Being an indie author means using what works for you, no matter the source.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. Not really a conversation I guess, because it’s long been established that we don’t see eye to eye on writing, publishing, and marketing, and that’s okay. Just looking at her back list and mine makes it clear we have different paths and different goals. She’s 100% indie, does her own thing when it comes to books, genres, writing craft, as well as covers and where she publishes her books. She’s happy, (I’m assuming she is as she has never told me otherwise) and wants to stay on that path.

I learned over the five years I’ve been writing and publishing romance is just because I want to do it the way I want to do it, it may not align with my business goals and what I want for my books. That’s an important distinction. Just because it’s the way I want to do it, it may not be the best way to make the dreams I have to come true. So, I’ve learned to niche down to a sub-genre and study what’s on the covers of the books doing well in that sub-genre. I create my covers not only with what I like (and what my skills will allow), but I also have to take into consideration what is selling, and what will meet Amazon’s guidelines when it comes to ads. Just because you’re indie doesn’t mean your books can’t look and read as professionally as they should, and this made me think: we can publish indie books while borrowing from the best of indie and trad worlds.

What do I mean?

Covers: Think like a trad author.
As an indie you can put whatever you want on your cover, but the fact is, after you publish, you aren’t competing with only indie authors. In fact, the line between indie and trad grows blurrier every day. Readers don’t care who publishes your book as long as they get a good read for a fair price. You’re in complete control of your cover, but once you start tweeting your book to generate interest, or you run any kind of ad, you’re going to compete against a lot of other authors. Authors who are traditionally published by the Big Four, authors who are published by a small press, authors who can afford to spend $500 dollars on a cover, authors who know a photo manipulation software backward and forward, and authors who put their cover together in the middle of the night high on caffeine using Microsoft Paint. This is an area where we can learn from traditional publishing. Create your cover to fit in with other books in your genre. People do judge books by their covers and who knows how many readers pass you by if your cover isn’t up to standards. Unfortunately, you may never know.

Blurbs: Think like an indie.
Up until recently, and I mean, like the past couple of years (which is recent when you’re talking about publishing) blurbs (plot teasers on the product page, not one-sentence praise from your peers) were written in third person present tense. It was just the way things were done, and there are still indie authors who write their blurbs this way, despite that their book is written in first person/present/past. It took me a long time to wrap my mind around a romance that was written in first person, and it took me actually writing a romance in first person dual POV for me to fall in love with it (no pun intended). While this was going on, the savvy authors started writing their blurbs in first person, using the voice of their characters. If you look back, the authors who started that and bucked the system were GENIUS. Blurbs have always been, and always will be, a marketing tool. Because it’s a trad thing to write your blurb in 3rd person present, there have been some people who are reluctant to move away from that (and I blogged about that too.) Personally, I think blurbs written in first person makes sense (and only applies to authors who write in first) and you can have a lot of fun writing your blurb that way. This is time for a good reminder that you should always research what other authors are doing in your genre and what reader expectations are. Writing your blurb in third could lose you readers, or make readers unhappy when they read a 3rd person blurb and expected a book written in 3rd person as well. There are some readers who detest first person books and go out of their way to avoid them. If you like to troll Twitter (and I mean scroll, not be a jerk) you can read some more thoughts on 3rd person vs. 1st person blurbs using these Twitter search results:
https://twitter.com/search?q=1st%20person%20blurbs&src=typed_query

Release schedules: Think like an indie.
Being an indie when it comes to how often you can publish and when can help you build an audience quickly. Trad authors are stuck to once a year, maybe twice if they’re with a small press with a flexible schedule. It seems Amazon imprints like Thomas and Mercer or Montlake allow their authors to publish a little faster, but all in all, authors who can release a book quarterly (3-4 a year) have a better chance at building an audience so why not use that to your advantage? It hurts to save up books, but if you’re a slow writer, why not? Write, edit, and package three, then write more as you release. this can start a publishing schedule that you can maintain and after a while, your growing audience will know when to look for a new release. In the time a trad author publishes three, an indie could publish nine to twelve, and that just means more money in your pocket.

Series: Think like an indie and trad author.
Indies are getting better at this, but I’ve seen some books in a series that don’t look like they’re a series because their covers don’t look the same and don’t have a similar vibe. Trad has always been great with series branding, using the same fonts, backgrounds, and characters. For instance, the first book in the Flowers in the Attic series was published way back in 1979.

photo taken from https://thebookmelon.weebly.com/blog/flowers-in-the-attic

Series branding is important, but these days in the era of fickle attention spans, a trad house may pull the plug before a series is complete because it’s not selling. Sometimes an author gets a chance to wrap up, but sometimes not. Readers get angry, but like my friend Dea pointed out on Twitter the other day, it’s not up to an author if they have a book deal whether or not to continue a series:

This is where being an indie can make all the difference. IF YOU’RE AN INDIE AND YOU’RE WRITING A SERIES, FINISH IT, OR AT LEAST WRAP IT UP! Readers don’t like being left hanging, and when you’re publishing your own books, there’s no reason not to finish. The release consistency subject above also comes into play here. If you’re going to make use of a cliffhanger, you better have the next book ready to go (hopefully on very short preorder), or you’ll get bad reviews like this one:

Use your freedom to your advantage and keep your readers informed. I was tweeting with this author, trying to figure out the best way to let her readers know so this didn’t happen again. Is posting a publishing schedule in the first book’s blurb the way to go? Perhaps this would be a good reason to use A+ content? I’m publishing a six-book series next year, and yes, I do use cliffhangers. But unlike the author above, they are all written and I will be releasing all six in one year. When I read the Crossfire series by Sylvia Day, she did give the characters a happily for now ending just for the fact she’s a trad author, knew her readers would have to wait a year between books, and wanted to give her readers a bit of closure until the next book came out. When you’re indie and you need time, maybe that is the better way to go. Personally, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I will never not have all my books written in a series before I publish. Just for the fact avoiding small plot-holes and consistency issues will always be reason enough for me to wait to publish while I write.

The overall look of your book: think like a trad author.

