Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Wrap Up!

In this blog series we’ve been going through a survey by Written Word Media, and what it takes to be a career author. They surveyed authors who are emerging authors, authors who make 60k and authors who make 100k from their writing.

I went through their points as an emerging author who has six books in her library and I make less than $2,000 a year from my books. They went through how much authors spend in editing and covers. It’s no surprise that they found authors who put out quality books make more money.

They went through how they marketed, with easy and affordable promo sites heading the list.

They surveyed authors about being wide or exclusive and found it didn’t matter – authors still need to take time to build a readership no matter where they publish.

They also went into the time authors write, which not surprisingly, revealed at 60kers and 100kers spent the most time writing. In that blog post I tried to hammer in to the emerging authors that to make the leap from emerging author to 60ker, you still need to put in the writing work, no matter how many hours you put into your day job or how tired you are. Career money requires career time.


There are some variables as to why some authors make more than others, and the bonus material revealed some of these differences.

But first if you were curious about the amount of money an Emerging Author makes, take a look:

The difference between the emerging author and the 60ker. It’s quite a leap to be sure. If you’re single, you don’t need to make 60k to support yourself. At least in my area, you can get by okay on $30,000 a year. You’re not living in the lap of luxury, but a nice two-bedroom apartment with its own washer and dryer runs about $700/month. As an emerging author, even if I made an extra $300 a month, that’s a car payment on a newer car I desperately need. You can take a look at the graphic to check how much an emerging author makes.

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Now for some of the reasons why one author would make more than another:

  1. Audiobooks. While audio is on the rise and it’s easier than ever to hire a narrator and get your audiobook out into the world, there’s no point in spending the money if the e-book isn’t selling. It makes sense to invest in audio if your book takes off, but if it doesn’t, there’s no point in spending the money to make an audio version. So while audio is a great supplement for 60kers and 100kers, they were already selling books and the audio is a complement to their library. Also, when audio finally fits into your publishing plan, indies now have their shit together and release the paperback, ebook, and audio all at the same time.

    Audiobook-s-768x560

  2. Genre differences. I’m surprised they didn’t add this to the original survey because the genre you choose to write in is really important. As you can see by the graphics, authors made the most writing commercial fiction. Romance took the lead, and mystery, science fiction, and fantasy follow closely behind.

    Genre-Differences-768x400Genre-non-Differences-768x400
    Children’s books are a hard sell as they depend heavily on print, bookstore and library sales.

    Young adult is broken into lots of sub genres like fantasy and romance, and broken down further into sub sub genres like coming of age, new adult, or college. I don’t see many indies right now writing plain YA like Five Feet Apart or The Fault in Our Stars. They tend to lean more toward dystopian or fantasy like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. At least, that’s what I get from seeing what others on Twitter are writing about. (Agents turned authors are the ones writing vanilla YA like Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments. Maybe because they have their fingers on the pulse of the market and they’ll write what sells. Who knows.) If you look at indie romance YA, they tend to lean toward paranormal or urban fantasy. Paranormal Academy is hot right now and that usually includes a younger MC. It’s difficult to completely separate the genres, especially since indies like to mash as many genres together as possible.

    And with Amazon allowing you to choose 10 categories for your books, there’s a lot of space to move around.

    We can all agree that while you can make money writing nonfiction, it’s a lot different than writing fiction and it takes a different set of skills to market it. Authors like Bryan Cohen who wrote How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis, Mark Leslie Lefebvre who wrote Killing it on Kobo, and Brian Meeks who wrote Mastering Amazon Descriptions, all have solid foothold in the indie community and pretty much have a built-in audience. They’ve been a part of the indie community for many many years, and they have the platform required to succeed.

    In my experience many indies who venture into non-fiction write creative nonfiction also called memoir. Let’s face it. Everyone’s life is hard. I could write a book about how I survived my divorce, but that wasn’t anything special. I just joined the 50% of other American couples who also have divorced. Hardly book worthy. Unless you have something super special to say, it will be difficult to be the next Michelle Obama.

    Most emerging authors have no platform, and that’s what you need to get a nonfiction book off the ground.

    When you’re an indie, it makes a difference what you choose to write, and, not only that, what you keep writing. Genre-hopping has never done an emerging author any favors, either, something I am finding out subgenre-hopping under my Coming soon!-2contemporary romance umbrella. From what I can see, the most successful indies stay within the same sub-genre like Aidy Award and her curvy girls or Alex Lidell’s academy books. Even Jami Albright writes romcoms and makes a killing with her Runaway Bride trope.

