The top 6 reasons listening to marketing advice is a pain in the A$$.

We all have marketing advice coming out our ears. I’m to the point where I don’t even care about marketing advice right now. I stopped listening to Clubhouse, I’m not an active participant in any Facebook group. All I’ve been doing is writing, writing, and more writing because let’s face it, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have product. But more than that, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have the right product. So here are my top six reasons why listening to marketing advice is a pain the you know what.

You don’t have the same backlist as the person dispensing the advice.
Frontlist drives backlist. Right? Maybe you’ve never heard it phrased like that. Maybe you’ve heard “writing the next book is the best marketing for the current book.” I like frontlist drives backlist better because sometimes we think that after a book is so many months old it will stop selling. Maybe in traditional publishing circles this is true–when bookstores yank your paperbacks off the shelves, but we’re digital now, and books on the digital shelf don’t get old. So when you have someone who’s been publishing for a while saying that their newest release earned them lots of money–you don’t know if it’s from the current release or if their new book bumped up all the books in their catalog. Listening to someone talk about how they are promoting their 20th book might not do much for you if you’re planning a second. They are 100 steps ahead of you. Take notes if you want, but chances are good what they are saying won’t apply to you. I’ve been in that position, too. Listening to big indies is discouraging. Rather than listening, I go write.

You’re not in the same genre/subgenre/novel length/platform.
If you write thrillers, what a romance author is doing may not help that much. Maybe you’ll get some ideas because a lot of marketing is universal, but for example, lots of romance authors are on TikTok right now. Whether that is beneficial for you, you would have to do your research and figure it out before you waste time learning how to make the videos. Marketing for wide isn’t going to be the same if you’re in KU, just like listening to a webinar on how to market a historical saga isn’t going to do much for you if you’re a children’s book author. Marketing advice isn’t created equal and it helps to figure out what you’re selling before listening to advice. Even marketing for historical romance would be different than marketing mafia romance. If you write short stories, chance are marketing those will be different than if you’re writing long novels.

They have money–you don’t.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, I bought a Freebooksy, put my first in series for free, and watched the royalties roll in through page reads.” That sounds like the answer to anyone’s prayers, except, then you rush to Written Word Media and see a Freebooksy spot is $40 to $175. If you’re trying to promote a standalone, there’s no way you’ll get that money back paying to give away a free book. Amazon ads aren’t nearly as expensive (I have six ads going and have only spent 4 dollars this month so far) but if you don’t know how to put together a Facebook ad, they are happy to take your money and run leaving you with no clicks and no sales. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do for free anymore, all the begging going on right now on Twitter is proof of that. So it would be in your best interest to find a couple of nickels to rub together, make sure your book is advertising ready, and hope that you can find some traction with a low cost-per-click ad. If you’re afraid of losing money, do what you can with your product so that doesn’t happen. The person who DOES make their money back and then some on ads and promos has a product that people want and all they’re doing is helping readers find it.

They have a newsletter. You don’t.
Ever listen to a 6-figure indie author talk about their marketing campaigns? They give you all the sales numbers, all the rank, and someone asks them how they did it and they say…. “I emailed my newsletter and told them I had a new book out.” Where are the melting face emojis when you need them?

courtesy of Canva

Here they are. There is nothing so disheartening as thinking you are going to hear a nugget of information that will take your author career to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, you need a mailing list. That bomb she dropped is proof of that. Only, her list was six years in the making and you’re stuck on MailerLite tutorials on YouTube. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen and write down her advice for later. She built up her newsletter somehow and she probably has a lot of tips on how she did that. Gave away a reader magnet, joined in Bookfunnel promotions (or StoryOrigin), she networked with other authors and they featured her in theirs to get the ball rolling. But you have to understand that she’s six years ahead of you. I’ve heard Lucy Score has 140,000 subscribers on her email list. You may never, ever, get there, and her marketing strategies will not be yours.

They write and publish faster than you.
I remember when I settled in for a good marketing talk with a big indie author. I had a notebook, a pen, a cup of coffee, and I was going to absorb all the knowledge. She was talking about ads and promos and the usual, and then she got to how many books she released a year.

calico cat grimacing

That really sums how how I felt. There’s no way I could do that. I write fast–I can crank out four books a year with no help. No editor, no beta reader, no formatter, no one to do my covers, just me. But she multiplied that by four, and my heart sank. Obviously, their marketing techniques are going to be way different than yours. They can put a first in series for free, buy a promo, and get a ton of read-through from the get-go. They can run ads to several books and create boxed sets. What they can do in a year, you might be able to do in five, so you need to adjust accordingly. It doesn’t mean you won’t be successful, it just means you won’t be successful as quickly. When listening to marketing advice from prolific authors who are doing this as their day jobs, keep your expectations realistic. Save up advice that you might be able to use later, but realize that you can’t do anything without product first.

They could just be a better writer than you (for now).
No one likes to talk about craft. We don’t. It’s messy and subjective and it’s easy to start talking about rules and editing and first person vs. third person, and before you know it, you’re not talking to anybody anymore because everyone is ticked off about the Oxford Comma. But the fact is, good books sell. You can run ads and sell a bad book once, but you’ll never build an audience or a loyal readership off a crappy book. People work hard for their money and they don’t like to waste it. Time is precious and trying to read a book that isn’t well written is a drain when they could be reading something better, catching up with a show they’re behind on, or spending time with a significant other or their kids. You can’t be cavalier about asking people to spend time with you. People who have writing careers write good books. So if you’re discouraged because the authors you’re listening to are telling you that they don’t lose money on ads, and/or they have a huge newsletter, it’s because their books are good. Do you think this author has readers who are invested for the long haul?

I’m not making fun of anybody–he obviously has readers–I would do a lot for 458 reviews–but when 41% of them are one and two stars, you’re not offering content readers will come back for. Imagine how this book could have taken off if it had been well-written. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I don’t have to tell you the other two books aren’t doing well. The loss of potential is devastating to me. I can’t even imagine how he feels. Maybe he doesn’t even understand his own self-sabotage and is happy with the instant gratification.


It’s really difficult to listen to marketing advice. We all write such different books. Our genres will be different, our covers. Our willingness to put ourselves out there for the sake of networking. Our author voices and style will be different. Before you try to follow any advice, your books have to be marketable or any marketing you do will be for nothing.

This is why writing about marketing is hard. It’s why it’s difficult to listen to advice. And really, what no one talks about is how much marketing you have to do before you even write that book. We try to find customers for our product, when really, it’s a hell of a lot easier to find product for already existing customers. Finding your comparison authors makes it easy to find readers–their readers are your readers. We don’t like to study the market because we’d prefer to write what we want to write. The authors with the most longevity meet in the middle between what the market wants and what they love to write. It’s easy to do market research these days–Alex Newton of K-lytics takes the work right out of it, and you can watch a short trend report that he made this month for free here. https://k-lytics.com/kindle-e-book-market-trends-2022-september/

Read on for more resources and have a great week!


If you want to work on your craft, Tiffany Yates Martin has all her classes on sale for NaNoWriMo for $29.00/each. Check them out here! https://foxprinteditorial.teachable.com/


Guest Blogger: Six Great Reasons to Write Short Fiction by Vera Brook

SIX GREAT REASONS TO WRITE SHORT FICTION

By Vera Brook

You may have glanced at the title of this post and shrugged. “I write novels and series. I’m not interested in short fiction.” Maybe you even rolled your eyes. “It’s just not worth my time.” 

But wait! Don’t go away yet. I promise there are great reasons to consider writing short fiction alongside your novels and series—both to hone your craft and to market your longer fiction and reach new readers. So let’s dive in and discuss six of these reasons, shall we? 

Actually, it might be helpful to first define short fiction. I dwell in the world of science fiction and fantasy, and in that world, we break down short fiction into four main lengths. Flash fiction is typically 250 to 1000 or 1500 words; a short story is between1500 and 7500 words (with 3000 to 5000 words considered a sweet spot); a novelette is 7500 to 17500 words; and a novella is 17500 to 40000 words. Anything longer than 40000 words is a novel. Other genres may use different definitions, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with some short fiction in your genre. 

I also want to mention from the start: if you want to write short fiction, you need to read short fiction first. Not a huge amount, but some. It will help a great deal. If you find a story that absolutely blows you away, you can study it for craft and apply what you learn in your own writing. And by searching for short fiction to read, you will also discover markets where you could submit and publish your own short fiction later on. 

