Let’s Talk Engagement

There has been a lot of talk of engagement on Twitter lately. What exactly is engagement? The Macmillian Dictionary defines engagement as

definition 4: the action of parts of a machine when they connect with each other or definition 6: the feeling of being involved in a particular activity.

You could even go as far as to say engagement means definition 3: a battle between armies, because, let’s face it, Writer Twitter isn’t always friendly.

 

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She’s cute, but forcing people to talk to you isn’t pretty.

No matter which definition you choose, engagement means a give and take between people or things. So when someone on Twitter says they don’t follow back without some engagement first, or they threaten to unfollow you if you don’t engage with them, what does that mean exactly?

This kind of attitude has always baffled me because first of all, they don’t understand what kind of social media tool Twitter is, and second of all, TWITTER IS F*CKING HUGE. “As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the micro-blogging service averaged at 330 million monthly active users.” Obviously, no one is going to have 330 million followers, but even in Writer Twitter, the number of people following you can grow to the double digits quickly.

 

So what does engagement really mean? What are you asking for when you expect (demand?) people to tweet with you?

i#followFriday (1)For sake of simplicity, we can pick on a relatively small account. Say you’re following 300 people. You have more people following you; let’s say this number is 1,000. We’ll keep an even number because my math is terrible. Let’s subtract the 300 you’ve followed back, leaving you with 700 people following you that you have not returned the favor to. Let’s subtract 200 of these because we’ll just assume they aren’t real people. Sexbots and whatnot. That’s 500 people, writers, potential friends, and connections, mind you, you’re not following. What if all of a sudden half those people started engaging with you.  You tweeted something funny, an article that hit home. They try to chat with you. Suddenly you have 250 people engaging with you.

What are you going to do, ignore them? This is your dream come true! You want engagement! Now you’ve got it! Oh, you say, 250 people aren’t just suddenly going to want to talk to me. Okay, fine. What about half that? What if 125 of those people started tweeting with you? Then what? You still don’t buy that? Okay, 75. It’s #FollowFriday. They haven’t been pissed off by your snotty attitude yet, so they try to get into your good graces by giving you a happy shoutout. Seventy-five #FollowFriday happy weekend shoutouts. Yee-haw!

i#followFridayYou better believe you respond to these people because this is what you wanted, right? All right, I know I’m being facetious, but let’s be real for a minute. Even if you had 25 people on a daily basis wanting to tweet with you, that’s a huge time suck. There are days, like #FollowFriday, or #WriterWednesday, where I do get quite a few notifications, and I do have to take the time to sit and thank everyone. I’m getting to the point where I may not be able to always answer all my notifications, but for now, I’m trying my best. I respect my followers, as should you. Someone thought you were interesting enough to follow, or you’re part of Writer Twitter, whatever, and you thank them by . . . ignoring them. Nice.

I admit, you can look at my numbers, and see my following and followers are not even. And that is fine. Some are bots, some are huge accounts I know will drop me after they get a follow back, huge marketers with 100K following/followers, writers who only tweet their books and nothing else. Yes, I do not follow those accounts. And I’m not suggesting that you do.

I follow back writers, readers, bloggers, agents, anyone human related to the reading/writing/self-publishing/traditional-publishing industry.

What I am suggesting is that with an engagement entitlement attitude, you do not.

I get that if you’re a big-time author you’re not going to follow back everyone. I was lucky and Karen M. McManus followed me, or vice versa, before she became famous. You can see that she’s no longer following everyone who follows her. I was lucky, and I’m able to tweet with her now and then.

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Buy Karen’s awesome book here!

 

So, why do I have a problem with this attitude, this need for engagement on Twitter? Because it’s the wrong platform for it. I’ve suggested to a few people on Twitter that if they want to keep their groups small, then they should invite 200 of their nearest and dearest and form a private group on Facebook. Chat away until your heart’s content, and you won’t have to worry about those pesky people wanting a follow back without saying hi first.

Twitter and Facebook are different.

Twitter is used for quickly exchanging information. Read an excellent blog post about editing, tweet it! Found a shortcut for formatting? Share it. Twitter is also for supporting your colleagues. Congratulate someone on their new release. If someone has a question, and you just read a book about it, let them know! Twitter has it set up now that tweets pop in your feed from people whom you do not follow. They did this to broaden your horizons and help you find more people to connect with. Don’t be annoyed by it! Use it to find your next Critique Partner or Beta Reader. If you need something, would you rather be able to ask 200 people, or 10K? Build up your account. Spread out your reach.

i#followFriday (2)Twitter is like being at a gigantic party! Grab a drink and say hello to everyone. You may not exchange business cards with every person you meet, but you never know when you’re going to make a connection. Or know someone who knows someone who can help you. It only takes a moment to follow back a living, breathing writer.

Do not insist on engagement. Twitter isn’t made to be a small group of people, your profile open to the public, and anyone can enter.

If you want privacy, switch over to Facebook and start a small writer’s group there. Share resources, tips and editing, vent. You’ll be happier.