    Mystery, too, is seeing more segregation with subgenres, and authors who choose to write run-of-the-mill detectives might always want to stay with that, only moving the setting to other states, different police departments, and other tragic backstories.

    Indies do like to go their own way, though, and I like to write the stories I like to write as well. Hopefully we can all find a happy medium between writing what we want in writing what sells.

  3. The last point they went into was if the authors had a job outside of their writing. It’s not surprising emerging authors worked. Bills need to be paid somehow. The problem with needing to work is that sometimes your day job is so emotionally draining you don’t have any emotional energy left to write. I’m lucky that I can write and read at my job and that it isn’t emotionally draining. But I do trade that luxury with a lower wage and only because I have help paying bills can I continue to do so. I’m working hard to write as fast as I can to build my backlist so I can eventually hop from emerging author to 60ker. Eventually the sacrifices I’m making to put so much time into my writing will pay off. I’ll make sure it does.

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Even though they did add some additional data, they did leave out some other variables that I find are important in making an author successful.

  • Newsletter. The survey mentions newletter swaps saying that swaps aren’t an effective marketing tool. But that’s only swaps. Swapping implies an author has one to begin with, and I’m willing to bet there is a large gap between emerging authors who don’t have a newsletter and the 100kers that do.
  • The cost of ads. While the survey did go into how authors promoted their books, it’s not often authors reveal how much they’re spending on ads. If you make $50,000 a year but you’re spending $10,000 in ads you’re still doing well obviously, but the amount that author is claiming to have made is a bit deceiving. Bryan Cohen, when he does his mini ads courses, says any profit is good profit. At the core that is true. But if you have to babysit your ads so you make $2.00 for every $1.75 you spend, at some point you have to decide if you’d be better off writing. Ad creation takes time, especially when you need to take the time to write (or learn how to write) catchy ad copy. If you start a newsletter and add the link and call to action in the back of your books and pay for a promotion now and then, you may find that a bit easier, and a little less terrifying, than learning an ad platform and watching your ads like a hawk so overnight you suddenly aren’t $50 in the hole because people hated your blurb.
  • Writing in a series. I hate to keep harping on this, but this is also another component that the survey didn’t go into. Readers like series. They get invested in the outcome. They fall in love with the characters they follow through all the books. 60kers and 100kers know that and they capitalize on it. Emerging authors write what they want, and that isn’t always a series. But I would’ve liked the survey to ask its authors how many emerging authors versus how many 100kers write series. I doubt I would be surprised by the answer.
  • Frequent publishing. The survey didn’t go into how often authors publish. It stands to reason that the faster you put out books, the faster you can make money. But emerging authors have a hard time with timely output. They have their jobs. They are probably still learning craft and the critique partner/beta-reading stages they go through slow them down. Besides Jami Albright, I haven’t heard of an author who is not prolific making $60-$100,000 a year. And she admits she has to rely heavily on ads and other marketing techniques between releases. She knows her limits and embraces them. But you have to wonder if she could write more than one book a year, what that would do for her bottom line. I write as fast as I can, but I am not 100% confident in my ability. So the beta-reading stage slows me down as well, as does making sure of consistency and wanting no potholes in my stories. Maybe one day I won’t need so much reassurance. But I’d rather do it right the first time than pay for my haste with bad reviews.

In conclusion, the money is out there. There are different paths to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But whether anyone wants to admit it or not, some paths are easier than others. Write commercial genres. Publish quality work. Publish often. Start a newsletter. Use promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy to promote your work.

If you’re not doing these things, success may take longer to come. We all make mistakes and maybe telling your story the way you want to tell it is more important to you than money. That’s cool too, but be honest. Writing the story you want, with no editing, using a cover that’s not professional, and tweeting it out day after day won’t earn you any sales. So no whining when it doesn’t.


Thank you for joining me in this blog series where we broke down the Written Word Media Survey and the bonus material they later released. I hope the information given can steer you in the right direction to a productive and lucrative writing career.

Thanks for reading!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 5 Marketing

Happy Monday! I hope the weekend treated you well!

If you just popped onto my blog, welcome! If you’ve visited before, welcome back!

We’ve been going through the Written Word Media Survey they conducted last year in October.

They broke down three types of authors–the ones who make less than 60k a year and have six books in their backlis, 60kers who have 22 books in their backlist, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their backlist. They broke those groups into sections on who pays how much for what.

My last blog post was a convoluted 2000 word monstrosity on how even though everyone advises authors to have a professional cover made, if you write in a genre that supports a simpler cover, there’s no reason why you can’t learn how to do them on your own. At any rate, you can read it here, and watch my rudimentary YouTube video on how to use Canva templates for an e-book cover so you don’t have to start from scratch. I hope to do a few more of those videos–if I can make a cover, anyone can.