How do you find short fiction to read? There is a rich plethora of short fiction magazines and anthologies out there, some in print, some digital, and many available in both formats. My favorite tool to search for magazines and anthologies (to submit to but also to read), and to track my submissions, is the Submission Grinder. You can search by genre and length, pay rate, response time, etc. And it’s absolutely free to use (although you could support the creator to help the good thing going). The Best of… anthologies are also a great choice, as long as they are pretty recent. 

Okay. Let’s first talk about the benefits of writing short fiction in terms of craft, and then about all the different ways to use short fiction to market your longer works and widen your readership.

Craft reason #1: Practice and improve your openings

sketch of woman sitting at desk. orange background text: craft reason 1: practice and improve your openings

The openings of novels are crucial. When a reader comes across your book on Kobo or Amazon, they’re very likely to open the ebook sample and read the first chapter or so. If the opening grabs them and pulls them in, they will get the book. The same happens in physical bookstores. The reader picks up a paperback and reads the first few pages. 

The opening is crucial! But how often do we get to practice writing the opening? If you write long novels, not very often. Just once per novel. Short fiction lets you practice writing different kinds of openings and get better and better at them. A super helpful skill that you can directly apply when writing your next novel.

Craft reason #2: Practice and improve your endings

sketch of woman sitting at desk, green background, text: craft reason 2: practice and improve your endings

If the opening sells your current book, the ending sells your next book (or so the saying goes, and I think it’s true). But as novelists, how many endings do we get to write? Not many. Again, just one per book. Short fiction lets us write lots of endings and different kinds of endings, and as with openings, practice makes perfect, and the improvement is directly applicable to novel writing. Stronger, more effective endings could also make a huge difference for the success of your series, where the read-through rate is critical and you want to do your best to compel the reader to jump directly to the next book in the series. 

Craft reason #3: Experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

sketch of woman sitting at desk: aqua background, text: craft reason 3: experiment with new genres and genre mash-ups

Maybe you write crime mystery and want to try adding a speculative element, like a futuristic technology or a paranormal ability. Or vice verse: you write speculative fiction but want to venture into the psychological thriller territory. 

However, it can be daunting to jump straight into writing a novel in a new genre. Short fiction is a perfect playground to try it out and see what happens, without investing too much writing time and effort. In fact, even reading short fiction in a new genre is a great way to get the lay of the land, including popular tropes that you could play with and subvert as you wish—as long as that short fiction is current, published in the last decade or so. 

So far so good? Great. Onward to using short fiction for marketing!

Marketing reason #1: Put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

sketch of woman sitting at desk: orange background, text: Marketing reason 2: put your writing in front of readers who love the genre

Let me ask you this: What’s the biggest challenge for writers today? It’s discoverability, isn’t it? 

Whether you are self-published, with a small indie press, or with a traditional publisher, it is incredibly tough to get readers to find your book. I don’t know how many millions of books there are on Amazon, but it’s an astronomical number, and advertising is expensive. 

If only there was a way to reach the readers in your genre—the readers who are most likely to enjoy your writing—and introduce yourself to them… Well, there is! Short fiction magazines in that genre. If you can get your story published in a magazine like that, guess what will happen? Hundreds or thousands of readers who already love the genre will read your story and discover you, the author, and all your other books! I discovered some of my favorite authors that way—by reading their short story in a magazine first. 

If your flash fiction or short story or novelette gets published in a top tier market, you will also get paid a nice amount; and even better, if the contract is good, you will get paid for only for the first-publication rights and anthology rights, but you can republish your short fiction in your own collection later on. 

Imagine that! A terrific promotion—and you get paid for it, instead of the other way around. 

To be fair, the best magazines and anthologies are competitive. Don’t expect to send them your first story and get an acceptance email (although if you do, congrats!). Rather, think of short fiction as part of your writing journey. It will take time to write good short fiction; it will take time to get it published. But I truly believe it’s worth it. In fact, personally, I consider writing and submitting short fiction as important to my writing career as my novels or series, at least for now. 

One last idea: When you are done with a series, consider writing a short story in that world. In most magazines, if your story gets published, it would be accompanied by your short bio, and the bio could mention your series and encourage the readers to pick up book one. Be careful not to include spoilers in the short story. And just to be safe, you could center it on a minor character or event, rather than the major character or the main story arc. But if your story is compelling and intrigues the readers enough to want to know more, you could gain new fans for your entire series!

Marketing reason #2: Reader magnets to build your newsletter list

sketch of woman sitting at desk, mauve background, text: marketing reason 2: reader magnets to build your newsletter list

Short fiction also works great as a reader magnet (for new readers to sign up for your author newsletter). By definition, short fiction is short, and therefore takes less time and effort to write than a novel. This makes it easier to give it away for free than an entire novel, especially when you are just starting out and only have a few novels published (like I do). And a fun short story or novelette can still entertain the readers and, if they like it, bring them one step closer to becoming your fans. 

The last bit of advice on reader magnets: Use a strong, compelling short story. It should be as good as you can make it in terms of your writing craft, even if it’s short. Don’t forget that the goal is to woo and impress a new reader enough to read more of your work and become a loyal fan over time. A careless, poorly edited short story will not cut it, and you could actually lose a reader that way.   

Marketing reason #3: Gifts to reward your loyal fans and keep them engaged in between books in a series.

sketch of woman sitting at desk, yellow background, text: marketing reason 3: gift for fans to keep them engaged between books in a series

Another terrific way to use short fiction is as a gift for your loyal fans, already on your mailing list. And one time when such a gift might come in handy? When you are in between books in a series, and your fans are anxiously awaiting the next installment. Unlike with a short story that you would submit to a magazine, for new readers who are not familiar with the series, here you are writing primarily for fans who know the characters and the plot inside out. You may still want to be careful with major spoilers, just in case a few readers are behind in their reading. But you have more leeway in terms of what you could refer to in the short fiction, and it might be fine to assume quite a bit of knowledge of the series already. 

A quick mention, since this post is already getting long: Many authors use short fiction as Patreon rewards for their supporters. It’s a similar idea to gifting a short story to your fans through your newsletter. And the best part? Whenever you gift short stories to your fans, once you have enough stories, you could publish a collection of your short fiction! How cool is that? I adore individual-author collections. And it’s another book to your name, so helps with discoverability too. 

One last thing I wanted to mention: Nowadays, both reader magnets and gift copies are distributed electronically, and that’s especially true for short fiction, which may be too short to publish as a paperback. So basically, you would use an ebook version of your short story or novella to give away. You want to make sure that the ebook is correctly formatted, including epub and mobi files, but the distribution can get complicated pretty quickly because of all the reading devices out there. So my recommendation would be to use a service like BookFunnel where you can open an account (for about $20 a year currently), upload the files with your short story (you will need a cover!), set up a landing page for the readers to download the ebook, and then share the link. 

That’s all for now. I think I ran over the word limit a little bit. (Oops. Sorry, Vania. I hope that’s okay.)

Before I let you go, here are a few of my favorite resources on the craft and the marketing uses of short fiction. Best of luck with your writing!


Resources:

Writing Excuses podcast – a long-running podcast about writing and publishing fiction, with the focus on helping the listeners improve their craft and become better writers. 

Mary Robinette Kowal’s guest lecture on writing short stories – part of a series of lectures on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy directed by Brandon Sanderson.

Kristin Kathryn Rusch’s lecture “How to Write A Short Story: The Basics” – practical advice on crafting short fiction from an award-winning, multi-genre professional writer and editor.

The Submission Grinder – a free online tool to search for short fiction markets and track your own submissions. 

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)’s collection of model publishing contracts – includes anthology and magazine contracts. 


Vera Brook is a science fiction, fantasy, and romance writer, and the author of the SAND RUNNER SERIES. Her latest book, THE KISS, a paranormal love story, came out in November 2021. She’s working on two entirely new series, a standalone novel, and a whole lot of short fiction. You can learn more about her writing on her website at verabrook.com. She also tweets about her writing journey, books she loves, and things that interest her at @VeraBrook1.

Copyright © 2022 by Vera Brook

Working on your craft: Can you publish without an editor?

So, there was an interesting question that came up in one of my Facebook writing groups, and essentially, she asked, Can you really make a living publishing without an editor?

Considering that’s what I’m trying to do with my new pen name because I can’t afford to hire out, it piqued my interest.