A lot of authors don’t know this, but there is a set of guidelines you can (should) follow when you publish. The Independent Book Publisher’s Association lists them on their website and covers everything from what you should have in your copyright page to reminding you that your interior should be full-justified. It’s amazing that you can be a life-long reader, but when it comes to assembling your own book, how a book should look flies right out of your head. I’ve seen books that are left-justified only, no page numbers, spaces between paragraphs (this is okay for non-fiction, but I’m referring to fiction books), double spaced, no front matter except a title page, nothing in the back, not even an About the Author page. There’s no reason you can’t put out a professional product. To find the list of guidelines, look here:
https://www.ibpa online.org/page/standardschecklist

While I understand the disgust thinking about traditional publishing can evoke in an indie, there are lessons trad can teach us. Your book should look professionally put together, even if you’ve done it all yourself. When you’re asking a reader to pay for your product, it’s up to you to make sure they are paying for quality. It doesn’t matter how you reach that standard, it’s only important that you do. If that means hiring out every step of the way, then that’s what it means. Some may only need an editor, some can edit their own work and do just fine. Some indies are a one-stop shop and do every single thing for themselves, or use $50 dollar premades to cover their books that go on to make thousands of dollars. As indies, we have so much flexibility, but don’t use that as an excuse to do what you want. Once you put your book out into the world, you want readers and you want readers who will recommend your book to others. You want people to take photos of your books in their gardens, next to their cats, at the beach, and they won’t do that if your book has a crappy cover on it.

You CAN have your cake and eat it too. Just maybe scrape a little frosting off it first.

Until next time!

Lack of Productivity. What’s causing it, and how to fix it.

I’ve seen the topic of productivity a lot lately, maybe because we’re still in what’s considered the beginning of the new year and we’re all scrambling to keep up with New Year’s resolutions and tackle the goals we’ve set for ourselves. I haven’t specifically written about productivity, though I did write a blog post about writer’s block, which is akin to the weird uncle of the family when we talk about writing productivity.

I guess by now it’s a running joke that the hardest thing a writer can do is sit down and write. Butt in chair. Carving out that time. But I have never, in these six years I’ve been a part of the industry, understood this. I get writing is hard, and I’ve come to learn this about myself while writing and/or editing–If I hit a rough patch in dialogue, or say I’m echoing a word in a sentence and I want to rewrite the sentence to take out one of the words and I’m at a loss as to how to do it, instead of pushing through, I’ll flip over to Twitter. That’s avoidance. For now, I let myself do it because so far it hasn’t hampered my output. Normally, after I scroll for a second and see the same old drivel, I’ll flip back to my manuscript and keep going, but it can interrupt my flow.

I’ve seen a lot of tweets about productivity or lack thereof, and, unfortunately, if you’re writing to publish, and more importantly, if you’re writing to publish to build an author career, you kinda need it.

One of the hardest lessons you’ll ever learn in this industry is you don’t have nothing if you don’t have a book, and over time, you need several if you want to find any traction. If you’re writing a series, you have way more marketing power behind you if your series is done. You can’t accomplish that if you’re not writing.

What are some causes of lack of productivity? Here’s a short, though not comprehensive list, of what I’ve seen out in the writing community:

You’d rather do something else. This actually tells me a lot about how you feel about writing and publishing, and if you truly would rather watch TV, read a book, go for a drive, or make dinner, then honestly think about stepping back. Of course, it would help to know the reasons why you’d rather do something else. Maybe you’re not seeing the results you want, or you’ve lost interest. You started writing as a hobby and you’d rather pick up a different hobby like crocheting or knitting, or get back into exercise. If you’d choose to go to the dentist over sitting down and writing the next chapter, give yourself permission to stop writing. No one is forcing you, and if you hate what you’re writing, chances are, your readers will be able to feel that when they read your book. Move on. It’s okay.

You don’t like what you’re writing. Starting a new project is okay as long as you can finish something. If you lose interest in your WIP at the halfway point every time, something else is going on with more than just productivity. Maybe it’s a craft issue because you get bogged down in the saggy middle. Maybe finding an alpha reader who will read as you write, or a critique partner can help you stay motivated and give you tips and ideas on how to finish. The problem with learning craft is that you have to write to learn it. This is the same for characters, too. If you hate your characters, you have to figure out why. Is she a whiny snot? Doesn’t act her age? Is he an alphahole without any redeeming qualities? Are they not doing anything interesting? Find some feedback from somewhere, or refresh your creative well and read for a while. Start a new project, sure, but if you’re going to add to the 20+ WIPs you already have on your computer, you need to do some digging and figure out what the problem is and how you can fix it.

You have no idea what to do with it once you’re done. I’m reading Zoe York’s Romance Your Goals, and in it, of course she talks a lot about setting goals–setting realistic goals, and goals you have to work to reach. I have a lot of thoughts about goals, productivity, and strategies and tactics that will help you achieve those goals. If you have 10 finished books on your computer, they won’t do anything if you don’t know what you need to do with them. More than covering them with a good cover, writing a good blurb, and putting it up on Amazon. I mean, do you have a newsletter? Do you know an ads platform well enough you won’t lose money? Do you have a launch plan for what you’re going to do when your book is done? If you don’t, that could be causing you some productivity issues. If you have no idea what you’re going to do with it once your book is finished, there’s no real reason to finish it then, is there? That way of thinking was pretty much me for the past two years, but instead of lack of productivity, I think I had too much. That is a problem in itself because now I have lots of books and still no real actionable plan to maximize those books and pay myself for all the time it took me to write them.

Maybe you have an idea, but it’s too overwhelming to think about. We talk a lot about a five year plan, and sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what we’re eating for dinner in five hours, never mind where we want our careers to be in five years. If that look into the future terrifies you, ask yourself why. Writing and publishing is a long game, but if that look into the future bogs you down, shorten the timeframe. Maybe look to the next two years, plan out the books you want to write, be it three a year, two a year, whatever you can handle, and let yourself get excited about what’s coming in the immediate future.

