Thursday Author Update

It’s been a while since I posted on a Thursday, mostly because I haven’t had that much to say and I’ve been using Mondays as my author update days. Since last Monday was about book reviews, I thought I would use today to update you on my trilogy and what I’m doing now.

My proofs for my trilogy came back, and they are lovely. There are always going to be some tweaks, and I think I’m going to sharpen the background pictures a little more so that they look like they are actually standing in front of a city. The blur above the models’ right shoulders is actually the two buildings on the lower left of the back covers. Otherwise, I think the background colors are rich and beautiful and I have no doubt (not like my duet) that these will hit the market okay. I’ve gotten a few compliments on the large ampersand on the backs, as well, and I’m going to make the changes upload the final files this week/weekend.

I was going back and forth on what to write next as I have three standalones I could write pretty quickly, but in the end, I decided to finish a series I started last year. I have two books done, and I need four more. The first book I started as a standalone but as I got into it, it made sense for me to turn it into a series. It’s about a woman who’s father decides she should settle down and marry. He devises a list of acceptable potential husbands and tells his business partner that if he wants 50% of the company he needs to see to it that his daughter marries one of the men on the list. His business partner is in love with his daughter, of course, and the twist is, he’s not on the list, forcing him to choose between love with and 50% of a company he worked all his life for. It was a fun book to write, but while I was writing it, I realized that the men on the list could use their own stories, and that’s how the whole project was born.

It’s a little unsettling to realize that committing to this series will tie up the next year of writing for me. I can write relatively quickly for all the stuff I have going on in my life… I can comfortably write 80k words in 6-8 weeks, but then there’s editing and formatting, and covers to consider. Not to mention these books aren’t plotted out yet, and figuring out the story and how it layers into the plot is the real work of writing something this big. I waited until the last minute to put together my trilogy covers, unease and uncertainty chasing me until I practically hit publish, and I’d like a more solid plan this time around. (I already played with covers and titles for the first book–before I realized it would launch a series, or be a part of a new billionaire brand under my pen name. It’s so funny how covers and concepts evolve.) (And headless models. FFS, no! LOL) These are covers attached to a blog post on titling your book, and you can read it here.

I’m also thinking of how to brand this series, and what it’s going to be called. I like the idea of calling the series The List, and titling every book after the male character featured in it. It’s a departure from what I normally do, and I won’t have to think of titles for six books (which, let’s be honest, is a real headache).

So yeah, the last time I had a whole year accounted for, we were in lockdown and things felt pretty isolated anyway. I’m going to have to settle in, fall in love with these characters, and keep in touch with online writing friends so I don’t get lonely. But these books will be a nice addition to my backlist and I’ll be proud of them once their done.

In the mean time, I’ll make the adjustments to my trilogy, but I don’t know if I want to put the first one on BookSprout only because book one with reviews and books two and three with none would look odd (and give the impression of no read-through). Maybe I’ll look into paying for the next package so I can put all three books up at the same time, and I’ve always offered free copies to Twitter and my newsletter hoping for more reviews (that never come). So I have side things to keep me busy.


I haven’t given any love to my 3rd person books in a long time, so I scheduled a Freebooksy for my small town holiday wedding series for November 17-19th. I’m not even sure why I bothered since I’m not nurturing that pen name anymore (meaning, I’m not writing new books for it) but if the promo does as well as it did before (and the first book has six times the reviews it had before) then there’s no money lost. If you want to read how it went the first time, you can find it here. For the hell of it, since I’m not moving books anyway, I also scheduled the same free days for All of Nothing, The Years Between Us, and Wherever He Goes. The best thing about free days is if a reader has a Kindle Unlimited subscription, they’ll usually borrow it in KU before downloading it for free (and a borrow has the same weight as a paid sale). That’s why free promos, if you’re in KU, pay for themselves. It will be an exciting weekend, to say the least. I’m going to go ahead and still do another promo in January when my trilogy releases and focus on my 1st person books. But it makes sense to promote holiday books around the holidays, so no harm done. And for some reason, my paperbacks are extremely cheap right now, so maybe this promo will move some paperbacks, too. Who knows.

That’s about all I have going on. Going on a road trip with my sister on Monday to Bismarck, ND to eat at their Cracker Barrel and roam their mall. I’m hoping by that Tuesday I’ll be done with trilogy stuff and can really hop into this series. I was doing a little planning on it last night, old school, with pen and paper, but I didn’t get too far into it with my trilogy proofs mocking me from my desk. I never really could work on more than one thing at a time, but at least I don’t have “Look! Squirrel!” syndrome and finish the projects I start.

For Monday’s blog I’ll talk about my hardcovers, and I have a chat coming up with Jeanne Roland and A. K. Ritchie about publishing a second book, marketing, and all the fun stuff in between.

Thanks for reading today, and have a great weekend!

Monday Musings and an Author Update

I don’t even know where to start this week. As much as I absolutely love doing every little bit for each and every book, these projects feel like they take so much work to get from my head and onto Amazon’s website.

Last week I finished listening to the last book of my trilogy. I can pick up 99.9% of typos that way, and it makes for a pretty clean final draft. I need to keep a list of words I like to lean on while I’m writing, as I discovered the word “just” in my 3rd book and went back to the first and second and realized I abused it there too. All told among three books, I think I edited out about 300. Some make sense, some can be deleted without changing the sentence, and sometimes a better word can replace it. It wasn’t a huge task, but it added an extra hour to my editing on Wednesday. But, I know the books are better for it, so I can’t be too annoyed. Last Friday I was able to format them all, much to my delight, and over the weekend I was able to create my covers.

I’m not going with the covers I talked about in my last blog post. Honesty is always the best policy (with yourself and others, but especially with yourself), and they were just not a good fit for the billionaire subgenre. It sucks, because they’re pretty and I like them, but they aren’t going to do the job. What really tripped me up was looking for models who are older. I have one MC who is 45 and another who is almost 50, and while I’m not one to care if a model matches the description inside, I can’t portray young men on the covers when there are not young men inside. There are very few older men models on DepositPhotos (that are model quality, anyway, sorry guys), and I happened to use the most popular one on Rescue Me. Luckily, my next couple of books are finished cover-wise, so I won’t be scrolling through stock sites again anytime soon. DepositPhotos seems to be kind of picked over at this point, and that will be a dilemma I’ll need to face down the road. Covers are super agonizing, but I’m confident what I finally came up with will work. They are better suited, and they still have their heads. I suppose if that’s the only thing I can’t bend on, I’m not doing too bad.


The problem I have, and will always have, is doing what you want vs. what you need to do to sell books. Someone in one of my author groups on FB posted the other day and said the best thing about being an indie is not having to appeal to everybody. I read that, and I was so confused. Of course you don’t want to appeal to everybody, but you want to appeal to SOMEBODY, preferably readers in your genre, and you can’t do that if your cover looks like Photoshop and DepositPhoto had a baby. I write this blog and publish my books in the POV of a single mom with a full-time job that doesn’t pay very much. I get it. You’re broke, I’m broke, and paying out for everything is just not possible. I have never ever said you shouldn’t publish if you can’t afford things like covers and editing. But I was listening to a Clubhouse room not long ago and one of the speakers said this: You’re gonna pay. You’re gonna pay at the beginning when you hire out for an editor and cover designer and a formatter if you don’t know a kind soul who has Vellum, and if you don’t pay there, you’re going to pay with readers after you publish your book. You won’t have any. If you don’t have money to spend, you have to spend the time, and I can’t tell you how many premade sites I perused, how many current top 100 romance lists I looked at trying to gauge what I needed compared to the skills I have that yes, I have tried to cultivate over the course of the six years I’ve been publishing (but I am not an expert by any means).

It’s easy to believe what you hear. I got a lot of good feedback from those sunset/city covers I posted on Twitter, but Twitter writers are not my readers and while I appreciate the compliments, it doesn’t matter if they liked them or not. What matters is my readers like them enough to buy my book and read it. That’s all I want. That’s the cover’s only job. It isn’t about pride or what you like, and you can look for validation on Twitter until the cows come home, but when you buy a promo and you don’t get your money back, that’s the real validation. Giving away 4,000 copies of my first in series during a Freebooksy and paying for that fee the first day with KU page reads is a high that will never, ever get old.