The next installment of this blog series is marketing.

For fiction, marketing isn’t what it used to be. Even three years ago when the words “author platform” were the buzzwords in the author community, hardly anyone says those words now because nobody cares. (And this is for fiction. Memoir and nonfiction have their own rules and nothing I’m going to get into here.)

For fiction, author platform isn’t as important as a simple newsletter, and before, author platform meant your presence on everything from Twitter to Google Plus. That’s not true anymore.

If the author platform is falling by the wayside, how do you “market?” Marketing is simply finding out what kind of books people want and/or need to read and telling them about your book if your book fills that want or need. That’s it. Author platform used to do that. You would use your platform to draw readers to you and your content.

But as the survey points out, you can use promos and let them tell readers about your book. That’s a lot easier than tweeting into the void.

marketing promos

graphic taken from survey linked above

According to the chart, BookBub came in first for promos. Not everyone will be approved for a featured deal, and sometimes Amazon doesn’t like them. The too-swift uptick in sales flags their algorithms. I’ve heard from some authors that they’ve had their books frozen due to suspicious activity. They get it sorted out but it takes time and they lose sales. Also, featured deals are expensive. I know in some genres they can cost up to $600 so they aren’t an option for all authors. 

Promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy work better than ads. I have found that for my own books, anyway. And as the article points out, there is no learning curve. Set your sale, set your promo, and walk away. Let the promo platform deliver your book to their readers.

Marketing-Is-Hard-graph

graphic taken from survey linked above

But what the article doesn’t say is it makes the most sense to use a promo on a book one in a series. If you run a Freebooksy promo on a standalone, yeah, you’re paying to give your book away. And contrary to that poor delusional soul on Twitter who thought being on the top 10 list of free books on Amazon made her a bestseller, unfortunately that isn’t the case. A bestseller implies you are selling books. Nice try though.

If you’re in KU, sometimes you can get some page reads from a Freebooksy on top of giving your book away because instead of downloading it for free, a reader who has a membership with Kindle Unlimited will read your book there instead.

Ads aren’t bad, but they’re complicated and keeping tabs on them so they don’t lose money is time consuming.

If you’re in KU it makes the most sense to learn Amazon ads–then you’re advertising for sales and page reads. If you’re wide and are everywhere like Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, Nook, using Facebook and BookBub ads (not the featured deal) makes sense. Though there is a way when creating your Facebook ad to choose Facebook users who like the Kindle, and that would target only those who buy books from Amazon.

I have dabbled in all the ad platforms and lost money on all of them, too. Your ads will only work if you have a killer product (cover, blurb, title, and look-inside) and it’s only after you lose money when you find out that your cover may have missed the mark or your blurb sucks.

Promos also feature your book’s cover and promos like Freebooksy and BargainBooksy gives you 130 characters or so for a short piece of ad copy so it’s worth it to take the time to write a short hook for each of your books.

Of course, the saying that the best marking marketing for your book is writing another book will never be wrong, and a steadily growing backlist will ensure your readers that you’re going to be around for a while.

Which may also take the place of author platform. Why be everywhere when you could be writing?

What can you do?

  1. Write more books. Promos only work if you have a library to offer your readers. Unless you’re looking for reviews. Freebooksy is around $100 a pop. Not in the BookBub featured deal pricing, but still spendy. Know what your goals are and make the fee count.

  2. Make sure your book is solid. It’s all a waste if you don’t have a good book to offer.

  3. Don’t be scared to stagger promos or overlap them for a longer sales tail. If you put your book on sale for .99 schedule a BargainBooksy and an E -reader News Today (also known as ENT). Authors who are trying to get in on a list like the USA today bestseller list schedule a ton of promos for the same time.

If you want to learn an ad platform there are lots of resources out there:

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For Amazon ads, the best thing you can do is follow Bryan Cohen on Facebook. Ask to join his Selling for Authors Facebook group, and do the 5 day mini challenge he’s starting on January 13th. It’s free, and he will teach you how to use the platform correctly and not go broke. Oh, but I thought you said you lost money, you ask. Yes, yes I did. It wasn’t due to following his instructions, but because an ad for The Years Between Us took off, and no one liked the blurb. So I got plenty of clicks on that super awesome ad, but no sales. I should have killed the ad sooner, but I didn’t and that’s my fault.

BookBub. BookBub has a newsletter they send out to all their subscribers. At the bottom of every newsletter are sponsored books. You bid like you would on Amazon, and if you win, your book has a place at the bottom of the newsletter.