All the answers, as you would imagine said, of course you need an editor. I was the only one who said, not so fast. There are a lot of variables when deciding something like that, and some of the questions I threw back at her were, How long have you been writing? Have you ever gotten feedback before, like, ever? Do you have a good memory to keep track of your own (in)consistencies and details? If you don’t know how to write a catchy beginning, avoid a saggy middle, create interesting and meaningful character arcs, and know your grammar and punctuation backward and forward, then you’ll probably need help. (It also helps immensely if you know what you don’t know and have the wherewithal to look it up.) During the first couple of years when decided to try write books to publish, I needed help, and I did use editors and beta readers. That was back when I had a large circle of friends who were willing to trade or charge very little and we all came through for each other. Now most of those friends are gone, and I’m alone. I said in my post, if you’ve written enough words to find your voice and style, then you’re one step ahead of most newbie authors. I’ve edited for a few new writers, and no amount of good editing will fix bad writing. The writer first has to give you something to work with, and if s/he doesn’t….

If you, or the original poster of that question, are looking for an easy way out, there isn’t one. Writing is like any other skill and it takes practice and a knowledge of the genre you’re trying to write in.

I admit, I love a writing craft book, and I read them all, but some of them get too formulaic, and I can’t follow. I tried reading Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody, and it just wasn’t for me. (She also has a blog that you may find helpful.) The way Jessica broke down a novel’s components made my head spin. Another book I’ve read, (though not recently) is Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels (How to Write Kissing Books) by Gwen Hayes. Romance authors a million times over swear by this book, but I just couldn’t make it work for me. And it’s not because I’m a pantser and want to write as I discover the story. I’m a plantser, and have a general idea of how I want the story to go, what the characters’ backstories are and their emotional wounds from their pasts that haven’t healed and how they affect their futures, which is what any romance book is about. But turning writing into a formula, or consciously chopping up my plot into the three act structure is really difficult for me to grasp and I can’t do it. The only two things I do with regards to planning that way is making sure something happens at the 50% mark to avoid the saggy middle (the Mirror Moment as James Scott Bell calls it), and breaking up my characters around the 75% mark, because that’s most what romances do. To be honest, them breaking up and thinking all hope is lost is my favorite part of any romance, and I would do it anyway.

When you’re a new writer, betas or developmental editors are valuable. They’ll tell you where the story drags, if you’ve rushed your ending, if your characters have no substance, and over time, if you listen to their feedback, your writing will smooth out and you’ll start to include those elements naturally. I don’t think any writer who is writing a debut novel will have all that figured out, never mind having written enough to find their voice and style. It’s why whenever I see a writer saying they are querying their first ever book, I say good luck, because chances are, your book will sound like you’re a brand new writer, and an agent can’t sell that.

It’s really not fair, because a lot of good writing comes from gut instinct, or following an intuition that you’ve honed over a million words. You develop your own formula based on genre expectations and how you twist those reader expectations to make your tropes fresh and new. All that comes with practice and listening to feedback.

Once you have your voice and style down, once you know you can deliver to your readers, then yeah, I think you don’t need an editor, not someone who will deep-clean your manuscript, though it does mystify me how many people get angry when I say it. (I even left a Facebook group over it.) I don’t know if it’s because they resent having to use an editor, or are just defensive of indie publishing as a whole and how much crap is published on, let’s face it, a daily basis, or what. I really don’t know what makes people so mad when I say it, but that doesn’t make it less untrue. Besides, no one has any idea how hard someone will work not to need an editor. I read craft books like crazy, read in my genre (though not as much as I should) and write. Maybe that’s the issue people have? They aren’t writing? Look, it doesn’t matter who you are, you need to practice to get better, and that goes for anything you want to try to master. Olympic gold medalists have been honing their skills in their chosen sports since childhood. Same as musicians. But I suppose if you have twenty hours a week to write, and you’re talking to someone who only has five free hours a week, yeah, maybe there will be a little resentment there. I write a lot. I don’t have many friends, I work from home, I don’t go out much. When I’m not working, doing chores, running errands, or going to Tuesday movie night with my sister, I’m writing. That’s not something I’m going to apologize for, and neither should you if someone is giving you a hard time.

In reality, it’s a moot point, anyway. I know 6 and 7 figure authors with one-star reviews that say they needed an editor, when I know that hiring an editor is part of their publishing process. You won’t please everyone, so you might as well be honest. If you need help, get help, and if you can write a good story without help, don’t worry about it. You can’t achieve perfection, and I’ve already said this will be the last time I go through my 6 book series. I will ALWAYS be able to find something to change, but I need to let them go. I’m tired and I have many other stories in my head that I want to get onto the page.

So, how do you make your writing better, level up so you don’t need an editor?

Read a lot in your genre. A lot of developmental editing is finding those tropes and elements that make your genre what it is and helping you meet those reader expectations. You won’t know what those expectations are unless you read a lot in your genre. I know this stinks like writing to market, but every genre, be it romance, domestic thrillers, detective novels, have elements that you can’t leave out or you’ll just make readers mad. Writing a good story is all about the overall picture as much as knowing where your commas go.

Listen to feedback early in your career. When I first started writing again, it took me a lot of feedback to find my groove. My very first beta who volunteered pointed out all the “justs” and “thats” and that was my first lesson in filler words. That was a great start to learning what I was doing wrong. Another beta/editor told me to trust my readers because I had a habit of “reminding” them of what they’ve read in previous chapters. That was another great lesson, and one I still apply today when I find myself rehashing information. Repetition is tedious and boring. Echoing was another thing people pointed out to me, and I still do it, and it’s part of my editing to delete or replace repeated words. That’s one of the reasons why I’m going through my series again when I thought I was done. Because I found a couple of words that I used over and over and over again and I wanted to tighten up my sentences. Those are words I will always watch out for now, and you can make your own list of filler and crutch words to refer back to when you’re creating your own editing process.

Work on new projects. I learned a lot working on different books, and it’s the only way you’ll be able to practice crafting an engaging plot. As Kathryn Kristen Rusch says, rewriting will only teach you rewriting. You need to work on fresh projects to move forward.

Realize it will take time. “They” say you need to write a million words before you find your voice. I think that’s true–I wrote a 5 book fantasy series that will never see the light of day, plus a few novellas, and a book that would turn into book one of my first trilogy before I found my stride. That was in 3rd person past. I wrote a quarter of a million words in first person present before I found my voice in that POV, and I can tell reading through my series. That’s why I was so paranoid editing these books–I wanted book one to sound like book five, and it did take me a few extra thousand words added to books one, two, and three for them to smooth out and sound as good as books four, five, and six.

I feel bad for the beginning writer with no writing friends or money for resources. But as they say, if you don’t have money to spend, then you have to spend time, and that might mean swapping projects with another author who is in the same position as you. That’s not a bad thing. You can learn a lot editing for someone else, so it’s a great idea to join author groups on Facebook and make friends with authors who write in your genre. You’ll get help, and you’ll help others, so it’s a win-win for you and your writing career.

This was a very long introduction to what was supposed to be a list of craft books that have helped me. I linked to Save the Cat Writes a Novel and Romancing the Beat above. Just because they didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean they won’t work for you, and you should definitely give them a try.

It’s surprising but one of the books that helped me a lot isn’t necessarily a craft book. It’s The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. This breaks down why bestsellers sell the way they do. This might be my favorite book in the whole world because it mixes craft and the publishing industry. I love it. I can’t recommend it enough.

The second book that changed my life is Tiffany Yates Martin’s book, Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing. I love everything about this book. She reminded me about conflict, character arcs, character motivation, and stakes. Important elements that, if you skip or miss, will make any book fall flat. You need tension, and this book will help you find it. There’s even a section that mentions other editing resources if you can’t hire out. If you like audiobooks, she posted on Twitter she narrated it herself! (She also blogs, and you can sign up for her newsletter.)

Though I haven’t read it for a long time, it was one of the first self-editing books I ever read, and it helped me a lot: Self-Editing On a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide by Ashlyn Forge.

This book made so much sense. It was a real eye-opener, and now I recommend it to every new author: VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing (Bell on Writing) by James Scott Bell.

When I went to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference a few years ago, every agent in attendance said this book is a must have. I do have it, and it’s a great resource: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Someone recommended this book to me, and his sense of humor keeps this book from reading like a textbook–it was an enjoyable read, and I also learned a lot: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer.

And last, but not least, Mignon Fogarty’s grammar guide is a must have. Written in a light, conversational tone, Grammar Girl is easy to understand, and she goes through everything you need to learn grammar and punctuation for all of your writing projects: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) (Quick & Dirty Tips)

This post turned into its own animal, and that’s okay. Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far. In an age where everything is pay to play, including beta readers, even if you have plans to hire out, making your manuscript as perfect as possible will save you money. The less your editor/proofer has to do for you, the better for your wallet. You’ll never regret teaching yourself as much as you can. I haven’t.

Thanks for reading!