I adore tweeting with people. Maybe I’ll only tweet with them once or twice and they’ll slip away, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. They’ll pop back up one day, and then I’ll be the one to say hi.

And I’ll just make one last point before I go–you’re a part of Writer Twitter. Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to be, oh I don’t know, writing? Insisting on engagement isn’t fair to the people on Twitter who spend the bulk of their time either working their day job, taking care of kids, and in the little time they have left, writing. Don’t punish your connections for doing what you should be doing, too.

Come say hi to me on Twitter and tell me what you think! I’ll see you there!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

The Four Kinds of Indie Author

When I first entered the world of indie writers/publishing, I was dazzled. I thought anyone who published, published good books. I mean, I hadn’t been exposed to anything but traditionally published books, so of course, I was naive and not aware that with self-publishing, there isn’t a gatekeeper, and people can, and did, publish whatever they wanted.

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As I began reading indie, I realized there are four types of indie authors.

  1. The indie who writes poorly in an uncommon genre.
    To me, this is a double-edged sword of bad. And I’m not even talking about poorly written erotica–that’s a different category of writer. No, I’m talking about the poor writer who writes Bigfoot Romance, or anybody having sex with something that is not human, be it squids, dinosaurs, ghosts, aliens. Though alien romance is becoming more popular these days. Or other genres like a romance between a

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    I know, baby. It makes me sick, too.

    kidnapper and a hostage, or a specific kind of mystery/thriller where hamsters solve crimes. Not only is the writing bad, the genre is just as weird, and even if you, as a writer, could find a readership, your poor writing would turn them off. These are the writers who experiment and just throw up (literally and figuratively) anything they want. These are the writers who give indie writers a bad name, and without gatekeepers, they will continue to do so.
    Examples: Let’s not do that to ourselves, shall we?

  2. The indie who writes poorly in a popular genre.
    This isn’t terrible. I’ve heard time and time again that a good story or good pacing can save a book in a popular genre. Readers are willing to overlook a lot if they like your characters or the storyline, or you have a great twist that blows people’s minds. In a popular genre, you can find readers, or at the very least, at some point, someone may bump into you. Readers may not put you on their favorite list, and you may very well lose readers even if elements of your story are fantastic. Life is too short to read crappy books, and readers are realizing this. Too bad these writers

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    One rotten fruit in the whole bunch.

    can’t/won’t give their careers more of a chance and find an editor. Even trade beta reading with some proofreading is better than nothing.

    Examples: Well, EL James is a good one. There’s no disagreeing her writing could have used better editing. But her storyline was good, her characters solid. If someone could have gone and deleted all her adverbs, reading her books would have been a more enjoyable experience.

  3. The indie who writes well in an uncommon genre.
    It makes me sad when I see writers do this. It shouldn’t because they are writing what they like, and that’s the whole point of writing, right? That’s my writing to market side coming out, and far be it from me to judge someone’s genre choice. Being a good writer will give you readership, uncommon genre or not, just

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    Stand out!

    probably not as big if you write mainstream fiction. There’s always going to be someone who gets off reading your story about sex with dogs (pun intended) or your fabulously written story about forbidden sex with your brother. But one would hope that if you have writing chops, you branch out so more people can discover your talent.

    Examples: Let’s Do Butt Stuff. Of course I read this! I’m totally not afraid to admit it. *shifty eyes* Argh. Delilah Dallas has a decent voice. It’s a short story, and I read it all the way through. She could do well if she branched out into longer, maybe less weird, work. And I guess anal isn’t an “uncommon” genre, but it’s very niche and can be limiting.
    There was something else I read on Smashwords that struck me as good writing, and it was about a woman who had sex with her husband’s dog. I can’t find the author now, and after Smashwords went through and started being more strict with their erotica genres, they could have buried it. But the good writing stuck out to me, (no pun intended) and even after a couple years of stumbling upon it, I still remember the writing for what it was. And this story just goes to show that if she had written mainstream romance, perhaps I could have found it, maybe even recommended her writing. After all, I can’t tell someone how much I liked the writing if I can’t find it anymore.

  4. The indie writer who writes well in a popular genre.
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    Being the same can have some advantages.

    You would think this is where every indie would want to be. You stand the most to gain writing well in a genre that has lots of readers. Of course, it’s also difficult to get recognized in a saturated genre, but if you can make a name for yourself, you’ll have readers for the rest of your writing career.

    Examples: Citing examples for this genre is almost unfair because most of these authors have done it for years. Lauren Blakely, Kira Blakely, Mark Dawson. You might mistake Lauren Blakely for a trad-pubbed author, but her paperbacks are published by CreateSpace, as are Kira Blakely’s. Both have made a list. You could almost do a study on what all they are doing, and how that has worked for them in terms of “making it.” Covers, prolific releases, etc. Consistency.  They both write romance.
    Mark Dawson is also prolific, and publishes his paperbacks with CreateSpace, pegging him an indie. But his books have been picked up for a TV series, and, yeah, he’s been able to quit his day job. He writes in the thriller genre.
    I’m sure there are lesser known indies out there who are starting solid careers writing well in a genre well-received.