Readers click and it takes them to wherever you linked the ad. The best resource I can direct you to is David Gaughran’s book. He knows how to run that platform, and I would’t try to do any BookBub ads without reading that book cover to cover. When I was wide for two months, I tried BookBub ads. I wasted the money to test ads, to test the graphic, whatever. Don’t Run Away was permafree, and I got a lot of downloads. That didn’t lead to sales of the other two books in the trilogy, and only after two months I went back to KU.

412mZB5USRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Facebook ads. Mal and Jill Cooper came out with the second edition of their book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! They explain the platform, what works, how to target your audience. I wouldn’t do a Facebook ad without at least skimming this book so you know what kind of ad to choose, how to put it together, and what kind of graphic to use. I haven’t done much with FB ads. Sometimes I’ll boost a post off my FB Author page. I did that a few times to announce I was back in KU, and I got a small bump in page reads for a little while. I also am boosting posts from my pen name author page to start a little awareness of the books I’ll be releasing in the spring. But nothing too hardcore.

They do include a page about Instagram ads. Since IG is owned by FB, you can run Instagram ads from your FB ad account. I never tried it, so I can’t tell you anything about my experience.

It’s best to focus on one ad platform and learn it really well. I’ll stick with Amazon Ads. Bryan is really easy to understand, and what he teaches you works. But he can only hold your hand for so long. You need to have a viable product or it won’t matter if you choose ads or promos. Nothing will work.

As for a list of Promo sites–people are so generous with what they know. A round of applause to Dave Chesson for putting this list together. 


That’s all that I have on marketing. No two books are alike, so no two books are going to sell alike. Find your audience. Are they like you? Where you do you find your books? Market your books there. Sounds simple, but in the end, it’s enough to make you swear off writing forever.

Good luck!


My next post talks about exclusivity vs. going wide and what the Written Word Media survey has to say about that!  See you then!

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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part four: Covers

I hope you all had a lovely holiday if you celebrated! I’m currently snowed in, and I’ve been working on some book-related stuff. I apologize for not posting last week, but let’s pick up where we left off . . .

The next installment in the Written Word Media survey looks at book covers. To recap, they surveyed indie authors to see how much time they spend writing, and how much they spend on products and services such as editing and marketing.

According to the survey, as you can see by the graphic, emerging authors do both almost equally–they design their own covers and use a professional designer. The 60kers and the 100kers use a professional cover designer way more than they design their own.

Marketing-Is-Hard-book covers 1

graphic taken by survey linked above

The article says the leap from emerging authors to 60kers is because emerging authors realize that without a professional cover, they aren’t going to sell books.

Of course, that’s true, and I’m not disputing it at all. But I have another explanation to offer. I’m not saying their conclusion is wrong. Emerging authors, after a bad book launch, probably do realize that their covers don’t cut it. But when you are an emerging author, it’s hard to know where to go for help. Quite possibly, emerging authors do their own covers because it’s quicker, easier, and they don’t have to worry about whom to trust. Indie publishing is a jungle. When an emerging author spends a couple years networking, they make friends, are put in touch with industry professionals, and can form relationships with people who know what they’re doing.

Especially with book covers, it’s imperative you find someone who knows where to find stock photos, and what fonts are okay to use and why they’re safe. There are so many people getting into the business who shouldn’t. They use free pictures from free sites like Pixabay or Unsplash and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. I still do my own covers rather than trust anyone else. Some people are idiots, and I’m not paying for their stupidity or mine for hiring them.

I think another reason emerging authors do their own covers is because they like to be 100% in control. It feels good to publish a book you did cover to cover. Espeically if you can design a decent cover that earns you compliments. Granted, the emerging authors who can make genre-appropriate covers are few, but no one is saying they still can’t be proud. It’s a learning process.

What the survey does say though, is publishing a book with a bad cover will set you back, and you’ll end up redoing it at some point anyway. (Which is a good reason, in my opinion, not to pay for a high-priced cover. You may want to refresh after a couple of years.)

Of course, the 60kers and 100kers don’t have time to do their own covers. These guys are writing, and they probably don’t have interest in cover design beyond that it looks good and will sell their books. I would also hazard a guess that by the time you have twenty books out, you’ve developed a relationship with someone, or at least found a premade site that sells decent work.

The survey then goes into the cost of book covers. As you can see by the graph, 100-249.00 is the most popular price range for all three types of authors. $100.00 for a cover is at the lower end of the scale for something that needs lots of manipulation, and at that price, it may not include a full wrap for a paperback.

Cost-of-Covers-2

graph taken from survey linked above

The authors paying 0-49.00 might only be having the e-book cover made. Most, if not all, designers charge extra for the spine and back cover if you’re also publishing a paperback.