You’re burnt out. I think I’ve mentioned this a lot on here, when I heard Jo Lallo say on the Six Figure Authors podcast that there is no faster way to get burnt out than when you work hard for little to no pay off. I’ve you’ve been working for a months, maybe years, and your career is in the same place as it was before, that can affect your productivity. You might wonder why you’re still trying to make a go of it, and you’re thinking about giving up. This conversation goes back to goals–what you want out of your writing and more importantly, how you’re going to get it.

You don’t have any writing friends to cheer you on or commiserate your failures. You’ve probably heard me mention this a time or two. A lot of my friends I made when I first joined the writing community are gone. They dropped off because they don’t write anymore, or we don’t talk for some reason or other. I was friends with a woman for a long time until I realized our friendship was all about her, and her writing, and her roadblocks, and whenever I would say something positive about me, or my books, she blatantly ignored it. I faded off from that friendship and a couple others. While I don’t recommend staying in a friendship (or any type of relationship!) that takes more than it gives, replace those friends with other people or you’ll look up from your laptop one day and see that you are alone. It’s tough to write and be proud of your successes if there is no one to share them with. Take that opportunity to reach out to other authors in your genre and make connections and friends there. Those relationships will be more meaningful because they’ll understand the ups and downs of writing and publishing in that genre. There are so many sprinting groups and people who are willing to be accountability partners. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel if you have people to reach out to when you want to share your goals and small successes.

At the core of productivity is passion. You have to have passion for what you do, and joy and the love of writing will keep you coming back to your laptop and your characters. Sometimes other things will get in the way, but ultimately, if writing matters to you, you’ll find a way to keep going.

Good luck!

Happy weekend and an apology.

It was brought to my attention that I insulted a fellow romance author, something I would never, ever do intentionally! I’d like to give TL Swan an apology for mentioning a review for one of her books in my plagiarism post from a few days ago. In the review, a reader speculated that TL Swan used a ghostwriter, and I want to apologize to TL for including that reference in my post. In a private message, she assured me she does not use ghostwriters. While I didn’t accuse her of using one, I should never have included the review in my post, and I apologize to her for that.


I suppose I have been a little free on this blog, maybe a little too transparent with my thoughts. As public figures, we must always watch what we put out into the world. I know a friend of mine was complaining not long ago because he likes to post his political affiliations and opinions. A lot of people don’t agree with him, and on a public forum, it’s easy to feel the mob mentality aimed at you. Cancel culture is real, and we think that expressing our opinion won’t bother anyone–until you tick off too many people and they turn on you at the same time. Cyberbullying is a real thing. Mental health is a real thing. People use the internet, hiding behind an avatar or whatever, to say what they want to say without regard to people’s feelings and the consequences that can be involved.

I’m not a reporter; I’m not seeking the truth. I like to express my opinions on here, on my personal blog, about what’s happening in the indie community. My blog is my outlet when I need a break from writing fiction.

When you see something online that you don’t agree with, you can just keep scrolling. There is no need to comment, no need to call out that person. And if you feel like you just can’t keep your opinion to yourself, you can be respectful about it. You don’t have to be a bully. I’m not online to make enemies. I’m not out to destroy reputations, and believe me, I don’t have the clout to do that anyway. I’m here writing my books hoping to one day make a living, just like everyone else. And I blog about current indie publishing events, like thousands of other indies online.

At any rate, if you see my blog posts decrease, just know that I’m still here, wondering where to go next. My place in the romance community is important to me, my place in the indie community is important to me. I don’t want to lose either of those things, and I’ll adjust my actions accordingly.

Until next time!

Thursday (and Friday!) Musings and Where I’m at Right Now

Let passion be your muse. 
Let her guide and teach you to trust your instincts.

Sarah Ban Breathnach

I was supposed to post this yesterday, but my muse wouldn’t let me go. After writing 5,000 words, going to the grocery store, making dinner, and helping my daughter with a cooking class project (not to mention working my normal shift), I was wiped. Luckily my thoughts (even though I’m a Sagittarius and we’re famous for contradicting ourselves) haven’t changed from yesterday to today.

I hope you all have a wonderful and productive weekend and thanks for reading!


A couple weeks ago I tried to put up more ads for His Frozen Heart thinking that if I could nudge that first in series along, I could get some more read-through. But it seems like nothing I do for ads for that book will take off. I upped my bids a little, but still nothing. And to make matters worse, whoever looked at one of my ads decided the cover was too racy and emailed me saying the cover goes against Amazon’s creative guidelines and blocked the ad. That’s ridiculous because I’ve been running ads for that book for months, and this is the first time the cover has been rejected. It doesn’t matter–I can’t get any of my ads for that book to “turn on” anyway, and I get very few impressions and zero clicks. I’ve done everything right for that book/series–I used the right keywords when I published, I emailed Amazon and asked to be put in more categories, so my categories are set. I just have no idea what I can do to make any of my ads for that book take off. It’s not the cover–I can’t get Amazon to even show my ad, so it’s not like I’m wasting money on clicks and not getting any sales. I can work with that. I’m at a loss, but I’ll keep experimenting and submitting new ads.

Amazon can’t get too picky with romance covers, or romance authors will stop using Amazon Advertising. The amount of skin on a cover tells readers how much steam to expect in the story, and if we all start clothing our couples to meet Amazon’s guidelines, we’ll start making our readers very unhappy. Amazon better ease up on their restrictions, or more authors will start using FB and BookBub ads.

As far as ads go, I didn’t do too terribly in September, but I did shut my ads off for a couple of weeks, and you can tell when I did it:

I had a pretty significant decrease toward the end of the month, but I came out ahead, which is all that matters to me right now. I’m still waiting to be reimbursed for my August spend–$400.00 roughly, with my August royalties–$500 roughly, so I’m not out that money. Here’s my September ad spend:

At the end of the month I turned on my two auto placement ads for The Years Between Us and All of Nothing and started getting sales again. It’s crazy how you can measure sales with ads. Ads can work, I just wish I could get a couple good ads going for His Frozen Heart. Since my July Freebooksy, my read-through is only so-so. Here are my royalties for September:

Read-through drops off a little more than I’d like, but readers getting through all four is pretty exciting for me considering when I released book one, I didn’t get very good reviews at all.

