Is your book worth the blood, sweat, and tears, or is it time to move on?

We all want to feel like our books are worth reading. It’s why we write them, it’s why we publish them. It’s why we spend money on them with book covers, editing, and ad spend.

We want people to love our books.

But there comes a point in an author’s career when you look back and think that maybe that book isn’t worth any more time or money. It didn’t quite hit the mark with story/trope/character, or the cover is never going to be quite right, or you’ve changed the blurb so many times you wanna puke. No matter what you do to it, no matter how many ads you run, you just can’t get it to move.

And that happens. Even in the traditional publishing space. A publishing house throws hundreds of thousands of dollars at an author in form of an advance, and the house scrambles to push that book and make it a bestseller. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. An author who doesn’t earn out is screwed, but we can shake it off and go write something else.

I’ve complained about my books before, but I don’t sit and bitch and then do nothing. I’ve redone blurbs, I’ve redone covers. Heck, I’m using the #stayathome order to re-edit most of my books. I’ve found small inconsistencies and typos, even some small formatting issues. In some of my earlier works I’ve smoothed out telling, a lot of passive voice. They’ll be better. But better enough to start earning me money?

Probably not.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ads Challenge. In this challenge we learned how to bid, what our daily spend should/could be, where to find keywords. This challenge was great because he even taught us how to do some very simple ad copy, and this was so helpful. I hope whoever read that post took the challenge. It was worth the time, and it was FREE. Can’t get any better than that.

I did the challenge, and I’ll share my numbers with you in a minute. I chose All of Nothing, my strongest book, the book that I’ve sold the most of, and it did great. But I still came out on a loss. I ran a few ads to other books too, and I’ll give you my results on those, but for now, let’s take a look at All of Nothing.

At first I started the challenge with His Frozen Heart. First in series, it’s a no-brainer. I have book two out, book three is about to drop at the end of the month. Book four at the end of May. But in the middle of the challenge I changed tactics because something Bryan said resonated with me. He said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “Choose the book that sells the best.” You could have twenty books in your backlist and one is always going to sell better than the rest. Some books are just going to carry the others, and that’s the way it is. Especially if you sub-genre hop like I do.

Anyway, All of Nothing has outsold my other books by an extreme margin, and all I can think of is that it hits closer to home in terms of what’s selling right now in the romance genre (a little more grittier, a little more raw). That doesn’t mean I’m making money, but I’m selling books.

So, I changed gears and used Publisher Rocket for keywords for All of Nothing. (Folks, if you run Amazon ads and not using this magnificent piece of software, go get it right now. I’ve had it for a while, but never used it because I was using Bryan’s free way of gathering keywords. Free is fine, but in this instance, you get what you pay for.) About a year or so ago I changed the cover, six months later I redid the blurb. Those changes paid off, and now there’s nothing more that I can do to it to make it sell.

In the month of April I’ve spent $135.22 in ads and I’ve made $103.93.  I’m in the hole $32.00.

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My rank fluctuates between 15,000 and 12,000 in the Kindle Store. 12,xxx is the lowest (highest) ranking I have ever achieved. (Sorry, no screenshots. I check rank just to see if my ads are working.) But I am still in the hole. According to Bryan, I may not be in the hole forever–people borrow books and that makes your ranking go up, but don’t sit down to read right away and you don’t earn KU page revenue until they do. So while I lost money, maybe I really didn’t. There’s no way to really know. I can’t operate in the red to that extent, and I stopped my ads. Maybe the KU page reads will catch up to my ad spend and one day I’ll break even. Maybe not. All you can do is wait.

Obviously my book has the capacity to sell. And there are a few things I can do: bid lower. Not run so many ads. (I had about twenty going.)

Is it worth it to run ads to All of Nothing? Maybe. But the problem is, if they like Enemies to Lovers, or Bully Romance, or Billionaire Romance (those are the categories I used to search for keywords) then they have nowhere else to go in my backlist. None of my other books are like that. So they buy that book and move on to a different author.

The Years Between Us e-reader coverI run ads to The Years Between Us, too, and that was the book I was thinking about when I decided to write this blog post. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman trope. The problem with that is the indie industry has made that book naughty. When a reader in KU picks my “My Best Friend’s Dad” and there’s half-naked people on the cover, they know what they’re going to get. Lots of forbidden, naughty sex. Maybe even the heroine giving away her virginity, or at the very least, finally having sex with a “man” who knows what he’s doing. My book has that too, but it’s not gritty. I’ve tried running ads to it, and I’ve reworked the blurb. (I’ve blogged about this book in the past, and I’ve lost a lot of money in ad spend [about $70] before I changed the blurb.) Changing the blurb worked a little bit, and the cover is next. I don’t think the cover is working, but I ran some ads to it during this challenge too.

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Definitely not the loss that All of Nothing suffered, but I didn’t run nearly as many ads to it this time around because I’ve been burned before and I killed them when All of Nothing started operating at a loss. The last thing I can do is change the cover. It’s the only cover in my collection that doesn’t have a couple on it. After that, I’m just going to have to move on and admit that the book missed the mark.

It’s tough when you’ve written a book and it doesn’t sell no matter what you do to it. And in KU, like a friend and I were talking about last night, a reader could get to page 20 and not go any further because the book wasn’t what they expected it to be. 100 readers could do that, and in KU speak, that’s 2000 pages read. So you have no idea, really, if a book is being read cover to cover, unless the reader happens to leave a review.

The book I started the challenge with, His Frozen Heart, isn’t doing so well, either. And the poor reviews right out of the gate probably didn’t help it.