The genre you write in will also determine the cost. A fancy cover for an epic fantasy or a tricked-out cover for an urban fantasy or paranormal will cost more than a romance cover. There are simply more elements needed to have a girl wearing a plaid skirt holding a fireball in front of a haunted high school for an urban fantasy academy novel than for a couple kissing in field for a plain contemporary romance novel. That’s just the way it is. If you write a genre that includes any kind of magic, you’ll be looking at having a cover made (providing you have zero photo manipulation skills). You need to blend in with the other books in your genre and finding a stock photo that contains all the elements you need is probably slim to none. Especially if you’re writing in a series.

It would be to your advantage to look for a cover designer while you are writing your book if you’re writing in one of those genres. Collect covers you like for a frame of reference. Create a logline (also called a six second elevator pitch) so your designer knows what your book is about and then go ahead and start looking. Join book cover groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations. Sometimes putting your budget out there will help so you don’t fall in love with a designer’s work you can’t afford. Find out where they buy their photos of models. If any of them mention a free site, pass them by. Your fee should include the cost of a photo. Cover designers charging you for a free photo is nothing but a scam and it’s dangerous too.

What can you do if you are absolutely stuck making your own cover?

  1. Look at what makes a good cover in your genre. It’s not only the photo, though that’s a good part of it. Its font placement. Where the author name is on the cover. If there’s a tagline and where that is.
  2. What are the elements in your genre? Sci-fi needs spaceships. Fantasy–dragons. Chris Fox calls these symbols. What symbols do your readers look for in your genre? Look at what is selling on the top 100 in that genre on Amazon. List the elements they all have. Yours will need them too. This isn’t the time to be different or to “stand out.” Sorry.
  3. Realize you may be able to offer only an ebook for the short-term. Learning how to do a full cover wrap isn’t as easy as an ebook cover. You need spine calculations based on how thick your formatted manuscript is, and what you want for the back cover. Blurb? Author photo? Imprint logo? It’s best to give yourself plenty of time to practice and itching to press publish when your book is done being edited isn’t the time to teach yourself.
  4. Search stock photo sites to see what’s out there. My tips are for the person who has little to no experience with Photoshop or GIMP. The easiest way to do a cover is to find a photo that you can use without a lot of manipulation. My go-to sites are depositphotos.com and canstockphoto.com.
  5. Watch tutorials. There are a ton of tutorials out there for both Photoshop and GIMP. I have GIMP (which is a free download) on my laptop and there are tutorials out there ranging from isolating a color in a black and white photo to gradients to font manipulation. People are generous with their time–take advantage.

I’ve been told, and have seen other people be told, that if they can’t afford a professional cover, they shouldn’t bother publishing. That’s not particularly helpful, but you do have to consider what your goals are. Do you want to make covers for all your books going forward? Then you’re going to have to learn how. If you’re writing in a genre that requires fancy covers, you’ll be creating a cover to squeak by until you can afford something better.

I do everything myself, and over three years I’d like to think I’ve developed a bit of an eye. It takes a long time, and practice. Instead of watching another show on Netflix, open Canva, put on some music, and practice. Canva isn’t just a software for design, they also offer “classes” that will teach you the elements of a good cover.

I do covers in my spare time. I practice font placement, choosing a cover-worthy photo, that kind of thing. I mess around with concepts for my friends. Even if they don’t turn out that great, practice is never a waste of time. You never know what new trick you’ll pick up. I scroll through stock photos and favorite photos that have potential for future covers. Mine or someone else’s.

Cover design is a career on its own, and you can spend as much time messing around with font as you do writing and editing.

But the point is, if you put enough time into it, you can make a passable cover yourself, if the genre you write in supports it. Women’s fiction, romance. Some mystery thrillers.

If you put out a homemade cover that doesn’t meet reader expectations, or doesn’t fit in with other books, realize that’s going to effect your sales.


Here are a few covers I’ve done, both for myself and others using Canva.com. I pay for a pro membership, and if you plan on doing a lot of covers or using it for graphics for marketing materials, it’s worth the fee. They add new features all the time.

I did these for the first two of my quartet. I haven’t done the third or fourth ones yet:

When you do a series, it’s important they look like they belong together. And before I ordered the proofs, I put the covers on top of another to make sure the placement of all the elements are the same. I might do a blog post explaining how I did them.

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Daisy Parker isn’t real. I was fooling around one night and came up with it. The photo is as-is and made in Canva.