***Per usual, this post does not contain any affiliate links, and the book covers are screen grabs from Amazon.

Buzzword: Consistency

When you follow any type of industry, Human Resources, Business, Publishing, lots of buzzwords get thrown around. They’re trendy you know? No one does more “reaching out” or “approaching” than an HR rep. Every profession has their own language, and it’s been interesting to me to hear some of what publishing’s words and phrases are. (A while back I did a post on relevancy, and you can read it here.)

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about consistency. In HR, consistency means a lot of things. As an employee, one of the biggest ones you probably appreciate is when management treats everyone the same. Transgressions are punished equally, it doesn’t matter who the employee is. One of the best (or worst) examples of inconsistency I’ve seen in the workplace is preferential treatment given to smokers. They need their smoke breaks and are allotted time others aren’t to be away from their desks. I’ve seen employees come and go because of inconsistent training, inconsistent treatment, inconsistent guidelines, and inconsistent pay. (Ever work for a company where a new hire makes more than someone who’s been there for years because they didn’t adjust the pay of the other employees? Sucks, right?)

In indie publishing, consistency is almost a naughty word, but if you think about your life outside of writing and publishing, I can’t think of an instance where consistency is bad. Your body likes it when you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. It appreciates it when you consistently feed it nutritious food and consistently exercise. Sometimes consistency can be a matter of health: who reading this needs to take medication at the same time every day? Who goes to the doctor every month? Every six months? The dentist? And you visit the same doctor right? You have a family practitioner you’ve developed a rapport with, someone who knows your medical history.

Here are other instances where consistency is good:

*You pay your rent/mortgage on the first of every month, you renew your lease at the same time every year.
*You go to work and leave at the same time every day.
*Probably you park in the same parking spot, too.
*Your work pays you at the same times every month. Wouldn’t it suck for you if they decided to pay you whenever they wanted?
*You train your pets to expect food at the same time every day. They don’t appreciate it when you forget.
*You pick up your kids from school at the same time very day. They don’t appreciate it when you forget, either. (Haha!)
*You bring your car in for an oil change every three months because you can’t afford the potential repairs if you don’t.

There are so many more ways in which consistency helps you or when/where you depend on it. In fact, we love consistency and routine so much that we fight change. (Who ignores their computer and phone updates?) We hate it, we can’t cope with it, and it causes us anxiety. There’s a reason why we say, “Jump before you’re pushed”– because we need the control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation.

So why then is consistency such a nasty word when we apply it to our books and our book business?

For one, I think we fear it will stifle our creativity. When we hear the advice to “stay in our own lane” or to “niche down and find a subgenre you like and stay there” we automatically think we won’t be able to be as creative, but that is actually the opposite of how our brains respond. Humans find freedom in boundaries. Take little kids–they thrive on schedules. They need to know what is happening because they find safety in routine. They have a difficult time coping being shuttled from parent to parent in a divorce, and not knowing where they’re going to sleep from one night to the next causes them anxiety and fear. Routine for children and adults is conducive to good mental health.

You can apply that to what you write. If you choose a niche instead of being a multi-genre author, your readers will have an easier time finding something in your catalogue to enjoy (hopefully everything!). I can use myself as an example. Under Vania Rheault, I wrote in all the subgenres: billionaire, age gap, small town. I thought I was writing “contemporary romance” but publishing has changed and while I was writing that, I was technically genre hopping and it didn’t help with sales. I had a difficult time marketing. I decided to write billionaire under VM Rheault, and I have been writing and hoarding books for the past two years. I’ve written 13 books plus the one I’m writing now. That might not be much, not when we’re talking about a career, but I already have plans for four more books to round out a series I’m not done with, and I’m rereading the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day and making notes to write another long billionaire series.

Rather than think that I’ll eventually run out of things to write about billionaires, I think the opposite. I can take any trope I want and make it a challenge. How can I take this trope, apply it to the billionaire subgenre and write a book or series readers of that subgenre will fall in love with? Giving yourself too much freedom can actually cause writer’s block. We wonder how prolific writers can write so fast, and it’s because they thrive with the boundaries they write in.

Covers are the same. You need your cover to convey your genre and fit in with the other books in that genre. I didn’t understand that, and in romance, steam level also dictates how much clothing a couple on the cover is wearing. Amazon’s new guidelines haven’t helped with this and has made covering our books that Amazon will approve for ads a little more trickier. Billionaires are pretty easy–you have a suave, handsome man in a suit, or a bad boy in a black and white photo glaring into the camera. Readers are used to what they want, and if you’re too different, they’ll think they won’t like what you have to offer. Do you ever see packaging for a favorite product change? The first thing they do is put on the front in bold letters NEW LOOK! SAME GREAT TASTE! They don’t want to scare you off when they decide to rebrand. We are automatically repelled by the change, and companies know that.

Being that there is no room on a book cover to comfort potential readers and assure them that even though your cover is different there is still a story in there they will enjoy, just give the audience you’re trying to reach what they’re used to. Why fight it when the cover is only a small thing to compromise on. You want readers right? Yeah, you do.

Be consistent with a publishing schedule. This is a big one with me, and something I struggled with. The indie authors I know who are making it publish on certain days every month, every year. I would like to publish three-four books a year, though I’m not 100% sure what those days and months will be. I want readers to know, for example, in April I’ll have a book out, and then July, and then October, and then December if I happen to have something for Christmas. I know a lot of indies have an issue with this because they write when they have time to write and publish when the book is done. Then they do it over and over again without any real schedule. It can take a couple of years to figure out how fast you can write a novel, how fast your editor will give it back to you (if you have one), how fast you can put those changes in, how fast it will take you to secure a cover. We don’t like to think of books as products, but there is a “production” process very book goes through before it’s ready to be sold. In Elana Johnson’s book, Writing and Releasing Rapidly, she encourages you to figure this out. It takes me six weeks to write a 80k word novel, but because I don’t have a “team” to help me, I do a lot of the editing/proofing myself and that takes time. Going through stock photos and playing with how the cover will look takes more time than ordering a premade or hiring a designer. Formatting might not take that long with Vellum, but it’s still time you have to put aside.

If all that sounds crazy and unattainable because you have little kids and a day job, of course you won’t be releasing ten books a year, unless you write novellas and you can write one in two weeks. It’s a process to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are and work with them instead of letting them work against you. Begin how you wish to continue. Under-promise and over-deliver, so during good years if you can crank out an extra novel, your readers will be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed because you overtaxed yourself and can’t meet a deadline.

Be consistent in the length of your novels. We don’t talk about length of a novel very often. If you’re in KU you are paid by the page read, and obviously the longer the book is, the more you’re paid. Some authors write with this in mind, and only offer full-length novels. I don’t write novellas. Not only for that reason, but because I can’t plot a novella. I always have too much going on, and when you’re writing in 1st person, I have found (for me, at least) that it takes up a lot more space on the page. Readers like to know what they’re getting. They don’t want to pay $3.99 for a novella when they think they are buying a full-length novel. That’s not to say you can’t disperse a novella here and there as extra content, for example extra content between books in a series. Plenty of authors do that, but I think it would be very difficult to find a readership when you write full-length novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories. Write a consistent word count so your readers don’t have to guess what they’re buying when you release a new “book.”


Consistency is anything but boring. In a world where chaos reigns, consistency is a comfort. If you can change your mindset and give consistency a chance instead of eschewing it because you think you’ll be bored, you may be pleasantly surprised. I love writing billionaire. They are people too, and they suffer the same problems everyone else does. Do they have different ways of solving problems? Sure, but all of my characters, (and most I’ve read by other authors, too) learn that money can’t buy happiness, and by the end of the book would happily throw their fortunes away for true love.

Maybe this makes sense and it will encourage you to take a look at your business in a new way. Maybe you think I’m full of crap and you’ll continue to write and publish whatever whenever you want, but the next time the road you take to work is closed and you’re forced to take a detour, think about how you feel, how utterly inconvenienced you feel. Suddenly your morning routine is gone and the rest of your day is messed up. Your readers like consistency, they like knowing exactly what they are paying for when you release a new book.

I mean, this whole blog post is only my opinion, though I do have a list of resources below that back me up. If you’re writing whatever and publishing whenever, and you don’t have a problem with the results that brings your business, don’t change; this blog post isn’t for you. But if you’ve been publishing for a while and not finding the results you want, it never hurts to take stock and figure out where you can do better.

That’s what I did, and I will let you know how it works for me!

Until next time!


Resources:

Finding that middle ground between your daily routine and new opportunities will get you the best of both worlds and make for a happy, fulfilling life

Do You Need More Restrictions on Your Writing?

The Paralyzing Effect of Freedom

The Psychology of Limitations: How and Why Constraints Can Make You More Creative

Monday Musings, Fear of Success, and Where I’m at Now.