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I have twenty ads going for this book, and it’s dead in the water. I used Publisher Rocket for this book too, but it’s a Holiday Romance, Small Town, and people are looking forward to spring. If I want to market it after all the books in the series release, I could do a Christmas in July promo, or really push it hard this October when the holiday books start coming out. I didn’t plan very well for the release of these books, but I wanted to wait until I had them all done and edited. I’m not counting this series out yet, but I have a feeling these four books aren’t going to make much of a splash.

The problem isn’t just with the books though, it’s with me and how I’m operating my business.

I don’t have a newsletter going, and I don’t have any place for my readers to go to talk about books. I’ve blogged about that before. You need a place for the readers of your books to meet up and chat. And chat with you. There are plenty of people who say that they don’t want to start a newsletter because they themselves don’t open them. But listen, you’re in this as a writer, not a reader. Readers who only read, who are not part of the writing community, they LIKE hearing from you. The love the giveaways that are exclusive to them. They like the short stories that are especially for them. There’s a reason the theory 1,000 true fans exists. Because it works. All you need is 1,000 true fans who will read buy anything and everything you write and you are on your way to a real career.

Sticking with a sub-genre would help exponentially. All Billionaires, or all Small Town. I write what I wanna write, and lots of indies will stand on that hill until they die. But in this business, “Build it and they will come” doesn’t always work. When I first started writing, I thought Contemporary Romance was a thing. It’s only a thing if you’re trad-pubbed and already have an audience 20 years in the making.

You have wiggle room with plots, sure, even if you stick with a sub-genre. Maybe had I written The Years Between Us as also Small Town, that would have helped. But it’s placed in the city and Matthew is not a Billionaire, either. I could make him one, but he doesn’t live that lifestyle in the book, so it would mostly be a lie in the blurb the story couldn’t uphold. I don’t want to do that to my readers. Damn you Christian Grey and the expectations you created!

What will I do from here? I have a first person trilogy I need to work on after I’m done editing my backlist. I’m switching gears that way, and maybe that will help. I have no problem writing Billionaires, and my first person is more on target with what’s selling at the moment, but that might not always be true, either. I need to be smart, and I’ll create a newsletter to go along with that pen name.

It’s really tough, putting time and creative energy into a book only to find it’s not going to resonate with readers. We all want our babies to be loved. But at the end of the day, sometimes you have to realize the book missed the mark and move on. There are a ton of stories out there to write.

What do you think? Do you have a book you’re ready to give up on? Let me know!


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Free for Commercial Use*

I had an interesting exchange with someone in one of my Facebook writing groups this morning.

She was asking about a website where she could make graphics for her book for Instagram. We like the pretty graphics. I like making them though I don’t post them anywhere very often.

Anyway, she didn’t like using Canva because the learning curve was too steep. She asked for other suggestions, and she always had an excuse why she didn’t want to try other design programs. I told her to try BookBrush, since I’ve heard good things about that, but I told her, she needs to make sure the photos she’s using are for commercial use. I read a discussion about BookBrush in one of my design groups on Facebook and they said BookBrush’s terms of service won’t cover you if you use a photo that’s not available for commercial use. Canva probably won’t either–not everyone using the software is going to be trying to sell books. Some people do use the photos and fonts for personal use, such as wedding invitations, and you just have to be careful. We’re part of the writing community, so naturally we think everyone is using everything for book marketing.

This aggravated her, and she said that she just wanted to make some graphics for Instagram. Simple. Easy-peasy.

If you’ve been in the game for any amount of time, we know that it’s never that easy. It’s intimidating and scary because using something that you don’t have the right to use can be very very costly. I wasn’t telling her to be careful to give her a hard time; I only wanted warn her that using a stock photo for book marketing is considered using it for commercial use.

She said she’d hire someone.

That’s fine, but in this day and age of scammers, hiring someone doesn’t always take care of the risk.

Finally I realized the problem: she didn’t want to learn a software. Canva is simple, but she didn’t want to bother. She turned down others’ suggestions and BookBrush, as well, because she simply didn’t want to take the time. That’s a whole different ballgame–I mean, how do you expect to get anywhere if you’re not willing to take the time to learn? When you’re an indie author, you’re suddenly a marketer, graphic designer, maybe a book formatter, and editor. It’s a lot to take in, and if you’re in it for the long haul, some of those things are unavoidable.

But anyway, what can you do to safeguard your business?

  1. Make sure the photos are for commercial use. 
    This doesn’t mean you can’t use photos from Pixabay or Pexels or Unsplash. Check the photographer’s guidelines and attribution requirements. I use photos from Pixabay, but never anything with people in them. The free sites don’t secure model releases.
    More often than not though, I buy my photos from Deposit Photos. Right now you can buy 100 for 39 dollars going through AppSumo. They don’t expire, and you know you’re safe using a photo from there. Click here for the deal. If you don’t have a Deposit Photo account, you’ll need to create one to redeem the deal. (The link is David Gaughran’s affiliate link. I used that because he was the one who posted it on Facebook where I first found out about it. If you don’t want to use it, Google for the deal and find a separate link for the promo.) I’ve redeemed a couple of these AppSumo deals and now I have 300 downloads that will never expire.
  2. This goes for fonts, too.
    It doesn’t matter if you Google free for commercial use fonts, or if a font is free for downloading. You still have to do your due diligence and make sure the fonts you use, especially on your book covers, are available for commercial use. There are a lot of free for commercial use sites out there, but artists who want their fonts to be used for personal use only also list their fonts on these sites. InkyDeals and Dealjumbo have font bundles that are inexpensive and you can use the fonts for more than one project (although always make sure of the extended license before buying). Bookmark these sites because they give you lots of good deals around the holidays, too.
  3. Be careful if you hire someone on Fiverr. 
    If you hire someone on Fiverr, make sure you know where they purchased the photos and fonts. It never hurts have the licenses for your records so if you are ever approached you can defend yourself. I’ve heard lots of stories about artists stealing art or using photos that aren’t available for commercial use. When you hire someone, you are taking the responsibility that they are on the up-and-up. After all, it’s your name on the book, not theirs.
  4. This goes for hiring anyone, anywhere.
    So many premade book cover websites offer a free photo with font slapped on there for the title and author name. Anyone can start a “business” doing that, and even if they have some skill with Photoshop, that doesn’t mean they have a legitimate business. Always cover your butt and make sure you know where the photos, elements, and fonts came from.
  5. Offer attribution even if the photographer or artist says it’s not necessary. 
    I always put the photographer’s id and photo id in the copyright page of all my