All I can do is keep plugging away and see what happens.


As far as an update for the series I’m writing now, I’m 86k into the last book. I’ve been working on this series for eight months, and it will be bittersweet to finish them. I will still have plenty of editing to do, but it will be sad to say goodbye to these couples, even if I am excited to write something new. I have an idea for an novella/shorter novel that I want to use as a reader magnet and in the coming months I’m going to learn how to use StoryOrigin for promos and I’m going to figure out how to use my MailerLite account and finally get my newsletter up and going.


One of the things that has bothered me in the past couple of days is authors who don’t want to do the work. I’ve run into two examples where authors don’t want to bother to learn. One was asking book cover techniques to update her books, and when a couple of us replied, all she said was, “I”m going to go the Fiverr route.” This ticked me off for two reasons: One, if you’re going to ask for advice, realize that you are asking someone to give you their time. Maybe it only takes a couple minutes for someone to type out a response, but still, people are taking time out of their day and writing schedules to answer your question, and two, if you don’t want to learn how to do it yourself, then why bother to ask? I get not everyone wants to put time into learning how to do book covers, and I even admit that my sales might be better if I had professional covers on my books. But we all know it’s a chicken and an egg conundrum, just like with most things that are indie. You can’t sell books without a good cover, but you can’t afford a good cover until you’ve sold some books. Unless you have seed money to invest in your business before you start out, most indies can only afford the bare minimum, and some need to choose between editing and covers. So fine, hire someone on Fiverr. I hope you choose someone reputable, because that place is just a haven for scammers, and make sure you ask your artist where they got the stock photos and fonts from. Protect yourself because if they use elements that aren’t theirs to use, it won’t be on them, it will be on you for publishing.

Another example that made me mad was a poster asking about StoryOrigin. I signed up because the creator said at some point he was going to make his site pay to play, so sign up to be grandfathered into the site whenever that happens. I haven’t used the features on there yet because I don’t have a newsletter, which is primarily what the site is good for–joining newsletter promotions and giving away a reader magnet. The site is a bit overwhelming, which is where the poster was stonewalled. But the thing is, StoryOrigin, just like most websites with lots of features, has tutorials. All you need is to sit down and take a bit of time to learn. When I pointed this out, all she said was, “I know, but I think I’ll hire that out.” Meaning, she’d rather hire a virtual assistant than take the time to learn how the website works.

[The Six Figure Authors podcast interviewed Evan Gow, the creator of StoryOrigin, and you can listen to it here if you’re interested.]

Again, this ticked me off because why post about it if you already know the route you’re going to take, and why wouldn’t you want to learn how to work that website? It can only benefit you years down the road, and you’ll get to know the authors in your genre who use the site regularly. It’s a win-win situation for you to do the work yourself.


I understand the frustration at being an indie these days, and I know a couple authors who don’t want to jump through the hoops and have, actually, dropped out of the writing community. I was one of those authors for a long time (though I never dropped out, just stubbornly writing away and not doing anything else), thinking that if I have to more than write and publish books, I didn’t want to bother. But in the end you have to decide if you want to play the game, and how much your sales and potential writing career mean to you.

Saving time is always a bonus, and if you can afford to buy some premades for book covers, or hire someone with a good reputation on Fiverr, then you should do that. I lean that way all the time, even going so far as to look up premades, but I always end up balking. My real life expenses like groceries, car payment, rent, and electricity bill will always have to take precedence over what I want to do with my writing career, such as it is.

That sucks, because I’m not the only one in this situation. Would my books sell better if they were professionally edited, had professional covers, there’s no doubt that they would. But how long would it take to recoup my losses? Especially since you don’t know if what you’re writing is going to sell in the first place. You want to put out a professional product, but if you’re not willing to do the product research to see if your book is going to have readers, everything you do after could be a big waste of time and money. Even my books under the Contemporary Romance umbrella haven’t hit the mark because I haven’t focused on one area. It took me three years to realize that sub-genre-hopping wasn’t going to make me the career Nora Roberts has. Publishing is a different time now. So I’m going to shift my focus and see if I can make headway writing something else, but that I still enjoy.

Anyway, as I edit my series and learn all the things I should have learned three years ago, I’ll take you with me. It’s always fun making mistakes and hopefully if you follow along, you won’t make mine!


I’ll end this blog post with a concept for the covers I’m thinking about for the first three books in my series. It’s a rough draft of the cover for book one. The couple isn’t finalized (hence the watermarks), and I’m going to look at adding a logo for the series and also I need to fit in the series name. I’m trying to go with what’s popular right now (though that could change by the time the books are edited and ready for publication), and the covers I like on the premade sites I can’t afford.

I’ll write other blog posts about my editing, covers, and formatting journey, and feel free to let me know what you think!

Until next time!


Author Interview: Romance Author Meka James

taken from Twitter

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for joining me on this fabulous Monday! Today I interviewed romance author Meka James. She’s been publishing since 2014 and has lots of experience in the industry. Grab a cup of coffee and listen in as she tells us about her experiences with indie publishing and dipping her toes in the water of traditional publishing!


You have furbabies, real babies, and a husband. How do you find time to write books and keep up with a blog, too?

**Well, my real babies are older. My youngest is 10, that means they are way more self-sufficient which leaves me time. Plus they are at the age where mom isn’t as “cool” to hang out with. (sad face LOL). As for the husband, he works during the day which also means I have time on my hands. The furbabies sleep 95% of the day. hahaha 

You’re a part of the #turtlewriters on Twitter.  What are the benefits to writing and publishing slowly? Are there any negatives?

**Taking your time benefits because it’s less stressful. I’m slow and a pantser so I need to let the story form as I’m writing it. It works for me, but everyone’s process is different. The biggest downside would be just keeping relevant. We all know the struggles to find (and keep) readers so the longer you go between releases, the more chances you have in people losing interest in your writing. 

You’re a hybrid author, meaning you are both traditionally published and self-published. How did you decide to go this route? Will you look for a book deal in the future?