Happy Monday! It seems a little crazy to me that summer is half over. Time is flying by and I hope that you’ve all been productive! Not only is summer half over, we’ve past the halfway point of 2021 as well (which was July 2nd). What have you accomplished in the first half of the year, and what do you still want to get done before we say goodbye to this year?

This year, so far, I’ve written three and a half books. Well, maybe three and three quarters as I started one in December of 2020, but I don’t need to get too picky about it. I have slowed down and started (finally) editing these, and I’m going to release one, if not two, this year. I think I’m going to release my fake fiancé trope first, as I feel that is a stronger book than my ugly duckling trope. I just finished the second read-through of it and I’ll listen to it this week to check for typos and syntax issues. After I do that, I’ll format it in Vellum and start working on the cover. The cover and blurb will take the longest because I don’t have a team and I workshop these in various Facebook groups for feedback. Formatting, editing, and cover always take longer than I think they will, but I’m hoping for an October release.

I don’t have a Christmas story to publish this year, so I may wait to release again until after the New Year, though I always have to keep Amazon’s 30- 60- and 90-day cliff in mind. Next year I’ll begin releasing my six book series and after that, the third standalone I just finished up. It’s nice to be able to look ahead with a tentative plan, but I also want to keep writing new material and I don’t know how the more prolific indies can work on three or four things at a time to keep their production moving along. It seems almost crazy to me that authors can write and publish four books a year, though in some FB threads I’ve read the authors who do this the best are about 6 months to a year ahead of their own schedules. That makes sense and I could get my six book series ready. If I publish them two months apart, I would have a whole year of a buffer to write more books, but that seems to call for more organization than I have, especially since as I said, I don’t have help and need to keep all the details of my business straight on my own.

I was listening to the I Wish I’d Known Then podcast with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett, and they interviewed Lucy Score. Lucy is a 7-figure author and has created her own mini publishing empire. While I admire her and she’s a very motivational figure, her success scares me in some ways, too. I wouldn’t feel equipped to deal with it. I don’t have a team, or a circle of people I trust, really, to help me. Her husband works for her, her brother, they have friends who help, and she pays these people. To think about people depending on my writing for their livelihood gives me anxiety and while I too, want to be a 7-figure author, the idea scares the crap out of me.


That does bring to mind something I’ve been thinking about lately, and that is fear. We all fear being a failure in our writing, releasing a book and having it fizzle out the second we hit publish. Our books can fail in a myriad of ways, and it’s tough to determine which hurts more. Maybe we publish and we get zero sales, or maybe we publish and we have a great first week only to sink and never recover. Or maybe, and I think this scares all of us, is we publish our book and no one likes it. No one likes it, and they aren’t shy about letting us know–usually in the form of a scathing review.

Fear comes in other ways, too, like success. We fear success because we don’t know how to handle it, or we’re afraid we won’t be able to replicate it. The second book syndrome is real, and even if it’s not your second book, any book you write on the heels of a successful one could cause you some fear and anxiety. Nobody wants to be a one-hit wonder.

And so we do nothing. We put off writing, or in my case, we put off publishing, thinking if we just do this one thing (write another book, wait for a life event to finish, wait for a new month, wait for a new year) then we’ll start. If you’re putting off something, like writing, publishing, querying, ask yourself why. Are you afraid to fail? Or are you afraid to succeed? You can hide behind your fear, but at least be honest about it. You can always carve out writing time–1,000 words a day will net you a decent sized book in two and a half months. If you’re not doing that, if you’re saying, I need to wait until…. that’s a huge red flag that you’re scared. I’m scared. For the past year I was telling myself I’ll publish when I finish the next book, then the next, then the next, and if I keep writing without publishing, I’ll feel like I’m drowning in the books I have on my computer. Maybe if you’re not writing you’ll suffocate on the words that are supposed to be there but they’re not. The only person who can fix that is you.

So, anyway, that’s where I’m at. I may need to learn to work on more than one thing at a time if I want to be able to write while I have books in the production phase of publishing. My mind kind of took that fake blurb I wrote for the fake cover I did for my blog post on how to create a full wrap paperback cover in Canva and ran with it, and I have an amazing romantic suspense novel stewing around in my head that won’t let me think about anything else. I love writing standalones, and the interview with Lucy helped me come to terms with that. She writes standalones as well–it isn’t always about series all the time–and it made me feel better about the standalones I’ve been writing lately. The six-book series I wrote last year during the COVID lockdown will be my shining star–I’ll never be able to do it again–but I have a less complicated series that I started (I’m two books in) and I should finish those before I lose the thread and the want to finish them up.

I’m supposed to be going out of town next Monday, a trip to Georgia, but we’ll see how things go. I’ve had bad luck traveling lately, and my daughter just informed me she has a cavity that I would like to get taken care of before I go but my dentist has a busy office and that may not be possible. I don’t know if I’ll have a blog post for next Monday. Summer has slowed down for everyone, and at this point in time, I wouldn’t know what to blog about. It wouldn’t hurt to take a week off, but since I’ve started this crazy publishing path, when have I ever done that?


Coincidentally, Craig Martelle did a 5 Minute Focus on the price of success. He just streamed it today, so i will leave you with that, and a reminder of a couple things going on this week. Make the most of the rest of your summer!

Until next time!


Bryan Cohen started his Amazon ad challenge today. Amazon thought so highly of it that they featured his challenge in their blog. If you want to learn the basics of how to put together an Amazon ad for your book or series, check out his challenge. It’s all free, and if you join the FB group attached to the challenge, he, along with some of his staff at his blurb writing business and some of his successful students of his Amazon Ads school are around to help you out. I learned everything I know taking these challenges, and if I keep my eye on my ads dashboard, I never lose money.
If you want to check out the Amazon blog post, click here.
If you want to sign up for his ad challenge, click here. (This is not an affiliate link.)
If you want to join his Amazon Ad Challenge Facebook group, click here.
If you don’t want to join a FB group, he expanded this challenge to a slack group, and you can click here to join.


Wednesday, July 14th, Jane Friedman is hosting Elizabeth Sims in a Zoom webinar about writing dialogue like a pro. I’ve signed up for it, and for $25, all the information is worth it. There is a replay if you can’t watch it live, and Jane sends you the files afterward to download to keep. It really is a great value, and as far as I know, everyone can use a little help with their dialogue. If yours is stiff, doesn’t sound natural, or if you have a problem with dialogue tags, this class is for you. Click here to read more about it and to sign up. (This is not an affiliate link.)

Enjoy your week!

Guest Blogger Sarah Lou Dale: Choosing a Genre and Writing to Market

Special thanks to Vania for having me on the blog again. I’m going to dive right in and get to the heart of today’s post. When a writer enters this business, they are told to write to market and for some of us, that’s where we start to fail. I’m not being negative, I’m being honest. In light of honesty, I’ll say I hate the concept of writing to market, or what I viewed the term to mean which I’ll cover in a minute. When Vania told me to do this, I scrunched my nose up in distaste. It felt so cookie cutter to me.  

Until recently, I thought writing to market meant you write exactly in this mold all others write in. Take a trope and write a different take on it but still stay in the same mold.  For me, that’s boring. As a reader, I don’t read books like that at all. I haven’t been able to do a survey for readers to find out if this is in fact true. I hear it from writers all the time, but not readers outside of the writing community. So, is it true? Is that what readers really want? I believe that forcing yourself to write something you don’t want to, to fit into a mold you’re “supposed to” takes away who you are as a writer.

I believe I took the advice too literally and it gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Writing to a mold or formula ISN’T what writing to market means. I now believe writing to market is writing what the readers want because they are the ones who put food on your table. If you go about writing whatever the hell you want, you risk alienating your readers before they even become your readers. I fully believe this to happen. As I was brainstorming how to write this post where it wouldn’t completely piss people off, especially my host, I got to thinking about another angle: genres. 

I’m currently in this zone where I’m trying to pinpoint what genre or genres I should be writing. I have story ideas in at least 3-4 different genres. I’m too old and tired to be creating pen names and everything for each genre. So, this is where writing to market comes into play for me. THIS is what I believe in. As a writer, you want to first decide what genre or genres you want to write in and settle into it. Research the genre completely to make sure you know what is expected of that genre, because there ARE expectations and you have to respect that. No one wants to pick up a romance book and get a bloody murder scene, ya know?

This is where you write to market. Your market is your genre and the readers OF that genre. But, how do you find the genre you want to write? I’m told to write what you like to read. That’s not good advice for someone like me because I read everything from space operas to paranormal, to romance to psychological thrillers. Writing what I like to read has me where I am at this point in time. Not knowing my chosen genres. 