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    It’s easy to offer attribution in your front matter. It’s professional, and not to mention, kind. 

    books. I credit Deposit Photo as the source, and credit Canva as the website where I made the cover in the first place. It’s the polite thing to do. In the acknowledgments always credit anyone else who has helped you. I listened to a podcast by the SPA Girls and they interviewed Rebekah Haskell, and she said it was common for authors not to offer attribution to their cover designer because they wanted to keep the designer for themselves so they didn’t get too busy. That sucks, and it’s selfish. This is a professional business. Act professionally. (If you want to listen to the podcast, Rebekah offers good info about book cover design click here.) Do you see what I did there? Offer attribution.

In the end, it’s not hard to safeguard your business. It might take a little money (buying stock photos isn’t always cheap and I think that’s why free photos offer such an allure) but I would rather spend for a pack of stock photos on Deposit Photo, or buy credits on CanStock Photo and cover my butt instead of having trouble down the road because I used something that wasn’t available for commercial use.

I don’t know what the woman I was speaking with today will do. I feel bad that it seemed like I was telling her information that scared her, but not knowing what you don’t know can be dangerous in this business. We all make mistakes, and there’s a chance that nothing will come out of it if you happen to use a free photo with a person on it that doesn’t have a model release, but why take the chance? Pixabay won’t cover you if a photographer goes after you for damages. Especially, if by chance, your book does really well.

I recommend Facebook groups like the Indie Cover Project and Book Cover Design Marketplace. The admins and moderators don’t let fishy people post, and they seem to know what’s/who’s legit and what/who is not.

Canva and BookBrush are only machines–if you use them without knowing, you, the operator, will definitely be held accountable.

Take care, and stay safe!


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The authorpreneur I am versus where I was five years ago.

It’s never fair to compare yourself to where you were five years ago, or more precisely, four and a half years ago, unless you haven’t changed and you can’t see in your rearview mirror through all the regret of wasted time.

16114241When I joined Writer Twitter, I was writing a huge epic fantasy and I thought I needed to be on social media to sell those books. Independent publishing was always a no-brainer, even when I didn’t know exactly what it was, and how I’d heard of it, I have no idea. Probably the one thing that pushed me along was a friend from work who was majoring in publishing at our local university. She gave me one of her textbooks, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, by Shawn Welch and Guy Kawasaki. It was my first taste of independent publishing, and being independently published fed into my control-freak nature. (I try to keep that under wraps, so don’t be surprised if it’s the first you’ve heard of it.) I don’t recommend the book now–this industry moves too fast for a book that’s eight years old to hold much relevance.

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These are delightfully naughty stories, and I highly recommend them!

Back then, I was a wide-eyed, starry-eyed girl. People were publishing, they knew a helluva a lot more than I did, and they made the industry sound exciting. I wanted in. I read indie. Lots of indie. Bought lots of indie paperbacks, some from people who don’t write anymore or who have dropped off the grid because other things got in the way. I held books in my hands from people I knew, actually talked to online, and I wanted to hold my books too. One of the very first books I read was by Jewel E. Leonard, Rays of Sunshine. She did everything herself. Her husband helped her with the cover, but she wrote it and edited it, formatted the insides. She was my inspiration, and I started 1700 to publish like she did. (And can you read a blog post I wrote about writing to write and writing to publish here.)

Except, I had no idea how much work it would be to be let in. Because if it’s something that I’ve repeated on this blog for as long as I’ve been blogging, is that behind the cover designers and editors, the huge Twitter accounts, behind the shop talk, and Twitter chats, and blog tours and cover reveals, is this very one important thing. None of that matters if you haven’t written a good book. 

And this isn’t going to be another one of those blog posts. Everyone is going to publish crap. No one is immune from it, and very few are exempt. I’m no exception.

But the thing that probably saved me was the fact that I didn’t know it was crap. I went on my merry way, writing and writing and writing, and publishing and publishing and publishing and blogging about it, too! It was cool. I was a loser who didn’t know I was a loser.

Eventually, I got better. It’s just something that happens if you write enough words. You get better. Since I’ve started publishing, not including the fantasy still on a memory stick that I go back and forth between deciding to edit or not, I’ve written 1,227,000 words. Some of those aren’t published yet, as they belong to a first person trilogy that I haven’t edited. I’m going to write the sister trilogy to that before I release them. But they are written, and I’ll include them in my word count.

That figure isn’t to brag. I know I have a lot of time, and I do use the time I’m given.