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Stealing Home is one of my favorites. I learned how to do shadows watching a webinar hosted by James Blatch from Mark Dawson’s self-publishing podcast who was chatting with Stuart Bache, a professional cover designer. They were doing a kind of infomerical for a course, and you can check out the course here. I’d never done a thriller before, but I think it turned out rather nice, and when David did a book signing at a Barnes and Noble in Savannah, GA, everyone was surprised it wasn’t professionally done. (This book is real and you can buy it on Amazon or borrow it in KU.)

do-you-trust-me.png

Do You Trust Me took a little work as this photograph was in color and I isolated the red blindfold in GIMP. The font needs work, but I was playing one night and came up with this in about an hour.

So far I haven’t bothered to open a premade business, or sell covers on the side. I help out my friends when I can, and I like to play when I don’t feel like writing or there’s nothing going on online (I’m not a big TV-watcher). I know what my limitations are, and when anyone asks me for help, I make sure they know it, too.

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I was playing and did this concept for a friend. While she went in a different direction, I think this is a classy cover for a women’s fiction piece. (This is a real book; you can buy it on Amazon and it’s available in KU.)

The point is, like learning craft, if you want to make your own covers to save money, keep control, whatever, you need to practice.

I did a video I posted to YouTube showing you how to use Canva template elements to start you off with creating your own ebook cover. I hope it helps!


 

Next up, the survey goes into every author’s favorite topic–MARKETING! See you then!


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Launching your book. Is there anything you can do to have a great launch?

your book launch

I have to get this disclaimer out there: I suck at launches. I hit PUBLISH and kind of move on. In fact, this goes in line with what Andrea Pearson says on the new 6 Figure Authors Podcast with Lindsay Buroker and Joseph R. Lallo. She recommends not bothering to market until you have at least ten books out.

As I found out being $70 bucks in the hole doing Amazon ads for The Years Between Us (I still haven’t updated that blurb, dammit!) sometimes spending money on marketing and advertising is just a waste of money that you may not ever get back.

But sometimes you wanna throw a little money at a new book, and maybe if you can hit the right notes it can take off and Amazon might show your book some love. That chance is getting smaller and smaller because of the competition, but it never hurts to try. You might get lucky.

Launching can take some planning, so I’ve been mulling over ideas. Because only half the books are edited, I don’t have blurbs or titles yet, and I only have basic concepts for the covers, my launch is going to go into next year. I’m a little embarrassed since I’m 18k into book 2 of my SUPER SECRET PROJECT trilogy, and I’ve been spending more time writing that than I have working on my series. That’s what you get when you chase after the shiny objects. 

When we talk about launches, probably the top two things seasoned authors will tell you is to announce it to your email list and reach out for newsletters swaps.

I can’t do this because 1. I don’t have a email list, and 2. because I don’t have a newsletter (email list) I can’t ask around. I mean, I could ask, but I would have to be clear that I cannot reciprocate. So I’m reluctant to ask because swapping implies doing it in return at some point, and I can’t. To me it would feel like asking for favors, and I don’t like owing people.

If you don’t have a street team, email list, or friends to help you out, what can you do? The only options are then to fling some money at your book.

But first, before you shove money at it, try to get some reviews.

This is my tentative plan when I have my series ready to go:

  1. Put my book on BookSprout before I put the ebook in KU. You can publish your paperback ahead of your Kindle book. Reviewers can’t put up a review on a preorder so the way authors are getting around this is publishing the paperback before the Kindle book. That way, when you do publish your Kindle book, it will have reviews. (You may have to contact Amazon to have them linked up to make the reviews show up for both versions.)
    In a previous blogpost, I questioned the quality of the reviews from BookSprout, but you have to weigh what you need versus what you want. If you can grab four or five reviews from them at least you have something to get your book off the ground. Some readers won’t read anything that doesn’t have a review. And if you have only one book out and no one knows your name, your chances of a reader picking up your book without reviews is even lower. BookSprout will offer your book to 20 ARC readers for free. If 25% of them leave a review, you can publish your Kindle book with a few stars, at least.your book launch (2)
  2. Buy some promos. I want to have my whole series published when I do this. That way the promo for book one is actually going to be for all the books in the series, and I’m hoping for some serious read-through.
    The two places I’m going to try are: Red Feather Romance. This is a promo site run by Written Word Media who also offers Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy. I’ve tried both of those before, and I’ve had better luck with Freebooksy. But I tried Bargainbooksy on a standalone, and I’ve come to realize marketing a standalone is not cost-effective. Ereader News Today. I haven’t tried this service, but other authors swear by it. I like trying something new every time I release a book, if anything, just so I can blog about it.When you look at promo sites, make sure before you apply that they don’t have a minimum review policy. Some don’t, some do, so it’s best to be sure you don’t need 10+ reviews before you apply for a promo. It saves time.