In conclusion, you have to decide what you want for and from your writing career. You may not want to “make it” and are fine publishing naughty short stories about fish. Maybe you’ll have three or four people read your stuff, and that’s good enough for you. No one can define your idea of success except you. If you’re happy writing books that only your friends and family will buy because you’re not interested in . . . how do I say this without sounding judgmental or derogatory . . . if you’re not interested in putting in the work to do better, then that’s your choice.

There’s no excuse for poor writing. Learning your craft can only help you find more readers, no matter your genre.

Good luck you Butt Stuff writers!

 

Genre-hopping: Why writers do it and should they?

Writers need to genre-hop. We need to explore what we like to write and how we want to write it.

I genre-hopped. I stayed within romance, but I explored romantic fantasy and erotica. I explored enough that I knew I didn’t want to write them anymore–and that is the whole point of genre-hopping. I settled into contemporary romance, and that’s where I’ll stay.

But say you want to build your writing career, actually make some money selling your books. It’s important to your customers they know what they are getting when they think of your name. Like what Stephen King is to horror, or what Danielle Steele is to romance, you want to build your brand on your name and be consistent with what you’re selling.

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Do readers really know what they are getting when they buy one of your books?

I remember clicking on a romance author on Amazon. I can’t remember her name, and I wouldn’t call her out anyway, but she had several books published. When I went through them, though, some were written in first-person, some in third. Some in present tense, some in past. Maybe you like her third person past books, but when she releases a new book or if you try to read through her backlist, you may not always like what you buy. Maybe then you don’t read it, or you slog through it because you spent money on it and you don’t want it to go to waste.

Is this how you want your readers to feel about your work?

I started thinking about this because I wondered how the big names do it. How did Stephenie Meyer go from the Twilight series to The Host to The Chemist? Was it seamless for her because adults read Twilight, so her adult fiction wasn’t a departure from her original work? Or did she lose millions of readers because the teenagers enamored by Edward and Bella had no use for her adult fiction?

Is genre-hopping like jumping from a cliff--career suicide_

Photo by nour c on Unsplash

I think about Nora Roberts, too. She writes under a pen name as well, but under Nora Roberts, she writes contemporary romance with maybe a bit of paranormal or magic thrown in. She’s well known for her trilogies, and she has many contemporary standalones to her credit. But her newest release under her name is a post-apocalyptic called Year One. Does Nora have a big enough audience that they will read whatever she writes, or will she lose readers who are not interested in a new genre? Would she have been better off releasing this new book, which is the first in a trilogy, under a new pen name? I guess until reviews and sales numbers come in (there are a few 1-star reviews that indicate that some readers aren’t happy she took a detour), we won’t know. I admire her for spreading her writing wings and trying something new, and by now, maybe she doesn’t care if her career takes a ding because she took a chance.

No matter how much I preach you have to write with your reader in mind, you still have to like what you’re writing.

There are other reasons for genre-hopping, but you have to decide if it’s right for your brand:

1. Maybe the genre you write in is dead or not selling. Trends come and go, and if you can quickly write a book and publish it, perhaps you can ride the high of the next new thing.

2. You’ve depleted your ideas. Maybe you have no choice because if you didn’t genre-hop, you wouldn’t be able to write anymore.

3. Maybe a complete plot fell into your head, and you don’t want to waste the idea.

4. You have an opportunity to collaborate with an up-and-coming author in a different genre, and you are excited by the chance of exposure.

One of the problems I see indies having is they aren’t thinking about their books as abusiness for authors business. Joanna Penn, on a podcast I listened to a while back, said her Business for Authors book is her poorest selling book and she can’t understand why. I know why–because indies don’t like to think of their books as a business (yet they are quick to pout when their books don’t sell).

Think of this analogy: Say you have a favorite chocolate store; you go there all the time. You know the owner, you love the chocolate. But one day you take the time to drive there, and they don’t sell chocolate anymore. The store is full of baseball cards. You get disgusted, not to mention confused AF, and leave.

Do you go back? Maybe once to see if they started selling chocolate again, but when you find out that they haven’t, you won’t go back.

Or maybe you want your books to be like a flea market. Something for everyone. Or will you end up with nothing for no one? You never know what you’ll find at a flea market.

I used to be super against genre-hopping, and for my brand, I still am. I want to be known for contemporary romance written in the third person. When I use the pre-order feature, I want my readers to get excited that I have a new book being released because they’ll know exactly what kind of book it will be.

I don’t want my readers to look at my pre-order like it’s a white elephant sale.

If you decide to genre-hop and publish under your name, you’ll have to market it differently, and you’ll have to be prepared for readers to be unhappy if they inadvertently read something they didn’t mean to. Take this comment from this blog post:

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Her reluctance to use a pen name is costing her reviews. Well, one, but maybe more in the future. Where do you cross the line between knowing you need a pen name, or not to genre hop, and when to keep going? You would think that readers would be able to tell between racy and sweet by looking at the covers, reading the blurbs. But on the same token, don’t you want everyone who likes you to read everything you ever write?