But I think back to almost five years ago and how much the industry has changed. I did my book covers in Word. I used a free photo for The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, which I learned is a huge no-no. I formatted my documents myself using the templates KDP still has available though Vellum is so easy to get your hands on these days.

Besides the few people I had help me in the beginning, once I got the hang of writing again, I started editing my own books and for others.

There is something to be said for going back to basics. I learned a lot. I learned what a cover consists of, what bleed means. I can spot extra spaces between words in sentences in a manuscript and how not to put two spaces after a period. I know how terribly a Tab can screw up formatting, and even still today, I’m still learning how important it is to back up files (thanks disappearing Vellum files).

I’ve always moved forward, never gone back too often. Dean Wesley Smith calls this “overwhelming” your book. I call it burying it. But that’s hard to do if you want all your books to count. I say The Corner of 1700 Hamilton and my erotica novellas don’t count toward my backlist, but they have my name on them. They count. Even if I’ll never promote them. I put them out there, they are mine, and I own them.

For me, the glitz and glamour of being an independent author has gone away. You can scroll through writer twitter and maybe see some of those writers who haven’t published yet interacting with other writers with the same wide-eyed look. It’s not that I’ve become jaded–I still get teary-eyed whenever I finish a book and press publish–but it’s not long after that I’m on to the next thing, because there will always be another story.

What is this blog post about? It was supposed to be about how I revamped The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, but I’ll save it for another day.

I guess being quarantined has made me a bit nostalgic. I’ve come a long way in four and a half years. I’ve cried over lost files and bad reviews, I’ve virtually high-fived other authors and shared in their successes. I’ve shaken my head at others who keep making the same mistakes, and I feel bad for them because I don’t see their careers going anywhere. I know authors who are still working on the same story as the one when we met. This isn’t the career for those who can’t be tenacious, who can’t look ahead, who can’t see what they want in ten years and put in the work now. This industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Or for the weak.

I’ve come a long way in the almost five years I published 1700, and I plan to go even further in the next five. I WILL have a bestseller. Just wait and see.

What have you accomplished in the last five years? How has the industry changed since you’ve joined the writing community?

Let me know!


I read more than just Jewel’s book when I first joined Writer Twitter. Take a peek at the books I read that I very much enjoyed, and that I still recommend today. If you’re interested, click on the cover and it will bring you to Amazon. Some of them are in KU if you have a subscription. Some of the publishing dates reflect earlier dates, and I can only take that to mean that the authors have gone in, made changes, and republished. That’s one of the perks of being your own publisher. 🙂

I can’t link you to What Boys Are Made Of and the other books in the series because I think Stephanie is redoing them. It’s too bad she unpublished while relaunching them though, because they were really good. Probably some of the best indie work I’ve ever read. I hope she gets them put back up really soon. They deserve to be out in the world.

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Entropy is the first in a trilogy, and I’ve read them all. I’ve mentioned before Joshua helped me by beta-reading Don’t Run Away, and we formed a friendship after meeting on Twitter. He has quite a few books in his backlist now, and if you want to read his next book, Perplexity, he’s blogging the scenes for a little entertainment due to COVID-19. You can find his blog, Perplexitybook.com, here.

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I love Aila with all my heart, and she knows her stuff. She introduced me to Canva, knows her way around IngramSpark, and is all around a fantastic writer. Sex, Love, and Technicalities is the first in a duet, and I helped her edit the second (which is why I’m attached to it, not because I helped her write it). Aila and I have been friends for a really long time.

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One of the first indie books I read was David’s Lonely Deceptions. Originally published as a novella trilogy, Austin Macauley squished them together and published them as a whole. Not that I would recommend going with a vanity press, David was fortunate and they paid him, not the other way around. Just recently he wrote the sequel and sent it off to Austin so the books would be consistent (they gave him an advance for that book also). Right now he’s working on something new that will be published under a pen name because he says he’s tired of people thinking he’s a doctor. LOL

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Tom is another writer who kind of fell off the grid, though I think he’s active on Goodreads. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but I’ve read all of his books, and he was one of my first Writer Twitter friends. I think Jewel introduced us. His books are hilarious, but dark, and I recommend empathetic all the time. It’s laugh-out-loud good.

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Another update, because, why not? And other musings of a #stayhome life

I had a blog post planned for today, and it’s even written out in my notebook. I need to type it up and get it out there, because it’s part of the 2020 predictions from Written Word Media. I would like to get that series finished up so I can blog about other things. Though, with this virus stuff going on, (and I don’t mean to make light of it at all; I know it’s affected many people) it feels almost strange to be carrying on in any normal sort of way.

silhouette-4233622_1920Even with my rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, write, write, write mentality I like to shove down people’s throats on this blog, I haven’t been doing much of that.

That’s not to say I haven’t been doing something. I was dismayed to find one day that some of my Vellum files for my books went missing. It’s not technically a big deal. I mean, I still had the .mobi files for Kindle the PDFs, but I didn’t like not having the actual files that upload into Vellum. So I took it upon myself to take the PDFs, convert them back into a Word docx and put them back into Vellum.

It’s just as convoluted as it sounds, and when you convert a PDF into a Word docx, the formatting isn’t 100% the same. And when you put that Word docx into Vellum, it gets messed up even more. So what I did (for my own peace of mind and my weird anxiety I get when I think about my books) I decided that while I was fixing the formatting in Vellum, I would give them a light edit and push them back into the world.