Anyway, that seems to be a theme lately, the them vs us. Indie vs. readers, indie vs. traditional publishing. There is no versus if you do things the way things are meant to be done. There is no line, and I keep trying to figure out who is drawing it. If you’re standing on one side of that line, why? You have to identify with being an indie so hard that you’re willing to sacrifice readers for the control? Who is really in control when a reader sees your book, doesn’t like the cover, doesn’t like the title, doesn’t like your blurb and decides not to buy? Your control is an illusion. The control is with the reader who bought a different book.


Ooof, I’m done with this part of it. There are too many negative emotions online lately. Fear and doubt and desperation. No sales and launches that sink. 965 words of you can do better and your books and readers will thank you.

Besides the painful realization my covers needed a third revamp (no one saw my first try besides my friend Sami-Jo) the rest of what I have going on should be okay. Vellum is a dream and I formatted pretty quickly. I need some blurb feedback that I’ll seek out while I get some other stuff done, and all in all, I’m excited to publish these. I still have to adjust my author name on the hardcover of Rescue Me and approve it, but otherwise there’s nothing I need to backtrack for unless I want to load it into IngramSpark too, but I’m not in a hurry to publish my paperback there. If you’re looking for a freebie upload, you can sign up for their blog. They’ll let you know promo codes every so often, and this one popped in my email yesterday:

6 Figure Authors Podcast did a catch up episode that I was excited to see. I thought it was old until Lindsay (on Twitter) said it was new, and you can listen to it here.

That’s about all I have for this week. I’ve decided to work on completing my series that I started over COVID lockdown. I have two done, four more to go, and last night I was trying to think of why I stalled out when I realized it was because I decided I needed a reader magnet for a newsletter that was a long time in coming, and I stopped my series to write a novella. Three full-length books later I realized I can’t write a novella and ended up using the shortest of the three (76k words) as a freebie for my newsletter. Now it’s time to get back into finishing that series because I want to tackle a long series about one couple like Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. I’m not sure on plot, though Lindsay Buroker was talking about psychics some time ago, and that idea has been rattling around in my brain for a long time now trying to tie a psychic in with the billionaire subgenre. And at some point I have three standalones I want to write, so I’m glad I won’t be running out of material for the next little while. But as always, I’m getting ahead of myself, and maybe I’ll take a couple days off after my trilogy is uploaded to Amazon and my proofs ordered. I’m on track to publish in January providing nothing strange happens. I won’t be participating in NaNo this year, though I rarely do. This November I’ll be rereading the first two books and making plans for the other four. I don’t have their plots laid out yet, and I can only blame the planster life for that. I know who the characters are for the most part, but not much more.

Next week I can write about my second try with Booksrpout and catch you up on how my Amazon ads are doing and how my Facebook Ad is doing with my reader magnet and my newsletter sign up.

Have a good week!

Marketing ideas for your books

We tend to confuse marketing and advertising when it comes to our books. Advertising is what you do when you’ve already written it and published it and you’re only looking for readers. That’s running ads, buying a promo, tweeting about it, or posting in FB groups. That’s not really marketing. That’s shoving your book under someone’s nose and hoping they like it enough to buy it.

Marketing encompasses a lot more than that, and it starts with your product, a fact many indie authors don’t like because they prefer writing the book of their heart and hoping someone likes it enough to read it. That’s fine; whatever floats your boat. And honestly, it’s what you should do when you first start out. But writing the book of your heart, or the books of your heart, won’t get you very far unless you can meet in the middle between what you want to write and what readers are looking for. As I’ve said in the past, authors who can meet in the middle find their longevity in this business. Or rather than compromising on every book, write something you love, then something you know will sell, and go back and forth. I was reading Bryan Cohen’s new Amazon Ads book Self-Publishing with Amazon Ads: The Author’s Guide to Lower Costs, Higher Royalties, and Greater Peace of Mind and in it he quoted John Cusack, who said something like, “I do one project for them and one project for me.” I can’t find attribution for that quote, but for the sake of this blog post, let’s go with it. That’s not what this blog post is about, as it is your choice what you want to write, but as Seth Godin said, and I quoted him not long ago, “Find products for your customer instead of trying to find customers for your product.”

(And if you’re interested, a really great talk by Kyla Stone is available here. She talks about writing to market, but she couldn’t get to where she is today if she wasn’t writing what she loved to write.)

I’ve spent six years publishing and learning from my mistakes. Here are some tips I picked up from other authors and what you can implement with your next books.

Make sure your series looks like a series.
If you look at any big indie’s backlist all their series look like they belong together. It doesn’t matter if they’re all standalones and readers don’t have to read them in order. If they fit together, create their covers so they look like they do. Not only does a reader glancing at your Amazon page know they belong in a series, they just look nicer when they’re all branded in the same way. That means a matching background, maybe, cover models who have the same vibe. Create a series logo and add that to the cover as another way to identify one series from the next. If you do your own covers but publish as you write, create all your covers at once. That way you’re not stuck with one cover that’s already out in the world you can’t duplicate. That shoves you into a corner you don’t want to be in. Book covers are more important than we want to believe, but trust me. Look at any of your comparison authors’ backlists and see for yourself how they brand their series. Also make sure if you’re going to run ads that they meet Amazon’s policies. I had to tweak my small town contemporary series because Amazon kept blocking my ads. I had to zoom in on their faces and it ruined the entire look. I’m much more careful now.

These are books under this name. It’s easy to see the trilogy belongs together, the three standalones and then the small town series. Amazon didn’t like they were in bed. Too bad. They did.

Write in a series, but also don’t tie things up –until the very last one.
Elana Johnson calls these loops. You can end each book with an HEA, but with the overall plot, don’t wrap things up! This encourages the reader to read through your entire series to see how things finally end. With my small town series, everyone is in town for a wedding, and there are wedding activities throughout. The last book ends with the couple’s ceremony. What’s fun, the couple getting married isn’t even one of the couples featured in the books. They are background characters that help with the subplot of each book. That’s it. That might be a flimsy piece of tape holding the books together, but it was a fun way for me to end the series–with the reason why everyone was together in the first place. When Elana talks about loops, she doesn’t mean ending books on a cliffhanger, though it is well within your right and another marketing strategy you can incorporate into your writing. Elana has a wonderful series for indie authors, and you can look at the books here. I’ve read them all, and this isn’t an affiliate link.

Use your back matter.
When you write in a series, and the books are available, your Kindle can help you out by prompting you to read the next one. That can be a boost, but also, you want to take matters into your own hands and add the link to the next book in the back matter of the one before it. If you don’t write in a series, add a different book. If a reader loves your book, they’ll want to read more from you, and you might as well make it easy for them. Too many calls to action may confuse a reader, so you don’t want pages and pages of back matter asking a reader to buy a million books, sign up for your newsletter, and follow you on Twitter and Facebook. Choose the one most important to you, add it immediately after the last word of your book while they are still experiencing that reader’s high, and ask them to buy your next book or sign up for your newsletter. I have also heard that graphics work wonders and adding the cover along with the link is a great way to prompt readers to buy.

Introduce your next book with a scene at the end of the previous book.
This is one I learned from the writers in my romance group on Facebook. Say your novel is about Travis and Amy, but the next book is going to be about Rafe and Emily. End Travis and Amy’s book with a short chapter/scene in Rafe’s POV to get them excited for the next book. I haven’t started doing this, but the writers in my group give it 10/10 stars, would recommend as a great way to get readers buying the next book. Also, if you’re writing romance, readers gravitate toward those hunky men, so if you can, write from his POV. I’m definitely doing this with the trilogy I’m publishing in January, and with the six books that are with my proofer now, the third book ends with an HEA for that couple, but I added a chapter from the heroine’s POV for the next three books. I suppose I could have done it from his POV, but hers felt more natural, and I hope it will be enough to get the readers invested in her story and how the series plays out. You can do this with any genre you write in–if he’s a detective, maybe he stumbles onto a new case, or maybe something serious happens in his personal life. Whatever the case may be, add something that will entice readers to click on the link you’re putting in the back.

Bonus scenes for newsletter subscribers only.
I haven’t started this up yet because 1) you have to write the bonus content 2) I don’t know my newsletter aggregator well enough to make something like this happen, and 3) with my newsletter signup link already in the back, I’m giving away a full-length novel. If you don’t have a reader magnet, writing a bonus scene that is only available if readers sign up for your newsletter is a great way to add to your list and hopefully, the more engaged your list is, the more readers you have.