    Also keep in mind your publication date. Popular promo sites book out a couple weeks in advance. If you’re launching  your Kindle version on January 10th, you may need to rethink it if you can’t get a promo date until February.

    This brings up the subject of release pricing. I think I’ll release the first book in the series at .99 and release the other books at 2.99.  I’ve tried 3.99 and that seems to be too high. When you’re releasing into KU, price doesn’t seem to matter as much because you’re going more for the page reads than you are sales. If you’re wide, price matters a little more, and then you have to research in your genre what other books are going for.

  3. Ads. I may still do some Amazon ads a few weeks after the release of book 4. That might keep my sales and page reads up after the 30 day drop off when I run out of books to release. I’ll have my SUPER SECRET PROJECT close to being done, probably, but that will be under a different name so I won’t have the power of this release behind it. What little power there might be.

your book launch (1)

I’m being realistic with this launch. My kind of books are not what’s selling right now. You might wonder how that’s possible, because romance is romance. But if you take a look at the top ten, only three of them are written in third person past, and one of them is from Nora Roberts. I don’t count her.

  1. Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward: 1st person past
  2. The Family Journal by Carolyn Brown: 3rd person past
  3. Crazy for Loving You: A Bluewater Billionaires Romantic Comedy by Pippa Grant: 1st person present
  4. Havoc at Prescott High (The Havoc Boys Book 1) by C.M. Stunich: 1st person present
  5. A Nora Roberts reprint from 2009: 3rd person past
  6. No Broken Beast by Nicole Snow: 1st person present
  7. Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor: 3rd person past
  8. My Big Fat Fake Wedding by Lauren Landish: 1st person present
  9. Insatiable: A Cloverleigh Farms Standalone by Melanie Harlow: 1st person past
  10. Stealing the Bride by Nadia Lee: 1st person present

You can dig deeper down the list and keep counting, but that small sample is enough for me. I’ve blogged about this before, too, how I think that 3rd person past is going out of style, and after my wedding quartet, I’ll have to decide if it’s even worth writing anymore. I mean, there’s no telling when 3rd person past might come back around. Everything circles around if you give it time. But you also have to resist banging your head into a brick wall trying to sell books readers don’t want.


Anyway, I’ve talked enough about my launch plans. It seems the best plans will incorporate a little teamwork by way of newsletter swaps, but it puts you in a hard place if you don’t have one of your own.

If you find this is the case, you can be stubborn like me and keep doing what you’re doing, or you can start a newsletter, and realize that it’s going to take you a couple years to build a list of readers where you can tell them about your releases and other books you enjoy. Also, there’s no time like the present to reach out and make some friends in your genre. If they’re your friends and want to help, maybe they won’t ask you for anything in return. Some people out there are still nice. Just be careful not to take advantage.

Got any other launch ideas? Let me know!


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

Hello, November!

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


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

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

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

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

I feel like my life is a box of clichés.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

runnign while injured

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

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

zane and stella stats

 

 

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

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

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

Hello, November! (1)

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

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

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

Just kidding!

No . . . I’m not. 😀

Have a great week everyone!


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A Rocky Point Wedding series update.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a rocky point wedding book cover mock up for blog

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

a rocky point wedding social media graphic

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

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Why I wrote a series, and why you should write one, too!

Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too!

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like writing a series. Probably not the best thing to admit because it implies I’m not having fun writing my books, and when an author doesn’t have fun writing their stories, a reader won’t have fun reading them. We hear this a lot, and I think it’s true.

I don’t want to imply that I’m hating writing this series to the depths of my black soul because it’s not true. I have loved all my books in this wedding quartet and consider my characters friends, but I will not be sad to see them go.

Fly away little birds into the happily ever afters I have given to you.

If I don’t like writing series, or a better to way to say it is, if I prefer writing standalones, why did I write a four book series, and why am I recommending you do the same?

This is why I wrote A Rocky Point Wedding series, and why after a couple of standalones (to cleanse my palette and to lay some single plot ideas to rest) I’ll plan another.