I’ve taken the last two weeks and I did All of Nothing, The Years Between Us, and Wherever He Goes. I guess because the formatting changed, or maybe I chose a different font for the text, who knows, I had to redo cover dimensions for All of Nothing and Wherever He Goes. That wasn’t too big a deal, since everything was saved in Canva and I had all my stock photos still saved there. Recreating them with a different canvas size didn’t take too much time, and I’m getting good enough that I didn’t bother ordering proofs before publishing them (something I used to do every time I made a change to the paperback).

It was actually kind of interesting to go back and read my books again, and I learned a couple things along the way:

1. I need to keep my baby name book with me. ALWAYS. I used the same names over and over again. There’s a Jared in Wherever He Goes, and there’s a Jared in my Wedding series. I reused the name Max, as well. Dismayed, I found I used Erik in All of Nothing, and there’s an Eric in Don’t Run Away. There’s an Elmer in Wherever He Goes, and an Elmer in the new trilogy I’m editing (I’ll change his name, for sure). You know, there are so many names available, I shouldn’t have reused the names at all. It’s not like I’m 60+ into my backlist and I’ve run out of choices. For consistency and scared I would do more harm than good, I didn’t change any of the names. Maybe in the future an Excel sheet will come in handy.

2. I use the same imagery. I’m consistent in imagery, and I guess that’s what people mean when they say they know a book’s author by the way it’s written. Though some of the metaphors and cliches change from book to book, it’s evident I like the sound of a certain way of comparing things.

In the mirror, I give myself one last look. The dress shows off just enough leg, my hair is a blonde mess of curls down my back, my eyes have just the right amount of shadow and eyeliner.

I’ll pass, if no one looks too closely.

After all, even imitation gold shines in the light.

This is an example of some of the language I like to use from book to book, and while it’s pretty, I need to make sure that I’m mixing up my imagery or my books will start to sound the same.

3. My themes are the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’ve been told that a consistent theme weaving your books together will help with marketing. My theme, so far, is when you fall in love with the right person, you can find your place, you can find your home. Of course, in romance you have to be careful that the woman isn’t losing herself in her man, that her world doesn’t revolve around him. So it’s important that you give your female main characters their own backstories and make sure they have their own arcs so they fall in love and find their place with their man on their own terms. All my female characters battle their own demons before allowing themselves to find happiness in a relationship. This is the way romance has evolved, but I don’t have any complaints. No one wants to read about a doormat who doesn’t have her own life outside of her love interest.


I could tell that when I was writing Wherever He Goes that I was a bit stiff at the beginning and I did take the chance to smooth out some sentences and make the scenes and paragraphs flow a little better. I didn’t hit my stride with that book until the middle, and I find it interesting because already by Wherever He Goes I had already written quite a few words. But that book was my first standalone after the my Tower City Trilogy and I guess I was getting used to new characters and plot.

I don’t know if I’m going to do every single book I’ve published. The box set file for my trilogy is still intact, so pulling those out and making the books single again to recover my Vellum files won’t take that long, and they won’t require proofing unless I want to go back and read them. I suppose I could since in the back of my mind I feel like those are mediocre offerings at best and I’m reluctant to advertise them. If I read through them and fix typos, etc, then maybe the time I invest doing that will come back to me since I’ll be more comfortable promoting them. That’s committing to a lot of work, and for now I’m going to do 1700. I don’t have the file for that cover anymore–that was way back when I was doing covers in Word, and Canva wasn’t available yet. So I want to revamp that and reformat the insides with Vellum. I’m excited to do that–and it won’t take me long. The whole book is barely 50k. I already edited an old paperback so I just need to add them in and make the interior pretty. It’s a romantic fantasy, and once I update the cover and keywords, it might actually make a few sales. It’s a cute little story, and even though it’s the first one I published, I’m still proud of it.

I think I even found a stock photo that might work:

depositphotos_321067012-stock-photo-young-elegant-couple-hugging-while

I know the font will play a big part of the cover, and to be honest, I totally fucked myself with the title. On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton is atrocious, and if I cared at all, I would unpublish and start over. But while it’s a sweet little thing, it doesn’t mean enough to me to completely revamp it. As they say, mistakes were made, so what’s the point of pretending they weren’t?

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing with my time. It’s amusing, at any rate, and it’s actually kind of heartening to know that I like what I write and I feel like though there were typos I had to take care of, my books are solid and I’ll have confidence in running ads to them in the coming years.

Tell me what you’ve been up to! Are you doing little things to keep your mind busy or have you been able to write?

Let me know!


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Free, interactive way to learn Amazon Ads hosted by Bryan Cohen

I use this blog to pass along the information about writing and especially publishing I’ve heard about, information I’ve learned from, especially the free stuff since I know how difficult it is to scrape up cash for every little thing that seems to come up when you want to write and publish a book.

In Written Word Media’s predictions for 2020, one stood out among all the others–this is a pay to play industry, and there is no getting around it. (I did a blog post about that prediction, and you can read it here.) You need to learn an ad platform to make your books visible in a vast sea of other books.

Use Amazon Ads to make your book stand out!

If you think you don’t need to learn, if you think that publishing a book and telling your Twitter followers will be enough, it won’t be. Not for the kind of sales you’re hoping for. It’s tough breaking out of the friend and family bubble, but if you want strangers, ie, READERS to find your book, you’re going to need to pay to shove it in front of them. It’s that simple.

And that scary.

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Photo taken from the FB group. To ask to join the group, click here.