Looking at your entire backlist as a whole–or what you’ll be writing in the future.
If you think of marketing as an umbrella for your entire career, then think of advertising on a book by book basis. Marketing involves all your books, who you are as an author, and what your message is. That’s why so many authors want a logo–but attach feelings, emotions, and what you’re giving your reader in your books to that logo so they think of those things when they see it. It’s why soda commercials are always happy. They want you to equate having a good time with drinking their product. What do you want your readers to get out of your books? If you’re a romance author, an HEA, for sure, but what else? Is your brand a damaged hero? Found family? If you write women’s fiction, do you want your readers to expect a woman on a journey, or maybe sisters repairing their relationship? Best friends who have grown apart only to be reunited for some reason? Of course, that sounds like all your books will be about the same thing, but that’s not really the case. What is your theme, what is your message you want your reader to get from your books?

Publish consistently.
Training your readers to expect a book at certain time will help you build buzz as your readers will get used to your schedule. Figure out a comfortable schedule and try to maintain it. Once every 3 months seems like a good practice if you can keep up with that as you’ll never fall off Amazon’s 90 cliff. Also, if you’re writing a series, keep in mind readers don’t like to wait and you’ll have your work cut out for you if you can only release one book a year. You might just have to be resigned to the fact you won’t get the number of readers you want until all the books are released.

It’s a bit older now, but Jamie Albright spoke at the 20books convention a few years ago. She shared some good tips if you can only write and release one book a year.

Tweeting incessantly about your books isn’t marketing. Doing research on your next book before you write it, figuring out your comp authors and comp titles, doing cover research, and writing a good blurb is marketing. Running ads and buying promos to that book once you’ve written it is advertising.

It took me a really long time to figure this out–ten failed books because I genre hopped and was only writing what came to me. I didn’t publish on a schedule, didn’t have a plan. I’m still not publishing on a schedule, though I am going to try to aim for one book a quarter after my COVID stockpile is out into the world.

I’m getting a hang of this marketing thing, but it’s nothing you can achieve over night. I spent five years making mistakes. I’ll spend the next five fixing them.

Thanks for reading!


If you want resources on planning your career, Zoe York has a wonderful series of books that talk about that. You can get them here. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75

Sara Rosette also has a wonderful book on how to write series, and you can find it here. https://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Structure-Troubleshooting-Marketing/dp/1950054322/

Monday Madness and Author Update

Happy Monday! I haven’t started a blog post like that in a while, but I have been making the most of my summer, sleeping in whenever I can and writing whenever I have free time to do so. My daughter starts school (11th grade!) on the 29th, so we don’t have much summer left, especially since some of my free time now will be taken up getting her ready for school and bringing her to picture day and orientation, but after everyone gets settled with the new routine, things should calm down again.

I applied for a second job, as well, substitute teaching in the schools this year. I’m hoping to pick up a couple days a week, but I’m going to try to keep my momentum going with my books. I don’t like the idea of working 54 hour weeks, but you do what you gotta do. I need to crawl out of debt and maybe once I do that, my (financial) future won’t seem so bleak. It sucks being worried about money and if my books aren’t selling, the money has to come from somewhere. (And it’s what I get for trusting the wrong person, but that water is long under the bridge and there’s no point in crying about it now.)

I’ve been working my day job typing for the deaf and hard of hearing for Minnesota Relay for twenty years now, and I hadn’t needed to update my resume in some time. I did about seven years ago when I graduated with my HR degree (I can’t believe it’s been that long) but I never did get an HR job, choosing to start writing books instead (smart move? maybe not). I had to search for my resume in the black hole of my laptop and it was pretty thin, so I included all the books I’ve written and published, added that I did my own covers in Canva and that I’ve written a successful (to me it is) blog for the past six years. At first I wasn’t sure if I should include my books, but if I hadn’t it would have looked like I haven’t done anything professional for myself since I graduated with my HR degree, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know how difficult it is to write a book, edit it, format it, create a cover, and publish it. After I submitted my resume and my application, it occurred to me that it was smart I included my books, not only because it shows I haven’t been standing still, but also because it gave them a chance to decide if writing smut is something they would have a problem with. Apparently, they didn’t, as I had orientation last week, but looking back, I”m glad I added my books, and if you’re looking to bulk up your resume, you should add yours, too.


I’m 52k into the last book in my trilogy, so finishing it up won’t take long. I’ve read books one and two twice, and I’ve been editing book three as I write it but there will still be some additional editing needed. I wanted to make Roman, my MMC in book three, a nervous, trying-to-quit smoker, but he hasn’t turned out that way, so either I edit that in or I find a new guy for the book cover. I like the idea of him getting over, or trying to get over, a smoking habit, because that fits his personality and some of the shit he’s going through in the book. I’m not a natural smoker, though, and I haven’t written a character who is before, so it was difficult to remember to include it. In my mind, he’s trying to stop so it shouldn’t be too much work to write in the cravings and the fidgeting. In the end it depends on how much editing I want to do, and usually that answer is none.


I had an interesting back and forth with an author who was disappointed in sales for his debut. While that’s not unusual as we’re all fighting for space these days, his debut was also a first in a series. When I reached out and told him that more than likely he wasn’t going to sell anything until he had a few more books out in that series, he replied that he would be releasing books a year apart. While that might be the norm for trad authors, a book a year is mighty slow for indies. Readers won’t hang around for a year between books, but I recognize not everyone has the time to write more than that, especially if your series is a fantasy and your books can creep over 150k for words.

I stared to explore what authors can do to keep readers interested between books, and here’s what me, S J Cairns and Dareth Pray came up with:

Newsletter/Blog
There was a toss up between what’s better. There doesn’t seem to be much difference–they both require you create content to keep readers informed–but between the two I would choose building a newsletter. A newsletter you might send once or twice a month, but if you only blog once a month, your blog won’t grow. A lot of my traffic for this blog comes from internet searches, but in order to do that you have to create relevant content regularly, staying within a range of topics that you will eventually be “known” for. Building search engine optimization is a long road and you still have to put the word out somewhere that your blog is available (mostly I just tweet the link). Getting newsletter signups is hard in its own way, but giving out a reader magnet can help. Put the signup links in the back of your books for organic interest, and use the time to keep writing the next book. Another reason I choose to build a newsletter is those subscribers are yours. Your blog followers come and go, and true, newsletter subscribers can unsubscribe, but they chose to sign up so if you give them content they like they’ll hopefully stay on your list. It’s up to you what you offer, but no matter what you choose consistency and offering your readers what they want will keep them interested between books.

Social Media
This can mean anything from tweets to updating your Facebook author page. Reach is hard when you depend on free social media. On Twitter, you might be part of the writing community, and while we like to think so, tweeting to the #writingcommunity isn’t the same as reaching readers. Instagram is about the same. I see so many tweets that say, “Follow me on Instagram!” but I don’t know what good that does. On Instagram, you can try to find readers using hashtags, but trying to climb out of the writing community pit is difficult once you’ve falling into it. I think it’s like quicksand. You just won’t find enough readers there to move the needle. We’re all too busy writing the next Great American Novel to read. (You may argue with me, and that’s cool. It all depends on what success means to you. I’ve been on Twitter for a long time and tweeting about my books hasn’t done much for me at all, but if it has for you and you’re happy with it, I’m glad for you!)

Encourage readers to follow you on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, etc.
When you have a new release, they will email your readers, so if they somehow missed your updates, they will still hear about your next book. I have my newsletter sign up link in my Amazon bio and I changed my Twitter bio, and put my newsletter signup link there, too. I also added it to my Goodreads Author profile. Add your links wherever you can, such as your email address signature. Every little bit helps.

If you don’t have much time to write, creating content to tell readers that you’re still writing seems counterproductive, but if you ARE writing, sharing snippets and inspiration won’t take long. You have to find one way that you enjoy and stick with it. Consistency is key, no matter where you focus your energy. Keep your expectations in check and realize that if your series needs 6 books for it to be done, you are asking your readers to wait for 6 years before you conclude that story. That’s a big ask, and as far as marketing goes, you will have an easier time keeping readers the more books you have. Keep writing, and good luck!

Resources:

Stockpiling books. Pros and Cons.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I wasn’t thinking about stockpiling books. In fact, I wasn’t thinking much of anything but getting my four-book small town holiday series out and tinkering with an idea about a first person dual POV I wanted to try because even back at the end of 2019/the beginning of 2020, I knew romance was taking a turn in that direct and I wasn’t sure if I was missing a luxurious cruise ship by not following the trend.