But, there is a way to find out what genre you do enjoy. I’ll list them below:

Three Ways to Find Your Genre:

1) Write Short Stories: During my big move/transition from Hawaii to Mississippi, I am taking a small break from my crime fiction novel and working on a series of short stories. It’s easier to focus on a handful of 2,000-5,000 word short stories than a 70,000+ word novel right now. Plus, the practice is phenomenal to my growth. What am I doing exactly? I won’t dive into the whole project, but I’m writing 3-5 short stories in genres I know I have story ideas for. I just finished my first romance short story and already know it’s not likely I’ll be joining the romance club. I still enjoy reading it though. I call this strategy a process of elimination. Not only will you get a feel of the genre, but you’ll get the practice too. These don’t need to be published and can be used to practice the genre, editing, and formatting. 

2) Research: There are LOADS of articles online about each genre; including information about word count and the model in which to write as well as the must haves. Read in each genre you think you may like to write in and decide if you want to join those clubs. 

3) Listen To Your Heart: I know, it sounds cheesy but it’s true. Writing for me is such an emotional journey. At some point your genre will stick out to you and won’t let you go. Embrace it and guess what? It’s okay if it’s more than one. DON’T WRITE for a little bit and actually listen to your inner voice and see where it’s leading you. You’ll be surprised what you find out about yourself in the process. 

Regardless of what you choose to do, just know if you are a new author, it’s a good idea to figure this out before you start. One of my biggest mistakes was writing and publishing my debut novel before I really knew anything about genres. It’s a small part of what made that book a flop, which still breaks my heart today. 

Writing to market now has a new meaning to me and I believe in it 100%. Readers expect, when they find an author they want to read more of, a certain story, a specific genre. If you change course from writing domestic suspense to a contemporary romance without showing any indication that you’re a contemporary romance author, you’ll quickly lose readers. 

Writing is a gamble. You have to be careful how you run your business. Take risks…they are there to be taken, but be aware of your own abilities and really consider your readers or future readers when you start your writing business. Sometimes you’ll have to do things to readjust, but it’ll be so much easier if you know what you’re wanting for your business in the beginning. 

Jeff Elkins’ post on The Write Practice (https://thewritepractice.com/write-to-market/) gives some great advice on how to change your perspective when you hear the term “write to market”. It’s so good to know I am not the only one who heard that term and thought negatively about it. 

Jane Friedman is an author I respect and adore. Jane’s article (https://www.janefriedman.com/genre/) about genres and defining your genre is spot on and I didn’t realize we used the same term when it came to finding your genre: a club. It’s true. Once you find a genre you enjoy and write in well, the peers you encounter along the way will be just like being a part of the club. You’ll connect with other writers and together you will be able to navigate this crazy writing business. 

Special thanks again to Vania for having me on the blog today. Until next time, Happy Writing/Reading.

Thursday Author Updates, 3D Characters and Newsletter Aggregators

Happy Thursday!

Things are going okay, but as life happens, not everything can go smoothly. More on that!

My paid beta reader has sent back my ugly duckling trope novel and I’m going to dig into her notes as soon as I’m done with this current WIP. (I’m currently at 23k.) I can’t focus on two books at once, and I’d rather have my current WIP done before I switch focus to another book. I skimmed her letter and she noted a small problem with my MMC saying he seemed a bit flat to her. So while I finish my current “my brother’s girlfriend is forbidden” trope, I’ll be brainstorming how to breathe more life into him. I don’t think she’s wrong: I know that since I’ve switched over to 1st person present POV I have a bit of a problem connecting with my characters. I depend very heavily on dialogue to move my stories along and I need to explore how to dig deeper into characters’ thoughts, feelings, relationships, and hobbies, and possibly giving them more backstory to make their current story richer.

If you want to explore how to create compelling characters, you can check out this class with Jane Friedman and Tiffany Yates Martin. I love Tiffany’s editing book, Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing and I am on board with anything she has to say with regards to editing and writing craft. You can check out the class here. It’s only $25 dollars and well worth the fee, in my opinion. While I subscribe to Jane’s newsletter–and you should too–I have to to thank Sarah Lou Dale for tweeting about this class over on Twitter. I think I would have missed it otherwise. Thanks, Sarah!


In other news, I’m sure you’re tired of me lamenting on the state of my newsletter, or lack of one. While I think I have it figured out, too many choices will be the death of me, I swear. I just unsubscribed from one, (I think I got signed up by entering a giveaway or something) and I noticed she used ConvertKit. Recently, Jami Albright said in a podcast episode she uses Mailchimp. A friend on Twittter, Scarlett West, said she loves FloDesk, and Craig Martelle, whom I consider a freaking genius when it comes to all things indie publishing and from the 20booksto50k FB group and writer’s convention, uses SendFox. For myself, I created an account with MailerLite, not only because they give you the first 1,000 email sign-ups for free, they have a MailerLite channel on YouTube that will walk you through everything you need to know to get up and going. If their channel doesn’t click with you, there are several tutorials by different marketing experts that also go through MailerLite step by step. Maybe you don’t need that, and I think that’s great, but this is coming from a gal who watched hours of Vellum tutorials before I even opened my Vellum software when I first purchased it. Research nerd, anyone? So, while there are a lot of great choices out there, I think for now I will stick with MailerLite and not be tempted like a kid in a candy store.


Graphic taken from atticus.io

Speaking of Vellum, another thing I wanted to let you know about in case you haven’t heard is that Dave Chesson is close to releasing his new formatting software called Atticus. It will be more than just a formatting software like Vellum–he says it will also work as a writing software like Word or Scrivener. It’s going to be half the cost of Vellum (ebook and paperback capability is $250.00 for lifetime, unlimited use right now) and will be available on all operating systems. (Vellum runs on Mac only.) You can check out the website here and sign up for updates! While I probably won’t purchase Atticus (I like Word and Vellum does what I need it to do), I think it will be a great alternative for those who can’t afford Vellum, or a Mac if you don’t already have one. My fiancé purchased a Mac back in 2018 for me because my Windows laptop just wasn’t cutting it for all I wanted it to do for my books. My Mac runs a lot better and faster and I will never go back to a Windows operating system. (I am an Apple girl at heart, anyway–I’d already had an iPhone and I love my iPad.) So stay tuned to Dave Chesson and his awesome software coming soon!


As for a more personal update, you all know I’ve been struggling with an infection that hit me in December of last year and I’m still dealing with today. I’ve been on four courses of antibiotics and this last one may have done a little more for me than previous prescriptions. Time will only tell as I just finished them two days ago, but fingers crossed that maybe I’ll start feeling better. I thought my body was taking care of it on its own, but that wasn’t to be the case. Anyway, I’m walking more, with a goal to lose a few pounds this summer, and going to a low carb diet. (Besides the mocha creamer in my coffee, of course!)

Another thing I’ve had to deal with is how hot it gets in my apartment. My A/C doesn’t work that great and I need to call our property management and ask that maintenance takes another look at it. I had them out last summer and they washed out the unit, and it worked better for about two days. After that I didn’t bother to call again because fall was right around the corner. But our A/C hasn’t worked well for years and this management company is a bear to deal with. I wish I could move but I’m stuck for the foreseeable future. I had to put up sun-blocking clings to our balcony windows because they face east and it can get soooo hot in our living room when the sun goes down (close to 85 degrees F). Hopefully it will help. If you need to try them where you live, you can look at what I purchased here. (This isn’t an affiliate link.) They were so-so to put up–my son helped me. We ran out, but we figured it would give the cats a place to still look outside. The clings can turn your space into a cave, though, so be prepared for that.

For better news, my daughter only has six days of school left, and it will be so nice not to have to bring her to school and pick her up every day. There is so much road construction going on in my city that I’m going to limit when I go to the grocery store to only and Walmart once a month for the summer. I hate dealing with road construction, especially since I’m not sure where you live, but it all seems so unnecessary. It’s ridiculous and while I’m not one to give in to road rage, I’d rather just stay home.


That’s it for the personal updates and what I have going on. Summer in Minnesota can be pleasant, or it can be hotter than hell and crappy to deal with. It’s nice when we have a bit of a mixture. I already have a sunburn from walking, but the cooler temps give us a little relief, too.

I hope you all are doing well and have a pleasant weekend ahead!

Thursday Updates: Indie Publishing’s Reputation, and more.