Bryan Cohen is a leading figure in the indie industry (he weighed in on some predictions in the Written Word Media 2020 predictions article). He runs a blurb-writing business, has written HOW TO WRITE A SIZZLING SYNOPSIS, is co-host of The Sell More Books Show podcast, is founder of Selling for Authors, and runs an Amazon Ad School. He knows how to sell books, not just ours, but his own. If you want to see his backlist, look at his Amazon author page. I met him at the Sell More Books Show summit last year in Chicago (no, I didn’t, I was too shy to introduce myself, but he seemed to be a very nice guy, and it was my fault we didn’t chat, not his) and I participated in a different ads challenge last year. It was participating in that challenge that taught me:

  • the importance of using correct keywords
  • where to find them
  • how to navigate the Amazon ads platform
  • how to bid for clicks, and how to keep them low
  • how to set a manageable daily budget
  • how to correctly identify if your ad is a money suck or if you have any ROI (in other words, are you getting sales or KU page reads?)

    and most importantly,

  • you don’t have to spend a lot of money to see results

That was one of the main concerns that people brought up the ad challenge I participated in, and a subsequent challenge I had to drop out of because I was too busy putting my series together to give it any real attention. I was part of the Facebook group, and I did pop in and encourage other authors, and unfortunately, it was a worry for many using the ad platform.

Ads are scary, and yes, you do need a little bit of cash to experiment with. But you remain in control of the ads the whole time. You can pause an ad without penalty. If you’re getting tons of clicks and your ad spend is a little too high for your liking, you can kill an ad, and that’s that.

Bryan has a new ad challenge that will be starting April 13th. While Covid-19 is heavy on people’s minds, a lot of us are staying at home, and this might be a great time for some of you to take an hour from your day for a week and learn something that could help you for months, maybe even years, to come.

The ad challenge is free (besides ad cost). He’ll walk you through how to find keywords, what to do with them, how to bid, how to set your daily budget. He shows you how to do all this for FREE, though he is transparent in that he wants you to sign up for his Amazon Ad School. Some of you may decide to do that after taking his challenge, some of you may join the challenge just for the free information. He gets it. But he also gives you enough information that you can run some low-cost ads and get comfortable with the platform without breaking the bank and without needing to pay for his ad school for additional information.

There is one caveat to the challenge, and it’s this: HE ASSUMES YOU’RE ADVERTISING A GOOD BOOK. He assumes that your cover is on point, that your blurb on your Amazon product page is hooky and well-written. He assumes your look-inside will grab a reader to want more and buy your book.

IF YOUR BOOK IS NOT UP TO PAR, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME ON THE CHALLENGE.

People waste money on ads because their cover is on point, but their blurb sucks. Or they don’t get any clicks because their cover is too plain, doesn’t convey genre, etc. Impressions are free (which is great!), but if you end up with 200,000 impressions and no clicks, you’ll get discouraged.

The ad challenge won’t work if you don’t have a good product to sell.

That said, I’m writing this blog post specifically to ask you to join it, learn the platform, and get your books into the hands of readers. Break that Twitter and Facebook bubble, and reach out to people who read your genre. There are hundreds of thousands of readers out there and you need a way to reach them!

man in white dress shirt and black pants sitting on bench

Do you want him reading your book? Of course you do!                                                   Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Here is the link to sign up for his ad school: https://bryancohen.lpages.co/amazon-ad-profit-challenge-landing-april-2020/?affiliate=bestpageforward

One of the best things about the challenge is the community that it brings together on the Facebook page. We share our impressions, clicks, disappointment. We ask questions, and they’re answered either by Bryan himself, so someone else. It’s a wonderful community and I’ve met some amazing and helpful authors on there. Here is the link to the FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2230194167089012/ He’ll tell you about the group in the welcome video that’s available to you when you sign up.

You’re probably wondering why I’m pressing this so hard–Bryan is so generous, and I’m always impressed by what he’s willing to share for free. Trust me, what you learn in this ad challenge will get you started on the right path–he doesn’t leaving you hanging at all. Not like some webinars that are really just infomercials to try to get you to buy something. This isn’t like that.

I’ve had some small sales since learning how to do the ads. Admittedly, I don’t pay nearly enough attention to them, but this ad challenge will be different. My series is slowly dropping. Book one is out, and book two will be by the time the challenge starts. Book three will be available at the end of the April, and book four at the end of May. Shoving some money at the first in the series won’t hurt, not at all. I’ll share my numbers with you for the month of March:

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This makes it look like I’m losing money, but Sales doesn’t include KU page reads, and Bryan will go into that with us, so I’m not freaking out that my spend is more than my sales. But see, I have only spent not even $20.00 for the month of March, and I wanted to show you that to prove to you that ads don’t have to be expensive!

For the $19.13 I’ve spent so far this month, I’m running:

10 ads for All of Nothing

4 ads for His Frozen Heart

10 ads for The Years Between Us

0 for Wherever He Goes and the other books in my backlist

That’s not a crazy ad spend for 24 ads, and a lot of authors run more ads than that at any give time.

What I’ve made so far in sales and KU Page reads:

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 11.31.46 PM

So I’ve spent 20 dollars to make 20 dollars. That’s a little more than breaking even, but when you’re just starting out that’s better than losing. Since I’ve adjusted my blurb on The Years Between Us, I’ve started getting sales so don’t despair right away if you get impressions or clicks without sales. Things can be changed. They aren’t set in stone–take comfort in that. Plus you only have to run the number of ads you’re comfortable with. I dip my toes in, obviously. I don’t have time to do more than that.

Anyway, it’s late here, so I need to wrap up. I just really can’t say enough about Bryan and his challenge. He taught me so much, and I can’t wait to do the challenge again! I hope you join me!

