Is your book worth the blood, sweat, and tears, or is it time to move on?

We all want to feel like our books are worth reading. It’s why we write them, it’s why we publish them. It’s why we spend money on them with book covers, editing, and ad spend.

We want people to love our books.

But there comes a point in an author’s career when you look back and think that maybe that book isn’t worth any more time or money. It didn’t quite hit the mark with story/trope/character, or the cover is never going to be quite right, or you’ve changed the blurb so many times you wanna puke. No matter what you do to it, no matter how many ads you run, you just can’t get it to move.

And that happens. Even in the traditional publishing space. A publishing house throws hundreds of thousands of dollars at an author in form of an advance, and the house scrambles to push that book and make it a bestseller. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. An author who doesn’t earn out is screwed, but we can shake it off and go write something else.

I’ve complained about my books before, but I don’t sit and bitch and then do nothing. I’ve redone blurbs, I’ve redone covers. Heck, I’m using the #stayathome order to re-edit most of my books. I’ve found small inconsistencies and typos, even some small formatting issues. In some of my earlier works I’ve smoothed out telling, a lot of passive voice. They’ll be better. But better enough to start earning me money?

Probably not.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ads Challenge. In this challenge we learned how to bid, what our daily spend should/could be, where to find keywords. This challenge was great because he even taught us how to do some very simple ad copy, and this was so helpful. I hope whoever read that post took the challenge. It was worth the time, and it was FREE. Can’t get any better than that.

I did the challenge, and I’ll share my numbers with you in a minute. I chose All of Nothing, my strongest book, the book that I’ve sold the most of, and it did great. But I still came out on a loss. I ran a few ads to other books too, and I’ll give you my results on those, but for now, let’s take a look at All of Nothing.

At first I started the challenge with His Frozen Heart. First in series, it’s a no-brainer. I have book two out, book three is about to drop at the end of the month. Book four at the end of May. But in the middle of the challenge I changed tactics because something Bryan said resonated with me. He said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “Choose the book that sells the best.” You could have twenty books in your backlist and one is always going to sell better than the rest. Some books are just going to carry the others, and that’s the way it is. Especially if you sub-genre hop like I do.

Anyway, All of Nothing has outsold my other books by an extreme margin, and all I can think of is that it hits closer to home in terms of what’s selling right now in the romance genre (a little more grittier, a little more raw). That doesn’t mean I’m making money, but I’m selling books.

So, I changed gears and used Publisher Rocket for keywords for All of Nothing. (Folks, if you run Amazon ads and not using this magnificent piece of software, go get it right now. I’ve had it for a while, but never used it because I was using Bryan’s free way of gathering keywords. Free is fine, but in this instance, you get what you pay for.) About a year or so ago I changed the cover, six months later I redid the blurb. Those changes paid off, and now there’s nothing more that I can do to it to make it sell.

In the month of April I’ve spent $135.22 in ads and I’ve made $103.93.  I’m in the hole $32.00.

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My rank fluctuates between 15,000 and 12,000 in the Kindle Store. 12,xxx is the lowest (highest) ranking I have ever achieved. (Sorry, no screenshots. I check rank just to see if my ads are working.) But I am still in the hole. According to Bryan, I may not be in the hole forever–people borrow books and that makes your ranking go up, but don’t sit down to read right away and you don’t earn KU page revenue until they do. So while I lost money, maybe I really didn’t. There’s no way to really know. I can’t operate in the red to that extent, and I stopped my ads. Maybe the KU page reads will catch up to my ad spend and one day I’ll break even. Maybe not. All you can do is wait.

Obviously my book has the capacity to sell. And there are a few things I can do: bid lower. Not run so many ads. (I had about twenty going.)

Is it worth it to run ads to All of Nothing? Maybe. But the problem is, if they like Enemies to Lovers, or Bully Romance, or Billionaire Romance (those are the categories I used to search for keywords) then they have nowhere else to go in my backlist. None of my other books are like that. So they buy that book and move on to a different author.

The Years Between Us e-reader coverI run ads to The Years Between Us, too, and that was the book I was thinking about when I decided to write this blog post. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman trope. The problem with that is the indie industry has made that book naughty. When a reader in KU picks my “My Best Friend’s Dad” and there’s half-naked people on the cover, they know what they’re going to get. Lots of forbidden, naughty sex. Maybe even the heroine giving away her virginity, or at the very least, finally having sex with a “man” who knows what he’s doing. My book has that too, but it’s not gritty. I’ve tried running ads to it, and I’ve reworked the blurb. (I’ve blogged about this book in the past, and I’ve lost a lot of money in ad spend [about $70] before I changed the blurb.) Changing the blurb worked a little bit, and the cover is next. I don’t think the cover is working, but I ran some ads to it during this challenge too.

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Definitely not the loss that All of Nothing suffered, but I didn’t run nearly as many ads to it this time around because I’ve been burned before and I killed them when All of Nothing started operating at a loss. The last thing I can do is change the cover. It’s the only cover in my collection that doesn’t have a couple on it. After that, I’m just going to have to move on and admit that the book missed the mark.