I’d never written in first before, and I opened that file on March 18, 2020 at 11:03 PM. I didn’t know it would turn into a six-book series or the most complicated series as far as plot goes I would ever write, but it’s what I spent 2020 doing. (I created the file for the last book on Sep 7, 2020 at 10:34 AM.)

Then, since I knew I wanted to publish these under a pen name to help differentiate them from my 3rd person books, I decided to write a short reader magnet that I could give away as a newsletter sign up. The only problem with that was, I can’t write short, and I had one book that I realized would be better as the first in series, and three standalones I decided not to give away because they were too long. It was toward the end of last year when I realized that I better freaking start publishing because the number of books I had on my laptop was its own kind of anxiety-inducing mess. The amount of editing and production those books required simply made me shut my laptop, or worse yet, open a new Word document and just keep writing, ignoring all the books I had already written.

There are a lot of pros to stockpiling books, but there are some cons, too, and this tweet that’s part of a thread by Zoe York inspired this blog post:

What are some of the pros and cons to stockpiling books?

One of the pros is you have a steady release schedule for months, maybe even years. If I published my series with two months between each book, I would release 6 in 12 months. Not only do you not fall off Amazon’s ninety day cliff, but you also have a whole year to write new books. I also have a couple of standalones ready to go, so I could buy myself even more time by publishing one or two after my series, giving me potentially 18 months to write more books.

I big con and one that could be a dealbreaker for many is depending on how quickly you write, you’re not publishing anything for months, maybe even years. If you’re starting a new pen and don’t need the money from sales, then that might not matter to you. It didn’t matter to me. I don’t make much money with my 3rd person books, and I could afford the time to write. It was actually very helpful the pandemic came along when it did. Everyone was in lockdown doing their own thing, my daughter was learning from home, and I’ve always had the kind of job where I can get words down between busy times. I didn’t feel like I was “wasting” time. I was trying to get through a pandemic like everyone else.

Another pro is stockpiling can be fun. You write a book or a trilogy or a series and you type THE END and immediately open a new Word document. I’ve never been attracted to shiny things, but moving on from one book to the next without thinking about editing, cover, and formatting is kind of liberating in a way. I have a standalone that’s 97,000 words that I started on May 15, 2021 at 12:28 PM that I finished July 6, 2021 at 7:19 PM. And trust me, that is when I finished because I haven’t opened it since I typed the very last word and closed out the file.

A con to that is having a completed book, or books, on your laptop and not doing anything with them. That would drive some people crazy, and as Andrea Pearson used to say on the now defunct 6 Figure Author Podcast, a book on your laptop won’t make you money. (If I recall correctly, that was in response to a question about whether she writes a whole series before releasing the first book–she does not.) Does it bother me to have Dominic and Jemma just hanging out? Ummm, not really? I mean, I should go and edit them and package them up at some point, but as soon as my trilogy is done and packaged, I will be focusing on getting my King’s Crossing series out and I have a couple more ideas for standalones I want to write while the ideas are fresh. It’s good to have a back up book, in case my well ever runs dry, but I’ll edit it when there’s a lull, such as when I just finish something and need to let it breathe.

Another con to swiftly moving on from one book to the next is you don’t spend that much time with your couples. There are some romance authors who market their books like they are talking about their best friends. They write slowly and revel in their characters and plots. They create mood boards and aesthetics, write short stories and other extra bonus content. Depending on how your mind works, you can always go back and do this, but when you’re cranking out words and the minute you type THE END, that couple can be out of your mind making way for the new book.

A pro to stockpiling is that you are guaranteed to go back to an older book with fresh eyes to edit it. I was so proud of the first two books of a six book series (a different series, book one was going to be a standalone) but when I went back to reread, ugh, they sounded terrible. At least with fresh eyes (and lots more words behind me) I could edit them properly. Who knows? Dominic and Jemma could be in the same boat, but luckily, I’ve written a lot more words since last summer and my first person voice has gotten a lot smoother. Plus, while editing my King’s Crossing series, I stumbled upon many crutch words I started using that at least I know of now and can get rid of them.

A big con, and one that gave me anxiety, is you are setting yourself up for a lot of work. Depending on how you stockpile, you could end up with upward of a million words to edit and package. Breaking it down was imperative for me to get any work done, and I tackled three of my standalones first. Standalones are a lot easier to work with, finding stock photos is easier for covers, and the editing doesn’t seem to be so mountainous. In the end, I did turn one into a reader magnet I’m giving away on Bookfunnel, and I have two others in KDP ready to go. The next book I’m publishing is Rescue Me, and I’m really proud of it. I’ll be excited to release it in October.

The main reason authors stockpile is to create a consistent schedule and keep with it. Unless life forces me, I don’t plan to take a break writing because I have such a thick cushion. I love writing and will always work as hard as a I can as time allows. It also helps when it comes to marketing. You can plan the sales and the promos you’re going going to do ahead of time. When Rescue Me comes out in October, I plan to use a couple of free days for Captivated by Her and buy a promo or two to start getting the word out. I’ll have three books available and I hope to get a little read through with those promos.

One of the cons of stockpiling is you can grow bored if you don’t finish a series all at once. I guess you can grow bored if you’re publishing while you write but there is more incentive to finish since you don’t want to have an unfinished series on Amazon. The two I have that are part of a six-book series? I edited them so they don’t sound so terrible, but I’m not excited to finish. I know I should, as I have some of those books’ plots loosely figured out, but I lost my passion for that series and I don’t think waiting for it to come back will help get them done. I should have finished them while I was writing them but I don’t remember now why I stopped. Perhaps I tried to write another reader magnet and got distracted. I know how important offering one is for my newsletter, and that was something I was determined to start since I never had one before. I need to do their covers and get to know them again. I can’t waste two books.

I wasn’t thinking about stockpiling while i was writing. I was just having fun and trying to get through the pandemic. Whether or not I’ll reap any rewards remains to be seen, but there there are lots of pros to quickly building a backlist. I’m excited to see where I am around this time next year.


I’m still playing with covers. I could totally write a dark romance duet. What do you think?

Author Update, What I Like Right Now, and Kindle Vella

I had a whole blog post set up about the comp title thing that happened on Twitter last week. I decided not to post it since there is just too many hard feelings surrounding those tweets, and I didn’t want to step into the middle of it. I just want to say that I think comps are important, that comparison titles and comparison authors are needed for BookBub, Facebook, and Amazon ads, which can play a vital role in indie marketing. While Allison, the woman who tweeted, was primarily talking about querying, comps have a place and can be hard to find if your book is unconventional. Many marginalized authors and writers chimed in (we all know how white the publishing industry is, and they should be loud about it, we all should), and being I’m a white cis/het woman myself, I don’t feel I add anything to the conversation. So if you’d like, and have the time, to fall into this rabbit hole, start here:


I’m doing pretty good for the writing part as of right now. This week I’ll put my second book in duet up for a very short preorder, just so that I can get my links, add some A+ content, and add the link for book two in the back matter of book one (I also have to fix a typo, so thanks to SJ Cairns for pointing that out). I should have this all up and going so the ebook will launch on August 1st. Then I have a standalone I’m going to release in October (not Halloween related, I only picked that date for timing), and if all goes well, I should have a trilogy to release in January. That hadn’t been my original plan, but I wanted to experiment and see what releasing all three books at once would do. If I can get a promo going for book one, the read-through might take off.

As you can imagine, that’s going to take some planning, and nothing I would have tried three years ago, but this is what I’m thinking about:

1. Covers.
I can’t have all my covers look the same all across the board. I have a six book series almost ready to go (I just need to read the proofs or find someone who will do it for me to check for consistency and typos.) Those covers are set in stone as I purchased all the stock photos, and I realized I was going to run into to some trouble with a trilogy. Each series/trilogy/duet should look the same to go along with your author brand, but different enough to set them apart from other series/trilogies/duets in your catalogue. Standalones are a little easier since you only need one stock photo and you’re done. A series/trilogy/duet need to work together, have a consistent vibe, and searching for stock photos while keeping in mind Amazon Advertising guidelines (because Amazon ads ARE a big part of my marketing plan) is tougher than it sounds. Hot men who haven’t been used a million times or showing more skin than Amazon ads will allow is actually quite a big ask and requires a lot of scrolling.
I also feel like these books are a little softer, and they are 10,000 words shorter per book that I usually write (so far, I have one of three left to write) so I thought maybe I didn’t need such edgy and dark covers. This is what I have so far, but I’m sure they’ll go through a few changes before I hit publish:

There’s a lot of reasons why I won’t go with all of them: Guys one and three look similar, and guy three with the smoke in his hand will disqualify him from ads (though I really like the look of him and he feels real in my head). Guy two doesn’t 100% fit, but he’s a lot of what I picture when I think about the character. I’m also a little worried they’re too plain, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, so while I’m writing, I’m also thinking about covers, which for me, since I do my own, is almost the hardest part of the whole thing.