**I started out team Indie. When I began writing it was always my first choice. I joined up with a group of ladies on Twitter in maybe 2013/2014 and at the time I was the only one in the group not in the query trenches. So one year I decided to do a what the hell, and see what it was all about. I wrote the story Being Neighborly with the intent to sub it to Carina for their dirty bits line. Anything Once (Limitless Publishing) I wrote with the intent to just randomly sub it places never stressing too much if it didn’t get picked up because as I said, going Indie was always the option for me with any book. I do have ideas of subbing again but only to help with some of the cost associated with self-publishing. Between covers and editing, it gets pricey as you know, so letting a press handle that would be nice. 

You genre-hop and write everything from twisted fairytales to erotica. How does this affect your marketing and establishing a brand?

**hahaha I’m supposed to have a brand? LOL no but in all seriousness I write what I feel like. I mean the one thing that stays consistent is that the stories will be character based and steamy. I do feel like I’m coming into my own now and have a direction. I stick with contemporary and play with tropes. I like to think my characters all end up being down to earth with problems and situations readers can relate to. That I *hope* will be my brand.

You’ve played with Amazon ads and have participated in Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Ad Profit Challenge, something I’ve written about here on the blog. How was your experience? Do you have any quick do’s and don’ts for our readers?

**Well, Bryan’s great. He hands out the information in easy to understand ways. I appreciate that. However, I’m nowhere near fully understanding how it all works and how to make what I sell actually sell! LOL I guess my best advice is to stick with it. Keep trying. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and that goes with learning the marketing aspects as well as the writing.

You attended RWA in 2019 in NYC. Can you give our readers some advice on what to expect at a huge conference like that and how to maximize your time and funds? I hope one day we can attend them in person again!

**Oh boy! First, expect to be overwhelmed. Seriously, if you’re not a crowd/people person you need to be ready for the onslaught. It’s a lot. The old RWA offered up a lot of classes, some that conflicted, so plan (not my strong suit) so you can know what you want to attend. Also, don’t go too starry eyed over all the free books at the signings. Seriously I did that at my first convention in Denver and ended up having to pay a weight overage fee on my bag. LOL Don’t be me. But have fun. Yes you’re there to network, but also just enjoy the time. Don’t let it be stressful and think you have to be doing something every minute. Downtime is important. 

You’re involved in an anthology! Congratulations! That’s so cool, and the proceeds go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund which is doubly cool. Besides giving back, how is being in an anthology beneficial to your writer platform and career?

**This will be my first anthology and I’m hoping that it will get my name out there to more readers. That is always the goal, to find new people that may enjoy my work. By teaming up with 28 (I think) other authors, that’s a lot of potential for new readers to read me and hopefully go buy through my backlist.

Did you borrow a book from your already-published collection, or did you write something new?

**The story in the anthology is new. It’s a short only about 6k in length.

That’s great! I’ll be sure to look for it!
You’ve just released two novellas related to the novella published by Carina. How did your launches go? I know every time I publish a book I make a new mistake. When it comes to launches what would you do differently? What worked well?

**Same. Honestly with each release I feel like I’m starting from scratch. The only thing I do consistently is post teasers on social media. I have gotten away from a lot of paid promotions for launches. I mean I’ve had some success with blog tours, and I still like them to help get reviews, but sometimes it can be hit or miss. So far I don’t know that I’ve done anything particularly well during a launch. They’ve all had the same sort of lukewarm reception, but I keep chugging along. At this point, I do what I’m comfortable with which is mostly the teasers. I know a lot of people don’t think social media sells books, but for me it does. 

taken from Instagram
taken from Instagram

What’s next for you in the next six months? What are you working on now?

**I am currently working on my first *planned* series that I’m hoping to publish next year. They are a small town romance that follows three friends, all now in their forties who are falling in love. Like with my Desert Rose novellas, each will have a trope featured.
Book 1: Second Chance
Book 2: May/December
Book 3: Enemies-to-lovers.
I’m also hoping to put out another novella by the end of the year, but that is mostly me being way too confident in my slow writing self. LOL But it goes back to the relevancy thing. My last book was published in May, the idea I won’t have another until 2021 is a little nerve-wracking, but sometimes it is what it is. 

I did that, too. I released a standalone novel in May of 2019, then didn’t have anything until January of 2020, and I’ll be doing something similar–I won’t have anything to release until probably next year but like you said, it is what it is.

Thanks for taking the time, Meka! Good luck with your new series!


After I gave Meka her questions, she blogged about her experience with AUDIO! I didn’t want to bother her with more questions, but you can read about her experience on her blog. Click on the picture and pick up some tips to see if audio is right for you!



Follow Meka:

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Blog

Thanks for reading! Until next time!


Adding categories to your book

In Monday’s blog post I talked about relevancy and mentioned that the categories you put your book into when you publish should closely fit what’s inside your book as possible.

There are a lot of questions about categories, such as, is there a list to choose from and where do we find it?

Amazon hasn’t provided us a list of categories they offer their authors, but they do let you add categories to your book–up to ten. All you have to do is ask.

But how do we do that?

The first thing we need to do is find a book that is most like ours on Amazon. This can be a traditionally published book, or choose an indie who has been publishing for a while who knows what’s going on. Meaning, they have probably already done this process, and we’re just going to borrow their categories.

To show you, I’m going to do The Years Between Us. The categories that the book is in right now is what I chose when I published:

You can choose two, and I think I did choose Coming of Age Fiction and, well, let me look. It’s easy enough to remind yourself if you go into your Bookshelf on KDP and look at the ebook details.

Unfortunately, it made me save changes and republish, so if you plan on going in and doing any promotions or anything, don’t check on your categories until you’ve done what you need to do because while KDP publishes your “changes” they lock you out. Anyway, so you can see that Amazon stayed true to what I set when I first published, but those categories are not a complete representation of what that book is. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman novel, and I’m not sure if that’s actually a category, so we need to snoop around. I don’t think it is, but I do know that I can do better than the categories that book is in.