It’s tough when you’ve written a book and it doesn’t sell no matter what you do to it. And in KU, like a friend and I were talking about last night, a reader could get to page 20 and not go any further because the book wasn’t what they expected it to be. 100 readers could do that, and in KU speak, that’s 2000 pages read. So you have no idea, really, if a book is being read cover to cover, unless the reader happens to leave a review.

The book I started the challenge with, His Frozen Heart, isn’t doing so well, either. And the poor reviews right out of the gate probably didn’t help it.

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I have twenty ads going for this book, and it’s dead in the water. I used Publisher Rocket for this book too, but it’s a Holiday Romance, Small Town, and people are looking forward to spring. If I want to market it after all the books in the series release, I could do a Christmas in July promo, or really push it hard this October when the holiday books start coming out. I didn’t plan very well for the release of these books, but I wanted to wait until I had them all done and edited. I’m not counting this series out yet, but I have a feeling these four books aren’t going to make much of a splash.

The problem isn’t just with the books though, it’s with me and how I’m operating my business.

I don’t have a newsletter going, and I don’t have any place for my readers to go to talk about books. I’ve blogged about that before. You need a place for the readers of your books to meet up and chat. And chat with you. There are plenty of people who say that they don’t want to start a newsletter because they themselves don’t open them. But listen, you’re in this as a writer, not a reader. Readers who only read, who are not part of the writing community, they LIKE hearing from you. The love the giveaways that are exclusive to them. They like the short stories that are especially for them. There’s a reason the theory 1,000 true fans exists. Because it works. All you need is 1,000 true fans who will read buy anything and everything you write and you are on your way to a real career.

Sticking with a sub-genre would help exponentially. All Billionaires, or all Small Town. I write what I wanna write, and lots of indies will stand on that hill until they die. But in this business, “Build it and they will come” doesn’t always work. When I first started writing, I thought Contemporary Romance was a thing. It’s only a thing if you’re trad-pubbed and already have an audience 20 years in the making.

You have wiggle room with plots, sure, even if you stick with a sub-genre. Maybe had I written The Years Between Us as also Small Town, that would have helped. But it’s placed in the city and Matthew is not a Billionaire, either. I could make him one, but he doesn’t live that lifestyle in the book, so it would mostly be a lie in the blurb the story couldn’t uphold. I don’t want to do that to my readers. Damn you Christian Grey and the expectations you created!

What will I do from here? I have a first person trilogy I need to work on after I’m done editing my backlist. I’m switching gears that way, and maybe that will help. I have no problem writing Billionaires, and my first person is more on target with what’s selling at the moment, but that might not always be true, either. I need to be smart, and I’ll create a newsletter to go along with that pen name.

It’s really tough, putting time and creative energy into a book only to find it’s not going to resonate with readers. We all want our babies to be loved. But at the end of the day, sometimes you have to realize the book missed the mark and move on. There are a ton of stories out there to write.

What do you think? Do you have a book you’re ready to give up on? Let me know!


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Free for Commercial Use*

I had an interesting exchange with someone in one of my Facebook writing groups this morning.

She was asking about a website where she could make graphics for her book for Instagram. We like the pretty graphics. I like making them though I don’t post them anywhere very often.

Anyway, she didn’t like using Canva because the learning curve was too steep. She asked for other suggestions, and she always had an excuse why she didn’t want to try other design programs. I told her to try BookBrush, since I’ve heard good things about that, but I told her, she needs to make sure the photos she’s using are for commercial use. I read a discussion about BookBrush in one of my design groups on Facebook and they said BookBrush’s terms of service won’t cover you if you use a photo that’s not available for commercial use. Canva probably won’t either–not everyone using the software is going to be trying to sell books. Some people do use the photos and fonts for personal use, such as wedding invitations, and you just have to be careful. We’re part of the writing community, so naturally we think everyone is using everything for book marketing.

This aggravated her, and she said that she just wanted to make some graphics for Instagram. Simple. Easy-peasy.

If you’ve been in the game for any amount of time, we know that it’s never that easy. It’s intimidating and scary because using something that you don’t have the right to use can be very very costly. I wasn’t telling her to be careful to give her a hard time; I only wanted warn her that using a stock photo for book marketing is considered using it for commercial use.

She said she’d hire someone.

That’s fine, but in this day and age of scammers, hiring someone doesn’t always take care of the risk.

Finally I realized the problem: she didn’t want to learn a software. Canva is simple, but she didn’t want to bother. She turned down others’ suggestions and BookBrush, as well, because she simply didn’t want to take the time. That’s a whole different ballgame–I mean, how do you expect to get anywhere if you’re not willing to take the time to learn? When you’re an indie author, you’re suddenly a marketer, graphic designer, maybe a book formatter, and editor. It’s a lot to take in, and if you’re in it for the long haul, some of those things are unavoidable.

But anyway, what can you do to safeguard your business?