2. New Marketing Tactic.
I haven’t tried this yet, so this will be somewhat of a test to see if it works. We all know to put a little teaser at the end of a book to excite the reader for the next book. But, I’ve read about some authors taking it a step further, and actually using the last CHAPTER of a book to introduce the character of the next book. I would imagine this works really well if you already have the books ready to go and can even add a buy-link to that last chapter. I’m going to try this and see how it works. If you don’t understand what I mean, this is an example: Book One is about Jack and Emma. I write in 1st Person Present Dual POV and alternate between them giving them (approximate) equal screen time. So before trying this marketing tactic, Book One would end with either Emma’s or Jack’s POV, maybe an epilogue to wrap things up (I don’t hate epilogues but don’t use them very often. In fact, I’ve started labeling them as the last chapter instead of calling it an epilogue.) But instead, Book One ends with a very short chapter in the next book’s character’s POV. In this case, since I’m always going to go with the male POV because it’s been studied that romance readers prefer, and look forward to, the next hero, that would be Raff. I’m excited to see if this works or if I’ll be accused of money-grabbing. The books are standalones, in the true sense there is no over-reaching arch the readers need to finish, so I’m not sure how it will be received. It will be a while before I can tell you, but you can be sure I’ll blog about it!

3. Overall Consistency/Relevancy.
I’ll need to create a logo for the trilogy, write up my blurbs, and write a list of the keywords I’m going to use when I upload my files into KDP. It’s a lot of work to do them all at once, but everything will be the same for each book. Relevancy is important when you want ads to work. Categories and key words should help Amazon point your book to readers who will want to read it. Amazon rewards relevancy and the more on-point your book is, the easier it is for Amazon to sell.
I’ve already done this a couple of times, so I’m hoping my process is a lbit more streamlined and it won’t take so long to put these books together.

4. Reviews.
Not paying for Booksprout was a big mistake. Captivated by Her still doesn’t have any reviews, though since I published it, I’ve sold around twenty-five books (some sales mostly page reads in KU) and I don’t have one review on Amazon. While I haven’t ran a promo for that book since book two isn’t out yet, exposure hasn’t been the best. Only a few Amazon ads have brought me the sales that I’ve had, and my lack of reviews, not even one, is disheartening. So I think for the first in this trilogy, I’m going to pay the $9.00 on Booksprout and put Give & Take up for review. You can publish the paperback and let the reviewers leave a review for that. Then once all your reviews have come in, (or not, just delist the book from Booksprout and hope the reviewers lagging will pull through) you can publish the ebook, and the reviews will appear for both versions. You don’t have to delist at all if you’re wide and your book isn’t in KU. It takes a little planning, a little looking ahead, but if you want to publish your ebook with reviews, you need to be organized. I don’t have an ARC team, and my newsletter is primarily made up of readers who signed up for my reader magnet. I’m not saying they aren’t quality subscribers, but I haven’t earned their trust for them to want to do anything for me at this point, even leaving a review.

Even though it is a lot of work, I’m excited to be publishing again.


I also have a lot of housekeeping to get taken care of once I’ve written book two and can take a short break. I need to publish Captivated by Her to IngramSpark and fix VM’s website. I have large print listed there because in the past, Amazon didn’t give me a hard time publishing them, but this time they did, and Captivated was blocked as duplicate content. So either I’m going to publish my large print with IngramSpark (if I can do it in a way that won’t tick off Amazon) or at the very least, set it up on my website so I can sell direct. I can order author copies through IngramSpark without publishing, and I can keep a few on hand for website orders. I have All of Nothing and The Years Between Us available in large print and I sell one every once in a while. I would like to offer large print because 1) I want to be accessible, and 2) I already wasted an ISBN on the ones I have under VM Rheault. Why Amazon gives us the choice to publish large print and then blocks it as duplicate content is confusing to me, but I don’t want to mess with Amazon and I won’t try again. I wish there were a live person to talk to that had the authority to unblock my book because it is a legitimate large print book that they shouldn’t have blocked in the first place, but the one rep I did talk to couldn’t do anything. They told me they would remove it from my dashboard but they haven’t, and no one did answer my email when I sent a complaint to Jeff Bezos’s email address. This is still in the back of my mind because I don’t like arbitrary rules telling me no. I’ll find a way around it, I’m just not sure yet. I would like to actually publish to reach as wide of an audience as possible, and maybe since you can publish paperbacks on Draft2Digital and you can choose where, I could skip Amazon if they’re going to make a stink. But I’m already publishing my regular print on IngramSpark for expanded distribution (they skip Amazon when they see the ISBN is already in use there), and I don’t want to use different distribution channels if I don’t have to. So, we’ll see. I haven’t asked in any of the Facebook groups yet, but when the time comes, I’ll ask a few questions.


What I’m loving right now.

Janet Margot used to work for the Amazon ads team, and she wrote a book about using Amazon Ads to advertise your books. She released only an ebook, but when Amazon sent me an email and asked I was still interested in that book (those work, people! Never count out the Amazon algorithms) I clicked on it and saw she finally created a paperback. I picked it up right away. More than just creating an ad, she talks you through cover, metadata, keywords, comp titles and authors, etc so you can make sure your book is advertising-ready before you create your first ad. Here’s Blaze with the book, and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Ads-Indie-Authors-How/dp/1737476118/


Kindle Vella

Kindle Vella is taking off, it seems, as I see more and more people publishing on that platform. My friend Dareth started up a blog, and her first post is about her experience with Kindle Vella. You can check it out here if you’re interested in publishing your own serial to the platform. https://www.darethpray.com/post/publishing-on-kindle-vella

If you’re interested in running a promo to your Kindle Vella link, Bookdoggy is one of few promo newsletters that will promote your Vella link. You can look at other services they have for authors, too. https://bookdoggy.com/for-authors/. I’ve never used them before, but if you have a few dollars to throw at a promo, it never hurts to try.

Other articles about Kindle Vella:

Kindle Vella: Description, Features, and Tips for Authors by Jason Hamilton on Kindlepreneur

What is Kindle Vella? And Should You Join as an Author? on the Reedsy Blog


That’s all I have for today. Summer is two-thirds over! Make the most of it!

Until next time!

Thursday author update and lessons I’ve learned rereading old work.

I’ve been neglecting my blog as of late because I’ve been so swept up with my books. I finished the first of a duet last month, and after a couple of days’ rest, I hopped into writing the second book. I didn’t give myself enough time to think about what I needed to put into book two, and I stalled at 10k, burnt out and floundering.

I decided to take a break, but instead of stepping away completely, I dug up my five book epic fantasy series I began way back in 2015 before I starting publishing romance. These books are full of everything I learned not to do: head-hopping, word echoing, and oh my goodness, so much repetition and telling. They also don’t follow epic fantasy word counts–book two is only 57k. I remember writing these books, being so consumed by the characters, and the way I write hasn’t changed. When I start a new story, the characters and the plot monopolize my every waking moment. I would constantly think about these characters. I was more of a pantser back then, before I wrote more and drifted comfortably into the planster I am now.

I started rereading these because I really love these characters, and I’ve even thought about taking a detour and fixing them up. I wrote a blog post about it, but I never did pause my contemporary romance momentum to do it.

I have learned some lessons while rereading work that is six years old, and I thought I’d share them with you:

Not everything you write needs to be published. I’m not going to fix these and publish them. I have often thought about it because I love these characters and while I was writing them, I poured my heart and soul into them. But there is so much wrong with just the writing, never mind the non-existent characters arcs and weak conflicts, that I would have to rewrite them from the beginning. We’re talking 441,000 words, and not all of them are good words.