Lately, I feel like I don’t have time to get anything done. I’ve been doing a lot of vet stuff for my cat–she ended up going to the animal ER because the antibiotics she was on a couple weeks ago didn’t work. She’ll need to be on special food for the rest of her life and that is going to be a long, hard road (especially since she’s only three years old). She’s on pain medication now and another round of antibiotics, but time will only tell if the special diet will take care of her bladder issues. It’s been a little time-consuming, and I haven’t gotten much done on my next project as I’d like.

Here’s a picture of her sleeping after a dose of pain medication. She matches our couch almost perfectly.


In other news, I did start a new project, and I chose the “fake fiancee” trope. He needs a fake fiancee to win a bet, and we’ll see what happens. I’m 10k into it. I wanted to try a fresh take on the trope and tried to think outside the box. I didn’t want my hero to need a fiancee to inherit a boat-load of money, or to appease a dying parent. A bet may not be that original, but with his backstory, and why my heroine needs the cash he’ll pay her, I’m hoping this story will be something new that readers will enjoy.

I’m still not sure if this will be the cover for my ugly duckling romance–I need to work shop it in a covers group on FB and see what people think. I like it, though it’s not exactly what’s out there right now. (Mostly a single guy in a suit looking ticked off with a bold font.) I’ve shown it off before on the blog, but this time I’ve zoomed in on the couple a little more. I love the font, but maybe going with something more easily read will be the end result. Or I could be trolling Deposit Photos and find a completely different couple. Who knows?

While I’m doing that, I sent it to my (paid) beta reader, and she’s going to do her thing. I’ll format it myself in Canva, and I still need to learn MailerLite. I know, I know.

If you want a list of fake relationship books, BookBub put one together, and you can find it here.


I finished reading another billionaire romance the other day, and I have noticed some things that bother me while I’ve been reading through the top 100 on Amazon. For one thing, the characters are really young, and I touched on that subject in a previous blog post. In the book I finished reading, the hero was 28 and the heroine was 21. The book takes place over the time span of a year and a half, which makes the heroine roughly 23 by the end of the book, and at the end, she’s having a baby. I don’t know about you, but at twenty-three, I wasn’t thinking about babies, and the end of the book felt false to me. A happily ever after doesn’t always have to include children. In fact, because of their histories, some of my couples have agreed not to have children, even though they are old enough to want them and afford them. I’ve been guilty of giving my couples pregnancies–she ends up pregnant at the end of The Years Between Us and All of Nothing. There is a lot of baby talk among my characters in my Rocky Point Wedding series, but for the most part, they are agreeing they don’t want (biological) children. I’m not saying couples who want kids at the end of romance books are not to my liking, but when the characters are that young, I’m almost wincing with dismay. Live a little first, figure out who you are as a couple without kids. Sound advice, even in real life. This is only an opinion, but if an author wants their characters to start a family right away, it would be simple to age them up to an appropriate age for that.

My characters fall between 35-45 years of age, for the most part. In The Years Between Us, she was younger, only because the trope was younger woman/older man. The first person present series I finished that I’ve been sitting on for the past few months, they are younger, but they don’t talk about babies. It’s been a bit of resting for me with that story, but if I remember correctly, they don’t talk about babies at all. I like babies, in real life, and in books, but I think it helps the relatability and realistic factors if the characters are actually old enough to want to have them. What do you think?


Just one last thing I’m going to touch on in this blog post. I was on Twitter the other day and came upon this Wall Street Journal article: An Epidemic of Memoir-Writing. The lockdowns have spread of virus of non-memorable life stories, by Peter Funt. It wasn’t that this is ground-breaking news. Even in the fiction community, output of authors rose exponentially during the pandemic and saturated indie publishing. But what I found interesting was this grab from the article: “Andy Ross, an Oakland, Calif., agent, says, ‘I get multiple proposals for memoirs every day of the year, including Christmas. Most of the stuff is terrible, so it ends up with Kindle.'”

Guys, we’re never going to get past the stigma of indie publishing if we don’t start putting some effort into the things we publish. Indie publishing will always look like a last resort for people who don’t take the time to polish what they have before publishing. This is really disheartening to read because most authors I know do put 110% of effort into everything they publish. Writing is hard, and you can’t do it alone. You need critique partners, beta readers, editors. You have be willing to ask for and process feedback, whether it’s negative or positive.

If you want to learn more about writing a memoir, you can look here. Reedsy just happened to pop something into my email today and I’ll share it with you: What is a Memoir? True Life Stories, Minus the Boring Parts.

That’s all I have for today! Enjoy the rest of your week, and have a wonderful weekend!

Reedsy’s Savannah Cordova: How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations

I’d like to welcome Savannah Cordova from Reedsy to my blog today! I was so excited when she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in hosting a guest blog post. Of course I said yes! I love Reedsy and all they have to offer indie authors. If you like this post and are interested in others like it, Reedsy hosts its own blog, and you can find it here. Thanks for stopping by today!


How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations
by Savannah Cordova

Having enough acclaim to write a sequel to your book is every writer’s dream — but that doesn’t mean the process comes as easily as the butterflies when you get a crush. There are plenty of critically panned sequels out there, and the pressure can be nerve-wracking: you’re stressed about both living up to the first novel and coming up with something fresh and original.

The best romance novel sequels build on the success of their debuts, while also introducing new concepts, characters, and plot lines — which means that some beloved elements of the first novel might end up on the cutting room floor. A lot to juggle, right? Read on if you’re a romance author in need of some help; here are five tips to help your sequel shine.

1. Identify what your fans loved and focus on it
A great love story is a surefire way for a book to attract a following and take on a life beyond itself. With investment into a fictive world, and the growth of a fandom, come expectations. Expectations that need to be met or, dare I say, exceeded.

To do this successfully, it’s important to analyze what really made your first love story sing. Were people inspired by your fresh twist on that popular romance trope? Was the main love interest setting readers’ hearts aflutter? Did people enjoy the relatability of a certain character’s struggle to accept love? A stellar first romance novel normally has something special to distinguish it from other releases (if you’re feeling brave, reviews of your book might help you on this front). Zero in on this aspect and do your best to tease it out in the sequel.

That said, you shouldn’t be completely cowed by what you think your fans want — it’s your story, after all! Don’t be afraid to challenge their expectations and take the plot in unanticipated directions. It’s even advisable to drop some characters and subplots if they no longer serve a purpose. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as the old adage goes.

2. Introduce new plot threads
Writing a sequel doesn’t always mean picking up where you left off — this can fall into the trap of predictability and boring linearity. You may need to resolve cliffhangers left in your first book, but you should also take the opportunity to explore uncharted waters!

Many romance authors change the who of the story in their sequels (focusing on a new set of protagonists, often secondary characters of the previous book), but keep in mind that you might be better off simply changing the where and when. Great material can be found in illustrating your amorous protagonists adapting to unfamiliar settings and different life challenges, and can allow you to “test” the strength of their romantic relationship.

Another idea is to throw up some roadblocks that will put your characters through their paces, revitalize your narrative, and make space for character development. For example, in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget diverges from the original setting of London and, after a mishap on a vacation in Thailand, ends up in jail — definitely not what she (or readers!) were expecting. However, we learn about Bridget’s resilience, and this scene change also sets the stage for her two suitors to fight over her, in that iconic fountain fight scene.

3. Don’t hesitate to change the stakes
Beware of giving your readers another helping of the exact same dish. It’s fairly easy to change the more episodic events of a story, but what will really give your story fresh dynamism is changing your protagonist’s priorities or stakes. Better yet, doing this without betraying any key qualities of your characters, their principles, or the overall tone will mean the key change won’t seem gratuitous or excessive to the point of unbelievability.

Let’s take Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy as an example. In the second book, following the death of her lover Will, Louisa is dealing with her heartbreak and trying to move on as best she can. After an accident, she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group.

So what’s changed? For one, in grief, she’s a more world-wise, introspective character. She’s also adapting to a new social setting, where she is introduced to handsome and charming fireman, Sam — you can probably see where this is going. The stakes have been altered because of the events that have occurred. She’s recovering from an accident and therefore vulnerable, which no doubt factors into the risks she will take if she is to fall in love again.

4. Develop your characters in interesting ways
You may think you know a character, and then they respond to a situation in a way you never would have anticipated. Surprise is the essence of any great drama, right? Though introductory beats are usually where a good chunk of character information is found, any good novel will treat character development as a continuous process. To do so will give you room to interrogate and deconstruct your characters — and subvert expectations.

Though character development has been touched upon in point #2, consider also how you might want to accentuate a feature (or flaw) of a character that was not touched upon in your first story. This might come naturally if the character has aged, as well as with the general forward-thrust of your plot. Perhaps a softer, more sensitive side to a character is revealed when they become a parent — or a more daring, combative facet of another character comes to the fore when their relationship is threatened by a third party. The list is endless!