Unfortunately, I paid for the ISBN numbers for the genre-hopping books I published. Maybe one day I’ll yank them because as my backlist grows, they will not fit into my library. It’s the price I’ll have to pay for not thinking ahead, or for experimenting and actually publishing them.

Maybe you won’t care, and that’s okay. We all do what we need to do to achieve our goals.

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Where do you want your book business to go?

So think where you want to be in five years, in ten. How will your genre-hopping fit into your plans?

It’s never too early to plan–or do damage control.

Do you have thoughts on genre-hopping and pen names? Let me know!

Other articles about genre-hopping:

Genre Glue

Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know

The Pros and Cons of Switching Genres — Guest: Summerita Rhayne

Happy writing Vania Margene

Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst–A book review

Every writer could use a guidebook, a map, perhaps a mentor who can say, “If it were me I do this.”

I read Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success last year, but as a series of book reviews I’m starting for my blog, I pulled it out again and reread some of my favorite chapters.write naked

In Write Naked, Jennifer Probst takes you through from the beginning of her career, when she didn’t think she would make it, to present time, when indeed she has made it, evidence being she’s able to add best-selling author after her name.

It’s gratifying to know that even a best-selling author has fears, flaws, and has made mistakes, but being she has made it to the other side, she also gives us tips and tricks to overcome our fears and if you really want this thing called a writing career, what to do to achieve it.

Some of my favorite chapters include:

Chapter 4
Green With Envy
Jennifer acknowledges that yes, writing is a community, but that community is steeped in jealousy, cruelty, and fear. I see it on Twitter. I read it in a poor book review by another author, sometimes even a malicious review. I see it in the passive-aggressive interactions between me and my other writer friends. Pretty soon you don’t know whom to trust, who really is happy for you and your success. Jennifer writes a chapter on this–a very honest and forthcoming chapter. She says on page 34 of the paperback  . . .  “jealousy . . .  is an endless vicious cycle.” Don’t let it consume you; there will always be someone doing better than you, and you will always be doing better than someone else.

Chapter 5
The Write Path
1. You’ll make mistakes. Costly mistakes.
2. Overnight success is never overnight.
3. Once you reach the top, there is nowhere to go but down.

This may seem like a downer of a chapter, and perhaps it is. Jennifer reminds you that a writer’s journey is tough. There is a reason why writing is compared to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Your journey takes a ton of preparation–years of writing, years of learning the craft, refining your work. It takes many books. One foot in front of the other for years. Then what do you do when you reach the top of the mountain? When you bury a flagpole in the summit and can call yourself a success? You climb down and do it all over again.

Chapter 8
Trademarks of Bestselling Authors
There are no shortcuts. Sit down, do the work. But what is the work? Jennifer, along with other romance authors, gives you an idea of what it takes to get where they are. This chapter includes writing advice, networking tips, and thinking about writing as a career, not a hobby.

Chapter 12
The Indie Revolution
Jennifer did publish as an indie author, and she gives her readers a few tips on how to publish a good book. You may not like what she has to say, but all of her advice has merit. Probably the biggest takeaway from this chapter is indies need to remember they are writing for readers. You want and need them to like your books. Publish accordingly.

Toward the end of the book, say the last third or fourth, Jennifer goes into what makes a romance book an addicting read. Snappy first lines, lovable characters. Setting up and delivering on a hook, keeping up the sexual tension, keeping your middle from sagging. She touches very briefly on all these and more, so if you think you have any of these issues in your own writing, find other craft books to study with, because these chapters tell you what I know many don’t want to hear – write a good book and keep reader expectations in mind as you write. As with any genre, there are tropes and rules you must follow, or all you’ll do is make your reader mad, and that could result in a bad review.

Jennifer’s last chapter is Happy Endings. She coaches you on how to end your book on the best note possible. But finishing one book isn’t the end! There will always be another book to write, another mountain to climb, another race to run.

Jennifer-Probst-2-1Jennifer won her gold medal, and she tries for another every time she sits down to write.

I recommend reading this book in its entirety, and I pull it out every now and again for a pick-me-up or a reality check.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Thanks for reading! Do you have any books from authors you like to read that give you tips or a much-needed reality check? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

Toxic People–How Do We Get Them Out of Our Lives?

Humans are creatures of habit. We like to park in the same parking spot every day, be it at work, school, the shopping mall. We buy the same seat locations for movies. We use the same person at the salon.

It’s the same thing for the people we interact with. We all have that friend from elementary school, we brag we’ve been married for 10+ years, we’re still in touch with college professors, even though you’ve been graduated for twenty years. We latch on to people, and we can’t let go.

But what if that person we meet at our coffee klatch, or writing group, or your daughter’s best friend’s mother, what if that person you thought to be a good friend . . . isn’t?

You know the one I’m talking about, even if you don’t want to admit it. That friend who never has anything nice to say about your work. That friend who can’t compliment you unless it compliments her. That friend who can’t do anything nice for anyone unless she benefits from it as well, in some way. That person who promised you she would do something and never does, though she’s full of apologies.