Until next time!


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COVID-19 Check in, what’s been going on, and still trying to get things done.

This is a hard time for everyone, and I just wanted to check in with my readers and ask how everyone is doing. How many of you are working from home? How many of you are not working at all because your workplace has closed? How many of you are considered essential personnel and still need to go in? If you’re still working, please be safe, and thank you for doing all you can during these trying times.

when-you-find-out-your-nomal-daily-lifestyle-is-called-quarantine-memeI’m considered essential personnel (I type for the deaf and hard of hearing) so I still go in for my shifts at the call center. For right now, things haven’t changed too much in my life. My daughter is no longer in school, and her teachers are preparing to start online learning soon. Tomorrow she has to go to school and clean out her lockers and bring everything home. Though they haven’t announced it for her school, I don’t think she’ll be going back to finish out the school year.

My son had a wound check last week, and we were screened by gowned and masked nurses before being allowed into the clinic. They pushed back his next appointment to the middle of next month, but I have a feeling that that appointment, too, will be pushed back. He’s healing well, though, so I give thanks for that. It would be hard to worry about him and feel like we don’t have access to his doctor and nurses. I know they are limiting people going in and out, and I’m thankful we’re not in a position to need them on a regular basis. I pray for those who do still need to attend the doctor regularly.

I go to the grocery store only when necessary, and I went yesterday for milk and a few things for dinners. I won’t have to go back for a while now.

I still try to have some motivation to get things done regarding my books. The secondkeep motivated during qurantine book in my series will release on March 31st. I’m working on my first person trilogy. I sent book one to my friend Sarah, and she proofed it and found some mistakes. She was also a bit taken aback because this trilogy is going to be more of a serial than a series, and book one ends on a massive cliffhanger. She did have one observation, so I’m going to take a look at the ending and see what I can do in regards to that, but otherwise, I think she liked it.

It’s hard to focus during a time like this, but I have to remind myself that if I let this time go by, once it passes, I’ll feel terrible that I didn’t get anything done. I know lots of people are panicked now, and a lot of us are just trying to get through one day at a time. But if you can, try do a little something for your writing every day. If you have the time to write a little, you should try to put some words down. If you can’t focus on the words, there are other things you can do to forward your career.

  1. Keep blogging. If you choose topics that don’t depend on current events, you can write evergreen posts that will always be part of your platform. Lots of us are reading more, so post reviews, recommend books in the genre you write in, or if you’re writing to writers, dissect books and explain what you liked about them as a writer, what you learned as a writer reading them, and how you can apply what you learned to your next book.
  2. Look back at your 2020 goals and see what you can check off the list with some of your new free time. Did you say you wanted to start a newsletter? Revamp your website? Trust me, after all this is over, if all you did was binge Netflix because you couldn’t wrap your mind getting something done, you’ll regret it later.
  3. Learn an ad platform.posted quite a few free resources that can help you learn ad platforms, and now is a great time to dip your toes into experimenting  with something. There’s been a lot of talk of stopping ads during this time, and authors are reluctant to promo because it seems self-serving. There are a lot of books out there, and I don’t see the harm in running ads and helping people who are stuck at home find good reading material. I haven’t turned off my ads, but I’m not making all that much anyway. I’m still coming out ahead, making about .50 a day in sales after subtracting ad cost. But learning is just that, learning, and it takes practice to figure out what will work for you.
  4. Practice something else that you wanted to master. Lots of authors do their own covers just because it’s difficult to afford editing, formatting, and cover services. There are lots of tutorials out there that will help you learn GIMP and Photoshop, and Canva has free online resources that teach you how why things look pleasing to the eye. The best thing you can do is practice. Look up the top 100 on Amazon in your genre and practice copying the elements that make the cover look good. This is one of those things where you’re going to have to take time over the course of months and maybe even years because developing an eye is just something that takes time.
    This is an example of doing your own cover and graphic just as practice for when you need to do the real thing. I took a look at the top 100 Contemporary Women’s Fiction books on Amazon right now.
    I liked this one. It’s doing pretty well. Number four in sister’s fiction in the Kindle store at the time of this blog post.
    515+yEzlUHL
    So I decided to try my own hand at it, and I came up with this:
    the forgotten bride
    It’s not exactly the same. I don’t like the swirly things on the other one, but I did like the concept of the blurry woman. Here’s my take on it. Us indies are held to a slightly different set of standards, and it’s frowned upon to have a review on the cover of our books, so I skipped that part, too. But you get the idea. The image was purchased on depositphoto.com and the cover was made entirely with Canva. The Font is an italicized Playfair Display, and the font for the author’s name is Raleway. And I do practice what I preach. I try my hand at fake covers a lot.
  5. Do some busy work. Is there a book that needs to be reformatted? Were you going to refresh a cover and didn’t want to make the time? Rewrite a blurb? If you can put on some music and lose yourself in an activity, you’re not wasting time, and you’re doing something that can have rewards later on. Even if you just sit in your email and unsubscribe from some pesky emails that you never look at and always delete, that can be helpful, too.
  6. Work on craft. If you can’t sit down and work on your book, try a short story, flash fiction, poem, or something else.
  7. Get outside. Social distancing and living in quarantine doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. In Minnesota, the weather is warming up, the snow is melting. I spent a lovely day yesterday at Buffalo River State Park getting air, hiking around. Take the opportunity to get away from the news and plot out a new book or work out a plot hole that you can’t resolve. Sometimes unplugging can be a stress reliever and exercise will give you a hit of endorphins that can ease anxiety.