I’ll go to Amazon and search in the Kindle Store, Older Man/Younger Woman and see what comes up. It can be a naughty sub-genre, and mine isn’t dirty like that. So finding a comp book might take a little bit of time. We might need to click through a few books to find a close match.

I’m going to go with this book for the sake of this blog post, but once you know how to check a book’s categories, you can check as many books as you like and search for as many categories as you think will fit your book.

The cover doesn’t look that naughty, and it’s obviously an older man/younger woman romance. I haven’t read it, and never heard of Suzie before, but let’s see what categories she used for her book:

I can’t choose Billionaire Romance because The Years Between Us doesn’t follow that sub-genre, but this isn’t the only way we can see what categories this book is listed under. If you go to www.bklnk.com, you can use this website to insert the ASIN number for any book and we’ll hopefully see if there are more categories this book is in.

Click on Catfinder and enter the ASIN in the field provided.

After you click, Go Find! you’ll be presented with a list of categories that book is in on Amazon.

It doesn’t look like there are going to be any discoveries here, except I do see that it’s listed in Romantic Comedy. She may have asked for that category to be added. That’s not something I can use for my book because my book is all about drama and secrets.

Let’s try another book. After some hunting, I found Reckless Suit: A Hero Club Novel, by Alexia Chase.

You’ll remember The Years Between Us wasn’t even listed in contemporary romance, so that’s a category we can add right away. But looking at the categories for this book gives me a couple of ideas. City Life could be one, because the book does take place in a huge (albeit made up city), and I could add Women’s Romance Fiction. So there are three I could add. Contemporary Romance, City Life, and Women’s Romance.

If your book has a lot to do with families, you could probably add Family Life Fiction, but that might be more aimed at a women’s fiction book dealing with family issues. I would prefer to aim my book at readers who want more romance in their plots.

So now that we have the categories we want, how do we as Amazon to add those categories?

  1. Go to your KDP Dashboard and click on HELP in the top right menu next to Sign Out.
  2. Scroll to the bottom and click on Contact Us. That will be a yellow button on the bottom left of the page.
  3. Click on Amazon Product page and Expanded Distribution.

Then click on Update Amazon Categories.

There it will even give you a template you can fill out, and from here all you have to do is give them your book’s ISBN and ASIN numbers and the exact categories you borrowed from the books like yours.

Here is my list for The Years Between Us that I found from searching Amazon for books similar to mine, and using www.bklnk.com for the string of categories that Amazon requires you to include:

  1. Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Contemporary Fiction » Contemporary Romance Fiction
  2. Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Genre Fiction » City Life Fiction
  3. Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Women’s Fiction » Women’s Romance Fiction
  4. Books » Books » Literature & Fiction » Genre Literature & Fiction » City Life Fiction
  5. Books » Books » Romance » Contemporary Romance

This is the exact text in the message I sent to Amazon through my KDP account:

Please add these categories to The Years Between Us in the .com store.

The ASIN number is: B07Q4143R1
and the ISBN number is: 978-0999677568

Categories to be added (list each category as a separate line item for all applicable titles)

  1. Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Contemporary Fiction » Contemporary Romance Fiction
  2. Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Genre Fiction » City Life Fiction
  3. Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Women’s Fiction » Women’s Romance Fiction
  4. Books » Books » Literature & Fiction » Genre Literature & Fiction » City Life Fiction
  5. Books » Books » Romance » Contemporary Romance

Thank you for adding these to my book! Your time is very much appreciated! Stay safe and healthy. 🙂


I’m always polite, and I’ve never had a problem asking them to do something. It takes about a day to get a response, and if you give them the entire string in the categories you need added, they shouldn’t have a problem fulfilling your request. Unfortunately if you want to add your book’s categories to the other stores like Canada (.ca) or the UK (.co.uk) then you have to send separate messages. (This is per Bryan Cohen and what he teaches in his ads course. I have never added categories in the other stores.)

As with the relevancy post on Monday, you want to make sure you choose the most relevant categories for your book. The correct categories will only help Amazon sell your book by putting it in front of readers who most likely to want to read it.

I always give credit where credit is due, and I learned this tip doing the Amazon Ads Profit Challenge with Bryan Cohen. He’s going to leave the video up for a little bit, so if you want to watch him in action choosing categories for his book, you can check it out here. https://www.bestpageforward.net/july-2020-challenge-prep-work/ The talk about Categories starts about 25 minutes in, but the whole video is very useful! 🙂


Amazon got back to me before I published this post, and they added my categories without an issue:

Let me know if you’re going to add some categories, and what your thoughts are with adding the correct ones. I hope you found this useful! Until next time!


What do you NEED to be a writer/author? Pick and choose at your own peril.

So if any of you follow Mark Dawson or you’re concerned about marketing strategies, or you were thinking about taking an ads course, or if you’re in any writing groups at all on Facebook, you know that Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course closed last week. Whenever Mark opens up his course, I have a huge case of the nerves. Why? Because everyone raves about this course. How helpful it is. How it’s a lifetime pass to ads and all your questions and all of the answers until you die. You can’t be an author and learn how to sell your books without it. After hearing it’s God’s gift to sales, you’ll run out and sign up, right? Well, the next time it opens is in the winter, and you’ll need that time to save up the fee, because you know why I haven’t signed up? It’s $849.00. You read that correctly. It’s almost a $1,000. And if you take the cheapest payment plan, it does cost over $1,000 dollars payable over two years’ time.

You know how indies say, “I can’t afford a cover, or a professional edit, etc, etc, etc, because I’ll never earn my money back?” Yeah. That. How many books would I have to sell to earn back $849? That’s the whole point of the ads course, right? To learn how to make that kind of money? Sure.

So how about this one? In Mark’s SPF University, there’s a course on how to write a bestseller by Suzy K. Quinn. People have raved over this, and I’m always wanting to work on the craft part of being an author. Some would say working on craft is the most important part of being a writer because it always starts with a good book. But her class is a whopping $297.00. People say they learn so much from that class. But hey, that’s two car payments for me. Or half a month’s rent.

And I’m not picking on Mark Dawson. John Truby also has a writing class. He gave a intro talk about it at the 20booksto50k conference in November last year. And you can watch it here.