That kind of behavior can sneak up on you, and maybe it takes years. And maybe that person is so fully ensconced in your life that booting them to the curb seems . . . maybe a little too dramatic. I mean, after all, it’s not really harmful they treat you that way. Is it? If they hurt your feelings, that’s not on them, it’s on you for being too sensitive. Because she did do that one thing for you a few months back, though it was a couple weeks too late, and you didn’t need it by then, but she made the effort, right?

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Maybe you’re part of a group, and others can’t see her for what she is, and if you extricate yourself from the group, you won’t just be rid of her, but you’ll lose a couple of good friends.

And maybe, this is what will always be in the back of your mind, WHAT IF SHE TREATS OTHERS BETTER THAN SHE TREATS YOU.  That this isn’t just her personality, but something personal she thinks and feels toward you? She kicks you, and you come back for more because that one thing was a fluke, and she’ll never do it again. Only, she does. But they are small things, a back-handed compliment, a comment that doesn’t quite sit well with you, but maybe you’re touchy because you’ve had a bad day, and you keep brushing them off.

The thing is, you’re not imagining this stuff. It’s how that person is really treating you. Once you can face it, once you can fully understand that it is HER and not YOU, you need to figure out what to do about it. This “friendship” has probably been years in the making, and you just realized after one too many pretty insults that you can’t take it anymore. But she’s a major stakeholder in your life now. You talk all the time. Your kids have playdates. Maybe your husband is best friends with yours. These are real-life examples, but I’ve been burned by people I’ve met online. Sometimes dumping someone in real-life is easier than online. You stop answering texts, you stop going on double dates. If it’s your daughter’s best friend’s mother, think of it as a favor to your daughter. How is your daughter’s friend going to grow up with a catty woman like that for a mom?

No, online is a bit different because I’m swimming in an aquarium of writers (sometimes there are sharks in there!), where everyone knows everyone else, and cutting someone out of your life means not knowing what they are doing anymore. Professionally. You don’t want to miss what they are going to do next, what kind of contacts they make. Because not only could something they know help you, it could elevate your career to the next level. And this isn’t a joke. Networking is important. It’s important in any career–it’s why all industries have conferences, retreats, etc. So this isn’t in your head, and it’s okay to have FEAR OF MISSING OUT when you think of cutting someone out of your life.

But honestly, how much of a career will you have if you are not taking care of your mental health? Being a writer is hard enough as it is without having to suit up in armor every time you jump online.

Here are a couple tips to help you sweep out that pesky person who just cannot be nice.

  1. Shake things up in your real life first. Park in a different parking spot at work. Take the kids to school using a different route. Try a new restaurant. Doing small things like this can alter your brain’s neuropathways, and you can teach yourself that change isn’t bad. Especially change you instigate yourself. Studies show that you can handle change better when you start it. I’m not saying dump her before she can dump you, but disentangling yourself from that kind of friendship may be easier on you if you do it, rather than if she does it a few months or years down the road. Other ideas: Take your evening walk in the morning. Walk it backward. Not backward backward, you could hurt yourself! But from finish to start. If you take road trips with your sister and always head east, go west. This is good for your writer’s brain. You’ll discover more, engage more with your surroundings.
  2. If you truly do fear for your professional career, take matters into your own hands. Book a writer’s conference, follow a few more influencers and leaders in the writing community, add another publishing podcast to your playlist. If you can fill the hole not talking to your “friend” anymore will create, it won’t be so hard to say goodbye.
  3. Make new friends. Twitter has a gazillion users, start talking to some of them! Start a book club on Facebook, or start an online writer’s group that will share promo sites, inexpensive cover designers, editors that will swap work with you. Whatever you think you are going to miss from your friend, there are others who know just as much or more than she does.
  4. You do have people in your life that mean more to you than she does, so cultivate those relationships. Maybe you haven’t spoken to your old walking buddy in some time, or that coworker you used to like to hang out in the breakroom with, but she got a new job and you haven’t spoken with her since she left.

Fear of missing out is a real thing, but it’s still just in your head. It comes from being chosen last during gym class at school, or your friends ganging up on your on the playground. It comes from people flocking around a writer who just got an agent, and you feel left out in the cold. No one wants to be excluded. But the fact is, no one puts all their problems online–you only know the shiny parts, what they choose to display. Insecurity, jealousy, and fear are probably three of the main reasons your “friend” treats you the way she does. That’s not an excuse but a reason. Maybe she has a serious case of writer’s block, and she hasn’t written for months, or maybe sales weren’t what she thought they’d be during release week, and she’s jealous of your KU page reads. It could be anything. But the fact is, you don’t have to put up with it.

You don’t need to burn bridges or start tweeting or posting derogatory things about her. Or tweeting subliminal tweets about how good friends should behave. You don’t even need to unfollow (on Twitter) or block. Facebook makes it easy to stay friends with someone but not see their posts anymore. Unlike her author page. You can be a grownup about it; just stop engaging. Because you and she are both part of a community, and there’s no point in slinging mud. Be civil. Chances are she may not notice. Chances are she has a lot of friends and a few weeks of distancing yourself may just do the trick because she’s friends with a lot of different people.