  1. Writing to Market.
    I believe this. I say AMEN to the preacher who shouts this to his congregation. Writing to market simply means giving the readers of your genre what they want, and more importantly, what they expect. Tropes. The twists and turns they come to associate with plots of that genre. Writing to market means you are writing to an audience already established. You have a built-in comparison authors.
    What does this mean for a series? Readers like reading a series. How do I know? Ask Nora Roberts who writes trilogies and quartets, and the popular long-ass futuristic series she pens under J.D. Robb. She started writing those back in 1995 and the 49th book of that series is coming out in September. She couldn’t have gotten that far without readers GOBBLING those up the minute they come out.
    Series give readers what they want, and as an author, that’s my job.Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too! (1)
  2. There is a lot to play with when you write a series.
    You can do a map, mark where your characters live on the cutesy-named streets you make up.
    There are opportunities for novellas and prequels and even more sequels than what you originally planned. It’s nothing new for a side character to wiggle their way into a book of their own.
    Add extra content like I am. If your character is a reporter, write the articles mentioned in the book, or in my case, I’ll be adding Autumn’s blog posts.
    Extra content means:
  3. More ways to Market.
    I could add Autumn’s blog posts to a newsletter as a sign up cookie, or write a novella about Marnie and James’s honeymoon. (The last book stops after their ceremony.) What did they do? Where did they go? Can I fly there for research?
    Market the first book in a series with ads, social media, and if the first book is strong and captivating, the first book sells the rest of the series without any extra work. If you’re wide, put the first book free and drive traffic to that book. Use a drip campaign on BookBub and continually use ads to bring in new readers. Or use your free days in Select and buy a promo to drive traffic there for a certain number of days (or just one) and hopefully if your book is strong enough, over time your page reads from all your books will pay for your promo and then some!
  4. That’s something else you get with a series. Read-through.
    Any non-fiction book that talks about making money will talk about read-through. If you read a Chris Fox book, he’ll assume that’s all you write because it’s the smart thing to do, and Chris always assumes you’re smart and willing to put in the work. Read-through is your bread and butter. It’s especially true for romance, but you see this done in the thriller/suspense genre, as well as YA and women’s fiction. (See Patricia Sands and her Love in Provence series.)Indie books versus traditionally published books (1)
  5. The release schedule can give you time to write another book.
    I go back and forth between thinking I’ll drop my series all at once, or give time between each release. I suppose the smart thing to do is get them all ready to publish, publish the first one and then put the others on pre-order. That way readers can see the rest of the series will be available in a reasonable amount of time. Then, while my books drop, I push readers to the first book while I write another book. That’s not so much factory work as it is good planning.

Those are my reasons for writing A Rocky Point Wedding series.

Always first is giving readers what they want, and when you do that, natural sales will follow. That’s not to say releasing a series doesn’t come with its own challenges:

  • Editing and formatting them all.
  • Consistency from book to book. (Green eyes stay green, occupations stay the same, names stay the same, and no one knows something they shouldn’t.)
  • Making sure the covers belong together.
  • Where to put the extras, and what they’ll be.
  • Taking the time to create those extras.

Will it be worth it in the end? Sure. I’ll have four 70k+ word books that will be a lovely addition to my backlist. I’m smarter about covers and blurbs now, and keywords, too, so taking my time and being smart when I publish should help me avoid having to go back and redo them. Let’s not repeat going back and doing covers again like I had to with my trilogy.

But will it be nice to sink my teeth into a new standalone when this is done? Yes! I already have a story idea I try not to think about too much because I’m not done with book 4 of these quartet yet. I’m 37k into it though, and I’ve given myself until the end of September to get it done. Then while I edit them, I’ll do the busy work of blog posts and cover design. (The jury is still out if I’ll hire these out. If I do, I would at least like to have some couples pegged for the designer.)

Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too! (2)

I know planning a series can be daunting, and if you have a plot that spans through all the books that’s even worse. I don’t have a plot that takes place over all four books, unless you count wedding activities, but I don’t. Those activities are a natural progression as anyone who has been in a wedding party knows. There’s bridal showers, dress fittings, parties and the like, so while they may not add conflict, the characters do pass along information to each other, and they are easy ways for me to cram them together into the same room.

If you want to tackle series, the best thing you can do is plan. Plan your books out. Plan how you’ll end each one, and if a subplot weaves through each book and will only be completed at the end. I write romance, so I definitely need each couple to have their happily ever after, and a reader can jump into the series wherever they want.

Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too! (3)

A Rocky Point Wedding series isn’t the first series I’ve done, (my Summer Secrets erotica series contained six novellas and more than 150,000 words) and it won’t be the last. Look at your genre and if you see that series are a primary offering, look to your own publishing schedule and see what you can do to give your readers what they want!

Thanks for reading!

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Other blog posts on why you should be planning a series:

Why You Should Be Writing in a Series by Tom Ashford on Mark Dawson’s blog.

Why and How to Write a Book Series on the IngramSpark blog.

What Readers Want – Series vs. Standalone Books on the Indies Unlimited blog.