some of the things that we as indies have control over, when to let things ride, and when to maybe give new things a shot:
POV. Changing up a POV may not be an option for some people. You need to definitely work with your strengths and admit your weaknesses. If you rock 3rd person past, it wouldn’t be wise to change to shaky 1st person present just because that’s what’s trending in some genres right now. The quality of the work should always come first, or what you do after that won’t make much sense. I find writing 1st person present easier than 3rd person past. I can write faster, and as my paid beta reader just got through the first book my first series and liked it, I feel I’m capable in that area. A comment made on this blog on one of my posts said I didn’t like writing it, but that’s not true. I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice when I decided to write a book in it, that’s true. It wasn’t what I gravitated toward when I started writing because I’d read 3rd person past all my life and stuck with what I knew. But my books also were not selling that well, and since I had nothing to lose, I mixed it up. This is one area where I probably could have stuck with 3rd person past and eventually seen some level of success. On the flip side, my 1st person present books could flop. I don’t know. The amount of flexibility we have can be a pro as well as a con. If you’ve been writing in a POV you may not click with, or you haven’t found readers to click with it, change it up. You never know where a new POV will take you.
If your current POV is not clicking with readers, you don’t have to change POV to find traction. Maybe changing subgenres would help. When I was writing 3rd person past, I wrote steamy contemporary romance. I didn’t have to change to 1st person present to make a change–I could have started writing women’s friendship fiction, or domestic thrillers, or literary fiction. Again, you need to know where your strengths are. I like writing romance and have a difficult time plotting anything that doesn’t revolve around a man and woman falling in love. Changing POVs made more sense to me than seeking out another subgenre, but I could have made a less drastic change and started writing clean romance as well. There are all sorts of things you can do if what you’re writing isn’t hitting the mark and finding an audience. I was lucky and stumbled upon first person present billionaire romance. I enjoy writing it, I feel I’m good at it, and I’m hoping that even though that subgrene has peaked, I will still find readers when I’m ready to publish.
Ad platforms. This is a tricky one because your ads can only do a well as the book you’re selling. Bailing on Amazon Ads in favor of Facebook ads may not do anything for you except eat up money faster. You also have to know what your business goals are. If you’re in Kindle Unlimited, it makes sense to run Amazon Ads, but if you’re wide, Facebook can reach more people who read on all platforms. I see some authors give up on ads saying they don’t work, but they aren’t advertising a book written to market, or the cover is bad, or the look inside is full of telling. Another important thing to consider is if you learned how to use the platform. There are a lot of free resources out there and I would never try to put together an ad on a platform I wasn’t familiar with. Once you are familiar and know your ad budget then you have to figure out if your return on investment is worth it to keep running ads. It may not be. So you table that ad platform and write another book, or just hold off on ads for a bit, or try BookBub ads instead. You have to give something time to work. When I was doing Bryan Cohen’s ad challenge, there were so many people who wanted to throw in the towel after the first couple of days. If you feel like that, then maybe you don’t have confidence in your product and your gut is trying to tell you something. If you know you’re advertising a good book, then you should have patience and faith in your product. Your book will be on sale forever (unless you pull it). You can afford to wait a couple months to gather ad data to make good choices.
Newsletter. If you haven’t started one, you can start one anytime. If your newsletter has low open rates, figure what why readers don’t want to open your mail. Maybe you’re not giving them anything of value. Maybe you’re not emailing frequently enough. Maybe the only mail you send out is when you have a new release and readers are tired of your “buy buy buy” message you send out every three or four months. Maybe you need a new aggregator because the one you’re using now sends everyone’s mail to their spam folder. If you aren’t getting the results you want, figure out why. Change your newsletter sign up cookie, or offer the readers you already have more content. There is a lot of flexibility here and you can make it work for you.
Your book’s package. It’s easy to fly off the handle with changes when Canva makes it easy to create a book cover, and changing the blurb is as simple as writing something quickly and logging into your KDP account. The thing is though, you have to wait to see if what you already have can work. Run ads, ask in reader groups, or send out your cover and blurb in your newsletter and ask for feedback. I’ve blogged before that it took me a year to change the cover of The Years Between Us, and when I did, I saw immediate results. But when I changed the cover of Wherever He Goes, it did nothing for sales. Whenever I do Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad challenge, the first part of the challenge is always taking a look at the product and making sure your book is sellable. Covers get changed, blurbs get changed, categories are added. I have no doubt that a lot of those changes are for the good of the book, but also if you’re running ads for the first time for only a handful of days and you’re not seeing impressions, that may not have anything to do with your book and going through the hassle of changing your cover may be for nothing. Oftentimes it’s helpful to take a step back and give yourself, and your book, time to breathe while collecting data.
When we talk about old ways keeping doors closed, what we’re doing is talking about years of collected data. I can look back on my 4+ years of indie publishing, and I know what I did wrong. I didn’t network with other romance authors, I don’t have a newsletter. Had I done those two things, maybe my 3rd person present stuff would have sold better. Maybe my POV switch wasn’t necessary and I was just grasping at straws making such a drastic change to my writing career. OR, it could breathe new life into my writing and it could offer more opportunities than I ever thought possible.