His course is $397.00. You can check it out here if you’re interested.

My favorite Amazon Ads School guy, Bryan Cohen, runs an Ads Course, too, and his costs $397.00. During his ads challenges (the next one is in July) he’ll throw in some blurb writing or something a little extra to entice you to sign up. And that’s great. A lot of these indies who are offering courses try to throw in a little something for nothing. But where does it stop?

Adam Croft, under his Indie Author Mindset brand offers courses under $50.00. You can check them out here. I love his Facebook group, and I encourage you to check that out, and his podcast, too. Andrea Pearson, one-third of the Six Figure Authors podcast and Facebook group offers classes too, also in bite-sized fees, and if you listen to the podcast she just recently gave out a code for a percentage off. Her classes range anywhere from $5.00 to $50.00. Jane Friedman offers classes, as well. I’ve taken a couple and they are usually about $25.00. You can look on her blog to keep up-to-date on the courses she offers.

And that’s just classes. We haven’t talked tools yet.

Bookbrush. A platinum yearly fee with them is $250.00. Canva. A yearly membership with them is $120.00 a year. But if you compare the two, you get quite a lot more with Bookbrush, as you should since it’s double the cost. There there’s Vellum, and if you don’t have a Mac you have to run it through Macincloud, and if you do want a Mac, well, everyone knows how much they cost.

Then there’s ProWritingAid (lifetime is $224.00), the Hemingway App ($19.99 one-time fee), Grammarly (the premium is $139.95 a year).

Scrivener ($49.00).

Publisher Rocket ($97.00).

Let’s do promotions: A Freebooksy with Written Word Media is all over the map, with the popular genres around $100.00. E-reader News Today is between $50.00 to $140.00 depending on the price of your book. Book Barbarian runs about $50.00. Fussy Librarian is isn’t terrible, but you still have to sell books to make a profit.

Never mind paying for clicks on Amazon Advertising, and the same goes for running Facebook ads and Bookbub ads. (Don’t bother with running ads on a platform you don’t understand. You might as well give me your money. I’ll use it to buy promos.)

Can we add newsletter providers too?

Oh, I forgot about website hosting and a domain name. Maybe a business upgrade on WordPress.

A yearly subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

Forgot coffee. And booze. Are you even a writer if you’re not drinking something like a fish?

Let’s just say that indies have a lot of resources and not all of them cheap, ah, budget-friendly.

How much does it cost to be a writer? Well, nothing. I mean, literally 0 dollars. It takes no money to be a writer. Maybe two dollars. Grab a pen and notebook from the dollar store. Or scrounge your kids’ school supplies for things they didn’t use after everything moved to online learning because of COVID-19.

There’s a joke in the running world that running is the most expensive free sport there is. Shoes, race fees, GPS watches, the rest of the gear. The list is almost as long as what a writer needs to be an author. Being an author is the most expensive free thing you can do right? Tell that to my $150.00/pair Brooks running shoes so I don’t get tendonitis in my ankles.

But how much money does it really take to invest in your business?

The problem is, not anyone is going to know but you.

I had a friend step back from writing. She’s focusing on her family. That’s great; she has to do what’s best for her. And while she’s never said she won’t come back into the writing/indie space, what she did invest in will just sit while she decides what she wants to do. She bought a Mac, she purchased Vellum. She bought a yearly subscription to Canva Pro. Granted, that can run out, but I don’t know how much of her paid year will go to waste while she’s not using it. She purchased her domain name for a blog she took down. I gave her a free developmental edit of her book, so there’s something, but she paid for a cover for a book that will sink in the Amazon store because she won’t be promoting it (and by promoting it, I really mean writing the next book) while she takes a break.

So how much money should you spend? Start small. I pay for Word. I don’t use a writing software like Scrivner. But you don’t have to purchase Word, either, though the .docx is compatible with Vellum and other conversion websites as well as KDP. There are free options like Open Office or Google Docs.

There are some things indie professionals say you can’t skimp on like a professional edit, or a decent book cover. And that’s true. You don’t have anything if you don’t have a good book. That’s why there’re craft classes out there. But you don’t have to pay $300.00 for a class. There are a ton of craft books, and all you need is to invest some time into reading them. In fact, there are a lot of free resources on YouTube if you learn better listening to a speaker. Brian Sanderson has a set of lectures on Youtube people say are really good, and you can get started here. And over the years John Truby has spoken about craft and you can watch those YouTube videos for free. I’ve shared several talks I’ve enjoyed from the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. The group puts those on YouTube for free too. Chris Fox’s channel is valuable, as is David Gaughran’s new channel.

I suggest narrowing down what you need at the moment you need it. If you only have one book out, probably you don’t need an $800.00 ads course. If you only have one book chances are working on craft would suit where you are in your career a lot better than learning an ad platform or any kind of marketing strategy.

I have fear of missing out, and a lot of writers I know do too. It’s tough not to want the newest brightest thing. Especially when all your groups on Facebook are raving about it. I can’t afford Mark Dawson’s class, and if you can’t either, there’s no point in feeling bad about it. It is what it is. I’ve learned a lot taking Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenges, and he doesn’t push you to pay for his class. I break even with my ads, and that’s okay. I’m not losing money and I’m picking up new readers. At this stage in my career, that’s a win for me.

Having all the tools and technology won’t make you a writer and I have a feeling that was what my friend was aiming for. She was collecting the tools of the trade, but in two years wrote only 60,000 words. For some indies, that’s a word total per month.

Think about what your goals are, what you want out of your career and when you want them. My fiancé bought me a Mac and purchased Vellum for me. I format a lot of books, and pay my fiancé’s kindness forward and will format free for others. Like I said, I pay for Word. It’s my main (umm, only) writing software and I use it every day. I pay for Canva. I bought Publisher Rocket because I do experiment with ads (and right now those small ads are my main source of sales). I’m ashamed to say I threw $40.00 at something I don’t even know what it is or how it will help me. All I know is she said it was her final offer because she wasn’t going to sell it anymore, and I swallowed it hook, line, and, sinker. Some kind of author toolbox website that I probably will never be able to find because I was too busy throwing money at her to pay attention to what I was buying.