  1. Make sure the photos are for commercial use. 
    This doesn’t mean you can’t use photos from Pixabay or Pexels or Unsplash. Check the photographer’s guidelines and attribution requirements. I use photos from Pixabay, but never anything with people in them. The free sites don’t secure model releases.
    More often than not though, I buy my photos from Deposit Photos. Right now you can buy 100 for 39 dollars going through AppSumo. They don’t expire, and you know you’re safe using a photo from there. Click here for the deal. If you don’t have a Deposit Photo account, you’ll need to create one to redeem the deal. (The link is David Gaughran’s affiliate link. I used that because he was the one who posted it on Facebook where I first found out about it. If you don’t want to use it, Google for the deal and find a separate link for the promo.) I’ve redeemed a couple of these AppSumo deals and now I have 300 downloads that will never expire.
  2. This goes for fonts, too.
    It doesn’t matter if you Google free for commercial use fonts, or if a font is free for downloading. You still have to do your due diligence and make sure the fonts you use, especially on your book covers, are available for commercial use. There are a lot of free for commercial use sites out there, but artists who want their fonts to be used for personal use only also list their fonts on these sites. InkyDeals and Dealjumbo have font bundles that are inexpensive and you can use the fonts for more than one project (although always make sure of the extended license before buying). Bookmark these sites because they give you lots of good deals around the holidays, too.
  3. Be careful if you hire someone on Fiverr. 
    If you hire someone on Fiverr, make sure you know where they purchased the photos and fonts. It never hurts have the licenses for your records so if you are ever approached you can defend yourself. I’ve heard lots of stories about artists stealing art or using photos that aren’t available for commercial use. When you hire someone, you are taking the responsibility that they are on the up-and-up. After all, it’s your name on the book, not theirs.
  4. This goes for hiring anyone, anywhere.
    So many premade book cover websites offer a free photo with font slapped on there for the title and author name. Anyone can start a “business” doing that, and even if they have some skill with Photoshop, that doesn’t mean they have a legitimate business. Always cover your butt and make sure you know where the photos, elements, and fonts came from.
  5. Offer attribution even if the photographer or artist says it’s not necessary. 
    I always put the photographer’s id and photo id in the copyright page of all my

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    It’s easy to offer attribution in your front matter. It’s professional, and not to mention, kind. 

    books. I credit Deposit Photo as the source, and credit Canva as the website where I made the cover in the first place. It’s the polite thing to do. In the acknowledgments always credit anyone else who has helped you. I listened to a podcast by the SPA Girls and they interviewed Rebekah Haskell, and she said it was common for authors not to offer attribution to their cover designer because they wanted to keep the designer for themselves so they didn’t get too busy. That sucks, and it’s selfish. This is a professional business. Act professionally. (If you want to listen to the podcast, Rebekah offers good info about book cover design click here.) Do you see what I did there? Offer attribution.

In the end, it’s not hard to safeguard your business. It might take a little money (buying stock photos isn’t always cheap and I think that’s why free photos offer such an allure) but I would rather spend for a pack of stock photos on Deposit Photo, or buy credits on CanStock Photo and cover my butt instead of having trouble down the road because I used something that wasn’t available for commercial use.

I don’t know what the woman I was speaking with today will do. I feel bad that it seemed like I was telling her information that scared her, but not knowing what you don’t know can be dangerous in this business. We all make mistakes, and there’s a chance that nothing will come out of it if you happen to use a free photo with a person on it that doesn’t have a model release, but why take the chance? Pixabay won’t cover you if a photographer goes after you for damages. Especially, if by chance, your book does really well.

I recommend Facebook groups like the Indie Cover Project and Book Cover Design Marketplace. The admins and moderators don’t let fishy people post, and they seem to know what’s/who’s legit and what/who is not.

Canva and BookBrush are only machines–if you use them without knowing, you, the operator, will definitely be held accountable.

Take care, and stay safe!


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Is IngramSpark distribution pricing causing problems for authors on Amazon?

I don’t know when IngramSpark started distributing to Walmart.com.

A few weeks ago I saw someone post about having trouble with the pricing of their books  on Amazon because they were on sale on Walmart.com. At the time I thought the only way you could have your books on the retailer’s site was if you published your ebook with Kobo. With their partnership with Walmart, Walmart sells Kobo ebooks in their books section. I didn’t think anything of it, attributed it to the operator and not the machine and moved on.

But then I listened to an episode of The Sell More Books Show podcast, and they also featured an author who was having pricing problems on Amazon due to their paperbacks being on Walmart.com. (I tried to find the episode that news clip was featured on and I don’t remember when I listened to it.)

Of course, then I had to look for my own books. If you remember from a past blog post, I did have my ebooks on Walmart.com when I was wide through Kobo. That didn’t last long, and as I far as I know, I didn’t sell one through that channel either.

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The problem that’s been going around online now is that Walmart.com is willing to take a loss on books, and they have no problem discounting them. The person who does have a problem with it? Amazon. They’ll get on your butt right away for having a cheaper product than them somewhere else, and they’ll price match as soon as they find out. Some authors are even being told to contact Walmart and ask them to not discount their book(s), but of course, that’s impossible.

To combat this, authors are upping their prices on IngramSpark. That seems crappy though because 1) your book is suddenly more than you wanted it to be and 2) if you have your price anywhere on your cover you have to adjust your price on the cover so the prices match. I ran into that problem more than once, so I know first hand that Ingram won’t let you update your files unless they match.