Probably the biggest piece of advice I have for you is this: social media is good for networking, for getting to know people, for learning the tools of your craft and business, but overall, social media doesn’t sell books. If you’re in it to sell books, you need to write more and find ads and promo sites that work for you. Networking can help you do that, but that’s all it has to offer. Social media can be a support or a distraction, but it won’t skyrocket you to bestseller status. Only you can do that, in front of your laptop–writing.

Do you have other tips to help ignore or get rid of toxic people in your life? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

 

Author Interview–Aila Stephens

Everyone loves to hear how a launch goes. Was it successful? How many books did they sell their first day? Their first week? How many page reads did they have if they were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited?

Book launches are exciting.
◊Cover reveal!
◊Excerpts!
◊Author interviews!
◊Blog tours!

But what about after? There is always going to be someone else who releases a book and our attention will be jerked away by a shiny new cover.

What happens after the launch? What happens months after the first week of sales? How does an author keep the momentum going?

I spoke with author Aila Stephens to find out. Listen in—maybe she’ll tell us all her secrets.

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You launched Sex, Love, and Formalities, the companion to Sex, Love, and Technicalities in November of 2017. How did that launch go for you? Can you give us a quick rundown of what you did to prepare? You hosted a giveaway, as well, correct?

Sure! I drank a lot of coffee. I panicked a little…no, no. I mean, yes, I did those things, but really, I talked Formalities up on social media a little more than I did when I launched its’ predecessor. I had much better-looking bookmarks printed up, and I spent a little more time and money on the book trailer than I did for the first one. I love having a book trailer for my books. It’s mostly a total vanity thing, but they’re still fairly rare in the indie community. Giveaways are pretty hit or miss, I don’t think that’s a secret, but I look at them as a necessary evil.

I did have a giveaway. It’s no secret that giveaways are pretty hit or miss, and there’s never any rhyme or reason to how many participants you get, but this one had decent participation. I gave away two signed copies of my books along with coffee and tea, a mug, and even a nice shawl to throw over the shoulders as it was quickly turning wintertime.

That was a great giveaway! I was bummed I couldn’t enter. You also did a free book promo for book one during the launch of book two using some of your free days allowed to you in the KDP Select program. Can you explain how you promoted that, if you did? If I remember correctly, your stats for that free book were rather impressive.

I promoted using Twitter and my Facebook author page.

I am going to strangle myself for this, but I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how many free copies of Technicalities were downloaded during those days, but it was several hundred—maybe even closing in on a thousand. I’d tell you concretely, but apparently, Amazon won’t let me go back that far. Whatever it was, the top ranking I got on Amazon that day was #14, for Women’s Fictions > Crime, and I believe it was #20 for Women’s Fiction > Romance.

That’s fantastic! Did your free promotion for book one bolster sales for book two?

In the weeks following that free promotion, I did have several thousand “normalized pages” of Formalities being read on Kindle Unlimited, which was very nice.

…If only all those free books and KU pages led to reviews, right?

It’s hard to tell if the sales of Formalities since then have been directly related to that free promotion, though I suspect most are.

Did you find it easier to launch book two since it was a sequel?

I did. I had so many—so very many—mistakes I learned from with Technicalities. I think that’s kind of a great thing though, learning from one’s own mistakes. I made a few with Formalities which I hope to avoid with the next book, and I’m sure I’ll make some with it that I’ll try and avoid with the one after that…and so on and so forth.

What are you doing, four months after your launch, to keep sales going? And are your methods working?

Still drinking coffee, still panicking. Ha! No. It’s not in my nature to go for the hard-sell. I do share pictures of my covers from time to time on Instagram, though it’s fruitless. What I think has helped me the most to see continued sells and KU reads has been my blog. I didn’t have the best track record of consistently blogging, but after my launch, I decided to make blogging my second priority to writing more books. I blog every Monday and every other Thursday. I’m still trying to wean myself from blogging just to other writers and figuring out how the heck you blog for readers, but I digress.

At the end of every blog post I include a small, hopefully unobtrusive, advertisement I made for my books and I link it to them on Amazon. I have noticed that I usually sell something on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, and my KU pages have remained rather steady.

This is a comfortable way for me to garner attention to my books without me feeling like a spam-artist.

Again…if only those translated to reviews.

What have you learned from either of your books to help you launch and maintain momentum for your next book?

I want to give a little more time between finishing the book and launching the book. With this next one I want to seek out ARC reviewers on YouTube (which, honestly, excites me and kills me a little on the inside), and I also want to spread out smaller, but still impressive, giveaways. I am still researching some launch tactics, but these are the main ones I intend to employ this go-round.

Do you have any tips for those who are seeing declining sales after their launch?

I would ask them what they’re doing to keep putting it in front of people. Like I said, there isn’t a soul out there who can say I’ve sent them an auto-DM going, BUY MY BOOK!! But I endeavor to have a quality blog I drive traffic to several times a month, in the hopes that by the time someone gets to the bottom, they’re intrigued enough to take a look at my books.

You can’t publish a book and then expect people to find it without a little elbow grease.

Have you ruled out paying for ads or promotions?