The fact is, we’re not sure when this will all be resolved. It could take months. I’m not planning to go to my book marketing summit in May. Even though they haven’t canceled it yet, it wouldn’t feel the same, and I think we’ll still be dealing with the aftermath of all that’s occurred. To be sure, it won’t have the same feeling as before the coronavirus outbreak, and it’s best to just stay home and look forward to a conference in 2021.

For right now I’m working on my trilogy and planning the second trilogy that will end the first. There will be six books in this series, and I hope to write these and be done with them by the end of the year. I wrote the first three very quickly but with summer coming, I do have plans, and may be a little slower with the second three.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.

I hope you all are doing as well as you can, and try to remember that even if you’re self-isolating, you’re not alone.

Until next time!

the forgotten bride graphic


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The Big Five Using KU? Let’s Discuss

2020 indie publishing predictions

I know we got this virus thing going on, and we’re all stuck at home. I’m struggling to keep going with a writing schedule and blog schedule because even though being home and not having to do anything is a writer’s dream, my body really does only want to dream and it’s a struggle to stay awake. I still walk, and blog, and yes, I’ll even be going to work. Not sure how that’s going to play out, but, anyway. My Mac ate some of my Vellum files, so I’ll be reformatting some of my books too, as this drags on.

At any rate, I will keep my blog posts up, of only because 2020 will be over by the time these prediction posts come out, so I want to get them done. Without further ado, we’ll keep going on, to what I think, is a very interesting topic.

The next prediction Written Word Media talks about in their 2020 predictions is that the Big Five Publishing houses will start using KU to push their huge author backlists. Michael Anderle predicted this saying, “We will see Big Five publishers using KDP (Amazon Kindle Unlimited) in 2020 as they seek to acquire income with their enormous backlists.”

This is interesting to me because:

  1. We know how much the Big Five hates Amazon. Using KU would require them to set aside prejudices and admit that Amazon isn’t the bad guy. I don’t know if this can happen. I feel like there is too much resentment toward Amazon to admit that KU can/will help them sell books. They already hate being dependent on Amazon – we know how much they depend on the retail giant, and we know how much they hate it by the amount of complaining they did last year before Christmas when Amazon didn’t order as many books as expected due to storage space. It was all the traditional publishing industry could talk about until Amazon increased their orders and all was right with the world.
  2. They still look for the “big book” every year. Their business sales model still depends on finding a huge book and shoving everything they can at it. (See: American Dirt) There’s no mid list anymore and they make a lot of their sales with the tried and true authors like Nora Roberts and Stephen King. The prolific authors who put out two books a year and make a gazillion dollars on each one. The Big Five are always looking ahead for the next big thing (which can be a good thing) and don’t, in my opinion, care about older books (which is bad for their authors but good for us indies–more on that later).
  3. The Big Five don’t like to share. Macmillan has already limited books that go to libraries, saying borrowing library books negatively affect their bottom line, when there are several studies that prove the opposite. With those kinds of attitudes, I doubt they would enroll books, even older books, in an author’s backlist in a subscription service. At least owned by Amazon. The idea that they start their own subscription service may be something worth looking out for.
  4. The price of KU may go up. The chances the Big Five being content with how much a page read is worth (usually about .0045 cents) is slim to none. If the Big Five lobby for a higher page read royalty — someone is going to be unhappy. That could be the reader who may need to cover that with a higher per month subscription price (right now a Kindle Unlimited subscription is 9.99/month), or us indies will get shafted having less royalties to claim (traditionally published books have always had more perks than we’re offered). Amazon will do what they need to do to make money and keep customers happy. Luckily for us they don’t kowtow to the Big Five, but that means they don’t care about what us indies want or need, either.

I feel with the bad history that is between the Big Five and Amazon a partnership won’t be likely. Amazon is stealing authors away like Dean Koontz and Sylvia Day. And they have their own imprints that make money and keep the Big Five from those potentially well-selling authors. Amazon doesn’t need the Big Five backlist, so I don’t see it will be likely they would give the Big Five a deal that they would be happy with.

I have agreed with most of the predictions made in this article so far, but not this one. There is too much bad blood.

But what if it were to happen? The number of books available would number into infinity. If the Big Five allowed even a fraction of their authors’ backlists into KU, I feel like that would be the beginning of the end for us, at least in KU. And perhaps even on Amazon in general. In the past, readers would by indie, and maybe still do, because our e-book prices are cheaper than a Big Five publishing house. I’m not saying readers are settling, but in these economic times, readers save where they can. If suddenly hundreds of thousands of traditionally published books are available, essentially for free, I have a hard time believing readers won’t devour those books. If that happened, I have my own prediction — indie authors would pull out of KU. The small fish, like us, not the authors like Michael Anderle who already make hundreds of thousands in KU, and move over to Kobo and Nook. We would focus on the smaller platforms that Draft2Digital helps us publish on ….

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo (including Kobo Plus)
  • Tolino
  • OverDrive
  • Bibliotheca
  • Scribd
  • 24Symbols
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Hoopla

…. and we would put all of our energy into going wide more than ever before.

No one has come out and said that the bad blood between the Big Five and Amazon hasn’t given indies the space to find readers, but I believe it has. What would we do if the traditional publishing houses and Amazon saw themselves as partners instead of rivals?

I would hate to find out.

What do you think? Would KU stay the same if the Big Five started using it? Let me know.

The next prediction we’ll explore is the scammers are going to keep on scammin’. See you then!


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