It’s important to know genre expectations. I don’t know why I thought I could write an epic fantasy. Back then, I hadn’t read Game of Thrones, nor had I much exposure to anything like that. The books aren’t word-count appropriate, and they don’t contain the required tropes, such as The Chosen One. (I do have one character who was “chosen” but she does not go on a journey to save a kingdom or find herself along the way.) While I can appreciate them for what they are with an author’s admiration for the start of what I hope will be a long-term and lucrative career, I know readers won’t value them as much as I do. That is one thing indies don’t seem to understand. Just because you love your work, if you’re not fulfilling reader expectations of that genre, your readers may not. It takes a lot of courage to look at your work and admit it’s lacking.

The core of who you are will always be evident in all your work. What’s funny is that I realized even after all this time, I used some phrases, favorite words, tone, and general feelings in these books that I have not lost. I suppose you can consider that my writing style, my author’s voice. It’s fun to see the ways I’ve changed, how I’ve grown into my writing, but how much of it has stayed the same.

I use the same character names. It’s probably best I created a table to keep track of the characters names I’ve used from book to book. No matter how imaginative I think I’m being, chances are I’m using names I’ve used in the past. In the second book of the duet I’m writing, my female main character’s name is Talia, and imagine my surprise when I opened these files and I have a female character named Talia. In this one thing, being consistent is not a good thing and can cause reader confusion if you do it too often or with books published too close together.

They were a foundation for bigger and better things. Jumping into a five book series as a “first book” laid a foundation for the books I’ve written since then. Looking back, I didn’t consider it such a daunting task. I was telling a story (and boy was I telling–no showing in 441,000 words) and it didn’t occur to me to be scared of the magnitude of the project. That attitude has served me well, and since then, I have written a trilogy, a four-book series, and a six-book series that I will publish under my pen name next year. There are times when jumping feet first without looking can have consequences, but in this case, writing this series without concern set me up to be utterly fearless in the trajectory of my career.

They weren’t a waste of time. Probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn over the past five years of writing and publishing is nothing I’ve done is a waste. It may feel like it, as last month I barely made $50.00 and that was after paying $25.00 for a promo and a little bit of ad spend. Not enough to mention, as my books are old and I’ve let them and my ads stagnate. But I do have to console myself every once in a while with all that I’ve learned:

*How to format–I learned the hard way copying and pasting my Word document into a KDP interior for a paperback book. There are so many programs now that will format for you in practically just one click of a button that it’s almost laughable how many hours I spent copying, pasting, and tweaking that template to create the perfect paperback interior.

*How to do covers. I read Chris McMullen’s A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers: How to Print-on-Demand with CreateSpace & Make eBooks for Kindle & Other eReaders, and he laid out step-by-step instructions on how to make the text boxes to do paperback covers in Word. Yeah, in Word. How to create the text boxes for the back cover, spine, and front cover. Published in 2012 by CreateSpace, back before KDP existed, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it now, but it’s how I learned and knowing about the dimensions, bleed, and how to do the math still helps me every time I need to create a new canvas in Canva for a full wrap.

*Writing to market. I learned it’s not enough just to write a book. If it were, I could publish my epic fantasy and it would find a million readers. I’ve learned about tropes, genre/reader expectations, how to look at the top 100 in your genre for covers to help cover books to market. I spent a lot of time writing what I wanted to write. That should never be a bad thing, and for me, it hasn’t been, but you have to find a way to meet in the middle with writing what you love and also what readers love to read.

*Things about myself. While writing that series and the books since then, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I love learning about the industry. I learned I love being part of the writing community. I learned that there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than writing. I learned I love writing this blog. I’ve learned that I love everything about writing a book, editing it, formatting it, doing the cover, and uploading it to KDP. (Notice I didn’t say I love writing the blurb LOL). I think this is why I’ve stuck it out for so long. I love every aspect of this industry. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in the five years I’ve been publishing. Not everyone has the tenacity to stick with something where success seems so out of reach.


I’ll finish reading these, and in doing so, I’ll say goodbye to these books. As long as they are on my computer, I will always think in the back of my mind they are “fixable” when in reality, they are anything but. I’ll email them to myself and delete them from my hard drive. I don’t need them hanging around anymore. It will be bittersweet, but there are so many more stories, so many more characters to write about. I will never rewrite them. Sometimes we need something just for ourselves, something we aren’t going to share with anyone else, and these books will be that for me. No one has read them besides me, and no one will. I need to say farewell and look to the future.


Okay, I’m sniffling, and to move on from being sad, here is what I’m liking this week.

The 20booksto50k Facebook group hosted by Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle had their annual writing/publishing convention earlier last month. They’ve been putting up their presentations on YouTube for those who could not go in person to Las Vegas. One day I will, but not for a couple of years. I have too many responsibilities in November to make the trip–at least until my daughter graduates high school.

I’ve been slowly getting through some of the ones I really wanted to watch, and I loved, loved, loved Kyla Stone’s presentation on writing to market.

I don’t know why I get so enamored with that message, because I am a huge advocate of it, and all I do is nod my head. But her talk really spoke to me, and I am so amazed at what she has accomplished in such a short amount of time. I want to be Kyla when I grow up. Or hopefully in the next five years I’m writing and publishing. Check it out!


That is all I have for today. Thanks for hanging out with me!

Enjoy your weekend!

Happy Monday! Author updates and thinking about 2022

Happy Monday after US Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday and were able rest and relax over the weekend! I missed last Monday’s blog post. I was so swamped with getting my edits on my book done and overall burnout that I dropped the ball. I should have at least told you I would be skipping, but I hope to make it up to you all with the goodies I have to talk to you about for the rest of the year!

I did have something else I wanted to talk about today, but it’s getting pushed until next week because I need more time to write it, so I’m going to do a short author update and talk about goals for 2022.

I’m done with my third read-through of my kind-of Beauty and the Beast retelling. It veered from that as some stories do, and I won’t be using that description as a marketing ploy when it’s published. Anyway, I never usually edit books so quickly after finishing them–I’ve always been a huge fan of letting books breathe–but something about this book has hooked me. Maybe it’s because I finished it so quickly, or maybe because I didn’t want to leave the loose ends untied, but whatever it is, I’m finished reading and moving on to plotting book two. I don’t count drafts, but after this third read-through it sounds fantastic and unless book two requires that I make changes to book one, all it needs now is a proofread. I’ve been mulling over what I want book two to be about–mostly I need to wrap up the over-arching plot of book one. I didn’t intentionally not finish, but it just kind of worked out that way, and it’s fine. It’s giving me more room to figure it out, so I need to find a way for my female main character to do what the FMC in book one failed to do (though she tried her best). I was also thinking about tropes and naturally, as a much younger sister, there’s going to be an age gap that I didn’t count on, but won’t drill down on either. I was thinking about a secret baby, but an age-gap/secret baby is what I did for The Years Between Us and while this will be written in 1st person under my pen name, I dislike reusing plot devices. Their ages are set–there isn’t much I can do about that, but he might not knock her up after all. Brainstorming and coming up with backstories for my characters and how those affect their present stories is a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to sit with pen and paper and think about all the ways I can make their lives miserable.


I listened to a great room on Clubhouse last week during the Monday Marketing hour for my Level Up Romance group. The question they asked today was, what is one thing you’re going to work on for 2022?

That’s an interesting question to me, especially since I’ve started helping someone as an alpha reader/editor/critique partner. She’s been with small presses and is looking to indie publish. Today I asked her what she wanted for and from her books.

It’s such an important question because with so many books on Amazon and so many choices going wide on other platforms, publishing isn’t just about putting up a book and walking away. Publishing now requires a lot of thought as to where you want your career to go. How many books can you write/edit/publish a year? What is your genre? Where are your readers? KU? Wide? A lot of authors don’t understand that marketing begins while writing the book. If you can figure this out before you waste too much time, you’re ahead of the game. It took me five years to learn this.

What do I want to work on next year that will help me and my business? I’d like to expand my squad. Find beta readers that will consistently help me (I’m more than willing to help in return!). Maybe find an editor that I can afford–at least a proofreader so I can have that extra confidence I’m putting out a typo-free product. Possibly find a cover designer, because honestly, while I enjoy it, I’m tired of doing my own covers. (This part is actually a lie. I probably will never trust anyone to do my covers, but it would be nice to have help.) For the amount of books I’m going to have coming out in the next little while, it would be super not to have to do all the work for each and every one. But, networking and connecting with people who offer services is difficult and sometimes you have to waste spend money to realize that someone isn’t going to work out.