Not at all! I just don’t want to do it for two books. Once my next book comes out, I’ll shell out a little money for advertising and see what comes of it. Three is by no means the magic number, but I will chalk it up to research, too. I can’t afford to be anything except financially prudent with this, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.

I’ve read the best advertisement to promote your work is to write another book. Do you believe this is true?

Absolutely. I wish I had the ability to write full-time so I could crank them out faster. I think in today’s world, we’re all so accustomed to instant-satisfaction that we don’t want to fall in love with a book or an author if they’re not producing anything else. It’d be like watching The Paradise on Netflix and falling in love with it only to learn they shucked it after two seasons. We binge-watch in this day and age, and readers binge-read. This is why there is so much advice out there saying book series are the moneymakers.

…says the girl writing a standalone book right now.

Think of Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird is a priceless piece of American literature, but for the longest time—fifty-five years!—there was only one published out there by Ms. Lee. I don’t know how well that sort of publishing schedule would work in this day and age. 😉

I guess the secret is to write such a thought-provoking, moving book, that your book is mandatory reading in all schools! Thanks, Aila, for taking the time to chat with me!

Vania, thank you so much for sitting down with me again for such a lovely interview! I am always honored and humbled that someone of your talent and expertise has time for little ol’ me.

And to all of your amazing readers, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me!

Love ya, mean it!  -Aila

Aila always makes me blush. I hope you enjoyed her interview and maybe learned a little something about how to keep the momentum after your launch from drifting away. Help keep her momentum up by downloading free copies of her books here (March 27 and 28) and give her Amazon profile a follow while you’re there. 🙂

Aila is leaving her mark all over the interwebs, and you can follow her Instagram account, Tweet with her on Twitter, like her Facebook author page, and definitely give her blog a peek. She’s in the middle of a wonderful writers’ resources series you don’t want to miss!

Thanks for reading!

 

Quotes taken from the websites in the photo captions, and photos taken from http://www.pixabay.com and http://www.unsplash.com. Graphics created with these photos in http://www.canva.com.

Author Interview: KT Daxon

Today I spoke with author KT Daxon. We chat a lot offline, but we moved our discussion online so you could listen in on what her publishing experience was like, the roadblocks she ran into, and if there were any silver linings to the whole thing (of course there were!) Join me as I grill chat with KT about how it felt to release her first book! KT Interview

Vania Margene Rheault: I think I read somewhere you’ve worked on your book for about four years before your editor got a hold of it, is that right?

KT Daxon: Yes, that’s correct. Broken Tomorrows began as a Nanowrimo project in 2013. I’ve rewritten it like 80 times and shaped it into a piece of work I was comfortable sending to my editor.

Vania Margene Rheault: How did you start writing it? What compelled you to sit down and try to write a book?

KT Daxon: I had participated in NaNoWriMo two years before, though that book never saw a second draft. When we moved to Virginia, I had a rough start to the year and sought writing as a way to manage the dark cloud that loomed over me. Writing the first draft was a form of therapy that turned into a passion. 1

Vania Margene Rheault: I think writing is a form of therapy for a lot of people. How did you come up with the plot? I have to admit, your twist surprised me.

KT Daxon: Some people have told me the twist was confusing, others, reacted the way you did, surprised. The original plot is a 180 from what Broken Tomorrows ended up publishing as. I wanted to write about a single mom running from a past, but as the years went on the plot changed. My antagonist, Landon transformed into a guy I actually began to care about. In the end, it became his story as much as my female main character, Gabby’s.

Vania Margene Rheault: When you think of plots, or need help nudging loose an idea, do you brainstorm with anyone? Use writing prompts?

KT Daxon: Most of my plots are pulled from real life events, some happen to me, others to someone else. For Broken Tomorrows, I had a friend read the first draft and we talked often about different aspects, including figuring out plot holes. Luckily, the story has changed since the last draft she read, so she gets to read the twist and all the new goodies I’ve included. I only use writing prompts if I am 100% without an idea.

Vania Margene Rheault: You’re already writing another book, aren’t you?

KT Daxon: I am! I’m very excited about this new work in progress and I think that if I can get it to work like I envision in my head, it’ll be a great addition to any bookshelf.

Vania Margene Rheault: How will you mesh that sentiment, keeping your story your own, while improving your story from beta reader feedback and editing advice?

2KT Daxon: It won’t be easy, but I think if any writer were to listen to their editor/beta readers advice with an open mind, and then consider the possibility of making a change that has a meet in the middle aspect to it. I’m trying to think of an example with Broken Tomorrows but I’m blanking right now. Bottom line for me is I need to be open-minded to the suggestions the editor/betas are giving. To understand and know that it’s not because they want to take over your story, but they really are there to help and at the least cause you to pause a moment and consider the possibilities.

Vania Margene Rheault: Sounds like you’d have to think seriously if you ever decided to query. The editing process for books that have been picked up scares me, honestly.

All this background information has been fun, but let’s get to the real stuff, shall we? You launched, ah, early. I’m sure you’re not the first person who has done that. How many plans did that mess up?