Is publishing with IngramSpark worth it? I don’t know. It depends on what your goals are. How many books have I sold through Ingram? I only have my paperbacks there to take the place of expanded distribution on Amazon. I don’t go onto my dashboard very often because print isn’t part of my business model, but let me check:

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I’ve sold five copies. I’m not even sure where to look to find out where those copies were sold from. Maybe it was Walmart, maybe Waterstones, maybe Barnes and Noble. Not sure, and to be honest, five copies? I guess it doesn’t really matter, either, does it?

So what am I going to do? At this point I’m not going to do anything.

It used to be a big draw for me to have my books available to be sold in bookstores. A lot of times authors don’t understand that if you want your books in bookstores or libraries it has to be available through IngramSpark. You can always sell your books on consignment or donate your book to a library, but if you want them to order your book properly, it needs to be available through the Ingram catalogue, and that is the sole reason I published there. I still haven’t approached my Barnes and Noble or local indie bookstore to ask if they’ll carry my books–even in the local authors section. I haven’t bothered to ask my library to carry it. (If you want your ebook part of a borrowing app like Libby, you need to be wide and published through OVERDRIVE which is an available option through Draft2Digital.)

But since my ebooks can’t be in libraries because I’m in KU, and taking into account my dismal paperback sales on other platforms, it makes me wonder just how worth it is to publish on Ingram if I’m going to have to go through the hassle of keeping my eyes on my prices. I don’t want Amazon mad at me. They are going to be a huge part of my income once my books start moving and I would prefer to stay on their good side.

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As for me, maybe the sale on All of Nothing doesn’t have anything to do with prices on other platforms. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with Walmart. I know Amazon will occasionally run sales on certain titles, and I never had a problem with that because I know that if AMAZON runs a sale on your book that you’ll receive full royalties. But do you if they price match behind your back? Hmmm.

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Here’s the first row of my books on Barnes and Noble. Everyone wants to discount All of Nothing it seems.

A list of retailers on Ingram’s website indicates they distribute to target.com and also Chapters/Indigo bookstores in Canada. I’m not going to go through the whole list, but I find it interesting, and I haven’t bothered to really look before. Some of my books are available on chapters.indigo.ca but some of the covers aren’t available, and a couple books in my trilogy have the old covers on them. You can look. here if you’re interested.

Well, I’m not going to freak out about it until Amazon asks me to stop offering my books at a lower price on other platforms. I don’t know if this sale is by them or not. Usually these flash sales don’t last long, and I’ll just keep an eye on my prices.

But it is something to be aware of all the same.

Thanks for reading the ramblings of this woman, and if you specifically want to see if my book is still on sale at the time of your reading this or perhaps by yourself a copy, the direct link is here.

Thanks for stopping by, and have an amazing and productive weekend!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 6 Exclusivity vs. Wide

Hey writers and authors, welcome back to my blog series that is breaking down Written Word Media’s survey from October of 2019. In it they surveyed three groups of authors: Emerging authors who earn less than 60k a year from their writing and who have six books in their backlist, 60kers who have 22 books in their backlist, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their backlist.

Enrolling your book(s) in KDP Select will always be a tough decision. Have access to all the readers with a KU subscription (in a different article, WWM estimates that to be around 2,488,000) or have access to readers who read on other devices like a Kobo reader, Nook, or an iPad (one would assume readers are reading on the iBooks app, but there is a Kindle app available for iOS devices).

When Written Word Media surveyed their authors, 91% of Emerging Authors said they make the most money from their books sold on Amazon while 93% of 60kers and 100kers say Amazon is their top retailer.

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taken from survey linked above

According to the chart, that income may or not be due to KU page reads–38% of 100kers are in Select, 33% of 100kers have a mix of books in KU and Wide, and 29% of 100kers have absolutely no books in Select.

What does this mean for you? If you’re an emerging author, it makes sense to focus on one platform. Even Joanna Penn who is a multiple-streams-of-income cheerleader admits that KU has its place, and the Penny Appleton books she co-writes with her mum are enrolled in the program. If anyone in the whole world can make wide work, it would be Joanna. So even the top indies can see the value of being exclusive.

I went wide for a little bit, but I became too sales-focused and I put a lot of pressure on myself to sell books. I didn’t like feeling like that, and after two months I went back to KU. It felt like a weight being lifted of my shoulders, and I started to enjoy writing again.

There is money to be made on other platforms, but it takes time to build an audience. You need to think about what your long-term plans are.

I like having page reads. Right now I’m trading being wide for earning a couple bucks every day in KU. This might not be a sound business decision–especially since my goal is being a 100ker author–but it makes me feel better to know a couple of people every day are reading my books versus the absolute nothing I was getting being wide.

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The KDP royalties estimator says I’ll make about $12.00 from January 1-11, 2020 and while that’s barely anything I should be making with the amount of books I have out, I don’t advertise, I don’t have a newsletter, and $5.00 week is more than I was making wide.