The paid beta reader I used a few months back didn’t give me enough feedback for what I paid. Maybe that was my fault because I didn’t know the questions I should ask, but after the lack of feedback, I know now (and that can be a blog post for a different day). So while her fee wasn’t a complete waste–I learned a lot about myself and what I need–it didn’t go toward what it could have, either, which is a bummer. I never talked to her about it, and that was another mistake, I just figured to leave well enough alone and to try someone else. That’s not a great way to build relationships–you should always be able to talk to the person you’re doing business with, and possibly I could hire her again only this time be clear with what I need because what she did give me was fine–it was what she didn’t that I had a problem with.


What am I loving right now?

There is so much information that I haven’t consumed yet–from the K-lytics reports that I’ve paid for and the free ones Alex made available, to all the 20booksto50k talks from the conference in Vegas earlier, that I am downing in content and I have many many many hours of watching and listening ahead of me.

If you want to start in on the conferences, I did watch Elana Johnson’s talk and she touched upon what she’s going to be working on in 2022. How she’s going to market all the books she’s going to be putting out, and doing it all without going crazy. She has a great sense of humor, too, so listening to her speak was a lot of fun. You can watch it here.

I’ll be sharing the ones I like best as I watch them.

Another thing I’m loving right now is the book, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon by Mark McGurl. Hat tip to Jane Friedman for pointing out the New Yorker’s article about the book (follow her on Twitter for more insights into the publishing industry). You can read the article here. After I read the book, I’ll probably do a blog post about it. How Amazon has shaped, and is shaping, the publishing industry is fascinating to me, and how Amazon molds how indies write is really interesting, too. (And how some indies rebel against it.) For example, the idea of making the first 10% of your book the best it can be because that’s the amount of sample pages Amazon lets a reader skim to help them decide if they want to purchase your book. Another example is how Amazon pushes its own imprint books and how that dictates how readers find the books they want to read while perusing Amazon. Of course Amazon is going to push the books they publish, and being they are the biggest book retailer in the US, those books will do well with Amazon’s power behind them. How does that shape what’s trending, what’s popular, and how do indie authors respond to that with the books they write hoping to cash in on what is selling on the top 100 lists? I love reading about that kind of thing, so I will definitely check back in. If you want to take a look at the book yourself, you can find it here.

So, needless to say, I will be quite busy in 2022. It would be too much for me to hope that I can finish writing book two of this duet before Christmas being that I don’t even have a plot for it yet, but If I can get it finished by the end of the year and work out a few things, I would love to publish these as the first two books of my pen name in the spring. I’m doing that because unfortunately, and I have lamented about this in the past, you cannot build a readership on standalones. You can certainly publish standalones, but the real butter for your bread comes with read-through of a series. Any indie making it will tell you that. In fact, I was going to go ahead and rebel, and publish two standalones at the beginning of next year, but changed my mind after listening to Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea talk abut what they would do now if they were to start over knowing what they know now. Not one of them said they would publish a standalone, and while that was disheartening to hear, I also have to take their advice. Publishing a duet first is my compromise. Read-through to book two will be nice while I get a feel for my readers and they get a feel for me. I’ve said in the past I don’t write billionaire romance the way the other top 100 authors do. My characters are older and they hit upon issues that I haven’t found in a lot of the billionaire romances out there. So this will be me slowly testing the waters, and all I can do is see if it works. If you want to listen to that podcast where they talk about that, you can listen to it here:

I think that is all I have for now!

Until next time!

Happy Monday! Creating a Logo for a Series and short author update.

Good morning and happy Monday! If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope you’re getting all your words down so you can take a (much needed) break around Thanksgiving if you celebrate!

I’d like to congratulate Barbara Avon for winning the fall gift basket I gave away in association with Nina Romano’s fabulous interview we did! Incidentally, I interviewed Barb last spring, and you can read her interview here.


I don’t have much going on for myself. My daughter’s birthday is this week (on the 18th) and we’ll be heading out to dinner to celebrate her turning the big sixteen. It makes me feel old to have a daughter that age, though I’ll be turning 47 on the 28th, and that really isn’t that bad. I haven’t spoken about it for a long time, but I’m still dealing with some girly issues. It’s been a long year. Luckily, I haven’t let how I’m feeling get in the way of writing, and I hit 78k on my latest novel. A friend asked me if I’m ever going to publish them, or if I’ll just hoard my books like a dragon guards his gold, but one day I’ll publish something. After the holidays, at least. I probably will be publishing without a reader magnet, but that’s a choice I’ll be making because I haven’t written anything I want to give away.


What I wanted talk about today is logos for series. I’ve been seeing so many of them lately, and I like looking at them and how they’re associated with the books. There are a few reasons why you would want to make a logo for your series, but you’d have to think about branding and how your covers are going to look before you publish book one. Indies are terrible at looking ahead (I know–I was one of them) but all it takes is a little pre-planning to make your series shine. Why do a logo?

It will make the reader aware the books are in the same series. If you have deep backlist, a logo will help separate one series from another. I say help, because your logo shouldn’t be the only thing to tie your series together. Take, for instance, Ivy Smoak’s gorgeous covers for her Empire High series. (Check them out here!) They all look similar, with the same font, stock photo model, and overall vibe.

Screen grab taken from Amazon

Here is a close up of her logo for the series. It might be a little pixelated–all I could do is take a screenshot of it and blow it up, but you get the idea.

It’s great for marketing purposes. It probably doesn’t need to be said that having a logo identifier is great for branding and marketing purposes. How? That’s the million dollar question everyone asks. How do you market? How do you promote your brand?

The first thing I thought of when doing this blog post was swag. Bookmarks are the go-to for authors and many of us turn our book covers into bookmarks to give away at events, or even just to leave in places like coffee shops. You never know who is going to pick up a bookmark and then go on to look up your book because of the hunky stock photo guy or book cover you used. But, I’m also thinking of using Dave Chesson’s QR code creator (it’s FREE). With his QR code creator, not only can you add a logo to to the code, but you can make the code go right to your Amazon series page or your Amazon Author page.

This is a poor and quick attempt to show you what I mean:

Of course, you can do better than this. It’s a very poor attempt to show you that you can match the logo on your book’s cover to the logo you can put in the center of the QR code. This is a cover I made up for one of my books while I was goofing around with concepts. It turns out it’s going to be book one of a six book series, and I only have two written right now. I’ll get back to those after I get all these standalones out of my system. But for now we’ll use the fake cover as an example. I made the bookmark in Canva (search bookmarks and they will give you a variety of templates), but VistaPrint is another great place to make bookmarks. I’ve seen their quality and they are a great resource for swag.

Another thing you can do with a logo is put it on all your graphics. Even if you don’t use ads, you can make graphics for your FB author page, Twitter, and Instagram. Here is something I whipped up for this blog post using Canva with my fake cover and the logo.

It can be clever identifier to what the books are about. The BBB for my logo isn’t a great example, but the ballet slippers that author Vivian Wood used is. We know right away her trilogy is going to be about dancers of some kind.

Taken from

It is a funny coincidence that our cover models are the same man–such is life in the life of a romance author with limited stock photos.

But this brings me to a really great point about logos. A lot of logos you will make for your covers are just going to be elements that you hunt up yourself unless your cover designer also makes them for you. Going on depositphoto.com and searching for vectors is probably the best way to find something you’re looking for, and I found a similar pair of ballet slippers Vivian used for her cover:

All it would take is a little know-how with GIMP or Photoshop to strip this pair of their sepia background and color the shoes gold to fit in with her color scheme. Like anything else you do with your cover, it’s best to buy your elements. In fact, this article from The Cover Counts says DepositPhotos is the ONLY place you should buy logo elements because different stock sites have different terms of service and vectors may not be allowed to be used a part of a logo.

When we talk about logos, we’re not talking about trademarking it as part of your official brand, author brand, or book brand. It’s more a part of your cover like the font you use than it is some of real legal value. Just like the guy above we both used as a cover model, there’s nothing that says an author can’t like your logo so much they want it as part of their own series and copy it. Indies are a pretty good group of people though, and I don’t hear of thievery like this very often, especially in romance author circles. But because we’re all limited by stock choices out there, one can only hope that an author’s or cover designer’s creativity will keep them from having to copy someone else.