KT Daxon: When I hit “approve proof” and published earlier than planned, I won’t lie, I panicked. I had planned to publish on my 35th birthday, make it a big party/celebration day. I had an ARC contest set up, an Indie Feature spot right around the launch date, my bookmarks and swag hadn’t been ordered yet…it got scary. But, it all worked out in the end. The four people who entered the ARC contest ended up getting autographed copies of my book, the indie feature is still on which will be helpful, and my swag is here so I can work on marketing. It also allowed me to begin my next WIP, so, all in all, it worked out.

Vania Margene Rheault: The process of putting the book together after the final manuscript is ready sounds daunting. How did you go about the cover and formatting? How did you decide what platforms to publish on, and what vendors to use?

KT Daxon: I had planned to do the cover myself, but I had to admit to myself it just wasn’t something in the cards for my debut novel. I’m still learning. I was lucky and had a couple of offers for assistance and stumbled upon my cover designer, Aila Stephens. She offered to the read the book to get a good idea as to what we could do and I was thankful for that consideration. I think she did an excellent job and between the two of us, she produced a solid cover. As for formatting, I got lucky there too and a friend helped me with that as well, Rebecca Yelland. CreateSpace has a template that even I seemed the screw up so Rebecca used it to shape up my paperback. A few adjustments from myself and we whipped it into shape. As for what platforms to publish on; that is something I’m still learning. I used CreateSpace and clicked all the channels I qualified for.

Vania Margene Rheault: With so many books being published every day, launches don’t go as well as we hope, or think they will. Care to share numbers? How did your launch really do as compared to as how you hoped it would?

KT Daxon: I wasn’t sure what I expected for launch day, but as of this interview 3/16 I am just under 30 books (paperback and e-book combined) sold. It could have been worse but had hoped it would be better.

Vania Margene Rheault: I don’t think I sold any of Don’t Run Away the first week. But that was my fault–I didn’t tell anyone it was available.  What are your marketing plans for the foreseeable future?3

KT Daxon: For Broken Tomorrows, I am going to try something risky next month. To celebrate my birthday and make it fun for everyone, it’ll involve gifts! But, those details are a secret, so readers will have to be on the lookout on my social media and website on April 1st. 🙂 I’m also going to renew my bookmark order and distribute those pretty much anywhere I can; dentist office, airport, housing office, and anytime I go out to eat. Just today, I left one with my receipt for lunch asking the waitress to share with a reader in their life. I also plan to craft a Facebook ad soon and use that to promote on FB in May.

Vania Margene Rheault: That’s a great idea! How are you going to promote that? I notice you’re quite visible on Instagram. Is that your primary social media choice, besides Twitter?

KT Daxon: Twitter is my primary social media choice because there’s more engagement here. Instagram is next because it’s easy and I also get a bit of engagement. However, I’m on FB as well but it kinda lacks in engagement. I plan to post a video, but Instagram only allows for 1 min videos, so that’ll be my challenge. I’m currently working on a “script” for the video now, LOL.

Vania Margene Rheault: Right. I’m rarely on Instagram, so I’m not sure of all the ins and outs. Do you have a tentative publication date for your next book?

KT Daxon: The only publication date I have for the next book is Spring 2019. Ideally, I’d love to publish in December of this year, but with my upcoming move, I need to be realistic.

Vania Margene Rheault: Right, as you know these things sound quick, but once you’re in the middle of things, you never know what can slow you down. Now that you’ve had your launch and you’ve gone through the publication process, can you share one thing that surprised you the most?

KT Daxon: One thing that surprised me the most was how hard it was to sell a book. I didn’t automatically think my book would be flying off the Amazon shelves but, selling a book is hard work!

Vania Margene Rheault: Yeah, it’s difficult to get your books out there. It’s something us authors struggle with on a daily basis. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap this up for the evening?

KT Daxon: One thing I am learning is that you have to spend money as a self-published author. Biggest lesson learned is that writing is not a job; it’s a craft that when passion takes ahold of it can spin into a spectacular journey. I just want to add that I recommend our readers to feel free to download the preview offered on Amazon and keep an eye out for the giveaway information to be posted.

Also, final thought: If writing is your dream, if writing is your passion; never ever give up on it or yourself. There will be days where you’ll want to burn your laptop, but the reward of publishing is so worth the bad days.

Vania Margene Rheault: Sounds like advice we all need to hold on to at night! Thanks for chatting with me, tonight, KT, and for being so forthcoming. It’s always a nice reminder that while things look rosy on the outside, the reality is, writing and publishing is a struggle. Good luck and keep us posted! I know we’ll all be looking forward to your contest.

KT Daxon: Thank you for having me! It’s been fun, as always. I’ve enjoyed sharing some background information on my book and the whole process. Have a great night, Vania.

Vania Margene Rheault: Goodnight!

kt's cover

Look for KT’s book on Amazon, now available on Kindle and in paperback!

Follow her Amazon author page.

Check her out on Goodreads.

Check out KT’s Instagram here.

And follow her author page on Facebook!

And as always, follow her blog, on her website!

Thanks for reading!