5. Expand on the backstory
Even as you’re in the process of driving your plot forward, why not throw in a bit of time traveling via flashbacks? There is more incentive to do this if you’re penning a sequel to the first part of a book that did well — your fans will be invested in your characters and hankering for juicy details on their backstories.

Moreover, elaborating on a character’s origins will give color to their actions, reactions, and decision-making in the present day. For example, in the Bridgerton books and Netflix series, we learn that the Duke of Hastings lost his mother at a young age and had a terrible relationship with his father. From this, we are better equipped to understand his reluctance to marry Daphne Bridgerton — the Duke has trust issues and feels unworthy of her love.

Throwing in some snapshots of life before the present day is often an effective way to understand characters’ psyches and how this factors into a romantic dynamic. In this instance, Daphne and the Duke’s love story is made even more powerful after we learn of the psychological hurdles the Duke has had to overcome to commit himself to their relationship.

And there you have it. Hopefully these ideas will aid your writing process and enhance the next act of your story, as it were. You might even have an entire series under your belt one day!


Thank you, Savannah! Reedsy offers a ton of writing/publishing/marketing resources for indie authors. Check out Ricardo Fayet’s free marketing book here. Reedsy also hosts their own YouTube channel, and you can find it here.

And my favorite part of Reedsy is their straight-to-inbox free courses! Check out all they have to offer here.

Thanks again, Savannah, and have a great week, everyone! Until next time!

Flexibility: When time and patience aren’t enough to achieve your goals.

Spotted in my Instagram feed.

As indie authors we have a lot of flexibility. Blurb not working? Change it. Cover not working? Change it. Didn’t edit your novel well enough the first time, give it another editing sweep and upload the new file. We have a lot of flexibility when treating our writing like a business. We can pivot faster than any traditionally published author, chasing trends if we’re fast enough writers, or researching sub-genres and hopping onto a hugely-demanded but underserved niche.

This quote jumped out at me this morning as I scrolled all my social media feeds while I sipped on my much-needed first cup of coffee. I like it because as indies, we’re able to search out new ways if something we’re doing isn’t working. The problem is, there is such variety out there that it’s difficult knowing when to give up and try something new or sticking with what we’re doing and hoping that our tenacity will be rewarded. We need to give something ample time to see if it’s going to work, and bailing too quickly before something can stick could cut off something that could be really viable to your business. On the other hand, sticking with something that’s not working out of fear of the unknown won’t get us very far, either.

Knowing when to keep trying and when to throw in the towel is something that needs to be taken as case by case basis and perhaps the thing you’ve moved on from could work for you later. With all the information available to indies right now, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices.

Here’s a not-so-quick list of some of the things that we as indies have control over, when to let things ride, and when to maybe give new things a shot:

  1. POV. Changing up a POV may not be an option for some people. You need to definitely work with your strengths and admit your weaknesses. If you rock 3rd person past, it wouldn’t be wise to change to shaky 1st person present just because that’s what’s trending in some genres right now. The quality of the work should always come first, or what you do after that won’t make much sense. I find writing 1st person present easier than 3rd person past. I can write faster, and as my paid beta reader just got through the first book my first series and liked it, I feel I’m capable in that area. A comment made on this blog on one of my posts said I didn’t like writing it, but that’s not true. I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice when I decided to write a book in it, that’s true. It wasn’t what I gravitated toward when I started writing because I’d read 3rd person past all my life and stuck with what I knew. But my books also were not selling that well, and since I had nothing to lose, I mixed it up. This is one area where I probably could have stuck with 3rd person past and eventually seen some level of success. On the flip side, my 1st person present books could flop. I don’t know. The amount of flexibility we have can be a pro as well as a con. If you’ve been writing in a POV you may not click with, or you haven’t found readers to click with it, change it up. You never know where a new POV will take you.

    If your current POV is not clicking with readers, you don’t have to change POV to find traction. Maybe changing subgenres would help. When I was writing 3rd person past, I wrote steamy contemporary romance. I didn’t have to change to 1st person present to make a change–I could have started writing women’s friendship fiction, or domestic thrillers, or literary fiction. Again, you need to know where your strengths are. I like writing romance and have a difficult time plotting anything that doesn’t revolve around a man and woman falling in love. Changing POVs made more sense to me than seeking out another subgenre, but I could have made a less drastic change and started writing clean romance as well. There are all sorts of things you can do if what you’re writing isn’t hitting the mark and finding an audience. I was lucky and stumbled upon first person present billionaire romance. I enjoy writing it, I feel I’m good at it, and I’m hoping that even though that subgrene has peaked, I will still find readers when I’m ready to publish.

    POV: Choosing Between First-Person and Third Person Writer’s Digest


  2. Ad platforms. This is a tricky one because your ads can only do a well as the book you’re selling. Bailing on Amazon Ads in favor of Facebook ads may not do anything for you except eat up money faster. You also have to know what your business goals are. If you’re in Kindle Unlimited, it makes sense to run Amazon Ads, but if you’re wide, Facebook can reach more people who read on all platforms. I see some authors give up on ads saying they don’t work, but they aren’t advertising a book written to market, or the cover is bad, or the look inside is full of telling. Another important thing to consider is if you learned how to use the platform. There are a lot of free resources out there and I would never try to put together an ad on a platform I wasn’t familiar with. Once you are familiar and know your ad budget then you have to figure out if your return on investment is worth it to keep running ads. It may not be. So you table that ad platform and write another book, or just hold off on ads for a bit, or try BookBub ads instead. You have to give something time to work. When I was doing Bryan Cohen’s ad challenge, there were so many people who wanted to throw in the towel after the first couple of days. If you feel like that, then maybe you don’t have confidence in your product and your gut is trying to tell you something. If you know you’re advertising a good book, then you should have patience and faith in your product. Your book will be on sale forever (unless you pull it). You can afford to wait a couple months to gather ad data to make good choices.

    The quick and easy guide to Facebook and Amazon (AMS) ads for authors by Derek Murphy

  3. Newsletter. If you haven’t started one, you can start one anytime. If your newsletter has low open rates, figure what why readers don’t want to open your mail. Maybe you’re not giving them anything of value. Maybe you’re not emailing frequently enough. Maybe the only mail you send out is when you have a new release and readers are tired of your “buy buy buy” message you send out every three or four months. Maybe you need a new aggregator because the one you’re using now sends everyone’s mail to their spam folder. If you aren’t getting the results you want, figure out why. Change your newsletter sign up cookie, or offer the readers you already have more content. There is a lot of flexibility here and you can make it work for you.
  4. Your book’s package. It’s easy to fly off the handle with changes when Canva makes it easy to create a book cover, and changing the blurb is as simple as writing something quickly and logging into your KDP account. The thing is though, you have to wait to see if what you already have can work. Run ads, ask in reader groups, or send out your cover and blurb in your newsletter and ask for feedback. I’ve blogged before that it took me a year to change the cover of The Years Between Us, and when I did, I saw immediate results. But when I changed the cover of Wherever He Goes, it did nothing for sales. Whenever I do Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad challenge, the first part of the challenge is always taking a look at the product and making sure your book is sellable. Covers get changed, blurbs get changed, categories are added. I have no doubt that a lot of those changes are for the good of the book, but also if you’re running ads for the first time for only a handful of days and you’re not seeing impressions, that may not have anything to do with your book and going through the hassle of changing your cover may be for nothing. Oftentimes it’s helpful to take a step back and give yourself, and your book, time to breathe while collecting data.

When we talk about old ways keeping doors closed, what we’re doing is talking about years of collected data. I can look back on my 4+ years of indie publishing, and I know what I did wrong. I didn’t network with other romance authors, I don’t have a newsletter. Had I done those two things, maybe my 3rd person present stuff would have sold better. Maybe my POV switch wasn’t necessary and I was just grasping at straws making such a drastic change to my writing career. OR, it could breathe new life into my writing and it could offer more opportunities than I ever thought possible.

That’s the thing with being flexible. My third person books will always be there and I can always go back to them if my first person stuff doesn’t work out, or I need a change of pace. In fact, I had a good standalone idea for my next book that I was going to write before I made the change. Now I can write it in first person or put the idea on hold. I also have 20k of a book that I need to rewrite and finish that was part of a writing prompt I stumbled upon a couple years ago. I wasn’t in a place writing-wise where I could finish it, but my skills have come a long way, and I’d like to revisit it and finish it up.

We have a lot of flexibility as indie authors. Don’t get bogged down with the way you’ve always done things. You could be missing out on a new opportunity!

Until next time!