How do you make a logo? It would be tempting to go into Canva and search logos and and alter one to suit your needs, but you should make your own with elements you purchase (please stay away from pixabay, unsplash, pexels, and other free sites) and use fonts that you have purchased or you know are free for commercial use. I’ve been thinking about the logo I’m going to make for the duet I’m currently writing, and my King’s Crossing 6-book series will definitely need one.

Canva is the easiest way to try a design, using their free elements, and then when you think you might have what you need, look to DepositPhotos and buy what you can find that will fit.

Most authors have an author logo, too, and I made one for my pen name. For now I’ve been placing the on the backs of my books in the empty bottom left hand corner of the cover. The cityscape theme matches the stock photo I use on my newsletter signup, and If I rebrand the author page on Facebook I have now, or start a new one, the cityscape can be part of the header too.

You can have a lot of fun with a logo for a series, and it’s great way to tie your books and covers together, and with splashing it everywhere, maybe you can build some brand awareness!


I don’t have much else today. It’s going to be a busy week, and I’m going to try to get this book done before Thanksgiving so I can rest a few days during the holiday. I still don’t have a plot for book two, but I left a lot of loose ends in book one (not for the couple, they’ll have their HEA) but book two is definitely needed now, and all I have to to do is figure out how to do it.

I’ll think of something.

Until next time!

Monday Update and Editing a Series

Happy Monday!

It’s almost the end of October and there’s nothing better than fall weather in Minnesota! November is always fun because it’s my daughter’s birthday month (she’ll be 16!) and mine, too, but I won’t be sharing how old I am (haha!). I took Thursday off for Thanksgiving and I plan to make a turkey like I did last year–though I overcooked it and I’ll do better this time. There’s only two more months left of the year, but I don’t have any particular plan besides working on a new WIP because I miss writing. I could edit something, but I’m a little tired of that since I just read through and fixed some inconsistencies in my six-book King’s Crossing series and I need to cleanse my palette before more editing. I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo–I don’t need the motivation to get anything done, and the month is terrible for me all around. I do wish everyone who is participating very good luck, and I hope you all meet your goals!

Editing a Series

I didn’t have a plan for today’s blog post, but I did want to talk a little bit about how difficult it is to edit a series–especially if you don’t have help. You would think that after a few years of writing and publishing I would have enough coming in by now to afford an editor, but I don’t and the reality is, I’m not alone. Indies seem to make the same mistakes and that holds us back. Not always–some indies know exactly what to do to get to where they want to be–but others, such as myself, we flounder as we learn “the rules” of the publishing industry. What we don’t gain in royalties is made up in knowledge, but that’s small consolation when we were hoping our beloved hobby would help us pay a few bills here and there, or, at the very least, nudge us into the black after expenses.

Anyway, I have a beta reader who’s going to read them all for plot and consistency issues, and he’s a writer friend who will do it for free. He’s not a professional by any means, and all I can do is hope that I took care of everything on my end and that he catches the rest (if there is anything).

Because this blog is geared for the bootstrapping authors who pretty much do every little thing on their own like I do, I made a list of things that can make it easier on you if you’re editing a long series alone. No, it’s not optimal. I hope you have someone who can help you like I do (even if it’s just one person), but even if you do, you’re going to want to do the bulk of the work yourself to make it easier on the people who do take the time to help you.

Write them as quickly as you can. What was helpful was I didn’t spend a lot of time writing them, meaning, I didn’t leave a lot of time between books. I wrote them all in a smooth sequence that took about ten months because it’s all one gigantic story. There wasn’t time for me to forget anything, and if I had a question, I knew where to look because it hadn’t been that long ago I wrote it.

Use a series bible. I depend on my memory a lot more than I probably should. I remember eye color, hair color, features, pets. As I write, my characters become real people, and it’s easy to remember how they look if they are real to me. That doesn’t always mean things stay consistent, and during this last read through of my series I wrote down eye color, hair color, names, bits of background. You might already do this when you start a series or new book, and I do too, but this series was completed a while ago, and I’m not 100% sure where those notes are. I grabbed a new notebook and jotted down everything that was important. One of the saves I made this time around was thanks to my story bible. I had changed one of the character’s names from Alan to Nolan.

Give it a rest. I take huge chunks of time between each editing read. It’s how I can credit the two saves I found this time around. One save was at the beginning of book one when I mentioned the director of the FBI, but in later books I had demoted him to an agent. It was an easy fix, but I had already read these three times before I caught it. The other big save was when Zane, my MMC, knew something at the beginning of book three, but I didn’t reference in book two how he came into the knowledge. I had to reread almost the entire book to a) make sure I didn’t forget that someone told him what he knew and b) look for the perfect spot in which to write it in. Giving it a rest is probably the most helpful thing you can do, especially if you work on something else while you wait. If you can go back to the story with a clear head, it will feel like you’re reading it, maybe not for the first time, but the story won’t feel so tired.

Trust your reader. You may be tempted to repeat things, especially if your series is long, but all that does is give you opportunity to mess up details. I try not to repeat things, especially if I catch myself thinking it’s for the reader and doesn’t further the story along. Readers are smart–it’s why a lot of authors turn fans into beta readers. They have great memories. I remember one interview with Marie Force on the Self Publishing Show and she said she has betas who read her entire series over from book one whenever she writes a new book because they read for inconsistencies. If you have a beta reader who starts a 20 book series at book one to help you with plot issues, then you better believe she’s got a great memory. Readers picture your characters in their heads how they think they look. It’s not necessary to harp on the physical attributes of your characters. You don’t have to go over plot point after plot point, but if you do mention a gun in a drawer, you better remember to use it because your reader will remember you put it there. If you’re interested in listening to that interview with Marie, you can watch it here. She offers so much useful information, I loved it!

Proof your proofs. Lately I’ve also been listening to my books before I format them and create proof copies. Listening to your novel can point out syntax issues, typos (it’s funny when the voice says a word in a funky way), repeated words, etc. That’s a more micro editing step, and as you can tell, I’m more concerned with the bigger picture–especially when you’re dealing with so many books at once. I like listening to them, and I make the most changes when I take the time to listen. It’s a very time-consuming step.

Reading them in book form does something to my brain, and I find a lot of mistakes, both proofing-wise and content-wise. I binge them like a normal reader would, and since they feel like a book and smell like a book, they have a cover and all the back and front matter, it’s a different kind of reading experience. I used to print them out at Office Max, but that got to be too expensive and wasted paper. Creating a proof copy is cheaper, even if you pay for expedited shipping.


As far as using a software like ProWriting Aid, The Hemingway App, or Grammarly, I find those only work if you already know the rules and can decide for yourself if you’re going to take their suggestions or not. Not everyone has a degree in English, and I get that, but you should also learn the fundamentals or software like that will hurt more than they help. I don’t use any software, nor writing/plotting aids like Scrivener or Plottr. Among the edits I do on screen using plain old Word, listening to the manuscript, then proofing the proof, I hope I take care of most of the issues. At least, as far as I can tell. I don’t have any reviews indicating my books could use another edit (which is a terrible thing for a book–reviews won’t go away, even if you’ve done another editing sweep and your book is 100% better).

The biggest challenge I’ve had with editing these is boredom, and if your heart isn’t in it, that can make you miss things. I’m tired of reading them and taking time between edits helps. Not that I want to give anyone an impression I don’t like my own work. I doubt authors like EL James, Sylvia Day, or Stephenie Meyer are ever caught saying they’re tired of the characters that made them famous. I love them, but it will be nice to write something else while these breathe–again. I was hoping to start releasing them over the summer, but I don’t know how that will work out. I can only work as fast as I can work–especially alone.

Do I have any resources for editing a series? There’s nothing really out there that can help you edit alone. There’s no argument that a second set of eyes can go a long way–as long as that second set of eyes comes with a good memory and can remember inconsistencies and plot issues. The best you can do on your own is to remember your own work. Remember the plot points, remember your character arcs, write down plot twists so you can refer back to them later to keep details straight.

It’s tough not to have help, or be able to afford it. I have a couple of prolific readers in my real life who I know from work, and I maybe could ask them if they would be willing to proof the final copies before I hit Publish, but we’re talking six books here. I don’t know how long it would take to get through them all. It would probably be wise if one of them agrees, and I can afford to pay small fee, say $50 a book. That’s cheaper than you’ll find anyone to do it online. As I like to say, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I still have plenty to do before I reach that point. Until then, to give myself a break, I’ll write another stand alone. You can never go wrong writing another book!

I suppose that’s all I have for today! Have a great week everyone!