There are cons being exclusive though:

  1. It makes marketing tricker. It’s hard to give your book away after already enrolling in Select. You can’t participate in some promotions on Bookfunnel and Story Origin, and it’s tough to give your book away on review sites and still stay in line with KDP’s terms of service. That also means if you have a book in KU and you’re asked if you want to put it in an anthology, you have to pull your book out of Select to participate. That might not be a big deal . . .  but I have a short story in an anthology, and the author who put it together enrolled the collection into KU. She didn’t buy my rights from me, so the story is still “mine” but because my short story is in KU I can’t do anything else with it. Not unless she takes the anthology out of KU.
  2. You’re not in the library system. That was probably the most disappointing thing when I took my books out of wide. Draft2Digital also had to pull my book out of Overdrive. With the crap Macmillan is pulling with keeping new releases out of the library system for the first few months of a book’s release, having my ebooks in the library system was important to me. That’s not to say you can’t order author copies and donate them to your library.
  3. You might be missing out on other audiences. There are people who read on other devices other than a Kindle. Enrolling your book into Select will keep you from finding those readers.

 

But obviously, there are pros to being in KU as well:

  1. Easy to upload onto one platform. Only dealing with KDP is nice. But when I went wide, it didn’t take that long to set up accounts and upload my books. There’s just a lot of copying and pasting. Setting prices in other countries is time-consuming because on other platforms you set the price yourself–KDP does this for you.
  2. You can get page reads almost right away.
  3. KDP gives you Kindle Countdown deals and free days to use as marketing tools. These can help boost sales. I don’t use them nearly enough and I need to make them a part of my marketing strategies moving forward.

Enrolling doesn’t have to be forever. You can always pull your books out. Just remember going back and forth between wide and Select won’t help you find readers and will only make the other platforms mad at you. D2D and Kobo are run by real people, and you’ll look like a waffling idiot if you try to go back and forth too many times. I fully admit that the two moths I was wide wasn’t enough. But I tried going wide when I wasn’t ready. When my backlist is bigger I may do what a lot of indies do–have a mix. But for now my main goal is building a readership in KU.

Personally, I don’t think Amazon is going anywhere, and some of the bigger traditionally published authors think that, too. Dean Koontz and Sylvia Day are just two of a list that is getting longer of authors who like the direction Amazon is going and the money that can be made there.

I wish the Amazon imprints were available to query without an agent. For the disdain Amazon seems to have for the traditional publishing industry, I’m surprised they won’t deal with an author directly. I wouldn’t turn down a book deal with Montlake, that’s for sure.

Anyway, being exclusive or going wide is a choice you need to make for your business and as the survey suggests, there is no wrong way to publish. Building a readership takes work, no matter where you publish.

Consistency is key. Stick with with the path you choose, find an ad platform that works and write a lot of books. It’s easier said than done! Good luck!

The in the last point they touch on, we’ll talk about pricing to market. I hope you stop in. Thanks for reading!


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Amazon Ads: Bad news.

Amazon ads and bad news probably go together in sentences from a lot of indies. I’m no exception, but not through any fault of my own. Kinda.

When I did my last update, I was breaking even, and pretty happy with that.

After some ads took off and ate up all my money with no return, I had to pause them. I was 70 dollars in the hole, and I had to try to figure out why.

The culprit was easy to spot.

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These are my ad results for The Years Between Us from September 20th when I started Bryan’s ad challenge to today October 19th when I’m writing this blogpost. The numbers look impressive. Look at those impressions! Look at all those clicks!  I mean, in all the times I’ve tried running ads, I’ve never had results like this. These tell me a couple things:

  1. Bryan’s advice works. (My keywords were good.)
  2. My cover is good.
  3. My ad copy is fabulous.
    They fell in love.
    The wrong person found out.
    Now he’ll do anything to protect her.
    Even if it breaks her heart.
  4. My daily spend was good enough for Amazon to show my ad around.
  5. My bid for clicks was high enough for Amazon to show my ad around.

But.

My ads, in roughly a month period, generated only $26.57 in sales and KU page reads with an ad spend of $95.52. That’s not good. (The sales column above doesn’t include KU reads so that’s why the numbers are different. The Amazon ad dashboard does not include them and BookReport does.)

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You have to be honest ask yourself why that is.

In my case, I’m sure it’s the blurb. I have a good number of clicks. I should have made more than $26.57. They liked the cover and the ad copy enough to click, but they got to the blurb and it turned them off.

That’s the only thing I can think of.

This is the blurb without having to click READ MORE (or above the fold, as they say):

Zia Bishop is in love with an older man.
On the night of her high school graduation, she persuades him to take her virginity, and the wrong person discovers their secret.

Matthew Harcourt knew he should never have made love to Zia, his best friend’s daughter.

And I guess that is enough to make people turn away. Now, this story is not naughty. It’s not dirty. If it was, then I would have used a grittier, sexier cover and marketed it as a “Daddy’s Best Friend Makes Me Wet” novel.  This is a pretty romance, with the bulk of the story taking place when she is 25 and he is 50. Still a wide gap, but maybe it doesn’t sound as weird when she’s 18 and he’s 43.

So, I paused all my ads. I’m going to rewrite my blurb, focus on a different aspect of their relationship.