That’s the thing with being flexible. My third person books will always be there and I can always go back to them if my first person stuff doesn’t work out, or I need a change of pace. In fact, I had a good standalone idea for my next book that I was going to write before I made the change. Now I can write it in first person or put the idea on hold. I also have 20k of a book that I need to rewrite and finish that was part of a writing prompt I stumbled upon a couple years ago. I wasn’t in a place writing-wise where I could finish it, but my skills have come a long way, and I’d like to revisit it and finish it up.
We have a lot of flexibility as indie authors. Don’t get bogged down with the way you’ve always done things. You could be missing out on a new opportunity!
During the past couple of days I’ve been plotting the novel that is going to be my reader magnet for my newsletter. A reader magnet, or a “cookie” as some refer to it like Tammi Labrecque and David Gaughran, (though I think David borrowed it from her as they’re friends) is something free to entice readers to sign up for your newsletter. Authors give away a whole gamut of things from little short stories to full-length novels. Something Zoe York said in an interview on a podcast I listened to a long time ago (I forgot which one, I’m sorry) said that as an author who writes novels, giving away a story that is less than novel-length doesn’t make sense, and I took that advice to heart. It would be more time/cost effective to write a novella, since I could probably write 20k in just a few days, but I don’t write novellas, nor do I sell them, so skimping on my reader magnet doesn’t make much sense.
But, as I write my novel, I’m going to have a hard time parting with it. As an author, I give away books all the time. I do a Freebooksy now and then, and if someone approaches me and says they can’t afford to buy a book, I’ll send the PDF at no charge. That doesn’t happen very often, and I only had one taker when I offered up Wherever He Goes in an exchange for a possible review. Writing a reader magnet for the sole purpose of attaching it to a newsletter sign up will be a different mindset altogether, though I know it needs to be done. Giving a book away in a newsletter is almost the standard these days, and you’re missing out on a newsletter-building opportunity if that’s something you’re not doing.
It’s frustrating, in a way, that indie authors have trained readers to give away their email addresses for a free book, and you sometimes will get only freebie-seekers when you do that. Curating a list of readers who are interested in your work and sign up to stay on top of what you’re doing can be time-consuming and one of the (many) reasons I haven’t bothered with a newsletter yet.
That’s why I decided to write a full-length novel and write it to be the best book it can be. I want readers to have a taste of what they’ll get when they read my future work.
The plotting is almost done, though I am missing a couple of the big things I need to make the book move. I always have something huge in the middle of the book to prevent saggy middle, and always the BIG BAD that breaks them up (momentarily) toward the end. I have their backstories ironed out for the most part and I had to do a lot of name research to name the male MC because I have a habit of reusing names.
I also had to figure out where the novel was going to take place–all my books, even the ones I wrote in 3rd person past, are set in Minnesota, usually a fake city so I don’t have to worry about details. I make the city how I want it, and no one can complain. A good setting can actually become a protagonist/antagonist in its own right. A long series that comes to mind is Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold, a fictional town in California with a mayor who appears to be able to do a little magic through some not-quite-believable coincidences. I chose a fictitious resort on a lake in Minnesota, and I’m using the Arrowwood Resort Hotel and Conference Center as my muse. It’s not that far from me, in true, physical distance, but I’ve never been there. Here’s a picture from http://www.planetware.com from the Arrowwood website:
This resort will have everything the characters need to occupy themselves, and hopefully get into a little trouble, too. With a spa, pool, waterpark, marina, and much more, there’s no lack of things my characters can do. Because we’re talking about a billionaire family, they’ll own the resort, naturally.
I’ve been doing the preliminary work for this book–but doing so taking some advice from Suzy K. Quinn and Elana Johnson. I’ve worked out the potential cover, the tropes, the tagline, and the subgenre. Keeping in line with the “Package is the Promise” idea, this is the working cover for I suppose what will appear on Bookfunnel (though I haven’t gotten that far in the research stages yet).
The plot is about what you would expect–he’s best friends with her brother and when she was in her teens, he made fun of her for her looks. She never forgot it, and now when they meet up ten years later, he’s a bit surprised at just how far she’s come. This is a fine line to walk because he has to love her for who she is or he’ll get skewered in the reviews for being shallow. That means I have to make sure they spend a lot of time together so he can get to know the type of person she is. They don’t work together. I had to think of away he wouldn’t know she changed. So she doesn’t work for the family company–she set out on her own to make a reputation for herself on her own merits. He’ll come to eventually respect her for that, but at the beginning of the book he hates she’s not working for the family. There are a lot of layers and I’m really excited to start writing this book.
Still not 100% sure if I’ll use my initials for my pen name. I’ve been told to use my real name and brand the books differently from my 3rd person stuff, and I’ve been told to find something romantic that is in line with the authors who write billionaire romance. Chances are pretty good that the readers who like my billionaire stuff won’t move over to my 3rd person books, and that’s okay–that the whole point of the pivot. I don’t want to distance myself too far from the real me, otherwise I’ll have a difficult time being authentic in my newsletter and other social media platforms. I don’t want to hide behind a pen name, but I want to make it clear these books are different. We’ll see what happens.
Writing a cookie and starting up a newsletter is an exciting (and long-coming) thing for me. I’m excited to see where it takes me.