It happens, and probably more frequently than we want to admit. The panic sucks. The fear of missing out on something that will make us a bestseller. And we especially panic when we think everyone else but us has the magic bullet.

A good rule of thumb is to exhaust all the free possibilities before going to paid. Newsetter providers have tutorials. So do lots of people on YouTube wanting to help you. Podcasts have been a great way to learn things, and I like to multi-task. Listen while you’re doing chores, or running errands, or taking a walk. I use my phone to take notes if they mention something of interest I don’t want to forget.

No matter how you learn what you learn, probably the one thing you’re going to need to invest is time, and in a lot of cases, that time is better spent writing.

How much does it cost be a writer? Nothing.

Okay. Two dollars.

Tell me what you think!


Writing with tropes in mind. What I learned from reading Zoe York’s Romance Your Brand

Last weekend I read Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series by Zoe York.

I love reading nonfiction by indie authors. It’s like being able to pick their brains without actually bothering them. An author shared a screenshot of the books on her Kindle in one of the Facebook groups I’m in, and Zoe’s book caught my eye. Zoe is a well-known in the indie publishing space as a contemporary romance writer. I first heard of her when she was a contributor of the now defunct podcast Self-Publishing Round Table, one of the first podcasts I listened to about self-publishing.

I was excited to see that she started writing nonfiction and I purchased her book right away.

I’ve written two series: one trilogy and another with four books. They don’t sell that great, but though to be fair, I don’t promote them much, either, and I thought Zoe could share some things that worked for her.

She goes through the reasons why a series is good–namely read-through and creating a world fans can fall in love with. I already know that, which is why I tortured myself all of 2019 writing one. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but there are things you have to consider like consistency and bringing other characters into the story of the main couple because they’re all friends and people simply don’t disappear when you don’t need them at the moment.

Zoe goes into some of the planning, encouraging you to draw a map of where your series is going to take place. She writes small-town romance, and my Rocky Point Wedding Series is placed in a small town, too. I knew my series wasn’t going to be very long — I don’t have an attention span for several books, so I trusted myself to keep Rocky Point’s details in my head without writing them down. But if you plan to write 5+ books, it may be advantageous to treat your setting like a character and write a detailed sheet to keep facts straight.

Other tips she offers are keywords, naming your series, and plotting out the books. This is where my ears perked up so to speak because Zoe is a genre fiction author. She subscribes to the Venn Diagram where you need to write to market while writing what you love and finding that sweet spot to sustain a lucrative, but happy and satisfying, career for yourself.

When I plotted my series, I started with setting first. For me that’s the easy part. I set the books in a fictional small town in Minnesota based on my hometown. I even gave my town the same attributes — along the Canadian border, a shut-down paper mill, and a similar Main Street. I’ll probably always set my stories in Minnesota. I love the seasons and the variety they can bring to the plots.

Then I move onto characters. I think this is where I dropped the ball and Zoe opened my eyes that actually when I plan out my books I don’t keep tropes in mind.

Every romance novel is based on a trope or two, and while you might scoff or want to deny it because your books are better than that drivel, I need to remind you readers love tropes. The kind of trope the book contains is why the reader chooses to read your book.

While plotting my series I forgot that, and it’s why my books aren’t as strong as they could and should be. Of course my books contain tropes, but I assign the tropes after the fact when I should be planning my stories around them. Knowing the tropes I want to include beforehand will give my books a stronger spine.

What are some romance tropes? These are from Zoe’s book:

  1. friends with with benefits
  2. married to the enemy
  3. marriage of convenience
  4. enemies to lovers
  5. fish out of water (new town, fresh start)
  6. forced proximity
  7. bad boy
  8. ugly duckling
  9. unrequited love
  10. friends to lovers
  11. strangers to lovers

There are more, these is only a sample. A Google search can come up with a couple more:

  1. forbidden love
  2. age gap
  3. secret baby
  4. fake date
  5. fake marriage

You can have a lot of fun with tropes. Take forced proximity. Maybe two strangers have to share a shelter during a tornado, or the elevator stalls (that’s pretty popular) or there’s only one bed (another that’s popular). Anything where the characters need to spend a lot of time together in a close space with no chance of escape. Like a cabin during a blizzard.

Zoe encourages you to list the tropes as you plan the books in your series and I’m going to start doing that with all my books. For now I can list the tropes that my books do contain (I can list them for marketing and ad copy purposes) and going forward use new tropes as I plot.

Knowing what tropes your books includes can help with blurb-writing and writing ad copy. As Jami Albright says, tropes sell. If you can make the tropes easy for readers to see, you’ll be more apt to make a sale.

Writing a series takes a bit of planning. At least the first few books so you can fit the pieces of each book together like a puzzle. Some series can go on for a while see (Robyn Carr) and there is no way to plan twenty books at one time. But if you can list the elements you want to include in the first few hopefully consistency won’t be too big of an issue and you (and your characters) can find a groove.

Zoe’s book gave me a new perspective and I feel there are things any genre writer could benefit from. I encourage you to pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.


A note about sub-genre and tropes.

Some writers blur the line between sub-genre and tropes. The easiest way to explain the two is to give an example.

Take Aidy Award’s books. She writes curvy-girl romance. That’s her sub-genre. You know when you grab one of her books the heroine will be voluptuous. But that can’t be the plot. The plot will contain tropes that pertain to genres that aren’t only curvy-girl. Like close proximity or enemies to lovers.

Billionaire romance is another example. Maybe every single male character an author writes will be a billionaire, but those characters will have their own plots that contain their own tropes.

I have noticed that some of the bigger in the writers like Aidy focus on one sub-genre. Then they have fun with the tropes. They have an easier time branding their books and that helps marketing and sales. It’s something to think about moving forward.


If you want to grab Zoe’s book, look here. She has another book related to this one, and I’m going to grab it as soon as it’s available.

To check out her Amazon author page, and take a peek at her contemporary romance books, look here.


Thanks for stopping by!