The first page introduces them at her high school graduation party. So I could still lose readers if they borrow it in KU and decide after five pages they don’t want to read more.

If that happens, I may need to change the cover and target readers who will read OM/YW (older man/younger woman) romance and hope they like the softness of it, or pull it from KU and see if I can find a way to get more reviews, though I’m hesitant to try Booksprout again. If nothing works, I may just have to write off The Years Between Us completely and just forget about it.

There are things I can do, and everything needs to be tested to find out what works and what doesn’t. The blurb is the easiest experiment, so I’ll try that first.

Everything in stages, but that’s the plan so far.

The point is, there are steps I can take to try for sales, and if you find yourself in this position, you need to make sure you are constantly checking on your ads so clicks don’t eat through all your cash.

I should have paused my ads earlier, but seeing those results was pretty amazing. I have a little money to experiment, and I wanted to see what would happen. Sometimes page reads can come in later. In the Kindle Unlimited program, readers can borrow up to 10 books at a time. The Years Between Us could be sitting on quite a few Kindles waiting in a reader’s queue. But I’m not going to let clicks eat up my ad dollars if I don’t have proof of that.

All of Nothing is still making me some spare change every day, so I’ll keep my ads paused until I make up that ad spend money.

Then we’ll try again.

How are your ads doing? Let me know!

Want a list of older man/younger woman books? Goodreads has a shelf of recommendations. 🙂

Until next time!


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The “As you know, Bob . . .” Syndrome. What it is and why you should stop it.

as you know bob

I didn’t feel like being on social media last night, and I didn’t feel like writing more. It was a bit of a busy day, and I had felt off all day, too. I got in 2,000 words, and that was fine being I had done 5,000 the day before. Not all my days off can be high-output days, and I realize this as long as I keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with.

Anyway, I decided to hop on my Kindle and see what is out there by way of contemporary romance. Maybe find a another book to read, since I finished my last one, Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier.

I downloaded a sample of a romantic suspense, and like everything else indie these days in romance, this was written in first person present. But that wasn’t what bothered me. (Okay it did, but I already roared about that in a previous blog post.) What bothered me was that the first scene started as an “As you know, Bob” scene and it gave the book a horrible start.

What is an “As you know, Bob” scene? It’s a scene were characters are sharing information with each other that they already know, but they are talking to fill the reader in.

The dialogue in the scene I read sounded like a biography because one character was telling her best friend all about her boyfriend. This is so unrealistic and implausible. If they are best friends, share everything, and talk on a regular basis like the scene implied, the BFF would already know about her friend’s boyfriend. It was obvious the scene was written to introduce the reader to facts about the boyfriend, and it slowed everything down to a screeching halt. I managed three page “flips” before closing out the book and deleting the sample from my Kindle.

How do you avoid an “As you know, Bob” scene? Here are a few ideas.

  • Ask yourself if the characters already know the information they are talking about. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need the scene, or give them something different to talk about. Dialogue is designed for characters to pass new information on to each other, not go over things they both already know. As a writer how do you know you’re doing this? When you get lazy and your characters start saying things like, “You’re so forgetful! I’ve told you this a thousand times . . .” Or “I don’t know why I have to keep telling you this over and over again . . .” Sure, sometimes we do forget things in real life; sometimes we do need a little reminder here and there. But a girl’s best friend won’t need a refresher course in a current boyfriend.
  • Find a different way to introduce the character.
    It was obvious this scene was to introduce the boyfriend. But instead of a whole dialogue scene about said boyfriend, how about waiting until the boyfriend needs to show up? He’s going to be part of the story, the blurb said so, so why feed us backstory right then? Why write a scene that has a character saying “Well, you know my boyfriend is a multi-millionaire. He started his company from scratch in his mother’s basement and only two years later sold it to Facebook for a hundred million dollars. Now he’s partying all over town and treats me like a queen!” When you could wait and actually have the MC meet him:

    So this was Jasper Hargrove, the famous boyfriend. Self-made millionaire and creme de la creme of Manhattan society. Pictures in the tabloids didn’t do his face justice. He looked like he stepped out of a Hugo Boss photo shoot and smelled just as good.

    Feeding readers information in real time will always sound better.

  • Ask yourself if the information is even needed.
    What you think your readers should know and what your readers actually need to know are two different things. Sometimes the best information is no information. Let your readers fill in the gaps on their own. Do we need to know the boyfriend is a self-made millionaire, or that he created a start up living in his mother’s basement gorging on Doritos and Mountain Dew? Is it enough to say he’s a millionaire?  Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way.
  • If the information is needed, can your reader find out about it in a different way?
    Maybe the MC reads an article about him in the paper, or an industry magazine. Maybe she’s watching TV and a news clip comes up. You don’t need much. The scene that lasted three pages? That could have been condensed into a couple of lines.
  • Read the scene aloud or have Word read it to you and be honest. Does the conversation sound like crap? Does it sound unrealistic? Think of the characters and who they are. The scene might have worked if the friends were getting reacquainted after being apart for years and years. But even then, the boyfriend and the friend were going to be key players in the book. An info dump disguised as dialogue is still an info dump. If there’s not any new information being passed along to either character, if the scene isn’t offering anything new, if it isn’t moving the plot along, then get rid of it. It does take a lot of practice at successfully dropping backstory into a novel, but I’m finding less in this respect is always going to be more.

Thanks for reading!


Have never heard of “Well, you know Bob . . .” Syndrome? Here are a few more articles about it:

The Sneaky Secret Life of “As You Know, Bob…” by K.M. Weiland 

As You Know, Bob: Info dumping in dialogue by Erica Ellis

Do You Have “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome?–How Writers Can Butcher Dialogue & How to Fix It By Kristen Lamb


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Author Interview: Debut Author Dave S. Koster

dave koster author picture

Author Dave S. Koster

Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog to celebrate his new release! Enjoy the interview and we hope you learn something from his rocky path to publication. Because, you know, nothing can go smoothly.


I’ve known you for a long time, though I can’t remember who introduced us, but for those new in the writing community, tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing since around 2002 – I picked it up when my wife and I moved back to Alaska from Maryland. I actually did a bit of writing when I was in High School, but I was mostly interested in video game storylines at the time. In any case, back in 2002, I was out of work and was sketching up ideas for a video game, but lacked the technical skills for game development, but story writing was something that seemed more attainable. I dabbled for ages, taking large breaks to build a house, learn how to make furniture, work briefly as a college teacher, and other various hobbies. Then in 2014 (I think?), I had a moment on my morning commute. It was one of those days that only an Alaskan commute can give you – loads of golden light spilling over the tops of snow-capped mountains. The moment amounted to: What the heck are you doing? Either you do this or you don’t do it. I concluded that I was entirely too stupid to know when I couldn’t do a thing, so I decided I was going to double-down and get serious about it. I finished the book I had been working on for about 10 years and later that summer started my second, Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, which was the one just published on the 5th of June.

I remember Wine Bottles and Broomsticks from way back when you tried to fund it using InkShares. Can you tell us about your experience? (To see his old campaign, look here!)

This was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had yet with the business. On the whole, it was good in that the system was easy to use making the technical bits of the process manageable. That said, I would never recommend this avenue to most writers. You have to have a following of readers or supporters first. If I were a ‘personality’ with fans, I might have made the goal, but I didn’t have that. I’m a new author from the perspective of readers even now after having done rather a lot of self-improvement and several (unpublished) books under my belt. I think it’s hard to convince readers to buy a book from an unknown that won’t be ready for weeks or months. The other part of the experience was just how much other writers tried to help.

In a blog post from a couple years ago, you said the book was going nowhere and ultimately, you chose to self-publish. It seems like this wasn’t as easy decision for you. How did you finally decide to publish your novel on your own? (To read that blog post of Dave’s, click here.)

Honestly, that post was from a pretty negative place. I’d queried 30 or 40 agents and failed the crowd-funding even after tons of help from other writers. At the time, I really wanted to get an agent and go traditional. I was hoping that I might be that rare unicorn who manages to become a full-time writer. I think this book was the first step realizing that it’s not going to happen. Anyhow, fast-forward to last fall. I decided that I wanted to self-publish the Dark Queen of Darkness. This was mostly because I’d realized that an agent won’t pick up my work, and in even if s/he did AND I got a publishing deal, I’ve got a full-time job that actually pays the bills and I couldn’t meet their deadlines or expectations. I need to keep things on my schedule and my time, so self-publishing suddenly was the only viable route. This spring, after working with an editor, and meeting with a cover designer, I started looking at nuts and bolts bits of publishing, I realized I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing. Even with all of the advice and what-not, I still don’t really ‘get it’. I decided, around that time, that I’d quietly release an already finished book in order to learn how to operate all of the software, navigate the platforms, and generally understand how all of these things work. The whole point of publishing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was to ensure a smooth launch for the Dark Queen of Darkness.

There is a lot to learn. Even after six books, I always make a mistake when I publish. Every time. It’s infuriating, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Luckily there is a lot of help out there, and you’ve been part of the online writing community for a long time now. Did you find they were a help to you during the publishing process? Did the networking pay off?

The writing community has been a huge help. Everyone I’ve engaged with has had something helpful to say or offered their time to read/comment or otherwise help me do a better job at the craft. Not to mention hours of encouragement. I think I pointed out your amazing help on cover design. I’d never have been able to work that out on my own. Actually, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried to self-publish without the confidence I got copying your notes. So, yes, the networking has paid off and given me the confidence I completely lack on my own. If it weren’t for the writers on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, I’d probably have given up.

Yeah, I don’t think the moderator of that group liked my how-to tutorial. She shut down comments not long after I posted the entire thing. To be fair, I should have posted on the other FB page they have for the how-to stuff for cover design, and not the feedback page. But I hoped it helped a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. Anyway, this is your first book! What would you say was the hardest part about the publishing process?

I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘hardest parts’ I could go on for days. I was very nearly in ugly man-tears mid-day Tuesday over it. By far, though, trying to get all of the accounts set up and stuff uploaded. I still don’t have my book uploaded to Ingram Spark yet, because it won’t save the title and I haven’t got the foggiest clue as to why. Runners-up include: paperback layout (InDesign is spendy for me, and Vellum doesn’t work on my computer). The third is the business side. I’m still absolutely mystified about what royalty plan I should be taking. I got spooked by 70%, so went with 35% because if I’m making less money it must mean I’ve got less liability? I don’t even know. Those are just the starting points.

Definitely take the 70%. What Amazon allows you to take depends on how much you’re pricing your book for. Grab whatever you can!

Indies talk a lot about going wide. Is your book in the Kindle Unlimited program? Or did you choose to publish on other platforms like Nook and Apple Books?

I plan to go wide, but it’s going to be step-by-step so I can figure it out. When I do The Dark Queen book, I’m hoping that all of the pieces will be in place and it’ll go relatively smoothly across all platforms at once so I don’t have any terrible delays. Essentially, the goal is to add a second book to an existing platform rather than try to get it all set-up and hope I don’t experience any unexpected snags on launch day.

A) How did you come to that decision?

The decision on Kindle Unlimited is based on the hugely restrictive nature of KU. Plus, it’s possible to be completely banned from Amazon’s platform if you violate their TOS, which is a lot more restrictive in KU. After I saw Adam Dreece’s situation a few years back, I don’t know if you remember that, but I concluded that it just wasn’t worth it. Plus it leaves me with questions on stuff like: Can I sell locally at book fairs and things? What’s more, I’m not really sure it’s any more lucrative for someone who isn’t particularly prolific.

I remember Adam’s situation; it happened to a couple other big-time authors around that time, too. That would be scary–especially if you’ve grown to rely on that income. Joanna Penn encourages first time authors to learn Amazon first and then after the dust settles, so to speak, learn the other platforms. Which makes sense. Adam Croft endorses going wide from the get-go. They are two different animals, for sure, but depending on the kind of publishing schedule you have to stick with because of personal obligations, learning Amazon first may be an easier task.

B) If you’re wide, what aggregator did you use, and how was that experience?

I haven’t set up with an Aggregator. This is 100% because still totally new to this and just learned about that right now. Even then, I’m a bit of a control freak and would likely prefer to release per-platform on my own, where possible –at least at first. I don’t know much about Kobo, but B&N is trying to put together a system similar to Amazon for authors. I’ll use Ingram Spark to publish the books outside of Amazon’s platforms and they seem to have services that’ll get me there. I’ll likely change my mind after I research aggregators more and start to understand all of this better.

There is a lot to learn. Some would argue that Barnes and Noble is sinking, and fast. It’s probably one of the reasons why authors stick with Amazon. I have good feelings about Kobo, and you should go direct with them so you have access to their promotions tab. You have to email them for it, but you can only access it if you go through them directly. I use Draft to Digital for places like Apple Books, and yeah, Nook. They upload my book to a few places I’ve never heard of, as well. IngramSpark will publish your ebook too, if you can get them to work for you.

You released the paperback after the ebook. What was the reason for that?

In a nutshell: Impatience. I hadn’t planned on saying much or letting folks know it was out there until everything was ready and I could see it myself. It seems that every time I press a new button in this world, I learn something, new, profound, and sometimes expensive. I’m the sort of person that has to do a thing before I can really learn it, and getting things all ‘set up’ but un-launched is like a task waiting for a problem that will take 2 weeks to sort out. The paperback is ready, I just haven’t seen the proof yet. I was having trouble with the gutters, so I’m not convinced the printed copy will turn out – plus I’m concerned about the cover quality. When I hit the button to publish, I was really thinking that once it’s available on Amazon, I have something to point to in setting things up for Goodreads and the Amazon author page. Plus, I thought it might help a bit in getting Ingram Spark going. There are so many things to do in launching a book and this is all my first time.

You mentioned once you thought self-publishing would be expensive. Was this true in your experience? How did you save money? What was the biggest expenditure in the process?

My experience is that it can go both ways. Wine Bottles and Broomsticks cost a couple of hundred dollars when all costs are taken into account, before advertising. I didn’t get an editor, and I did my own cover. I’m not convinced this was the right decision. Dark Queen of Darkness has been very expensive so far. The dollar figure is likely to be a few thousand to get professional editing, cover, layout, and other things. I’m 95% certain I’ll never make that money all the way back.

Do you have any plans to market?

Yes, but not until I get everything in place. I want to do some testing with Amazon promotions and advertising on other platforms. When I launch Dark Queen of Darkness, I’ll do local events as well and will try to launch with a bit more fanfare than a retweeted post from my wife. I want to see what sort of return on investment might be reasonable.

I understand. I’ve gotten grief for pushing publish and walking away. But the community on Twitter is fabulous–there is so much support there. Every seems genuinely happy for you and cheering for your success. I usually tweet out a little something, but as you write more and publish more, you’ll find you need to break out of writer social media and find that reader social media. Easier said than done!

Thank you for chatting with me! If you have any issues with anything, let me know how I can help!


Check out Dave’s book cover . . . isn’t it great?! You can click the cover and it will take you to Dave’s Amazon page. Give him a follow there, and at Goodreads! Dave blogs too, and you can follow his website here.

wind bottles and broomsticks book cover

Thanks for reading!